1/15/19 – Quartzsite, AZ
It’s raining and cold in the desert, seminars have been cancelled and I’m hunkered down and staying warm in my cozy tin tent home. Everyone else is also and you can bet are catching up on the internet, making it very slow.
Last entry I just got us into AZ after being chased by tornadoes in TX and snow in NM. Most of the time in AZ has been dry, sunny and cooler than usual, I understand. So no complaints about a rainy day to rest and be a little slower paced.
12/29/18 – After the first AZ night in a Walmart, I drove west on I-10 and stopped at the Saguaro National Park. It was a beautiful sunny day and felt great being back into my mode of travel to see the country instead of running from weather events. The Park’s visitor center was closed and no rangers of course because of the shutdown, but the park’s scenic drive, trails and day use was open, no fees being collected. Lots of people were here, not only are we paying millions for this temper tantrum shutdown, the government isn’t collecting income from the parks and other national sites.
The forest of Saguaros is just amazing and beautiful. Along with the long views of the Sonoran Desert where the sun shines more than 300 days a year!
The big one at the top is looking straight up at it, the “arm” next to right is the top, the big one is overhead! BIG!
And other desert plants. Cactus and other desert plants are designed for this extreme but predictable climate, global climate change is a challenge for them and desert wildlife, as well as for humans.
After a few hours communing with the cacti, we continued on, got onto I-8 to Gila Bend and a little beyond and off the highway to Painted Rocks Petroglyphs site. It’s in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and an old landyke friend Puck is “vandwelling” there for the winter. Enjoyed a couple of days visiting, sharing meals and catching up on the last 20 something years of our lives, in addition to the beautiful landscape and petroglyphs. The first time I hiked to the patroglyphs Xena was with me, got there and they don’t allow dogs. Shucks!! Next time, without Xena, my ph. had died so didn’t get pictures. Double shucks!! Promised myself I’d get some on the way out the next day, but totally slipped my mind. 😦 . Here are some of the dramatic scenery in and around the BLM land. Seems everywhere is surrounded by mountains, very dark, rock desert mountains. Can you see my Aliner in the second picture on the right?
The petroglyphs are recordings from prehistoric and historic civilizations, ancient villages along the Gila River. (plus a few contributed by more modern folks, aka grafitti, disrespect.) Archeologists have dated them from at least 1400 years ago. It is a sacred place for the local native peoples including the O’Odham, Piipaash, Yavapai and others.
Here is at least a picture of the entrance and a couple I got off the brochure. But you know what petroplyphs look like.
12/31/19 – We left the petroglyphs and drove first up to Phoenix area, had hoped to have a visit with a friend who has winter place in Apache Junction community but she had left ahead of me for the WRTR. Turns out she hadn’t, it had turned cold (low of 21 while I was at Painted Rocks) and she stayed with the warmth. Got back on I-10 and drove on into Quartzsite. This is the center of the RVing snowbirds of the west, Q itself is full of very crowded RV parks, full of big rigs, and lots of temporary tent vendors, especially focused on RV stuff. I heard there’s a full time population of a couple of hundred and a winter population of 1/2 million. The town totally depends on these 3-4 months for their survival. Surrounding the town is BLM land, thousands of acres of land that no one else wants. It’s scrubby desert for miles and miles and miles. Again, everywhere you go it seems you are surrounded by mountains. And the sky, Oh, the sky! So big, wide open, stars seem so much closer, larger, the milky way is so very visible.
All the RVing, vandwelling, boondocking groups from giant rigs with folks who are always hooked up to people living in their cars, Priuses even. There are a couple roads running out of Quartzsite (Q) into the BLM land and vast space for boondocking, without any amenities. And here we are, the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous!
It’s very hard to fully describe this experience. It’s a combination of teaching/mentoring women new to this lifestyle, and making and renewing connection with others who share the desire to meander around the country in a small home on wheels. The RTR has the same goal, with obvious difference. I want to refer you to an article in Wired magazine, https://www.wired.com/story/youtube-boomers-vanlife-bob-wells/. I hope that works as a link. It’s about the guy who started it and describes the RTR and it’s goals and philosophy well. Some of these folks are living this lifestyle by choice, some out of necessity. The WRTR grew out of a Women’s meeting at the RTR, recognizing the need for women only space, especially because some women find themselves living in their car out of necessity because of divorce and no/little income, loss of home, and some are hiding from abusers. Bob and Suanne, the woman who got the WRTR going, have started a non profit to assist those here out of necessity who need assistance, just to survive.
So, what am I doing here? You probably know I’ve been following some bloggers and websites and FB groups for RVers or camperers for quite a while now. So naturally I ran into CheapRVliving and RTR and was fascinated. The more I’ve been traveling in my little camper, the more I’ve leaned toward boondocking, primarily because of expense. If you go out in your camper for a weekend or a week, campground fees are doable, but if you’re out for months or years, paying $25 a night isn’t. Plus campgrounds are crowded, l like to be in nature, often in isolated places or with folks who enjoy the same instead of sitting in their big rigs, watching TV while the dishwasher does it’s thing. Of course when I’m at the big National Parks, which I also want to see, there are crowds and I often use the crowded campgrounds, but I’ve learned to find more remote National Forest campsites nearby. And that’s what I want to learn how to do more, find safe remote free or cheap campsites in or near the places I want to see. And I want to learn how to manage without the electricity and water hookups, the bathrooms and showers. As some of you know, I got solar before I left on this journey. That’s what this is about, both the skills and meeting others who like the same, establishing friendships and sometimes having travel companions. I have found a few women this time interested in loosely caravaning together to Alaska this year. Nice!
So, I got to WRTR New Years Eve. There was planned a fire circle but it was too cold. Disappointing, but was great getting there early (it started Jan 4), volunteering and becoming part of and getting to know a smaller group of women before the estimated 1000 showed up. There were lots of “newbies” and lots of experienced boondockers. This was only the second WRTR, last year was only about 200. The first couple of days of opening I worked at the entrance, directing women how to sign up, where neighborhoods were, general information. There were so many women who broke down in tears when they came in, crying with joy that they were there, “home”, with relief they’d made that long drive, with trepidation what were they doing! I was taken by surprise, didn’t expect that, so many looking for meaning in their lives, I’d say. It was very moving. A thousand or so women wasn’t crowded at all, it was very spread out and if you really wanted solitude you could go out even further. Endless land. There were neighborhoods: Arts, music, rainbow, noisy, quiet, chem free/no smoking, etc. Sound familiar? We had scheduled learning sessions: Hygiene, safety, how to find boondocking, using GPS, solar, etc. and anyone could sign up to share an interest or skill: How to organize a small space, keeping warm, keeping connected to internet, etc., etc., etc. So much good stuff. The central areas where these happened did get a little crowded during the activities, it was a lot of walking (much needed), and lots of day parking for those who needed/wanted to drive in. Just like a town – downtown/neighborhoods/remote country. The neighborhoods had regular fire circles, meal-time networking, you could visit any group, or even move from day to day. “Find your tribe” is often repeated.
I don’t have pictures except of scenery of the surrounding mountains and cacti, some rigs and of course the most gorgeous sunrises and sets you’ve ever seen! There was an agreement we wouldn’t take pictures of participants without permission because of the reasons given above, and mostly I just forgot, so much going on. If you hover over some of the pictures there are captions. Realized I could do that.
1/8/19 – After the WRTR, it was on to the RTR. I questioned whether I really wanted to go, estimated attendance was 8-10,000!!! I don’t like crowds – at all!! WRTR had was enough. As the time got closer we all talked, just about everyone felt the same. One of us went in early and saved a spot, outside the actual RTR area, but close enough to walk in. We all eventually said we would go, may only last a day, see how it is. Our site is perfect. It’s all desert that divided into areas by washes so end up being long fingers. We have 3 fingers connected off the road so we can be together by crossing a wash. We have a great fire circle, every night, really good conversations, continue to share meals some. The seminars have been good and the crowds not bad. There is only one rd leading into the main camp, one lane, so it’s been a bit of a challenge walking to the center. Some of the washes are too steep/deep/rocky to walk across. But we’ve made it, only one twisted ankle in our group, one broken leg I heard elsewhere. 8,000 people, you gotta expect, haven’t heard of any other accidents or incidents, no rescues. Pretty amazing. Seminars have included some of the same, some in more depth, as WRTR, like solar and all the possibilities of internet connectivity, which of course goes right over my non-techie head. Also had solar cookers and they bought a bunch of panels, brought here to be installed. Lots of folks with skills here to help people with all kinds of vehicle/camper issues. Everything is free!! A very large free stuff area, large triple bulletin board with free services as well as other stuff. There was a great talk called the Healing Power of Minimalism, done by a Buddhist. So many things that even tho they aren’t new to me (or you) things I need to constantly repeat, be reminded of. How much is enough? Really liked it.
One of the things important to this group is taking care of this land we all love to roam around. You may be hearing of folks destroying public lands especially during the shutdown with no rangers or others overseeing them. This group, and others like it, have been going out en mass and cleaning up the public lands. Many were out in caravans (groups) cleaning up before they came to the RTR. It is often discussed how important Leave No Trace is, we should always leave our camping area better than we found it. As we hear of homeless people living on public land and leaving a mess, I really appreciate this attitude among what many would call “homeless”, what these folks call “houseless”, their “home” is on wheels, mostly by choice. So less you go away thinking that’s what we’re doing out here, just want you to know it’s quite the opposite. One of the things RTR teaches is how to take care of your own waste, ALL of your waste. First of all – to make less, much less, minimalism. And we know exactly how much we make and where it goes. Otherwise when we throw it in a dumpster, have it picked up at the curbside, flush it down the toilet, it’s no longer our problem. I guess this is one of the things I’m learning more about – how much I have, how much I need, how much I waste, how much is enough.
Enough here. I was planning to go into town today to do laundry, shower, visit some of the other groups in the area, including RVing Women, Boomers, Solos, and shop. But it has rained all day. There is a “Big Tent” that starts Sat. of all RV stuff. It sounds like a state fair, again not exactly my style, but I need a few things and maybe just want to experience it, so thought I’d stick around for it before I move on.
A few more photos, the only restrictions for picture taking at RTR was the presenter said whether it was OK (it was with all), and courtesy to ask permission of people.
1/16/19 – I wasn’t able to load all these pictures during the rain, when everyone was in their rigs using internet, so finished late this morning after folks were thru with their morning fix I guess. As you can see the rains finally cleared out and for the millionth time there was a magnificent sunset. Always the sunsets.
Until next time,
Lynn and Xena, in the AZ desert