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Counter-intuitive Habit #2: Navy Showers

Well, thank goodness that last post is over. It doesn't happen very often: this blogger flipping into "prophet" mode, and coming down from the mountain top with stone tablets, full of warnings and proscriptions to the Children of the Wheel.

So let's just reiterate the bottom line: Counter-intuitive habit #1 = Learning to start an outing going downhill, when it makes sense.

At the moment I am trying to entice a friend to come up and camp with me. She has the most perfect rig I have ever seen for hook-up-free camping, down dirt roads, on public land. And coming from me, that is worth something. It is a "Tiger." In fact, considering how illogical most people's rig-choices are, it might make sense to say that choosing a Tiger is on our official list of counter-intuitive camping habits. Let's let that stew awhile...

Unfortunately I suspect that she is still a slave of "real" showers, as one gets at New Mexico's state parks. My sermons have not inspired her to renounce sin, apparently.

Very well then, when I was a lad my father, a sailor in World War II, was disgusted with the wasteful and decadent showers that I always took. A hundred times he said something like, "We only got a gallon and a half per day on the ship, and that was for Shit, Shower, and Shave." I was not impressed. I would just park myself under the hot spray, and count on erosion to do the job. I barely used a wash cloth. The shower only ended when the water turned cool. Thus, when I started dispersed camping without hookups, I really wondered if I was doomed to failure. 

It helped to break the problem into pieces, and to use words exactly. The sheer quantity of water was not my weakness -- the temperature was. To this day, I despise swimming in cool water. But as long as the water was plenty hot, it turned out to be pretty easy to be happy with less of it.

That is particularly true if you want to minimize trips to somebody's water spigot, and you want to minimize the weight and cost of camping. Water is the heaviest thing that you have discretionary control over.

As with any habit that initially appears abstemious and puritanical, I helps to visualize it in a positive way. Believe it or not, I get pleasure from visualizing a molecular layer of surfactant and a couple layers of water molecules starting at my head and running downhill, until they exit at the toes. I know that sounds silly, but it works.

Although it takes a certain amount of trouble to set up the shower in a small rig like mine, this can be turned into a positive thing if you visualize it as a "sacred" ritual, or at least the moral equivalent of cultural rituals like "getting the tea going" or entertaining guests with a complete meal. Let it be leisurely -- it helps you savor it more.

Or consider reading a broad historical survey of human civilization. Think of how important water has been! You could easily make a long list of turning points where water was crucial. And if that isn't enough, consider how much of your own rotting carcass is water. But does anyone living in a First World economy every dwell on such things, deliberately? Wouldn't it be great to actually appreciate this marvelous and fundamental material? You do that every time you take a navy shower. And it isn't just sentimental abstraction -- the appreciation is solid and real.

My success at converting to navy showers was helped by avoiding the "back and forth" syndrome. Most people are more successful at eliminating bad habits if they snap over to the new habit all at once, and never "reward" themselves by backsliding into sin. There is a fine quote from William James on that, if I could find it.

Aw hell, I'm wasting my breath. Trying to talk a damn woman into navy showers is like convincing her she can be happy without Bed Bath and Beyond, or Trader Joe's, or Costco.


John V said…
I'm surprised that you would be so impressed by a Tiger. Especially since big, burley 4x4 pickup trucks with a camper top over the truck bed is a setup you have discussed and ruled out in the past. You've even chided me for the overkill of an F350 4x4 (a baby truck compared to a Tiger). For you to say "She has the most perfect rig I have ever seen for hook-up-free camping, down dirt roads, on public land." about a rig like that means you must really like this woman! grin

I guess you've decided the "cargo van conversion" is no longer at the top of the boondocking food chain. :-)

Once you get into the navy shower lifestyle, it's the most morally satisfying and refreshing shower there is. We're embarrassed that we used to two of those ugly Americans who took such long, wasteful showers back before our boondocking days.
I was putting aside the issue of cost when I was praising the Tiger. In terms of bang for the buck, the best is still a work truck with a homemade cap, pulling a converted cargo trailer.
John V said…
Those beasts are cool, but I personally don't like the RV model where you have to move your whole house to drive to the trailhead or into town. That means towing a vehicle behind or hooking a motorcycle to the back. Not my thing, but I can see where other people might do it.
By the way, can a UTV be used as a towed/toad?
Ed said…
I am reasonably sure that a UTV can NOT be used as a toad. Having said that I'm also sure that if there is the will there is a way.
Lyn said…
Au contraire, kaBLOOnie, I spent 4 months in Ehrenberg, Az this winter having mostly Navy baths! Nor do I go to BB&B, or Costco or Trader Joe's, although, I do admit going to Whole Foods upon occasion. Love my Tiger - I can get into most anywhere and if blocked can still turn around - 20 feet long is nice! Way different than all the ground clearance difficulties of my old van!
John V said…
By UTV, I assume you mean an ATV (like a Yamaha Viking side by side for example). You would need to trailer it. Towing it would destroy the tires (they're made for dirt/gravel, not asphalt) and your gas mileage. I know a lot of people who license those things for the road. Up here, you can only drive them on roads rated 45 MPH or less. I'm not sure what AZ, NM, etc. have for limits, but we see trhem on the road all the time in AZ during the winter.
Anonymous said…
I only do navy showers (by choice) and don't go to Costco. I have shopped at a BB &B and Trader Joe's, but don't make a habit of it. Guess I'd better double-check, because I've been thinking all this time I was femaie ;)
Four months of navy style. Well, I admit it, you are progressing.
Well OK I do paint with a pretty broad brush sometimes. (Oops...)