2019 has been a year of new experiences, being in new places and having new stories to tell. So to keep with the idea of new, we celebrated Thanksgiving on a beach in Florida. This is a first for both of us, but hey, 2019 has been all about firsts!
However, I can only handle so much newness, so the meal will be traditional.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Bacon Wrapped Green Beans
Sweet Potato Casserole
Turkey for two
Gluten free gravy mix
Gluten free pie crust
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Heavy Whipping Cream
To be proactive and not cook everything on Thursday, I made the Pumpkin Pie Wednesday evening. I love our new Camp Chef oven! Not wanting to try pie dough in the bus, I did something very out of the ordinary. I bought a pie crust, shh, don’t tell my mom! Wal-Mart had a ready made gluten free crust and it tasted just fine. Not homemade, but still good.
Thursday morning was beautiful, the sun was shining and we watched dolphins swim next to a ship while we drank our morning coffee. Turkey prep began. Turkey is in the oven, cooking and smelling wonderful. Next step, sweet potatoes. While the water is heating up I step outside. When I come back in there is an odd smell and I look and look. Then I notice the water isn’t boiling and it should be by now. Then I notice there is no blue flame. Discussion begins and we realize the last time the propane was changed was in Nova Scotia, in August. Good news, the Camp Chef is way more efficient than the traditional Coleman. Bad news, it’s Thanksgiving, I have ingredients everywhere and neither of us want to move the bus to search for propane, on Thanksgiving. So, the trusty Coleman is pulled out of the back and put back into commission. It came in clutch, everything in our Thanksgiving feast, except the Pumpkin Pie, was made on the Coleman camp stove!
The turkey was cooked in the cast iron. Mashed potatoes and gravy were always a stove top item. Instead of baking the bacon wrapped green beans, they were cooked with the lid on. It ended up caramelizing the butter/brown sugar mixture much better than the oven ever has. Then the sweet potatoes were mixed and cooked on the stove top. We still wanted the marshmallows to be browned, so out came the MSR Pocket Rocket. We used it like a creme brûlée torch and it worked!
After stuffing ourselves we took a leisurely stroll down the beach. We spotted several types of birds, saw a few fish jump and then watched as two dolphins played. Sharing Thanksgiving together was a special day and one that we won’t forget!
Thousands of people around the world have purchased homes and at some point they find that they don’t want to live in their home but they aren’t quite ready to sell it and either aren’t able to rent it or don’t want to rent it. Some are retirees that spend six months of the year visiting warmer climates in an RV and the rest of their time is at their “home”. Most folks would rather have someone living in their home than board it up. Others have a home on the market to be sold and know that it has a much better chance of selling if someone is actively living in it and keeping up with the house.
How Do I Find Housesitting Gigs?
Build Your Housesitting Portfolio
If you are serious about housesitting, the first step should be to build your portfolio of references from people that you have housesitted for in the past. Most strangers on the street aren’t going to let someone they don’t know into their home for any period of time. However, if you had a list of credible references, your chances of being selected to house sit increase tremendously.
Offer to housesit for family or close friends when they go on vacation. Do an excellent job, let them know that you would love to housesit for them again, and ask if you can use them as a reference for future housesitting gigs. Now you can maintain a “resume” of your housesitting experience and use it as a bargaining chip with potential clients.
Create an Online Presence
The next step is likely the most important, creating an online presence. This can be different depending on the part of the world you wish to housesit in, but at minimum you should create a profile on a housesitting websites such as Trusted House Sitters and/or Luxury House Sitting.
Similar to filling out a job application, create a profile that is inviting and appealing to the particular type of assignment that you are interested in. Your profile photo should be high-quality, up to date, and accurate to your appearance as well as inviting. Don’t use a mug-shot as your profile photo on a housesitting website. Have someone proofread your profile for grammatical errors and try to be as professional as possible.
Remember that in a digital age, your online footprint means as much as your reputation did in 1950’s small town America. As soon as a potential client sees your name as an interested house-sitter, they will likely scour your social media and web presence to help determine if you are a credible applicant. The obvious solution to this predicament is to maintain social media as a decent human being and don’t post hateful, rude, racist, or overly political content. A less obvious way to avoid missing out on houses because of your meme addiction is to set your social media accounts to private.
Insider Tip Perform a “web audit” of yourself every 6 months or so to insure that you have a spotless web identity. If you do find something negative or defamatory, make steps to have it removed.
Provide a Quality Service
Like any industry, it doesn’t matter if you land the biggest client of your life if you can’t deliver a high-quality product. Once you get a housesitting gig, no matter the size, do the best job possible. Oftentimes going above and beyond your responsibilities as a house-sitter can yield glowing reviews online and excellent recommendations when someone calls. Similar to the rest of life, being excellent at what you do will net rewards continually over time.
Standard Duties of a House-sitter
The duties required in your housesitting agreement (yes, you need to sign a housesitting agreement) can vary depending on the geographic location of the house, the style of property (ranch, condo, apartment, etc.) and the reason that the owner requires a house-sitter. If the owner needs a house-sitter to make the home look inhabited, it’s probably best if you know how many hours per day you should be around the house.
In our 2019 housesitting agreement we signed on to live at an off-grid ranch in the remote mountains of Baja Norte, Mexico. We were interested in this assignment because it’s in Baja and because we are extremely interested in living off-grid someday and this was a perfect way to try that lifestyle without a huge commitment. Our duties at the ranch included the following:
Cleaning the main house and income property and preparing the income property with linens, supplies and a warm welcome if someone were staying.
Tending to the flower beds, gardens, and fruit trees on the property.
Feeding the dog, Pepita!
Monitoring the off-grid systems like satellite internet, solar power, and water.
Your responsibilities at a house might be very different and may include things like walking a dog or washing windows or dusting furniture. There is no right or wrong set of responsibilities as long as you are getting as much value out of the arrangement as the home owner. If you are staying in a 10’ x 10’ room with no windows and the owner of the house has you painting the exterior, reflooring the living room, and building on a garage, you have made a mistake. Remember that the home owner is seeking a housesitter for reason.
A House-sitter signs a Housesitting Agreement
A written document agreed upon between the owner or manager of the home and the house-sitter is vital to a mutually beneficial arrangement. This document should be signed and dated by both parties and outline the term of the arrangement, responsibilities of the house-sitter, any compensation involved, and how to handle expenses paid out of pocket by the house-sitter. Final Tips for Housesitting To sum up our experiences looking for housesitting jobs and apply for many, the golden rule applies as much to housesitting as it does to the rest of our lives. Treat other people’s homes how you would want someone to treat your home and be the applicant that you would hire if you were looking for a housesitter. Happy hunting and let us know if any of our tips helped you land a gig!
A written document agreed upon between the owner or manager of the home and the house-sitter is vital to a mutually beneficial arrangement. This document should be signed and dated by both parties and outline the term of the arrangement, responsibilities of the house-sitter, any compensation involved, and how to handle expenses paid out of pocket by the house-sitter.
Final Tips for Housesitting
To sum up our experiences looking for housesitting jobs and apply for many, the golden rule applies as much to housesitting as it does to the rest of our lives. Treat other people’s homes how you would want someone to treat your home and be the applicant that you would hire if you were looking for a housesitter. Happy hunting and let us know if any of our tips helped you land a gig!
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The house electrical system of any conversion or RV is a pretty daunting and scary adventure for a first timer. To get the right system, a user has to know their current needs for electricity and how those needs will change when they are on the road. The best way to figure out how much electricity generation and storage a particular system will need to generate is to invest in a small device called a Kill-a-Watt. This device plugs into a standard 110V home outlet and has a female plug for the appliance that you seek to understand.
By keeping a spreadsheet of all of the appliances that you wish to use on the road, the amount of time you plan to use them and their perspective amps drawn, you can get an idea of how much storage (battery) and generation (solar or generator) you will need.
Our needs were simple and below is a table of the regular appliances that we use with our system:
Whynter 62 Qt Refrigerator
4.5*.25 hours * 20 hours=22.5A
2*8 hours= 16A
Sureflo Water Pump
LED Puck Lights
4.3A*2 hours= 8.6A
1A*2 hours= 2A
A second consideration when designing an electrical system is knowing how you are going to utilize the system. For example, if you planned to spend the entire Fall in the Pacific Northwest as a camp host in a campground, you wouldn’t want to rely on a solar system that needs 4-8 hours of direct sun per day. Likewise, if you plan to park in Quartzite, AZ for the Winter, it would be silly to not take advantage of all of the direct sunlight.
We landed somewhere in the middle and knew there would be days that we would be tucked back in the woods and weeks at a time would be spent in the desert. We needed the ability to store some juice for the day or so that we wouldn’t have sunshine, but also be able to use the vehicle alternator to charge the house batteries in a pinch if needed.
Okienomads Solar Electrical System
Below is a diagram of our electric system. All components are listed below with links to where we purchased them. If you have any questions about why we chose a particular part over another, e-mail us at email@example.com and we will answer in the best way we can.
We wanted as many options for power generation as possible in case our situation changed or if we needed to hunker down somewhere for the winter and wanted to add a generator to the system or utilize shore power (power sources are shaded in yellow). If we needed to add a generator, all we have to do is plug into the shore plug on the side of the bus.
We were extremely green to solar systems (see what I did there?) when we started and opted to purchase a kit from Renogy Solar as opposed to piecing our system together and potentially missing something or purchasing incongruent parts. This kit included (3) 100-watt panels, a 40A charge controller, and most of the wiring needed to hook up the panels to the controller. We wired our solar panels in a series (see diagram above) to be able to pull solar even if the panels weren’t seeing a full 12 volts. This also allowed us the ability to run longer cable at smaller sizes than if we wired in parallel. Renogy Solar has an excellent page describing the different setups available.
Our panels are mounted directly to the roof using rivets and the Renogy Z-brackets that came with out kit. If we had to do this over again, we would have continued our roof rack to the front of the bus and attached the panels to the rack, less permanently.
We opted for the Renogy Rover 40A MPPT controller for the option of wiring our panels in series and harvesting solar all day instead of waiting on 12 volts to hit the panels.
A smaller PMW charge controller would have worked for our needs, but would have limited the amount of solar we can grab and the options for expanding our system later if our bus turns into a more stationary fixture (think tiny cabin).
We searched for a cheap and easily expandable battery for our bank and landed on the Duracell GC-2, 6-volt golf cart battery wired in a series to create a 12v battery with 200 amp hours. These batteries are flooded, lead acid batteries that require checking the water levels from time to time. Although AGM gel batteries, common in cars and trucks, are sealed and require less maintenance, they are not made to be discharged heavily over and over like the golf-cart batteries.
Like with the rest of our system, we wanted to select an inverter that would grow with our needs. As of right now, the only appliances that we are running is a MacBook Air and the occasional food processor (in direct sunlight). We wanted to have an inverter that would be sufficient if we needed to run a couple of appliances down the road as we transition the bus to a tiny house and less of an adventure mobile.
The AIMS 1500-Watt (2000 peak) Pure Sine Inverter and Charger fit the bill perfectly. The built-in battery charger not only allows us to plug in to shore power, but it also charges our batteries at the same time. The pure-sine wave that our inverter uses is also safe for charging the more sensitive electronics like lithium-ion laptop batteries.
This inexpensive fixture is meant for use in mobile audio applications, but works perfectly for what we needed. The solenoid allows us to utilize the current from the starting batteries to supplement our house battery bank when we park in the trees or on cloudy days. At the flip of switch, our bus alternator churns out enough energy to top off our house batteries. We rarely use this feature, but for the price it is good insurance. Plus, in a pinch, you could jump start you starting batteries from your house batteries if needed.
We have linked the product that we use above, but if you wanted a more advanced fixture, you could opt for the more expensive Automatic Charging Relay (ACR) from Blue Sea Systems. This piece will remove the switch from our setup and automatically send current to your house battery bank.
On the graphic above there are a few fixtures that make the system work that are mostly replaceable with most other brands and the only thing you should ensure is that your breakers, bus bars, and other electrical components are rated for the amount of current you are sending through them. Below is a list of the components that we used and we have had good luck with them. There are obviously always better components, but these fit our budget and system needs well.
Always disconnect your batteries and/or cover your solar panels before doing any work on your system. Electrical fires are a real possibility when working with these systems and you should have your setup inspected by an electrician before going live. After inspected, remember to keep a fire extinguisher handy. When living in a van, Skoolie or truck you never really know what could happen. Be prepared.
As we always strive for transparency when displaying aspects of our nomadic lifestyle you should know that all of the links included in this article are affiliate links through Amazon.com. For every purchase that you make from one of these links, we receive a small amount and you don’t pay any extra. These links are one way that stay on the road longer, so thank you for your support of our adventures!
We painted our bus in a hurry and ended up with a really good looking paintjob thanks to help from my grandparents, parents and Rachael’s parents. It was a team effort and it transformed the bus from a creepy former school bus to a shiny adventuremobile.
Unfortunately, we left without finishing the paint job on the bus and left the front grill ugly and grey. We found a little time to repaint the grill and we posted a video showing you how we did it. This process will work for most plastics on cars, trucks, and RV’s. Check out the video below!
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When we purchased our bus and began to build it into a tiny home on wheels we were overwhelmed with the options of accessories and parts that were available and being shoved down our throats every time we opened Instagram. We sifted through the BS and did our own research and have built a bus that fits our needs very well. Below are the gadgets and modifications that we added to our bus that have genuinely enhanced our experience traveling the country in our skoolie.
There were a few items that we bought in the beginning of our build that I thought would get stuffed into a cubby in the back of the bus and reappear when we cleaned it out months later. The solar shower was one of those items. It seemed to good to be true that one could harness the sun into a warm shower after a mountain bike ride. Boy was I wrong!
The Advanced Elements Solar Shower has been used and abused during our travels and is still holding up great! The bag is tough, puncture resistant, and holds 5 gallons of water. We have found that we can both take a shower and still have water left over after we are done. The built in mirror is a little cheezy and the nozzle is a little hard to operate if you have soap on your hands, but for the price it is EXCELLENT! Couple this product with a cheap pop-up shelter, INSTANT PRIVATE SHOWER!
Our first addition and maybe the most practical for traveling in the summer time has been our Fantastic Fan. We have the 1250 model which is the most basic and uncomplicated model that Fan-Tastic Vent makes. It has 3 speeds, ranging from “Is this thing even on” to “blow your cheeks off of your teeth”. We use our fan almost every night while sleeping as the gentle hum tends to drown out passing cars when urban camping and it blocks out most rowdy street-youths when we are on public land with others.
A cool feature of the Fan-Tastic Fan is the reverse mode which allows you to run the fan in “exhaust” mode and hypothetically you could suck out all of the smoke from when you over cooked the bacon.
One thing to consider when purchasing a roof vent fan is to purchase a cover/shield for the lid so that you can operate the fan in the rain as well. It also adds an element of protection to your fan lid in case of a stray limb or a stumbling significant other while on the rooftop deck. We installed our Fan-Tastic Vent Ultra Breeze Vent Cover after we had a slight leak due to installer error. You can see that whole story here where I installed a vent cover in the middle of the Moab, UT desert with great success:
The backbone of our entire electrical system is our pure-sine inverter. We use the inverter to charge our cameras and laptops as well as operate some of our more “luxurious” items like a food processor and our super trendy rope lights. We have found that 1500 watts has been more than enough and we bought this big of a unit to grow into it in case we wanted to add some extra power hungry appliances later. The pure-sine wave protects our computers and cameras and was well worth the investment over the modified wave.
A really cool feature of this particular inverter is the 50-amp battery charger and transfer switch that allows you to charge your house batteries and run a “shore” line if you ever need to plug in for any reason. We have only used these extra features a few times during our travels, but we suspect that when we settle in for the winter, we will utilize the shore line quite a bit.
Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is it worth it to protect your electronics and batteries of your rig? Also yes!
Talk about a game changer! The Clenna USB Charging Port was a fantastic addition to how we charge our devices. We added one outlet to the driver’s area of the bus and have been blown away by how much we use it. We have yet to permanently install it as I haven’t found the perfect place for it, but I will update photos when I get it secured to the dash. This port would be perfect for those that run a full-time GPS or phone on the dash for navigation.
The wiring is a simple 2-wire hot and cold setup that we ran back to our AUX fuse box and grounded to the dash area. The outlet has a rubber plug that fits into the USB ports perfectly and blocks the light from the outlets as well. The USB ports emit a blue light that can be extremely bright, so I would suggest wiring a switch to your port so that you can turn it off and on. Ours is installed in the dash, so the light simply shines behind our curtains and hopefully eludes to would-be criminals that we have a stellar alarm system installed.
Finally, the best enhancement that we have made to our skoolie has been the addition of our Whynter 65-quart refrigerator. The FM-65G 12 volt compressor refrigerator has been a god-send while traveling through the remote public lands of Southern Utah and Central Washington where temps can be quite high and ice can be very scarce. Our Whynter can hold enough food for Rachael and I for around seven days and even more if we ate less fresh fruit and vegetables.
The Whynter FM-65G is extremely efficient, only drawing 3-5 amps while connected to 12V. This draw is only present when the compressor is on and I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the compressor is and when comparing it to $1000+ units from ARB, I find that this unit is only slightly louder.
The fit and finish of the 65G is exceptional and the latches/seal work perfectly for when we buy just a little too much food and need to cram it in there. We have used the handles to secure the fridge to the cabinet below it and have been really happy with it not moving around. The black feet on the bottom are very sturdy and almost suction cup to the cabinet. The fridge can also operate at up to a 30 degree angle, much steeper than anything our bus has seen or will see.
What have you added to make your van, bus, or camper more comfortable or more accommodating to your style of travel? We would like to hear from you, shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed our post, maybe you will like our Instagram or Facebook pages.
As we always strive for transparency when displaying aspects of our nomadic lifestyle you should know that all of the links included in this article are affiliate links through Amazon.com. For every purchase that you make from one of these links, we receive a small amount and you don’t pay any extra. These links are one way that stay on the road longer, so thank you for your support of our adventures!
I hope you have had a chance to read Part 1 of this article before reading this one. In the first article on this topic we cover some of the negative aspects of living in a Skoolie-conversion, a lot of which we did not expect before leaving for a period of extended travel across the United States.
Firstly, when living in a school bus conversion, there is enough room to bring anything you would need for an adventure. We have a very small bus and are still able to cram in a queen-sized bed, a big refrigerator, all of the camera equipment we could need, 4 bicycles, 2 kayaks, and more books than we will be able to read through the course of the summer.
Our school bus is around 75 square-feet of living space and that is A LOT compared to conversion vans and truck campers. We have friends that travel in off-road trucks with slide-ins or roof top tents and the first thing they comment on is the space. “There is so much room for activities!” All Will Ferrell quotes aside, when it rains, snows, or drops below freezing, we are warm and dry inside. Rachael’s yoga practice can still carry on even if there is a torrential downpour outside.
Another aspect of traveling in a Skoolie is that the design is 100% customizable! The builder can customize the design and layout however they see fit. Once the seats and the floor are yanked out, the bus can be built to include anything that you can fit in the space. Cruise the interwebs for a bit and you will find Skoolies with 2000+ watt solar systems, full-size bathtubs, mobile workstations, the opportunities inside are endless. The biggest challenge is making the decision on toilet vs. no toilet.
We built a simple interior using remedial carpentry skills and equipment, but it has served us really well so far. You can see the inside of our bus on our video tour below:
An aspect of Skoolie ownership that we did not expect is that Skoolies, especially short Skoolies, are surprisingly capable off-road. No, we are not seeking out off-road opportunities to test the flex of our suspension or drive through 4-foot deep mud holes, but to get to more remote campsites we have endured some off-camber and sketchy situations.
Smaller busses are built on similar chassis to full-size trucks, so in general, there shouldn’t be much difference between taking a Chevy 3500 Silverado and the Okienomad’s Skoolie down a Forest Service road. The motor in our bus is shared with the military Humvee and a lot of farm trucks and Suburban’s of the past 25 years, so it is no surprise that when geared right, out bus will climb up and over some stuff.
Below is a photo of a campsite that we were rewarded with after an arduous climb up a rutted Forest Service road near Anza, CA. Worth it!
As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, one of our favorite and least favorite parts of Skoolie overland travel is that Skoolies are slow! How slow you ask? We got passed by a full-size pickup hauling a trailer that had to have been 12,000 pounds or more like we were standing still. I couldn’t even recognize the make of the truck it was moving so fast, or err, we were moving so slowly. The slow speed of the Skoolie up mountain passes, around turns, and over washboard roads makes it the perfect overlanding vehicle, you simply see more than if you were flying by at 75 miles per hour in a new sprinter van.
If we had to choose, we would travel slow every day of the year and not miss a minute of it.
One of my favorite aspects of bus travel is that Skoolie conversions do less damage to the environment. Keep in mind that traveling a ton of miles on a less-than-efficient diesel engine through beautiful forests and deserts is not exactly healthy for the environment, however, keeping a big hunk of metal out of a scrap yard and in use is a win for the environment when you consider the alternative of buying a newer vehicle such as an RV or full-size truck camper. We have recycled our bus from its previous life of shuttling kids to a new life of seeing beautiful things every day.
Once we are done with our travels in the bus we will likely park the bus somewhere nice and quiet and use it as a cabin in the woods or a suite for the visiting in-laws or parents. We will only need to add a composting toilet or outhouse and a small shower area to make the Skoolie 100% livable off-grid, reducing the need to use a ton of new material to build a new house someday.
Lastly in our list of reasons why a Skoolie is a great overlanding vehicle is that Skoolies are cheap! School districts, churches, and metropolitan transit companies are constantly shuttling out (pun intended) gently used, fleet-maintained vehicle for rock-bottom prices. Most of these vehicles have been maintained since day-one by competent mechanics and are usually on the auction block with less than 200,000 miles on them, a considerably small amount in regards to the life of a well-maintained diesel engine.
Our bus came to us with 107,000 miles on it and other than some neglected maintenance issues by the second owner of the bus, we have had 13,000+ trouble-free miles out of it.
Not only are skoolies cheap to buy, they are cheap to build. You don’t have to have an Insta-famous porcelain tub or a teak-wood deck on the roof of your bus. You can build a bus that is simple 2×4 and plywood construction, slap on a little paint and you are good to hit the road. Our bus was built with materials that are cheap and available at any hardware store with tools that most people already own.
If you have enjoyed our article, please explore the blog some more as there are tons of stories, write-ups, and photos from our travels around the country. If you want a more streamlined media feed, check out our Instagram and Facebook pages, thanks for stopping by!
If your social media feeds are like mine, they are littered with #vanlifers that are sprawled out in their sprinter conversions, physically exquisite companion half naked lying next to them and they all have the same thing wrong with them: they are clean!
When we travel, we like to stay active. It helps to break up the long periods of driving or flying with as rigorous an activity as we can manage. With these rigorous activities, one develops a type of musk that tends to only be noticeable to everyone else but you. Some people have varying levels of stank when they are outdoors and others just go straight to “Level 4: Do not, under any circumstances lift your arms or open your legs” type of stank.
Fear not, we have a few solutions that we think might be helpful to you if you are approaching a dangerous level of outdoorsy musk. Most of these methods have been tested by the two of us at some point in our travels and we have first hand experience with them. Others, like the bear canister washing machine, we have not tried yet. But for the sake of science, we will probably give it a go when we have the chance.
Take a Shower- This one seems obvious, but some people really need this tip. Yes, your hippy dreads look much better when your hair hasn’t seen shampoo in weeks. But your B-O is still a problem and those of us trying to steal the same coffee shop WiFi as you, don’t want to smell you.
Our skoolie is equipped with a “bag” style solar shower much like this one:
We have used this shower all summer and it has worked really well. It’s as simple as filling the bag with water from the tap or the nearby stream and sitting the bag in the sun, black side up. That’s it! Now just wait for the water inside to reach an acceptable level of hot and voila! You have a warm shower!
BUSLIFE TIP: Shop around for a pop-up tent shelter. You can bathe in privacy, even in the middle of the Utah desert!
If you are parking in town or in an area where you can’t setup your shower, consider a gym or public pool. This summer, while passing through Omak, Washington, we stopped at their pool because an all-day pool admission with showers cost us $3/each. We got to beat the 100+ degree temps and take a proper shower!
Wash Your Clothes- This one should be a no-brainer too, but it must be said. If your clothes stink, you stink. We have utilized the small area at the foot of our bed as a his and hers laundry hamper. This way, after Rachael wears the same sports bra three days in a row, we don’t have to smell it as much as if it were just piled in the corner.
Laundromats are everywhere! Most campgrounds have laundry washing machines that are coin operated just like a laundromat. For Christmas this year, Rachael’s sister gave us a mason jar full of quarters for potential laundry stops. Rebecca, we are eternally grateful. On days that the temperature is unbearable or we need to catch up on blog posts or computer work, we will start some laundry and enjoy AC and WiFi.
Clean Your Rig- Each week there are areas that need to be cleaned and picked up just like living in a brick and mortar home. Tasks like keeping the food organized, sweeping, taking the garbage out, and keeping clothes where they belong. Similarly, every month there are other items like cleaning the solar panels, topping off batteries, and checking the fluids that are vital to staying efficient in our travels.
If your skoolie/van/truck camper/car smells, you will smell. What this means when building your vehicle is to make sure and vacuum, bleach, and wipe down every nook and cranny that you can. Traveling in a 1984 camper van? Make sure the shag carpet doesn’t smell like 1984.
Maintain Clean Gear
The last area that we notice the most stench is with our gear. The smells that are generated from two humans riding bicycles through gravel and mud for 50 miles are impressive. It is important to wash or clean your gear as soon as you can. Obviously if you just got out of The Grand Canyon on a 5-day backpacking trip (SPOILER: you will stink!) your gear is going to smell bad. However, use a rest day to recharge and wipe down your gear with either soap and water or a lot of Clorox wipes.
BUSLIFE TIP: Check with the manufacturer of your clothing or gear before using harsh cleaners or even some high-DEET bug sprays. Certain chemicals can stain or damage waterproofing on some gear.
We avoid a lot of smells by keeping our shoes in a separate “cubby” area, keeping our hydration packs and backpacks in the under-bed storage area and washing our clothes every 3 weeks or so ;).
How do you stay clean on the road? What glaring tips have we missed? We would love to hear about your tips and tricks for staying clean and fresh while living a nomadic lifestyle! E-mail us at email@example.com.
Utah is beautiful, mystifying, and captivating. These are our top-5 stops in Southern Utah. These might not be the most popular, but they are unique, creative, and rewarding experiences for the traveler that is looking to beat the crowds and still see amazing things.
Explore the Irish Slot Canyons
Utah is synonymous with canyoneering. Spend some time exploring the labyrinth of slot canyons along the highway near Hanksville, UT( Mile Marker 80.5 ish). You will be rewarded with amazing views, challenging climbs, and amazing solitude.
Backpack in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Explorers that venture down Hole-in-the-Rock Road near Escalante, UT will be rewarded with nearly endless trails and awesome scenery. The overnighter that we chose followed Harris Wash to the Escalante River and back. We had the trail mostly to ourselves and got to hike in some of the most remote and scenic areas of the Monument.
Rachael and I are not very touristy people. We like to camp in the National Forest with few neighbors and even fewer utilities; this article is being written in a National Forest coincidently enough. We bike or drive into the National Parks before day-break so we can skip the crowds and still see the cool stuff. Although we are devoting almost all of our time to traveling the country and seeing a lot of attractions, I still wouldn’t classify us as “touristy”.
A week or so ago, we were backpacking in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the hundreds of water crossings did a number on Rachael’s feet. She has blisters and bruising from her water shoes and we have Grand Canyon backpacking permits in a few weeks, so that meant we were taking it easy in Bryce Canyon (not an easy task for either of us).
With all of that being said, we did something very touristy in Bryce Canyon National Park, we took a bus-tour! And it paid off big-time!
We showed up in the park mid-morning on a weekday and signed up for the Rainbow Point Bus Tour. The tour is ran by the National Park Service and is completely FREE. They have numerous pick-ups at the area hotels and at Ruby’s Inn. The tour is 3-ish hours long and is the best thing that we did while in the Bryce Canyon area, see below for the worst thing we did in Bryce.
The worst thing that we did in Bryce was buying groceries at Ruby’s Inn. This tourist-trap gas station, mediocre restaurant and understocked grocery store are the reason that people visit the national park, then travel on to another area. My father has worked in retail my entire life and he has raised me to appreciate a good grocery store. This was not it. Expect to pay astronomical prices for the simplest of groceries…$1.50 for a (1) apple, $4.99 for an 8-slice pack of bologna, $9.00 for a (1) can of Coleman propane, insanity. We got the bare minimum that could get us by and got out! Stock up before you go to Bryce and don’t continue to make these people rich.
Back to the tour, more importantly the tour guide. April, with Canyon Fever Guides, provided us with one of the best tourist experiences that either of us have ever had. She was born nearby and has lived in the Bryce area for 35 years. All of that experience and family knowledge is passed on to you when you take her tour.
The tour winds through the various stopping points along the dead-end road that meanders through the park, with April giving excellent descriptions of the topography, the flora and fauna, and the rich history of the area surrounding the park. She even threw in some corny “dad” jokes throughout that Rachael really enjoyed. Once the tour was over, we couldn’t believe that it was FREE and available for anyone to sign up for. We highly encourage that you check out her guide service for your time in Bryce or at the very least, sign up for the Rainbow Point bus tour and ask for April!
We learned an important lesson through this tour and that is to not be a travel snob. When you live in your vehicle and you see beautiful things every day, it is easy to get caught up in judging the people that are simply trying to enjoy their 2-week vacation. As my wife likes to remind me, “at least they are outside”. There is truth to that, everyone deserves to enjoy the outdoors, regardless of how they choose to enjoy it. Bus tours are touristy but sometimes theres a reason that everyone is taking them.
Below are the contact details for April and Canyon Fever Guides. We hope you enjoy your time with her as much as we did!
If you are leaving Moab, UT and looking for something fun and interesting to see in Southeast Utah, check out Mexican Hat, UT. Mexican Hat is named as such for the rock formation that hangs over the San Juan River near the Arizona border. The campsites are spread out, level, and right on the river! We camped here while we explored the Mexican Hat formation and nearby Monument Valley area.
Make sure that you fill up fuel and water on your way South and enjoy the peace, quiet, and epic stars that this site offers. There are a bunch of places to pull off and park near the rock formation but follow the road off the highway and stay left. Wind around the formation and park in one of the spots down by the river.
Leprechaun Canyon BLM
GPS: 38.017952, -110.536982
Utah is known for a few things; arches, Mormonism, and slot canyons. If you made it through Utah far enough to consider this campsite, you have encountered the first two in abundance. Slot canyons are often tricky to find and even more tricky to get all to yourself. However, there are some hidden gems that most tourists don’t know about and this campsite is one of them. There are a couple of parking spots in the parking lot up the road and two or three spots near this canyon at mile marker 28.1.
This campsite is nothing the shake a stick at and is very close to the road. However, the real beauty of this spot is the proximity to the Irish Canyons; a series of slot canyons right off of the road. We stayed here overnight after checking out the Ghost Marina of Hyte and spent all day exploring the canyons nearby. Big rigs will have a hard time with this spot and to access the 2-3 spots that are farther off the road you should have a 4×4 and traction devices.
Burr Trail Road GSENM
This is more of a gravel parking lot than a campsite, but it gives a good starting point for exploring Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the town of Boulder, UT. Make sure to stop in the http://burrtrailoutpost.com and get a cup of coffee and a gluten-free sandwich before hitting the trail. The proprietor was very knowledgeable of the area and offers great advice on local trails and points of interest.
Casto Canyon BLM
This road and subsequent pull-outs are located a few miles down the road from Bryce Canyon and have many of the same geological features that makes Bryce famous. Some spots are better than others, but the nearby Casto Canyon and Red Canyon Mountain Bike trails make this spot a solid starting point for an adventure in Bryce country.
There are vault toilets along the road at different campsites and there are spots for larger rigs along the road. Be wary of the higher elevation; in mid-April we pulled in with 65° temps and woke up the next morning with snow and temps in the 20’s. This is very common for the high desert, so be prepared with plenty of fuel, water, and food.
Bryce Canyon FS
Just before you get to the welcome sign for Bryce Canyon National Park, turn right onto Forest Service Road 090 and enjoy the hundreds of campsites and pull-outs along the road. Free camping this close to a National Park where camping can cost $50+ is a lifesaver.
There was plenty of downed wood and the spot that we stayed in was very secluded and quiet. There were spots for rigs of all sizes, just make sure that your fire is put out and that you don’t mutilate the live trees that are everywhere.
When you think about public land camping in the desert, this is what you picture. Beautiful views, clean campsites, and tons of mountain biking nearby. This was one of our favorite campsites in Utah and for good reason. The JEM mountain bike trail wraps its way around the butte and river below to form a network of trails for running or riding.
Cell service was excellent here as well. We stayed here while getting errands run in Hurricane and visiting nearby Zion National Park. If we make our way back to the Hurricane area again, we will definitely stay here. If you stay here, be sure to check out the Virgin River overlook and rim trail. It is worth the effort to get to it.
If you use any of these free campsites on public land, pick up after yourself. Please follow Leave No Trace guidelines and leave the land better than you found it. If you liked our content and want to see more of our travel and full-time bus living, check out our Facebook and Instagram pages and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.