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Old 02-16-2016, 08:27 AM   #1
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Interstate-specific boondocking strategies?

Iím starting this thread to accumulate Interstate-specific boondocking strategies and success tips. (There is an existing B-Van child forum on boondocking, but that discussion is weighted toward technical factors - battery limitations in particular).

Itís been said many times that a properly-outfitted Interstate can go to, and stay in, places that regular RVs and trailers canít touch. I got a reminder of this last week when I asked on the Air Forums primary Boondocking forum about options for a particular Texas destination for which campsite reservations are out of the question because demand vastly exceeds supply. Some of those responders were thinking in terms of conventional boondocking. I was more interested in pursuing options for Interstate boondocking.

So, for those of you who have boondocked in your Interstates, can you offer specific advisories and bits of wisdom as to the mechanics of how you went about "working within the rules" when the rules werenít designed with Interstates in mind in the first place?

To that end, here are a few of my own observations. Bear in mind that I live in a metro area of 6.5 million people and a state of 30 million people. We face access pressures and restrictions that may not be typical of all areas.

First example scenario Ė some state and federal parks. Even if they disallow uncontrolled boondocking per se, if you are driving a van, you can buy a backcountry permit, park in a passenger vehicle trailhead parking lot, and then not necessarily exit your van to go tent camping. Itís not exactly what was intended when they designed the system, but if you are totally self-contained and donít draw attention to yourself, it can be done, and in many circumstances, nobody will bother trying to split hairs - you did pay the fee, after all, and you are not taking up more than one parking space. People with large RVs and trailers cannot get away with this because of space limitations and giving the wrong impression to others who would then monkey-see-monkey-do, overwhelming the back country trailhead parking lots with oversized vehicles.

Second example scenario Ė some state and federal set-asides. Some natural areas have small parking lots just outside their gates. I know of several that are just there, ambiguously situated. No concrete indication as to what they were intended for, but no signs prohibiting overnight parking. I suspect they were installed to accommodate the people who are running late and canít get in because the park staff has gone off-duty. But nobody will admit to anything because they donít want to encourage people to dry camp outside their gates. I tend to evaluate those on a case-by-case basis as to whether Iím likely to get hassled by the local police if I attempt to boondock there.

Third example scenario Ė other public parks (counties, river authorities, etc.) with RV hook-ups and tent pads plus "overflow" areas. These typically stipulate that, if all of your group's vehicles do not fit at your assigned site, you are supposed place your excess vehicles in the overflow. Well, what if you try to pay a tent camping fee and then simply remain in the overflow? If there are tent sites available, this plan should be a piece of cake. The problem might arise if there are no assignable tent sites remaining. In that case, I would ask the gate agent if I could pay a tent fee anyway, and boondock in the overflow. But if they canít make a specific site assignment, I donít know if they are permitted the discretion to book the sale. Has anyone ever faced this kind of thing?

Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2016, 10:02 AM   #2
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Last year we camped with friends in a state park in South Lake Tahoe. Our California friends made the reservations. We later found out that there were no hookups. We stayed there three days (it was a great campsite). Fortunately, our friends secured us a site next to the showers and bathroom. Using those facilities minimized our filling the black and gray tanks, which we had made sure were empty when we arrived and that we had a full LP tank.

The rules allowed running your generator during the day. We ran it for an hour each day to charge the batteries. We were parked in a grove of redwoods so solar charging was minimal.

The end result was that everything worked wonderfully on the 12V system. Since it got down into the thirties at night, we did have to run the furnace. Our batteries were new and held up well. We waited until we arrived at the next RV campground to empty the black and gray tanks. While We were somewhat apprehensive about the boon docking experience (it was our first time), we are glad we did it as I now have confidence in our equipment.


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Old 02-16-2016, 12:02 PM   #3
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So if I understand the intent of your post, you're looking for stories of when we used the fact of an Interstate being a "stealth" RV to boondock in places that otherwise don't allow RV camping.

I've never done that (yet) but I'm very interested in hearing about others' experiences along that line. I personally don't see the need to do that except in one instanceó hurricane evacuations. Thankfully I haven't needed to evacuate for a hurricane since I bought my Interstate, but that day WILL come!
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:03 PM   #4
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Here is the only boondocking scenario to date in which I have run our generator:

The mornings after collegiate sporting events in which we paid significant fees for event-specific parking passes (depending on the venue, it can cost $50 - $100 just to park). The idea being, if someone gets alerted and decides to eject us at that point, on a morning after, no big loss - we have already done our overnight stay.

Are we "allowed" to boondock at such venues? Once again, it's a gray area. If the institutional authorities (campus police) see your vehicle parked overnight after a football game, they assume you are out partying. Or you got drunk and had to leave the vehicle there and go home with a DD. If there isn't any trouble or attention drawn to the vehicle, they don't even glance at it.

But I wouldn't push it. If a dry camping park or other venue allows generators to be run, that's fine, but I personally wouldn't do it because it is so disruptive to others. I'm with Handy Bob on that rationale - unless I am stuck and have no choice (which hopefully I won't be with 300 watts of solar).

I wouldn't ever run a generator at either a back country trail head or a camping overflow area. That would be asking for a conflict. A trailer owner did that at an overflow area in Sam Houston National Forest when we stayed there a few months ago. Many campers got visibly irate.
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:24 PM   #5
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The mornings after collegiate sporting events in which we paid significant fees for event-specific parking passes (depending on the venue, it can cost $50 - $100 just to park). The idea being, if someone gets alerted and decides to eject us at that point, on a morning after, no big loss - we have already done our overnight stay.

Are we "allowed" to boondock at such venues?
If there is designated RV parking on campus where a fee is paid, then boondocking elsewhere on campus probably wouldn't be allowed, as that would be an attempt to defraud the university of revenue as well as being unfair to those who did pay to park their RVs.

Whether you could get away with it would also depend in part on what type of license plate you have. In Louisiana, they don't issue motorhome plates; instead my Interstate has a license plate that says "Private Bus." Or I could have gotten a handicapped license plate to match the one on my toadó which I didn't because my particular mobility impairment doesn't require me to park on a paved surface and it would be rude to those needing scooters or wheelchairs for me to take up a spot they need more than I do. But anyway, in a case like that where you don't have RV/motorhome plates, it might be possible to masquerade as a regular van to boondock on campus away from the designated RV parking. But if your Interstate has a license plate that says "RV" or "Motorhome" it would be more difficult to get away with it.
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Old 02-16-2016, 02:41 PM   #6
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If there is designated RV parking on campus where a fee is paid, then boondocking elsewhere on campus probably wouldn't be allowed, as that would be an attempt to defraud the university of revenue as well as being unfair to those who did pay to park their RVs.

.....

Whether you could get away with it would also depend in part on what type of license plate you have. ...
(1) That's assuming there would be space in a campus-associated RV facility, which of course there would NOT be. Not ever. It would be difficult for them to argue loss of revenue when we could never have a prayer of getting into an "official" RV area in the first place. IMO, it's also difficult for them to argue loss of revenue when they are charging close to three figures just for individual passenger vehicle parking spots.

One of our example collegiate sports venues exceeds the most recent Superbowl capacity by almost 30%!! We often find it difficult to transmit a sense of the sheer size of what we're up against in this part of Texas. When we drove across the eastern part of America in 2014, every time we would pass through a major metropolitan area, we would look at each other and ask, "Was that the WHOLE city? Is that all there is to it?!" The only place that felt comparable to our Houston experience was Manhattan. And in fact we are quickly catching up to it, population-wise, although Manhattan is obviously configured very differently.

(2) We have a regular-looking passenger car plate on our Interstate. It's a van. We didn't have to ask for this - it was issued that way.
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Old 02-16-2016, 02:57 PM   #7
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Here's an interesting (to me, at least) timing coincidence to this thread... one of the reasons I want to push forward and do some state park-related boondocking is that we've been watching the Texas state park system rapidly falling into ruin. And I mean literal ruin. We've watched parks burn, we've watched multiple parks scour away during floods, we've watched the infrastructure crumble. In 2015, we saw one of their obsolete earthen dams collapse and a recreational lake vanish. I've wanted to get out there and see some of them before any more of them get closed down, pawned off on other governmental entities (i.e., divested, which has happened frequently) or otherwise ruined entirely.

Well, just a few minutes ago, TPWD made this news release announcing major funding to stem the collapse, including $91 million in pending capital improvements compared to the $11 million allocated in 2014. It seems I'm not the only one with a rising sense of alarm. I hope they have reasonable capacity increases built into that improvement plan.
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Old 02-16-2016, 03:14 PM   #8
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Infrastructure crumble seems have become the American way. Sad but true.


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Old 02-16-2016, 03:56 PM   #9
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Overnight parking would be the other description of boondocking in a van. A parked vehicle doesn't have lights on or anything leaking on the pavement. Florida has rules, no overnight parking in many places. Before 9/11 vs after for public areas under bridges, piers or near sensitive places. We used to have the right to park at boat ramps and fishing piers waiting for the right tide, new signs proclaim no parking or closes at sunset. Florida Keys is a good example of you can't park here, and tickets will be issued if you do. Thanks to the local cg's.
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Old 02-16-2016, 04:55 PM   #10
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Here's an interesting (to me, at least) timing coincidence to this thread... one of the reasons I want to push forward and do some state park-related boondocking is that we've been watching the Texas state park system rapidly falling into ruin. And I mean literal ruin. We've watched parks burn, we've watched multiple parks scour away during floods, we've watched the infrastructure crumble. In 2015, we saw one of their obsolete earthen dams collapse and a recreational lake vanish. I've wanted to get out there and see some of them before any more of them get closed down, pawned off on other governmental entities (i.e., divested, which has happened frequently) or otherwise ruined entirely.
We spent three nights at Palo Duro Canyon State Park last fall on our way back from the west coast. It was one of the highlights of our trip. We didn't notice any issues there but, as it is one of the most popular Texas parks, maybe they concentrate on keeping it up better than some of the other parks. It was spectacular. So much so that we are planning on staying there again this spring on our way back from another trip out west. There are a couple more trails that we want to do.
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Old 02-16-2016, 05:56 PM   #11
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Palo Duro Canyon is on our short list this spring. I hope we can get out there but the park is 100% reserved at this time. If you have any suggestions, we'll take them. Even the picnic areas on the side of the highway are viable options if we can't find anything in or near the park.
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Old 02-16-2016, 07:38 PM   #12
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Palo Duro Canyon is on our short list this spring. I hope we can get out there but the park is 100% reserved at this time. If you have any suggestions, we'll take them. Even the picnic areas on the side of the highway are viable options if we can't find anything in or near the park.
I reserved our spaces a month and a half ago for the end of May.
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Old 02-17-2016, 06:29 AM   #13
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I reserved our spaces a month and a half ago for the end of May.
I wish we had the luxury of far-out reservations. With two careers and a child who has been going through the university application process, we simply don't.

It sounds like you reserved Palo Duro with a 5-month lead time. That's actually pretty good for Texas. One of the other state parks on my short list is Garner. Last time I checked, there was a 330 day wait time. According to social media, Garner's staff measures the wait time in days, so that people can be as precise as possible in their planning process.
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:02 AM   #14
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Here is another piece of context on this boondocking issue, and potentially a heads-up for anyone hunting for investment opportunities. Seriously.

Hubster and I had our solar system epiphany two weeks ago when I had to rearrange a work junket because I couldn't get a commercial reservation for the Interstate. This was on a week-day (not weekend) in the middle of winter with no discernible special events in the area. My target facility has approximately 170 hook-ups that rent for almost $50 per day (lower unit cost if paid monthly). They told me that they would not consider even trying to take reservations for at least a week out, because they were so overwhelmed with people wanting to book.

We realized at that point that we just had to push through and get the solar finished. At least that way, I can Wallydock when I need to. Because in a lot of areas around here, there are no hook-ups to be had at any time for any price.

I have a client employee who develops small RV parks on the side, as a family business. She told me that, at this point, from the moment you close on your dirt sale to the point where you have all site-related debt paid in full - the real estate plus all RV park utilities, paving, buildings, and other improvements - that time period is currently 36 months. That is all - after that point, you just rake in the money. That's how far below demand the supply currently sits.

We had a new RV park spring up about a mile and a half from our house. As I watched it going up, I wondered about its location, location, location and the business model viability - it's sandwiched between light industrial buildings and a state highway overpass, not exactly posh accommodations, with no privacy and constant noise. That thing is so new that it isn't even listed in online park directories yet - but it's constantly at 100% capacity. If there ever is an open slot, it's marked with a traffic cone to let people know that somebody lives there (pic below, which I took from the overpass).

If I wasn't already running my own LLC that is working for me, I have little doubt that I would jump into that market. We need more commercial parks just as badly as we need more public park accessibility.
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