Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When Things Don't Work Out...Adapt!

First attempt, a gooseneck flatbed
If you've been following along you may remember that a friend of a friend of mine was embarking on the road to Tiny House living. Purchasing an old 5th wheel flat bed, they started the process of rebuilding the deck and making ready to construct their own Tiny House with plans of moving at some point to the state of Maine... or maybe Colorado.

It didn't take too long into the process to discover that they may have bitten off more than they could chew so this first venture was scrapped. Actually they sold the trailer frame and modified their plan to buying a ready built portable building (shed on skids). With a completed, straight and square, structure to start with, finishing off the interior and installing the assorted systems seemed more workable.

Round two, a finish it yourself cabin
The local ordinances put the skids to this plan as well. Turned out there would be a substantial daily penalty for such a venture. Scrap that plan too, even before it got started.

Undeterred yet another direction or twist has taken place in their plans. The latest version of down sized living will be in the form of a 1988 Allegro motorhome.  The price was right, the condition not so much. Mechanically sound, but because of numerous leaks the wooden part of the structure was in pretty sorry shape. The big plus is that this motorhome is constructed with an aluminum square tubing frame work. Stripping it down to the bare frame makes it easier to insure the repairs to the roof and other areas of water infiltration are repaired properly.

Then it's a matter of insulating the rig considerably better than it came from the
Third try, the tarp covers a bad leak in the roof.
factory, and rebuilding the interior to suit their needs. To date much of the floor has been cut out and replaced. Roof repairs are next on the list of immediate concerns, and the whole interior has been stripped out.

The theme in the remodel is simpler is better. Original wiring has been all removed, as has the various systems and appliances. The plan is to make use of solar power as much as possible and minimize the use of 120Volt items.

Taking an older RV down to it's bones and bringing it back is no small task. I will continue to monitor and report on their
Stripped to it's bones, now to build it back 
progress.. Good Luck Danni and Kris!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

$500 A Month For Shelter...Where You Stay Is Up To You!

Free camping at Walmart
In the past I've made comments that you can spend your month on the road traveling, or stay parked in an RV park for generally about the same amount of money. Conservatively in the neighborhood of $500 a month. Of course if you're into luxury digs, obviously you can surpass that figure a couple times over quite easily.

If you refer to the title of this blog, I'm on a modest budget. $500 is in my comfort zone and allows me to live within my means. My motor home consumes diesel at the rate of about 10 MPG. At today's average price, $2.90 a gallon, that means I can drive on the highside of 1500 miles per month on my allotment assuming I camp somewhere for free every night. That usually means I hop from one Walmart or truck stop to another keeping my daily driving distance in check so that I don't exceed that 1,500 mile mark during a given month. My voyage from Minnesota to Arizona last summer substantiated this theory quite well. The nice part is this relaxed rate of travel is more pleasant and way less tiring.

Campground in Phoenix
My other theory was that if you plan on spending time in an RV park, stay a month! Way more economical because most places will give you the whole month for what the daily rate would eat up in two weeks. No point rushing off.

I stayed at a very clean and quiet park 15 miles north of Denton TX for a month last fall that all told came to about $400 for the month including electricity. I spent another month on the north side of Phoenix shortly after that for just a few dollars more, but well under the $500 mark. Again just a month ago I stayed west of San Antonio well within my $500 budget.

I spent the winter boondocking in the Arizona desert in Quartzsite. I bet your wondering how that measured up financially? The permit to stay on BLM land for the whole winter was $180. I had to drive to dump my waste tanks and fill my water tanks once a week. Total fuel for the month, $30.
I needed propane every month, $40. About once a week I had to drive to the next town north for
Boondocking on BLM land in Arizona
groceries, $50 a month for gas in the Jeep. Running the generator used about $100 of gas a month as well. I will round this up some to $250 a month to sit with no amenities in the Arizona desert. Sure it was a modest savings, but at what cost. I had to fold up camp once a week to drive to the nearest dump station, a trip of about 10 miles round trip.

Don't get me wrong, if privacy and plenty of space combined with a good deal of isolation is what you are looking for, this may be just the way you want to live. You can pretty much do your own thing, and there are social opportunities throughout the winter so there is no need to be a hermit if you don't want to be.

This Spring I'm living a different life. I'm on the East Coast, right smack dab in the middle of tourist heaven. Micky Mouse is down the highway a piece, home to our space program isn't too far away, and everything is lush and green. OK, it took a bit of online research, but once again I've secured a spot within my $500 budget.

East Coast mobile home/RV park
Right on the coast the average cost per month is from $500 to $1,000 plus electricity depending on how luxurious the accommodations. You can also find really spartan digs here for as low as $350 a month, but you will be right on the highway in a run down place with only unmaintained dirt paths between sites. By searching more than months ahead of time, and making use of Google Maps "Street Level" I not only found a clean respectable park for less than $400 a month plus electricity, I took an online tour of the complete +55 community that consists of primarily mobile homes with about 10% of the occupants being in RV's.

Life is good, right on the East Coast!
Of course there is a longer term lease involved, but I haven't spent any time on the East Coast in 45 years so why not. Every conceivable retail establishment is 10 minutes away, as is a wide range of restaurants. If you can give up some of the conveniences and go inland a ways, the price comes down accordingly.

All I can say is many times over I have proven that $500 a month in shelter costs is adequate to take you pretty much anywhere in the country. Some are spartan, but on average, if you do your homework, you can find very satisfactory places to stay everywhere.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Places Where Time Stands Still

My home for 2 years in North Texas
There are RV resorts, where likely you get all the amenities that let them charge the big bucks to spend the night. Next are your campgrounds, maybe a little less luxurious and usually more rustic in appearance. I've also stayed at some motor camps that have endured over the ages as an economical place to settle in. Be it for a day, or 10 to 15 years. Lets face it, there is a need and a purpose for out of the way places where life is slow, the expense is low, and you can live a quiet life without bother from the rat race of modern life.

My last two years of residence in North Texas back in the early 2000's was such a place. A mobile home park that had been around since about the
Every campsite comes with a covered boat slip
second world war. Many older homes, and a few RV's that had long ago seen their better days. The plus to such a place is the trees have been around long enough to mature and give the appearance of cozy seclusion. An ambience if you will, that just can't be found alongside the freeway around the A-frame office structure of the familiar KOA campgrounds you see today.

Yesterday I experienced an old Fish Camp where time has stood still for well over 70 years. A secluded getaway where those
Abandoned and sunk, the results of many Gulf Storms
interested in dipping a line and drowning some minnows came long ago to stay.

Nothing's changed since the brick office building, bar, store, and bait house (All in one structure) was built back in the 1930's. Very little has been maintained either. Cobwebs and Spanish Mose hang from the rafters, remains of long abandoned boats lay where they were last used. Some filled with vegetation, others laying upside down in their slip. Sunk in the mud and left where they lay, the owners not able to afford having them salvaged.

The owner, an ex Marine from the Vietnam War, calls this place home. Not interested in improvements, he likes the peace and quiet of a small venture that calms his memories of violent times decades ago. After serving in Nam, he went to South America and lived the same experiences
A world travel boat sits sunken in the channel
he had been accustomed too in the military. It changed him, now he leads a very simple life running his Fish Camp that has become lost in time.

Now it's more important to him that he takes in those who need a second look. A chance to live peacefully. Yes his place is run down, but it is orderly. The rules to staying there, and his vigilance, have cleaned up the social problems while maintaining the simple ambience that keeps him there.

The boat that rest along the channel entering this secluded spot from open water has a story. It's
My spot nestled in between the ancient oaks
history takes it down to South America, and many far off ports that echo some of the life of the proprietor. Doing battle with the Coast Guard, they wanted it removed and the channel cleared, he has for now succeeded in his efforts to declare it part of the soul of his serene establishment.

Life doesn't move fast here, in fact it stands still. What little turn over there is in residents is insignificant. I took the only vacant spot in the circle for my one nights stay that only happened because a friend from 40 some odd years ago is staying there for a good part of the year. Because I was a friend of someone respected in
A questionable camp bathroom with more abandoned boats lined up
the park, check in was limited to my first name, and little questioned about my plans or ability to accept the rules. Because they were ill equipped to handle a coach with large holding tanks, requiring me to buddy up with my friend to empty my tanks then relocate to my parking spot, I got a sizable discount on my nights stay.

It's very clear the owner is more interested in maintaining a caliber of  people that suit his personality than in making as much profit as the market will bear. All I needed was a chance to visit for the evening with my old friend, empty my full waste tanks and refill my fresh water tank, and a quiet spot to get a good nights sleep. Mission accomplished, and very well I might add.

Old dilapidated RV's are still home to someone
History is an interesting hobby. Life was different in the old days, and if you're lucky you can stumble across places like this hidden away from the fast pace of modern society. It was a winding narrow little road that took me 5 miles away from the modern life of suburbia and stip malls. I kept my fingers crossed that there would be space enough to get me turned around when it was time to leave.  It was close, and I had to be careful not to clip any low hanging branches as I weaved my way through a campground that was built back when RV's amounted to  small little spartan trailers with only the essentials in the way of conveniences.

If you can look past the rundown demeanor of places like this, accept that this is all some people can afford, you might just realize that it isn't such a bad way of living after all. Peace and serenity trump glitz and glamor every time. If your mind is happy, your body will adapt. That said, this morning I packed up and headed on down the highway to the next Walmart Super Center as I continue my travels.  I think that's a McDonald's across the highway, time for a burger.