Monthly Archives: March 2017

Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area

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I heard about the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area from Coyote Sue. She knows so many great free camping spots in southern New Mexico and Arizona, and  I’m so grateful for her willingness to share her free camping information with me.

I was traveling with The Man before he became The Man and was simply a new friend, a fellow with whom I’d decided to go to New Mexico. His dog was with us too, of course, and ALL of The Man’s possessions, since he’d sold his car in California and planned to pick up a van in Oklahoma in April.

I think it was Wednesday when we left Quartzsite, where we’d met. We spent our first night on the road at a free campsite in the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area. (Read about my prior experiences at the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/12/buckeye-hills-recreation-area/.) The man set up his tiny tent (which he returned to Wal-Mart the next day, as it turned out to be too tiny for him and the dog, much less him and the dog and his stuff), and I slept in the van.

The van was jam packed with all my stuff and all The Man’s stuff, and there was no path from the front of the van to my bed. The only way to get into my bed was through the back doors, which don’t open from the inside. I was too claustrophobic to get in the bed and close the doors completely, which would have given me no way out of the van in the event of an emergency. I had to get into the bed from the back, then close but not latch the doors. My main concern was rolling over in the night, pushing the doors open, then falling out the back. Thankfully that didn’t happen. If I had been traveling alone, I wouldn’t have slept with the doors partially open, but I felt entirely safe with The Man and the dog sleeping right outside my walls. (If I had been traveling alone, my van wouldn’t have been overloaded with the worldly possessions of two people.)

On our second night on the road, we ended up at the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area.

It was dark when we exited the I-10 in the little town of Bowie, AZ, which is almost to the border with New Mexico. The town seemed deserted as we drove down the main drag. We joked about the zombie apocalypse, but the complete lack of any sign of human activity was unnerving.

I missed our turn onto Apache Pass Road because I didn’t see the street sign in the dark and ended up on the far side of the town, close to I-10 again. I was pretty sure we had gone too far, so I checked my phone to see if Coyote Sue had texted me better information than I’d gotten from Google Maps. In fact, she had. Her text said to turn at the sign for Fort Bowie. Sure enough, after I made that turn, I saw the sign for Apache Pass Road.

I drove through the dark and looked for Happy Camp Canyon Road where we would make a right.

On the right side of the road, we saw pale, leafless trees growing in neat rows. It was an orchard of some sort.

Are those pecan trees? I asked, but The Man was unsure.

Then I saw a street sign that read Pistachio Lane, and we decided it must be a pistachio orchard.

The dog saw a bunny through the windshield and The Man egged him on by telling him to get it! The dog went berserk and lunged at the windshield, cleanly removing the glued down guardian angel statue from her perch on the dash. The Man had to grab the dog and hold him down amid much barking and excitement.

In the light of morning, we saw the recreation area’s picnic tables and pit toilet.

We finally saw Happy Camp Canyon Road and made our turn. It wasn’t long before we saw the recreation area’s picnic tables and pit toilet. A group was setting up near the picnic area, and there were a couple of popup campers in the vicinity, but we decided to go further out before we made a decision about where to spend the night.

We found our spot and I parked the van. A million stars popped out against the incredibly dark sky. A strong wind made the air cold, but The Man set up his (new, bigger) tent by the light of his headlamp while the dog ran around, glad to be free from the confines of the van. I opened the back doors and climbed into bed, closing the doors behind me just enough so I could still come flying out if necessary. I snuggled under my down comforter and soon fell asleep, again feeling safe because The Man and the dog were nearby.

Other than the howling of the wind, it was a very quiet night. I didn’t hear a peep out any of the other campers in the area.

Since I’ve been traveling alone, I don’t typically arrive at my destination after dark. I like to arrive and settle in before the sun sets. I feel safer that way, but arriving in the sunlight robs me of the pleasure of waking up to beauty I couldn’t see in the dark. I awoke to such pleasure at Indian Bread Rocks.

When I popped out of the van in the morning, I literally let out a yell of pleasure. This place was gorgeous!

We were surrounded by mountains that looked to be composed of piles of loose, round, tan rocks. There were cacti and small trees throughout the large, flat valley where I’d parked the van.

One of the mountains in the distance had snow on it. That was exciting! The wind had died down in the night, so it wasn’t as cold as it had been, but we were early morning chilly, and I think seeing snow in the distance made us feel a little bit colder.

The Man asked me to walk out to one of the rock formations with him and take his photo with his phone. By that point, I already had a little crush on The Man, even though I knew he wasn’t interested in getting into a relationship or even just having casual sex. My little crush made me very happy to go on a nature walk with him. My little crush made me very happy when he took my hand to help me up rocks. My little crush made me very happy just to be with him.

After our nature walk and photo shoot, we headed back to the van. We packed up, and drove up to the front of the recreation area to use the pit toilet, which was mighty disgusting. As a former camp host, I could tell the toilet hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while. The seat was so nasty, I broke my own rule and perched instead of sitting both cheeks on the seat. (Read more of my advice for using a pit toilet here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/27/how-to-use-a-pit-toilet/.)

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area and would stay there again, maybe for several days, but certainly any time I’m driving on I-10 between New Mexico and Arizona.

The Man took this photo of me at Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area in Arizona. I took all the other photos in this post.

The Free Campsites website (https://freecampsites.net/#!5545&query=sitedetails) gives the GPS coordinates of Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area as 32.238617, -109.500099. The elevation is 4183′.

 

 

 

Wal-Mart and the Drug Culture

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In January of 2016, I wrote about seeing a t-shirt decorated with Grateful Dead dancing bears in a Wal-Mart in a small Southwestern desert town. I thought it was a strange and maybe one-time experience, but now it seems Wal-Mart is in the drug culture business.

I saw another Grateful Dead t-shirt in a larger, urban Wal-Mart late in 2016. This shirt had a red, white, and blue (on grey) color scheme; long sleeves; and roses and a Stealie on the front. You’re killing me, Wal-Mart, I posted on Facebook, along with a photo of the shirt. I wanted the shirt, but it was made for a smaller person, or at least one with a body shape different from mine. Besides, it wasn’t 100% cotton, and polyester makes my armpits stink. The shirt wasn’t for me.

But what did it mean that the shirt was for sale in a Wal-Mart? I’d thought maybe the first Dead shirt I saw was an anomaly, maybe the store’s buyer was an old hippie. But now it was starting to seem maybe Wal-Mart was in the Grateful Dead business.

I found myself back in the town where I’d seen the dancing bear shirt. I found myself back in the Wal-Mart. I found myself back in the men’s clothing department, back in front of the t-shirt display. This time there were no Grateful Dead t-shirts to be had, but that didn’t mean Wal-Mart had walked away from the drug culture. Oh no. Wal-Mart hadn’t walked away from the drug culture. Wal-Mart had, in fact, expanded its connection with the drug culture.

The first drug-themed shirt I saw featured a spiral of colorful, happy, laughing anthropomorphized mushrooms. WHAT!?! I’m not sure I can think of anything that says drug culture quite as clearly as colorful, happy, laughing, anthropomorphized mushrooms. I think even my mother (the picture of innocence, only drank alcohol to excess once, never took a street drug in her life) would know those mushrooms had something to do with drugs.

But if the mushrooms left any doubt in anyone’s mind, the shirt immediately below surely dispelled any confusion. It was decorated with the red, yellow, and green of Rasta (the same Rasta famous for the use of marijuana) in a tie-dye-esque spiral, and across the chest was emblazoned the word TRIPPIN. What!?! TRIPPIN!?!

Does anyone not know that trippin’ means being high on drugs? Doesn’t even my mother know that? Or do I just know that and assume everyone else knows it too simply because I am part of the drug culture?

To be fair, I looked up trippin’ on the Urban Dictionary website and found as many references to overreacting and being crazy as to being under the influence of psychotropic substances. Maybe my mother and others of her ilk could make a case that the shirt is merely referencing blowing a situation out of proportion.

But, but, but THEN I saw the Cheech & Chong t-shirt on the bottom shelf. Cheech & Chong? Do any two men in the history of the world say drug culture more loudly and more clearly than Cheech & Chong?

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the faces of the men riding the bear (riding the bear?), the shirt is conveniently labeled CHEECH and CHONG. And if anyone needs just a few more drug culture references, there’s the green, yellow, and red Rasta spiral again.

I’m not all that upset about Wal-Mart profiting from the drug culture. I’m accustomed to Wal-Mart profitting. Wal-Mart profits from everything it can get it’s (metaphoric) corporate hands on. Besides, not every stoner can afford head shop prices. Isn’t it high time (giggle) for stoners to be able to get druggie t-shirts at affordable prices?

Mostly I’m just surprised. Doesn’t Wal-Mart present itself as a bastion of wholesome American-ness? How is Wal-Mart getting away with selling such unwholesome, drug culture promoting items? Why aren’t the store’s upstanding conservative Christian clients protesting such goods? Could those customers possibly not know what those shirts are all about?

I know what the shirts are about, and they amuse me whenever I see them, especially when I stumble into the store first thing in the morning.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

 

 

Giant Armor in Truth or Consequences, NM

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You can ask me about the giant suit of armor standing next to the Dude Motel & Apartments sign on the main drag in Truth or Consequences, NM, but I have no answers for you.

When I left Truth or Consequences in late December of 2015, I can assure you, there was no giant suit of armor in front of the Dude Motel. When I returned in late January of 2017, there it was. I don’t know who, what, when, or why.

The where is pretty obvious (608 N Broadway Street) as a thin security cord keeps the armor tethered to the Dude Motel sign. Is that to keep the wind from blowing it away? The Man asked me. Probably to keep hoodlums from stealing it, I replied. On second thought, it would probably take a whole gang of hoodlums to steal the thing, and they’d probably need a truck to transport it. Also, where would thieves store the armor without the whole town seeing it and figuring out who’d committed the (probably much talked about) crime? Better for hoodlums to leave it where it stands, unless they’re going to cut it up immediately and sell it for scrap.

I did some searching on Google and found no information about the suit of armor. There’s no mention of it online, at least as far as I could see. Not a peep. I put a call out to my T or C informants, but none of them had any particulars to offer. One said rooms at the Dude are being rented through Airbnb. A couple of my local connections suggested I go down to the Dude and speak to the manager. If I were an investigative reporter, I might go down there and investigate. However, I’m a mostly lazy blogger, so I’ll allow the armor to remain a mystery.

UPDATE!

One of my readers has ties to Truth or Consequences, NM, including friends who live there. My reader asked around and came up with some information about the suit of armor.

The following information is from  a resident of T or C.

Yep, I do know a little about the armor guy at the Dude Hotel. The hotel and armor guy belong to Jon Hendry. The Dude Hotel is called The Dude Hotel after a movie character that is a cult movie now: The Great Lebowski. Jon really likes the Dude guy.  From Jon, “That’s a movie prop that we kinda liked. Fits the Dude. Stand by for much more artwork. We’ve rented the lot next door for parking so we can fill the lot in front of Dude with bric a brac.”  

Jon also has a huge old building in downtown TorC with 6 outside murals.  It is wonderfully filled full of movie props etc.

 Jon lives here part time and works hard to support the Union, jobs for NM and the arts. He is involved with films and creating films in NM. He is a “recovering lawyer and his people made the series Breaking Bad.”

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Fruit Squish ‘Ems!

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Sure, I accept food from food banks. I live my life below the poverty level, so I supplement my diet by frequenting food pantries when I can.

One of the services offered by the Isaiah 58 Project in Quartzsite, AZ is a free bag of food once a week. I partook of their offerings twice while I was in the town last January.

While getting free food is always awesome, what I like best is getting delicious free food I normally wouldn’t buy. I was pretty excited to find Fruit Squish ‘Ems! in my food bag. I have to admit, I’d never even heard of Fruit Squish ‘Ems! but what could be bad about a squeezable fruit pouch?

I’m not a stickler for expiration dates. Usually I don’t even check. Those dates are typically “best by” dates anyway. Most processed and packaged food is so full of preservatives, it would take a LONG time to go bad. Heck, I even buy “expired” food, as long as it’s deeply discounted.

I’m not sure why I even looked for an expiration date. Maybe I did it because I’d been shopping at one of Quartzsite’s temporary scratch-and-dent grocery stores and had gotten in the habit of making sure items I wanted to buy weren’t too old. Maybe my guardian angel told me to do it. In any case, I did look for a date and found it: June 2014. I received the Squish ‘Ems! in January 2017, meaning their “best buy” date had come and gone over two and a half years before.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that date made me a little nervous.

Sure, there was a time when the date wouldn’t have even made me blink, but I’m older now, and a little wiser, I hope.

My sibling has a Mormon friend. The Mormon friend is into food storage. The friend told my sibling that when it comes to wet and dry food, it’s much easier to tell if dry food has gone bad. The wetness of the Fruit Squish ‘Ems! had me a little worried.

(While writing this post, I did a Google search on wet vs. dry food going bad. I found nothing to indicate the Mormon friend is correct. I did, however, find an informative article about food spoilage on the Business Insider website. The article by is called “Expiration dates are bogus — here’s the best way to tell if a food’s gone bad” and covers bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, and more.)

I wondered if maybe I was just being a wimp. Was squished fruit that had “expired” over two years ago likely to be spoiled? Would it really be “bad,” or just not “best”? Might it make me sick?

I decided to ask for the opinion of my soon-to-be-traveling companion, the man I’d been spending a lot of time with. He’s been a traveler and dumpster diver for the better part of his 46 years. I knew he’d eaten food in a variety of expired and less-than-best states. If he said he thought it would be alright, I’d quit worrying and eat the stuff.

I showed him the “best by” date on the package. I asked him what he thought. He immediately gave me a resounding NO! We did not need to eat that stuff, he told me. I was relieved. He’d validated my fears. If he thought eating the fruit was a bad idea, it was easy for me to go along with him.

I don’t blame the food bank for giving such wildly out-of-date food. I’m sure the pantry gets a lot of donations, and in the haste to get the food to the people, “best by” dates are sometimes overlooked.

I don’t even blame the folks who donated the out-of-date Fruit Squish ‘Ems! They were only trying to help.

I don’t feel the need to blame anyone, but I’m glad I took it upon myself to check the date. Our trip could have been decidedly awful had we sucked down bad Squish ‘Ems!

I took the photos in this post.

The Ten Best Things About Taos, NM

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The town of Taos is a rather small place, but there’s so much to see and do throughout the county. I really fell in love with New Mexico as I explored Taos County, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Today I’ll share my favorite things about the Taos area.

The Ten Best Things About Taos

#1 I love the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge! At somewhere between 565 and 680 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge, the bridge is high. In 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category.

#2 A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At various times since 2012, I’ve been a vendor there. I sell hemp jewelry and warm, colorful yarn hats that I make with my own two hands, as well as shiny rocks. (I can’t take credit for the shiny rocks; Mother Nature does all that work.) The vendors at the bridge are like an extended family in many ways; sometimes we argue and get mad at each other, but overall, there is a lot of love and generosity flowing among us.

#3 At almost 7,000 feet, Taos is cooler in the summer than a lot of other places. The

relative humidity typically ranges from 17% (dry) to 88% (very humid) over the course of the year,

which helps too. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop 30 degrees overnight, even in the summer, at least giving folks respite from the heat of the day. If day time heat gets too bad, I drive fifteen or so miles to the Rio Hondo, sit among tall pine trees, and put my feet in the icy snowmelt river water.

#4 Someone has added UFOs to many of the the cow crossing signs in Taos County! Sometimes the Department of Transportation removes the stickers or puts up new signs, but the UFOs always seem to reappear.

#5 I’ve never encountered a goathead in Taos County. I’d never even heard of a goathead until I traveled to Sierra County in southern New Mexico. If you’ve never heard of a goathead, here’s a description:

A mature goathead is a solid lump of wood a quarter inch or more in diameter, with several very hard, very sharp, quarter inch spikes arrayed around it…Goatheads are basically tetrahedral in shape, meaning that–no matter how they fall to the ground, no matter how they get kicked around–they will always have a spike pointing straight up…

As you may have guessed, if a goathead goes into a foot, it HURTS! They are a nuisance at best and a REAL PAIN at worst. Oh, how glad I am to be away from them when I leave Truth or Consequences and return to the Taos area.

#6 Taos (and especially the Gorge Bridge area) is known for its sunsets. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone does no justice to a Taos sunset, but believe me when I say I’ve seen some gorgeous ones.

#7 I’m also seen fantastic rainbows in the rural parts of the county. During my first summer and fall in the area, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in the previous forty years of my life.  Some of those rainbows were absolutely vivid too! One afternoon I saw a rainbow so bright, I imagined someone had given a second grader a box of crayons and instructed the kid the draw a rainbow across the sky.

#8 There are natural, free, clothing-optional hot springs on public land in Taos county. My favorite is Blackrock Hot Spring near the John Dunn Bridge, but there’s also Namby (also known as Stagecoach) Hot Spring. I’ve never been to Namby, but I’ve been to Blackrock  several times. I’ve heard rumors of other hot and warm springs, so I may have new Taos County explorations ahead of me.

#9 The mountains around the town of Taos are fantastic! I grew up in the flatlands, and I didn’t even know I was missing the mountains, but now that I’ve met them, I love them! I especially enjoy the mountains when there’s a little snow on the top, but I could look at them all day, any day of the year.

#10 Most people around Taos don’t think it’s too strange when they hear someone is living in his or her van or car or an old school bus or even just camping out in the sage. Folks in Taos have seen a lot of people living in a lot of different ways and have maybe even lived in some unconventional housing themselves. There’s not a lot of judgment placed on people getting by without electricity or running water or even a permanent place to call home.

Any questions about the town of Taos or Taos County can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

The Ten Best Things about Truth or Consequences, NM

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The New Mexico towns I’ve spent the most time in are Taos and Truth or Consequences. Each is special in its own way to me. In my next two posts, I’ll share my ten favorite things about each town. Since I was in Truth or Consequences when I wrote this post, I’ll start there.

The Ten Best Things About Truth or Consequences

#1 My favorite thing in T or C (as the locals call the town) are the historic bathhouses with hot mineral water for soaking. Especially when it’s cold out, I love to soak in that hot, hot water.

#2 The town has a really cool name. Originally the town was called Hot Springs, NM, but in 1950, it became Truth or Consequences to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the radio program of the same name.  I appreciate the reminder to tell the truth or face the consequences.

#3 T or C is warm (or at least warmish) in the winter. When Northern New Mexico is too cold for me, I head south to this town in the Chihuahua Desert.

The cold season lasts from November 22 to February 14 with an average daily high temperature below 59°F. The coldest day of the year is December 25, with an average low of 28°F and high of 50°F.

#4 Miner’s Claim (318 N Broadway Street) is one of the best rock shops I’ve ever visited. The store is crammed packed with gems, minerals, beads, incense, jewelry, knickknacks, and shiny rocks. The guy behind the counter owns the store, and he’s friendly and knowledgeable. While he does stock high-end items, his prices are fair, and there’s plenty in the store for folks on a limited budget.

The turtle that gives Turtleback Mountain its name.

#5 There’s a turtle reclining on one of the mountains overlooking the town! I love geological formations that look like animals!

The sculpture Joy, by R. William Winkler with one of the Pelican Spa buildings in the background.

#6 Truth or Consequences is an art town, and I don’t just mean the work on display in galleries. The town boasts lots of great art on public walls and in front of businesses. From murals to sculptures, there’s lots of cool art to see while walking around T or C.

#7 The town is so into art, it has an Art Hop on the second Saturday of each month. The Art Hop is a great excuse to meet up with friends and see what’s new in the galleries.

#8 The plants are cool in T or C. There are more cacti here than in the Taos area, and the ornamental rosemary grows in huge bushes. I like to break a small branch of rosemary off a bush and tuck it behind my ear for a smell more delicious than any perfume. The last time The Man and I left T or C, we cut several large pieces of rosemary from a plant in front of a gas station and arranged it on the dashboard for a great smelling van.

The Rio Grande as seen from Rotary Park.

#9 Folks can get up close and personal with the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences. The river runs right through town. It’s accessible from Ralph Edwards Park, as well as Rotary Park. People fish in the river from Rotary Park and south of it too. If a person wanted to, s/he could wade right into the Rio Grande in T or C.

A panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake from the campground in the state park.

#10 If the Rio Grande isn’t enough water for a desert dweller, T or C is less than ten miles from the 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake State Park.  Elephant Butte Lake is New Mexico’s largest body of water. The lake offers miles of trails, two marinas, sandy beaches, fishing, boating,  and a campground.

Any questions about Truth or Consequences can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Kindness

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The man and the little girl were walking past the tables of goods set along the side of the highway. I don’t know if any of the other vendors noticed them, but I heard the man say to the girl, We could spend all our money buying something from every table.

The man was probably in his 30s, bearded, rugged and outdoorsy. The girl was six or maybe seven, slender and pale, with longish, straight hair. They didn’t look like hippies or travelers or a family in any way down on its luck. They just seemed like normal people, a dad trying to teach his daughter the limited nature of money compared to the limitless number of desirable items available for purchase.

The girl was drawn to the jewelry on Poppy’s table. She went right up to look at the bracelets and necklaces and rings laid out in black velvet boxes. Her father followed close behind her.

Poppy is a native woman in her late 50s. She is a good friend to me, always quick with a smile, a kind word of encouragement, rocks for my table, supplies for my crafts, or a snack when she has extra food. She is a talented, prolific jewelry maker who supports an extended family (children, grandchildren, brothers, sister, father) by selling her wares.

The man asked his little daughter if she wanted to pick out something for her mother. Her mother’s in the hospital, I heard him explain to Poppy.

Pick out a bracelet for your mom, Poppy immediately said to the little girl. Pick out a bracelet your mom would like, she said, and I’ll give it to you so you can give it to her. Poppy showed the girl which bracelets she could choose from.

As the girl weighed her options, I heard Poppy tell her, My mommy was my best friend! She was sick for a long time, and I took care of her. She had a bad disease, and she fought it for a long time, but now she’s up in Heaven. At least three more times, she told the girl, My mommy was my best friend!

The girl chose a bracelet and Poppy put it in a little plastic bag for her. I’m going to pray for your mom, Poppy told the girl.

She could die, I barely heard the child say softly to Poppy.

Your mom is going to be ok! I heard Poppy tell the girl with complete conviction. I’m going to pray for her!

I glanced over and saw the man looking at Poppy with wonder and gratitude. Thank you. Thank you so much, he kept repeating to her. I’m sure it’s not every day he meets a craftsperson willing to give away her wares so a little girl can make her sick mamma happy.

Of course, the interaction was about something more important than a craftsperson giving away a $5 bracelet. The interaction was really about a stranger affirming the special connection between a mother and a daughter, a stranger comforting a little girl by reassuring her that her mother would get better.

When I glanced over again, the little girl was on Poppy’s side of the table, standing next to the chair where Poppy sat. The woman and the child were hugging, the girl’s pale little cheek pressed against Poppy’s dark round one.

I witnessed the love passing between Poppy and the child, and I was blessed by the reminder of the power of kindness.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes*

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My life has moved beyond a mere change of plans; my whole life has changed.

I met a man at the recent Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and we hit it off. While it wasn’t love at first sight, we had an easy friendship from the beginning. Our conversations were deep and exciting. I felt as if doors that had been shut were flying open. Since we weren’t under the pressure of dating, we didn’t put on masks in hopes of impressing each other or hiding who we truly are.

We talked about our exes, what went wrong, what roles we’d played in the disasters, what we’d learned. We talked about our past adventures on the road, as well as adventures we still hoped to have. We talk about our spiritual and mystical experiences and of the magic our lives have been blessed with.

Although I thought he was handsome from the moment I laid eyes on him, I didn’t think I had a chance to be his gal. He wasn’t looking for a relationship, he mentioned in conversation. He was newly free and wanted to stay that way. He didn’t think it was a good idea to have sex with someone he didn’t know well because he thought sex tends to bond people and he wanted to be careful about who he ended up bonded with. I hadn’t been trying to get him into my bed, but I figured he was sending me pretty clear messages that he had no desire to go there. I resigned myself to the fact that we’d be friends but never lovers. I was ok with the lack of romance. I’d pretty much accepted I’d spend the rest of my life alone. I had no reason to hope this man would love me the way I wanted to be loved.

After knowing The Man for about a week, I offered to let him and his dog sleep on the floor of my van. It was cold out, sleeping in his car was killing his back, and the wind had mangled the tent he’d manifested from the free pile. I trusted him and knew letting him sleep on my floor was the right thing to do. I pushed aside any thoughts I had about him being my man.

We decided to go to New Mexico together. He’d been offered a van, available for pickup in Oklahoma in April. We figured Southern New Mexico would be a good place for him to hunker down and carve wood spirits until it was time for him to hitchhike to his van. I had a friend in the town, and I thought I could schedule some readings of Confessions of a Work Camper, maybe sell a few copies. I thought I’d help The Man get settled, then we’d probably go our separate ways, even though I liked him very much. I didn’t even hope we might get together, at least no time soon. It’s just didn’t seem fair to ask someone to do something he so clearly didn’t want to do.

There were bits of banter between us. Once I asked him if he had touched my ass when I knew good and well he hadn’t. Another time I told him my three favorite of the seven deadly sins were sloth, gluttony, and lust. He played too. One night I let him hold the best of my shiny rocks, a beautiful, large amethyst crystal. The next day he asked if I’d put a spell on him because after he’d held the stone, he’d gotten really horny. I vehemently denied casting a spell on him.

Then he got sick. We were both still sleeping in the van, me in my narrow little bed and him and the dog on the floor. The second night of his sickness, after we’d settled in for sleep, he asked if I’d rub his back. I readily agreed, not thinking it was anything more than a friend asking for help for his flu aching muscles. Honestly, it was a relief to touch him, but I was still totally surprised when he offered to rub my back, simply flabbergasted (and pleased) when, in a heartbeat, our relationship took a sexual turn.

I didn’t let myself think about loving him. The thing we had going on was short term, for a limited time only. Soon I’d go back to MegaSuperBabylon to dog sit, then I’d go to the forest to work as a camp host. Besides, he didn’t want to be in a relationship.

I got sick too. The Man offered to take care of me, and I basically moved into his tent to recuperate.

We continued to have a great time together sharing lots of laughter and more deep conversation. It was easy to be together.

The day came for me to leave. We had breakfast. We said good-bye. I drove off, listening to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and watching him in my side-view mirror, watching him watch me go. How bittersweet it was to leave behind someone so wonderful.

I’ve already written about what happened next. Before I could leave town, I got a text from the woman I was supposed to house sit for. She’d hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. My future was wide open.

I texted The Man, told him what was up. I said I needed a nap in hopes of getting over my lingering sickness. I suggested we get together in a couple of days. A few hours later, I got a text from him saying we needed to have a talk. I texted back and said he could call me, but his next text said we need to talk in person. Uh-oh! I was worried.

Turns out he was afraid of hurting me. We shouldn’t have had sex, he said. He didn’t think we should have sex anymore.

If you don’t want to have sex with me, then we shouldn’t have sex, I told him.

It’s not that I don’t want to have sex with you, he said sadly. He just didn’t want to hurt me.

We talked and talked. He said he still wanted to be my friend. He still wanted to hang out. I could stay at his camp, he said, and we could still snuggle. Basically, only sex was off the table. I decided I could live with the new situation. The sex had been great, but it wasn’t the most important part of what had been going on between us.

I spent two nights in my van, stretched out and sleeping good in hopes of chasing off the persistant cough the cold had left me with.

When I went back to his tent, he put sex back on the table.

I don’t want to have sex with you if you’re going to feel conflicted about it, I told him. That’s what’s going to hurt my feelings. I suppose he worked out his conflicts because he hasn’t waffled since then.

We were still taking life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. We weren’t in a “relationship;” we were seeing how things went. Sometimes he’d slip and talk about the future in a way that made me think he expected us to be together for a long time. One morning he slipped and called me honey, then got a little sheepish and shy.

One day we figured out how long we’d be apart. I’d leave in April for another house sitting job, then in May I’d go to the forest. I’d leave the forest in October, house sit in November. We could see each other in December. See you in eight months seemed like an impossible time to be apart.

The Man takes things happen for a reason to the point of entertaining a belief in determinism. Do things happen because they were meant to happen? Do things happen because of destiny? He wondered aloud if the Universe had conspired to keep me there with him.

The more we were together, the more sweetly romantic we became. We walked arm in arm into Wal-Mart. He leaned down and kissed me in the supermarket. We danced to an 80s pop song in the thrift store.  I shouldn’t be surprised that the more time we spent together, the closer we grew

I’d been falling in love with him for weeks, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to mention it. One day we talked about how we’d both felt we’d never find anyone who’d love us. I used to sit in my cabin and wonder who would ever love me, he told me. My heart broke to think he could go through his life thinking no woman had ever loved him the way he wanted to be loved. Later that night, I whispered to him, Don’t think no one’s ever loved you, because I love you.

Oh no! he teased. You broke the rules. You weren’t supposed to fall in love with me, but he was clearly pleased.

The person who’d offered the van to The Man had decided not to give it up after all. The Man really wanted a minivan anyway and wasn’t too disappointed. However, he quickly realized the town we were in was a difficult place to make money from his wood carvings. He figured he could survive there, but probably wasn’t going to be able to save enough money to buy himself a minivan.

I’d planned to go to Northern New Mexico to sell jewelry and shiny rocks during the Texas spring break, then come back to town for a house sitting gig I’d gotten through a friend. The ten days of house sitting would be the last we’d see of each other for a long time.

A week before Spring Break, we got into a long conversation about our wants and needs. He said eight months was a long time to be apart. Our lives could take different paths, he told me. In eight months, I could be in Maine! Yet, he said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. It was too soon, he said, although being with me was so wonderful and easy. He asked what I wanted.

I realized I didn’t have anything to lose by putting all my cards out on the table. I like you, I told him, and I’d like to be with you. I can live my life on my own–I’ve been living my life on my own–but it’s just so hard. I want a partner, but I know that’s not what you want. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. I don’t want you to be anyone but who you are.

I left it at that and went down to my van to clean it while The Man took a nap. I thought about his belief in determinism. If we are meant to be together, we’ll be together, I thought, and he can’t do anything to stop it.

A couple of hours later, he showed up at the van. He stuck his head in the open side door and looked around.

What are you doing? I asked.

Seeing how I’m going to get all my stuff to fit in here, he said.

I was genuinely confused until he explained he did want to be with me, he did want to be in a relationship with me, he did want to go to Northern New Mexico with me. Oh happy day! (The next day was even happier when he walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and said, I love you!)

This change in his wants has brought about other changes. I reorganized my belongings and got rid of stuff I didn’t really need. The Man built a double bed for us, with storage underneath, then we moved all his things into the van too. I’m no longer single. I’m no longer a single woman traveling alone in her van. I’m now traveling with a man, my sweetheart, and his very nice dog. I called my boss in California and told him I wouldn’t be working as a camp host this summer. I’m back to selling jewelry and shiny rocks by the side of the road, and I don’t have to wear a uniform.

The new life hasn’t been without challenges. I’m not writing nearly enough, and I haven’t been promoting my book or working on a new one as I’d planned. I also have to think about another person’s (and a dog’s) wants and needs. But I will learn to work my writing into my new life, learn to compromise so we all get our most important wants and needs met.

Overall, my new life is fantastic. The Man is caring and loving and generous. He thanks me whenever I help him. He cooks breakfast every morning and tells me I’m wonderful and beautiful and interesting and smart. Life is so, so good.

* Thanks to David Bowie for the title.