Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: Day 3
The seminar this morning was on solar power, so I just showed up for the announcements and then cleared out. I’m no solar expert, but my knowledge is a little higher than the basic-beginner-level information Bob was providing. We did, after all, live off 100% solar power for our first year and a half in Texas, in our 5th wheel out in the desert. Matt knows a lot more about it than I do…but I have to be honest and confess that he’s also a lot more interested in it than I am!
So I skipped out and started getting my car ready for the “Small Car Living” seminar planned for later in the day. I moved it up to our new campsite, and then David came by (the Prius Camping guy, remember him?) and offered to sell me his Habitent.
What is a Habitent? I’m so glad you asked! It’s a company that has designed a tent specifically for putting on the hatches of Priuses. One of my major problems my first night was a lack of interior head space–well, this little thing solves that problem and then some! It has little pockets for the top corners of the hatch door, and it drapes over the top of the hatch. Then it has 4 straps to fasten it to the bumper and fenders. I agreed to try it out, and then if I liked it, David would sell it to me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I had met a guy named Wayne at the campfire the night before, and we talked quite extensively about small-car living, gas mileage, and minimalism. He said that even some of the small-car dwellers weren’t minimalists, and he couldn’t understand why. In such a small space, it seems like the only logical way to live.
However, during the Small Car Living seminar that afternoon, I could definitely see what he meant. One lady who lives in her car carries 6 pairs of shoes with her. Six! I only brought one pair with me to the RTR, and I thought they took up too much space when I wasn’t wearing them. Now, I’m not a minimalist yet, as I have to really fight against my hoarding tendencies, but I’ll tell ya: if I were living full-time in my car, I would only be carrying 1 or 2 pairs of shoes! This lady had some fairly extensive storage as well, but her car’s interior was pretty disorganized.
Here’s a picture of a Prius owned by a man named Brent, whose setup even David praised for being exactly perfect–he even uses solar in his, somehow. Personally, I was interested in the fact that he had fitted his car with a tow hitch, because it’s kind of understood that the Prius isn’t designed to tow anything. In fact, it’s specifically designed not to, but apparently Brent doesn’t have any problems at all with it!
David of Prius Camping has one of the best setups I’ve seen for a small car, with a permanent bed, a small kitchen, and even curtains for the windows. He does a lot of “stealth camping,” that is, sleeping overnight in places that don’t allow overnighting, by simply flying under the radar. With his curtains in the windows, you can’t even tell there’s anyone in the car. It just looks like a plain old parked car.
Elliott also got to show off his setup, which is also pretty well organized. He has a permanent bed, with storage drawers underneath, a 5-gallon bucket for his toilet, and he uses the rear passenger’s seat for relaxing. He has removed the front passenger’s seat so he has plenty of leg room when he’s lounging, and that’s where he has the bed for his little dog, KC. The Ford C-Max is also several inches taller than the Prius, so even though they’re roughly the same length, he has a lot more interior head room than the rest of us do in our Priuses.
There were a few folks interested in my setup, even. I should put that word in quotes, “setup.” The fact that, in my generation of Prius, the front seat can fold flat down against the rear seat, and thus give me almost enough room to stretch out is rare, I guess. I have a Generation 2 Prius, and it’s the only model that has that feature. I also have a Generation 1 Prius, and it does not. Anyway, people were quite interested in how I had my bed and interior set up, and I had full-timers asking me how long I’d been living in my car. “Three days” is apparently not a common answer at the RTR, which is full of real full-timers like my pal Martin!
The highlight of my afternoon was finally getting to meet Suanne, of “Suanne Online” fame. She’s the one whose blog I have followed for years, who lives full-time in her Prius and has put out dozens of articles explaining how she does it. Check out her link in my blogroll. Fascinating stuff! And she was very nice in person, too. She was good enough to give me some suggestions about my setup, and I really enjoyed meeting her.
Our new buddy Jake happened by while the Small Car seminar was just winding down. I had just finished putting on the Habitent I got from David (he demonstrated it for me), and another fellow was putting on a huge, chili-dog dinner for everyone. So we all took our chairs and went down to eat hot dogs. I finally got to meet another woman, which was cause for celebration right there! Yeah, so far my week had tipped heavily over towards the ol’ Y chromosomes, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Her name was Karen, and she wheeled right up and joined our little group. And the nice thing is, people at the RTR are not cliquish–anyone could join any group and be fairly confident of being welcome. Well, Karen was quite welcome, especially because I was able to ask about that really cool outrigger wheel on the front of her wheelchair. Here it is, and here she is with a rather thoughtful-looking Elliott.
Karen and her husband Tony travel full-time in a gorgeous Class C, and she told me that the outrigger on her wheelchair makes it easy for her to go just about anywhere. It raises the little front wheels of the chair right off the ground, so the chair ends up looking more like a 3-wheeled baby jogging stroller, and doesn’t get stuck on rough terrain such as we were camping in. We talked a little about all of our respective travels, and what we drove, and by the time we finished eating it was starting to get dark.
It was also starting to get quite cold. See that grey, overcast sky in the background? It was quite a cold, raw sort of day. I was even starting to thinking fond thoughts of that oven-like Carls, Jr. from the other night! Martin, Lance, and Jake were also a little chilly. Hats and hoods were the order of the evening.
But I still really wanted to see Jake’s hammock setup in his van, ’cause I think hammocks are very cool, and when I mentioned it to the other guys, they all wanted to see it, too. So we all traipsed over to Jacob’s campsite and he showed us his van — rig, I mean. Everyone’s vehicle is called their “rig,” whether it’s a compact car or a giant Class A diesel pusher.
Here’s Jake lying in his hammock. He had to string it up diagonally in the van, so he’d have room for his dirt bike in there as well.
Close to Jake’s campsite was one of those wicked tall cacti with the arms–you know, the kind in the old Peanuts comic, whenever Snoopy gets a letter from his brother, Spike? It’s called a Saguaro, and many of the ones I’ve seen have been all sort of rotted away at the bottom. I don’t know why; we don’t have them in the West Texas desert, although we have other kinds of cacti. But Lance thought it was the niftiest thing ever, and he couldn’t stop touching it. I can’t really blame him. There is such diversity of scenery, vegetation, and landscapes in this gigantic country of ours, that when you spend most of your life in one region it really blows your mind when you can finally leave it and experience something new. So here is Lance, putting his hand through a cactus!
After that it was a brief campfire time, just to warm up before bed, and then off I went to bed.