Boondocking: Lessons Learned, Successes & Failures

January 4-18, 2019

When we were at KOFA in December, our black tank filled far too quickly. After one week, we had to leave and dump the tanks. It didn’t seem reasonable since we didn’t dump any dishwater down the toilet like we often do. Therefore, we did a bit of research and discovered that the bathroom sink drains into the black tank, and I wash my hands often . . . very often. Well, that explained that. Lesson learned.

While we were camping on BLM land outside of Quartzsite, we managed to boondock for 15 days before our black tank filled. We left with 35% water in our fresh tank as well. What’s more, after 7 days, I also hand washed our socks and underwear and we still had water to spare. Additionally, we had a heavy rainstorm and collected 2 buckets of water, which I used to wash my hair, bathe, and do some dishes. Success.


Early arrival at the RTR

We have more than enough solar and batteries to last, even when we had rain for over one day. We watched Canadian news every night and kept ours and Sheila’s electronic devices powered. Success.

However, not everything was rosy. After one week, our hot water heater died. Again. Even though this trailer is new, we’ve had to replace to circuit board twice already. It is an Atwood gas-electric heater (but Dometic now owns that company). The circuit boards are from China and they are garbage. These water heaters are installed in many RVs and the boards (made by Kunshan Zhongding) are faulty. Fail. Luckily, we are “campers” and know how to heat water for dishes and bathing, but it was disappointing.

Of course, Can-Am RV came to the rescue and had Airstream ship a new circuit board to an RV park in Yuma. By the time we got back to Yuma, we had a new circuit board by a different manufacturer (Channel Products). Let’s hope we don’t have to replace this one in 3 months. We are feeling optimistic. Success.

The biggest challenge when boondocking is water conservation. Here are our tips:

  • no showers (We wash daily with just a small bowl using approximately ½ liter of water) and then we toss that water outside (if you are not in an environmentally sensitive area) or use it to flush the toilet
  • pay for a hot shower (In towns near BLM land, there are often entrepreneurs that provide hot showers for a fee. We paid $5 each for a shower at Rose RV Park in Quartzsite).
  • if it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . Yes, we have to do that. It isn’t pleasant, but neither is hitching up and driving to the nearest town just to dump the tanks.
  • avoid putting toilet paper into the black tank for #1
  • put a bowl in the bathroom sink to capture hand washing water and reuse that water for more hand washing, and then toss it outside or use it to flush the toilet
  • use paper plates and bowls (I still do the washing up 3 times per day, but using paper plates and bowls conserves a lot of water.)
  • cook on the barbecue (This also cuts down on cookware to wash)
  • eliminate water-intensive cooking (no pasta when boondocking)
  • dilute the dish soap (That way you won’t need as much for rinsing)
  • give your dishes a shower, not a bath (I used to fill up 2 dishpans: one for soapy water and one for rinse water. Now, I just wet the dishcloth and apply some diluted dish soap and then rinse each dish. In the end, I only use about ½ a dishpan of water)
  • use potable water jugs (We have 2 large blue jugs that we fill with RO water. It is easier to refill these in town than it is to hitch up the trailer to fill the fresh tank)
  • collect rainwater (It rarely rains on the desert, but if it does, collect some)

Here are Bunnah and Kenzie showing their blue water jug:


Boondocking is for the dogs. Freedom!


Kenzie and Poppy

After the RTR, we moved into the town of Quartzsite to meet up with the Airstream club. We enjoyed their company and the full moon.

After 2 1/2 weeks of boondocking, we returned to Yuma to do laundry, restock our supplies, and visit family.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge: Part 1


December 11, 2018

Palm Canyon Road

The Kofa refuge was established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. Because this is a protected area, there are some regulations, so it isn’t as open as using BLM land. For example, you can only camp within 100 ft of the road, and camping is only permitted for 14 days within a 12-month period. Also, pets must be leashed or contained at all times. Like BLM land, camping is free.

Kofa is a contracted name from “King of Arizona”, which was the name of a gold mine in the area back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are several entrances to the refuge. We chose Palm Canyon Road, but some of the others are Blevens Road (Crystal Hill), King Road, Castle Dome Mine Road, and MST&T Road.

Although Palm Canyon Road is gravel, it is wide and graded. We had no trouble with things jumping around in the Airstream, nor when we encountered on-coming vehicles.


We weren’t sure how far we would drive in. The camp host told us that we could go to the end of the road and there would be a turnaround in the parking area for the trailhead. We didn’t know how far the road went, but we found this site and pulled in. It turns out that there is only one more campsite beyond ours, but it is only big enough for a small motorhome or van. Here is our campsite with its spectacular views:

Our new Airstream is set up with 4 100W flexible solar panels and 4 AGM batteries. These have been sufficient for us so far. Water is always an issue when boondocking. We conserve as best we can, but water usage will determine how long we can stay here.

Desert Plants

We had rain last week, so the desert is quite green. We heard that the washes did flood. We wish we could have seen that.

Last year, we arrived after the ocotillos had lost their leaves. There are many in full-leaf here. Stunning!

Let’s observe the Airstream in its natural environment:

And that wraps up our first day in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s time to get outta Dodge!

November 9, 2018


Oh no! We had hoped we wouldn’t see the white stuff. It started snowing in the late morning. Not much fell, and it never got too cold (34F/1C), but still, this is a clear sign that we have to leave.

We had planned to leave on November 16, but friends contacted us and are leaving Saskatchewan on November 13. Yesterday, I called to get our travel insurance changed to November 12, so we are free to leave then. We will play it by ear. It’s supposed to warm up again at the start of the week.

Looking west:


Looking east:


Poppy zooming by:IMG_9042



From Prairie to Rockies to Valleys

September 1-6, 2018


Back in April, we toured 2 RV parks in the Similkameen Valley (west of the Okanagan). We were looking to purchase an RV lot to satisfy the residency requirements in Canada. On the day we arrived back in Saskatoon, we got a call. A couple was selling their lot at one of the parks. They sent pictures and we bought it sight unseen. So, we’ve owned an RV lot in the Similkameen Valley since April, but we had never visited it until now (September). We are still officially Saskatchewan residents. We will decide next year if we want to officially become BC residents.

On Labor Day weekend, we started our trek west – Paul drove the truck and Airstream with Daisy, and I drove the Jeep with Poppy. We chose the northern route (through Edmonton) in order to visit our friends, Mary and Tony.


Jasper National Park

This was the furthest I have ever driven. I have been known to nod off at the wheel (highway hypnosis – “you’re getting sleepy”), so I keep my trips to under 3 hours. Driving in the mountains with trees lining the highways is very hypnotic, but I kept that shiny atomic pod in my sight.

We knew that forest fires were still burning in BC, but didn’t expect them to be so close to our RV park. As soon as we turned onto Hwy 3 towards Keremeos, we could see flames and so much smoke!

What a warm welcome!


Canada’s Wonderland?

June 27-30, 2018

After spending a month in the Niagara Region visiting family and friends, it was time to start heading westward.  We had a wonderful time visiting; however, we didn’t do very much sightseeing this year.  After all, this is our home stomping grounds and we aren’t really tourists when we return “home”.

Our first stop on our westward journey was to Can-Am RV in London, ON. We had made an appointment to get a bike rack installed on the Airstream and to have our kitchen revamped. We arrived on Wednesday just before closing, and they gave us a spot with power and water out front. Our Airstream was moved into a service bay first thing on Thursday morning.


A rainy night at Can-Am


Jeep Cherokee & 25RB and Chrysler 300 & 30RB

Can-Am prefers the Arvika bike rack manufactured in Quebec, so we trusted their judgment. In order to mount it, they make braces out of Zip-Dee awning hardware, so the whole Airstream looks unified. What a beautiful job! Now we can’t wait to get back to Saskatoon to get our bikes.

Also, on Thursday, the cabinet maker, Larry, removed our built-in microwave and crafted a pot drawer. By the end of Thursday, he had made a very substantial drawer that is strong enough to stand in! However, he was waiting for the Landmark laminate to arrive from the Airstream factory. It was being shipped inside an Airstream. It didn’t arrive in the first trailer, but it did finally arrive later that evening.


Original kitchen

We spent Thursday evening with a fun couple from California and a Can-Am employee. We were all camping out in the yard. The employee, Bill, has now moved away from the area, but he works 2 days per week, so he camps there overnight when he has a shift. He does the walk-throughs with new owners, and he and his wife are also full-timers. Ingo and Mary, from California (and Louisiana) camped overnight so that they could be squeezed in on Friday for some servicing. We had drinks, appetizers, and great conversation! Ingo and Mary are leading the Highway 61 Revisited caravan (A musical journey along The Blues Highway) this fall with the Wally Byam Airstream Club.

On Friday, Larry continued working on the drawer front. He worked ALL DAY and the results are spectacular! What a craftsman! He decided to make it look like 2 drawers so that it wasn’t so overwhelming in appearance. He used all the same hardware that the rest of the trailer has, and he also did some special touches, like routering out the area around the push latch and then edging it with laminate. He did lovely custom work. Maybe in the future, we’ll be having him make a desk for us if we decide to remove the dinette. We will have to use the trailer for a while to see if we learn to love the dinette.


New kitchen

So, we spent 2 days in the Can-Am lounge, but it was fine. We had air conditioning (and did we ever need it!), coffee, wifi, Airstream tours, and Wendy, the receptionist, kept bringing the girls treats. It was a wonderful experience.

As you are driving in Southern Ontario, you will see signs for Canada’s Wonderland, a huge amusement park; however, for Airstreamers, the real Canada’s Wonderland is Can-Am RV.


Alumapalooza: More Pictures


One of the sponsors of the event was Haydocy, and they brought several units for display: a 16-foot NEST (full-time front bed), a 19-foot Flying Cloud, a 27-foot Tommy Bahama, and a 33-foot Classic.  What I found particularly interesting was the WC door on the 19 footer because we had a similar corner bath in our 23D.  I loved the layout, but it would have been nicer to have a larger area when drying off.  Airstream listened and improved the door to open up the WC when in use.  Check this out:

Unfortunately, older units cannot be retrofitted because there was quite a bit of re-engineering done.

In addition to Haydocy’s display, Airstream also brought a few new models, such as the Atlas (class B+/C motorhome) and a “shorty” Sprinter van.  The Atlas is about the same size as our Chinook, but it has a slide, and the interior is far more beautiful.  It’s an Airstream after all!  The shorty is only 19 feet, so it can fit into any parking spot.  I was really impressed with it.  I’m not sure what it’s name will be when it is marketed.

One couple brought a one-off Airstream, which they called the C-Stream.  They purchased this concept motorhome from Airstream, but they had to sign waivers because of the design defects.  The unit is too heavy, so they cannot add any items to the overcab storage area.  What a find!  I really like the curves of the fiberglass.


Here is a baby Argosy motorhome and a 35-foot motorhome in for service:

We also watched the daily progress on this motorhome:


Right next to the service center is the Airstream store and waiting room.  Better than a candy store!

The Atomic Pod at the factory:


Here we are in line at the border, returning to Canada.  In our rearview camera, we saw Andy Thomson behind us:

This time, the border guard was less interested in where we lived and what we had purchased.  Her questions were about the Airstream: What is an Airstream? Why did you buy it? What makes it special? Why would you go to a meet? We were a little off-guard.  You never know what they’ll ask!  Andy said his questions were similar.

Would we go to Alumapalooza again? Heck yeah! In fact, we already registered for next year. It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad we made the effort. I love being retired because we can be flexible and take advantage of opportunities — or make opportunities. We don’t have to make rigid plans and rush to complete them to return back to work. Serenity now!


May 29 – June 3, 2018

Alumapalooza should be at the top of every Airstreamer’s list. I can’t describe everything we did and saw, so I will just include a few highlights.

  1. Entertainment

The Alumapalooza team booked top entertainers (Josh Rogan, The Other Favorites, and Edgar Cruz & Michael Kelsey). No, Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours weren’t booked this year, but the entertainers were amazing.

  1. Access to the factory grounds

As long as we were wearing our badges, we had unencumbered access to the factory grounds. The factory is in a “free trade zone”, which meant that it is inaccessible to the public and trespassing is a federal offence. We had to keep our badges on so that we weren’t stopped by Federal agents, especially after hours. We wandered around at night looking at interesting units, like the hearse and the European model that was getting ready for shipping. We were not restricted at all.

Commercial trailers:


European model:

Interior of the Bowlus Road Chief:

  1. Seminars

We learned to rivet with Jim Parrot. He brought in a section with ribs and aluminum skin and showed us how to use olympic rivets, which is what people likely use for repairs. Airstreams are assembled with buck rivets.

Colin Hyde taught us about Airstream renovations, rodent habitats, and preventing leaks. He said ALL, absolutely ALL Airstreams leak, but your best defence is being proactive by sealing often. His brother and sister-in-law (from Ontario) brought their completely renovated trailer and gave us a tour. Phenomenal! Colin completely renovates trailer by removing the frame and putting it on a rotisserie. He also removes the interior skins – that’s where he finds ecosystems behind those walls! He uses buck rivets for repairs, which requires removing the interior skins. He’s a great speaker.

The most-attended event was Andy Thompson’s (Can-Am RV) presentation about proper hitching. We learned so much. He is amazing! We had read all of his articles in Airstream Life magazine, but hearing him speak and explain procedures was invaluable.

  1. Socializing with other Airstreamers

Milo and Diane parked next to us, and we spent most of our time with them. They were so much fun and are animal lovers. They also introduced us to some members of their Vermont unit of the WBCCI. Milo and Diane have 2 senior German Shepherd Dogs, and Poppy kept her distance! However, one evening, we were sitting at their trailer and Daisy was restless. She started wandering about, and then we saw what she wanted: their big dog bed. So, the old girls got up and let Daisy take their bed! Daisy is rickety, but she still has presence!

The Jamie & Joan Hyde’s (of Ontario) renovated Hydeaway by Colin Hyde (of New York):


Alumapalooza Highlights: Part 1

May 29 – June 3, 2018

We didn’t have cell coverage while we were at Jackson Center, Ohio.  Also, Airstream’s wifi wasn’t working.  I’m sure it was overloaded with the number of participants at Alumapalooza. Therefore, I’m writing this post from Can-Am in London, Ontario.

Alumapalooza should be at the top of every Airstreamer’s list. I can’t describe everything we did and saw, so I will just include a few highlights.

  1. Access to the big chiefs

Airstream chiefs

We had several information sessions, seminars, and a feedback session attended by senior management, engineers, and staff. During the feedback session, attendees offered suggestions for technical or design issues. Management really listened and asked further questions to understand fully. I even spoke (even though I was nervous). One of my suggestions was to improve comfort by focusing less on providing sleeping options. This seemed like a revelation to Justin Humphries, so he asked the audience if others would prefer more comfortable seating options and fewer convertible bed options, and the audience was unanimous in agreement. Several people spoke to me afterwards and thanked me for that suggestion.

  1. First-hand news


Molly Hansen, Chief Marketing Officer, described the new expansion plans for the factory and introduced Samantha Martin, the new full-time archivist. Over the last 5 years, Airstream has experienced tremendous growth. For example, 6 years ago, there were 250 employees, and now there are nearly 1000. A few years ago, they expanded the existing factory by 200,000 sq ft, but no new structure has been built in 50 years. Therefore, Airstream purchased 50 acres west of town, and they will be building a new 765,000 sq ft factory for travel trailers, and the existing factory will be used for motorhomes. They will break ground at the end of June 2018.

As part of the new factory, there will be an Airstream Heritage Center, where unique trailers, photographs, advertisements, and film will be stored. This is why a full-time archivist has been hired. So far, Samantha has digitized the photographs and 8mm film. Currently, 15 trailers are in the collection, but they are trying to increase the collection. They would like to get a NASA quarantine unit, but one isn’t available yet. They may take trailers on a short-term loan.

Airstream is also looking for property for an increased Terraport. The Terraport is the camping area where people stay while their trailers are in for repair. These are fully-serviced sites, but there aren’t many of them.

Bob Wheeler announced a partnership with Full Sail Brewery, and there was free Airstream beer for all!

  1. Factory tour

The only allowable photo

Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside the factory, but Paul had taken a few pictures through a door window one night. Even if you can’t attend Alumapalooza, you need to take a tour, or two! There was so much to take in that we attended 2 tours. I always knew our trailer was “hand built”, but it is a term that is thrown around by many companies. Airstreams truly are hand built. There was only one automated machine. It is used for punching out where the windows, hot-water tank, etc. will go. Everything else is hand crafted, including the window frames, the cabinetry, the internal ribs – everything! We fell in love with our Airstream all over again! Every Airstream is unique because of this. No, Airstreams aren’t perfect, but you really get a new appreciation when you see them being built by hand – hundreds of hands!

Here are some photos taken through a window at night:


Here are some photos from Airstream’s website.  I added arrows and annotations so that you can see how close we were parked to the factory:


A 4-Leaf Clover

May 26 – 28, 2018


On Saturday, we went to a small town (Dutton, ON) after leaving Can-Am. Honestly, it really was a strange feeling. We were not newbies, but everything felt so safe at Can-Am, and now we were heading out with our new shiny Atomic Pod – on the 401! That first campground was way too expensive, but it gave us a chance to fill up our freshwater tank and do laundry.

Then, on Sunday, we crossed at the Windsor-Detroit border ($12.50 to cross the bridge with a truck and trailer). No questions were asked about the dogs. The guard just inspected the trailer. Strangely, he checked under the duvet. Paul had to wait outside, so he couldn’t see where the guard poked around, but the bedding was pulled back.

We found a state park in Ohio at around 7 pm, approximately 1.5 hours from Jackson Center, but it was Memorial Day weekend. The park host said the park was full, and we really needed an electric site to run the AC. Wow! It was so hot and HUMID! We only ran the AC on our previous Airstream 3 times in 10 years! The host said that she’d ask her husband if he knew of a site that someone had vacated in the morning.

While we were waiting, I found a 4-leaf clover! Never in my life had I found one. Things were looking up!


The man drove around on his gator and found a site – one of the nicest in the park. So, off we went to follow him. Paul parked that big 30 footer like a boss! In no time, we had both of those air conditioners humming, and water was pouring out of the AC drain hose. That evening they showed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on an outdoor screen. What fun!


We left in the morning, and we had some stops to make for supplies. Was the 4-leaf clover still going to cover us for the day? Oh yeah! When we got to Jackson Center, we asked if there were any cancellations for the event so that we could be parked on the factory grounds rather than overflow. We got a great spot. Woo hoo!


We got to see Wally and Stella Byam’s gold Airstream as well as some other historically significant trailers.  Tomorrow (May 29) is the official check-in and the start to Alumapalooza.



May 24 & 25, 2018

We crossed the US-Canada border at approximate 10:15 am, which meant that we passed by Can-Am at around noon, but we only did a slow drive-by. We needed lunch. Our official pick-up was scheduled for Friday, so we didn’t know if we’d be able to accomplish much by arriving early, but we were given permission to sleep in the Airstream Thursday night. Our only glimpse all day was of the end of her in a bay. She was still getting her solar panels and extra batteries. We ordered 400 watts of solar and 4 AGM batteries. Some day, we’ll consider lithium batteries, but they are still too expensive. We also had upgraded Michelin tires installed, so she was getting a makeover of sorts.

It didn’t matter that we had to wait. We were in Airstream Wonderland, so all was well – very well, in fact. Ms. Bolerama got to see the new NEST! YES! It is even more wonderful in person than the pictures show. If only I could get one too! Some women love shoes, some purses, but my favorite accessory is a travel trailer! The NEST has glorious upholstery – the nicest of any Airstream I’ve seen. And when it’s robin’s egg blue with buttons, gasp! It had the same build quality that other Airstreams have. It also smelled like “new Airstream” – one of my favorite scents.

Airstream Wonderland had plenty of Airstream parts and goodies, so I spent a lot of time wandering around and touching things and doing some mental shopping.

The rest of the time, we spent in the lounge area. It was well equipped and well used. Can-Am is so busy! There are people in the lounge area waiting for service, or waiting for their walk-throughs, etc. It is pet-friendly, and they have a water bowl and treats. Humans have access to goodies too, but they don’t have to share a bowl. This is quite the operation. Our experience was so different than when we bought our first Airstream.

Just before 5:30 pm, they told us we could go see our Airstream. It was parked around the side, plugged in and connected to water. We were given a brief walk-through because Friday was our official one. Oh! It is so lovely! Then, we had to madly unload our totes from the truck and pile them outside the Airstream so that we could put the truck in the open section of the lot. The Airstream was in the blocked section, and we were going to get blocked in at 6 pm.

We started unpacking, but we were tired and hungry, and I was greatly disappointed in the Flying Cloud upper cabinets. I knew they’d be smaller than the International cabinets, but I wasn’t prepared for how small. We had to go eat dinner and rethink the kitchen, so we went down the road to a wonderful Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we were able to tackle the lack of kitchen storage.

I subscribe to a YouTube channel, The More We Explore, and the creators are a young full-timing couple who went from a 30ft Flying Cloud to a 23D International. We are doing the exact opposite. Anyway, when I saw them pack the kitchen of the 30 and put everything in the 23, I heard warning bells, but I also wondered if they just had less than we do. Well, we probably have more in our kitchen, but we left half of it in Wakaw. Oh my! The 23D has amazing storage, but the 30 has usable countertops and seems more functional, so it all balances.

Now, in the bedroom, there is no comparison. This bedroom rocks! There are wardrobes on either side of the bed, so it makes it cozy. Also, the curtains have black-out lining. The mattress is very comfortable, so we had such a solid sleep. I don’t even think I tossed or turned during the night. I finally got a full night’s sleep! I awoke refreshed, before my alarm, and ready for our walk-though!

A technician came right away and asked if there were any issues that needed attention, and he got to work immediately. Then, at 9 am, someone came for our truck to reinforce the hitch, and we cleared out of the Airstream so that the equalization system could be installed. We went to the lounge and had coffee and waited for our walk-through, etc. It was all very civilized and organized. Marshall came to get us to give us our walkthrough. He was incredibly thorough and knowledgeable, since he had been a tech at one time.

We explained to him that we’d like to remove our microwave to gain more storage and showed him pictures of our friends’ (Tracey and Derek’s) trailer:

IMG_7645We asked how we would go about ordering the doors to create a cabinet from Airstream. He said that they do this all the time – in house! They have their own carpenters and they can rebuild an entire interior or tweak an existing one. He set us up with one of the service advisors, and we are getting quotes for different configurations.

Can-Am exceeds all expectations!

We camped Friday night at Can-Am again.

On the second night, Daisy decide to do a little investigating.  She was so adorable, peeking into the new spaces.


We will leave on Saturday and start heading to Ohio because we’re going to ALUMAPALOOZA!