⌛ Texas [Draft]

This post is about the Texas leg of my year on the road. I’m traveling to all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states. I’m also stopping at several other interesting spots along the way, and making sure to sample the local fare.

Previous: New Mexico

Next: Louisiana

  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Breakfast Tacos, Austin, Texas
  • Hippy Hollow, Austin, Texas
  • Rainbow Ranch

Timeline

Texas is a big, weird place. This will be my first time visiting. I’m scared and excited! I plan to spend up to two weeks here.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

The Guadalupe Mountains are another fossil reef just like the Carlsbad Caves were in New Mexico. They are literally right next to each other so that makes sense. There is lots of hiking and scenic vistas so that will be a nice time.

Since they are so nearby one another, I’ll be splitting my week at Carlsbad KOA between Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend seems like a pretty normal area without any really amazing or unusual aspects aside from some scenic vistas and lots of interesting endemic species and habitats.

Big Bend also has a hot springs!

I will be stopping for the weekend at Big Bend before heading on to Austin. I plan to stay at the NPS’ Free Primitive Roadside Camping on Old Ore Rd.

Hippy Hollow, Austin, Texas

Hopefully it needs no introduction but Hippy Hollow is a park at Lake Travis in Austin. It is the only legal nude park/beach in Texas. It’s funny there are half a dozen in northern California and yet Texas identifies as being a freer place. 🤣

I’ll be camping for a week at the nearby Windy Point Campground. This is just about a thousand feet from hippy hollow, and also quite close to Austin so I’ll be able to chase the local fare while taking a break after covering so much ground the week before.

 

Budget

I’m budgeting about $150 for gas since Texas is so broad.

I’m budgeting $100 a week for food during this trip including both groceries and eating out.

 

Local Fare

I have been told by friends that I must try breakfast tacos in Austin. According to Eater, I should check out Paco’s Tacos and potentially Vaquero Taquero both of which are in Austin.

Buzzfeed says I should try Smoked brisket with white bread, white onion, pickled jalapeños, and bbq sauce. That’s a VERY specific suggestion so I will keep an eye out for that, though to be honest it doesn’t really appeal to me. Far & Wide agrees with some more suggestions of their own.

 

 

Next up: Louisiana

⌛ New Mexico [Draft]

This post is about the New Mexico leg of my year on the road. I’m traveling to all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states. I’m also stopping at several other interesting spots along the way, and making sure to sample the local fare. Public health officials across the country argue that this is one of the safest things to be doing right now.

As someone who lives with essential first responders, this is much safer than staying at home. We had just finished house quarantine after our third covid scare from a room mate’s workplace — the day before I left — so I was feeling very ready to get going and put some distance between me and other people.

 

Previous: Arizona

Next: Texas

  • The Very Large Array, New Mexico
  • Earthship Biotecture, Taos, New Mexico
  • Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Timeline

There’s not a lot going on in New Mexico in terms of national parks. In fact there’s just one. I plan to spend about a week in New Mexico.

I’ll be coming in from Arizona the night before and staying at Datil Well Campground the first night. This is just $5/night and has restrooms. Which is a very good deal. Plus it has good reviews.

Very Large Array

This is a very cool feat of engineering which has always fascinated me. It’s a very large array of radio telescopes. They are networked so they can work together to see far away parts of the cosmos. I recently wrote a term paper about this, and about possible future advances of this technology. Since then, NASA has since actually done some of the things I wrote about. Very cool topic.

After checking this place out, I’m planning to head to Cebolla Mesa Campground which is a free USDA campground near Taos.

Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf is something special. This is a weird arts collective which evolved into a very popular and profitable permanent installation called House of Eternal Return which tourists can pay to visit.

Many loose associations such as arts collectives and arts nonprofits see the example of Meow Wolf as an ideal future state to which they feel compelled to aspire. I’m not sure I accept that, and I think almost all of them stand no chance of doing that. I think this is something fundamentally different from many of those groups, and it’s not something that would be possible for most of them to accomplish. I want to understand this difference better, so I plan to visit during this trip assuming they reopen in time.

Sadly it looks like they will not be open during my visit to the area which means just one more reason to come back!

Taos: Earthship Biotecture

As a scholar of improvised community infrastructure, Taos is a top priority for this trip. This is a community which builds experimental xericulture homesteads using recycled material and designing their homes and communities to capture rainwater and coexist with the ecosystem, growing their own food in sustainable indoor desert gardens.

You may notice a theme developing from my previous post which focused heavily on the work of Paolo Soleri in combining community architecture with ecology to create sustainable, regenerative alternatives to the modern industrial city.

I’ll be staying nearby at the free campground Cebolla Mesa.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

I’ve visited some cave systems in the past, but nothing anywhere near the scale of the Carlsbad Caverns. Formerly on the coast of a now-gone inland sea, these caverns host the nation’s largest natural cavern room. “The big room” is 4,000 feet long by 625 feet wide and 255 feet tall. I’m excited for this one.

I may stay at the Carlsbad KOA during this period. I’m not yet certain.

 

Budget

I’m budgeting about $100 for gas based on my planned route.

I am camping in my diy trailer the whole time so there will be no cost in hotels or lodging with the exception of one night at Datil Well for $5.

The cost of the guided tour at the Earthship Visitor Center is $16.

I’m budgeting $100 a week for food during this trip including both groceries and eating out.

 

Local Fare

Getting food to go, like camping, falls into the “lowest risk” category of the current CDC guidance.

Buzzfeed recommends Adovada. According to Wikipedia this is “a baked meat dish that is a specialty in New Mexican cuisine. In its simplest form, raw pork is cut into strips or cubes and placed in a large plastic bag with New Mexico red chili powder or minced red chili peppers, garlic, oregano, cumin, lime/lemon juice and/or vinegar, and salt, then mixed and refrigerated overnight. The dish is cooked by baking at low heat wrapped completely in foil or in a covered dish like a casserole dish to keep the meat moist.”

Sounds good. Looks good. Let’s try it! There doesn’t seem to be any exceptionally popular place to get this so I will probably try several different ones and report back.

 

Next up: Texas

Arizona

This post is about the Arizona leg of my year on the road. I’m traveling to all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states. I’m also stopping at several other interesting spots along the way, and making sure to sample the local fare. Public health officials across the country argue that this is one of the safest things to be doing right now.

As someone who lives with essential first responders, this is much safer than staying at home. We had just finished house quarantine after our third covid scare from a room mate’s workplace — the day before I left — so I was feeling very ready to get going and put some distance between me and other people.

Previous: Southern California

Next: New Mexico

  • Quartzsite, Arizona (January 14-25)
  • Arcosanti, Arizona (January 24-30)
  • Saguaro National Park, Arizona (January 29)
  • Sonora Hot Dogs at Nogales Hot Dogs in Phoenix (January 29)
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (January 31-February 6)
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Timeline

I plan to spend at least a month in Arizona.

One of the main suggestions from TripAdvisor is kayaking but I’m going to be there in January so that’s probably not the most ideal activity for the winter. I would love to come back someday in the summer and run the Colorado. In particular I would love to do a multi-day trip through the grand canyon.

Quartzsite, Arizona

This is a mecca for nomads. Annual events like the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and the Quartzsite RV Show attract tens of thousands of snowbirds and nomads alike. While there isn’t really anything going on this year, and I wouldn’t want to go if there was, I still want to experience the remote desert environment here and spend some time writing and working through my long backlog of tasks and projects.

Arcosanti, Arizona

In the words of Maynard James Keenan, “If you were an extra-terrestrial traveler and you landed in the Southwest and wanted to assume an identity here and blend in. This would probably be a good spot to do that.”

I’m very excited to visit Arcosanti! This is a proof of concept Archology designed by visionary architect and urbanist Paolo Soleri. The idea is that the community is designed intentionally to incorporate closed loops which allow it to recycle its waste while providing for its own needs. It also houses as many people as possible in a small, dense area with no cars while preserving the vast wild lands around it; resident stewardship and ecology are built into the architecture of the community. This is where the term arcology comes from.

One of the products they produce are unique hand-forged bronze wind bells. I’m very excited to pick up one of these in addition to a copy of Soleri’s book, City In The Image Of Man.

I plan to spend a week here, reading and learning as much as possible.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

This park has the nation’s largest cacti. It’s a small park and there seems to be a limited number of activities so we will see how much time I spend here.

I’m excited to see the cactus garden at the museum, and do the scenic drive through the park.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

I plan to spend a week here, boondocking near Tusayan at Long Jim Loop Camping. Camping here is free for up to two weeks just like Quartzsite and so many other places. This spot is also just a few hundred feet from downtown Tusayan with all the shopping and wifi you could wish for.

Meteor Crater, Arizona

About 50,000 years ago a meteor struck this spot in Arizona. It left a huge crater. I want to see it.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

This is a very cool-looking place. I’m excited to see all the weird petrified trees and do the many hikes that are available.

I plan to spend several days here. There are a lot of options for free camping in the area, but the Crystal Forest Gift Shop or the seems like the most obvious option since it’s right there at the park and it’s free.

Budget

I’m budgeting about $100 for gas based on my planned route.

I am camping in my diy trailer mots of the time so there will be little cost in hotels or lodging. There are two exceptions. I will be spending a week at Arcosanti at $20/night, and I will be spending a weekend at Shangri La at $30/night.

I also plan to spend ~$200 on a wind bell and a copy of Soleri’s book at Arcosanti.

I’m budgeting $100 a week for food during this trip including both groceries and eating out.

Local Fare

One of the main goals I set for this trip is to try weird and popular local food options. According to Buzzfeed, Sonoran hotdogs are the thing to try while in Arizona. Furthermore, Far & Wide agrees, and suggests that Nogales Hot Dogs in Phoenix is the best place in Arizona to get these mythical Sonoran hotdogs. We will see!

Getting food to go, like camping, falls into the “lowest risk” category of the current CDC guidance.

Honorable Mention

Tombstone seems like it would be fun to check out, but I don’t want to get the normal tourist experience.

I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I will try to check that out next time I’m in the area.

 

Next up: New Mexico

Slab City

This post is about the first leg of my year in the wilderness. I’m traveling to all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states. I’m also stopping at several other interesting spots along the way, and making sure to sample the local fare. Public health officials across the country argue that this is one of the safest things to be doing right now.

As someone who lives with essential first responders, this is much safer than staying at home. We had just finished house quarantine after our third covid scare from a room mate’s workplace — the day before I left — so I was feeling very ready to get going and put some distance between me and other people.

Next Up: Arizona

On my way to my first national park, I’m stopping off in two places; Salton and Slab City. I  am spending about a week in Slab City before continuing on to Arizona.

Getting There

I’m starting my trip on New Year’s Day after a last night together with my quarantine pod discussing our resolutions and plans for the new year. They are hoping to join me on my trip in a few months.

Because California has arbitrarily decided to close camping at all the national parks (one of the safest possible activities during covid according to the consensus of experts across the country) I am moving most of my California plans to the end of the trip and starting out at Slab City.

It’s a twelve hour drive from Sacramento to Slab City. So I will be stopping overnight along the way at the Love’s in Barstow which is a safe spot with restrooms where you can camp out for the night for free.

Salton, California

This is an inland sea which exists as the result of an industrial accident. It has been the subject of documentaries, development attempts, disasters, and a seemingly endless string of misfortunes.

I’m very excited to check it out. This will probably just be a quick stop to look at the desolate landscape and take some pictures before heading on to Slab City.

Slab City, California

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with places like Slab City, Burning Man, Arcosanti, and other weird nomadic experimental communities. This is particularly germane to the topic of my current field of academic research and my efforts to identify what steps we can take to make sure our communities survive and thrive in the ongoing collapse of the biosphere. This will be my first time visiting Slab City, and I’m very excited to finally see it and take copious notes and pictures.

There are A LOT of things I want to see here, so I’m planning to stay for two weeks. I will also take this opportunity to dial in my moving cabin setup and do my first real long-term testing of the power systems.

One of the really great things about Slab City is that it’s all outdoor art installations in wide open spaces, so it will be trivially easy to follow the guidance of staying clear of other people while enjoying the art.

I really want to see the Oasis Club.

I definitely want to see East Jesus and West Satan.

Hopefully, I can see a live show at The Range.

Salvation Mountain is on the way to the Hot Springs, and perhaps one of the most striking and recognizable vistas.

I also want to make sure to visit the Hot Springs if I can find a time when they are empty.

And then I’m heading to Quartzsite.

Budget

I am budgeting about a hundred dollars for gas.

I am dispersed camping in my diy trailer the entire time so there will be no cost in hotels or lodging.

I’m budgeting $100 a week for food during this trip including groceries, eating out, and alcohol.

 

How It Went

A lot of the exciting things about Slab City were closed for covid, like the Range and East Jesus. This doesn’t make a lot of sense since these are outdoors and lend themselves to safe social distancing, but I get it.

First step, don the PPE. I”m wearing a P100 respirator which is much more effective than an N95 mask, plus a ballistic face shield.

I took the advice of AdventureVanMan on youtube and set up camp at the end of Edith just south of Slab LoWs. It was a great spot with lots of room between campers and an amazing view of the sunset…

I biked around the city quite a bit. I took a lot of pictures and notes about the interesting art and public offerings, but the biggest thing I was interested to see was the improvised infrastructure. I will be doing another post about this topic since it’s close to my heart and a big part of the reason I’m doing this trip.

Check out the full photo album here. There are a lot of panoramas and photospheres which do not embed into the blog.

Water Storage Infrastructure

I thought it was very interesting to see the way people were improvising water infrastructure. There were hundreds of IBC Totes scattered around the city with signs on them advertising free water for everyone (with suggested limits).

These water tanks were often elevated on platforms like a water tower and then connected to RVs or other structures. I took lots of pictures of these setups so check the album if you want to see examples. In the past, I’ve written about this same process of elevating IBC totes being shown in improvised communities on the Expanse. I wonder where they got their inspiration!

Water Distribution Infrastructure

I also saw people coming through every day with improvised water trucks to fill people’s tanks. Shown below is the same camp as above, but a truck has approached with an IBC Tote in its bed and it’s filling the water tower.

I wanted to ask about how this works and what people are paying but I didn’t want to approach others because of covid so this will be something to investigate in the future when it’s safer. There seem to be a lot of cash businesses that have popped up in Slab City to fill the unmet food, water, and infrastructure needs of the community.

Electricity Production

There were a lot of people using wind turbines, solar panels, and gasoline generators for power. The photo album contains examples of all of these.

It was interesting to see the way people were rigging their photovoltaic arrays. Shown below is one array that has 48 100w solar panels. This is a really incredible amount of power. I wonder what they are doing with all of that. I only have six of these panels and it’s more than enough for my heat and ac.

Electricity Storage

One of the most expensive and challenges to using solar photovoltaic in improvised communities is how to store the power during the day so that you can access it at night. I numerous examples where people had solar panels laying in apparent disuse next to a generator that was running 24 hours a day. This put me in mind to do further research on picohydro pumped storage and similar technology which serves as a potential alternative to expensive, short-lived, and deeply unethical lithium batteries.

There are companies developing technology to use abandoned shafts from old mines and wells to lift and lower large weights in order to store and later use that potential energy as electric power. Other companies are doing similar projects where cranes stack up blocks and then lower them in order to store and then extract the same potential energy. There are many interesting potential options for ways to store the power of photovoltaic systems while avoiding the  ecological catastrophe of the lithium product life cycle, and the dependency on the global mineral industry for frequent replacement batteries.

This also led me to explore the existing online ecosystem for reusing marginal photovoltaics and lithium cells. Solar panels and lithium batteries gradually lose capacity over time. As capital assets, corporations have to write these off and dispose of them within a set timeframe. This means lots of used and partially functional batteries and solar panels hit the market. If you have a lot of land in the desert, then who cares if your solar panels are only working at 80% of their original capacity, particularly if you can get them cheaply or for free. Groups have sprung up on Facebook to discuss this topic and help find and distribute these second-hand products.

Internet Infrastructure

Also interesting was the way people in Slab City were getting their internet. There were sort of two strategies. I did some wardriving (scanning for wifi around different areas) and found lots of wifi hotspots from mobile phone companies. This seems to be the most popular way for individual-scale community internet infrastructure. People also formed camps with their travel-mates and shared wifi hotspots together.

Groups Vs Solo

There were a number of large camps set up and fenced off where lots of people were living together under quarantine. Most of them refused entry to anyone from the outside. These all had public offerings under normal conditions and some were still doing that. For example, Camp Ponderosa offers free breakfast to everyone who wants it.  Camp SK8 (A skate park) offers free dinner to everyone who wants it. Oasis Club offers paid meals and free coffee and wifi to anyone who wants it.

I brought my own food and coffee and did not venture into these camps during this trip, but I would be fascinated to return and visit them again when it’s safe to do so.

Food Production

There are lots of camps that do grow their own food on the land here. I would not recommend that since this is an extremely polluted former military weapons testing site, but if it’s possible to grow food here then it’s possible to do it anywhere. Here is a cool example from the backstage area of the church of enlightenment where they have large gardens producing fresh vegetables and doubling as a shade structure.

Entertainment

There was even a movie theater! This is actually something I brought with me as well, though I have not yet used it on this trip. I’d love to watch Blade Runner or something by Cronenberg here :]

Radio Infrastructure

The other interesting infrastructure I saw was radio masts (pictured below). There were lots of camps that had large radio masts. Some of them advertised pirate radio, others seemed to be listening only. As a licensed amateur radio tech, I am very interested in this kind of infrastructure and I posted lots of pics in the album linked above.

Sewage Infrastructure

Since I was staying far away from other people, I did not inquire as to how others were taking care of their sewage needs. This will be another interesting topic to return and inquire about in the future.

Personally I really liked the setup of using the instant tent as a bathroom with the portable toilet inside. It was very clean and convenient.

Shade Structures

It was also cool to see so many examples of people putting shade structures over their living spaces. I saw one example (shown below) where they built a deck with stairs, chairs, and guard rails that doubles as a shade structure for the dwelling underneath. This mirrors the findings of my big research project on how to effectively cool spaces in direct sunlight.

 

Cyberpunk Praxis

When it was cold and dark out, I found myself playing Cyberpunk 2077 inside my solar powered DIY camper at Slab City and I thought to myself, wow this is probably the most cyberpunk moment of my life.

Politics

The politics of Slab City were very interesting. It is high-key anarchy. There are no rules, no police, no public utilities, and no one to call if something goes wrong. On the one hand, this means that if someone’s wild dogs are chasing you or if your neighbor is pacing back and forth screaming all day with a gun in his hand and talk radio blasting on the speakers, you just sort of have to sort of try and avoid these things and you really don’t have any recourse to prevent them from happening.

Prophecy?

It seems that Slab City offers a prototype of the apocalyptic/ nomad community. One of the really cool things about this community is the fact that people have been iterating for decades on the problems facing cities. This means there are lots of examples of solutions that have been tested under the toughest conditions by people who are living with the solutions daily. We can learn about sustainability and resilient urban design from the way people in situations like this solve the problems that everyone faces; power, water, sewage, food, internet, etc.

As someone who intends to found some kind of intentional subsistence community later this year, these lessons are core to the work I intend to undertake.

There is also another important lesson to take away from Slab City. Radical Independence is hard by yourself. It’s much easier, much safer, much cheaper, more resilient, and more sustainable to be independent together with a small group or tribe of people who can pool their labor and resources to solve these problems together.

A Unifying Political and Socioeconomic Theory

Here’s a photo I took at Camp SK8 of a vandweller flying the flag of anarchosyndicalism. This is basically the same argument I just outlined, that people should work together to solve shared problems without needing a state or corporation to make them do it. This is a very slab city idea, a very burning man idea, and a very good idea for anyone who wants to go about building a resilient and sustainable community during the ongoing collapse of the biosphere.

Should You Visit?

People have asked me if they should visit Slab City. I think my answer is “probably not.” This is not a fun happy place. This is a sad terrifying place. And the whole world is going to be more like this place soon. Read my Desolation Manifesto to learn more about the ongoing collapse of the biosphere and the steps we can start taking now to put ourselves and our communities in a position of surviving and even thriving through what’s coming.

 

Next stop: Arizona

Moving Cabin: Power Systems

Power

I am using a large integrated battery system. This is cutting edge tech, and it’s an amazing achievement. A single small product contains the batteries, the chargers including both 120v and solar mppt, and separate inverters for both 12v and 120v output.

The biggest thing to do here is just cut the hole for the shore power and then assemble all the pieces. There is a 12 volt system and a 120 volt system. Let’s start with the 12 volt system. This system runs the jacks, surveillance, ventilation fan, usb accessories, and the license plate light. The 120 volt system runs everything else.

12 Volt System

Let’s go in order of how the power moves through the system. First there is a SA20 port coming in from the Bluetti AC200’s high amperage DC output. This goes to the bottom red input bus in the photo. The ground goes to the ground bus inside the distribution panel.

There is also a 300w 12v shore supply running off shore power if it’s available. This comes in through the single 30a breaker in the photo. From there it runs to the second red input bus near the top of the photo.

Ok now to decide which input bus connects to the distribution panel, I installed a high current relay. This switches automatically between the shore bus or the battery bus depending on whether shore power is available. See the low gauge yellow wire running from the relay to the shore bus? That’s the control wire for the relay, so if there is power on that bus, then the relay switches to that bus.

Now coming out of the relay, the high gauge yellow wire takes the power from whichever bus and sends it to the distribution panel. This means that no matter what the situation is, there is power going to the distribution panel and it all switches automatically.

Then wires run from the distro panel to things like the jacks, ventilation, and eventually the future water pump, and other 12v accessories. It also runs to a double cigarette port shown at the bottom.

One of the cigarette ports has a usb adapter which charges the RavPower USB battery shown to the left. This battery has passthrough so it basically functions as a USB UPS. The RavPower powers the Raspberry Pi (this screen case) and Arduino sensor array at the top of the image. This USB battery also powers a switchable usb hub at the top of the image. This switchable hub controls the internal and external string lights. They could run for a week off this battery without main power.

The arduino constantly measures and records things like temperature, humidity, nuclear radiation, air quality, and other interesting measures. A second array is outside, so this allows us to compare inside/outside data to measure performance and hazards.

There is also a second ground bus at the top which just runs to the distribution panel’s ground bus. This is just to make everything cleaner. You could also just run everything to the same distribution panel ground bus.

120 Volts

Again let’s follow the power as it moves through the system.

The shore power or generator plugs in through a shore socket on the outside of the trailer. From the shore socket, power runs to a power strip which serves as a shore bus. (Yellow in the lower left.) The shore bus has three jobs. The Bluetti AC200 charges from the shore bus. So does my older smaller backup battery (to the right). Second, the shore 12v supply runs off this bus. Third, the shore bus runs into the automatic transfer switch (in front of the Bluetti AC200).

The automatic transfer switch defaults to shore power if available, or runs off the Bluetti AC200 if no shore power is available. The output from this switch goes to the main chassis bus, a special kill-a-watt plugin strip (at the top center) with a screen showing current power usage.

This system allows heating, air conditioning, phone chargers, the microwave, the toaster, etc to automatically run from the most appropriate power source.

The AC200 is also charged by the solar array.This is made up of four 100 watt panels mounted to the roof. I am also experimenting with additional panels which sit on the ground and add on to the capacity of the roof array.

✔ Thankful For Hot Springs

Public health officials across the country are arguing that camping is the safest thing to be doing during covid. I built a moving cabin in order to do more camping and spend time away from other people. I wanted to spend a week testing out this new camper now that it feels finished enough to start using. Since it’s cold and rainy, I figured the perfect thing to do is a hot springs trip!

I have a certain fondness for the Eastern Mid-Sierra region and I’ve always wanted to spend more time exploring that area. There are a lot of hot springs there so it seemed like the perfect destination.

There are several interesting facts that make this area an ideal place to camp and visit hot springs. First of all there are a lot of hot springs in this small area; it would only take a couple hours to drive to all of these. Second, it’s all on BLM/USDA land so it’s free dispersed camping and clothing-optional respectively. Third, there are a bunch of towns so there is plenty of access to any essentials.

I’m currently planning to spend the entire week of thanksgiving at the following locations, probably with about one stop per day.

The North Leg

North Leg

 

Buckeye Hot Spring (Map)

This place is great because there is semi-developed campground a thousand feet west of the hot springs. So you can easily pull up to camp for free and then saunter off to soak.

Travertine (Map)

Travertine is just a bit north of mammoth, and it’s another free blm hot springs with free dispersed camping. I have heard that it can sometimes be competitive to get a spot, so I will check it out. If there is a spot available then I will stay here for at least the first night. If it’s packed, then I will probably skip it altogether.

This seems like the coolest spot on the list because there are bathrooms. The other spots have porta potties or require you to dig a hole. Having not visited any of these spots yet, this is the one that seems most likely to be my favorite.

The South Leg

South Leg

Rock Tub (Map)

So this is another really cool spot which has fire rings and everything set up as another free BLM semi-developed campground but with no water or restrooms.

Shepherd Hot Springs (Map)

On Google it says this is closed, but that doesn’t make any sense because it’s just out there on the land next to the rest of them and there is nothing from BLM about it being closed.

There is also nothing on The Dyrt about this place but it’s within a few hundred feet of two others I’m planning to visit so there’s no harm in checking it out and potentially taking a soak assuming everything is alright.

Crab Cooker (Map)

Crab Cooker is right in between Shepherd and Pulkey’s. It’s about 200 feet to each. All three seem to have their own camping, though I would not move camp 200 feet. 🤣

Pulkey’s Pool/ Hilltop Tub (Map)

This one is very cool because it’s actually set up like a large outdoor hot tub.

Wild Willy’s (Map)

You get the point, this is another hot springs nearby which is also free with free camping.

 

How It Went

Here’s what our camp looked like. My friend had the tent and FRS. My set up was considerably less complex 😎

 

There are an unbelievable number of hot springs in the Mammoth Lakes area. Just this one spot vista had dozens of springs, and most of them are not even in this direction. You could spend a long time here and probably still not see them all.

This was my first time trying the highly recommended Italian stovetop espresso maker with my jetboil flash. It worked great. An instant favorite piece of gear. I set it right on the pot support and didn’t have any problems. This photo was after making three espresso shots, and as you can see from the table’s surface it was about eleven degrees out. TBH I was surprised the flash had such an easy time getting it hot enough but it didn’t have any trouble.

 

We liked the pop-up bathroomtent set up. I was worried that it would flap around in the wind and be noise, but it was fine. I didn’t hear it moving at all. I used lag bolts to anchor it like we do on the playa.

 

Because the side of my Moving Cabin is large and white, it makes the perfect projection screen for my new “Moving Theater.” 🤣

 

The views were great and the inside stayed comfortably warm despite outside temperatures reaching just 11 degrees! I’m very happy with the Moving Cabin.

Changes

I think I will insulate the subfloor after-all. It’s almost two-inches of wood, but it got significantly cooler than the walls and ceiling on the inside so it seems like it would be worth doing that.

Building a Moving Cabin

When I saw public health officials across the country arguing camping is the safest thing to be doing during covid, I knew what I had to do. I’m spending 2021 in the wilderness, camping at all the national parks. I built a moving cabin to help me do this! This is the megapost with all the construction details. Check out my itinerary for the trip and please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Must Haves

It has to be pitch black inside and very comfortable. I need my sleep and I like to stay up late. I really don’t want any windows at all. I always cover my bedroom windows with blackout fabric and sleep until noon.

It was also very important to me that it be fully off-grid. That means enough solar and batteries to heat or cool the space, cook food, and to make my own water.

Design

I went for a very simple design which is highly utilitarian. I was inspired by designs like this and this.

I went for a simple rectangular shape using this 5×8 steel trailer as a foundation. There are 4×8 trailers which are a bit cheaper, but having an extra foot of width still leaves in narrower than my car while making a lot more space inside for activities.

I decided to use exterior sheathing plywood for the base and walls, with ground contact 2x6s for the framing. This makes the structure extremely strong and resilient. Finally I covered everything in white flex-seal which is basically a bed liner to prevent any leakage or gaps.

The rear wall of the trailer opens completely. It hinges up and onto a pair of gas pistons. This is great because it also acts as a canopy to shade the entrance, while allowing a great view of the outside world.

Comfort

I purchased two folding memory foam pads which convert to either a bed or a couch. These rest on an elevated bed with about a foot of storage underneath and about two feet of floor between the bed and the door.

Above the head of the bed there is a 5,000 btu air conditioner and also a small electric heater.

I am including a microwave and coffee maker. These run easily off the lithium bank and allow hot food to be quickly prepared even in the most remote locations.

In the trunk of the car, there is a pop-up tent and a portable toilet. This comes in handy when you’re a long way from restrooms and don’t feel like digging a hole. Storing it in the trunk means there is no smell in the sleeping space.

I had planned out a complex system for filtering water and then using propane to have hot showers outside the trailer. I decided not to do this for several reasons. First, after a recent summer camping trip of several weeks in Tahoe, I learned that it’s easy to find a place to take a shower. Second, I can easily use a cheap pump sprayer to take showers just like we do at Burning Man. Third, I really don’t want to have any propane at all in the design.

Power

It was very important to me to keep everything electric so that it is completely sustainable and can run indefinitely off of the solar panels. I really don’t want to rely on propane, partly because it’s a fossil fuel and partly because it is inherently limited and means I will need to keep refilling it.

My main source of power is the solar array. As a backup and depending on the weather wherever I happen to be, there is also a 2kw generator on the tongue of the trailer. Hopefully I will not need to use this

I think this will be plenty of power, but I am considering adding a second solar array to the passenger side of the trailer which can also lift automatically into position. This would double my available power for just a few hundred dollars.

Power gets a whole post to itself because of how complicated it is.

Assemble The Trailer

Ironton 5x8 1715lb Trailer

So first let me say I am glad I bought this trailer and I would buy it again. The price is great and the 5×8 profile is great. But assembling it was a nightmare. The directions that come with it are completely wrong (apparently they are for some previous version of the trailer). It’s not too hard to figure it out though. It took me about four hours working alone to get get it completely assembled with the extras I added.

I definitely recommend running a separate ground line to all the lights instead of trying to use a painted frame alone to carry the ground. Also the market lights come with these stupid vampire taps. Just splice the wires properly.

I added several things to the trailer. First this wheel jack on the tongue.

Next, this security kit. It comes with a ball lock, a trigger lock, and a receiver lock for under thirty bucks. Great value.

This trailer has a 17″ hitch height (from the ground). My car is a 2013 Honda Civic LX which has a 12 inch hitch height, so I got a 5 inch hitch lift which is sized correctly for my U-Haul receiver (1.25″),  and also the appropriate ball to connect the hitch lift to the trailer.

U-Haul charged about $300 for parts, labor, and wiring to install the receiver.

All of this is rated much higher than what I need for this project. You could probably cut some corners but I like to be sure that nothing will go wrong.

Bed!

Trailer Construction 1

The first step in constructing the bed was to pick up four sheets of pressure treated 3/4″ 4’x8′ plywood. These were very expensive and probably a lot more than is really needed but again I want to make sure this thing lasts forever.

In this photo, you can see two layers of plywood stacked on top of each other…

Since the trailer is 5×8 but wood only comes in 4×8, it takes four pieces. The bottom layer is two pieces of 4×5 which covers the entire trailer but leaves a seam in the middle. So I decided to do a second layer which you can see above. This moves the seams away from the middle, eliminating any leakage or openings in the floor.

Trailer Construction 2

Here you can see the top layer is removed, showing the first layer only. Because the bolts that hold the frame together stick out above the frame, I decided to use a hole saw to cut holes in the bottom layer to allow it to sit flush on the frame. You can also see the big seam in the middle which would potentially let air and creatures in.

Trailer Construction 3

Here you can see a close-up of the 1″ holes which fit the bolts perfectly. You can also see a closeup of the seam which needs covering up.

Trailer Construction 4

In between the two layers, I put an entire bottle of Gorilla Glue, making sure to completely surround all the holes and the seam, so that once the wood is glued together, no moisture can get in  between the layers.

Again this is overkill because pressure treated plywood is already waterproof but just to be safe I decided to go for the gold here.

Trailer Construction 5

Next I put the top layer back on, gluing it in place. You may notice I made sure to put the nice finished side down and leave the ugly side up. This was not on purpose. 😀

Trailer Construction 6

Next I put dozens of screws in to hold the boards together and let the glue set very tightly. I made sure to surround every seam and hole with several screws just to be sure it will be a good tight fit and last forever.

Trailer Construction 7

Last, I piled everything heavy I could find on top to compress the boards for the next 24 hours until the glue has set.

Frame and Walls

I decided to go with a simple geometric rectangle. I used exterior pine sheathing for the bed, walls, and roof with 2×6 deck boards for framing. Then I covered everything in flex seal which is basically bed liner. This is definitely overkill but I want to be sure I don’t have anything to worry about.

The rear wall swings up to serve as the door, and is supported by a pair of gas pistons. I used Autocad to figure out where to mount them based on the open and closed lengths to get the angle I wanted when the door is open.

I used pressure treated fir 2×6 deck boards with three inch deck screws for the framing, and then I also added steel brackets to every joint, and the same 3/4″ pressure treated plywood on the outside.

The framing is a little wonky because of the way I’m doing the mattress. In this photo you can see there is a frame around the front, and then on the front face where the front wall will go. I’m planning to add an air conditioner to the front wall, so there will be another cross member on the front.

There is also a frame around the midpoint so that the roof panels can be mounted at the seam. Then there is a third frame to support the end of the mattress platform. You can see the three cross-beams which are also mounted with both three-inch deck screws and steel brackets.

I am planning to add sheets of styrofoam to the voids between the studs and then cover the inside walls with nicer-looking plywood.

Note that there is another sheet of plywood in the bottom just for storage. It will become the back wall/door. Also that random board laying across the beams is just hanging out, not permanently placed there.

Making the front wall was a little complicated because I had a lot of extra wood and I didn’t want to buy another $60 sheet of this plywood so I did the same thing as the base and cut and glued several 3/4 sheets together to form a 1.5″ thick front wall. This is on the ground drying in the photo.

While the glue dries, I decided to apply the first coat of white flex-seal to the side and roof panels. I used a roller to coat it all over, and then used a spray can to make sure any little crevices are well sealed. I will probably end up doing a total of two coats to the entire outside.

Here you can see all three walls up, with the roof panels laying on top. The first coat of flex seal is now on.

I need to pick up some more spray-on flex seal to fill in the seams before the second coat goes on.

Lastly because I’m using a five-foot wide trailer, there is an extra foot of space on the roof next to the four-foot solar panels. This means there is room for a vent with a built-in fan! I used a jigsaw and cut out a hole, then it was a simple process to screw the vent down and seal the edges with flex seal.

Air Conditioning

I got the only Air Conditioner that Home Depot had at the time, which ironically was the same one Will Prowse tested to run off solar. It’s rated for 6,000 BTUs which is extreme overkill and should be quite efficient for the tiny space. I love that it has a loud but low-wattage fan. A loud fan is a must have for me if I’m going to get any sleep.

I used a jigsaw to cut out a box in the front wall to fit the air conditioner. I also made sure to leave enough room underneath the AC for the toolbox. Next I will add wood at angles to make the overall shape of the front of the trailer more aerodynamic.

I screwed the air conditioner’s frame into the wall on all sides, and then I used Loctite sealant/ adhesive to fill in the gaps around the AC unit.

Back Door With Digital Lock

I wanted to have the entire back wall open as a door for several, reasons. First it’s a nice big open space for loading cargo and materials into the trailer for transit. Second it’s much cheaper than installing the typical doors people use. I cut a hole in the 3/4″ plywood to mount the digital lock directly onto the 2×6 frame on the inside of the door.

This slides perfectly into the frame of the trailer, with adhesive weather stripping forming a seal all around the opening. I also installed a pair of gas pistons to lift the door and hold it open. This was tricky and took a lot of trial and error to get them positioned perfectly. Overall I’m very happy with the way the door turned out.

After I painted the back door, I mounted the license plate and a white board. This is a burner tradition so that people can leave messages and notes. I can also use it to post messages during transit.

One thing to note is that the license plate must have a light. So I mounted this light and wired it into my main power supply so that it’s just always on. This is helpful for navigating the area in the dark and finding the buttons on the digital lock.

Initial Performance Data

Mileage

I drove the trailer to a remote hot springs trip. It was just about 500 miles round trip, and I climbed from 50 feet of elevation to 8700 feet and then came back down. This feels like a very comprehensive test of the kind of mileage I can expect.

As you can see the Moving Cabin is not very aerodynamic, and yet I got about 22 mpg which is SO MUCH HIGHER than what RVs get. I was surprised it performed so well, but after reflecting on these numbers, I think a big part of it is the fact that I’m driving 55 mph with the trailer rather than my usual 75-80 mph.

A big part of the reason I decided to build this rather than buy an RV is mileage, but also the fact that my car is one of the most reliable cars ever sold so it’s not going to be breaking down in the back country like an RV might.

Thermodynamics

During the summer months, I left the AC on for a whole weekend (with the eco mode turned off) in order to test the power consumption in a typical summer camping situation (92F). To be fair, I would never leave the AC on if I was not inside sleeping. It averaged 175 watts per hour across the whole weekend. This is pretty high, but with all the solar it should be fine.

Based on similar work published by Will Prowse, it seems logical to expect about a 50% decrease in power consumption once the trailer is well insulated. Since I will only be using it about a third of the time, it also seems reasonable to expect a further 2/3 decrease in daily consumption. Therefore I estimate that once insulated, I will average about 1200 watts per day for the AC during warm months. The heater is rated at the same wattage.

Jacks

I had been debating whether or not to add jacks to the trailer, and as I walked around on it installing the bed, I noticed a line which I could not cross without it tipping over backwards. So I decided to add jacks.

The electric jacks I found need a 2.5 inch hole which seems fine going through a 2×6 but I decided to stack two 2x6s just to be safe. Since the trailer is five feet wide, I cut the 2x6s to six feet, meaning there will be a 6″x6″ square sticking out each side. I cut holes here to mount the jacks. I bought a set from harbor freight but these are the closest equivalent I could find online.

I cut the beams to size and wood glued them together, then deck screwed them together in eight places. I used three 120mm bolts to mount the beam to the trailer’s structural cross-member just behind the tires. This should be perfect for making sure it won’t shift around or tip over once it’s set up.

I tested the design by pushing the structure around once it was up in the air and it all seems very sturdy. Before I installed the jacks, I jumped on the ends to see if there was any give, and it was all rock solid. These jacks are each rated for more than double the weight of the trailer so I think it will work perfectly.

I used some locktite to attach a high precision bubble level to each jack’s base as well as to the trailer’s tongue. This makes it easy to level everything out. I ran power from each jack to my main 12v distribution panel. (see below) I also attached an inline breaker so the jacks don’t receive power if they don’t need it.

The trailer’s frame wiring includes a special ground line I ran to all the lights and frame segments because the manufacturer just expected the ground connection to magically travel through painted joints which obviously doesn’t work. So when I wired the jacks, I also connected the ground from the 12v distribution panel to the ground line I had run for the lights and frame. This is one of only two places where wires run through the exterior of the trailer. I drilled two tight holes for the wires, then stabled them on both sides of the wall and filled the holes with locktite. I will also add a coat of clear rubber over that once it dries. This should form a very good seal while also preventing static problems in the low voltage system that could otherwise arise. I will probably add some kind of grounding strap in the future. There are going to be a lot of mixed voltage systems with thousands of watts of batteries inside, so we want to avoid ground isolation as much as possible in order to prolong the life of the electronics.

Woops!

So I made several errors in my design based on a mistaken assumption. On this trailer, the wheels are not halfway down the bed. They are more like 2/3 of the way to the back of the bed. This means the torque moment on the tongue is basically maxed out at a proper 60/40 weight distribution. I designed the layout to be 60/40 with a centered axle so too much of the weight was forward of the axle. Also, most of the heavy items which will eventually be in the rear are not yet installed. (Ie, the fridge and other appliances.)

Adding jacks behind the wheels and lifting the trailer off the tires to level it means that the fulcrum moves even further back. I remember seeing the level on the tongue showing a different lateral angle from those on the jacks and feeling like I must have installed it crooked. In fact, the tongue beams were torquing.

Combine that with the fact that the tongue jack comes pre-assembled with some play, and therefore exerts a lateral torque on the already stressed tongue beam and you can guess what happened when I stepped on the tongue to install something on the roof. The tongue beam twisted where the jack was mounted, and then bent 90 degrees out at its center to release the tension.

I removed the toolbox from the front and the cargo from the inside before lowering the jacks. It was still pretty heavy to lift the trailer, but I was able to do that and leverage the tongue jack to bend the beam back into place. I used a car jack to lift the tongue at the front. Without the weight of me standing on it plus the cargo, plus the longer fulcrum, the trailer was suddenly content to stand on its own. But, I knew the beam that had bent was fucked.

You can see the steel that buckled where I bent the beam back into place. Luckily, the beam was the only part of the trailer that was actually damaged.

I called the manufacturer and they sent me a replacement beam as well as a new cross member for the tongue. It wasn’t very hard to replace the beam, and I added the new cross member to the bottom of the two beams so that there were now two cross members between the beams.

One of the lag bolts for the tongue jack bent when it hit the ground, so you can see I also replaced that with another bolt. I have been very careful to frequently check the tongue weight to make sure it is easy to lift, and that the jack is not tilted at all.

I will probably not be using the rear jacks to lift the trailer off the ground unless I have a flat tire to change. I think they will basically only serve as theft prevention tools as this point.

The second cross member really ought to be included in the normal design of the trailer. There is basically no way this beam could have failed with a second cross member in place. The bottom side bent out, and that couldn’t happen if it was designed like this with two of them, rather than with just one on the top. The part number for the cross member describes it as “spare tire mount.” This seems like such a stupid design. I will have to be careful not to break it again.

But all is well now!

Insulation

Back at home, I decided to run some tests to see how effective the insulation was at reducing the energy requirements. First, I put temperature sensors both inside and out to log the uninsulated temperature curves and compare the percent kelvin difference.

First let’s look at the data about the thermal performance with it just sitting there with no heater running. As you can see above, the lines are basically the same shape. In fact, with inside/outside correlation of 96% and a beta of 1.0. There is obviously a difference between the two spaces, but they track precisely together. The goal of insulation is to make the inside line as flat as possible. A beta of 1 is basically the worst possible beta for insulation. This means it’s literally not working at all. So we have a lot of room for improvement. Let’s see how low we can get that beta!

Now let’s see how much energy it takes to keep the space inside warm without insulation. My heater and AC are both 500 watts so it should be a roughly equivalent test in terms of the calorimetry. I ran the heater inside and measured how much power it needed to maintain temperature. At 55 degrees outside and 70 degrees inside, it took 200 watts to maintain the temperature for an hour. This is roughly equivalent to the AC’s power consumption as expected.

Let’s Insulate!

Since I framed the trailer with 2x6s, there is a 1.5″ gap between the exterior walls and the future interior walls. (2x6s are actually 1.5″ x 5.5″) This is the perfect depth for sheets of R-6 polyisocyanurate. It simply needs to be cut to size and put into place. Next, nice sheets of plywood will cover the interior walls.

As you can see, despite even colder temperatures, the interior temperature stays much flatter with insulation. We now see an inside/outside correlation of 95% with a beta of just 0.77. This is a huge improvement over the uninsulated values, from just an inch of polyiso insulation.

I ran the same experiment again once the insulation was installed. I ran the heater for an hour when the external temperature was 55 degrees. Heating the inside space up to 70 degrees took just 120 watts, a reduction of 40%. Hopefully when it’s warm out, I will see similar efficiency improvements with air conditioning.

As a more realistic experiment, I ran the heater all night while sleeping and set it at 60 degrees. It took just 380 watts for seven hours or about 45 watts per hour. This was on a night with a low of 36. At that rate, my 1700 watt hours would let the heater run for five days without any solar or other recharging at all. Very exciting results!

I recently published a great deal of research on how to effectively moderate the indoor temperature when camping. One of my findings was that thermal mass batteries are among the most effective techniques for warming the cool hours or cooling the warm hours. In this case, it simply means adding several gallons of water in the storage area under the bed to get these benefits.

During my recent hot springs trip, I did not use the heater despite it being just 11 degrees outside because of how effective the insulation was at keeping it warm inside the camper. I was worried that my gallons of water would freeze inside the camper, but they never came close.

Power Systems

This section is very complex so it gets its own post. Check it out here!

Heat

I had already purchased the cheapest ceramic heater I could find, but I doubt I’ll need that in such a small and well-insulated space. It uses about the same 500 watts as the AC, though neither seems likely to be on more than a 20-30% duty cycle with how small and efficient the space is.

I have also had many people recommend the Mr Heater which could come in handy if I decide to go ahead with my tentative plans to eventually build a portable sauna. I will probably buy one of these as a backup heat source just in case.

I should probably add that I have a lot of camping gear already, including cold weather gear. If you’re going to be camping in cold climates, make sure you are prepared to survive.

My experience so far has been that it stays very warm inside even if it’s below freezing outside, even without heating. So it’s not clear that this will ever be used but I have it in case I need it.

Other Accessories

Water

I have done a lot of experimenting with various methods for making my own water. I plan to upgrade my current pump to something with a little more volume.

I’ll probably get a nice multi-stage filtration system as well. If I do that, I’ll likely also add an outdoor shower and some kind of large potable water holding tank. (Possibly something wide and flat underneath the bed of the trailer)

Toilet

I purchased one of the top rated portable toilets, and a small popup tent to serve as an outhouse. I intend to store these in the trunk of the car rather than the trailer, so as to keep any scent far away from the living spaces.

I will miss having the bidet from home… :[

Moving Theater

Because the side of the moving cabin is a large blank white wall, it makes the perfect projection screen. I predict this will be a fun way to connect with others and share in things like the baby yoda show.

Radio

My original design included a radio mast which attaches to the camper, providing LTE, Wifi, VHF/UHF, SDR, etc. I eventually decided to make this a separate structure which sets up next to the camper.

I am still ironing this project out and I will do a follow-up post once it’s ready.

360 Surveillance

I installed a birds eye view surveillance system. This means I can see everything all around the camper on one simple screen.

I’m using this box to split the video signal from the 360 box so that it can go to a small screen as well as a video capture card. I’m using motion on a Raspberry Pi to automatically record video clips whenever motion is detected in any direction.

I’m planning to eventually add object recognition and tagging for the videos, and using a neural net to check whether there are any people who are unknown.

Self-Sufficient Off-Grid Squaredrop Trailer

Pros and Cons of RVs

I am planning to do a lot of traveling in the next year. Initially I had planned to buy an RV but there are several problems with this plan.

I would need to get rid of my car as it is not towable. This means if I want to go to the store without packing up camp, I would need to buy another car which is a hassle and a whole ‘nother thing to worry about maintaining. I already have the most reliable and trustworthy car there is, so this is a big con for me.

Because of the cost, I would need to bet heavily on a used RV in order to make this happen. A lot could go wrong and I could easily end up spending too much money on maintenance and other issues. Also many of the amenities which would make an RV ideal come with big downsides. Buying something used and affordable means buying decades-old wiring, plumbing, septic, etc which is probably going to leak and need a lot of work.

Most people I’ve followed are using portable toilets instead of using the RV toilet which means you have an extra toilet for no reason. The same goes for the RV’s showers which frequently leak and cause even more problems. Basically everyone I’ve followed is using their own separate portable toilet and not using their RV’s showers at all. In my experience over the last few months of extended camping trips, it’s easy to find a shower at campgrounds or truck stops, and the playa french bath solves many problems, eliminating the need for daily showers.

Another thing is the electrical systems. RVs have terrible electrical systems and do not provide sufficient power and they always have integrated propane systems for refrigeration and cooking. I definitely do not want to use propane, and I have a JetBoil which I will probably continue to use for most of my cooking. But also I have a really great power system which I’ve spent years developing; it’s fully self-contained and more than I need. This means the amenity of electricity in the RV is yet another thing that I already have and don’t need to duplicate.

This got me seriously thinking about why I need an RV. It seems like in a perfect world, something like TransVan would be ideal; a small and simple, all-steel construction Class-C RV with basically no amenities and just a bed and a small restroom/shower in the back. I have looked far and wide for the last six months and so far I haven’t found one. I think this may be my next step after spending some time in the squaredrop.

Inspiration

Goals

I want this to be completely self-contained and self-sufficient so that I can go out to the middle of nowhere and basically live there indefinitely with little to no inputs besides food.

This means one of the most important things is solar. Having an 8×4 platform means I can fit four 2×4 solar panels on the roof. This has pros and cons. It will mean that I can’t make the trailer an aerodynamic shape. I’ve tried to research exactly how significant this will be, and there isn’t a lot of data available. Currently the plan is to make it a square prism, or a simple 4x4x8 geometric block.

I will eventually be adding a tongue-generator as well as storage above that. This will improve the overall aerodynamic shape of the trailer.

My Plan

I decided to use the popular Harbor Freight 1720lb super duty 4×8 trailer as the foundation.

I’m an odd person in that I don’t like to have windows in my bedroom. I always cover them in blackout fabric so that it’s pitch black; I like to sleep-in. When I sleep in tents, I wear a face mask. I really prefer complete darkness. I’m not including any windows in the camper, though I will include 360 degree cameras do I can still see outside if I need to.

I will start by putting a barrier over the bottom of the trailer. I have several ideas in mind and I’m not yet sure which one to use. I may use diamond plate. Above that, I will place insulation in between the cross-members of the trailer’s frame. Then I will lay down pressure-treated ground-contact 2×6 deck boards to create a strong foundation. Next goes a piece of pressure treated plywood.

I will then frame the walls and wrap them too in pressure treated plywood. Insulation goes into the inside of the walls, and then the inside of the walls is covered with paneling or maybe plywood.

Lastly I will primer the whole outside of the trailer and then cover everything in a nice thick coat of bed liner. This will form a strong protective seal around the outside to prevent any leaks or water damage.

Lastly, aluminum trim goes around the outer edges and more diamond plate on the bottom and front to protect against anything being kicked up by the tow-vehicle’s wheels in transit.

 

Building an Itinerary

Public health officials across the country are arguing that camping is the safest thing to be doing during covid. I built a moving cabin in order to do more camping and spend time away from other people.

Since everything is work-from-home, including school, there is really no reason to be anywhere in particular. I decided not to waste this opportunity, and to hit the road and safely see the country while the apocalypse unfolds.

What else am I going to do this year? With satellite internet and cell phone service, I can work from home anywhere on the continent just as easily as being here at home bored out of my mind and staring at a screen all day every day.

National Parks

Randy Olson developed and published the following route for visiting all the national parks (In the 48 states) as efficiently as possible;

National Park Route

I will be basing my trip on this route, with detours for other interesting destinations I want to visit. Because I am going to be visiting so many national parks, it makes sense to get a park pass rather than paying separate daily fees at all the parks.

I have split the route up by months, and then I’m adding stops along the way. This allows me to stay generally on course for several time-sensitive destinations including Burning Man and Wasteland Weekend.

Food

About ten years ago, I drove across the country in order ot move my grandparents to California. Everywhere we stopped was basically truck stops and hotels. The food options were boring so I always ordered the same thing, a club sandwich. This was funny and meta but in retrospect kind of boring. This time, I am interested in sampling the local flavor. This article or this article will be my starting place, and then I will expand from there based on further reading.

Nudism

I grew up in Ashland Oregon where no one has to wear clothes, and nudism is one of the biggest attractions. People travel from all over the world to bathe nude in the lithia spring fed pools. I will be stopping at many nudist destinations along the way to experience the local community and attractions.

I found several great guides for the best nudist spots in each state as well as the relevant local rules.

Mostly Free

It may come as a surprise but it’s actually very easy to camp for free and there are lots of great free places to camp. BLM/USDA sites are usually free, and there are millions of acres where dispersed camping is free.

I recently did a completely free week-long trip to the Mammoth Lakes area in California. On this much longer trip, I’ll also be staying mostly at free sites.

Tentative Itinerary

Here is my full working-list of places and things I want to visit and see. Camping has been arbitrarily banned in California for the next few months despite being the safest thing to do right now according to public health departments across the country, therefore I will be skipping the California parks until the end of the trip.

  • Mammoth Lake Hot Springs, California
  • Salton, California
  • Slab City, California
    • Oasis Club
    • East Jesus
    • West Satan
    • The Range
    • Slab City Hot Springs
    • Salvation Mountain
  • Quartzsite, Arizona
  • Arcosanti, Arizona
  • Saguaro National Park, Arizona
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  • The Very Large Array, New Mexico
  • Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, New Mexico :[
  • Earthship Biotecture, Taos, New Mexico
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • Breakfast Tacos, Austin, Texas
  • Hippy Hollow, Austin, Texas
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
  • Short Mountain Sanctuary, Tennessee (?)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
  • Everglades National Park, Florida
  • Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  • Biscayne National Park, Florida
  • Congaree National Park, South Carolina
  • New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  • Washington DC (?)
  • New York, New York (?)
  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Niagara Falls
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
  • Chicago, Ohio
  • Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  • Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  • Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
  • Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Denver, Colorado (?)
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
  • Pagosa Springs
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  • Four Corners
  • Monument Valley, Arizona
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  • Navajo Lake, Utah
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  • Antelope Canyon, Arizona
  • Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
  • Zion National Park, Utah
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  • Burning Man
  • Wasteland Weekend
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington
  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Tree of Life, Washington
  • Jantzen Beach RV Resort, Portland, Oregon
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Mount Ashland Campground, Ashland, Oregon (The Dyrt)
  • Redwood National and State Parks, California
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Pinnacles National Park, California
  • Channel Islands National Park, California
  • Kings Canyon National Park, California
  • Sequoia National Park, California
  • Death Valley National Park, California
    • Saline Valley Hot Springs, Death Valley, California
    • The Racetrack, Death Valley, California
    • Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley, California
    • Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, California
    • Aguereberry Point, Death Valley, California
    • Dante’s View, Death Valley, California
  • California City, California
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California

Early Vehicle Ideas

Blueprints

As you can see here, four side-facing murphy beds are at the rear of the trailer. These can fold up and down to allow lots of extra storage while in transit.

Two Ikea 2×4 Kallax shelves are mounted to the walls just forward of the beds. These allow plenty of personal storage for campers.

The very front wall of the trailer is covered with storage and appliances. These include a battery bank, a microwave, and a portable travel toilet as well as pantry space and a flatscreen tv.

 

 

Cost Projections

The biggest cost is the trailer itself at around $5,000 new. I am planning for a 7×14 trailer. This will also serve as storage and transportation for my DJ gear and other projects while not in use as a travel trailer.

Next is the power bank. I want to get a Yeti GoalZero 3000 for this project, at $3,000. This will be able to store the power I am expecting to produce from the roof-mounted solar panels while also providing enough continuous power for all the lights and appliances I am planning for. Several small redundant power banks will run things like lights and air circulation, just like I did with my grid at Burning Man 2018.

The solar array is less pricey than the batteries. Nine panels fit neatly on the roof. I plan to get these from the highly reputable company Renogy at a cost of just $1070.91.

Next is the beds. I want to get four memory foam twin-sized mattresses at a total cost of $1,134. I have back problems, so I prefer to only sleep on memory foam mattresses.

I also want to include a microwave. Using these to boil water and heat up hungry man meals is a simple solution which is well within the power production I have planned for the solar array. This will cost just $50.

In the future, I may add refrigeration.