Tag Archives: home

Exploring RV Living – Home Is Where I Park It

(This post is part of a series. If you’re new to my blog or this is the first you’ve seen of this series, you might look at the introduction first.)

Living in an RV means that home is indeed wherever you choose to park it. But where? The possibilities are virtually endless, limited only by your imagination, resourcefulness, and sense of adventure. Let’s look at some of the options.

RV Parks And Campgrounds

First of all, what’s the difference between a park and a campground? There’s no real rule and sometimes the difference is in name only. Generally speaking, however, an RV park is oriented more toward longer-term residency — months, seasonal, or full-time. Campgrounds tend to be geared more to short-time visitors, and usually allow non-RV camping too.

Hook Me Up

RV Parks will almost always have full hook ups, meaning water, electric, and sewer connections. Cable TV, telephone, and WiFi may also be available. They are a good place to stay for someone who wants or needs the conveniences of “on-grid” living.

Campgrounds are often more rustic, and may offer fewer or different amenities. They may or may not have electricity. There may not be water or sewer hookups at each site, but rather a shared dump station and water spigot for campers to dump and fill as needed. Since campgrounds usually allow all types of camping, including tents, tiny trailers and vehicles without their own facilities, there are often toilets and showers available. You’ll frequently find picnic tables and fire rings. Campsites tend to be spread out more than they are in densely packed RV parks. You are not likely to find cable TV nor telephone hookups, and WiFi is rare, too.

Private Property

If you like privacy and space, and plan to stay put for a while, a plot of private land, rented or owned, may be a good option. If you are renting, your ability to customize the property might be limited. If you own the land, you are free to do as you please, minding local codes, of course. You have the choice of using available electric, water, and sewer infrastructure, or going off-grid with solar or wind power and your own well and septic system. You could even plant a garden and grow your own food! While you might enjoy a similar lifestyle in a small cabin or “Tiny House,” the advantage of an RV is that you can travel in it whenever you want, knowing you have your own home base to return to.

With the downturn in the economy, some private homeowners rent space to RVers to raise extra cash. Space, hookups, and amenities vary greatly, but it can be a nice alternative to an RV park. Craigslist is a good place to find such opportunities. Look in housing > parking & storage. While many of these private RV spaces are in exurban and rural areas, you can find them in cities and suburbs too.

Living Free

So far I’ve talked about places that will probably cost money. There are also places you can park and camp for free. You may give up some convenience as well as most amenities, but the price is right. You’ll need a fully self-contained RV for most of the free options.

Wally World

Parking lots are good for overnight stays. Wal-Mart is a popular spot; most of their stores are RV-friendly, knowing that the occupant is likely to do some shopping while there. Sometimes, however, local laws get in the way – if you’re not sure, check with store management or security. If you arrive late in the evening and leave early in the morning, you can usually get away with overnighting in almost any parking lot. Just use common sense, keep a low profile, and if you’re asked to leave, be polite, apologetic, and compliant.

Truck Stops

Truck stops are another place to stop overnight or even for a few days. On the plus side, they have some useful amenities for the traveler: fuel, restaurant, laundry, showers, WiFi, and a store. Many truck stops even cater to RVers by providing a separate RV parking section, water and dump station, and propane. On the minus side, they can be busy and noisy, and some might find the diesel fumes unpleasant.

While parking lots and truck stops may be fine for spending a night or two along the road between where you were and where you’re going, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time there. So what to do when you get where you’re going?

This Land Is Your Land…

Plenty of public land, mostly overseen by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, is available for what is called dispersed camping. This is totally free camping outside of designated improved camping areas. It’s an opportunity to get away from it all, enjoying nature while testing your own self-sufficiency. There are no hookups or amenities of any kind. You bring what you need, and take everything back out when you go, leaving the land exactly as you found it.

While there’s a 14-day limit on dispersed camping, the BLM maintains Long Term Visitor Areas in Arizona and California that allow seasonal camping for up to seven months (September 15th – April 15th). These areas have dump stations, potable water, and trash dumpsters available. LTVA camping is not free, but it’s darn close to it at $40 for two weeks or $180 for the whole season.

Thousands of full-time RVers spend their winters on BLM land near Quartzsite, AZ in either the LTVAs or dispersed camping areas. I spend some time there myself each winter, part of it attending the annual week-long Quartzfest ham radio gathering in January.

Unfortunately there really isn’t a good single source of information regarding camping on public lands — you’ll have to start by going to each agency’s website (BLM or USFS) and then choosing the state you are interested in. A couple of crowd-sourced online databases look interesting — boondocking.org and freecampsites.net — the first allows you to search based on proximity to desired GPS coordinates, while the second lets you browse by state.

Friends and Family

Last but not least, if they have the room, you might be able to camp in a friend or family member’s driveway or yard. It’s a great way to visit loved ones, or to support them in times of need.

Please share your thoughts — comments are open!

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IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

Well, maybe not that important. Just a mini rant about the overuse of the word important, along with its close cousin, urgent, in communications and especially on mail items. They seems to be cluttering half of the envelopes that arrive in my mailbox, yet their contents are rarely important to anybody except the sender.

Why do mail marketers and others continue to use this tired old trick? I suppose that’s rhetorical — they use it because it works. After all, even though we know the odds are it isn’t important, and may be of no interest to us at all, we don’t dare throw it away unopened just in case it actually is important.

More Tricks

Sure, sometimes you can tell from the return address who it’s from, but sometimes there’s no name; just an address. Or worse yet, the return address is misleading. Bank Of America (or its “marketing partners” – euphemism for “companies we sold your name and address to”) sends all sorts of things in essentially identical envelopes, all with the bank’s return address. Usually it’s an offer for some sort of insurance, or trying to get me to apply for some sort of loan or another, but I am forced to open each and every one and give its contents at least a cursory glance, lest I discard my statement or other legitimate communication regarding my account.

OK, now that I have that mini-rant out  of my system, and just to show you my headline isn’t totally bogus, let’s move on to something that, while it might not be too important in the overall scheme of things, you might enjoy.

About My Home

With all that describing of different kinds of RVs in my last post, I didn’t even tell you what I live in. My home is a 1979  Georgie Boy Cruise Master  CM20RB. It is a 20-foot class C motorhome. Interior space  is 18 feet long by 7 feet wide, or 126 square feet.  Here’s the floor plan:

Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

…or at least what the one in this brochure did when it was new:

If you’d like to learn more, or are just into 70’s advertising or shag carpeting, you can click the brochure cover for an eight-page PDF.

Ahhh, but what does it look like now, 32 years later, you ask? Time for…

Clutter Porn!

I know that at least one of my readers (Hi Tanja!) has been patiently waiting for me to post some photos of my clutter. While I’m not quite ready to offer a full portfolio yet, I’ll dip my toe in the water with this small offering:

As you can see, I still have my work cut out for me. In my defense, pretty much everything I own is in here, in 126 square feet. I’m still plugging away at it, and I’ll get there eventually (and post more photos, too).

Oh, and here’s what the outside looks like:

Yeah, even the outside is cluttered, but the stuff on top of the table and the boxes and pile near the rear wheels are stuff to be sold or donated, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Why’s the hood open? Mechanical trouble? Naw, it’s just open to discourage the packrats (the 4-legged kind) from nesting in there. They’ll make a mess and chew through hoses and wires, too.

What Do You Think?

Are “important” and “urgent” overused? Is 126 square feet too big? too small? just right? Want more clutter porn? Comments are always open.

How I Discovered Minimalism

Notice that I didn’t call this “How I Became a Minimalist.” While I’m certainly displaying tendencies in that direction, I’m not quite sure I deserve to wear the label “minimalist” — at least not yet.

Making Changes

All of us who are or who aspire to be minimalists have our own reasons for initially seeking this path. Often as we learn more, our own point of view changes, and along with it, some of our goals take different shapes and priorities.

When I made the decision several years ago to move from a three-bedroom house to a tiny motorhome, many people considered that to be a very minimalist move. I suppose it was, seeing as I parted with over 90% of my possessions to do so. Would I miss them? Would I feel deprived?

A New Feeling

Guess what? Instead of feeling deprived, I felt liberated. Free of the clutter. Free of the responsibility of maintaining and protecting it all. Free of the fear of it being stolen or damaged. No more spending weeks (or months!) packing and unpacking if I had to move.

Clutter Returns

I was feeling liberated by my tiny mobile dwelling and my lack of stuff. So far so good. I wasn’t really thinking too much about it as a lifestyle or a philosophy, though. I just sort of lived my life. Now and then I’d realize I needed something I lacked, or, more often, I just wanted something I saw, and eventually, after a few years, I realized that I’d accumulated an awful lot of stuff in my tiny home! Uh-oh. Not so liberating anymore. Especially when moving was taking nearly a week of rearranging and cramming so as to make this thing drivable, and then a half a day of unpacking and rearranging just to be able to use my bed, kitchen, and toilet once I’d arrived at my next destination.

A New Quest

It seems that when I had first downsized and simplified, I hadn’t made the necessary changes in my habits and behavior to sustain that simplicity. Funny how clutter can creep up like that. A trinket here and a gadget there doesn’t seem like much at the time, but they slowly, almost imperceptibly accumulate until suddenly you look around one day and go WTF? I wanted to get back that feeling of freedom and serenity.  I consulted my favorite research tool, the internet, looking not only for decluttering tips, support, and inspiration, but perhaps some help on figuring out how, once I get things back to how I’d like them to be, to have them stay that way.

A New Community

I found a small but thriving (and growing) community of bloggers, most of them calling themselves minimalists, each at his or her own stage of dealing with a similar situation, and sharing their experiences for each other and anyone else to benefit from. In addition to practical how-to advice, I was also reading about  why and about the results and how entire lives were being changed, enriched by removing needless clutter and excess material goods. As I became more involved, and started participating in the comments, I found not only inspiration for my decluttering challenges, but also a renewed interest in my own blog.

Thank You!

I’d like to express my thanks to this community, of which I now feel I am at least a small part, for not only all your words, but for inspiring me to write more of my own words. You’ll find most of the blogs that I regularly read are listed in the blogroll in the right-hand column. Maybe you’ll find some you haven’t visited before, or haven’t visited lately. And thank you to my readers and commenters, who remind me that my own blogging is a worthy endeavor.

My Current Goal

My immediate goal, at least with regards to stuff, is to get things to the point where I could easily pick up and go at any time, with a minimum of hassle. I want to be able, while in traveling mode, to still have access to all the necessities without that sensation of being in a tile puzzle.  The closer I get to that goal (which, looking around me, is still a ways off), and the more I work on decluttering, minimizing, and simplifying, the more I seem to be absorbing of the deeper meaning of minimalism. Not just decluttering, but why. I’m seeing how I am not defined by what I own, and how too much of it can weigh me down, and getting rid of the excess sets me free. And not just the physical things, either, but how simplifying life and my approach to living it makes it better and gives me more time for what I want to do. So perhaps I am a minimalist after all. Or at least well on my way to becoming one.

How about you?

Do you consider yourself a minimalist, or at least seeking that path? Do you maybe lean in that direction, but prefer a different label? Do you find yourself occasionally straying from your chosen path, and need that occasional jolt of reality (or reading about someone else’s) to set you right again? What is your immediate or next goal?

Long overdue writing :)

It sure has been a while, no?  Right now, I’m in Tonopah, Arizona. That’s about 50 miles west of Phoenix. Some of you may be thinking “If your house has wheels, why would you stay in the desert for the summer?”  Well… that’s a good question.  I suppose I could say that I’m used to it because I’ve already spent 30 summers in the Arizona desert, and it would be true. Anyway, I kinda have to stay here for medical reasons. Remember a while back I said I might have ended up truly homeless, or “camping” at an urban Wal*Mart?  Well, that really could have happened. Luckily, I’d already been planning for the “RV Lifestyle”, had acquired my rig, and started fixing it up, etc. But really I was so close to being homeless and in the streets.  Unfortunately some unplanned medical issues came up, leaving me unable to support myself for some time. That’s the “could have been homeless” part. While things are improving, I still need doctors and treatments frequently enough that I have to stay relatively close to “the big city” to deal with those issues. Eventually when my medical concerns are more stable, I hope to be able to venture farther away from “home” for longer periods.  We’ll see – for now I’ll do what I am able. 

  Anyhow, on to more pleasant thoughts…. Been doing some good stuff lately. I’m planning to go to Williams AZ for the Hamfest (convention for Amateur Radio enthusiasts), and in anticipation I’ve been trying to get my ham station and my solar power all set up and doing what I want.

Of course I’m learning that no matter how good it looks on paper, some stuff is just worthless in practice. A lot of stuff I thought I’d need is gonna be sold at the hamfest or donated to the thrift store. And there’s other stuff I wish I had.

 But all in all, life is good, and could be a lot worse. Right now I’m a caretaker for a private property. I keep a general eye on things, manage the irrigation, and perform occasional repairs and maintenance. In return I get a place to park including water and electricity. The owners are are great, and a  BIG bonus is that the property is “clothing optional” so the only time I have to think about wearing clothes it once in a while when the inevitable shopping trip into town is needed. It’s hard to put a price on not having to wear clothes 🙂 When I took this gig, I was mostly interested in being able to stay reasonably close to Phoenix, and the nude thing was just a cool perk. But now after spendng a while here I think I’m getting spoiled. “Nude Friendly” may be a requirement for my next situation.

You’re going to do WHAT?!?!

As promised, here’s some more of the “back story”.  But where to begin?  When I was a child, I’d always been fascinated by the concept of a fully self-contained mobile dwelling.  Not that I really ever lost that fascination, but as a child all I could really do is fantasize.  Eventually, as a young adult, I discovered motorhomes.  Wow – it’s a fully self contained house, AND you can drive it! Or, as Homer Simpson would say, “It’s not just a motorhome; it’s a car you can go to the bathroom in!” As working young man, however,  a motorhome was pretty much out of my budget, and even if I could afford one, maybe find one cheap enough that wasn’t too beat up, where would I keep it?  I was living in apartments at the time, and apartment complexes tend to be pretty picky about what you park there, especially if it’s a big honkin’ motorhome.  Of course I was thinking of it as a “toy”, a recreational vehicle for maybe weekends and vacations or whatever. I didn’t see the obvious – live in it *instead* of the apartment.  Not that you can blame me, after all, as I mentioned before, society in general tends to approve of permanent living, and disapprove of “temporary” or transient living. A few times I got real close to actually buying one, but ultimately didn’t.

Fast-forward to a few years ago, when the thought struck me to just sell the house and everything I couldn’t take with me and move into a motor home.  Why?  Well, there was still the lingering fascination with motorhomes and the technologies involved. It seemed practical, and potentially a fairly economical way to live.  It offered freedom of location.  Ease of moving. Lots of good reasons. Why now?  Maybe a midlife crisis, or perhaps a midlife awakening. I realized just how much of my life has been spent pretty much in the same place – at least in the same city.  I realized just how much junk I’d accumulated over the years. All this stuff needs to be moved every time I move,  and it seemed I needed to keep getting bigger and bigger places for it all. Like George Carlin says, what is a home, really? It’s a place to keep your stuff!  I had a whole room full of stuff that I literally hadn’t touched in several years. I was suddenly feeling like all this stuff was getting to be more of a burden than it was worth. I wanted to downsize and minimize and simplify.

Did some reading (alot of reading, actually) on the internet about folks who’ve done that – drastic downsizing and move into a very small place – an RV, or maybe a “microhome” or something like that.  I don’t remember reading a single person who regretted it, even among the few who eventually went back to a more “normal” lifestyle.  They found it cleansing and liberating.  Free of the responsibilities of “stuff”.  Free of the hassles of cleaning and maintaining a large home and yard, and the associated expenses. 

It wasn’t just that, though.  There was really an accumulation of various other factors that also helped nudge me further along.  I’m single. Do I really need a three bedroom, two bath house with a yard?  Not really, considering I actually use very little of it.  It’s just more space to clean, more to heat or cool, mortgage, taxes, all that expense and responsibility.  Add to that my neighborhood in particular, and my city in general seems to get worse each month. Higher and higher crime.  Worse and more violent crime.  Graffiti.  Litter.  Polluted air.  Just an overall unpleasant place to be.  Over a several-year span, I’d been the victim of multiple burglaries and a home-invasion robbery. 

Add to all that the fact that I’m slowly becoming burnt out in my work (I’d say “career”, but that implies a future) in the quickly dying dead-end industry of consumer electronic repair.  I mean who’s going to pay to get a DVD player fixed when you can just go buy a brand new one for $25?  And why was I working so hard? To pay the mortgage and taxes and all the other bills for a house I didn’t need in a neighborhood I didn’t want to be in.  I’ve heard “insanity” defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Well, I needed change.  Big change.  That’s when I decided I wanted to do this.

Let the blogging begin!

OK – I’ve got this thing all set up now (though I’m sure I’ll make little changes and adjustments as time goes on) so now I can finally start blogging!

 The first thing you might be wondering is what in the world does “homeless on wheels” mean?  Some of you might be picturing squatters living under a bridge in their cars.  Or the families in dilapidated old Winnebagos trying to see how long they can get away with camping out in their local inner-city Wal*Mart parking lot.  Or maybe somebody with a sign that says “will rollerskate for food”??  Well, I’m none of the above, although I suppose I could have easily wound up in one of the first two categories had the cards fallen only slightly differently than they have.  Keep reading, I’ll explain eventually.  As for that third category, I think that’s mostly urban legend.

What I am is someone without a permanent location of residence.  That would make me “homeless” in many peoples’ eyes.  In reality, however, I’m not homeless, but rather my home has wheels and I can move it where I want, when I want.  Annoying neighbors?  Boring view?  Change of pace?  Need to relocate?  Too hot?  Too cold?  I can pretty much move at the drop of a hat if I want, as frequently (or infrequently) as I want or need.  Society tends to favor permanence of location, so “freedom of location” is an unusual concept for some people to grasp at first.  Some folks even envy the concept, but can’t picture themselves doing it.  I have often heard, when telling people about my plans, “Wow, I wish I could do that”.  My (usually unspoken) reply is “why can’t you?” 

So why do I use the phrase “homeless on wheels”?  Why not?  Sounds catchier and is a heck of a lot easier to type than “guy who has no permanent residential address but has a home which happens to have wheels on it so he can easily and frequently move it at will.”

Now that I have the crucial first post up, this is finally a real blog.  More to come very soon.