Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: Day 2

Next morning was better, with only minimal leg cramping with my new bed position, and access to the toilet tents. The seminar promised to be pretty good, “Favorite Gadgets Show and Tell,” so I went down to it to hear the announcements. Met up with Elliott while I was there, but I was in pain and the first few gadgets weren’t that interesting. So I left early and went back to my car. When it was over, he, Lance, and Martin joined me on a trip into town to get something to eat.

Martin drives and lives in his cargo van, and had set up his campsite not far from where Lance and I had set up. My “setting up” consisted of taking out my folding table and unfolding it to mark my spot, but my car and myself were fairly mobile for most of the week. It hurt so darn much to walk, because of the dampness, my toileting contortions, my grossly swollen knee and my leg cramps, that I ended up just driving the car from one campsite to another instead of walking. Even then I had to use my cane sometimes.

Martin had sold Lance a butane-powered, single-burner stove the day before, which worked great after a kind-hearted passerby told Lance which lever kept the butane can in place, and that he was using it with the burner upside down. He was in for some good-natured teasing after that, but the stove worked a lot better!

In summer, the whole town of Quartzsite, AZ turns into a 5-month-long flea market and snowbird destination. What this meant for us was that as soon as we got into town, there were food booths set up on both sides of the street, like you see at fairgrounds, only slightly more affordable. We found a hamburger joint with a covered picnic area behind it, and placed our orders.

It was nice, sitting around the table chatting, laughing, and getting to know each other, and Lance made the remark that he had never expected to be having lunch with a group of total strangers.

Now, the thing is, to even know the RTR exists at all means you’re a bit of a nomad at heart, so every single person there had that in common even from the start. Also, discussing your vehicle setups requires a certain degree of intimacy right away–I mean, it’s not every day you meet someone for the first time and within the first few minutes start talking about your bathroom habits and setup! But everyone’s solutions are unique and clever–from flushing RV toilets, to yellow Nalgene water bottles, to yogurt containers, kitty litter, and trash bags–so it was a normal and common topic for discussion there, even among people you had just met.

What that meant in practice was that certain social barriers in typical society just weren’t there among the RTR group. And what it meant for the 4 of us at the picnic table was that by the end of lunchtime, we weren’t total strangers anymore, but friends.

After lunch, we went over the bridge to check out the tent sales. Again, much like the commercial section at a county fair, there were huge, covered booths full of goods: hardware, jewelry, clothing, kitchen supplies, even a couple with non-perishable food. I gravitated toward the jewelry, of course, and started to entertain thoughts of getting a booth there myself, next year. In the end, I only bought some great new needlenose pliers for my jewelry-making, and then stopped shopping.

Next, we wanted ice cream, and there was a booth there with the old-fashioned ice cream churn beside it. Lance bought a “small” cone (it was quite large), but it cost $5. Drat! My bare-bones budget wouldn’t allow me to spend $5 on an ice cream cone (neither would my thrifty conscience, for that matter). But Elliott had ordered a bigger cone, and–bless him–he shared his cone with me. It tasted every bit as good as home-churned ice cream usually tastes. Thanks, Elliott!

We finally parted ways at the second big county-fair-type of tents, with Lance and Martin heading one direction, and Elliott and me heading in the other. We were both on a quest for some fruit, and I could have sworn I’d seen a big sign advertising a big Farmer’s Market somewhere ’round there. Alas, either I’d gone crazy or it had been taken down, so we contented ourselves with a couple of wonderful oranges and a bag of little-itty-bitty apples at a tiny hole-in-the-wall tent full of produce. Then Elliott wanted to see someone about a tow hitch, while I just wanted to hit the bathroom and then head back to camp.

That was the thing, you see–every time you were in town, your last stop before going back to camp was always the Chevron on the corner, so you could use a flushing toilet before going back to the ol’ bucket system. We kept seeing people at the Chevron that we had seen at the camp. Didn’t know many names, but there were a lot of familiar faces waiting for the bathroom.

Drove back just as the sun was setting, and it was so gorgeous in the rear view mirror that I as soon as I got back to camp I had to grab a pic.


Alas, it was too dark to heat up anything to eat, and in the desert the temperatures drop rapidly after sunset. I was freezing and it was too windy for my little camp stove to work that well even if it were still light enough to see. So my new buddies and I decided to head back into town and buy something to eat.

I had met a young guy at the campfire the night before, named Jake. He wandered by, and I introduced him to the others and we took him with us to grab a bite. Jacob travels in a cargo van similar to Martin’s, except that he also brings his on/off-road dirt bike with him. This gives him little space in his van for a bed, so for this trip he had strung up a hammock to sleep in at night.

I know! Way cool, right?

Anyway, we all traipsed into town together. Everyone else got something to eat at the gas station, but I wanted to go somewhere warm, with tables and chairs, where we could all hang out and eat and talk without freezing our bums off.

Carl’s, Jr. was the answer. It was as if they’d heard my wish for somewhere warm, and multiplied it by a hundred. It was SO HOT in there we were all really uncomfortable! I tried their California burger, shared out the frites chips french fries with the others, and got a nice, tall, decaf to warm my insides. Elliott wanted to grab a few serviettes napkins to keep in his car, but the dispenser apparently burped and gave him all of them. Anyone else would have put some of them back, but our man Elliott just tucked them all into his jacket and looked shifty.

Here they all are at Carls, Jr. Left to right, it’s Jake, Elliott, Lance, and Martin. Notice how pink everyone’s cheeks are? That’s because it was SO DARN HOT in there.

Then Jake helped himself to my free refill (I hadn’t drunk the first one yet, but he still had a cup from the gas station… and really, I would have gotten a refill anyway, so it was okay) and on that note, we decided to leave. Elliott left first, but a couple of the rest of us wanted to visit the bathroom again first. This gave Elliott time to carefully tuck stolen napkins under all of our respective windshield wipers… which for me turned out to be quite helpful because I needed to wash the dust off my windshields and mirrors anyway. Thanks again, Elliott!

Then back to camp, where we all went to our respective vehicles and went to bed. I took to parking right beside the toilet tents at night, and it made my life a LOT easier! It was a lot closer to the morning seminar, too.

It was a really good day.

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