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Trying to be a Better RV Camping Mentor

Silver City, NM. The other day I took a friend and his dog out for a "field trip" near my dispersed campsite. I soon became aware that I was futilely -- and a little humorously -- proselytizing a man who prefers to stay in RV parks. Real RV camping of the dispersed, hookup-free kind has given me much pleasure and satisfaction over the years. It was not an original invention. I was influenced by other people to take it up. 'What goes around...' is the old adage. So why haven't I returned the favor to the world?

The most brutal explanation is that this is pure snobbishness. RV park dwellers are the "ignorant masses," you see, and ol' Boonie doesn't want to waste his wisdom on them.

Most of the time the other person is the male half of a couple. The minute I realize that there is a woman in the picture, I lose all motivation to preach boondocking. And rightly so.
But in this case the man had no such encumbrances. It's always confusing to me to see single men not taking advantage of their opportunities. At any rate I soon dropped the proselytizing and turned toward his dog, who responded with great enthusiasm to the opportunities at hand, or rather, under paw. I certainly have no reluctance to corrupt a dog with elements of this lifestyle.

Although I've benefited from using solar panels over the years when camping outside campgrounds, and even though I was pulled into it by other people, I've never tried to be a solar mentor. Recently the neighbor of a friend, that I was staying with, wanted some advice on converting his "house", a trailer that never moves anymore, to solar.  It is easy to smirk at this if you are looking at it purely in economic terms. 

I've never understood the messianic appeal of solar panels to RV campers. Solar panels have proven themselves to be useful tools; but so too have small quiet generators, such as the Honda or Yamaha 1000 Watt models. Combined with a 40 amp battery charger, a generator can put in 80% of the energy that the four batteries are ever going to soak up, in 30-40 minutes. After that, running even a quiet generator gets obnoxious and expensive. Completing the charging and maintaining it during the day is the great advantage of solar panels. On the other hand, camping under the shade in summer is one of the most delicious pleasures of RV camping; how do you square that with solar energy production? Furthermore, not every day is sunny, even in the Southwest. Solar production really craps off in the afternoons when the summer monsoons hit. Am I supposed to just suspend life during those (relatively rare) days?

Anyway, there I was, acting as a consultant to a solar newbie. He was charged up with the zeal of the newly-converted. I was confused about how to act, never having played this role before. And since he didn't know my history of skepticism towards solar messianism, there was a humorous irony to the situation. Mostly I just listened to him, while considering the next move.

Now think of the famous beginning of the original Godfather, when Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), on "the day of his daughter's wedding," listened to a Sicilian immigrant explain a tragedy which occurred to his daughter. Don Corleone sat in his big desk chair and toyed with a half-grown kitty. Through visual information alone that scene introduces the Godfather  to the viewer with such insight and economy. He was diplomatic, smooth, and manipulative, all with the threat of danger lurking in the background. (Amazingly enough, that wonderful scene was accidental. The cat was just a stray that was found wandering through the sound stage.)

Although barely able to control a smile, I listened to the solar newbie gush about his project. It was a beautiful thing to behold, actually. A 70-ish man feeling young and enthusiastic about a new project. He and his wife had been so friendly and kind to me. The Godfather and kitty cat simile went poof. I became protective and gentle with their solar project.

One of the early daguerreotypes showing a relative of mine in her Little Bo Peep phase.

Avoiding mistakes is the first place to start. For a mentor that means resisting the opportunity to show off how much he knows; he should keep it simple for their benefit. If they needed to hear endless arguments about tipping angles and wire gauges, they could go to a discussion forum.

Also it meant gently lowering their expectations of how well the solar project would work (at reasonable cost.) This doesn't mean undermining the project. It meant trying to maintain a playful sense of humor about it, especially with the poor wife who would be impacted all day, every day, by their solar system. Although the solar newbie did an excellent job of selecting equipment, he had no fuses in his system. So I put in a rather insistent advertisement for them, and made sure it was heard by the wife.

There are other examples of trying to be a mentor. Let them wait until next time.


Unknown said…
Guess I wasn't the only on the receiving end of suggestions to give up RV campground living. Although my trailer is rigged for living off the grid (solar equipped) -- and early years on the road -- it was used frequently. 12 years later it is used, but infrequently. After 12 years on the road, my plan is to live a good life and spend my savings. The alternative is to leave the savings to my kids. It's an option but it isn't high on the list.
Chris said…
Mentoring cures curmudgeonry.

Chris H
The third option is to be a mentor and leave your money to a worthy, but struggling, younger blogger, perhaps in the form of a "research grant" to perform advanced wandrin camping studies.
Just what are you suggesting, my good man! (grin)
edlfrey said…
Wandrin lLoyd,
What Boonie does not understand is I am not RV Camping, I'm living in a mobile apartment. I hasten to point out that this is the same Boonie that has extolled the virtues of living on a gravel half lot in the metropolis of Yuma this past winter. Not just living in such a non dispersed camping place but ENJOYING it along with the companionship that he found by riding with a bicycle club.
The 'field trip' was great fun and my dog, Patches, took to Boonies corruption with such enthusiasm that she ran circles around Coffee Girl.
Perhaps together we can convince Boonie that it is time to join us in an RV Park from time to time.
OK Ed, you smacked me down to size. Still, I made a successful sales pitch to Patches, and I will let her win you over. She'll be better at it than I.
There are "cracks" forming behind the facade... :))
Box Canyon Mark
Anonymous said…
Women are an "encumbrance" to male boondockers? Where do you come up with such an assumption?

Periodically I check in on your blog (that's why I'm commenting a post late) and you never fail to disappoint. Women are such a PITA, aren't they.

Anonymous said…
"On the other hand, camping under the shade in summer is one of the most delicious pleasures of RV camping; how do you square that with solar energy production?"

Simple. Put the panel on your tow vehicle. Park your trailer in the shade. Park the tow vehicle in the sun.

Works for me!
Yes, putting solar panels on top of the tow vehicle is something that not too many RVers do, but should at least consider it. I too did it for a couple years, with good results. There are pro-s and con-s to putting them on the trailer roof, too. I'm not sure which direction I lean. Right now I am trying to use up my non-state-of-the art generator, and then feel I got my money's worth, and replace it with a new generation Honda 1000.