Boondocking the Last Great Frontier

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Published on The Doomstead Diner July 12, 2017

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As regular readers of the Diner know, I recently purchased a Stealth Van, a used 1999 Ford Conversion Van that I have christened SaVannah.  Over the last few weeks, I have been modifying and equipping SaVannah for the necessities of Living On The Road, aka HOMELESS without a domicile but still solvent enough to afford a vehicle to live in.  This is something I am well experienced with, I lived for almost 7 years in my Freightliner tractor while working as an Over the Road (OTR) Trucker.  You can read the Over the Road series if you are interested in more details of the OTR Trucker life.

The objective of this series of posts will be to examine how to live in a given neighborhood in a Stealth Van, staying Under the Radar of the local Gestapo who generally do not look favorably on people who live in their vehicles, unless of course those vehicles are practically brand new super expensive Class 1 Diesel Pusher RVs and are parked for the night in for-pay Campgrounds with full hookups for electricity, water and sewer.  You get less respect if you are using a Class 3, especially if it is older, and in terms of the RV crowd, you're down in the Boondocks if you're down to Van size.  Car campers aren't really considered part of the RV crowd overall, and if you LIVE out of your car, you're a HOMELESS person, not a "camper".

The neighborhood I chose for this experiment and series of articles is my own, the Matanuska-Susitna River Valley of Alaska.  Peculiarities of this neighborhood make some things easier than you would find possible in the Lower 48, but overall most of the techniques I will describe will work anywhere in the FSoA. Just the Scenery won't be quite so nice most of the time. lol. The main question to be answered though is about the MONEY!  How much does it cost you to live this way in current FSoA FRNs each week, and how much do you need in Investment Capital to begin living this way?  I will be detailing all the costs to get started and the weekly budget.

First caveat in this respect is that this is NOT a lifestyle that can persist once TSHTF in earnest and Gas is either not available or too expensive to afford.  However, when that day does finally arrive, EVERYBODY will be thoroughly FUCKED and you might actually be better off than most if you at least still have one full tank of gas and a good Bugout Location picked out in advance to park your mobile home permanently.  That is a whole other topic though, for this one we are just analyzing how to live mobile while some semblance of BAU is running in the Western countries.  Not just the FSoA, I include the Great White North of Canada in this and Oz also.  Also Western Europe, although over there gas is rapidly becoming unaffordable for much of the population, particularly in the southern PIGS nations of Portugal, Italy, Greece & Spain.  In the main though, we are talking about Amerika, the Land of Happy Motoring.

Another important consideration here in analyzing this methodology is that it is mostly restricted to Single people, and usually Males.  There are a few Females who pursue this lifestyle, just as there are a few OTR women out there driving the Big Rigs and just as there are a few women haunting the Collapse Blogosphere.  Statistically speaking though, it's a small percentage in all cases.  Couples are plausible, at least if you can stand to be with your Significant Other in a confined space all the time.  I know of few couples who can manage that over the long haul. lol.  Trucker Marriages with both on the road have a horrendous life expectancy.  Beyond that,  once you have kids, the whole paradigm becomes extremely dicey to pursue.  It's not IMPOSSIBLE, but it is orders of magnitude more difficult.  You have to Homeschool obviously, and a kid confined to a vehicle sized abode is generally not a very happy kid.  Then you have Child Protective Services to deal with as well.  It's about the same I suppose as trying to take a child into an off grid living situation on a fixed Doomstead, with a few extra Knuckleballs thrown in.  Or Yachties who take their kids circumnavigating on a small sailboat.  I have run into all these types over the years, but they are exceedingly rare, they are outliers. It is also important to note that I am NOT in fact Homeless and living in SaVannah!  I avoided this potential outcome when I got my SS Bennies and won my Workman's Compensation case.  However, I lived in desperate fear of this outcome for 7 months before the first check from SS was deposited into my account.  Each night I had nightmares I would end up as a Homeless Cripple Freezing to Death on the Streets of Palmer, Alaska © .  Fortunately for me as a Doomer, I HAD enough Savings to carry me through this period, most people in Amerika do not.  60% of people have less than 1 month in savings to carry them through hard times, much less make it for 7 months.  My scum sucking bottom feeder lawyer told me more than half of his clients ended up Homeless before they ever saw an award from WC, and many of course never saw one.  You can be off the cliff in the Blink of an Eye, all it takes is an injury at work, a car accident or a debilitating illness like Cancer.  In all of those cases also, Medical Bills can and usually will play a large part in bankrupting you.  If you do not protect yourself, the "social welfare net" will NOT protect you in the FSoA.  You too will become a Homeless Person, an an early victim of the Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

My close call with this outcome however makes me very aware of the problem so many in our failing Industrial Civilization now have, and it is a lesson I will never forget even after I pass into the Great Beyond.  In my writings, these are the people I really write for, even though they mostly are not here to read the stuff.  If you are that far off the cliff, it's unlikely you are spending much time on the computer surfing doom, although it is possible to do as this series is intended to demonstrate.

Before we go on the Journey though, one more caveat.  Although I intend for this series to be an accurate depiction of events, they may not always occur in the order in which they happened.  I may shuffle things around some for the purposes of the narrative.  I may fictionalize some names and places so as to preserve anonymity to an extent for myself and for others I might encounter along the way.  It should however be a fairly accurate rendition of living the life of a Boondocker.

What IS a Boondocker? It's not the original meaning of the word "Boondocks", which is where "Boonies" comes from as in "I grew up in the Boonies".  When people say that, they mean they grew up in the "sticks", some backwater place where most if not all the people were poor and just getting by.  In recent years though, Van Dwellers glommed the term, and what they mean by Boondocking is parking your van for the night in places that cost you no money to do it.  Sometimes these places are legal, other times they are not.  The more rural the area you are in, the more places you can generally find which are at least quasi-legal and that of course is what is going to make my little adventure quite a bit easier than if I was doing it in NY Shity for example.  However, I DID live in my Astro Van for 6 months on the streets of Manhattan, a stones throw from Wall Street and you can do it there too.

I'm also not going to STRICTLY Boondock for the week.  I'll take a couple of planned nights in For-Pay campsites too, for a variety of reasons I will detail as we get to them.  What you are looking at here is a total Weekly Budget, and if you can afford some more comfortable nights in a pay for parking and services campsite, that's GREAT!  I could afford every night this way right now, but then I wouldn't have a Boondocking article to write, it would be a review of Campsites which are a dime a dozen on the RV websites.  The plan for the week currently is for 2 out of the 7 nights to be in for pay campsites, the other 5 will be Boondocking.

Finally before we actually get out on the road here I need to make a distinction between 2 different types of Boondocking and Van Dwelling in general.  One type is what I would call "Local" Boondocking.  This is done all in one general neighborhood where you probably USED to have a McMansion before you were laid off, your UE Bennies ran out and the bank Foreclosed on the mortgage.  All your ties are still to that neighborhood though, it's what you know.  That gives you something of an advantage in terms of finding good boondocking locations.  You "hang out" in this location, you don't cruise the whole country all the time.

The other great advantage of Local Boondocking is that you don't have to be entirely self-contained in a Van (and maybe a trailer).  You can lease a Storage Unit, and in my week of Van Dwelling here I will be utilizing my Storage Unit quite a bit I imagine.  The storage unit allows you to keep a lot more stuff (including food preps) than you could possibly keep in a van without ridiculously cluttering it up.  Also there are Seasonal changes to handle.  You don't need to be carrying heating equipment around every day in the summer, nor do you need all those layers of winter clothes.  You don't need the fans and the air conditioner if you spring for one of those in the Winter.  You don't need to carry nearly any food preps, just what you will eat over the next day or two.  When you are out Over the Road you have no storage facitlity for all you would like to have with you all the time, so this is a much more difficult paradigm to pursue long term.  You might travel fairly far and wide, but you always need a Home Base of some sort as a Nomad.  Even the old time H-Gs returned each year to a known location for a Summer Gathering with other tribes of Nomads.  My Home Base as a Stealth Van Dweller is my 24/7 Storage Unit facility, which costs me $40/mo.  That's a LOT cheaper than renting an apartment!  I do have one of those too though, just not using it this week except for occasional cheats if I forgot to bring something along. lol.

OK!  Now with the Preamble done and all the Caveats and Disclaimers made, let's get ON THE ROAD Boondocking the Matanuska-Susitna River Valley of Alaska, My Hometown.  Where will we BEGIN this adventure?  There can be ONLY ONE place to begin.  The Walmart Parking lot in Wasilla.

3 Responses to Boondocking the Last Great Frontier

  • Jeff says:

    The "original original" source of "boondock" is the Spanish-American War – boondock comes from Filipino/Tagalog word bundok which means "mountains/hills".  

    Basically we adopted it because when the Spanish-American War became the Filipino-American War (we broke our promise of granting the independence and decided they were going to be a colony – basically 1 month into the war – a lot of similarities to Iraq BTW), Filipinos started fighting the US Army, guerrila-style, retreating to the "bunkdok" and drawing in US Army troops to massacre them.  The "boondocks" became assocated as a remote, foreboding and dangerous place because of this.  In response, the US Army rounded up all the women and children they could find (who were relatives of the guerrillas), and put them into the newest British invention used in the Boer War: the Concentration Camp.   Civilian casulaties are estimated to be 2M filipinos with similar results to Nazi Concentration Camps.

    • Hugh Culliton says:

      Good points.  I've always found your Spanish-American War to be facinating. The interplay of empire, business interests, the role of the press – it all parallells many incidents both historic and contemporary.   Britian might have aquired her empire in a fit of absentmindedness, but as least "owned it" as Dr Phil might say.  However, America's tried to pretend to herself that she's not an empire since 1812.  

  • Hugh Culliton says:

    Every time I read about the shit-show that is modern American medical "care", the more grateful I am for our messed-up Canadian system!  



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