Long Term Independent Parking:
Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests,
Corps of Engineers, State Parks etc., information is available in great
quantity from any number of sources and I'm not going to repeat all that
here. Current addresses for obtaining such info appear constantly (with
frequent changes) in all
publications. The important thing is to take the time to gather this
material so you know where to go (or not go) and what to expect when you
get there. Do a web search for this government info.
Paid permits are often required. They're usually worth it. Some State Park
systems have annual permits. The cost keeps increasing, but they're often
well worth it. (New Mexico has one of the best. You could literally spend
your life there.) Arizona, Arkansas, Texas are also favorites. In the
East, camping parks are always crowded and sites are often unavailable. In
the West, except near urban areas and famous tourist attractions, the best
sites abound. You don't want to park in crowded places anyway. (We refer
to them, with screaming children, loud music, drunken fights and off-road
vehicle noise as " RV
Hell.") Many places have time limits (at ranger's discretion). If you're
discreet (Rule #1 again) and keep a tidy site, don't raise hell or beat
your spouse, you can often stay longer.
The very best
parking is on private property. Here are some things we've done: House/farm/commercial
sitting/caretaking. Ads in newspapers,
pubs, etc. The first time, I just checked with real estate agents and
ended up on 5 acres, feeding absentee owners horses and dogs, maintaining
pool, keeping eye on house. Got paid well for it and had free electricity.
Have done similar in several places.
Selling points are: You're providing
security. You will take care of property and won't be sleeping in their
bed, using their toilet, getting their stove greasy, etc. Just being on a
property (especially with a cell phone) makes you most valuable.
If watching property
and not doing chores, I've only asked for parking plus water and electric.
In some cases have paid a dollar a day for each if I felt it was worth it.
Have also parked in school yards, on construction sites, at businesses
(auto dealers and repair shops -- anyplace easily ripped off -- are good),
private game preserves and shooting clubs. Some security firms (rent a cop
outfits) will take you on.
There are lots of broke
farmers and just ordinary folks, especially in midwest and west. Your
paying $2 a day for parking and water will help feed their kids. I'm well
outfitted for dry camping with solar panels and such so don't need
electricity. Usually tell farmer/rancher I prefer to park out on "back 40"
for privacy. Find them by going to smallish towns and asking at diners and
similar gossip hangouts.
Large commercial farms
and ranches in the west have allowed me to park free at wells, stables,
feeding stations, etc., just to have someone who can alert them to
problems. I have made good friends
doing the above. I often volunteer to help when a "third hand" is needed
to fix a gate, or whatever. A bit of help in the garden, which is fun
anyway, results in more goodies.
Expect to be quizzed
and prove your bona fides. People, especially with small children, are
leery of possible screwballs or perverts. Having retired military, law
enforcement, para-medic or similar ID is great. Clean (not necessarily
is important. So is being properly groomed. NO raggedy-ass beards
(tidy is OK), male ear rings (let alone nutty stuff like nose rings),
funky clothes (leave cammies in closet or they'll think you're a fugitive
nut). Keep a tidy camp site! No crap piled up under
Pick up trash, even if not yours. It's easier without a pet. Too bad, but
that's the way it goes. Farmers don't want your yapping dog upsetting
their animals, chasing chickens or biting kids.
Membership Camps can be
a good deal, but you have to shop carefully. You can really get ripped off
at some. Many are nothing more than affiliations of overcrowded
parks ( RV
Hell again). A few like Camper Ranch Club do have large primitive areas
with inexpensive dry camping at some locations.
Check out applicable "BOF"
(Birds Of a Feather) or similar Special Interest Groups affiliated with
clubs. Boondockers or similar (obviously) but also hunters, fishermen,
nudists (their camps are usually clothes optional), treasure hunters, etc.
All seek the privacy that you're also looking for.
There are commercial outfits advertising in
publications that offer to arrange for site sitting/care taking jobs. Some
promise high pay, etc. Be skeptical! Some will charge you a listing
fee and never contact you, that's a Rip-U-Off and you should complain to
the magazine that published the ad. The best agencies will charge a fee to
the guy who wants a caretaker. They will not charge a fee (or not
much of a fee) from the guy who wants to be a caretaker.
Many RoVers have an
urban home base or rural property that they invite people to visit through
club publications. These can be quite nice. Sometimes free (but see
TANSTAAFL later). Also note that if you're on the way from point A to B,
you might not want to: spend the time it takes to call in advance,
negotiate strange streets, socialize when you need sleep, take them to
dinner, etc., just for one night.
Security is a main concern
to RoVers, especially at overnights. -
But it shouldn't spoil your fun if you take a few precautions. Get your
outside business, like walking the dog and checking engine done in
daylight. Don't use Rest Area toilets. You can't avoid talking to other
RoVers, and probably don't want to, but be cautious. Don't invite
strangers into the
Be alert! Watch for people coming up behind you. A tactic suggested by a
RoVer, reportedly told to him by a police officer, seems to work well.
When someone approaches you, don't retreat into
or just stand there looking stupid. Instead, take just a step or two
toward the person then stop and wait. This indicates you're alert and not
just a wimpy coward, while still not seeming overly aggressive.
If there are two of
you, don't just crap out on the sofa while your partner is outside. Keep
an eye on him/her. Some people feel safer (and are) in a two- RV
caravan. (But three or more can be a logistical nightmare when fueling or
finding overnight parking.) Spending an hour waiting for some jerk to find
the cheapest filling station in town gets old in a hurry.
Caravanning, not just
for security, but for mutual assistance and companionship works well for
some people and many singles do it routinely. You need to be careful in
selecting your companions. If nobody in the group has a sense of
direction, tools or mechanical skills, the whole gang can end up sitting
alongside the road with their finger stuck in their ear -- or someplace
You'll be approached by
pathetic people at some stops like rest areas and malls. You can't take
them to raise but you can be compassionate. Never give one a ride!
You could be robbed or maybe worse. Some will ask for "some change." Give
them a dollar. Not from your wallet, keep a few singles in your pocket.
Don't abuse them (it's no fun waking up with a flat tire). Some will have
some pretty creative scams (on the way to a job in L.A. and need $20 for
gas, here's my business card, I'll repay you). I went along with one of
these once just for the hell of it, the guy's wife and kid looked
pathetic. But I also gave him my card so he could repay. Most
unlikely, thought I, tossed his card and forgot about it. Was quite
surprised many weeks later to receive the $20 plus a bit more. You never
Some people just need a
favor (and would do it for you). But be cautious. Maybe they really did
forget their lug wrench. But maybe they want to borrow yours and beat your
brains out. Again, keep an eye on each other. If alone, park near other
RoVers or a truck (even though you may not want to be thought of as a
lemming). Truckers don't particularly like RoVers but won't stand idly by
while someone pounds on you. When morning comes, if you and trucker are
getting ready to go at the same time, it's nice to offer him/her a cup of
"real" coffee and a hot roll (pun).
never had a trucker deliberately screw around with me in 20 years of FT.
Indeed, many truckers are also RoVers (or wannabes) and will pick your
brain for tips. Learn the trucker's road signals, give them some slack.
They're trying to make a living.
Aside from a (very) few military and law enforcement types, most people
have never shot anyone and won't know if they're capable of doing it until
the time comes. (And that's a tough time to find out if you can really do
it. Because if you can't, the bad guy is likely to take your gun and do
you in.) If you decide to carry a gun, take a gun handling and safety
course! Practice! -- so you won't shoot yourself (or somebody else)
accidentally. Don't do anything stupid. People have snuck out for a smoke
at night without awakening spouse and come back in to be blown away as a
robber. Often, bullets (even if you don't miss) can penetrate vehicles and
people other than the intended. Also, you can get in serious trouble if
you can't prove your case and are charged with manslaughter (or worse).
Small but important
Signs or tire covers with your name and home town just assist bad guys in
taking advantage of you. Save them for when in a safe place. Stickers with
"Home Is Where You Park It," "I Get My Electricity From The Sun," or
similar mean all your good stuff is in there and make you a target.
Various club emblems, on the other hand, mark you as an experienced
traveler -- and a less attractive target. "Elks Club" and similar stickers
indicate to cops you're a "solid" citizen. "Protected by Smith and Wesson"
and "NRA" stickers can, in some places, be a legally sufficient reason for
police to search your
and, in many places now, confiscate weapons, booze and the whole damn
The side of the road is no place to argue the Constitution with a cop (who
may have no idea what's even in the Constitution). Be Discreet!
Don't "deal with" problems you could have avoided in the first place.
Keep your vehicles
in "tip-top" condition.
That does NOT mean polishing them (unless you have nothing better to do).
It DOES mean maintaining them. The "clicking" noise you've heard for three
days might be a bad "U" joint or drive shaft or?, but it definitely means
"fix me." Almost all tire blow outs are because the RoVer screwed up (and
bought cheap crap, didn't check weights or tire pressures, etc.) and are
not from punctures. And remember: 4-wheel drive just lets you get twice as
far from help as 2-wheel drive. Spending the night on the road (or atop a
highway overpass at the junction of two Interstates) under these
conditions is not fun
Once you get to a place
where you can stay awhile, you can relax -- somewhat. At least as much as
at "home." Just because you're with other
mean there's not a thief among them. Scout the place out a bit, maybe get
acquainted, before you buzz off in the car to see the sights. You don't
need to be paranoid, just cautious. The vast majority of your fellow
RoVers will be nice people.
So, how do you find the
really swell places you've seen on magazine covers?
With great difficulty, because so many pristine places have been screwed
up by thoughtless campers. Nice places are usually found by word of mouth
from people who think you're OK. If you're not a slob, a combative drunk,
spouse abuser, don't run a generator endless hours, don't have an annoying
dog or otherwise disturb people, you'll be recognized as OK. If you're
reasonably friendly and helpful (just a good neighbor), you'll soon find
yourself invited to join in. Someone will say, for example, "After the
rally a few of us are going to xyz. Would you like to come along?" Nothing
wrong with going where the "common herd" goes. (Everybody ought to
experience "Quartzite" and "Death Valley" at least once.)
are where you find good places. You're not going to find them on the
Interstate but can, sometimes, near it. If you have a giant 5W or monster
MH, your pickings will be pretty slim. Even with small rigs you can get in
trouble if you don't know where you're going and just follow your nose. It
pays to stop and ask the locals (and even then, some fun-loving yokel
might misguide you just for laughs). Smart RoVers often make day trips
from camp grounds in car or truck just to find good places for later.
Some, with reasonably-sized
RVs and in no
hurry, just tool around checking out interesting places. Some of us don't
tow a toad, but one of us drives it as one might use a "scout" car to seek
out good places. (You can often offset the cost of driving two vehicles by
not having to purchase all the towing equipment costs.)
You can still screw
have driven down a narrow road atop a levee to a good place at the other
end of it. What I neglected to check on was if the levee was still in
place all the way. It wasn't. I got to back up a trailer almost 5 miles.
In Arizona I attempted to cross a deep wash and couldn't get up the
opposite side. I backed up as far as I could and tried again and again
until I was firmly settled at the bottom. A guy eventually pulled me out
with a road grader. How humiliating!
Locals can tip you off
to some great places to park. A typical example: In a small town in the
midwest I asked if I could park behind a service station. The guy said OK,
but said I'd be more comfortable parking at what he called "The Tree." At
the edge of town was a giant oak tree and a small, free, unlisted park
with water sponsored by some civic group. Most pleasant. Some, few,
publications regularly list places to park.
Day's End in the
"Escapees Magazine" is particularly good. Listings run the gamut from
overnite stops to places where extended stays are possible. Some are in
very scenic places. Computer disks, printouts and companion maps for
comprehensive listings of archival stuff are available also at reasonable
cost. The "Exit Authority" book is most helpful at advising what's
really available at interchanges -- but is soon outdated.
Books on places to park
(advertised as "park free every night, etc.") are usually a disappointment
as most of the listings are National and State Parks and such places that
you should have already found out about on your own. BUT, look for books
and magazine articles (use the library) to search for titles in areas
like: Alternative Life Styles, Nomadics, Hidden Places and the like. The
Fed Gov't has a pamphlet about "lesser known parks" or somesuch title that
is pretty good. It's intended, I think, to encourage people to go to
neglected parks --just what you're looking for. (I wouldn't go to
Yellowstone on a bet.)
Here are some places
you can park at no or minimal cost -- and have fun also: Flea Markets, Gun
Shows, Art Festivals, Race tracks, ethnic gatherings (where you can watch
Scots toss telephone poles, pipers pipe and Polish folk polka are
amusing), anything else that appeals. Fraternal organizations can be great
and don't always require that you be a member.
Here's a great source:
Timber/lumber/paper private corporations have, literally, many thousands
of acres of pretty nice country. They're so often criticized by tree
huggers that they often (good will gesture) have parking (and sometimes
services) for RoVers. Most are in the northwest, but also in Texas and
other southern states and, surprisingly, in places like Ohio (where
parking is scarce and expensive).
parts dealers can be good places. It'll usually take at least a day to go
through the junk yard and find stuff cheap that you really need. Also at
some metal/electronic/etc., surplus/salvage places you can take a day or
more to scrounge through all the piles of electric motors, pumps and all
the other stuff they carry. Caution: Some of these aren't safe at night
because of location. Use your smarts.
Here's just one example that's pretty extreme but makes the point: A
friend used to overnight at radio and TV tower sites. Generally, nobody
ever questioned him (they seldom check these things unless something goes
wrong). When they did, he had the official FAA color charts that towers
must comply with. He'd tell them he intended to contact the station and
offer a bid for repainting, replacing lights, etc. Key point was that if
they called him on it, he was prepared to do the job. (He'd once earned a
living that way.) If you're going to fake it, make sure you can back it
Many boondockers are experts at keeping an
running and get a lot of enjoyment out of helping others. Less talented
folk are expected to learn from this, not just take advantage. Feel free
to ask someone to help you with a problem. Watch. Take notes. Don't be a
beggar. You've probably got a talent of your own you might offer. Even if
you're inept, you can help out or play "gofer." When many
assembled in the boonie situation, there's always a need for campfire
wood, a watchman to keep the fire from burning the place up, someone to
haul water, trash, etc.
Things aren't always
going to go as planned. Boondock Rule #2: Stay
Boondock Rule #3:
Conservation of resources.
How long can you
A week, easily, even with the substandard heaps sold today. Indefinitely
with better equipment (more on that later). Conservation is the key. You
do NOT waste water, electricity or fuel. It's easy to learn how. Read the
literature. Talk to "them that's doin' it." Practice the tricks at home so
you can plug back in when you screw up. (As when you find out running a
furnace all night will kill your battery before dawn if you don't know
what you're doing.) Go to rallies and Escapades, attend the seminars, TALK
to people, pick their brains. (Boondockers love to show off their tricks.)
A Sampling of Some
You travel with a full
fresh water tank and empty holding tanks (insofar as possible). You dump
often (so when you find a good place you can stay awhile). You keep
fresh tank full for the same reason and so you can put out a fire or
fill a radiator after a hose bursts. You have an exterior water outlet
or, at least, a garden hose adapter at inside faucet.
Faucets have handles
for a reason. It's not to leave them open/running while you screw
You only need about a
half-cup of water to brush your teeth (not much more to shave).
You do NOT need to have
a water heater running constantly. A quart of hot water heated on stove
will wash dishes and they can be rinsed in cold water. You only need a
few suds in a bowl, not a sink full.
Toilet Paper is the
RoVers friend. You use it for small spills, prewiping pots and dishes
before washing, napkins, blowing noses, etc. (On a boat, we kept a roll
on the dining table -- crude, but effective.)
Do NOT fall asleep with
TV on. Outdoor lights are turned on only when needed, almost never.
Interior lights are used as needed, not for decoration. Patio lights
just take up space, attract insects and use electricity. Vent fans are
used when needed only, opening windows isn't difficult. Stinky toilets
mean you've a sewage vent problem or are using the wrong stuff in tank.
Human waste is
something we all produce and not shameful. Flushing a toilet doesn't
require copious amounts of water (if you use a spray hose or spray
bottle with just a bit of detergent mixed in). Dish water saved in a
gallon jug works well also. Toilet paper is biodegradable and will turn
into nothing if you use small quantities of the "right stuff." (No
scented household stuff, but
type -- which is nothing more than cheap, generic single ply at a higher
price -- "Scotts" is even better.)
Used TP can, if used
properly and in quantity, be wadded into a plastic sandwich bag, twist
tied and put in trash. Don't just put used TP in a big bag or coffee
can. Opening it to put in more is anything but "air freshening."
Don't try (especially with black water tank) to save so much water that
you end up with a solid mass of "UNOWAT" in the tank. Many RVing men go
wee-wee in one-liter soft drink bottles (as do truck drivers). Truck
drivers usually toss them out the window. RoVers usually put them in
Trash is put in small
kitchen garbage bags or supermarket plastic bags. It's easily
(frequently) stuffed into receptacles at rest areas, shopping centers,
service stations, etc. Large bags just make you look stupid as you try
to cram them in. In some states, large trash bags are considered
"household" trash and the authorities will search them for an address.
Then they'll issue you a ticket with a fine up to about $500. Do not put
anything in the trash with your address on it (especially credit card
receipts, etc.). People that collect aluminum cans and such often do
dumpster and trash can "diving" -- ripping open trash bags -- and
there's your "stuff" all over the place. One old
trick is to place trash in a cardboard box, gift wrap it and leave it in
the back of the truck when going to a mall. Someone almost always steals
Fresh Water is a really
dicey proposition. Most commercial campgrounds have water tested
regularly per local ordinances & regulations. Other places don't have to
and you can get some nasty stuff. Your own hose and fresh water tank can
easily be the cause. Lots of RoVers with a case of the trots or the toss
ups attribute it to a "bug I must have picked up" and don't realize it's
from their own water.
Alternative Parking at $
Even die-hard "boonie rats" sometimes use
parks. Flush the tanks well. Do laundry. Do
maintenance, on and on. Secret is to find cheap parks, not $25 a night
resorts. There are lots of them without dance halls and such for less than
$15. There are many that date back to the 50's and 60's, usually behind
service stations or el-cheapo motels. They have primitive electric, water,
sometimes a dump. Some are quite charming. Some, believe it or not, only
charge $3 to $5.
Off season at
parks can be cheap. A typical park in CO charges big bucks but closes much
of the place down in winter (no water and no sewer unless you move the
Electricity, however, is left on. Parking on such a site (in this
"storage" mode) is possible for about $1 a day. No snow removal so you
have to be careful about selecting when to get stuff done. Electricity is
about $1 a day and an extra $1 if you're going to run an electric heater.
Not bad. Especially since simple
storage lots sometimes charge about the same with no electricity and won't
let you stay in the
or work on it.
At some places,
especially in the east, there is no such thing as "inexpensive" and the
campgrounds are usually booked solid anyway ( RV
hell). Go elsewhere is the easy answer. But if you can't (working or
selling a house or ?) check the Mobile Home Parks. County fair grounds can
be nice. Many (but not all) charge far less than camp grounds for
electric, water and dump -- sometimes have full hook ups. They can be a
real fun place to park. If you'll be there a while, check for paid work or
free camping for minimal work with management or jobs with vendors at
special events. Parking amidst a bunch of carnival people can be a real
treat (like the night the guy with all the lizards left the cage door
Military people (active
and retired) can park at "Fam[ily] Camps" on many bases. This used to be a
good deal (cheap or free) but isn't anymore in most places. The Gov't
decided that recreational stuff had to pay its own way -- no more taxpayer
subsidies (which is fair enough). You'll see this same thing at Corps of
Engineer places, National Forests and Parks, etc. However, some military
bases have rod and gun clubs and similar recreational facilities out in
the maneuver (boonies) areas where you can park. These are usually not
publicized. Some National Guard training bases also have recreational
facilities. They can be VERY nice.
[Indian] Lands can be great places. Some have full-fledged
parks with reasonable fees, entertaining cultural programs and tours. It's
possible, if you know what you're doing, to park on a Native American's
private turf. This can be complicated but can be a great experience.
Equipment for Long
Term Parking --
is the big difference between that and overnights, weekends or rallies.
Some of us have elaborate setups that cost so much we could pay camp
ground fees for many years. But there's more to it than that. There's
freedom! We decide where we'll go and for how long.
You can boondock for
extended periods with little more than standard
equipment. Ways to transport water, dispose of sewage, beef up battery
bank and charge batteries can be simple or elaborate. Below are some
Water can be
transported in simple jugs. But an extra water tank in your toad and an
inexpensive pump is easy to add and a lot more convenient.
Sewage can be
transferred in many ways, like the common blue tote tank on wheels
(called "Blue Thunder" because of the peculiar noise it makes). But this
can be quite inconvenient, as can carrying poop about in a bucket to
sneak it into a pit toilet when the ranger's not looking. Serious
boondockers usually invest in a macerator pump and install a sewage
Pump the sewage out of
before going to town or wherever. Get rid of it.... someplace.
Fill the fresh tank
Don't get the hoses
Adding more batteries
is relatively easy. But you've got to have a way of keeping them charged
or they'll die. Some people put the extra batteries in tow/toad and they
get charged while driving. A simple cable allows connecting them to the
when back "home." Not a swell solution, but it can work. Best is to
install "proper" batteries in the
Generators are another
way to charge batteries. It's the most inefficient method of all. Most
generators charge batteries through the
converter. All you get that way is 3 to 4 amps of actual charge going to
the batteries (NOT the huge capacity the generator is really capable of
-- contrary to what most people think). And the generator will need to
run for long hours and thoroughly piss off your neighbors.
Some generators have a
DC output that can charge batteries, directly, at over 30 amps DC, and
get the job done a lot quicker. Better, but the maintenance, fuel, etc.,
makes it less than an attractive solution.
If you have a
generator, keep it, because nobody will pay you much for it. It's a good
Using your automotive
engine to charge batteries when parked isn't smart. The military does it
all the time, but they can just get new vehicles when they wear out
prematurely, you can't.
Sophisticated Long Term
Parking -- The High-Priced (sometimes) Spread
Some of this stuff doesn't really cost much. Some of it can cost a bunch.
Keep in mind that this ain't like buying a pick-up truck -- where you have
to buy the whole thing at one time.
Solar Photovoltaic Panels are the best solution. They're expensive, but
even one full-sized module can get you through a rally or a power
outage. Some people, who are VERY conservative (or who just don't use
very much electricity) find only one is OK all the time. Most people
find one per battery is adequate. It goes on from there. You'll need a
regulator (the best -- and NOT the most expensive -- is the "Solar
Boost" Model 2000 or Model 50 from "RV
Power Products"). The panels will need to be properly mounted and
alternators are available that allow quick charging from your
vehicle engine. Most are high-priced junk with puny innards that soon
crap out. "Wrangler Power Products" makes the best.
You need a quality
battery bank, not just the cheap junk that comes with most
You need a good
"digital" multimeter. They can be quite expensive, but what you
need for an
is available for only $40.
Inverters and Independent Battery Chargers. Standard
converters are in almost all cases, absolute crap. Few serious
boondockers use them.
You really need to
install an independent battery charger (for use from commercial
electricity or a generator). Inverters are VERY confusing because most
RoVers don't know how to evaluate them. Many RoVers just grab a piece of
junk off the
store shelf. A good inverter isn't likely to be found in an
store. The quality independent battery charger will cost you about $425.
Quality Inverters will cost big bucks also, but will include an
independent battery charger that's worth over $425. (Do the math, it's
treating/filtering water can be expensive or can be inexpensive. It
depends on where you get your water, how you store it, etc. Water is one
of the LEAST understood aspects of RoVing and one that is treated most
casually by boobs.
another of the LEAST understood aspects. Most RoVers simply dump
anything and everything in the tanks, toss in some toxic,
big-name, "no smell" stuff and suffer a lot. Pathetic!
Water heaters and
Space heaters (furnaces) that come with
RVs simply aren't very
good. Serious RoVers either replace them altogether or augment them with
better equipment. One heater not mentioned (it will be) is the so-called
"Mexican" water heater. It looks like the typical, round, tall household
water heater. But, it has a firebox in the bottom and will burn anything
from charcoal to wood to corn cobs etc. Some serious boondockers use
these and those who know a bit about plumbing have sometimes connected
them to circulating pumps and heat exchangers (from industrial surplus
places) for radiator-style space heating as well.
Cooling can be better done than with standard
Cell Phones work
(most places but not all) and can be inexpensive.
Tools. Many of us
carry an abundance of tools. Some boonie rats can weld things and rebuild
engines in the middle of nowhere. You don't need to do this, but you do
need to do simple repairs and you need the tools to do it. Start with a
simple set of sockets and combination open end/box end wrenches ("metwrench"
is good and fits both U.S. and metric). Get a second set of standard U.S.
combo wrenches up to about an inch or so. Get really good screwdrivers (as
well as wrenches above) from Sears or similar and get offset and close
quarter types as well. Get some decent pliers, a hammer, etc.
Get a half dozen or so
"vice grip" type pliers (those new ones Sears sells that can be
used as wrenches are superb and if something like your air conditioner
compressor ever decides to fall off, you'll need them.).
Examine your vehicle. There will be at least one nut or bolt that you'll
need to remove some day that's huge (maybe 1¼ or 1½"). Buy those
wrenches as singles. You might need a "crazy" offset wrench to reach
bolts in odd places.
Learn how to use a
vacuum gauge. Get a simple trouble-shooting book.
Two tools most RoVers
never consider are a suitable wheel-lug wrench and a good hydraulic
jack (not the pieces of crap that came with the vehicle). Get a
quality 12-ton hydraulic jack from an auto store. Get a ¾" socket
handle/driver (they call them "breakaway bars") from a good auto store
and about a 6" extension bar so the breakaway bar won't be at an angle
when you [try to] remove a lug nut. Buy a good socket (at same store)
that fits your wheel lug nuts (you might need more than one size if you
also tow a trailer or toad). Buy a slip-on extension handle for the
breakaway bar (or get a piece of common galvanized pipe about 4 feet
long that will fit over it from a hardware store a lot cheaper). Yes,
you can buy special,
lug nut wrenches (for about $200 - 400). Yikes!
Ideally, you'll never use
the tire changing tools. You'll subscribe to a top-of-the-line
Emergency Road Service (NO, not AAA, or some gasoline company --
that's just silly) as furnished by Escapees Club (same one -- but a bit
cheaper -- as used by Good Sam -- and both are now Camping World
affiliates). However, if you're a serious boondocker, even the best road
service might not be able to find you (or you be able to call it). You do,
really, need to be able to take care of yourself sometimes.
Spare Parts -- and Other Parts. As a minimum, experienced
boondockers carry: Ignition module. Spark Plug and Coil wire set. Spark
plugs. Ignition coil. Alternator. Voltage Regulator (see Wrangler,
mentioned earlier, for external regulators for GM and such which are far
superior to the OEM junk on your
Starter. Fuel, oil, and air filters. Full set of fan-type belts. Full set
of pre-formed engine water hoses. 10' of ½" common water system (vehicle
engine) hose. 10' of appropriate sizes (for your engine) fuel and vacuum
hose. An abundant supply of stainless-steel hose clamps in various sizes.
Rolls of #10, #12, #14 wire and an abundant variety of connectors and a
butane soldering iron. At least 12 quarts of engine oil and 12 quarts of
transmission fluid (you'll seldom use a qt of tranny fluid in a year, but
if you ever blow a line, you'll need at least 12 to refill). Power
steering fluid. Brake fluid. Why carry all this stuff that you can buy
anywhere? Because you might be in nowhere! If you want to park in the
boonies, you'd best know how to survive in the boonies.
Miscellaneous. Aluminum duct tape, not the gray stuff, will cover
holes and hold stuff together. "Kool Seal" makes a really gummy butyl tape
that WILL seal leaks. Stainless-steel pot scrubbers, not ordinary steel
wool will keep critters out of holes.
I often refer to replacing standard
junk with better stuff, but if your appliances are working OK, use them if
necessary. Get info on the better things so you'll know what to get when
the time comes.
Circuit boards on appliances are one of the "things that can drive
you nutz." Get them now, not when something craps out.
Working on the Road. The BEST source for info is Workers on Wheels.
Coleen Sykora. 3213 West Main # 306. Rapid City, SD 57702
There's great boondocking in Canada and Mexico.
(There Ain't No Such
Thing As A Free Lunch). Boondocking
isn't "free." You'll pay for it by helping and sharing, be it in money,
picking up trash or any number of other ways -- not the least of them
being political activism to insure we don't lose it all. When your
club or other organization requests that you write your congressman, DO
IT! Don't assume that other people will. They won't.
One RoVer recently remarked that there is a lot of personal responsibility
associated with this lifestyle. We need to take care of ourselves, our
rigs and watch out for others as well. Sometimes we need to be our
brother's keeper, because anyone can have a momentary "brain phart" and be
headed for trouble.
What price freedom?
phred Tinseth © 1999-2002 Reproduction