As I said in last week’s report on the RTR, I attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and (very briefly) in 2019. Every year I was there, I met new people and leaned new things and was glad to have gone. Every year I posted a report of my experiences at the gathering. Unfortunately, in 2020 health and financial concerns kept me from attending the RTR.
I wanted my readers to know what had happened at this year’s RTR so I asked in a few van groups I’m in on Facebook if anyone would like to write a report about their experiences at the 2020 RTR. This is the second of two reports submitted.
Today’s report is by Heinrich Keifer. I’m very grateful for his willingness to share the following perspective on this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.
In 2018, on a visit to Quartzsite, AZ I first heard a whisper about the RTR. I thought what is that? I asked a fellow in town, what was that and where it was located, he said way back in the desert up a long dirt road. I had visions of a strange group of folks who assembled annually to tell long tales of adventures of life in the wild. That year, I did not make the effort to find my way to attend. Maybe, inside I had a fear of this new group of desert people.
In 2019, I came upon a youtube video about the upcoming RTR. I became fascinated with the thought of camping out in Quartzsite and attending this event to share and learn about life in the wild and off the grid. I knew that I had to share in the event and made plans to attend my first RTR.
I arrived as early as possible on the first day that group camping would be allowed on the new land designated by the BLM for this purpose. The planners had announced efforts to have more restrooms and even a dumpster to aid in the camping for all to enjoy. Bob Wells said that he would be underwriting the cost associated with these amenities, but still wished to keep the RTR free for all to enjoy. I found a great camping spot for my trailer and as it turned out I was right next to the Art Camp. I met several very interesting folks in the Art Camp and enjoyed the camp’s morning fire on several occasions. I was also able to lend a hand with a new solar panel kit build for one of the Art Camp folks.
On a walk I met a fellow who was deep into solar technology and he spoke of various solar related issues that helped me understand more fully how to get the most benefit from my 100-watt roof mounted system. Presented, at the main stage, were many fine topics on camping off the grid, everything from safety, minimalism, border parks and safety along the border, solar cooking, battery management, stealth camping and more. I enjoyed the exhibit area which featured mostly car conversions. Also, a big hit for me was the evening talent show. I just missed the closing ceremonial van burning, but I did get to sign the van in the days before the closing. I managed also to volunteer to help folks get in and out of the RTR grounds via narrow dirt roads and do some clean up and break down of equipment. My experience convinced me that the 2020 RTR would be a must-attend event.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 RTR I searched the area around the La Paz County Fairgrounds for dispersed camping. I saw Facebook posts on available State Trust land and thought that there must be space somewhere closer than the 19 miles to Plomosa Road BLM camping. Many folks had the same idea to find a closer place to camp. After much discussion, some for and some against closer camping, I took a trip to the area and drove off road to get a better picture of what could be used and where it was. I made calls to the Parker Police and the La Paz County Sheriff, but no one could say for sure if the land would accommodate camping. I returned home to Los Angeles and continued to suggest to anyone who would listen that I thought there was camping, but it required 4-wheel access only, maybe some could make it in in a 2-wheel vehicle. Time passed and the discussion continued in Facebook and Rvillage.
Finally the event came, I spent the first night in Scaddan Wash, then off to the Fairgrounds to drop off my wife, Peggy, at the Women’s RTR (WRTR). I proceeded up Hillside Road to the end, and as I reached the dirt road I switched on 4-wheel drive to enter the semi-wash road. I traveled over some mild mounds, through a rather sandy wash bottom, and up to a slight plateau. I was set for the week, I thought. The night was quiet and the next day we rose to have coffee and breakfast, then it was off to the WRTR for Peggy. I remained at camp in and around the 5th wheel trailer and relaxed.
All was going as planned until a white pick-up crossed the nearby desert and then stopped about 200 feet from my rig. I had a bad feeling and when I saw two law enforcement officers exit the pick-up truck, I knew to expect a visit. I exited my rig and walked slowly toward them carefully keeping my hands where they could be seen; after all, I am from Los Angeles. I was welcomed and asked if I knew that I was within the Parker city limits and that there was no-camping with the city limits? I told them that I spoke with the Parker Police, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department, and State Land Trust office in Phoenix and all agreed that this area should be fine to camp in. I also pulled out my Stage Trust permit along with a map showing the assumed boundaries of the Trust Land. Well, I was told that the city ordinance would overrule the State Trust permit and that I needed to comply. I told them that I was happy to comply and did not want to create any trouble for the event or the city.
I was the only person to attempt to camp in that area; however I understand that another camper made a camp along another road and was also asked to leave. The RTR did announce that someone had been cited for camping, in a “no-camping area”, but did not say who. I did settle in for 6 days at another BLM area along Parker Dam Road which worked out well and had good access to shopping, Blue Water Casino, and several restaurants.
My attendance at the RTR proved to be satisfying and worthwhile. Peggy enjoyed her two-day participation in the WRTR. I managed to do some volunteer work which was fun, and I met many different RVers and van dwellers who had interesting stories and visions for their future, as perhaps full time RVers.
Since I was a volunteer who agreed to provide over 16 or 20 hours of service, I was entitled to free dry camping at the venue, which I though could be expanded next year. By lowering the required number of hours, there could be more campers on-site and this would help to increase attendees to the workshops.
I also suggested that a shuttle transportation be planned for next year. I was told that the organizing of a bus would constitute a violation of the BLM rules, but that I could work on it on my own. I agreed that I would see what could be done outside of the official RTR management circle.
I know that I benefited from my attendance and would encourage others to think about attending in the future. Hope to see you down the road, and at the next RTR.
In 2014 Heinrich Keifer decided to restore an old 1980s 5th wheel trailer; after a few weekend trips he attended a national Good Sam rally. After years of boating and boat camping he started to get a good feeling about RV living. In late 2015 he picked up a new Jayco 5th wheel and has been increasing his RV education at numerous RV events, through magazines, and from YouTube and Facebook posts. Recently he attended his second RTR and was involved in posting tips to help locate camping.
Photos provided by Blaize Sun.