One other thing of note happened while our caravan of five was at Oak Flat Campground near Castaic, CA. We had to call the cops on one of our neighbors.
The number one biggest reservation I hear from single women thinking of hitting the road is personal safety, And this incident was exactly in line with what I’ve written about the subject.
To set the stage: It’s February 25th, a Sunday. All is quiet. Near 11 am a very noisy (it sounds intentional) older vehicle comes tearing through the campground. A guy’s voice yells out: “Wake up everybody, it’s my birthday!” The vehicle makes a loop of the campground, there’s some more hooting and hollering, and then they leave.
The five of us are in a group chat together, all working in our separate rigs. We all agree: what an A-hole.
All goes back to normal. But then a few hours later, we hear the distinctive sound of that car coming back. Ugh.
The vehicle stops next to another nearby campsite where a guy has been tent-camping since we arrive. A couple gets out of the car, and talks to the tent camper for quite a while. The man continues to be obnoxiously loud, it’s clear to all of us that he’s under the influence.
Then, the tent-camper takes off in his car, and the couple starts setting up camp next to one of our crew. They quickly get into a very loud argument that drags on. There’s a lot of swearing and name calling. At one point the woman, we can’t hear her end of the argument because she’s more soft spoken but can guess because of what the guy’s yelling, must have brought up that she was worried about leaving the tent alone, that someone would steal their stuff.
Why do we think this is what she said? Because the man goes off about how all the rich RVers around here (that would be us) wouldn’t want to steal their crummy tent. It morphs into a tangent about how he wishes he had an RV and nice things but he doesn’t have that kind of money.
It’s at this point that Kelly, who’s in the camp spot right next to theirs, decides to call the cops.
People fear killers and professional criminals on the road, but in reality this is the kind of deviant you’re most likely to encounter. Not the methodical, experienced criminal – they aren’t going to come out to a campground or the boonies just on the off-chance that there will be something good worth stealing. No, it’s the drunk guy who isn’t in his right mind.
Probably, nothing will happen but words. There’s been no hint of physical violence and he hasn’t tried to interact with any of us at all. But we don’t know him or what he’s capable of, and even if he’s just loud all night, that’s not something we want to suffer through.
While Kelly is on the phone with the cops, the woman pulls a gun out of their car. We can’t tell from a distance what kind, here’s where I start to get nervous. They continue to shout and make a ruckus. The woman gets into the car with the gun and locks the man out. They shout some more. Then he gets into the car as well and they both drive off, leaving the tent and some gear behind.
The cops are on the way, and the five of us pack up camp. If the cops arrive and the couple is still out, there’s little they can do and we don’t want to camp overnight with them. If the cops arrive and give them a ticket or some such, they’ll probably guess it was one of us RVers and may hold a grudge.
The couple comes back with some logs for a fire before long. We continue packing up camp as quickly and quietly as we can. But we don’t get out before the cops arrive.
Two cop cars pull in. One takes each side of the loop to block the vehicle. One cop gets there first and we hear shouting: “Drop it! Drop it!” Then all gets quiet.
Messages fly back and forth in our group chat, apparently the man was chopping wood with an axe when the cops showed up and they thought it was the gun. Then we hear laughter, it sounds like the cops are getting chummy with the couple, what’s that all about?
We can’t leave because the cops are parked so as to block us in as well. We wait to see what happens.
Then the cops put the man in cuffs. Phew, we won’t need to pull out after all. The cops come over to talk to us and we get the full scoop.
The man had a warrant out for his arrest, they were talking to him and keeping him calm while waiting for those results to come in. It turns out that this campground, ostensibly a pay campground but not enforced, is a regular destination for ne’er-do-wells based in the LA area, this is not the first time the cops have had to come out here. The woman (also legally drunk) will be staying put tonight and sobering up. The gun it turns out was just a pellet gun.
The cop in charge is friendly and helpful and gives us directions on other places to camp in the area (the picture for this post). We end up staying three more nights at Oak Flat without a problem, the woman is there most of that time but it’s not an issue.
So, what are the lessons here?
Common sense is your best defense. Lock up your valuables and your door at night. Stay alert to your surroundings.
If a situation arises, stay calm. Panic makes good decisions nearly impossible. Keep a clear head and think “what’s the best action to take next?”
As an RVer your house has wheels. If you feel unsure about a situation or an area, you can always just pack up and leave. If you’re a newer RVer who doesn’t have the moving routine memorized, keep some sort of list to refer to in case a situation like this arises where nerves may make you forget steps.
Traveling frequently, you probably won’t have the number handy to call the cops. But you can always dial 911 and get transferred to the right place.
Being alone in the middle of nowhere may feel less safe, but actually you’re more likely to encounter undesirables near populated areas. The fact that this was an unmanned campground also increased the risk.
I’m still strongly of the opinion that the world is not as scary a place as it’s made out to be and that people are fundamentally good. I don’t share this story to induce fear, but to educate and inform. In five and a half years of full-timing, mostly alone, this is the worst situation I’ve been in and while I experienced a healthy dose of fear and it wasn’t a fun situation to be in, none of our caravan were directly threatened and likely, if we hadn’t called the cops nothing would have happened but a sleepless night while the drunk couple squabbled with each other. Actually, we also found out later another person in the campground was also in the process of calling the cops when they arrived… but you get the point.
And there you have it. The story of how we got our campground neighbor arrested. After it was over we all agreed that it was an exciting evening, but not one we cared to repeat.
At the end of the last post, Kelly, Marshall, Michael, Joni, and I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway (hwy 1) from Santa Monica to Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, CA for a night. An expensive camping option, but one that gets us close to the ocean.
Feb 22, Thursday
This morning I awake and cross Highway 1 on foot to the beach.
Today is my birthday, and I can think of no better way to start it than with some time watching the waves roll in. It may be unusually cold for Malibu, but I’m bundled up and the chill in the air doesn’t bother me.
I see at least two dolphins, one other marine mammal – it was swimming in the water and hard to see clearly – and numerous water birds. This is a day use area, but this early there’s no one else on the beach. It’s the perfect place to reflect on where I’ve been and dream of adventures ahead.
Noon is check-out time, and I pull out without much time to spare. All five of us are continuing on to the same destination, but we don’t leave all together. We pull out when we feel like and get there when we get there. I continue up 1 to Ventura, then turn east onto 126. This road goes past a lot of vineyards and orchards with rolling mountains behind, it’s pretty country.
126 ends at I5 near Castaic. I turn north and go up.
This part of I5 is known as the Grapevine, not named for the once-winding road that use to climb the steep pass in years gone by, but for the canyon it passes through which is still home to wild grapes. I don’t go too far though, taking exit 183 onto Golden State Highway. This four lane road has seen better days and is quite rough, drive slow – especially with an RV.
We’re all headed to Oak Flat Campground, where I stayed in the spring of 2016 for two nights to wait out a windstorm. This time we’re waiting for the fifth member of our caravan, who needed to stay one more night at Point Mugu SP to take care of some things.
For once I’m the first to arrive. I’m excited to see that only a couple tenters are here, that’s good because technically the sites here are rated for trailers no longer than 18′, and Kelly and Marshall both have trailers a bit longer than that. From memory I recall a couple spots that would work for bigger rigs and I’ve been banking on them being open – I’m the only one with personal experience of this cheap campground tucked into the side of the mountains so everything is riding on my decision.
I leave the two longest spots open (one of which is the site I had last visit) and wedge Bertha and Cas into the third longest. And it’s a chore with the big boulders along the sides of the road making turns tough! Before I get all the way in Marshall arrives and easily slides into one of the better spots. Then, just as I fiiiiinally get in and level, a car pulls out of the prime spot on the top of the hill. Do I undo all of my hard work and take it? You bet I do! This was the site I’d drooled over two years ago. Happy birthday to me.
The rest of our party trickles in and gets situated. It’s a cold night in the mountains at 2,800 feet, but my Little Buddy propane heater keeps me warm.
Feb 23, Friday
Kelly catches up to us in the afternoon and we do a site swap, I take the spot I had last visit and give her the spot on the top of the hill as her rig is the longest and when we all hang out together we tend to hang out there – this way we all get to enjoy the view.
I’m on the left, Marshall is in the middle, Michael is on the right
We celebrate my birthday in the evening with rice krispy treats. Don’t laugh, they’re delicious!
We also decide not to continue on our way tomorrow, as the cold weather is about to become cold and wet weather. There’s winter weather advisories out for the Tehachapi Mountains (which is where we are), and it looks even worse at our next destination. The Verizon signal is blazing fast here, so we decide to stay a few more days and focus on our respective work.
Feb 27, Tuesday
If you look on Google Maps, there’s a trail labeled Oak Flat Trail that comes off the other fork of the road into the campground. This trail is located inside a boy scout camp and last time I was here it was gated off. This visit the gate is open, and today the five of us finally get around to hiking it together.
Tomorrow is the open day in the forecast, the one clear sunny day this week, the day that will provide the safest travel conditions. So tomorrow, we’re leaving. Today, it’s snowing. But we’re going hiking anyway.
Five happy nomads
Michael, Joni, and I did part of this hike on the 23rd and turned back because it was just so windy and cold that day. On another day the two of them made it to the top. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip (about 3.5 if you walk from the campground) it’s an out and back trail. There’s about 900 feet of elevation gain and it’s quite exposed to the elements – you’re climbing up a mountain. But the views are worth it.
Have you ever walked when it’s snowing out? It’s more pleasant than rain because you aren’t getting wet. As long as you dress for the cold it’s actually quite fun. Today the snow showers come and go, with blue sky between isolated cells.
The trail ends at Whitaker Ridge Road, which is a dirt forest road that forks off of 6N53 (Whitaker Peak Road). It’s in rough shape and closed right now, but it’s just fine for walking on. We walk the loop at the end, adding more distance onto the hike. I can’t think of a better thing to be doing on a Tuesday.
That’s Pyramid Lake down below
The north side of the road has accumulated snow! It’s more like snow pellets than snow flakes, and isvery crunchy to walk on. We’re at about 3,700 feet here.
You also get a great view of I5 from up here. Traffic is moving at a good clip despite the weather.
See the semis?
Whitaker Ridge Road drops us back at the end of the trail, and we hike back down and get back to work. When you work in an office you may be able to take a stroll around the local park on your lunch break. When you’re an RVer, the strolls you can take on your breaks get much more interesting.
That’s Whitaker Peak Road snaking up the mountain behind
The middle of February finds me at Anza-Borrego State Park in southern California boondocking with several other Xscapers who are still in the area after the Annual Bash in Quartzsite last month.
Feb 14, Wednesday
It’s been far too long since my last good hike! In the afternoon, a group of us pile into vehicles and head east on S22 to what on Google Maps has labeled Calcite Mine Slot Canyon Trailhead.
There I park Bertha just off the road. You can start the hike right from there, but if you have a 4×4 vehicle, you can drive down the dirt road and get closer to the slot canyon. One of our number has such a vehicle. We overshoot the slot canyon and end up on top of a plateau overlooking the badlands first, whoops!
A bunch of goofballs
But the view from up here is pretty great. It’s a good day for hiking, not as hot as it has been and some clouds are moving in from the west which keeps the worst of the sun off us.
Eventually we find the right place to enter the canyon and climb down into it.
The first part of the canyon is more open with occasional shrubs. We all hike at different paces, I’m farther in the back with the other picture-takers. We’ve all been camping together for quite a while now and the conversation flows easily.
There’s actually two slot canyon sections on this trail. The first is smooth and has several little winding twists in it. There are a couple spots where it’s so narrow at the bottom you have to be very careful where you place your feet.
The second is taller/deeper and more visually impressive. I visited a different slot canyon in Anza-Borrego last year and I’d say this one is prettier than that one, and longer too.
All in all, a fun outing!
Feb 20, Tuesday
Today, I drove through Los Angeles.
Doesn’t sound very fun, right? You’d be correct, it wasn’t.
From Anza-Borrego, Joni, Marshall, Kelly, Michael, and I take off in the morning and go up 86 to Indio. From there we get on I10 going west.
The drive is a blur. From maps it looks like we probably stayed on I10 all the way to Santa Monica, I was just doing what GPS was telling me to do while navigating big city traffic. There were accidents and thus slow downs. I lost some rubber when a car pulled in front of me then stopped suddenly. But, all five of us make it to our destination in one piece – kind of a miracle I reckon.
If you can avoid taking your RV through LA, do so. I’ve driven through several big cities with the trailer and I’d rate this the worst experience, not only was it busy but it was such a long stretch of busy. Look at a map and you’ll see the urban sprawl starts long before Los Angeles proper. If you do need to drive through a large city, Sunday is really the day to do it (I had a rather pleasant drive taking Cas through the heart of Atlanta on a Sunday once).
Our destination? The parking lot of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, within walking distance of the beach. There’s a ticket dispenser to get in, it costs $14 to park there overnight (the daily max), and that’s per spot, so for Bertha and Cas we’re talking $28 to stay in a parking lot.
But I mean, a parking lot where you can walk to Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park.
There are several other RVs already there when we arrive. Marshall had called the Civic Center ahead of time and confirmed that it was legal to park an RV there overnight. We settle in together at the back of the lot with the other RVs, I’m the last to arrive and the sun has already gone down. We’re all bundled up – a front has come through and it’s unusually cold for the area.
We walk downtown. It’s something of a culture shock after having been in the sparsely populated desert for so long. We pick Thai Dishes on Broadway to eat at. Everyone enjoys what they get. I get the Orange Chicken which isn’t Thai food, but it’s what I was in the mood for.
Then we walk to the Pier. Given that it’s late on a weekday night and cold to boot, there’s hardly anyone here. Most of Pacific Park is closed, but the iconic ferris wheel is open. The signs and display for the end of Route 66 are also pretty cool.
We’re all worn out from the drive and don’t stay out late. There’s some sort of sporting event going on next door and still plenty of cars driving around, but I have no problem falling asleep.
Feb 21, Wednesday
Joni and I sleep through the night. Michael, Kelly, and Marshall on the other hand get a knock on the door at 5 am from the police.
They claim it’s legal to park an RV here overnight, but not to occupy it from the hours of 2-6 am. Unlike other parts of the city that are covered in signage saying no parking from 2-6 am, there is absolutely nothing like that posted in our lot – and remember Marshall had called and confirmed it was okay.
The police don’t knock on everyone’s door, and they don’t kick anyone out. Were they just bored and decided to pester us for something to do? Do they have a legitimate claim? It’s hard to say. Just know that if you decide to overnight in this lot, you may get the knock. Kelly makes a joke that if we stay here again in the future we just need to go out partying from midnight to six and then sleep during the day.
Joni, Marshall and I have breakfast at nearby Nico’s Tacos (good), then go back to downtown Santa Monica for a bit to see it in daylight. We finally pull out around noon, the attendant at the gate takes my $28 without comment.
It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Highway 1 from the parking lot. Also called the Pacific Coast Highway, a lot of RVers say good things about this drive. It’s scenic for sure, with the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. It’s also good for ogling fancy beach houses. But for the full-timer on a budget it is lacking one important thing: cheap camping. We won’t be here long, but the brief break from the desert is nice.
We drive almost 30 miles on hwy 1 to Point Mugu State Park, which is technically in Malibu. Sycamore Canyon Campground just across the road from the beach and day-use area costs $45 a night… that’s without hookups and during the off-season. We’re only staying one night.
The pads are concrete squares, max length for a motorhome or trailer is 31′. Since it’s a square, trailers are pretty much required to unhitch and park beside the trailer. We get around that by having those of us with trailers (Kelly, Marshall, and I) sprawled across three consecutive sites. There are pay showers, water spigots, and a dump station on site.
That’s the shower house over the bridge
It is a pretty area. The campground is, as the name suggests, in a canyon among large trees that I’m guessing are Sycamores.
But the day use area on the ocean, that’s the real reason to be here!
When I go to someplace I’ve never been before, lets say a new national park, there are always conflicting thoughts about how to document my experience there. If I take a lot of pictures and video, I’ve captured the moment to share with the internet. But because I’m focusing on how best to share the location with others, I’m not experiencing it as fully myself.
Blogging works a little differently. If the best photos aren’t your primary concern, you get the good content for a blog post by being present and taking in what you see and feel about a location, and write it up after the fact. Which is maybe why I still insist on using a phone to take my photos instead of a real camera – it’s quicker, and I want to maximize the amount of time I’m actually experiencing a new location. I want to be fully immersed in it, it makes for a better blog post.
Which brings me to why I’m writing about this. I’m currently dry camping at the Santa Monica Civic Center, within walking distance of the beach and Santa Monica Pier. I was due to post a blog yesterday, but I was too busy fighting through LA traffic getting the Casita here. I could write that blog post up now. But I’m somewhere new with good friends, and I want to get out with them and experience Santa Monica – our time here is limited. So instead you’re getting this short missive now, but you’ll be getting a better post down the road.
I was recently asked by a reader who wants to document his travels how demanding blogging is if you don’t intend to make money from it. Does it take a lot of time? My answer was that it takes as much time as you want to put into it. If you want to update frequently and regularly with high-quality content then yes, it can be demanding. But there’s no rule on how often you need to update, no law saying you have to be consistent, and no official stance on how long your blog posts need to be.
Put as much time into it as you feel like, and keep it fun. Nothing will burn you out on blogging as quickly as trying to do too much and missing out on the locations you’re traveling through just to keep up with it.
I stick around Winterhaven, CA on American Girl Mine Road (AGM) for a while after the Xscapers Annual Bash officially ends. On the 30th I take a walk and enjoy the super moon (no, I didn’t wake up to watch the lunar eclipse). It was pretty special to see it peek through the clouds while the sun was setting the other direction. Definitely the highlight of that day.
On the 1st I go back out to Imperial Sand Dunes with a few Xscapers who are still hanging around, this time focusing on photos. The sunset isn’t as great as last time, but the company was good and I’m still happy with what I get. The only problem was that I was made the lead car driving out there and I almost took a wrong turn, whoops! Never let me be the lead car, haha.
On the 2nd, I finally catch the cold that’s been plaguing people since Quartzsite. Which is a real bummer because my tanks need dumping and it’s time to be moving on from AGM. Well, at least it waited until the convergence ended this year. My catching of the cold coincided with my running out of hand sanitizer. Coincidence? I think not! I’d been carrying the stuff around with me in Quartzsite and using it after every hand shake. Which might sound a bit extreme, but when I got sick last year I was out for over a week and missed a lot. I stretch my tanks one more day and witness this last sunset.
The 3rd is the worst day of the cold. I move less than 20 minutes away to the nearest RV park (Gold Rock Ranch) and pay for one night so I can take care of my tanks at a slower pace and have A/C to be able to nap in peace in the heat. I don’t feel well enough in the evening to take a sunset video, thus marking the end of the sunset project. For those who haven’t seen it yet on YouTube, I watched (and filmed) every sunset from December 27th through Feb 2nd as an experiment in mindfulness and overcoming the apathy I sometimes suffer from in the winter. You can watch it here – 37 Sunsets: Practicing Presence.
This boondock has a few things going for it. For starters, it’s got good mountain views. Which is great because it’s another hot day… and looking like that trend will continue. I work in the mornings and read in my comfy chair outside in the afternoons when it gets too uncomfortable in the Casita. Last light on the mountains is quite a treat!
Second, there are ample walking and hiking opportunities. Other parts of the park have designated trails, but besides that there are also options right around camp. In the hills just to the west some rock art it hidden which is fun to walk to, and Rockhouse road continues from the camping area down to the dry lake bed. I walk that stretch of road on a few different evenings, enjoying getting away from the road noise and general bustle of camp (this is a pretty popular boondocking area, you won’t be alone).
Third, the nearby town of Borrego Springs is adorable and has all the basic necessities. A few days after my arrival, several other Xscapers arrive and it ends up being another impromptu bash. On the 9th a bunch of us go into town for the farmer’s market, which takes place in a cute park located at the center of a large roundabout called Christmas Circle. There’s grass and free WiFi at the park, as well as restrooms.
Borrego Springs is also rather artsy. I talked about the metal sculptures last year which are definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area and hopefully I’ll get a chance to check them out while here. But if you don’t have the time to hunt them down, near the park is this little instillation combining art with plants.
On the 10th, a number of us carpool out to Font’s Point, which is quite close by. It’s an off-roading trail through loose sand, so 4×4 vehicles are recommended. We time our drive to arrive for sunset, but the wind, which was bad enough at camp, is even more pronounced on this exposed point jutting over the badlands. But we brave it, because it’s an undeniably beautiful spot.
And it is a point, with views on three sides.
My favorite shot of the evening is this view looking west at last light on the mountains.
Kelly of Camp Addict is among the Xscapers also out here, and when you put the two of us together, ridiculous things happen. We totally rock the wind-blown hair photoshoot. Brian’s dog Stella is not impressed.
A number of people home just after the sun falls behind the horizon, but a few of us brave the wind a while longer to see what the clouds do. I’ve seen some pretty good sunsets here in the southwest this winter, but have yet to witness a truly jaw-dropping one, I got a few of those last winter. Tonight’s turns out pretty nice…
But is still not what I’ve been waiting for. Well, being a full-timer, I’m in no rush. When that 10/10 sunset finally happens it’ll be all the sweeter for the wait.
Okay, so I’ve talked before on IO about the mental load that you carry from having a lot of material possessions, and that after downsizing, as painful as the process might be, everyone agrees that they feel freer and lighter.
It turns out, this principle applies to more ephemeral burdens too. We carry a lot of thoughts, beliefs, and responsibilities around that weigh us down, whether we realize it or not. And much of the time, we don’t need to carry them around.
For example, I also have talked quite a bit about productivity, and how good it is to have a to-do list when you’re preparing to become a full-time RVer. Writing down the steps you need to take and getting them out of your head reduces your mental load. You only need to remember that you have a list, you don’t need to remember everything that’s on that list. And that makes the process less overwhelming.
So lets take this one step further.
You’re going full-timing and you’ve told a relative of your plans. They react badly. You carry around their disappointment in your choice, and it reduces your happiness.
Here’s the thing, their disappointment is theirs, not yours. You are only responsible for you. Your plans, your wants, your reactions. You are not responsible for anyone else’s reactions. You know going RVing is the right choice for you. You have a solid plan in place to get it accomplished. Your job is done, let their opinion go and reduce your mental load.
And lastly, a lot of mental burdens are thoughts we have and then cling to as truth. Negative beliefs that we hold onto about ourselves that slowly erode our confidence.
You are not your thoughts. You have good thoughts or bad thoughts based on what happened on a given day, how much sleep you got, your mood, all sorts of different factors. Some of which are in your control, and some of which aren’t.
It’s human nature to focus on the bad, but we’re under no obligation to. When you have thoughts that lift you up, hold onto and encourage them. When you have thoughts that bring you down, send them packing.
Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader that brought up a topic I haven’t addressed on IO before: the future of RVing. And I thought my opinion on the subject was something worth sharing, so here it is.
More and more people are hitting the road – full-timers, part-timers, and vacationers. Making reservations in advance use to be the exception for just the hottest destinations, but is now becoming the norm during the busy season. It gets more challenging to find a spot on short notice near big cities, and RV park use is going up faster than new parks are being built.
Also, many quaint towns that use to be good places to visit and stay are becoming more popular as the internet makes sharing and finding these locations easier. The nature of these places, like Sedona in AZ and Jackson Hole in WY, changes and becomes more touristy, losing some of the initial charm.
Free dispersed camping locations that use to be empty see more people, prompting stronger rule enforcement by their governing agencies. Places that get abused are shut down, the most popular are turned into pay-to-stay. And it gets harder to find privacy at the better-known locations.
All of this might paint a bleak picture of the future of RVing. It’s human nature to worry about the unknown, and no one really knows what RVing will look like ten, twenty, thirty years from now.
But here’s my take. As popularity rises, business-minded individuals will spot an opportunity and more campgrounds and RV parks will spring up to meet the growing need. “Popular” destinations is a fluid concept and it changes. Iconic places like the Keys and Yellowstone will probably always see high visitation, but other locations rise and fall in popularity based on press and opinion.
Towns grow up and change, but I bet I’ve passed through towns in my travels that have the same kind of charm that locations like Sedona use to have decades ago. But you don’t hear about these places on the internet, because they haven’t been ‘discovered’ yet.
Boondock spots near popular attractions fill up and are hard to get into. But there is so much public land opened to dispersed camping out west that we’ll never run out of free places to camp. And every boondock location has beauty when you take the time to look for it.
And RVing is trending right now, but trends come and go. It’s easy for us to imagine, loving this life like we do, that one day everyone will want to live like this. But really, most people don’t. Most people love their houses and their more stable and predictable lives, and I can’t see that changing in our lifetime.
Yes, rising populations, a changing economic climate, and dozens of other factors will contribute to the evolution of RVing, and change is scary. But not necessarily bad. A decade ago it may have been easier to find camping space, but back then we didn’t have the wide cell phone coverage and data speeds that make staying connected with each other, working online, and a host of other aspects of RV life easier – it’s not all gloom and doom.
I personally am looking forward to seeing what RVing becomes in the years ahead.
This year the Xscapers Annual Bash is set up differently than previous years. Instead of two weeks spent in Quartzsite, there’s a part 1 and part 2 to the event, with the first week being in Q, and the second week being down near Winterhaven, CA along American Girl Mine (AGM) Road – where I boondocked for a while last February with several other Xscapers solos unofficially.
Those of us going to part 2 pull out today and make our way south on 95 towards Yuma, then west on I8. Or, go west on I10 to Blythe, then south on 78. The two routes are close to the same distance, but 78 is said to be less busy than 95, so the event coordinator J.P. recommends that route. I go that way, and stop for groceries in Blythe on the way.
Somewhere along 78
There are fewer people at AGM, and a lot more space to spread out. I park next to friends Kelly and Marshall of Camp Addict (whom I camped with last year here), and Joni of The Galavan.
Near sunset I reacquaint myself with the big wash east of camp, which is full of interesting green rocks and these little furry-looking plants, a big contrast from all the spiky things at Kofa.
It doesn’t want to impale me, yay!
After dark, the party starts. There’s not a single night here at AGM without some sort of social event happening in the evening. I make it to most of them!
Nail and facial night with Kelly, Joni, and Hannah
January 23, Tuesday
Yesterday I crossed into Mexico to see my dentist, Dr. Eva Ureña, for a cleaning. All goes well – you can read the linked article for more info on dentistry in Los Algodones.
Today, I go on a hike with Marshall. Beyond the big wash lies a mountain range dotted with mines connected by twisty roads. It’s a fun place to explore. We take his Jeep as far as it’ll go (it’s a 2WD model) and then start walking.
Most of the mines are blocked off and inactive, but a couple are still in use and surrounded by ‘do not enter’ and ‘private property’ signs. We climb a peak nearby and get a good view of this one.
That lighter colored stuff was almost pink in person – tailings.
There are also old dwellings and numerous posts with markers on them. This appears to have been a building once upon a time. Wooden stubs at roof level indicate where beams use to be.
Marshall would’ve been too tall to stand up in this building
On the way back out we stop at this building. Old structures like this always make me curious about the story behind them.
After dark, Bill Trinkle hosts another light painting workshop. I spin my poi…
And also steel wool. Who knew that fine-grade steel wool burns? The sparks it throws are pretty amazing. Note: you can seriously injure yourself playing with fire! Be careful, practice without first, and have someone standing by to help in case something goes wrong.
Let’s see. On the 24th, a large group of us cross to Los Algodones for lunch. I have a fish chimichanga at Molcas Tacos, which isn’t an authentic dish by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s so good! I’d had tacos at a stand across the street the day I came for my dental cleaning, so I got the best of both worlds.
me, Jessica, Tami, Margot, and Brian
Yesterday, the group took a trip to the Imperial Sand Dunes just up the road for sunset.
And it was a good sunset! I hope to come out to the dunes once more before leaving AGM.
Photo credit: Marni Pearlman
And today the Annual Bash officially ended with a potluck brunch. Although for those who just don’t want the party to end, the week-long Mexico Convergence down in San Felipe starts tomorrow, and a good number of this group are caravaning down bright and early in the morning for that. I’ll be hanging around here until my two weeks are up (there’s work to catch up on), with a few other Xscapers who haven’t yet moved on.
* * *
And so, another busy winter gathering season comes to an end, at least for me.
Every year I hear from one or two first-timers who are disappointed with their experience at RVing rallies and gatherings like the RTR and Annual Bash, and it usually stems from not feeling included.
My advice on how to make the most of these events is very similar as in my article about how to meet people and avoid loneliness on the road: be proactive about reaching out.
You’ll get out what you put in to these events, so if you want to feel included, be the person who speaks first. Attend the group campfires and seminars and strike up conversation. Ask others what kind of rig they have, how long they’ve been on the road, their favorite place to visit. You won’t jive with everyone you meet, but when you do connect with someone, keep the conversation going. Ask new questions to answers they give about your opening questions. Share the story of how you ended up on the road. Find out what else you have in common besides being an RVer and dig into that.
If you have a good conversation with someone, seek them out at a later time to continue building the relationship. Don’t be afraid to invite them over to see your rig, or out for a walk or some other event. Exchange contact info and keep in touch.
As an introvert who usually travels alone, I often am asked how I make RVing friends, and the answer is attending meet ups like these. The event itself often tires me out and isn’t a very relaxing experience. But the friendships I make at the RTR and Xscapers convergences last long after the last campfire is put out.
For this one I was spinning the steel wool behind, while Kelly posed in front
Yes, it’s a lot of effort and can be uncomfortable to go out of your way to make new connections (and strengthen existing ones) for two weeks straight. But the payout is enjoying the other 50 weeks of the year with a far-reaching network of people whom you can visit with on a more casual basis as your paths cross on the road. Over time, your friends introduce you to their friends, and before you know it, you’ve a part of something that sticks and bricks folks can hardly conceive of: a true nomadic community. It won’t happen all at once, and as with many good things it takes effort. But it’s worth it!
Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) time! I depart Kofa Wildlife Refuge, AZ in the morning and make the short drive north to Quartzsite. Specifically, Scaddon Wash BLM area east of town.
As usual, the RTR (hosted by Bob Wells of CheapRVLiving) has grown again this year, and I’m parked farther out so as to not be right on top of my neighbor. I quickly discover that the RTR is being comprised of several ‘camps’ this year, and I end up in the music camp, a couple washes north of the main camp. I quickly meet my closest neighbors, and they all seem like cool people.
Taken the first afternoon. I ended up with many more neighbors as the event progressed!
The RTR is a fantastic place to learn about the ins and outs of life on the road. It runs a full two weeks and most days there are two seminars dedicated to some facet of of the lifestyle. Plus there are people here from all walks of life, so no matter how much money you have to work with or what type of vehicle you plan to travel in (van, car, RV), you’ll find other attendees to learn from. I’m heading the work-camping seminar on Saturday morning, so I have a little time to socialize.
The focus of the RTR is definitely on learning, and most activities are centered around that, but there are still opportunities to get to know each other. I’m in the habit of attending the daily campfire at the main meeting area, and because the evening is warmer than last year’s average, more people are out. This is a good way to break the solitude of Saddle Mountain and Kofa.
Ahh, it’s good to be back!
January 15, Monday
Like always, I don’t focus on photos at the RTR. Some attendees here don’t have or want an online presence and with so many people crammed in together, it’s easier to just avoid photos than to try to track down everyone in them to make sure it’s okay to put the photo online. I was number 811 to sign in (not mandatory), and an estimated 3,000 people came to the RTR this year, phew!
My seminar two days ago was well attended. I talked about Amazon CamperForce, national park jobs, and the beet harvest, then Bob talked a bit about campground hosting and a couple other odd jobs. Remember how I said I was ordering paperback copies of Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget and The Little Guide To Dreaming Big to sign and sell at my two seminars here in Q? Well I sold completely out at this first one! Thank you everyone who came out, it was a pleasure meeting several of you in person.
That’s a looooot of people!
Besides that, I spun poi at a party one evening (hosted by Jamie of Enigmatic Nomadics at his sweet skoolie), and attended an acoustic music night. All in all, I had a good time but as always the big crowds get to me after a while so I can’t stay long. Bob had staff to help him run the RTR this year and I definitely feel that things went smoother than last year.
Today I move north to Plomosa Road to join the Xscapers for their third Annual Bash. I’ve been to every one and watched the event grow every year, I’m the 144th rig to pull in this year. Evening campfires in a central gathering area are also a tradition here.
Before the party
January 19, Friday
Xscapers is a branch of the Escapees RV club targeted at working-age RVers. There are seminars, but for the most part they’re scheduled in the afternoon to give people who work time to do that in the mornings. I gave my work-camping talk yesterday afternoon to an engaged audience and answer questions afterward. Again, thanks everyone who attended!
I’d say if RTR is mostly education focused, the Annual Bash is more socializing focused (although there are plenty of educational resources to be found on the Xscapers/Escapees website). There are official and unofficial social gatherings almost daily and because it’s a smaller (and newer) group than the RTR, it’s easier to get involved in the community. On the 16th after a live music performance by the Status Crowes in the main meeting area, I go out with several photographers in the group for light painting sessions – something my poi work very well for.
Thanks Bill for capturing this beautiful shot!
It also helps that having a part of the Annual Bash since the beginning, I’ve already made a lot of friends here. So while it’s a bigger and bigger group every year, it feels less overwhelming because I already know so many of the attendees. I wonder if people who’ve attended the RTR from the start think the same way about that event.
All in all, my Quartzsite experience goes quite well and I have a good (if busy) eight days. Up next, part 2 of the annual bash, and some advice on how to make friends on the road!
The rest of my week at Saddle Mountain near Tonopah, AZ goes well. It’s a quiet and rather dull stay from a blogging perspective – not much worth writing about happens as my focus is on getting as much work done as I can to clear up my schedule for Quartzsite.
But today my two weeks are up, and it isn’t quite time to go to Q yet. Hmm, where should I camp in the meantime?
A blog reader and friend joined me out at Saddle Mountain for a few days, and he’s moved on to Kofa Wildlife Refuge and extends an offer to to share his camp there. I accept.
The drive from Tonopah to Kofa is quite short, less than two hours total between I10 and south a bit on 95, but I still take a break in the middle to have lunch at a rest area along the way. Five years into full-time RVing, and it still gives me a giggle to be able to cook heat up a real meal at a rest stop.
I’m not in any rush and by the time I get settled in to my spot at Kofa, the winter sun is already low in the sky. We’re parked in the middle of a cholla garden, which some people (especially dog owners) might consider a negative, but I find them quite pretty. I love the color gradient from tawny to dark brown.
The lighting makes it hard to capture the colors right now, but I take two photos I’ll call ‘A Study in Spines’. The problem with cholla isn’t the tall plant, which can be easily seen an avoided, but the little spiky bits they drop on the ground, just waiting to stab you through your shoe if you accidentally step on one. I clear a bunch of these little pieces out of the campsite, along with the natural land mines other desert plants have dropped.
Jan 10, Wednesday
This is my first time camping in Kofa, but not my first visit. Last year I came out here with the Xscapers for a group hike to the only native palms found in the state of Arizona. This boondock is along that same road (Palm Canyon Road) and actually very close to the trailhead, which is located in the mountains just east of here.
This is a pretty spot. There’s more vegetation than at Saddle Mountain, and the mountains here are easier to photograph because of their location relative to the sun. I sit in my new chair and enjoy the glow of the sunset on them in the evenings.
I have way more photos of Bertha and Cas with these mountains as a backdrop than will fit in this post.
On the 9th, the weather takes a turn. I am lured out shortly after lunch for what my friend says will be a short hike. The wind is blowing strong and rain is predicted later in the afternoon, and we both want to get a walk in while we can.
We head up Palm Canyon Road toward the trailhead. Usually there’s a fair bit of traffic along here, the hike is pretty well known. But there are only a couple vehicles in the parking lot when we get up there, the weather must be scaring them away.
Both of us have been to the main palm grove, but supposedly there’s another one on a less-used trail that skirts the edge of the mountains. Not ready to turn back yet, we start down that one.
Being this close to the cliffs, the wind isn’t as bad. We’re out of the cholla garden and there’s less vegetation in general, which make the squat, round barrel cactus easier to find. There are a few saguaro up here too, but they’re not common in this area. We’ve come up in elevation quite a bit, and the boondocking area is visible to the west under a sky that is slowly filling with clouds.
The trail takes us up and down washes where water drains from the mountains. In a few spots, stains on the rocks tell of waterfalls that feed these washes after a good rainfall.
We don’t make it to the other grove. But we still end up hiking just over four miles, which is a good distance. On the way back down the road to camp, the clouds gathering over the mountains are starting to look ominous, it’s a good thing we turned back when we did.
Over an hour later while typing at the computer, a low bank of clouds comes swooping in and swallows the mountains behind camp. I love photographing mountaintops wreathed in clouds, it lends an air of mystery to the scene, both in person and in the photo.
The rain soon follows, and it’s a good heavy rain that soon has water flowing through the wash out my door. The flowing water sound is nice, but the full rainbow with the mountains lit up by the setting sun is even better.
I have yet to experience a jaw-dropping sunset in the southwest this winter (still have another two months or so, crossing fingers), but this rainbow makes up for it!
Tomorrow I’m headed to Quartzsite for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Xscapers Annual Bash, this rainbow seems like a good omen of things to come!
* * *
In real time, I’ve just left Quartzsite for Winterhaven, CA and part 2 of the Xscapers Annual Bash. Thanks everyone who came to Thursday’s work-camping seminar! Another good group of people and good questions. Now that my speaking engagements are over and I have fast internet again, I can relax a little and get back to work on other IO projects. Looking forward to this slower-paced week.
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