I have been going to the annual Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, Arizona ever since I started vandwelling three years ago. Every year it gets bigger, and this time it’s probably double what it was last year. People are still streaming in from all over the U.S., Canada (and even Denmark), looking for spots to camp between the hundreds of rigs already here. I am so glad I got here three days early!

Of course, like any good immigrant, I now complain that it’s too crowded and our leader, Bob Wells, needs to close the door and stop promoting this lifestyle on the internet. I remember hearing those complaints from old-timers when I started out. (I didn’t mind as long as I could squeeze in first.)

But you know what? In spite of the jam-packedness of this event, it feels like home. The vibe is mellow. The newbies are energizing with their bright-eyed happiness—just like mine three years ago. It’s so nice to be among people who ‘get’ it.

And what is that? you ask. What do we ‘get’?

  • We get freedom from rent or mortgage (though many of us replace it with much smaller van payments.)
  • We get freedom to roam whenever we feel like it and can afford to fill the gas tank.
  • We get freedom from 9 to 5 (though we may have to make up for that with lower paying ‘work camping’ jobs.)
  • We trade utility bills for solar panels, propane tanks, and water jugs.
  • We fashion toilets from five-gallon buckets (or something fancier).
  • We know where the nearest dumpster is.
  • We share the pride of knowing we are self-sufficient—up to a point.
  • We learn to avoid talking politics around the campfire because there are all kinds out here, and we want to stay friends.
  • We decide it’s better not to know who has a gun and who doesn’t.
  • We wave when we pass on the road whether we know each other or not.
  • We stop as we walk, and introduce ourselves and our dogs.
  • We marvel at each other’s rigs and admire good carpentry.
  • We take walks together and become friends for life.

There are sacrifices and problems. There is barely any diversity–we are almost all white (I hope that changes over time.) Hot showers are a premium. It’s hard to maintain a healthy diet. Dirt is just a fact of life.

What do we get?

We get community. That’s what I call a bargain.

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  • Mary

    Hi. I was wondering what your thoughts are on why there is hardly any diversity?

  • Ed Helvey

    Love it, LaVonne. Sorry I’m not there again. I’m in Florida basking in the sun and hanging out with east coast vandwellers. Bob has created quite a following and event. It’s almost turning into his own “Burning Man.” Love the thought of community, but sounds like it’s getting too big for me. But, I still need to get there once, at least. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it – mainly, of course, because of the people – like you and the others I already know. Please say hi for me to those who know me. Live free & be happy to all at RTR.


  • BFG

    “Whats that behind your back?” she said, to the man.

    He swings his hand around to within inches of her face, “For you.”, He smiled with the twinkle in his eyes she remembered from when they were young.

    “Oh they are beautiful, I do love white roses”, she smiles back, “You are an old romantic at heart”.

    Love has many forms they say, white roses and a twinkle in the eyes, can say more than a book of poems.

    Dust in your hair
    Smell of dog on your clothes
    A big wide smile
    For the view is,
    smile making.
    The morning air crisp
    and quiet, for now.
    A big wide smile

    Dust in your hair
    Smell of dog on your clothes

    The smile stays.

    Freedom to, is Love.

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