Today we are going to join the RTR. RTR stands for Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. It is an ever growing and hugely popular annual gathering of all sorts of van-lifers from experienced to aspiring. This year RTR was hosted in Quartzsite, a little dot on the map, somewhere south in Arizona.
Quartzsite is something else. It is a puny town in a middle of the desert. For the biggest part of the year it only has about 4,000 inhabitants. However, things change dramatically in the winter months when thousands upon thousands of RVs drive in for one reason or the other.
When we arrived at Quartzsite a giant Vacation & RV show was on the agenda. Suddenly this undersized town ballooned its demographics to about a million heads. The place looked surreal.
Located in the proverbial nothingness, the land of never-ending wasteland, this town was busier than the downtown Manhattan in the middle of rush hour.
One could barely pass as the roads were uniformly taken up by RVs of various sizes from tiny tin cans on wheels to half-a-million-dollar luxury condos on wheels. It was good news for merchants, who were making a killing on RV surplus, solar installs, second-hand bits and pieces, as well as jewelry stones and of course food.
We were also enticed by the bargains, but we opted out of shopping due to an incredibly difficulty task of parking a vehicle.
Instead we proceeded straight to BLM land where folks like us can park overnight for free. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) offers short-term free parking for travelers.
It is a great stop-over place if one is on a tight budget.
Parking at RTR was also a little bit tight. Apparently about 3,000 vehicles were trying to cram into the event. The purpose of this once-a-year jam was to mingle and exchange information about van life. Our purpose was to get solid instructions from experienced van-lifers on how to install and run solar panels. We need energy to charge devices, run lights, cook food, and have the fridge going. Basically, solar would allow us to work on the road, buy groceries ahead of time, make coffee in the morning, and have a normal life after sunset.
Solar installation is not an easy task. One cannot just slap the panels on the roof, run some wires and enjoy.
Novices run into nasty surprises including non-functioning installation, insufficient power, battery failure, and escalating expenses. Solar is not cheap. Our basic setup is about four thousand dollars. Kill a battery and add a few hundred to the expenses. Buy a wrong inverter and you are down five hundred. Mix up connections to the charge controller and your next shopping will not be less than five hundred. We did not want to drain our bank account due to lack of experience, so we took our time doing things right on the first trial.
We parked our LUVe between a white SUV belonging to Robyn and 7Grey, a rising YouTube star, both we were yet to know.
Luckily, RTR facilitated rapid connections we did not have to wait for too long to get to know our neighbours. Robyn, a passionate yogi, turned out to also be an outstanding dog trainer.
Her pooch was amazing! Friendship with 7Grey developed over time. He turned out to be a kind soul with an enormously resourceful mind. His mission was to overcome life obstacles and experience life without limits. Great student, great teacher, and a fun guy to hang around.
The next two weeks at the RTR were super busy. We divided our time between checking out parked rigs, socializing, cooking outdoors, going to town, borrowing things, and using port-a-potties. Our heads were spinning with new information, new ideas, new trends and new friends. We learnt how to ferment food on the road, where to cross the border to Mexico for cheap dental, how to dumpster dive, what is enchilada ranchera, and of course, how to prep for solar installation among other things. Also, we learnt that we can survive without daily showers, morning makeup, wi-fi connection, and that nights are cold in the desert. We also heard that van live can be so cheap that five thousand American greens can be enough for a year. We are yet to prove it.
The RTR came to an end and on the last day panic set in. We are nowhere near finished the solar installation, which means we have no power for anything. Time to figure something else out or even beg?