Full time in a 31' RV.
I purchased ExOffcio and REI "camper" clothing (underwear, socks, T-shirts and button shirts). You can wash by hand and they dry quickly. I actually washed by hand maybe two or three times in my first two years out. But in my defense I spent less time in the laundry mat and these overpriced clothes take up much less room. I can store 10 days of changes in a drawer that would hold about half that with ordinary cotton underwear.
I had never actually driven an RV during the shopping phase. The first time I drove one was after I wrote the check. An ex pilot it didn’t take me long to decide that driving an airplane is easier than driving an RV, especially in windy conditions. A heavy or worse yet gusty cross wind is only a problem for an airplane the last few seconds of your approach and landing and a little while taxing. In an RV you’re fighting the wind for hours. Not fun. At least not for me.
At first I spent some time reading manuals I found in the RV and Googling topics in order to learn how to live in a 24' RV. I've had to deal with circuit breakers, gas alarms and a few other events that I’m not used to dealing with. My mechanical skills pretty much stop at changing light bulbs. With my Subaru Outback I never even checked the oil. I went into my local independent Subaru fixit shop every 3,000 for lube and oil change and they checked everything else at the same time. Now I have 6 tires and two engines (counting the generator) to check.
You can’t tow an automatic Subaru and I wouldn’t have wanted to mess with that anyway so I purchased an electric bike at Camping World for around $900. For short trips it works well.
Before this my idea of roughing it was going to a two star hotel instead of a three star hotel. I virtually never ate franchise food and although I had heard of it I didn't know what chicken fried steak was. And I had never even heard of biscuits and gravy or line dancing. How do you go from living within walking distance of three French restaurants to chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy?
On the road.
After two short check out trips around the Olympic Peninsula I started my full time journey the day after Labor Day 2012. From Seattle I headed South. My first stop leaving Seattle was at Village Green, an RV park in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Village Green is next to a Walmart. (Months later I would boondock in the Walmart parking lot for free.) I had never been in a Walmart. In Seattle we protest Walmarts.
I decided to see what a Walmart was like inside.
Wound up buying a few essentials including some frozen dinners, milk and some fruit. The store was still being constructed but even at that they had a lot of stuff. For some higher quality food items I had to take my bike to the Safeway on the other side of the freeway.
Walmart and RVs seem to go together. Through the years I would spend a lot of time shopping in Walmart and sleeping in Walmart parking lots. Casinos tend to be better than Walmarts because they have good security and sometimes good food.
My second stop of season one was Ingrid’s Farm. When she lived in Eugene, OR and I lived in Seattle Ingrid and I did a lot of vintage dancing together. (Dancing that Americans did between 1840 and 1920.)
At one point I had a bedroom full of vintage clothes, all original, dating from the 1880s to the 1920s. The Vintage Dancers are sort of like the Civil War reinactors except we make love not war.
Ingrid traded her house for a 10 acre farm and her gowns and walking suits for jeans and T-shirts. I parked in her front yard for a few days.
Dump and fill
If you live in a house you turn on the water and you don't know where it comes from. When you flush the toilet you don’t know where it goes. In an RV we know. We have a fresh water tank which has to be filled every week or so, that’s where it comes from, and two waste tanks, that's where it goes. One waste tank is for grey water, shower & kitchen, the other is for black water. You can guess that one. Before you fill the fresh water you must empty the waste tanks. “Dump and fill.” According to the EPA the average American uses 100 gallons of water daily. My 50 gallon fresh water tank can last me almost two weeks.
One hears all sorts of things one doesn’t want to hear when driving an RV. Imagine your house going through a 4.5 earthquake every few days. Only earthquakes last less than 30 seconds where the RV quake lasts for hours. I decided RVs shouldn’t be certified for single pilot. I found myself saying, “what’s that” often. If you really want to know "what’s that" and there's no right seat person to check you have to wait for a rest stop or safe wide spot off the road.
Not on vacation
Living in an RV full time is not like being on vacation. We sometimes go to the same places people go to on Holliday but it's not the same. It's not the same because we bring our house with us. We wake up in the same bed and take a shower in the same bathroom no matter where we are. Rather than say we went here or there we could just as easily say here or there came to our house.
Most people think in terms of the sun going down but actually the sun didn't go anywhere, you moved. But from your point of view the sun moved. By the same token we could think in terms of all these places coming to our house. We don't wake up in a Walmart parking lot we wake up in our home, which is currently surrounded by a Walmart parking lot. Tomorrow our house may be surrounded by grass, trees and a stream.
Many years ago a wise person said, "you can either photograph a place or you can experience it. But you can't do both." That person was me but nevertheless the comment has merit. On the other hand I feel that if I haven't photographed a place I haven't really been there. These two ideas contradict each other. Perhaps one is the anthesis of the other. Not sure. It would help if I knew what anthesis meant. In any event there are photos and a few videos on this web site but not as many as I might like. Sometimes I just wanted to experience.
Too damn cold
One of my lasting impressions of my first year out was the cold. Although the days were warm the nights got down to the low 30s and I had a furnace that intermittently failed even after repeated repairs. I decided Dante had it wrong. Hell isn't fire and brimstone it's cold and dark. I made myself a promise that I'd never again do anything that would put me in that sort of environment.
Later things improved with a more reliable rig and a lady and dog to snuggle with, with whom to snuggle? But when the temps drop I can still get PTSD remembering that first season out.
Music and dance
In Seattle one can tango 4 nights a week, contra dance 2 nights a week and attend swing dances a few time a month. Mostly to great live music. There's also live blues, zydeco, Skandia and on it goes. On the RV trail it's mostly country western with electronic sidemen. (A sideman is a musicians term for any non featured member of a band.) An electronic sideman is a drum machine or other recording. In other words professional karaoke with people who can sing, usually. Sometimes it's actual anyone can come up and sing karaoke. (I think Karaoke is Japanese revenge for Hiroshima.) If I were president my first decree would be that if you advertise live music it has to be played by live musicians. My second decree would be you can't wear a T-shirt from a place you haven't been.
Basic country is a fun, simple, honest style of music that makes for pleasant dancing. Unlike tango and a few other more difficult dances you'll never get that "well you're not up to my level" look. The dancers are just there to have fun. What a concept.
At Slab City and on the road there here are a lot of Bobs, Georges and other guys with common names, at least common for our generation. In order to distinguish one from the other nicknames are often assigned much in the same fashion that the Native Americans assigned names. We have Harvard George, Ponytail George, houseboat Bob (used to tow a houseboat), Bathrobe Bob, Bagpipe Bob, etc. I had several nicknames assigned to me. Electric Bob was first because when it got down to freezing my first Slab Winter I went up to the Fountian of Youth RV park so I could plug in my electric heater. Then there was Coffee Bob because I made the morning coffee then Tango Bob. But the one that stuck was Hollywood Bob, assigned because of my short movie career in LA.
One of the things that pushed me over the top on purchasing an RV was there was an RV park, Jackson Wellsprings, just 2.5 miles from downtown Ashland.
Jackson Wellsprings is an RV park and spa inhabited by some interesting people. But mainly it’s 2.5 miles from downtown. The first two years on the road I spent much more time in Ashland than I did in Seattle. Beginning year three I joined the Ashland Elks. More on Ashland and Jackson Wellsprings on the Ashland Page.
Slab City was Camp Dunlap, a WWII marine base. When the Feds left they tore down all the buildings leaving concrete slabs, thus Slab City. The Federal Government gave the land, 640 acres, to California in the 1960s. California doesn’t know what to do with it so it’s been a no man’s land ever since. Little communities, like Loners on Wheels and Traveling Pals have been squatting there for decades. Slab City has no electricity or water so all RVs must be self contained.
When I arrived at Slab City they didn't think I'd last a week and neither did I. But with the help of Wayne the RV whisperer and others in the Loners on Wheels compound I managed to make it through the season. Now it’s become my winter home.
The first thing you see after the Almost There guard house is Salvation Mountian which is on a Congressional Folk Art list. It’s the most famous, though not the most artistic, Slab City landmark.
More Slab City stuff on the Slab City Page.