Tag Archives: Women’s Meeting

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017

Standard

Here it is August, and I haven’t yet published a report on January’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Better late than never?

There were a lot of people in the RTR section of Scaddan Wash in January 2017. I never did a count of my own, but I heard reports of upwards of 600 people there. I don’t know how anyone was able to arrive at a figure. Were rigs counted? If yes, how did the counter know how many people were staying in each rig? When was the counting (of rigs or people) done? People and rigs came and went througout the entire time the RTR was underway. Folks were here today, gone tomorrow, back on Wednesday. I don’t know how an accurate count could be made with all of that coming and going.

In any case, there were a lot of people in the RTR area, way more than when I attended in 2015 or 2016.

There were also more people there this time in fancy, shiny, expensive rigs. I wondered if those people had missed the tramp part of the rendezvous or the cheap in the name of the Cheap RV Living website. Mostly, I wondered what the folks with money were getting out of a gathering where people learn how to stretch their precious few dollars in order to live a life of freedom. I guess learning how to find free public land on which to boondock is the same whether one’s living in a 90s era converted cargo van or a brand new Dodge Sprinter.

So many people arrived early, there was demand for a seminar before the Rendezvous had officially begun. I sat through the beginning of that one. It consisted mostly of folks who’d never attended the RTR asking questions, and the organizer of the event saying those questions would be answered at a seminar held later in the gathering. After a while, I got tired of hearing questions I knew the answers to not being answered, so I grabbed my chair and left.

I did attend the official Welcome to Quartzsite seminar. I don’t think I learned anything new. The seminar seating was definitely crowded that morning; I’d guess there were a couple hundred people there, but I’m not so good at estimating attendance. Again, people mostly seemed to be newcomers.

Although I didn’t attend any other seminars, I did attend the two women’s meetings. Both of those meetings were also crowded. At the first one, the facilitator offered a list of questions each woman could answer by way of introduction. During the explanation of how the introductions would work, the facilitator instructed us to limit our intros to two sentences so everyone would get to speak during the meeting’s two-hour time frame. Most women were able to limit themselves, but others went on for paragraph after paragraph. Some ramblers even seemed offended when the facilitator gently reminded them of the two sentence limit.

I wondered why the longwinded women thought they were more important than the rest of us who had complied with the two-sentence limit. Did they really think the rest of us wanted to sit and listen to them drone on and on about themselves? I, for one, did not.

When I arrived the next week for the second women’s meeting, I was shocked to see a documentary film crew setting up to record the discussion. I was astounded to find most of the women in attendance had no objection to being filmed. I said I did not want to be filmed and offered to leave rather than cause a problem, but the woman doing the filming said she’d turn off the camera and sound recording equipment whenever I spoke. Despite her offer (which I believe was made in good faith), I mostly remained silent and kept my head down throughout the meeting.

It was probably my last women’s meeting in an RTR context. The new gals tend to want to discuss things I feel like I’ve already figured out–how to go to the bathroom in the van, how to feel safe, how to keep from feeling lonely. I’m not sure what things I don’t know about that I need to talk about in a women-only group, but I know we’ll never get there if we have to talk about elimination and personal safety every year. Also, if the meetings are being recorded and I don’t want to be recorded, what am I contributing while sitting there silently with my head down?

I was primarily at the RTR to promote my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. I feel like my sucess in this endeavor was limited at best.

Coyote Sue and I shared billing at a late afternoon seminar. She was to talk about selling on Ebay while on the road, and I was to talk about being a camp host and to read from my book. We got rained out. We postponed the seminar for later in the evening. We were finally able to give our presentations to a small group before the sun went down. Everyone in attendance listened politely when I read, but I think most of the folks there wanted to hear what Coyote Sue had to say.

My main reading, the one I’d promoted throughout the RTR, was a huge disappointment. Only a handful of people attended, most of them people I already knew. Again, people were attentive, and they laughed in the right places, but since I’d been hoping for a crowd, seeing less than a dozen people in the audience made me feel a little sad.

I sold some copies of the book at the RTR, but I barely made a dent in the 100 copies I’d had printed. Perhaps I should have dreamed smaller.

Because I was trying to promote my book, I’d set up camp near the main gathering spot. I was close to the free pile and close enough to pop in at morning announcement to mention my book, hats, etc for sale.  This proximity to all the action meant my privacy was often invaded, especially, it seemed, as I was trying to cook dinner in the evening. I spent quite a bit of time feeling I had nowhere to hide. Honestly, I don’t mind answering questions (even the same question for the 10th time) but maybe don’t try to interrogate me when I’m obviously busy.

Because there were so many people at the RTR, the group meals were cancelled. The chef who’d bottomlined the soup and chilli dinners in 2015 and 2016 had to work for money in 2017 and wasn’t able to attend the RTR. The main organizer didn’t feel able to make the dinners happen successfully with so many eaters on hand, and no one with experience with feeding crowds steppd up to the challenge. I didn’t hear an official statement of why the potato bake didn’t happen, but I’m guess the couple who’d hosted it in the past didn’t feel up to the logistical nighmare of feeding the teeming masses. I was disappointed the meals were cancelled because at the previous RTR’s they’d served as my prime opportunity for social interaction. (One fellow did provide a bunch of hot dogs for a hot dog dinner early in the gathering, but I didn’t attend since I don’t eat hot dogs.)

I don’t know if there’s another Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in my future. I don’t know where I’ll be in January 2018. Also, I don’t know if I can learn anything new from the RTR. If I go to another RTR, it will be mostly to visit with friends.

If I do go to another RTR, I expect there will be a lot of people there. Folks can’t expect a free event to be promoted far and wide on the internet and not get crowded. If I attend another RTR, I’m going to park away from the main gathering areas, on the outskirts, where I can cook without an audience.

I took the photo in this post.

You can read about my experiences at past Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: the first week in 2015, the second week in 2015, some thoughts on the 2015 RTR2016, the first women’s meeting in 2015, the second women’s meeting in 2015, the free pile at the RTR, and Burning Van.

Report on the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

Standard

IMG_4437

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.

IMG_4432

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.

IMG_4440

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 Second Women’s Meeting at the 2015 RTR

Standard

Image result for women symbol and fistAt the end of the first women’s meeting, I asked everyone to think about what they wanted to discuss at the next meeting and to come prepared with suggestions so we could start by making an agenda.

The first topic we discussed was what motivated us to live our lives as vandwellers/rubber tramps/travelers. While everyone there had a different story, several women spoke of wanting to live more simply. Some women started living on the road after nearly devastating personal hardship. Others decided not to wait until their final years to travel and see new places.

Next, we talked about our creative outlets and how we manage our supplies in our limited living spaces. A couple of women who work with fabric shared their techniques for storing all their cloth. A woman who works with glass told us how she stays neat and organized.

While we were writing our agenda, one woman said she wanted to discuss how to deal with men she wants to be friends with when they start giving off  vibes suggesting they’re looking for romance. Recommendations ranged from wearing a fake wedding ring to being straight-up honest about feelings and intentions.

Another woman was interested in how traveling women manage to date and sustain relationships, especially if one’s partner doesn’t want to travel. One suggestion was to break up with the partner because if the partner wants such a different lifestyle, he (or she) must not be the right one. Another suggestion was to go out traveling while the partner stays at home but to stop in for visits as often as possible.

(Side note: The woman sitting next to me arrived after we had set the agenda and didn’t realize that a woman in the circle had asked to discuss this topic. When the discussion was lagging, the woman next to me said sharply, “I don’t think this is an issue!” I think she thought I’d put the topic on the agenda and was telling me no one wanted to talk about dating and relationships. Obviously someone wanted to talk about this subject, but the woman who’d ask to talk about it wasn’t talking. So I had to bring the discussion back to the original woman and get her to talk about her specific issues so others could present ideas that might help her. I wish people would get to meetings on time and not assume they know what’s going on when they don’t.)

The most polarizing topic of discussion was about shooting and posting photographs, as well as sharing identifying information about others, on the internet. (Coincidentally, before we had a chance to discuss photography, the woman sitting next to me got up, went to her rig and got her camera, and was about to shoot photos of the whole group. Another woman at the meeting told her that she should get permission before taking any photos. It turns out that the woman with the camera was quite irritated at being told she should ask first.)

We started the conversation talking about physical safety, elaborating on some of the safety methods we had discussed the week before. One woman talked about her habit of being aware at all times of who is around her, what those people are wearing, and what they are doing. She spoke of the importance of looking people in the eye so they know she is aware of them. This woman then started talking about security measures she takes when writing her blog. This (unintentional, as far as I could tell) segue took us right into a discussion of internet security.

Several folks pointed out that photographers should not be taking photos without permission and certainly should not be posting photos anywhere on the internet without permission. The woman next to me expressed that she was upset that she had been told she shouldn’t take photos (when actually, she was told she shouldn’t take photos without permission). She said she’d been doing this (and I assume by “this” she meant going to gatherings and taking photos without permission) for years and no one had ever said she shouldn’t do it. As the conversation progressed, she then asked if facial recognition software was what people were worried about. When people said yes, she seemed to understand at least a little why people were concerned.

While there was a group of women who were vocal about not wanting their photos taken or posted, another group said they were totally fine with having their photos posted any and everywhere. Someone suggested that in the future folks at the RTR who did not want to be photographed could wear a sticker of a predetermined color so folks with cameras would know who it was cool to take pictures of and who to leave alone.

The last topic discussed was how women could find other people (particularly other women) with whom to travel. Some already established group mentioned were Sisters on the Fly (http://www.sistersonthefly.com/), RVillage (http://www.rvillage.com/), and the Wandering Individual Network (https://rvsingles.org/). (I have done no research on these groups–other than finding a web address for them–so I can neither discourage or encourage folks to check them out.) Someone also mentioned a Facebook group for traveling women, but I didn’t write down the name, and I have no Facebook navigation skills, so I couldn’t find it. The last thing we did was pass around a sign-up sheet so women who wanted to could share their contact information with each other.

Facilitating the women’s meetings was a positive experience for me. It allowed me to get involved with the RTR, and made me stand out a little bit to people who might not have noticed me or talked to me otherwise. I also felt like I was doing a job that no one else wanted, but for which I was qualified. The main way attending the women’s meetings helped me was by giving me a chance to learn a little bit more about other women so I could use what I had learned there to strike up a conversation later. It was also extremely encouraging to see how many women at the RTR were single and traveling alone.

All in all, I’m glad I facilitated the women’s meetings.

To read about the first women’s meeting at the 2015 RTR, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/22/the-first-womens-meeting-at-the-2015-rtr/.

To read about my first week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/.

To read about my second week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.

To read about how I decided to go to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/19/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1/.

The First Women’s Meeting at the 2015 RTR

Standard

Image result for women symbol and fist

I offered to facilitate the first women’s meeting at the 2015 RTR because I knew I could do it. In a past life (and by “past life,” I don’t mean a life I was living in a different physical incarnation before I was born into my current body), I facilitated many meetings on a variety of topics.

Before the meeting, a couple of women approached me at different times and asked me about my plans for the meeting. I was told about a past women’s meeting where a women new to van living took over the meeting to talk about how hard this new life was to her and how scared she was. I was determined not to let anyone hijack the meeting, even if the hijacker really needed assistance and support. I was certain we could help anyone who needed it and still have a meeting where everyone who wanted to could participate.

I opened the meeting by saying that anyone who wanted to facilitate the next week’s meeting was welcome to do so, but there were no takers.

I then suggested that each women introduce herself by telling the group three things she wanted everyone there to know about her. I thought asking each woman to share three things would give some structure for folks who wouldn’t know how to respond to “tell us about yourself” and would  limit folks who would otherwise never shut up.

At every meeting, there seem to be people who just don’t want to talk. It seems like a gun to their heads wouldn’t get them to join in, but something about being in a group must appeal to them because they show up and continue to sit there…quietly. Maybe these people are exceedingly shy. Thankfully, everyone at this meeting managed to say at least a few words about herself.

Of course, on the other side of the coin are the people who can’t seem to stop speaking. There were a few women in that circle who probably would have talked for two hours straight, never noticing all the glazed eyes and drool dripping lips. Did these women perhaps receive no attention as children? (I’m making jokes, but the sad truth is that a lot of people didn’t get enough attention as children and have barely recovered as adults.)

As the facilitator, it was difficult to know when someone’s introduction had gone on long enough. It was even more difficult to know how to hurry along a rambling biography. On the one hand, I didn’t want to be rude or hurt any feelings, but on the other hand, I wanted everyone to get a turn.

I think the coolest part of the first women’s meeting was when someone asked how many of the women sitting there were single women traveling alone. Out of the 30 or so women at the meeting (unfortunately, I forgot to get a count of women in attendance at both meetings), I believe about two dozen of us raised our hands to answer yes to the question. I seldom meet single women traveling alone, so to have so many in one place was really exciting.

After introductions, talk turned to toileting techniques. I think folks new to rubber tramping will always want to know how to take care of their bathroom needs. I feel grateful for people willing to speak/write candidly about such matters. I think some of the women who have been living on the road for a while were bored with this discussion.

We also talked about safety, a topic all women should be discussing. The following are some ideas that were shared:

One should carry herself so she looks alert and in control. If a woman doesn’t look like an easy target, someone looking for an easy target is less likely to bother her.

Be ready to leave an area at the first sign of trouble. Have a clear path to the driver’s seat. Know where the keys are. Park so the vehicle can easily exit.

Think about what items on hand can be used for self-defense.

Next we talked about…I don’t remember. Honestly, I don’t remember if we wrapped up the meeting here or talked about other things. Perhaps this means that whatever was discussed wasn’t all that important to me. Or maybe I was busy facilitating, and couldn’t pay good attention to the discussion. In any case, at the end of the meeting I suggested we think about what topics we wanted to talk about the next week so we could set an agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

This post wasn’t very much fun for me to write. I think it seems more like a school report than an interesting story from my life. Sorry, kids. I guess they can’t all be winners.

To read about the second women’s meeting of the 2015 RTR, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/25/the-second-womens-meeting-of-the-2015-rtr/.

To read about my first week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/.

To read about my second week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.

To read about how I decided to go to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/19/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1/.