Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

26 November 2017

Down In the Boondocks

Lately I've been following some people on YouTube. They are those who've given up their regular apartments or houses and live in a camper full-time. They call themselves boondockers. They live “off the grid” as it were. They drive around the country and publish little documentaries of their lives for us anchored YouTube viewers.  Some of them are good at these travelogues!  Their use of drone footage is professional and creative.  However, not everybody is good at "vlogging."  Some (most?) of them are boring with a capital “B.”

The whole key to boondocking is to keep the costs low. Boondockers avoid traditional (read: pay) campsites in favor of free sites they find on the internet. They get ecstatic over free water and free dump stations for their toilets (if they even have toilets in their rigs). Sometimes they park/camp on city streets where the law allows it. All of them have stories of run-ins with the cops when homeowners call to report a suspicious camper/meth-lab parked in front of their house. Boondockers can thank the tv series “Breaking Bad” for that.

Some boondockers live in conventional campers. They run the gamut from actual conversion-van campers to full-size Class A motorhomes – and everything in between. There's a whole sub-culture of people who re-purpose old school buses into campers ("skoolies"), although...why?  God only knows.  At the bottom end of the scale are those who for whatever reason live in their cars which have been adapted for "camping."  If I were British I'd be gobsmacked at how many people live in their cars!!  Like Katie Carney here.  Unbelievable!

Some van dwellers try to be clever.  They take a regular passenger van and discretely turn it into a home that is mobile (not to be confused with a mobile home).  From the outside it still looks pretty much like a normal van; the inside is all tricked-out.  They think they're being sneaky, calling their vehicles “stealth campers.” But they're not. Once you've seen one you can immediately recognize others. I'm sure the cops can too.  (There are certain legal ramifications of living in your car.)

Boondockers are not always unemployed hippies as you might imagine.  Most have income from various sources - but most are understandably vague on specifics.  With the internet there are plenty of ways of making money and not having to maintain a permanent office.  Some make money from their monetized YouTube channel, which I guess is a thing now.  Many YouTubers sell stuff..."merch"...like t-shirts and crap with their channel logo on them.  Some little fifteen-minute videos now even have commercial breaks!  Just what we need...

Some boondockers are solo travelers, while there are couples too. There seem to be almost as many solo women as men. Almost all of them have a pet of some sort. The one thing that all of these boondockers have in common is that they're all a little...ahh...off. They're probably all good people, but they typically...ehh, shall we say, march to a different drummer. Some of their issues are more apparent than others. But they all have 'em!  Some have been living in their vehicles for a long, long time.

Funnily enough, while researching this article just now, I happened to punch up a video of a guy and girl traveling around in a converted Dodge Sprinter van. They parked on a residential street alongside McIntosh Lake in Longmont, Colorado. The pink-haired and incredibly emaciated girl was admiring the view, chortling condescendingly about all these people in their “million-dollar homes” around her while she and her husband just rolled up in their campervan, parked on a public street and were enjoying the same view for free. Huzzah!

After spending the night, the couple ate breakfast and then left the van, casually walking to a nearby Starbucks to use their wifi and do some work. When they got back, the police had left them a parking ticket as well as a notice that theirs was an abandoned vehicle and would be towed if it wasn't moved immediately. Oopsie! The take-away: Not everybody in the country is so enamored with people living in a van. (Six months later this lovey-dovey couple split up. He got the van.) 

Parking in public places always brings with it the possibility of being hassled or run-off by the police.  Thus, Walmart has become a huge haven for boondockers, as most of their stores allow RV-ers to stay overnight in their parking lot for free. They figure that every camper will come inside and buy something.  But the word is out and Walmart's generosity is being abused. Some WM's have become overcrowded with campers. I'll tell ya, if Walmart ever decides to put in public showers for their overnight "guests," you and I will not be able to find a parking spot for our cars so's we can go in and buy our Keystone Light and maple bacon – the place will be jammed with RV's.

I suppose that many of us – me included – harbor a fantasy of just chucking all of our worldly possessions and hitting the road. There's still a little bit of Then Came Bronson in me.  And so in my case it would be on a motorcycle, but on the other hand having a proper camper to be able to get in out of the rain would be nice too. I've thought about it.  I could totally do it, too.  ...Or could I?

Watching these boondocker videos has convinced me that it's not a good idea – for me. Even the ones who seem to be enjoying the lifestyle the most have the same day-to-day struggles as every other boondocker. Plus, their lives are pretty mundane.  One guy got waaaaay out into the boonies, and when he went to restart his truck it was dead dead dead. Luckily it only turned out to be a loose battery connection, but it could have been a lot worse. That would be my fear.

Another married couple traveling in one of those pickup trucks with a slide-in camper got rammed on the interstate by a guy in a U-Haul truck.  Hit and run - he kept on going! (And he got away, too.) The camper was totaled (they're pretty flimsy) and the pickup truck was damaged, causing untold trauma and strife to the boondockers.

One fellow I follow is Eric.  He calls himself the Nomadic Fanatic. He's from Olympia, Washington of all places (home to my friends Mikey and Brandon) and often comes down here to Florida. He roams around by himself in a relatively old (2001) “Class C” motorhome (which is a camper grafted onto a heavy-duty van chassis). His traveling companion is an overfed, obese cat named Jax, whom he pushes around in a stroller or, infrequently, walks on a leash like a dog.  Yes, people look at him funny.

Lordy, there's a gazillion of these boondock vloggers. I would put some links below...but if you're really curious or as bored as I am they're not that hard to find.  And if you click on one such video (like the links to Katie's or Eric's channels above), YouTube will give you all kinds of suggestions as to others who do the same thing.  They are interesting to watch, if only to convince yourself...as they've convinced me...that camping is okay as an occasional, fun recreational diversion, but it's no way to live full-time. I couldn't do it.

(Oh, by the way, "Down In The Boondocks" was a big hit for a guy named Billy Joe Royal back in 1965.)

No comments: