Last year we went to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) gathering. It was huge. This year the RTR exploded and pieces of it ended up all over the desert. We ended up at Camp Hobotech, an informal camp organized by Tom (Hobotech) and Stan (Sasnak). Neither Tom nor Stan have anything to do with the RTR but it was a good excuse for a nomad gathering in the desert. Both Tom and Stan are nomad You Tubers. Search Hobotech or Sasnak on You Tube to see them in action. Like any good American west camp it begins with a circle of wagons (campers) around a camp fire and expands as more campers come in.
This is not about the camp itself but about some of the talented and eclectic people Camp Hobotech attracted.
“I’ll be with ya in second. I just gotta get this banner up here.” He says unfurling a U. S. Marines banner. “Ya ever seen these?” he says holding up a small piece of plastic with a hook. “Ya just run your paracord through here and pull it tight and it cam locks in place. Just like that. Now what can I do fer ya?”
Gene turns out to be master of every gadget known to mankind as well as a master of the art of minimal cooking.
“There’s no sense in cooking one meal at a time. Now I bought some bread at Walmart a few days ago. Looks like it’ll be turnin’ green any time now so I cooked up a pound a bacon and made me a nice BLT. That’s what I’m eatin’ now. Then I’m gonna take that bread and made three peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. That’ll about finish off the bead. I’ll wrap ‘em up and put ‘em in the freezer. That’ll keep ‘em good til I get round to eatin’ ‘em. I’ll freeze the rest o’ the bacon separate. When I get up I throw an egg in the pan with strip o’ that frozen bacon on top. By the time the egg’s done that bacon will be defrosted and ready to eat. Wan’a see a picture o’ your rig I took last night?”
“I’ve been interested in taking pictures o’ stars and it just worked out with your rig in the foreground. Now the way ya do it is … Well let get my camera and show ya. Ya see here’s the picture. Now what ya do is set the focus to infinity and the iso to …”
He goes through the settings.
“Ya got a camera and a tripod?”
“Come by after dark. I’ll show ya on yours”
Gene has a house in Pennsylvania that he returns to every two years for his Veteran’s Administration doctor’s appointment. He’s scheduled to return to it in 2021.
The man sitting next to me at the campfire ring isn’t saying anything and no one is talking to him. Unusual in such a friendly group.
I lean over, “Hi. I’m Alan.”
“I’m in the Casita up the way. What do you have for a rig?”
“Oh, I’m in a Road Trek (a modified van) over there. Four wheel drive. Don’t see them very often.”
“Where are you from?”
“Venice Beach California. You know the place with all the weirdos along the beach. Well, I graduated Venice High with some of them.” he smiles.
“I’ll betcha see some movie stars there don’t ya?” pipes in Roy sitting on the other side of me.
“Well not really. You might of heard of Harry Perry. He’s been there since I was a kid. He’s been in some movies and TV shows. He sings and skates for money from the tourists.”
“Naw. I mean real movie stars. The ones ya read about in the paper … the internet now.”
“I’ve met quite a few over the years. They’re not like you read about. Most of them are pretty ordinary people. Just like you and I. No smarter nor better. You have to keep in mind everything you see written about them is written by somebody else who is trying to make money off their name. If you met them on the street in regular dress and sun glasses you probably wouldn’t give them a second thought.”
“Ya mean you actually know movie stars?”
“Quite a few. But I’m just there to do a job so I’m not in their social circle or anything like that.”
“Well shoot. Can ya name any?”
“Probably the one I knew best was Arnold Schwarzeneggar but it was during his time as governor. He’s a very intelligent guy. Nice guy. Treated me and everyone I saw him interact with well. Not that he wasn’t demanding but he always treated us with respect. He not the crude tough guy he’s portrayed in the media. He was a good family man too. Always kept in touch with his kids. Yeah, I worked for him for maybe three years.”
Alright curiosity is getting the best of me. What does this guy do? Personal trainer? Body guard?
“You mind me asking what you do?” I say.
“Oh, I was a commercial pilot. I flew their private jets.”
Jerry and his wife don’t own a house but they do have a bus size motorhome parked in Wyoming. “I haven’t seen it in two years. We like traveling in the Road Trek so much we kind of forget about it.”
“Now the most important the most important thing on a tire other than the size is the date code.” Possum explains to the man standing nearby. “I managed a fleet of trucks for a utility. We always checked the date code. That told us how old the tire is when we bought it. Ya see a tire can be settin’ on the shelf two, three, four years before it ends up on your vehicle.”
“So where do you find the date code?” the man asks.
“Well it’s right here on the side wall. Four digits. Well it’s here somewhere. You get down there and look on the bottom.”
“Nope, don’t see it.”
“Well they musta changed it. That’s the government for ya. There always messin’ with stuff. You take this vehicle for example. There’s nothin’ wrong with it but I gotta spend 50 bucks every year to get it inspected. For what? Vehicle failure is involved in less than 1% of accidents. I gotta spend 50 bucks for some mechanic to tell me there’s nothing wrong with my vehicle, which I already knew, to prevent somethin’ that ain’t likely to happen anyway. That’s how the government works. Ya know what I mean?”
Possum maintains his New York residency. He never did say if he still had a house there.
Gus in a Bus
“A drone just crashed in a bush outside the trailer.” Lorraine says.
I go outside and a man is retrieving a drone from the bush.
“I just got it. Someone gave it to me. First flight went good. The second one isn’t goin’ so well.”
He sets on the ground. “I’m going to try her again.” The drone begins to rise and hesitates six feet above the ground.
“Go up. Go up.” He yells at it.
It rises to eight feet and begins to veer off.
“Not over there you son of a bitch. Oh, that was close. Almost hit that guy’s rig. I’m hittin’ the stop button and it won’t stop.” He keeps hitting a button on the control panel. On the fifth try the drone stops and unceremoniously crashes four feet in front of us.
“I think the battery’s low. I’m Gus by the way but you probably already guessed that.”
“I’m Alan. I understand you make videos on You Tube.”
“Yeah, I started about a year ago. I’ve got maybe a hundred up there now. I used to be a professional photographer. Photographed beautiful women on the beach. Stuff like that. The hardest part was getting them to act natural. You know. They all had poses worked out but I wanted them to look un-posed. I had to work with them to get them to relax, try different camera angles, different backgrounds.”
The same thing with video out here. Now I wanted to do a video about the desert around here. Like this bush.” He says pointing to a bush in front of us.
“Now there’s only three freeking types of bushes out here and most of ‘em look barely alive but I’ve got to make this look interesting if anybody’s going to watch it so maybe I start way down here.” He bends over holding his camera a foot from the ground. “And point it so the sunlight is coming through the bush making it a silhouette. Then I move the camera around here so now you start to see the leaves and shadows and then pull it back a bit so it shows more bushes in the background and gives it some context. Twelve seconds of video maybe. That’s all it took but now the viewer understands something about this bush and where it is. Do that, well not exactly that, but that kind of thought process a few more times in different places and you’ve got a pretty good video of the desert. Something people will want to watch”
“That’s great. I never thought of it like that. You really
think it through before you start shooting.”
“I’ve got to or I end up with a video that’s boring and nobody will watch.”
“You mind if I take a picture of you?”
“Not at all but you’re not going to do it here. The sun will show every wrinkle and crevasse in my face. We’ll go around to the shaded side of the bus and I’ll look ten years younger in your photo.”
Gus doesn’t own a house but maintains his residency in British Columbia for the Canadian health insurance.
“You come over and see my van. It’s just a minivan but it’s got everything I need.” Gigi says at the campfire one evening.
“Where is it?”
“Right over there.” She says motioning to the northeast. That’s about as good as directions get in the desert.
The next day I wander over to the northeast and spot a silver Honda minivan parked between two dry washes.
She’s sitting in a folding chair outside the van.
“Oh. Hi there. Who’s your friend?”
“That’s Jack. He travels with us.”
“Come here Jack. Oh, what a nice dog.”
“Well this is my home.” she continues. “My home on wheels that is. I still have a house.”
“Where’s your house?”
“In Laredo. I keep up with the utilities and the taxes but I don’t spend much time there.”
“You prefer to be on the road?”
“I lived in there for thirty years but then my husband died. He had been sick. And six moths later my mother passed. And then my sister. In three years I lost nine family members. And the kids, they moved out to California. I found myself just sitting around the house. Then one day my grandson asked if I could help him move to Michigan. He didn’t have much stuff so it would all fit in my minivan. On the way back I wanted to save money so I bought a sleeping bag and started sleeping in the van. That’s when I learned I could do this.”
“Then I heard about Bob Wells and RTR. I went to my first RTR three years ago and everyone was so nice and I had a wonderful time. So I took all the seats out of the van and bought a small sofa. That’s my bed and a little while ago I found a used rv refrigerator so I don’t need a cooler any more. I’ve got all my clothes in these plastic bins and I just travel around. People are so friendly everywhere you go.”
“I go back to Laredo a couple times a year but I don’t stay. I’m pretty sure I’m going to sell the house and be on the road full time.”
That’s a sample of the people at Camp Hobotech. People that prefer the uncertainty and chance encounter of the road to the security of a house. Camp Hobotech will last eight days. We left after six days for Cottonwood AZ. By the time we left Gene, Jerry, Possum and Gus had left. Some will go off to Parker , AZ to watch the off road races next week. Some to Ehrenburg, CA for dispersed camping along the Colorado River and some to see friends or to places only they know. Others came in to replace them. The evening we arrived in Cottonwood we watched Tom’s (Hobotech) live You Tube feed from Camp Hobotech on the phone. That’s how we keep in touch. That’s what makes a community of wanderers possible.