Overcrowding Complaints

As we’ve travelled from the East Coast to the West, Tracy’s done a spectacular job finding us spots to camp at that are outside campgrounds but legal (federal land, mostly), with great views, privacy, and nearby towns. I think we spent all of the summer in Montana boondocking, in fact.

But as we head closer to the Southwest at the exact same time that other RVers do (winter is coming), these boondocking sites seem to be overrun with people. They’re weekend warriors, but also snowbirds, #vanlifers, and, now, we’re finding car campers: people who are living or traveling in their cars, getting by without tents. My social media ads are all about inflatible mattresses for your car, for example. And folding chairs you put over buckets to use as a toilet.

There are so many people “escaping”—ever since Covid hit and folks discovered that RVing is a way to escape being trapped in their homes and neighborhoods.  But now I hear that people who don’t want to get vaccinated are “escaping” their mandated lives by hitting the road, too. People with kids who don’t want to vaccinate them for school, workers who quit their jobs over a mandate; people who are escaping from the vaccine.

I started talking with a couple of young people camping outside of Las Vegas who were going to see Phish there, and they were bitterly complaining about the cost of quick covid tests, which they needed proof of to get into the concerts.  I didn’t ask them why they would go to so much trouble (they talked about crossing state lines for cheaper tests) and not just get vaccinated; I didn’t want to keep talking with them at all, in fact.  One of them said he’s worn his mask through most of the previous Phish show but the other didn’t say a word. So glad I didn’t have my heart set on seeing my favorite band this year.

I thought about calling this post “Stepping in Shit Everywhere We Turn,” because sometimes it seems like we picked the exact worst time to hit the road

  • Record numbers of people bought RVs at the start of the pandemic and discovered the great outdoors, which is wonderful for them, but some of them get behind the wheel unprepared. They don’t know how to tow, park, or camp respectfully. They drive and tramp over delicate public lands and take their dogs right past the “no dogs” signs, their ATVs past the “no vehicles” signs. Their trailers swerve dangerously down the highway. They park inches from you. They contribute to overcrowding everywhere.
  • RV parts and technicians are in short supply. Everyone has RVs, and service centers can’t keep up with demand for parts or labor. 
  • #vanlife is the new hot youth culture (perhaps akin to kids moving to California in the ‘60s for the promised scene of the counter culture: free love, drugs, and music). Thanks in part to Instagram, every other vehicle we see on the road near camping destinations is a young couple living in their van. That’s great for them, but some don’t have waste tanks in their vans, and they don’t know how to dispose of their waste—they leave it in the desert.  Hence the root of what I was going to call this post.
  • Apps for campers are popping up a dime a dozen, creating shortcuts for anyone to find camping, when previously you had to join forums and participate in a community to learn about good spots (Tracy still does that).
  • Poverty and a lack of urban social services is driving people to live in their cars and tents. They, too, leave waste behind. 
  • The poor seem to be getting poorer (as usual); diesel prices are rising; our cost of living is rising, yadda yadda. 

I know—boo hoo, the retired people living their dream are complaining about it—but these are all the piles of shit that have popped up right as we stepped out the door of Tracy’s old house.  Overcrowding, rising prices, dumbasses on the road and in campgrounds and on public land, subsequent increasing restrictions for campers everywhere.

Why do I feel like I’m not part of this problem?  Of course I am, especially in terms of overcrowding.  We’re vying for the same camping sites in campgrounds and on public lands as everyone else.  We’re lining up at truck stops, sucking up diesel that truckers and the country need (and the climate does not).

But I’ve read that the carbon footprint of RVers can be smaller than people in houses; I need to back that up with evidence here. I do know I use much less water and electricity than I thought humanly possible.  Also, Airstream promotes a program where you invest in tree planting in direct proportion to the size trailer you buy … something like that, if it makes a difference at all.  Pardon my lack of research; I’ll post about this specifically after I do the work. 

Directly, we dispose of our waste in septic stations. We stay on designated paths through public land (for the most part).  We respect other campers with our space, noise, political signs (lack thereof).  We don’t burn plastic in the firepit. We don’t even use the campground bathrooms. We are a self-contained unit, and we do as little harm as possible.

But I feel like we’re the rare ones.

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