One of the puzzling moments that we sometimes experience as we’re out Adventuring, is waking up in the morning quite in a fuzzy state of *I haven’t had my coffee yet* mind, and not being sure, exactly, where we are waking up at. Have you ever woken up with that moment of perplexed uncertainty?
Why, you might be hearing the distant noise of traffic, as you’ve overnighted in a Wal-Mart, Flying-J or a nearby Casino?
Or perhaps you’re a member of Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome and your surroundings are a little more peaceful.
Perhaps you’re at some spot you’ve found near the local lake, that’s just plum peaceful.
Or you’re in a campground, with all its amenities: Laundry? Showers? Water, dump and power? A firepit! WITH firewood! And SCORE! Campfires are allowed that day.
Or you’re on some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, with access to none of the above. **
That particular morning in question, as the outside world connected with the inside mind, we knew we were waking up in our comfy cosy beds in our UnityIB, on BLM land. Quite literally on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. WOW!
And sometimes on those unclear mornings, as the mind collects its random musings into focus, you realize EXACTLY where you are, and that there may just be an Adventure ahead. The excitement is the fuel that will literally jump you out of bed. Possibly even more potent than coffee?
Adventures are a funny thing, aren’t they? “Unusual or daring experiences” as defined by the dictionary, or perhaps, “a bold, usually exciting undertaking with uncertain outcomes”. I remember once reading: “Go on Adventures to find out who you are”. Isn’t that Spot On? Doing something new (not necessarily unusual or daring) certainly provide for the building blocks of confidence and empowerment in the becoming of you.
We didn’t set out to be Adventurers. With research came knowledge, with time came to experience and confidence. And as we met folks along the way and exchanged tales of “Oh, places we’ve been…”, and “Wow, the things they’ve seen…” Well, we got inspired, and then motivated, and then we kind of just… Became.
We often get asked:
“Well, aren’t you scared?”
Doing something different can certainly bring feelings of fear. And it’s certainly all about perspective. But we answer with a shake of the head:
“Not usually, no.”
I remember the first time we moved to a new house in a new province and walked the streets of our new neighbourhood. It was kind of scary, as we didn’t know anything or anyone. With time, the *fear* dissolved. Even then, when days of routine had set in, I always strived to seek new ways of expanding my horizons. Like taking a different route to work some mornings, *just for fun!* Adventure could be as simple as putting on your sneakers and going for a walk somewhere new to you. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I remember the first time we stopped to overnight at a Wal-Mart. I have to confess that as both of us sat there, feeling totally weirded out. I mean, who sleeps in a parking lot? At Wal-Mart? Turns out, plenty of people do. As the evening sunset, dusk descended and filled the inside of the van with a bit of anxiety. Our overactive imaginations envisioned the worst of the worst as we peeked out our windows. There were dark shadows behind every person walking around, every moving car, and every noise we heard!
We always spend a few minutes sitting in our seats, feeling the vibe of the area. And if our views and our guts tell us that we’re uncomfortable? We move on! For example, there was this one time we were well parked, feeling comfortable and just settling down for the night when we heard noises just outside our bedroom window. OhOh! A truck had parked right beside us, the loud sounds of upbeat music had permeated our space and were shaking our walls. Shortly thereafter, a car joined the truck, there was a quick exchange of hands, and the car drove off. And then another one. And then a third one. We quickly moved to another area of the parking lot before we could see if there would be any more cars to count. And spent a perfectly comfortable night.
This Season we experienced firsthand the availability of BLM lands. Areas, that somehow, if but for a moment and certainly the first time we tried them, felt in their remoteness somewhat even scarier than the busyness of the box stores and truck stops we’d allowed ourselves to get accustomed to. Because sometimes, there feels a comfort in noise and numbers.
This time the intense sounds of silence, and the shadows of the trees felt just a little spooky.
But with time, that too became the new normal. And so we Adventure On.
It isn’t always all about having an Adventure, and certainly not to any unhealthy limits of your own tolerance. Our Adventures are not your Path to Follow. But we hope, in writing this, that they might inspire you to Adventure on your own Path.
We met fellow travellers on their way to bungee-jump off a bridge. Kudos to them, certainly not something either one of us would do, although we certainly feel the thrill when we helped them toast their achievements, what fun!
We went on what we thought would be a short walk three miles down the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we navigated the switchbacks, walking straight downwards, we got hotter and sweatier, knowing full well that when we turned around? We’d have to come straight back up! What a challenge lay ahead of us.
And that’s when we crossed paths with a group of ladies who were on their way up, looking just as hot and sweaty, and just as exhausted, if not more.
As our Paths crossed for a moment, we exchanged stories. Once a year the group of them get together for An Adventure, something they’ve been doing for years. This year? They were on their last legs (pardon the pun) of hiking the Rim-to-Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon. These ladies had started at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, descended down to the depths below, and were now emerging on the South Side. What an accomplishment! And who knew *that* was even a thing? Being avid hikers, we were certainly intrigued. With further research and planning, not to mention some training, *that* might just end up on our Bucket List!
Whenever we’re about to head out to do something new and different, we feel the familiar twinges of butterfly wings in our tummies. And although those twinges can be a little unnerving at first, they’re a great reminder that you’re alive. Heading out on an Adventure!
And as you go, you might notice that your breathing quickens. Sure it’s uncomfortable, you don’t know where things are, you’re not sure if you can do it. But your senses wake up!! Your muscles might be tense at first, but then somehow, they relax and you know what? That flutter of butterfly twinges? They’ve disappeared. As your eyes settle on what they’re seeing, you might notice that things seem brighter, more colourful? And perhaps later, at the end of it all, in the telling of tales and ensuing conversations with family and friends and fellow travellers? Why they might notice something different about you. They might just comment how you have a jig in your step, a hint of a song in your voice, an enthusiasm that is catchy!
Adventure is a Passion that’s Contagious.
One of the items we received from Leisure Travel Vans for writing our story was an LTV JournalBook.
And as I held the black-bound hardcover book in my hands, the empty lined pages stared solemnly back at me, I wondered just what I would do with it.
As boat owners & cruisers, one of the tasks of our Passages is to keep a LogBook. Mine happens to be a digitalized columnized record of departures and arrivals, miles travelled, places stayed. Engine hours, issues dealt with, and such. And that’s when I knew! I would do the same for our Adventures on Land!
I keep my JournalBook readily available on the Dash and I note the date we left, and where we stop. I record the Fuel Cost, and if I’m industrious enough, I’ll note the financials of that day. I note the cost of the campground. Or a Big Fat Zero with a smiley face gets jotted down if we’ve been Wally-Marting or BoonDocking. All of which will *someday* allow me to input those numbers and calculate just how much we’ve spent in a day, month, year or trip.
I also keep a record of maintenance *stuff*: for example, when we topped up with propane. And will highlight the day/place we crossed borders into the USA / Canada to make it all easier to find when need be.
But the best and my most favourite part of my JournalBook? When we’re spending time with folks, perhaps around the campfire sharing stories of respective Adventures, and I inevitably hand them my book and a pen, asking them to write a little something-something.
Sometimes they simply write their names and the date. And sometimes I get paragraphs full of words of times shared.
Inevitably sometime later, as I’m perusing the pages of my well used, dog-eared JournalBook? I find myself stopping to read those words… what great memories of great times, meeting great people, all of us out here living Adventures.
We look forward to crossing paths with you. And if we do, you can rest assured that we might just ask you to sign our Journal Book. And perhaps, you might just ask us to sign yours?
** Note: Some of the BLM lands we’ve been in, actually have allocated spaces and fire pits!
Disclaimer: Boondocking, or the art of finding free places to park an RV without hookups, can be addictive. You have been warned!
When we bought our RV, we had dreams of being parked in the wilderness with no one around and waking to spectacular sunrises with no other sound but singing birds and the coffee brewing. After a couple of years and many months on the road, we realized this dream was possible. We got hooked on the boondocking lifestyle. Some may call it “Off the grid”, “Dry camping”, “Dispersed Camping” or “Wild Camping” but the idea is the same…it is about heading out there in the wild and having fun camping… for free.
There is something liberating about finding a place to park for the night or even for a few days for free, especially if you find a spot like this!
So the question is how do we find these places? Travelers like to share their stories and if we are lucky, some will disclose their secret locations with us only if we promise not to tell anyone! Who wants to return to their favorite location only to find it is full of fellow RVers? Maybe we won’t be that lucky so where can we get that precious information?
To us, the real question is: Where can we park safely overnight for free? Safety is the number one issue for Joanne and I. Although we feel relatively safe in a Wal-Mart parking lot (convenient but this is the last resort choice) we would not feel comfortable parking on a city street or in a city park without feeling safe about it. We would be on the lookout for either a police or security presence or other RVs parked there as well. Otherwise, we would choose another location.
Harvest Hosts has been a very useful resource for us. This is a membership-based service where you can stay overnight (for one night) at host locations such as wineries, farms, and museums. You must call ahead to make arrangements (and arrive during business hours) and it is normal etiquette to thank the host by making a purchase at their place of business. There are hundreds of hosts scattered in the US and Canada and you are likely to find one on your itinerary. We have made wonderful discoveries this way. Furthermore, we have always felt safe at every place we stayed.
Boondockerswelcome is another membership-based service, but this time you are staying on a fellow RVer’s property. In this case, a little more planning is required because you must contact the potential host through a secure messaging system, which sends an email to the potential host. We have found that it is best to contact hosts a few days or even a week ahead of time to get a response. Many hosts are travelers like us and may not have access to emails. This has been more difficult to manage because we are often the type to decide on a destination as we go. But once we got a positive response back, it has always been a memorable experience. We enjoy visiting cities and like to be parked near the action, and this has been an excellent option, assuming there were hosts in the area. You may consider leaving a small token gift to your host, especially if a full hookup was offered. Have a look at the “resources” tab on the website for other very useful links. The next tip happens to be on that resources page.
Frugal-RV-Travel is a sister site to the “boondockerswelcome” website. We have saved hundreds of dollars in camping costs by using their guides to boondocking locations. If you are traveling to Arizona, Southern Utah, Southern Texas, New Mexico, or California (2 guides), you will find (very) detailed directions to some spectacular locations such as this:
Free and low-cost campgrounds is a guidebook to free or under $12 campgrounds. Although we have had less success with this guide, we often use it as a reference and it has provided us with directions to nice free sites. We have found some of the information in our 2014 edition to be out of date. Some GPS coordinates took us down a long dirt road at a private residence, not at all what we expected, or in another case, the coordinates were for the middle of a lake! Also, some campsites were closed for business. Now we cross-reference the information from the guide with Allstays, an indispensable camping app for mobile devices. If you do not have this application, get it now.
Bureau of Land Management also known as BLMs manage public land mostly in the western US states. There are some campgrounds managed by the BLM that are fee based ($10-$15 usually) but there are many dispersed camping sites that are free of cost. Those can be discovered by visiting a BLM office, the BLM website, and some visitor centers offer information. In addition, the “Allstays” app can display BLM sites, and other online sources too. In many cases you will need a permit to stay at a dispersed campsite, which is available at BLM offices. The permit is free, but you will need to list names of the people in your party, vehicle information, the area where you will be parking and the length of your stay.
Some other useful apps like Campendium and Ultimate Campgrounds are regularly updated with free locations. Another useful resource is the community-driven freecampsites.net.
When in a bind, we sometimes have to resort to parking on asphalt, most often at a store or other business that usually allows for this practice. Make sure you ask for permission because some cities have bylaws that restrict overnight parking. By calling the non-emergency police line at the local town, you will know whether it is legal or not. You may even get some tips on where to park legally and safely for the night.
Here are few of the spots popular with travelers (again – if in doubt, ask for permission):
Have you ever gone camping in the wild? This is what we love to do and it gets better if you also have friends with you. For us, it is the ultimate thing in camping not only because of the money we save, but because it fulfills the inner explorers in both of us.
Do you have other ways to discover boondocking sites? Let us know in the comments below.
While spending a long weekend in western North Carolina last month, we camped at a location that, for many reasons, seemed perfect to us. And now, as we are making plans for an upcoming trip much further west, we are using that campground as a benchmark. More about that location later, but first a disclaimer: It is now becoming more obvious to me that what we see as an ideal campsite is very different than what most RV owners seek.
To some extent, this may be because we’re working full-time and have no children living at home. That means shorter vacations that are not structured around campground entertainment. Most campgrounds seem to be built for different RV owner demographics – for example, retirees who don’t have time constraints on their travels, or parents who are camping with their kids. This explains the popularity of resort-like campgrounds that have built-in entertainment opportunities, including pools, sports facilities, and planned social activities. Longer vacations and family travel account for why larger (Class A and C) motorhomes are much bigger sellers than small (Class B) motorhomes like ours.
At the other extreme are RV owners who avoid campgrounds altogether, preferring to camp without services such as electric, water, and sewer hookups. For some, this is so they can stay at remote wilderness sites (“dry camping” or “boondocking”). Small motorhomes are particularly well-suited for this since they are maneuverable on smaller roads and are self-sufficient, at least for a few days. But dry camping is much more common among RVers who are just looking for a one-night stopover and don’t want to spend money on a campground. There are even websites and smartphone apps that help you locate free RV parking sites, such as Walmart parking lots. I understand the economics and convenience of that choice, but I confess that camping in a commercial parking lot is probably the very last thing I would want to do with my vacation time.
Regardless of our destination or our length of stay, our goals for identifying a suitable campsite have been focused on three main criteria:
Overall, we think of our motorhome as a mechanism to get somewhere interesting and to serve as a basecamp for exploration and activities; we don’t need the campground itself to provide entertainment. The best campground for us serves as both a getaway and a gateway, located within a short distance of the experiences we are seeking.
Which brings us back to that ideal campground I mentioned at the beginning: Just north of Asheville, North Carolina, is Campfire Lodgings, a small private RV campground located on a mountain ridge. We stayed at one of the “premium” campsites, which are all situated with unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Depending on whether you choose sites with that view or sites with more trees and shade, the cost is $45-65 per night. The campground is well-maintained by an attentive staff and includes cabins, yurts, hiking trails, a laundry facility, and clean private bathrooms/showers. It’s just a short drive to the great food and music and art galleries in downtown Asheville, the gem of western North Carolina. Perhaps it’s a mistake to tell anyone about Campfire Lodgings, since I don’t want it to get too crowded; assuming it doesn’t, we’ll definitely be back.
(More articles at my travel/photo/blog site: https://www.vanscapes.net)