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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Docking our boons on BLM land

Feb 26, 2023 (Sun)

2:30 pm Anthem, AZ

We bid a fond farewell to our hostess of three days (and concert promoter), Joan. Her campsite gets a five-star rating for having an indoor bed, free laundry facilities, shower (also free), and great company. We expect we’ll be stopping by again before we leave (and not just because we’ll need to do laundry—although we’ll try to time our visit…)

About boondocking and BLM

“Boondocking” is an RV term that means to camp someplace that doesn’t have any electric, water, or sewer hookups. There’s also the implication that it’s not supposed to be a regular campsite. For example, you might boondock at a Rest Area on the interstate, but you wouldn’t boondock at a KOA campground. The further implication is that it’s free (or very cheap).

We like the “free” aspect of this in particular…

In this part of the world (Arizona) a lot of land is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (confusingly called “BLM” by RV folks). This is public land, and any member of the public can use the land as long as they’re not blowing things up, or setting fire to things, or destroying sensitive ecosystems. And it’s free!

Turns out we are members of the public (yay!), so we can boondock on BLM land. The only rule is that you can’t stay more than 14 days and when you do move, you have to move at least 20 miles away—this is to keep folks from setting up permanent residence on public land.

The drawback to boondocking is that there’s no water, sewer, or electricity. Harvey’s got a nice fresh water tank that lasts a couple of days (as long as we’re not taking long luxurious showers) and the black water tank will also hold a couple of days of flushing.

Electricity is handled two ways: most of our lights are run off “coach batteries,” which are two car batteries that are separate from the vehicle battery. They get charged when Harvey is using the engine, or by our solar panel (which works nicely in all this sunshine), or when we’re using the generator.

The generator is the other way that electricity can be generated. When it’s running, we get 120V of good old household AC power, which runs the microwave, the A/C, and all the sockets. It’s noisy and uses gasoline, but it beats running a mile-long extension cord to the nearest outlet.

Our only experience boondocking was staying a night at a farm (two different farms), which is very different than parking Harvey in the midst of serial killer country where no one can hear you scream.

We’re looking forward to it!

4:00 pm Tonopah, AZ

Our next thing we want to do is in Surprise AZ, which is west of Phoenix. Robert gets an app (FreeRoam) and asks for BLM campsites near Surprise.

The combination of the app not being good at showing distances, and Robert being kind of dumb about maps, means that Robert chooses a campsite that is 60 miles from where we want to be. (And if you think we’re joking about Robert being map-dumb: we don’t even end up at the campsite he wanted to select. We’re end up at a different one, adding ten more miles!)

But all our trepidations fall away as we pull of the road into the camping area. Holy Sweet Scenic Vistas! There are rugged hills (not really mountains for us Northwesterners) and cactuses and scrub and isolation and it’s perfect!

We go a little ways down the rough road—since our trip through the Yukon, we know that Harvey can handle pretty rough terrain, but we also know that rough roads can kill our A/C unit. We’d like to use it at least once before we thrash it to pieces, so we’re a bit conservative about how far down we go.

Gini enjoying our campsite

There’s a handful of other campers here, mostly trailers and everybody is well away from everybody else. That seems to be kind of an unwritten rule about boondocking—ain’t nobody doing this to get to know their neighbors, so keep your rig well away from anybody else.

Harvey enjoying our campsite

7:00 pm BLM land near Tonopah, AZ

Robert steps outside to check out the stars and—boy howdy! There’s a bunch of them. Venus and Jupiter are heading for a date in a couple of days, so they’re hanging out in the west (following a lovely fiery sunset) and the half-moon is lounging around at the top of the sky. There’s still some lights from Phoenix visible, but we see way more stars than in Woodinville.

We settle down into our comfy bed, with our convenient bathroom, and our heater to make sure we stay comfy. Now this is camping!

We overshot our destination by a bit, but we ended up in a pretty great place

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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