Tag Archives: dry camping

Airstream Trailer Perched Atop The Wall

Hitting the wall describes a point in an endurance sports event when the athlete just cannot go anymore. Yesterday we might have stumbled onto the term’s origin — at Wall South Dakota. We’ll get back to this in a minute.

We’ve avoided stopping at Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota until this year, and finally we caved. The distance westward from Huron, our starting point, was just right for a day’s ride, and our curiousity simply got the better of us.

Me in 1964

Me in 1964

Just before arriving to Wall we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site just off I-90 and twenty miles east of Wall. The visitors center offers a well-done video and displays about the minuteman missile defense system and the Cold War era many of us remember well.

It's just a training missile, honest!

It’s just a training missile, honest!

Tours reservations are filled early so we missed them. Instead, we drove another fifteen miles west to the self-guided tour of a decommissioned missile silo. Wow! This is a nicely preserved historical display with a glass viewing cover over the missile silo providing a view of a training missile inside.

IMG_1015Serendipitously, just after we arrived at the former missile silo, a park ranger and entourage also did. We were treated to a thorough presentation on the history of this site. More surprising, one of the attendees had served at this same missile site in the 1980s. He served in the Air Force strike force security team which was committed to 15 minute response time to any of the nine missile sites in this area. When an alarm indicated intrusion into the secure launch field, a strike team immediately mounted and investigated with weapons at ready. This fellow added nicely to the ranger’s presentation, helping bring history alive.

The "wall" presented a great obstacle to pioneers' travel westward

The “wall” presented a great obstacle to pioneers’ travel westward

Westward Ho, time to go! We resumed our travels westward another six miles to Wall South Dakota. As we approached our exit we saw the “wall” the pioneers faced on their westward journey. A 200 foot high bluff blocked their passage. They had to pick their way around it to continue toward Oregon.

Wall is a couple of miles north of I-90, an easy jaunt even with the trailer. Parking was super-easy — we parked along a curb in a great spot two blocks from the tourist street. Large parking lots offered parking behind Wall Drug and west of it too.

Debbie and her cowboy buddy at Wall Drug

Debbie and her cowboy buddy at Wall Drug

We enjoyed browsing Wall Drug’s complex — it’s a city block chock-a-block full of shops and eateries. Some things were nice, especially the fudge shop, the toy store, and the backyard.

A horse, a fish, and now a jackalope -- Jim's had some rides

A horse, a fish, and now a jackalope — Jim’s had some rides

In the backyard we found a couple of interesting things like this jackalope. Jim had to wait his turn while other kids got on and had a ride. We never did find the free ice water or the five cents coffee, but a water station near the jackalope seemed clean so we enjoyed free water while waiting. The young gals who sold us the fudge are from China and Macedonia. They are in the States three months, on a J-1 work visa they said, during which they work at Wall Drug and tour the USA. Neat! We might try to do same in Europe.

Pretty nice parking

Pretty nice parking

Debbie had read about BLM lands south of Wall where we might dry-camp. The day had turned cloudy early and kept the temperature in the low 80’s so we headed six miles south from Wall to a turn-off into National Grasslands near the radio towers. Gorgeous area with level parking here and there along the bluff overlooking the grass lands to the east.

P1170010We read the difference between the Badlands prairie desert and the grasslands is the grasslands have enough water to support grass. The desert does not. The grasslands are too dry to support trees but are too wet to be deserts.

Our dry-camp in the BLM grasslands was perfect for our first night away from the big airstream rally. We spent three weeks parked between and close to other trailers in a busy dusty bug-infested state fairgrounds in Huron. Atop the wall overlooking the grasslands, we heard the wind and birds. No dust, no bugs, no business. Just beauty and peace.

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Two Two Two Paradigm

The dreamstreamrs had a little spare time this past week while awaiting some annual service on our RV. We spent some of that time reviewing our records, checking our numbers from daily towing log. Debbie faithfully records the numbers every driving day, so we have an excellent record of miles, camping fees, nights spent, and what utilities are available at each campground.

9 days dry-camping in Ketchum ID

9 days dry-camping in Ketchum ID

We’re in our sixth year traveling full time. The period we are reviewing is only for 2011-2013, comprising 2 1/2 years. Sometime we might look back at the first three years. These recent 30 months were more easily available and shared.

We are pleased by the numbers, if a little surprised how they work out. All numbers are actuals from Debbie’s daily log. The report shows what we thought the most interesting parts.

Towing and camping statistics for the past 2 1/2 years (or 883 days) (2011, 2012, & ytd 2013)

site rent    nites     avg    times moved    miles       miles/move
$13,632    883      $15           141            28,133       199.5

Site rental is one of our most expensive budget lines. Our budget is $20/night for the year, and we haven’t gone over budget annually, although some months we are over-budget and some months under. We are well set up for dry-camping or boondocking and enjoy doing these. We’ve paid as much as $35/night for dry-camping in Doheny State Beach at Dana Point California and as little as nothing in Quartzite AZ BLM land in the desert. Guess which one we’ll end up staying more nights? We like to stay within budget, so dry camping or boondocking helps out.. Sometimes we’ll stay a couple of days with friends or family (even longer with family, right?) and it helps our budget a little.

google map of day's drive

google map of day’s drive

We’ve posited several times a maxim we like, “drive less than two hundred miles, off the road by 2pm, and stay at least two nights. On average, we hit all three points. Our average driving day mileage is less than 200. We stayed an average of 6 days, although admittedly this is a lying statistic — we stayed months in some favorite venues and one night in some Cracker BBL parking lots. Off the road by 2pm? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Hey, we’re not stopping in the middle of the road, right?

As for off the road by 2pm, well, it depends upon how early we left camp. But on average, we likely weren’t too far off. Avoidance of afternoon school bus traffic and rush hour traffic influences us to get off the road not later than 4pm whenever we can. We often like hitting the road by 9 or 10, unless we have an exceptionally long or sweetly short drive ahead of us.

We’re traveling because we enjoy it. We aim for two-two-two, but we aren’t going to knock ourselves out to achieve it every time. Sometimes we’ll choose to do a long driving day to have more days to spend at the other end. Sometimes we just don’t want to stay somewhere for even two nights. Flexibility helps us enjoy what we’re doing.

We hope you are enjoying what you are doing — we sure are!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Why are ham fests sometimes in very strange locations?

A couple of posts ago we wrote about Herb’s and Jim’s unplanned 10 mile hike in the desert.  More significant, really, is why were we in the middle of Arizona’s desert at all? You might already know we are suckers for interesting or unusual ham radio conventions. A ham radio convention in the middle of Arizona’s desert would probably be interesting and unusual. We’d heard about Quartzsite for several years and wanted to get there. This seemed like a great opportunity, and we only had a drive of 160 miles to get there.

Less than 700 miles to visit a new hamfest? Let's go!

Some of you dear readers may recall our post two years ago when Debbie and Jim drove to Essex, in the top of Montana for a famous ham fest.  We had heard of the oldest continuous running (once per year, that is) ham radio convention, the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park Hamfest. And so upon departing Gillette Wyoming in early July 2010 we reasonably figured, since we were only 600 miles away, we should take the opportunity to visit Essex Montana and see this venerable ham fest first hand. It was pretty neat and sharpened our interest in unusual ham fests.

and the camels are another story entirely

The recent week we spent dry-camping in the Arizona desert was pretty much the opposite in several ways. Glacier National Park can be very chilly even in the middle of July.  Everything in Glacier National Park is either green (evergreen trees, grass, moss) or white (ice and snow), with just a little brown (bears and deer).  The Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park HamFest is 78 years running so far, versus a few years for QuartzFest.  And camping in any campground near Glacier National Park is a bit costly — we camped free at Quartzsite (except a donation to the organizer to help cover paper and printer cartridges.)

very cool hex beam antenna for W7Q station

Some things are remarkably similar between the two hamfests.  At neither hamfest did we see any ham radio vendors (although one almost always does).  Both hamfests are pretty close to an international border (Canada and Mexico).  Both hamfests involve dry camping although in Quartzsite the term takes on additional significance — everything is really really dry.  Both hamfests had very dedicated RVing hams with some really interesting antenna setups.  Both hamfests had special event stations allowing attendees the opportunity to operate from a different location and try using different gear than in their own station. Both hamfests had well-organized presentations on various subjects.

another big antenna on small RV

The QuartzFest rally seemed huge compared to the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park HamFest.  We might have had 75 rigs at Glacier-Waterton, and we had 400 rigs at QuartzFest.  We never had seen such a big collection and wide variety of amateur radio antennas as at QuartzFest.  Not all were RV-portable – many were tall masts with two and three sets of ropes guying the antennas against the winds.

Much easier to clean and aim than on the roof

Oh, and we saw assorted ways to collect solar energy for electricity as well as several wind generators. We went to a lot of work putting our solar panels on the Airstream’s roof — they would be low maintenance (sort of) and pretty secure from theft or damage. Tilting the solar panels wasn’t in our original scheme and weekly wiping of the panel’s glass surface (necessary in the dirty dusty desert and even in Mesa) requires setting up and climbing the ladder. We like this portable panel idea more and more.

THE place to be for fish on Fridays

When in Quartzsite, do as the Quartzsitians do? We followed our friends Bob K9WMP and Laura K9BZY from Mesa to Quartzsite since they knew where to go. And we followed them to Sweet Darlene’s restaurant for Friday fish dinner our first evening. Without Bob and Laura we probably would have given up this idea when we saw the lineup outside the restaurant — this place was hopping. Herb and Lois, Tom and Debbie, Bob and Laura, and the two of us were deluded if we thought we would get to sit together in this place.

Sweet Darlene's does big biz on Fridays

The line moved reasonably quickly and we soon found out why — you don’t wait for a table of four, or six, or eight — you wait for a couple of chairs anywhere close to each other and you forgo sitting with your larger party. Your food order at Sweet Darlene’s Friday fish dinner is simple. Fried fish, cole slaw, and a slice of bread are on all the plates — you choose what style potatoes.

Our order was simple and the food was good

Except our wait person was so frazzled by the time she arrived at our table she asked what style fish we wanted. Faked us out briefly then we all had a big laugh — there’s one style fish at Friday fish dinner at Sweet Darlene’s, and it was good.

Can we take one of these home?

People we meet in Mesa think of Quartzsite as a place to shop for gems and geodes. While we don’t frequent rock shops we have been in a few. We’ve never seen anything equalling these huge geodes. We didn’t see any price tags but wonder if everything is for sale at some price.

Clearly the biggest tent we've ever shopped in!

Another thing most people do in Quartzsite is browsing the shops. Sweet Darlene’s has graduated from a tent enclosure to a completely enclosed metal structure. Some of the shops are in metal buildings but most were in tents. One of the tents seemed as big as a football field and was chock full of vendors representing nearly every facet of support and supply for RVing.

US Gov't perhaps runs most smoothly when done by volunteers

We camped in Road Runner RV area of the BLM land 6 miles south of Quartzsite. BLM required us to register and receive a 14-day camping permit (at no cost), allowing us to park anywhere within a vast area of the desert. The closest dump station and fresh water resupply was in Quartzsite, and we couldn’t even find a 30 amp power pole in our camp site. Nor did we really expect one, we knew we’d be conserving water and battery power both.

We’ve dry camped numerous times but had not previously done nearly so well with our fresh water. We used less than 20 gallons total of fresh water in five days for all uses — cooking, drinking, and bathing. Our Airstream travel trailer carries 40 gallons, so we had water aplenty. Not so capable though is our 19 gallon black water holding tank. The only thing it serves is our toilet.

Some of the 20 gallons of fresh water had to have gone into the 40 gallon gray water holding tank, right? We bathed each day and used our sink for pot and utensil washing. But the 19 gallon black water holding tank was nearly full after five full days use. Very nearly all our toilet flushing was with dish water or bathing water, so precious little fresh water found its way to our gray water holding tank. If only we could find a way to expand our black water carrying capacity. Who would have thought we’d wish for such a thing, eh?

Our best (and only) Quartzsite neighbors

We were grateful to Herb and Lois for sharing their Winnebago’s generator with us twice a day. We ran an extension cord 100 feet between our RV and theirs and they would bump our batteries up a little. It was nice to have their big old generator send some extra energy our way a couple times daily. Even nicer, though, was camping with them and sharing meals, conversations, and spending evenings at card games or watching movies together.

Our solar panels did fine but one pair of 6-volt batteries just don’t have enough depth for our uses (this is not necessarily a mutually held opinion). We like to read at night. Our water pump, fridge controls, and propane leak detector all use battery power. Oh, and the ham radio can use a bunch (22 amps @ 12vdc) of battery power. One of us likes to have enough battery power left by morning to do a little chatting on our HF (long distance) ham radio. More power = a good thing, right? Unless you were a ho-hum-ham and might ask, “Jim, what problem are you trying to solve with all this?”

Maybe keeping busy is a good thing in itself? Jim’s been busy since we returned from Quartzsite. Our solar panels are, after four years flat use, tilt-able. We are on the verge of more than doubling our storage battery capacity from two 6v 220 amp hour batteries to four 6v 232 amp hour batteries. Results are encouraging on tilting the solar panels and we think the battery change will be a significant boost. We’ll get back to the details about these two changes in another blog.

Stay tuned — we’ll be back soon!

 

 

 

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-20112 Dreamstreamr

No water or electricity? How primitive is it?

Saturday’s post about dry camping was unintentionally misleading. And we promptly received feedback from some of you faithful readers about this. It seems I may have provided an overly stark description of the conditions when dry camping. But, in fact, there isn’t much primitive to it. After all, we are living in a fully self-contained and very capable recreational vehicle. We aren’t roughing it, even these past seven days. As Debbie reminded me at supper this evening, even dry camping in our Airstream is still pretty luxurious.

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I’m going to detail better what I meant when I talked Saturday about our week of dry camping. Here’s an excerpt from Saturday’s post:
“This has been easy camping, although not far different from what we usually would do. We can’t use the microwave. We use a small portable inverter to convert 12vdc to 110vac for someone’s curling iron and to recharge the laptop. And we can watch television if we want, again using the same 150 watt inverter. Everything else is battery-powered. After completing five and starting the sixth day we have remaining 10 gallons fresh water (we have used 29 gallons). We have 1/2 tank each in black water and rinse water. Our batteries are fully charged. It seems we could go at least another two days at the current rate of water usage.”

Okay, so what did I leave out? Actually, I left a lot to the imagination. I ignored a pretty basic rule of writing, where the writer remembers who is reading the story. A couple of you told us we sound as though we might not have water enough to provide bathing and cooking, for example. And some of you wondered what does the battery power provide, different from when we are connected to electricity? We can see how yesterday’s post left out some really important details. The problem is this: we forget we aren’t writing to ourselves. Said another way, I understand exactly what I meant but I am not writing well if I don’t help all of you understand what I want you to hear.

I’m going to take another pass at describing the end of our week of dry camping starting first about our water consumption. At the end of the week we had used an average of five gallons daily of fresh water for drinking, cooking, cleaning up, and flushing our toilet. We would have used more but sometimes would use the campground’s very nice washroom and showers. Our water consumption would probably have increased by at least two gallons daily if we had not used the campground’s washroom and showers. We would have used all 39 gallons of our fresh water tank in this week. We would then have pulled the trailer to a nearby drinking water faucet, connected our hose to the threaded faucet and refilled our 39 gallon fresh water tank.

The amount of the trailer’s stored fresh water we consume pretty directly impacts the rate at which we fill the toilet’s waste tank, called the black tank, and the shower’s and sinks’ waste tank, called the rinse water tank. The black tank will hold 18 gallons and the rinse tank will hold 39 gallons. Since we start with both waste tanks empty and only have 39 gallons of fresh water, we won’t fill both waste tanks at once. In fact, at the end of over 5 days we had poured some part of almost 30 gallons of fresh water between the black and rinse water tanks. Since their combined capacity is 57 gallons, we had filled the two waste tanks only by one-half.

Our electronic tank monitoring system displays for us the water level in the three water tanks, the fresh water and the two waste tanks. It warned us we had only one-fourth of the fresh water available (almost 10 gallons) and we had filled the two waste tanks approximately 1/2 full each. If the fresh water tank reading is accurate (we think it is, since I calibrated these not long ago) then the readings for the other two tanks make sense. The numbers work out. Sometimes things are like they seem, and it is good.

It appears we would have run out of fresh water before the waste tanks filled up. We could, in short order, hitch up the trailer to our truck and tow the trailer the several hundred feet to the water hydrant to refill the tank. Some people carry 7 gallon fresh water jugs and others carry a larger water bag (sort of like an inflatable bed or water bed) to bring a resupply of fresh water to their trailer. We haven’t had much experience dry camping and, so far, haven’t minded moving the trailer to the water source.

But if our waste tanks filled first we would tow our trailer to the dump station, empty our tanks, and return to the campsite for another five days. Some of the people in the state park carried with them a portable blue rolling tank to help manage their waste tanks. They can empty the trailer’s black or rinse water tank into these portable “honey pots” and tow the honey pot to the campground’s dump station. They can empty the honey pot, rinse the connections, and their camper will go another three or four or five days before they repeat this aromatic chore.

Okay, now a brief description of the electric side of things. We have friends who are very experienced solar charged battery managers. They contend they can use their trailer’s batteries to power anything they want pretty much all they want to. And their batteries will hold up to all this use. We haven’t enjoyed this much battery power. Our system is apparently more modest, with two heavy duty 6 volt batteries wired in series to provide the 12 volts our trailer needs. What needs this power?

Our Airstream uses battery power in several different ways. Perhaps two of the most important are the trailer’s gas detector and the refrigerator automatic control. The water heater uses battery power for its ignition and automatic controls. Our tank monitoring system needs battery power if we are going to be able to determine how much fresh water we have or how much space we have in our waste tanks. The trailer’s water pump is battery-powered, and delivers a wonderful brisk water pressure to our faucets and shower head. My ham radio uses battery power so I can listen and transmit on the amateur radio bands. Our laptops, phone, and camera batteries use the trailer’s battery power to recharge them. Did I mention I am listening to our FM stereo radio while I’m typing this? Yes, it uses the trailer’s battery power too.

Would you have guessed the trailer’s batteries can do all this? Oh! What about the trailer’s interior lighting? We have four reading lights we can aim for best reading illumination. Two are at the sofa and two are above the head of our bed. We have a dozen bright ceiling lights we use whenever we lose something under the table or on the floor somewhere, or when we are cleaning the inside of or Airstream. We have two downlights shining down onto the sofa area to help with reading or working on the laptop like I’m doing now. We have eleven lights inside our four overhead storage bins to help find stuff there and to help provide indirect lighting into our Airstream’s interior.

Our washroom has two light bulbs in its fixture, and the vanity has three bright light bulbs so someone can do the detailed work she doesn’t really need but likes to keep up. Our clothes closets each have a light fixture. And our two cargo compartments (our basements, sort of) each have a light fixture. We have downlights for the kitchen’s work surface, shining down onto our dinette, and in the range hood to illuminate the stove’s cooking surface. Our refrigerator has an interior light. And we have a light fixture outside, above our door.

A lot of lights, isn’t it? And these are all powered from the trailer’s two batteries. If we are dry camping, how long will the batteries last, with all these things drawing power from them? Not all these appliances and lights are on at the same time. Some evenings we will use only one or two lights at a time. The batteries will last anywhere from a few hours to a day or so, unless we can recharge the batteries periodically. If we cannot plug into electricity to power our trailer’s battery charger, then we have two other ways to recharge our batteries. One is the really nifty portable 1000 watt Yamaha generator we have and have needed once in four years.

The other way we can keep our batteries charged is with our two big solar panels mounted on top of our Airstream’s roof. These have kept our batteries recharged perfectly for the past week, and the solar panels do this without charging us a thing no matter how much electricity we use. The sun can shine brightly or it can shine through clouds, and the solar panels still provide a charge on our batteries. So we are never really without electricity, as long as we have either an electrical outlet, or solar power, or our generator.

But if all these battery-powered systems happened to not work, then what? We have candles, a portable battery powered lantern, and flashlights. We can draw water directly from the fresh water tank, using a small bucket we carry. And we can buy a cooler to help our food stay cold if the fridge stops working. We’ll have to eat the ice cream before it melts. And there’s the beer and wine we can drink, too.

You might see, after this explanation, we have back-ups for our back-ups, and if all those fail, we have a back-up plan. If we don’t have electrical power, we can charge the batteries with solar power. If the solar panels don’t work because of rain or too much shade from trees, we can use the generator to charge the batteries. And if the generator also won’t work and we can’t move the trailer to a sunny spot or somewhere with electricity, then we’ll just have to eat the ice cream before it melts. And if we run out of water, we’ll have to drink orange juice, and milk, and beer, or go find some water somewhere.

How did we ever get by when we were tent camping? We plan ahead. We’re versatile and flexible and creative. And things haven’t been very primitive. Like Debbie said, even dry camping in our Airstream is still luxurious.

Update on dry-camping in Ohio

We are in day 6 dry-camping in the Lake Loramie State Park. We think this is an apt time to review our longest dry-camping run in our Airstream CCD 25. And we want to share a little about camping this week in one of Ohio’s fine state parks.

Lots of kids, families, bikes

Lots of kids, families, bikes

This gorgeous state park is this week hosting, I think, every person in Ohio. Well, we have some Ohio friends we haven’t seen but the park is absolutely a beehive of busy-ness. This is the busiest we’ve seen any campground anytime. Everyone is buzzing about enjoying fabulous Memorial Day weekend weather and enjoying being here.

Children and adults appear equally elated to escape to this local campground. We’re glad to see this — so many people are vacationing here on this long Memorial Day weekend. People seem to be very local, many of them commuting from work to their trailers on the early days preceding the weekend. The recession didn’t kill camping but it might have prompted more people to stay in parks closer to home.

A large number of the campers seem to be multi-family. We are seeing many two and three camper set-ups where they have creatively pulled their campers facing each other. One camper remarked to us, they are real lenient at this park about the rules. This seems, very nicely, to allow these families to camp comfortably and without causing any apparent harm.

We also are seeing a lot of multi-generational campsites. The grandparents, it appears, arrived on Wednesday or Thursday. They start staking out the site and enjoy a night or two before the kids and grandchildren arrive. Then on Friday afternoon all heck busts loose. Here come the kids and grandkids and four bicycles and ladder golf and beanbag toss and horseshoes and bonfires and lots of laughing and grandmoms saying, “honey, here have some more of this before you go playing again. And don’t you want some more pop?”

And here are much larger numbers of older and smaller recreational vehicles than we usually encounter. Frequent visits we’ve made to state parks haven’t shown us as many pop-up campers or such a small number of motor homes. I guess this maybe is because we more often (five days out of seven) aren’t seeing working families in campgrounds. So we more often are seeing retired people who are spending their grandchildren’s inheritances or who, like us, opted for a more comfy motor home or travel trailer.

Not this week. In this state park almost a third of all sites are occupied by tents or pop-ups, and there are probably not two or three large motor homes. How many Airstreams, Argosys, Avions, Holiday Ramblers, or other premium trailers? One, just ours. Well, there was an Avion but he left the day after we arrived. We have seen lots of very practical and serviceable 20 to 30 feet long Sunnybrooks and KZ Sportsmen Forest River trailers and fifth wheels. And a bunch of pop-ups and tents.

I mentioned before we are dry-camping because we didn’t make advance arrangements for this busy weekend. This dry-camping has turned out a good experience for us. We’re too cheap to dry camp when we have electricity available, because we can power our refrigerator at no added cost with the electricity. The refrigerator normally consumes propane (although not much) when we’re not plugged in to electricity, and many campgrounds include electricity in their most basic rate. So we save propane if we run the fridge on their electricity.

Our site in Lake Loramie State Park in Ohio

Our site in Lake Loramie State Park in Ohio

Since it is cheaper and we can rent a site through Saturday (or longer) we opted for primitive, or no electric and no water service. And we gained a nice campsite by the water which, on the electric sites, would be at an additional premium cost. Our campsite setup is simpler with no water hoses and no electrical cords. We selected a pretty site away from the tree shade (and dead limbs falling) and close to the canal edge.

This has been easy camping, although not far different from what we usually would do. We can’t use the microwave. We use a small portable inverter to convert 12vdc to 110vac for someone’s curling iron and to recharge the laptop. And we can watch television if we want, again using the same 150 watt inverter. Everything else is battery-powered. After completing five and starting the sixth day we have remaining 10 gallons fresh water (we have used 29 gallons). We have 1/2 tank each in black water and rinse water. Our batteries are fully charged. It seems we could go at least another two days at the current rate of water usage.

We’re not trying to win a contest or prove anything. We are enjoying living simply and saving money. This is easy in our Airstream — our wide-opening windows and roof vents provide great ventilation. Our solar panels have provided ample power for our lighting, radio, and recharging the laptop. And the solar-charged batteries and tank capacities have been sufficient to allow a full week without any external utilities.

Incidentally, the biggest draw on the batteries is when I push the transmit key on my ham radio — 22 amps at 12vdc. Batteries so far have held overnight at 12.6v each day, enough to give the radio full power for a short time. I work the radio an hour in the evening and again for a half-hour in the morning. I reached France, Moldova, Ireland, and Colorado, in the past three days. This state park has been a good spot for long distance (dx) ham radio operation.

We are frugal users of power. I wonder if our reduction in carbon footprint is helping the environment as much as we should? We are:

  • * living in a tiny (<200SF) house,
  • * weekly water consumption is approximately 40 gallons,
  • * using less than 1/100 as much electricity as our brick house did,
  • * using at most a couple of gallons of propane each week, and
  • * driving less than many, if not most, commuters.
  • Our largest variable in energy (and costs) is miles driven, especially towing. We are burning a gallon of gas every eleven towed miles. We have, for the past eight months, settled down our towing mileage considerably by staying three months each in two venues. We're on the move now, and might average as little as a week in each stop for the next five months.

    We’re making our way across the country toward Vancouver, BC. There are a few stops we’ll make on the way. We’re going to buy enough gas to get to Vancouver, and we really would like to tow the trailer with us. We want to make the distance, but not in any hurry. So we can spread the gas cost across more weeks and months, and hopefully spend less for the year.

    Dry camping, if we learn to do it effectively, will help us afford our lifestyle and travels better. We are looking forward to learning better how to economize while enjoying camping. One big answer may be an increase in dry-camping. We’ll try.

    See you down the road!