Dispatches from the Desert 3

Quartzite Arizona
January 13, 2023

Today was the first day of the RTR or Rubber Tramp Rendezvous for everyone. Last week was the Women’s RTR addressing women issues. There were a good many single women. More than I expected. Probably holdovers from last week .As I arrived about 10:40, Bob Willis was giving an orientation talk on the history of RTR. He had been speaking for most of an hour when I arrived so I missed most of the orientation. That was not good as there is a lot going on — enough to be overwhelming to me at first. So I checked the bulletin board. The Bulletin Board is the hub of events like this and has a schedule-of-events posted among various offers for services, sale or gift, items needed and bits of information useful to nomads. There are free tables loaded with thing some didn’t need in hopes of being picked up by those who do. I found a nylon spatula to replace the one that escaped from my rig over the past year. I didn’t leave anything but perhaps I’ll find something I don’t need before the week is out. I’m traveling light.

One o’clock came and the smaller rigs— that is vans, pickup-campers and cars built out as live-aboards — were gathered for an open house. The morning open house had been reserved for big rigs, of which there are more than several. License plates are from all over the country: from Pennsylvania to California and Washington to Florida, with a preponderance of plates from the northern tier. Perhaps people like me tired of shoveling snow. The range of market value of the rigs ranged from $100K plus to a few thousand at most. The bulk of the rigs are pretty nice with many Mercedes and Freightliner Sprinter vans displayed; expensive to buy and expensive to buildout. They are virtually all custom setups built by their owners or a previous owner. These are not hobo-mobiles with a few of exceptions, like the dirt-bag climbers gone permanently on-the-road or the battered orange van conversion with Oregon Country Fair stickers and marijuana leaf stickers. There are some I’ve seen in YouTube videos. Some of the videos are very well done, even professional quality. Others are trying but probably won’t make the big time. None of them looks like Steinbeck’s Joads with a jalopy loaded with the remaining family possessions and headed for California. Steinbeck’s people had not intended to remain permanently on the road — these people apparently do.

And, of course nobody looks like magazine cartoons or photos of a hundred years ago; nonetheless I’m reminded of Roger Miller’s song “King of the Road”

Trailers for sale or rent,
rooms to let 50 cents,
no phone no pool no pets,
Ain’t got no cigarettes;
Ah, but two hours of pushin’ broom buys an 8 by 12, four-bit room.
I’m a man of means by no means; King of the road,

Third boxcar, midnight train; destination Bangor Maine,
Old worn-out suit and shoes,
Don’t pay no union dues…

That was popular on the radio in the mid-sixties and what it describes ain’t what I’m seein’. Nobody’s pushin’ broom and nobody’s stayin’ in a cheap motel and nobody’s lookin’ for an empty boxcar. They look reasonably well off at least for now. Ten years from now is anybody’s guess.

The Arizona desert is a long way from the California coast, yet the weather here is uncharacteristically cool and overcast. California has been inundated with precip. Five inches of rain in the lowlands and five feet of snow in in the Sierra. Donner pass has been closed. I am conserving electricity as my solar panels don’t produce much. Rain the next few days with some wind.

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