Friday, December 31, 2010

And a happy Warm new year to you!

Tis the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

This isn't amazing, since it is happening world wide, but when I was a kid and a little beyond, I always "sensed" I wouldn't live past 2009. I can't tell you why, I don't know.. but I am glad I was wrong on this one. Go figure.

Another question I am always asked "Don't you get cold at night in that trailer? You have no electricity!". Again, folks are used to *camping* where they sleep in tents or in trailers with limited power options.

Tents are.. tents. Unless you pack around a Yurt and a wood stove, you are never going to run around in your tidy whites in it comfortably once the sun goes down, even with the best portable heating options around. Unless you are in a desert during the summer.. most folks avoid that tho.

Weekend trailer campers that do not spend days of prep and hauling a generator, 10 batteries and an inexhaustable fuel supply often experience conservation at night time..They turn the heat on to just above freezing, or not at all, and sleep in lots of jammies and under heavy sleeping bags. This works, and is fun for a few days.. BUT...

I LIVE in here.. I don't camp.. remember? Camping is hard work when you have to do a days hard work to put food on the table too. I have done my time with the sub freezing rated sleeping bags and with getting up in the a.m. an hour before the alarm goes off to turn on the heat so it would be bearable during real get outta bed time. Or not .. and wanting to do nothing but stay put under the covers.

Soooo... I have a heater that does not consume any electrical power, (Because I rarely have any) It heats my small space more than adequately whenever I want it to, and has a thermostat to keep my space from overheating. I wake up in the a.m. just like in a Stay Put house. I don't have to get up and rub 2 sticks together to start a fire and I don't chip ice off of my windows.

My little gas fire

This works almost exactly like those gas wall heaters you see in older houses. But its gooder.. it has a thermostat, and sensors that shut it down to keep you from dying if it sucks up all the air in the room.

It burns propane without the use of an electrical system. It superheats the air in the firebox. Think back to high school science class and those silly bunson burners. The air rises and it is forced out the top vent you see by nature (Heat rises, takes path of least resistance, shoots out into the room) No fan is really needed in this small space.  So, no electricity is consumed.

It doesn't use much propane, as the thermostat keeps an even temp in the room, making it run less time..just like your furnace does. The space is small, so it doesn't take long to bring the whole thing up to temp. The heater turns back on when needed, but because of the size of the space, it only does so infrequently.. thus using less fuel. Back to the credo.. Its not how much you make, it's what you don't spend. 

I am not skimping on comfort, trust me. I am a cold weenie. I stay as warm as I did in my Stay Put abode. I use the tool when I want to, not just when I can.

There is a skill to using this type of heater.. you have to supply it with lots of air and be cautious with its placement. It does not give off fumes, so it can be used without venting.

I used to use a catalytic heater that most of the same positive and negative attributes, but I wanted the thermostat option, so I changed to this one after seeing it in action in other folks rigs.

Read all about it

I did before buying, but now I have moved on and read other stuff.. in my tidy whities, all warm and toasty. Oh, sorry. TMI

It's too much! I don't know what it means!

You don't have to go to Yosemite to get a double rainbow

You don't need to be really loaded to see one either. Had this guy, or I should say "Guys" show up in Q the other day after a night and days worth of off and on rain.

Even tho I prefer a horizon obscured by trees.. Big Trees, the desert does afford spectacular views of sky phenomenon not often seen in the Great Northwest. Viewing the stars at night actually calms me just before bed. I let out my dogs, and while waiting for them to doo their last of the days creations, I sit quietly and look up at the bright and spectacular stars.
Lying in bed, my windows are situated so I can see up and I often watch the earths rotation via the moving starscape. You have to lie very still, keep your eyes trained on one spot and you will actually feel a bit queazy once you start seeing the slow slow slow movement. Its a good queazy tho.

This often puts me to sleep as well. Who needs drugs?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are you off your rocker being off grid?

Not really. Its a matter of perspective. Financial perspective.

Back to the "Its not what you make, its what you don't spend" credo..I will try to address questions in separate posts that I have had to field from those that can think of no other way to do things than rely on all the automatic magic they have in their houses.

Tis nothing wrong with that magic, I go there when I have the opportunity or circumstance as I travel. I used it in my cabin. Full hook ups are nice, but I rarely have them. So even if flushed with cash, I can't use what isn't available.

Full hook up sites generally run 10-15 bucks more a day than dry sites. Dry sites are also generally better located in campgrounds, giving you a much nicer living space and experience.

The most common question I get is "Er, uhm, where do you poop?" This tiny rig has no *real* bathroom yet. It has a huge storage room that my shower and crapper are in tho. I don't have human sewage disposal at the pull of a valve like most other full timers do. Full hook ups do me no good anyway. Eventually, that will change as I have time to convert the room to a giant shower stall.

As for the other water...I use a porta potti. I don't have plans to install a toilet and black tank in this rig. "EWWWW" you say. You would be incorrect. A porta potti is no different in "action" than a toilet and remote holding tank. The only difference would be in how you dispose of the tanks, er, holdings.

A porta potti is a small scale version of a regular RV toilet and tank system. The difference is the location of the tank, and how its dumped. In a standard system. You sit on the throne, you "create", you flush with fresh water that comes from your main fresh water holding tank, and all your product is dropped into a "Black water" holding tank that you have added chemicals to to break down the waste and to keep it smelling like roses. It's most often below the floor and nestled into the trailer framework. In the circumstance of boondocking or without hook ups, when that tank is full, you have to haul your rig over to a dump station, hook up hoses, pull a valve and wait for it all to go away into a magic place where all poop goes to die. OR dump it into a Blue Boy and do exactly as one has to do with porta potti holdings.

With a porta potti, the same holds true for the use of the throne, (Sit, create, flush) except the black tank is directly below you. And it isn't as big. The porta potti has a fresh water holding tank for flushing on the top portion. You fill the tank manually when needed (Mine holds 5 gallons) and you use human power to flush.. Mine has a pressurization feature, you pump up the tank like you would a garden sprayer, and when you want to flush, you push a button and pressurized water flushes and cleans the bowl. Old skool Hi tech for a low tech item.

To send your creations to the black tank, you pull a valve on the front of the potti and it drops away. Close the valve. The valve is also the seal.. the gate between you and the evil stuff. Forget about it. Until...

The tank gets full. Here is the main difference .. I have to carry that tank to a disposal site. It isn't yucky, it doesn't smell, (The valve, remember?) and dumping it is frankly easier than it is with a fixed tank. The top half of the potti comes off, the 5 gallon black tank has a nice handle and pour spout, you carry it to the dump, rotate the spout to the hole that leads to the magic place, remove the cap and pour. Rinse. Done. No hoses to hook up, clean or store. AND.. back to the credo.. Same job accomplished with virtually less time involved, I didn't have to pay 15 extra bucks for the privilege of having the hole in my site. Nor did I have to move my rig or deal with a heavy large "Blue Boy" (A large portable holding tank) like I see all the big boys out here doing.. almost daily.

Out here in the BLM land, there are TWO magic places where poop goes to die. One has big pull thus, pressurized water and all the stuff that is really required for dumping big boy RV tanks. The other magic place is rarely used.. it is for porta pottis and blue boys only. I never have to wait in line to dump. Sometimes those big guys are 10 deep. I take my potti and SMALL (5 gallon) grey water blue boys and dump on my way into work. I don't really have to go out of my way.

Do the math.. it took longer to write all that drivel than it does to actually do the job. 6-7 minutes tops. So.. in the case of RVs and full hook ups...$15 a day x 7 days = $105. Divide that by 3, because full hook ups mean water, sewer and electric.. that equals $35 bucks a week to poop. I dump the potti AND my grey water twice a week, tops. (Mostly so I don't have to carry the full 40lbs of full tank) lets say, 15 minutes a week. $35 for 15 minutes worth of work comes out to $140 bucks an hour for that one simple job.

That # does drastically go down if you are renting monthly, I realize that. But remember, I don't have to pay traditional rent in this life choice. The only time I pay is when traveling to and from gigs.. so that # is very true in my circumstance.

As I age, this will become more difficult and eventually impossible for me to do. But I can take the 140 bucks an hour I have saved and pay someone else to do it then :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Waterfront property

My side channel of a dry wash turned into a babbling brook last night. I figured that would happen at some point during the winter. It isn't real easy to photograph in pitch dark. Thank goodness for the tweaking functions in Photoshop.

I called it the La Posa River. I am sure it won't be the last time I see it.

My site was bombarded by sideways rain and hellatious winds, as was most of the desert out here yesterday. I am sure that "When it rains, it pours" originated right here.

As a native Oregonian, rain does not phase me a bit, however, in the desert, rain makes instant lakes and rivers. It only takes a minutes worth of deluge to cover the ground in a thin layer of water. It can't soak in like it does back home. The ground is mostly clay, rock and some other impenetrable substance that allows the water to take over everything in the blink of a Beagles eye. It runs down from the mountains nearby at such force that it can take out cars.. and little trailers.

I now know why the little drainage channel filled with rocks was put in this site. I was cursing the previous resident, assuming he dumped his waste water down it. I found it full of old ATV parts and ciggy butts, not to mention other bits of unidentifiable trash. If he hadn't have built it, my entire site would have been under water.

As it was, only half of it was. So, thanks Dude, and I am sorry I bad mouthed ya.

Now I must spend my day off channeling around the site more. Oh joy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cruel Forests

A tree is a tree.. I guess. Even if I haven't a clue what kind it is.

This would be my morning view

I am out in the desert of southwestern Arizona. Its not exactly a foliage mecca. Along washes that are dry 99% of the time, there are forests of sorts. Cruel forests if you are a native northwesterner. Very cruel.

I am on a side channel of one of those washes. I am backed into the trees and have a pretty private area to reside in. Those mountains in the background are miles and miles away. There is nothing between me and them. There won't be either. It is geographically challenged when it comes to RVs.. nothing can get in there. My small RV can get near the fringe, but giant ones can not. I like it this way, and its one of the reasons I live small.

My front door faces the opposite of how most folks out here position themselves. I look out into the "forest" and can see no signs of human existence. I see the trees, the tumbleweeds, the downed wood from trees that died hundreds of years ago, judging by the girth of the stumps, and.. Coyotes. Lots of Coyotes. Occasionally I hear the wild burros that wander .. unfortunately, I hear them mostly after they have met up with the coyotes.

If I turn the opposite way, I see RVs. Lots of RVs. The closest one is to the north of me, about 50 yards away, the next is to the south, about 1/2 mile. I can't see either of them from my yard.

This is BLM land. Owned by the people of the United States. Anyone can come out here and create a space for themselves for a nominal fee that helps pay for the central services. Otherwise, we have all paid for it with our hard earned tax dollars. I am sure it doesn't cost much. Its.. dirt.

We are all temporary homesteaders out here. You get the gambit of folks from the truly homeless.. folks living out of their cars or in tents because they have nowhere else to go and this is a darned good rent deal for them. They have their own "village" so to speak, near the central services. 

Next, you have what I call "Bulgies". Million dollar motor homes towing cargo trailers bigger than some houses I have lived in. They park out in the open and bulge out in 3 or 4 spots, the satellite dishes deploy like magic and you never see humans outside them. You know they are in there. Their generators give them away.

Then there are lots of folk like me, in small to midsized trailers, working stiffs that are out here for the season to make a buck servicing all the others. We work and that's about it. 6-7 days a week. Some are vendors hocking rocks, wind chimes, RV parts, food, junk, you name it. This is our cash collection time. Some make their whole years pay here and take summers off. I work here in the winter to make the bucks quickly and stash so I can play for pay in the summer. This is how I finance my two or more months of NOT working between gigs.

Most out here are snowbirds, folks in retirement that flock away from the homes they have in the northern states. They do this for the weather, and many do it for the social interaction. They group together in little packs and circles. They have giant fire rings that they commune at each nite. There is a nice pavilion that they have dances under, go to church each Sunday under, and have impromptu jam sessions under, both acoustic and electric.

None of these folks are related to the Beverly Hillbillies, nor do they look or act like they are. Most have one thing in common. They are retired. 

You do have the choice of living in a full service rv park here. There are plenty of them. They are all set up to pack you in like sardines, they charge a fortune too. I can't live like that.. I need space and privacy. Even if it means I tote water and am limited to TV via antenna. BUT.. I get my view.

Its not bad, I don't think.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I am often asked by my friends in the stay put life "Why?"

Again, its hard for some to understand how one can "give up" the reasonable salary and stabilities of a Stay Put life.

Its pretty simple. Why wait? I had absolutely no reason to maintain the lifestyle. The "stability" had no benefit to me. I am single. I have no kids or other pressing "must do" obligations or responsibilities that required me to stay in the grind. My work, and money, benefited no one but me and the banks. The banks got the better part of it.

I watched my father work everyday of his life. He would plan and plot and dream of the two weeks he would get each year to not work. He spent 50 weeks a year living for someone else so he could have 2 weeks to himself.

As he got older, he used to proclaim, on almost a daily basis , a countdown..."Only 4 years, 3 months and 2 days til retirement!" He finally reached that day at age 65. Now he could travel and do whatever he wanted.. and didn't have to Stay Put for any reason. Just what he wanted.

At age 67, he died. He only got 2 years of freedom from obligations to others. After working for 55+ years. That's not Right!

In 2003, I was diagnosed with a very serious cancer. One that usually always kills. I am one of the precious lucky few it couldn't take. I went back to the grind when the initial scares and treatments were over, but it got me thinking about "Why?". I tossed myself back into the traditional race to retirement, even while honestly thinking my days were numbered.. but I had a voice in my head that kept asking "Why?" It nagged.

It took awhile, but I realized that I am not my job, or my assets, no matter how "Cool" either if those things are. When the circumstance presented itself to break free.. I then asked myself "Why Not?". I had no good answer.. so, here I am.

And I can't help but think that somewhere Up There, my Father is looking down and is very very proud.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I "Do" and where I Doed it

When I left my traditional life of working long hours as a nerd for a Big Mega corporation that manufactured the worlds most famous guitars, I went to manage a small rv park/campground just outside of Show Low, Az.

Two kind ladies in my trailering club own the park and had a need for a new manager.. the timing was right and they gave me the chance to start my workamping life. A small house was provided for me and I didn't need to adjust from living in my cabin to a 17 foot trailer all at once. It was a great opportunity, the White Mountains in AZ are very much like Oregon and the experience was an all around good one. It does dump lots of snow in the winter, the park is closed and I needed to move on to a new paying gig.

I went to Quartzsite knowing there would be work available for the winter *Somewhere* and because I knew in January there would be a large RV show where campground owners and concessionaires solicited for summer hosting positions. It did not take but a few days to find decent employment. Thru friends and a temporary landlord/resident, I went to work for a large motorhome dealer as an interior detailer/decorator (Read: Cleaning woman) for used RVs being staged for sale. My geek background also had me installing or repairing installs of TVs and stereos. I worked there thru the winter and scored a gig with one of the largest Oregon concessionaires for summer employment as a forest service campground host. I was set.. I was going home for the summer.

I went to work in the summer 40 miles east of Eugene in an enchanted forest. Campground hosting and RV park management have the same purpose.. to rent spaces for very short term stays, but the means are a bit different. In an RV Park, a manager is like an apt complex manager without the building. Campground hosting is more collection and policing.. both, unfortunately, involve toilet cleaning.. hey, someone has to do it.

I am not totally Nomad.. I go between AZ and Oregon for the time being. I am currently back in Quarzsite at the motorhome dealer.. with a few different responsibilities this year that keep me out of rubber gloves sometimes. Office and computer work. 

I will be returning to the Northwest this summer with the same employer I had last summer, but not at the same campground. Don't know which one yet.. stay tuned.

Even if I live in a campground, I don't "camp". My previous posts explain my housing situation, so, no.. I am not in a campsite trying to light a fire in the morning to make coffee and get warm. I don't cook outside and eat off a paper plate while sitting on a log. I have relative luxury compared to most of my patrons. They get wet outside and retreat to tents that will get wet .. I go inside and watch TV. I LIVE in the campground, where as my guests are in it for the outdoor experience and to "camp".

My view generally taint bad tho:

All that wander are not homeless

This is a hard thing to explain to folks that are locked into staying put. As explained below, I have a house on wheels. I come "home" to the same house everyday after work. I sleep in the same bed every nite, I have a daily routine and my life is not filled with the chaos of not knowing "What's next?". I am not unemployed, I am a Workamper.

Millions of folks live and work this way. Many DO have Stay Put houses they return to after a job.  No one thinks anything of it.. they are not considered homeless. I am the same, except for the house. but I am not homeless!

My *Legal* residence is in Quartzsite Arizona. I have an Arizona drivers license, my vehicles are registered and insured in Arizona and I even have a real life street address. I have a kind friend that lets me use it, and I do spend 1 or two nites a year there. In my trailer.

My HOME, however, is in Oregon. That is where I spend my summers working. I was born there, and despite what any paperwork says, I am an Oregonian.

I CHOSE to live mobile. I did not suddenly end up on the street with no other choices and nowhere to go. My just about lifelong employer in my traditional "stay put and pay the mortgage" life helped me make this decision of working on the road, however, by laying me off and giving me a big nest egg to launch off of. I had been thinking of doing this anyway, but they did me a huge favor and push started me. That was nearly 2 years ago.

Given the choice of "Staying Put" and struggling to keep all that I had worked to acquire in an iffy at best economy, in a hard hit market I hated being in anyway (So. Cal), I asked myself "Why?" Most likely, as many of my co-workers that got let go the same day I did are now finding, the benefits and nest egg would be used up and everything would be lost anyway....except the mountain of debt.

I accepted a position as an RV Park manager the very day I was laid off and have not looked back into getting another 9-5er. I already had a decent RV that I used for recreation, so I took the nest egg, paid off most all my bills and hit the road relatively obligationless.

I have a month or more between jobs in which I travel and relax. Before, I worked my butt of just to get a few weeks vacation that had to be planned for financially and sometimes didn't happen at all.

I can live on very little but still live and eat as comfortably as I did "staying put" because I have very little obligation. Its not what you make, my friends, its what you don't spend.

I don't commute. There goes those expenses. I will probably have the same car for years because I don't put many miles on it anymore. I am off grid and generate my own power. This is not totally costless, there are some maintenance items to consider.. batteries need to be replaced, Solar panels and systems are not free (But once purchased.. no more expense) but I don't get a monthly bill from a utility. After 2 years, what I haven't given a power company has more than paid for the system. I may spend 20 bucks a month on propane in the winter. I spend a whopping 30 bucks a month in winter for an extremely private and open space, water, trash and sewer. In the summer, water, gasoline, propane  and even a vehicle are provided.. zero on the utility costs there.

I still pay for insurance, my cell phone and internet and a couple incredibly low balance CCs. I should just pay them off, but these days.. they take the card away if you have a zero balance. It has happened once already. (Don't get me started...) I have a small personal debt that I am slowly wiping out.

I live in very isolated areas, so no malls, no bars, no restaurants, so even if I wanted to dump the bucks into these activities, I couldn't. There is nowhere to dump.

And ya know what? I don't miss any of it.

Same house, different yard

Many know I live in a small travel trailer. I am a "Fulltime RVer", someone whose living quarters are not a traditional house, but I do have a home, I own it.. its just on wheels instead of a foundation. And I move it every 6 mos or so to go from job to job.

Scratch those images of trailer trash in trailer parks where the trailer or mobile home is permanently stuck to a spot with cardboard skirting. My neighbors name is not "Bubba", I am not on the dole and I do not have a porch with 4 dogs under it. I bathe daily and have all my teeth. I can see no beer cans anywhere around or in it. I do not have to go outside to a small square building to pee.

I rarely pay rent or camp fees. The work I do usually provides a living spot, or, in the winter, I live in one of the biggest BLM areas in the country. For 180 bucks for 7 mos, I have over 11000 acres to choose from and have water, garbage and "waste" disposal provided at a central location. In summer, I camp host. I live in the host spot provided at whatever campground I am in and have the same services, sometimes better, provided for me.

Thus.. the trailer. Not only is it easier than moving house all the time, it is a REQUIREMENT for my summer gigs. Its a small easily transported "Vintage" trailer that I purchased specifically to customize and set up to live comfortably off grid. I was a geek, that has not gone away.. I have it set up with solar, alternative but NOT inconvinient resource friendly systems and I have gutted it partially to make it like a one room cabin. Heat and hot water are provided by propane, lighting by a solar charged deep cycle battery and.. Yep, I have a portable generator for when I have to run something on 110 volt. Not often, but I do sometimes.

I have all I need in here, plus some "wants" as well. Obviously, I have internet via aircard, I have a flat screen TV, a stereo, lots of reading material, storage without pain, a full kitchen, room for my "Critters" and I have a fenced in outdoor space. I have a functional bathroom space, but I have not yet finished it.. its the only "funky" item I have, but its clean and I make it work for now.

The rest of the trailer is in an inside transition, purely cosmetic finish work. I pick at it when I can. I say I can't wait to finish it, but I just never find the time to sit down and DO it. Just like I did when I owned a traditional home :-P

The outdoor space set up rarely changes, I set it up exactly the same everywhere. Only the landscaping changes.

The indoor space stays the same too. So... same house.. different yard. Thats all.

My winter abode this year:

My wintering property

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What decade is this?

Look Mom, I have finally stepped into the 90s! My first attempt at a blog! Woo Hoo!

I have created this little privacy squelcher to keep friends, family and stalkers apprised of my doings and where-a-bouts. My jobs, yes, plural, take me all over the country, mostly on the west coast and often times, folks get confused about where I am at any given moment.

Sometimes I am too, so I guess if I bookmark my own page, I can figure out if I can get there from here...