Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trips to Town – With and Without a Toad

For the first 2 or 3 years after I’d begun full-time RV’ing, my only means of transportation had been the RV. This presented no problem just as long as I kept moving. I would stop in a town that had free potable water, a self-serve laundry, a grocery store, propane gas, a service station. If I was lucky, I’d also find a dumping facility and a second-hand bookstore. A couple of hours and that was it. When stationary however, this meant a full day per week attending to day-to-day necessities factoring in the distance between the LTVA and the city.

I had spent one short season at Slab City near Niland, California and found shopping, laundry, etc. relatively easy, although some distance away. There were a couple of convenience stores in nearby Niland, free water, a dumping site for a small fee, gas and propane, and even the use of a library. For a full line of groceries including meat, I would go to Brawley at the Von’s, or to El Centro, some miles further. This meant breaking camp with the risk of either leaving “stuff” accessible to opportunistic pickers, or risk losing a favourite site. I avoided leaving anything behind except a clean site.

Then I began wintering at Imperial Dam LTVA, at times alternating with Quartzsite, opting for up to a seven month stay for a season fee of $180. The sticker permitted me to alternate between 7 or 8 LTVAs. At Imperial Dam and Quartzsite, a site marked with an outside rug and a couple of chairs or even just 5 gallon jugs filled with water would usually guarantee that I’d find my site free when I’d return. Once a week I’d spend a full day doing chores, which meant breaking camp, securing the site, and manoeuvring in town for suitable parking, etc. Quartzsite had limited shopping options but Yuma or the Foothills, AZ were ideal. Both sported a Supercentre Walmart (a one-stop-shop) and a public library. On the plus side, I’d do my shopping and secure the perishables immediately while on the parking lot. Same with the laundry. Upon return, I’d dump sewage and refill my fresh water tank. These were included in the seasonal fee.

Then a bylaw presented me with a thorny problem. It was forbidden to leave a pet in an unattended vehicle. Technically, an RV is a vehicle. But it’s also a residence. I couldn’t leave the two dogs I had then behind. Where? So, I’d usually leave early enough to find a shady spot, kept all windows open for cross-ventilation, and the blinds down to avoid direct sunlight and plenty of water. One day a security man gave me a warning. Next time would be a fine and the risk of having my pets picked up and moved to the dog pound. I argued about the vehicle-residence with him, the impossibility of leaving my dogs behind, and finally proposed that I’d run the generator to air-condition the RV. Regrettably, this was not an acceptable option. The answer seemed to be to get a toad.

I had often envied those who had one and just left the RV and pets behind. So I got one. Although a bit concerned at first about the total length of RV and car while on the road, it ended up not a problem, really. I’d pack stuff in the car and that was a plus. Also, once boondocking, it made my full-day shopping much easier but still presented a few unexpected hiccups. I worried about my dogs, a Rottweiler and a German Shepherd, left behind in the shade under the awning. There were coyotes and roaming burros. Admittedly, parking was a breeze. Keeping perishables and frozen items was a tad more dicey. And space was restricted. I’d had an Extend-a-Stay installed, which allowed me to have a couple of propane tanks connected to the RV, in addition to the main tank. The contraption bypasses the main tank, which I’d use only as an emergency source of propane. I’d use almost exclusively the two tanks and have them refilled on my shopping day. Here in Mexico, the installation proves also valuable since I can have both the stationary and portable tanks filled when the truck comes by.

In my most recent years of boondocking, with only Queenie, I let go of the car. Parking it in Calgary where parking fees are the MOST EXPENSIVE in North America ($300. a month!) was prohibitive. So I sold it. I had a rack installed behind the RV to accommodate the gas tanks and while in the South, I’d run the air-conditioner before parking in the most recondite places I could find. Queenie is not a barker so she wouldn’t attract attention with all blinds down. Even downtown Yuma, I usually found a spot beneath a tree. Let me state that invariably, I’d return to the RV with Queenie’s environment more comfortable than the outside, even in the shade. I wish that I could advocate for one or the other option. Both have pluses and minuses.

While travelling, Walmarts were a good option for overnighting as they are usually reasonably close to the highway. But they are bound to respect the local bylaws that forbid overnighting, even on their own lot. I got their Atlas that lists which stores allow overnighting. I found that, increasingly, towns and cities forbid RV parking ANYWHERE but an RV park. And these are very costly for the right to find oneself packed between other RVs like sardines in a can. And don’t let me get started on the regulations… Boondocking seems to have become an ongoing search for suitable places.  I suppose it should be noted that he boonies are by definition usually outside residential areas. In conclusion, I found that I’d usually bypass the cities and towns and find more lenient spots to park the RV for the night.

Now that I “boondock” on my own lot in central Mexico, I’m happy to report that I have solved these problems. Now, I have to choose between building the house or buying a vehicle. Money can only go so far. I’m going for the house.


Barb said...

I appreciate all your info and experiences. For people like me, just starting out in my little rig, these things are really useful to know. Also your previous post, I'm taking note of everything.
Thanks! :)

Teri said...

I'm also just starting out, and do not plan to have a toad. I'm not sure if I will have my cat with me. If I do, I will have to make sure she had a cool place to stay when I am away from the coach. I enjoying reading of your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Very useful insight. I thought of you earlier today. I wanted to wish you a Happy Mother's Day, but this is the first chance I have had to post. Anyway, Happy Mother's Day!

Stargazer said...

Thanks Virago!
Had a special day yesterday when Pete invited me and his wife Jimena to lunch in a delightful restaurant where we ate under a palapa. The food was delicious and the breeze sweet.

Dan said...

Very interesting blog. I have heard that Mexico is a great place for RVers. Although I don't know if safety is a concern. Thanks for providing the info.

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