Tag Archives: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

Living How She Really Wants to Live (an interview with Sarah Meg)

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

I first met Sarah Meg at the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). She came to the initial organizing meeting at the RTArt Camp and immediately made herself useful by donating materials and offering to teach classes. We met up again during the summer in the Sequoia National Forest during a Rubber Tramp Art Community gathering she hosted.

In this interview, Sarah Meg talks about downsizing, the benefits of having a minivan for a rig, and why she was drawn to a life as a nomad.

Rubber Tramp Artist: So Sarah Meg, how long have you been on the road?

Sarah Meg:   I’ve been a full-time nomad in a minivan, that I converted into a mini RV, for about a year now. Before that I was a full-time van/RV dweller, and a part-time nomad for two and a half years. I’ve been a part-time van or vehicle dweller and part-time nomad since 2001 when I got my first vehicle.

RTA: Now you’re in a minivan. Why did you decide to live and travel in a minivan instead of a full-size cargo or conversion van or some of the other things you lived in before?

SM: The van was free. [Laughter] I probably would have chosen a slightly larger van, one that I could stand up in if I had purchased it myself, but this van was free, so I figured why not try it?

When my mother died, this van was up for grabs, and so I decided to take the opportunity to try it out and make it into a tiny little home.

RTA: Does living in your mom’s minivan make you miss your mom and [feel] sad or does it make you feel close to your mom?

SM: It’s kind of cool. It’s almost like my mom’s coming along with me on my travels, and this van is the first vehicle I’ve been a full-time traveler in. Before that I was only a part-time traveler even though I was living in an RV and before that in a station wagon, and I wasn’t leaving my county where I’m from very often. I would go on trips that were about four to six months long each year where I would travel out of the area where I am from, but the majority of the year I was staying in campgrounds or in people’s driveways in the county where I’m from.

To be honest, I didn’t even know you could go full-time and not have a home base that you stayed at frequently until like a year and a half ago. As soon as I realized it was totally acceptable and normal to be completely nomadic, I did it.

RTA: So what’s the make and model of your minivan?

SM: It is a Toyota Sienna.

RTA: Is there anything in particular you like about this make and model?

SM: Supposedly, it’s the biggest minivan on the market. I don’t know if that’s true or not. All I know is I can keep one of the back seats in and up to use for sitting in and still have a bed that is 30 inches wide and six feet long.

RTA: So you have a single bed?

SM: Yeah. It’s a couple inches narrower than a regular twin bed, but it’s the same length as a regular [twin] bed.

RTA: Do you travel with everything you own in your van?

SM: Almost everything. I have a small spot in my aunt’s garage that I have a few boxes in, and I also have the middle seats that I took out of the van [which are stored there] as well.

RTA: When I met you, you had a storage compartment on top of your van and now you don’t. Why’d you get rid of it?

SM: I had way too much stuff. I was probably about 2,000 pounds over payload because I had so many things jammed everywhere in the van. I had so much stuff in the cargo topper. I realized that I didn’t need all that stuff, and that that stuff was quite literally weighing me down and making it difficult for me to get all the places I wanted to go. I drove around with that much stuff for about six months, and then I met someone who was an ultra-minimalist who also lived in the same kind of van as I do , and she encouraged me to get rid of a few things. So I got rid of about maybe 60% of what I owned, and I’ve been very, very grateful that I was willing to do that; because it’s a lot easier to travel and to live in a van if you have less things.

RTA: You felt like purging your belongings was liberating vs. feeling deprived? Would you say that?

SM: I think it was probably both. I didn’t realize that it was going to be liberating until I got rid of the stuff.  I thought it was going to make me feel deprived, I thought it was going to make me feel like I didn’t have enough, and it wasn’t until I got rid of everything and lived without those things for about a month that I realized it was much more freeing to have less.

RTA: Do you think your van is still overweight or is it where it should be?

SM:  I don’t know if my van is still overweight. I did get rid of a few more things this week so I’m assuming it’s probably under payload now. I’m hoping so because I’m not planning on getting rid of anything else.

RTA: What kind of things did you get rid of?

SM: Oh, so many art supplies. When my mom died, I inherited all her art supplies, and I tried to bring all of them with me when I left. Probably not the best idea. So I got rid of a lot of art supplies.

I got rid of a lot of just random things. There [were] a lot of things I really thought that I would need on the road that I never used. I probably had like six camp stoves, so now I have three, which is good because, you know, you need more than one, but you don’t need six. I had I think three shovels. You don’t need three shovels. You need one. So it was just stuff like that where I just had too many of each thing. My camping equipment, I had so many backups and then more backups for my backups, and that’s stupid.

RTA: How’d you decide which item of several similar ones to keep?

SM: I just picked the smallest one.

RTA: Oh, that’s a good plan.

RTA: Can you tell me more about your bed setup? How you got where you are today , how you decided on the size?

 

This photo of Sarah Meg’s rig shows her bed and the seat she left in that reclines.

SM :  I knew I wanted a bed that was as long as a regular bed because I like to stretch out as far as I can. I’m not very tall, but I still wanted a regular length for my bed. The width was determined by the fact that I wanted to keep one of the seats in the back. The seats in the Toyota Sienna , the back right seat, it reclines. So it would be like having a recliner in my tiny little van house. My bed width was entirely determined by whether or not I could keep the back seat. I measured it, and it was exactly 30 inches between the wall of the van and the seat that I left, so I made my bed 30 inches wide. I built it with a piece of plywood and some 4” x 4”s because I wanted to make sure it was sturdy.

Before I built that bed, I tried an Army cot, but it was too tall, so I couldn’t sit up all the way, and I was crouching on top of the bed. Even though I had a chair in there, if it was raining and someone came over to visit me, then there was nowhere that we could all sit down. Now I can fit-if I put a stool in there too—I can fit four people on a rainy day inside my tiny little van. I can have company.

RTA: Do you have a mattress or memory foam?

SM: I have a memory foam mattress from Wal-Mart from the kids’ department. It’s the one that goes on a bunk bed. The best way to explain it is if you ever went to camp, and those foam mattresses that were on the bunk beds at camp, that’s what it is.

RTA: Do you have storage under the bed?

Sm: Yes I do. I have some old drawers that were from a [plastic] drawer set. I just took them out of the framework of the drawer set, and I used them underneath the bed for storage. They have little handles, so I just pull the handle [to pull them out].

RTA: Oh, that’s clever.

RTA: Do you have a kitchen in your van?

SM: I cook outside. If it’s raining I have a small little stool I can put a small stove on top of it and cook inside the van, but normally, if it’s raining I just eat things that don’t need cooking or I go out to eat.

RTA: Is that why you have three stoves? One little one for indoor cooking and then an outdoor stove?

SM: Yeah so one looks like an actual burner from inside of a house; it’s one of those butane stoves and I love it because it will simmer. My other stoves don’t simmer very well. Then I have a small backpacking stove that I can use inside the van if it’s a cold, rainy day. Then I also got an Ohuhu stove because I thought they were so cool. I figured if I ever ran out of fuel, and I couldn’t get somewhere, at least I could build a tiny fire. So the Ohuhu stove is just a small, metal wood-burning stove that you can cook on.

RTA: So you used to live in an RV. Do you ever miss living in a big rig?

SM: I miss living in it, but I do not miss taking care of it or driving it around or paying for the repairs on it. But I do miss living in it. I miss having basically the size of a house or an apartment- it was almost as big as my apartment that I had moved out of. It was large, and it was nice having all that space, but to be honest, I didn’t use all the space, and I don’t know why I need two double beds and two twin beds if I’m only one person. It was obviously too much space, but I sometimes miss having a place where I can stand up inside and walk around inside.

I did recently build a 6’x10’ structure out of PVC pipe and shade cloth, but since the shade cloth has tiny holes in it I would get wet in there if it rained. But it is very nice to be able to stand up all the way and walk around inside something. It is great for shade and having people over to visit.

RTA: What do you think is the best part of living in a minivan?

SM: Being able to go anywhere and always have your house with you. With a bigger rig, you’re not necessarily going to drive it into town to just go and get something. When I had my bigger rig, I also had a small car that I would tow behind; it was nearly 40 feet long in total. It was very hard to get anywhere in that thing so I am immensely grateful for my little van home now.  I’m also really bad at packing my bag in the morning to know what I need, so it’s really nice to have almost everything I own with me wherever I go. It makes me feel like the ultimate Girl Scout or like my friend Jan says, my van is the Mary Poppins bag, I have everything with me all the time.

RTA: [Laughter]

RTA: What do you think is the worst part of living in a minivan?

SM: I can’t stand up! I can’t stand up inside the van, and that really sucks to me. It bothers me so much. I used to not be able to walk very well and I had to use a wheelchair, and so now it’s really important to me to be able to stand up and walk now that I can. Not being able to stand up in my own home just feels very restricting. That’s one of the main reasons I built the shade structure.

RTA: Is there anything else about your life as a nomad that you want to share?

SM: I just want to say that I think the reason I was drawn to this life is because I’ve always just been obsessed with camping and I’ve been obsessed with being in nature. When I found out that you could camp every single day of your life and no one was going to give you shit for it, and in fact you could make a nice Instagram out of it, and put #vanlife and everybody was going to think you were cool, when I found out this was a lifestyle choice, this was normal, that I was not crazy for thinking that I wanted to camp every single day of my life, and that it didn’t make me homeless or a bum, then I just wanted to do it all the time.

I’m really grateful there were people out there on YouTube, on the internet, and people I met while traveling who told me, “Hey this can be done all the time.” It wasn’t just the druggies and the dropouts, it was all kinds of people who were out here on the road. Knowing that I wasn’t completely an oddball and that I was normal, at least within the van dwelling community, that gave me the courage to live how I really wanted to live and not allow society’s expectations to hold me back from being full-time as a nomad.

With Sarah Meg’s permission, this interview was edited for clarity and length. After the interview was transcribed, Sarah Meg sent me changes via email.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

Creative Nomad (An Interview with Sue Soaring Sun)

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I met Sue Soaring Sun in December of 2014. She’d seen me repeatedly at the coffeeshop in the small Southwest town where we were both wintering and intoduced herself. An hour later when we ran into each other again in the thrift store, she told me about Bob Wells’ Cheap RV Living website. I soon learned about the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and decided to attend. I guess you could call Sue my rubber tramp fairy godmother because she introduced me to vandwelling as a way of life and not just something I had to do because I had few options.

Sue is also my Sun sisiter, a fellow artist and blogger, a writer of fabulous letters, and a dear friend. She is the proprieter of Sun Gallery at 407-1/2 N Broadway in Truth or Consequences, NM. Sun Gallery is a folk art and antiques gallery which features Sue’s paintings, collages, and mosaic work.

We were in different states when I started this interview series, so I sent her questions via email. Today you’re in for a treat because you get to read her answers.

You’re not a vandweller, but you do live nomadically. How long have you been on the road?
I’ve been living and traveling in an RV more often than not since February 14, 2011.

What sort of rig do you live and travel in?
I have had Brownie, a 1984 20-foot Lazy Daze mini-motorhome, for about 14 months.

I know you’ve had other rigs.  What were they and why did you decide against them?
I’ve had a couple of Toyota Dolphin 22-foot mini-motorhomes, and they were great for when I travel solo, which is most of the time. Sometimes, though, I travel with my boyfriend, and I wanted something that would work for two. We tried a Class A for a while, but found it was way too much for either of us to want to drive, so we parked it and used it as a part-time urban home base. Last year I found the Lazy Daze which has a lot more power and is about a foot taller and wider than the Dolphin coach. Even though it’s shorter, it’s a bit more spacious. Now I’m selling the Class A. I no longer want to use it as a home base. I have an art gallery that serves that function. So I’m staying in the Lazy Daze all the time, except for if I happen to housesit or stay in a vacation rental.

What are your three favorite things about your current rig?  What would you change about it if you could?

This is how Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig to make Brownie less brown. She gave me permission to use this photo of hers.


*I love the big back windows, and my floorplan has the dinette right there. I can back up to a beautiful lake or river or other view and watch birds and other wildlife from the comfort of my table, drinking coffee and wearing my cozy slippers.

*It has more power and feels more solid than my past mini-mohos. I can pass other vehicles if necessary.

*It is very cool looking. Shagalicious, baby.

What I’d change…it is very brown inside, hence the name Brownie. I am slowly replacing brownness with color and creativity. Also, Brownie takes a lot of gas. I have to budget more carefully than I used to.

I took this photo of the RTArt Camp banner that Sue and I painted together.

How does living nomadically enhance your life as an artist?
Whoo-boy! Living nomadically goes hand-in-hand with my creativity. I’m sure when I’m old and can no longer travel, I will still make art. But so much of what I do now is inspired by what I see and the experiences I have along the road. Traveling has brought me in touch with so many other artists, and now, since the first RTArt Camp at this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), we have even started an intentional community for nomadic artists. Imagine that! I could not have predicted all that would come out of a simple idea of wanting to do art with other people while at the RTR. When I spend time camping with other artists, I am inspired. After our recent Rubber Tramp Art Community gathering, I stopped at a beautiful free boondocking site and spent five days doing nothing but paint, eat and sleep.

Does living nomadically make your life more challenging in any ways?
Yes. I have struggled in my new rig to deal with temperature extremes. This summer, I found myself unexpectedly staying in Truth or Consequences, NM, and I could not find any good way to keep my cat and myself cool in the RV. Fortunately, a friend who goes away for the summer let me stay at her house. Next summer, I will probably seek a higher elevation, as I had wanted to this year. I gradually solved my problems with cold last winter, but it took a while.

Also, it can be very inconvenient and expensive when I have to go stay somewhere else if my rig is in the shop.

Do you mostly boondock on free public land?
Yes.  I also stay behind my art gallery, in a parking lot. I can hook up to electricity there.

I took this photo of this free riverfront boondocking area where Sue and I camped together.

Under what circumstances do you pay for a campsite?
I sometimes pay for a campsite or an RV park site when I have a lot of things I’d like to get done…shower, laundry, dumping the tanks, etc.  I’ve also stayed at campgrounds when my boyfriend and I are traveling together in parts of the country where you usually need reservations, such as our recent trip to Florida. And occasionally I have friends who want to go stay at a campground, and I tag along for the fun.

Do you do much stealth parking in cities?
My Lazy Daze is built on a Chevy G30 van chassis, but it doesn’t look like a van! It’s built out into a motorhome. So no, I can’t get away with it.

Do you travel with everything you own?
No.  I rent commercial space that I use as an art gallery and studio. I keep most of my art supplies there, as well as off-season clothing and things that I only use occasionally.

Sonja Begonia in Brownie’s big back window. Photo used with Sue’s permission.

You share your rig with a cat companion. Has she been on the road with you her whole life?  If not, how did you help her transition to life on the road?
Sonja Begonia was about a year old when I got her in 2008, and I went on the road in 2011. She also has some attitude, so I could not get her leash-trained before starting to travel, as I’d hoped, nor since. At first, for her own safety, I had to keep her in a kennel while traveling because otherwise she would try to get out of the RV when we stopped, and many stops are not a safe place for a pet to get out. Now I just start the engine and she gets in her co-pilot seat.

What’s the best part of living nomadically?
I love driving six miles from my art gallery and boondocking on the bank of the Rio Grande. Or, when I’m on the road, finding an unexpected fantastic view. It’s being free to change my scenery, and to be immersed in it. I keep my gallery open very part-timey and give myself lots of time to travel and create.

Do you miss anything about living in a sticks-n-bricks?
Gardening. I like centering myself by digging in dirt. So, at my gallery, for one or two months out of the year, I create fairy gardens for sale. I am also going to get myself a dashboard/cab plant once the 100+ degree weather has passed this summer.

I don’t miss any other thing, not one. I get to experience sticks-n-bricks living occasionally, and it always confirms for me that I prefer to live nomadically.

How to Avoid Loneliness on the Road

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Last week I shared some ideas for filling free time for folks who don’t quite know what to do with themselves now that they own their lives. Another concern I often see expressed by the newly nomadic (or folks who want to live nomadically someday) is how to avoid loneliness while living on the road. Sometimes this concern is expressed as How do I make friends on the road? or How do I find a romantic partner on the road? Today I’ll give some tips on how to avoid loneliness while traveling the world.

Before I start with the tips, may I suggest you expand your definition of “friend”? If you only count as friends the people you see in person every week (or every month), your life as a nomad may prevent you from having friends. Expanding your definition of “friend” to people with whom you communicate regularly (whether it’s via telephone, text, internet forums, Facebook, or some other electronic means), may help alleviate your loneliness. Friends are people who support us when times are tough and celebrate with us when life if good. Seeing these folks in person is just a bonus.

#1 As I learned in Brownies, make new friends, but keep the old. Assuming you had friends before you became a nomad, stay in touch with them. Maybe they don’t entirely understand your new way of living, but if they are good, kind, loving people, don’t drop them like hot potatoes. Communicating through phone conversations, text, Skype, FaceTime, email, old-fashioned postal mail, Facebook Messenger, and however else kids these days are doing it can help you stay in touch with the people already in your life.

#2 Get out and about.  You’re not likely to meet anyone while you’re sitting in your rig pouting because you’re basket, chalkboard, coffee shoplonely. Go where there are peope to meet. If you’re in the wilderness, go for a hike (or a short walk, if that’s what you’re up for) and meet other hikers (or walkers). Go see the natural attractions that draw a crowd. If you’re in civilization, hang out at the library or a coffee shop or a park.

#3 Do what you already like to do. If you hate bars, you probably won’t have fun at one and you’re not likely to meet people you want to spend time with. (You’ll never meet anyone as nice as you in a bar, my sibling would tell me when I was in my 20s and looking for love in all the wrong places.) If you can’t stand art, don’t spend time at an art museum. If you do activities you enjoy, meeting someone will matter less.

#4 Meet up with a Meetup group. According to Wikipedia,

Meetup operates as a website providing membership software, allowing its users to schedule events using a common platform.

To use Meetup, you have to sign up for a free account, which you can do through Facebook or Google.  Once you’re signed up and signed in, you choose your location and some areas of interest. Then the website suggests some Meetups you might be interested in.

It’s very easy to change your location, so if you know (for example) that you’ll be in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, you can find out if any Meetups you’d like to participate in are happening then and there.

I’ve never been on any Meetups, but it seems like a good way to get involved with an activity you like with people who also enjoy the activity.

#5 If you’re in civilization, volunteer. Perhaps you can help sort canned goods at a food bank or serve beans in a food line withouth too much training or a background check. Maybe you can help cook or serve free vegan food with a Food Not Bombs group in whatever town you’re in. Once I responded to an ad on Craigslist posted by a woman who fostered cats. After talking on the phone, I went to her apartment and played with cats needing socialization with humans. True, I didn’t get much human interaction myself, but playing with kitties was certainly a joy.

If you’ll be in one town for weeks or months, you can do volunteer work that involves more training and commitment. If you’re staying in a national forest or on BLM land, call the local field office and ask about group volunteering opportunities you can get involved with.

Whatever kind of volunteer work you are able to do, you’ll feel good about helping, and you’ll get to inteact with other volunteers and the people (or animals) you are serving.

Yellow and Black Church#6 Go to church. If you belong to a religious denomination, time your trips to or through town to coincide with services or Bible study. Sometimes churches offer a social time before or after services where folks can drink coffee and visit. If you’re not into traditional religion, look into visiting a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

#7 Join Facebook groups for van dwellers, boondockers, rubber tramps, vagabonds, RV dwellers and nomads of every sort. Yes, there are trolls and rude people in many of these groups. I recommend joining a bunch of groups, stick with the ones that have a vibe you like, and quit the rest.

While an internet friend is different from an in-person friend you can grab coffee with and laugh with in real time, an internet friend can certainly help allieve loneliness. Folks in Facebook groups are often also willing to answer questions about mechanical issues, van builds, and free camping spots.

Once you’ve made a Facebook friend, maybe you’ll be able to meet IRL (in real life). I’ve turned some Facebook friends into real life friends. One woman met me for a quick coffee when we found ourselves in the same area. I’ve met a second of these friends twice during successive Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and we stay in touch via Facebook. I felt an immediate connection with the third woman I met in person, and we check in via text every few months. My fourth Facebook-turned-real-life friend is a kindred spirit. We read each other’s blogs (hers is Xsyntrik Nomad), we communicate through Facebook and texts, and we meet for coffee or ice cream whenever wer’re in the same town. I’m proof that Facebook friendships can transition to the real world.

Of course, if you’re going to meet in person anyone you’ve otherwise only know through the internet, take some precautions. Talk on the telephone and pay attention to any gut reactions of discomfort or apprehension you may have. Meet in a public place. If you decide to go to this new friend’s stick-n-bricks or to go off camping together (especially in a secluded place), let someone you trust know where you’re going, with whom you’re going, and when the trusted friend can expect to hear from you again.

#8 Join the Wandering Individual Network (WIN) or Loners on Wheels and travel with other folks.

WIN’s website says,

WIN RV Singles is the premiere RV club for singles. We are an active, adventurous club for single campers and solo travelers. WIN RV Singles has circuits across the US, Canada, and Mexico. We are open to single travelers of all ages. WIN is an active club. With an average of 80 caravans, circuits, and gatherings each year, we provide activities for all solo travelers: hiking, biking, sightseeing, kayaking, zip-lining, boat tours, museums, plays, factory tours, and more.

Also note, the WIN website says,

When you travel with the WINs, it must be in a vehicle in which you can eat, sleep, cook, bathe and go to the toilet, even if all facilities are portable.

The Loners on Wheels website says,

Loners on Wheels is an RV Club of legally single men and women who enjoy traveling, camping, RV caravanning and the lifestyle of singles. We are not a matching [sic] making or dating service. Companionship and support is what we’re all about.

Three Red Hearts Hanging With White Flowers#9 If you’re looking for romantic love, join a Facebook group with “single” or “romance” or “love” or “dating” in its name. Someone in a Facebook group I’m in pointed me to a Facebook group specifically for single van dwellers (#VanLife Love, Dating & Friendship), and I found a handful of groups for single RVers who don’t want to be single anymore.

There’s also a free dating site especially for people who are fans of recreational vehicles. It’s called (unsurprisingly) RV Dating, and

[f]ree basic membership allows you to browse the site, view profiles, send flirts and modify your profile.

Perhaps some of these RV folks would be open to finding love with a van dweller or nomad of some other kind!

#10 Spend time at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) and other gatherings geared toward vanners. Many van groups have regional meet ups where van folks can hang out and socialize.

The ultimate gathering for nomads, rubber tramps, van dwellers, RVers, wannabes, soon-to-bes, and folks who just want to try out the way of life is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), held each Januaury in Quartzsite, Arizona. I’ve been to the RTR four times (2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018) and seen it change from a small gathering of a couple hundred people to a large gathering of a few thousand.

The RTR is a great place to meet people and make friends. I met Auntie M (along with a handful of other folks with whom I stay in touch) at the RTR in 2015, Gee in 2016, and The Man in 2017. (Yes, he and I owe our partnership to the RTR.) In 2018 I helped Coyote Sue organize the RTArt Camp and met many people who participated in art camp activities. I now count several of those folks as friends.

I feel confident that anyone who ventures our of his or her rig at the RTR can make at least one friend!

For more tips on finding friends, read Eldrina Michel‘s article “3 Ways for Single Full-Time RVers to Find Companionship On the Road.”

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/basket-chalkboard-coffee-shop-coffeehouse-143642/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-and-black-church-161171/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-red-hearts-hanging-with-white-flowers-160836/.

 

Interloper at the RTR

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I wrote about this experience at the 2017 RTR but never publislhed it because I really wasn’t as nice as I should have been. I’ve decided to share it anyway. We can all probably learn some lessons from the story. 

The 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was crowded. There were substantially more people there than in either 2015 or 2016. I guess that’s what happens when a free event is promoted far and wide on social media.

I’d joined Auntie M’s camp across the road from the free pile. In the three days I’d been there, Auntie M had become frustrated by the crowds and the sense of entitlement displayed by some of the RTR participants. She managed to find a spot on the far outskirts of the gathering and moved out there. My friend Gee had arrived from the Midwest and spent one night across the road from us, then moved into the spot Auntie M vacated. I was waiting for a third friend to arrive, so Gee and I  staked out a space between my rig and hers with folding tables and camp chairs.

It was Thursday night, and as usual, I’d gone to bed early. I was in a deep sleep when the headlights shining through my back windows woke me. Someone had gone around the barriers and pulled into my camp on the side of Gee and me fatherest from the road. I wasn’t expecting anyone I knew to arrive that late. No one had texted me to say she was on her way; no one had texted me to say she had arrived. When I peeked out my back window, I saw the vehicle that had pulled into my camp was a large pickup with a slide-in camper on the back. I didn’t know anyone who drove that sort of rig.

I should have gotten out of bed, put on some clothes, and gone out to speak to the stranger who’d so boldly moved right into my camp. I should have told the interloper the truck was parked too close, and we were saving room for another rig. I should have stood up for myself. However, I’m Southern, and I hate conflict, and it was dark and chilly outside, so I fumed for a while, then went back to sleep.

I was up early the next morning. Gee was on her way out on a day trip, so I stretched the tables and chairs to save the spot she’d left temporarily empty.

While I was out there, I determined how the interloper had gotten in. She drove on the narrow path between our closest neighbor and Gee’s small cargo trailer. The trailer, Gee’s van, and my rig were parked parallel to the road. The driver of the pickup had come around from the back and parked on the thin strip of level ground to our left. No considerate person would have put themselves so close to us or tried to start another row of rigs on our far side.

My third friend had arrived in Quartzsite the pervious afternoon, found Auntie M’s camp, and spent the night there. She and Auntie walked into the main camp for the morning seminar. When they saw how close the interloper had parked to me and Gee, they were outraged on our behalf.

I was still undecided about what to do.

I know there is no exclusive use of public land. I could tell the driver of the truck s/he ws too close, but the BLM wouldn’t back me up on that. If I suggested the interloper move and s/he refused, I might have a pissed off, vindictive person in my camp. Perhaps it was better to say nothing and just try to get along.

It was late morning before the interloper emerged from the rig. I was talking to my friend Iggy when the woman and her tiny chihuahua came outside. She plopped down into her camp chair and tried to insinuate herself into our conversation. I was livid. I might have felt differently had she introduced herself, explained her situation, maybe apologized for being way too close. However, she did none of those things. She just acted as if it were perfectly natural to move in on strangers without so much as a howdy-do.

I replied to her attempts at conversation coldly. I discreetly (or maybe not so discreetly…I didn’t much care) moved father away from her. I was most unhappy with the situation.

While Iggy and I talked, the interloper’s dog barked and strained on its leash to meet another dog. She brought the chihuahua to meet the other dog, and as they parted ways, the chihuahua defecated just outside my camp. When the chihuahua was done, it and its person went back to the truck. I assumed she would get a plastic bag and clean up the mess, but instead she plopped back down in her chair.

I turned to her and asked, Are you going to clean that up? I figured someone was bound to step in the shit if it sat there very long.

The woman sputtered about needing to get a plastic bag, then got out of her chair, found a bag, and cleaned up the mess. I suspect she hadn’t planned on picking up after her dog.

I went back to my conversation with Iggy until we saw folks walking up to the free pile with armloads of items to give away. We decided to walk over and examine the new offerings.

Lady Nell was at the free pile, so I was chatting with her while finding a few more useful free items. I glanced across the street at my camp and saw the interloper had a visitor. Then I realized the interloper’s gentleman caller was sitting a chair I’d earlier salvaged from the free pile and promised to a friend. The nerve!

I told Lady Nell what was going one, and she and others around the free pile agreed it wasn’t ok. Both Lady Nell and  woman I’d never seen before asked if I needed backup, but I said I thought I could handle it ok.

I marched across the stree and right up to the man. Excuse me, I said coldly to the gentleman caller. That’s my chair.

To his credit, he jumped right up and apologized for offending me. I snatched the chair, folded it up, and brought it to my van. The interloper and her gentleman caller then went over to Gee’s chairs which were holding space for her rig and had a conversation about whether or not he should sit in one of those. Apparently they decided not, so they walked over to the neighboring camp and sat in the chairs there. (I found out later the interloper was friendly with the neighbor.)

Honestly, I if I had been standing there and the guy had asked to borrow the chair, I would have said yes. However, walking into a stranger’s camp and making use of someone’s gear without permission is simply unacceptable.

I sat in my van with the side doors open most of the rest of the afternoon fuming and texting with Auntie M who was even madder about the whole thing than I was. Around three o’clock, one of Gee’s friends came by, and I had a pleasant conversation with him. While we were talking, the interloper maneuvered her truck out of our camp and took off on the road out of the gathering.

When Gee’s friend and his cute dog strolled off to resume their evening constitutional, I approached the guy in the camp next door. I’d seen him talking to the interloper after her gentleman caller left.

Is that lady gone for good? I asked the neighbor

She had orignally been parked on the other side of him, he told me. When she’d come back from town the night before, she’d been disoriented (is that what kids these days are calling it?)  and accidentally pulled into my cap. She must have been quite disoriented becaues my camp looked nothing like where she’d been parked before and there was no way to accidentally pull in where she’d put her truck.

I told him she’d been too close to me and Gee, then her gentleman caller had used my chair without my permission.

Yeah, the guy said, she told me you’d read her the riot act.

Oh dear! She thought that was the riot act? That was the wimpiest riot act ever! I didn’t even ask her to move or complain about her being too close. I only asked her if she planned to clean up her dog’s poop and reclaimed my own chair.

I suppose I should have been more direct in a kind way, but sometimes I’m just at a loss.

 

RTArt Camp (Part 2)

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What we have here is one of the early steps of preparing wool for the felted shower scrubby.

On the first Friday of the RTR, the RTArt Camp hosted its first workshop. A woman showed interested folks how to felt wool on a bar of soap to create a shower scrubby. Eight or so people participated, and everyone seemed to have fun.

The following day saw probably the most popular activity of the art camp. An artist staying in a motorhome with her husband just past Coyote Sue’s rig taught people how to do acrylic pour painting on canvas. More than a dozen people participated that day, and the activity was so well-received, the artist taught the pouring technique again later in the week.

On Sunday, I led the first of two activities—finger painting! Ever since I’d agreed to help with the RTArt Camp, I’d wanted to offer finger painting. I thought it would be a good activity for people who didn’t consider themselves artistic. Also, I didn’t remember doing finger painting as a child, so I thought the RTArt Camp would be a good excuse to have the experience. I’d bought a three pack of eight ounce finger paints in primary colors so we could mix, as well as three rolls of freezer paper. I had high hopes, but turnout was rather small, maybe eight people. On the plus side, one big burly guy came over to finger pain particularly because he hadn’t done it since he was a child. We got him (as well as a male New Englander friend of mine) totally out of their comfort zones.

I learned something very important about finger painting that day. It’s lots of fun to paint on the smooth, shiny side of the freezer paper; the flow is amazing. However, as soon as the paint dries, it peels right off that slick paper. I used it as an opportunity to talk about the Merry Pranksters and their belief that “art is not eternal.”

Here’s a mandala drawn during Coyote Sue’s class demonstrating an easy technique for drawing them. I’m not sure who drew this one. If you are the artist, please feel free to speak up in the comments.

Monday brought Coyote Sue teaching an easy technique for drawing mandalas. The class was well-attended, and people seemed to enjoy the process.

On Tuesday (or maybe it was Wednesday), the art camp had two classes going at once. One woman taught folks how to make beaded bracelets as a follow-up to her class on embroidering beads onto watercolor paper which happened before finger painting on Sunday. Another woman taught crochet. She was able to help beginners with the basics and give more advanced instruction to folks with experience. It was really cool to come back from town that day and see people sitting all around our tables.

Thursday was another popular day at the RTArt Camp. A monk (for real!) led a pencil drawing workshop where he demonstrated techniques for making life-like art. Probably a dozen people spent time drawing according to his instructions.

This positive voodoo doll was made by a mom on the road so she could send loving energy to her kid.

The crochet lady was at it again on Friday at a voodoo doll making workshop. She donated materials (fabric, fluff) and her expertise so people could make voodoo dolls. Several people said they were making replicas of political leaders, while one woman made a “positive” voodoo doll representing her daughter. She planned to use the doll to send her child love and Reiki healing from the road.

Saturday was my big day—collaging! Unfortunately the day turned out to be cloudy and windy. By 11am, the sun was peeking out, but the wind didn’t cease until after we got some rain. Thankfully, the wind had chased away the few participants before the rain began, and Coyote Sue and I had divvied up and packed away all the art supplies before anything got wet. The RTArt Camp was over.

Participating in the RTArt Camp took a lot out of me. Because none of us figured out how to put up an awning, we sat in the sun for at least five hours a day. Even wearing long sleeves and my hat, that was a lot of sun exposure for me. Our tables were next to the road, so we also had to contend with dust stirred up by the vehicles rolling by. Most folks were courteous and drove slowly, but too many people drove way too fast. I dubbed the second set of people “dust devils.”

While it was easier to meet people at the RTArt table because we already had something to talk about, there was more talking to strangers than I was comfortable with. Not only did I have to speak to people who were interested in what we were doing and wanted to participate, I also had to speak to people who treated us as a general information booth. I didn’t mind when people asked where the labyrinth was or where Nadia was camped; what I minded was when I politely said I didn’t know and people persisted in their questioning. I never had time to go looking for the labyrinth and Nadia never introduced herself and pointed out her rig, so I wasn’t able to offer the detailed information people wanted.

These are jars I decorated during downtime while staffing the RTArt table. I got the beads at the free pile, then sorted them according to color. The jars came from the free pile too; I decorated them with pretty scrapbooking paper and washi tape. Fun!

Several great things did come out of the RTArt Camp.

On the last day of the camp, Coyote Sue and I divvied up all the leftover art supplies, much of which was donated to us or came from the free pile. I ended up with a lot of really useful supplies other folks were done with.

The second good that came from the art camp was getting to spend time with other cool, art-centric folks. As always, I enjoyed spending time and sharing ideas with Coyote Sue, and I met three other super cool artist. I know I’m in good company when I like everyone sitting around the campfire with me, and that happened more than once at the RTArt Camp.

Probably the best thing that came out of the RTArt Camp was a nomadic intentional community for artsy rubber tramps. Different subgroups of the community camp together and make art together. Folks come and go as they please and take turn being the go-to person in the group. I haven’t camped with the group yet, but I hope our paths cross someday.

I made this lanyard from beads I got at the free pile. Do you like it? I’m willing to give it away to someone who needs it. I made it while staffing the table at the RTArt Camp.

I said in my report on the 2018 RTR that my Rubber Tramp Rendezvous days are probably over. If I stick to the decision not to go to future RTRs, that means my RTArt Camp days are over too. While I did enjoy some aspects of the art camp very much, it also took a lot out of me. I might do better camping with a small group of like-minded rubber tramps.

I took all of the photos in this post. Thanks to the artists who allowed me to share their work.

 

The RTArt Camp (Part 1)

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I helped Coyote Sue make this banner. I took this photo of it too!

The RTArt Camp was all Coyote Sue’s idea.

Coyote Sue’s first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was in 2017. It was a particularly cold and rainy January in Quartzsite, and Coyote Sue found herself spending a lot of time alone in her rig working on art projects. Wouldn’t it be fun to do art with my friends at the RTR? she thought. The RTArt Camp was born with that thought.

I told Coyote Sue I would help her with the RTArt Camp if I made it to the RTR. I knew I didn’t want sole responsibility for the art camp, and for months I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend the RTR. I think it was December before I committed to being there. If I hadn’t told Coyote Sue I’d be there, I probably would have decided not to go or at least left early.

Coyote Sue discussed the RTArt Camp with the main organizer of the RTR because she wanted the art camp to be part of the larger gathering. We could have gone off and had our own gathering nearby (or far away) but that was never our intention. The organizer knew we were coming and offered to set aside space for the art camp.

Coyote Sue was on the Cheap RV Living forums for months, telling CRVL regulars about the plans for the RTArt Camp. Apparently, about 20 people expressed interest in being involved with the RTArt Camp, but at least some of those folks were stationed in the main camp, while the RTArt Camp ended up away from the main meeting area. Unfortunately , as Coyote Sue said, we just never worked out a way to coordinate what we were doing with things going on three washes away.

I arrived at the RTR before Coyote Sue, on the day before the gathering officially began. I’d hoped Coyote Sue would arrive first or that she and I could find the organizers together and learn the location of the RTArt Camp. Instead, Coyote Sue’s Class C was having problems with overheating, and she was stuck waiting on repairs 20 miles away. Claiming the art camp’s space fell to me.

Coyote Sue contacted the main organizer via email and let him know I’d be arriving without her and he should show me the area set aside for the art camp. He responded by saying no space had been saved for the RTArt Camp. He said by the time he arrived at Scaddan Wash, early birds had already set up in the place where he’d planned to put us. (I have no idea if the early birds were asked to move or even told they were in a space intended for the art camp.) We would have to secure our own location.

The camping areas around the spot left open for the seminars, the main fire pit, the free pile, and the bulletin board were already packed when I drove through. I saw a few spaces where my van would have fit comfortably, but there was not enough space for my rig, Coyote Sue’s rig, The Man’s rig, and the rigs of other folks who might want to join the camp. Even if we parked two feet from each other, where would we put our tables?

I drove around in an increasing panic for a while until The Man talked to a fellow who gave us a tip. He suggested we go to the RTR Music road and veer immediately to the left. We took the stranger’s advice and found a roomy spot for our camp. Of course, the problem now was our distance from the center of the gathering and the presence of a rather large wash between us and the main camp.

I was so happy when Coyote Sue pulled in late that afternoon. After her Class C was repaired, she’d planned to do laundry, take a shower, fill her water tanks, and spend a night in an RV park in town. However, once she got to Quartzsite, she decided she’d rather hang out with me! I was glad to hear she was fine with our location. What a joy to have a friend and co-organizer who believes things work out the way they’re supposed to and there’s no reason to get upset or stress out.

The next morning, Coyote Sue and I carefully crossed the wash, her with her cane and me with my walking stick, to make an announcement at the morning seminar welcoming folks to Quartzsite and the RTR. Instead of letting us make our announcement before the seminar began, as is usually the case with announcements, Bob launched right into talking about trash, feces, and showers. We sat there with hundreds of other attendees through Bob’s talk as well as little speeches by three agents of the Bureau of Land Management, until suddenly, in the middle of everything, Bob gave us the floor and let us tell folks about the RTArt Camp.

The first day of the RTR, we had a meet and greet at the art camp for folks who wanted to teach a class or lead an activity. Maybe ten people showed up, but that was enough to schedule an activity every day of the RTR. Several of the people at the meeting were already parked nearby, and others decided to move their rigs so they too could camp near the art camp.

Isn’t my nametag lovely? I blinged it out in the RTArt Camp. I took this photo of it too.

Coyote Sue called the idea I had on the first day “open studio.” Basically, we spread out art supplies on our two tables and invited people to embellish their nametag (or create a nametag from scratch), make a postcard, or spruce up something from their rig. Over the ten days of the RTR, many people spent some time being creative at the RTArt Camp. I think we did a good job reaching out to and engaging folks who didn’t consider themselves artists or even particularly artistic.

A lot happened at the RTArt Camp, and I have a lot to say about it…so this post was running really long. I decided to turn this post into a two-part saga, but I won’t make my readers wait too long for the conclusion. Part 2 will run tomorrow. In the meantime, if you like, you can read my update on the 2018 RTR.

Update on the 2018 RTR

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It’s just not the same, I heard a variety of people say about the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

Well, no, it wasn’t the same.

This year wasn’t the same as the first RTR I attended in 2015. That year, the people who’d been attending since the early days of the gathering were complaining—or at least observing—that the RTR wasn’t like it once was.

The biggest change is always the increase in attendance. In 2015, when maybe 100 people were at the RTR, founders of the event remembered fondly when only 40 people attended and everyone sat around the fire together and shared food at community meals.

The community meals were one of my favorite parts of the RTR in 2015 and 2016, but they were left off the schedule in 2017 because the group had grown too large for anyone not experienced in cooking for crowds to prepare soup or chili for everyone. No one stepped up to the challenge, so that avenue of socializing was no longer available to me and others who used the excuse of food as a good reason to gather and mingle.

I’ve heard varying estimates of how many people attended the 2018 RTR. I’m sure Bob Wells put up a video on his You Tube channel where he names a figure. A New York Times article about this year’s Rendezvous said the BLM estimated the number to be over 3,000. Even without knowing exactly how many people attended over ten days, I can tell you, the 2018 RTR was huge!

The RTR was already huge the day before it officially started.

I was working with my friend Coyote Sue to make the RTArt Camp happen. Unfortunately, Coyote Sue was stuck 20 miles up the road with her broke down Class C, so the task of finding the space set aside for the RTArt Camp fell to me. When Coyote Sue contacted the main RTR organizer to say I’d be arriving first, she was told no space was being held for the art camp because when the organizers arrived, early birds had taken the area that was supposed to be for us. (I have no idea if those early birds were asked to move or even told they were parked in an area intended for a planned RTR activity.)

Because no space had been held for the RTArt Camp, The Man and I were tasked with finding a good spot. It was before noon on the day before the gathering began, and people were already packed in pretty close. There was no space to accommodate several rigs plus several tables anywhere near the main seminar area.

I was growing increasingly stressed. I could handle claiming a spot that had been earmarked for me, but finding and staking out a spot on my own was not an easy task. I was really worried about picking a spot Coyote Sue was going to hate. (I shouldn’t have worried. Coyote Sue is always easygoing and believes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She is a pleasure to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed assisting her with the art camp.)

Thankfully, The Man talked to a guy who gave us the tip to immediately veer to the left after we pulled onto the music camp road. We took his suggestion and found a roomy spot in an area that wasn’t too crowded. The RTArt Camp was about a five minute walk from the main gathering area, but the necessary crossing of a quite deep wash kept some artsy folks, especially folks with disabilities, away.

Coyote Sue and I went to the seminar on the first official day of the RTR to make an announcement about the activities going on at the art camp. Literally hundreds of people were gathered to learn the basics of the RTR in particular and Quartzsite in general. Instead of letting us make our announcement first, Bob made us wait until sometime in the middle of his presentation. I hadn’t planned to stay for the seminar, but because I was there, I got to hear some of what Bob told the masses.

After asking everyone in the audience to turn off their recording devices, he said he wanted to be the only person recording and posting videos of the seminars online. Then he asked people to request permission from other folks before taking their photo or including them in videos. He pointed out that some people are in situations where it is unsafe for their image to appear online, but then said if keeping one’s image off the internet was a matter of life or death, folks in such a situation should probably leave because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Bob went on to talk a lot about how all of us there were part of a tribe and how we should be kind to each other and kind to the earth. He said he was happy to see all of us, whether we’d been on the road for 20 years or if the night before was the first time we’d slept in our car. He said we all needed each other and the most important part of the RTR was meeting people and making friends. It was an inspiring little speech, and I left feeling good, although I was happy enough to get the heck out of there after Coyote Sue and I finally make our announcement.

As in years past, the free pile was a highlight of the RTR for me. This year I was much farther from it than in years past, so I was able to check it less often. Still, I found lots of great stuff, including several bags of mostly glass beads and colorful plastic “jewels.” I took what I wanted and donated the rest to the RTArt Camp. I also got an orange t-shirt, an orange striped cloth tote bag, a bright pair of sneakers, a pair of Minnetonka moccasins (which I immediately lost, never to see again), and an easily rolled up sleeping pad from Land’s End. The Man got a really nice, large backpack (so he left his too-small Kelty backpack in the pile for someone else to enjoy), a Nalgene water bladder backpack, and a warm Carhartt jacket in pretty good condition. Jerico wasn’t left out; we got him a soft bed and a thin blanket so he can sleep comfortably and be covered but not get too hot. I didn’t find as much food as I did in years past, maybe because I was being picky about what I grabbed. (I could have acquired ten pounds of white rice, but I’d rather eat brown.) I did get a hug bag of caramel kettle corn, a can of garbanzo beans, and a jar of vegetable spice.

Privacy did turn out to be a huge concern. For one thing, even in our less densely populated area, there were lots of people. Sometimes after dark it would have been easier to squat outside to pee, but there was too much potential of being seen from the rigs all around. I wasn’t so much shy as concerned with offending people who didn’t want to accidentally see me with my pants down.

About a week into the gathering, an old guy with a drone made camp across a small wash from us. He flew his drone for hours each day. The buzz the device made was irritating, and friends camped nearby reported the man flew the drone right into or hovered over their camps several times. We assumed the drone had a camera, but we didn’t know if he was taking photos or video and if he was, if he then posted the media online.

One evening as I was cooking dinner, a young man walked into our camp with a recording device. Can I record that? he asked as he pointed his device towards the potatoes frying in the cast iron skillet.

Sure, I said, as long as you don’t record me.

I found out later that he did record me. He recorded me saying don’t record me, and put my face up on the internet saying those very words.

He apparently was recording other women too, voicing over disparaging comments about the women, then sharing those videos on the internet. My friends said he was also recording the seminars and posting them online along with his comments, despite Bob’s request that folks not record and post the seminars. When my friend contacted the RTR organizers to let them know what this guy was doing, she was told don’t let it bother you. I understand if the organizers felt there was nothing they could do to stop the guy (although I don’t know if any of the organizers sought him out to discuss his behavior), but the response of don’t let it bother you seemed to me and my friends as if the concerns weren’t being taken seriously.

One afternoon a woman approached the RTArt Camp table with her camera pointed at us. When Coyote Sue told her not everyone sitting there wanted to be in the photo, the woman went on a diatribe about how we were at a public event and we couldn’t expect privacy. She said at a public event, anyone could legally take our photos. She went on to say she understood our concern because someone had tried to film an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she’d been in at the RTR, and she’d had to shut that down.

The facilitator of the women’s meeting asked that no on record the meeting (video or audio) or take photos of the folks there. Hopefully, no one disregarded her request. She also asked that if and when men approached the group, someone get up and gently explain a women-only meeting was taking place. Instead, the men who approached the group were met with shouts and jeers. They know. They know, women muttered when men approached, believing men where purposely trying to eavesdrop and infringe on our privacy. Maybe that was the case with a few of the handful of men who walked up to our group, but I think most were just clueless. It would have been kinder—and far less disruptive to our group—if, as the facilitator had requested, one woman had quietly stood up, explained to the interloper what was happening, and requested he leave.

The first women’s meeting was huge, by the way. There must have been two or three hundred women there. The facilitator reported it was the first RTR women’s meeting where everyone in attendance did not get the opportunity to speak. Instead, new women introduced themselves, then women with lots of experience introduced themselves.  After an hour of introductions, the large group broke up to give everyone a chance to mingle. I mingled by carrying Lady Nell’s chair back to her camp and then helping some women with disabilities coordinate rides. I’m not very good at mingling with strangers.

So no, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous is not the same. It will never be what it once was. It was a backyard picnic and now [it’s a] state fair, Auntie M said about the RTR. I think the gathering can still be a good place for people to learn how to live nomadically, and—probably more importantly—meet other nomads. For folks who don’t mind crowds and the possibility of having their faces recorded and shared on the internet at every turn, the RTR can be a great place to learn and network. However, I’m pretty sure my RTR days are over.

Etiquette for Interacting with Van Dwellers

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I was talking to a new full-time van dwelling friend, and conversation led to a discussion of some of the things people (van dwellers and nonvandwellers alike) have done to make us uncomfortable as single women living in our vans. As a public service as the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) approaches, here are seven tips on how to politley interact with van dwellers and other folks who live in an RV or other vehicle.

  • Don’t sneak up on anyone, When approaching someone’s camp, a hearty yoohoo! or hello! announces your presence. Folks don’t like to be surprised by someone in their space, especially if the visitor is interrupting private time.
  • Try not to walk through anyone’s camp. If possible, walk on a camp’s perimeter. Give rigs a wide berth.
  • If you see someone outside their rig cooking, maybe it’s not the best time to visit. Ok, to be fair, I don’t know if visits during meal preparation bother most people, but such visits really irritate me.
  • Don’t tell other people what they need to do or buy. It’s great if you’ve figured out what works for you, but something that works for you won’t necessarily solve other people’s problems. If someone asks for or seems open to suggestions, by all means share your knowledge and success, but you don’t have to put on your bossy pants.
  • Don’t take photos of people or their rigs unless you’ve asked for and received consent to do so. Certainly don’t post such photos on social media or anywhere online without permission. If you want group shots, try taking a photo of the back of the crowd. Announce your intention to take a group shot so folks who don’t want to be in it can look elsewhere or walk away.
  • Don’t peer into windows or stick your head into open doors to take a peek inside someone’s rig. If a van dweller wants you to see the inside of the rig, you’ll be invited. If you were walking through a neighborhood and saw a cute house, would you walk right up to a window and try to look in? The people who lived in the house might not want to be friends with someone who did such a thing.
  • Unless there’s a bonafide emergency, do not enter anyone’s rig unless you have asked for and received permission to do so or have been invited in. Again, imagine you’re walking through a neighborhood. If you saw a house with an open front door, would you step inside and have a look around? I don’t think so!

When a van or RV or car is someone’s home, pleast treat it that way and don’t encroach on anyone’s privacy.

Thank you.

This public service announcement brought to you by the Rubber Tramp Artist.

I took the photo in this post.

Nice Day

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Toward the end of the camping season, the mercantile was closed for inventory. The manager worked with two ladies from the corporate office to count everything in the store. Apparently four people would have been one too many for the task because when I showed up for work, I was told my services were not needed. The Big Boss Man didn’t want me to lose pay, so he told me I could work in the campground to make up my hours. I walked over to the parking lot where The Man had my van and changed into a cobbled together camp host uniform. Back at the campground, I cleaned restrooms, raked campsites, collected access fees, gave directions, and had a very nice day.

guide, idaho, mapFor a slow parking day, I gave a lot of directions. So many people who pull into the campground or the parking lot are unsure of how to get where they’re going at best, but usually out and out lost.

I talked to a lovely young woman who wondered if she and her guy should take the time to visit the nearby national park. I told her they totally needed to visit. As I told her, while our trees are beautiful, the national park is like a magical fairy land of giant sequoias. That’s what she wanted to see, she said, so she and I discussed the best route to take.

The next people who needed directions were an old couple from West Virginia. They were totally lost. They were supposed to meet the woman’s brothers in a national park, but followed their GPS (which had been programed to our coordinates while they were still in West Virginia) to a campground hours away from where they wanted to be. I told them how to get where they wanted to go,, and they hoped the brothers would still be there.

Another older couple pulled in later in the day. I noticed their big ol’ Chevy conversion van right off. I explained the access fee of $5, and the woman in the passenger seat asked if her Golden Age card would cover it. I said it would not cover parking, but it would get them half off camping. Most people who want to use an access pass to pay for parking don’t want to camp, but this couple decided to do it. I told them what sites were available, and they drove through the campground to pick one.

I talked to them quite a bit that afternoon. The man said they were from Illinois, and when I asked about their Southern accents, he said they were from southern Illinois. I thought he was joking until he told me they do their grocery shopping in Paducah, KY. (I always forget Kentucky borders the Midwest.) They also spend a lot of time near Gulf Shores, AL, which I’m sure also enhances their accents.

I asked the fellow about his van, then told him about mine. He and his wife aren’t full-timers, but they do travel extensively in their van. Las year they’d visited the area (their daughter lives nearby) in a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, but the mountains destroyed its transmission. They already owned the conversion van, so this time they decided to travel in it. The minivan was really too small for two people, they agreed, and they were really enjoying the extra room in the larger van.

The fellow asked me if I watched YouTube videos, and I said not so much. He said he really liked watching van-build videos. He talked more about van builds, and some part of our conversation led me to say, If you go to Quartzsite, AZ in January, you can go to, and we both said, the RTR. He’d heard of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous! He said he’d never been but would love to go. I told him I’d been to three RTRs, and I became something of an instant celebrity. He was quite impressed to learn I’d been where he wanted to go.

When The Man came to the campground to pick me up that afternoon, we went over to the couple’s campsite. I wanted to introduce them to The Man, and I wanted to give them my business card with the name of my book (Confessions of a Work Camper) and my blog address on it. The four of us had a good conversation about minivans and transmissions and traveling. When we left, I said, Maybe I’ll see y’all at the RTR someday. They agreed that maybe I would.

Between meeting the people in the conversion van and going home that afternoon, I met a group of adventure, camping, forestyoung people on a birthday celebration camping trip. I showed them to their campsite and told them how to get to a secluded waterfall. They were mellow stoners—love kids—and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge of the area.

It was fun to be a camp host again, especially on a slow day near the end of the season. I didn’t have to work too hard, and I met nice, interesting people. If every day as a camp host could be that good, I’d never want to do anything else.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-navigation-guide-108942/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/forest-trees-adventure-tent-6714/.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I took the photo in this post.

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