Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Real Burning Man

...Skoolies are school buses that have been turned into houses on wheels, and the Blacks, who bought theirs through Craigslist for $7,500 and have been on the road for a year, are new members of a sprawling and disparate tribe of vehicular nomads that flock to this dusty desert town each winter. They come for the boondocking — nomad vernacular for free or low-cost camping — on the thousands of acres of federal land that are adjacent to the place, and for the community, particularly that found at a two-week-long rally called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Organized by Bob Wells, a 62-year-old van-dwelling evangelist who has been living on the road for over two decades, the RTR drew just 45 people when it began in 2010. This year, Mr. Wells said, rangers estimated the crowd at over 3,000. Often called a Burning Man for retirees, the RTR is starting to skew younger, at least by anecdotal measures. Committed nomads come to share tips on solar power, stealth overnights in parking spots on city streets, van conversion, mail, hygiene, finances and low-cost dental care, which can be found over the border in the Mexican town of Los Algodones, an hour and a half away. Aspirational nomads come to test the waters, in rented mini-Winnies and camper vans. And they come to meet Mr. Wells, a celebrity here. With his abundant gray hair, lustrous beard and mellifluous voice, he is an amiable philosopher-elder of the road: Bruce Chatwin in a GMC cargo van. The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous agora was a centrally located patch of chalky ground ringed by creosote bushes and giant saguaro. There were seminars on creating YouTube videos; a tin can Q. and A., and show-and-tells of favorite gadgets. Two tarps were neatly arrayed with books, clothing, housewares and personal care products. Attendees could leave unwanted goods from decluttering their rigs or pick up needed items for free...more

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