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Old 08-31-2007, 04:17 PM   #1
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Boondocking the Rockdocking

My wife, two Blue Heelers and myself are avid out doors people. Retired from the work week, we also retired the tent camping for a 23 foot, 2006 Safari LS, with a solar panel on the roof. I must give credit to our 2006 Toyota Tundra 4.7 liter, 4 wheel drive as well. And to be honest, we do not miss the tent. Sorry college buddies. We call it Rockdocking.

To move onward. As a retired geologist, my sense of boondocking takes on a different definition. My friends with trailers find a campground with power and water and they are Boondocking. Our style of rockdocking requires a bit of effort and more of LESS amenities. We cannot camp at all of the locations we found with a tent and a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but only your skill at picking a road and driving skills limit most of your options. Toss the campground directories behind the back seat. Open up your DeLorme (or similar map atlas) Atlas & Gazetteer and tighten your seat belts. You and your Airstream CAN handle the roads of the Western United States, when caution and common sense are in equal measure. Even the most remote roads and trails can be travelled.

The limiting factor on the 23 foot Safari LS are the undersized tires. The 215/14 inch tires are much too light a tire with 30 gallons of water, empty grey/black water, full food provisions and tool sets. A stone can puncture through the 1 ply of steel belting. I have Power Max with two steel plies that have ended my tire troubles from day one. I would recommend a D rated tire, but none are available here for 14 inch rims.

I would entertain any questions for ROCKDOCKING and our learned the hard way misfortunes. If you enjoy collecting rocks, minerals, hunting Indian artifacts, or fossils, Rockdocking is probably in the back of your mind already. We are ready to purchase another 23 foot Safari, but will have to order it custom to eliminate the options we NEVER use. example- microwave oven. We want the trailer for decades of use and have found the weak points on the 23 footer (probably included up to 25 footers).
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Old 08-31-2007, 06:56 PM   #2
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Congrats on the use you are getting out of your A/S. Great to have access to your knolodge of geology, long been an interest of mine just havn't had time to pursue much. I am interested to know what other changes you would make to the coach for the next time. Karen and I like the back roads and out of the way camp sites. Best if close to fly fishing.
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Old 08-31-2007, 07:05 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forums! Sounds like you are ready to roll! Most excellent. Your expertise might just fall into a great article for the forum! They are looking for authors to write full time, one time, or whenever... you will need to contact a moderator for information, but I think an article on your geology expertise might be quite interesting! The information you present on real boondocking might be cool as well!

We are retired too ~ isn't it just the greatest!

Mrs. NorCal Bambi (traveling in S Tardis)
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:27 PM   #4
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Ray,
My dad was a petroleum geologist in TX. while I was growing up. I remember trips to Colorado and New Mexico when I was just old enough to swing his geologist pick. Best I remember we were looking for red rubies? It was on one of these trips in New Mexico that I got a chance to see a horse reach over a fence railing and try to eat my younger sister's blonde hair! Those were the days.
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:40 PM   #5
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Rockdocking in an Airstream

Sorry if this showed up somewhere else. I cannot find this thread I entered earlier and must have hit the wrong key, so here it goes... again.

I needed to clarify Rockdocking and the use of the DeLorme Atlas.

I have the atlas's of the states we travel in the western United States (NE, WY, CO, ID, MT, AZ, NM, OR, WA). My interest is WHERE the National Forest and BLM property is to be found. For some states, like Nevada, the entire state is practically BLM or some National Forest. States like Nebraska it is the western counties and some small strips of "Nebraska State Forests (tree)".

While driving into a new area of undiscovered trailer camping possibilities, I am watching the left and right horizons for "interesting areas" to drive towards and my wife is copiloting following where we are currently located and where the next turn off to get to this area is coming up. It takes a bit of coordination and practice, but you will get the system working after a few trials. It is not like you lock up all eight tow vehicle and trailer tires and make a 90 degree sliding turn to the north at the next opportunity, type turn. The better the area appears from your perspective, you begin slowing down in the event you want to turn off the main asphalt. Not all turn offs the highway are level and pretty sights to behold. (ADVICE: I have found that it is best that the DRIVER makes the decision to pull out the landing gears and brakes to turn, and not the copilot following the map.)

The majority of county maintained asphalt, gravel and "improved ever so slightly roads" are passable with a 23 foot Airstream, plumbing and all. It takes some good judgment and towing ability to recognize a mistake coming your way... BEFORE you are missing some hardware or hanging all four wheels in the air becoming an "Air Stream operator/owner/aviator". My wife assists in watching the "vitals" in tough situtations when duty calls. Bless her kind soul.

I have confidence that Airstreams up to 25 feet can manage most of the back roads in the atlas that take you far into BLM lands or the National Forest. Many of these places are beyond imagination as a camp site, with trailer still attached to the tow vehicle. And at no charge for 14 to 30 days at a time if you desire. It is easier travel with the double axle trailer to manage rockdocking travel and having at least ten leveling blocks and maybe a three foot 2x12 for getting across a marginal dip in a dirt road, from time to time, is your key to entry the back country. REMEMBER: You might have no trouble going one direction on a road and experience trouble for clearances on the way back, so keep that always in mind. The first attempt at Rockdocking may dampen your shirt a bit and the passenger's linens, but it is eventually an enjoyable and fun experience for all involved. Drivers and outside rock doggers checking clearances while you ease along a tough spot keeps eveyone on their toes. My hair has mostly turned greyish by now anyway, so that part of me IS normal.

I turned back one time on my last trip, (8-27-07), east of Fillmore, Utah on Forest Road 100 about nine miles in and was met with a forest service sign "road not maintained for cars or trailers". The nice gravel road became a one lane, cut in the shear stone cliff, rock strewn road with steep vertical drops. The bright side: There was a beautiful, level pull out for one to two trailers overlooking the town and valley at 9,402 feet elevation, cooler and about three miles "before" the road to hell.

My wife suggested we detach the trailer and take a 4x4 tour and guage the difficulty, which was a wonderful idea. But this time... this time I decided to BELIEVE the sign was true to its every printed word and I DO NOT regret turning back. Not because the Airstream could not handle it. I was afraid we would all have been killed in the process of trying this road with a trailer in tow, although years ago the 4x4 and tent managed to find the camping spot on top... There are even undrawn limits to Rockdocking that only experience will tell you that the limit has been reached. Happy RDing you crazed, wild eyed heros of the off road trailer world, saving the nice, in town RV spots for the other respectible folk that are so fortunate to own an Airstream.

I rest my case. Thank you.
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royce
I am interested to know what other changes you would make to the coach for the next time.
Hey Ray... I, too would be interested to know what you would change your stock AS for your type of boondocking...or rockdocking, as you call it...a great new AS word for us all to adopt! I have not been brave enought to take our Bambi very far off the pavement...and when I do, I go punishingly slowly... I'm torn because I do want to move further toward "real" boondocking and being in less developed areas to camp when it's available and reasonable.

We went into a pretty primitive camping area one time and ended up headed down a dirt road that was only going to get worse we felt, with low-overhanging tree limbs, a dry creek crossing we could see ahead, etc...so we stopped cold and spent the next half hour or 45 mins backing ourselves out of that situation (which is not particularly easy with a short trailer!)... We made it without mishap, thankfully, but it has made me hesitant to take those less traveled roads.

I guess I need to get braver!

TB
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:22 PM   #7
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Time will build the courage

Hi TB-
Believe me, our first trip with our NEW 23 foot Safari LS and NEW 2006 Toyota Tundra 4x4, took some courage. I had no idea of how a trailer handled on the interstate, non the less off the beaten path. I was learning how to adjust the brakes when on asphalt and when on grit, on slick boulder road, hard pan, etc., etc. You have to be alert and making those mental and adjustments to the equipment.

Taking your Bambi off the pavement is weaning yourself from watching only the painted stripes on the road to... the obstacles IN the road to come. After a day off road, you will not sweat as much as well and the going gets easier. Imagine an unblemished Airstream and Truck was not a cheap investment to take on a routine tent camping trip into the countryside. The first bushwhack mark on the top edge of the back of the trailer was all it took to remove the unblemished to... BROKEN IN. We were Rockdockers.

We bought our last set of tires at the Tucson Costco from camping in the Gila Wilderness, Tonto National Forest and Cibola National Forests. Very well maintained, but not for the light hearted, improved dirt roads. I must complement the Forest Service in those forests for the nice road work being done to draw Rockdockers like us into the forest. (I recommend you drop the trailer off in town, before going to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings as that paved road will cost you some fuel.)

In order to safely cover the off roading options a four wheel drive vehicle is required. You may not need it, but when you do it is too late and you had better have a tow line handy to get pulled up or out of your situation. The Toyota Tundra has 4 wheel high and a... real low that will get you up anything as long as you maintain traction. We have NEVER been stuck, damaged anything of value and the bushwhacks can be wiped off at the car wash. For some reason dust adheres to the spots where leaves or a twig brushes agains the car or Airstream finish, giving you the impression you are trashing both, but it will clean up.

My next Airstream will be a 23 foot SE, customized with OUT the options we never use. A large refrigerator is a MUST. The solar panel turned out to be a blessing we were not even aware we were able to use on this current 23 footer. I like the double axle for getting over tough angles, drainage cuts, but your single axle will navigate fine because of the trailer's length.

Since I have spent forty years driving VW bugs to 4x4s into the back country, it took one bushwhack to break me in. We have had ZERO mechanical break downs with the trailer or truck. Now hinge screws and bolts are a story of their own, but structurally the axles are stout and the brakes work when you need them. The 14 inch tires suck on the 23 footer, and you will find that the highest rated tire you can fit on the rim will be better than the stock Goodyears. We travel light, except we have thirty gallons of water once we turn off into the wilderness into the unknown. When we have a flat and using the spare, we drain most of the water out of the trailer and find the nearest town for upgrade. We drove from Silver City, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona (Costco) for truck tires last year. This year we replaced what was left of the original trailer tires and bought four better replacements in Salt Lake City, Utah at Earl Schwabs. Two plies of steel seem to be holding up on the rock punctures. Whew. You get out on a few of those sand lot roads around Tucson for a day and work yourself up to a real Rockdocking road in no time. I did sweat it out the first time, but now it does not even cross my mind. You can even talk with the Forest Service office before you go into the back country. They will tell you everything you want to know, and... where the good camping spots are to be found.

Best of luck and keep the spirit.
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:35 PM   #8
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I guess we're "rockdockers" too. We take the old Silver Pullit into the country as much as we can and use it for a base camp. Biggest problem for us it, at 31' the old girl has her limits for crossing washes. We either hike from the trailer, or use the binder to get further in. Sure is nice to hike back to warm water, wind shelter, and a full kitchen! We frequent Death Valley, Saline and Panamint valleys and Borrego State Park. We've even run into a geologist or two-they're the gneissest people!
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:38 PM   #9
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Hey Ray...I admire your willingness to "go for it" to get where you want to go...

Thanks for the inspiration/coaching/hints...I guess I'll have to get out to some of the local desert roads to give it a whirl...and get some dust on the Bambi!

TB
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Old 09-01-2007, 11:07 AM   #10
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Hi Bill & Heidi,
That is a lot of extra trailer for rockdocking too far up the road.

That should not stop you in your tracks too soon. Finding a pullout, detach and scout up the road a ways for a place in the woods. Nancy has the notebook out and logs the trip odometer milage in the event we need to give up an attempt to get farther up the road. The log will tell us where the last OK pullout was seen and we can back track easier knowing how far we need to travel. Works great. We also take GPS locations of all our camping spots, log them into the Atlas with comments like: nice, gnats and black fly swarms, agate in area, fossil trilobites, etc. You cannot remember each location you have visited over the years, so a few notes written along the map border will give the date, elevation and overall condition of the area when first visited.

We have not seen any trailers or RV's on our rockdocking travels in the last two years. Pop up campers in tow and "Toy Haulers" parked down in the flat lands unloading ATV's are the only in tow vehicles we have seen.
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Old 09-01-2007, 01:22 PM   #11
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Ray, I'm with you. 99% of my camping is away from developed campgrounds of any kind. However, I have been hesitant to take the Bambi down some of the rougher roads after some minor mishaps. One involved 10 or more miles of horrible washboard outside of Tarryall which promptly unlocked the fridge and dumped the entire contents on the floor, as well as backing out screws for several cabinet doors hinges. Another involved cleanly removing the rear bumper from the rear of the Bambi on a small but well planted rock while going over a water break.

At least for you, the tandem axel of the 23' should immensely help absorb the bumps in the washboard, but watch the back bumper and the sewer drain as possbile problem points.

Any boondocking campsites that you want to share?
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Old 09-01-2007, 06:43 PM   #12
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Check my two photographs

Westfalia-
Someone had mentioned the road to Chaco Canyon being a road to the end of the world. And it is. Too hot now to test the Safari on it, but it is on our list. For a major dirt road, this is probably the best bolt shaker you can find. The Pueblo did consider Chaco Canyon the end of "their" world. Good luck trying to find the one bush over six feet next to a camping spot.

Our cabinet style hinges need to be checked regularly for backed out screws. I will tighten them as a routine to keep the cabinet doors from coming off all their hinges. Our trick for off road security. We tie down all of the lower cabinet handles with nylon rope while traveling. The top, spring hinges, have given us minor trouble and those we have the highest confidence. The closet, doors below sink, the three pullout drawers (can be tied down to the magazine metal rods, and the door below the bed- I put a latch on it and use a rubber band to "lock it" from vibrating out. By keeping those doors tied on any travel, the hinges are less trouble. You also do not have doors opening and closing while on the move, and the gremlins stop once you take a look inside and wonder what happened. Our refrigerator has never opened on its own, but it did open a bottle of beer this Spring from the road shake.

Also, we never leave toilet paper on the roll. It will be unwound on the floor after one trip. Since we are hard core campers and Rockdockers, the shovel is our camping friend...

Some Gooood... hints:
Sweetwater County, Wyoming has hundreds of miles of wide dirt roads. Moffat County, Colorado north of Brown's Park/Irish Canyon has some wonderful hideaways just off the "main" gravel road (Indian petroglyphs to the east of campsites). Grey's River, Wyoming just east of the Star Valley has wonderful fishing (trout under 10 inches though), clear water and I would have a hard time counting all of the premium off road sites with river views and walkins for fifty miles. (Lots of elk trails for biking, if you are looking for some sport.) Albuquerque, New Mexico, north of town on east, The Sandia Casino parking lot. Park on the upper, outside EAST side for view of town, cooler breezes and the buffets are excellent. They even have security driving around 24/7. (Good Craps table dealers!) Better restrooms than WalMart. Costco parking lots are also handy at times.

We spent three weeks camping Idaho and Montana in July and three weeks in Nevada and Utah on this last trip for August. Every move was an adventure. Some better than others, as usual. Missouri is on the list later this month to visit relatives in Independence. Might camp one night in Western Kansas at the Chalk Buttes south of I-70. Only the highways seems to be on flat prairie in Kansas. You venture to the north or south and you have all the rockdocking roads you want at your disposal... if they are not private property... and then just ask permission.

Happy RDing.
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Old 09-10-2007, 03:11 AM   #13
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I didn't see anything smaller then a 25 footer when I went shopping of for an second hand AS, I thought this would be a decent compromise between portability and comfort. I may have guessed a little big, but now I'm stuck (hopefully, no pun intended).

When in NorCal, I was a pretty avid jeeper, I'm happy to see that I can go 4 wheeling with an AS, though a lot of mining roads will be by 4x4 only, plus my tow vehicle is pretty fat, a 4x4 Suburban 2500.

I used to buy US Geological Survey Topo maps in NorCal. They showed an incredible amount of detail, one most important was elevation and of course trails. The elevation grids will be even more important now, I need to dig up my old compass that I used for installing RF and Microwave antennas, the GPS (that I did dare to take to Rrussia and Egypt for work) and get out there.

Here is a question for rockdockers (agreed, a great word!), has anyone filled thier tanks from site water (not city water, but rivers or creeks)?

I will be fulltiming for a year-see you guys in the western deserts.

ed: spelling
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Old 09-10-2007, 08:16 AM   #14
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creek water

For safety reasons, I always assume that wild water is tainted with Girradias
( forgive the spelling). Animals have spread this micro organism to most wild water supplies. The sickness is particularly dangerous to hikers who get dehydrated because of the symtoms ( vomiting and diahreah)
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