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My Grand Adventure

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2017

    My Grand Adventure


    As once said to me, 'We are all just one heart beat away from death.'

    Birth to early adulthood. I was 2nd born, sister, me, sister, brother & sister. I had what I thought was a normal childhood, now I find out it was dysfunctional, but what is normal? I attended grammar school, jr high then graduated from high school. After which I felt I wasn't ready for college, I joined the service at 18. I spent the next 4 years in the USAFSS on overseas tours. I did attend a few college quarters, trying to find myself but never obtaining a degree.

    Career. After my enlistment I was hired by a firm in Idaho and spent the next 2 years working in their data center. During those 2 years, I met & married, then soon had 3 children, 1 boy & 2 girls. I moved from that location back to my home town, worked in various data centers, spent some time in the brick mason trade (my father's trade) & eventually was hired by the largest private employer in N Utah. I spent the next 35 years working in their data center. I made a good living & ended up with a decent retirement.

    Retirement (2009), relocating to Oregon. Early on in 2011 I was floored by health issues. It took me 6 years of surgeries, treatments, learning & battling life threatening aliments. I feel now I have a handle on my health. I'm eating proper, getting exercise & monitoring/managing my conditions to the best of my ability. I never got to do the things I wanted after retirement. Memories are fresh concerning my health & I have unpleasant thoughts about my location & surroundings. The idea of boon docking was planted in my mind early in Nov 2016 so I started on the project I call ‘My Grand Adventure’.


    First vehicle I purchased for the boon docking - van dwelling project. A 1995 Chevy G30 (1 ton) cargo van with a 350 (the most common & easiest motor to work on), it has 265 AC (2 windows down/65 miles an hour). There is no massive command center for switches or gauges that tell me things I couldn't understand even if I wanted. My van runs remarkably sound but since it is an older one I must be aware of any differences that happen along the way. I purchased a new starter motor, after having the engine completely checked out (hoses, belts & fluids changed). I also purchased a higher amperage deep charge battery. Had new tires installed & receiver hitch/brake control/plug installed. Beyond that not much has been done to it. It has a bulk head, cargo mat & at best 2 usable bucket seats. The cigarette lighter is dead (could be replaced but don't smoke), the door & window handles that are not working have been replaced with a small sized vise grip. It is functional & 'ugly' needs a new windshield.


    I also purchased a 'Vintage' 19' travel trailer. It is a 1998 Aerolite 19 footer self contained & have downsized/minimized & discarded as much unnecessary van dwelling 'stuff' as I could. I find I can get along well with less. Not withstanding my meals I try to keep my trailer as organized as possible. Space is the secret & keeping stuff put away helps. I make my bed every morning, wash my few pots n pans after use & keep the counters, open spaces & storage areas as organized as I can. With van & trailer - licenses, insurance, van parts, trailer parts, travel, parking,,,etc. my accumulated costs are now somewhere near $5,300 for the van & t-trailer. Reading on one forum I discovered that now my '98 trailer has moved into another classification - it's 'VINTAGE', when looking for a trailer I discovered the ones I thought I could afford were called 'Vintage' or 'Retro' & the prices had risen on a fully restored one. Any RV 20 years or older is considered 'Vintage'.
    I had toyed with the idea to purchase an enclosed cargo utility trailer, problems I could see, the limited physical abilities I now possess hinder the DIYer attitude I always approched most projects with. For less than the cost of a moderate sized utility trailer, outfit it with the equipment & needs for camping I figured that the ‘19 trailer will adequately serve my needs with very little modification or cost. I paid $1,800 for the trailer, a small 5X8 utility will cost that much & then will need at least $1,500 invested for beds, cabinets & a adequate waste treatment. The trailer has all that. I got a sway control hitch thrown in for no more cost, that alone would have cost $400 plus. Much smarter idea & not much effort on my part.

    When first planning & outfitting my ideas for van dwelling I had purchased a free standing mansized commode. It requires bagging your waste & disposing of it into a proper waste bin. I will need a free standing shower stall to double as a privy & a shower. They can be obtained for less than a $100. All the comforts of home! This will be used on the BLM land or where there is no facilities to hook up to. I also carry the commode & hand held urinal in my van for emergencies while traveling. Easy to stop at a rest area use the equipment then deposit my waste bags in the large garbage bins usually found at the stops. Can be used on the open road also but carrying the waste bags will be a minor issue.


    Some of the stumbling blocks associated with 'snowbirding' was laundry! Getting the clothes to the laundry wasn't the problem, it was how often you would have to go. I had 7 shirts & 5 pair of pants that needed washing at least once every week, I have learned to wear them 2 days instead of 1. I had very little room in my small travel trailer closet. So to solve the problem I thought of a way to circumvent that issue. The 1 ton enclosed van I drive, usually sits empty except for the floor. I decided that I could span the entire back near the rear door with an adjustible rod that I have. It would give me over 6 feet of open closet space.

    I have been accumulating more clothes, I now have 20 shirts, 10 pair of pants, 2 light jackets, 1 heavier coat, 20 pair of underpants, 20 pairs of socks & 2 pair of shoes. Also an assortment of baseball type hats & gloves for warmth. I figure by keeping the clothes on hangers I can visit the laundry once every 3-4 weeks. So with 4 months to span = 120 days divided by 3-6 wash days, I can spend a minimum of time washing clothes. I will have room to hang everything along with a small 3 drawer dresser I can store all my laundry very easily. I can also use the back area dry my towels & wash clothes on the same rod.

    I never used the back too much but did use the side sliding door to haul my groceries, keep my cooler & transport my water containers. I had physical trouble moving a 5 gal water bottle so I decided to purchase 3 additional 2 gal Igloo jugs. I can now carry 10 gals of potable water for drinking & cooking purposes. 10 Gal will last about 10 days so a trip to the water dispenser will take up 12 weekly visits @ 1 hour each. They have hanging handles attached with hooks so I can outfit my van with a heavy rod attached to the sides. The side sliding door is also the access & transport area for my propane bottles, I need 1 bottle per week so I will have to make 6 (2 bottles) trips to the fill station. Another hour each trip.

    I use paper plates, cups & bowls, paper towels, plastic utensils & few items I need to wash regularly will be my pots, pans & knives & spatulas. I have a Geo Forman for steaks & other meats, a small crock pot, 2 fry pans, 1 camp coffee pot for heating water, a french press & one small sauce pan for my oatmeal. The now free area that laughingly was called my closet can be used to store my can goods, extra utensils & many other items. I can order all my camp supplies out of Amazon that can be delivered by UPS right at my space. I have my laptop, smart phone for communications devices, I can watch movies on my laptop, I have membership to the local library so with many videos to choose from my entertainment is filled. I will get my exercise daily just taking my garbage to the garbage area. I don't socialize, don't make friends usually & would rather keep to myself.

    Just this morning I called the RV park in Quartzsite to reserve my space, pay 20% down. The told me last winter that I would need to call sometime in June because all the available spots are reserved by July 1st. I got the spot I flagged on my walks, it was still available so now it's mine from Nov 1 to April 30.
    My plans now are to remove the broken awning, it broke one day when I was raising (rolling up). It would probably cost around $300 to replace the brace. Problem you run into with an awning is in the windy desert it acts as a parasail. I would watch others with their massive slideouts & attached awning rush outside to roll them up. The awning's left brace blocks my access to the hot water heater pilot light & with all the wind swerlling around it is very common to douse the flame rendering your water heater's output.

    By removing it and using my $59 10 x 10 canopy for shade, makes it a little more convienent & can be moved where needed without moving the trailer. You do have to anchor them with long spikes at each corner & lower the top to 3 feet when windy. It does help keep them in place & relatively safe from damage. Talking with other residents it became apparent that the awning does nothing more than make extra work & expense. Most said they seldom use them.


    I have figured out most of my workings of my small trailer.
    I've learned to shower much like they do in the other 2/3's of the world.
    I use disposable paper plates, plastic utensils & other paper products.
    I've learned what a 'sewer slinky' is & how to use it.
    I purchased the best sewer line for drainage - RhinoFlex.
    I purchased a water hose that is designed for potable water sources.
    I've also learned what 'potable' means.
    I'm learning about propane setup & where to get the best prices.
    I learned how my furnace works.
    I changed the thermo coupler on my 6 gal water heater.
    I learned making my bed was a pain, got a sleeping bag.
    I keep what cooking vessels I use washed immediately.
    I use the laundry services here, close, cheaper & more convenient.
    I learned to wear my clothes multiple days rather than change daily.
    I'm learning all about solar panels & their varied uses.
    I learned the sequence of emptying my tanks for maximum effect.
    I keep the trailer as orderly as possible, everything in it's place.
    I learned overheard storage doors can be head bumpers
    I learned the easiest way to make coffee.
    I'm learning to back & park my trailer, a monumental task for me.
    I installed an in line water filter on my water source.

    OTHER QUIRKS I've learned about my T-trailer:

    1. Dual propane tanks, the one service one will run out at the most inopportune time (2:30 AM), if you only keep one on! I track the switch over & estimate the night it will run out, then make the switch before bedtime. I always keep my spare filled. The propane service center will top off your bottle @ no extra charge the next time you stop. Less than the 4.5 complete fill up.

    2. When replacing an empty propane bottle with spare you should shut off both tanks first. I also shut off my furnace switch, it's got an electric pilot & needs to be restarted after shutting off gas. I keep my thermostat at 65 & wear a light jacket until bedtime, using a sleeping bag as my bedding. I restart my pilot light on my water heater, I shut it off during switch over.

    3. The sewer lines are always open when parked & hooked up, closed when traveling, both gray & black. I never use toilet paper only damp paper towels, tossed in the garbage, better cleanup. I monitor my lines for proper drainage. Run extra water into my black water tank after each use.

    4. I use a hand held urinal (medical type) enabling me to either pour it in the porta potty or outside spread around camp. The scent will keep some animals at bay. It will not hurt the trees or bushes if spread around. Keeps my bathroom floor cleaner & no problems with fouling my seat.

    5. I keep my 3-way fridge on electric (battery), costs less than propane. No pilot to mess with. I keep it on 3 (mid) keeps food at proper temp & keeps my frozen from freezer burn. I use trailer jacks at all 4 corners to keep the trailer level, less movement & the fridge works better when level.

    6. Never leave your trailer connected to your tow vehicle, can drain your battery. I use an 800 AMP deep marine battery on the trailer, it can withstand the constant recharging better than an auto battery. Make sure your plug is in proper working order no frayed wires, have someone verify all your lights & brakes are working before travel. Close all windows, vents, shut off tanks & pilot lights before travel. Check your tires for wear or cracks. Put your step up!
    Last edited by Roadwarrior; 06-16-2018 at 01:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Connecticut USA
    RW, our forum seems to attract some wilderness guys like yourself. I also think you're just a wee bit more social than you say. I enjoyed reading about your set up. Not for me, but glad you're doing what you love!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Grand Adventure - Addendum #1 Had a revelation this day, I had been wondering about my trip to Quartzsite this fall, I know I have 4-5 months to obsess about it so I want to get started early. The trip is 1200 miles one way, the van I have gets at best 15 MPG unloaded, not towing anything. I get about 10 average towing the travel trailer over the many mountain passes between the Pacific Northwest & SE Arizona. I can make about 450-600 miles a day or 4 nights 5 days on the road. I have found several places that allow me to park overnight for free, truck stops, restaurants, rest areas,,,etc. So that can be free. If I need a shower then I have to pay for a full hookup, which can be as much as $65 or shower with the truckers. I will try to avoid that.

    Parking in Quartzsite for 5 months costs $1095, although I can pay for the entire year at a price of $1,800. So the extra $700 for a space that can't be used because of the heat sounds like money wasted. On the other hand I'm paying $45 a month (must sign an annual contract) to store my trailer at home. Now I'm looking at $540 for storage, the extra gas for the 3 mile loss in MPG is about $240. I have the extra stress & worry about a longer heavier vehicle. Sum of the extra costs are now $780. Looking better. My van can be easily be outfitted to carry a bed and frame (I did use it last summer for that purpose). Also can carry any supplies I deem are needed but somewhat hard to find in the Arizona desert.

    I can pull over almost anywhere & spend the night, I can probably cut 24 hours off my travel time, I'm not at the mercy of the elements. Last winter while there I found that of the 200 sites probably half were long term with setups that included older 5th wheels, 24' or longer travel trailers, some small ones like mine & a wide assortment of other DIY handywork. I then figured that all I need extra to make mine more long term is a little skirting. I have a skill saw & the skills to do that much. It has all the amenities needed to survive, I did spend 5 months doing it, it was a cake walk & easy housekeeping to stay organized. I learned to cook most things & found I could hit the cafes once of week for a change of pace.

    So new plan is to go ahead pay the rest of my annual storage contract (6 months), pull my trailer to Quartzsite. Then let the park office know I would like to extend for the full year on a year to year basis. Drive the van back empty, no towing & make this an annual journey to get myself & mind out of the gloomy, rainy PacNW. I will save money, stress less & enjoy my trips here without the hassles. I thought about buying one all setup but why? I have paid for the one I used last year, so no more cash outlay, the van is running great with new tires, battery & hitch. Actually my wife suggested this idea in the first place but being who I am I like to think it was my thought process all along. Got to give her a kudos for coming up with it first. See, I'm learning I don't know everything like I thought I always did.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Houston Y'all
    Quote Originally Posted by Roadwarrior View Post

    3. The sewer lines are always open when parked & hooked up, closed when traveling, both gray & black.
    Roadwarrior, I'm enjoying your adventure. I would like to recommend that you not leave your black valve open while hooked up. If all the liquid drains away you will soon be faced with the famous black-tank "Pyramid of Doom." Keep the black tank closed until you are ready to dump the tanks. (Yep; I'm an RVer. )

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    I think I'm in Florida, but I'm not sure any GPS blew away.
    Quote Originally Posted by C'est Moi View Post
    Roadwarrior, I'm enjoying your adventure. I would like to recommend that you not leave your black valve open while hooked up. If all the liquid drains away you will soon be faced with the famous black-tank "Pyramid of Doom." Keep the black tank closed until you are ready to dump the tanks. (Yep; I'm an RVer. )
    I'll second that! It's a real hassle getting the "poop pyramid" loose and down the drain. Don't ask me how I know...… We once had to put extra water in the tank and drive up and down a bumpy road to shake everything loose.
    If we're ever in a situation where I am "the voice of reason", then we are in a very, very bad situation.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    I found that with a 25 gal holding tank on both black n gray I was standing in dishwater on my second shower. I listened to neighbors explaining the same sequence you have mentioned. Most of my neighbors had sewer problems. They had to call the RV proctologist to clear them. He explained that using the paper designed for RV sewers wasn't as good as they advertised and tended to clog up lines. Also one of them had used the pellets, the pellets didn't disolve like they should have, clogging up his black water. I never flushed paper, bagged it & dumped it daily, poured chemicals in weekly. Used the commode, flushed it with water. Went outside used my cane to gently lift the rhinoflex hose so the drain ran clean. Never had a moments problem in 5 months, Not saying you're wrong just found what worked for me & my small trailer.

    While I have enjoyed the warmer temps in AZ compared to the Pacific NW I do have some reservations now. I came here to escape the dreary days along the Pacific Coast in winter. Rain daily, very little sun shine that had affected my SAD condition. Soaking up the sunlight has been very beneficial for my mood, pallor & skin conditions (I can run faster & jump higher) everything seemed to improve.

    The downside of the first time sojourn had been an eye opener. RTR, Big Tent, group hugs & get together at every corner. Quartzsite has a summer population of a little over 1K, during Jan I had heard estimates of 400K visitors, 400,000! mostly seniors driving their over sized rigs or ATV/scooters around town, temp RV lots, flea market tents & roadside vendors everywhere. Being a loner, I came for the sun, didn't need to be entertained, wasn't looking for excitement or site seeing. I did try to walk at least 2 miles a day, spent time sitting & reading on my patio (cement pad) in my lawn chair.

    Don't do well in crowds, socially inept, hate standing in check out lines & paying for the privilege. On the other hand the 75 degree temps were great, it only rained once in the 5 months, lasted one day & seemed like it took forever to dry out. Others came for the RTR, finding groups to join up with & sing until dawn, it is an event for them. Shopping til they drop, scanning the tables loaded with 'stuff' like I got rid of 7 years ago. What is one man's junk is another's treasure is true. I did look for DVD movies, got them from $1 to $2 so it's was a win-win.

    Positive things about Quartzsite or any place in the SW. Sun, gets plenty cold at night near the bottom half of the 40's. If you like crowds then here is where you should be. If you like meeting people from all 50 states & Canada then you better come here. If you enjoy learning different crafts show up. If you like shopping at a flea market amid all the dust & grime then here ya go! Most neighbors are friendly & helpful there are a few that aren't but they are the exceptions.

    Night life usually ends with the sun going down although there are many other events that are geared for the nomadic & senior crowds. I'm not a pet person so that puts me in the minority. Everyone has a dog or something else. It is definitely a 'people watcher's' paradise. You will see everything from million dollar rigs to the somewhat basic DIY'ers, a complete spectrum. Driving is hazardous & the gird lock is anything but pleasant.
    Last edited by Roadwarrior; 06-19-2018 at 10:54 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Houston Y'all
    OK, whatever works. You might someday encounter sewer gnats that will travel up from the sewer dump and into your toilet and camper. Keeping the dump valves closed can be of benefit.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by C'est Moi View Post
    OK, whatever works. You might someday encounter sewer gnats that will travel up from the sewer dump and into your toilet and camper. Keeping the dump valves closed can be of benefit.

    You guys are convincing me I'll never desire an RV.
    LaQuinta has yet to have backup issues

    Happy trails
    “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” Emerson

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Northeast Texas
    Very informative and interesting post, Roadwarrior, I enjoyed reading.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2014

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Perhaps this will help with the laundry issue. I spent a year just wandering coast-to-coast in an old 1965 GMC P.U. with a cab-over camper. Fully self contained like your trailer. I would put dirty laundry, detergent, and water in a 5 gallon bucket. Driving down the road, the water would slosh around just like a washing machine. Stop and dump (Appropriately!) the dirty water, thrown in clean rinse water and drive some more. Sometimes two or three rinse "cycles".

    I do understand this may not work for you now that your trailer is going to be permanently parked. So.... Maybe you can just drive to all of those events (that you don't like ) to get the laundry done for cheap!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    I've actually heard of that method. One of the Van Dwellers suggestions was to get a 5 gal bucket with lid then drill out the center of the lid to accommodate an 1 1/2 inch dowel, Attach the dowel to a cross made from 1x2's using that as you agitator. I guess it works fine & probably does a better job than the laundromats. But for now I'll still use the coin operated ones at the RV park. Thanks for the info though.

    New direction maybe!

    I wish at times I could settle on one thought. The idea to move my t-trailer to AZ on a permanent basis is sound. But OTOH if I was to look around Quartzsite this winter there is a consignment yard that sells used trailers, 5th wheels & motor homes of trade ins on the newer massive ones sold on the many lots. I was doing a lookee loo this past winter. One in particle caught my eye. It was a 35 foot bumper pull that had been remodeled extensively though out. New carpet, update appliances & was in remarkable shape. It had a separate bedroom with large bath. They wanted $8,000 that I'm quite sure could be discounted a little. It would be a better long term residence than my 19 footer.

    I could purchase it, set it up on the space I have reserved on an annual basis. I could still pull it with my van but wouldn't need to. I would still have to carry potable water (everyone does) but it would have all the amenities that I would need. I could then return via AZ, NV, UT, ID to my ID property with my 19 footer, set it up on my property, use it as a summer home high up on my mountain. The acreage is less than an hour from my son's home, he could move his questionable running motor home up to the property & also utilize the 'free' camping facilities that I have been paying my HOA fees for the last 15-20 years, get some use out of it. It would also make it more attractive for couples to purchase being that it could house more than one person.
    Last edited by Roadwarrior; 06-21-2018 at 08:01 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    The aborigines call it a 'Walkabout' the Native American call it a 'Vision Quest'. I'm on my own 'Walkabout Vision' prior to my 72nd birthday I often wondered, why I did or say things that were a little off center. Appropriate comments were not forthcoming from my mind most of the time. I lacked empathy or understanding when someone would relate something sad to me. I would make offhand comments about a death or situation. I lacked the inner feelings that most listeners did. I also wanted to talk about my feelings or experiences rather than listen to others. I would drone on about things that truly interested me & could find no common ground with others about their interests.

    Then in the spring of 2017 I was talking with my daughter about her therapy she went to after a breakup of her long standing relationship. She had been diagnosed as high functioning Autistic, (Asperger) & wanted me to be tested because during her conversations with her therapist it was determined that I also could very well be autistic. I brushed off the thought right then & there but my interest was spiked. I started to research the issue coming to the conclusion that I was 100% Asperger. It answered a lot of questions I had relating to my thoughts & actions in social situations. I was a loner most of the time, never made many friends, actually was ok with the fact that I didn't care to make friends. I was socially inept in a crowd & felt very uncomfortable keeping up with others & their interests & conversations.

    I was very good with math & numbers, became an astute card counter playing any card games, including 21. I was a movie buff that could tell you who an actor or actress was along with most of their credits, but had trouble with who done it plots or drama quirks in movies, I just didn't get the twists & turns that so many movie goers liked. I enjoyed movies where you didn't have to put much thought into. Romantic comedies, military, westerns, historical films were my choice. I wasn't a good student in science or languages. I tested well for engineering & anything that had to do with math. My lifelong career was in computers, which most Aspergers have a knack for. It was straight forward logic that I could follow easily. I spent from 1963 to 2009 in the field that's 46 years working with the machines & programming. I retired as a UNIX/Linux administrator mostly self taught & was above average in my skills.

    When I joined the Air Force I was tested with perfect scores in all 4 categories. I was assigned to the USAFSS an elite designation for what was termed, 'The cream of the crop' enlistees. Only the top 1% of new recruits were chosen for that assignment. I held a Top Secret Crypto clearance, had the FBI research my life & visit with my teachers & friends unbeknown to me. I was well thought of in my career & schooling but still had trouble making friends. I can't imagine any one person questioning the diagnosis. I had even discussed it with my personal doctor, who was studying the issue & asked me, why do you think you are Asperger? I went on to explain all my traits & actions in a given situation. He said at the end of our 30 minute consultation that I indeed could be Asperger.

    I have been dealing with the possibility that I have the answers that had plagued me most of my life. Why, do I do things differently? I have the answers & am slowly accepting my plight, journey to become a functioning 'special' human. God bless my wife for sticking with me through the journey, I have come to accept the fact that being 'special' is not a fault or asset just something that needs to be dealt with. I learning more about my thoughts & actions, controlling my anger (another trait), keeping quiet when I should & not trying to be so passive aggressive in social gatherings. Remember I've only been at this for less than 2 years whereas I had 71 years of offhand reactions to problems.

Please reply to this thread with any new information or opinions.

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