Bob Wells is not your typical RVer. But actually, that depends on who you ask. To the free-range nomads that attend his Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite in the winter, his rendezvous rally, which they call The Real Burning Man, consists of an assortment of nomads driving converted delivery trucks, Roadtreks, vintage RVs, “skoolies” and the odd Prius, a few thousand altogether that gather in defiance of consumerist society, writes Penelope Green for the New York Times.
Also typical attendees are the owners of “Road Virus,” a 32-foot-long matte black “skoolie” that is the rolling home and bookstore of Emily Black, 35, a former librarian and an alumna of a Bay Area tech start-up, and Sade Black, 27, a musician and writer. From it, the couple sells horror, science fiction, erotica and other so-called fringe lit. For the last month, they have been parked in front of Reader’s Oasis Books, an idiosyncratically stocked emporium presided over by Paul Winer, a sinewy former rock ’n’ roller otherwise known as the naked bookseller because he wears only a sock over his private parts.
The Blacks 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 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.
Radical simplicity is his credo. From his YouTube channel, Cheaprvliving, which has over 120,000 subscribers, and his website of the same name, he dispenses practical advice such as how to live on $500 a month (Mr. Wells has a pension from his years at Safeway), or tips for camping with pets, along with musings on the psychological and environmental benefits of road life.
Read more and see more pics. (The next RTR is scheduled for January 9-20, 2019. The Women’s RTR will be January 4-8, 2019.)