Tag Archives: van dweller

Etiquette for Interacting with Van Dwellers

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I was talking to a new full-time van dwelling friend, and conversation led to a discussion of some of the things people (van dwellers and nonvandwellers alike) have done to make us uncomfortable as single women living in our vans. As a public service as the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) approaches, here are seven tips on how to politley interact with van dwellers and other folks who live in an RV or other vehicle.

  • Don’t sneak up on anyone, When approaching someone’s camp, a hearty yoohoo! or hello! announces your presence. Folks don’t like to be surprised by someone in their space, especially if the visitor is interrupting private time.
  • Try not to walk through anyone’s camp. If possible, walk on a camp’s perimeter. Give rigs a wide berth.
  • If you see someone outside their rig cooking, maybe it’s not the best time to visit. Ok, to be fair, I don’t know if visits during meal preparation bother most people, but such visits really irritate me.
  • Don’t tell other people what they need to do or buy. It’s great if you’ve figured out what works for you, but something that works for you won’t necessarily solve other people’s problems. If someone asks for or seems open to suggestions, by all means share your knowledge and success, but you don’t have to put on your bossy pants.
  • Don’t take photos of people or their rigs unless you’ve asked for and received consent to do so. Certainly don’t post such photos on social media or anywhere online without permission. If you want group shots, try taking a photo of the back of the crowd. Announce your intention to take a group shot so folks who don’t want to be in it can look elsewhere or walk away.
  • Don’t peer into windows or stick your head into open doors to take a peek inside someone’s rig. If a van dweller wants you to see the inside of the rig, you’ll be invited. If you were walking through a neighborhood and saw a cute house, would you walk right up to a window and try to look in? The people who lived in the house might not want to be friends with someone who did such a thing.
  • Unless there’s a bonafide emergency, do not enter anyone’s rig unless you have asked for and received permission to do so or have been invited in. Again, imagine you’re walking through a neighborhood. If you saw a house with an open front door, would you step inside and have a look around? I don’t think so!

When a van or RV or car is someone’s home, pleast treat it that way and don’t encroach on anyone’s privacy.

Thank you.

This public service announcement brought to you by the Rubber Tramp Artist.

I took the photo in this post.

Life vs. Lifestyle

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Last year at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), I repeatedly heard people refer to the “lifestyle.”

Why did you chose this lifestyle? How long have you been living this lifestyle.

This use of the term “lifestyle” annoys me for a couple of reasons, the first personal and the second more broad.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve been annoyed by questions about my “lifestyle.” Back in the day, I remember being asked to talk about “the anarchist lifestyle.” Then and now, my answer is the same: I can tell you about my life, but I really can’t speak about a lifestyle.

To me (and Merriam-Webster doesn’t exactly validate my belief), life is authentic, but lifestyle is more about wanting to be. I guarantee you, the life I am living is authentically my own. I’m not aspiring to be something else. I am not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m doing my thing, living my life, not attempting to live in some specific way so I can fit in with some specific group. The only “lifestyle” I can speak about is the Blaize Sun/Rubber Tramp Artist lifestyle; in other words, my own personal, individual life.

The other reason I’m annoyed by the use of the word “lifestyle” is validated by Merriam-Webster. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lifestyle), “lifestyle” is

the usual way of life of a person, group, or society.

So what is the “usual” van dweller or rubber tramp way of life? Is there a usual, typical, customary, normal, standard, established, conventional, traditional, or predictable way that van dwellers live their lives?

While some van dwellers live in banged up old cargo vans, others reside in late-model, expensive Sprinters and Class B RVs. Some folks make their homes in 20+ year old conversion vans and some folks live in minivans. Some rubber tramps aren’t van dwellers at all, but live in cars and SUVs. Are all of those folks living the same lifestyle?

Some van dwellers receive money from pensions or trust funds. Some get monthly disability or social security payments. Some of us have to be frugal to survive, while others are able to live as extravagantly as they desire. Some of us still have to work for money (full-time job or a part-time job or seasonal work) if we want to eat. Are we all living the same lifestyle?

Some people are living in vans that have been painstakingly and expensively customized. Some rubber tramps have insulated their vehicle’s walls and put down nice flooring, tinted the windows, and installed enough solar panels to power a house in the suburbs. Other people throw down a blanket on the floor and call it good because that’s all they can manage or afford, or maybe because they like to live a simple life. Which of these folks is living the van dweller lifestyle?

Some van dwellers are only living in their vans part of the time, taking weekend trips or driving their vans on vacations. Some folks are taking extended trips, but have a conventional home to return to whenever they want. Some people are living in their vans 24/7, with no other home to go to if they get cold or sick or tired of being on the road. Some full-timers have every possession they own with them, while others pay for storage facilities or leave belongings with friends or family. Are the lifestyles of these people the same or different?

I’m not interested in settling on qualifications for “real” van dwellers or rubber tramps. I’m just saying, as far as I can tell, there’s not one “lifestyle” being lived by every van dweller or rubber tramp. There are an infinite  variety of ways to live based on individual choices. Talking about “the lifestyle” doesn’t even make sense.

Personally, I’m not interested in living a ‘lifestyle.” I want to live my life. It’s easier to change that way. If I commit myself to a “lifestyle” of van dwelling, what does that mean when I house sit or stay with friends or rent a room in a house for some period of time? Living my life seems a flexible; I can evolve and change . If I decide to live a “lifestyle” I have to stay within the parameters set by the group if i want to keep my place in the group. I’ll just continue doing things the way that works for me, thank you very much. I’ll just live my life.

 

 

Ten Reasons I Like Living in My Van

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#1 I don’t pay thousands of dollars a year in rent

#2 I don’t pay monthly bills for water, electricity, internet, and/or trash pickup.

#3 Because I have fewer bills, I don’t have to work 50 weeks a year.

#4 Living in a small space helps me keep my tendency to collect things in check.

#5 If I want something I own (my towel, my pillow, a certain shirt, a certain book), I only have to walk out to my van to get it.

#6 If I don’t like where I’m staying, it’s easy to go elsewhere.

#7 Whenever I’ve got my van with me, I’ve got my bed with me. If I can park, I can nap comfortably.

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I took this photo showing the decorations on the ceiling and walls of my van.

#8 I’ve got the ceiling and walls of my van decorated with mementos, so it’s like living in a scrapbook.

#9 I’m less isolated from nature than are most people who live in conventional homes.

#10 I can hear the sound of rain hitting my metal roof.

To read more about why I like living in a van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/04/30/10-things-i-love-about-van-life/.

 

(Guest Post) A new way of living

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Today’s guest blog is by my friend Nina. I met Nina a couple of years ago at a gathering for people interested in van dwelling. We don’t see each other often, but we stay in touch electronically. Nina has been very supportive of my life and my writing. Today you can read her story.

Thank you to my dear friend Blaize for having faith in me and asking me to write an article for her blog!

Two years ago, being 50 years young and having to resign from a full time permanent position with a government environmental agency was the beginning of a new way of living for me. This same agency had been my employment with seasonal, term and lastly a permanent position for a total of about 11 years. It was my planned career and retirement until fate intervened. The stressful permanent position was an office job, unlike the prior office/outdoor Nature dominated tenure.  The stress had been building through the years and I was researching various other options.

RVing full-time and van living was on my radar. I had come across a website, www.cheaprvliving.com by Bob Wells, which resounded with my unique ideas and philosophy.  It was a great source of information and I started bookmarking articles that were important to me! It seemed that the RV life would be feasible after I retired.

A renovation had started in our work building and certain floors were being worked on two at a time. When it came time for our floor, the tearing out and replacing the carpet, plastic baseboard, paint and the various glues, dust and cleaner smells were too much for my body to endure. Accommodations were made by moving my desk, files and phone onto another unrenovated floor until the work process was complete.

When I returned to my new cubicle, the smells and chemicals were causing headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea as I tried to tough it out. My symptoms were discussed with my supervisor and off I went to my Naturopath Doctor (ND) in another city. The ND and I had a good relationship for several years prior. My prior positions had involved herbicide and pesticide applications along with my other outdoor duties.  Chemical sensitivities, allergies and various intestinal issues appeared that had me turn to natural medicine and eating healthier.  Meeting her had changed my life! She helped me understand the antibiotics and drugs the regular Medical Doctor (MD) had given in prior illnesses only dealt with symptoms not the real problem.  A wide array of blood tests that included the liver were run and compared to my prior tests. The ND discussed the results which showed my liver was overwhelmed with toxins and was dumping them for other organs to try to handle.

The agency then put out canisters designed to detect dangerous chemicals and sent them to a lab for testing. After reporting the ND results to my supervisor, the agency decided they wanted my tests redone by a qualified MD in order to accommodate me. In the meantime, the canisters came back with no harmful toxins or chemicals in the air. It was discussed with my ND and decided that for me to recover as much as possible, exposure to the area was to be limited. Choosing between money/career vs. my health was made. Resignation was the hard, but clear choice.

It was then the realization of how full-timing, van living could possibly improve my health!  A van was chosen, because of my financial situation. Each day afterwards there have been many adventures, challenges and new people, both good and bad. It would have been harder without the wonderful support of many people including Blaize!

Where to Stay in T or C

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I’ve been writing about Truth or Consequences, NM in the last few days, and several people have told me they now have T or C on their list of places to visit. It would hardly be fair to get folks excited about visiting the town and not tell them where they can stay.

The first time I visited T or C, I had the good fortune to spend a week in a motel. I stayed at the Rocket Inn (http://www.rocketinn.net/, 605 N Date Street), a small motor court with only nine rooms for rent. Built in 1948, and originally called the Red Haven Motel, the entire place has been restored. According to the website, the

fully modernized King Deluxe and Double Queen rooms…include fridge, microwave, WIFI and HDTV/basic cable. [The property is] family run, dog-friendly and walking distance to Main Street.

I chose the Rocket Inn because I could walk from my room to downtown where I was able to sample the wonderful hot springs bathhouses. (To read more about the hot springs and bathhouses in the town, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/05/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/06/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/08/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences-part-2/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/07/artwork-from-la-paloma/.) Everyone working at the Rocket Inn, from the owners to the housekeepers, were exceedingly nice to me and made sure I had everything I wanted and needed. The rooms were impeccably clean, and I felt perfectly safe there.

SDC10011The third time I visited Truth or Consequences, I stayed at the Artesian Bath House and RV Park (https://sites.google.com/site/artesianbathhousenm/Home) at 312 Marr Street for two months. Nightly and weekly rates at the Artesian are reasonable, but the monthly rate is a fantastic deal. (Read up on the Artesian’s rates here: https://sites.google.com/site/artesianbathhousenm/Home/rates.)

According to the business’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Artesian-Bath-House-Trailer-Court/111366938897101),

The Artesian Bath House opened for business June, 1930. For over 33 years the Martin’s [sic] have owned, operated, and maintained their commercial hot springs.

The Artesian is great for vandwellers, as there  are restrooms on-site, and one can take a hot bath if one wants to clean up.

I have also had great success stealth parking and boondocking in the town of Truth or Consequences. I’m not sure if I’m actually as stealthy as I like to think I am or if no one in T or C cares about who’s sleeping in a vehicle in a residential area, but when I left in December of 2015, I’d never been bothered during my nights in the van. Lots of folks park overnight in the parking lot of the T or C Wal-Mart. I have seen everything from luxury Class A’s to old-school motorhomes held together with duct tape and prayer to stealth vans parked in that lot. On some nights I’ve counted a dozen vehicles parked there, then counted them all again in the morning as I walked toward the doors of the store. Sometimes I call that parking lot the Wal-Mart RV park.

For folks who want to get out of town and into nature, there’s plenty of that in the area too.

Paseo del Rio Campground SignTruth or Consequences is very close to Elephant Butte dam and Elephant Butte State Park. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_Butte_Dam,

Elephant Butte Dam…is a concrete gravity dam on the Rio Grande river near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The dam impounds Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is used for both recreation and agriculture. The construction of the dam has reduced the flow of the Rio Grande to a small stream, with high releases occurring only during the summer irrigation season, or during years of exceptionally heavy snow melt.

Elephant Butte Dam

Elephant Butte Dam is the large concrete structure in the middle of this photo.

The Paseo del Rio Recreation Area is part of Elephant Butte State Park. The Paseo del Rio includes a campground I stayed at for a couple of nights during my first visit to the area.

When I was there, the campground did not offer water, sewage, or electrical hookups, but each campsite had a fire ring and picnic table covered by a ramada. There were flush toilets and sinks with running water on one end of the campground, near the day-use parking lot, and portable toilets at the other end. I believe the camping fee was $10 per night.

The Rio Grande and Mountain

This photo shows the Rio Grande as it looked from the trail that ran through the campground.

A 3/4 mile trail with “interpretive signage of historic interest” (http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/TrailsatStateParks.html) ran through the campground and along the Rio Grande, and there was a historic fish hatchery in the recreation area.

I found the campground peaceful. There wasn’t much traffic at night on the road closest to the campground, so there wasn’t much disruptive automotive noise.

Fish Hatchery Lake

This photo shows one of the fish hatchery lakes. The water drew birds, so there was a lot of avian life in the area.

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This photo shows Caballo Lake, with the Caballo Mountains beyond it.

I also spent a couple of nights at the Percha Flats camping area at Caballo Lake State Park. Percha Flats was a primitive camping area with no designated campsites, no running water, no electricity, and no hookups of any kind. When I visited, there was a pit toilet and a dumpster near the entrance to the camping area. The camping fee was $8 per night. There were no designated hiking trails in the area where I stayed, but I did take some nice walks along the edge of the lake.

The final campground I stayed in near Truth or Consequences was in Percha Dam State Park. SDC10028The campground had many developed campsites, although mine only had a picnic table. My site had no ramada, and no hookups, although there may have been a water spigot there. (I can’t remember.) Many of the sites had electrical hookups, but I decided not to splurge on that. The campground also had flush toilets, sinks with running water, and hot showers that didn’t cost extra to use. I did enjoy a nice hot shower during my stay.

My last tip is a boondocking spot about 3o miles away from Truth or Consequences. Last time I was there, the cute little town of Hillsboro (population 124) allowed folks to park overnight in the community’s tiny park across the street from the Black Range Museum. There were a couple of pit toilets in the park, as well as a few informational placards, and campfires were not allowed. I think this spot would be a good place to spend the night on a trip between T or C and Silver City.

So there you have it. I’ve offered up several choices of places to stay as you start your adventures in Truth or Consequences and the surrounding area.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Truth or Consequences Hot Springs (My Experiences Part 2)

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In a previous post (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/06/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences/), I wrote about my experiences at four bathhouses (Blackstone, Indian Springs, La Paloma, and La Paloma Too) in Truth or Consequences (T or C), New Mexico. In this post, I will share my experiences at three more bathhouses I’ve visited in T or C.

I soaked at Riverbend Hot springs (100 Austin Street, http://www.riverbendhotsprings.com/) once in March of 2014. SDC10007Riverbend has both public and private pools for soaking.

According to http://www.riverbendhotsprings.com/springs.html#pub,

The public pools consist of five pools that cascade from one to another, creating a different temperature in each one. Temperatures usually range from around 100-108 degrees. They are situated around a shaded river deck and include a cold shower for cooling off, as well as our large shaded patio with chaise loungers, mist fans (in the summer), dining tables and chairs, and our barrel sauna…The cold and clear Rio Grande River is also accessible for swimming at your own risk (closed when the river levels are fluctuating).

The Riverbend website (http://www.riverbendhotsprings.com/springs.html#pvt) has this to say about their private pools:

Our private pools are perfect for those that desire to bathe au natural or would like more peaceful privacy. They are walled on three sides but open to the riverside mountain view. Each have their own river deck, cooling mister systems and reclining lounge chairs or benches. They are available for rental by the public and are discounted for overnight guests.

I soaked in the Rio pool.

The Pool I soaked in outside, next to the Rio Grande

This is the Rio, the pool I soaked in outside, next to the Rio Grande

The Riverbend website says,

Rio (“river”) is very popular for its extremely close proximity to the river, its high temperature, and its quiet flow of water. This cozy pool seats two people very comfortably and has a temperature of about 107-108 degrees. It has a small shaded deck for cooling off between dips.

The private cabana (?) housing my hot little pool

Here’s a view of the deck from the pool I soaked in.

The water in the pool was nice and hot, and the pool was deep. I enjoyed being outside naked, and I enjoyed the view. Since most of the soaking in T or C is done indoors, in bathhouses, soaking out in nature was a real treat. However, even though there was a wall between my soaking area and the one next to me, I could clearly hear the voices and follow the conversation of the men in the next pool. Hearing other people’s inane conversation was less than relaxing.

Soaking in the public pools at Riverbend costs $10 per hour. Private soaks cost $15 on a walk-in basis and $10 for overnight guests. Reservations are taken for private soaks.

 This is the view I had while I soaked in the hot pool at Riverbend. That's the Rio Grande in the forefront. Turtle Mountain is in the background.

This is the view I had while I soaked in the Rio pool at Riverbend. That’s the Rio Grande in the forefront. Turtleback Mountain is in the background.

I’ve soaked many, many times at the Charles Motel and Hot Springs Charles Motel(601 N Broadway Street, http://www.charlesspa.com/index.html), the first time in March 2014, most recently in December 2015. At the Charles, there is a women’s side and a men’s side, both with individual tubs (much like conventional home bathtubs with faucets and drains) for soaking. I’ve only ever been on the women’s side, so that’s what I will write about. Also, the Charles offers soaking in outdoor, rooftop Jacuzzi tubs, but I’ve never soaked in them or even been on the roof to look at them.

IMG_4085The photo to the left shows the women’s side. Each tub is in its own little cubical, separated on two sides by walls that go almost all the way to the floor and a curtain in the back. There is drinking water available to anyone soaking.

While the walls and curtains offer visual privacy, they don’t do much to block sound. Sometimes women soaking in tubs next to each other want to chat, which makes for a less than relaxing experience for people like me who want to soak in silence. I’ve found that the best time for me to soak at the Charles is first thing in the morning, as soon as it opens at 8am. I’m usually the only person soaking that early in the day, and the whole area is blissfully peaceful.

This is my favorite tub to soak in at the Charles. It's shorter than the rest, which is ok since I am short, and it's deeper than the other tubs too. I like deep! I also like the pink and blue tile.

This is my favorite tub to soak in at the Charles. It’s shorter than the rest, which is ok since I am short, and it’s deeper than the other tubs too. I like deep! I also like the pink and blue tile.

Private soaks at the Charles cost $6 for an entire hours, and that includes a towel! The outdoor Jacuzzi tubs seat 4 to 6 and cost $8/10 per person per hour. According to the website,

Temperature [in the baths] ranges from 98 ° to 115 °F… All our tubs are drained, cleaned and sanitized after each use.

Of all the places I’ve soaked, The Artesian Bath House and Trailer Court (312 Marr Street, https://www.facebook.com/Artesian-Bath-House-Trailer-Court-111366938897101/) is probably my favorite. I first soaked there in March of 2014 and most recently in December 2015.

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Like at the Charles, soaking is done in tubs much like those in the home, tubs with faucets from where the water flows and drains through which the water exits. Unlike at the Charles, at the Artesian, each tub is in its own private room with a door that locks. At the Artesian, I do not hear other people’s conversations while I am soaking. At the Artesian, I get an hour of quiet, peaceful, hot water bliss.

The Artesian also has at least one large tub, big enough for two (or maybe three) people. I was able to soak in the large tub once when the individual tubs were all taken. There is plenty of room to stretch out in the big tub.

My last one-hour soak at the Artesian cost six dollars. The bathhouse is closed on Wednesdays.

The Artesian is also an RV park, open to nightly, weekly, and monthly stays. I spent two months there in the winter of 2014. Because the Artesian has restrooms and baths, it is a perfect place for a van dweller like me to stay. The monthly rate was extremely affordable, and included WiFi access. I was also able to utilize the electric hookups to charge my laptop and phone batteries. Folks staying there pay for the electricity they use, but my usage was small and I only payed a few dollars a month for it. Also, because I was a tenant, soaks cost me just $3 an hour.

I miss soaking in the wonderful, hot mineral water in T or C, especially in the winter.

Why I’m Glad I Don’t Live in a Tent

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When I think back to the days when I was living in a tent (with the man who was my partner then), it seems as if we lived that way for a long time. However, when I do the calculations, I realize we only lived in that tent (the cheapest two-person tent Wal-Mart had) for a few months. Oh how the imagination stretches the unpleasant! I don’t want to go back to those days (for a lot of reasons), and I hope I never have to live in a tent again.

THE SET UP AND THE BREAKDOWM OF THE TENT WAS A PAIN IN THE ASS

Even after I’d grown accustomed to setting up the tent, it was never easy. It was always difficult to thread the poles through the pockets on the roof and sides. It was always difficult to poke the ends of the poles into the pockets on the ground. Every piece of the tent puzzle had to be in the right place at the right moment to make the whole thing work.

Taking it apart was easier, but it was such a struggle to get the tent folded correctly and small enough to get it into the carrying bag.

Setting up and breaking down the tent took time and energy. Neither was a fast process, even after I knew what I was doing. At the end of a long day, setting up the tent was the last thing I wanted to do. And forget about a quick get-away in the morning.

In my van, whenever I decide to park for the night, I can crawl into bed moments after I pull the key out of the ignition. In the morning, if I’ve taken nothing out of the van, I’m ready to go as soon as I get dressed and put on my shoes.

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO BE STEALTH IN A TENT IN A CITY?

I’m sure some people figure out how to be stealth in a tent in a populated area, especially if there’s a park with a woodsy area or a woodsy area on the edge of town. I only pulled off staying in a tent in a city once, with the help of some street kids who shared their camping squat on some undeveloped land quite a walk from the city center.

It’s easier to be stealth in my van, especially if I get into bed as soon as I park and don’t turn on any lights. A van will blend in with other parked cars, but outside of the woods, a tent is going to stand out.

THE TENT DIDN’T OFFER MUCH POROTECTION FROM THE COLD
Yes, sleeping in the tent kept me warmer than sleeping outside without a tent but warmer is not the same as comfortable. Most of the tent sleeping I did was in late spring and early summer. If the night were cold (and some of them were), I was cold in the tent.

Sleeping on the cold ground seemed to suck the heat out of me. Someone once told me that if one’s kidneys get cold, one’s blood gets cold, and then one has cold blood circulating throughout one’s body. Cold ground = cold kidneys = cold body. I suppose a good sleeping bag or an air mattress would have helped, but I had neither.

Unless the temperature dips into the 20s, I stay warm in my van. I have plenty of blankets and a propane heater I can turn on if I need to. A van is better insulated than a cheap Wal-Mart tent, so it stays warmer. My bed is raised, so I’m not losing my heat to the van’s cold metal floor.

THE TENT DIDN’T OFFER MUCH PROTECTION FROM THE RAIN EITHER

The Southeast in the springtime can see a lot of rain. The spring I was living in the tent saw a lot of rain. The tent was wet a lot. The seams started to leak. Water seeped in at the bottom edges. All of the stuff in the tent had to be piled in the middle to try to keep it dry. (Did I mention my partner and I had no motor vehicle, so there was nowhere to store our stuff other than the tent?) Sleeping bags and blankets got wet. There was nowhere to put our wet clothes to dry. It was a miserable time.

Fortunately, my van doesn’t leak. (I paused my writing to knock on wood.) The rain can come down (and down and down and down), and I stay dry. My stuff stays dry too. I can drape wet clothes around the van, and they’ll dry out eventually. My van is good protection from the elements.

THE GROUND TENDS TO BE BUMPY AND NOT REALLY FLAT

Outside of a campground (and sometimes in one too), it can be really difficult to find a clear, flat piece of earth on which to pitch a tent. If you’ve ever slept in a tent on an incline, you know it’s not really sleeping, as you’re fighting all night to hold your position and not end up pressed against the wall of the tent at the bottom of the slope. It’s also not easy to find a piece of ground that’s not littered with (sometimes seemingly invisible) rocks and sticks. You may not see rocks and sticks, but you’ll certainly feel them as soon as you lie down. If you’re in an area with a lot of trees, it may be impossible to get away from roots. Again, an air mattress or a good sleeping pad might help make sleeping on the ground more comfortable, but that’s a lot of stuff to haul around, especially if you’re carrying everything you own on your back.

In my van, I carry my comfy bed with me. I sleep on top of two layers of memory foam. This bed is more comfortable than several of the “real” beds I’ve slept on in houses. I never sleep on top of lumps and bumps. Sometimes, however, if I’m not careful about where I park, I do end up on an incline and wake up in the night in a scrunched-up woman heap with my head off the pillow and my feet pressed against the wall. Even when I wake up and realize I’ve made this sort of poor parking decision, it’s still better than sleeping on the cold, hard ground.

THERE WAS NEVER ENOUGH ROOM IN THE TENT

Two person tent + two people + two people’s stuff = never enough room

Neither of us could stand up in the tent. I often felt claustrophobic. It was not comfortable to have a friend hang out in the tent with us.

While I wouldn’t say my van is spacious, it is roomer than the tent. My van has a high top, so I can stand up. If I needed to, I could get two or three other people in the van with me for a short period of time. One person could probably spend a night on the van’s floor. There’s room for me to set up my stove so I can cook in the van if I need to, and there’s room to operate my Mr. Buddy heater safely.

THE TENT OFFERED ONLY MINIMAL PRIVACY

Sure, the tent kept people from seeing us naked, but that’s about it. Unless we whispered, anyone nearby could hear what we were saying. I suspect everyone probably knew when my partner and I were having sex too. If my partner and I were both in the tent, we had no privacy from each other.

Once I pull the curtains in my van, I feel I have a high degree of privacy. Oh sure, if this van’s a rockin’ is a real phenomenon, but at least no one’s going to hear every moan and sigh. If I were traveling with someone in my van, one of us could sit in the bed or in one of the front seats with the front or back curtain pulled while the other was in the main part of the van, and we wouldn’t have to look at each other.

THE TENT OFFERED LITTLE SECURITY

Are there tents that lock? I’ve never seen one. Anyone could unzip the tent flap, reach in, and grab whatever they wanted. I guess in campgrounds folks stash their valuables in their locked cars, but when one is carrying everything one owns, there is no place to lock anything away.

Tents offer even less security for my physical self. Is a tent going to stop a bear? No. Is a tent going to stop a murder or a rapist? No. (Not that I dwell on murderers or rapists, but the thought occurs to me.)

I feel very secure in my van. I can lock the doors when I leave and when I’m inside. As my dad says, a lock is to keep an honest man (or woman, Dad) honest. If someone with tools and know-how wanted to break into my van, it would probably be fairly easy. But I do feel like my stuff and I are safe when the doors are locked. (I paused to knock wood again.) While a bear might be able to peel off a door, at least a person with bad intentions is not going to be able to rip open the van’s metal roof.

Of course, I realize a different tent would have solved some of the problems I’ve outlined. A bigger tent could have helped with my space and privacy issues. A three-season tent would have kept me warmer. A better-made tent might not have leaked. A tent with a better design may have gone up and down more easily. But I don’t know how to solve stealth and security issues with a tent.

In any case, I’m so, so grateful for my van. It keeps me safe, dry, warm, and comfortable. (I’m knocking wood again.) I wouldn’t trade it for a six-person, three-season, easy-up, well-made tent with a lock and a top-of-the-line air mattress.

To read another story about tent living, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/23/hierarchy-homelessness/.

 

Lingo

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lin·go
/ˈliNGɡō/

noun

informal humorous
the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people

from https://www.google.com/search?q=lingo+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!

I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.

Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.

Boondock–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondock interchangeably with dry camp, while others differentiate between the two and use boondock only in relation to public land.

Canned ham–(I just learned this one a few days ago.) A trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side. (http://www.theladyisatramp.net/definitions/)

Casita–Brand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer. (http://casitatraveltrailers.com/)

*Class ARV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motorhome.

*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.

*Class CRV with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.

CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, the website, as in http://www.cheaprvliving.com/.

*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping.

Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondock.

*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.

Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road.

*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.

Mr. Buddy–a brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.

Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in her/his own conventional home sometimes.

Popup–A type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popup_camper)

Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.

Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV. A rig can be a motorhome. A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C. A rig can be a combination of a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup and a tow vehicle.

Rubber tramp–A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on. (from Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Rubber+Tramp) Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road, group meals, and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR; see those posts here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/27/thoughts-on-the-rtr-2015/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/23/report-on-the-2016-rubber-tramp-rendezvous/. Also see http://www.cheaprvliving.com/gatherings/ for more info about the RTR.

RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motorhomes, 5th wheels, travel trailers, and Classes A, B, and C.

Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakedown_cruise, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)

*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.

Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with a man is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.

Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. For more on stealth parking, see http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/bobs-12-commandments-for-stealth-parking-in-the-city/ and http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/stealth-parking-locations-part-2/.

Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.

Teardropa streamlined, compact, lightweight travel trailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear. (https://www.google.com/search?q=teardrop+trailer+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8.)

Toad–(This was a new one to me at the 2016 RTR.)–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.

Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.

*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.

*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.

Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land.

*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.

What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.

Mr Heater A323000 Buddy Heater

 


Report on the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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I recently attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in Quartzsite, Arizona. If you don’t know the first thing about the RTR, you can find more information at http://www.cheaprvliving.com/gatherings/. You can also read my posts about my experience at the 2015 RTR here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.

The 2016 RTR ran January 5-19, and was once again held at Scaddan Wash. Everyone agreed there were more people at the 2016 RTR than ever before, but I haven’t heard an official count of attendees.

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This is what the Scaddan Wash area looks like.

In 2015, I parked very close to the main fire pit/meeting area, but this year I made my home near far end of the road. Being so far back forced me to walk more to attend workshops and visit friends.

The weather was cold and rainy the first few days of the RTR. I drove in the rain to get to Quartzsite, and I enjoyed hearing raindrops on the roof of my van the first couple nights in the desert. Although the low temperatures were cold for Quartzsite, they still beat the lows in most of the U.S. Many folks I know used their Mr. Buddy heaters, but I never even pulled mine out of its tub.

On most days of the gathering, at least one educational seminar was offered. Seminar topics included the following: gold prospecting; work camping; setting up and using solar power; gadgets; lithium batteries; cooking methods; making a dream catcher; traveling to Algadones and Baja, Mexico; safety in the desert; boondocking; nature photography; car dwelling; and receiving mail, health insurance, and residency.

I only went to two seminars this year, the welcome seminar on the first morning and the seminar about living in a car. Most of the seminars were repeats from last year, and I either wasn’t interested in the topic or felt I already got the information I needed from the seminar when I sat through it before. Most mornings I didn’t want to carry my chair all the way to the meeting area and sit in the sun for a couple of hours.

I did attend the two women’s meetings at the RTR. Each meeting had about 30 women in attendance, although it wasn’t all the same women both times; many women only attended one of the meetings. I did not facilitate the women’s meetings this year, which was something of a relief. I won’t be giving a full report of the meetings, as both consisted mostly of introductions. In the second meeting, women shared information in answer to specific questions such as How do I get a job work camping? How do I eliminate bodily wastes while living in my car/van/RV? How do I get electricity in my van? What do folks drive and what kind of gas mileage does that vehicle get?

My favorite RTR activities were again the group meals. As we did last year, everyone who wanted to participate contributed canned or fresh ingredients to be added to chili one week and soup the next.

Once again, the Chef and his crew turned the contributions into two delicious meals. At the chili feed, there were three offerings: vegan chili (which I ate and can say was Yum!), chili that was a little hot, and chili that was a little hotter. Folks also contributed homemade cornbread; crackers; and toppings like cheese, onions, and cilantro.

At the soup dinner, the soups offered included a vegetarian minestrone-type soup, chicken noodle, beef barley, and one with spicy sausage. Crackers were also provided, as well as dessert! I was in line with Lady Nell and Mr. Jay, and they didn’t care for dessert, so they gave me their share of the sweets. I ended up with a no-bake cookie, a chocolate chip cookie, and some sort of chocolate chip/coconut bar, all homemade. Super yum!

The third group meal was a potato bake hosted by the same couple who made it happen last year. The potatoes (180 of them!) were baked in the coals of the main fire pit, and folks contributed just about any topping one could imagine putting on top of a baked potato.

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Cacti and mountains surrounding the RTR 2016.

I was a lot more social in 2016 than I was in 2015. Being social was easier for me this year because I already knew folks. I often have difficulty approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation, but I can usually think if something to say to someone I’ve already met. In addition to reconnecting with people I met last year, I actually made several new friends, at least two of whom I think I will stay in frequent contact.

My personal highpoints of the gathering happened when I met people who told me they read my blog. I have readers!

Mr. Jay was the first person I spoke to at the RTR. When I knocked on the rig to find out if Lady Nell were home, Mr. Jay answered the door. After a few moments of chit chat, he asked kindly, And you are? I said, I’m Blaize. His face broke into a smile and he said, Oh! I read you! It was a moment of great happiness for me.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

The Question

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Today my new boss asked me the question. She asked it hesitantly. I could tell she did not want to offend me, but she did want to know.

Why do you live in your van?

I gave her the most basic answer first, the one that is most honest, but that tends to make people uncomfortable and stops conversation.

I was homeless, so living in a van was a step up.

Should I not say that to people, even though it’s true, because they don’t know how to respond? Should I not tell my new boss that I used to be homeless? Should I be ashamed that I was homeless? Should I be ashamed to live in a van?

I went on to tell her the other reasons I live in my van, the ones most van dwellers and rubber tramps give. I like to travel. I don’t like paying rent. The van is enough for me. I don’t need a big RV because I am by myself. I told her, I don’t have any kids. I don’t have a man. Or a woman. (Did I come out as bisexual to my new boss? Is that more or less risky than admitting I used to be homeless?)

She seemed to understand that van living might be an ok way to live for a person who likes to travel. I told her I sometimes wish I had more space, but I’d probably just fill more space with junk I don’t really need. She seemed to understand that part too.

Then the conversation turned (as it so often does) to being a woman traveling alone and safety and being brave.

I told her I pay attention to what’s going on, I stay alert. I told her I don’t drink or party or use illegal drugs (good information to work into a conversation with a new boss) so I can be aware of what’s happening around me. I told her if sketchy people start doing sketchy things, I put the key in the ignition and drive away.

I told her, I’ve had shit (should I have not said “shit” to my new boss?) happen to me in my own home (and by own home, I actually meant other vans, cheap motel rooms, and under bridges) with someone I loved. Bad things can happen anywhere.

The other woman in the conversation piped in with Yeah, something bad could happen to you walking out of Vonn’s (the local supermarket).

When I was in college in New Orleans, I worked in the French Quarter. I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t always get a ride, so often I’d take a bus home at midnight. There was no other way home. (A $10 cab ride? Give me a break!) I needed to work to support myself, so I stood at a bus stop in the French Quarter in the dark, and I walked from where the bus dropped me off to my house in the dark. One day I realized if I could be out at night because of work, I could be out at night to have fun.

What I’m saying is if my own loved one caused me harm, why should I be scared of strangers? Are stranger scarier than what I’ve already been through? I’m sure some of them are, but I try not to be an easy mark for people with bad things on their minds. Besides, someone could just as easily break into an apartment in a city and “get me,” as break into my van in the woods. (The one better chance I might have in a city is that maybe people would hear me scream and maybe those people would try to help.)

I don’t think what I do is so much braver than what millions of women do every day all over the world. Is traveling alone braver than walking miles to haul water and firewood, cooking and cleaning and having too many babies? Is traveling alone braver than living through war, seeing your loved ones die, having your home destroyed by bombs? Is traveling alone braver than taking a beating so your kids or your siblings won’t get hit? Is traveling alone braver than carrying on after being raped by soldiers or sold into a life of sex slavery? Is traveling alone braver than living in a city among poverty and violence, worrying that you or someone you love is going to be killed by a cop or a gang member with a gun?

When I look at it that way, my life seems good, and I seem really safe.

If I’ve done anything brave, it’s not living alone in a van, traveling, working as a camp host in a forest. If I’ve ever done anything brave, it was finally walking away from a bad situation (even if by walking away, I really mean sneaking off in the night) when I thought I had no friends or family to help me, when I was convinced I was a bad person and the universe was going to deal with me accordingly.

I’m just like so many other women in the world, doing what I do to survive, to help others, to find a little beauty in my life.