#1 When I’m in civilization, I spent too much money. I get into town, and I suddenly have material desires. I go into the Mexican supermarket to use the restroom, and I’m overwhelmed by wanting a sweet treat from the panadería. (I stand in front of the racks of goodies for a comically long time, weighing my options of 79 cent pastries. Thankfully, I make a good choice with a pumpkin empanada.) I go into Wal-Mart to stock up on propane, then remember I really want a tablecloth for my picnic table, then decide I need clamps to hold it down. And a stainless steel camping cup with collapsible handles would really be useful when I want to heat enough water for tea but don’t want to haul out my multiple-quart glass saucepan. Suddenly I’m almost $50 down, most of it on comforts I could do without.
#2 I eat better when I’m on the mountain. At my camp, I’m all brown rice with beans or tofu, some veggies if I’ve got them. Sure, I eat eggs for breakfast, I love cheese, and I probably eat too many processed potato products. But in town, in addition to the aforementioned emapanada, there’s a grilled breakfast burrito at Taco Bell, then later in the day, a pizza from Little Caesars. I know it’s junk food, but it’s cheap and oh so delicious. On the second day in town, in an attempt to save money (and have more time to write), I tend to not eat enough, so I return to the campground with a headache pounding behind my eyes and up my forehead.
#3 In town, I get distracted from my routine. I forget to take my glucosamine after breakfast. I find I don’t have dental floss with me when I go into the restroom of the big box store to take care of my teeth before bed. I go to sleep later than I should, and I’m generally out of sorts.
#4 The lower elevation of town means it’s hotter there. The guideline I hear from migrating rubber tramps is that for every 1000 feet drop in elevation, the temperature increases by 3˚F. My campground is at a little over 6000 feet. If it’s a warm (but relatively pleasant) 85˚F there, it’s at least 100˚F in town. By mid-summer, by the time I pull into town, I feel as if I’m in an oven and wonder why I thought leaving the mountain was a good idea. There aren’t many trees near the coffee shop I spend my days in, so the van sits in the unrelenting sun all day. Even if (if!) the night air cools off, the interior of the van stays hot for hours. (I really wish I had a roof vent.) The summer heat in town is not pleasant.
#5 I sleep poorly in town. Even since the cop knocked on my van after midnight, I don’t like to spend the night in the supermarket parking lot. (Read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/07/cop-knock/.) I found a place I like on a residential street, near a couple of duplexes and what looks to be a shade tree mechanic. My van doesn’t seem out of place there. I pull in after 10pm, and I’m gone well before 6am. I don’t turn on my light. However, I’m still nervous about being there. Is someone going to notice me and call the cops? Are the cops going to notice me and decide to check me out? Is someone going to try the handles on the van’s doors? Sometimes the workers from the restaurant across the street make a lot of noise putting out the trash. Some mornings the garbage truck wakes me before 5:30am. Even the reduced traffic of nighttime is noisy and it’s always so damn bright in Babylon. Also, even with my windows open, I’m usually hot all night. (See #4)
#6 When I’m in civilization, I drink coffee. Some other time I’ll go into detail about the joy and sorrow which is coffee for me, but in a nutshell, coffee makes me all jacked up. I drink it, and my whole being hums, buzzes, and twangs for hours. And hours. And hours. Bedtime rolls around, and I’m still awake, even if I’m back on the mountain and the night is dark and the air is cool. Because I usually sleep well on the mountain, I don’t need coffee up there. Because I usually sleep for shit in civilization (see #5) I have coffee on the morning of my second day in town, and I’m still feeling the effects that night. (For real.)
#7 The mountain is good for my spirit. The mountain is peaceful. The mountain is beautiful. The mountain is (mostly) natural. Just being out there brings me peace. Seeing tall trees growing just for themselves is good for me. Sitting in a place so quiet I can clearly hear the sound of the flapping of a raven’s wings as it flies over is good for me. Feeling the earth under my boots is good for me. Being on the mountain brings me a contentment I’ve never found in any city.