Van Life – The things they don’t tell you!

Many enter into a full time RV life, or “Van life”, without the background to know what they are truly getting into. This way of life, may be nothing new to anyone that has camped through-out their lives.  But the endless duration of being bound to the road, may have never been their experience either?

Though this option for a way of living life, has certainly been glorified by Hollywood, recently.

Many even sell their life long homes to finance a rig with all the bells and whistles.  Then they set off on the road thinking everything will be wonderful and beautiful.  They ignore the big difference between camping for a weekend, or a couple of back to back weeks.  Verses finding one’s self camping and relocation for weeks, months, or even years.  They don’t even have a home base to return to, and take a breather.

Perhaps it has been a lifelong dream they attempt to fulfill?  Many will not communicate the true picture of this way of life.  They may only boast of the good part of this lifestyle?

Others set off on this lifestyle in their younger years.  They are out to live a life of adventure.  They set off trying to accomplish this lifestyle on a minimalistic shoestring budget.  They throw some camping gear into a vehicle and off they go.  No real plan.  They plan on finding odd jobs along the way when they run out of cash.  They are basically living one step up from being truly homeless.  They don’t think about things like winter that will eventually come.

Then there is a whole large group of those in between.  They buy or build a rig within a budget.  They have a means of income.  They set off to live a life on the road.  But many soon find out this type of life is nowhere near what it has been glorified to be.

During the Covid epidemic many have taken to the road as a way of living.   While there may be a romanticized view of life on the road, the true nature of this life is seldom represented factually.  They forget to mention the bugs, the dirt, rains, cold, too hot, constant living in a confined space, sickness or health concerns, and taking pets on the road with them.

For an example.  Those attempting to live on the “Cheap”, means they are overnighting at locations with a higher risk to their safety, or at least less pleasant surroundings.  Spending your nights in an Interstate Rest Stop or Walmart parking lot of an unknown part of a City.  Well that is not close to my idea of being safe or even pleasant.

Trucks stops with many people around 24/7, are a step up (safety wise) from a rest stop or Walmart.  But then you have to often deal with noise.   Sure, a truck stop is doable in a pinch here and there.  But do you seriously want to spend your time in one night after night?  This is a far cry from the vision of endless campfires or coastal vistas out your open window I envision.

More and more, safety is a major concern.  With increased crime, travelers are often a target if you put yourself in the wrong situation.  Fringe areas of larger cities often look safe during daylight hours.  Being a non-local you may find nightfall brings out an unanticipated scary element.  “Ignorance is bliss” mentality can get you into a serious situation.

Over-nighting in remote areas with no one else around can be equally as hazardous.

Attempting to eliminate personal risks, leads to more acceptable forms of “camping”.  Over-nighting where there is some form of supervision.   Safer nightly destinations like state or federal campgrounds that are supervised by some form of law enforcement, such as rangers.  Or commercially run campgrounds or RV parks.   But they are not free for the most part.

With the recent interest in camping.   RVing, and living the Van Life type of scenario, many are finding such campgrounds full.  If it is a popular destination with those awesome views everyone is seeking…competition for a site is exponentially increased.

Reservations systems are replacing “first come, first served” options.  All of which now require advanced planning, making reservations, having a credit card, etc.  That’s if you can even find an opening.  While smart phone apps can help locate such opportunities.  All of this leads back to a cluttered, regimented tech life.  The type of life, many were attempting to escape.

Places that used to charge something nominal like $5 or $10 a night are mostly gone.  RV type parks with all the amenities are easily getting $50 -$100 a night.  At the same time they are filling all their sites.

Those with rigs in the longer length range are finding it even more difficult to find a space in any type of organized campground.  If your rig is older or unsightly to any degree, you may be turned away or asked to leave.

If you park your rig overnight, in the wrong public area, and attempt to sleep.  You can expect to get ticketed for violating an ordinance that is often not posted, or the sign is missing, bent over, etc.  Some states or localities are more strict and on top of enforcement, than others.

Many have embraced boondocking.  It’s the “hippie” movement of our current time.  Camping in dispersed open area’s that have no rules against it.  Western USA often has open BLM land that snowbirds flock to.  They seek refuge to “winter over” where it is as warm as can be.  To socialize with like minded spirits.

Then in early spring as the area starts to warm up, these “full timers” disperse to other parts of the country where daytime temperatures are acceptable.   Perhaps even moving with the seasonal changes.  Often traveling to visit, stay, or update with family and friends.

Boondocking comes with its own joys.  Sometimes you can enjoy it as a solo rig out in the middle of the open desert.  Or “on the Road people” can enjoy grouping up with friends or acquaintances.  In fact, some areas of the USA desert southwest have huge communities spring up, creating relatively safe harbor for the winter months.   Quartzite, Arizona is one of the more well-known locations.  The area gets an influx of tens of thousands boondocking on open desert.

Boondocking also comes with its own set of un-pleasantries to be considered.   You don’t get to escape chores just because you hit the road and started traveling.  There is always something to be concerned about and worry about.  Are the solar panels keeping the batteries charged up, are we conserving our water well enough? Not to mention you might not have hot water unless you boil it?  Body wash-up in a bucket or pan…or perhaps you can enjoy the luxury of a solar shower bag?

If you aren’t keen on washing up in cold water.  Running out of water in the middle of a shower.  Or things like having to hole up in a small space during bad weather.  You might not want to sell the farm to purchase your rig.

You will find yourself thinking…. Are my waste holding tanks getting filled up?  Did I plan when and where I will legally dump them?  Paying to dump holding tanks is often met with at least a $10 fee.  Though at times, many campgrounds include that in their overnight camping fee.

Please don’t tell me you are the type that finds it acceptable to dump holding tanks out on the ground.  Believe me those types are out there.  I have tried to set up where they decided to dump their black tanks.  It stinks as bad as that mentality that goes with it.

Unless you are hand washing your dirty laundry in your sink.  You will have to factor in the time, means, money, and perhaps routine trips to a laundromat.  RV parks on occasion can be more economical if you do your laundry in their laundromat, dump the rigs holding tanks, and fill the rigs water tanks, all while paying for one night to stay over.  RV Parks often come with more amenities such as a pool or even a small store.

Many new to hitting the road “full time”.  Especially the “full timers” that have no home base to ever return to.  They often fail to think about things like, mail, doctor records, prescriptions, etc.  In this era of Covid even getting vaccinated if you are so inclined.  Living a mobile nomadic life,  moving from state to state. Erects many hurtles you must constantly clear.

Living this carefree lifestyle often comes with the unexpected.  A vehicle often breaks down.  You are basically going to have to leave your house and many possessions in the hands of a mechanic, repair shop, or their holding area.  If you have the means to rent a vehicle and get a place like a hotel, in this interim time, it may not be all that stressful.   If you are living on a shoestring and there is an expensive repair facing you.  Or you are out in the middle of nowhere with no hotel or rental vehicle available.  That can certainly elevate your stress or put you in a strange and often helpless situation!

Finally….  There is always the finality of life itself.  A consideration for a couple living such a lifestyle, that should be well thought out and planned for, well in advance.  What happens to a spouse or partner, should their companion be hospitalized long term, or pass away un-expectantly?  Pre-event thinking and planning applies to a solo person also.

Reflecting as a life long camper and traveler.   I have seen many negative changes to what I used to call “camping”.  The masses have discovered what I once knew as the best places to escape to.  But I am still out there trying to enjoy a campfire, sunrise or sunset, and that odd fellow traveler that brings with him/her the joy of their stories, experiences, and potential friendships.

 

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SPRINTER VAN RALLY

Are you interested in attending a Sprinter Van Rally – Lake Havasu, AZ?

We have a contact in Lake Havasu, Arizona that approached us and would like to organize a large “Sprinter Van” Rally.

This is an initial feeler to find out if there is enough interest? We were told they have hosted up to 400 standard RV’s in the past at a similar type Rally.

This would be boondocking for the most part in a large central facility, on level gravel, with access to restrooms and showers on the premise. Also a large enclosed building with power, water, and sinks, to accommodate events, pot luck meals, etc.

This is on the edge of the city. Close to stores, Lake Havasu, hiking trails, and London Bridge.

This may be open to Mercedes Sprinter factory conversions, commercial outfitter conversions, DIY conversions, standard Sprinters, Outfitters, Suppliers, Builders, Accessory Retailers, etc., depending on the interest and feedback we get.

If you are remotely interested or know of someone. Please share this in any Sprinter group you may be in. Then those interested in seeing this become a possibility, Email me directly so we get some number of interested people.

In the Subject please type:

Interested in a LHA Sprinter Van Rally

In the body of the email.  Briefly indicate why you would attend.  Something like:

“I don’t have a Sprinter but am looking to purchase in the future.”
“I have a Sprinter and just want to camp and socialize with others.”
“I am an Outfitter and will show off some of our builds or options.”
“I am a Retailer that sells Sprinter Accessories.”
“I am a Wholesaler/Retailer that sells Conversion Materials”
“We are a dealership and will have vehicles on site to show and sell.”

 

Email to:

Goyakpacking@yahoo.com

In about 30 days, I will pass on any accumulated interest.

Thank You!
ConversionSprinterVans.com  (Our Facebook Group – Please Join)

 

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First SprinterConversionVans.com meet-up

Thanks to one of our Facebook Group members Paul Klotz.  We had our first Sprinter Van meet up.  (Halloween 2020).

With the threat of Covid and trying to social distance to be safe, this was a perfect location.  For the most part we kept our distance from each other in an outdoor environment.

The event took place in an “off grid” Ghost Town location in the state of Nevada, USA.   About a 3 hour drive north of Las Vegas.  This Ghost Town is generally located near Death Valley California, just across the state border in Nevada.  Enough of an “out of the way” place, that cell phones were useless trying to text or access the internet.

We enjoyed the Halloween weekend in an appropriate place.  Complete with a beautiful full moon.

At an elevation of around 5000 ft, the time of year we went, and being a desert climate.  That meant pleasant days, but cold nights.  The day time temperatures were pushing 80°F.  The low night dipped to 28°F.  It was cold enough to freeze water left in things like dishpans.

During the day we found ourselves moving our camp chairs to any piece of shade we could find along side one of our vehicles or tents.   Once the sun set we moved those chairs as close to a campfire as possible.

Walt, (one of the few locals) opened up the saloon for us.   Though with the threat of Covid and attempting to social distance the best that we could,  that experience was short lived.  But nice to say hi to Walt since most of us hadn’t seen him in about 4 years.

Some of us biked around the old town.  There are endless things to look at.  Old buildings, old machinery, mine head frames, old vehicles, and parts of old iron scattered everywhere.  Photographers will probably run out of time and memory cards trying to capture this place.

For the more adventurous there is another Ghost Town over the hill, about 6 miles away.  Stateline Ghost Town.   There is only 1 remaining cabin at that location.  Some of the stamping mill foundation and mine shaft head frame remain.  But you better have the vehicle to attempt this adventure.  The road there is rough gravel, and at times disappears under sand in the bottom of several dry wash stream beds.

When the sun set on our four day camp out.  We were reluctant to head back home to the routine of the “now normal” life we all have dealing with Covid.

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TENT & AWNING STAKES Industrial Strength

We love these DIY Tent Stakes so well, we decided to share the info.  We think any half handy person could fabricate these from common materials.  Four of them for about $25.  A simple DIY project.

These stakes are great for EZ-ups.  For sandy area’s.  For conditions that subject you to windy conditions.

Click this link for Info for Fabricating your own Heavy Duty Stakes


Note about the image:  This is a 10×10 Commercial Grade EZ-up style straight leg awning.  With an attached “Standing Room” brand tent.  The tent is fully enclosed.  4 Flap zippered walls and screens, and full floor and overhead top.  No Bugs!

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BUCKSKIN 2019


We attended the annual Arizona Roundup Vintage Trailer Rally this past weekend (December 6,7,8, 2019).   The rally was at Buckskin Mountain SP, near Parker, Arizona.  About a 45 minute drive from the more recognized, or more famous snowbird community of Quartzite, Arizona.

This annual weekend camp out is attended mostly by an established group membership.  Years ago we got an invitation and decided to try it.  We have been going ever since.

A group of us from Las Vegas, not original members, attend as an annual get together.  We also share some friendships with people from California, Arizona, Utah, and more distant places.  A time to catch up, outdoor cook with each other, and share a campfire each night.

The original group is mostly teardrop trailers and vintage trailers, as well as vintage tow vehicles.  Though the group seems to welcome anyone that loves camping.

Some years the campground is sold out for this event a year in advance.  December of 2019 was the first time I saw an abundance of open campsites and an apparent decline of regulars attending.  I personally reserve for the next year while I attend the event.

<center>©Rick Beach -Buckskin Mountain SP, Arizona</center>
©Rick Beach -Buckskin Mountain SP, Arizona

Saturday midday was the communal potluck at the picnic pavilion that overlooks a beautiful section of the Colorado River.   A time to swap stories with anyone that attends.  The food is always good!

This year was relatively cool weather, and some rain.  Not overly cold though.  I must admit one day we had to duck under awnings most of the day to stay dry.

The rain managed to hold off so we had a campfire each night.  During the day most of us did some hiking, photography, sat around and relaxed, or did some Dutch Oven Cooking.

If you are interested in this event find the “Arizona Round-Up” group on Facebook.  They always meet at Buckskin the first Saturday weekend in December.  There are often vintage trailers or tow vehicles for sale.  I leave my wallet at home.  LOL!

If you want notices of articles such as this in your email inbox, be sure to click here and subscribe to our email list.

 

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Lets hear about your camping!

Cargo Conversion Trailer (CTC) in camping mode

In our neck of the woods….a.k.a the desert southwest.  Our season for camping anywhere close to home, all but shuts down June through August.  Its just too dang hot not only during the day, but also at night.

Us desert dwellers often hole up for the summer and become armchair campers.  Or we try to find something suitable at an elevation over 8000ft to get out of the heat

We are 180 degrees out of phase with much of the rest of the country who often times embrace camping the summer months.  Most campers find the 3 summer months the prime season.  Kids are out of school, all parks are open….. prime vacation time.

As for us, our first official scheduled event after our summer lull, comes up the middle of September.  An annual camp-out that includes a Nevada State Park Sponsored Dutch Oven Cooking competition.  It attracts about 50 cooks and 250 food samplers.  It fills the campground….and many bellies!

Send us some of your summer photos camping with your DIY project.  Also include a small write up of where, and the details.  We would enjoy sharing your experiences with our readers and subscribers.

See our Contact Us page for email info.

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada –  Annual Dutch Oven Cook-off

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REFRIGERATOR Choices to Make

In the article at the link below we focus on choices you might want to consider.  Especially before you buy a major component, cut holes, frame things in, or run wiring.

We had priorities to enable long term “boondocking” or “lot squatting” for extended periods.  Perpetually in fact, without firing up a noisy generator.

We had additional concerns since we camp in desert terrain.  The Southwest section of the USA.  Where air temperatures can exceed 100°F for days on end.  Even continuing throughout the entire night.  It is not uncommon to have the interiors of closed up vehicles exceed 150°F.

We wanted to power ours off Solar and Battery.  We can state we have succeeded, and have been successfully refrigerating and freezing our food  for numerous years.  Off solar and 2 relatively inexpensive marine deep cycle batteries.

Refrigerator thoughts and recommendations

LEFT IMAGE: Air Temperature  surrounding fridge   RIGHT IMAGE: ARB Maintaining 0°F Internal

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BUCKSKIN SP Prep [December 2018 Event]

We are prepping the trailer and tow vehicle to head out soon.  We attend an annual Teardrop & Vintage Trailer Rally.  This rally goes on every December at Buckskin Mountain SP.   Near Parker, Arizona.  Right on the banks of the Colorado River.


The campground usually sells out for this event….normally a year in advance.  There is a ton of eye candy in the form of Vintage Trailers, and Vintage Vehicles.  Mix in some Dutch Oven Cooking, serious “Glampers”, sites and trailers decorated for Christmas, and lots of socializing by like minded people.  You can see why this event is so popular.

Be sure to watch for our follow-up post/article and some of the many photos we will more than likely take [December 2018].

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