Category Archives: Van Dwelling

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.

Life vs. Lifestyle

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Last year at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), I repeatedly heard people refer to the “lifestyle.”

Why did you chose this lifestyle? How long have you been living this lifestyle.

This use of the term “lifestyle” annoys me for a couple of reasons, the first personal and the second more broad.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve been annoyed by questions about my “lifestyle.” Back in the day, I remember being asked to talk about “the anarchist lifestyle.” Then and now, my answer is the same: I can tell you about my life, but I really can’t speak about a lifestyle.

To me (and Merriam-Webster doesn’t exactly validate my belief), life is authentic, but lifestyle is more about wanting to be. I guarantee you, the life I am living is authentically my own. I’m not aspiring to be something else. I am not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m doing my thing, living my life, not attempting to live in some specific way so I can fit in with some specific group. The only “lifestyle” I can speak about is the Blaize Sun/Rubber Tramp Artist lifestyle; in other words, my own personal, individual life.

The other reason I’m annoyed by the use of the word “lifestyle” is validated by Merriam-Webster. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lifestyle), “lifestyle” is

the usual way of life of a person, group, or society.

So what is the “usual” van dweller or rubber tramp way of life? Is there a usual, typical, customary, normal, standard, established, conventional, traditional, or predictable way that van dwellers live their lives?

While some van dwellers live in banged up old cargo vans, others reside in late-model, expensive Sprinters and Class B RVs. Some folks make their homes in 20+ year old conversion vans and some folks live in minivans. Some rubber tramps aren’t van dwellers at all, but live in cars and SUVs. Are all of those folks living the same lifestyle?

Some van dwellers receive money from pensions or trust funds. Some get monthly disability or social security payments. Some of us have to be frugal to survive, while others are able to live as extravagantly as they desire. Some of us still have to work for money (full-time job or a part-time job or seasonal work) if we want to eat. Are we all living the same lifestyle?

Some people are living in vans that have been painstakingly and expensively customized. Some rubber tramps have insulated their vehicle’s walls and put down nice flooring, tinted the windows, and installed enough solar panels to power a house in the suburbs. Other people throw down a blanket on the floor and call it good because that’s all they can manage or afford, or maybe because they like to live a simple life. Which of these folks is living the van dweller lifestyle?

Some van dwellers are only living in their vans part of the time, taking weekend trips or driving their vans on vacations. Some folks are taking extended trips, but have a conventional home to return to whenever they want. Some people are living in their vans 24/7, with no other home to go to if they get cold or sick or tired of being on the road. Some full-timers have every possession they own with them, while others pay for storage facilities or leave belongings with friends or family. Are the lifestyles of these people the same or different?

I’m not interested in settling on qualifications for “real” van dwellers or rubber tramps. I’m just saying, as far as I can tell, there’s not one “lifestyle” being lived by every van dweller or rubber tramp. There are an infinite  variety of ways to live based on individual choices. Talking about “the lifestyle” doesn’t even make sense.

Personally, I’m not interested in living a ‘lifestyle.” I want to live my life. It’s easier to change that way. If I commit myself to a “lifestyle” of van dwelling, what does that mean when I house sit or stay with friends or rent a room in a house for some period of time? Living my life seems a flexible; I can evolve and change . If I decide to live a “lifestyle” I have to stay within the parameters set by the group if i want to keep my place in the group. I’ll just continue doing things the way that works for me, thank you very much. I’ll just live my life.

 

 

Ten Reasons I Like Living in My Van

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#1 I don’t pay thousands of dollars a year in rent

#2 I don’t pay monthly bills for water, electricity, internet, and/or trash pickup.

#3 Because I have fewer bills, I don’t have to work 50 weeks a year.

#4 Living in a small space helps me keep my tendency to collect things in check.

#5 If I want something I own (my towel, my pillow, a certain shirt, a certain book), I only have to walk out to my van to get it.

#6 If I don’t like where I’m staying, it’s easy to go elsewhere.

#7 Whenever I’ve got my van with me, I’ve got my bed with me. If I can park, I can nap comfortably.

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I took this photo showing the decorations on the ceiling and walls of my van.

#8 I’ve got the ceiling and walls of my van decorated with mementos, so it’s like living in a scrapbook.

#9 I’m less isolated from nature than are most people who live in conventional homes.

#10 I can hear the sound of rain hitting my metal roof.

 

The Rubber Tramp Artist Rules of Van Life

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#1 Rule of Van Life: Always Know Where Your Keys Are

I’ve misplaced the keys to my van many times. Sometimes I have misplaced the keys by locking them in the van. No good. No good. (Read about a couple of those experiences here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/01/in-praise-of-roadside-assistance/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/30/good-samaritan/.)

My keys on a lanyard long enough to unlock the door without taking it off of my neck.

My keys on a lanyard long enough to unlock the door without taking it off of my neck.

Now my #1 rule of van life if to always know where my keys are. When I’m awake, I wear my keys on a long lanyard around my neck. It’s made from small, pretty blue and green glass beads. I bought it for $1 at a thrift store. I don’t have to take the lanyard from around my neck to unlock the doors, but when I do need to take it off, it lifts right over my head.

When I get out of the van, I make sure the keys are around my neck before I close the doors. It might seem as if I am patting my boobs or belly just for fun, but really, I’m making sure I have my keys. (The challenge is getting the keys immediately out of the ignition and hooked to my lanyard before my attention wanders and I exit the van without my keys.)

When I go to bed at night, my keys are within arm’s reach. If I have to drive the van in the middle of the night, I don’t have to fumble in the dark searching for them. Even when I sleep, I know where my keys are.

Rule #2 Don’t Knock Over the Pee Bucket (When It’s Holding Pee)

I’ve had a variety of pee buckets in my 4+ years as a van dweller. First there was a plastic one-

My current pee bucket with lid.

My current pee bucket with lid.

gallon ice cream tub with lid. Later I used a plastic one-quart, slightly oval shaped ice cream container with a tight-sealing cover. For a while I used a plastic storage container with a snap-on lid with a handle; that container was my favorite, but I lost the lid when I forgot to remove it from the van’s ladder (where it had been propped to air out) before I drove to work. I’m currently using a red coffee can with a snap-off cover.

I’ve knocked the pee bucket over before. While it wasn’t the worst elimination disaster I’ve ever had in the van, it wasn’t pleasant. It was so not pleasant. Now when there’s a container of urine in the van, I am very careful not to kick it or bump it or do anything to make it fall over. I certainly don’t want to drive while there’s pee in my bucket. Even with the cover on, the thing can still leak, and I do not want to deal with urine on the rug and on the floor and on the items on the floor.

Rule #3 Use Blind Spot Mirrors

The Your Mechanic website (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-to-use-blind-spot-mirrors) says,

No matter how well you position your side view mirrors, there is going to be a blind spot on either side…there will always be areas that you cannot see. Blind spot mirrors are designed to alleviate this problem.

I swear by blind spot mirrors. I don’t know why all driver’s aren’t using them, whether on a van or a pickup truck or a sports car. They are inexpensive; a two pack usually cost under $10 at

Best Blind Spot Mirror - 4 Pack Blind Spot Mirror For SUV & Blind Spot Mirrors For Cars - Great For Motorcycles, Trucks, Snowmobiles As Well - Rust Resistant Aluminum 2
Amazon, auto supply stores, or any store with an automotive department. They are easy to install by peeling away paper backing covering the strong adhesive on the non-mirror side. Press the blind spot mirrors to a clean (cleanliness is crucial for proper sticking) side view mirror and get ready to see everything in your blind spot that you have been missing.

Rule #4: Do Your Routine Maintenance

Get your oil changed regularly. (The Your Mechanic website recommends every 5,000 to 10,000 miles). Check the air pressure in your tires and add air as needed. Check your fluid (oil, brake, transmission, coolant/antifreeze, power steering) levels and add accordingly. Take care of problems before they become disasters.

Rule #5: Carry Basic Automotive Supplies

I have a pair of jumper cables in my van. I believe everyone should carry jumper cables, especially if traveling to areas where it might take a long time/be impossible for roadside assistance to get to you. It’s usually fairly easy to find a helpful person to give your battery a jump start, but helpful people don’t always have jumper cables.

In addition to jumper cables, I have a jack and a tire iron. I also typically carry brake fluid, oil, and antifreeze/coolant.

Rule #6: Don’t Hit the Road Without a Paper Map

Sure, sure, GPS systems and map apps are great–if they work. I did a Google search on “did people really drive off cliff while following GPS” and came up with a whole list of GPS disaster stories. GPS systems really do lead people astray. img_7800

I’ve never used GPS, but I do tend to rely on Google Maps. I use Google Maps on my laptop to map out routes in unfamiliar cities, and I use it to decide how to get from a city (or nature area) to my next destination. Several times while traveling in California, Google Maps has directed me to roads that don’t exist or sent me well out of my way.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve been able to pull over and use the Google Maps app on my phone to recalibrate from my current location. But recently, after Google Maps sent me on a wild goose chase–out of my way–hour long–gas guzzling–circular excursion, I stopped at a gas station to figure out what I should do from there. Google Maps told me what to do, but I immediately realized it was all wrong. Highway 49 was not the same as Main Street, and the directions told me to go the same way from which I’d just come. So I pulled out my atlas and figured out where I was and where I wanted to be. Turns out a nearby highway was a straight shot from point A to point B. If I had looked at the paper map before I hit the road, I would have seen that Google Maps had sent me on a route that was never going to take me where I wanted to go

Rule #7: Stock Up on Essentials Before You Leave Civilization

Before I head out to a remote area, I make sure I have everything I need. Even if I can find a store in a small town selling the necessity I’ve forgotten, I’m going to pay more for it in a remote location. These are the essentials I make sure I have before I head out of Babylon: food, water, ice, propane, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, wet wipes, gasoline.

Rule #8: Tell Someone Where You Will Be

I have a trusted friend I text everyday if I have cell service. Before I hit the road, I tell her where I’m going. When I arrive, if I have cell service, I text her to let her know I am safe. If I change my plans, I alert her. If she doesn’t hear from me, she checks in. I know doing this won’t save me if someone decides to hurt me, but I feel more confident knowing someone will realize pretty quickly if I disappear and be able to direct a search party to a starting point.

Rule #9: Bungee Cords Are Your Friend

I’ve spent a lot of time picking up plastic drawers and tubs (and their contents) from the floor of the van. Rapid braking and sharp turns made my belongings tumble to the floor. Now I’ve got my stuff tied down with bungee cords. I buy the cheap ones, as they don’t really have to be super strong. They just have to be strong enough to keep my life from flying around as I drive.

Rule #10: Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Having fun is one of the reasons we’re doing this van living stuff, right? We get to travel and see amazing places. We get to explore because we’re not tied down, not spending a huge portion of our money on rent. So don’t get so uptight and worried about what might go wrong that you forget to have fun. In my experience, a bit of prior planning (maintaining the vehicle, strapping down with bungee cords, knowing where my keys are) allows me to relax, arrive safely at my destination, and have a good time while I’m there.

ol-betsy

I took the photos in this post, except for the one of the blind spot mirror, which is an Amazon link.

What are your rules of van life/life on the road? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Simple Shower

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The image below is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it to shop, I will receive a commission from your purchases.

Portable Camping Shower - Simple Shower
  As a camp host at a remote campground with no running water, keeping my body clean has been a challenge. (To read about my showers during my first season as a camp host, type “cleanliness” in the search bar. To read about my showers during my second season as a camp host, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/21/my-shower-system/.)

In response to my August 2016 post about my shower system, one of my readers left a comment with a link to a video of the Simple Shower. (Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve4VdhtkXyY) I watched the video and decided the Simple Shower might work for me.

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This photo shows the funnel screwed onto the 2.5 liter bottle. The cap with the holes is not on it.

The Simple Shower consists of three pieces of plastic: an airtube, a funnel, and a cap. The funnel screws onto the bottle. The cap is the part with all the little holes from which the water flows; it screws onto the funnel. The airtube displaces the water in the bottle with air. (The setup comes with two airtubes, one for a one-liter bottle, the other for a two-liter bottle. The instruction sheet says,

[s]elect one tube for use, as continued switching will lead to damage to the cap.)

I contacted Rainburst, the company that makes the Simple Shower and requested a free one for review purposes. I was told the company no longer offers the product free for review, but I was offered a 50% refund of the purchase price once my review ran on my blog. Score!

Yes, I am receiving a consideration in exchange for my opinion, but I promise, I will write down exactly what I think!

At the end of the Simple Shower informational video, the announcer says, The one thing we absolutely guarantee about using the Simple Shower is you will get wet! I can vouch for that. I got wet using the Simple Shower. Success! But there’s more to the story than just getting wet. img_7420

First, I’ll tell you the things I don’t like about the Simple Shower.

My main problem with the device is that it didn’t fit on any of the jugs I already owned and was using in my shower system The video clearly states it works with one and two liter bottles, but I thought maybe it would fit something I already had. No. No it didn’t.

The Rainburst’s FAQ (https://www.simple-shower.com/pages/tips-faqs) suggests

[s]imply cut the neck of the milk jug in a spiral manner until the opening is wide enough to insert the Simple Shower, and then jam the Simple Shower into the cut opening…The Simple Shower will remain in place during use.

But I didn’t really want to cut plastic jugs. I don’t want even one janky, cut-up plastic jug with sharp edges floating around in my van, sure to get smashed by some falling something. Besides, I use the jugs I have to hold water. I want all of my jugs to hold water. A jug not holding water is a wasted jug, IMHO.

Rainburst seems to think it’s really easy to pick up a two liter water bottle. The aforementioned FAQ says,

Currently, Rainburst does not provide the bottle.  We want you to be like us, thrifty and environmental minded.  Use a bottle you have lying around (or ask for a free one from somewhere).  Be sure to clean the bottle out prior to use.

Unfortunately, I did not have a two-liter bottle lying around since I don’t usually drink soda. I didn’t find any two-liter bottles in my campground’s trash, and I didn’t see any campers with two-liter bottles, so there was no one I could ask for two-liter leftovers. Granted, this problem would be easier to solve in civilization. The moral of this part of the story? If you plan to get a Simple Shower and you don’t regularly drink soda, start working to line up your two-liter bottle NOW!

I ended up buying a 2.5 liter bottle of grape soda at the Dollar Tree. I forgot I’d have to pay a deposit because I was in California, so my $1 bottle cost me $1.19, and I poured the soda down the toilet. Sigh. If my Simple Shower fit on a gallon jug, I could have drunk the water, then reused the bottle.

Another reason for wanting to use a gallon jug is the handle. Handles make jugs easy to hang onto. The lack of handle on a two-liter bottle worried me. Would I be able to hold a two-liter bottle (or in my case a 2.5 liter bottle) of water without a handle?

By the time I learned about, ordered, and received my Simple Shower, it was late in the camping season and too cold for me to want to be naked and wet in my privacy tent. I didn’t get to try the device until almost two weeks after left I the forest. I tried it in a shower stall, in a bathroom, in a house, not in a privacy tent in the woods.

As I feared, it was difficult to hang onto that wet and slippery 2.5 liter bottle.  Two and a half liters of water weighs five and a half pounds, which was lot for me to handle when I couldn’t get a good grip.

Perhaps a two-liter bottle would be easier to use. I’m going to keep my eyes open for a free one I can snag so I can give it a try.

On my maiden Simple Shower voyage, I washed my hair and did a full body soap and rinse. My hair hangs above my shoulders, but it took nearly all of water in the bottle to wet my hair then rinse after using shampoo sparingly. Still, the Simple Shower got the job done.

My most challenging moments of my first use of the Simple Shower came when it was time for me to wash my lower private areas. The front wasn’t so difficult; I used a sort of pour and splash method. Washing my back-lower-private-area was quite tricky. I wasn’t sure how to hold the bottle in one hand while twisting my arm behind my back and bending over enough to get the water down in there. Perhaps I need to do some arm stretches to increase my flexibility and reach.

Now, onto all the things I like about the Simple Shower.

The Simple Shower doesn’t take up much room. Since there’s no cover over the holes in the cap, I don’t want to leave it on my bottle while traveling, but the whole setup can go back into the small box it was mailed in. The box will be easy to tuck away somewhere in my van. I’ll fill the 2.5 liter shower bottle before I hit the road, and it will travel with the rest of the water bottles. These two items take up significantly less room than the garden sprayer I used as a shower during my second camping season.

Along with being small, Simple Shower is light. The company FAQ says,

The Simple Shower weighs less than an ounce (it’s been weighed at .9 ounces).

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

The Simple Shower provides quite strong water pressure. The water doesn’t just dribble out of the holes, it really flows.  According to the company FAQ,

The Simple Shower has a 1.8 gallon per minute flow rate, slightly less than a water saving shower head. Unlike one of those shower heads, though, the Simple Shower feels like being under a real shower, due to its unique design.

This means a 1 liter bottle will last 18 seconds, a 1.5 liter bottle will last 27 seconds, and a 2 liter bottle will last 36 seconds. While that may not sound like a lot of time, remember that the guarantee of the Simple Shower is “we will get you wet.” As such, you’ll get wet fast and be able to rinse off fast (unlike solar showers, which have a completely wimpy spray).

I’m also pleased by where and how the Simple Shower is made. Again, the FAQ:

We manufacture and assemble [the Simple Shower] in Washington State, using recycled materials. It’s assembled by a non-profit organization that employs the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged. We also have all of our packaging made in Washington State.

We make the Simple Shower out of recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s BPA free..

Our packaging is also made from recycled cardboard.

Overall, I am pleased with the Simple Shower. I definitely plan to use it in my shower system next summer. I’ll be on the lookout for a two-liter bottle in hopes something smaller will be easier to handle, and I bet with practice, washing my private areas will get easier.

To order the Simple Shower, you can click on the very first photo in this post, which is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If folks shop through my Amazon affiliate link, I receive a commission.  I took all of the other photos in the post.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a 50% refund of the purchase price of my Simple Shower from Rainburst after this blog post ran. Regardless, I only review/recommend products or services I use personally. This review reflects how I honestly feel about the product. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Knock in the Night

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I’ve been living and traveling alone in my van since the Fall of 2012. I’ve been through at least ten states and have stayed in cities and on public land. On only two occasions has anyone bothered me while I was sleeping. Once it was a cop harassing me (read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/07/cop-knock/), and the other time–well, I’m still not entirely sure what that was all about.

I was staying at a free National Forest campground in Northern New Mexico. I’d stayed there before. It was basically primitive camping, but there were a couple of pit toilets there. I liked the place, mostly because there was no charge to stay, but also because it was next to a river, lots of tall trees grew there, and the temperature was cool.

I arrived late in the afternoon of the night in question. I’d been selling jewelry and shiny rocks all day. I was tired. I wanted to eat dinner, then crawl into my bed with a book, probably go to sleep early. I was scheduled to sell jewelry and shiny rocks the next day, so I planned to get moving early.

When I’d pulled into the campground, I’d found the most desirable spots close to the pit toilets had been claimed. I looked around until I found a spot to park the van farther out. There was a tent pitched in the general area, but I gave it plenty of space.

I went about my business of cooking and eating dinner. While I was outside, I saw at least one large dog and several young men around the other tent. A small pickup truck arrived, then left. I kept to myself, didn’t try to make conversation, but I noticed it wasn’t a family camping over there. I saw no children, no mother figure, just guys.

When the sky darkened, I got in the van, locked the doors, and closed the curtains. I read my book, then turned out my light. The night was going according to plan.

Suddenly I was jolted awake by knocking on the van’s exterior. It took me a moment to figure out where I was and what was happening. I’m in my van, I remembered. I’m parked next to the river.

The knocking came again.

Who is it? I yelled. Even to my own ears, my voice sounded grumpy and gruff.

The side windows were open to let in the cool night air, so apparently my voice was audible. I didn’t even move a curtain to peek outside, much less open the door.

A male voice outside the van identified itself as one of the neighbor campers. If their vehicle needed a jump start in the morning, would I help them out?

What the fuck? I was thinking. Who knocks on a stranger’s dark van in the middle of the night to ask for a jump start if the situation is not a full-blown emergency? Apparently this guy.

Sure, I told the guy, if you need a jump in the morning, I’ll help you out if I’m around.

I knew good and well that I planned to be out of there early. I’d likely be gone before the sun was up.

The guy seemed to wander away (I wasn’t trying to peep out the windows), but now I was wide awake. (If you’ve ever felt the burst of adrenaline that comes with waking from a deep sleep to the tune of someone knocking on your van, you know it’s not easy to drift off after.) I started wondering what was really going on. Why had the guy really knocked? He must have suspected I was asleep since it was the middle of the night (around 2am when I switched on my light to look at my watch), and there hadn’t been a single light on in the van.

As I lay there wondering if I were safe, wondering if the man would come back, I tried to remember the vehicle situation at the nearby camp. I didn’t remember seeing a vehicle parked near the tent when I arrived. I did remember the small pickup  pulling in, but I was mostly sure it had left. I hadn’t heard another vehicle arrive after dark, but I could have conceivably slept through a car or small truck’s arrival. Could I have slept through the noise of someone discovering a dead battery, discussing the situation with others? Maybe. But I was almost certain the man had asked for my help if the battery were dead. Did he not even know the status of the battery when he asked for my help?

I finally slept again for a few hours more. I woke early, but didn’t get out of the van. When I looked out of the windows, no one seemed to be moving on the other campsite. As I maneuvered my van out of my spot, the van’s engine noise awakened the large dog who barked and barked and barked. I felt satisfaction that perhaps the dogs’ barking would awaken the guy who’d disturbed my slumber.

As I left the camping area, I looked around for a vehicle that belonged to the nearby campsite. I didn’t see any vehicles–not a car, not a truck, not a motorcycle or even a bike. Did a vehicle start and leave sometime after the man knocked on my van? Maybe. But I doubt I would have slept through any noise after the knocking interrupted my sleep and shot adrenaline through my body.

I’ve often wondered what was really going on that night. I don’t think those guys had a vehicle at all, much less one that maybe had a dead battery. As I said before, barring a complete emergency, good manners and common sense dictate that one does not knock on a stranger’s dark van in the middle of the night.

I think the man just wanted to know what I would do if he knocked on my van in the wee hours. Maybe he’d acted alone. Maybe the other man had dared him to knock. Maybe they were drunk. Maybe he was hoping I’d open the door or step of the van so he could what? Rob me? Rape me? Did he just want to know if I’d agree to help? Did the men not want a camping neighbor and were hoping to scare me off?

I suppose I’ll never know what the intentions were that night, but I’m glad there was nothing scarier that night than a knock in the dark.

I took this photo. It is not the river I slept next to the night of this incident, but you get the idea.

I took this photo. It is not the river I slept next to the night of this incident, but you get the idea.

In Praise of Truck Stops

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When it comes to boondocking in the city, I vote for truck stops!

Workers at truck stops (or travel stops or travel centers, as most of the chains now refer to themselves) are accustomed to seeing vehicles parked in their lots at all hours of the day or night. From big rigs to delivery vans to motorhomes to U-Hauls to sports cars, people park their vehicles at truck stops while they get some rest, often overnight. Delivery drivers ahead of schedule can pass some time at truck stops. Folks on cross-country moves or vacations road trips can stretch their legs at truck stops. Of course, the businesses cater to truckers who need to refuel and/or take mandatory rest breaks.

In my early days of van travel, I’d always call ahead to make sure my van would be welcome overnight at a particular truck stop. Over the course of multiple trips across the U.S.A., I was only turned down a handful of times. The attitude of the person I talked to on the phone was usually Why are you asking me this? Of course you can park here overnight!

If anyone at a truck stop figures out a person is sleeping in her van, it’s unlikely to seem strange.

Another great thing about truck stops is that they’re open 24/7. Increasingly, I find Wal-Mart stores (even the supercenters) are closed for a few hours each night. A closed store makes a nighttime bathroom emergency problematic. Also, a vehicle parked overnight might stand out if customers aren’t coming and going at all hours. No such problems at a chain truck stop, since they’re always open.

What I love about truck stops is that everything I could want or need is right there. Fuel? Check! Restrooms? Yes. Showers? You bet. Hot coffee and most other beverages? Yep. Pizza at 2am? You know it! Video games? Well, yes (if that’s your thing). A selection of gadgets to make trucker life (and maybe van life too) easier? Yes. Snacks, maps, and souvenirs? Of course.

Some TA travel centers even have motels if you want to splurge on a night out of your rig. I’ve also encountered a couple Pilot travel centers with free internet access.

Different truck stops have different amenities. I try to stick to truck stop chains. Flying J is my favorite, followed in descending order of like by Pilot (which merged with Flying J some years ago), Love’s and TA. I’ve been in some dismal truck stops that weren’t part of chains. I’ve seen filthy showers, barely stocked coolers, and one place that I’m pretty sure had no fuel to sell. My experience with chains has been a lot better, although not every location is great. And while not every location really has pizza at 2am, the bigger the truck stop, the more amenities offered around the clock.

I’ve done laundry in truck stops, and it’s been hit or miss. Not every travel center has washers and dryers, and most that do have them only have a couple (maybe three) of each. Usually the cost is a little high, and on at least one occasion at a Flying J, I’m convinced my clothes were dirtier when I pulled them out of the washer. (Read about my adventure at that Flying J here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.) However, if your clothes are dirty and you’re at a truck stop with laundry facilities anyway, it can be a great convenience to be about to wash, dry, and fold in the middle of the night.

In the past, truck stops have had a bad reputation as dangerous places. However, the corporations seemed to have tried to clean up their images in the last few years. I think that’s part of the reason for the shift from “truck stop” to “travel stop” and “travel center.” If Mom and Dad and Sis and Brother feel safe stopping at these businesses, the businesses can reap the benefit of making money off average travelers too.

I’ve never once been harassed, propositioned, or hassled in a truck stop or in a truck stop parking lot. No one’s ever tried to sell me drugs (or anything else) or buy sex on truck stop property. No one’s knocked on my van or tried the handles while I’ve been parked at a truck stop. I’m not saying such things couldn’t happen, but none of them have happened yet. (Knock wood.)

Of course, I keep my guard up wherever I’m spending the night. I’m polite (but bland) if someone speaks to me, but I don’t initiate conversations in truck stops. I don’t smile, wink, or bat my eyes at men. I don’t dress provocatively. (My typical style of long hippy skirts and loose shirts doesn’t tend to make men think I’m looking for sex–either for free or for a fee.) I walk with my head up, aware of my surroundings, but I’m not out and about in the parking lot at all hours of the night. When I’m inside the truck stop (waiting for a shower or for my laundry to wash and/or dry), I keep my nose in a book (or my notebook) or look busy on my phone so I don’t invite conversation.

I’d rather spend the night in a beautiful natural setting or with friends, but if I can’t get to either of those places, a truck stop will be my next choice.