Category Archives: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I took the photo in this post.

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

The Free Pile at the RTR

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One of my favorite things about both the 2015 and 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) gatherings were the free piles. Both years, organizers set up an area where people cold leave things they didn’t want and other folks could pick up anything they did want, all with no monetary exchange or bartering. I love gift economy!

I don’t remember everything I gave away the first year, but I know I added to the pile. Likewise, I don’t remember everything I took from the free pile either, but I know I got one of the items I use most in van life from there: my pee bucket. It’s plastic, with a cover that latches on tightly. The lid has a handle too, which makes carrying the bucket over to a bush or a pit toilet very convenient. To make the fact that I’m transporting urine in it less obvious, I wrapped it in pink duct tape. Thanks free pile!

This year I added two books, a pair of worn-only-once black leggings, a small plate, multiple glue sticks, and other odds and ends I can’t remember to the free pile. (I should have written an inventory of what I contributed.) In return, I got so many good things, even though I was being really picky about what I took back to the van, since I’m trying to live with less, not collect more stuff I don’t really need.

I picked up quite a bit of food from the free pile this year. Early on, I got two cans of vegetarian refried beans and two large cans of tuna. Later I picked up a sealed box of whole grain spaghetti. After the soup dinner, the head cook contributed to the free pile all the cans of food not used for the soup or chili dinners. I picked up a small box of vegan, organic black bean soup; a jar of organic spaghetti sauce; another can of vegetarian refried beans; a can of black beans; two cans of garbanzo beans; a can of sliced carrots; five cans of diced tomatoes; and three cans of chili beans.

One day I dug through the piles of clothing and found a brightly colored fleecy Cuddl Duds brand shirt. It was only a large, and I usually wear XXL shirts, but it looked rather big, so I took it to my van home anyway. Because the fabric was stretchy, it fit me, albeit snugly. It was very warm and comfy, and I wore it on two of the coldest nights at the RTR.

A few days later, I was poking through the free clothes (not that I need any more clothes) and found a bright purple (with silver sparkles) furry sweater that I immediately loved. I was super excited when I looked at the tag and found the size: XXL! Score! The sweater was in excellent condition, and I wore it throughout the rest of the RTR. (I returned the slightly too small Cuddl Duds shirt to the free pile in hopes it would be found and loved by someone it fit better.)

Although lots of books were dropped off at the free pile, I already had lots of books in the van, so I was very particular about what I took. I did pick up one hardback book that looked entertaining. It’s called Cinnamon and Gunpowder, and it was written by Eli Brown. It’s a novel about a fancy chef who’s kidnapped by a female pirate, and it turned out to be a great read. At the end of the gathering, I couldn’t resist picking up Almost French, a memoir by Sarah Turnbull about being an  Aussie in Paris in the mid 90s.

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This is the chair I scored from the RTR free pile.

Possibly the best item I got from the free pile (it’s a tossup between this and the furry purple sweater), is a very sturdy folding camp chair complete with a folding tray on the side. When I first tried to lift the tray, it was difficult to move, due to some rust. Thanks to a squirt of WD40 (Thanks, Miz Sassy!), I got the tray sliding easily. The top surface of the tray had some (water?) damage, so I decided to collage and decoupage.

This is how the tray looked when I got the chair from the free pile.

This is how the tray looked when I got the chair from the free pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is how the tray looks after my collage and decoupage action. The map is of New Mexico. (It only shows Taos to Socorro.) Many of the other images are of or remind me of the Southwest.

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Organizer pockets originally on my from-the-free-pile folding chair, now on my passenger seat. I can easily grab my water bottle while I’m driving because it’s not rolling around on the floor. My phone goes in one of the top pockets.

The side of the chair without the tray sported a really nice set of pockets. The pocket bag was attached to the chair with hook and loop fasteners, so it was really easy to remove. I attached the pocket bag to the arm of my passenger seat with large safety pins, so now i have a handy place to keep my water bottle, phone, insurance papers, and van registration while I’m driving.

I always have a great time looking through free piles, and I particularly enjoy finding a few great pieces that make my life a little more comfortable. The RTR free pile hasn’t let me down.

Burning Van

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On the last Sunday of the RTR, I was sitting with folks on Lady Nell and Mr. Jay’s patio. Kay and Tommy came over and told us the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous would soon be transformed into Burning Van.

They’d fashioned a van from cardboard and were walking around the gathering with the cardboard van and a fistful of markers so anyone and everyone could help decorate the effigy. The time and place for the sacrifice of the van was decided: 7pm on that very night at the main fire pit.

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The date and time of Burning Van was written on the top of the van.

It was cool to see folks participate in the decorating. People drew pictures IMG_4477

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I decorated the wheels.

or wrote witty words or just signed their names. Throughout the afternoon, folks added their individual touches to the cardboard van.

 

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By 6:30, the sky was dark, the main fire was blazing, IMG_4482and people were gathering around. For the next half hour, people arrived to witness the sacrificial burning. In the minutes leading up to the sacrifice, more and more folks left their marks on the van.

While we waited for 7pm, we were treated to a chorus singing a song folks had collaborated on to sum up the RTR. Sung to the tune of “Little Boxes,” (the theme song for the Showtime series Weeds, written, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvina_Reynolds,by Malvina Reynolds), the song went like this:

little vans out in the desert

little vans all made of ticky tacky

little vans out in the desert

little vans and none the same

 

there’s a white one and a white one

and a white one and a flowered one

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and there’s none two just the same

 

and the people are rubber trampers

the nicest people anywhere

and they won’t be put in boxes

and they won’t be all the same

 

we are friendly we are family

we love to get together, in the desert,

in the desert, where the terrain is all the same

 

and the dogs are pretty aswesome and never pass up doggie treats

there are big dogs and little dog[s] and fast dogs and happy dogs

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and none look just the same

and we have no pavilion, no bathhouse,

no central stage

but we do have a fire pit where friendships are made

we’re all made out of ticky tacky and none think all the same

 

there’s a white one and a white one

and a white one and a flowered one

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and there’s none two just the same

 

After the singing, someone asked for the time. I looked at my watch. It’s seven! It’s seven! I said.

Someone behind me (Miz Sassy, if I had to guess) started in with Bong!

Bong! Bong! many of us chimed in seven times. Seconds after the seventh bong, Tommy carried the cardboard van to the fire pit and deposited it in the flames.

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It caught fire quickly, and there were hoots, hollers, and cheers from the the crowd. It didn’t take long for the van to be reduced to ashes and embers.

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The van went from this IMG_4472 to this IMG_4509 in a few brief minutes.

I hope the fun and comradery of Burning Van happens again at the 2017 RTR.

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I took all the photos in this post.

Report on the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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

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

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This is what the Scaddan Wash area looks like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cacti and mountains surrounding the RTR 2016.

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

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

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

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

Adventures in Cleanliness

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When I tell people I live in my van, I’m often asked Where do you shower?

The answer of course is It depends.

No, my van doesn’t have a shower (or a toilet or a sink or any kind of water hookups or drain).

When I was homeless and living in a picnic pavilion at a rest area, I had two friends who’d let me clean up at their places.

The Jewelry Lady had a tiny little efficiency apartment, but every couple of weeks she’d invite me over. This woman (the picture of Southern hospitality despite being born and raised in New England) would offer me the use of her bathroom so I could take a nice, long, hot shower while she cooked us a fantastic dinner. When I was clean and fed, we’d hang out and talk or make jewelry while listening to Coast to Coast. This woman continues to be my dear friend.

Madame Chile would take me out to her place some weekends. She actually had a guest cottage–a storage shed with electricity. She had a cozy rug on the floor and a reading lamp on the nightstand next to the fluffy comfy bed. It was such a joy to have my own room, even just for one night. Although we’d wake up at a ridiculous hour of the morning to get good spots to sell our wares, I slept so well there, knowing I was absolutely safe.

But for all that goodness, the best part of going home with Madame Chile was her outdoor bathtub! She had a big, plastic livestock water trough nestled in a secluded spot on her property. She even had the hose running to it connected to an outdoor hot water faucet, so I’d get a nice hot bath. I called it her cowgirl bathtub and enjoyed the wonderful decadence of scrubbing up under the sunset sky.

Whenever I’m in the area, of course I visit The Jewelry Lady, and of course she offers me a shower. Madame Chile has moved to another state, so sadly I don’t get to see her or utilize the cowgirl bathtub.

My last boyfriend lives on land ten miles from the nearest convenience store  and probably fifteen miles from the nearest town (which is actually a village). When we were together, he didn’t have indoor plumbing or running water, so when I stayed there, I’d take outdoor showers.

To take a “shower,” I’d heat water on the propane stove. When the water was hot, I’d stand somewhere outside (usually out of the dirt on a wooden porch or large stepping stones) and use some of the water to wet my skin. Then I’d lather up. (I was–and still am– particularly fond of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap.) Once I was clean, I’d use the rest of the water to rinse off the soap. The most difficult part of the process was staying warm. If I waited too late in the day for my shower and the temperature dropped, I didn’t want to get out of my clothes. If I was already naked–or heaven forbid–naked and wet and the wind kicked up, I was a miserable lady.

Whenever I house sit, one of the perks is the indoor plumbing, particularly being able to take a hot shower or bath whenever I want. And when I’m staying with family or friends, of course I have access to showers.

When I’m traveling, I don’t worry about showering every day. During the two months I was on the road with Mr. Carolina, I think I took five showers (one in the hotel bathroom of a regional Rainbow Gathering focalizer we met in Nevada, two in the hotel room we shared with the boys before they caught their flight to Guatamala City, one at Lil C’s mom’s house, and one at the Okie’s great-grandmother’s house), supplemented by a couple of soaks in hot springs. I’ve adjusted to not showering every day (or every week!) especially if I’m staying in places that aren’t too hot or too humid.

For rubber tramps with money who want to clean up, truck stops are an option. Many truckers have sleeping quarters in their rigs, but no running water, so truck stops cater to those folks by offering shower facilities. Showers are usually free for folks purchasing a certain (usually large) amount of fuel. For the rest of us, the cost is usually around ten bucks.

When I was in Quartzsite for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I knew about a few options for cleaning up (other than getting naked behind my van and soaping up). Quarzsite boasts both Flying J and Love’s truck stops, so I could have paid to shower at either place, but I was too cheap for that. Instead, I decided to go to a religious outreach place called the Isaiah 58 Project that I’d heard offered free showers. (Learn more about the Isaiah 58 Project here: https://www.isaiah58project.info/home.html.)

The Isaiah 58 Project is located in what I can only describe as a compound. It’s fenced. There are several buildings and some camper trailers (and I think a bus) within the fence. I went in the wrong gate and saw what seemed to be people’s homes and decided it was all too weird, and I wasn’t going to take a shower there. I left and went across the street to the Salvation Army thrift store. Later when I left the thrift store and walked back to my van, I realized there was another entrance to the Isaiah 58 Project compound. Through the second gate was a building with a cross on it. A-ha! A church!

I pulled my van across the street, then tried to find an office with a person who could tell me the procedure. No luck. I think I either saw a sign directing me to the showers, or I saw people waiting…I don’t really remember how, but I figured it out.

After I got my stuff together, I found people in line ahead of me. I sat in one of the plastic chairs in the already beating down sun (no shade available) and waited my turn. Some people were waiting, but not in line, so a couple of times I thought I was next, only to have some guy (I was the only woman waiting for a shower) pop out of somewhere and say he was next.

Finally, it was my turn. The first thing I realized was that there was only one working shower and no one was cleaning it between uses. I was grateful I was wearing my purple plastic shower shoes.

The second thing I noticed was that the lock on the door didn’t seem very secure. Or maybe I noticed that there wasn’t a lock on the door. Again, I’m a little fuzzy on the details. In any case I had a moment of doubt about my safety. Was I going to get raped in the religious outreach shower? Then I figured I’d made it too far to back out.

The third thing I noticed was that the shower room (a large room with a toilet, a sink, and two shower stalls–one of which was blocked off because it didn’t work–at the far end) looked really grungy and drab and not exactly sparkling clean. Again I thought about leaving, but again I decided I’d gone to far to turn back.

So I got naked and took my shower. No one came into the room to attack me (and for that I am grateful). The hot water and soap (I’d brought my own  Dr. Bronner’s peppermint) felt good, but I spent my allotted ten minutes not only hurrying and worrying for my safety, but also trying to avoid touching the walls. Not relaxing.

I didn’t go back the Isaiah 58 Project for a shower during my second week in Quartzsite. I didn’t feel desperately dirty enough to go there again. (I was going back to my host family in the city, so I knew I could shower again as soon as I got there.)

When I got my current job as a camp host, my boss didn’t ask about how I was going to shower. I knew the campground didn’t have water, so I figured I’d just go the wet wipe route. (Wet wipes  are quite useful for clean-up without running water, especially when one has the luxury of the privacy of a van.)

Then I met my co-worker. She was pleasant, but the moment we were alone, she asked the question.

Does your van have a shower?

When I told her no, she followed up with, So how do you clean up?

I told her I used wet wipes, and she seemed skeptical. She said she couldn’t go more than a couple of days without a shower.

Uh-Oh! I knew this woman was going to be sniffing me out. I knew that if she detected a whiff–one measly whiff–of body odor, she would  mention it to someone who would mention it to someone, and I would find myself having an uncomfortable interaction with my boss. It looked like I would soon find myself paying for a shower.

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/18/more-adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/09/adventures-in-cleanliness-revisited/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.

Staying Warm

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My #1 way of staying warm while living in my van is to go somewhere warmer when the weather gets colder. For example, in 2014, I left Northern New Mexico at the end of October and went to Southern New Mexico, where I stayed for November and December. In January 2015, I went to Arizona and stayed in various places in that state until I went to the California mountains at the end of April.

People often ask me if I stay warm enough in the van at night. Staying warm at night is not a problem. My bed is raised about two feet, so my body heat isn’t lost to the floor, and I have storage space. I sleep on two layers of memory foam, which is notorious for making people hot. I wear long underwear and socks to sleep when I need to, as well as a hat if it’s particularly cold. I have plenty of blankets, including two sleeping bags and a knitted (crocheted?) blanket stored flat under the memory foam and on hand for any really cold situation.

My bed lies across the back of the van, up against the back doors. On the side opposite the back doors, I have a curtain (a sheet I paid $1 for at a thrift store strung on a bungee cord) that I can pull for privacy. I found out early on that the curtain holds in quite a bit of my body heat. In hot weather, I often have to leave the curtain open at night so I don’t get warmly uncomfortable. When it’s cold out, I’m glad the curtain holds in the warmth.

Once I’m in bed, I’m warm. Sometimes I even get too warm and have to push the covers down for a while so I can cool off in the chilly air.

The problem in cold weather is getting out of the bed, either to get dressed and get out of the van or to move around inside the van (to tidy up or to cook, for example). Sometimes it’s too cold inside even to sit up in bed to read or write.

While I was in Southern New Mexico, temperatures were getting down in the low 30s at night. I researched how other rubber tramps stay warm in their vehicles.

One idea I found on a couple of websites was burning a candle. Candles (supposedly) raise interior temperature in a vehicle by 10 degrees. Of course, one must be careful with the open flame. (I have a lot of fabric in my van—curtains, rugs, blankets, clothing strewn about—so I have to be particularly careful not to catch everything I own on fire.) One must also be careful not to let the candle use up all the oxygen in one’s enclosed space, which can lead to death. This means one must leave a window open at least a crack when using a candle inside a vehicle.

I wondered if leaving the window open—even just a crack—negated any heat produced by a lit candle. However, I was willing to give it a try, so I walked down to one of the locally owned gift shops and bought a small (overpriced, artificially scented) candle. I tried burning the candle a couple of mornings. I (thankfully) did not catch anything on fire, but I didn’t notice feeling any warmer when the candle was burning. I decided the candle experiment was a failure.

At the time, I was staying in an RV park with electrical hookups. I considered going to Stuff-Mart and buying a small electric heater. (I think they run $15-$20.) I decided not to do that because I very seldom stay in my van in places with electrical hookups. Even a small heater would take up precious storage space when not in use, and I wouldn’t use it enough to justify having it.

The last week I was in Southern New Mexico (the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve), the temperature dropped to 28 degrees. I was lucky because I had gotten a house and pet sitting job. I stayed in a lovely warm house with a nice cat and a nice dog, and I didn’t have to think about heating the van.

During my internet research, I’d read a bit about portable propane heaters. Several van dwellers I read about swore by them. I didn’t rush out to buy one because #1 they’re a little pricey and #2 burning propane in the van causes the same concerns as burning candles.

At the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), I talked to people who used propane heaters in their vehicles. (To read more about my experiences at the RTR, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.)

The Divine Miss M had a Mr. Heater brand Portable Buddy heater, which was a popular choice among folks at the RTR. (I don’t know why exactly, maybe I heard someone else refer to the heaters this way, but I call this type of heater Mr. Buddy.) Miss M loved hers, said it got her station wagon plenty warm, but did stress the absolute necessity of leaving a window open a crack when using the heater inside. She assured me that the heater produced enough heat to overcome the cold let in through the partially open window.

I stored the info in my brain file for future reference. I wasn’t in the market for a heater, although on some chilly mornings in the Arizona desert, I would have welcomed a few minutes of concentrated warmth.

At one of the very last group gatherings at the RTR, during announcements, a man said he had a brand new Mr. Buddy heater for sale. He said he’d just bought it from Amazon.com for $69 ($20 less than normal price, I was told) but had found a heater he liked better at the Big Tent. (Read my thoughts on the Big Tent here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/02/the-big-tent/.) He wanted to sell the heater for $69, plus another $20 or $30 for the supplies to hook it up to a large propane tank. When I went to talk to the guy selling the heater and told  him I was interested in the heater but not the accessories because I didn’t have a large propane tank, there was a grumpy old man already looking at the items. The old man snapped at me that I needed a larger propane tank because it was cheaper to buy propane that way. Rather than snap back at the old coot elder, I just told the guy with the items for sale that the old guy could buy it since he was there first.

Before I could get back to my van, the seller had come after me to say the old guy didn’t want the heater and I could have it for the $69 he’d spend on it. I bought it.

I tried it out a couple of times before I left the RTR (thanks to the bottle of propane Miss M gave me to use with it). It worked great, warmed the van quickly. It was just enough heat to get me motivated to get out of bed and get dressed. I told Miss M that Mr. Buddy was my new boyfriend!

Then I went back to the City and didn’t stay in my van for upwards of three months. Mr. Buddy was packed in a plastic storage tub, and I didn’t think much about him. Until…

It’s cold in the California mountains, even in May. Seems like the temperature starts dropping around 4:30 in the afternoon (16:30, military time) and doesn’t warm up again until the next day around noon. Sleeping is fine. Actually, I sleep better when it’s chilly and I can snuggle under piles of blankets, so sleeping is excellent. It’s the between times that are trying.

I get up early to do a check of the campground, sweep the restrooms, make sure there’s enough toilet paper. I decided I needed the warm motivation only Mr. Buddy can provide, so I’d already planned to unpack him when I heard the high the next day was expected to be only 41 degrees, and there was a possibility of snow. I pulled Mr. Buddy and his propane bottle out of the plastic crate and fired him up before I crawled into bed. In about ten minutes, the van was toasty.

When I got up in the morning to pee, I fired him up again until I warmed up. Oh yes, Mr. Buddy and I are sure to have a long and happy relationship.

I took this photo of my boyfriend Mr. Buddy in my van.

I took this photo of my boyfriend, Mr. Buddy, in my van. The propane bottle fits right in on the side.

Safety Precautions I Follow with Mr. Buddy

#1 I open at least one window at least a crack before igniting Mr. Buddy’s flame.

#2 Because there is an actual flame, I make sure no fabric is near Mr. Buddy’s front.

#3 I never leave him unattended. I DO NOT exit the van or go to sleep while Mr. Buddy is on.

#4 When I turn off Mr. Buddy, I unscrew and remove the propane bottle. Some people don’t do this, but I take this precaution so I know no propane is leaking.

While writing this post, I remembered another idea for getting/staying warm. I learned this one years ago from a New Englander in New Orleans. Drinking or eating something hot is a good way to warm up from the inside. However, when I’m cold first thing in the morning, I don’t necessarily want to crawl out of my warm bed to heat water for tea.

img_2813For my birthday, my host family gave me a Stanley thermos. It keeps water hot for a long time. I used it while working the essay scoring job so I’d have hot water for my lunch. I’d heat the water in the morning, put it in the thermos, and the water would still be hot enough at lunchtime to prepare noodle soup (ramen noodles and the like). One day I didn’t use the water for lunch, and the next morning (24 hours later) when I opened the bottle, the water was still very warm.

So this is my idea: Before I go to bed, I’ll boil water and put it in my Stanley bottle. I’ll put it next to my bed, along with my mug and a teabag. When I wake up in the morning, I’ll pour myself a cup of hot tea before I even get out of bed. Sounds lovely.

 

I did not receive any compensation for the endorsements of the products in this post. I wrote this post after I already owned the products. I just like ’em, and I think my readers might like them too.

If you click on either of the photos below, you can shop on Amazon through my affiliate link. If you do your normal Amazon shopping through my affiliate link, I receive a commission from your purchases at no cost to you!

Stanley Classic Thermos 10-01254-033 1 Quart Unbreakable Steel Thermos

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater

The Big Tent

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The Big Tent is what folks call it, but the actual name of the event is The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. It’s been held every year since 1984, although the location within the town has changed several times. People travel to Quartzsite in their RVs (motorhomes, vans, campers, fifth wheels, etc.) from all over the country to enjoy the warm Arizona weather and see what’s new in the Big Tent.

Go here http://www.quartzsitervshow.com/about/ to learn more about the history of The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, which has grown from 60 exhibitors and a small tent to this year’s 69,000 square foot fully carpeted indoor exhibit area at 700 South Central Blvd.

This year the Big Tent was open January 17th through 25th. I visited it on the Saturday opening day and on Tuesday the 20th.

I went to the Big Tent the first time because I was trying to get a job as a camp host. I’d been told that the best camp host company to work for would have a booth at the Big Tent. I was told I should go there to meet the boss in charge of staffing, that I’d be interviewed and probably hired on the spot.

It didn’t happen quite that way.

The big boss was there, but when I walked up, he was busy and barely spoke to me. He wasn’t unfriendly, just busy. I talked to another man who works for the company who told me to go to their website, see what jobs were available, fill out an online application, and wait for a phone interview. Why had I come to the Big Tent on opening day?

I’d arrived at the tent at about ten minutes early, but nobody was getting in early that morning. The line started moving at exactly nine o’clock.

By the time I got inside, the place was already packed.

I wasn’t surprised to see RV park booths, RV insurance booths, booths staffed with folks trying to convince people to drive their RVs north to Canada and south to Mexico. I wasn’t surprised to see an Arizona State Parks booth, a KOA campground booth, and a Good Sam’s Club booth.

Several casinos had booths, complete with wheels to spin. Spin the wheel, win a prize, but not until one coughed up one’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. I tried to win several times (and won nothing more memorable than multiple decks of cards), so I’m sure my mailbox will shortly be full of casino propaganda.

Several booths were dedicated to recruiting work campers. One of those booths belonged to Workamper News (http://www.workamper.com), the website to check out (I was told at the RTR) to get hooked up with work camping opportunities. Amazon.com was present, recruiting for its CamperForce. The sugar beet harvest people (http://www.sugarbeetharvest.com) were there too, and I had a nice talk with a nice midwestern man, but quickly realized that sugar beet harvest work is too strenuous for me. Several companies looking to hire camp hosts were also in the Big Tent.

I was surprised to see multiple booths selling pillows. I understand that RVers use pillows. But why would someone buy pillows at at sports, vacation, and RV show? Wal-Mart sells pillows. Kmart sells pillows. Sears and JCPenney and the freakin’ Family Dollar probably sell pillows. Pillows can be ordered from Amazon.com. Why were these RV show pillows so special? I don’t know because I did not stop at any of the many pillow booths and discuss the desirability of their pillows.

On a related note, the funniest thing I saw in a booth was a man lying in a bed on a platform a couple of feet off the floor. He was selling some special RV bedding, and he was demonstrating this bedding by lying in a bed. The big come-on with this bedding is that one wouldn’t have to make the bed if one had this bedding. Basically, the bedding was a double sleeping bag placed on top of a mattress. There was no tucking of sheets and blankets because this item was a blanket pouch. Is making an RV bed so difficult that people would rather sleep in a double sleeping bag? In any case, whenever I saw this grown man lying down in bed while trying to convince people to buy his wares, it cracked me up.

I was also surprised to see people in so many booths trying to sell kitchen gadgets. I do understand that RVs have kitchens, which might lead RVers to buy kitchen gadgets, but it seems like those items too are available in just about any regular store. Do people get caught up in the frenzy of shopping at the Big Tent, only to wake up to reality later and find their yellow freebie KOA tote bag full of silicone bowl covers and long skinny plastic chip clips?

The least explicable booths were those selling makeup, hand creme, and jewelry (especially an “ion” bracelet some lady tried to slip on my wrist). I didn’t stop at any of those booths, but from my cruise past, I didn’t see anything that looked unique or revolutionary.

My favorite booth was the one run by Minute Rice. There was a wheel to spin and prizes to win. When I spun the wheel, it stopped on “emery board.” Boring! However, the nice ladies were also giving out two-packs of the precooked, microwaveable rice. There was even a choice: white, brown, or jasmine. And they didn’t want my email address!

I know I mentioned it was crowded in that tent, but let me just say again, the place was packed. At one point, the crowd in the aisle was at a complete standstill. There was a tall young man next to me, and I asked him what he saw up ahead. He said it was just a bunch of people standing still. As soon as I made it out of that quagmire (without ever seeing a reason for movement to have ceased), I ducked out of the next exit door into the sunshine. There were more booths on the outside around the perimeter of the Big Tent, but nothing held my attention long enough for me to stop.

When I went back on Tuesday (because I was in the area to purchase items from several of the booths in the Tyson Wells shopping area), the Big Tent was mostly the same. The Minute Rice ladies were gone (they must have run out of rice), but I made up for it by playing a couple of fun and silly games at the Progressive booth, where the workers were a bunch of young gals dressed like Flo! There (thankfully) weren’t as many people in the Big Tent, so we all had a little more elbow room.

The Big Tent (like Mardi Gras) is definitely something to see once, if one is in the right place at the right time. I’m not sure I would go there again. If I did go there again, I probably would not do so on opening day. And hopefully I’d own a working camera so I could get a photo of that man in the bed.

In 2016, I got a photo of the man in bed! Go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/02/the-big-tent-2016/ to see it.