Tag Archives: showers

Where to Go for What You Need in Quartzsite (Part 1)

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Congratulations! You’ve made it to Quartzsite, AZ. Maybe you’re going to spend weeks or months at one of the BLM Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs). Maybe you’re in town for two weeks of fun, learning, and fellowship at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Maybe you’re going to stay for one night or two weeks at one of the free BLM camping areas on your way to Yuma or Phoenix or Tucson. In any case, you’re in Quartzsite and you need some things. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, refer this handy list and let the Rubber Tramp Artist (a six-time visitor to Quartzsite) help you find what you need while you’re in town.

Food and Ice

Quartzsite has two main grocery stores, the Roadrunner Market (200 E. Main) and Coyote Fresh Food (410 E Main). Both sell ice and fresh produce and both charge small-town prices. Family Dollar (470 E. Main) and Dollar General (925 W. Main) also sell food, mostly prepackaged items, but also dairy and maybe eggs. Ice can also be found at most of the town’s gas stations, including the Love’s (760 S. Quartzsite Ave.) and Pilot (1201 W. Main).

Big Market (775 W. Main) also sells food. I have only been in the store once and was not impressed. The people who wrote reviews of this place on Yelp didn’t seem too impressed either. I think Big Market is more of a place to buy alcohol and firewood than food, but I would be glad to hear about positive experiences readers had here.

If you don’t mind buying packaged food that is recently (or not-so-recently) expired, check out the temporary “scratch and dent” food stores in town. Housed in tents, they sell everything from breakfast cereal in torn boxes, beans in dented cans, and expired everything. There’s usually one in the shopping area near the main post office, but I like the one closest to the Big Tent because their prices are low.

Free Breakfast

If you’re hungry in the mornings, go down to La Mesa RV to get free pancakes and coffee. La Mesa RV (at the IMG_4469corner of Main and Central) is in the business of selling (you guessed it!) recreational vehicles. A marketing ploy the company uses to get people on their Quartzsite lot is a free pancake breakfast six mornings a week (Monday through Saturday) from 8am to 10am.

The first time one arrives for breakfast, one must go up to the counter and fill out a card. The card has blanks for one’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. (I’ve never provided my phone number or email address and was never challenged about my omissions.) After the blanks are filled in, a woman working the counter writes one’s name on a nametag and hands it over. The nametag lasts all season, and one is required to wear it whenever one wants to eat breakfast.

Food Banks

If you’re poor and you need food, there’s no shame in visiting one of Quartzsite’s two food banks, the People’s Food Bank at the Isaiah 58 Project (100 S. Moon Mountain Avenue) and the Quartzsite Food Bank (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenue). I’ve been treated with respect and compassion at both of these food banks.

The Quartzsite Food Bank is open Tuesday and Thursday from 8am to noon. This food bank is run by a private nonprofit organization called Friends of the Quartzsite Food Bank. A representative of the organization asked me to let readers know the group accepts all donations of money or food to help them keep the doors open so they can feed hungry people.

In January of 2018 when I went to the Isaiah 58 Project food bank, they didn’t ask for any sort of ID or income verification. At the Quartzsite Food Bank, they did ask to see my ID, and I had to fill out an intake form. When they asked for my address, I simply told them I was camping on BLM land near town. At that time each of these food banks would give a person food twice a month, so it  was possible to get food every week if necessary. I would confirm current policies either in person or by telephone. (The phone number for the Isaiah 58 Project is 928-927-3124. The phone number for the Quartzsite Food Bank is 928-927-5479.)

Water

The last time I was in Quartzsite, there were water filling stations throughout town. There was a Glacier Water refill station in front of the Family Dollar and another one in front of Big Market. There was a water filling station that didn’t seem to be affiliated with any national brand near the gas station adjacent to the Burger King. RV Pit Stop (425 N. Central Blvd.) has filling stations for filtered and reverse osmosis water. Most of these water filling stations in Quartzsite charge 20 or 25 cents per gallon.

Propane

When I wrote this post (11-19-18), the RV Pit Stop website was advertising propane refills for $2.30 per gallon + tax. I bought propane there the last time I was in town and was satisfied with the service. Rose RV Park (600 E. Kuehn St. ) also advertises propane refills. Google shows Pattie’s Propane (455 E. Main St.) as a propane supplier in Quartzsite, and while I’ve passed by, I’ve never gotten a refill there. While looking for information on laundromats in Quartzsite, I also found a listing for Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central); propane is what they “fill-r-up” with.

If you’d rather do a propane tank exchange through Blue Rhino, the company propane finder page says you can do that at Big Market, RV Pit Stop, and at the Arco gas station (185 N. Riggles Avenue).

https://i1.wp.com/www.rubbertrampartist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_4459.jpgBooks

If you want to find reading material and possibly see a nudist, Reader’s Oasis Books is the place for you. Owned by naturist Paul Winer, Reader’s Oasis (690 E. Main) is huge and stuffed full of books and handwritten signs and pictures and shiny rocks and memorabilia. There is a lot to see in that store. The selection is broad, from 3 for $1 romance novels to military history to old-school children’s books to cookbooks to books on religion to books pertaining specifically to the Southwest. The bookmark I ended up buying (featuring a photo of Paul with his thumb up and sporting a big beard and shades; wearing multiple turquoise necklaces, a straw hat, and a bit of cloth over his privates) boasts over 180,000 titles, and I believe it. If you buy nothing else, splurge on a bookmark with Paul’s picture on it; otherwise the folks back home may never believe you.

The other place for books in Quartzsite is the public library (465 Plymouth Road). The library’s website says that folks who aren’t residents of Quartzsite can get a library card by presenting their photo ID. Using the library’s books, audio tapes, computers, videos and magazines is free.

The public library is also THE place in town to find public access computers with internet capabilities. You can bring your own laptop or tablet into the library and try to use their WiFi, but I’ve found that an exercise in frustration. In my experience, WiFi in the entire town of Quartzsite is slow, slow, slow, and it’s no different at the public library.

Forget about plugging your electronics in at the library to charge. A friend of mine did that a few years ago and told me a library worker accused him of stealing electricity. Wowza!

The Quartzsite Public Library is open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. It is closed Saturday, Sunday, & holidays.

Mail

You can get your mail at the Quartzsite post office (80 W. Main), but unless you rent a box there (and I don’t even know if that’s possible if you don’t live in the town), it’s going to be a huge pain in the neck. You can have your mail delivered via general delivery, but that mail can only be picked up on weekdays and only during specific hours. People arrive and get in line long before they can actually pick up their general delivery mail because when the pickup time is over, it’s OVER, no matter how many people are still standing in line.

An online review of the post office in Quartzsite says, “[g]eneral delivery must be preapproved or they will return to sender immediately. Pickups can only be done from 12 to 1.” I’m not sure those two assertions are true; I’ve never heard the first one, and I thought general delivery pickup was from 11am to 1pm. If I were going to try to get my mail via general delivery in Quartzsite, I would call the post office (928-927-6323) and get all the details before I told anyone to send me mail that way.

If I were going to receive mail in Quartzsite, I would much rather do so through Quiet Times (90 E. Main). In 2017, I had 100 copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods delivered to Quiet Times. I called ahead (928-927-8081) and was told exactly what address to use to make sure my packages got to the right place. For a very reasonable price (I think it was $10), Quiet Times received two (or was it three?) large boxes and held them for me until I could pick them up.

I’m not certain if Quiet Times receives mail sent through the USPS or only items sent through FedEx and UPS. I suggest you call now before Quartzsite turns into an absolute circus and find out if they provide the service you need, and if so, exactly what address you should give to people sending you mail. The folks who work at Quiet Times are very nice and patient and will be glad to give you all the necessary information.

On the day this post was originally published, I learned about another option for receiving mail in Quartzsite. A couple people in a Facebook group I’m in mentioned BCM Mail and Ship (852 W Cowell Street), which is apparently behind the senior center. One of the people who gets her mail there says customers pay a flat rate for the month, and there is no additional charge for receiving packages. Unfortunately, none of the links to BCM’s website worked for me, so all I can tell you is that the phone number for the business as listed by Google is 928-927-4213.

Showers

If you’re staying on BLM land for a few weeks and don’t have a shower set up in your rig, there are several places in Quartzsite where you can clean up. Both the Love’s and the Pilot truck stops have shower facilities, but you’re going to pay premium prices. On the upside, I’ve read that it’s ok for a couple to ask for a team shower and use one shower room at no additional charge. Also, I’ve never been hurried while showering at a truck stop or told I could use the facilities only for a limited time.

Your next option for cleaning yourself in Quartzsite is Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E. Main Street). I did my laundry there once, but I’ve never taken a shower at this location. A Google review from 10 months ago says a 20 minute shower costs $8 there, which is what I remember hearing at the last couple RTRs. I’ve also heard a worker does keep track of how long each customer has been in the shower room and will knock on the door after 20 minutes.

The third option for a shower in Quartzsite is a free one at the Isaiah 58 Project. I have taken showers there on several occasions.The last time I was in town, the showers were only available on weekday mornings from 9am until noon and were limited to 10 minutes per person. I’ve always encountered a line of people waiting to shower when I’ve gone first thing in the morning, but friends who’ve gone later in the morning have reported finding no line. The water is hot and the price is right, and in the past they’d even loan each person a towel if necessary. I definitely appreciate being about to take a shower for free, although I wish we could go 15 minutes instead of just 10.

This post has gone longer than I expected, and I still have lots more to share, so I’ll give you the rest of my information about where to go for what you need in Quartzsite on Friday.

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

I took all the photos in this post.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

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One day when I was in the computer lab, The Man and Jerico walked over to Wal-Mart. Once they got there, The Man needed a place to leave Jerico while he went inside to do his shopping. He attached Jerico’s leash to a tree and told the fellow in the RV parked nearby that he’d be back for the dog shortly. That’s how The Man met Mike.

I met Mike a few days later when The Man and I returned to the Wal-Mart. Mike seemed like a nice guy, but he was one of those talkers who seldom quiets long enough for anyone else to squeeze in a word or two. He was in his late 50s, maybe early 60s, and chain smoked while he talked. As far as we could tell, he stayed in the driver’s seat of his old, battered motorhome all day and watched the world of the Wal-Mart parking lot unfold.

On a subsequent visit, Mike told The Man he was waiting to be able to go back to Elephant Butte Lake State Park. The park allows campers to stay for 14 days, after which they must leave for at least a week. Mike was waiting out the time he couldn’t be at the park.

Mike had a New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. For $180 a year, New Mexico residents can buy this pass allowing them free developed (non-electric/no sewer) camping at any New Mexico state park. (The cost of the pass for residents of other states is $225.) The pass is good for 12 months from the month of purchase.

Pass holders can stay at any New Mexico state park for up to two weeks before they have to leave, but they can go directly from one state park to another. I asked Mike if he ever went to nearby Caballo Lake State Park (15 miles from the Wal-Mart) or Percha Dam State Park (23 miles from the Wal-Mart). He said because of his motorhome’s poor gas mileage, he couldn’t afford to drive to these parks. Instead, he sat at Wal-Mart in the days between his weeks at Elephant Butte Lake.

A couple days before he was to go to Elephant Butte Lake, Mike invited us to visit him there. He actually had two pass cards, one for his motorhome and one for a passenger vehicle. The second pass would go to his buddy who shared the campsite with him, but the buddy wouldn’t be in town for a few more weeks. In the meantime, we could use it to get into the park.

Mike really wanted us to camp on his site with him for two weeks. We considered the option, but ultimately decided not to take him up on his offer. The Man really didn’t want to pack up his entire camp, nor did he want to leave all his belongings unattended on BLM land for one night, much less for two weeks. I know Mike was disappointed when we showed up and said we were only going to stay a few hours. We could tell he was a really lonely guy. We hoped he thought our short visit was better than no visit at all.

According to Wikipedia,

Elephant Butte Reservoir is a reservoir on the Rio Grande in the U.S. state of New Mexico, 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Truth or Consequences. This reservoir is the 84th largest man-made lake in the United States and the largest in New Mexico by total surface area…The reservoir is also part of the largest state park in New Mexico, Elephant Butte Lake State Park.[1]

The name “Elephant Butte” refers to a volcanic core similar to Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is now an island in the lake. The butte was said to have the shape of an elephant lying on its side.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park offers primitive (dry) camping on the shores of the lake, as well as developed camping with and without electric and sewer hookups. The sites in developed areas include a covered picnic table, and drinkable water is available throughout the park.

There are multiple restrooms in the park, some with pit toilets, some with traditional flush toilets. In addition to restrooms, there are shower houses throughout the park. The way things are set up, I don’t think anyone would notice (or care) if someone from the primitive camping area used the facilities when necessary.

After visiting with Mike and some other Elephant Butte Lake campers for a couple of hours, I drove the van over to the nearest open shower house. (Our visit was in February 2017, before all the shower houses were open for the busy summer season.) The Man went to the men’s side of the building, and I went to the women’s.

It was a standard New Mexico state park shower. I had to push a button on the wall to make the water flow. After a few minutes, the water stopped flowing, and I had to push the button again. The water was warm but never got hot. I was chilly the entire time I was in there.

It wasn’t a great shower, but it was a free shower, and to this van dweller, a free shower means a lot.

Panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake

I took the photos in this post.

Brantley Lake State Park

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After a long, hot day in the city of Carlsbad, NM, The Man said he really needed a shower.

Isn’t there a state park around here? he asked.

I got on FreeCampsites.net and had a look. Although staying at state parks isn’t free, it’s often cheap, so parks with campgrounds are sometimes listed on the Free Campsites website. The closest state park that showed up in the search engine was at Brantley Lake.

I don’t remember why we didn’t look for a community or rec center with a swimming pool, as those are often good places to shower for a couple of bucks. In any case, we were soon making the 20-mile drive to the state park.

When we pulled up to the entrance to the park, I read the information board, trying to figure out where we should go. It looked like the price for primitive camping was $8 and the price for developed camping was $14. I was sure the Free Campsites page said the cost of camping in the developed area was $10 Where was the $10 option?

While I was trying to figure things out, a truck pulled over behind us. The Man backed out of its way, but it didn’t go around us and into the park as we’d expected. The truck had some sort of official looking emblem on the door, and the driver looked at me expectantly.

Go talk to him, The Man urged.

Turns out, the man in the truck was the camp host at Limestone Campground, the park’s developed area.

I confirmed that the primitive camping area had no showers. There aren’t even porta-potties down there, the camp host said. I realized later I should have asked if we were allowed to camp in the primitive area but take showers in the developed campground, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time.

At other New Mexico state parks I’ve been to (Caballo Lake, Elephant Butte Lake), primitive camping costs $8, a developed campsite with no electricity costs $10, and a campsite with electricity costs $14. I was confused when I got to Limestone Campground in Brantley Lake State Park because I couldn’t find the $10 non-electric campsites. It finally dawned on me that there was no $10 option there because all sites offered electricity. As I thought more about New Mexico state parks where I’ve stayed before, I remembered Percha Dam campground offered no primitive camping. All sites at that campground were considered “developed,” and I had to pay $10 per night when I stayed there. I learned a lesson at Brantley Lake: Every state park in New Mexico is different, and I need to do a bit more research than FreeCampsites.net to find out if a particular park offers the kind of camping I want.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. According to http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/spd/brantleylakestatepark.html, it is the southernmost lake in New Mexico. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brantley_Lake_State_Park) says the lake is

a man-made reservoir created when Brantley Dam was built across the Pecos River in the 1980s… It has a surface area of approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2), but that varies due to the inconsistent flow of the Pecos River and the arid climate in which the lake is located.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. This photo shows only a small portion of it.

The Limestone Campground is divided into two sections: one has sites that can be reserved and the other has sites that are nonreservable. We pulled into the section for folks without reservations and found several empty sites to choose from. We were visiting on a Thursday in early May, and there was plenty of room. However, if I wanted to stay at Limestone Campground on a summer weekend and I hadn’t reserved a spot, I would be sure to arrive early in the day to secure a site.

Apparently, campsites have a bar-b-que grill too. I guess I didn’t notice the one on our site.

Each site in the nonreserveable part of the campground has a flat area for parking a camper and/or a vehicle and a covered picnic table. Each site has an electrical box too, but since we didn’t need to plug in anything, we didn’t even look at the box. We took a spot next to a trail leading to the lake, but we were too tired to walk down there.

Like the rest of the campground, the women’s restroom/shower house was very clean. A woman was leaving the shower house as I arrived, and no one else came in, so I had the place to myself. I had a couple beefs about the shower, complaints I’ve also had at the other two state parks in New Mexico (Percha Dam and Elephant Butte Lake) where I’ve showered.

First, I had to press a button to start the water flow. The water ran a few minutes (3? 5?) then shut off automatically. I understand managers of state parks wanting showers to shut off automatically to cut down on pranksters or just plain forgetful people leaving the water running and flooding the place or wasting resources. However, having the water shut off during my shower harshes my mellow. Certainly, it’s not a huge problem, as I can simply reach out and push the button again, but I’d prefer a continuous water flow while I’m washing up.

The trail leading to the lake,

The second complaint is more difficult for me to shrug off. The water in New Mexico state park showers never gets hot. Yes, the water is warm. Yes, a warm shower is better (to me) than a cold one. Yes, hot water uses precious resources and opens the park to a lawsuit if someone scalds him or herself. I understand all these factors, but I love me a hot hot shower, and I can’t seem to get one at a New Mexico state park.

Of course, I was happy to get clean, even if I got a little chilly in the process. To this van dweller, a shower is always a luxury. However, I’d rather take a hot shower for $3 at a rec center instead of my paying my half of $14 or even $10 to take a warm shower at a state park.

You can also read about our experiences with primitive camping at Brantley Lake State Park.

I took all the photos in this post.

Simple Shower

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 If you click on the box below, you will go to the Amazon.com page for the Simple Shower. If you then add items to your cart and purchase them,  I will receive a commission from your purchases.

Simple Shower Portable Camping 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.)

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. 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 page 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 box at the top of 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.”

 

My Shower System

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Last summer, I spent a lot of time and money to stay clean. (Maybe I should say “cleanish” since I was only showering once a week.) I drove a minimum of thirteen miles (and sometimes as many as 73 miles) to shower. I paid a minimum of $10 (but usually $12) to shower, plus all the gas it took me to get to a place where I could clean up. I decided I had to find a better (or at least cheaper, closer) way to get clean this summer.

Zodi Outback Gear Hot Tap Travel Shower
I looked into a Zodi shower system after meeting a man last summer who told me how much he liked his. The Zodi has two components: a heating coil powered by propane (specifically, one of those small, green canisters) and a pump powered by D batteries. Cold water passes over the heating element and becomes hot (or at least warm) and the pump squirts water out, if not with as much force as a conventional shower head, at least in a gentle stream.

The Zodi seemed like a good way to go, but the $150 price tag was more than I could afford when it came time to buy supplies for the summer. On top of the cost of the Zodi, I also needed a privacy tent, the cost of which would increase my investment. I started researching other methods.

I knew I wanted something more complex than baby wipes. I used wipes last summer for in-between cleanup (and I use them for the same purpose now), but wipes just aren’t enough. I get dirty as a camp host (especially my legs, even though I wear long pants), and swipes with wipes don’t get me nearly clean enough.

I didn’t think one of those solar shower bags was going to work for me either. Most of them hold five gallons of water, which is 40 pounds. Too heavy. How am I going to carry that, much less hang it? I know I could buy a smaller one or fill a large one only partially full, but I was also concerned the plastic would suffer a puncture or come apart at the seams. Also, a shower bag needs to hang, and none of the trees on my campsite have branches at an appropriate height. I wasn’t convinced a solar shower bag would work, and I didn’t want to pay to experiment with one.

In a Facebook group I was in, a woman mentioned using a garden sprayer as a shower. When questioned, she admitted she used hers while wearing a bathing suit, out in the open, just to rinse off after hiking. But I thought I could use a similar sprayer to take a soap and water shower.

I went to Wal-Mart and poked around in the garden department. There were several sprayers to chose from. While these sprayers are intended to be used to spray a variety of pesticides, they’re sold empty, not contaminated with killer chemicals. (I don’t recommend using a sprayer that’s had killer chemicals in it.)

The sprayers I saw held either one or two gallons of water. I chose a larger one because I was concerned one gallon of water would not be enough for my cleaning need, although one gallon has proven to be plenty. I wish I had gotten the smaller one. The water in the container doesn’t get nearly as warm as does the water in one gallon plastic water jugs. Also, the less full the container is, the more pumping it takes to pressurize it.

In any case, the sprayer I bought (according to http://www.walmart.com/ip/13376325?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227008776090&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=41079622592&wl4=pla-60819427766&wl5=9031687&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=13376325&wl13=&veh=sem, it’s the RL Flo-Master Sprayer) cost under $15. (The aforementioned website lists the price as $13.86.) There may have been a one-gallon size that cost slightly less.

This is my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

This photo shows my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

Since the sprayer works through pressurization, the handle also serves as a pump. After 30 to 40 pumps, the water comes out of the nozzle in a pretty good stream, not nearly as strong as water coming out of a shower head, but strong enough to rinse soap from my body.

The second piece of equipment I wanted to buy was a privacy tent. I wanted to take full-on, soapy, naked showers, not just rinse around a bathing suit. Since I figured neither my campers nor the company I work for would want me frolicking au naturel in public, I decided I needed a privacy tent.

I researched a lot of privacy tents and read many online reviews before I settled on something. The cheap ones seemed to be poorly made. (No surprise there.) I certainly didn’t want something that ripped the first time I zipped it, even if I hadn’t paid much for it. A ripped tent is a worthless tent, even if it didn’t involve much out-of-pocket expense.

I bought a Field and Stream brand privacy tent, partially because it got good reviews and partially because I was able to buy it at a chain sporting goods store in the city where I picked up the last of my supplies before I went into the forest. I paid $64.49 for it (including tax). As of mid August (after setting it up in early June), the tent is doing great, with no rips or broken zipper.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

(Note: Nearly every review I read mentioned that while this sort of tent is super easy to set up, getting it back into a flat circle in order to return it to its carry bag is usually an ordeal. I’m not eager for the day I have to take down the tent.)

I also purchased a cheap bathmat to stand on when I’m showering, since the privacy tent doesn’t have a floor. I wear shower shoes while I’m cleaning up, so I could do without the bathmat.

My shower system isn’t complicated. In the morning of the day I want to take a shower, I carry the sprayer ( with whatever water is left in it from my last shower) and two or three plastic jugs filled with water out to the meadow. I set the water containers in a spot that will get sun for the next several hours.

After I finish my work for the day, I carry the containers of water back to my campsite. I’ve found it works best if I add one gallon of the warm water to the

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

sprayer reservoir, since the water in there stays cooler than the water in the other jugs. I place all my wash water in the privacy tent. I also place soap, shampoo, the wonderful microfiber towel my host family gave me, and a house dress in the pockets in the tent.

I get into the tent and zip the door mostly closed. As I take my clothes off, I toss them out of the tent, onto a chair I’v placed nearby for this purpose. Then I zip the door completely.

I start from my top and wash down. First I pour water from a gallon jug over my head to wet my hair. (Depending on how hot the day’s been, sometimes the water is as warm as what comes from a hot water tap.) Then I lather my hair with shampoo and use more water from the jug to rinse.

Washing my hair leaves the rest of me adequately wet. I wet a washcloth with water from one of the plastic jugs, then pour some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap onto the cloth. When I finish scrubbing one area of my body, I use the sprayer to rinse off the soap, pumping as necessary to build up pressure so I get a strong, steady stream of water. If I find a body part is no longer wet enough, I use the sprayer to squirt some water on myself.

My system would work best for someone who can set up a privacy tent where it won’t be blown away by heavy winds. It may not work very well for someone who’s changing locations a lot, although folding the privacy tent may get easier with practice. Also, one review I read indicated the owner of the privacy tent had been told s/he couldn’t shower on his her campsite because it was going to leave a soggy mess for the next campers; different locations will have different rules. I don’t think it would be a problem while boondocking on BLM land in the Southwest.

While I am happy with my shower system, I think I could have gotten along without the sprayer and just used a couple of gallons of water in jugs to clean with. In any case, it’s nice to be clean more than once a week. Of course, it’s also great not to have to spend a bunch of money to get that way.

 

 

Another Adventure in Cleanliness

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I’d decided to go to Bigger Babylon on my day off to shop at Trader Joe’s. (I especially like their precooked brown rice.  For $1.69, you get a couple of servings. Sure, I could buy raw brown rice cheaper, but by the time I used fuel to cook it for 45 minutes, I don’t think I’d be saving much–if any–money.)

I checked for truck stops in Bigger Babylon and discovered there was a Flying J with showers and public laundry facilities. Flying J is my favorite of the truck stop brands, so I was happy to find one.

I arrived around eight o’clock on a Monday night. The first thing I did was look for the laundry facilities. The three washers and six dryers were tucked in a narrow hallway between the truckers’ lounge (which consisted of about a dozen padded, possibly comfy chairs and a flat screen television mounted high up on the wall) and the showers.

As I looked across the truckers’ lounge, I noticed a woman sitting in the back row of chairs. Lone women lingering at truck stops are rare enough to be noticeable. Of course, there are women truckers and the wives of truckers who ride along, but this woman had a certain look about her. Her short blond hair was slicked back. She was wearing all black, and although she was a big woman, her top was sleeveless and strapless, showing off a large tattoo on her upper chest. (I think the tattoo was a word, a name perhaps, but I didn’t let my eyes linger on it long enough to read it.) She was wearing a “gold” choker made up of large, rectangular links. But really though, it was the shoes that gave her away. No trucker or trucker’s wife would be wearing shoes like those at the Flying J. They were black with high, high heels. She was sitting with one knee crossed over the other, dangling one of those ridiculous shoes off the end of her toes. If we’d been in a strip club, I’d have thought of them as stripper shoes, but since we were in a truck stop, all I could think was HOOKER!

I’ve been in a lot of truck stops all over the United States of America, and I have never before looked at a woman in one of them and so clearly thought HOOKER. (I’ve heard that prostitutes that work truck stops are referred to as “lot lizards.” See Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=lot+lizard) I’m not scandalized by sex workers and don’t think it’s necessarily morally wrong to buy or sell sex, but this woman didn’t look particularly enpowered or even happy. She looked really sad. What could be sadder than a truck stop hooker sitting in the truckers’ lounge and getting no attention? What career choices does a lady have once she has failed as a truck stop hooker?

I walked through the truckers’ lounge, trying not to give off any vibes that would attract attention, making eye contact with no one. I dumped some detergent in two of the washers and loaded in my clothes. There was no change machine in the laundry area, so I had to walk back through the lounge and to the front counter registers to get quarters. Each washer cost $2.25 a load, so I put in the quarters and let the machines get to work.

It was so hot outside and especially in my van, that I just stayed inside and texted friends while waiting for my clothes to be ready for the dryer. The dryers also cost $2.25 each. A sign on one of them said a cycle lasted 45 minutes. Although the dryer did run for a really long time, my clothes were still disappointingly damp when the cycle ended. I was not going to pay another $2.25 or hang around in there any longer, so I just folded my clothes and shoved them in my tote bags, knowing that the desert heat would dry everything. Unfortunately, my work shirts didn’t look clean, and in fact maybe looked worse than they did before going through the wash. I won’t do laundry there again.

After a hot and mostly sleepless night in the van, I went inside before 6am and paid $12 for a shower. After waiting no more than fifteen minutes, my shower customer number (69) was called, and the recorded computer man directed me to shower 2. For a moment I was confused because the door was closed, and I hadn’t been given a key. Then I realized that I had to enter the PIN on my receipt into the keypad next to the door. After putting in the code, the green light lit up, and I was in. Like the Love’s shower I reported on before, this one was impeccably clean. No mold. No mildew. No dirt. And the door had a deadbolt I secured from the inside.

Although I have no complaints about my shower at this Flying J, I won’t go out of my way to do it again.

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/17/adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/18/more-adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/09/adventures-in-cleanliness-revisited/.

Adventures in Cleanliness Revisited

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I was in Babylon, sitting in my van in front of a thrift store, talking to the Jewelry Lady. I was telling her about my shower (mis)adventures and complaining about how hot it was in the valley. I said I needed to find a park so I could sit in the shade of a tree while I talked on the phone.

The Jewelry Lady asked if the town had a pool. I said I didn’t know, but I’d check into it. Pools have locker rooms and locker rooms have showers. Right?

When I got on the internet, I searched for information about the town pool. Yes, there was one. Yes, it was open this very evening. Admission price for adults: $2.

I called the pool to check on the shower situation. Yes, the woman on the phone told me, there were locker rooms, although there were no lockers in the locker rooms. And yes, there were showers in the locker rooms.

I was so excited. The $2 admission fee was approximately 1/6 of what I’d pay for a shower at the Love’s and I wouldn’t have to drive the 40 mile round trip out of my way. With those kind of savings, I could afford to take another shower the next afternoon when the pool opened again.

I packed a tote bag (soap, shampoo, washcloth, towel, razor, clean underwear, deodorant, clean shirt and skirt, and bathing suit, in the event I decided to get into the pool) and put on my purple plastic shower shoes.

I arrived at the pool about half an hour after it opened. The place was packed. There were little kids, teenagers, and adults filling the water. There were no poolside chairs, but people (mostly adults) were sitting around the pool, up against the fence surrounding it. I smelled the chemical tang of chlorine and heard the splashes, squeals, and laughter that seem to accompany all public pools.

I also noticed that I was quite possibly the only person of non-Latino/a heritage in the place. Not that it mattered to me one way or another, but I was the only only white girl I saw.

I stood in line, paid my $2, signed the waiver.

I walked through the entrance marked both “girls” and “women,” entered the locker room. Straight ahead were three or four toilet stalls. In the middle of the room were benches. To my left, there they were, the showers.

There were four shower heads mounted on the back wall, no walls of any sort between them. No curtains. No walls. No stalls.

As I stood there awkwardly, contemplating my situation, people (mostly little girls) were in and out of the locker room. Some of them decided to follow the order on the sign directing folks to shower before swimming. They turned on the water and were immediately squealing about how cold the water was. Of course. Showers meant to provide a rinse before one jumped into the pool on a summer day were not going to have hot water.

Maybe I could take a cold shower behind a curtain or door. Maybe I could take a hot shower out in the open with my excruciatingly white ass on display. But a cold shower out in front of God and everyone? Forget it.

I was soon on the road to the Love’s.

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/17/adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/18/more-adventures-in-cleanliness/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.

More Adventures in Cleanliness

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My first few weeks as a camp host were too cold to worry about showering. Even if I had some armpit funk going on, who could possibly smell it through my shirt and my other shirt and my thick Carhartt jacket? I swiped my armpits and ass and crotch with wet wipes every couple of days while shivering in front of my little propane heater and called it good.

But then the weather warmed up, and I moved to my summer campground home. I realized the time had come to find a place to shower.

I’d looked at solar camping showers online and at the Big 5 Sporting Goods in Babylon. Basically, a solar camping shower is a thick black plastic bag one leaves in the sun until the water heats to a comfortable temperature. Then one hangs the thick plastic bag, and the water comes down a tube and out of a nozzle. In the campground, I’d have to use it in a privacy tent.

The inexpensive privacy tent I looked at online got poor customer reviews. It took two people to set it up. It was poorly made. It had to be hung from a tree. The ones that got better reviews were more than I wanted to pay. At the Big 5, the only privacy tent available looked just like the cheap ones I saw online. I didn’t know how I’d be able to hang it from a tree or how I’d install it alone, so I gave up on the solar shower idea.

I’d read about a hot springs “resort” 15 miles from my campground. The review mentioned showers were available. Entrance to the resort cost $12 for the whole day, which didn’t sound so bad for a shower and unlimited soaking.

I arrived about an hour after the resort opened. From my parking space, I could see the outdoor swimming pool (into which is pumped the spring water) and the two smaller hot pools. The entire outdoor area was overrun by shrieking, splashing junior high school kids.

The woman working explained to me that the kids were on a field trip and would be there for another three hours. My plans for relaxation shot, I decided I still wanted a shower.

I descended the stairs to find a locker room that looked more “poor school district junior high school” than “resort.” It didn’t look dirty so much as decrepit. The colors were drab. The lighting was depressing. Small lockers lined two walls. One of the long benches was extremely warped, making the sitting surface angled instead of flat. The toilet stalls were claustrophobia-inducing, and when I sat on a toilet, it rocked. The shower stalls were separated by rigged up curtains that were too small for the job they were being asked to do. When I went into the stall, I found no hook for hanging my towel or robe and no shelf upon which I could place my toiletries.

I threw my robe and towel over the toilet stall wall which also served as one of the walls of my shower stall and hoped they wouldn’t get totally wet. I placed my shampoo, soap, and razor on the concrete floor and balanced my glasses on the shower head.

I hadn’t shaved my legs since I’d left the city. On my way to the hot springs, I had been undecided about putting on my bathing suit and getting into a public hot tub with my hairy legs on display. But as soon as I saw the mob of young teenagers, I knew there was no way I’d let them see my hairy legs.

So I got in the shower and began to shave my legs. I’d taken my glasses off because once they get steamed up and wet, I can’t see through the lenses. Of course, without my glasses, my vision is pretty bad. I can see that I have legs, and I know they’re covered with hair, but I’m working mostly by feel, with a little visual supplementation. It’s not a quick or easy process, and since I was going to put on a bathing suit (shudder!), I couldn’t stop at my knees. (Of course, I could and can do whatever I want with my own legs, but since I did not want to discuss my leg hair with a bunch of 12 year olds, I gave into peer pressure involving strangers who weren’t even my peers!)

While I was doing shower shaving yoga, packs of preteen girls were in and out of the locker room without adult supervision. There was much shrieking bouncing off the metal lockers. At one point a girl pulled back my curtain to see who was in the shower. I’m not sure what parts of my anatomy she saw, but I feel like it’s not my fault if she’s scarred for life since I didn’t invite her to open that curtain.

On the plus side, the water coming from the shower head was hot and plentiful, and it did feel good to scrub up.

I went back to the “resort” earlier this week for a shower and a soak. When I got down to the women’s locker rook, there were no curtains around the shower heads. Good thing I’m not shy, I thought as I stripped. I noticed that the ceiling above the shower area looks old and the paint on the concrete floor is peeling. I also noticed what looked like cobwebs covered in dirt (or maybe plant matter) stuck to the wall of the shower area. Gross!

As I was getting into my swimsuit, one of the workers came into the locker room and started spraying some kind of chemical cleaner on the shower wall. She apologized for the lack of curtains and said she had taken them down so she could clean. When I cam back from soaking, the curtains were hanging again, still too small for the job they were asked to do.

I had to drive out of my way for the second shower I paid for. The city I usually go to on my days off doesn’t have a truck stop, but there’s a Love’s Travel Stop about twenty miles north. I spent the night in my van in the parking lot, then  went inside around 6am for my shower.

I was half afraid I’d be asked for trucker credentials or called out as an imposter, but instead the woman at the counter took my $11 and gave me the key to my shower room, which was anticlimactically wonderful. The door locked securely. The room (which included a sink, mirror, toilet, and shower stall) was private and sparkling clean. (I didn’t see one speck of dirt, mold, or grime anywhere in the room.) I was given two blue towels and a blue washcloth to use. The shower stall had a shelf for my toiletries and unlimited super hot water. There was no limit on how long I could use the room, so I took  my time scrubbing up, drying off, lotioning, and dressing.

The third shower I tried was at an independently owned truck stop on a different route to Babylon. A co-worker mentioned to me that the Shell station at a certain crossroads had showers, and sure enough, when I pulled into the hot and dusty parking lot, the letters on the side of the building proclaimed “Propane Showers Fuel.”

I went inside to scope things out. The lone worker was mopping the restrooms. The merchandise on the shelves looked old. The whole place seemed tired.

Another customer was waiting to pay at the counter. I joined him. The mopping worker bellowed for assistance. I think he was shouting a name, but I couldn’t be sure. No one materialized.

The worker washed his hands, then helped the guy in front of me. When it was my turn, I asked the cost of the shower. The worker said I didn’t need a shower. (I think that was his way of joking or maybe flirting.) I told him I did need a shower, and he said it would be $10. I told him I’d get my stuff and be right back.

When I came back in, he took my $10 and gave me the key to shower room #3. To get there, I had to walk to the back of the convenience store part of the establishment, through a doorway, and past a droopy, dingy couch that must have been the trucker’s lounge.

The shower room reminded me of countless scummy cheap motel rooms I’ve stayed in. Part of the plastic plate around the light switch was missing. When I unfolded the threadbare towel on the counter near the sink, I saw a faded black stain on it that looked like a smudge of engine oil. A bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap left by a previous shower client were sitting on the back of the toilet. I opened the cabinet doors under the sink just to see what was stored there (more towels? cleaning supplies? gold?) and found that the particle board floor of the cabinet had gotten wet and partially disintegrated, but no one had bothered to gather and throw away to broken, blackened chunks. The entire room was dingy and poorly maintained.

Then I slid open the door to the shower stall. The stall was spacious with ledges to set my toiletries and two little bench areas where I could sit to shave my legs.

The shower stall was also filthy.

It looked not as if truckers had been showering there, but as if the diesel mechanics who worked on the trucks had been showering there.

Have you ever brought your car to a repair shop and used the restroom while waiting? Did you notice that the sink looked grungy, as if the washing of greasy, dirty mechanic hands had stained the sink to the point that no amount of scrubbing was ever going to bring it back to gleaming white? That’s how this truck stop shower stall looked.

But I was there, and I had paid. By that point I was as hot and dusty as the parking lot, and I really wanted to clean up. I was once again grateful for my purple shower shoes. And I did not let my butt touch either of those benches.

I don’t typically go through my life worrying about being raped, but being naked and wet and having my glasses off makes me feel vulnerable. I wondered about the security of the door’s lock, which was the kind on the doorknob, probably easily jimmied or kicked in. I wondered if the worker had another key that he could use to let himself in. I didn’t like that the shower rooms were isolated from the busy part of the building. Resolved to fight if anything scary went down, I started scrubbing my dirty self.

When I began my shower shaving yoga, I wondered if there were hidden cameras filming me. Would I end up on the internet? Probably not. There probably aren’t enough women showering there to make installing hidden cameras worth the time and effort. In my particular case, there’s probably not much of a market for fat, wet, naked, middle-age lady hidden camera video footage.

Once I was scrubbed and dressed, I had to pass the front counter to get out of the store. The worker asked how my shower was, and I lied and said great while thinking (Scarlett O’Hara style) As God is my witness, I’ll never shower here again!

When I go to Babylon, I’ll drive the extra miles (and pay the extra dollar) to shower at Love’s, where the room is clean and the door locks securely.

 

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/17/adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/09/adventures-in-cleanliness-revisited/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.

Adventures in Cleanliness

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

The answer of course is It depends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does your van have a shower?

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

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

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

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