Left For Dead In Joshua Tree NP

April 22nd, 2009

I got my taxes squared away. Unfortunately, Johnny was still doing his and seemed like he would be for hours. I wasn’t in any mood to lounge around the camper and decided it was time for some fun. So, I talked Johnny into unhooking the scooter for me and proceeded into Joshua Tree National Park. I wasn’t sure if we were going to drive in there before we left our boondocking area just outside of the park, and I wanted to see a damn Joshua Tree.

White Tank Campground - Joshua Tree NP

After working the scooter through the loose sand, I hit Cottonwood road and headed into the park. It was a pleasant ride, albeit slow. The first part was all up hill and the scooter was moving between 10 and 15mph. It was during this part of the trip that I realized I didn’t bring a jug of water. Not good. Once I made it up to the visitors center it sped up to about 30mph. From then on, it was smooth sailing. I stopped at all of the various markers and checked out some Ocotillo trees in bloom. I was lucky enough to see a rare purple aster that supposedly only grows in this area. The only wildlife I saw were a few lizards and a rabbit. No sheep for me… sigh. After a long ride in the Colorado desert, I finally made it in to the Mojave. I looked at my fuel gauge, but it hadn’t moved. I decided to go all of the way to White Tank Campground.

When I arrived there I was overcome by the scenery. The giant boulders surrounded by Joshua Trees were an awesome sight. I was so entranced I almost didn’t notice the time or my fuel gauge. I didn’t have a clock, but the sun was pretty low in the sky. The gauge read 3/4 tank. I thought, “Plenty of time and fuel, but I should head back.” I got to see a Joshua Tree! Too bad it took 30 miles.

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Makeout Point!

March 25th, 2009

Makeout Point -  View from campsite in Tucson, AZ

You know that place where all the kids go in the movies and either a serial slasher shows up or someone gets pregnant? Ever wonder just where the heck it is? Apparently, it’s just northeast of Tucson, AZ in the Coronado National Forest.

We were passing through the area and decided we just couldn’t pass up checking out all of the giant saguaro growing in the area. We had planned to hit Saguaro National Park, but as we were coming in late in the afternoon, we decided to just make camp in the Coronado National Forest and hit Saguaro later. As it turns out, there wasn’t much need to go to Saguaro just to see the cacti. You couldn’t throw a rock in the national forest area without being convicted of damaging the endangered saguaro cacti. They were literally every twenty feet or so as far as you could see.

View of road to our campsite in Tucson, AZ.

By the time we finally got close to the top of the first mountain, we knew this was going to be a different camping experience. We passed dozens of cars coming down the road in the five miles or so before we found a nice campsite. We’re used to seeing maybe half a dozen cars over the course of a week in the national forests. As you can guess, we had people diving past our site all night long in everything from Cadillacs to dirt bikes. Still, it was worth it just to camp next to this sight!

With such a movie panorama spread out below, how could we resist? I mixed up a pitcher of fruit juice and ethanol and we climbed on top of the camper with a blanket to ward off the chill. It was a wonderful view and funny to watch people slow down to look at the nuts sitting on top of the camper.

We never did make it to the national park, but we put up with all the traffic and the shooting range just over the hilltop to hang onto the view for a few days.

That Old Mississippi Mud!

February 3rd, 2009

Mississippi Mud - Stuck

Internet connectivity has been spotty, but not as spotty as the sides of the truck. About a week ago, we stopped overnight at a horse trail in the national forest just off the Natchez Trace. On pulling in, we saw a rather deep looking mud puddle and in our infinite wisdom, decided to try and keep the truck clean. A few words of advice: in Mississippi, if the road looks bad, the ground around it is awful. Fifteen feet off the road, the ground sunk in bad enough that we needed to put the truck in 4WD and lock the hubs to get out.

Now this is the point where everybody tells you that 4WD allows you to get stuck deeper in. The smart course of action, would have been to back out. However, I looked at the ruts we’d already made and looked ahead. No big deal, just a little 10″ deep ditch. Nothing the truck can’t handle, right? At this point, the ditch, with water running through it, somehow, looked better than the foot deep mud behind us. I guess everybody that’s spent much time in the mud is giggling about now. I hadn’t taken into account that a ditch, WITH WATER IN IT, is likely to be at least as gooey as the ground around it.

So, long story short, another fifteen feet of driving put us in quite a bit of nasty crud and the poor, overloaded truck refused to budge any direction but down. I got out and started digging in some hope of flattening the area out. Jenn decided it was a great time to snap a picture. Women! I can’t fault her too much though, by the time the night was over, she did her share of digging.

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A new vidiot box

January 28th, 2009

Yep, in spite of knowing I shouldn’t be watching a lot of TV, I do miss some of the PBS type programming from time to time. In addition, we might watch an hour or so of random network television before the commercial overload kicks in and ruins the viewing experience. Our initial plan was to get a USB dongle and connect to one of the laptops whenever we felt like watching a bit of TV, but up until the end of the year, we never got around to it.

Well, I bought us a Avertv Hybrid Volar Max for Christmas. We’ve only just been using it the past few days, but I’ve got to say I’m quite happy with the functionality. I really expected HDTV to be much less reliable for us compared to analog TV as we’re often out in the middle of nowhere.

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Life in the back of a truck (part 2)

January 25th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Why a truck camper when you could have something much larger?

True, a bus conversion or a 5th wheel would give quite a bit more space than a truck camper, but if you can deal with the smaller size, a truck camper has a lot going for it. For starters, you can take it places that just aren’t practical in most rigs that are suitable for fulltiming. Sure, a popup trailer or an especially small travel trailer might make it down a particular nasty stretch of dirt road, but even those are going to have issues if it turns out backing out is required. A smallish Class C is as manueverable as a truck camper, but they’re awfully hard to find in 4 wheel drive models with the kind of clearance you get from a full size truck.

Another bonus to truck campers is that you don’t really need to tow along a second vehicle for running around. Many Class A owners tow a dinghy vehicle for sightseeing in order to avoid moving their RV once its parked. While, we also haul around a scooter for short trips, we often just move the entire truck and camper if the trip requires it. Better yet, if we’re going to be somewhere more than a few days and know we’ll need to run around in the truck a lot, we can just drop the camper and have a separate vehicle to drive. It takes a bit more effort than dropping or loading a trailer, but the truck can easily be loaded or unloaded in around 30 minutes.

A final reason we really like the truck camper option is that the camper and drivetrain are not married as they are in Class A’s or C’s. If you decide you’d prefer a different floorplan or the truck experiences catastrophic failure, you can always change truck or camper with a minimum of hassle and keep the one you’re still happy with. For that matter, you can dump the camping lifestyle altogether and keep the truck. Not having the RV and truck married is what allows you to have a 4wd, diesel RV with good clearance at a reasonable price. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone that would like to pull a boat. Many states prohibit double towing, and I can’t imagine it being particularly fun even in those that allow it.

But, isn’t a truck camper way too small to live in fulltime?

I guess that depends on your lifestyle and what you want and need out of life. There are probably more people living in vans than truck campers by an order of magnitude. I can stand up fully, stretch out fully and have considerably more room to move around than any van I’ve ever seen except perhaps the shuttle buses, which I imagine would make a nice little rolling house with some work.

Personally, I find there is plenty of living space, but I’ve always liked living in smaller spaces. They prevent me from accumulating too much junk and I can usually find things I’ve mislaid without much trouble. Jenn and I as well as two cats have been living in the camper for 12 of the last 14 months and I feel much more comfortable to be back in our camper than I felt while we had the run of her parent’s place the past couple of months.

The one real constriction I feel about living in something the size of a truck camper is making a concious effort not to accumulate too much junk and finding a place to store the things we need. Anytime you consider picking up a new item, you have to think about just how often you’re going to use it, whether or not you can get along without it and where you’re going to store it. On top of that, you should consider whether it will be able to replace something you already have or if you already have something that can do the same thing. This problem actually helps me to save money by not buying things just because they’re shiny!

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