Many people ask me what it's like living in a camper and traveling all over the USA. It's amazing, beautiful, astounding, and work.
Yes, even though we're footloose and fancy free, there is a lot to do when hauling even a small 21 foot camper around the western United States with you.
First let me say that our little home on wheels is pretty darn comfy. We brought own mattress with us which makes sleeping nice and cozy and of course with a kitchen, bathroom, and shower we're pretty well set.
However, there is a good deal to be done each and every time we pack up, or take down and head to a new location.
Location! Location! Location!
The first thing to think about is where to go next. When we lit out of Florida in Early July we had two goals. 1. Go to Pennsylvania and spend time with my wonderful mother. We stayed a whole month in PA and did lots of chores and visiting. It was bitter sweet leaving but we had our next goal in sight. 2. Yellowstone National Park before the snow could fly.
They say their are two kinds of authors; planners and pantsters. The first plans out each book in detail before ever writing the first word while the other simply flies by the seat of their pants and some how their brain leads them to The End. I hadn't expected to be one but I'm a panster and we seem to do the same with our rolling. We did not, as would have been prudent, planned every detail of our Yellowstone visit by making reservations but instead watched for openings in the park area then jumped on it. We were especially blessed when a friend and fellow author, Peggy L. Henderson, who writes about and lives in the park helped us get the perfect place for our eight day stay.
So this may leave you wondering how do we find a place to park ourselves and that would be a valid question.
We do not tend to stay in RV parks, as a matter of fact other than our stay in Yellowstone, where you can only bee in an RV designated area, we have only spent four days in an RV Park since we left Florida.
How do we do that? We use government land and National Forests locations. This is known as Boondocking or Dry camping.
When Boondocking you have no hook ups. Yep, no power, now water, and no sewer. That's why campers come with holding tanks. This is where the work comes in and sometimes the nail biting. There are many apps and websites that help campers find "Free Camping".
Now, let me back track a minute. As you know we're pansters not planners in our travels. We have a general idea of where we want to go and what we want to do but instead of planning down to the minute where we'll be we hopscotch our way from state to state. I'll admit we are doing better with
this now than in the very beginning.
One constant in this movement is to follow the weather. Living in a camper isn't like being in a house
where you flip a switch and have heat. Well okay we can flip a switch and have heat but we have to remember that once the LP gas we use for heating, hot water, and cooking is gone; no more warmness.
So how does the camping work? As we start to feel the urge to roll on from one spot to something new we start doing our homework. That means finding "free camping", either in BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) or National Forest Areas. We then start surfing. Easy right? Not exactly. First you have to find an area you'd like to be in. It needs to have decent roads, a pleasant view, and most importantly a good cell signal.
Once you've found a handful of sites that fit the bill you then get to zoom, and zoom, and zoom in on the satellite view on your device and virtually travel the road. Starting down a nice road that turns out to have no outlet or any place to turn your forty plus foot rig around is not a good idea. So we travel the road virtually looking for turn arounds, texture of the road, and likely places that will fit our camper. We try to pick at least two possible areas so that if one doesn't fit we can move somewhere else.
So we find the spot, check it out virtually then set out. On top of all of this research we have found that we really don't like traveling more than four hours in a day. We all know how much fun it is to sit in a car or truck hour after hour and that's not what this trip is about.
So what happens next? Now the real fun begins, after bouncing down dirt or gravel roads, watching closely for potholes that might swallow you whole, or washouts that will leave you stranded miles from civilization and stuck beyond the reaches of your local AAA tow truck we pull into that perfect... well almost perfect, site.
Setting up a camper is not exceedingly hard but it does take time, patience and precision. Surprisingly enough when you are boondocking the sites you end up in are not perfectly smooth or level. Gasp, I know. Often they are on a hillside, or between large rocks, or simply in a dusty field. This is where the fun begins.
Once you 'walk the site' checking for clearance and the easiest way to get in, you pull the camper in, often with some wheel spin or a few tries at backing up or pulling forward, then you check for level because frankly camper refrigerators are almost as finicky as the people camping themselves. That means that they like to rest level as much as we do.
This is where things really get fun.
We have several tools in our arsenal for leveling the camper. We have two large 2x8 planks that have been mitered on the ends and we can stack them up to gain height on the 'lop-side'. We also have leveling blocks which are like oversized leggos, and we have roll up levelers as well and these are the ones we use most often. They look like a little rocker that gets fatter at one end. We use them more than anything else because you simply drive up on them until you're level. Does it always work? NO! Sometimes it takes everything we have to get the RV level and sometimes we move it ten times before we find the right fit. I'll admit times like those can be a little frustrating and communication can get strained. Still we get it done and then actually start getting set up. Yes, that's only step one.
Once the camper is up on its levelers you have to do everything else. Chock the wheels, then get unhitched, next put down the stabilizers, you know the little legs that keep you from rocking like a toddler's race horse, then place wheel blocks to keep from having an roll in your wheels and after that you have to get the slide out, drop the stairs and clean up the bed of the truck that you've made a mess of getting all the things you needed to set up the camper.
So yes it sounds complicated but it's not as long as you take you time and follow the steps. It's easy to forget a step as you go and your heart might skip a beat when you realize how bad it was to miss that step. Oh, there is one more step I forgot. Go through the camper and check for anything that shook loose. So far we've lost a heavy plastic screw that holds the cover over the cook top and have found scrrews from drawers and other cupboards floating around when we finally come to a stop. Yes, our final thing on our check list is to see what has shaken loose and tightening down screws again on the rig.
Is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes. Waking up to a new view on a regular basis, opening the shades on a new sunrise, sitting in the silence of nature is not only food for the eyes, it is food for the soul.
I just want to take a moment to say thank you for all of you who have been following me on this blog. I'm trying to get one out each week and we'll have to see how that goes.
Also, thank you to those who have asked me questions about this Rolling and Writing adventure.
I have found this lifestyle very condusive to writing and have been working on so many books. It seems that each time I go somewhere new some spark ignites in my mind and in my heart.
Thanks for rolling along with me.