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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Finding Places To Stay Free Or Low Cost

Above is my free campsite (2016) at Ocotillo Wells State Park in the California Desert west of the Salton Sea.

My first year traveling (2014) with my Class B campervan I had a concept of staying overnight free or low cost but being new to this way of life, I didn't know the possibilities of where to stay.

I left MA in 2014 and on my way to the southwest via Florida I stayed at campgrounds if I didn't have a plan on where to stay for free.  I was apprehensive to park at Walmart in FL as my Class B stood out.

I stayed in the yard at my aunt's place in a trailer park for free, but this was a no risk thing to do.  It was free and convenient.

I stayed at my cousin's in south Florida in her gated community apartment complex parking lot, taking a bit more risk as there was roving security.

I then traveled around FL to Everglades National Park and private campgrounds spending money every night.  The best was the Everglades National Park where I got my senior pass and half off my camping there.  At the private campgrounds I paid $35 to $40 a night.

I stayed in Northern Florida at a state park not knowing there was free Fotest Service disbursed camping 10 miles away.

I traveled across the south heading west to AZ on I10 and I finally became brave enough to walk in to a casino in MS and ask permission to stay the night in their parking lot.

Then I did the same at a Walmart in TX.

I had the App for my IPhone called AllStays.  That provides both paid and free overnight stays.  It is a good tool but it is not nearly comprehensive enough to cover all places.

In the month it took me to get to AZ in 2014 I had paid out a few hundred dollars to stay overnight.

The rest of my first year was pretty much the same way spending money not knowing the ropes to boondock and disbursed camping.  I was not wanting to take risk or be rousted by the police and staying in a few free places including truck stops.

My second year (2015) I had sold the Class B and bought the Prius for this year's travels mostly because of the cost of fuel and not because of stealth.  Stealth turned out to be a great option with a Prius as no one expects someone to be living in such a vehicle.

Although changing my mode of travel was the most significant change, joining (CRVL) and learning from others shared experience from the Vandweller Community was second.  

I wished I had known about this group the first year 2014.  Unfortunately, I was not able to leave early enough in 2015 to make the RTR group gathering in Quartzsite, AZ that year.

I arrived just after the event and met a fellow Prius Traveler Suanne in nearby Ehrenburg, AZ.  Suanne is someone who helped in my inspiration of traveling in a Prius as she has been doing it for years.

I also met Bob Wells, the founder of CRVL there.  Although I didn't get to meet others and absorb their knowledge, I was online and gleaming what I could from the online group forum.

This year (2016) I left early enough in January to make the RTR, and there the one on one sharing flows easily and friendships are formed and faces replace online handles people use on e group's forum.

So, regardless what you travel/stay in I recommend joining CRVL and start your learning process.

Now back to where I stay.

Driving a Prius is like the ultimate stealth vehicle if you manage how you handle yourself effectively.  This means that you can park many places and not be noticed provided you don't do things to stand out.

I will create a separate post on stealth in a Prius later.

First do not park where it is posted no parking or no overnight parking unless you ask permission, like Walmart.

I generally do not stay in the same place two nights in a row (truck stop, Walmart, rest area, casino) unless it is generally allowed like BLM, Forest Service, Federal, or State land.  If allowed with no signs saying otherwise, you need to follow the rules for the land you are on.  For example BLM land has a 14 day limit in 28 days.  In AZ it is easy to move every 14 days 25 miles away and come back if you like. You need to learn the rules and you will over time.

( screen capture on IPhone) is a great website to augment AllStays. also provides listing of sites.

You get federal maps online or at the Federal office for that area.  You look for Disbursed Camping online or ask for rules.

There are other paid sites but I generally don't use paid sites.  I find enough places to stay with free sites.

What I did learn was that if a site is listed as BLM there will be one pin drop for each area.  The is does not mean you can only stay at that one spot.  You can stay many places in the area.  Even if the Forest  Service shows camping for a price on your app there may be disbursed camping at no cost in the area.  You again need to have the rules.  The best rule is if you find a campsite with a fire ring and it is disbursed you can stay if not posted otherwise.

I never have fires so any existing pullout is good for me as long as not posted.

There are apps and websites with maps of federal lands.  There is so much land in the southwest that it's not hard to find a place to disburse camp I the general area of interest.

This year (2016) I found free disbursed camping outside each of the 5 National Parks in Utah.  

The thing to remember is that if you are over 62 you can get a lifetime pass to the National Parks to get in and half off camping.  This is a good deal and could be better than looking for disbursed camping.

From time to time I stay in cities and towns using legal street side parking.  I scout out the area in advance and have a backup plan.  At dusk I park and slide into the back for the night.  Close my shades and leave before 6:00 am.  Then not use that area for days.

I would say that is you choose to travel this way you will learn from others and join CRVL and if you have questions there are I've 1700 people that can help answer your question. 

Many people go to the RTR for their acclimation to this life.  There will be a summer RTR outside Flagstaff, AZ in June.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Prius Travel Expenses

   2016 Prius Travel Expenses Graph

My goal for my Travels this year (2016) was to spend less than last year with my Prius and be under $4,000 for my total expenses.

 2016 Travel Expenses by Percentage 

The fact that the price of gas was significantly less this year did help but this was offset by my use of the Prius to provide heat and cooling to maintain a better living environment in the Prius.  So my MPG was reduced from 52 to 46.  Either way I had less cost for fuel by about $100.00.

The big savings was in lodging.  Last year (2015) I spent $774 in lodging and this year I only paid to stay one might at two different National Parks for less than $20.  Lodging doesn't even register as a category this year and is grouped under other.

I did spend time with family:
Monterey, CA (1 week - same as last year) 
- Park City, UT (1 week - same as last year)
- Las Vegas/So. UT/No. AZ (1 week addition to last year)
- Elkridge, MD (1 week - same as last year)

Staying with family does help with some expenses but some expenses remain.

The big savings came into play by not paying to stay/camp at very many places at all.  I learned over the previous two years how and where to park and to camp and save money.  

        2016 Travel Expenses by Cost

Last year (2015) I did have an accident by hitting the curb and I needed to replace both front tires as they were bith getting close to wear bars.

This year (2016) I did get a flat that needed to be replaced but I had newer tires and only had to replace one tire so auto service was higher last year by $150

This year's cost of $3116 for 117 days is $26.63 per day cost.  This is so much better than my goal the first year of $50/day that I over spent.

Staying under $4000 ($1000/month) was possible this year and I can fit this in my budget.  Since I did so well on saving I could foresee using my Tacoma with a light-weight camper is possible too.

The other place I saved this year was paying for a shower once s week vs every couple of days. I did this by fully washing every day in the Prius between showers.  I will be posting on how I wash in the Prius in a separate post.

Below is the data for my 2015 Prius Travels so you can see the comparison on my spending.

Comparison to prior year:

 2015 Travel Expenses by Percentage 

     2015 Travel Expenses by Cost


Bathing In A Prius

Actually i have been thinking about posting how I do fully wash in the Prius for awhile now.  It was a question someone left on my blog that has me now doing it.

The picture above is of my seat-back table with my wash basin and squeeze bottle on it.


The back seats of the Prius are removed.  I made a platform on the Passengrr side (60%) for the fixed bed.

Behind the drivers seat (40%) side I have a seat I made.

I make my hot water earlier and put in my 24 hr thermos.  

I have a small wash basin.  The kind they give in hospitals.  I store it behind the seat where I sit in the back.

This is important.  My side window curtain has a bungee that holds it tight against the door at the bottom of the glass.  This is important because without it your body constantly rubs the curtain since the side body curves out on the side.

I hope you can see the bungee above.

The Washing Process:

I take the hot water in the thermos and pour some in the squeeze bottle to get warm water.  I use this for rinsing.

While undressed and sitting in the seat I put towel on lap and basin on top of the towel.

I put warm water in the basin and use face cloth to wet my hair.

Then I use shampo to wash hair and with my head bent over basin I rinse my hair with water in squeeze bottle.

I have a separate towel to dry my hair.

With hair done I now sit on my bed and face towards the seat with the basin on the seat with my fear on either side.  Basin still has soapy water from washing hair.

I now use soap and face cloth to wash body starting from top to bottom.  

I end with washing feet in the basin one by one and using warm water from squeeze bottle.

I pour the dirty water from the basin in my waste water tank. Above is my waste water tank with funnel in it.  It's a large detergent bottle.

I'm done!  It takes about 1/2 hour.

It takes about a quart of water.

I have tried different times of day to wash and wet shave.  I've gotten to the point that it works best in the early evening after dinner.  This works best for me as the Prius is warm from the day and I may not have to run the engine.  It also works as I often hike and I'm cleaner before getting into the bed sheet.

As I stated I wet shave sitting in the back seat too.

I want you to know that I'm 6' tall and I can doubt his easily and it can be done totally without getting out of the car.  It is doable when stealthing as long as you are cautious about not moving fast in the Prius.

On my Travels this year I washed up like this in the Prius 6 days a week and it didn't bother me.

I saved significantly over going to truck stops for showers every couple days at $12.00 per shower.  I tried washing like this for about 3 weeks without a shower without problems.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Screens For Living In Your Prius

I was recently asked about my Prius Screen design.

I figured it would be worth while going through the design detail here in my blog.

My design criteria is to have screens but don't make them real obvious.  They needed to be easily stored.  They needed to be installed from the inside, and they needed to be something I can easily put up and take down.  I also had to be able to get in and out of the car without having to fuss with the screen.

After a lot of looking and pondering designs I decided to use thin-walled fluted plastic sheets.  Some refer to it as corrugated plastic.  This is the material a lot of stick in the ground signs use.

I decided on making two screens, both for the rear windows so I get cross ventilation in the sleeping area.

I first cut cardboard to make a template of the window opening.  I then transferred the shape to the plastic sheet.  It only takes one pattern as either side is a mirror image of the other.

Then I decided the size of the opening in the plastic.  I cut the opening in the center of the window.

This gave me a frame for my screen and an insert I could pop back in.

I painted the outside of the plastic sheet with cutout in so the outside would be black to match the tinted windows.

I sprayed adhesive to the outside of the sheet on top of black paint. But only the outside and not the center I cut out.

I applied no see um screen I bought on Amazon and stretched the screen to glue screen on tight.

I cut the screen to the outside edge of the plastic

I added an extra layer of plastic to the top inside edge that is narrow as it needed support.

Insert unit into window frame opening.  

This picture shows the screen with center insert in.

Open window and remove center panel and this is what it looks like without my curtains in place.

I can leave the window cracked and the vent shade allows air flow but no bugs.

From the inside see first picture of this blog.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Prius Fresh Water Tank And Pump

I am remiss in not following up and posting the details on my design for the Prius fresh water tank.

The question came up as to the details of my fresh water tank on Dan's (Dan Cordray) YouTube video post he did of my Prius setup while we were at the GTG in AL.  (

I didn't have the details while on the road do I just got the question affairs so it reminded me that I need to post the details.

The following picture of the Aqua-Tainer is what I used during my 2015 Prius Travels.

This water tank didn't work for me in a few ways.

1. It was too tall so it was difficult to design storage around.

2. I had to move my bed around to get to the top to access to fill and draft water.

3. The thought I would take it out and use on picnic tables wasn't something I did or was going to do with Boodocking and Disbursed camping.  A case of you see your travels one way and it turns out different.

4. I had to tilt the tank to have s passenger in the front seat as it was tall and swayback would hit it.

I'm an engineer and design solutions to my problems.

1. I didn't need 7 gallons.  6 is fine for how I live on the road.  I can live on a gallon a day and I go in town for any number of things every few days.

2. I wanted a lower center of gravity.

3. I wanted access without moving my bed.

The tank I selected is 

Model Sp0006-2p

It took a bit of research to find a 6 gallon water tank that would sit as I wanted it to on the rear passenger side floor, with the front seat back to accommodate a front passenger.

I believe I bought it from Plastic-Mart

It is available from other suppliers too.

To my surprise the pump mounting holes on top of the water tank worked great for my top mounted storage unit.  This was not planned, so it was a pleasant surprise.

My storage box design accommodated a cutout for accessing the water tank fill cap.

You can see in the above picture the hand pump hose I chose sticking out on side of tank.  I bought this pump off of Amazon.

Here is the link to the page of hand aquarium pumps.  

The aquarium pumps use food grade plastic so the tank and pump are good for drinking water.

Once you draft water and you have your container below the height of the water gravity takes over.

Hope this helps fill in the blanks on my water design.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Last Cookie - 4 Months Of Enjoyment

I have a female friend from town who, for 3 years of my travels has made me a batch of lemon cookies for my trip.

The regular followers of this blog know if it isn't useful or bring joy to my travels I have no room for it.

JL's lemon cookies have a place of prominence for the 4 month 20,000 mile ride.

I have a bunch of philosophies about stuff and one is if it's not in the Prius I can't be temped to eat it.  I could be much larger if I put those comfort foods around me.  I literally buy no sweets.  My sweets come from fruit (fresh and dried).

So, to stretch out JL's lemon cookies to have the last one when I got home took personal discipline.  It didn't hurt to have them in the hatch area of the Prius, well out of easy reach.

Thank you JL for a bit of home along my travels.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

States Visited - 2016 Travels

My 2016 Travels took me to fewer states than last year, although traveling nearly the same Milage.

The main purpose of my travels is to enjoy winter in warmer climates.  There are many secondary reasons for my travels as well.

They include, but in no special order.

- Enjoying the seemingly endless places of beauty and history.

- Spend copious amount of time outside.

- Excervise by hiking and playing disc golf.

- Spend time with family and friends.

- Attend gatherings of other "vandwellers" - RTR in Quartzsite & Roving GTG in the Southeast.

- Attend interesting events.

Driving nearly 20,000 miles in 4 months means I average over 1,000 driving a month.

I never get bored driving or tired of it.  I drive interstates on the way out to the southwest in January as it is cold and often stormy Texas and further east.

This year I was able to drive down I81 to Chattanooga, TN.  On to Bermingham, AL where I picked up I20 west to Dallas, TX.  Met up with I10 in western TX then to NM with only cold and no storms.

As I was crossing from BM into AZ I hit snow and I decided to get off I10 to wait out the storm, which turned out to only be a couple hours.  I arrived in AZ earlier this year as I wanted to attend my first RTR meetup in Quartzsite, AZ.

Driving this route out down I81 to I20 saved me many miles over driving down I95 to pick up I10 in northern Florida that I have taken in the past to stay away from storms.

In the past I have driven home a more direct route on I40 to Oklahoma City and then head towards St Louis.

This year I wanted to see Big Bend National Park in TX but when I got there a cold rain storm moved in and I didn't want to wait it out so I moved on.

This very southern route through Corpus Christi, TX added a lot of miles but it was all new travel on old US highways.  

My goal on the way home was to meet up with friends at the Roving GTG in AL.

After the GTG, i needed to head northwest to the Chicago, IL area to visit family before heading east for more family visiting and eventually home.

This general description of my travels explains the large gap of not visiting any states between IL and UT.

Although I visited less states than last year I did enjoy my trip along the Texas border with Mexico.  This is the second year I didn't get to Big Bend because of the weather,  I guess I will need to try again next year.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Vandwelling In My Prius - Heating & Air Conditioning

For all of you that asked me to try the Prius to heat and cool during my 2016 Travels and report back, I did it!

In retrospect, last year (2015 Travels) I didn't think of having the Prius running for heat or cool beyond when I drove the car.  I guess the main reason I didn't heat or cool while stationary was because I was looking for the great gas Milage and running the engine to heat or cool would reduce my mpg and I was obsessed with getting the highest mpg I could.

What I did this year was heat when I was chilled.  Last year I would just get in the sleeping bag and hunker down for the night.

When it was too hot I would run the air conditioner to feel comfortable.  People that know me know I like heat so I did not run the AC just for my comfort very often.

What I did more often was to use the Prius air conditioner to cool the car during the day to keep my Engel Fridge from figing the hot car and draining my house batteries quickly.  

Just like last year, on my long day hikes  I would put the Prius in "Ready Mode" and let my Prius turn on and off to run the Engel fridge and charge my house battery, but this year I also ran the Prius air conditioner when it was hot in the car. This way my fridge ran more efficient.

So, I enjoyed the Prius more this year using it for heating and cooling.  I say this even though it did contribute to a couple miles per gallon reduction in my overall Milage from doing it.  I didn't care.

The biggest advantage was to be able to go to the Prius and get ready for bed and fully wash up and wash my hair by having the inside of the Prius nice and warm.  Last year I would wash in the Prius during the warmest part of the day.  It was much more convenient to wash before bed.  The only exception to this was during my few stealth situations. When I stealth I always washed in the afternoon away from my overnight location so when I arrived at where I was staying I was ready for bed.

Although there was an increased cost this year of about $100.00 in gasoline cost above when not heating and cooling, I did save more than this. (See separate blog post on my 2016 mpg/gasoline costs.)

I saved on not driving and paying $12.00 every couple days to get a truck stop shower.  Last year I would average a truck stop shower every couple days.  This year I would average a truck stop shower once a week.  This then results in saving at least two trust stop showers a week at $12.00 each for a total of $24.00 a week.  Yes I would use more water but I only pay $.25 for filtered water at a kiosk and use about a quart of water to wash and rinse.  In a month I saved the $100.00 that I spent in extra gas in 4 months.  I would never have noticed this savings if some of you followers hadent asked about using the Prius to heat and cool this year.

It was also great to have air conditioning in the evening for the few times when it was 90 degrees when I wanted to go to sleep and it was just too hot in the Prius.

The Prius features that allow for heating and cooling with the car not having to constantly idle is such a great design. I wish Toyota made a small vehicle like the Ford Transit Connect with this same Prius Hybrid System.  It would make me think of having such a vehicle with more room to vandwell in it, even if I got less MPG.

If my 2017 Travels has me going again in my Prius I would run the heat and air conditioner again to have a more comfortable trip.

I know this topic was of interest of a number of people so If you have questions let me know.


2016 Travels Prius Fuel Summary

Hi All,

I finished my travel blog the other day but I haven't started summarizing my travels until now as I've jumped on a few projects around the house and attended a couple family events.

Today I will just focus on my Prius fuel usage.

I thought I would hit 20,000 miles on this trip but came in nearly exactly the same miles as last year with the Prius at 19,672 miles.

I paid less this year for fuel which was nice, totaling $825.99. The budge it set up was to be under $1000.00.

My MPG was unfortunately not measured the same as last year as while my Prius was in for service one of the dealers reset the Ptius trip odometer "B".  Last year I got 52.2 MPG using the Prius computer.

I know I was getting less MPG this year, so the calculated MPG was 45.6.

My average fuel cost was $1.99 per gallon.

Why the difference - experimentation!

1. This year I used cruise control more and this gives me generally 2 mpg less than using my foot and paying attention to hills.

2. Last year I worked hard to get the higest mpg and this year I didn't.  I just didn't think about saving fuel.

3. I drove more places on dirt roads.

4. I chose to not go to truck stops for showers as much so I would wash in the car heating water with my 12 volt heater and warming the car to fully undress and wash up.

5. I used the Prius to heat the car all night in very cold situations.  I don't sleep well when down to or below 20 deg.

6. I ran the Prius many times when parked to treat my house batteries to a long charge before asking them to last all night.  In the past year I would allow the fridge to rise in temp when Prius was off by looking at the remote temperature sensor.

7. I left the Prius with air conditioning running when it was parked and hot outside so the fridge didn't have to work as hard and drain my house batteries.

8. When on interstates I traveled 70 mph vs 65 that was my top speed unless behind a trailer truck.  Behind a TT I would cruise 8 car lengths behind and go 70 mph and I could get the same mpg as 60 to 65 mph.

What if?

A. What if I had gotten 52.2 mpg

- I would have used only 376.9 gallons 
- I would have saved 54.4 gallons
- I would have saved $108.46 on the trip

So the lower gas prices helped me still save this year but I got to experiment with using the Prius to heat the vehicle, when cold outside and cool the Prius for my greater comfort this year.

The $108.46 for all extra comfort was worth it if you figure I didn't go for truck stop showers every couple days as I did last year, choosing to fully wash in my Prius.  Yes this is totally possible!

More about how my travel thoughts and how things worked in other future blog posts.



Monday, May 2, 2016

Matthew's Pizza, Baltimore, MD

(Google file photo)

After our 18 holes of Disc Golf in Baltimore, my son and I headed over to Matthew's Pizza.  This is my first time here and I don't think my son is keeping track.

He likes their pizza and I'm good with what ever comes along.

The place from the outside is nothing special but for the people that live around here they are all for their thicket style pizza.

If your passing through Baltimore on I95, you are not far away to stopping by.  There is only street side parking so finding a spot to park you may need to park near the park as this is a row house area with most parking for residents.

Their pizzas don't need to be big as they are thick and you get the same content in smaller slices.

We got two pizzas, one was double layered with pepperoni inside and the other was crab.

Both were very good and filling, that we had to take some home.

This capped off our disc golf game, but the guys night out wasn't done yet.  On to meeting up with my son's home brewer friends at Fells Point.  (See separate post)


Max's Tap House, Fells Point, Baltimore, MD

(Google Search Photos)

My MD son and my night out after disc golf and gormet pizza also included a stop at Max's Taphouse in the trendy Fells Point section of Baltimore.

Fells Point is a short distance from the Inner Harbor Area of Baltmore and is much less touristy and a great place if you are looking to meet locals.

Max's is noted for its long list of brews on tap and our stop included meeting a number of Baltimore Homebrew Club members, which my son is one.  There are also many restaurants in the area too.

My busy son is a co-chair of the National Homebrew Conference in June, in Baltimore.

While talking to some of my son's Homebrew friends he was talking club business.  It's going to be some conference with about 50 breweries and a number of Homebrew clubs.

I have not adopted home brewing but have participated brewing with my son a couple times.  It's a science.

Although I don't Homebrew with my son's help I now appreciate craft brews vs the high volume commercial brews that we all know.  This is why I often stop at breweries on my travels and write about my experiences.

I prefer lager, Pilsner, Belgium, and wheat brews but I am surprised by some IPA's when I'm not left with an after taste.  

After visiting with others at Max's street side tables enjoying beer it was time to head back for the night.

Baltimore is a fun city to enjoy a night out, especially when you do it with your son.


Bowie BaySox Baseball Game

I enjoy baseball, as do both my boys. 

My MD son got tickets for us and his oldest daughter to go to the Bowie BaySox game.

It's free tee shirt night & meet some children characters so the lines were long for when the gates opened.

This a very children friendly place with a children's area on the right field stadium.

The ballpark is well laid out and nicely maintained.  There was a good crowd and still room for more to seat.  The bleachers are all open seating.

At the end of the game (BaySox lost) they allow the children run the bases.  Tonight they allowed adults to join the children.

Regardless of who wins the game being outdoors on a nice day made me a happy camper.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

April Blog

April Blog Views

The following are the blog views by country for the month of April 2016.

There are other countries but the blog site only gives the views for the top countries.



These are the top posts that have been viewed for the month of April 2016

Thank you to all the followers.


Elliott City Spring Fest - Saturday, 4/23/16 (Day 111)

When visiting my son in MD he keeps a busy schedule, packing his life with family and personal fun.

I arrived on Friday and it rained overnight and Saturday AM but Saturday PM the skies cleared and we all went to the nearby town of Ellicott City for their spring fest.

This town has an old quaint center with nice old, well maintained, buildings with many unique shops and restaurants.

This festival is very well attended that we needed to park just over a mile away and take the shuttle bus.

There were two major areas for the public to gather for the festival.  The one above has live music, beer and food vendors.

The other area was a short ways down the street and much larger.  Both areas had children's activities.  The businesses set up in the designated areas were overwhelmed by the number of people looking to buy food and drinks.  Some even ran out of food.

Although crowded, it wasn't so crowded that it made it totally difficult to move but the crowd did create long lines.

If you haven't been to Ellicott City and you come to this area just south of Baltimore, I recommend you check it out.