Spring free!

Today, as the spring has come to full bloom, I find my self alone like I am most of my time. I am working in A very small town just over the Idaho border into Oregon called Huntington. The railroad has been the only industry here for ever it seams; other then 1 gas station, 1 bar and 1 liquor store until recently. A new marijuana farm has been cultivated and two dispensaries created. I can only think that Idaho’s population has some sort of hand in supporting this new industry. I can’t imagine this town partaking in enough weed to support two dispensaries. I have chosen a sweet little spot off Washington street to the east of Town between Huntington and Spring Recreation Area. I believe it is private property owned by a vacation home rental. The site manager at Springs Rec. Area had told me about this place and I see there is no one to care that I stay. Others come and go fishing the large Stream nearby and there are no posted signs. My phone died today. The service is horrible in this small valley. My phone is constantly searching for better service. I am trying to stay connected and then darkness. It forces me to look up out of my Electronlic stuper to find, again, the beauty that sorounds me. I decided a walk through this wilderness is long over due. As I open the van door I hear so much. The birds first, they are singing to me. Suddenly the wind picks up, barely enough to feel. The trees tell me to take in the smells and my mind awakens with the aroma of the world around me blossoming. I’m not from Oregon although I have been here a few times. I’m not familiar with life here. So many new flowers and plants I haven’t taken the time to notice before. The stream is quite high and the sound becomes louder as I get closer. Sadly people have been here before and the Stream is bubbling with some sort of detergent in this little cove I thought perfect for fish. Despite the pollution I was able to see a small fish nontheless. Staying idle by the bank. Beautiful! I am always impressed when I walk amongst the wonders of our world and yet I get sucked away into this digital creation we have built. Living in a van continually disrupts this in so many ways. And I am thankful that I’m forced to look out and around. 

Another Perk: freedom feels free when I choose to open my eyes and walk amongst our lands. 

Dealing with it. 

In my last article I wrote about taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes they look like disadvantages until I spin them into advantages. 

My work Railroaded me again. I guess it comes with the territory. I wrote about riding my motorcycle home to Utah from Washington. I left my van in Hermiston Oregon. It’s sits on the Columbia River Gorge. The border of Washington USA. I received a Text from the Forman mid off cycle. “We will not meet in Hermiston OR next week. We will meet in Alamogordo NM.” Can’t be much farther apart. My van is on the Border of Washington I’m in Utah and I have to be near the border of Texas in five days. Most would see a problem with this but my mind starts to see potential. 
My wife and I have needed some time away. She likes roadtrips. So we climbed in the Kia and she drove me to the van. 

We left hungry so we had to stop in the tiny town of Tremonton UT. Not being familiar, we decided to drive through town, then decide where to go. It was 11:30 and every where had empty parking lots. I was not feeling inspired. Until we found the edge of town and a Mexican food bus. A few cars parked around and we New we found the gem. 

Very cool concept. It was parked by a river. They also owned the building on the lot so you could eat in a brick and mortar. If you felt better about it or you could sit inside and experience the adventure. 

The food was alright. I wish I could say it was incredible but it was a bit bland honestly. The experience was awesome though. A little girl came in with her family. She was maybe 6 years old. She enters and says “Wow its fancy in here”. It was cool. It really felt like Old Mexico. 
We made a few more stops on the way. Including this awesome bridge. 

Once we arrived in Hermiston I dropped the trailer parked the car and we jumped into the van. Of to the river we went.Where I got to spoil my bride with a vanhome cooked meal. She also got a breakfast the next morning before we started the wild ride home. 

After we ate breakfast we hooked up the trailer and she followed me back through the Blue mountains in Oregon. We decided a detour to Idaho Falls where her Sister lived was in order. 
What a beautiful state Idaho is. The scenic road we took, Highway 20 from Mountain Home to Idaho Falls, was incredible. 

The best part was suddenly we had landed on the moon. 

It was a volcano and the lava was still preserved. Extremely harsh environment. Temps upwards of 150 degrees in the summer and deep snow in the winter. Jagged rock formations everywhere and the vegetation had just begun to grow again. 

My wife had work in the morning and my son had drivers ed at 6:00 am. With all our detours I wasn’t going to make it home that night. So we stopped at another historic point. Caught 3 hrs of sleep and finished the drive landing home right in time. 5:45am. Just enough time to gather my son and get him to school. 

Luckily I had the day to regroup before I had to continue on to New Mexico. That will be a couple more stories. As for now I will bid you farewell. Tomorrow I might tell you more. 

Overcoming life’s obstacles! Perk 9

In the article “Winning With Solar” I told you about the Solar System I had installed and tested best I could in the driveway of my vacation home. Before I set out into the wild unknowns of my work. 

I was excited to go back to Hermiston Oregon. It was one of the best boondocking experiences in my life. At Sand Staion you could park for free on the banks of the Colombia River Gorge. It had Bathrooms and picknic tables. 

There was a bit of Squatting going on. It looked like there was a potential problem starting to arise. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind it. I would bring beer back from work. I made friends with the locals and I knew for certain my things were safe. 

So with great excitement I got my Motorcycle ready to ride. 

I loaded it on the trailer. I filled the fridge with food and was ready to camp on the river. I was going to commute on my bike. There were a lot of dirt roads to explore after work if I had the Time. It sounded like I would. We were scheduled to work 2-11hr days and 5-10hr days. 

The drive out wasn’t bad. It took me about 9 hrs. I pushed 80mph the entire way. I left a little late so I arrived with only enough time to catch a bit of a nap before work started. I found out the first day that they changed our schedule to 6-12hr days. It was a long one. 

We were finally released. I had about an hour of daylight left. I hurried to the truck stop and got some propane. I was finally off to the camp site. It was getting pretty dark by the time I arrived to find out it was closed. Later I talked to the Park Rangers and found out it had been changed to a group only reservation site. My guess, the squatting got unmanageable. 

I drove over the river into Washington and parked on a ridge overlooking the river and Hermiston. It was beautiful.

I sleep there and drove the whole rig back to work the next morning. This wasn’t going to be the trip I expected it to be. The next day I spent all my spare time trying to find a good boondocking spot. All my resources came up empty. So I left the bike on the trailer in the parking lot at the work site. I dug into my old school car camping urban style knowledge. I spent the rest of my time sleeping at that truck stop. And driving two miles back and forth to work. LAME! 

It was comfortable though and the Utah Jazz were in the first round of the playoffs. I had court side tickets to every game right on my phone. The screen is kinda small though. I watched as the Jazz struggled. I cooked and cleaned staying warm while it was cold outside. My furnace ran quit a bit and it rained a lot. It was a good test on the Solar set up. On my way to Oregon I stopped and traded my battery in for a new one. But even new it was a little undersized at 55amp hrs to last through every night. There was two that killed the battery. The panel seemed to charge it through the day with out a problem. Even in the rain. 

On the last day I was informed that we would be right back in Hermiston on our next work cycle. So when I was finally released I hooked the trailer back up. That truck stop was kind enough to let me leave my entire rig in their back lot. I off loaded the bike bought some water and rode home. It worked out well. I got to ride after all. It was a long 560 mile 50 degree ride. My smile was frozen on. 

Point is keep at what your doing. Life will never be what you expect but it will always entertain you. 

Perk 9: in a van you will have every thing you need to overcome all life’s obstacles. 

Winning With Solar 

Let’s talk power! I have owned this class B RV for 16 months. It’s a sprinter Van. I’ve spent 288 nights living in it and 55,000 miles. 
My biggest struggle is the electricity. Of all the nights I’ve stayed in the RV, I’ve been plugged in maybe a dozen. If I stay in the same spot for more then three days at a time, my Blue Top Optima 55 amp hr battery will be Dead! Dead! Dead! I’m surprised it still works. Honestly it shouldn’t. I highly recommend it. 

My favorite way of living is to find a great place to park the van and commute to work, the gym, groceries and so on with my Motorcycle.
I found that it was almost impossible though. After three days I had to drive the van around just to get some battery juice. I didn’t have enough miles mid work cycle to get a good charge on the system. So it became a real hassle. 
I do have an onboard 2000w Onan generator. For some odd reason it would take hours to get just enough charge to last through the night. I was using all the propane and again I was driving anyway to fill my propane tanks. 
I decided I wanted solar. I had heard great things. So I started rummaging through the still uncertain info all over the World Wide Web. It was a lot of math and a lot of reading in another language, electrical. Best I could come up with was add everything you have together and then divide it. That equaled a lot. Never would everything run all at once, Nor would it ever be the same combination. By the math, I would need 10,000 watts of solar. It was never going to happen. 
I put on my common sense cap, turned it backwards and got to thinking. If my battery has always lasted 24hrs then I just need enough solar to recharge that battery in a few hours. That way if the sky feels moody or if I’m using some power during the day my system would have plenty of time to charge my battery by night. 
Suddenly I only needed 100w. My mind drifted back to an old man living on the banks of the Columbia River Gorge in a little camp site called Sand Station. He said to me. “All these young kids are always getting so many panels. They don’t need that much. It’s a waste. All a person needs is 100 watts. It’s plenty.” 
I found the Renogy 100 watt plug and play system. The price was on point, the 700+ reviews with 4.5 stars was definitely on point. The fact that, if the old man was incorrect, I could add another 300 watts to it was on point. 
So I gambled. Knowing nothing but, I know not what I’m doing. I closed my eyes and click. I sent it to my dad for his opinion. Yes I’m almost 40 but he is my dad. He will always have good advise for me. 

He text me back. “To late. You will have to spend your birthday money on something else.” With a picture of the order screen and shipping info. He bought it for me. YA! Now I really had nothing to lose. 
It arrived three days later. I was so excited I opened it then and there. It was very well packaged. I was shocked at the quality as well. 

I figured I would put the brackets on real quick. Next thing I knew the ladder was out I was standing on my van panel in hand trying to figure out where I was going to mount it. I had a bunch of ideas before I had received it. In hand they weren’t making sense. So right in the middle it went. Holes were drilled, wires were fed, screws got screwed. Silicon got messy. It really was so simple. All that worry and fear not knowing if I could do it my self just lifted away. It was a cake walk. 

Bam! 2 hours later with the help of my other Dad, I had power. Ya I’m lucky, God gave me two great fathers and many Grandfathers to look up too. I didn’t know how much power though. I drove around for 6 days working. It was a different situation and I really had to drive every day. So I couldn’t tell what my panel was doing. 

Finally I got my scheduled days off so I left the van in my driveway unplugged, the fridge on, the furnace thermostat normal. Just like a regular day. Three days later the battery was fully charged. Ya it is working. 
I needed to know how well though. So first light the next day I turned the Fantastic Fan on high. It would usually kill the battery in three hours. It was rainy and overcast. Three hours later all four LED lights for battery condition are still lit. 6 hours still lit. It took ten hours to drain the battery down to the last LED. Fan and fridge running. Now I was impressed. 
I kept the fridge going that night and the furnace on just so I could make sure the battery was drained by the morning. Yes I know this is bad for my battery. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times it had died already though. That is why I was going down the whole solar path in the first place. 
That next morning I went out 2 hours after first light. Again it had been raining all morning and there was a lot of cloud cover. But all four LEDs were lit. It charged in two hours. Again I was impressed!
The website said it would charge a 50 amp hr battery in three hours with optimal sun light. My light was poor and it charged them In two. 
I can’t wait to take my bike and new solar equipped van back to Sand Station again next week. I can’t wait to use it for real and see if my tests were correct in telling me I have more power then I need. Maybe that old man will be there again too. I would like to tell him he was right. 

Surprise in the Mojave Desert. 

More of perk 4

Living in a van while working allows me to better understand the places my company sends me to work. While my coworkers live in hotels I’m out discovering this world. Every place has its own bit of history. It’s own secret that is well loved within its community. 
Mojave is no different. I found a nice lady on a web site I’ve decided to join. I wrote about it in my previous article. “New Friends In Many Places.” The Site is called Boondockers Welcome


I’m staying on her property for 7 nights. I work during the day. 1 day I was instructed to take off due to federal DOT hours of service. 
The lady I was staying with has one of her sons living in another house on her property. He takes care of her. 
This man invited me to go to the local Exotic Cat House with him. I thought exactly what you are thinking. Um, no thanks, it’s not really my thing. He laughed and replied “it’s not like that. They have a bunch of Lions, Lepards, Lynx and Tigers. They are all species that are going extinct. The place is trying to breed them and reintroduce them back into the wild.” It’s called EFBC’s Feline Conservation Center
Of course I had to take advantage. It was very cool. Surprisingly we were greeted by Peacocks as we entered the park. Very pretty!  
The place was small but had a lot of cats and there Habitats weren’t terrible. Especially knowing that it’s not a zoo. It operates mainly on donations and volunteers. They are just hoping to save some animals for future generations to know. 
Again I got to experience something most never would. I am very grateful to live in a van.

More of Perk 4

Having opportunitys to experience the secrets of the world. 

New friends in many places. 

     With all of the traveling I do and all the trouble I deal with finding places to park. I decided to try out a website I have been watching for the last three months called Boondockers Welcome

     It’s based on the premise that RV owners host other RV owners at no expense. The registration costs $25 a year if you don’t host and $20 a year if you do. Once your signed up you have the opportunity to message, via the site, over 800 hosts throughout the world. Mainly in the United States. 

     Hosts describe what they have available. Parking, size, power, water, sewer, wifi, etc.. they also leave a bit of info so you can see what kind of people they may be. Picture are also available for most host places. 

     A bio is also required for guests so the host can get a feel if they are willing to entertain. 

     Then it’s all about the reviews. Hosts and guest get to build a reputation. The better the host the better discount they can earn for future years membership. The better the guest the more likely you will find a host. 

     I was a bit Leary because I don’t get to choose where I’m going. So I watched the map for a few months to see if it would even work for me. This week I decided that $25 could be spent in worse ways, so I took the plunge. 

     I Contacted the nearest host to my work site, 14 miles away. She ended up being an elderly lady that has a bit of property and a lot of life lived to share. It took about 24 hrs for her to respond and I had a place to park including power and water. To my surprise after arrival I was also offered WIFI at no expense. That wasn’t in the bio. 

        If it doesn’t work out the rest of the year, I’m sure this week will be worth the entire $25 fee alone. Thank you Boondockers Welcome and thank you to my knew friend Lois. 

The Struggle Can Be Real

When a person decides to live in a vehicle life can be turned upside down in an instant. There are so many things that can derail the sweet harmonic balance that life has when it’s simple. Like a mechanical failure. It’s nice that things are typically cheaper living on the road. If you choose the right vehicle. A breakdown will ultimately handicap you though. I am working in Los Angles California and my van has become ill. Sprinter owners listen up this article is for you. CHANGE THE HARMONIC BALLANCER PULLEY BEFORE 100,000 miles. My rig has 111,000 and I hear a little vibration under the hood. Now I’m a pretty crappy mechanic but I can and will turn wrenches a lot more than I want to admit. So I decide since my serpentine belt is wearing a bit I will change it and and check the pulleys to find which is vibrating. My guess is the idler pulley. I open the hood and it’s as tight as I remember. I can’t really see in well enough to figure out how to use the tensioner pulley. I know it’s a lot of pulling going on right now. If your not getting it bare with me. So after about an hour of talking with a complete stranger. Offering advise for no reason. I decide I gotta go. So I close the hood and leave the O’rileys auto parts store. New belt in the back instead of spinning in delight under my hood. In LA it’s illegal to live in your vehicle. Ya you can pitch a tent on the sidewalk but can’t live in your car, go figure. So I’m staying at a Camping World parking lot under my Good Sam membership about 18 miles (1 hour) from the job site. When I arrive at my pavement paradise I open the hood again and get some chain lube that I keep on hand for my Motorcycle chain. I was missing the bike pretty bad but glad to have the lube. I crawl under the motor and start spraying. The noise goes away WHALA. It’s a pulley for sure. Ok, good, easy fix. So I create an amazing meal and find some sleep hidden in the bed I keep inside the van. I get up in the morning, drive to work. No noise, awesome. I watch some You Tube and find out I need a tool (torques wrench) for the tensioner pulley. So after work back to O’rileys I go, buy the tool and as easy as landing on the moon the belt is off. Whew now for the squeaky wheel. As I say “the squeaky wheel gets… replaced!” But they are all great. I can’t check the Harmonic pulley though because it’s attached directly to the motor. So I wiggle and turn but the pulley doesn’t. So without the belt on I start the motor. To my surprise the rattle is still there CRAP! So it may not be a pulley. Now I’m thinking to my self am I going crazy? Has it always sounded like this? Am I just now noticing it? I climb under again and spray a real lubricating penetration spray on the harmonic pulley. It goes quite. Ok I flip the new belt on and ya baby back in business. Off to the parking lot of campers I go. Luckily that sleep was still hiding under my pillow. I woke, drove to work and the rattle was back. So Google I go. To read horror story after horror story of $6,000-$10,000 repair bills if this noisy pulley falls off. I guess it’s a for sure thing too. As well as a pretty good story about a guy that knew a lot more then me trying to change it himself on the road. Well needless to say I didn’t leave work that night. In fact I stayed for 3 more days working and trying to find a shop, $387 labor, the part $243, a tow $587 for 13 miles. WHAT! No way. So I looked into options. AAA wanted around $200 for 2 tows a year at 200 miles. My insurance doesn’t provide towing on the RV policy. Good to know now. Neither does the Verizon roadside assistance I have. So I called my Good Sam peeps. They told me that if I pay $89 for a new member deal I could get unlimited tows for unlimited miles to the nearest shop plus lockout, gas, tire, and road side mechanic. And it would be active in 24hrs from payment. Well cool I said while I busted out the crowbar and went to town on my wallet slipping my debit card out again. I had to find sleep two more nights anyway (my day job was not done). I was hoping that sleep was still hiding in my covers. As laid my self down to rest I found it in plenty. So now I get to leave my humble home to some strangers in a wild city while they muck around her inner workings. I hope they treat her with respect as she is a wonderful home. Luckily I get the opportunity to fly off to my vacation home and see my loving family while my home is being repaired. If I was a man living in his van at all times I can’t imagine where else this story would go from here. I hope it’s the end of this one so I bid you farewell and sleep tight. 

Tips for life on the go. 

As I look back on this Vanlife experience. I think about a few tips and tricks I’ve used to make my experience a bit easier. In this article I will cover some mobile features. Links and apps that are great. Please keep in mind I am an IPhone owner. Most of this should work for any mobile devise. Some links may not work seamlessly. If not, search for the name and it should pop up. I do live in the United States so keep that in mind as well. 
One is an app I’ve found called Allstays Camp & RV. This app allows the user to filter the wanted search content and displays it on a map. Such as camp sites, rest stops, RV parks, RV stores/service, dump sites, ect.. The icons are displayed in a way that’s easy to see what your looking for. Once an Icon is clicked this app brings up info on that particular icon. I’ve been very impressed with how accurate this info is. Addresses, GPS location, phone numbers, brief descriptions such as a $$$$$ rating for price. $ $1-$11, $$ $12-$20 and so on. Some icons you can set parameters. The Walmart icon will allow you to see on the map view if it’s good for overnight parking. Not all are! I would call as well to make sure.  This app is a must in my opinion. It does cost but it’s cheap and it will save on fuel alone. With this app you should be able to find many better places then Walmart. Along with a map view you can search by state or use a search bar to enter a city. 
Next is a website I use a lot. It’s called Freecampsites.net. Awesome! It is not as accurate as Allstays. Some of the GPS locations and/or directions are a bit off. Some places are no longer a great place. This is user edited and has many comments by users. It will show free camping/Boondocking as well as pay sites. The green icons are free. Red are pay sites. Remember this is people posting what they know so use at your discretion and stay safe. 
Third is a website Called Boondockers Welcome. This is a site with a yearly subscription. It allows people stay on private property safely without persecution from the law. After you sign in you can search an area and find places. Email the owners of a particular place and start a dialogue about your needs and what they allow. At a fingertip you can see a lot of info before emailing. Such as if water is available or power. If the parking is level or large enough for your rig. Again comments and ratings are involved so you can make an educated decision. Remember please use with caution. Cost is $20/year for staying and hosting. $25/year to just find sites. 
Ok let’s move onto entertainment. I use Verizon for mobile and wifi. It is expensive but it is getting better. It’s not as much as satellite or as unsecured as open wifi networks. It allows free T.V. Streaming through there app called Go90. It’s great! As long as you have LTE, which really is almost everywhere, the streams are incredible. I watch NBA and NFL networks FREE with no Data charges. Check it out see if it will work for you. 
Another Game Changer is Netflix. They have announced that they will support downloadable content now. So I can grab an open WIFI connection such as a library, fast food or department store that provide this service free. Download a bunch of content to watch Data free later. AWESOME! Netflix does require a subscription but it is worth every dime for me. 
Now let’s talk GPS. Yes I use Apple maps. I also own a Garmin. MapQuest is an incredible app I also use often. It seams to give better spoken directions then Apple maps. It also allows the user to set up multiple points of interest. It makes creating a travel plan a breeze. It’s more user friendly then my Garmin as well so creating is done on the MapQuest app then entered into my Garmin for travel so I don’t Stream Data along the way. 
Last but not least. Passport is an app that displays the federal parks, monuments, historical sites, ect. by state. You can see what places our great government has set aside for us to enjoy. I also splurge on an All Access Pass that allows me entry into these great places with the flash of a card. It cost $80/year and worth every bit seeing how a National Park can cost $30+ to just get in. 
I hope this is useful. Please feel free to add anything you’ve found useful in the comment section. Enjoy life folks and travel safe. 

The other side. Perk 5

Well it’s been a while since my last blog. Sometimes the “Van Life” can get a little boring. Honestly I’ve had trouble thinking of way to engage my followers. You see the last two months I have been staying in the same spot in the same parking lot at the same motel in the same city, state, country. Its become mundane. Because my job is the reasons I travel I don’t have the luxury most free spirited van dwellers have. I can’t go where I want when I want. I’m lucky in the fact that I have work. A lot of the people I communicate with to learn tricks and tips don’t have steady incomes. Some in fact struggle to eat day to day. I found these people to be an absolute gold mine for info. More then a company involved in my project. I think that if the world spent a little more time talking to the people that are living out of the box they would gather a wealth of info that pertains to all walks, even themselves. For those that have been following my blog from the beginning. You know that I am a product of this life. As a stubborn, entitled young teen I chose to live amongst the people you may walk around daily afraid of what might happen. I chose to live in the depths of darkness. I was intrigued by the pain and hustle of the streets. It took me many years and honestly if it wasn’t for my strong roots and loving family. (How they still loved me I’m not sure) I would have died a long time ago. The fact is most of these people are great! Amazingly smart, hard working, loving and full of life. They understand that giving is more important then receiving. That is why the free forums and social media pages exist. All the free you tube videos you watch amazed that no matter what, someone was kind enough to tell you how to do what you need for free. I can only hope as our world transfers from the Industrial Age to the communication age we learn to love more as these people are paving the way to life lived not wasted. The next product you need tested or reviewed find someone who really needs it not a journalist but a real living person in need. Give them what you have. Let them use it. Give you advise on tweaking it for real working situations and let them tell you how to make it better. A good journalist can take all that and right your story later. Van Life perk 5: you will engage with people you never thought of before. And will be blessed like never before.