Category Archives: My True Life

Why the Rubber Tramp Artist is Driving a Minivan

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A silver Toyota Sienna is parked in a parking lot.
My new minivan. I call it the Silver Streak.

I’ve always been a conversion van sort of gal. I’ve owned five conversion vans (4 Chevy G20s and 1 Dodge Ram) since 2010. When I decided to sell my truck and buy a van, I was pretty sure I’d buy another conversion van. Then I started seeing what used vans were actually available in the state of New Mexico.

On Craigslist I found newer traditional conversion vans and Sprinter vans on the used vehicle market, but those rigs were wildly out of my price range. If I’d had $10,000 or more in my pocket, one of those big van could have been mine. Since I only had around $7,000 in my pocket, none of those vans were to be mine.

My last conversion van was a 1992. Did I really want something that old again?

The vans in my price range were older. I saw vans from the 90s, 80s, and even 70s advertised on Craigslist. I was unsure how wise it would be to invest in a vehicle that was more than 20 years old. My friend Brent strongly suggested that I get somethings manufactured in the 21st century. Besides just being old, the majority of full-size vans I saw that I could afford were high mileage. I saw vans for sale with 180,000; 200,000; 250,000 miles on them. How long could something with so many miles on it last before I encountered a major problem? I was really worried about buying myself a big ol’ problem (or a bunch of smaller problems) in the form of an older van.

After looking at all of the Craigslist ads for full-size vans in New Mexico and finding nothing suitable, I started looking at ads from Arizona. There were more large vans available in the Copper State, and I thought maybe I’d have to go Arizona and stay with friends while I shopped for a van there.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated everything. (What hasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic complicated?) I had received both of my vaccine shots, but none of my friends had received theirs. The last thing I wanted to do was infect anyone, especially people I care about. How could I keep everyone safe during my visit? Where would I sleep while staying with friends in order to not risk anyone’s health? Should I use public transportation to go van shopping? Would it be safe to have a friend drive me to see vehicles? How dangerous would it be for me to meet with a variety of strangers and test drive their vehicles? How would I get to Arizona anyway? My truck was sold, and there’s no Greyhound service from the town I live in. I probably didn’t want to be on a bus with strangers and their breath for 6 or 8 hours anyway.

On the second day of my ad search, I realized I was seeing a lot of New Mexico ads for minivans in my price range. I’ve always been a conversion van gal, but I started thinking maybe driving a minivan would be ok.

The biggest factor I considered when I thought about buying a minivan is that I’m no longer a full-time rubber tramp. I’m keeping my little trailer parked in the little RV park, and I’ll live in it 7 or 8 months out of the year. Because I won’t have to shove everything I own (and believe me, I am not a minimalist) into a minivan, I was able to imagine living and traveling in one for 4 or 5 months at a time.

Of course, gas mileage is the siren song of the minivan. When I interviewed The Man about why he chose to live and travel in a minivan, the main reason he gave for his decision was the minivan’s good gas mileage. After years of driving my vans and truck and getting 15 miles per gallon at best, I was ready to spend less on gas. Not only will the minivan give me good gas mileage during the 4 or 5 months when I’m traveling, I’ll save money when driving around town running errands when I’m living stationery in my travel trailer during the winters. If I want to take road trips during the spring, fall, and winter, I can do so without worrying that stops at the gas station will break my bank.

Reliability was another important minivan attribute. When The man was in the market for a minivan, he spent hours researching the best on the market. He found the two most reliable minivans available were the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. I figured if I got one of those van models and maintained it properly, I could probably drive it for a long, long time.

As I looked through minivan ads on Craigslist and Facebook, one in Albuquerque caught my attention. It was a 2005 Toyota Sienna with under 100,000 miles on it. It was being sold by the original owner. I sent the owner lots of questions throughout the day and he answered each one promptly. By the end of the day, I had an appointment to see the van the next afternoon.

My mechanically inclined friend drove me out to look at the van, crawled under the van to look for leaks, checked the fluids, rode with me while I drove the car, and took it out for a spin himself.

On the plus side, the vehicle seemed to be in good mechanical condition. There were no leaks. No “check engine” lights were on. The owner said the van had passed the emissions test the last time it had been inspected, about eight months prior and had never been in an accident.. The owner also said the minivan had never been his family’s primary vehicle. His family had always had another vehicle, so the minivan mostly sat in the garage except for the few times they drove it to Vegas on family trips. On the minus side, the van needed new tires, a new battery, and new windshield wiper blades. All things considered, I decided to buy the vehicle.

I had the van’s oil changed right away. I bought a new battery for it, new windshield wiper blades, and four new tires. The nice man who helped me at AutoZone confirmed what my friend had said: he neither saw nor smelled any evidence of leaks. He said the engine compartment looked very clean. The young man who put on new tires at Discount Tire said the can’s alignment seemed fine; the tires weren’t worn unevenly. I’ve driven the minivan over 600 miles in the weeks since I purchased it, and all seems well.

The minivan drives smoothly and quietly and practically parks itself. Its got more get up and go than any conversion van I ever drove. I am so relieved that I no longer practically need a ladder to get in and out of my vehicle. The air conditioner blows cold. The stereo sounds good.

I named it the Silver Streak.

I’ve pulled most of the seats out, and I’m getting it ready so I can sleep in it and live in it. I’m about to take it out on the road for the start of my summer travels. Hopefully it will hold up as well as I think it will. Stay tuned for more posts about getting the seats out and how I set everything up.

I took the photoos in this post unless otherwise noted.

How to Sell Your Vehicle

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I recently sold my truck. I put it on the market on a Friday, and by Tuesday it was sold. It was a newish truck (2014) with a lot of nice features, including a towing package, but I’m convinced some of the things I did helped it sell so fast. Today I’m going to share tips to help you sell your vehicle quickly and for the most money.

(Note: Many of these tips could also help you if you’re selling a travel trailer, 5th wheel or motor home.)

This is what my truck looked like right before I sold it.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Your first job when it comes to selling your vehicle is to clean it from top to bottom, inside and out.

The interior of my truck was covered in dog hair and New Mexico dust. I vacuumed the floor and seats and attacked all cloth surfaces with duct tape to pick up the hair. I wiped down all the surfaces that weren’t cloth (dash, instrument panels, inside of doors, seat belt hardware, steering wheel, etc.) with soapy water. I scrubbed the seats by hand using hot water with a little soap in it dispensed from an old spray bottle, and a scrub brush (actually a shower/bath brush bought at a thrift store). I soaked up the water with microfiber towels. Finally, I wiped down all surfaces that weren’t cloth with Armor All, which really improved the looks.

It may seem like my cleanup was no big deal, but it was really a massive undertaking. The process of cleaning the truck took hours and hours ad hours, and I used toothpicks, cotton swabs, and a toothbrush to get into every crack and crevice. Yes, the interior of my truck was very dirty, so it took a lot of work to get it very clean. I wanted potential buyers to see the vehicle’s interior at its very best, so I cleaned it meticulously.

I didn’t end my cleaning with the truck’s interior. I also popped the hood and cleaned out the engine compartment. First, my friend who was helping me used an engine degreaser. (Follow instructions on the can and be sure to cover anything electrical. You can watch YouTube videos on the subject to increase your confidence if necessary.) After the parts under the hood were degreased and everything dried, I used Armor All to clean the plastic parts in the engine compartment. All the cleaning improved the looks of all the components under the hood.

My final step was cleaning the exterior of the truck. Before I went to the carwash, I scrubbed the rims and used Armor All to brighten the plastic they were made from. At the carwash I scrubbed the outside of the truck and gave the undercarriage a lot of attention. Especially if you’ve driven in muddy conditions, you want to be sure to get the underside of the vehicle as clean as possible.

After washing the truck, I wiped it down with microfiber towels to prevent streaking and spotting. I made sure to clean both side view mirrors and to wipe down the outside of the windows. I also used a special Armor All product on the tires to clean and protect them.

These are the Armor All products I used on my truck.

(Note: I am not sponsored by Armor All. The company is not compensating me in any way. Heck, they don’t even know I’m saying nice things about their products. I’m just telling you what worked for me.)

Once I returned home, I climbed into the bed of the truck and scrubbed mud residue (a light orange film) left from the Northern New Mexico clay. It came off easily when I used the scrub brush, although the high pressure water from the hose at the car wash hadn’t budged it.

Finally (and we’re talking after weeks of work), the truck was clean inside and out. I hope your vehicle isn’t as dirty as mine was when you start your cleaning process.

Change the Oil

If your vehicle is due for an oil change, I believe getting one done (or doing it yourself if you can) will help you sell your vehicle. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a vehicle you’re about to sell, but having fresh oil and a new oil filter in your vehicle makes it attractive to potential buyers in two ways. First, it shows you’re on top of maintenance issues. If you’ve had the oil changed now, it’s a good indication (although of course no guarantee) that you’ve been maintaining the vehicle all along. Second, a potential buyer may choose to buy a vehicle that doesn’t need this maintenance over one that needs some work before hitting the open road. Some buyers will pay for the convenience of you doing the work so they don’t have to.

I had an oil change done on my truck right before I sold it. I had a new air filter put in too, for all the same reasons.

Install New Tires

New tires can be a big investment, so it’s understandable if you can’t afford to replace the tires before selling your vehicle. However, if the vehicle needs new tires and you can afford to replace them, you should consider doing so. Like a fresh oil change, new tires say you maintain the vehicle. It also saves the buyer a trip to the tire shop and the out-of-pocket expense. Of course, you add in the cost of the tires when you decide on the bottom line price of the vehicle you’re selling.

My truck had tires with under 3,000 miles on them when I sold it. I bought the tires before a road trip from New Mexico to Oklahoma and back in September of 2020. The old tires were badly worn and unsafe for a long trip pulling a travel trailer. I knew if I replaced the tires, I could recoup the money when I sold the truck. My impulse was to buy the least expensive tires available, but I ended up getting slightly more expensive all terrain tires knowing they would be more appealing to someone buying a 4 wheel drive truck.

Offer Receipts

Ideally, you’ve saved your receipts from or kept a log of repairs and routine maintenance performed on our vehicle. By presenting receipts to potential buyers, you show that maintenance was done when you say it was. Even if you do your own maintenance and repairs, you can show that you purchased oil and oil filters, air filters, etc. at appropriate times.

Do Your Homework Before Setting a Price

I found setting a price for my truck extremely stressful. Of course, I wanted to get as much money for it as possible, but I also wanted to sell it quickly. Price it too low and I’d cheat myself out of useful dollars. Price it too hight, and I’d sit on the truck for weeks or even months.

I used several free online tools to help me set my price. The gold standard of pricing guides is the good old Kelley Blue Book. (Who else remembers when we had to go to the library to find a vehicle’s Blue Book value? Now you can do your research any place you have an internet connection.) Other online pricing tools include NADA Guides, Edmunds, Bumper, Autotrader, and a host of others.

Be aware that some pricing guides are meant for consumers and some are targeted to used car dealers. Be sure that during negotiations, you and the potential buyer are using the same pricing guide.

Some people (like me) are of the mind that everyone buying a vehicle expects to be able to negotiate down from the asking price. Other people (like The Man) believe the seller should set the price and stick firmly to it. Either way is fine, but decide what method you’re going to use before you set your price. If you do plan to allow for negotiation, set your rock bottom price, the lowest amount of money you must get for your vehicle. If the buyer offers anything less than this amount, be ready to walk away.

For tips on how to negotiate when selling your vehicle see the Autotrader article “How to Negotiate a Used Car Sale.”

Be Realistic

Anyone selling a vehicle wants to get as much money for it as possible, but be realistic when you set a price. Is the vehicle really in excellent condition? According to the How Stuff Works article “How Kelley Blue Book Works” by Ed Grabianowski,

 Less than 5 percent of all used vehicles fall into this [excellent] category.

The aforementioned article also says most consumer owned vehicles fall into the “good” category. Be sure to pick the right condition category for your vehicle so you can set an appropriate price.

If you overprice your vehicle, it’s going to sit around longer, and you’ll probably have to spend more time and energy answering questions about it and showing it to potential buyers. An artist friend of mine once told me you can price art to keep or you can price art to sell. The same theory applies to selling a used vehicle. If the price you set is realistic, you’ll move the vehicle more quickly.

Also, remember that the price setting tools you have at your disposal are also available to any potential buyers. If you wildly inflate the price of your vehicle, buyers who’ve done their homework will know.

Write a Good Ad

I did some research before I started writing an ad to sell my truck. One tip I saw in many articles about private car sales was to give the reason you’re selling the vehicle. Here’s the reason I gave for selling my truck: Selling because I no longer need to pull a travel trailer.

Here are some other reasons you might be selling your vehicle:

Selling because my family has grown and I need a vehicle with more seating.

Selling because my kids have left home and I don’t need such a big vehicle.

Selling because I need a work truck.

Selling because my midlife crisis requires that I drive a sports car.

Try to find a positive reason for selling the vehicle that conveys that the vehicle is perfectly fine, but you want or need something different. Avoid reasons like the truck is a gas guzzler or the motorhome is difficult to park. You don’t want to put any doubt or negativity into a potential buyer’s mind.

Another tip I got from the articles I read was to include something in the ad that makes the potential buyer imagine themselves in your vehicle. I said my truck was comfortable to drive and ride in, even on long road trips. In the mind of potential buyers, I changed my truck from a simple a work truck into a vacation machine.

Be sure to include all the basics in your ad. As a buyer, I’ve been astounded by the ads I’ve read that left out essential information. At the very least, be sure to include make, model, body style, model year, number of miles the vehicle has been driven, size of engine, type of transmission, type of fuel used, price, and whether or not you have the title.

You don’t have to stop there! Potential buyers want to know what your vehicle has to offer, so include lots of information. If your ad has no word limit, give potential buyers as many details as possible. If your vehicle has any of the following features, be sure to mention them: power steering, power/ABS brakes, power windows, power locks, cruise control, stereo/CD player, DVD player and video screens, Bluetooth capabilities, alarm system, controls on steering wheel, tilt steering wheel, power seats, back up camera, a hitch and other towing features, cold A/C, 4 wheel drive. If the interior is clean, smoke and/or pet free, and cloth seats aren’t ripped, mention those things. If your vehicle has recently passed an emissions inspection, mention that too.

The ad is also the place to let potential buyers know if the vehicle has new tires (include the mileage on the tires), a fresh oil change, new brakes, new battery, etc.

While you don’t want to discourage anyone from looking at your vehicle, you don’t want it to seem too good to be true either. In my ad, I let folks know the bed of the truck was work worn and there were some scratches and dings to the body. Of course if your vehicle has problems, you might want to disclose that information in the ad. If you know what the problem is and how to fix it, you might want to share that information as well. In an ad for a conversion van I read recently, the seller disclosed that one of the front power seats had quit working, then said what part was needed to remedy the problem, gave the price for the part, and assured potential byers that is was an easy fix.

To VIN or Not to VIN

In my research on how to sell a used vehicle, I found conflicting ideas about whether one should or should not include the VIN (Vehicle Indentification Number) in advertisements.

Some authors said it is necessary to share the VIN in the ad so potential buyers can research your vehicle before making an offer. Other authors said do not put the VIN in an ad because to do so is to open yourself up to scams and fraud.

You’ll have to decide how you want to handle the situation. In my case, I decided not to share my truck’s VIN in the ads I posted. When I met potential buyers in person, I did offer the VIN to them so they could do additional research on their own.

Be Honest

I’m a believer that honest is the best policy. If a vehicle has a major problem, I think you should disclose the problem in the ad. If something that should work doesn’t (such as a window that won’t roll down, a cruise control that’s conked out, a CD player that doesn’t work, a seat that won’t move, etc.) I think you should share that information in the first email, text, or phone conversation with a potential buyer. A buyer may still want a vehicle even if it’s not in perfect condition (especially if the price is right), but if a buyer catches you in a lie, all trust will be lost. If you’re willing to try to hide little problems, the potential buyer will wonder what major issues you’re failing to talke about.

My policy is to answer all questions honestly. I also admit when I don’t know the answer. During the recent sale of my truck, I prefaced some answers with I’m not a mechanic, which I’m sure is obvious, but it reminded potential buyers that just because I thought something was true didn’t necessarily meant I was right.

Share Lots of Photos

I included photos of the following areas of my truck in the online ads: engine compartment, odometer, steering wheel, gauge panel, instrument panels with radio and heat/air conditioner controls, tires, tailgate, charge outlets, front seats, back seats in regular position, and back seats folded up.

Have you ever been shopping for a vehicle online and seen a promising ad only to find there are only one or two photos of the vehicle? It’s happened to me, and it’s hella frustrating, especially if the vehicle seems to be something I might want. If a picture is worth a thousand words, say as much as you can with photos.

I also included photos of the exterior of the truck, one of the front and one of each side. These photos showed there was no accident damage to the body of the vehicle, minimal scratches and dings, and no sun damage to the paint.

If you’re selling a converted van you should probably share photos of the bed, storage space, and any kitchen or bathroom areas. If you’re selling a motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel, toy hauler, etc., include photos of each area of the rig: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, sitting area, storage space, and cab.

Imagine yourself behind the wheel…

One tip I read online said potential buyers should be able to imagine themselves driving your vehicle. You can help them do this by including photos taken from the driver’s point of view.

Put Ads in Lots of Places

Craigslist is the old standby for online car, truck, van, and RV selling. Facebook is a newer, but maybe more popular, online option for vehicle sales. You can list your vehicle on Facebook Marketplace and any number of local and regional groups dedicated to the buying and selling of motor vehicles and other items. Other online options include the Thrifty Nickel National Marketplace and Autotrader. You can use some of these options at no charge, while others do involve a fee.

If your community has an actual physical newspaper, consider placing your ad in one or two issues. Another place to consider placing ads is the newsletter of any specialty groups of which you are a member.

Are there bulletin boards in your town? (Think library, supermarket, laundromat, senior center, Tractor Supply.) Consider making a few paper copies of your ad and hanging them around town.

Answer Requests for Information Promptly

I’m sure you’re busy. However, when you’re trying to sell your vehicle, you should probably make selling it your top priority. When someone sends you a message asking about the vehicle, answer as soon as possible. Coming across as prompt and responsible is going to give the buyer a good feeling about you. If you respond to message in a timely manner, you probably changed your oil on time too. Besides, you wan to sell the vehicle ASAP, right? You’re not going to sell it if you your lack of response discourages people from looking at the vehicle in person.

Get a Report from a Mechanic

It’s not strictly necessary to have a mechanic look over a vehicle you want to sell, but it might be helpful. After examining the vehicle, the mechanic can tell you what work the vehicle needs to have done on it now or what it will need to have done soon. You can use this information to adjust your price or as evidence that the vehicle is a good deal for a potential buyer.

I did not have my truck checked by a mechanic before I put it on the market. However, the couple who bought the truck had their mechanic look it over before we sealed the deal. We used the information the mechanic offered to start our negotiations.

Get a Carfax Report

One more thing you can offer a potential buyer is a Carfax report giving details about your vehicle’s title, mileage, previous ownership, and accidents in which it was involved.

I did not spend the money on a Carfax report, but I did offer the truck’s VIN to the handful of people who looked at it so they could order a report of they wanted. If the truck had not sold so quickly, I probably would have paid for a Carfax report to use as a selling point .

So there you have it–everything I know about selling a vehicle based on my recent experience. I hope you find these tips helpful next time you to sell a car, truck, van, motorhome, 5th wheel , or travel trailer.

I took the photos in this post.

Thankful Thursday April 2021

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Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Life’s been challenging in the five months since I last shared a blog post, but I still have so much for which to be grateful. The following are some of the people for whom I give thanks right now:

Just as I was on the brink of deleting my Patreon account, a new patron joined! I can’t even express how excited I was! Thank you, Rena, for your support and encouragement. I appreciate you so much.

I also appreciate Shannan, my friend of 35 years (Gulp! How is that possible?) who has an automatic PayPal donation set up to support me monetarily every month. Thank you, lady. The money is helpful, but the fact that you prioritize me helps keep me going.

Brent deserves a big shout out too. Every few months he sends me a little something to help make ends meet. He’s been a big supporter since we met at the 2016 RTR. Brent, I appreciate your advice and friendship so much. You are a great cheerleader.

Frank supported me financially recently too. Thanks for being a good friend, Frank, and for encouraging my writing. I am grateful for you.

Keith is my computer guy who makes this blog possible. Thanks Keith, for supporting my blog before it was even a real thing.

My thanks also go out to people who sent me housewarming gifts, Christmas and birthday presents, postcards, letters, books, stamps, and love. These friends include Jessica, Laurie, Tracee, Dave, Liz D., Liz J., Maggie, Jim, Nic, Betsy, Joshua, Denise, Greg, Ed, Sarah, Russ, and Christina. You folks really lift me up and help me keep on truckin’.

I’m grateful for other things too. Here are a few of the things I’m glad for right now:

I sold my truck in less than a week, allowing me to pay off some debts and buy some things I’ve needed for a while.

I bought a Toyota Sienna manufactured in the 21st century! I bought it from the original owner, and it had under 100,000 miles on it. I named it the Silver Streak.

I had an eye exam last week, and I’m waiting on two pairs of glasses to come in. I will soon see clearly, and I am so excited!

I’ve been vaccinated against COVID 19. I’ve had both of my shots and suffered only minor adverse effects. I am so grateful to have reached this milestone. I know last summer when I sat in my bed in my little trailer parked in the middle of nowhere, I feared such a day would never come. To have even this degree of protection is such a blessing.

I’ve also received my first of two vaccine shots for shingles. (I’ll get the second in two to six months.) I’m doing everything I can to protect myself against illness. I’m so glad I am able to protect myself.

I am filled with gratitude for my continued good health and the health of my loved ones.

The food pantries where I live have really stepped up. My personal pantry is stocked with beans, rice, oats, flour, peanut butter, and canned goods. I usually get milk, cheese, eggs, and butter once or twice a month. I have so many potatoes in the cupboard and bananas in the freezer. All of that bounty comes from local food banks. I am so thankful.

I’m also thankful to live in my little trailer in a nice little RV park. I probably have another two months in this desert before it gets too hot and I have to go up in elevation for a while. I’ll be so grateful to travel again.

All in all, I’m a fortunate person. Life is good. Life is good.

My new ride, the Silver Streak. I took this photo.

Thanks for reading! I’m always grateful for the folks who read my writing. If you want to offer some financial support, I would be so thankful for that too. To make a one-time donation, click on the “donate” button at the top of the column on the right. To become my patron on Patreon, click on the “Become a patron” button just under the search bar at the top of the column on the right. Folks who follow me on Patreon get extra content you can’t find anywhere else. Depending on at what level you chose to support me, you can receive email updates, letters and postcards in the mail from me, stickers, buttons, a custom made hemp bracelet and/or a collage I created.

I’m Still Standing

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I’ve been gone a long time. Did you miss me? I missed you. I missed being here, sharing stories with you, interacting with you. Did you wonder where I’ve been? Do you want to hear about what’s happened in my life since the last time I wrote? Here goes…

The area where I used to live.

Near the end of July, my partner of almost four years and I agreed that living together (in particular) and our relationship (in general) weren’t working out, so we decided to part ways. However, due to COVID, finances, prior obligations, and our decision to sell our land in Northern New Mexico and move away, we continued to live together in the small trailer. It’s a good thing we do love and care for each other because we were stuck together for a while.

Our land sold pretty quickly. A young couple from Arizona bought it. They are in love with the area, as well as energetic and motivated. They saw my land-for-sale ad on Facebook about an hour after I’d posted it (on a Saturday afternoon) and immediately contacted me about coming to see it that day. Later that evening (after they’d visited the property for the first time), I let the couple know other people had expressed interest in buying the land. They committed to buying the property then; by Tuesday they’d given me a deposit.

My life has felt as stormy as this sky.

The Man and I had a few weeks to purge, sell things we didn’t want, and pack what we’d decided to keep before it was time to move again. How is it that no matter how much time one has for purging and packing, it’s never really enough?

I’d decided to keep the little trailer. I talked about selling it, but The Man encouraged me to keep it. I got the trailer after my dad died so it’s not like it was something The Man and I had both put money into. I decided if I ever get sick or injured or if I live to be old, I might want this little trailer to stay in full time. Why get rid of something I might want or need some day? I began to formulate a plan.

What if I took the trailer somewhere in the desert where I could live in it comfortably warm for half the year? What if I sold the truck (which I wouldn’t need anyway if I went somewhere that didn’t necessitate 4 wheel drive) and bought a van I could travel in the other six months of the year? The more I thought about this plan, the more it made sense.

Then I had to make a decision about where to go. It came down to a decision between moving to an RV park with super cheap rent (and huge lots) but a remote location (10 miles from the nearest small town) or an RV park in town with more expensive rent and tiny lots. If I took the spot in town, I’d be only two blocks from a grocery store and within walking distance of lots of other places. After much deliberation, I chose the spot in town. As The Man pointed out, if I keep my vehicle parked except for twice monthly expeditions to the supermarket, I’ll pretty much pay my rent with the money I don’t pay in gas and higher priced groceries.

The Man offered to drive the truck pulling the trailer to whichever location I chose. I appreciated the offer and accepted it, as I had never pulled any kind of trailer ever in my life.

Once we sold the land, there was one main situation holding us back. I’d never had the trailer registered in New Mexico. The title was in my name, but was from Arizona. Before moving the trailer across the state, I wanted a valid license plate on it.

In New Mexico, any RV or passenger vehicle bought out of state has to go through a VIN inspection before it can be retitled and registered. The inspection is easy–a representative of the MVD looks at the VIN plate–but it has to be done in person. Unfortunately, when we moved to our land, I hadn’t received the title to the trailer yet. I didn’t receive the title until the trailer was already set up nice and cozy. I didn’t want to have to take apart all of our (but mostly The Man’s, to be honest) hard work to haul the trailer to the MVD.

When I realized we’d have to take the trailer to the MVD before we hit the road, I also realized I’d have to make an appointment because of COVID. When I got online early in August to make an appointment, the soonest one I could get (after checking at over half a dozen offices) was the second week of September. Even after selling the land, we’d be stuck in Northern New Mexico for a while.

We took off for the National Forest about 15 miles from where we’d been living. Phone service was intermittent, but we enjoyed the trees, cool air, and grazing cattle. We’d picked a nice spot to wait for our appointment with the MVD.

We camped in this national forest with the grazing cows.


Before we’d decided to part ways, The Man and I had been discussing a visit to his folks in Oklahoma. The Man’s dad (understandably) wanted to see him. When The Man told his dad we couldn’t afford to pay for gas to make the trip, his dad offered to give us the funds we needed. Once we had the promise of gas money, we chose to go.

After we decided to part ways, we had to decide if we wanted to take the trip to Oklahoma together. We had to decide if we should take the trailer if we were both going, We discussed the idea of The Man going alone and driving the truck. We discussed the idea of The Man going alone and taking a bus. We finally agreed that the best thing to do was go together and take the trailer so we could go directly to my new hometown upon leaving Oklahoma.

On the appointed day, we (and by “we,” I mean The Man) hauled the trailer to the MVD office. Everything went smoothly, but I did have to pay several hundred dollars in taxes on the trailer (and only a $20 late fee, even though I was more than a year delinquent). Our next stop was the nearest Discount Tire location. I’d decided to buy four new tires for the truck before we made a 1400+ mile trip after the current tires totally failed the penny test. In one afternoon, I spent most of the money I’d received from selling the land. Easy come, easy go, I suppose. I’m fortunate to have had the money when I needed it.

Hey from Oklahoma!

We made it to the family home in Oklahoma in less than 48 hours. The Man and I had planned on a one-week visit, but we ended up staying just over a month!!! The bad part of the visit was that I had no phone service the whole time we were there. Somewhere east of Oklahoma City, my phone service cut out and didn’t come back until I was west of OKC once again.

Finally, in mid October, we made it to the little trailer park in the town I now call home. The Man backed my trailer into my very small lot, and we hooked up the water, the solar, and the sewage. A couple of days later, The Man left for his new adventures, and I was on my own.

What to do now? I need money to support myself and pay the rent, but I’m hesitant to get a retail position in these days of COVID. I’ve got hats and necklaces and postcards up on my new Blaizin’ Sun Creations Instagram page, and I’m going to start working on my Blaizin’ Sun Creations and Postcard Emporium Zazzle stores soon. (Be on the lookout for a Zazzle store especially for rubber tramps coming soon.) An online job would be great for me, so if you know of any online work I’d be good at, let me know.

So what, you may be wondering is the future of this blog. Who knows? What’s the future of anything? Today I’m enjoying writing, and I plan to keep it up as long as I enjoy it and have the time for it. I might have to write less when I have to work more. I also may share more guest posts, but please know that even with guest posts, I do my best to share quality content with you.

If you want to support me by being more than just a casual reader, join me on Patreon, hit the donate button to the top right of this page and drop me a few bucks, or buy something I make with my own heart and hands.

Thank you for sticking with me. I sure appreciate you.

I took all the photos in this post.

Last Day

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My last day at the fuel center was perfect because it included all the chaos I was leaving behind.

Person Signing Contract Paper

When I’d applied for the job, the application had asked about my availability. I’d responded that I was available any time except Tuesday mornings. When I had the prescreening interview over the phone, I’d told the lady from the corporate hiring office that I was available to work any time expect Tuesday mornings. During my interview with one of the store’s assistant managers, I’d verbalized that I was not available to work on Tuesday mornings. Over the eight or so weeks I’d worked at the fuel center, I’d been scheduled to work on Tuesday mornings at least three times, including on my last day on the job.

Working in the morning meant opening the fuel center which meant getting out of bed no later than 4:15am so I could make the forty minute drive to town and clock in by 5:45. How appropriate that on my last day of employment I had to wake up in the dark and drive 20 miles in the dark and start work in the dark.

I was late clocking in on my last day. What are they going to do, fire me? I

Person Holding Smartphone

thought bitterly. I moved slowly while getting ready for work and left the house late. I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the morning without coffee, so I stopped at the 24 hour convenience store and bought a cup of their nasty joe. Even six packets of sugar and two squirts of nondairy creamer couldn’t redeem the stuff, but I drank it anyway.

After clocking in nine minutes late, I headed to the fuel center, unlocked the door, and disarmed the alarm. As always, I counted the cash drawer, opened the cooler and merchandisers, put out the squeegees, and completed my paperwork. Then I checked the spill buckets, cleaned all the pumps, and went back into the kiosk.

I said, Hi! How can I help you today? about a thousand times.

Every hour, I went outside and made sure all merchandise was pulled to the front and facing forward.

Around 10:30 the alarm system repairmen arrived.

The guy in charge of the team of two came up to the kiosk and told me through the intercom that they were there to work on the alarm and needed to get into the kiosk. I told him no one had informed me they would be there, and I’d need a few minutes to confirm it was ok to let them into the kiosk. The repairman seemed fine with my caution.

Red Corded Telephone on White Suraface

I called the managers’ office and told the person who answered the phone (managers never, ever identified themselves when I talked with them on the phone) that the repairmen had arrived and wanted to come into the kiosk. The manager on the other end of the line said the repairmen hadn’t checked in with him. It sounded to me as if he didn’t even know they were coming. Send them inside to check in, he instructed me.

I told the guy he’d have to go into the supermarket to check in. They left, and I continued to sell fuel and cigarettes and sodas.

The repairmen returned, but no one from management let me know it was ok to allow them in the kiosk. I had to call the managers’ office again to find out everything was on the up and up. Typical that when I really needed to be in the loop, I was out of it.

While the repairmen where in the kiosk, they witnessed how difficult it was to communicate through the intercom. They heard how one older man got really pissed off at me when I mistook his request for $20 on pump 9 as $30 on pump 10. He corrected my mistake before I even put the wrong information into the POS (point-of-sale) system, but he spoke to me roughly. I could tell he was mad. I don’t know if he thought I was purposely going against his wishes, but I truly misunderstood what he said through the crappy intercom system.

Some people are really rude, the younger repairman observed.

After they’d been in the kiosk about half an hour, the lead repair guy said they had to go outside and check the alarm on each pump. While they completed their task, I’d be in the kiosk listening to the alarm sound continuously for minutes at a time.

The alarm was high pitched and annoying. I guess alarms are designed to be irritating so they grab attention. Anything less terrible would surely be ignored. While the alarm was horrible to be subjected to, I was able to put it at the back of my consciousness. It was both at the forefront of my reality and not there at all.

My coworker who relieved me at noon was late, as he had been late every time he’d relieved me over the past two months. This time he was only about eight minutes late instead of the 14 to 26 minutes he’d been late before. At least he didn’t pull another no-call\no-show on my last day.

I went into the supermarket to pull merchandise for the fuel center. I found all I could from the list of needed items, then brought everything up to the front for the manager in charge of fuel center replenishment to check. He was still giving me instructions on how to restock correctly, and I realized no one had bothered to tell him I’d given my two weeks notice. He obviously had no idea it was my last day on the job. I figured if no one else had told him, I wasn’t going to be the one to break the news

Oh, yeah. Right. Sure, I agreed with everything he said. I knew he’d figure out eventually that I was gone when he never saw me again.

After I dropped off the merchandise at the fuel center, I walked back to the supermarket to clock out and turn in my name tag and pink safety vest.

The manager I really liked was in the office working on the computer even though she’d told me two days before that she wouldn’t see me on my last day because she’d be on vacation.

I thought you were in West Virginia, I said,

She turned around, and I saw she wore no makeup and had a baseball cap pulled down low on her forehead. This woman usually wore a ton of eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow, but that afternoon her naked eyes looked young and vulnerable.

I leave tomorrow, she said. I’m just here today tying up a few loose ends.

This isn’t how you start a vacation, I teased.

I know, she laughed.

From the moment I’d met this woman, I felt a bond with her. Maybe it was just the connection of middle age woman working shit jobs (although I think my job was more shit than hers). I made her laugh, which always endears a person to me (I feel so understood when people laugh when I’m trying to be funny), but more importantly, this woman really seemed to care. I always felt as if she truly cared about me, the fuel center, the customers.

I just need to drop off my vest and name tag, I explained while setting the items on the cluttered desk where the human resources woman sat when she was in.

We’re really going to miss you, the manager I liked said.

She told me if I ever needed a reference or a recommendation, I should look her up. I assured her I would

Then she said, I don’t know if you’re a hugger…

Actually, I am, I said, and we embraced

Thank you, I told her.  From the moment I met you, I felt a warmth from you, and this place really needs some warmth.

Then I said I’d see her when I went into the store to shop.

I walked out to my truck an unemployed woman. It was the end of an era. I

can’t say I was sad to see that door close behind me.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-signing-contract-paper-1251183/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/coffee-contact-email-hands-4831/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/marketing-office-working-business-33999/.

Why Are You Here?

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The manager I liked came into the fuel center kiosk where I was working around nine o’clock that morning. I’d been there a little more than three hours.

When I’d done the opening paperwork, I’d seen a note stating that the coworker who was always late for work when he relieved me hadn’t even shown up the day before. He’d pulled a no-call/no-show, and another employee had come in early to cover the shift.

Do you think Dylan is going to come in today? I asked the manager. Mostly I was being nosey and fishing to find out if Dylan had been fired.

What do you mean? she asked.

Oh no! She wasn’t even aware of what had happened the day before. Now I’d opened a can of worms. I told her the paperwork from the previous night indicated that Dylan had been a no-call/no show.

I wasn’t aware, she said.

She grabbed the schedule and began scrutinizing it. She didn’t realize it was the next week’s schedule she was looking at. The new schedule had come out the day before and had been placed on top of the schedule for the current week.

She jabbed her finger at the schedule for Friday. She thought she was looking at today Friday and not next week Friday. While I was scheduled to work today Friday, I had the day off next week Friday. In her confusion about which Friday she was looking at, the manager thought I wasn’t supposed to be working today.

Why are you here? she asked me.

Oh Tiffany, I replied. I ask myself that all the time Why AM I here?

She started laughing, which is always a good response to kidding around. Then I showed her that she was looking at the schedule for the next week. When I pulled out the current schedule, she saw I was indeed supposed to be at work that day.

Dylan did not get fired. I never found out why he hadn’t shown up for work the previous day or called to let someone know that he couldn’t make it. The next time he was scheduled to relieve me, he showed up several minutes late, the same as it ever was.

The Rubber Tramp Artist on The Postcardist Podcast

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A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by my friend Frank Roche. Frank is the mastermind behind The Postcardist podcast. He and I met on Instagram (you can follow me on Instagram too, @rubbertrampartist), and we stay in touch via social media and good ol’ snail mail. When Frank was looking for folks to interview for the second season of The Postcardist, I didn’t just raise my hand, I waved it around and squealed, “Me! Me! Me!”

Well, ok, the raising of my hand and waving it around and generally calling attention to myself is all metaphoric for my excitement at volunteering to do something I suspected would be really fun. I did offer myself up for an interview, and to my delight, Frank accepted my offer.

On the appointed day, Frank called me and we had a long conversation about postcards, my blog, and the state insect of New Mexico, the tarantula hawk wasp. As I suspected, talking with Frank was really fun.

If you want to hear the whole interview, you can find it on episode 75 of The Postcardist podcast. While you’re there, you can stick around and listen to conversations with many cool, nice people who love postcards as much as I do.

I took the photos in this post. Both are available as postcards. Ask me, and I’ll tell you how to get them.

Will I Get Change?

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I was asked a lot of stupid questions when I worked at the supermarket fuel center (aka gas station). People wanted to know why only the diesel or flex fuel light came on. (Because you lifted the diesel/flex fuel nozzle. If you lift the gasoline nozzle, the lights indicating regular, midgrade, or premium will come on.) People wanted to know why the screen on the pump instructed them to see the cashier. (Because you’re trying to use a credit card we don’t accept. The sign on each pump clearly states what methods of payment you can use.) One lady even demanded I tell her what kind of fuel she was supposed to use in her car. (Ma’am, I have no earthly idea.)

The dumbest question I got (on more than occasion) went something like this:

Me: Hi! How can I help you today?

Customer: I need to get some gas.

Me [internal thought]: Duh! I figured as much, since we’re at a gas station.

Me [aloud]: What pump are you on?

Customer: Pump x.

Me:  Great! How much do you want to put on pump x?

Customer [slowly]: Well…I don’t know…I’m paying cash…I don’t know how much it will take.

To be fair, these customers may have been thinking back to a day when they could tell the gas station attendant they wanted to fill up and the attendant would authorize the pump to spew fuel into the universe until the customer returned the nozzle to its cradle. I remember those days. I remember when gas station customers could pay for their fuel after it was in the vehicle. Of course, such a procedure could lead to the popular gas-n-go scam in which the driver filled up the vehicle’s tank and drove away without paying a penny.

(I worked in a gas station years ago, a customer told me. When people drove off without paying, that money came out of my paycheck, he said.)

At the fuel center where I worked, no open ended transactions took place through the kiosk. When customers used credit or debit cards at the pump, they could pump gas from here to eternity (or until they’d drained their debit account or maxed out their credit card). However, if customers brought the same debit or credit cards to me to run inside the kiosk, I couldn’t do anything until I was told the dollar amount the customer wanted to spend.

Could you turn on pump x? customers sometimes asked me.

Well, no, I couldn’t. The POS (point-of-sale) system was designed to make stealing gas without the participation of the fuel clerk virtually impossible. I couldn’t just turn on pumps and trust customers to come back and pay for the fuel they’d put into their vehicles. Any time I authorized a sale on a pump, I authorized it for a specific dollar amount after I had the money on my side of the bulletproof glass.

I suppose I could have participated in fuel theft by authorizing a pump for an amount of money I had not received. Say a friend came to the fuel center and wanted to get $10 on pump 4 but only had five bucks. It was possible for me to authorize pump 4 for $10 even though I’d only been given $5. However, such thievery certainly would have come back to bite me in the ass. If I’d authorized a pump for a dollar amount I failed to collect, my drawer would have been short.  Eventually some bookkeeper would have noticed, and I would have suffered negative consequences.

I don’t know how other gas stations work, but my place of employment was strictly a pay-before-you-pump place. When customers wanted to pay cash, they had to tell me how much money they wanted to spend, which brings us back to the stupidest question I ever encountered on the job.

A customer wanted to pay cash to fill up a vehicle. The customer didn’t know how much money it would take to pay for a fill-up on the vehicle in question. I told the customer I couldn’t do an open ended transaction; I needed to put a specific dollar amount into the cash register.

What will happen if filling the tank doesn’t take as much money as I give you? more than one customer asked. Will you give me change?

I wanted to say, Oh, no! If you overpay, we keep your money. We don’t give change here.

I wanted to say, Of course we give you change, you idiot! Do you think we could get away with keeping your money?

I wanted to say, How is a gas station different from any other business when it comes to change? It’s not!! If you overpay, of course you get change!

Instead, I’d say something like, Oh, yes. I’ll give you change for whatever amount you don’t use. Just come back here when you’re done, and I’ll get cash for you right away.

To be fair, the change confusion was not a daily occurrence, but it happened more than once during the two months I worked at the fuel center. It was never a kid asking if they’d get their money back if they overpaid; the person confused about paying cash and getting change was always someone beyond middle age.

Have you never been to a gas station before? I sometimes wanted to ask customers. How do you not know how this works?

I had to remind myself that some people may have been buying and pumping fuel for the first time after many years of having a partner do it for them. I tried to remember that the confused folks may have been accustomed to paying with debit or credit cards and truly didn’t remember how paying with cash worked. Of course some of my customers were probably just dumb or possibly from another planet.

Forgotten Change

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When I worked at the fuel center (aka gas station) of a supermarket briefly during the summer of 2019, my POS (point-of-sale) system kept me updated on the monetary situations occurring at the pumps. I could look at my screen and tell who had paid at the kiosk and who had paid at the pump. I could see which customers had not yet begun to pump fuel and which ones had finished up. Most conveniently, I could see who was owed change.

The POS system kept track of how much money had been paid on each pump. If the customer overpaid, the POS system told me exactly how much change that customer was owed. When the customer came back to the kiosk for change, I only had to touch a few buttons then look on my screen to find out how much cash to hand back. If I was really at the top of my game, I would have a customer’s change waiting by the time the person walked up to the window.

Some people were so dead set on getting their change, they never even walked away from the kiosk. Of course, this only worked when a companion stayed at the car to pump the fuel. I wondered what went through the heads of people who stood right next to the kiosk while the companion pumped the fuel. Maybe the person who stayed was too tired to walk 15 feet back to the car, another 15 feet to return to the kiosk to collect the change, then 15 feet again to get to the car in preparation for departure. Maybe they were afraid I was going to take off with their $23.76 (or $11.43 or $4.98 or whatever), and run off to Mexico to start a new life. I don’t know how those people felt, but I felt awkward as hell when they hung around the kiosk waiting for the moment I could hand over their money. 

Other people were so seemingly unconcerned with money that they left without their change. This didn’t happen often, and when it did, it was usually only a few cents left behind. When I noticed the screen showing a dollar (or cents) amount in parentheses, I knew that money was owed to the customer. When I looked out the big kiosk windows and saw the pump where the change was owed was empty, I knew the customer had absentmindedly taken off without it or was too embarrassed to come back for a few pennies.

One day a man stepped up to the kiosk and gave me a large bill to pay for gas on pump 8. He mentioned his truck probably wouldn’t take all the gas the big bill would buy. I told him to just come back for his change. No problem.

Minutes passed, and I forgot about the fellow getting fuel on pump 8. When I next looked at my POS screen, I saw $12.53 was owed to the customer who’d used pump 8. However, when I looked over at pump 8, it was empty.  The man who’d given me the big bill was gone.

Twelve dollars is a pretty substantial amount of money. I could imagine some people (not me, I’m a frugal gal) leaving a few pennies behind, but I couldn’t imagine anyone abandoning more than a dollar. I figured the guy wanted his change, but had forgotten it.

I went through the steps on the POS system to make the change. I left the money in the cash drawer, but on the receipt I wrote a little note about what had happened. I left the receipt on top of the cash register, thinking the customer would return soon and I’d know just how much money to give him.

The customer didn’t come back. Hours passed. The customer didn’t return. The next time I dropped cash into the safe, I included the receipt with the note on it.

Of course, not long after I dropped the receipt into the safe, the phone rang. It was the customer who’d forgotten his $12.53. He seemed surprised but pleased that I remembered him. No problem, I told him. Just come back by and pick up your change.

He was home by then, about 30 miles away. He thought he’d be back in town probably Monday.   I told him if he wouldn’t be back before my shift was over, he should go directly to customer service when he did come in. I explained I’d written a note and included it with a safe drop so the situation had been documented. I said if he explained the circumstances to the person working at the customer service booth when he came in, there should be no problem getting his change.

The fellow thanked me profusely. I think he’d expected to get the run around, but he was so grateful when I remembered him and admitted to knowing he had left his change. Perhaps an unscrupulous cashier would have pocketed his $12.53, but not me. No way was I going to take something I knew didn’t belong to me.

The Land of Broken Dreams

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I live in a harsh land, closer to nature than I ever dreamed possible when I lived in cities. All around me is evidence of people who came out here with big dreams only to abandon them. Why did they leave? I’ll never know for sure, but I can enumerate the ways the harshness of this place could discourage a homesteader. Today I’ll tell you about the conditions here and show you photos of what has been left behind.

I’m going to leave this brokedown palace on my hands and my knees…

While spring is mellow of temperature, when days warm, the wind comes. Growing up in the Deep South, winds weren’t even a concern unless they belonged to a hurricane. I thought I knew winds from my time in the Midwest, but the winds of the plains (if not those of a tornado) are nothing next to the winds of New Mexico.

Before I moved permanently to Northern New Mexico but after I had spent months here over several years, my memory of the winds had them starting in the afternoon and blowing strong and hard for a few hours, slowing down substantially by sunset. This may be a false memory, because that’s not how the wind is blowing these days. Now the wind starts at 10 or 11 in the morning and blows relentlessly until sometimes 9 or 10 at night. Last week, the wind was blowing at 8am.

A spiritual friend who lives around here once told me that the wind blows one’s aura and makes it bumpy or jagged instead of smooth She might be on to something. After hours of constant, strong blowing of the wind I feel off, not quite myself, agitated. The sound alone is enough to put me on edge; the constant rocking of the trailer destroys my mental equilibrium. There’s something about wondering if the roof will be peeled off or if the entire trailer is going to flip that harshes my mellow.

This abandoned shipping container has whimsical paintings on all four sides.

The hours of moving air (and its sound and the way it moves the trailer) would be bad enough, but with the wind comes dust. During times of strongest wind, we must leave the doors and windows closed lest the dust come in and cover everything we own. Sometimes dust devils blow across our property and slam into our trailer. Sometimes the short dust storm takes us by surprise, and we can’t get a door or window closed before it hits, leading to dust on the floor, dust on the clean dishes in the drying rack, dust on the blankets lying on the bed. I now have a small knowledge of what people in the 1930s experienced during the Dust Bowl in the United States.

The upside of the wind is that it pushes away the no-see-ums. Some folks call these insects from the Ceratopogonidae family sage gnats, some call them biting midges, but let’s just call them hell. The first three summers I spent in the area I encountered none of these bugs and no mosquitoes either. I thought I had discovered a magical land with no bugs. The Man independently arrived at the same conclusion. We were fools.

What was happening (I’m pretty sure, but I have not consulted an entomologist) is that the area was so deep in drought, no bugs were hatching. The eggs were out there, waiting for enough moisture to make life viable.

Burnt car

The drought had broken by the time The Man and I returned in 2017. Those no-see-um suckers were everywhere. We fought them for a couple of months. Spoiler alert: we found nothing to deter them, not DEET, not the $15 bottle of natural insect repellent I bought at the herb store after the lady working there told me the concoction would protect me. In the later part of June, we ran away to work in California to in order to escape the beasts.

One problem with the no-see-ums is that you don’t know when they’re biting you. They are super tiny (hence their name) and (like chiggers) their bite causes no immediate pain. Hours after being outside, one feels an itch and knows it has begun.

There are a lot of abandoned vehicles in my neighborhood.

I grew up with Southern mosquitoes. I’ve suffered countless mosquito bites in my lifetime. For me, a mosquito bite usually itches for about 20 minutes or half an hour, then the itch and the red welt is gone. The no-see-um bites itch intermittently for days. There is swelling and redness at the site of the bite, and the itching can come at any time. The no-see-um bits have more in common with chigger bites than those from mosquitoes.

Last year was a wet one. The area got a lot of snow in the winter and spring (the last snow at our place was in May), and once the snow ended, the rains came. All the moisture led to a long season of no-see-ums. Even people who’ve lived here all their lives said they’d never seen a no-see-um season quite so bad go on for quite so long.

We all fall down.

This year has been dryer, but the no-see-ums are out, and they seem worse than last year. The mesh of our screens is not fine enough to keep the little boogers out, but they weren’t coming in through the screen last year. This year we’re not so lucky, although I’m not sure why they’re coming in this way now. These days we long for the wind to blow and keep the little insects away.

The no-see-ums seem to like to bite The Man more than they like to bite me, and he has a worse reaction to the bites. It’s not unusual for his bites to itch so badly that he scratches them raw and bloody. Mine don’t itch quite so badly, but they tend to stay red and swollen for days after the attack.

The opposite of vanlife.

When you live out here, at certain times of the year you dare not go outside without suiting up. Going out in shorts and a tank top during no-see-um days is looking for trouble. I put on long pants, a long sleeved shirt, socks, and shoes before going outside. The Man does the same and adds a bug deterrent mesh over his face. Still, the bugs can fly up a sleeve or a pant leg and leave bites in places I don’t know how an insect could reach.

If a person survives the wind and the dust and the bugs, there are a few months available for tranquil productivity. I suspect most of the homesteading progress occurs in the summer when days are long, mornings are sunny, nights are cool, and an afternoon wet monsoon offers the opportunity for a siesta.

Unfortunately, summers are short around here. My first summer in the area, when I was homeless and sleeping outside, my local friends started worrying in August about how I would live during the coming winter. I’m from the South where life is just getting comfortable in October. When I lived in the Midwest, no one expected snow before Halloween. In northern New Mexico, people told me snow could fly any time after Labor Day.

I didn’t peek here either, but I could tell this fifth wheel is deserted.

This past winter, the first snow fell in October, before Halloween. That made for a long enough winter. I can’t imagine if the snow had started early in September. Old timers have told us this past winter was a mild one, although it seemed plenty cold to me. People who’ve lived here for decades talk of winters with lows of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. People tell us of snow falling and piling up through the season, only melting in spring.

The door of this mud structure is open to the elements. No one seems to live in the fifth wheel either.

This past winter, we went through multiple cycles of snow/freeze/melt which led to the dreaded mud. I’ve written about the mud out here before, but let me say again, it’s no joke. Driving anywhere off our land was an exercise in slip sliding away and the possibility of getting stuck. Almost everyone living around us got stuck in the mud at lease once, even the folks with 4x4s.

If the weather don’t get you, the hauling water will. The water table is deep here. It would cost thousands of dollars to dig a well so most people don’t. There is a community well that folks can buy into. The price per gallon is good, but the liquid still has to be hauled. People need trucks for hauling water and a big container too. We have a 50 gallon container for hauling water. A 100 or 250 gallon container would be better. Homesteaders also need a big container to put the hauled water in. All those containers are expensive, especially ones that are made from food-grade materials.

I don’t know if this trailer was vandalized or decorated.

I’ve heard that when it snowed more here, people with big cisterns could collect enough snow melt to basically get through the summer. The cisterns were topped off by the abundant water from the summer monsoon rains.When I first came here, I met an elderly woman who had been living off snow melt and rainwater for years, but she was having a hard time because of the drought. I don’t know if the weather has been wet enough lately for folks to collect water like they once did.

Want to grow food? Good luck! The soil is basically pure clay out here. The soil will have to be enriched if anything is going to grow. Raised beds or container gardening would probably be a better idea. Most of the water needed for irrigation will have to be hauled. Finally, the growing season is short around here with last frost in May and first frost in September.

All this is not to complain but to say it can be a hard life out here, especially for folks without piles of money. Some people make it and some people give up. Of course, some people get old or sick and leave because they can’t live such a rough life anymore. Some people are carried away by death.

I walk through this land of broken dreams and wonder where the people went. When they left, did they think they’d be back in a week or a month, in the spring, next year? When they left, did they know they’d never be back? Why didn’t they sell or give away the trailer, the propane tanks, the land? Why leave it all behind to rust and rot?

I wonder what my dreams will look like when I’m gone. Will they seem broken too, or will what I leave behind look like success?

I took the photos in this post. If you want to see more of my photography, follow me on Instagram @rubbertrampartist.