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Camping at Flagstaff: A Summer of Change Part 1

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Our current camp back in Flagstaff on A-1 Mountain Road.

Our current camp back in Flagstaff on A-1 Mountain Road.

I’m finally done with all my summer travels and I’m back in Flagstaff, AZ camping on A-1 Mountain Road, one of my favorite camping areas. If you’ve been following my travel blogs you know I’m way behind in my summer 2015 travel blogs so you’ll be seeing those for another month or so. Because I’m done traveling and planning to be here until the weather turns cold, I wanted to let you all know so if you are in the area you can stop by. I’m also changing my winter travel plans so I want to give you as much notice as I can about that.
Now that Cody and I are living in the trailer again, we are two happy puppies!!

Now that Cody and I are living in the trailer again, we are two happy puppies!!

For some reason, this summer has had a profound effect on me and I’m set to make some big changes in my life. I can’t really give you logical reason for all the changes, I just have an inward knowing. I have a great deal of trust and faith in the Universe to lead and guide me, so I don’t need to know, I just need to faithfully follow it to the best of my ability. I also have a great capacity to mislead myself, but this is one of those times when I’m fairly sure that’s not the case.
First, I’ve canceled my plans to go to Bosque del Apache NWR for the Festival of the Cranes.  I’ve had a very jam-packed summer of constant travel so it just feels very forced to add a trip this late in the year, plus I was just there last year and while I’d love to go again, it’s just not going to work out. Plus, it’s a minimum of 800 miles round trip and the potential for it to be severely cold is very high. That’s not very appealing to me! I’ll try to work it in next year.
The biggest changes I’m aware of is how desperate I had become for time alone.

Since we first invented fire, humans have gathered together around one because we need each other, and that’s true of me as well. But there have always been some of us need just as much alone time as social time. Those were the hunters, scouts, adventurers and explorers. We vandwellers are their descendants and while we need some social time, we also desperately need alone time to ourselves. I’m very glad I got mine this summer!!

Because Judy was back East all summer, I was alone for almost the entire summer. Normally I stay in one place for long periods of time, but this summer I was constantly on the move so if someone wanted to come by, they couldn’t; I was already gone by the time they contacted me. And I was moving so fast that they wouldn’t have a chance to catch me.
It was also a summer without any plans, which is unusual for me. You know the old saying, “My plans are written in stone” meaning that you have very firm and unchanging plans? As a vandweller all my plans are written in Jello, meaning they are very loose and shaky. But this wasn’t even Jello, it was Kool-Aid! Because all the areas I was exploring for the book were new to me I never knew where I was going and what I would find when I got there. If I couldn’t find a campsite I would just keep moving, if there was no internet, I would have to move on. If it was too hot or too cold, I’d stay an afternoon or if it was perfect I might stay a week. All the rushed travel wore me down, so every so often I would stay at a place for up to a week to write and recover.
My point is I could never tell someone, I’ll meet you at X place at Y time because I never knew where I would be the next day!  The bottom line is than other than running into a couple of vandwellers who knew me from the website, I was alone all of June, July and August. By alone, I mean the only people I talked to the entire time were clerks in stores, and of course those aren’t very deep conversations.
This is the turn off of A-1 Mountain Road (which is Forest Road 506). We are Forest Road 9224, on the left side of FR 506.

This is the turn off of A-1 Mountain Road (which is Forest Road 506). We are Forest Road 9224, on the left side of FR 506.

9224 is kind of a rough road and most of you won't want to drive it. It has two rocky patches. This is the easier one at the gate. In National Forests gates don't have to mean private property, most of the time they are just to confine cattle.

FR 9224 is kind of a rough road and most of you won’t want to drive it. It has two rocky patches, this is the easier one at the gate. In National Forests gates usually don’t mean private property, most of the time they are just to confine cattle. There are lots of places to camp along the entire main road, you may want to camp along it.

Like most nomads I enjoy being alone and need alone time, but for the last several years I’ve had almost none and it was taking a heavy toll. Instead of looking forward to meeting new people and the crowds at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I was dreading it—in fact it was almost like torture to me. I’ve always known that I needed alone time to recharge my metaphorical batteries I just wasn’t aware how deeply discharged they had become. I desperately needed the three months alone! I don’t want to let this happen again, so my plans for the future are my summers are for me-time and winters are for the tribe.
I probably owe many of you apologies because in the past you’ve made the effort to meet me and I wasn’t nearly as receptive as I should have been. I hope you’ll forgive me and give me a second chance.
Now that my batteries are back to 100% I’m looking forward to a winter of making community connections with a tribe of the best people I’ve ever known, my fellow nomads. So please, feel free to drop by and say hello! Last Rubber Tramp Rendezvous I was at a very low point in my communal feelings, and I virtually hid-out the whole time. This year I’m actually looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can!
Mt. Humphrey dominates the skyline here. This is a shot of it from A-1 Mt. Rd.

Mt. Humphrey dominates the skyline here. This is a shot of it from A-1 Mountain Road.

Please, come to the RTR, you’ll make so many friends and learn so much you’ll be very glad you did! Get more information on the RTR here:
In fact, I’m going to get serious about a YouTube channel and one of my goals for this RTR is to video tape interviews with as many of you as I can and then video your rigs.
Also, if you are in the area, feel free to come by Judy’s and my camp in the beautiful Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff AZ. I’ll be here until it gets too cold, which will probably be in mid to late October. It’s a truly beautiful area only 5 miles from Flagstaff which is one of my favorite towns in the country.
In the past Ranger enforcement of the 14 day camping rule has been very strict in the Coconino so when we got here I looked for a somewhat hidden camp. I really like it, and cars or vans can get to it, but most RVs can’t. Fortunately there are tons of great campsites for any size vehicle just a few minutes’ walk away. It turns out this summer they have virtually stopped enforcing the rule so you can camp right on the main road and stay as long as you like. I hope to see some of you!
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Here is a map to our camp:


  1. Rob

    Flagstaff is a nice town, I spent a couple weeks up there this summer and really liked it.
    Enjoy your month!

    • Bob

      Thanks Rob! Flaggstaff is in my top 5 towns in the country!

  2. PamP

    Bob, Thanks for this introspective post. Much of your experiences echo for me – but sometimes I don’t see it in myself until you write about it. I’m quite good at not being able to see myself clearly.
    I am a single granny with a dog and a travel trailer. Age limits me from traveling as far as you do – but I’m glad for what I can still do. Seeing your posts exotic places is a delight.
    I can relate to my dog more fully than with people. I need alone time, but sometimes actually enjoy being with people. But just a few at a time.
    Thanks for including photos with Cody now and then. He’s a fine fella – how lucky you found one another. You two guys look pretty happy! Glad for you both!

    • Bob

      Pam, I think most of us are masters of self-deception! Only hitting rock-bottom could ever force me to wake up and really find out who I am. It remains a struggle to overcome inertia and fear and honestly face myself.
      We are also very much alike in relating better to dogs than people. Drives my girlfriend crazy, but she has slowly accepted it.
      I adore that dog, and we are very, very lucky to have found each other!

      • Walt

        I can certainly relate to this post, Bob. I’ve managed to stay married for 22 years, but I don’t think it’s been easy for either of us. I have always needed and looked forward to those times at night after my wife and son have gone to bed. My wife has never really understood my need for that alone time, and I’ve never been able to explain it very well. She has, I think, resigned herself to it.
        Like you, I relate better to and am more comfortable with my dog that I am with people, even my own family. My dog is 11 now, and my wife has already said there will not be another dog when this one passes on. I’m not sure how I’ll handle that when the time comes.
        Wish I could come down for the RTR, but I suspect it will be several more years before I can take such an extended trip. Hopefully you will still be holding these for the foreseeable future.

        • Bob

          Walt, I wish I had some wise words to offer you on how to deal with your situation at home, but I’m just not that wise. Judy and I have based our relationship on something entirely different than the traditional model. She knows better than say, “Chose between me or the dog!” I can say there are many others in your shoes and this is something we are discussing at length on the forum. You may want to join and check it out.
          As long as I am alive there will be an RTR and hopefully afterwards!

          • Walt

            Good to know! I’ll also check out the forum.

  3. Lori Hicks

    That sounds like a good for us, too. Summer’s to ourselves and winter’s together at Ehrenburg/ Quartszite area. Btw I love the picture of you and Cody.

    • Bob

      We’re a lot alike in that Lori! I think we both lie having a few friends in the area, just not too many and not too often!!
      I loved that picture too!! If I sent out a Xmas card, that would be it!

  4. Cae

    Please do the YouTube channel!
    That’s a great idea. I get tons of good info from YouTube. From DIY to interesting interviews, I’ve learned a lot.

    • Bob

      Cae, it’s all in motion! One of my best friends is getting into it and we are combining forces. He’s the brains and I’m the beauty who is the talking head!!
      I’m very excited about it.

  5. Calvin R (Ohio)

    Bob, thank you for taking care of yourself. I wondered about your community involvement because I know you have something like my own need for alone time, which runs in a shorter cycle but is just as serious. Above all, keep your spirit safe and growing.
    I have been living with friends for quite some time now, but should have different options by the end of the year. Solitude will follow, one way or another. I expect to have a serious discussion with the appropriate doctor about driving or not driving in about another month. The possibilities that have been shown to me lately involve bicycling or walking. No place is too far to walk or bike if you’re not in a hurry. Those modes of travel cost little, too, if one camps. All the same, it’s far easier to drive and have a “steel tent” available. We shall see where Spirit leads.

    • Bob

      I’m sure I told you I have a friend who lives on his bike and it works well for him. He takes the train or bus for very long trips and then lives in the area for a long time. So he might go to the mountains in Tahoe or Colorado for the winter, and then Quartzsite in the summer. He has to live extremely minimally and his “home” is a military surplus bivy-sleeping bag-shelter system. He’s happy!
      You can be too!

      • Calvin R

        Flagstaff is a great example of the situation I would seek out on the road, regardless of vehicles. It’s big enough to have several meetings of my first-choice 12-step fellowship (one of the relatively small ones) and any kind of shopping, etc., complete with transit and bike/walking trails. Five miles away, it’s quiet enough for you (that’s quiet!) and has plenty of spaces. A careful searcher will surely find enough of those to have four good seasons and plenty of things to see and do without having to put too much effort into stealth.

        • Bob

          You’re right Calvin! Flagstaff is perfect in that way and there are many other places like it. Life’s good!

    • Ming

      good luck on the walking/ biking endeavor, Calvin. It’s very different, but good too. I have fond memories of my biking trips. Your range is more limited between resupply points, but you can go many places a vehicle can’t, and you can be very stealth!

    • Lucy

      What about pedaling a strongly built tricycle that pulls a little trailer ?? In the little trailer U can carry ‘your musts ‘, I figure a tricycle is has more carrying capacity than a regular bike, Just a thought ….
      My regards, Lucy.

    • Lucy

      An ATV would also be a good choice, is much cheaper than a van & its carrying / pulling capacity is better than a bike.

    • hotrod

      No shame in traveling on foot or bike. It is my back up plan when all else fails. I would rather live free then enslave myself 75% of the time so I could try and enjoy the other 25%. I might have to go for the reclined bike as those post seats hurt my bum too much . Carry on and live free.

      • Ming

        those are good ideas. I did a lot of my camping with a home made recumbent bike pulling a trailer. It is very handy. No butt pain, and you can unhitch the trailer and wheel it down a difficult trail separate from the bike.

  6. Ming

    Hi Bob, it’s good to hear that you have worked out a balanced life for yourself. Does that mean no more summer RTR’s? I’ll have to figure out how to get myself to a winter one, then.

    • Bob

      Ming, that’s my thinking right now, but everything is written in Jello!

  7. Cotie Cowgill

    Bob, I’m hoping to meet you this winter. I had emailed you and commented on the forum that my wife had passed away from cancer and that I hoped to sell my home by the winter and start the van life.
    Well, I got a lot done to get my mobile home ready for resale, but I have lots more to do.
    So, I decided to see if there is a van, even a min-van that I could afford and is in good enough condition to make the round trip to Arizona from Massachusetts, by way of Louisiana and Arkansas to visit my sister and cousin.
    I’ve bought a 2004 Honda Odyssey mini-van and if the Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be heading out of here in November.
    Hopefully my old dog (Border Collie) will be nice when she meets other dogs. In her old age she is much more protective of her space being invaded.
    Only thing I have left now is a few things to figure out about electricity. I will post those questions in the electricity forum.

    • Bob

      Cotie, I’m so sorry about your wife, but sometimes it takes a tragedy to change our lives. I’m sure your wife is happy to see you moving on and embracing life instead of mourning forever. The pain will never go away, but you honor her by living the best way you can.
      I’m excited to meet you and see your Honda, they are a great choice for a nomad home. You can always camp a little further out so your dog won’t feel so threatened by all the activity, when you come into the main area she won’t be so protective of it.
      See you in a few months.

  8. Linda Sand

    Yes, to months of alone time. Glad you figured out it is best for to to take that in the summer so the winter RTR can be a pleasant experience for you. Please, be careful not to overload this fall either.

    • Bob

      Thanks Linda, you’re right, I will have to be careful this fall or I’ll wear myself out before the RTR. I’m still feeling pretty good though. Where we are camped is hard to get to so we see few people.
      Thanks for your concern!

  9. chet

    “. mean . . people I talked to the entire time were clerks in stores, and of course those aren’t very deep conversations.”
    What? You don’t have Perrier, pink grapefruit flavor? isn’t a deep conversation? 🙂

    • Bob

      It was as deep as I was able to muster Chet! However, I do try to look every clerk I come across in the eye and smile at them and look for some way to make a joke or interact with them. It doesn’t always work, but I do try.

  10. Trainman

    Hi Bob,
    It was great to have a chance meeting with you on a dirt road in the woods. !! Then we part, you go your way and I go mine, knowing we can still speak and understand english. Ha !! I am more the alone than the group type.

    • Bob

      Thanks Trainman, happy trails to you!

  11. Stephen D

    Hey Bob,
    I retired from the Grand Canyon in July and got asked to come back up and help out until August 26th. Good p/t $$ for future travels. Might stop by on my way to Phoenix to see the fam then off to California…. Enjoy the pines!!!

    • Bob

      Thanks Stephen, enjoy your retirement and travels!

  12. Al Christensen

    I’m cruising around southern Utah right now, with the idea of eventually heading into northern Arizona. So I might drop in. I check first to see if you’re still there by the time I get in that neighborhood. It would be almost like two years ago when I first met you.

    • Bob

      Al, where does the time go, huh!? Now you are an old-timer!
      I haven’t even moved very far, about 5 miles in a straight line from that campsite. There are quie a few of us here, some over in our campsites.

  13. DougB

    Glad you have pulled back from expectations (others’ and your own perceived obligations) to do what you need to, to be content. In the long run, it works out better for everybody, doesn’t it?

    • Bob

      As usual Doug, you are very wise! You’re right, it does work out best for everybody!

  14. Carla

    Bob, I’m glad you are taking the advice you give so often to folks on the forum who need to look after themselves. You are so very passionate about helping others find the way to have freedom in life… and you are so good at doing that, I can see where your desire to fulfill that purpose took over too much.
    It seems your summer alone-time will work out great also if you enjoy writing the scenic byways tour book from this summer’s travels. You’ll be exploring other states for the next one.
    All of your tribe want you in your happiest, healthiest state so I’m sure no one begrudges that you take time off any time of the year when you need it.

    • Bob

      Thank you Carla, that’s very kind of you to say!
      I sure hope to meet you at the RTR!

  15. Douglas

    I may be up that way in October if I can make it. Being a working stiff limits my travels.
    I understand the need for alone time. I needed some this weekend and got some. I plan on hiking some on saturday or sunday and just sitting up there in quiet contemplation.

    • Bob

      Douglas, we all need to be honest with ourselves about our needs and be sure to get them filled. You’re wise to do so!

  16. Douglas

    I was near parks the last weekend of april 2015, got snow. It sure got pretty cold. I took some pictures of my truck with snow on it. My father in law threw snowballs at my truck.

  17. hotrod

    After Katrina (I am originally from New Orleans now in Texas) I was driving Through Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge area. One of the most beautiful areas I have driven IMHO. Stopped at a little gas station. The clerk was a young women with spike hair leather jacket and a ring in her nose. I was Strung out from the road and still in shell shock from hurricane. She saw that I looked unhappy and all. She said ” Smile its good for you” and gave me a big smile. It cheered me up and touched me in such a deep way that in the beauty of the gorge and don’t mind telling you that I wept a bit. Moved by her humanity.
    MY point …don’t underestimate the depth of your 30 sec. interactions with a strung out lonely stranger.

    • judy

      hotrod, Some of Bob’s ways have rubbed off on me. I’m normally quiet especially in a room full of strangers. One day in Cottonwood a vandweller emailed Bob asking if he’d meet them for lunch at the Mission. Anyone is welcome for a free lunch (donations accepted).
      We were a bit late but found seating reasonably close together & visited with various folks sitting near us while we ate.
      As I said my good byes to these surprisingly friendly probably homeless people, one lady told me, “I’d like to thank you for the beautiful smile you gave me when you came over & sat down. That meant a lot to me.”
      I will never see that lady again but I will always remember how special she made Me feel because she let me know that my smile had made her feel good.
      In my old life I would have sat eating with my head down and had no interaction with anyone around me. Bob’s kinda been a good influence on me.

      • Bob

        Just by accident Judy!

    • Bob

      What a great story hotrod, thank you! I often fail, but it is my goal to make every person I come into contact with a little better off by our “chance” passing.

  18. scrap wood


    • Bob

      scrap wood, that is a great quote!! I’d never heard of it before and would buy one but the cheapest on Amazon is $67 used.
      It says very simply my entire philosophy of life, our only job in life is be what we were created to be. The only method is through surrender and humility and the shedding of everything that is not truly “us”.
      Lao Tzu would simply call it the Tao. I see the entire universe as a simple, single, living organism with each little part of it like a molecule that composes the body. Each individual part has a DNA that tells it who, what, where, where, how and why to be. The Tao is the DNA.
      Conform to your DNA and all will be well. Fight the DNA and it will not be well.

  19. Scrap Wood

    Bob here’s is the whole sutra. If you want an explanation the pdf is out there free by osho. You can also get it from my friend nina at deep in the artlife west blog. Look at her free library on the left side I think she has it as the Hsin Hsin Ming. I love your spot and working to be a part of the group and you are right about the TAO.

    • Bob

      Great stuff, thank you Scrap wood.

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