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The Solution to Winter Evenings when Camping

Long winter evenings have never been my favorite thing, when boondocking. All I could do was waste time on the internet or read books. Perhaps older eyes just don't like reading in the evening. Or maybe I have had my fill of reading by evening.

The result was boredom and glumness. This was a serious problem for me. My solution was to go to bed early.

Some solution! It results in poor quality sleep. And who can sleep for 12 hours per night?!



Lately I have been experimenting with organizing things in the evening. Consider all the photographs stored on your computer. They need to be organized and culled. This ends up being fun because it gives you a chance to reminisce over your travels.

You could argue that you just have too many photographs to tackle in this manner. Then why not just throw them out? You are never going to look at them again, anyway.

Organizing is needed for the file structure on the laptop and the smartphone, as well.

There are physical things that need to be organized,…

How Not to Shut Down So Early at Night

It has only been a couple weeks since I stopped my incessant whining about hot sunlight and dry air. And now I am already whining about too many hours of darkness, and getting cabin fever during rainy days.

There is something to learn from the campers who wear headlamps at night. They continue to do useful things at night, instead of limiting themselves to boob toob, yoob toob, or miserable books.

In fact modern headlamps having gotten ridiculously good. No longer are you allocating one hand to carry things, while trying to get things done with the other hand. Have you ever tried to operate a zipper with one hand? A camper spends most of the day fighting zippers, especially in winter.



The other day somebody went mountain biking by me at night. I couldn't believe how bright his headlamp was. I am still not motivated to ride at night, but it would sure be great to stay active in the evening with daily chores.

Ahh, but there's the battery, the weak link in any of these electrical gad…

Missed Opportunity: Camping at Fairgrounds

What a pleasure it was to saddle up the ol' hound dog and go for a walk in town to all the places that one needs to live. I like to take the pulse of a town in this style, and walking is the best way to do it.

I am camped in a low-budget county fairgrounds in western Colorado. It is hard to believe that "low budget" and "Colorado" could appear in the same sentence, but they can, once you avoid the tourist traps. Better yet, you can sometimes get quite close to tourist traps without suffering the disadvantages.

All it really takes is the willingness to get interested in something besides how 'breathtakingly beautiful' it is, aka, how big, freakish, and vertical it is.

And why shouldn't it be economical to camp at the county fairgrounds? The facilities have to be put there to service campers using the fairgrounds during the half-dozen festivals that happen every year.  Any additional camping fees are just "dessert" for the fairgrounds.

And if th…

'In Harmony with...' Something Better Than Nature

Something unusual happened last night. I was camped in a campground, and yet, felt at peace.

My friend and I were sitting at the picnic table and watching the sky show. The heat of the day was hours in the past, but the night-time chill was holding back.

To begin with, it is an unusually spacious campground. (With kazillions of acres of public lands, what is the excuse for the urban-RV-park-like congestion of so many public campgrounds?)

On top of that, it was half empty, so the neighbors were just at the right distance. You could hear their muffled voices around the campfire, but not the conversations. The campfires flickered at their bodies until it made distant jack-o-lanterns out of them.


There was no music coming out of car stereos. 

Was there some kind of self-selection taking place? Were the people here specifically because they are disgusted with the crowded and noisy tourist industry in Colorado? Were they exhausted from their mountain biking and rock climbing? 

Ahh who knows. All…

Demographic Profiling in a Campground

So far, I've posted about the question of whether working with the general public (as a campground host) can affect your political viewpoint. Can it also affect how you feel towards certain "demographic profiles?"

Of course demographic profiling is non-PC. But if people will tell the truth, everybody has to do it when they are in a hurry. It is only unfair when more information comes in but you lazily cling to your original judgement.

For instance today some yahoo was blasting away with a gun, at a target; he was only 200 yards away from the nearest campsite. I went over to investigate. My eyes scanned the row of parked cars. I zeroed in on the one most likely to belong to a Deplorable. I expected to see a "MAGA" bumper sticker on it.

I have been affected by this experience, and in a rather nice way: I have come to appreciate women more. They aren't perfect: they ask too many dumb questions about bears. They expose too much skin in public, and almost as bad,…

A Joey in My Jammies

Being a propagandist or proselytizer is not one of my core skills, apparently. No matter how hard I have tried to talk my fellow campers out of their evil ways, they still put furnaces in their rigs, and then go on, hypocritically, to praising the usual pieties of Frugality and Simplicity.

Still, it is worth praising an approach that has become very satisfying. Earlier I gave an advertisement for camping with insulated bib overalls. 

These are even more effective with a bladder of heated water inside. I used this technique again last night. What satisfaction! Since I sleep in those insulated bib overalls,  I call them my "camping jammies."

When you put the bladder of heated water inside the jammies, you can think of yourself as a:

The Shame of Surrender

You gotta give humans credit for being resourceful and inventive, especially when they are rationalizing their own sinful weakness. (5 extra credit points for finding the quote in Ben Franklin's autobiography about his deviation from his youthful vegetarianism.)

I actually have an electric heater warming the inside of my trailer. The Kill-a-Watt device says that it is using only 860 Watts. I wonder if it will be running continuously at 7 tomorrow morning. 

How have the mighty fallen! Last year my unheated trailer set a personal record for hitting 28 F inside. But tonight I keep looking at the heater and telling myself that it isn't really cheating because I am mooch-docking on a friend's driveway.

Normally I mock (good-naturedly) the eremitic virtues of the hook-up-free camper, and then turn around and scold any camper who is using heat. Strange.

Not so long ago, I played with the freezing point, as if it were an unattainable achievement. I used to flirt ever so closely with 3…

Patriotic Heroes in the Arizona Desert

Is this a new trend or did I just notice it for the first time, perhaps because of my biases? I noticed so many motorsports people running around the Arizona desert with American flags on the back of their machine. Sometimes they go to quite a bit of work erecting a flagpole back at camp.

Doesn't that seem strange to you? What is the point of adorning sports equipment with the American flag? Maybe fishermen should tape a little American flag to the end of their poles. That might be kind of fun to watch if they are fly fishermen. What are the 'motos' trying to say -- that their sport is more patriotic than others? And what does any sport have to do with patriotism?

Perhaps in their febrile imaginations, their Polaris Ranger -- blasting around in the Arizona desert -- is like a military Humvee, blasting around in the desert of some Mideastern country. Therefore they are 'supporting the troops, who are protecting our freedom.'

A strange game is going on in the minds of a…

The Best Development in RV Camping in 20 Years!

The old adage about 'god is in the details' applies to so many things. Nowhere is it better illustrated than in camping. The vast majority of campgrounds are terrible places to camp. Please don't tempt me to illustrate.

In America (and maybe a couple other countries?) we have been fortunate enough to have the option of "dispersed camping" outside established campgrounds, and by yourself. This is probably the best outdoor experience you could have.

But for years dispersed camping (and other types of access to public lands) has been under persistent and relentless attack by the land control organizations. But they may simply be the Effect. The Cause is likely to be laws passed by Congress, trying to burnish their environmental credentials, as well as rich lawsuit machines (aka, environmental lobbies) and their fellow-travelers sitting on the bench as federal judges.

And yet the RV industry and the RV blogosphere have done next to nothing to protect quality camping in …

Payback For Not Blabbermouthing Boondocking Sites

Ordinarily it is not a source of pleasure to find that an interloper has discovered your own secret dispersed camp site. So why did that happen here? It was in an arroyo somewhere in southern Nevada. 

Years ago, when this lifestyle was new to me, I happened upon a rocky overhang in the side of a cliff, which was redolent of an Indian cliff dwelling. It wasn't perfect -- it opened to the north, instead of to the south. How gloriously comfortable it would have been if it had faced south.

Still, it was tall and provided good protection. Back then, I was more impressionable. I positively fluttered my eyelashes over this spot. So I dragged my trailer to it, almost getting stuck in the process. And I had a campfire under the rocky overhang. It was fun to act like a kid, by projecting shadows of my hands onto the roof. 


But now I noticed somebody else had at least had a campfire there. Maybe they had slept there, too? Instead of being angry about the intrusion I felt strangely good-natured …

Campers Who Arrive After Dark

Well, well, I seem to have gotten quite good at this. I actually like walking through the campground early in the morning and busting people. It is usually campers who arrived after dark the previous evening. I nailed three of the little bastards this morning. Busting stealth campers gives me the greatest pleasure.

There is an element of grim humor to it. A movie metaphor always comes to mind, from "Apocalypse Now." Remember Robert Duvall's "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

It is so important not to be a marshmallow and not to be a rule-nazi (or a Barney Fife.) Yes, the agency wants their camping fee. But busting one camper doesn't bring in that much money if it is only one night's fee. 

It is accomplishing something subtle to win over the camper by hitting just the right balance of firmness, friendliness, and explanations of the realities of a campground. Long term, that is worth a lot more money.

In a lot of ways, a campground host is like a sc…

Soggy Tent Campers Making the Best Out of It

Oh no, here it goes again. What will it be this time? Hail, a slow all-night rain, or a monsoonal downpour. But the campground is full, mostly with tents or tent trailers. What do people see in this activity?

They have told me stories of how wet they get. But many people seem so good-natured about it. Some people are well prepared with tarps strung up between trees. Their gazebo-shelter-canopies sometimes protect an entire picnic table. Life seems to go on pretty smoothly at the picnic table.

So I want to admire how people make the best of it. I am held back only by the seditious thought that these people are crazy, and should be doing something else on vacations with their hard-earned money.

But they see something I don't. Think of this as a small example of how hard it would be to be a good novelist, who must crawl into the heads of the characters. 

I have better luck using a historical imagination. The other day a Brit was telling me about Scottish weather. Think of life in the win…

Busting my First Stealth Camper

What is the right attitude -- the fair attitude -- towards a certain category of campers? I refer to 'stealth' van tramps. There is something about them that makes me want to bust them, in my job as a campground host.

Is it their impudence? They think they can outsmart the system. Maybe what really pisses me off is they think they can outsmart me with their little games.  There is a grim humor in this: think of the old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. But I'm not thinking about the fun when trying to bust them, even when they do no apparent harm to anyone, including me.

Some of their scheming for free camping makes no economic sense. For instance, last night we had a new-ish, $50000 Mercedes van trying to play the stealth trick. The camping fee was $5. That is a ratio of 10,000 -- ten thousand. We have vehicles with $20,000 of all-carbon mountain bikes in the back of a $50,000 pickup. And they act so wronged and victimized to pay any fee at all. Our fee would barely pay for a…

The Best and the Worst Tents

The other day I was walking by a campsite on the river...and stopped dead in my tracks. That has never happened before. I had to stop and admire a large screen house tent that was lording over the river. What a great view they had in that tent! It seemed that a person could live there.

After all, a tent is physical shelter -- a temporary abode. How can something seem livable unless you can stand up in it? No wonder I disliked tent camping when I was young: I would buy those backpacker-style tents that you couldn't even sit up in, or put your pants on, let alone stand up in. The average coffin has more space for its resident.

Somebody else had a screen house, with their pickup truck parked nearby. During the day they painted and lived their lives in the screen house. Imagine trying to paint if you were swatting bugs. Then at night, they slept in the back of the pickup cap, with some protection from bears.

So far, I've seen a couple big name brands, but haven't yet seen the fam…

Testing One's Mettle Over the Fourth of July

Campground hosting over the Fourth of July, in a popular tourist area? It should be the ultimate test of one's moral fiber.

Alas, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The campers are no longer the young hooligans of the past. Perhaps because the campground now has fees, it has acquired an outdoorsy family clientele. On top of that, the area does not cater to motorheads or party-at-the-lake types.

Thus I was disappointed: no test for me. But a woman came to my door halfway through the weekend, with a story she was quite upset about. Apparently she had been meditating by the river, when some loose dogs chased a fawn. She wasn't sure how badly it was injured.

Long-suffering readers of this blog expect me to have rolled my eyes and launched into a standard stump speech. But I sensed the opportunity to make a test out of this. So I took her sincerity and discomfort seriously.

There wasn't anything I could actually do. But it seemed to be accomplishing something to just listen to her and…

A Better Way to Spend Your Holidays

Addendum: A Honda Element just had a contest with a snow-melt-engorged tributary of the Gunnison River. Which one do you think won?

I missed the show, but I heard about it. Perhaps the Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) driver had heard (incorrectly) that there was free camping on the far side of the river, from one of those lists of free campsites on the internet -- that are obsolete the microsecond they are published. Then he took the chance of trashing his vehicle, all for the sake of saving 5 or 10 dollars.
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It is time once again to put out an advertisement for a better way to spend your holidays than camping. Just a few years ago, "stay-cations" were talked about as an alternative to travel-oriented vacations. Has that new buzzword already receded from public thinking?

I hope not, because it is a great idea. Think of how much fun people could have by going to a nearby luxurious hotel, resort, or casino. Let the kids go to a real movie or …

Three Different Types of Campers

I looked out the window and couldn't believe the trailer coming into camp. Most of our sites are built for car campers and tents. Smaller motorhomes and trailers get by. But this thing!

Besides, the campground was almost full. I went along with him to help, as a tugboat does when an oil tanker needs to dock. You've got to give him credit for guts. He made it. But it was close. 

They were newbies. I tried to think of something helpful to say, but it was difficult. They did not want to hear, "Ya got the wrong trailer." I finally decided to encourage them to camp in flatter, more open land; and to avoid going right up into the mountains proper, with their narrow roads and cramped forest campgrounds.

Later, we joked about the movie of Lucille Ball and Desi, "The Long, Long Trailer." As it turned out, he was a young lad at some state or national park in California when they were filming that movie!
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A backpacker walked …

How to Croak Alone in the Woods, Without Killing Your Pet

The marketing department here at the Institute for Advanced Recreational Studies barely approved of this post. "This isn't the topic to increase clicks," they tried to explain.

Still, the problem remains for a solo camper who wants their pet to survive their sudden and unexpected demise while camping alone. Just imagine the situation for a ranger or emergency personnel: they must bust into a rig, and what do they find? Pet urine and feces, and probably vomit. The pet might still be alive. They also encounter a partially eaten human carcass. If your pet is a dog, it would have actually felt bad about that. But what choice did it have?

Presumably, this would not look good on your pet's adoption resumé at an animal rescue organization. Then again, a clever worker there might advertise, "Fluffie has shown herself to be self-reliant and resourceful..."

There is a solution available: a doggie door. Few products in this price range have improved the lives of owners a…

Fire and Ice

Now and then, I catch myself bragging about setting a 'personal best' when camping. Last week the temperature insidethe camper hit 27 F. 

Of course I have a heater, but refuse to use it. Usually I try to joke my way out of it. A better explanation would be to point at the movie, "The Red Violin." 

Chilly dry air, in contrast with sunlight at sunrise, seems like perfection to me. With a Platonic and pseudo-religious attitude, I pop my trailer door open to the east, and let the glorious sun come into the trailer. It feels warmer instantly, and irresistibly cheerful. If there is a better way to start a day, let me know what it is.


Nevertheless, consider this an exception to the rule. You will not have to read many advertisements for 'the ideal' or 'perfection' on this blog. Experience has taught me that the enemy of the Good is not the Bad, as you would expect. The enemy of the Good is the Ideal.

What If I Were a Car Camper?

Every day I travel by a solitary car camper. Sometimes I feel like walking up and introducing myself. But I never have.

Is this just bourgeois prejudice, looking at somebody who appears to be a low-life? It could be, but it could also be reasonable caution. How am I supposed to know which topic lights the guy up like a firecracker? And how will I escape his rant, gracefully?

Another motive is self-protection. His situation seems sad, and I don't really want to wallow in it. The other day was a big day for him. I saw him walking around his car a little bit. At one point, he bent down and tied his shoes. That is the most action he has had in a week. The rest of the day, he just sits in his car and looks out the windshield.

There could be some genuine drama happening in that car. But who would know? Who could be affected by it vicariously, if everybody is afraid of him?

I always feel ashamed of myself when I go by him. Are he and I in the same category -- desert rat boondockers?
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