I wake up naturally when the sun crests the horizon. Although I have window covers, I rarely use them in the desert. I like looking outside at night, and I have lots of space around me. Even though the moonlight sometimes keeps me up, I am fascinated by the strange blue light it casts in the desert. I also love that the sun doesn’t have to knock at the window to get in, in the morning.
Rather than making coffee, I get out of bed, tuck my chair into the van, get into the front seat, and head for town. I wear sweats to bed, and since I’m heading to the pool for a swim and a shower, I don’t change. On the way out, I smile at the busses, which have grown in number since last night. I lived for about 15 years on the west coast of Canada, and this little gathering reminds me of something I would have liked to have done in my early 20’s.
I take Pippa for a little run at the park before my swim, and meet a group of people who clearly meet each morning. I know this, because they are putting money into an envelope for a football pool. There is much excitement. Many are actually seasonal, but return each year. They are kind, and don’t leave me out, pulling me into their light hearted, early-morning conversation. A woman arrives with 8 little intensely-barking dogs, all wearing little coats, and I mistakenly assume the group might express annoyance at the incoming calamity. I am completely wrong. She is clearly a local celebrity, and is warmly welcomed.
Pippa and I head to the pool, and I tuck her into her kennel and park in the shade. I enjoy a long soak in the hot tub, a swim, and finally a glorious shower. All for $5. Along with marinas, laundromats and RV parks, community centres are a great place to get cleaned up on the road.
We then head for Quartzsite, but aside from meeting my friends for lunch at a local cafe, I have no plan for where I will camp, or how long. I used to be so obsessive about planning. That seems a lifetime ago and I smile thinking about the fluidity of my day-to-day life now. Decisions happen when they are ready to happen, and not a moment before.
Lunch with my two Canadian friends was awesome. I didn’t have enough time with them while the RTR was on, and it felt important to say a proper “see you on down the road” before they set off. After warm fairwells, I go to fill up the water tank at Mobil, and find the water empty again. This time of year, I am told this happens quite often. There is a huge demand among the RV community. I still don’t know where I am going to stay.
I decide I need to see another friend first. Another kindred spirit. I know just where to find her; she works at the BLM office, and my heart is full when I see her again. We talk about the RTR, about how women learn, and about how no matter how much information we feel we must gather in preparation for “van-life” (or RV life or truck life or big car life), in the end we must simply leap into the unknown and learn as we go. We both agree it’s a process that can’t be undertaken with “information” alone – in fact- too much information can be paralyzing! Do I have the right vehicle? Will I choose the right solar? What will I need to pack? It can all take on far too much weight, and keep us from actually DOING THE THING THAT IS CALLING US.
As we catch up, the question of what I am now doing comes up. From my mouth spring the words “I think I’m going to spend a week or two sunning my butt in the Magic Circle” and that was that. The decision was made. I’ll never cease to be amazed at how that happens with seemingly no concious process.
The Magic Circle is a sub-community within the Quartzsite Long Term Visitor Area; a clothing-optional community within a larger community of desert campers and RVers. They have been here for almost thirty years, and operate as a collective. There are over 200 members; most returning year after year. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this group of sun-lovers since coming to Quartzsite (you must remember that Quartzsite is home to a naked book seller after all) and it certainly crossed my mind since arriving, that I might enjoy a little extra dose of Vitamin D while in Arizona. But still, I surprised myself. I pay $40, which will cover my camping for two full weeks, as well as allow me access to water and trash disposal.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed communal full-body sunning and recreation. My experiences go back to my early 20’s, and are conneted to my days on a west coast gulf island where I lived off grid, building a little house with extended family, from trees on our property. Intentional communal naturism has just always been “ok” in my world view and in some of the communities I have lived in. That said, it’s been a while. The last time I went into a similar community was over 15 years ago, and it was just for a weekend. So, I was a little bit nervous.
I drove around the circle until I found the perfect place. And it did feel perfect. Soon enough, a local resident of the circle arrived, I’ll call him The Greeter; all sun-kissed and clearly completely at home in his natural habitat; and who very courteously made sure I knew I was in the nudist part of the desert before getting out of his van to say hello. He was so good at greeting, I actually wondered if he was their official greeter. Or maybe a “perimeter checker” who was tasked with ensuring unsuspecting campers didn’t find themselves experiencing a magic show they hadn’t paid to be amazed by.
Before I knew it, my community laison/ greeter friend had helped me set up my canopy and I soon found myself visiting with “the gang” over at the club house for Happy Hour. Which had nothing to do with alcohol, and everything to do with their collective sunny dispositions 🙂 This little gathering happens each day, and is just a time of visiting and catching up on event planning and such things. By the time the hour is over, I have forgotten I am naked and am carrying on and cutting up with the other Canadian in the house.
Not only that, but I have signed up to bring chilli to the Super Bowl Cook-off on Sunday, agreed to attend the Valentines Potluck on the 14th and am truly delighted to learn I can practice yoga three times a week beginning on Monday, just a one minute walk from my camp. There is a Country and Western Dance tomorrow night where I am welcome to wear a cowboy hat and nothing else, but clothes are an option if I prefer. I promise to come to the campfire tonight; there is a birthday being celebrated.
I know it all must sound very strange to someone (most of you I imagine) not accustomed to a lifestyle that encourages the shedding of our daily costumes without shame. But for me, it is familiar and comfortable, just not a community I have ever had the opportunity to spend any time in. I’m truly delighted and feel a bit like a happy three year old. I noticed I wasn’t holding in my stomach while I finished setting up camp. I breathed very deeply and I felt a little giddy with freedom and sunshine.
Pippa and I go to the fire and the women folk, most of whom I had not yet met, all make a point of greeting me and making me feel welcomed. Clothes have come out as the night has cooled off (Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit and wisdom is knowing not to put one in a fruit salad) The fire is warm and everyone is a special colour of Arizona Golden in the dancing orange light. Happy Birthday is sung with harmony.
I have found another tribe! There are norms, a unique language and secret handshakes I don’t yet understand but I’m a quick study. I’ll figure it out. And yes, I’ll wear sunscreen, and no, I wont be out in the sun ALL day.
And I know you want to know, because I had to ask too: most people choose to wear clothing to yoga 🙂
(I know, you didn’t see this coming. But what can I say? I didn’t either! Hahahaha)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since the publication of this post it has been brought to my attention that in order to set camp here in the Circle one must have a self contained rig, as there are no vault toilets nearby. Sadly, my van is not self contained (it would need a waste tank that could be pumped out at appropriate facilities) So I will need to move in the morning. I realize in retrospect that I was gently given that information on arrival but I guess I was just so excited to be here that my brain didn’t quite register the news. It’s important (to me) to follow BLM guidelines and I do it happily, for all of us who benefit from these lands.
Tomorrow’s post will be on disappointment and flexibility. One being inevitable in any life well lived, and the second being essential for getting through it 🙂
16 thoughts on “A Month in a Minivan: Day 2”
Is self.contained a.requirement for.all BLM.land? I have a portapotty. How.do van dwellers.get to stay on BLM land?
Hi there Joyful!
No, not at all. If one is not self-contained and want to stay at the Long Term Visitor Sites in Quartzsite, you have the option of staying within 500 feet of a portable or “vault” toilet they provide. Rangers do move people, although it sometimes takes a bit of time for them to do their rounds. There are usually 2-5 toilets in the area to choose from. If you are staying at the free BLM land, you must take care of your own waste and water in whatever way you choose (responsibly!) and it is not a requirement to be self-contained. Hope that helps!
Hello to a fellow Canadian with a Grand Caravan! I am still working f/t & have one teenager at home….but I’d love to do what you’re doing for a couple years when i retire. Proud of you for going it solo & loving it! I just bought a fold out mattress for my van & have booked 2 camping trips at Ontario Provincial Parks & will try camping in my van!
Hello back home! I started planning for SOME kind of adventure when I turned 40! I just promised myself I would do it. I began socking away money, preparing my kids etc. I had no idea what it was going to be, but I spent ten years dreaming first!
Which parks will you be going to in Ontario?
There are lots of great ones to choose from. What a great beginning you are off to!
I’m glad you started writing this blog. I will look forward to it every day. I love the content and you have an easy writing style and rhythm that I enjoy!
LOVED LOVED LOVED every part of this blog, even though I had to change my mental image of the yoga classes once you gave the answer ha ha ha ha ha Im with you in spirit remember!! xoxo
Selfed contained isn’t considered a bucket in the Van and trash bags? I plan on boondocking on blm land in the future.
The definition is probably different from organization to organization, camp to park, but for BLM, no. They define it as having a 10 gallon waste tank. This may change maybe as newer RVs are perhaps utilizing newer composting toilets etc… I’m curious myself!
Oh bummer! I’m sorry you had to leave your newly found tribe! I’m sure things will work out and maybe you will figure out a way to go back. Could you rent an RV just for the 2 weeks? Just a thought. At least you got a day there right? I have to say you are a true free spirit. I’m pretty shy about others seeing my body and would find it odd to walk around with all my lumps hanging out. 😂 I think it’s really cool that you can let go and just do it. Very adventurous!
Thanks Debbie! I’m disappointed but totally understand the reason for the regulation. I am quite sure if I wished to, I could come to the Circle each day but camp a distance away. I will consider all my options tomorrow 🙂 Oh, and my lumps had a LOT to say about the sunlight but once they got talking with other people’s lumps, they realized they weren’t alone, and they felt quite oblivious. Lol
I knew we had more in common. You let your free spirit come out and it feels good. So happy for you Kit!
Ah, thanks Sista- Kathy! It does feel very good 🙂
That is for that! Yes unexpected. Liberating to be so brave.
Hi Corinne 🙂 There is no doubt that there is a lot of negative and fearful self talk one has to fight through to do certain things. But in this case, once I barged through it, it was remarkably easy. 🙂
Just discovered your blog and am loving reading about your adventures. One question is Pippin with you when you visit and if not how do you keep him cool in the desert?? I’m contemplating getting a cat shortly and he will be traveling with me so any info is appreciated.
Pippa is always with me.
Average temperatures here right now are in the low 70s so not too bad. Because the van has a heavy tint on the windows and window coverings, it also stays strangely cool. I park in the shade, and I put a 12 volt fan on her, and of course give her water if I have to leave her a short time during the day. Windows are cracked and she is in her kennel, which never has direct sun through a window. The back is cool and dark. Mostly, she is with me. Sometimes I choose to grocery shop or swim or do laundry later in the day when it is cooler and there is no worry about heat. I hope this helps! Welcome to the adventure!