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Old 06-26-2009, 05:44 PM   #41
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Seems to me you ought to be able to take advantage of your engine heat to warm shower water somehow. At the end of the day there might not be enough sun left to warm things up with one of those solar showers, but if you could put it on your engine block without melting the container, it'd warm up quickly. Maybe just on top of your hood?

This reminds me of an episode of the TV sitcom "Wings", when Lowell was selling the "Car-be-que", a grill which sat under your hood and grilled a meal while you drove.
The old GMC motorhomes used to use engine heat to create hot water, but it probably wouldn't be worth it to cobble up something similar in a car or van. Those solar showers work amazing well, though you need at least a couple of hours of full sun.
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Old 06-26-2009, 08:13 PM   #42
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Many people have just loaded up a van and headed out,i've done it several times when i was younger. a good motivational book from some one who has done what you are thinking of =
Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon – Having lost his wife, his job and possibly his sanity, American author Least-Heat Moon does what so many have dreamt of doing—hopping in a van and driving around aimlessly in search of…well, something. The best part of this tale of self-discovery (aren’t all road trip books?) is that the author has a rule: avoid all interstates. Sticking to the back roads of the country, Least-Heat Moon unearths a cast of rich characters who never wanted to be found.
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Old 06-27-2009, 05:21 AM   #43
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I have done the cross country trip living out of the car a couple of times, solo. With a hatchback I can sleep flat, and I made privacy shades out of cardboard cut to the shape of the side windows. Front and rear windows get reflective sun shades. More than half the time I would sleep in walmart lots, and was never bothered. I brought a tent but only used it once; why pay and take the time to set it up when the vehicle is quieter. I buy water in gallon containers, and use the empties as pee bottles. If the weather is too hot or cold I leave the air conditioning on overnight, which uses a gallon or so of gas in my PHEV Prius.

For showers I would either use trucker showers (normally about $7, quality ranging from disgusting to luxurious), or campground showers (by slipping the caretaker $5 or $10 for the privilege). Every 3-4 days I'd find myself in a situation where a motel room was desirable for safety or comfort reasons, so I'd get the travel coupon books at a local Denny's type restaurant and usually find a room for $30-40. I've had a few other memorable shower experiences like in the high school visiting team locker room, and a public golf course country club.

One of the surprising joys of this kind of travel is waking up in the morning, brushing your teeth outdoors, brushing your hair in the car sideview mirror, and being ready for the day. No packing/unpacking or futzing with check in/out, and no distractions from internet or TV. I will stop every few days in a library to check my email.

Having a GPS that knows where to find the local Walmart or library comes in very handy.

I've generally stuck to the interstates because of time pressures, but I get tired of seeing the same chain restaurants in every roadside town. So my next trip I'm going less distance on smaller roads.
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Old 06-27-2009, 07:10 AM   #44
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My spouse and I did it 10 years ago (40-something), 4 months in a Honda Civic and tent, with inside sleeping no more than every few weeks at the start. 20,000 miles and maybe a few hundred was on interstates, in places it just wasn't practical to avoid-- around Seattle, as I recall. I highly recommend it. The trip, not Seattle.

We got a set of AAA guidebooks and decided where to go day by day, stopping for a few days if we stumbled on someplace good. The best places and experiences were totally accidental. Most overnights were tent spots in campgrounds of convenience, public or private. That was the bad part. KOA-style tent sites are lawns off to the side (or worse, not off to the side). Public campgrounds were often umbelievably noisy-- many had a few parties going most of the night, and I'd bet it's worse with a recession. A smallish vehicle was essential for what we did, but I'd not do the tent part again. Campgrounds in van or very small RV maybe (with walls, earplugs and possibly a small white-noise-producing fan) but not tent.
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Old 06-27-2009, 07:50 AM   #45
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I did a cross country trip once, and a lot of small towns in the Midwest have town parks with public swimming pools & shower facilities. It was a long time ago, but all of these towns allowed campers to stay overnight - just park your van, or pitch a tent. And if you find yourself in Kansas in August, you may be using these swimming pools more than you think.

You should definitely do this trip - I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!!!
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Old 06-27-2009, 08:42 AM   #46
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FWIW, I would pick up a small, inexpensive, used travel trailer to do this rather than roughing it, but YMMV.
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Old 06-27-2009, 04:00 PM   #47
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When I was younger, we used to do bicycle camping. We had a vague itinenary that we wanted to go from point A to point B. We strapped a tent on a bike, a camping stove, sleeping bags, some food and we rode away. Sometimes we stayed in parks, sometimes on private land.

As I aged, this evolved into a take a AAA tour book and a credit card and no camping. We simply picked a place from the book and called 2 days ahead to reserve a room at a cheap motel/campground. For example, Monday morning we called ahead to book a room for Tuesday evening. One of my most memorably trips was to fly to the Portland, Oregon airport with a bike, ditch the bike box and start riding up the Columbia River. After some days cycling around, on and over Mt Hood, Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier we ended up in Seattle and flew back home.

I imagine that with a van it would be easy to do this. You could decide where to spend the night -- whether camping, sleeping in the van, or a cheap room.
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Old 06-27-2009, 04:54 PM   #48
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Yeah, don't overlook cheap motels/hotels as cheating. Good places to catch up on some good sleep, plug in, log in, eat a big free continental breakfast and snag some fruit for the road, shower, fill up water jugs, etc. Lots of decent places can be had for $40-50 a night, or less if you wait till 9 o clock at night when they are unlikely to fill the place up and ask if they can cut you a break on the room. I've done that a few times successfully, usually knocking 30-50% off the already discounted price at some moderate to luxury places around the US while on business travel.
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Old 06-27-2009, 07:33 PM   #49
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Most WalMarts and Cracker Barrel restaurants will let you use their parking lots overnight- but some cities have local ordinaces against doing so. Lots of chatter on the different RV forums on this topic.

Might want to look at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of roughing it to luxury- spend one or two nights out before checking into the roach motel for a shower and a continental breakfast... rinse and repeat..

Or, just schedule a night at friendly FIRE member's homes along the way- write a book about the experience, make a ton of money, and change from 4% to 5.0%SWR

Sounds like fun. Keep us posted!
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Old 06-28-2009, 09:49 PM   #50
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We went through same thought processes a few years ago. Ended up renting a Sebring convertible for a month with unlimited mileage for 700 bucks. (We ended up putting 11K miles on it.)
I'd go the Days Inn route. You don't want to run into 'Don and Marge, from Topeka- come on over and have an iced tea blah blah' and this is just what must populate the Wal Mart parking lots all over the country. We got a lot of good rooms for 39-59 dollars, and this was near Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc.
If you don't own it already, get a copy of "Roadfood", it is just what you are looking for, full of those small out-of-the-way places with good food.
Best trip we ever took...

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Has anyone ever done anything similar and are there enough rest stops with showers, facilities, etc to allow for hygienic basics? Or is it destined to be a Day's Inn fest.

I really long for the freedom and rhythm of the highway as it rolls on by, city lights and rolling thru the backwoods.

Am I dreaming of somthing impossible?[/quote]
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Old 06-28-2009, 11:12 PM   #51
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Wow, this thread is throwing out some seriously interesting blogs! There is probably some happy medium between what the people on the Bumfuzzle site did and working until you're 65 and too arthritic to actually walk anywhere.
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Old 06-29-2009, 07:49 AM   #52
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You don't want to run into 'Don and Marge, from Topeka- come on over and have an iced tea blah blah' and this is just what must populate the Wal Mart parking lots all over the country.
Some of the most pleasant times we have when traveling (by RV or otherwise) have been with "Don and Marge" though not at Walmart .

Once you get 5 minutes into the conversation, you might discover that Marge is a famous artist or a rocket scientist, or Don is a retired professor of literature or a high-rise construction worker (we have actually run into all those titles). You've got to be careful what you assume about people - you might be missing the best part of the trip.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:17 AM   #53
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Some of the most pleasant times we have when traveling (by RV or otherwise) have been with "Don and Marge" though not at Walmart .

Once you get 5 minutes into the conversation, you might discover that Marge is a famous artist or a rocket scientist, or Don is a retired professor of literature or a high-rise construction worker (we have actually run into all those titles). You've got to be careful what you assume about people - you might be missing the best part of the trip.
Absolutely agree. Last winter in a campground I met a guy who was a retired ornithologist and I ended up having an interesting guide and teacher for many birds in the Rio Grande Valley. I told him that I had not seen one variety of Kingfisher and he dragged me over to a swamp, and found me one. Also was able to see an aplomado falcon because of him.
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:29 PM   #54
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I suppose you could do truck stops, but then you are just traveling the 51st state.
Actually, I've used truck stops to shower. It's been years and I can't recall the chain I found best but I do remember that the facilities were clean and the price was reasonable. I understand that these days some are requiring a fuel purchase (and they're not talking about a few bux worth of gasoline!) that might disqualify the car/van tourist who doesn't need 200 gals of diesel!
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:00 PM   #55
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It ain't me Babe....

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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa View Post
Some of the most pleasant times we have when traveling (by RV or otherwise) have been with "Don and Marge" though not at Walmart .

Once you get 5 minutes into th conversation, you might discover that Marge is a famous artist or a rocket scientist, or Don is a retired professor of literature or a high-rise construction worker (we have actually run into all those titles). You've got to be careful what you assume about people - you might be missing the best part of the trip.
Hmm, I can see how that makes me sound if you don't know me. Last time I was in hospital, I palled around with maintenance guys and gals, not Docs and nurses. It just seems to me that 'trying to get away from it all' by parking in WalMart parking lots is not the best scheme for the desired results. That's why I pushed the Sterns' book 'Roadfood', their whole point is to get away from the awful fast food and 'coffee' bordering the interstates, and finding places where the *real* natives eat, so you might meet and speak with them. I would for sure put that book on top of the reading list for anybody planning such a trip.
On the other hand, with all the things to see, I don't see how you could have a bad time out of it so maybe it just doesn't matter...

-Bill
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Old 06-30-2009, 03:09 AM   #56
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BillS, respectfully I think you're missing the point about Walmart lots: They're not for socializing or sightseeing, just for sleeping. The best part about them in fact is that they get you in and out quick and easy, so you can spend your time doing interesting things with your day. By sleeping in Walmart lots you reserve the budget to go to whatever restaurants, attractions, tours you want. I found myself eating at nice restaurants much more often when I was sleeping in Walmart lots, partly because it was in the budget and partly because I wasn't invested in eating whatever was near the night's hotel.

That roadfood book sounds like something I'll bring on my next trip, thanks! And I note that there's a roadfood.com website where you can search what looks like more than 1000 restaurants, as well as buy pdf versions of their restaurant guides.

For me a part of the attraction of a road trip is seeing how people live in other parts of the country, including what they eat. So finding non-franchise restaurants is key.
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Old 06-30-2009, 10:01 AM   #57
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Go get a copy of Travels with Charley and get on the road. Stay away for chain food and chain stores.

In the summer, showers are easy; state and county parks, marinas and any place with a public pool. In colder weather head for truck stops, hospitals (showers for families), community centers, Gyms, etc.

Car camping tips:
  • Get a van.
  • County fair grounds often have camping available for cheap and they almost always have showers!
  • Pack a lawn chair.
  • Bring bug spray.
  • Pack enough drinking water to brush your teeth!
  • Ditch the suitcase and use several boxes or tubs in your vehicle for clothes.
  • Pack a folding duffle for checking into sleep-cheaps and laundry day
  • Pack a cooler to save cash on meals; that perfect diner will not always be available.
  • Stay clean - avoid smelling like an old guy
  • One day each week spend some time at a car wash - use the vacuum. You will be happier.
  • No hitchhikers!
  • Get an aircard for your laptop and learn to look for free wifi. You will need both.
Have fun.
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Old 06-30-2009, 10:08 AM   #58
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  • Stay clean - avoid smelling like an old guy.
Especially if you are a woman.

Here is a site listing places to camp for $10 or less - many are free. Free Campgrounds
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Old 06-30-2009, 11:15 AM   #59
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I have often wondered about the little modest but well-kept-up non-chain motels - - you know, The Evergreen Motel, The Forest Inn, Sunset Motel, or The BobbyJo Motel, by the side of minor highways across the country.

Of course some look like "no-name motels" with hourly rates, but others look like they might be normal motels that are pretty cheap compared with Day's Inn. They seldom seem to have many customers. I have no idea what they are really like, since I have never slept at one.
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Old 06-30-2009, 03:49 PM   #60
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This is a good site where people have modified vehicles for this purpose.

How To Convert A Van

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