BOONDOCKING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
And now, a get-down-and-dirty segment, as truthfully as I can be.
Boondocking, which is also known as dispersed camping, refers to parking your bus/rv on public land, no hookups for power or water or sewer, and living for free. It is allowed on many state lands, certainly on all BLM lands, in parking lots like most WalMarts and Cracker Barrels, in some rest areas, and wherever else you can get away with it.
It is, most certainly, an inexpensive way to live, beating the heck out of paying at an RV campground, which usually costs at least $55 per night. It is also troublesome, at times, and potentially dangerous at other times, and that’s where the down and dirty part of this segment comes in.
I have researched this until proverbial hell froze over, and I’ve been on the road now for just short of two months, so I have some practical knowledge about this; I also don’t want this to come across as negative, because there are many positives to this style of camping. However, I don’t think the downside is written about very much, and I don’t want to paint a false rosy picture of this free camping lifestyle.
It is certainly true, at least out west, that there are many, many, as in the thousands, free camping sites. There are books written about them all, and apps for your phone which have detailed maps about this topic. The problem, however, is that many of those sites are close to population centers, and those that are tend to be less than ideal, as in dumping sites for the locals, meeting spots for the rowdy locals, or frequented areas where drugs and alcohol flow freely.
For those who drive 4×4’s, the problems are fewer, because they have the capability of driving off-road to hard-to-get-to sites, thus cutting down on the dump sites and rowdies, but for those of us driving 1999 converted busses, it is much more difficult to find a free parking spot which is not overrun by, shall we say, the undesirables of the world.
Choose incorrectly and you run the risk of a cop or forest ranger knocking on your bus door in the middle of the night, something which is not good for anyone with a weak heart.
The videos you see about wonderful spots in Arizona and Utah, where small groups of boondockers gather together and have wondrous times, those are true stories, and that does happen, but I believe they are the exception to the rule. For most of us, dipping our toes in California, looking for an economic discount on life, it is much harder to find those wondrous spots with wondrous people.
The search continues. Tomorrow I will drop down into the desert around Victorville, and hopefully find some spots which seem safe and which do not require a 4×4.
Perhaps my opinion about boondocking will change over time, but for now I much prefer established campgrounds and RV resorts, which poses a future problem as I make this lifestyle a permanent part of my existence. If I’m going to be able to afford this style of living, I will need to figure this out, sooner rather than later, thank you very much.
RAISED OUT ON RURAL ROUTE THREE
I was behind a school bus the other day, near Agua Dulce, watching it pick up the country kids, and my mind drifted to the old Brooks and Dunn song, “Red Dirt Road.”
While many of us tucked ourselves in at night by pulling up the covers of suburbia, and drove our children to their schools, or stood at the end of the driveway as the school bus labored through our neighborhoods, these kids walk a good hundred yards, sometimes longer, to get to the end of their ranch road, or farm road, passing by curious bovines, horses snorting plumes in the cold air, pigs and goats and sheep, fields of hay, cut and not cut, rusted John Deere’s in the back forty, rusted Ford F-350’s in the front forty, and a dollar will get you ten their driveway is dirt, or gravel, rutted from the latest rains, or washed out entirely.
Secondhand clothes are the norm, the Walmart knock-offs, purchased in August, made to last until May, then taped up with duct tape to make it through the farming months. Baseball caps on the guys, ponytails on the girls, both practical, keeping the hair contained and out of the way of machinery, Wrangler jeans as common on the parents as the kids, boots preferred over shoes, and for many their futures decided long before high school. College? It happens, but it is much rarer in the country than the city.
You can see the money from a distance, luxurious homes atop hills, winding, paved driveways all the way to the road, and the money dwindles the further down that hill you go, a modern fiefdom right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Keynesian Economics be damned, or a perfect example of, not sure what John Maynard really had in mind.
I have no experience growing up on a farm, save that one summer, long ago, spent with the Iowa grandparents, so I can only speak from observation. I’m lacking the knowledge necessary to make any educated guesses, one way or another, how their lives are, how they will be, is there a difference in longevity, the earning power they can expect to wield in adulthood. I do not know any of that.
I suspect alcohol abuse and drug addiction and domestic abuse are as prevalent here, on the rural roads, as they are on Sepulveda Boulevard, sixty-miles to the west. I also suspect there are a proportionate number of well-adjusted kids out where the blacktop ends, where the dust swirls when the wind shifts, and tossing dried cow paddies is a time-honored tradition.
This is, after all, America.
DROPS OF JUPITER
If you’ve heard the song, and you read this section, you’ll understand the reference.
The song I refer to, by Train, I believe, is a song about self-discovery, about the reaction to a life-altering event, in this case the death of the singer’s mother, and being forced to find out who he is without his mother in his life.
Are you with me?
I had a hiker ask me what I did all day, waiting for Bev . . . do I get bored, she asked.
The concept of boredom does not exist on this trip.
I am much too busy listening to the wind, watching the ripples on the river, studying how the colors of the landscape change, being serenaded by what appears to be a thousand birds in my morning tree, being mesmerized, of course, by the passing clouds, wondering how in the living hell I managed to not notice these things for, literally, decades, questioning my sanity for not following this path a long time ago, a path which was so clearly something I loved following, the open road, the feel of a good machine responding to my commands, meeting new people, gazing at new sites, and never, and I say again, NEVER, being bored.
So, self-discovery, eh? Tell us, Windmill, what have you discovered about yourself while you were gazing at the clouds and listening to the starlings, if that truly is what they were in that tree?
I learned that I need people. Not 24/7, mind you, but I don’t enjoy long periods of aloneness nearly as much as I thought I would. I enjoy talking to people, sharing with people, listening to people, and being heard by people.
I suspect my introvert tendencies will always be present, especially when the group I am in increases in number, but one-on-one I find I thrive and, not only thrive, but look forward to.
I discovered that I’m actually, when alcohol is completely out of the picture, a nice person. People like me. People enjoy my company, and I look forward to learning about people, helping people, and sharing genuine comradeship with people.
I am, and I already knew this, but it has been reinforced, an empath. I feel for other people. I hurt for other people. Their stories affect me on a deep level, and that kind of connection no longer frightens me, as it did in the past, but instead energizes me and, when done, makes me warm and fuzzy.
I am of the belief that I have just begun to tap into my writing abilities. My focus is different, much more introspective than fictional, but I believe this journey will unleash some of the finest, if not the finest, writing I have ever done.
I find I am in love, and in awe, of this country and its people. It all fascinates me, a little child on the 4th of July, just waiting for the next big bouquet of colors overhead; I can’t get enough of it. I wake up each day wondering what incredible sight I will be lucky enough to come across, like this morning, in Acton, walking the dogs, and I hear a lion roar. Not a mountain lion, but an honest to God African lion, while I’m in the high desert along the Santa Clara River. Come on, folks, tell me that isn’t cool.
No, I’m not imagining things. There is actually a big cat ranch right next to the RV place I was staying at, the proverbial stone’s throw from an area where many episodes of Star Trek were filmed, a fart and a holler away from a movie ranch where extra vehicles are kept, awaiting the next movie they are needed in, and no more than twenty miles distant from a spectacular Super Bloom in the desert, so colorful it left me speechless.
But I digress! This self-discovery thing is something I should have done a long time ago.
This journey, and the ensuing journeys in years to come, will be my Mr. Holland’s Opus, my apologies to the movie creators.
“Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s a time to change, hey
Since the return of her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey
Hey, hey, yeah
But tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that Heaven is overrated?
And tell me, did you fall for a shooting star?
One without a permanent scar, and did you miss me
While you were looking for yourself out there?”