Reader Questions: Julie

The response to opening things up for reader questions has been great, and I am really enjoying this.  I will say in this particular case I am not sure we are the best people to ask.  We have boondocked for extended periods in Glacier, City of Rocks, and Quartzsite but by no means are we “hard core” boondockers.  So please keep this in mind as you read our answers. And thanks Julie for taking the time to ask!
 
First, let me say how I love this idea of answering questions!!!!  Mark had great questions as did the previous submitter.  Your information is soo helpful and helps all of us who follow behind you consider things we may have overlooked.  I really appreciate that and thanks for giving me something constructive to do on a very rainy day in the middle of Montana! – Trace
So my questions revolve around boondocking…
When you are considering boondocking, what resources do you use to locate a spot and how hard is it finding a spot with an rv of your size?  I think yours is in the 40 ft (ish) range. Do you find having a rig of this size limits your ability to find remote locations?  We don’t specifically start out looking for a spot where we can boondock.  As a matter of fact, all things being equal I would always take having services over not having any.  That’s not everyone though.  There are many people who are “hard-core” boondockers who would almost always make that their first choice.  We use Ultimate Public Campground   when looking for campsites, and many of the choices listed have limited or no services.  Other resources I have heard about, but personally never use are www.freecampsites.net and  www.boondockerswelcome.com.  I also highly recommend looking at Technomadia’s website as they boondock frequently and have some great resources 
To answer the other part of your question though,in general the size of our rig is less of an issue out west than in the east, but it really varies from place to place. Our friends Deb and Steve boondock frequently in a 40 foot rig and they are always finding great spots they can squeeze into.  Squeeze is the operative word though, as Steve is pretty good at maneuvering into tight spaces.  Google maps is definitely your friend in these cases because the descriptions around size requirements are not always accurate.  We tend to be extremely conservative, but that’s just us.  – Tracy
With your current set up, how many days can you go before you need to dump tanks or gain full hook-ups?    The short answer is about three days. When we’re on full hookups we only dump the tanks when they’re full. For the gray tank, that’s about every three days, that’s with zero conservation. (The black tank is a non-issue, we’ve gone 15 days without having to empty that.)
That’s our non-boondocking tank usage. Here’s the long answer: If you’re asking how long we can go before we have to dump any tanks, the answer is about six days, with what I would call moderate conservation, which is navy showers, which just means only using the water to get wet and rinse off. It also means not running the water while brushing our teeth, and minimizing any dish washing. I know it’s possible to go further, and there are LOTS of ways people avoid putting water in their gray tank. We just don’t do those things. Our rig has an 85 gallon fresh water tank, a 57 gallon gray water tank, and a 41 gallon black water tank. We also have a 45 gallon portable freshwater tank so we can drive to a water source to get fresh water without having to hitch up. And we have a 40 gallon portable waste tank so we can empty our gray and/or blank tank without having to hitch up. So while we can go about six days without needing to dump, we never do, because we can dump the tanks using the portable as often as we want. I would rather make a trip to the dump station every other day with the portable tanks than bother with all the aggressive conservation. Technically we could boondock indefinitely, because we have a generator, ample solar and battery, portable tanks, and four propane tanks that we can remove and take to get refilled. – Lee
Do you have solar or are you considering solar in the future?  What are some of the key considerations there?  We do have solar and it was installed by our friend Greg who owns RV Solar Solutions.  We have 4 panels and 4 batteries because that is what we could afford.  If money was no object I would have gone with 6 and 6, but we did put in a system that we can expand over time.  The specific system you would buy depends completely on what you can afford and what you are trying to accomplish.  A good tech will work with you to understand your needs prior to ever designing a system. That being said, here’s why we bought solar.  Our friend Deb went to a place called City of Rocks and posted some amazing pictures. While we were waiting to sell our house, that image of her rig in that amazing place stuck with me as a representative image of what the lifestyle could be.  We didn’t buy a system right away though.  Both of us felt we just didn’t know enough about how we would travel to make that large of an investment and it was about 6 months before we felt we knew enough to take the plunge.  I don’t regret taking that time at all, because it helped us understand what solar would and would not do for us.  – Tracy
It’s also worth mentioning that we have a 5500 watt propane generator, which we had installed when we ordered the rig. The generator is like a drunk uncle,for me. I really love it, and I really hate it. I love it when we are traveling and we can flip it on to use the microwave to heat up some food. I love it because as long as we have propane, we have power. This came up when we were boondocking for a few weeks near Glacier and it was cloudy and rainy the entire time and the solar just wasn’t doing us any good. But I hate it because it gobbles propane like crazy, so the whole time it’s running, I am thinking, “Awwww, geeeez, I’m gonna have to take the propane tanks to get filled sooner.” (I hate getting the propane tanks filled.)  And I hate it because it’s noisy. And I hate it because it’s heavy. And I hate it because it cost a damn fortune. Part of me wants to be able to just park in the middle of nowhere and live like a caveman, and part of me wants to know where the nearest Ritz Carlton is. – Lee
Hindsight 20-20, what would advise to us newbies to consider who really want to boondock quite a bit?
From my perspective, decide what you care about, and then don’t compromise. If you really want to boondock a lot, make sure you’re equipped for how you will want to live. If you’re going to want to use power, then absolutely take the time to do a power survey, so you can get the right solar setup. We cannot recommend RV Solar Solutions highly enough. If you don’t want to have to hitch up to get water or dump tanks, then get a portable fresh water tank and a spare water pump for transferring the water from that to the rig, and a portable waste water tank, and possibly a macerator pump. The thing to keep in mind about those portable waste tanks is that while they are designed to be pulled behind like a little trailer, that’s not always practical. If your boondocking spot is 20 miles from the nearest dump station, then you won’t be able to pull it that distance. They’re designed to be pulled at about 5mph. I never want to pull mine, and once you fill them they’re too heavy to lift, so it lives in the bed of the pickup, between the gate and the hitch. Then I use a macerator pump to pump the waste into it, and then I use gravity to dump it at the dump station. It’s light enough that any time I want or need the bed space in my truck I can just take it out and roll it under the rig. – Lee
I would recommend checking out an RV-Dreams Boondocking Rally if you would like some practical experience surrounded by a fun group of people.  It’s a great way to get your feet wet in a safe and supportive environment.  Unfortunately we were not able to attend, but many of our friends did and I think it really helped them ease into it.  We on the other hand jumped into the deep end of the pool and consequently there was a lot of flailing. 
 
I knew intellectually there would be compromises, but I definitely wasn’t prepared emotionally for how they would make me feel. Many people absolutely adore the challenge, but I was way outside my comfort zone.  Plus,  I made the HUGE mistake of viewing it as a competition.  I thought in the beginning that there was one right way to boondock and anything else was a failure.  Seriously,  I put a ton of pressure on myself to “succeed” and it ultimately made me miserable and resentful about the whole thing.  Thankfully a couple of things helped me stop doing that.  First, when we were in Quartzsite we saw an amazing amount of variation in how people boondock.  Secondly,  I realized it never was an apples to apples comparison.  All tank sizes, solar systems,  and/or generator setups are different.  More importantly people are different.
 
Let me give you an example.  We shower every day.  It may be a 3 minute shower, but we are both taking one, and this is pretty unusual when boondocking. Most people I know are fine with showering every other day, but we aren’t and it’s important to us.  That one choice impacts how how much propane we use and how frequently we empty the grey tanks.  If I compare myself to someone who showers less frequently, (normalizing for various tanks sizes) I will always “lose” (where losing is defined by emptying a tank).   That may sound crazy, but people spend a whole lot of time talking about that kind of stuff when boondocking and it was hard for me not to feel like I was failing when my experience didn’t match theirs. What put me over the edge was when we had a discussion once about turning on the heat.  It gets cold in the desert at night and we were burning through propane using our furnace.  Other people were saying they “never turned on their heat” and  I started feeling like a failure.  After some investigation though it turned out that they did have a heat source, (a propane space heater) which for a variety of reasons we didn’t want to use.  Based on all of this, my number one piece of advice is don’t compare yourself to anyone.  Gather information and tweak based upon what you learn, but at the end of the day do what is comfortable and works for you.  
 
My second piece of advice is the understand that boondocking in remote areas is often amazingly beautiful, but in many cases you also have limited wifi/cell connectivity. We have often rejected a site, not because of the lack of services but because there is no internet or phone.  I have three grown children and am still not comfortable with being unreachable for days at a time.  I’m not alone in that by any means, and really try to minimize the amount of consecutive days people can’t reach me in case there is an emergency.  Full timers who have elderly parents often have the same issue and for many of us it is a major factor in where we choose to camp.  To be clear you can boondock extensively and still have internet/cell, but those really remote, beautiful places generally don’t have it.
 
In a nutshell some folks boondock to keeps costs down and/or for the challenge and others like myself do it to be someplace they couldn’t otherwise be. It’s like scuba diving.  Some people love diving in and of itself.  I just did it to see the pretty fish!  – Tracy
We have been following your blog for quite some time and LOOOVVVEEEE your honest accounts of life on the road.  Keep up the great work!  Thank you , much appreciated!!  
Hope to be out the door and on the road the summer of 2018! Hope to see you out there!  
Again, really am having fun doing this and appreciate the opportunity to answer reader questions.  If you have any you would like answered please send an email to camperchronicles -at- gmail.com and I promise either Lee or I will email you back or make a blog post out of it. 

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

Trying to Settle in at Quartzsite

Where to begin?  Well first off I should say, we are newbies here and all of the following are our experiences and impressions, YMMV.  I have no doubt with more time under my belt, I will know more, but wanted to capture these thoughts while they are fresh.

After the initial flurry of welcomes, you start to get settled in.  One nice thing is people give you plenty of room to do just that.  We have started a little RV-Dreams enclave over here, but we are also trying to not sit on top of each other.  I do see these little groups though all over the place and they are so close they are almost touching.  Not sure what that is all about.  I get the desire to be close for comfort, but it’s a big huge area and for us kind of the whole point is to not be on top of one another like at some campgrounds.  Still, to each his own, and for all I know there is a reason people group together so closely.  People are starting to trickle in though and I am glad I built my rock “front yard”.  Folks so far have respected that boundary and it has given us some space in front of us. I feel bad for this guy in a little trailer sort of next door who has been here since October, he started out all by himself and now is slowly being surrounded.  We tried to maintain some distance, but a small group of Class A’s parked practically on his doorstep.  I think part of the problem is people don’t realize how far back the land goes. (We are about one mile in on the main LTVA artery, and it goes at least another 3 miles or more.) They see other folks camping, and say “here’s a good place to stop”.  Plus, the closer you are to the front, the closer you are to the trash, dump station, water, and restrooms.  Personally, I like the spots in the back closer to the mountains, but I hear those can be much dustier since they are closer to the ATV trails.  We are sort of in the middle and as first timers it was great to have someone pick the spot for us.

The main "road driving in

The main “road” driving in.  You can see why people get confused on where to park.  Technically you can park anywhere but the main road but then you might block someone in.

z011

Dump Station. Lee said it was fine, as those things go.

z012

Trash dumpsters which they empty pretty regularly

I am thrilled that they have these things available and am a big fan of La Posa South because of that.  You can stay in more remote areas for the same price and drive here to use these facilities,  but as “first timers” it is nice having them on the same property. And of course you can’t beat the price of $40 for two weeks, or $180 for 8 months. Despite our best efforts we generate a lot of trash and our plan to separate and burn the paper products has not been possible because it has just been too windy. Although many folks only shower every other day, we both take short showers daily and so we use more water.  Draining the water is not a big deal though for us, because Lee doesn’t mind using the Blue Boy to empty the grey tank (black tank is another story). I have tried to cut down on water for washing dishes by using the Dawn Foam Pump .  You put the foam directly on the sponge and then only really need water to rinse.  Plus it gets the dishes extremely clean, which is very important to Lee.  The only other water issue we have is for drinking water. The water is potable (I brush my teeth with it), but so far I am using bottled water to drink. At $1 for a huge bottle of water it’s more of an inconvenience than a monetary consideration at this point, but I will try filling the jugs up directly at the pump at some point.  We don’t have filters because water has been great everywhere that we have stayed, but we will re-evaluate if that changes.  Filling up the water has been interesting. We carry 250 feet of fresh water hose and in every campground where we didn’t have water at the site, this was enough to run hose to the nearest water spigot.  Obviously that isn’t possible here, so Lee bought a 50 gallon collapsible rain barrel.  The hardware store here sells hard plastic 50 gallon water barrels with fittings, for $50,  which many people invest in for transporting water and then leave behind, but we wanted something we could take with us.  Unfortunately, the collapsible version is top heavy when filled and as soon as Lee started to move the truck the collapsible barrel tipped over and about a third spilled out.  Our friends Red and Jim have co-invested in the hard barrels and Lee thinks he will chip in and just borrow those as needed since it seems easier.  

Power is the other big resource and is especially important when you need computers for work.  We have a wonderful solar setup (thanks to RV Solar Solutions) and on sunny days we are generating more power than we are using, so not only are we able to run the computer all day, we are also charging our batteries for using the computer and TV after dark. Of course it can’t keep up on cloudy days though and we have had an abnormally large amount of those.  When it’s cloudy it’s also colder, and the combination of extra heat and power generation with the propane generator costs about $10 a day when it is severely cold and rainy.   Thankfully we have started to experience more sunny days and the $10 days have been minimal.  The good news here though is propane is selling at $1.99 a gallon, which is the lowest we have seen so far on the road.  We have paid upwards of $3.29 a gallon in certain places, so we are certainly not complaining about the price.  I just hate the extra money, even though rationally I know $10 a day for a campsite is still an excellent deal, but if it was going to be cold and rainy for an extended period of time, I would just as soon be on full hookups.

The other issue is the heat.  It has been cold here in comparison to Florida and I draw the line at being low on resources and cold.  So we do run the heat at night for our regular furnace set at 67.  The thermostat is in the warmest part of the house, so 67 equals 63 in the living room and about 65 in the bedroom.  We gave away our big comforter last summer because it was taking up a ton of space and seeing little use so we have an electric blanket (which we have enough power to turn on briefly to warm the bed before going to sleep), a thin comforter and our throw blankets.  Lee and I are also both wearing flannel pajamas and there definitely is more cuddling for warmth.  Even though we brought a trucks worth of wood with us, because of the unseasonable cold additional wood at a reasonable price is hard to find, so we can’t really use fires in the mornings and every evening to provide warmth. Many of the more experienced boondockers are using small propane heaters (which are more efficient) to heat rooms, but they make me nervous.  I may change my mind about that if the propane bills start racking up, but for right now this is working for us.

 I think the big misconception about boondocking is you have no services at all, which freaks many people out.  Water, power, heat are all available, but you need to invest in infrastructure,  change some patterns of behavior, and do a little extra work.  Most importantly in my mind, is you can have limits and let’s not forget our homes are on wheels.  If things get really bad, we can always pick up and move.  That’s sort of the whole point.  Oh, and its not a competition.  When our friends Deb and Steve said they went 5 weeks without emptying the black tank I was simultaneously very proud of them and ashamed of myself because, why couldn’t I go 5 weeks?  Well, their black tank is bigger,  they employ tank savings techniques I am not willing to do at this time, and who knows, maybe they poop less!  Seriously, everyone is different and it is totally fine to have individual limits when boondocking just like anywhere else.  Not much different than any other campground.  Some people can’t tolerate barking dogs or lots of kids, others couldn’t care less.  Some have to have wide spaces for satellite signal others like heavily forested campsites. The variation is infinite and finding ways to live in Quartzsite is no different. 

Aside from settling into boon docking and watching resource use there is also the social aspect of Quartzsite.  Despite the large groups of campers this has a totally different vibe than a rally or most campgrounds.  Unlike a rally where one group gets together, there are numerous RV groups here and people tend to float between the groups, often moving their rig to spend some time with one group and then moving onto another.  If you don’t want to physically move, almost everyone does happy hours and encourages folks to come and meet.  RVillage  has been a great tool for setting up group meetings as it has the ability to setup an electronic “get together” and then invite folks who can in turn RSVP.  The abundance of ways to communicate though might actually be a disadvantage.  Folks are communicating via text, Facebook Messenger, RVillage, Forums, and email.  Unfortunately not everyone uses every type of communication so there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to let everyone know if something is happening.  The safest thing to do actually is walk around and knock on people’s campers and let them know, but then when folks are out they don’t get invited.  Don’t get me wrong these get togethers are pretty casual, but you hate to think you might be inadvertently leaving people out.  Plus the inefficiency of it drives me crazy 🙂 So I am still trying to figure out the “rules” and don’t kid yourself there are rules.  We may be all living in glorified trailers in the middle of the desert, but since the dawn of time when a group of people gathered for anything social norms start to form.  If you don’t want to worry about all that, you can find a quiet peace of BLM land away from everyone and totally do your own thing, but you really would be missing out on a huge piece of what makes Quartzsite what it is.  The opportunity for like minded people to gather, share information, and talk to other who really get what the full timing lifestyle is about. 

Campfire at our place one night

Campfire at our place one night.  That is Steve and Diane’s big truck in the background.  No we have not upgraded although I am jealous!!

Hurley, Steve and Deb's dog playing fetch with a log of wood. All the puppies everywhere makes me happy

Hurley, Steve and Deb’s dog playing fetch with a log of wood. All the puppies everywhere makes me happy.

 In the daytime folks seem to largely do their own thing.  Some have ATV’s (tons of trails here), some like to hike, site-see, or just hang out and relax.  Quartzsite itself, for such a small town, has things to do as well.  There is a community center and the Quartzsite Improvement Association both of which have free classes throughout the week.  I went to a Yoga class with Pam and some of us are doing a line dancing class this week and it’s a great way to get away from the rig for awhile. The classes are not available the 10 days of the big show though as they are using the buildings for other things, another great reason to come and stay here in the weeks surrounding the show.  At night you can always see folks out watching the sunset.  It’s different every night and the colors are very pretty against the mountains.

y020

y043

y045

And of course there is the big show itself, although this is also a little confusing.  There are multiple shows running through January and February.  Currently there is a rock/mineral show, then the RV show, then a swap show and finally an arts and craft show.  Plus there are vendors here in tents kind of everywhere.  We went over to the rock and mineral show and it was ok.  Not much RV stuff and you really have to be careful on prices.  It had a funky vibe too with all kinds of people mingling together and I wasn’t that crazy about it.  Maybe I’ve lost my joy of aimless shopping since we don’t need much and are trying to watch our money, but it wasn’t that fun.  I am hoping that the big RV show is better because those vendors target our demographic.  This week’s been all about getting acclimated, Lee having the flu which was not fun, and my working on my new website page abut ways to generate revenue on the road.   Hopefully this week will involve better weather and getting out more to see some nature.   And finally in case you were wondering I don’t miss my job at all.   There are aspects of the work itself that I miss occasionally, but I am completely surprised by how quickly I adjusted.  Now I say that when the buy-out checks are still coming in until March.  The big test will be how I feel when the checks stop rolling in, but for now I am really enjoying myself!!  And here’s some random pictures I took this week that I just had to share.  This is a quirky place and it’s only fair to represent that as well. 

We put our flag up on the flagpole buddy. I really like it

We put our flag up on the flagpole buddy. I really like it.  Interesting that this is the first place we’ve been where I wanted a flag.

UPS hours in Blythe...I have to mail that garlic keeper to my dad and neededless to say we did not stop by between 9 and 10

UPS hours in Blythe…I have to mail that garlic keeper to my dad and needless to say it was not  between 9 and 10 when we stopped by

The sign says it all

The sign says it all

I sent Lee out to lay in the sun when he was sick on one really nice day

I sent Lee out to lay in the sun when he was sick on one really nice day

Never seen this before they were selling raw materials for people to carve walking sticks

Never seen this before they were selling raw materials for people to carve walking sticks

At the flea market

At the flea market “free midget pants”

Prepper convoy at the grocery store

Prepper convoy at the grocery store.  the Smart and Final is 30 minutes away and the Walmart is 40 minutes.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here