The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous 2018

Not into reading? Only have a cell phone and the letters are too small? Then watch my YouTube Video instead (or do both, for full coverage). I’ve included tons of stunning sunset images and recorded a drive through camp, and there is also a sample of music from the many wonderful and talented musicians. Click here to watch it on my YouTube Channel: 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

Above: There was rain in the forecast at the very beginning of the RTR. When the rains stopped, the sunset was incredible.

So what is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous? – Founded by Bob Wells in 2010, here are his words on the subject taken from his website at

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.

The three free piles

Above: In 2016 and 2017 I kept a casual eye on the free piles and kept them somewhat tidy and free of junk. However, this year we were expecting a lot more people so I was made a member of the staff (All Volunteers) and given the title of Free Pile Organizer. LOL. It was a huge job, and I spent about 5 hours a day trying to stay on top of it. At the end of the day, I was exhausted and could do little more than crash at a friends campfire. Fortunately, my friends fed me each night and took good care of me so I could recover for the next day.

As you can see, one of the wonderful things about the free pile is that it makes a wonderful gathering place, and many new friendships were made while hanging out around all this stuff.


Above: The three tarps I attempted to keep clean and organized. In previous years we only had one tarp, this year we needed three. The turnover of stuff was incredible, and it was a huge success. The Free Piles were located in the main area of the RTR where the various seminars and other gatherings took place. There was something happening here twice a day, so it was always busy.

Above: People gathered in the main area for one of the seminars.

Although I’ve been camping on my own since 1994 and have been a solo nomad since 2004, I didn’t hear about the RTR until 2016, when I went to my first gathering of like-minded people. Up until then, I’d been doing it all on my own, with the exception of an occasional adventure with a friend. I didn’t there were so many people living this lifestyle, or know about solar panels, or using vinegar to wash dishes, I just did it in whatever way I could. After I went to the 2016 RTR, things really started to change for me.

To read about my first RTR click here: 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Finding My Tribe. I also have a post on Getting My Solar Installed in 2017, and Acquiring Unlimited 3G Internet Access for Just $5.00 a month. It’s unlikely that any of these things would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the RTR in 2016. I have received so much help and made so many friends, that this gathering has made a world of difference in my otherwise, very solo, life.

There were around 250 rigs/or people (I’ve never been sure what each person is really counting in their guesstimates) in 2016, and around 500 in 2017. Then, in 2018 the number of visitors skyrocketed to somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 (I’ve even heard 4,000). Keep in mind, that there is no real way of counting how many rigs or people there were at the RTR, so it’s all just guesswork and could be way-off. What I do know for sure, is that it was HUGE, and it definitely changed the feel of the gathering.

Friends gathered around the campfire

Because there were such a huge number of people, one thing I noticed is that a lot of smaller groups started to form, and those people who didn’t like to be over-crowded expanded more and more out into the desert. The BLM actually had to come out and create new entrances to some of the roads that were normally rarely used so that people could access them easier without driving through the washes, or getting hung up on the berms along the main dirt road.

I personally had a very hard time finding any of my friends from previous years. I would walk around aimlessly and unless they saw me, I didn’t stand a chance of recognizing their rig among so many. One time I got a GPS location from one friend, but by the time I made it there, he had left. That’s what happens when your friends live on wheels.

I had my own little group of nomads to hang out with at the end of my workday (who were wonderful), but I still found myself feeling somewhat isolated. It was quite a long walk to the main area, and I drove in each morning in order to have my van with me for lunch and to get out of the sun, and have the tools I needed. I didn’t get to hang out with any of my other friends unless they happened on me during the day by the free piles, where we visited for a spell.

One day a couple of ladies volunteered to watch the tarps for me so I could go to town and get ice, water, food etc. That evening I felt more refreshed and walked around the camp a little bit, listening to various music groups. I finally found a couple of friends that night in the music area, which had been named Music Road. I didn’t last long though and it was an early night for me.

The music area was formed for obvious reasons so that folks could play music there without worrying quite so much about people complaining. However, there was one night when things got out of hand, and there were 56 complaint calls to the BLM (or thereabouts), which I think came from another group of campers down the road. Bob was woken by a call from the BLM and had to get out of bed and go and put an end to the Karaoke session or risk the BLM shutting down the RTR. This was the only music complaint I heard about. Elsewhere in the camp, there were a couple of altercations between campers that got quickly resolved,  and only one of them involved the police. Three altercations in all, not bad for 2,000 – 4,000 people all gathered together for 14 days. Not bad at all!

The ParrotThe pig

The RTR certainly has its share of dog owners and more cat owners than you might expect, but the parrot and the pig won the most unusual pet award in my opinion.

And the sunsets were stunning!

In 2016 a new tradition was born, called The Burning Van. If you’d like to see how the tradition began, you can watch the original Burning Van Celebration by clicking here: Burning Van 2016 ~ A Tradition is Born on my YouTube Channel.

Here is a link to the 2017 Burning Van on my YouTube Channel, Rubber Tramp Rendezvous 2017 Burning Van Celebration. The 2018 Burning Van is included in the video I made of the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Here is the blog post I wrote in 2017 for those of you who don’t have enough bandwidth for videos – Burning Van 2017.

Last year the founders of the Burning Van (performed on the last evening of the RTR, and now considered the official ending) made a van from plywood, but this year they couldn’t come, so a van was created out of cardboard by the craft group so that people could write down their intentions, dreams or whatever for the next year. The idea is that your request will get carried to your God, Angel, the Universe, or whatever you believe in, and hopefully, be heard and come true.


Above: The cardboard burning van, all covered in signatures. Unfortunately, it got rained on just before I took these pictures.

Prior to the burning van, a good number of people suggested that we have a talent show at the main camp. Normally music isn’t played in the main camp area because so many people find it objectionable, and it can get out of hand, however, this was the last night of the RTR, and Bob gave his blessings on the gathering.

I recorded quite a bit of the music played, and I can tell you we have some seriously talented musicians in our tribe. You can watch/listen to this music while watching the sunset and the darkness of night come down, by visiting my YouTube Channel here: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous 2018, Including Music from the Talent Show.

Above: The incredible sunset we watched while listening to the music at the talent show.

Above: A couple of the musicians at the show. The one with the wild hair is David Wimbish and I fell in love with his unique voice. You can find some of his music at

The last day came and some volunteers helped to take away the leftover stuff, and when I packed away the tarps they left a pattern on the desert asphalt surrounded by the footsteps of thousands of pairs of shoes. So many had gathered here and exchanged news, help, information, and how many friendships were born? I wish I knew.

Both sides of the notice board were covered with flyers and notices. There were notices of lost dogs and found cats and everything you can imagine. Here are a few examples, to give you a feel for what the RTR was like this year. As you can see, many individual groups formed, and in one of these, the people have even offered to send a guide to help you find your way to their group. If that isn’t an indication of the size of this gathering, I don’t know what is.



I posted the sign below. I’d hoped to get some stories of kindness and generosity to share with you on my blog, but despite the enormous number of kindnesses that happened I didn’t get a single story from anyone, so I’ll share a few of my own.

I'm still looking for some stories

One morning I was eating my breakfast and enjoying a cup of tea when a young gentleman with a shoulder bag approached my van but stood at a respectable distance. He asked if I still had the original bulbs in my overhead lights, and when I said yes he offered to replace them with LED bulbs, which he had made himself, at no cost at all to me. I accepted, and I now have LED bulbs in all of my overhead lights. This means I can now turn them on without worrying as much about the drain on my starter battery. I was so excited about this, what a wonderful kind and generous thing to do for a complete stranger.

The second story I want to share involves my vehicle. You see my poor Studley Van was feeling kind of under the weather. He was running great but had suddenly started getting 7 mpg instead of the usual 15 or 16 mpg. I was asking around for advice and suggestions, and getting an awful lot of different ideas that all contradicted each other. LOL. So I decided to start with the basics. I’d replaced the air filter and decided to do the plugs and fuel filter next. I put a notice on the board, and a gentleman came up and told me he’d do the work for me. So I got the stuff, and this gentleman and his friend did the work. What did they want in exchange? Nothing. When I next drove Studley he had more power and the mileage was back to 15 mpg.

And last but not least. Every night I arrived back among my circle of friends they had a drink ready for me, a chair, and supper. I was so exhausted from my job and dealing with stuff, and the unglamorous side of dealing with free stuff (anytime someone accepts free stuff, it’s inevitable that some people use it as a way to get rid of some serious junk and even their own personal trash), that all I could do was sit. So I’m very grateful for the kindness and generosity of my friends for taking care of me each evening. I’m not sure I would have lasted through the whole thing without their help.

Thank you, I’m very grateful to the folks I mention above, and those folks who helped in other ways, such as the occasional relief from the free pile so I could visit the bathroom.

At the beginning and the end of the RTR, Bob Wells treated his volunteers to a meal out. Jude who was the RTR Manager and whom Bob says is his boss, asked if I will do the free pile again next year if she promised I would have lots of helpers on a planned schedule. I suggested that she ask me again in about nine-months, perhaps by then I would have forgotten how hard it was and will be ready to do it again, but I’m not making any promises.

I hope you have enjoyed this personal account of the biggest RTR yet.

Oh, and in case you don’t already know this, the RTR got a lot of attention from around the country this year, some think that even Washington was made aware of it. Here is an article written by Jake Michaels of The New York Times, called The Real Burning Man. It’s very well written, and I would recommend reading it.


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2 responses to “The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous 2018

  1. Thanks for the great review of the RTR. The best one that I’ve read!
    I never imagined the RTR would become so big that managing the free pile would turn into a full-time job. 😀 I’m sure your organization efforts are what made it such a success.

    We’re so sorry that we missed this year’s RTR. We’ll be there next year and are planning to build a larger van – plywood again with a wider base so it does not fall over!


    • Good to hear from you both. No, I never expected it to get that big either, and next year it’s going to be in a new location and even bigger still. Bob had to rent toilets this time, and next time there will also be dumpsters. Will I go? That is yet to be seen… I liked it when it was smaller.


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