Skooliepalooza 2023: The Ungathering 2/7/23

The official name for this year’s Skooliepalooza was “The Ungathering”. Not because it didn’t happen, or because it was poorly attended; but rather because, after much ado, the name is under new ownership and despite their valiant attempts to organize the event and make it more of an “event” and not just a random group of nomads in the desert, the event went on unorganized or without any one person “in charge” and without any regulation or insurance as always – an “attend at your own risk” event, if you will. We had a great time and got to meet many people and have many great conversations that we will remember for a long time!

The photo above was taken by a drone before we got there, so you won’t find our bus in it, but I thought it was a really neat photo that showed the organized chaos that is Skooliepalooza. To give you some direction as you look at the picture, the ‘road’ that comes in from the left is Ehrenburg-Cibola Road and is the main street through the State Trust Land here. It continues down that big hill and straight on through the rest of the desert that is not fit for busses and barely accessible by 4×4 trucks – but the dune buggies eat it up! So, as you’re coming in from the left, the road splits left – towards the loud/party side – and right – towards the quiet/family side. We found a cozy spot about a third of the way down the family side on Tuesday afternoon. Skooliepalooza officially started on Monday, and many people were there for the whole weekend prior, but we weren’t able to get there until Tuesday. The official bus count took place sometime Tuesday so we aren’t sure if we were included or not, but this year was the biggest year in the 7-year history of Skooliepalooza with 300 busses and 511 other rigs in attendance! That’s an attendance number of well over 1000 people on the second day of the week-long event! As the week wore on, more and more busses came pouring in and really filled in all the gaps you see in the picture above. It was a great time!

Our bus can be found in this photo! Look carefully! I’ll post the same picture with an arrow to our bus at the end of this post… no cheating!!

Braydon got to do many fun things while at Skooliepalooza this year! If you remember all the way back from last year he met a girl named Brody who played Legos with him briefly in our bus. This year he got to play with her again outside! They both had a great time!

Braydon and Brody playing with his Legos outside of a neighboring bus.

Braydon also got to “sword fight” with a guy in full LARP attire. He was the youngest of the group to go up against the LARP-er, but had the most fun, in my opinion! In the end, he got the wind knocked out of himself even though the guy was being gentle, but said that he had a fun time and that it wasn’t as scary as riding the horse.

By the way, that yellow and green bus in the background is for sale. Let me know if you’re interested!

Speaking of riding the horse, there was an older couple traveling with their horse and they brought it around and gave children free rides on it!

It was a lot of fun, but Braydon said he was pretty scared.
Despite being scared, he remembered to hold on tight. Looks like he’s having a pretty fun time to me!

Braydon wasn’t the only one who had fun at Skooliepalooza – Tally enjoyed herself immensely after we finally decided to let her out. She was skeptical at first as there were dogs, wheels, and children running around all feral-like. She sat in the doorway sniffing and watching for a while, but then jumped out and got to be a part of the shenanigans. Whenever a random dog got too close to the bus she would hop up on the axle or some other part of the undercarriage of the bus and feel safe. Once she even ran under our neighbor’s bus as she felt safe and secure under their similarly-sized home on wheels. Our neighbors on that side were pretty cool! They do traveling Tin-type Photogrophy and they had it all set up one day and did vintage photos for people. What a neat almost-lost art! We hope to meet up with them in the future and get a portrait done when we have some extra cash, but they walked us through the whole process and we even got the watch how they do it. It was super-cool! You can check them out on Instagram here!

Braydon had some rocks that he had collected over the past year and decided to set them in some resin. Four rocks were from the rock collection we keep under the woodstove, one rock he collected while at Skooliepalooza, and one is a bead he got from “The Bead Guy” at Skooliepalooza. He did a very good job carefully pouring the resin. It turned out great!

Regarding “The Bead Guy”, his name is Justin and he is a fellow bus-dweller. Justin is into the primitive technology and survival techniques that many Naturalists teach to attendees at Nature Center classes and such. Several years ago he was introduced to the history of beads, the only world-wide-found artifact that is recognized by every people group on every continent. We got to attend one of his Bead History Classes that he held right outside of his bus. We learned so much! Who knew that there was so much to learn about something seemingly so simple! I got three glass beads from him that I was able to stack up on one of my dreads. The blue-green-blue glass bead set pictured below are Bohemian-made “wound glass” beads. The glass is literally wound around in a sort-of spiral to make a singular glass bead. We hope to meet up with Justin again in the future and learn more from him not only about beads but also about Primitive Technology. He has invited us to some gatherings of this nature and we hope to attend one soon!

More meaningful and informative conversations were had that don’t have picture documentation but sparked deep thought and are encouraging a change in our course of action. One woman we were parked across from, Sabrina, came by to deliver one of our resin projects after it had fully hardened. She sat down with me in our bus and she and I briefly shared bus-life stories and experiences. While our experiences and life paths have been so different, she inspired me to take a long and hard look at the money supply/demand cycle. When you have more things, you need more money and conversely that the fewer things you have, the less money you need. We have been trying to figure out how to make more money because the things that we have need to be constantly kept up with (ie. the Jeep needing $3k in suspension work right before we left for Skooliepalooza). Sabrina doesn’t have a second vehicle or even a trailer for that matter and can live very comfortably on precious little income she gets from odd jobs like pet sitting and errand running. She stays in one place for as long as she can until she needs to move for a different odd job such as a week-long harvesting gig or something. It’s inspiring how seemingly easily she thrives on a cash-flow that every other person in America would describe as “dirt poor” or “poverty-stricken”. We aren’t getting rid of our beloved Jeep anytime soon, but it spurs a deeper analysis of what we have going on.

Braydon did the resin work in the RV there in the left of the photo. Sabrina’s bus is the light blue one there next to the RV. And to the right of that, parked along the street, is the blue van from the story below

Catty corner to our parking spot across the “road” was parked a self-converted van with a professional blue paint job. The words “Air Tea: Free Tea” were scrawled above and below an image of a marker-black cup with inked steam rising on a dry erase easel outside the shining blue rig that had a solitary white logo on the side. Naturally, I dropped everything I was doing (frankly, all I was doing was sitting and watching all the people walk by and just enjoying the hustle and bustle of so many people, but I dropped that nonetheless) and ran inside to get my mug — the one that I got last year here in Phoenix that says “when life gives you lemons ask if they’re organic” — and walked across the street for my free tea. In all honesty, I don’t even know his name but the young man in the blue van and I had a really good conversation about nomad life and he even invited Braydon and me (Jeff was doing bus projects) in to chat after the tea was all gone and the sign was stowed away in his ‘garage’ located on the inside of the double back doors and under the bed. Braydon and I sat in the captain’s chairs that are the driver’s and passenger’s seats when the vehicle is in motion then turn around to be the recliner chairs for the living area when stationary. Our new friend from New York has been on the road for 5 years now and while he was our junior in years of life, he was very much our senior in his life experiences. We talked about the East Coast and how it’s really not “big rig-friendly” with it’s old intersections and narrow, busy streets. We talked about travels both accomplished and planned. We talked about South Dakota residency for nomads and investment/emergency properties. We talked about how, after you are on the road long enough, the road feels more like “home” than the last sticks and bricks dwelling you inhabited. But most importantly we talked about purpose and, more specifically, the purpose for being on the road. He said something along the lines of: you reach a point where you have escaped all the things you’re running from (ie, dead-end 9-5 jobs, deteriorating houses, debt, relationships that need some distance, the “American Dream”, or rather, “Nightmare”) and you feel lost because you have successfully removed yourself from all those things. The important thing to do at that point in the journey is to figure out what it is you would rather run toward and pursue that with everything you have.

I think that’s precisely where we are in our journey – the sweet spot nestled cozily between from and toward. What’s our toward you ask? Well, we aren’t sure yet. We are still working that out. But I’m confident we will figure it out and we will let you know when we do! For now, we are enjoying the great journey, the great weather (it got up to 75 degrees this weekend!), and taking it one day at a time from there.

In the meantime, did you find our bus in the Skooliepalooza photo? Answer is below!

Thanks for reading and we hope to share again soon! See you in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Skooliepalooza 2023: The Ungathering 2/7/23

  1. wow… she’s back!! missed you!!
    sounds like a fun time was had by all! and Braydon did awesome! such adventures he’s having!! 👍🏻💕
    some deep conversation, perspective of life and still living the dream!
    sorry to hear about the Jeep 😳 finances/budget always get in the but so glad it all worked out and you got there!!! 😊
    I couldn’t enlarge the picture enough to find the bus, so I’m glad you used the arrow. what a great turn out!!
    stay safe, healthy and happy! love ya all!! pass hugs all around! 🤗


  2. Hello All, great post; glad to finally catch up..!
    Way to go Braydon..!! You took on Goliath and almost won…lol. And I have to get your secret working with resin. You made a great cast..! I’m always afraid of leaving bubbles….. And maybe the horse will be more fun when you get a bit older.
    I was close on picking out the bus; thought it was the one about a quarter inch from the arrow (when fully expanded) straight to the left..! Looked blue / white to me….lol.
    Well, that deep conversation is sure interesting. I figured you reached the ‘toward’ point where you were…..only to find you’re just half way there. Praying for His Guidance on planning the next steps..!
    Love to all..!!


    1. Oh yeah! That bus was our neighbor! Theirs is grey and white and they do woodworking under the name Grey Bird Woodworking. But close! They kept all their windows as windows as opposed to us painting over the ones we weren’t using. But good guess!
      Thanks for reading!


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