Category Archives: Van Life

Elder

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It’s not much of a story, really. The Man and I picked up an elderly Native man in Gallup, NM and gave him a ride downtown. It was a small kindness.

We’d left Flagstaff early, before the sun came up. We’d had coffee, but no breakfast. Somewhere after Winslow I announced I’d be pulling into the first Taco Bell we came to. The Man was agreeable. We both like the potato, egg, and cheese Fiesta Potato grilled breakfast burrito Taco Bell sells in the morning. It’s a lot of breakfast for a buck.

Close-up Photo of People Holding Usa FlagletsI think the Taco Bell was off the first eastbound I-40 exit to Gallup. I took the exit, and soon we saw the sign proclaiming the town “The Most Patriotic Small Town in America.”

What does that even mean? we wondered. Who decides such things?

After doing a little research, I found out the distinction was based on a contest sponsored by Rand McNally in 2013-2014. Ken Riege nominated Gallup in that category and did a lot of work to help the town win the honor. You can read the whole story of the contest on the I Am New Mexico website.

We saw the elderly hitchhiker just after we saw the sign. He was obviously Native, with short hair and clean clothes. I though about stopping to give him a ride, but we were only going to the Taco Bell, which wasn’t even half a mile past where he was standing. I hoped some other driver would stop for him and take him where he needed to go.

We had quite an experience at Taco Bell. None of the “open” signs were lit. Was the dining room open? Was the Black And White Photo Of Clocksdrive-thru open? Why was there only one car in the parking lot? Why was caution tape crossing each of the dining room windows? What time was it? Had we experienced a time change when we entered New Mexico? Wasn’t the time in New Mexico an hour ahead of the time in Arizona? It was past 7 am in Arizona and New Mexico, so the Taco Bell dining room should have been open.

Just go through the drive-thru, The Man suggested.

I wanted to order inside for several reasons. I wanted to use the restroom and add ice to my water bottle. I wanted to eat in peace, without Jerico the dog sad-eyeing my breakfast and silently begging for a bite. Also, since the window on the driver’s side of my van doesn’t go down, a trip through a drive-thru is a major hassle. I have to open my door and usually put the van in park and get most of the way out to pay for my purchase and receive my food. It’s a real pain in the neck. But I didn’t know what else to do because the dining room did not appear to be open.

Turns out, we had simply stopped at the slowest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. There were no customers inside, making it look like the place wasn’t even opened. (The caution tape on the windows was actually part of the Halloween decorations.) No other customers were ahead of us in the drive-thru, and none pulled up behind us. I’m pretty sure the one car in the parking lot belonged to the one worker who took our order, prepared our food, bagged it, handed it to me, took my money, and made change. I guess while Gallup, NM is a hotbed of patriotism, it’s not a hotbed of Taco Bell action, at least not for Saturday morning breakfast.

Once we had our food, I drove around the front of the restaurant and parked on the side of the building. I pointed the nose of the van so the sun wouldn’t be in our faces, and we ended up looking toward the interstate. I could see the hitchhiker was still standing on the side of the road.

No one’s picked up that old man, I said.

We finished our breakfast, and I told The Man that we should go pick up the hitchhiker and drive him wherever he needed to go. We weren’t in any hurry, and The Man and I both think it’s important to help people when we can. The Man agreed that we should help the hitchhiker.

I said I was going into the Taco Bell to use the restroom and put ice in my water bottle. When I come back, we’ll go get that man, I said.

When I returned to the van, The Man was gone. At first I thought maybe he had gone into the Taco Bell to use the restroom too, but when I looked out the windshield, I saw him and the hitchhiker walking on the side of the road, heading towards me. The Man had gone to talk to the hitchhiker to make sure he seemed safe and to find out where he needed to go. By bringing the hitchhiker back to the van, he also saved me from having to make a U-turn and find a place to pull off the road where we could safely load the fellow into the van.

The Man ushered the hitchhiker into the front seat, and he and Jerico sat in the back. I asked the hitchhiker where he needed to go and he said, Just downtown.

I told him I wasn’t familiar with Gallup, and he pointed down the street that ran in front of the Taco Bell, in the direction away from the interstate. No problem, I told him, then proceeded to back the van over one of the parking lot barriers. The van was fine (it’s a beast, after all), and if the hitchhiker was worried about my driving abilities, he didn’t let on. I guess hitchhikers take what they can get.

Route 66 Printed on RoadAs I was driving, I realized we were on Historic U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66). According to the Legends of America website,

Known by several names throughout the years including the “Mother Road,” “Main Street of America,” and the “Will Rogers Highway,” Route 66 served travelers for more than 50 years, before totally succumbing to the “new and improved” interstate system.

Established in 1926, road signs began to be erected the following year, but, it would be several years before the 2,448 mile highway would be continuously paved from Chicago to Los Angeles.

I have a mild fascination with Route 66 and fantasize about driving at least the Arizona portion of it, so I was glad for the historic detour we were on.

It didn’t take us very long to get downtown. It was fun to see a part of Gallup I’d never seen before. (I’ve been through Gallup a few times, but never hung out there and hadn’t spent any time away from the I-40 corridor.) The downtown area looked cute, and I saw a sign for the Rex Museum, a place I’d like to visit. (The Rex Museum’s website says,

Once a brothel and later a grocery, the museum building houses exhibits detailing a wide swath of local history, exploring the culture of the area’s earliest inhabitants, mining and railroad activities through to present-day Gallup.)

The hitchhiker didn’t seem to want to talk much. I made some chitchat, and he gave brief answers to my questions, but I think we had some cultural differences regarding small talk. He did tell me where he wanted to get out, and I was able to pull into an empty parking space so he could safely climb from the van. He thanked us politely and we went our separate ways.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-people-holding-usa-flaglets-1449057/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-photo-of-clocks-707676/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/drive-empty-highway-lane-210112/.

Baby Bovine

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I was alone in my van, driving up from Babylon after two nights, a full day, and a morning in the heat. I was tired because the heat had kept me from getting good rest.  It was early afternoon, full daylight, and although my van is a lumbering beast, I was making good time up the mountain.

Most of the road was well-lit by the sun, but where tree branches hung over the asphalt, shadows darkened the edge of the road. With my sunglasses on, it was sometimes difficult to see what was lurking in those shadows.

Crews were out felling hazard trees. The tree cutting had been going on for almost two months, and still there were dead and dying trees for the crews to take down. I slowed to a crawl when I saw workers on the side of the road and obeyed the signs demanding “slow” or “stop.”

I’m generally a cautious driver, and I tend to be even more careful on mountain roads. However, I almost had big trouble that afternoon.

I was taking a curve, and the road immediately ahead of me was deep in shadows. I was maybe going a little faster than I should have been. Maybe I had looked off to my left, or maybe I was daydreaming a little. I don’t remember what I was doing before I realized something was lurking in the shadows, but I do remember the panic and fear I felt when I realized something was out there.

Brown Cow in Green Leaf Grass during DaytimeIt was a calf, and it bolted. Instinct caused me to swerve into the other lane to miss hitting it. At first I didn’t think I had swerved fa r enough, and I worried I might hit the calf with the back of my van. Then I saw the calf running in the direction I was going and knew it was ok. I stayed in the wrong lane long enough to bypass the calf, then swung the van back into my lane.

Once I was away from the calf, I thought about the way I had swerved the van into the other lane without even looking to see if another vehicle was there. Luckily there wasn’t a vehicle in that lane, but what if there had been? What if someone had been coming from the opposite direction and had plowed into me because they were traveling too fast to stop?

I silenced my worried thoughts. It wouldn’t do any good to work myself into a panic over something that was finished. Just be more careful, I reminded myself.

What really mystified me was why that calf was alone. The bovines in that area usually hung out in groups of half a dozen or more. I occasionally saw a grown cow alone, but never a baby. I think I would have seen a grown cow more easily in the shadows. I certainly would have been going slower had I seen a cluster of cows on the road or by its side. In any case, the baby’s mamma was not there doing her job, and she and I both nearly paid the price.

I listened to my own advice and was more careful the rest of the way back to my campground. I especially slowed down and took a good look any time my side of the road was cloaked in shadow.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-cow-in-green-leaf-grass-during-daytime-51950/.

Ten Places Where Nomads Can Look for Temporary Work

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I see some version of this question posted over and over again in Facebook groups for van dwellers, rubber tramps, nomads, full-time RVers, and other folks who live on the road:

How do you guys make money?

Folks who aren’t living off retirement funds, disability benefits, or inherited money are probably going to have to work at least part time to pay the bills. Even people who live simply still have to feed themselves and put gas in the tank, so what’s a broke nomad to do?

If you don’t want to settle in one place long enough to take on a permanent position, getting a temp job while on the road will put money in your pocket.

Here’s a list of ten places to look for work that will last a few days (or maybe a few weeks) and allow you to earn the funds to get you down the road.

#1 Good ol’ Craigslist

While staying temporarily in major cities, I’ve been able to find plenty of short-term jobs through Craigslist ads. Thanks to Craigslist, I found a weekend gig selling lemonade at an ostrich festival, filled a position handing out cookie samples at a grocery store, got paid to help a woman set up her garage sell, was financially compensated for participating in physical and mental health studies at a major university, made a few bucks sitting on two mock juries, and got a dog sitting job that led me to getting paid for cooking and cleaning house for the dog’s person. I look under the “etc / misc” header in the jobs column, then skip down to look at the categories under “gigs.”

#2 Bulletin Boards

Look for bulletin boards around town. I often see them at libraries, grocery stores and laundromats. If you’re in a university town, look around on campus for bulletin boards. Any time I see a bulletin board, I scour the flyers for job opportunities. In Taos, NM one spring, The Man answered an ad I spotted on a flyer at the natural foods store and got a two-day job helping an older couple move. In addition to getting paid, he was fed lunch too!

#3 Help Wanted Signs

When I was in Moab, UT in April of 2018, there were help wanted signs all over the place. The Family Dollar (or was it the Dollar General?) had a help wanted sign on the front door. The mom and pop grocery store had a help wanted sign in the window. This recruitment method told me these stores were getting a little desperate to hire workers because things were going to get busy soon.

If I had been looking for a job in Moab, I wouldn’t have just applied at the places where I saw actual help wanted signs. The signs were a clue to me that the whole town was going to need workers in the very near future. If I had been looking for work in Moab, I would have stopped in at any place I might be interested or qualified to work in and asked to fill out an application.

Of course, a help wanted sign has the potential to lead to a job that’s going to last more than a day or two. That’s ok if you’re looking for something longer term. In a tourist town, a business might only be hiring seasonally, which may be perfect for you if you’ll want to move on when seasons change.

I recently learned of another way to earn money from help wanted signs. Job Spotter by Indeed is an app which allows people to earn points for taking photos of help wanted signs. The points can be exchanged for gift cards. The Penny Hoarder website has an article by with all the details. From what I’ve read, no one is going to get rich from the Job Spotter app, but if you are in a town where help wanted signs are posted, you could earn yourself some gift card credit this way.

Selective Focus Photography of Magazines#4 Local Newspapers

It might not even be worth looking at a big city newspaper for a job, but sometimes newspapers in smaller towns are kind of a big deal. If you’re in a small city or town, check out the help wanted section, either online or in the physical newspaper. Like to read a printed version of the newspaper, but don’t want to spend money? Look around for a discarded copy at the coffee shop you’re hanging out in, or ask at the local library if they have a copy available to the public.

#5 Word of Mouth

If you’re in a place where you know people or if you’re the outgoing type, talk to people and let then know you Smiling Person Holding Gray Stainless Steel Canare looking for work. If you overhear someone talking about needing to hire someone for a short-term job, introduce yourself. I’ve gotten some of my best pet sitting gigs because a friend of a friend was going out of town needed someone to care for the dogs.

#6 Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Groups

In the small town where I spend my winters, people use the local Facebook buy/sell/trade group as a kind of electronic community bulletin board. Group members post about everything from bobcats harassing their house cats to tamales for sale. I’ve seen members post about needing help with yard work for an afternoon or weekend, and recently someone was looking for a person to clean her house regularly. If you’re spending some time in a small town and want very short term work, you may see if the community uses their buy/sell/trade group this way.

#7 On the Radio

KTAO 101.9 FM in Taos, NM has an on air “swap meet” called Trash and Treasures.

Listeners can call up and buy, sell, or trade any item or service that is not a live animal, business, or anything inappropriate…

Black and Silver Cassette PlayerA person in Taos with a skill could call Trash and Treasures and announce the desire to work to the entire radio audience. There’s a limit to how often a person can make such an announcement, but as long as the rules are followed an individual could offer yard work, house deep cleaning, dog walking, mural painting, or whatever skill one has to share.

I’ve heard that this sort of radio bulletin boards exist in small communities across the United States, so ask around if you’re in a little town.

#8 Remote Locations

If you’re already in a remote location (while camping, hiking, fishing, or doing some other outdoorsy activity) and would like to stay longer but are running out of funds, ask any businesses in the area if they’re hiring. Last May, the restaurant/bar/general store down the road from where The Man and I worked on the mountain hired two sets of people (a married couple who live in a short bus and a couple of guys traveling together) who were just passing through. All the folks worked through the busy season, then headed out after Labor Day.

The Big Boss Man needed another worker at the parking lot and ended up hiring a woman who’d come into the Mercantile and asked the other clerk (who also happened to be the Big Boss Man’s wife) How do I get a job up here? She’d been living in her car in the town at the foot of the mountain, and needed money for the next leg of her journey. She worked for a couple of months, which helped out the crew on the mountain, then moved on at the end of the season with some coins in her pocket.

Businesses in such remote locations are often in dire need of workers, so if you’re there and would like to stay for a while, ask around to find out if anyone needs help.

#9 Construction Sites

I’ve never tried this myself, but I’ve been told there’s potential for short-term work at construction sites. Have tools Man Wearing Black Denim Pants With Carrying Hammer on Holsterand skills? Track down the boss at a construction site and offer your services. If the crew is short and on a deadline, you might get hired on the spot. If you have a pickup truck and the ability to haul construction waste to the dump, you might get paid to perform that service.

#10 Temp Agencies

If you’d prefer to get jobs through more formal channels, try a temp agency, also known as a staffing agency. When I worked for Manpower, I got jobs supervising equipment at a dog food factory, packing jewelry into boxes, washing dishes in a school lunchroom, tallying votes after a local election, and removing staples from financial documents. Most of these jobs lasted just a day or two, and I was assured I was free to turn down any job for any reason.

Other well-known staffing agencies include Kelly Services and Addeco. A Glassdoor article by entitled “14 Great Staffing Agencies to Help You Kick Start Your Job Search” recommends other temp agencies to consider. The agencies listed in that article include the following: Integrity Staffing Solutions (office/clerical, professional and industrial staffing) and PrideStaff (office support, finance and accounting, light industrial, legal support, telemarketing, and customer service).

If you’re interested in getting a seasonal job at a campground, check out my post “10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground.”

I hope these ideas will help you find work if and when you need it. Remember, this post is a starting point; get out there and do your own research! Blaize Sun is not responsible for you! Only you are responsible for you!

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-cash-close-up-dollars-545065/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/advertisements-batch-blur-business-518543/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/marketing-man-person-communication-362/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-silver-cassette-player-159613/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/hammer-craftsman-tools-construction-8092/.

Fear Is Often a Lack of Knowledge (an Interview with Blythe)

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Blythe is a vivacious woman in her 70s who spends part of the year traveling solo in her van and the rest of the year living in a fifth wheel in the desert. While not currently a full-time traveler, she’s nomadic and moves with the seasons. She’s spent time on the road since she was a kid with a truck driver for a dad and has crisscrossed the United States countless times in the last 30+ years.

I met Blythe at the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and found her to be a sweet and caring person. I’ve been able to visit with her more once we found ourselves spending winters in the same area. At the end of November 2018, I sat down with Blythe on a warm desert day and talked with her about her rig, fear (and the lack of it), and her advice to older women who are considering solo travel in a van.

Rubber Tramp Artist: I know that now you’re not a full-time traveler, but you are nomadic, and you travel with the seasons. What months do you do most of your traveling?

Macro Photography of Black Sunglasses on SandBlythe: In the perfect situation, it would be during the summer, but…it depends on when I’m going to the VA for appointments, when I go to see my daughter in one part of the states , and then I go on the other side [of the country] to the other daughters. It just depends on a lot of stuff, but primarily I try to do it around late spring and late summer.

RTA: Do you go pretty much the same route every year to do your visiting?

Blythe: Pretty much because I’ve been doing it for a really, really long time, but not from here so long. This is the third year [from] here.

RTA: If you go to the same places every year, how do you keep your travels from getting boring? Do you stop in different places? Are [do you have a mindset of] “I just want to get from Point A to Point B without a lot of stopping”?

Blythe: It depends on what’s going on [and] why I’m going. I stop and see my sisters in Montana . I stop along the way. I stay overnight here and there. Primarily when I go up I go the same way because it’s quick. I stop…and stay at a little lake…I stop a lot actually, when I think about it…

It used to be that I just drove a lot but I always varied everything. I traveled for 20 years back and forth from Seattle to Florida because I had one kid in Florida and two kids in Seattle. I would go to my mom’s in Montana, then I’d drop down and go to Albuquerque to see my brother…I had land in [southern] New Mexico , and I’d stop there for a week or two and relax and then I’d head to Florida. I did that for 20 years, and I did it sometimes twice a year…Otherwise, I never would have seen my grandchildren or my children…I just enjoyed myself and went back and forth.

RTA: So you started traveling often as a way to be in contact with your grandkids?

Blythe: Yeah…I traveled before that because my dad was a truck driver and he used to make me drive with him. I started out real young.

RTA: Tell me about your rig. What do you travel in?

Blythe: A Ford van. It’s one that was built specially for traveling.

It had a bed in the back that was horrible. I took that out. One of my friends and her husband and son and grandson, it took them three hours to get it out because [the bolts were] so rusted in. They finally got it out. Then I built another bed in there. Just recently I built another bed.

RTA: Do you have a kitchen in the van?

Blythe: I don’t really have a kitchen. I have [space] where I can cook if I need to, and I can cook outside of course. But [the van] is pretty big. It’s a lot bigger than the last van I had. The last van I had was a minivan. This one [her current van] is a lot more comfortable and has a lot more room.

RTA: It looks like [your van has] a bit of a high top. Can you stand up in it?

Blythe: I can because I’ve been shrinking so much. All I have to do is tilt my head a little bit, and I can stand up, which is wonderful, the only good thing about being old I can think of!

RTA: What are three things you love about your van?

Blythe: It’s a nice old van, and it’s faster than the last one I had. Before that I had a Chinook motor home. It was a ’76 and… the size of a Toyota pickup. So [the current van] is a lot bigger than that one.

I really like Fords. They’re my favorite kind.

It’s really sturdy, and it’s been flipping around for a while.  I’ve had it almost four years.

RTA: What year is it?

Blythe: It’s an ’89…It only cost me $1000. One of my friends got it in trade for horses. She called me and said, “I got a van for you!” [Laughs]

RTA: Awesome!

RTA: What are three things you’d like to change about the van?

Blythe: [Long pause] Not too much of anything, actually. I’m pretty satisfied with it. I want to keep it going for another ten years. I’ve been doing a lot of maintenance work on it. In the last month I’ve had all kinds of different things done to it. I’ve got one more thing to go and then it will be pretty well set for quite a while.

It’s got a really good motor. That’s one of the reasons I like Fords…because their motors last a long time…If there was anything [I wanted to change], I’d just change it. I get attached to my vehicles.

The minivan I had for ten years. I kept saying “This is the last trip. This is the last trip,” and it kinda just gave up finally after all those last trips.

RTA: [Laughs]

RTA: Why do you prefer to travel in your van instead of flying or taking a train or going on the bus?

Blythe: The van will go places that the train and bus don’t go. I couldn’t stop to see a lot of people. Pretty soon I’m going to start flying though because I am getting older. It’s not as much fun to drive anymore. I think if you drive your whole life and you drive a lot you get sort of tired of the whole thing.

I’m thinking about flying to Montana and then flying over to Washington and then down to Eugene where my girlfriend lives or else taking a train down there is always fun.

[Traveling in the van] is just easier because of the weird places I go…I don’t like hotels or motels. I find them really yucky. You never know who was there before you!

RTA: Do your kids worry about you when you’re on the road?

Blythe: I think they kinda do but not really because I’ve been doing it for so long…It would be different if I’d just started. I think that’s a whole different ballgame, but if your mother’s been going across the United States for the last 40 years and driving and never having that much problems, and the problems I do have haven’t been so bad Bokeh Shot of White and Gold Ceramic Angelthat I couldn’t get out of it…[The kids] get used to it.

I asked… my oldest daughter , and she said, “Oh, I know you run around with this angel on your shoulder, and I don’t think there’s anything that could get you.”

RTA: Where do you stay when you’re not traveling?

Blythe: At this RV park that we’re in right now. This is sort of new because I stay here most of the year.

I’m thinking about trying to find a place in Northern Arizona so that I can be there during the summer. I hate staying with my children more than a month at a time because I feel like I’m taking advantage of them, and I don’t like to do that. They say, “Oh, you’re not [taking advantage]. You’re not! We’re fine with it.“ They have their own lives. Why should they have their mother looking over their shoulder?

RTA: So, we’re in the desert and I’m thinking that your concern is that it gets too hot here.

Blythe: It gets pretty warm.

RTA: For about six months of the year…

Blythe: No, not six months.

RTA: Not for you because you like it really hot…

Blythe:  Yeah

[Both laugh]

Blythe: I feel good when it’s warm. Probably four months out of the year [it’s really hot].

RTA: So maybe you’re thinking of transitioning to traveling less because maybe now you’ll be flying…

Blythe: Yeah. Yeah.

Green Grass FieldRTA: So you’d want a place to go sort of in those…I think they call them in…the travel industry the “shoulder” months when it’s still too hot to be in the desert.

RTA: How did you decide on this place in the desert as your home base?

Blythe: It offers a lot of stuff that most places don’t. I don’t have to move around [because she can leave her RV on her lot all year long]. I’ve got an RV that’s pretty good size.

There’s water [where she stays when not traveling] and there’s shower houses and all kinds of stuff to do and nice people and it’s just a good place. It’s a real good place.

RTA: Before you got this fifth wheel that you have now, were you living full-time in your van other than the times you were visiting [people]?

Blythe: At times. Like I said, it’s been a long time. The first van I had was given to me because this girl’s grandmother had died. Her name was Maggie; we named the van Maggie. It had a bed in the back and a refrigerator, and a stove, and it had a little closet…I drove that until it literally almost fell apart. I used to take my grandchildren all over the place…with it. I lived in that [van] quite a bit…over the years…

RTA: Before you moved into this fifth wheel, were you living full-time in the van?

Blythe: Yeah. Except for I lived up around Seattle…I was up there 18 months this last time…It’s very, very expensive up there…Without living somewhere that’s less expensive, I had to think about every penny I spent. Every penny! Literally. I got sick and tired of that. I just thought, well, I’ll find someplace else. Then I heard about this place.

RTA: What do you like about living and traveling solo?

Blythe: You don’t have to talk to somebody about where you’re gonna go, when you’re gonna go, where you gonna eat, why you’re gonna eat. All the stuff that you have when you have other people traveling with you in your van, which I can’t even imagine, except for my grandchildren, and they’re grown now so I don’t have to worry about that.

Traveling with other people in their own vans is a lot more fun, but you still have to worry about where you’re going to meet them or if they take off and you don’t know where they went. Like I had a situation where someone took off and I hadn’t even looked at the map because I didn’t think I needed to. Then we ended up not knowing where we were going. The other person I was traveling with didn’t bring a map and neither did I.

RTA: Ooops!

Blythe: It turned out to be a lot of fun, but still…You don’t have to worry about that when you’re on your own…You just figure it out on your own.

RTA: Is there anything that you don’t like about living and traveling solo?

Blythe: [Long pause] No. I have never had fear because I wasn’t brought up with fear when I was a kid. My dad always told us there was absolutely nothing we couldn’t do. He also told us that being girls, we had to react like men to fear instead of…reacting to fear with fear like women are taught to do. React to fear with anger. That does tend to help…

I’m very careful. I never, ever take any chances. If I feel like there’s something wrong, I just get up and turn on the motor and leave…If you have any inclinations that way, you should listen to them. I always told my kids that. I was in a place in Texas and I got really uncomfortable and I thought, Oh, I already paid for it and blah blah blah…Then I thought, If I was talking to my kids, I’d say “Get out of here,” so I just got in the front and left.

RTA: What advice would you give to other older women who are considering doing solo travel in vans?

Blythe: [Begin by] tak[ing] little trips because if you haven’t done it like I have my whole life, you need to get acclimated to it. Fear is often a lack of knowledge about what you’re doing so if you do it, then you get…really comfortable and it won’t be this big scary thing. [It becomes] something that’s fun and easy to do. It is very simple to live this way. You don’t have to have electricity. You can have solar lights that charge in your window…You can even just have [lights that use batteries]. It’s not a big deal. You just have to get used to it.

This interview was edited for clarity and length. Blythe approved this version of the interview before it was published.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/macro-photography-of-black-sunglasses-on-sand-1209610/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bokeh-shot-of-white-and-gold-ceramic-angel-40878/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/america-arid-blue-boulder-434501/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-maps-american-book-32307/.

New Mexico State Parks Pass

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The New Mexico State Parks Pass, also known as the New Mexico Annual Camping Permit, is a great deal for anyone who wants to spend more than month exploring the state and staying in the campgrounds of its state parks. The Man and I both bought New Mexico State Parks Passes in the fall of 2017 and camped at several of the state parks campgrounds separately and together.

I’ll tell you everything I know about the New Mexico State Parks Pass (abbreviated to NMSPP in the rest of this article) so you can decide if it’s right for you.

As of late November 2018 when I’m writing this article, the fees, permits, and rentals page  of the New Mexico State Parks website gives the following price breakdown for the pass:

Sunset in the day use area at Brantley Lake State Park.

New Mexico Resident (Proof of New Mexico I.D. and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $180

New Mexico Resident *Senior, 62+ (Proof of Age and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $100

New Mexico Resident *Disabled (Proof of disability required.) $100

Out-of-State Resident (Proof of I.D. and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $225

If you lose your annual camping permit, no problem! You can get a replacement for only $10.

If you are a resident of New Mexico with a disability, there are several things you can use to prove  your disability to the satisfaction of the folks at the New Mexico State Parks. See the aforementioned fees, permits, and rentals page to find out what documents you need to get your reduced-rate permit.

Primitive camping at Brantley Lake State Park

Permits for seniors and folks with disabilities can only be purchased at the New Mexico State Parks’ Santa Fe Office, located at 1220 S St Francis Drive #215 or at any  New Mexico State Park Visitor Center. The passes for New Mexico residents and out-of-state residents can also be purchased online. I purchased my pass in person at the visitor center at Leasburg Dam State Park, so I don’t know if there are any extra charges for buying the pass online.

If you have a NMSPP, you can camp in any primitive camping area (usual cost: $8 per night) or on any developed camping area with no hookups (usual cost: $10 per night) in a New Mexico state park for no additional charge. According to the aforementioned fees, permits, and rentals page,

Primitive campsites offer no special facilities except a cleared area for camping. Sites may include trash cans, chemical toilets or parking.

Primitive camping also offer no designated sites. You’re basically boondocking when you camp in a primitive area at a New Mexico State Park.

I’ve camped in primitive camping areas at Caballo Lake State Park, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, and Brantley Lake State Park. In both of those parks, primitive camping was lakeside. I also witnessed primitive camping next to the lake at Bluewater Lake State Park. Although the primitive areas offer few or no amenities, campers are welcome to venture into other areas of the park and use the water spigots, restrooms, showers, and dumpsters if such facilities are available. (To find out what amenities are at each park, take a look at the printable New Mexico State Parks brochure.)

The developed camping areas typically offer a fire ring and a picnic table. Sometimes the developed areas offer

This is what the developed campsites look like at Brantley Lake State Park. Beware: At this park, ALL developed sites have electric hookups, so if you plan to stay in the campground, you’re going to have to pony up $4 a night, even if you have the NMSPP.

shade covers too.These campsites tend to be in campgrounds, closer to toilets (either flush or pit, depending on where you are) and sources of potable water. I’ve stayed on developed sites at Brantley Lake State Park, Percha Dam State Park, Elephant Butte State Park, Rockhound State Park, Leasburg Dam State Park, and Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. The Man spent some nights at City of Rocks State Park; while I have visited that park during the day (and think it’s a gorgeous place), I’ve never had the pleasure of camping there.

Your NMSPP does NOT provide for free electric or sewage hookups. If you have the annual camping permit and want an electric hookup, it will cost you an additional $4 per night. A sewage hookup if you have an annual camping permit will also cost an additional $4 per night. If you have the annual camping permit and you want both an electric and sewage hookup, that will set you back $8 per night. New Mexico State Parks do not charge for water hookups where they are available.

According to the New Mexico State Parks page devoted to camping,

Sunset over Oliver Lee State Park.

Campers may reside in a park for a maximum of 14 days during a 20 day period. Campers shall completely remove camping equipment and gear from the park for 7 calendar days during the 20 day period.

Here’s what that means if you have a NMSPP. You can stay in any New Mexico State Park for up to 14 days, then you have to leave that park. However, you can go directly to another New Mexico State park and stay there (for free if you camp in a primitive area or on a developed site with no hookups) for seven days, then turn around and go back to the park you left a week ago.

If you wanted to save money on gas, you could stay in an area where there are state parks not too far from each other (such as Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Caballo Lake State Park, and Percha Dam State Park) and go in a circuit from one to another, staying two weeks at each.

This was my view of Caballo Lake when I stayed in the primitive camping area of the state park.

The NMSPP is good for only one vehicle per site. I called the New Mexico State Parks main office to make sure I understood this point correctly. I was hoping that even though The Man and I have separate vehicles, we could share one pass. No go! However, when we were camping together at Leasburg Dam State Park, there was only one developed campsite with no hookups available, and we were allowed to have both of our rigs on the site with no problem. (Note: I had a Chevy G20 and the man had a Honda Odyssey, so both rigs fit easily on the site, facilitating our sharing of the space.)

I bought my NMSPP early in November 2017. When I bought it, the park ranger gave me a sticker to attach on my windshield. This sticker showed that I was a pass holder and it gave the expiration date of my pass. At the time I purchased my pass, there was space for the month and the year the pass expired. (The passes may be configured differently, depending on when you read this post.) My pass said it expired 11-18 (November 2018). I didn’t think to ask at the time, so I again called the New Mexico State Parks main office to find out if that pass expired on the first day of the month noted on it, or the last day. The answer: the last day! So even though I’d bought my pass early in November 2017, it was good through the last day of the month in 2018.

The campground at Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM.

I think that’s everything I know about the New Mexico State Parks Pass. If you have questions on topics I didn’t cover, I strongly encourage you to call the New Mexico State Parks main office at 505-476-3355. I’ve called the office several times with questions and the woman who answered the phone was always exceptionally pleasant and helpful. Talking to her was always a joy.

The information included in this post is subject to change, especially the information on prices. Blaize Sun is not responsible if the information she gave you is no longer applicable when you read this post; this information is a starting point. Everything was correct to the best of her knowledge when the post was written. You are strongly urged to call the New Mexico State Parks office or check internet sources for updated information.

So much cool at City of Rocks State Park.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Lingo

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If you’re a newbie attending the Women’s RTR at the end of the week or the RTR in the next two weeks, you may hear a lot of new terms. For the sake of public education, I decided to run this post from January 2016 again after revising and updating it.
/ˈliNGɡō/

noun

informal humorous

the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people

I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!

I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.

Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.

I boondocked on this BLM land.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.

Boondocking–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondocking interchangeably with dry camping, while others differentiate between the two and use boondocking only in relation to public land. To learn all about boondocking, read my post “10 Fundamentals for Boondockers.” My friend Coyote Sue calls dry camping in a parking lot blacktop boondocking .

Canned hamA trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side.

CasitaBrand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer.

*Class ARV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motor home.

*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.

*Class C—motor home with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.

CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, a fantastic online resource for anyone living on the road, no matter what kind of rig is involved. There’s also a Cheap RV Living YouTube channel for folks who’d rather watch videos.

I did some dispersed camping on Bureau of Reclaimation Land in New Mexico, and this was the view of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping or boondocking.

Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondocking.

*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.

Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road all the time.

*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.

Motor home–An RV that has a motor in it so it can be driven; a motor home can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C.

Mr. Buddy–A brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.

Nomad–According to Merriam-Webster, this is a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory; an individual who roams about.

Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in a stationary home sometimes.

PopupA type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport.

The Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico is public land.

Public Land–Land owned by a local, state, or federal government. When rubber tramps and other nomads talk about public land, they typically mean land open to (usually free) camping. Public land can include city or county parks, fishing lakes, BLM land, Bureau of Reclamation Land, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national seashores and lakeshores.

Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.

This was my rig during one part of my life as a full-time rubber tramp/vandweller.

Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV.  A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C motor home. A rig can be a combination of a tow vehicle and a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup.

Rubber tramp–The Urban Dictionary says a rubber tramp is a “person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.” Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.

RTArt Camp–A camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, The RTArt Camp is a place within the larger gathering for nomadic artists and creative nomads to come together to share skills, create art together, have fun, and build community.

Rubber Tramp Art Community (RTAC)–An intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. Members of the group meet to camp together, create art together, teach each other new skills, help each other, and spend time together as a community.

So far, I’ve attended four RTRs.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Also see Cheap RV Living for more info about the RTR.

RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motor homes, 5th wheels, and travel trailers.


Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to Wikipedia,, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)

*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.

Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with men is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.

Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. Check out Cheap RV Living for “Bob’s 12 Commandants for Stealth Parking in the City” and “Stealth Parking Locations.”

Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.

Teardropa streamlined, compact, lightweight traveltrailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.

Toad–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.

Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.

*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.

During my time as a camp host, I cleaned this pit (or vault) toilet many times.

*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.

Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land; basically a tall plastic toilet set over a hole where the waste products sit until they are pumped out.

*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.

What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.

I took all the photos in this post.

The Fear of What Could Be Wore Me Down (an interview with Dawn)

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I met Dawn at the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. I heard she was an anthropology student studying what her website calls the “growing culture surrounding solo female nomads in the American Southwest.” When we spoke, I found her to be intelligent, thoughtful, and kind. About two weeks after the RTR, she interviewed me for her project. One afternoon we sat in the sweet motor home she’d renovated to suit her tastes and needs. She asked me questions, and I talked about my life as a solo female van dweller. We talked and talked until after dark, and honestly, I wish we could have talked more. I didn’t want to Dawn to just be someone I’d met once or twice; I wanted Dawn to be my friend!

 When I began my series of interviews with nomads, Dawn came immediately to mind. We hadn’t been in touch in a while, and I was interested in what she was up to. I wanted to share her story with my readers, but I also wanted to satisfy my own curiosity. Had she gone native*, as we say in the anthropology biz? Had she become a solo female nomad or was she planning to start living her life that way?

Turns out Dawn had decided nomadic living is not for her, and that’s ok. Nomadic living is not for everyone. I think it’s important for folks who are contemplating a change to life on the road to consider both the good and difficult aspects of this way of life. In this interview (conducted via email) Dawn talks about the joys of renovating her rig and the hardships and stresses of life on the road, including “the fear of what was going to break next,” pets that never fully adjusted to life in the motor home, and the near constant struggle of figuring out how to survive.

 Rubber Tramp Artist: I don’t think you’re a full-time rubber tramp. To what extent do you live nomadically?

Dawn: At this point, not at all. I came home and fell into the bathtub, air conditioning, the static -ness of poo that goes away when you flush the toilet and kissed the earth. I never felt the thrill of traveling. Only the fear of what was going to break next. Which is, in hindsight, almost ridiculous. Nothing bad EVER happened.  I never was stranded on the side of the road, I never felt “endangered”. But the fear of what could be wore me down to the point of what I seriously think is PTSD from what was…five months on the road?  It’s insane intellectually.

With that sort of experience behind me I decided to face a phobia of flying this summer…and discovered, yes, I still want to live nomadically, but in hotel rooms, with a backpack, and a jet plane that takes me from here to exotic places in a few hours. I don’t want to worry about pets, propane, plumbing, leaks, gas mileage, wind, cold, heat, being alone, where to dump, where to shower…I am…a…marshmallow. I have no desire to live off grid, or with constant dirt and fear. I’m too freaking old for this crap.

RTA: Tell me about your rig. Make? Model? Year?

Dawn:  1984 Dodge 360 V8, under 75K, Mallard, Edelbrock Carb. Probably gets 7 miles to the gallon despite being 22 ft long and 2000 lbs light in the rear end.

RTA: I seem to recall you remodeled your rig. Tell me about that process.

Dawn:  I loved it. It was completely amazing. I learned so much. Unlike actually living and traveling in it –

Let me explain. I learned plumbing. I moved the water pump, replaced it, learned about pipes and connections and can now change out a faucet or a drain. It isn’t rocket science.

You know what else isn’t rocket science? Electricity. There’s 12volt and there’s blow yourself into the wall 110 volt.  There’s 30 amp and 50 amp. There are batteries, solar panels, half a dozen different sizes of wiring and fuses and tools you need, electrical sockets and solar panels…and it takes forever to wrap your head around, but when you do? You realize that there is a certain amount of self-sufficiency that has been stripped away from us–by lobbyists for the electrical industry, as in this instance.  I’m all for public safety and policies that ensure that, but on the flip side we are reduced to calling in professionals for the most minor of repairs that could be accomplished with basic skills.

You respect, you research, research some more, and then you do it.

Same with propane.

Same with construction.

I had no skills. I was a web designer that knew how to search Google and YouTube, and ask questions at my local Ace Hardware. Sometimes I paid a professional to do it. But mostly, I discovered that maintaining an RV – an entire household system plus a car – was doable.

RTA: How did you get interested in nomadic living?

Dawn:  One word – community. In the mid-2000s I talked my BF into buying a Class A and trying it. Unfortunately, his job left us circling Denver (imagine, he’d rather entertain people at a theatre than pick beets!) and that is not an RV-friendly place. Buy your pot and keep moving. But, what I discovered was a different breed of people that RV’d. No matter their religion or politics, they were always willing to lend a hand. In retrospect, living in an apartment was more isolating.

RTA: You’ve turned your interest in nomadic living into graduate studies. How were you able to do that?

Dawn:  Ah. I needed a thesis and this – studying women that decided to do this RV/vandwelling thing alone – was the only thing that interested me. So I should point out – this is an undergraduate thesis. But I am not going into more debt, at my age, to go any further with my education. So I decided I might as well go all out and make this PHD style. It has really cemented a new direction for the rest of my life writing and working with women to tell their stories. I know a lot of women did this without going into debt, but I couldn’t sell anything, didn’t have steady income being a student, so I did this by going into a lot more debt than I was comfortable with. It just kept snowballing as I found I needed this, or that (or thought I did). And, living on the road was much more expensive than what I budgeted for. Unexpected repairs, food costs, gas…

RTA: Why do you think it’s important to study modern nomads?

Dawn:  Because, look at this – this is completely outside of the norm. This is fringe culture. This is creative. This is women sticking their middle finger to not just society but gender norms and saying I’m going to live and find my life, and screw the lot of you. I love this. Women never get to do this. Ever. Look at history. It doesn’t matter if they fail at being a nomad, or hate it, or whatever. These women are authentic, powerful, and are choosing to experience liberation. I see them as journeying on a trajectory of becoming fully self-evolved. Does that make sense? As far as rubber tramps and American nomads, gender aside? It’s like the release from a pressure cooker. Our culture, and American lifestyle is deteriorating – and rubber tramps/nomads are the first edges of that implosion looking to survive.

RTA: What are the most fascinating things you’ve learned from rubber tramps?

Dawn:  The goodness of people. Ordinary people with varied religions, political beliefs and socio-economic backgrounds. It is an antithesis to what we see portrayed in politics and the media. We can and are living in two different realities.

RTA: How can my readers find out more about what you’ve learned from people on the road?

Dawn: [My website]  http://www.junowandering.com – it will be a slow process, though – an evolutionary ethnography. [This website also includes Dawn’s blog where you can read about her travels.]

RTA: Do you see yourself ever living nomadically full-time?

Dawn:  Yes. But not in an RV/van/car where I have to navigate being part of the fringes. With a backpack and living wherever fate lets my head fall as a ‘tourist’, instead. Of course, this doesn’t seem practical. And, I could not do this as long as I’m responsible for pets.

RTA: What were your three favorite things about living in your rig?

Dawn:  I didn’t share it. I could move it. It felt like the center of my world.

RTA: What three things did you hate about your rig?

Dawn: Fear. Constant fear of what was going to go wrong and how I’d fix it. Fear of the weather – heat or cold, and taking care of pets. The horrible gas mileage and expense.

RTA: When I met you, you were traveling with two animal companions. How was it for you and the animals?

Dawn:  Hard.  The cat adjusted but the dog is getting older and had issues with skin infections and arthritis. I had an emergency in Quartzsite and couldn’t find a vet for 200 miles – that almost broke me mentally. It is good to be home. The dog is so much happier, as is the cat.  They like their routine and space. They adapted, but I can honestly say they weren’t happy.

RTA: Do you still consider yourself a participant observer**, or have you gone native?

Dawn:  Nope. [I haven’t gone native.] I admire the lifestyle. Rather, I admire those that live it. But, it’s not for me.  Even though I feel like a wimp saying that!! I feel like I failed some test. Living full-time as a nomad is like being a farmer. There is nothing else – there is no time or energy to be creative, to relax, to just ‘be’. Maybe, if you have a retirement income. But not if you have to figure out how to also survive. It’s constant – trying to find resources, deal with the weather and legalities of where to park, negotiate new situations, maintain both a car and a home that are constantly undergoing both earthquakes and tornadoes…

Does that make sense? Perhaps if it was like traditional nomads that traveled in familial groups? But alone? I think – I think – that there are a lot more people doing this under an illusion of what it could be, than are actually mentally cut out to live like this. Just a thought from the ‘new’ nomads I’ve met…

*Merriam-Webster defines “go native” as “to start to behave or live like the local people.”

*Merriam-Webster defines “participant observer” as “one that is engaged in a research technique in anthropology and sociology characterized by the effort of an investigator to gain entrance into and social acceptance by a foreign culture or alien group so as better to attain a comprehensive understanding of the internal structure of the society.”

Rubber Tramp Art Community

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Sarah Meg shows off the Rubber Tramp Artist Community flag that she made.

If you’re headed to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) or the Women’s RTR, you might have heard about the Rubber Tramp Art Community. If you’re wondering what the group is all about or if it’s a group you might want to join, this post will give you information on how it came to be and how you can get involved.

The group’s Facebook page says,

The Rubber Tramp Art Community (aka RTAC) is an intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. We meet up to camp together along the way; creating art together, eating together, teaching each other new skills, helping each other, and just spending time together as a community.

The group is open to new members. If you’re on Facebook, joining the Rubber Tramp Art Community there is a good way to start your involvement. You have to ask the join the group, and you will  be asked to answer some questions. The intention is that members of the group will actually live nomadically and creatively. This is not just another general group for vandwellers, RVers, or other nomads and vagabonds.

If you’re at the RTR, find the Rubber Tramp Art Community and visit with members there. At this time, I don’t know where the group will be camped, but ask around. Word of mouth is a great way to find cool people and groups at the RTR.

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Meg, one of the movers and shakers in the Rubber Tramp Art Community. We had a lot of fun talking, and the interview turned out longer than I planned. I decided to run our conversation about the Rubber Tramp Art Community as a separate post at a later date.

That later date is today!

Rubber Tramp Artist (RTA): You’re one of the founding members of the Rubber Tramp Art Community. Could you tell me what the group is, how it came about, how you got interested? I think it was pretty much your idea, from what I remember.

Sarah Meg (SM): It wasn’t really my idea to be honest. All I did was the footwork. The ideas came from the group, and I put in the effort to make it happen.

RTA: So could you tell us first what it is?

SM: The Rubber Tramp Art Community is an intentional community for creative nomads. We like to say “nomadic artists,” but a lot of people who are very creative and artistic wouldn’t consider themselves artists.  If you’re thinking about joining and you’re creative and you’re a nomad, I would love to hear from you [via Facebook] as would anyone else who’s working on membership of the club currently.

We started out at the RTR [Rubber Tramp Rendezvous] in 2018. Sue Soaring Sun started the RTArt Camp at the RTR. You were there as well.

RTA: I was there.

SM: You’re one of the founding members as well.

RTA: I was assisting Sue. Before we got together as a group, I was assisting Sue and then other people came out and contributed as well.

SM: It’s actually kind of funny. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to find Art Camp when I was first looking for you guys, so this almost didn’t happen, we almost didn’t have the Rubber Tramp Art Community because I almost gave up [laughter] trying to find you guys.

I believe there were nine of us camped [at the RTArt Camp] who were there almost every day, helping and doing artwork together and just having a ton of fun. We had a campfire one night where we burned an incredibly toxic log, got a little loopy, and started talking about how fun it was to have art camp. One of our founding members said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we did Art Camp all the time?” I started thinking about it. I thought, “It would be awesome if we did art camp all the time, but how would that work?” Then there was a conversation over the next couple days while we were still at the RTR about how we could make a community out of Art Camp, how could this be a traveling community.

Our first idea was that it would be a community that caravanned together and was together all the time. That quickly fell through because herding nomads is like herding cats. I did not want to do that and neither did anyone else. We within two and a half months had broken off the group into smaller groups and then went to events throughout the year. Currently what we’re doing is anyone can host an event. Nobody but me has done it so far, but you guys can. Anyone in the Rubber Tramp Art Community can host an event, and if people show up, yay, if they don’t, then, hey, you had fun in the forest or the desert or the beach by yourself.

We’ll be hosting Art Camp, of course, at the RTR, and eventually, there’s been quite a bit of talk with other members about eventually making this a nonprofit for various reasons. The first reason was actually brought up in the first month when a part of our group was camping together was that we wanted to have a fund for people [in our group] who were very low income, so we could help people out. If their rig broke down, we could help pay for repairs. We didn’t know how that could work, and then we thought about selling t-shirts to put that money into the fund. So we’re working on, I’m thinking of how we could become a nonprofit. That’s our next stage, although that might take quite a while.

 

 

Willow Flat Campground

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When we were planning our visit to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, The Lady of the House suggested we spend a night in the Park’s Willow Flat Campground. Sunset at the Green River Overlook was a big deal, as was sunrise at Mesa Arch. Camping in the Park would make it easier for us to get to the viewing points at the appropriate times. Also, living in a major metropolitan area means The Lady doesn’t get nearly enough dark sky. The International Dark-Sky Association named Canyonlands an International Dark-Sky Park, so she wanted to camp there to get a good look at the stars in the heavens.

During early April when we visited Canyonlands, campsites were not reserveable. We were on a strictly first come, first served basis, so we wanted to get there early to improve our chances of getting a site.

When we rolled into the Park, no one was staffing the admissions booth, so The Lady said she’d have to go inside the visitor center to show her Southeast Utah Group Annual Pass. As we went past the admissions booth, we were dismayed to see a large wooden sign declaring the campground was full. We’d woken early and emerged from the van into a frosty morning to eat a quick breakfast and get on the road. Could the campground really be full this early in the day? The Lady said she’d double check on the campground’s status when she went inside to show her pass.

I stayed outside to check the transmission fluid level in my van. The Lady returned to the parking lot triumphant. There was space in the campground! The woman in the visitor center said they never removed the sign that said the campground was full, but that morning they’d received no report that all of the campsites were occupied.

(Excuse me, but what’s the point of a sign that’s supposed to report the status of a changeable situation but is never removed?)

The Lady and I hopped into the van and drove directly to Willow Flat Campground. We pulled in and saw a site that seemed unoccupied. We certainly saw no personal belongings anywhere on the site. There was a piece of yellow paper clipped to the sign pole in front of the site. Upon examining the yellow paper, we found written on it that day’s date. It appeared that the folks who’d stayed on the site the night before were scheduled to check out that morning and had in fact already left. Score! We had our site!

I pulled the van onto the flat asphalt parking pad. We got out of the van and looked around. Was there a camp host we should see? Should we look for a self-pay envelope and an iron ranger?

Across the paved road that ran through the campground, an elderly couple was bustling around on their campsite. They seemed to be packing up, so I supposed they could tell me the process to go through to pay for a campsite.

Hello! I called out to them, or perhaps I said, Excuse me, as I walked into the street and approached their site. Is there a camp host here? I asked once I had their attention.

A what? they both asked, not quite in unison.

I thought the problem was one of hearing, so I repeated, A camp host? a bit louder.

A what? they both asked again in utter confusion.

A camp host, I said once again, then added, the person you pay for your campsite.

You pay with an envelope, the old man said, pointing. He and the woman continued to look at me as if I were a very strange person using an obviously fabricated term to confuse them. How was it possible they’d never encountered the term “camp host”? Was this their first camping trip? Obviously, not every campground has a camp host, but these people seemed unaware of the very concept. However, they had answered my question about where to pay, so I thanked them and moved on.

The Lady and I walked in the direction the old man had pointed and found self-pay envelopes and the iron ranger.

Our campsite in Willow Flat Campground

The camping fee was $15, as expected from what we’d read online. For our money we got clean pit toilets with toilet paper, trash cans, a flat space to park the van, a fire ring, and a picnic table under a shade structure. The grounds of the campground were very clean and well-maintained.

When The Lady and I read the information boards near the iron ranger, we learned about the procedure for disposing of grey water. We were either supposed to strain all food out of wash water, then sprinkle the de-fooded water on the road or dispose of nonstrained water by pouring it into one of the pit toilets. I’d never heard of this sort of cleanup, but I suspect it’s to keep wild animals away from campers.  I suppose even the smallest food particles on the ground attracts critters, so this is a way to keep the campground unappealing to unwanted visitors.

After dinner, The Lady and I went to the Green River Overlook to watch the sun set. Unfortunately, the sunset was a non-event, but we were still glad to have our spot at Willow Flat. We were in the van soon after dark, early to bed with plans to rise early for sunrise at Mesa Arch.

 

 I took all the photos in this post.

Where to Go for What You Need in Quartzsite (Part 2)

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You’re in Quartzsite and you have needs: goods, services, information, entertainment. Who’s going to tell you how to find what you need? Look no further than the Rubber Tramp Artist, who’s visited Quartzsite six times since January of 2015. This handy list (and the one that preceded it on Wednesday) will help you find everything you need during your stay in what the town’s website calls “The Rock Capital of the World.”

Laundry

Of course, the best known laundromat in Quartzsite is probably the Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E Main Street). I did laundry there once, and it was a fine experience, nothing exceptional or special. I did like that it opened at 6 am so I could get my clothes washed and dried early in the day.

Other laundromats in Quartzsite include Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central), about which their website says, “Longest running dryer time for your money” and “Somebody is always on site to help.” Google also lists Palm Plaza Laundromat (225 N. Central Blvd.) and Bud’s Suds (543 W. Main Street).

Trash Disposal

Most grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and gas stations in Quartzsite have trash cans out front. If you have a small bag of trash, dispose of it while filling your gas tank or as you walk into a store or restaurant. If you rather collect your trash in large bags or if you have accumulated several days worth of trash, you may need to visit the dump, aka the Quartzsite Transfer Station. The dump is located north of town on Highway 95; the phone number is 928-669-8886. According to the Wastebits website, the hours of operation are Sunday through Wednesday from  7:30 am to 2:30 pm. I forgot to say it at first, but a reader reminded me that there is no charge to dump your trash at the Quartzsite Transfer Station; the service is FREE!

Outdoor Recreation

There’s a lot to do in the 40 acre Quartzsite Town Park. Google reviewers listed the following amenities within the park: mini tennis, basketball court, horseshoe pits, two covered play structures for younger and older kids, dog park, skate park, bike course, motto x course, plenty of shaded tables, baseball diamond, grassless football/soccer field, small R/C car track, model airplane strip, and a dance slab. In 2017 during a visit to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, I also saw a disc golf course out there.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens are within Quartzsite Town Park. Within those eight acres, one can find a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants; an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens called The Hero’s Bell Garden; a palm tree plaza; an area with mining equipment donated by the BLM; the RVing Women memorial area; Adamsville, a miniature village; and memorials to Quarzsite folks who have passed away.

Winter is a great time to be outdoors in Quartzsite, so go have some fun in this huge recreation area. Just don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of drinking water! The desert is no joke, even in the winter.

Quartzsite History

In 2015 I visited the Tyson Well Stage Station Museum (161 West Main Street). Admission was free (and it still is, according to the museum’s website), so it was worth the visit, but I can’t say I was impressed by the exhibits. I thought there was too much stuff crammed into too small a space. Many pieces were on display with no explanation as to why they were there. Of course, the museum could have changed for the better in the last few years, so I urge history buffs to check it out.

Said to be the most visited location in Quartzsite, the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery is an interesting place to visit, especially for history buffs. According to the Quartzsite website,

The Hi Jolly Cemetery is operated and maintained by the Town of Quartzsite for the purposes of providing a cemetery, historic site and park. The Hi Jolly monument is in the pioneer section of the cemetery where Quartzsite’s pioneer families were and are laid to rest. There is a new section to the cemetery also for those who chose to be interred in Quartzsite.

In the spring of 2015, I stopped at the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery on my way to California. I picked up a booklet with a map of the graveyard at the cemetery’s information kiosk. The booklet offered biographical information about many of the people buried in the cemetery. If you can get your hands on a copy of that booklet, you can learn a LOT about the non-native people who settled Quartzsite.

Thrift Stores

Whenever I go to a town, I like to browse the thrift stores to see what goodies are available. I don’t need much more stuff in my life, but I do like to look.

As far as I know, there are three thrift stores in Quartzsite.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store (101 Moon Mountain Rd.) is across the street from the Isaiah 58 Project. Parking is in the gravel lot in front of the store. It has a small selection of mass-market paperbacks, cheap VHS tapes, and a few CDs. There is usually a large selection of housewares, pots and pans, plates and glasses. The selection of linens and pillows tends to be small, and the items seem well used. The shoes available also tend to be well used, and I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size. Prices are reasonable. Most clothing costs a dollar or two per piece. Many things in the housewares section are 50 cents to $1. Small toys are very inexpensive, as are greeting cards.

The Quartzsite Community Thrift Store (7 Showplace Lane) is located near the end of the street that runs along the side of Silly Al’s pizza place. The parking lot is also gravel and in front of the store. The store offers some higher-end decorative items near the front of the store. The price of women’s clothing seems to start around $2; I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size either. I have found good prices on yarn at this store—50 cents to $1 a roll. There’s a decent-sized selection of books in the second room, as well as mostly inexpensive housewares and a small selection of well-used linens.

The Animal Refuge Thrift Store is on the other side of town, east of Central (Highway 95), on the south side of Main Street. In 2016, the store was filled with only the best merchandise, and the higher prices reflected the nicer inventory. Since I’m never really looking for higher end items, I haven’t been back to this thrift store since my visit several years ago.

Entertainment

I don’t go out much, so I can’t say too much about where to find live music or dancing or other entertainment in Quartzsite. If such things appeal to you, I highly recommend you check out the calendar of the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA). In the words of the group’s website, the QIA is

a non profit, community based, volunteer group of people wanting to help the Quartzsite area and all the wonderful visitors we get here every year.

The calendar shows the group’s scheduled events, trade shows, dances, classes and, of course, their biggest event of the year, the gem and mineral show called the PowWow. If you want to exercise, listen to live music, play bingo, learn Spanish, or dance, check out what the QIA has to offer.

Another place to go for fun and fellowship is the Quartzsite Senior Center (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenu). According to the RV Quartzsite.com website, the senior center

also has lots of activities for snowbirds and show visitors.

Lunch and Cards – Monday through Friday year round

Quilters – October to March

Dances – Tuesdays and Fridays, December to February

Bingo – Wednesdays and Saturdays, December to March

Art Guild – 1st and 3rd Thursdays, September to March

Craft Fair – 3rd Friday, November to March 9 am – 1 pm

If you are interested in any of these activities or want to know what special events might be in the works at the senior center, give them a call at 928-927-6496.

When part 1 of this post ran on Wednesday, someone on Facebook said I had “forgot to mention the 3 most popular places…” in Quartzsite. Those places are apparently Beer Belly’s Adult Daycare (121 W Kuehn Street), Silly Al’s Pizza (175 W Main Street), and Quartzsite Yacht Club Restaurant Bar and Grill (1090 W Main Street). I’ve never been to any of these places, so I don’t know how much entertainment any of these places offer. A friend of mine told me last year that the food at Silly Al’s is really good; maybe I’ll get to try it someday.

Shiny Rocks

Where won’t you find shiny rocks in Quartzsite in the winter? Both Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn St.) and Desert Gardens Internationale Rock, Gem and Mineral Show (1050 Kuhen Street) are good places to look for gems and minerals. The official Tyson Wells Rock & Gem show will be held January 4th-13th, 2019; show hours are 9am to 5pm each day.

If you like shiny rocks, don’t miss the QIA PowWow (235 Ironwood St.) running January 16 through January 20, 2019.

. The QIA website says,

This annual Show has vendors coming from all over the world. We have over 520 vendor display areas inside & outside the building in our huge parking lot area. There are 50+ Showcases on display inside the building of beautiful gems, minerals and jewelry…

All the merchandise displayed by vendors must be 75% gem, mineral or jewelry related.

Penny Press

I only know of one penny press in Quartzsite. It’s at the gift shop at Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn Street). They call it a penny pincher, but it works just like a penny press: put in your two quarters and a penny and get yourself a sourvenir pressed penny embossed with the words “Quartzsite, Arizona.”

I hope my knowledge of Quartzsite helps you find the things you want and need while you are there.

I’ve not been compensated for mentioning any of the businesses included in this post. All the information shared is based on my own experiences and what I found on the internet. Please do your own research, including calling businesses to determine if the information I shared is accurate and if the services I mentioned meet your needs. You are responsible for your own self. I’m not responsible for you. I apologize for any information that is no longer accurate, but offer this post to you as a starting point.

I took all the photos in this post.