Category Archives: Van Life

No Overnight Parking

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We’d been on the road almost all day, so when we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I really only wanted to eat some dinner and go to bed.

As I drove through the parking lot, I gave a cursory look for signs prohibiting overnight parking and saw none. I pulled the van to the perimeter of the parking lot, on the edge of an embankment. A metal barrier kept cars from rolling down into the trash-strewn gully, and there were certainly no signs there telling folks they couldn’t park overnight.

While cooking and eating dinner, we saw several people walk up the embankment on a well-worn path between the railroad tracks below and the Wal-Mart parking lot. About one couple, The Man said the fellow seemed a little twitchy, but the woman was clearly methed out. More people came and went within 30 feet of the van, but no one approached us to start a conversation.

The Man watched people come and go and saw some of them walk out into the field beyond the tracks. Then he saw a light bouncing around in the field and concluded people were living out there. While we got ready for bed, we saw a new-looking car rolling next to the railroad tracks. Only railroad vehicles are allowed to drive next to the tracks, The Man said. What is going on down there? he wondered. We decided night time was not the right time to go down there to explore.

We’re locking the doors tonight, The Man said before we crawled into bed. He’s not usually one for locking doors, even at night. Heh’s confident he and the fiercely barking, protective dog are capable of scaring off any bad news that comes around.

I might sleep with my knife, he said, referring to the giant knife he uses to peel the bark from wood before carving it. We laughed about what he might shout at anyone who messed around our van in the middle of the night.

We went to bed around nine o’clock. I was exhausted, and I think The Man was too. I fell asleep quickly and slept deeply.

The Man said I woke screaming. Someone had knocked on the van and dragged me from a wonderful place of oblivion. Was it someone high on meth? Was it the police?

Who is it? I said loudly as I moved to the side window.

Wal-Mart manager, a male voice said. There’s no overnight parking here.

Oh. Sorry, I said. We’ll leave. We didn’t see any signs.

There’s one on the pole behind you, he said,

Ok. We’ll leave, I said again as I groped in the dark to find my clothes.

When we had pulled in, I’d noticed the lack of RVs, 18-wheelers, and van dwellers in the lot. In New Mexico, Wal-Mart parking lots often look like truck stops or RV parks, but I just figured not many people wanted to stay overnight in this not very scenic part of Colorado. Frankly, I was so tired, I hadn’t given it much thought.

Before we’d gone to sleep, I had seen another rig parked a couple rows behind us. It was a nice-looking pickup with a fancy slide-in camper. The camper’s stabilizing poles were down, so I figured the driver was in for the night. However, when we left, the pickup with the camper was already gone. I don’t know if the people in that rig were asked to leave or took it upon themselves to go.

There was still one rig parked in the lot when we left. A shiny, new-looking camper trailer was hooked up to a shiny, new-looking (matching) pickup truck. No lights were on in the trailer, and no one was in the truck’s driver seat looking like I felt–sleepy, disheveled, and a little bit frantic. I didn’t see the Wal-Mart manager knocking on the camper door, and I wondered if he’d done it so quickly that he’d been able to make it back into the store in the time it took me to dress and climb into the driver’s seat. Maybe shiny new rigs get to stay overnight. Maybe it’s not considered overnight parking if folks roll in after midnight. Maybe the people in the camper hadn’t answered the manager’s knock and could truthfully say they hadn’t gotten the no overnight parking message I’ll never know.

Luckily, on our way into town, I’d seen a billboard advertising a Love’s travel center only a few interstate exits from the Wal-Mart. The Man and the dog never got out of bed, but I managed to stay awake long enough to drive us to the truck stop. As I drove through the Wal-Mart parking lot to the exit, I saw the one no overnight parking sign I’d managed to miss on the way in. That store might want to invest in more signs so the night manager doesn’t have to go out into the dark to knock on vehicles.

 

Big Tesuque Campground

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The Man and I were going to be in Santa Fe for a few days, so I got on the Free Campsites website and found us a beautiful, free campground on the outskirts of the city.

If you’ve never used Free Campsites (https://freecampsites.net/), you should check out the website the next time you need to stay somewhere overnight. Whether you want to boondock one evening or plan a multi-stop vacation, Free Campsites can help you find what you need. The website moves beyond Wal-Marts and truck stops and focuses on public land.

According to the site,

Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.

We believe that free camping areas are often the most beautiful and peaceful camp sites. Our focus is on public lands. You own these lands and you are entitled to use them. We especially like camping on Forest Service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas, WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas) and county or city parks.

Contrary to the name of the website, not all camping spots listed on the Free Campsites websites are actually free. Some sites included cost up to $15 or so, which is still quite a bit less expensive than the average RV park. Of course, I’m cheap (like my mawmaw, about whom my father said more than once, she could hold onto a nickel so tight the buffalo would moan), so it’s a rare penny I spend to park my van and sleep. However, Free Campsites gives the option of inexpensive campgrounds to travelers who like the extra amenities offered and have a bit of spending money to put down.

I’ve used the Free Campsites listings on my laptop quite a bit but recently installed the free app on my (Android) phone so I can use it on the go. The app is a little slow, but I blame that on my 3G phone.

This photo shows NM Hwy 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway, as it snakes up the mountain.

When I looked at the options for free camping near Santa Fe, I found several spots on Highway 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway. (Read more about the Santa Fe Scenic Byway here: https://www.newmexico.org/things-to-do/scenic-byways/santa-fe-national-forest/.)

We chose to stay at the Big Tesuque (pronounced [tuh-SOO-key], according to http://encyclopediaofsantafe.com/pages/words/tesuque.html) Campground. It’s part of the Santa Fe National Forest. The campground’s GPS coordinates are 35.76917, -105.80861, and it’s located near milepost 13. It’s small but does include two pit toilets and bear-proof trash cans. There is no drinking water available there. (Learn more about the campground at https://freecampsites.net/#!13966&query=sitedetails.)

The campground is really intended for people in tents; there’s no space to park vehicles at the camp sites. The parking area has room for about a dozen vehicles. Campers are meant to park in the small lot, then carry their equipment and supplies up to the sites to unpack and set up.

We simply parked the van in the parking area. When we were ready to cook, we unfolded one of our tables next to the van and set up our stove and equipment. Only four or five cars pulled into the campground’s parking area during our stay, and nobody else spent the night. Even during busy times, I think it would be fine for a van dweller to take an empty parking space and stay there for the night.

Even if we had been tent campers, the entire campground was covered in snow while we were there! It was May 1, but there were several inches of snow all over the camping area. I guess at over 9700 feet in elevation, snow can come late into the spring. Despite the snow, it wasn’t too cold out, at least until the sun set. After dark, we hunkered down in bed and got to sleep early.

I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the restroom I used. It even had plenty of toilet paper! (Were I a better campground reporter, I would have checked both restrooms for cleanliness and toilet paper.) Although Big Tesuque Campground has no camp host, someone was cleaning, restocking toilet paper, and scrubbing the pit toilet, even during the slow season.

My favorite feature of the campground was the brook/creek/stream/river (one of these days I am going to learn what makes those bodies of water different) running alongside it. There were even two small waterfalls of sorts where the water tumbled down to lower levels. The sound of flowing water helps me sleep peacefully, and I had a very good night in the parking lot of the Big Tesuque Campground.

Snow! Trees! Waterfalls! All at the Big Tesuque Campground, less than 20 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Another Cop Knock

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The Man and I had worked at the Bridge during Spring Break, then went off on an epic adventure in Arizona. On our second day in Flagstaff, we decided to end the Arizona trip and head back to New Mexico.

Let’s go home, we looked at each other and said.

These are some of the new necklaces I’ve made recently.

We spent a week on the land of a friend who lives ten miles from the nearest town. The Man carved wood spirits, and I made new hemp necklaces, and we took turns cooking delicious food we shared with our friend.

On our first day back at the Bridge, I got us there early. By early, I mean around 4am. I admit it: I’m a bit obsessive about arriving at the vending area early and getting the spot I want.

As we approached the vending area, I noticed something a bit strange. An old SUV I didn’t recognize was parked in the vending area. That wasn’t the strange part. The vehicle could have belonged to a new vendor I didn’t know or it could have been the new vehicle of someone I did know. What was strange about the vehicle was the way it was parked. Instead of being parked parallel to the highway as vendors usually situate themselves, this SUV was parked perpendicular to the road.

As I pulled off the highway and into the vending area, I noticed something even stranger about the way the SUV was parked. Just beyond where vendors park their vehicles, the land drops. I can walk up and down the incline if I concentrate on my movements, but it’s rather steep. The SUV was sitting at a strange angle because the back tires had rolled beyond the drop off of the land.

Because Northern New Mexico is full of drunk drivers, I assumed someone had been driving drunk and had backed up beyond the point of safety. Of course, the driver maybe wasn’t drunk at all and simply hadn’t seen the drop off in the dark.

In any case, I parked my van and crawled back into bed. The SUV didn’t seem to be damaged in any way that indicated a violent crash or injuries, so I wasn’t worried about anyone being hurt. I didn’t want to disturb anyone who was sleeping it off inside the vehicle because I really wasn’t in the mood to deal with a possibly drunk person in the dark.

The Man and the dog were sleeping peacefully, but I was wide awake. Once in bed, I tried to lie still so as not to disturb my companions. I heard at least one other vendor arrive. I heard voices, but couldn’t understand the words being said. I was maybe drifting off when Bam! Bam! BAM! someone knocked on the van.

The dog sprang from the bed, barking fiercely. The Man sat up from a dead sleep, shouting incoherently. I untangled myself from the blankets while trying to calm The Man and the dog, asking them to let me find out what’s going on.

I pulled the curtain aside and saw a young man in a uniform standing outside the van. I popped open the window, and the young man said, I’m with the sheriff’s department. The knock had sounded like a cop knock because it was a cop knock.

The officer asked me if the SUV had been there when I arrived. I said it had. He asked what time I had arrived. I said I’d gotten there right around four o’clock. (It was now 4:30, according to my watch.) He asked if I had seen anyone in the vehicle or walking around, and I said no. The officer then dismissed me, but I don’t think he thanked me for my time or apologized for waking me (and The Man and the dog, whose commotion he must have heard).

I was awake for a while more and heard chains being attached to the SUV to pull it up to level ground. After that, I managed to fall asleep.

It was after 7am and full daylight when I woke up again. The Man was still snoring, but the dog was awake and whining to go out. I dressed quickly, then harnessed and leashed the dog. After he attended to the call of nature, we walked down the line of vendors, saying hello to our friends.

Dee told me four cops had arrived shortly after she did. (She said she hadn’t called them.) They questioned her about the SUV, but she knew nothing. A tow truck arrived and took the SUV away, then the officers left. Sometime after the cops left, a man walked up to Dee and asked her what had happened to his vehicle.

Did he get dropped off? I asked Dee. Or did he crawl out of the sage? She said she didn’t know, hadn’t seen where he’d come from, but she’d told him his vehicle had been towed.

I walked farther down the line of vendors, and Mr. Leather asked me about the morning’s excitement. I told him about the cop knocking on my van and questioning me, and I told him about the stranger asking Dee where his SUV was.

I guess the moral of the story is stay with your vehicle so it doesn’t get towed, I said to Mr. Leather.

Actually, he said, if you’re drunk, it’s better to leave the vehicle so you don’t get charged with DUI.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’ve never once driven after drinking alcohol, so I’d never given any thought to what I should do if I got my vehicle stuck somewhere and risked failing a field sobriety test if the police showed up.

I’m not positive the man who belonged to the SUV was indeed drunk, but if he was sleeping it off in the sage that probably saved him from getting charged with a DUI. I hope getting stuck saved him from getting into a worse accident and possibly ending his own or someone else’s life.

 

 

 

Picnic Area

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We’d left Truth or Consequences later than we’d planned. Then we’d made a couple stops in Las Cruces (breakfast, guitar strings), so the sun was low in the sky as we drove through Tucson. When we turned onto Highway 86 West (also known as Ajo Way), I was disappointed to see a sign declaring we were still

Crested Saguaro

over 100 miles from Ajo. Not only was I tired of driving, but I was afraid driving in the dark would mean we’d miss the two crested saguaros Coyote Sue said were visible from Highway 86.

The Man and I discussed what we should do. Push on and drive into the night, missing the crested saguaros? Find a place to park for the night and see the saguaros in the morning? We decided we wanted to find a place where we could park the van and sleep until first light.

We were soon on Tohono O’odham land. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tohono_O%27odham,

The Tohono O’odham (/tˈhɑːnə ˈɑːtʊm/, or /tɑːˈhnə ˈɑːtəm/)[2] are a Native American people of the Sonoran Desert, residing primarily in the U.S. state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora. Tohono O’odham means “Desert People.” The federally recognized tribe is known as the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Man kept pointing out places where he thought we could park the van for the night, but I was hesitant to park randomly on the reservation. Although we had nothing to hide from the police, nothing spoils a good night’s sleep like a cop knock in the dark. (If we were ever parked somewhere and a cop knocked in the night, I would simply tell him or her that we were too tired to drive safely, and we’d move on at first light.) Also, I didn’t want to be the white person who thinks she’s entitled to do whatever she wants on native land she knows little about.

Picnic Area on the south side of Hwy 86

I kept driving, and I really was getting to the point of feeling as if I just couldn’t go much father. Then, between mileposts 136 and 137, on the south side of the highway, I saw a picnic area. I pulled in and saw no signs prohibiting overnight parking or even camping. Here it was! This was our spot for the night!

There wasn’t much to the picnic area. There were a few picnic tables there, a shade cover over a few of them. There were no restrooms and not a single trash can. No problem! We only needed to stop for the next six or eight hours.

A fence separated the picnic area from the reservation, but we were too tired to even consider crossing. All I had on my mind was sleep.

When we first lay down, we heard a lot of traffic on the highway, It was a Friday night, and I think people were heading home from their jobs in Tucson, while others were heading to Tucson to party. As the hour grew later, we heard fewer cars on the road, and we slept peacefully.

In the background of this photo, one can see the fence separating the picnic area from the reservation.

The next morning as we stretched and brushed our teeth, The Man noticed an observatory on top of a nearby mountain. Within an hour we passed an entrance road and a sign declaring it the Kitt Peak National Observatory. We didn’t stop, but according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitt_Peak_National_Observatory,

The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is a United States astronomicalobservatory site located on 2,096 m (6,880 ft) Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the ArizonaSonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona. With 24 optical and two radio telescopes, it is the largest, most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the world.[1] The observatory is administered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

At the very peak of the mountain, something related to the Kitt Peak Observatory is visible.

Roadside America (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/46336) says the Visitor Center is open daily 9-4 (call 520-318-8726 to verify). Admission is free, but one-hour guided tours cost $8.00-$10.00 per person. According to bobebob on 01/25/2015,

The best views of the complex are from the outdoor catwalk around the Mayall telescope, whose 15-ton mirror is housed in a dome 18 stories high. Daytime visitors are asked to keep their voices low, as most of the astronomers (who live in on-site dormitories) are asleep.

Picnic table and tree

On Saturday, we spent time with the Diving Miss M, and sometime during our conversation, she mentioned the Arizona Department of Transportation has a 12-foot easement on either side of Highway 86. The land past the easement is part of the reservation. Being left alone at the picnic area made sense. The picnic area is on the easement, which means ADOT maintains it. Surely no ADOT employee was patrolling the area at night to run off sleepy travelers. Tribal police probably aren’t very concerned with what happens at the picnic area since it is technically the ADOT’s jurisdiction. I suppose someone from the Pima County Sherriff’s Department or the Highway Patrol could have questioned us if a complaint had been lodged or if we’d been causing trouble, but we were sleeping, not drinking or yelling or even littering. If an officer of the law saw us parked at the picnic area that night, s/he decided we weren’t worth stopping for. Personally, I was grateful for uninterrupted sleep.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

Good-bye to the Sonoran Desert

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We stayed too long.

We thought the Sonoran Desert would be bearable in early April, but we weren’t prepared for the harshness of the desert even in the spring. The Man and Jerico the Dog had the worst of it, but I experienced the heat and sun too.

Crested Saguaro

The Man and I and Jerico spent a week in Truth or Consequences while I fulfilled a house sitting obligation. When the job was over, we traveled to Southern Arizona. The plan was for The Man and Jerico to camp on BLM land in the Sonoran Desert while The Lady of the House and I went on a long-anticipated road trip to Bisbee, AZ. I’d be gone a week. Upon retrieving The Man and Jerico, we’d continue our adventures together, although we hadn’t yet formulated a real plan.

We arrived at my favorite part of the Sonoran Desert late on a Saturday morning. Our travels had included overnighting at a picnic area situated on native land and spotting two crested saguaros. After visiting some friends who winter in the area, then buying provisions, we went to BLM land a couple of miles from town and found ourselves a scenic camping spot.

This photo shows one of the scenes we saw from our camping spot.

Alas, there was no shade in the little area of the desert where we’d chosen to stay. We spent most of our days in the van with the doors and windows open to the breeze, or more often, the strong wind. The hours in the middle of the day were the most difficult because the van cast no shadow and the sun beat down on our metal home.

I was scheduled to leave on Tuesday. On Monday, The Man hurt his back. He reached for something and Ouch! back pain. We spent the day in the van hiding from the sun and strong wind. In the evening, I helped The Man (whose back was feeling some better) set up his tent and unpack some of his things from the van. He assured me he’d be fine without me, even with his bum back.

The man had his phone but hadn’t had the money to pay for service, so I didn’t expect to hear from him while I was gone. If he walked the couple miles into town to use free WiFi, we could communicate through Facebook, but that was a long way to walk to say hello.

On Friday, The Lady of the House and I concluded our fun trip to Bisbee and drove back to her home city. I dropped her off where The Man of the House had left their car parked on a side street, planning to meet at her house shortly. I made the block so I could turn at a stoplight, while The Lady planned to make a U-turn in her zippy little car. I came around the corner to find The Lady’s tiny car pushed up on the sidewalk; she’d been involved in a four-car collision in the time it took me to make three right turns. The Lady waved me over and asked me to wait with her in the adjacent parking lot until the police arrived.

None of the people involved in the accident seemed to be hurt, but it took the cops a really long time to show up. While we waited, I looked at Facebook and saw The Man had been trying to contact me through

Cholla cactus

Messenger. We managed a Facebook call (how does that even work?), and he told me he was miserable. It was horrible out in the desert, he said. It wasn’t just that it was hot, but for a large portion of the day, there was no shade at all, no way to get away from the sun. Not only was he miserable, so was the dog. The rocks on the desert floor were hurting Jerico’s paws, and he’d tangled with a cholla cactus. Couldn’t I please come back for them?

I said I’d be there the next day. I didn’t have it in me–after all the driving I’d been doing–to set out in rush-hour traffic and probably end up on the road in the dark. I needed at least a few hour’s sleep before I set off on the journey.

I was on the road by 8:30 the next morning and arrived at The Man’s camp around 11am. Jerico rushed up to the van to greet me; The Man–sunburnt, parched, and exhausted–wasn’t far behind.

We couldn’t leave the desert for another couple days because I had a lady exam scheduled for Tuesday, but we were able to drive the van into town and sit in the air-conditioned library or in the shade of one of the few trees in the town’s park.

On Tuesday afternoon, we left our BLM land camp, but we needed to kill some time before an appointment in the city on Wednesday morning. I drove us the 70 miles to a free camping area between where we were and where we needed to be the next day. The campground was sparsely populated, and we got a spot with a covered picnic table. We followed the shade as we made dinner, then hung out after we ate.

As is the case in the desert, the temperature dropped as night fell. However, the van home had been baking in the sun all day, and the inside temperature was not adequately cool when we were ready to sleep.

We’re leaving the doors open, The Man proclaimed as we climbed into bed.

I would have never done it had I been alone, but with The Man and the dog between me and the open side doors, I figured I was safe.

I woke in the middle of the night to Jerico barking and The Man shouting and flying out of the bed. Apparently, Jerico had heard something outside the van–a desert critter trying to drink from his water dish, The Man speculated–and ran out toward it barking. Luckily, The Man had prepared for just such a situation by attaching Jerico to a leash tied to the bed. Jerico was brought back into the van, and we all managed to get a few more hours of sleep.

Sunrise in the free campground.

We headed out in the morning and did what we needed to do in Phoenix, where it was 90 degrees by afternoon. I drove north on I-17, and in under three hours, we were in Flagstaff, where the temperature was 68 degrees. What a wonderful difference an almost 6,000 feet rise in elevation can make!

I was glad to say goodbye to the Sonoran Desert. It’s a great place to be in the winter, but just too hot only a couple of weeks into spring.

Sonoran Desert Scene

I took all of the photos in this post.

10 Things I Love About Van Life

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The Man and I tend to say Van Life! to each other when things go wrong. We may mutter the words while shaking our heads or say them with glee, but when we lose something in the vortex of the van; spill the entire contents of the dog’s water bowl onto the grungy carpet; or the New Mexico wind is too strong for cooking outside, and one of us is on our knees on the dirty floor trying to make dinner, it’s Van Life we blame.

In response to the occasional hardships of living in the van, I got to thinking about the joys of van life. I came up with 10 things I love about van life, in no particular order.

#1 No toilet to clean–ever!

#2 Less space in which to lose things. (Although, believe me, with two people living in the van, things are often misplaced. I think things are sucked into an invisible van vortex) At least when I lose something, I know the lost item is in the van somewhere.

#3 I’ve got interesting travel stories to tell at parties.

#4 No rent to pay for a sticks and bricks dwelling, and I don’t typically stay at campgrounds that charge fees, so I can spend my money on fun and not on housing.

#5 If I get tired of living in one place, it’s easy to go somewhere else. I barely even have to pack!

#6 On a related note, if I end up near neighbors I don’t particularly like, I can leave.

#7 I can also move with the weather. No more being stuck in snow! No more being stuck in the heat! I can move up and down in elevation when I get too hot or too cold.

#8 Most of my meals are picnics.

#9 Beautiful landscapes are often right outside my door.

I took this photo of the view from the van’s windshield in April 2017. This forest is right outside Flagstaff, AZ.

#10 I can get the entire van home clean in less than a couple of hours.

I wonder what other folks love about van (or car or Jeep or SUV or RV) life. Feel free to leave comments about your favorite parts of your transient way of life.

And as always, feel free to ask me questions about my van life.

To read more about why I like living in a van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/01/01/ten-reasons-i-like-living-in-my-van/.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve already written about what happened next (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/02/22/plans/). Before I could leave town, I got a text from the woman I was supposed to house sit for. She’d hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. My future was wide open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you doing? I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

* Thanks to David Bowie for the title.