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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reflections On A Communal RV Caravan Of Boondockers

Flowers on Church Door, Lovely Ouray, Colorado... home (base) sweet home (base).

On behalf of Randy and Boonie, advocates of an RV Mobile Community Inc (MCI---my name, not theirs), I would like to express appreciation to all of you who took the time and effort to participate in this discussion. As some so kindly pointed out, this RV version of a Community "wheel" was invented long ago, shortly after we shed gills in favor of lungs and fins morphed into legs...

Beggars Can Be Choosers
So the question begs an answer, can (or should) the RV version of the Community Wheel be re-invented al la MCI? Can we remodel the model, sufficient enough to affect a sustainable mobile society? Or, will our fresh coat of "paint" simply mask and postpone the inevitable wood rot of attrition, you know, once masks come off, guards let down and fronts are off-put? Enter "The Villain" (insert organ music here),  Human Nature. 

Me? Selfish?
As Modern RV Man ripens (me included), he tends to get a little set in his ways and expectations. It's easy to get caught up in a twenty first century evolutionary avalanche of "My Space--Me First--Mine/Yours--Fences and one-size-does-NOT-fit-all... just like his non-RV counterparts. I fear we are socially de-evoling... that we have become accustomed to our personal "Cocoons," that we now prefer Socialization "al la carte." Why do the HOV lanes run practically empty during rush hours? We don't like to carpool... Hell, we might lose control of the radio station... have to leave ten minutes earlier... and, oh God, let someone of lesser ability drive. 

The dimensions and dynamics (variables) of an MCI are as multifarious as the number of participants. Like it or not, MCI is an alternative lifestyle nowadays, and it runs against the grain of our Social de-evolution. "Communal living" is almost anti-American in today's pre-packaged world... it flies in the face of all the social, economic and environmental advantages it brings to the table. 

I remember Elder Street in Springfield, Ohio; it's where my grandparents lived. Houses had large covered porches with rocking chairs, two person swings on creaky chains and old sofas. That's where we hung out. Neighbors would make the rounds, sit and chat while watching kids play stick ball in the street. Everyone knew everyone on good ole' Elder Street. How many people can say that today? Even as families we disappear into our "cocoons," then further divide into bedrooms, tv dens and Man Caves. Isolation, baby... let me text you from the next room.
Baggage Check... "Any bombs we should know about?"
I remember when a final straw broke the camel's back of my unfulfilling "career." I was a naive 49 year old when I traded my well used "treadmill" for RV wheels and embarked on a Blue Highway quest for eternal happiness. I truly believed I would suddenly un-become the person I had gradually become after 23 years in a "yes sir," clock-watching workplace. All I needed was a little freedom to undo chains that bound me. I hit the road full-time... to hell with a nice big house, toys, and new vehicles, right? You've been there.

Well guess what; "Where ever you go, there you are." My "baggage" caught up with me somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, about halfway through a coast-to-coast, border-to-border journey of a lifetime. They took about a year to find me, but eventually... when "I'm on vacation forever!" eroded into "Is this all there is?" my "baggage" showed up. You can run away from your boss, but you can't run away from yourself. That's a story for another time. The sociological point I'm trying to make is that, even (especially?) free and easy RV'ers don't always check their "baggage" at the door of the house they just sold. People's "baggage" eventually shows up... and so, too, the dirty laundry inside. How will MCI handle "situations." There will be Cliques, for they are universal and tend to form naturally. But always at the expense of exclusion.

People are People 
MCI needs to emulate the sticks and bricks neighborhoods of old,  only now we'll be seated around a campfire instead of on front porches. There will be a cost... maybe a little privacy lost, or spending some time getting to know someone we prejudged to not be close friend material. We need to seek out the "value" in everyone in order to find the value in ourselves. We need to step off our esteemed self image pedestals long enough to dig around... deep enough to find the good in others. That said, not everyone will be a "fit." There also needs to be a friendly "mechanism" to either excommunicate, or rehabilitate, trouble makers, gossipers and those who seek the spotlight 24/7. 

View Snobs and The Geo Challenge 
Just like we have "people" preferences, most RV'ers have geographical preferences, too. I peed on the "Ocean" in my previous post... got my hand whacked with a ruler. Touche'. (Note to self: Don't pee on someone else's dreamscape). The Geo Challenge would be my biggest stumbling block for an RV group. Hello, my name is Mark Johnson and I am a recovering "View Snob." 

It's true... I am a boondocker/camper for reasons other than just frugality. My camper is small and light so I can "go farther," as the commercial says... camp on the edge of glory in the land of back-a-beyond... where others fear to tread (pardon the pun). It is my understanding that Boonie has been anointed "Pathfinder" status for this budding RV group of vagabonds and that concerns me a little. It's a bit like letting someone else "drive" when they like to hug the center line more than you do. 

You see, Boonie is not all that in love with Mother Nature's "shock and awe" like I am. He can take or leave eye candy, where as I like to be in the middle of it. I even like National Parks (sorry Boonie), at least in their off seasons. I know they are crowded and they don't allow dogs on trails and it can be an un-solitary experience and there are rules, rules, rules, and Mr Rangers are eyeing you from every direction. But there is something powerful about Glacier in Autumn... when ole' Griz is on the prowl for food, something warm about Yellowstone's thermal blue pools, something cool about the Teton's... cloaked in October Gold, and something grand about the Grandest of all Canyons. You get the idea. I know Pathfinder has been at boondocking a long time and has many good winter spots... especially in Arizona. Still, I would be his worst nightmare lobbyist for eye candy.

Wrap It Up, Already
Judging from all the comments on the previous "Cocooned" post, I can tell there is no shortage of cynicism about forming a roving band of gypsy brothers and sisters. But I sensed some curiosity too... maybe even a "need" for such a thing. I realize MCI is not for everyone... at least the full-time version. I guess I feel like such a group would be at it's best as a come and go affiliation... "Oh you are going to be camped in Silverton, Colorado in July? Put me down for that, but I'll be skipping Moab in October... too crazy there." 

I think there needs to be a small core group that does travel together most, if not all of the time. They would become the "glue" that holds the looser affiliation together. We would look in on their blogs to see where they are, what they are up to, and when and where the next stop is going to be. That allows us to choose Al la carte whether or not to join them. It could work. 

On a large scale though, I have my doubts. There is often an inverse relationship between "good times" and "the more the merrier." On the "merrier" side, too many rigs could pose campsite selection problems (there goes back-a-beyond). 

In the end, I would participate for the social rewards; we don't seem to fit the typical RV park prototype. Too much sitting... too little activity. Bobbie and I need to hike, bike and/or walk every day; RV park people look at us like we are crazy. 

I think MCI could be a beautiful thing... play an important role in filling some social holes out on the lonesome highways... especially for singles. I like the idea of making new friends that are "outdoorsy." I like the idea of seasonal migration... roaming where the weather fits my clothes... of reuniting multiple times per year in special places... sharing a campfire, nature walks, eye candy... 

Maybe this group could hold an All-Comers rally once per year... near some eye candy, of course. That in itself may be enough to encourage annual participation by fringe member RV'ers. When the rally is over and done the core group scoots on down the road, to the next stop... not in mass, necessarily... but at their own easy pace and via the route of their choice. It's important for the core group to remain loose and free if it is to sustain. 

So now, imagine meeting up in Colorado's cool high country for a couple weeks during July's wildflower season... spread out in a large meadow with three bars of Verizon beaming from the iPhone. That smells pretty sweet to me, and I know of several places that fits the bill.

Please, feel free to comment further and tweak this thread. Boonie and Randy... please add your two cents... I only speak for myself.
If such a group interests you, even on a part time come and go basis, please indicate so with a comment (Anon, if need be). 

Eventually there will be contact info for those who want to be on a "list."
And thanks for your participation.
Box Canyon Mark. 



  1. Mark, I really liked this line: "there needs to be a small core group that does travel together most, if not all of the time. They would become the "glue" that holds the looser affiliation together."

    Some people might be scared off by the word "community." They might jump to strange conclusions about it being a hippie commune on wheels, with excessive meddling by the tribe, wife-swapping, trying to borrow money from each other, or imposing rules on other's behavior -- all lorded over by a Guru-potentate, etc.

    Cynical views of human nature don't stop the world from having churches, Elks' Lodges, bicycling clubs, etc.

    "Community" is the best single word I know of for expressing group effort and personal interaction that is more signficant than showing up at a Gathering, trying (and failing) to remember names, playing Ten Questions, and then leaving as strangers. That is the mainstream RV industry formula.

  2. This is an interesting thing. I don't quite get how this endeavor is all that different from groups like the WINs. Especially when you say hold rallys periodically, then splinter off. Isn't that the purpose of a group like the WINs?

    If it is just a group of nomadic close friends, then that is what it is and entry is dependent on how well the group likes each other and must necessarily stay small.

    If these loners are trying to form a cohesive tribe that stays together with obligations to each other, that is something both radical and retro in today's world. The success is highly dependent on the relationships that form among the group and will be eroded by open entry to the group. A cult is a common form of such groups with the attendant psychological manipulations but that need not be the basis for healthy people.

    I'm new to your blog but I appreciate your thoughtful writing. So thanks for that.

  3. One more thing: I wish you would edit you opening sentence about Randy and I being "CEOs" of the mobile community. That is inaccurate and gets the reader off on the wrong foot, in the very first sentence.

  4. Mark- I enjoyed the widw range of comments returned on your travel ideas---- esp the comments from the person about the enjoyment of the time on the beach in response to your cpmplaint about about the north -south boredom- while I agree with all his response about the beauty and fun of the beach - I could not dissagree more about his lack of apprecation of of the mountains of the west- I really think that would all go away with if he had a chance to enjoy a get together in Ouray of the wildflower celebration- it would be life changing-but - alas that experience is not available to all!

  5. Boonie,
    Words like "community" and "group" can put people off. They conjure up nightmares of committees, secretary/treasurers and tasks. I think there is a better single word; I just couldn't come up with it. Maybe an acronym.

    By the way, Grouchy, I edited per your request the opening. sheesh.

    "If these loners are trying to form a cohesive tribe that stays together with obligations to each other, that is something both radical and retro in today's world."

    My point exactly... there is a "cocooning" paradigm shift underway in todays society. MCI is an opportunity for solitary RV'ers to take a step back from the social isolationism of boondocking... if and when they want.

    I think this roving "community" idea is so multifaceted it can unnecessary scare people away... it looks threatening... like a Medusa.

    But if we put MCI under a microscope we'd see that it isn't complicated at all. The concept is extremely loose, informal and non-obligatory... show up when you want; leave when you want; like who you want; hang with who you want; camp where you want; go to bed and get up when you want... and so on. The only "demands" would be to be courteous. Beyond that I don't see any "Great Expectations."

    We have boon docked most of our RV lives because campgrounds can be so close and noisy. But we would welcome a well spaced association of courteous, outdoorsy campers to mingle with... to get outside our own heads with, so to speak. I see that as a learning opportunity for those who will listen more than talk. Let's swap "reads," experiences in cool places.

    I think the make or break crux will be the "core group," and as I understand it is already in place. The rest of us can come and go. Let's not make this more complicated than it is. If you enjoy Randy's, Boonies, and my blogs... as well as other writer/thinkers... you might enjoy sharing a camp too.

    Walden Steve,
    I'm not as intolerant as I sometimes seem. I actually like Oceans and beaches of the Pacific... they are wild, untamed forces of Nature. The Gulf was so passive... it didn't give me anything to grab onto. Maybe that's what some people want... a little peace, a little "time out" from a hectic working life in the burbs. I agree that variety is the spice of life... a mix of beach, mountains, deserts, lakes, and even cities, can strike a balance according to mood and need.

  6. Mark, the core group is NOT in place. The Kodger Karavan has a central theme of social science workshop, New Age philosophy, and state park camping.

    What you and I are proposing is a separate and new group centered around outdoors activity and boondocking. It would not be affiliated with the Kodger Karavan.

  7. Opps... guess I just got promoted :)) Seems a shame tho, to need two "denominations;" we overlap in so many other areas. I wonder how long it will take to have a schism in our group... the 70 degree lovers versus the 80 degree lovers... the bikers verses the hikers.
    Alas, we live in a age of specialization.

  8. I have enjoyed reading Mark's blog and the interchange. What I find striking is the realization that the great thing about this blog discussion about "mobile caravan" or whatever is that it has inspired people to start thinking and possibly even acting. In that sense the "caravans" have already succeeded. Life is about having fun and growing and thinking. This discussion has brought forward ideas about the "cocooning" of society and how people can "undo" this and come together. The discussion has highlighted how deep the need for society and interaction actually is - so - congratulations - keep those brain cells churning. Where do I stand? I have had fun with organized RV groups and have not found them overly oppressive - you just do not attend the meetings and the pot lucks and find the outdoorsy people to go hiking, biking, etc with. When traveling with those groups it has usually been reasonably easy to find the "active" types. Having a group that Boonie proposes where the focus would be outdoors activity would be nice as you would not have to go looking for them. However, I agree with Mark that I do not see why the two groups have to splinter - "can't we all just get along?" All the affiliations are considered loose anyway. So, thanks for getting all those people thinking and commenting - what next -revolution? Occupy the national parks and take them back for the people? LOL
    Good work all.

  9. Coupe2u,
    Thanks for your take on the RV Caravan, and standing with me on the "Cocooning" of our society.

    I think flexibility is the key, whether attending an RV group or family reunion. There can be conflicting personalities, but you might also find kindred spirits... lasting friendships based on love of the outdoors, hiking, walking, biking. Sharing time with friends while moving through nature is a wonderful and heightened experience. And recounting around a campfire with a glass of wine isn't bad either :))
    Thanks for commenting... Let's keep this going by staying in touch with the Box Canyon Blog and Boonies Occupation of Independence Blog. We will be planning "something" and see if it takes root.


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