Scavenging the Slabs

January 8th, 2010

It’s amazing the difference the mountains make. We were literally driving through rain all day until we finally crossed through the mountains into the California desert. Minutes later, it was dry and I was considering whether or not to turn on the air conditioner. Once again, we arrived at Slab City in the dark and were unable to find the primo campsite. So, we just settled for the same site we had last year, pulled in (checking for nails) and staked our claim.

Unlike last year, we had two bikes and didn’t need to get the scooter out right away. At least, we had two bikes for a couple of hours until Jenn’s pedal came off because it had been put on the wrong side. Back to one bike and two riders, it was time to get the scooter running again.

Just like last year, it had another fuel leak. This time, however, nearly the entire fuel line was dry rotted and I wasn’t able to clip enough from somewhere else to fix the problem. But, like Leonard Knight says, ‘If you go eight miles out in the desert, you can find anything you need.’

By way of introducing myself to our neighbors, I wandered over, dodging a vicious puppy, and said, ‘Hey, you know where I can find a piece of fuel line?’ Now, if you’ve ever been looking for some random part in the middle of nowhere, you realize I didn’t really expect anything from this except, just maybe, directions to the nearest auto parts store. Instead, I got directions to the Slab City mechanic.

Sure enough, when I found him, he was able to scrounge up a bit of vacuum line that was the right size to replace the fuel line on our moped. Sure, it probably won’t last too long, but neither did the cheap rubber on our Chinese moped. The vacuum line, had already survived a car fire, which is more than I can say for the original fuel line.

We have a few other scavenger hunt projects going on. I hope they all work out half as well as the moped. But either way, it’s an interesting way to meet folks when you get tired of scrounging around the desert and decide to ask directions.

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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Life in the back of a truck (part 4)

April 9th, 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

Gordon recently posed a question over at the Truck Camper Magazine blog that seemed like a great idea for the next part of our Life in the back of a truck series. He’s curious just how long his readers can boondock and what tricks they use to manage it. I got a bit long winded, but here’s my response.

The resources we have to work with are:

  • 46 gallons of fresh water
  • ~300 amp hours of battery in 2 Trojan T-1275 12V batteries
  • 60 pounds of propane in 2 30# tanks
  • A Honda eu2000i generator
  • ~4.5 gallons of gasoline plus whatever is in the scooter and generator (up to around 2 gallons if both are full)

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Still, we manage to do fairly well when we find a place we want to stay for a while. It takes a little effort to conserve resources, but we manage to live quite comfortably for up to a two week stretch without running out of anything or breaking out a military desert survival handbook. Just how do we make these resources last and what sacrifices does it take, you ask? Well, read on to get a taste of the Hitek Homeless lifestyle!

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Slab City or bust!

April 6th, 2009

Internut - Slab City Library

After we left Quartzsite, our next ‘destination’ was Slab City, just outside of Niland, CA. First though, we really had to do some shopping before I broke into the emergency can of baked beans. So, we hit Brawley, which is about twenty miles south of the Slabs. As long as we were in town, Jenn wanted to get some work done on the freecampsites website, so we endured horribly slow internet for a night, under the assumption that we’d have no internet at all once we hit Slab City.

Go figure. Slab City had the best EVDO connection we’d seen since we left Phoenix. In fact, it’s so good they have an internut connection in the lending library. Speaking of the library, I was really impressed with the selection of books available and found my share very quickly. I rather wish I’d spent more time in the library as I could have dug around for a few gems instead of grabbing the first half dozen titles that looked interesting.

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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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