Travel in Progress

Before I left the “home base” for the summer, I spent a couple days with friends, enjoying some delicious BBQ ribs from their grill, as well as a dinner at a very good Chinese restaurant the next day.  They also “donated” a couple of small tripod folding chairs to my cause, and they fit well in the van and work out well for short stops along the way. They were very much appreciated!

To date, I have been on the road for nearly a month, making new friends, seeing new areas and experiencing new things. The new friends have mostly been through the use of the BoondockersWelcome(dot com) web site and membership, which facilitates reciprocal stays between private residences and RVers.  For those who own real estate which they allow travelers to park on, the membership is currently free. For those who don’t own real estate (i.e., full-time travelers), the membership fee is a paltry $30 per year… or basically the cost of one night in an average RV resort!

The first night out was at the home of a marine biologist, who (unfortunately) was out doing some traveling of his own, but his wife was home. She was very welcoming and cordial, offered me the choice of two different places to park, and then went back inside. In the process of getting the minivan camper set up for the night, I never saw her again during my stay.

The parking spot was in a gravel drive, about 50 feet off the street (this was a city location) between her yard and a deep ravine on the other side, with a creek flowing at the bottom. There were enough bushes on both sides to afford limited privacy. A Hardee’s Restaurant a few blocks away was a handy stop for dinner and breakfast. The street was not a main thoroughfare, so traffic was light and quiet all night, and I got a pleasant sleep.

In my rush to get packed, some things got buried or misplaced, so they weren’t always available when I needed them, but I got by. Little by little, things found a more permanent home with each stop for the night. I’m sure many of you have gone through the same processes of reorganizing on the fly.

The next host was a Mennonite couple with a huge farm out in the country. Before wanting to retire, they ran a heavy equipment business, but were now involved in raising catfish… 150 acres (under water) of them! I was able to park right in their very clean barnyard, practically in their driveway. They invited me up on their back porch that night, and we had a good visit until bed time.

catfish farm
The catfish farm of a BDW host.

Both of these last two stops were without electric power. It was offered at both, but would have meant digging out my longer extension cord, or parking closer to buildings, and for one night, it wasn’t worth the trouble. I simply shut the powered cooler off at night to conserve battery power, and turned it back on again in the morning, and it worked fine.

The next morning, I barely had time to clear out the driver’s seat of my luggage, and drive over to a huge overhang on one of their barns to finishing packing, before a heavy rain came down. With the heavy rain, I never got to say goodbye to my hosts, but I’ve learned that it happens more often than not. I considered waiting out the heavy rain, but it looked like it would continue until after lunch, and I wanted to get on the road to my next stop. Besides, I was headed west, and would drive out of it before it passed where I had been.

The third night out was at a remote federal wildlife management area along a river. There were few people out there, and I chose a beautiful spot right on the banks of the river. Someone had even left a plastic milk crate full of kindling next to the fire pit, but I chose to forego having a campfire. Without a place to shower (mine isn’t quite ready to be used yet), I didn’t want to smell like smoke the next day! I had sandwich makings in the cooler, along with chips and water to drink, so I was fine. I could have used the single butane stove, but the canned food was under the bed, and not easily accessed. Internet service was very weak. Without much to do, I hit the sack early.

van at WMA
Along the river in the WMA.

The next morning, after breakfast at McDonald’s in the closest town, it was a shorter drive to the next BDW host, who lived along the west shore of a nice little lake. On the second day there, I stopped at a Walmart, which was very fortuitous for me! I found a one-step folding step that makes getting in and out of the rear of the van, plus reaching the roof storage much easier for me! I also bought a couple of plastic sink tubs, a couple of nice stainless steel coffee mugs, and best of all I found some very nice folding directors chairs. I had been searching for directors chairs for awhile now, and the cheapest I found online was over $32 each. These were on sale for $14.97 each, and every bit as heavy as the more expensive ones! And they’re rated at 300 pounds!

These hosts were also RVers and had a beautiful Class B+ wide-body. They had enough room in their driveway for my little van, and since I was staying two nights here, I dug out my TailVeil rear tent, which makes daily living much easier! I could relocate the porta-potty to the tent, as well as the two new folding chairs and one of the TableMate tables. With reloacting the porta-potty, I also changed my sleeping arrangement so my head was at the front of the van, rather than the back.

These hosts also offered power, and since their garage was close, I accepted the offer. Being able to run the fridge all night actually generates some heat in the van. And being able to run the O2Cool fan on its AC adapter, rather than D-cell batteries, saves some money, too.

The afternoon of the second day with these hosts, they had a nice cookout on their back deck, and then offered a pontoon boat ride around the lake… all greatly appreciated. They had to leave the next morning to head for Indiana to the RVillage rally at Elkhart, and since they put a locked cable across the drive when they are gone, I had to be gone before they left, so I was up early and gone before I even saw them.

The next day, I arrived at the farm of some friends, whom I met during some previous travels. Again, they had a spot right next to their garage, and power available, so that was much appreciated. With rain expected, using the rain fly on the TailVeil was a necessity, although it only provided partial protection. It must have gotten windy sometime during the night, and blew some rain in under the edge of the rain fly. I had a few small puddles around the legs of the chairs and table the next morning, on top of the tent floor. I have since dug out my stash of spring clips, and secured the bottom of the rain fly better, but it is yet to be tested again. I’ll do a full report and review on the TailVeil in a later post.

I had a good visit with the friends, and they even donated an extra tarp to lay over the bed the next morning, since the tent still had some moisture trapped in it when I put it away. The tarp was enough to keep it from dripping on the bed. And since I used it again the next night, it finished drying out on its own. I’ll store the tarp in the roof pod, in case I ever need it again! I may even create a side awning out of it when I get time!

On the way to the next overnight stop, there was a rather exciting incident that occurred that allowed me to help out the local police during a hit and run to a semi-truck, but I’ll tell that story in a post of its own. After that incident, I crossed yet another state line, but had no particular parking spot in mind. Using an actual printed atlas (due to a lack of internet), I was able to locate a state park… at least on the map. Finding it in real life was another story! After much mental questioning of the map accuracy, and a 180-degree U-turn onto a parallel road, I was able to find the state park in a very remote area.

After entering the park after business hours, and signs saying to pick out a site and go to the office in the morning, I scouted out a nice level site with power at the far end of a loop, and with pit toilets a stone’s throw away. Not long afterward, a young fellow in a pick-up truck with a canoe on top took a spot two places away from me. He continued to set up a small tent and settle in for the night, so he remained quiet and respectful of the park.

TailVeil with rain fly
The van with the TailVeil and rain fly at a state park.

With no internet (again), and little else to do, the pots and pans (that had been stored) got washed, then found a better (and cleaner) storage spot. It was a very quiet and peaceful night. All during these travels so far, the days were in the high 70s and low 80s, with nights in the low to upper 50s, so it made for very comfortable sleeping.

TailVeil screen room
TailVeil screen room at state park.

I was awake early the next morning, and although I didn’t do any cooking, I enjoyed a nice, leisurely breakfast, with hot coffee of my own making (a first on this trip) stored in my new stainless steel mug! After packing up, I stopped at the park office, and paid the fee. It was actually a maintenance guy I dealt with, and I don’t think he usually handles the money. He had no paperwork, no receipts, and only charged half what he should have, but I wasn’t going to argue. The $10 for this site was the only time (yet) that I have paid to park overnight.

There was another state park that I had in mind for the next night, but after finding it, I realized it was nearing a weekend, and there was a lake. The sites were mostly full, a lot of boats around, and I didn’t like the fee they wanted for just a tent site, so I left. There was one more place along my route that was a city park with RV sites, but I came upon it before I realized, and immediately changed my mind when I saw it. The RV sites were very small and tight, surrounding a central gazebo on one city lot… bordered by the state highway I was on, and a side street on both sides. Had I been in an enclosed van, I probably would have taken it, but not with this minivan camper.

There are certain problems that can arise with any type of camper, depending on where you go with it. The problems of a minivan are usually privacy related. Oh, I have window coverings… that’s not the problem. But when I pull into any publicly-viewable site, I have to move everything from the back to the front seat area… not easy to do from within the van. And then it all has to be moved back again to get on the road the next day. That’s not something I care to do in a Walmart parking lot, or in a tight area with other much larger RVs around.

Setting up the rear tent under those conditions, plus having a state highway and side street within a hundred feet, and having to listen to street noise and other campers all night is not something with which I want to subject myself! I can deal with cramped space in a minivan camper, but I like privacy and quiet!

So with both of those spots not meeting my expectations, I decided to travel on to my next destination, the residence of a friend. This is a place I plan to stay for awhile, but never fear for lack of travel stories. I am making many side trips from this spot and have many things to report about, from additions and improvements to the van (along with one major equipment fail and replacement), plus interesting things to see and do.

There are some things I am waiting on (to happen) here, and as soon as those things occur, I will be ready to move on… probably before the end of June. The nice thing about traveling in a minivan camper like this, and having a flexible schedule, is that I can stop or leave as the situation presents itself. I don’t have to worry about my vehicle being too heavy or too large for someone’s driveway, or whether I will drag the tail just getting off the street.

I have somewhat of an idea of where I want to go and what I want to see this summer, but the timing of the entire trip is so flexible that it borders on erratic. I keep looking at the maps and at the Roadtrippers app to see what else might be near my planned route, and if I see something worth going to, my plans are easily changed. I have already added one major attraction to my list for on the way back south this fall. Chances are, that more will be added before the trip is over (for this year). And then I can start planning for next year’s trip!

In the next few posts, I’ll talk about that major equipment fail, the hit and run driver, and some of the new additions to the van, as well as observations on how it is working out for traveling so far. Then I’ll talk about some of the places I have been. So make sure to subscribe to new posts, and or like my Facebook page. I’ll also announce new posts on there.

As always, I welcome questions and comments, so please, let me know your thoughts in the comment form below. And thanks for reading.


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