Boondocking: Lessons Learned, Successes & Failures

January 4-18, 2019

When we were at KOFA in December, our black tank filled far too quickly. After one week, we had to leave and dump the tanks. It didn’t seem reasonable since we didn’t dump any dishwater down the toilet like we often do. Therefore, we did a bit of research and discovered that the bathroom sink drains into the black tank, and I wash my hands often . . . very often. Well, that explained that. Lesson learned.

While we were camping on BLM land outside of Quartzsite, we managed to boondock for 15 days before our black tank filled. We left with 35% water in our fresh tank as well. What’s more, after 7 days, I also hand washed our socks and underwear and we still had water to spare. Additionally, we had a heavy rainstorm and collected 2 buckets of water, which I used to wash my hair, bathe, and do some dishes. Success.

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Early arrival at the RTR

We have more than enough solar and batteries to last, even when we had rain for over one day. We watched Canadian news every night and kept ours and Sheila’s electronic devices powered. Success.

However, not everything was rosy. After one week, our hot water heater died. Again. Even though this trailer is new, we’ve had to replace to circuit board twice already. It is an Atwood gas-electric heater (but Dometic now owns that company). The circuit boards are from China and they are garbage. These water heaters are installed in many RVs and the boards (made by Kunshan Zhongding) are faulty. Fail. Luckily, we are “campers” and know how to heat water for dishes and bathing, but it was disappointing.

Of course, Can-Am RV came to the rescue and had Airstream ship a new circuit board to an RV park in Yuma. By the time we got back to Yuma, we had a new circuit board by a different manufacturer (Channel Products). Let’s hope we don’t have to replace this one in 3 months. We are feeling optimistic. Success.

The biggest challenge when boondocking is water conservation. Here are our tips:

  • no showers (We wash daily with just a small bowl using approximately ½ liter of water) and then we toss that water outside (if you are not in an environmentally sensitive area) or use it to flush the toilet
  • pay for a hot shower (In towns near BLM land, there are often entrepreneurs that provide hot showers for a fee. We paid $5 each for a shower at Rose RV Park in Quartzsite).
  • if it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . Yes, we have to do that. It isn’t pleasant, but neither is hitching up and driving to the nearest town just to dump the tanks.
  • avoid putting toilet paper into the black tank for #1
  • put a bowl in the bathroom sink to capture hand washing water and reuse that water for more hand washing, and then toss it outside or use it to flush the toilet
  • use paper plates and bowls (I still do the washing up 3 times per day, but using paper plates and bowls conserves a lot of water.)
  • cook on the barbecue (This also cuts down on cookware to wash)
  • eliminate water-intensive cooking (no pasta when boondocking)
  • dilute the dish soap (That way you won’t need as much for rinsing)
  • give your dishes a shower, not a bath (I used to fill up 2 dishpans: one for soapy water and one for rinse water. Now, I just wet the dishcloth and apply some diluted dish soap and then rinse each dish. In the end, I only use about ½ a dishpan of water)
  • use potable water jugs (We have 2 large blue jugs that we fill with RO water. It is easier to refill these in town than it is to hitch up the trailer to fill the fresh tank)
  • collect rainwater (It rarely rains on the desert, but if it does, collect some)

Here are Bunnah and Kenzie showing their blue water jug:

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Boondocking is for the dogs. Freedom!

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Kenzie and Poppy

After the RTR, we moved into the town of Quartzsite to meet up with the Airstream club. We enjoyed their company and the full moon.

After 2 1/2 weeks of boondocking, we returned to Yuma to do laundry, restock our supplies, and visit family.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge: Part 1

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December 11, 2018

Palm Canyon Road

The Kofa refuge was established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. Because this is a protected area, there are some regulations, so it isn’t as open as using BLM land. For example, you can only camp within 100 ft of the road, and camping is only permitted for 14 days within a 12-month period. Also, pets must be leashed or contained at all times. Like BLM land, camping is free.

Kofa is a contracted name from “King of Arizona”, which was the name of a gold mine in the area back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are several entrances to the refuge. We chose Palm Canyon Road, but some of the others are Blevens Road (Crystal Hill), King Road, Castle Dome Mine Road, and MST&T Road.

Although Palm Canyon Road is gravel, it is wide and graded. We had no trouble with things jumping around in the Airstream, nor when we encountered on-coming vehicles.

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We weren’t sure how far we would drive in. The camp host told us that we could go to the end of the road and there would be a turnaround in the parking area for the trailhead. We didn’t know how far the road went, but we found this site and pulled in. It turns out that there is only one more campsite beyond ours, but it is only big enough for a small motorhome or van. Here is our campsite with its spectacular views:

Our new Airstream is set up with 4 100W flexible solar panels and 4 AGM batteries. These have been sufficient for us so far. Water is always an issue when boondocking. We conserve as best we can, but water usage will determine how long we can stay here.

Desert Plants

We had rain last week, so the desert is quite green. We heard that the washes did flood. We wish we could have seen that.

Last year, we arrived after the ocotillos had lost their leaves. There are many in full-leaf here. Stunning!

Let’s observe the Airstream in its natural environment:

And that wraps up our first day in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s time to get outta Dodge!

November 9, 2018

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Oh no! We had hoped we wouldn’t see the white stuff. It started snowing in the late morning. Not much fell, and it never got too cold (34F/1C), but still, this is a clear sign that we have to leave.

We had planned to leave on November 16, but friends contacted us and are leaving Saskatchewan on November 13. Yesterday, I called to get our travel insurance changed to November 12, so we are free to leave then. We will play it by ear. It’s supposed to warm up again at the start of the week.

Looking west:

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Looking east:

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Poppy zooming by:IMG_9042

 

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From Prairie to Rockies to Valleys

September 1-6, 2018

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Back in April, we toured 2 RV parks in the Similkameen Valley (west of the Okanagan). We were looking to purchase an RV lot to satisfy the residency requirements in Canada. On the day we arrived back in Saskatoon, we got a call. A couple was selling their lot at one of the parks. They sent pictures and we bought it sight unseen. So, we’ve owned an RV lot in the Similkameen Valley since April, but we had never visited it until now (September). We are still officially Saskatchewan residents. We will decide next year if we want to officially become BC residents.

On Labor Day weekend, we started our trek west – Paul drove the truck and Airstream with Daisy, and I drove the Jeep with Poppy. We chose the northern route (through Edmonton) in order to visit our friends, Mary and Tony.

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Jasper National Park

This was the furthest I have ever driven. I have been known to nod off at the wheel (highway hypnosis – “you’re getting sleepy”), so I keep my trips to under 3 hours. Driving in the mountains with trees lining the highways is very hypnotic, but I kept that shiny atomic pod in my sight.

We knew that forest fires were still burning in BC, but didn’t expect them to be so close to our RV park. As soon as we turned onto Hwy 3 towards Keremeos, we could see flames and so much smoke!

What a warm welcome!

 

Canada’s Wonderland?

June 27-30, 2018

After spending a month in the Niagara Region visiting family and friends, it was time to start heading westward.  We had a wonderful time visiting; however, we didn’t do very much sightseeing this year.  After all, this is our home stomping grounds and we aren’t really tourists when we return “home”.

Our first stop on our westward journey was to Can-Am RV in London, ON. We had made an appointment to get a bike rack installed on the Airstream and to have our kitchen revamped. We arrived on Wednesday just before closing, and they gave us a spot with power and water out front. Our Airstream was moved into a service bay first thing on Thursday morning.

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A rainy night at Can-Am

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Jeep Cherokee & 25RB and Chrysler 300 & 30RB

Can-Am prefers the Arvika bike rack manufactured in Quebec, so we trusted their judgment. In order to mount it, they make braces out of Zip-Dee awning hardware, so the whole Airstream looks unified. What a beautiful job! Now we can’t wait to get back to Saskatoon to get our bikes.

Also, on Thursday, the cabinet maker, Larry, removed our built-in microwave and crafted a pot drawer. By the end of Thursday, he had made a very substantial drawer that is strong enough to stand in! However, he was waiting for the Landmark laminate to arrive from the Airstream factory. It was being shipped inside an Airstream. It didn’t arrive in the first trailer, but it did finally arrive later that evening.

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Original kitchen

We spent Thursday evening with a fun couple from California and a Can-Am employee. We were all camping out in the yard. The employee, Bill, has now moved away from the area, but he works 2 days per week, so he camps there overnight when he has a shift. He does the walk-throughs with new owners, and he and his wife are also full-timers. Ingo and Mary, from California (and Louisiana) camped overnight so that they could be squeezed in on Friday for some servicing. We had drinks, appetizers, and great conversation! Ingo and Mary are leading the Highway 61 Revisited caravan (A musical journey along The Blues Highway) this fall with the Wally Byam Airstream Club.

On Friday, Larry continued working on the drawer front. He worked ALL DAY and the results are spectacular! What a craftsman! He decided to make it look like 2 drawers so that it wasn’t so overwhelming in appearance. He used all the same hardware that the rest of the trailer has, and he also did some special touches, like routering out the area around the push latch and then edging it with laminate. He did lovely custom work. Maybe in the future, we’ll be having him make a desk for us if we decide to remove the dinette. We will have to use the trailer for a while to see if we learn to love the dinette.

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New kitchen

So, we spent 2 days in the Can-Am lounge, but it was fine. We had air conditioning (and did we ever need it!), coffee, wifi, Airstream tours, and Wendy, the receptionist, kept bringing the girls treats. It was a wonderful experience.

As you are driving in Southern Ontario, you will see signs for Canada’s Wonderland, a huge amusement park; however, for Airstreamers, the real Canada’s Wonderland is Can-Am RV.

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Alumapalooza: More Pictures

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One of the sponsors of the event was Haydocy, and they brought several units for display: a 16-foot NEST (full-time front bed), a 19-foot Flying Cloud, a 27-foot Tommy Bahama, and a 33-foot Classic.  What I found particularly interesting was the WC door on the 19 footer because we had a similar corner bath in our 23D.  I loved the layout, but it would have been nicer to have a larger area when drying off.  Airstream listened and improved the door to open up the WC when in use.  Check this out:

Unfortunately, older units cannot be retrofitted because there was quite a bit of re-engineering done.

In addition to Haydocy’s display, Airstream also brought a few new models, such as the Atlas (class B+/C motorhome) and a “shorty” Sprinter van.  The Atlas is about the same size as our Chinook, but it has a slide, and the interior is far more beautiful.  It’s an Airstream after all!  The shorty is only 19 feet, so it can fit into any parking spot.  I was really impressed with it.  I’m not sure what it’s name will be when it is marketed.

One couple brought a one-off Airstream, which they called the C-Stream.  They purchased this concept motorhome from Airstream, but they had to sign waivers because of the design defects.  The unit is too heavy, so they cannot add any items to the overcab storage area.  What a find!  I really like the curves of the fiberglass.

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Here is a baby Argosy motorhome and a 35-foot motorhome in for service:

We also watched the daily progress on this motorhome:

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Right next to the service center is the Airstream store and waiting room.  Better than a candy store!

The Atomic Pod at the factory:

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Here we are in line at the border, returning to Canada.  In our rearview camera, we saw Andy Thomson behind us:

This time, the border guard was less interested in where we lived and what we had purchased.  Her questions were about the Airstream: What is an Airstream? Why did you buy it? What makes it special? Why would you go to a meet? We were a little off-guard.  You never know what they’ll ask!  Andy said his questions were similar.

Would we go to Alumapalooza again? Heck yeah! In fact, we already registered for next year. It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad we made the effort. I love being retired because we can be flexible and take advantage of opportunities — or make opportunities. We don’t have to make rigid plans and rush to complete them to return back to work. Serenity now!

ALUMAPALOOZA HIGHLIGHTS: PART 2

May 29 – June 3, 2018

Alumapalooza should be at the top of every Airstreamer’s list. I can’t describe everything we did and saw, so I will just include a few highlights.

  1. Entertainment

The Alumapalooza team booked top entertainers (Josh Rogan, The Other Favorites, and Edgar Cruz & Michael Kelsey). No, Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours weren’t booked this year, but the entertainers were amazing.

  1. Access to the factory grounds

As long as we were wearing our badges, we had unencumbered access to the factory grounds. The factory is in a “free trade zone”, which meant that it is inaccessible to the public and trespassing is a federal offence. We had to keep our badges on so that we weren’t stopped by Federal agents, especially after hours. We wandered around at night looking at interesting units, like the hearse and the European model that was getting ready for shipping. We were not restricted at all.

Commercial trailers:

Hearse:

European model:

Interior of the Bowlus Road Chief:

  1. Seminars

We learned to rivet with Jim Parrot. He brought in a section with ribs and aluminum skin and showed us how to use olympic rivets, which is what people likely use for repairs. Airstreams are assembled with buck rivets.

Colin Hyde taught us about Airstream renovations, rodent habitats, and preventing leaks. He said ALL, absolutely ALL Airstreams leak, but your best defence is being proactive by sealing often. His brother and sister-in-law (from Ontario) brought their completely renovated trailer and gave us a tour. Phenomenal! Colin completely renovates trailer by removing the frame and putting it on a rotisserie. He also removes the interior skins – that’s where he finds ecosystems behind those walls! He uses buck rivets for repairs, which requires removing the interior skins. He’s a great speaker.

The most-attended event was Andy Thompson’s (Can-Am RV) presentation about proper hitching. We learned so much. He is amazing! We had read all of his articles in Airstream Life magazine, but hearing him speak and explain procedures was invaluable.

  1. Socializing with other Airstreamers

Milo and Diane parked next to us, and we spent most of our time with them. They were so much fun and are animal lovers. They also introduced us to some members of their Vermont unit of the WBCCI. Milo and Diane have 2 senior German Shepherd Dogs, and Poppy kept her distance! However, one evening, we were sitting at their trailer and Daisy was restless. She started wandering about, and then we saw what she wanted: their big dog bed. So, the old girls got up and let Daisy take their bed! Daisy is rickety, but she still has presence!

The Jamie & Joan Hyde’s (of Ontario) renovated Hydeaway by Colin Hyde (of New York):