The Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous starts the 14th and the regular Rubber Tramp Rendezvous begins the 18th. But today there was a gathering to help attendees figure out the new format, to arrange carpools between various camping areas and the venue, to pick up some swag, and to see which of your friends might be there.
The gathering was scheduled to start at 11:00 AM, with no need for any attendees to be there at the very start. I imagined I’d get there around 11:30 by the time I got gas and stopped by my mail forwarder. I drove under the speed limit yet still arrived just before 11:00. And there were over a hundred others there already. Either they also overestimated their travel time, or they were very eager to familiarize themselves with the venue, pick up their stickers, badges or t-shirts, and to meet Bob Wells—the creator of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.
I had donated to the Homes On Wheels Alliance, so I was entitled to a sticker. It now resides on my van wall with all my other stickers. And I got a name badge, because this time, dammit, I’m going to meet new people.
There was a crowd around Bob, like fans swarming a celebrity. There were a lot of hugs and selfies. I’ve been friends with Bob since the autumn of 2013, so I stayed to the side until the admirers thinned out. Bob is over on the invert side of the scale, yet he’s devoted to building social and practical connections among nomads, a good portion of whom are also introverted. It’s a paradox. And it’s draining on him. Only an hour or so into a two-week event and he was already looking overwhelmed, despite having a staff and a pack of volunteers. I wished him the best of luck with the new format and suggested he set himself up with a comfy stool when greeting the masses.
My pledge to meet new people lost, without a struggle, to my desire to head back to camp. But there will be other chances. After all, this wasn’t the main event.