Life on the Open Road (April 2006 - May 2008)

The continuing saga of a single fulltime RVer who travels the western US. This is part one of my journey, from April 2006, when the blog started, to May 2008, when the blog continues at

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I have been a full-time RVer for 18 years, primarily "boondocking," camping free without hookups, in the Western US. I am connected electronically with the world via satellite TV, phone and internet. My batteries are charged solely by solar panels. I welcome your comments and emails.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Backlands of Yuma

RV parks soak up thousands of winter visitors, while the backlands absorb the odd hundreds. Those like us who are undisposed to the ordered lifestyle opt for the backlands.

In addition to the Yuma VFW and the state land around town, which we've already mentioned, there are lots of campable little nooks and crannies around the area.

Diana found this terrific piece of BLM land north of the Foothills. Again, all you need is a good map.

Three years ago, we spent months on Indian land along the All American Canal, while Randy built his trailer. A $45 fishing license is all that is required.

Ogilby Rd west of Yuma is another of our favorites, with great sunsets and access to world-class sand dunes.

This is John, a "compleat nomad," settled in at Yuma Lakes, another little hideaway of ambiguous ownership.

Clever Canadians cluster here in these two hideaways near the VFW.

Talking about boondocking in free places always moves Randy to poetry.


Way out West, we're deeply blessed
With lots of public land.
Come camp with me where parking's free
And sky curves down to sand.

Here you won't find the wealthy kind--
They camp in an RV park.
And that's okay in its own way,
But it lacks the wildness spark.

Cheerful codgers and artful dodgers,
And those of the gypsy brood,
From far and near make camp out here
In warm solitude.

Oh I'm content to dodge the rent
Till springtime lets me roam.
Come out and see my gal and me
In our backlands home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How Do Modern Nomads Celebrate Christmas?

With decorations and pot luck snacks on Christmas Eve in our "Winwam"

With a "Peoples' Performance" (PP), an instant show we whip up using our own talent

With terrific fireside companionship, and conversations that are spirited and fascinating.

On Christmas Day, our neighbors, the VFW, invited us to a combined pot luck dinner.

We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Randy Hosts WIN Christmas

Randy was more or less drafted to host our annual WIN Christmas and New Years gathering at the little piece of BLM land behind the Yuma VFW.

On the first day, he inspired his fellow nomads with his poem "The Magic of Motion."

The Magic of Motion

We’ve earned our dollars in white and blue collars.
Our taxes are paid and filed.
The kids are grown and on their own
And we’re hearing the call of the wild.

So we purchased a rig that’s not too big
To go where the tumbleweed goes.
We’ll chase our dreams with headlight beams
Before the horn of Gabriel blows.

We will roll like a stone away from the known,
Losing our moss in that stream
Where the bump and bumble of downstream tumble
Shapes rocks of splendor and gleam.

Seizing the day; we run out and play;
Hurry to the party and dance.
Awaken the urge to love and merge,
Giving cupid a sporting chance.

Clearing our head of hate and dread,
We drift ‘’til we’ve left them behind.
The winds of travel can blow and unravel
Those cobwebs from our mind.

Away from the cities, hassles and pities,
We range like the wolf and the bison,
Viewing stars at night without city light
And the sun on both horizons.

With relaxed intent, we move through events
Like the edge of a fast-moving knife.
So we road pioneers live three hundred years
In the span of a single life.

Life loves motion!— like waves love the ocean
And though our kids and kin fear the worst,
We polish our souls as radials roll
Down roads of the universe.

The human race are but dots in space,
But moving dots can burst into light.
Before we die, we will light the sky
As streaking meteorites.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Wonderland

The Yuma Foothills is a unique community, where you can buy a lot and either build a house, or live in your RV. This great idea has attracted 20,000 residents, mostly retired Snowbirds.

To drive around the Foothills is an inspiration. Even though it's a very individualistic idea, the residents manage to come together for all sorts of events and activities.

Those on 55th Street get together and dazzle everyone with their rendition of "The Night Before Christmas."

Some of the houses were decorated in great detail. It seemed like every surface was covered. This house had a ferris wheel!

This was Diana's favorite.

Even their dogs get decorated!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Settlers and the Nomads

That's us down there, parked on State Land near the Yuma Foothills, enjoying the solitude with Ron and Barbara.

Randy was so moved by the contrast of our parking spot, compared to those in the Foothills, that he was once again moved to poetry.

The Settlers and the Nomads

For 80,000 bucks
You can buy a Foothills square,
A lot to call your own,
And you can settle there.

Build yourself a castle
Or just a modest shed;
Live in solid comfort
Until you are dead.

But look! Out in the desert!
Those nomads ranging free
Paid only fifteen bucks
For a state land permit fee.

There's no right or wrong here,
Each finds his proper groove.
The settler wants to settle;
The nomad wants to move.

I've made my choice--I swear
So long as I have gonads,
I'll pay the 15 bucks,
And live among the nomads.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Brilliant Invention

Boondockers know that it pays to tilt your solar panels during the winter months. For most, this means a burdensome and dangerous trip up to the roof.

Our friend, Ron, decided to invent a way to raise and lower panels from the ground. To see the video, click on the black triangle.

He purchased gas struts from The Gambler in Quartzsite, but they can also be found at auto supply stores.

The springed latch is made for a screen door, and was purchased at Ace Hardware.

Ron is a very clever guy who regularly "tweaks" his rig for greater efficiency.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Happily Ever After

This German couple, Georg and Rhea, lead a fairy tale life, wandering the world in this specially engineered RV, a wonder of electronics and practical design.

Their story is even more fascinating than their rig. Early in their married life, they decided that their goal would be financial independence, then ceaseless travel in moderate climates.

They established a business of preparing scientifuc documents, working 6 days a week for 13 years, and saving every penny till at last they were free.

Now for the past 20 years, they have enjoyed themselves on several continents. Both are superbly healthy, likable, intelligent people, proving that the good life can be earned and lived.

We crossed paths with them at the Slabs. What a joy to interact with this couple who are doing it just right!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On the Fringes of the Slabs

On the northern fringe, Container Charlie has made his home and his mark. The container he lives in, complete with satellite dish, and the ground he has claimed, hint of his rather broad creative endeavors.

This is Moth, Charlie's friend, watchman and caretaker of the museum Charlie is building. His intent is to transform the junk all around him into art works.

Here are two completed projects, a van and a car, that powerfully express something.

The detail on the vehicles is just amazing.

Charlie was at work when we visited. Moth explained that he works one week and can then "coast" for a month. How many Americans could do that?

The Slabs chapter of Loners on Wheels occupies the southern fringe. They are a nationwide organization for RVing singles.

A hundred or so members cluster here in the winter, enjoying the company of one another and the fairly extensive facilities they have built, such as a kitchen, library, game room, dance floor, and a shelter. They safeguard their holdings in the summer by hiring a "slab sitter."

On the eastern fringe runs the beautiful Coachella Canal, lifeline for man, beast and crops. This is snowmelt from the Colorado mountains, clean, cool, revered almost to the point of worship, squabbled over, and meticulously subdivided by farmers all along its 123-mile course from the All-American Canal near Yuma through the Coachella Valley.

There's a big story here. Can you see it? Side by side, the old and the new concrete-lined canal, completed last year. Too much water was lost to seepage in the old canal.

We say goodbye to the Slabs for now. As Thoreau said, we leave for as good a reason as we came: We have many more lives to lead and cannot spare any more time for this one.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Slabs Amenities

Slabs residents come from all over, some fleeing high rent or high stress, others seeking adventure. They have in common the gumption to get mobile, and to come to this lonely, remote desert. Like people everywhere, however, they have the urge to connect, create, and contribute. Here are a few of their creations.

The library was begun by Peggy Sadlik, and is continued by her friend, Ron.

It's a fair library, well used, with hundreds of volumes neatly organized. Ron stays here 6 months of the year, sorting and tweaking without pay.

Here's a brush arbor reading room.

Ron has built a memorial to Peggy, who died 5 years ago.

And what's this? What's so brave about playing golf?

Dodging rattlesnakes and falling bombs! This desert course is laid out in the adjacent military bombing range.

The pet cemetery is considered a Slabs holy ground, respected by all and much visited.

Homemade tombstones tell heartfelt stories.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Into the Slabs

The Slabs are a real-life outland; a desert "Freedom Zone," more or less outside the rules and restraints of conventionality; an accidental experiment in anarchy. A hundred or so call it home, a few hundred more come visit in the winter.

To see it is to be underwhelmed, many hurry away on first encounter.

Yet Sean Penn came here to film "Into the Wild." CBS and ABC did segments on it. Several independent and foreign filmsters documented it. National Geographic came. High dollar motor homes and junkyard trailers are parked within shouting distance of each other.

What is so different about this one square mile of scrub desert, 3 miles east of Niland, CA? It is the most free place in America! The only permanent free campground in the Western world. You can, honest to God, come here and live rent-free for the rest of your life.

We love this bubbling cauldron of eccentricity and hope to give you a sense of it, here and in posts to come.

"The Hole" Certainly one of the most famous showers in the world. A warm stream falls into and runs out a concrete tunnel. Thousands have bathed here.

The protocol is to wait your turn out of sight.

One of the first things you see when entering the Slabs is Salvation Mountain!

It's made of mud, laced with straw, formed and painted; the major life work of Leonard Knight, a gentle religious guy. He did a different thing and the world beat a path to his door. He's been featured on CBS, ABC, and National Geographic, as well as in "Into the Wild."

Gateway to an alternative world. Other than this guard shack, only concrete slabs remain as evidence of a once bustling marine base.

You'll also see this stage, called "The Ranch," in the Penn movie. The singer featured in the movie is "Insane Wayne," who was brought from jail to perform his Slab song. Every Saturday night locals perform. Spotlights and amplifiers are solar/battery powered.