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 and gone truffle hunting along the way. But, Ms Jeana delayed long enough that to breed her would annul the remainder of my year. 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 strange 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, 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 tried 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; the signs says 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 heat, was I crazy? I slipped into one of those paid 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 a 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 and extra water at the Roadrunner Market. The sun was up, I could see! Wow! I’d watched Bob’s detailed videos on how to get to the RTR, I plugged the coordinates into my cell phone 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, 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 and potholes dictate LT’s wayfinding, it was fine. Once you turn onto 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 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 joyous relief as I approached the RTR Camp, 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 . . . the dirt road, the big dip and 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. 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 – 45 min or so 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, some porta potties were provided 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, a stage, info booths where you could get a name button, a little burning van for the last day, a large bulletin board with index cards and push pins for us to post as we needed, a free area where you could place an item you didn’t need and/or take an item you did need, it was 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.

I stayed longer than I expected. After that horrible night in the town of Quartzite I wasn’t expecting the RTR to be fun. 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 campfires, laughing, chatting, connecting, 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, people I really liked and loved and some 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 neighbor attempted to take apart the furnace on my rig as it was blowing only cold air in the 40 deg night. The fellow was a mechanic who lived on a farm.  He was in a car, sitting most of the time in the passenger seat reading his book, smoking handmade cig’s, drinking a beer, hitting on his medical marijuana, preparing vegan meals on his outside grill and cast iron pan. He had health problems, I heard his life story, It’s was different, 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 he was doing and now, no heat and no bed!!!  I almost went home miserable but my other neighbor talked me out of it and a call to my mom, no sense driving right into a flooding California storm. One of my new admirers offered to house me and my dogs for the night, keep us all warm, but I declined.  I turned on the van’s engine for 2 hours as the heating pad for Mason 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.

A woman I’d met became a shining brightness for me, I clicked with her and was impressed by her. She’d flown across the country, rented a small Class C to attend the RTR, I think this was her first RV experience. She wanted to learn about this 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 someday along with the really cool people at our campfire, some disabled, well-traveled, wise, fun, friendly and filled with loving kindness.

I met all kinds of people, including a couple that had just completed ecological upgrades on their home in Paradise CA when the fire destroyed everything, all they had left was their trailer, van and truck and their good spirits.  I met campers with dogs, esp a couple from Canada with a Great West on a Sprinter van, that’s a rare rig now. I’d hike the “city” with my dogs and people would chat. Friendly rough looking men that I’d not otherwise approach, couples, families, groups of friends, solo women. Some had tents, sleeping in their SUV’s or small cars , others rigs completely outfitted for the backwoods and desert survival, lots of homemade rigs.  Vans, scooters, bicycles and motorcycles were everywhere, van-campers and other Class B’s old and new, I saw a red Travado with a cool add-on zip up room, Class C’s, popups, trailers, Class A’s and hippy buses small and large. I attempted walking the entire encampment but it was impossible, folks were not only crammed in close in some areas (there were designed community areas and street names, done as temporary city to help us find our way,) but were also stretched out into the canyon as far as they could go so I ambled talking to the musicians, the artists, the builders, the survivalists, the women and esp to those attracted by my 3-pack of canines.

Once I figured out my CA clock was an hour off I attended most of the three times a day seminars in the main stage area, dragging my camp chair and the dogs with me. My girls in Heat were snappy to other canines getting too close, like me they are not the flirtatious type! Over the course of my travels I will be implementing what I’ve learned.  Posted on the bulletin board were a plethora of activities, some I tried to get to, but generally I was too busy, or in the case of the early morning dog walk and mediation too cold!  I woke before dawn everyday (and yep, I say up late too) but waited until the sun was peaking before getting out of my covers. I’d bundle Mason in a cocoon, he liked that, I think he had more blankets than me, the girls of course were stars wherever they went except for their barky mood; little Mason won a lot of hearts and warmed some very happy laps!

Next time I go traipsing’s off where it’s cold, bring a silicon hot water bottle with a cover, repack that down sleeping bag, it doesn’t take that much room. I know what’s the chance my furnace would  fail again, but I will be prepared.

I’m not going to talk about all I learned or more about way this experience filled my heart. I have a life to lead now that I’m home again, and am not here to write a book but maybe I should. My new tribe suggested I give a seminar next year on how to travel with pets, and maybe I will do that. My good friend Lee has years ago suggested I write a book and give classes and seminars like that about traveling with dogs, maybe time to do it?

I never got out my paints or books, I didn’t expect there to be so much to do at the RTR. I cooked delicious meals, kept my rig neat and clean as one could in the middle of the desert, of course there were potty walks and carrying Mason who was not crazy about the hard sharp (and cold) rocks under his paws!


My last bit of drama came the evening before I left and again that morning. In the evening it had started to rain; instead of the campfire I decided to attempt (for the second time, it’d been canceled for rain a few days prior) the singles meeting (better to be called solo meeting since it was about connecting) 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 pouring rain in the pitch darkness so I started back, missing and preferring 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 and the roadway could not be separated from non-roadway due to the pelting rain. I passed my friends rigs, 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 had to do this several times. What was going on? Finally I refused to keep walking all the way back and just stood in the rain with my failing flashlight and started searching rig to rig; new people came in and some leave but the roads don’t move.  An hour later I was sad and missing my dogs, trying not to panic! I saw a woman out in the the rain and I ran over, she lent me her headlamp but it didn’t help, she’d disappeared, then a young man, trained as a rescuer walked me back to the main stage, he stayed by my side in the direction I  was sure my van was in and bingo there it was. I had wound up across the gully on the opposite side of camp when I met these two people in the dark; how in the world? My only explanation is UFO’s. Obviously I was transported for a quick meeting and 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?

There’d been objects and lights flying and flashing in the air earlier that day when I was walking with my dogs; drones, industrial lasers; I’d also seen bizarre unexplained lights doing impossible stunts. So later they came back and took me, right? Well, anyway I was so happy to see my dogs calm and safe waiting for me! I took them for a walk and did not get lost again. Jeana was sick that night, she eats everything she sees so who knows what it was. I had to take her out twice. She makes this barely audible whimper, not like my Jackson who is loud and dramatic, Jeana is so quiet.  I heard her so I slipped on my Gore-tex boots, rain jacket and grabbed the 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, popping into the newly made stream, she loves the rain, one time a few stars appeared in a parting of the clouds. In the morning my neighbor to the other side wanted to leave and was kinda desperate ranting about the rain and how all 8 to 10,000 souls of use were stuck now, it was a disaster, the road out was flooded, we’d be trapped, forced into 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. He started up his van spinning those wheels and sunk!  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 pulled out his big SUV and towed him out, the mud was like butter, so soft. There was cheering! 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 my mats under the wheels, put my rig into first gear, lightly tried the accelerator and immediately sunk in. He towed me out too and yep more cheering! I gave him a big happy hug!

I heard that 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 at the RTR 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 but it was time to head out. My new friends told me next time there was trouble to call them and they’d think of something, I hung out with them for awhile before I left. I loved them all. I really did not expect that.

I took off in the rain down the flooded dirt road following a slow line of others, we all made it. The moment I crossed the CA border it stopped raining and the sun came out. That night I camped at Chiriaco Summit free dry camp behind the General Patton Museum before the I-10 descends into Indio, about 20 sites, easy flat, would be a great place to camp with my dogs as it’s near Joshua Tree to see the wildflowers, will consider doing that in April if it’s not too hot. Right now with the government shutdown we heard over at the RTR that Joshua trees are being cut down and destroyed at Joshua Tree National Park, I suggested we send a few thousand of us 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 rides over 20,000 miles a year. He’s off to China soon. Amazing.


Thank you to Bob Wells, his team of volunteers, all the seminar speakers, to all the people to everyone for creating and attending the RTR. There is a growing light in all the current darkness when people care and give and share.  I heard criticisms, but you know what, there’s no need to be at the RTR if you don’t want to be, go to Burning Man where you can pay, go out into the desert on your own, make your own way.  Don’t like a few rules, that’s fine, you don’t need to be at the RTR, it’s voluntary! It’s a gift.