Rubber Tramp Rendezvous
January 10-22, 2017 in Quartzsite, AZ!
From the earliest dawn of human history mankind has gathered together in groups for safety, comfort and companionship. Making deep and lasting tribal connection with others is written into our DNA code and it’s difficult to be happy without it. But, at the same time, there has always been a small group that could not resist the lure of individuality, travel and adventure–they had to know what was around the next corner and over the next mountain. Those people pulled away from the tribe and followed the beat of a different drummer. They are the nomads, gypsies and adventurers who changed and shaped our world.
But even the most rugged individualist isn’t free from the genetic need for connection. A perfect example of that is the Mountain Men of the 1800’s. They hated the monotony and drudgery of civilized life and couldn’t resist the lure of the mountains and desert, so they left the old life behind and spent much of their time alone in the glory and beauty of wild nature; constantly on the move, seeing new places and new things. But even in the midst of their need for travel and solitude they had a craving for companionship. They solved that by gathering once each year for a giant party called a Fur Rendezvous. During it they played games, drank, caroused and sold their furs.
In many ways we modern day vandwellers are just like the Mountain Men of old: we need to be alone and on the move, but we equally need to occasionally gather together and make connections with like-minded people who understand us. At least I know that’s true for me! I have an unusual need for isolation and alone-time. If I don’t spend quite a bit of time alone every day I start to get antsy and unsettled feeling like the world is closing in on me. But I also love to have others around–just not too close!!
In the spirit of the Mountain Man Rendezvous, I started the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (commonly called the RTR) in January, 2010. There were 45 of us that first year and we all had a great time. It was so great that we’ve been holding it annually ever since and it has grown larger every year.
I choose to hold it in Quartzsite, AZ because it has lots of great qualities that make it perfect for us:
- There is an abundance of BLM land where we can camp for free. Who doesn’t love free camping?
- While most of the country is being hammered by cold and snow, Quartzsite is relatively warm. But warmth is relative and the desert can be surprisingly cold, so come ready for some cold, wet and windy weather.
- The town of Quartzsite is set up to meet the basic needs of RVers and Snowbirds, so getting water, disposing of waste and trash and buying supplies is easy.
- So many RVers and vandwellers gather in Quartzsite in the winter that lots of vendors come to sell their goods out of tents, creating a carnival atmosphere that’s very entertaining and gives you many things to do and see.
- Quartzsite is famous for its gems and minerals, so if that is a hobby or interest of yours you’ll have lots to do!
- If you are interested in working as a campground host, you are almost certain to find a job! Every year there is a Big Tent RV Show held in a huge tent and the population of the area swells to giant proportions as RVers come from all over the West to see it. It’s worth the trip here just to see the crowds in the tent! But what makes it perfect for us is that most of the largest concessionaires that operate Forest Service Campgrounds in the National Forests come here to do their hiring for the coming summer season. It’s very likely you can get a job if you want one.
There will be many very experienced vandwellers at the RTR and an even larger number of newcomers. That creates a perfect opportunity for learning, so we put on seminars most days covering basic subjects of interest to vandwellers. If you are interested in teaching a seminar, and have expertise in the subject, contact me and we will see about adding it to the schedule. Even if you’re not sure it is a good idea for vandwellers, contact me anyway and I will figure out if we should do it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the bottom of this page is a calendar of the planned seminars.
Starting this year it’s expected that all dogs will be on a leash while in camp. It’s a BLM Rule and just common courtesy. I hate that rule as much as you do!! Fifty weeks a year I try to live as rule-free as I can, but we are going to have a lot of people in a small space so there is no choice, we have to follow some simple rules. While no one at the RTR has an enforcement authority, you are coming as an invited guest in my camp–that’s the only reason you will be there. Please respect my rules in my camp. If you are coming to my camp to make my life unpleasant, please don’t come.
I go to the desert for the silence and quiet, and I may want to listen to my choice of music. I do NOT go to the desert to listen to your choice of music or generator!! If you need to listen to music or run your generator, your neighbors around you should not have to listen to it. If they do, we ask that you park further out from camp where you won’t bother others. It’s a BIG desert, you can still be within easy walking distance but where no one else can hear you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. It’s a long ways away, why should I come?
A. The main thing people take away from the RTR are deep, life-long friendships. Over and over again I see people come here and make friends that last them a life time. You’d think we travel so much and that we see each other so infrequently the friendships would fall away; but I’ve found the opposite is true. I may only see some of my friends once a year or even less, but when we do get together again it’s like we just saw each other last week. The connections are surprisingly deep and intense. Truly, we make friends for life and become brothers in a tribe. The friendships you make here will be priceless to you!
Q. Are there any fees for attending?
A. There are absolutely no costs for attending. Of course you will spend your normal amount for food and gas, but there are no fees for the RTR or for camping. It’s all free.
Q. What will be provided?
A. Absolutely nothing will be provided for you!! You are responsible for everything you need while you are here. There won’t be any toilets, showers trash cans or food in camp. You can get water, dump your trash, and take showers ($6 at the Laundromat) in town.
Q. Do I need to get a permit?
A. Quartzsite has so many RVers camping here that you do need to get a permit. But it’s free and just a formality. You can’t get it early so you’ll have to get it once you arrive here.
Q. What will the weather be like?
A. Generally it’s pretty nice with daytime highs in the 70s and overnight lows in the high 30s or 40s. However, a winter storm can blow through at any time and the weather can turn cold and nasty with very high winds and even rain. So come prepared for cold weather with warm clothes, sleeping bags and heaters.
Q. What should I bring?
A. Since nothing is provided, bring everything you need for your normal life. Special camping items you’ll need are water jugs, extra blankets, coats and heaters. I’ll provide firewood for a group fire every night but if you want a fire you’ll need to buy your own firewood because it’s illegal to gather firewood from the desert.
Q. What is there to do?
A. It’s a surprisingly interesting place:
- Gold Prospecting
- Rock Hounding
- Mountain Biking
- Shopping the vendors
- People watching
- Going for cheap dental, prescription drugs and eyeglasses in Algodones, Mexico which is about 110 miles away.
Q. When should I get there, and when do I need to leave?
A. I think this area is a great place to spend the winter, so I usually get here in November and stay until February. So you are welcome to come early and join me in my camp, or stay in one of your own. You are equally welcome to stay and join me afterwards. What I’ve seen happen pretty often is people make a close group of friends and they start traveling together after the RTR and head off and make a camp of their own. Every time that happens I feel like a proud papa watching his kids going off and starting a home of their own!
Q. Where is there nearby shopping?
A. Quartzsite has several small local grocery stores that are fairly expensive and have limited selection. There is also a Dollar General and Family Dollar in town as well as a pretty good local hardware store. The closest national chain store is an Albertson, K Mart and Smart and Final on Blythe, CA which is about 22 miles away. The closest Walmart is in Parker, AZ which is about 40 miles away. It also has a Safeway. Yuma is about 90 miles away. It’s a large city with all the national chain stores and of course Phoenix is about 130 miles away and has everything you could possibly want.
Q. I’m not a vandweller yet, or I live in an RV, can I still come?
A. Of course!! Vandwelling isn’t a choice of a vehicle it is an attitude and you are a vandweller when you say you are. Come join us no matter what you live in, even if it is a house!
Q. Can I stay in a tent?
A. You can, but you need to be aware that the winds can be truly brutal here in the desert. You’ll be much better off if you have a vehicle you can move into during windstorms. If you have to be in a tent come prepared for cold weather and bring a tent capable of standing up to huge winds.
Q. Are my pets welcome?
A. My attitude is, if my dog isn’t welcome, I’m not welcome so your pets are welcome here. Every year we have a great pack of dogs that are wonderful! The standard warnings apply: Don’t let them bark, pick up after them, and they MUST be on a leash. But a unique warning applies to the desert, be aware that coyotes see little dogs as a great dinner so don’t let them run around unsupervised in the desert.
Q. Can I run my generator?
A. Yes, you can, but be considerate! I go to the desert to enjoy nature and listening to your generator makes that nearly impossible. So if you are going to run a generator park further away from other people so you won’t bother them. Beyond that, don’t run them all day and don’t run them too early or too late at night. The same goes for your music. I’m glad you love your music, but that doesn’t mean that I do.
Q. I’m interested in getting solar power installed, can I do that there.
A. Yes, there is an outstanding solar store in town with everything you can need to do it yourself or they can do it all for you. There prices are good except for the price of the panels which are a little high. But there is a place in Phoenix with very good prices on panels!! http://sunelec.com/phoenix-warehouse/ I used to do installs for people but I am just so busy I no longer do any. There are people here who may be willing to help you do your install, but I can’t promise that it will happen. There may be others who will do it if you pay them, that’s between you and them.
Q. Can I get mail or packages sent to me there?
A Yes. Of course you can use General Delivery at the Post Office but there is also a local store that receive UPS, FedEx and freight packages for you.
Q. Can I spend some time with you and ask you some questions?
A. I have to be honest with you and say that during the RTR I am incredibly busy. I know some people are disappointed that I can’t really spend time with them but I am just swamped the whole time. I found that I don’t get enough time to myself so I’ve started to go off alone every day just to maintain my sanity. I hope you can forgive me.
Q. Where is it located?
A. Here is a map. It is exactly 1 mile up the road from last years location. When you are about to turn off the pavement at the dead-end check your odometer. The RTR is at mile 1.4 on the right. If you miss it, you will come to the hard corner and you will know you went too far. Just turn around and go back a few tenths of a mile to the spot. I’ll have a sign out on the 7th so it will be obvious, but until then you will have to use your odometer.
- All seminars and meals will be at the main fire-pit in camp.
- There will be a fire every night, weather permitting
- The chili and soup dinners are a group effort. Everybody needs to bring a can of soup or chili to contribute to the pot before noon of the day they are scheduled. That doesn’t sound good, but it always turns out great! We also welcome fresh, diced vegetables and cooked (or canned) meat. Cans of tomato products also work well. If you bring a vegetable, it needs to be cleaned and diced, or meat (like hamburger) it needs to be cooked and ready to into the pot. We won’t have time to dice or cook those when we make the chili or soup.
This is January 2017s RTR Schedule: