Arizona

Dispatch 2
Quartzite, Arizona Jan 12, 2023

I arrived in the area yesterday afternoon and stayed in a boon-dockers camp about 7 miles from town. All was quiet. I stopped by a nearby rig to ask about the wind direction. The carpet was out, the table set up and martinis were in hand. That simple inquiry started an hour-long conversation that attracted another retiree, a widower about my age traveling alone, who inquired about my rig. He is here for a Trek Motorhome Rally. The first couple were just hanging out enjoying the sun. They are from Michigan.

I’m traveling in a 1968 Avion truck camper, loaded onto a 1951 Chevrolet 1-ton pickup. I have seen only one similar combination and that was in a magazine. It’s not the sort of thing you can skulk about the countryside unnoticed. A great thing about traveling with a unique vehicle is that it gives people an excuse to come talk, which they want to do anyway. Outside of commercial RV parks, campers are a very talkative lot. Boon-docking — camping off-grid — brings out the more adventurous travelers, and their rigs show it. Sure, there are many late-model trailers pulled by shiny new, heavy-duty pickups but there is also a converted Blue Bird school bus, a schoolie—they’re going to schooliepalooza in a couple of weeks— an ancient Airstream trailer is pulled by a well-used pickup, a 15-year old, ten-wheel Freightliner road tractor, pullis a new fifth-wheel trailer. The owners are amongst the many Canadians I’ve met and are retired from the logging business in B.C. That conversation went on for a good part of the afternoon until hunger pangs said we’d missed the lunch hour.

As I was about to relight my water-heater’s pilot lite, Peter from southwest Minnesota stopped by to chat and take a picture of my rig. He is a back-to-the-lander who bought a farm in 1974 and after a few years got a job as a contract software engineer, something I also spent years doing so we had much to share about the scandals at IBM and Microsoft, the Y2K scramble to save the world from two-digit-year data bases and raising vegetables in a harsh climate. He still owns the farm and travels in the winter but he retired from software.

By the time he left, I’d forgotten all about the water heater. He’s traveling in an older Ford pickup on which he built a camper shell. He’s spent the past two weeks at a primitive hot springs west of Yuma. He said he used to go the Slab City but then the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) folks began to show up and, well, there went the neighborhood. Now it’s the “tweakers.” “What’s that,” I asked. “Meth heads. They call the selves tweakers,” came the reply. Some of you will remember I put in an appearance at Slab City last winter and I commented to Pete, that it seems to be the detritus of American culture washed up on the shore of the Salton Sea — “Very dystopian and sad,” I said. “Hope the whole country doesn’t begin to look like that. Could happen,” answered Pete. No need to belabor the impending chaos that’s seemingly all around us — weather, airlines, congress…

Photo taken in Glacier Park Montana. Rig looks the same today.

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