HAVE YOU SEEN ALL THE ADS ENCOURANGING YOU TO ?Go RVing??
There is always a picture shown of an RV parked in a scenic camping area ? beside a campfire, among rocks that shout climb me, by a lake, at sunset, with not another camper in sight. Can it really be this good? Or is adopting the RV lifestyle more likely to see you parked in an RV ?resort? close enough to hear your neighbour snoring?
We decided we liked the ad-life better and went out to find it. And guess what! Not only does it exist but most scenic camping is much cheaper than what many RV campgrounds need ? in fact, in many cases the best is still free! Well, I guess that depends on what you think is ?best?.
If a swimming pool is more appealing to you than a swimming hole or if you?d rather watch moviestars on TV than shooting stars in a black night sky, maybe an RV resort is more appealing to you than these photos of free camping finds in Utah, California and Texas. Our road trips are more about ?exploring new places? than staying in one location. We?re always looking for new scenery, another park, a new trail to hike or a new area to explore.
So far, most of our adventures have been concentrated in Texas, Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. We?ve looked for and found the most amazing free scenic camping in all these states.
We check out the back roads everywhere we go and have discovered many wonderful out-of-the way scenic camping areas with unrivaled views. And guess what! The price is always right.
Who am I and what do I know? Since this is my first contribution to the magazine, I feel as though some sort of introduction would be nice.
To celebrate becoming an empty nester and the arrival of a new millennium, in July of 1999 my partner, Randy, and I decided to follow a dream, quit our jobs, put everything in storage and just take off ? to points unknown. I had a vision of living like a turtle with my home on my back, having all that I need with me, slowly moving down the road to see where it leads.
Looking for an adventure, we found a lifestyle.
For $4,000 we bought a 1986 Roadtrek RV (a van-size RV or in RV lingo a Class-B) and spent another $1,500 to get it ready. In June of 2000 we set out for our big adventure ? a year on the road.
This was to be a ?once in a lifetime? experience. Or at least that?s how we referred to it until we realized it?s actually no more expensive to travel ? the way we did it ? than to stay at home. Since then we?ve replaced the original Roadtrek with a slightly newer model, and have had three other extended adventures to the Southwestern States, each of them five months in duration, as well as numerous shorter more local trips ? and we don?t plan to quit any time soon.
Our total cost for 12 months on the road in 2000 was less than US$7,200. This includes all costs associated with the trip for two people ? gas, food, camping, entertainment, entry fees, repairs, phone cards, and travel-medical insurance. The other extended trips in 2004, 2006 and 2008 showed a similar trend. (I have a bookkeeping background so I kept meticulous records.) We were able to eat well, keep traveling rather than plop ourselves down in one location and see everything we wanted. Even at today?s prices, on this year?s trip our total expenses for two people averaged less than US$1,100 per month.
Free and inexpensive camping has kept us on budget. Without it, even at a conservative estimate of $15 per night, using pay-campgrounds would increase our monthly costs by $465 per month (almost 50%).
We are relentless shunpikers. What?s that? I first came upon this word in 2004 while sitting on the beach in Port Aransas, Texas doing a crossword puzzle. Webster?s dictionary defines shunpiking as the practice of avoiding super highways, especially for the pleasure of driving on back roads. It quickly became a favourite word describing our preferred way of vacation RV travel.
We prefer boondocking. As far as we?re concerned that?s why our RV has a battery and holding tanks. Over nice years and more than 80,000 kilometres I think our RV has been ?hooked up? for no more than five nights.
We?re not traveling to go and sit in one spot. We?re going to see and experience as much as we can at a pace that keeps the trip relaxing but at the same time, exciting and spontaneous. With every trip we take, we?re thrilled to have discovered this style of RVing. Because of all the free and affordable camping available to us we can afford to explore this great continent on which we live. For this we are truly grateful.
Marianne Edwards and her partner Randy Sturrock began their affordable
adventures when they discovered RVing nine years ago.
When not on the road, they make their home in southern Ontario.
Marianne is the author of the Frugal Shunpiker?s Guides to RV Boondocking
and can be reached at www.frugal-rv-travel.com.
Ways To Find The Best FREE Scenic Campsites:
- Go to where the best natural scenery exists.
- Go to National and State parks, mountains, seashores, canyons, forests, lakes, deserts and grasslands.
- Remember that nature didn?t draw the park boundaries and that some of the most scenic areas in the American southwest and Canadian north are not included in the parks.
- Public lands such as National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the USA and Crown Land in Canada often border the parks. Who owns public land? Are you a member of the public? Then YOU do!!! Why not camp on the land that has been set-aside for you through your tax dollars?
- Learn to identify and watch for small road signs that indicate you are entering public lands.
- Never drive by a National Forest office, BLM office, or area Visitor Centre without stopping. While there, ask for free maps of the area, points of interest, directions, rules and road conditions.
- Most forests and BLM lands have inexpensive campgrounds with minimal facilities. However they also have free dispersed camping and this is usually where the best scenic view camping is found. Dispersed camping locations will not be marked on the maps. You need to ask the staff about their personal favourite dispersed camping areas.
- Be willing to drive a few miles on dirt roads.
- Be prepared for boondocking (dry camping).
- You will be limited somewhat by your vehicle. A small RV, truck camper, or even a car and tent will always give you more options than pulling or driving a larger unit.
- Camp in existing pre-used sites; look for fire rings or other evidence of usage. Since others before you also wanted the best scenic camping, the site you find will likely offer the best view as well as some degree of privacy.
- Count on staying longer than you intended. Why? Because your campsite has you feeling like you?re the guy in the Go RVing ads.