do committed boat people end up in an RV? Easy. On a spur
of the moment whim.When
we headed off into GypsyNester territory, we kissed our
friends good-bye — telling them we were on our
way to sail the seven seas.
So what happened?
After nearly a decade of living on a tiny rock in the Caribbean we had been fairly isolated from folks up in the mainland. We
hadnt seen our stateside friends and family in ages. We
figured we should catch up with everybody before we unfurled our
sails. But how?
|Planes, trains and automobiles, not to mention hotels, motels and
restaurants would bankrupt us before we managed to see
half of our neglected kinfolk. They are literally scattered from
sea to shining sea.
day David blurted out, What about an RV? We could take
our time, hit the hotspots in between visits and we’d have
our bed with us everyday.Our GypsyNesting pact was that we wouldnt tie ourselves
up with plans. We wanted spontaneous adventure. This seemed
pretty damn spontaneous, so Veronica
enthusiastically said YEAH!A bit of research
was needed since we knew less than squat about the RV lifestyle.
We made a list of things essential:
– David has
to be able to stand up in it. It’s not like he had to ward off
offers from the NBA — but everyone deserves a couple yards of
— It has
to have one of those over-the-cab sleeping quarters thingys so
we wouldn’t have to make up and tear down the bed everyday —
because we both knew that we wouldn’t.
— It cant
be so long that we cant get into cities or park in regular
— It has
to be old enough that David could tweak the engine. No on-board
computers or fuel injectors for David.
— It cant
have any weird smells. Smells mean damp — and damp is not your
friend in a motorhome.
took our list and did what we always do — he Googled (though
we wouldnt suggest Googling weird smells
— not pretty). After a few days of studying up, David had
a pretty good bead on the situation. Veronica, for her part,
ooohed and awwwed over his
amazing amounts of RV buying resources on the web, but sometimes
the best deals are on eBay. Again, when
you have no plans you
end up doing things unexpected — really, what sort of idiot buys
an RV on eBay?
A seller in Chicago had a listing that fit the
bill perfectly. We emailed Chicago Dude and set up a test drive
for a couple of hours before the auction closed.
It was love
at first sight — twenty three feet of rolling luxury. It was
an oldie but a goodie — an 83 model Tioga on a Chevy chassis
with a good old 350 V-8. Funky, ugly neutral earthy tones
with wheat stalks on the wall paper. But he was well
laid out, everything worked and the weird smell issue was nonexistent.
We figure we stole it for $3,200 — Chicago Dude cut us a great
deal during the test drive, I like you two, you remind me
of old hippies — you should have this motor home, he said.
Uh. Okay. Thanks.
about a thousand dollars more on prettying up the interior
and a once over for safetys sake. A little grease
and a brake job and we were on our way.We didnt
delude ourselves, we knew were engaging in a race against
time. We fully expected to be stranded on the roadside at some point
— but figured we could see a bunch of loved ones
before the little
guy bellied up.
stranding never happened. Thirty thousand miles later, our
funky home on wheels is still running like a scalded dog.A few months into our new venture, we rounded up our offspring,
The Piglet, and Decibel and The Boy, for a jaunt up to Montreal. Decibel instantly
fell in love with our good old coach (a description
his once over mechanic had used). She dubbed him
BAMF. Please keep in mind that Decibel
hails from NYC before Googling “BAMF.” The name stuck.
forward a year. BAMF has taken us to thirty-four states, three Canadian provinces, fourteen National Parks and a beautiful
seaside town in Mexico. It’s been an amazing journey.We had
no idea what we were doing, but we sure learned a lot,
so we’d like to share some of what we discovered along the way.
less than five grand in BAMFy, we were inspired to do the whole
year on the cheap. We procured a Good Sam membership card and
a National Parks annual pass and blindly hit the road.
Lets start with what we spent:
For a grand
total of $15,911.52. That comes to just $1325.96 a month. Considering
we had no mortgage, no utility bills, no cable, no yard — it
was one heck of a deal.
BAMF is old. He doesnt have all the pretty bells and whistles
found on those newfangled behemoths. He averages about 8 miles
to the gallon — not exactly aerodynamic. But he does have a stove,
a refrigerator, a sofa, a dining table and even a bathtub. And
we learned to adapt.
dubbed the toilet and mirror bathroom combo her vanity.”
Everything had to be stowed each morning to avoid deadly projectiles
when rounding corners or applying brakes. We learned how to
heat things up without a microwave. We made coffee on the stove. And
we arose each morning to a new scene out BAMFy’s windows. It was
were an every-other-day luxury. The off-days were spent at free
sites known in RV lingo as boondocking or dry camping. Wal-Mart
parking lots, casinos, government lands and, in a rare pinch,
truck stops were utilized. As with so many aspects of living on
the road, the Internet was incredibly helpful in finding these
locations. There are several websites dedicated to listing these
For days spent
boondocking we carried two battery packs and an inverter. This
gave us enough electricity — combined with our laptop batteries
— to write, catch up on correspondence, plan routes and watch
movies. Frozen water jugs were placed in the fridge to keep food
fresh. On campground days we charged our battery packs and froze
ARE YOU FREAKING NUTS?! Veronica exclaimed the
first time David suggested staying at a Wal-Mart. Apparently ole
Sam Walton was a big time camping nut and many, but not all, stores
allow overnight stays. Sites on the Internet list the stores that
accommodate overnight stays — but their accuracy is less than
stellar. We learned to make alternate plans — just in case.
very rare to be alone in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Usually there
are quite a few fellow blacktop bivouackers. One particular SuperCenter
in Bozeman, Montana was a veritable RV rodeo. Because of its proximity
to Yellowstone, we met people from all over the world at the Bozeman
Wal-Mart — our favorite was a German couple in a VW bus with
a two-year-old son. Their goal was “drive” around the world
in their little pop-top hippie wagon — they were headed for Washington
State and then all the way down the coast to the tip
of South America. There they would catch a boat to New Zealand.
Somehow, we didnt feel so crazy anymore.
vary wildly in size, price and amenities. Basic hook-ups…
water, electricity, sewer service and, increasingly, wireless
Internet are standard. Like real estate, prices are based
on location, location
– and location. A parking spot packed in inches from your neighbor
might run fifty bucks if it’s near a popular tourist
Beautiful wide open spaces can be as little as ten or fifteen dollars
out in the sticks.
we paid strictly for the view. State Parks in California,
with no hookups at all, run thirty-five dollars a night, but
were worth every penny to sleep in the shade of the redwoods or wake up gazing out over the Pacific
|Our choice for the bargain of the continent has to be the
RV park in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Everything we could
ask for — Internet, full hookups and a site on prime
beachfront property for twenty bucks a night. We also had the exotic
pleasure of fresh shrimp delivered right to BAMF’s door.
KOAs are usually
very nice. They have all the stuff vagabonds need like Internet,
laundry and a little store that sells everything you need to make
s’mores — but they cost a bit more than your Mom ‘n Pop campsites.
We joined their club for the discounts and the convenience
of a great online reservation system. On the KOA website, we could
prepay, gather info on each campground and best of all, not have
to worry about getting there before they closed for the night.
They can be a bit TOO family friendly for us old heathens.
The mayhem of hay rides, dance parties and crazy youngsters aboard
bikes is not really where were at these days. BUT — if
we ever have grandkids, well be there in a heartbeat.
campgrounds offer free or very cheap wireless service. Generally
these were the ones we sought out. When boondocking or on the
road we surfed a lot on our iPhone and made good use of our laptop
connect wireless card. The card plugs into a USB port and connects
through a cell phone signal. It works amazingly well on 3G, so-so
on Edge and not at all in the boonies.
We spent scads of hours in coffeehouses and libraries to utilize
their wifi services. These are great places to meet people and
feel the pulse of the towns we visited.
we have an iPhone with AT&T this is all we can speak about.
right in the palm of our hands for Googling on the go.
getting lost — okay, getting lost less often. Don’t know how
we ever got along before GPS.
ap for that! Cheap gas, restaurants, coffeehouses with free wifi,
Wal-Marts, campgrounds, sewer dump stations, movies and just about
anything else under the sun.
Huge areas without service when off the beaten path, especially
out west and the upper midwest. Outside of the cities there’s
no rhyme nor reason to the coverage. We had five bars and 3G service
on a little boat in the middle of the Atchafalaya Swamp yet no
service at all blocks away from a major university. Go figure.
We learned to adapt.
The Internet makes taking off in a BAMF so much easier than
a few years ago. All of our bills are paid online, most automatically,
so mail is much less of an issue. We have a post office box where
The Boy is going to college. He picks up our mail once a week
and throws 90% of it straight in the trash. We had him forward
the very few important things to us when we were with family, otherwise
he just hung on to it until we saw him next.
David & Veronica,
Did we miss
something? Please feel free to ask us questions or make suggestions
by leaving a comment!