Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Boondocking" - Unhooked & Unplugged

One difference between camping … and home … is hookups.  Hookups are the pipes, hoses, wires, cables, or whatnot that quietly and unobtrusively bring into one's living space, some pretty great stuff like electricity, fresh water, internet, cable.  They also happily take away everything that disappears down drains or toilets (as they should).  Needless to say, hookups are a wonderful feature of civilized life.  Obviously, when camping in a tent, there are no hookups which is one of several reasons why tent-camping is not everyone’s favorite vacation.  (Silly people.)  In a motorhome, however, it depends on where it’s parked.  

Many campgrounds are privately owned and offer hookups, for a price.  They sometimes offer other amenities, such as a pool, laundry room, bathrooms with showers, maybe a lodge or clubhouse, tennis courts and other entertainment, and sometimes a store … as in your typical KOA.  Each RV (motorhome, travel trailer, etc.) just plugs into the outlet; attaches to the water faucet; screws in the TV cable; and before heading back home, leaves everything undesirable behind via the sewer access … all available at each site.  And the campground wifi, notoriously spotty at best, may or may not find your devices.  We just bought a cell booster that's supposed to help. I'll report on that later.  (Streaming is a no-go, which is why Deity gave us DVDs.)  At some point on the amenity scale, these places qualify as more of a resort, than just a campground.  And much of the time, due to the proximity of the sites, they resemble parking lots.

Other lesser refined campgrounds (typically state and national parks, plus others) usually offer toilets ranging in various degrees of acceptability, sometimes water from a faucet somewhere, and likely fire rings, picnic tables, and trash bins.  These types of campgrounds often DON’T resemble a parking lot.  They usually provide more space and maybe even a view …  for a much lower price, depending on the popularity and location.   (And if you are fortunate to be 62 or older, you qualify for the senior Golden Pass which then may take that already low price down to a pittance.  Last week we camped for $4 a night!)

The following pictures: Along the beautiful Metolius River at Camp Sherman, near Sisters, Oregon.  We were camped just steps away from the water.

There had just been a sudden drop in temperature, a brief but voracious hail storm, and then sun again.  Hence, the mist.

The next three pictures were taken by the Crooked River, about 12 miles south of Prineville, Oregon:  (Again, camped right next to the water.)

This campground (above photo) is called Castle Rock.  Can you guess why?
His Happy Place
And THEN there’s camping in no campground at all.  It’s perfectly legal to park and camp on publicly owned land, run by such entities as the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), Forest Service, Army Corp of Engineers, and the like.   This remote, middle-of-nowhere, type of camping has NO hookups, and NO amenities other than near-to-total privacy, and often (so I’ve heard) fabulous views.  And at the best price of all …. free!  In RVer-speak this type of camping is called “boondocking”.  (AKA “dry camping” and/or “wild camping”.)

How is it done, you may ask?  What about water and lights?  Heat or AC?  How do we keep our food cold or hot?  And most of all, what about my flat iron?  

Simple.  We provide our own water and power.  (Actually, it was simple for ONE of us while the other one (me) is still grappling with the difference between 12 and 120 volts.)

We have a 100 gallon fresh water tank plus separate holding tanks for that same water after it has processed through the kitchen or bathroom sink, shower, or kidneys.  Water moves from here to there via a growling wildebeest, known as The Pump, who slumbers deeply in the bowels of the rig.  And in those various tanks the used water patiently waits until we turn it lose at a “dump” station.  You’d be surprised how plentiful and available RV dump stations are … probably right up there with McDonald’s.

With a little diligence, we figure we can make the whole operation last up to about two weeks before needing to run to town for a dump and refill.  We have yet to test the limits of this plan.  So far our personal record of living unhooked has been about six days.

For electricity, we have a bank of batteries plus something called an inverter that somehow moves power from those batteries to the light fixtures, toaster, and/or other appliances.  The batteries are fed by five solar panels on the roof which were brilliantly installed by Husband who has been convinced through copious study, that many a solar system have been installed by incompetents.  (I have no comment on the matter since I feel a kinship with all incompetents out there.)   For big things like powering the AC and/or the microwave, we can awaken the rumbling generator. (It hibernates 99% of the time, also somewhere deep in the RV bowels ... probably nestled near the growling pump.)  It uses the same diesel fuel that feeds the engine.  Propane fuels our fridge and stove .... and heat, if needed.  

And there you have it.  Even without hookups, we can still enjoy most comforts of home, including a nightly bowl of ice cream out of our freezer.

Our current challenge is finding where we can boondock.  (Experienced RVers say those places are everywhere, especially in the western half of the U.S.)  That along with my fear of our 30,000 lb beast becoming permanently embedded in the muddy ruts of some remote service road.  So for now, I’m content with paying a few dollars for an actual, albeit primitive, campsite with a few friendly neighbors somewhat close by.



Note the rock sticking up in the center of the picture. 
It's called Chimney Rock.  If you need to check your email, just trot on up there.  Like I said .... all the luxuries of home.  

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