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Camping,caves,kites, and what we leave behind

March 2, 2010

We’re drawn to dunes. Tough to be drawn to sand dunes when you don’t have a “shower” per se. We do have a solar shower but that’s tough to get the whole body effect at one time, so you have to pick parts. The shower is best for hair and a bucket gets duty for the rest of the body. We’ve grown a little more accustomed to some sand on us most of the time. It’s gonna happen if you want to hang out in it.
Kelso Dunes, Mojave Preserve

We recently landed at Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve. They’re not the vastest dunes in North America but damn tall. One in particular is around seven hundred foot, a nice hike we’ve enjoyed a few times. And the run/fall/roll or head plant down is exhilarating. We had a perfect place in the sand just below the foothills of the dunes to park, a place to sit for a while and take care of taxes, schooling, barefoot soccer and dune climbing. A switch flips on kids (and some adults) when they hit that much sand, they can’t help but muck about in it. It’s a real joy to watch and we all gleefully slept after those days with warm sunshine and smiles on our faces, even Sally. So we left. We didn’t want to, but rather had to. Funny thing about water, you need it, and food too it seems. We had kind of trapesed into this very remote spot and their isn’t a decent grocery for over eighty miles, so we toughed it out for four days and five nights, ate every blessed grain in the house. Even the ones I couldn’t pronounce. Grains are great and healthy but the harder they were to pronounce the more water they require to cook. We used up fifty one gallons over those four and half days.

On our way to civilization we visited a cool limestone cave packed with folds and folds of stalagmites and stalactites, Mitchell Caverns, also in the Mojave Preserve, and took a hike among some walls of swiss cheese rock formations molded from the supersonic discharge of volcanic ash, aptly named Hole in the Wall. I know, its hard to keep a straight face when saying “supersonic discharge”. The rock turns to gray ash when rubbed between your fingers.

We arranged to have some mail sent to Amboy CA, a near desolate town on historic Route 66, thats hanging on to history and the hopes of more restoration dollars from the feds, and a resemblance to Radiator Springs, the fictitious, or not, interstate passed by town in the animated Cars movie. The old motel and cafe are all in 50’s motif with long neon edged roofs in the shape of triangles and floor to ceiling glass fronts. Really quite cute and nostalgic, once an oasis on a long stretch of lonely desert. The two guys in the Post Office gave a “woohoo , customers” when we walked in. Wanting, just as those adorable little animated characters.

The RV resort we stopped at in 29 Palms CA for showers and laundry had a very natural community garden below a patch of thick palm trees, just outside its entrance. Someone had anchored a kite just out of the garden to fly in the wind and sun. After Holt and Cam played with it a bit, we left it alone. A few minutes later Cam, Mazie Jane and I looked puzzled at Holt, walking back to the camper with scissors in his hand. Holt felt the kite was being oppressed, I guess. He freed it. We found it down wind, two blocks away.

After two hours of grocery shopping we left 29 Palms, full of propane, fuel, groceries and seventy six gallons of water (every container we had, even the solar shower filled up), and headed back for Kelso Dunes. Apparently, we can live with the sand.

Everything goes through you.

Living in a camper is truly like being a turtle. Your house is on your back. This microcosm lifestyle and it’s limitations cause a realization or awareness of what we consume and discard as individuals. From the food and other we purchase and all the packaging, to the waste in our tanks, our trash can and our recycle bin, you really begin to see a pattern and gain sense of the enormous amounts we all consume. We generate only one, to two at most, plastic grocery bags of trash per week. A family of four. And we generate well over three times that in recyclables. True, recyclables generally take up more room, but we live in a camper, we have to keep it compact or it would overrun us. It already overruns our shower. So I feel it is a valid comparison. We also recycle everything we can. Paper, cardboard, tin, aluminum, glass, whatever…. wherever we are at the time will take. All packaging, even separating small paper and plastic, it’s amazing what can go in the pile when you’re picky. Even then, we’ll ride some stuff around til we do get someplace that will take it. And half of our trash is compostable. We tried riding that stuff around until we found good places to discard it, but that was even harder than the recycling and way messier. It hasn’t hurt either to be in places like Oregon, Arizona, and California, who recycle everything, even most plastics. I guess where I’m going with this little segway is that it’s much easier to see our own impressions on the world, when we keep the packaging in our showers.

Kelso Dunes, Mojave Preserve

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 1:57 pm

    I’m so impressed with your recycling efforts. I’m embarrassed to admit that we probably use one plastic bag of garbage a day and before moving into the rv we were avid recyclers. I just don’t know where the heck I would put that stuff since we do use our shower and all;) I don’t have room for a garbage can, let alone recycling bins.

    • March 3, 2010 6:53 pm

      We placed hooks all around our shower walls to hold miscellaneous things such as bathing suits, and a tall kitchen bag for plastics(those take up more space than anything, but luckily weigh very little) and we keep a cardboard box in the bottom of the shower for tin, aluminum and glass. Cardboard and paper products will lay nice and flat against the wall or in the bottom of your box. If it’s kept tidy, it’s easier to remove and replace when the shower is needed.
      It takes constant tending, and in some states gets strained full before we find facilities to dump it, but it just feels too weird throwing things in the trash – it’s hard enough putting food scraps/compost in. The kids tend to grab first dibs from the recycling for art and inventions too.

      As a side note, you may find yourselves using the shower less for boondocking for any extended time. The grey tanks on most class c’s are only 20 gallons and the water tanks only 40 gallons. Dishes, hand washing and other purposes will account for most of those amounts you’ll find. Despite the convenient layout of a class c for a family of four, the tank sizes only fit two people at best. We opt to stop and pay for shower every six to seven days (it’s usually time to find a laundromat by then anyway) or use a solar shower when warm enough or buckets just to wash up. Congratulations on the move!

  2. March 2, 2010 8:00 pm

    18 years ago, when we started out, most of the country was not into recycling (especially the mid-west and east coast) and if they had recycling centers they were limited to local residents only. Back then we didn’t have internet so the newspapers sure piled up.
    We try to pre-cycle as much as possible. Darn packaging at stores sure doesn’t make it easy though. We take our cloth bags to the grocery store but still manage to pick a few plastic ones at the non-grocery stores which we use to line the garbage cans. Another tip: re-use dirty bath water to flush the toilet.
    Fly free little kite! Fly free! (remind me not to leave my kite unattended).

    • March 3, 2010 7:06 pm

      Yea, that packaging is the worst enemy. Sometimes the packaging is four times the size of what was inside. Great tip on the bath water, I was having a heck of time getting the dog to drink it.

  3. March 3, 2010 9:02 pm

    I recently found your blog, and wanted to take a moment to let you know how much I’m enjoying it. We’re at the beginning stages of planning our more gypsy-esque lives (hubs is still in the military, or we’d be off and running already!) … so it’s been a really fun to read about your experiences. 🙂
    Can’t wait to get all sandy!

    • March 6, 2010 4:57 pm

      Thanks Meli – Good luck getting your sweet family on the road. Intentional dreaming, combined with acceptance, was our first step too of course! The transition was the hardest for impatient me, seemed like we’d never get going as we got everything ready – even after living in Belle we had lots of work to do before taking off – but once on the road it’s easier and more affordable than expected. We’ll look for you all out here!

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