It’s time for a little update that has more information than a social media post. We have settled into Quartzsite, Arizona, for the next few weeks. I post more regularly on Facebook and Instagram than I do here, and I often use the hashtag #vanlife. Lately, however, I have been watching more closely what gets posted with that hashtag. If you are planning on giving up your permanent residence and moving into a van full time, please do not use this hashtag as an example of what you can expect.
Recently I saw a picture of a young girl lounging in her bed with the back doors to the van opened. The scene showed snow-topped mountains in the background. She wore light blue socks with matching lounge pants and hoodie, and she was sipping a hot beverage from her Santa mug. Beautiful matching curtains draped the back doors, and the bedsheets matched to the screen. A faux fur blanket under her feet completed the romantic illusion.
I appreciate a well-staged photo as much as the next girl, but if you are living in a van full time, creating a screen like this is a lot of work. And not a fair representation of life. We live in a Stepvan with a 30-gallon water tank. We can realistically get five days out of that tank. That means washing while standing in your modern shower with a big bowl of water you boiled on the stove, even though you have on-demand hot water. On-demand can waste up to a gallon of water down the drain before it gets hot, and with only 30-gallons, that is not an option. This limited water supply also means clean underwear every day, but you are wearing your, not light blue, pants for days. And, no way are you wasting $1.50 on a washer and another $1.50 on a dryer for that big faux fur blanket at every laundry stop. As a side comment, if you are in the mountains, water freezes. Water, water, water, you have no idea how hard it is to get and how critical it is to your life – until you are dealing with 30-gallons of it at a time. We have a composting toilet, but if you have an RV toilet, forget boondocking in the desert. And really, who wants to deal with a black water tank.
I digress, back to life on the road, we have used a couple of websites during our travel that share information on welcoming places to stay. We use the App iOverlander – a non-profit project run by volunteers that share the experiences of travelers that went before you of local areas. Free Camping sites is also a community-driven site, with many free camping spots. By sharing camping information freely, travelers spend less time researching and more time knitting. 😊
Arizona is very welcoming to boondockers. Quartzsite, in particular, has made themselves a destination spot for folks like me. January to March, homes on wheels outnumber permanent houses. The climate here is dry with moderate temperatures, and the town itself has a ton of options for camping. The surrounding area has plenty of well-marked federally operated land that is free for boondocking. This part of the country has five areas that offer no services but are free; you just need to register with the campground host on-site. Free sites are limited to 14 days in a 28 day period, but for a nominal fee, some of these sites have limited access to water and dumping.
We have been filling our tank in town for just $2, but you still need to deal with dumping it, also a paid service in town. Some areas will allow the dumping of greywater; others will not. We don’t put chemicals into our holding tank; however, you can’t just dump wherever you like. After a couple of weeks, we gave in to the call for unlimited water and checked into an RV park. For a 30 day stay, the fee was only $200. Make no wonder, so many retirees pack it up and head here for the winter. Where else can you get a place to stay for $200 a month? The parks are full of all kinds of rigs, from $300,000 motor homes to tents. We have also experienced families living in parks like this. Due to personal circumstances – living in a campground has afforded them a safe and inexpensive place to raise their family, for the time being. One of the advantages of living in the south is being able to live non traditionally, without the fear of freezing to death.
Places like Quartzsite have opened their community to travelers, offering them a safe, warm place for the winter; and catering to their creative side by providing activities for ideal hands and minds. Most campgrounds have community buildings where people can play cards, darts, learn a new yoga move, or carve for the first time. Who knew? I am still working through where my ideal mind needs nourishment. And while I do that, I knit socks.
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