Dawn at the Dog Park, Quartzsite, AZ

I was going to title this blog, Two Bitches in Heat at the RTR!

I’m a dog breeder and can say things like that!  I mean the title literally. First one and then the other of my Lagotto Romagnolo girls came in Season. Jean-Beans came in over two months late. If she’d managed a few weeks earlier I’d have skadoodled 1,200 miles north to Port Angeles to visit her “boyfriend” and gone truffle hunting along the way.  But, Ms Jeana delayed long enough that to breed her would annul the remainder of my year. Breeding from a reputable breeder is a careful and loving activity, not done in haste or without time to nurture, socialize and teach the pups. What to do, what to do?  I’d wanted to attend the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) since its inception. I’d conversed with Bob Wells on Plenty of Fish but never met having been distanced from my Joylon who then died; life is complicated.  Cheap RV Living: How to live or Travel in a Car, Van or RV – and Love it!!

Some years back, I drove to Quartzsite, The Rock Capital of the World, and failed to find gold, valuable ore or the off-road location of the RTR. I looked at all the stuff for sale in and around The Big Tent as I’ve done on other occasions; in the Winter there’s a large collection of almost anything you can think of with the Sell-A-Rama, the Outdoor Market Center, the Rock & Gem Show, the Arts  & Crafts Fair, and the RV Show.  One could shop for days or weeks or longer if they were so inclined!

On that trip my eyes were hazy, I could barely see with milky floaty stuff, little dots, a black circle and shifting blurs amid stabbing headaches and anxiety; I’d given up trying to find the RTR with a wretched mood unable to interpret directions that made no sense, driving the long way home all that night. I swore I was done with this group of nomads . . . . but the RTR has grown. There is a Women’s RTR now too, it was in a tiny spot called Bouse, AZ. I thought about attending that but I did not. 

Starting to explore the “streets of the RTR campground.

It was actually last January when I determined I really did want to join the RTR, learn about solar, how to find locations for Boondocking, maybe meet some people. Last year here in Southern California smoke cloaked our lungs from the Thomas Fire burning 281,893 acres from Ventura up to Goleta, then nature demonstrated her even more fierce catastrophic abilities in a debris flow hitting the newly burned area in Montecito; boulders at 100 mph slicing homes into pieces, taking lives, depositing mud along with the massive obstructions that had to hauled away, shutting down the 101. The way around was laborious, I stayed to offer help, I didn’t make it out of town.

 

This time deciding reluctantly to push breeding Jeana until her next season and having been unable to breed my darling Olympia months prior due to political pressures in the dog-world leaving me sad and sans income, I forlornly with growing agitation starting packing my rig, bogged down and slow.  At last I took Jackson, my intact boy, to my mother’s and the next day around 10 am headed south to Arizona. I’d read that the Women’s RTR was expecting 500 to 1,000 people and the regular RTR from 8 to 10,000! I DON’T DO CROWDS!

Be not afraid, we would have lots of room, it would be all good. Bob and friends posted detailed videos on how to get to the RTR and how we introverts and non-crowd, independent type people should come. That the RTR was for us and we would be okay. I made it to Quartzite the day I started, arriving in the dark and TIRED. I hadn’t eaten that day. Several times I drove to what I thought was free dispersed camping in the dark as indicated by one of my apps only to find a shutdown kiosk for Long Term Visitor Camping. You pay $40 to stay 2 weeks. Or $180 for a permit that allows you to stay from August through April.  With the Government closed the kiosk was closed but the signs said to pay. It wasn’t a lot of money, I was CONFUSED, tired, irritable and driving in circles, did I mention I hadn’t eaten, of course I’d fed and walked my dogs. I was eager to admit defeat, there was precedent, I couldn’t find this thing in the middle of nowhere and Quartzsite wasn’t making sense to me, maybe it was best to go home. Why was I doing this with dogs in Season, was I crazy?

I slipped into one of those commercial RV sardine type RV Parks, my space in-between 2 other campervans  which had attracted me (there were only 3 spots available in the Park.) Ugh, it was directly under a big tall super ridiculous BRIGHT spotlight. I plugged in and turned on my tiny electric heater. I shunned the bathhouse, the Wi-Fi and the pet area. I hated this Park, only my spot had this nascent light. No one was afoot, my neighbors never arrived, the rigs must have been stored and waiting for the upcoming explosion of activity when Quartzite turns into a magical calling for RVers.  Turns out there are a ton of RV Parks here and if you are not paying daily rates some are only $1,200 for the entire year or $180 for the season.

 

When no one’s around however you can make up any story you like. I left the RV Park before dawn, took the dogs to a city park with no grass, gave them breakfast and a walk, found an empty dog park and threw the ball for Olympia. Next I filled the gas tank and bought some last minute food supplies, including some perfect fat oranges (the type I can never find in my home town) and extra water at the Roadrunner Market. The sun was up and I could see! Wow! I watched Bob’s detailed videos on how to get to the RTR on my cellphone, plugged in the coordinates and I was off back over the torn up road I’d grumbled over the night before. Later people were telling that if you went about 40 mph it smoothed the road out; ha-ha in my LT Daisy her contents would be flung into a leaky wreck on the floor with broken latches, a stinky mess and terrified dogs.  It is rather funny when something does fall into the isle, my Mason who rides shotgun on the passenger seat gives me the look and sorta points with his nose…  hey look, it’s happened again, is it something eatable?

I let the torn rough, pitted, bumpy, loud pockmarked pavement with it’s deep potholes dictate LT’s wayfinding, it was fine. Once you turn onto the dirt its better. This morning I was not intimidated, I was curious. Life doesn’t stop when you turn 65, humans are meant for movement, challenges and action, three of my four dogs agreed!!! My boy Jackson is a wimp when it comes to rough roads, he hates them, but he wasn’t here with us.

In daylight, I saw there’s plenty of land to camp on for free.  One barely needed directions with the stream of rigs headed across the crappy road. I cried with a flooding joy as I approached the RTR seeing van campers and little B’s just like my LT Daisy, more than I’d ever seen, just like me! It was love! It was majestic, like the opening scene in an epic movie. I enjoyed that feeling as I arrived moving across the desert road, the big dip and the curve . . . I’d made it to the alternative world at Scaddan Wash! I could tell, from the calm organized, yet directionless, non dogmatic volunteers helping everyone settle in, we were free here. We would be respected and we were welcome. There were a few rules, mostly courtesy and safety. Did I want day parking near the stage, or, one of the volunteers said, we just opened up that area off to the right, down that road, past the main event area, its prime and quiet and not crowded. I did that. Found a picturesque spot, no one near, parked with my double doors to the desert, grabbed the dogs and hoofed the newly bulldozed temporary road to the meeting area.

Heard the last 30 min of the morning session; people were gathered, sitting in their camp chairs, standing in the sun. A senior kinda crowd, some young, a lot not so young. A warm ambiance, welcoming, a delight of being out here on a patch of unspoiled desert. Each brings everything they need, food, water, shelter, pets, art, music, bikes, firewood, their vehicles, a few porta potties were provided fro those in tents and one large trash dumpster which quickly had too much in it. Everything in also goes out, you don’t leave trash, poop, junk or anything else. There was sound equipment for the stage, info booths where you could get a name button, a little burning van made of stiff cardboard for the last day, a large bulletin board with index cards and push pins for us to post as we wished and a free area where you could place an item you didn’t need and/or take an item you did need; all nearly sorted. And yes, everything was FREE! Bob, at one of the lectures said the setup for the camp cost him $20,000, but it was at no charge to us, donations happily accepted but it was his gift to us fellow nomads and wanta be nomads.

 

I stayed longer than I expected. After that horrible night in the town of Quartzite I wasn’t expecting the RTR to be fun but right away I met my new tribe, special people that I can’t wait to connect with again! How did that happen!  I joined them several nights at our campfire, laughing, chatting, connecting, even a marshmallow roasting contest …  OMG. I haven’t laughed like that since well, since before Jolyon became ill, since before I lost Forrest.

 

There was exploration, beauty, drama, learning and seeing cool stuff, a lot of walking and carrying my fold up camp chair back and forth, meeting great people, telling about my dogs, discovering people I really liked and loved and others I was neutral about. Several guys crushed on me, I hadn’t expected that at all!

I did require a bit of rescuing a few times or I thought I did.  One of my neighbors attempted to take apart the furnace on my rig as it was blowing only cold air in the 40 deg night. He explained how he was a mechanic who lived on a farm, his rig for the RTR was his car where he sat most of the time in the passenger seat reading his books, smoking handmade cig’s, drinking a beer, hitting on his medical marijuana and preparing vegan meals on his outside grill and cast iron pan. He had health problems, I heard his life story, It’s was different life, not expected.  Working on my rig seemed to give him purpose, he at one point said he’d wanted to impress me but he couldn’t fix it. Then my bed which is also a couch wouldn’t go back down again…  I was bad with these hours, uncomfortable with what was being done to my LT Daisy and now, no heat and no bed!!!  I almost went home  right then in the beginning of the night, miserable but my other neighbor on the other side of me talked me out of it along with a call to my mom, no sense driving right into a flooding California storm. One of my admirers who was crushing on me offered to house me and my dogs for the night, keep us all warm; I declined.  I turned on the van’s engine for 2 hours as the heating pad for Mason had totally drained my house battery, then my bed went down and I had some heat! I took to idling the engine after that for about 20 min each night to warm it up before getting under the covers.

 

I clicked with an amazing woman I met, she impressed me; I stopped to talk to her as she’d posted a big sign on her rig saying she had no friends and where she’ was from. She’d flown across the country, rented a small Class C, think this was her first RV experience. She wanted to learn about the van camper lifestyle and she did! I found her inquisitive, buoyant and outgoing, she’s part of my tribe now, one of those I can’t wait to see again and it was there I found my campfire group, such cool people; traveled, wise, fun, friendly and filled with loving kindness.

I met a couple that had just completed ecological upgrades on their home in Paradise CA when the fire destroyed everything they had, all they had left was their trailer, a truck and their van and their bright spirits.  I talked to a lot of campers with their dogs, a couple from Canada with a Great West on a Sprinter van, that’s a rare rig now.  My dogs and i would hike the temporary “city” chatting with friendly rough looking men that I’d not otherwise approach, couples, families, groups of friends, solo women. Campers were in tents, sleeping in their SUV’s or small cars, topnotch rigs completely outfitted for the backwoods and desert survival along with homemade rigs.  Vans, scooters, bicycles and motorcycles were everywhere, van-campers and other Class B’s old and new, I saw a red Travado on the Promaster with a cool add-on zip up room (yep still dreaming about a upgrade to my good ol’ Daisy.. shhhh) Class C’s, popups, trailers, Class A’s and hippy buses small and large. I wanted to walk the entire encampment but it was impossible, folks crammed in close on designed communities and streets but were also stretched into the canyon as far as they could drive.  I ambled talking to the musicians, the artists, the builders, the survivalists, the women and answering a lot of questions about my pack of canines.

Once I figured out my CA clock was an hour off of Arizona time I attended almost all of the three times a day seminars held at the main stage, dragging my camp chair and the dogs with me. My girls in were snappy to other canines, they can be like that even when not in Heat but they are so cute and they adore humans so it turned out okay.

I will be implementing new things I’ve learned.   There were a plethora of activities posted on the bulletin board some I tried to get to, but generally I was too busy, or in the case of the very early morning dog walk and mediation it was too cold!  I woke before dawn everyday (and yes, for those that want to know, I stay up late too) but waited until the sun  peaked before getting out of my covers. I’d bundle Mason in a cocoon since we had no heat, he liked that, I think he had more blankets than me, the Lagotto girls of course were happy as stars. Mason won a lot of hearts and warmed many happy laps.

 

 

The RTR filled my heart. My new tribe suggested I give a seminar next year on how to travel with pets, maybe I will do that.

I never got out my paints or books, I didn’t expect there to be so much to do as I’m not one who generally stays put in one place for long. I cooked delicious meals, kept my rig as clean as one could in the middle of the desert with star filled midnight potty walks and carrying Mason who was not crazy about the hard sharp cold rocks under his paws.

 

I did have drama starting the evening before I left; it had begun to rain so instead of the campfire I decided to attempt the singles meeting (better to be called solo meeting,) I left the dogs and my chair in the van heading out with my big red umbrella.  It didn’t take long for me to tire of conversing around the large bonfire in the now pouring rain in the pitch darkness so I started back missing the company of my dogs. I’d walked this way so many times now, I could have done it blindfolded, but this time there was not one star to be seen, the temporary roadway-path could not be separated from non-roadway as it melted into the pelting rain. I passed my friends rigs, so I knew I was on course but I did not arrive at mine.  I couldn’t believe it so I  walked back to the main stage and started over, thinking how nuts that was. I did this several times, starting to get tired. What was going on? Finally I just stood in the rain with my failing flashlight, searching rig to rig; new people had come in and some had left but yet I still could not find my way.  An hour or so later I was sad, missing my dogs and trying not to panic, thinking that would not help. I saw a woman and I ran over, she lent me her headlamp, then disappeared into her rig, it didn’t help, then I spotted a young man, he told me not to worry, he’d trained as a rescuer and would help me. We walked back to the main stage in the rain and he stayed by side listening to my directions on where I parked, we walked that way as I’d done over and over hours earlier and bingo there it was!  When I’d found him I was across the flooded gully on the opposite side of camp; how in the world? My only explanation is UFO’s. Obviously I was transported for a quick chat by aliens, they wiped clean my memory and dropped me back on the route to my rig but they made a mistake and plopped me down on the wrong side. Obviously that’s what happened, right?

I’d seen objects with bright lights flying, zipping around and flashing in the air earlier that day; drones, industrial lasers, I’d assumed. I’d also seen even more bizarre unexplained lights doing impossible stunts. So later they came back and took me, right?  I was so happy to see my dogs calm and safe waiting for me!

Jeana was sick that night, she eats everything she sees so who knows what it was. She makes this barely audible whimper, not like my Jackson who is loud and dramatic, Jeana is so quiet.  I slipped on my Gore-tex boots, rain jacket and grabbed the red umbrella, there was a river under my rig! Uh-oh!  I’d parked on sand the last time I’d re-positioned (too long a story there) and not on the hard pack. I knew not to do that, but who knew it would rain for a solid 12 hours?  The weather apps didn’t say that. Jeana needed out a few times, and out we went popping into the deepening muddy stream, she loves the rain. In the morning my neighbor, who’d talked me into staying wanted to out, desperatly ranting about the rain and how all 8 to 10,000 souls of use were stuck now, it was a disaster, he said! The road out was flooded, we’d be trapped, forced into a REAL survivalist event. He was a ex-military type. Wow! I had no idea he’d be this way. I calmed him down the best I could, then went back in my rig to try to dry off a little. Just wait, I thought it’s the desert it will dry out or with all these well prepared types around someone could give him a tow. Instead he started up his van spinning those wheels hard, sinking to the axles.  Fortunately he stopped. Hmm, guess guys are not the calm ones are they?

I  gave him some time and tried calming him down again.  I told him that surely with all these people here at the RTR there would be many able to tow him out.  I don’t think he believed me but sure enough the next neighbor down one more from us pulled out his  SUV and towed him out, the mud was like butter, so soft. We all cheered! I asked that same neighbor to help me get my rig back onto the hard pack. He wanted me to try driving out so I stuffed mats under the wheels, put my rig into first gear, lightly tried the accelerator and immediately sunk. He towed me out too and yep more cheering! I gave him a big happy hug!  And Lesson To Self…. try remembering the stuff you know about saftey!

Some people called AAA. AAA refused to come out, we were not after all on a public or even a private roadway. Seminars were cancelled that day as the broadcast equipment could not be set up.  I thought that was a mistake, people needed a group meeting to talk about the rain and the sinking sand. I was sure it would dry out. I left around 2 or 3 pm, that afternoon, it was still raining even though the rain was supposed to have ended by then. I wanted to stay, I was really HAPPY but I was cold and Mason was having achy limbs. When he’s especially cold or challenged by rough surface his right front leg bends and he limps. I’d stayed longer than I’d imagined I would.  Likely there were people here would could fix the furnace, the frig, the leaking valve to the toilet and help me with solar but it was time to head out. My new RTR clan told me next time there was trouble to call them and they’d think of something, we hung out as i said goodbye.  I loved them. I really did not expect that.

I took off over the flooded dirt road following a slow line of others, we all made it. the rain and wind on the interstate was strong but the moment I crossed the CA border it stopped and the sun came out. That night I camped at Chiriaco Summit free dry camp behind the General Patton Museum just before the I-10 descends into Indio. There are about 20 sites, easy and flat, not far from Joshua Tree. Right now with the government shutdown we heard that Joshua trees are being cut down and destroyed at  the National Park, I suggested we send a few thousand of us rubber tramps to put a stop to that. What’s wrong with people!

I talked to a long distance bike rider at the campground, gave him some of my food as he was a bit stranded recovering from an injury and waiting for his friend. His setup is perfect, there’s room in his tent as needed for his bike and all his gear. He says he rides over 20,000 miles a year and is off to China to ride soon. Amazing.

 

Thank you to Bob Wells, his team of volunteers, the seminar speakers, to the people creating and attending the RTR. There is a growing light in all the darkness when people give and share.  I heard criticisms of the RTR, but you know what, there’s no need to be there if you don’t want to be, go to Burning Man where you can pay; camp in the desert on your own.  If you don’t like a few rules, that’s fine, you don’t need to be there, make your own way.

https://www.cheaprvliving.com/rtr/

 

https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_geologic_origin.php