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Old 05-06-2010, 04:20 AM   #1
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Default my first snowbird experience

Packed up and got out of Montana Jan 15th. Drove 1300 miles in 2.5 days., 700 miles the second day. Towing a trailer with motorcycle. Averaged 15+mpg on mix of Intersate and Hwy 93 south through Nevada. About 65+ mph.
I tried to pack light and did keep my personal stuff to minimum, but still brought more than needed. Had all my motorcycle gear.etc. Will be absolutely bare bones next trip. Mostly stayed in Arizona, which I grew to love more and more-- the desert was spectacular- lots of green and the cacti were blooming and sprouting, just sublime.
Left the van at a friend's on the Parker Strip south of Lake Havasu, travelled by motorcycle to visit friends in Bisbee, Tucson, Palm Springs, L.A. area. I rode to the Copper Canyon again- 4th trip to Mexico in 2 years.
Coming back to the van after each little trip away was more and more like coming home. I grew very bonded to having my own bed and bathroom. I was gone for 90 days, spent at least 60 of those in the van-- and never got tired of being "in the van".

What I learned:
I didn't use the stove or shower much. I learned to eat without cooking much. I did buy a tiny blender and used that to make banana smoothies. I only had to top up my propane tank once.

The hot water heater was a wonder-- it seemed to heat the water in about 5 minutes. I would use the bathroom sink and a washcloth mostly, but did use the shower a few times when I needed to wash my hair. I mostly showered at friends houses. Once I showered in the van while boondocking in a casino parking lot! I thought that was the height of stealth camping.

I did some stealth camping in Tucson and also L.A. I would look for an apartment complex in a good neighborhood and park outside of it-- that way people would think I was visiting someone inside. A couple times I parked in front of vacant houses with "For Sale" signs in front- that way I knew I wasn't blocking anyone's parking space. Often I would get wifi outside of apartments. Then I had TV and movies ( Hulu and YouTube) on my laptop. I kept my cell phone, laptop and house batteries charged by running the genset as I drove around town, or parking on far edge of a mall lot, or a big box store.

I found I got a lot more space out of the 30" closet by using a shoe hanger on one side and a hanging stack of cubbies on the other. Then instead of hanging all my tops, which took up a lot of space, I rolled them and could fit all my clothes,even my helmet, in the cubbies. I hung my motorcycle jackets on the pole , and put motorcycle boots under them, along with a bucket for detergent and tp storage.

I tried to keep all weight low, and ended up with empty spaces in ovrhead cabinets. I learned the degign faults, fixed a couple, learned to live with a couple. I am curious -- is there a poll on whether Class B users prefer bed in the back, bed left made up?

Anyway--- it was a fun learning experience and I know what I need and don't need for next trip. Who is coming?
1996 Ford van, Bigfoot conversion
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Old 05-06-2010, 11:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: my first snowbird experience

Wow, nice trip, Maren. I gotta ask, how was the weather mostly? We were in Flagstaff
last week in March and got snowed on. The rest of the canyons were pretty cold too.
Most of the locals said it was abnormal, which we figured, because last year we had
reasonably good temps and almost no precip. (Oddly, we were approached by US Census
takers in the parking lot of a Walmart, while relaxing after a day's drive in a howling
cross-wind to Hoover Dam, and back. They were counting "people living in motorhomes"
which I guess isn't as unusual in these times as it might seem to some).
Boondocking can be challenging but it is the frugal way to camp when you have no idea
where the commercial campgrounds are, or there aren't any State/Nat Parks nearby.
B's were made for stealth missions, methinks.

All in all, sounds like you had fun!

See you in early September (maybe?) if we head out to try Mt. Rushmore and GNP
again.
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Old 05-09-2010, 03:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: my first snowbird experience

Double wow.....sounds like a great trip. Great info you supplied keeping things "running". I thought about apartment complexes myself to stay at and wondered how it would work. There is nothing better then having your own bed and bath. Safe travels and let us know about your next trip.
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Old 05-09-2010, 07:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: my first snowbird experience

I loved Arizona...I'd been there off and on for last several winters-- a couple -3 weeks at a time. This time I got to explore and stay in areas I liked.
It was definitely cooler later into the year than normal, which I enjoyed as I don't like heat. The Bigfoot has roof air right over the bed and it is noisy- no way I could sleep with it on ( or the generator to run it...) so I wouldn't have enjoyed staying in hot weather.
BTW, I have a little "EMF" reader and it showed that there is a huge EMF field around the generator when running-- not healthy for sleeping... Also my microwave (from 1996, I assume) had a strong one, even when not running, so I unplugged it. Furnace ( right under my head when sleeping) not so much, and since it only ran a couple times a night, I didn't worry about it.
Having a furnace was a marvel. Just set the temp and NO shivering....... I used to sleep in my old van with two sleeping bags and still wake up cold, until I turned on the little propane heater, which I didn't dare sleep with that on- no thermostat. In the Bigfoot, the heat ducts are routed around the water tanks/ pipes, so the bathroom was the warmest place,ahhhh.
Stealth is easier with a newish/ tidy looking vehicle. I think apartments are a good bet for a night or two. I stayed in one in Yuma for three weekends in a row and no problems. I knew a guy living there, in case anyone asked, but no one ever did. Could use his shower and the laundry, too. However, I stayed with a friend in her gated condo place in Huntington Beach and people complained . ah, get a life.....
Because the van has such limited black water storage, I tried to use bathrooms in big stores as much as possible. I never maxed any tanks out, lasted 13 days once, and still had fresh water and gray capacity. I spent some time on sailboats, so I know how to wash dishes with a cup of water, take a shower and wash hair on a gallon of water.
Anway, it was a time to get to know the van and to problem solve. I can't wait for next trip as I will have my motorcycle on the hitch carrier- no trailer, yay!
I encourage everyone..... just go. Nothing to worry about.....
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: my first snowbird experience

Sounds about right for stealth camping. Public toilets and washrooms are a good way to lighten
your black/grey water loads (ahem!!) and we do it too. We shower at truck stops or Nat Parks
campgrounds, or sometimes State Parks or commercial CG's have a day or shower rate that
gets you access to showers.
I get the distinct impression that condos are a bad place to look "different" by parking an RV or
MH in their lots, and most condo people are bound by very restrictive condominium rules.
I lived in one in Toronto for over 2 years, and we couldn't even have a BBQ on the balcony.
Propane grills are dangerous!! "Read the condo agreement", was the standard defense of their
(silly) position. I'd never live in one again.
The western States overall were better last year. Temps were good for sleeping both times (Mar'09
and '10), but this year it was just too wet/snowy at the higher elevations in AZ and UT to get out
and hike the trails. We've made a mental note to only head out west in the fall, when the temps are
warmer, and the canyons aren't as wet. We can try the south east coast in the earlier part of the year.
The furnace is nice when it's cold. We got a lot of use out of ours in March. You get used to the fan noise.
We also do the "Walmart CG" and occasionally have spent the night in a "super-mall" where there are
lots of big-box stores. We spent the night in The Prairie Center, CO off I-76 after a hard midnight drive
through the mountains and couldn't find anything in Denver that looked safe or open. In a Chilis parking lot.
I think Walmart likes the potential revenue from overnighters, and they aren't too bothered by
boondockers. We always try to spend a few bucks there, and with their SuperCenter hot deli sections
have found we like the hot BBQ chicken, and the General Tao chicken nuggets, as a snack or with
a small salad as a meal. And we're always in need of some toiletry item or clothing or even electronics
(I want a Garmin nuvi 855, if they still have any left by the time we head south again).
Anyway, glad to hear your trip was a good shakedown, and fun too.
Mike.
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