Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Some Changes. Warning, nerdy post.

Did you know I have a youtube?  If you missed the link above or my occasional posts being augmented with youtube videos, this may be news to you.

Up until my youtube has been pretty sparse.  I know that vandwellers have swarmed to the platform in the last year, it was kid of funny to see a group of 5 or 6 people at the rtr, all pointing cameras at each other while talking.  I'm not disparaging them though, the more people that can do this life style and support themselves, the better.  I found someone i talked to on the road about youtubing on there and it made me really happy.

I think the drama whoring for views is irritating though, but I try to just stay away from that, especially the guys who create drama by complaining about the drama lol.

However, they do make me realize just how bad my videos have been in the past, at least production quality wise.  A big part of that is that i don't have any special equipment nor could i afford any.  So i just used what i had, the cheapest go pro and whatever cell phone i had available.

But i still feel the information i provide is good, genuine, and useful to people.  I also use it myself to go back and remember where i have been with a fond smile.

So even tho i haven't made a penny off youtube yet (they only pay when you reach $100 in ad revenue), and despite youtube cancelling my partnership, because they now require 1000 subscribers, i decided to improve it a bit.  The money would'a been nice to upgrade my equipment but its not why i was making them in the first place.

Price dropped, 1/3 off!

I caught a sale on a piece of equipment that allows me to at least stabilize my camera, called a gimbal.  Sometimes you gotta pull the trigger even if you hadn't planned to yet.  If you watched my videos you will have definitely noticed painful amounts of shaking.  Part of that is a severe limp I have from gout.  This device will hopefully erase that problem.  You can also do some pretty cool, professional looking effects with it.

 A cheap Lav Mic, has good reviews on youtube

I also bought an external mic.  Audio is always terrible with the built in microphones of the go pro and my phone.  As i went back to edit clips of my gopro, i had to abandon whole places i went to because the audio just made it un-watchable.  This will hopefully help at least the cellphone footage.  Of course part of it is my dull voice, but I'm working on it.  I'm not a public speaker or a hyper-energetic, coked up werewolf type person to start with. lol

I wish i could afford a decent camera for video (and earth porn photos) but that just isn't possible (maybe if i get a few patrons on patreon eh?).  But in a way i am excited to see what i'm capable of now given the limitations i have.

Ahh, one day.  One day.
I also plan to make my videos a bit shorter in the future.  I often try to give every bit of info i have on a subject and want people to see all aspects, but i now realize that it just bores viewers and loses focus on the important points.

I plan to convey more of the essentials and gloss over the other stuff.  So more skips.  I think ill trust in my blog to go into more depth and send viewers here if they are interested to learn or see more.  I may do multi-parters as well.   I hate em personally but i can see how a 2 parter might be easier to digest.

So anyway, just a little bit of a technical update.   If you want to see how i improve, head over to youtube and hit the subscribe button to get my videos when they drop.  There will still be some older footage for a while as I don't want to completely abandon all I have from the past few months (mostly campsite reviews), but soon I will be adding in these changes moving forward.

Here is a video I made early on, which i felt had ok production given what I had to work with, lets see if i can top it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A troubling and confusing situation.

So I have pretty much outlined my plans and goals for the year and so far things were on track.   With the money I had saved from camphosting, combined with my unemployment, I was going to look to change my rig before heading back to my next hosting job in the spring.  Just had to come home and get mom in her new senior living setup, get my license renewed and buy my rig.

You served me well my blue friend, but
its time to retire.
Everything was going swell, but of course the government decided life can't be that easy and interjected itself in my plans.

A seemingly innocuous demand, do your civic duty, and serve on a jury.   Be on call for 5 months, ok getting a little ridiculous now....but I don't know anyone who had to serve for more than a few days or at most weeks.   After confirming my job start time to be later in the year, I calmed down.  I don't mind serving, I just don't want to risk everything to do it.

But as I got my unemployment packet and looked over the bi-weekly 'certification' form (they use to make sure you are looking for work, always available to work, and not making money any other way), I came to a pretty scary realization.  Because my forced duty, I may lose my unemployment benefits.

I started doing research online, wondering why they would even count jury duty at all, as it is mandated.   Well apparently they do and you must report it.   From multiple sources I found online you are required to report it, and how much you make (40/day for me).  Putting any other income is going to get your certification rejected, especially if you also answer the 'were you available to work' question with a NO. 

Oddly accurate...
I dug some more, and found that the law actually says that jury duty, or any summons to court still counts as 'being available to work'.   The problem is that a yes response to this combined with entering anything in the 'money you made from work or other sources' will still also trigger a rejection.

So, I am faced with 2 things happening.   The application is rejected (i have to do a paper one as well, instead of online, whenever you don't give standard 'acceptable' answers), and they will delay my payment and call me for a phone interview.  Hopefully I can explain the situation, at which point they will deduct the $40 from my unemployment, and issue my payment eventually.

Or as what happened to some others, they will just cancel my claim altogether, and I will have to fight to get it reinstated by contacting them, and wont even get the pay for those weeks.

Anyway, it leaves me wishing that I had went to my doctor right away and gotten an excuse to get out of jury (I do actually have a spinal defect that makes sitting or standing for any prolong period of time progressively more painful, that's why I can only drive 1 hour or 2 max at a time).  But I was snowed in the last 3 weeks, and out of time to see the doctor.

   As it is, the best case scenario is I go to court all day for free, and worst case is I lose nearly $4,000 in benefits (assuming I stay unemployed till spring) over 40 bucks.

I wish they just made an across the board exception, with a little checkbox, for 'did you serve jury duty' and leave it at that for 'doing my civic duty' like im supposed to do.  Since you have to go and employers aren't even suppose to prevent or penalize you for going.

Actually, I think I know...

It all seems odd and confusing to me.  The timing is terrible, if I coulda just got a couple checks in the bank I wouldn't mind but they almost perfectly conspired to conflict with each other (i found it more than a coincidence that just days after paying my states 'personal property tax' on my van, I got a notice to serve, I should have waited till my registration was expired in February).

Oh well, maybe I can find a shitty retail job if all of this falls through that I can just quit later.   Just felt like bringing up a strange situation that you may find yourself in if you do the camphosting/unemployment route.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Get a Job Easily: Everything You Need to Know About Camphosting

Job Sweet Home

I've wanted to do this blog post since I finished camp hosting back in October, after I completed my first season.   I decided to upload this blog post now because the time to get a camp hosting job, is quickly approaching.   Camp Hosting companies usually do the bulk of their recruiting at the end of January for the following spring (May and June typically).  Since I want to be thorough, it will be a lengthy post, so sorry about that in advance, I will try to break it up as best as I can.

If you are more of the "Show don't tell" type, I also made a video covering these points and giving a demonstration of typical camp hosting day.

What is Camp Hosting?

You may not even know what Camp Hosting is, so let me explain.   Camp hosting is a job where you manage a campground for a concessionaire (company) to take care of the area, collect fees, and make campers happy.   It is nearly always a seasonal job (but not always) and most jobs take place in the spring-autumn months (but not always).   The specifics of these jobs vary widely by not only the particular company you work for, but by the location even in that same company, and even by the particular land owner/planner (typically government or utility) that contracts that company. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Everything You Need to Know To Stay Warm.

West Virginia, cold as ever.

As I sit here, the temperature is a balmy -2 degrees in Wild and ahem Wonderful West Virginia.   So, I decided to talk a little bit about how I keep warm while living in my van for years without becoming a popsicle.

More often than not, people always worry about me in the winter freezing in a van.   It's kind of amusing to me, as the hot weather is much more dangerous for me than cold.   You can always warm up, but you can only cool down so much.  It got to the point that one cold day around 0 degrees, I had to send out a picture next to my thermometer reading around 80 degrees, I was in my shorts :)

Obviously the best way to stay warm on the inside of your dwelling, is to simply make sure it is warm on the outside of it.  You probably heard the term snow birds, usually associated with seniors and retirees in RVs moving from a summer home in the north down to a summer home or rv park in the south (usually florida, at least in the East). 

Panama Beach Florida
Our elders are wise, so why not learn from them.   As a vehicular nomad, one of your greatest strengths is to be able to move your home at will.   Why not just drive to where temperatures are moderate and where you like them.   If the weather turns extreme again, move on!

Colorado River, Ehrenberg Arizona
Most often, people consider snow birding as moving from one end of the country to the other with the seasons, but remember that distance is not necessarily a requirement, just a change in temperature.  Another, often cheaper, way to get that is altitude.   For instance, you can live in warm Ehrenberg or Quartzite Arizona and stay in the desert through the cold winter, then move in the harsh summer by driving UP to Flagstaff or Prescott, Az where it is much cooler.

Near Winslow Az, Higher Altitude

But if you are like me, sometimes it isn't possible to move, for work or family reasons.   Or you may have missed your window of opportunity, and might become stuck in a cold weather situation.  It's nothing to worry about, as long as you are prepared.

Cheap Garbage

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

I hope you have a terrific 2018 wherever you are!    

My only resolutions are to get a new rig and a way to take a warm shower indoors this year.   That's right, I plan to actually get out of the van, and into something more comfortable to drive long distance, and with more room inside for a shower.   Right now I am not sure what form this will take as I have very little money, but I am currently looking at getting a used minivan, suv or small pickup and either a used small camper to refurbish, or an empty cargo trailer to build out.  

Since my work ended in October, my funds are set for now (savings), but I am hoping to receive unemployment soon while I'm out of work to give me a small boost toward my goals.  I might also be able to sell or trade the van once I know I have a suitable replacement.

Well see, as always if my upgrade plans fall through I still have the van to fall back too.  

To my friends out on the road and on the way to the RTR or already out there, safe travels, I'll be joining you next year :)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years, A Year Ago

The fireworks went off right in front of this tower.

A year ago today I spent New Years Eve in warm San Antonio, Texas.   Oh how i wish it was as warm here now, in West Virginia (currently 10 degrees).  There isn't much to do for new years in west virginia unless you are in the 2 or 3 major cities in the state, so I typically don't celebrate it or care.   

But since I could choose to go somewhere and celebrate it on the road, I broke my normal rule of avoiding urban areas and took a trip to San Antonio for their fireworks show.   It wasn't disappointing.  It is a beautiful city at night downtown.  

This is a mural i liked along a canal that winds through downtown.
The only problem is, the city had probably the most confusing grid of streets I have ever experienced.   Man, what a nightmare to navigate, and I lived in washington dc before.  In this city, during 'events', the parking lots are allowed to charge 4 times the amount for parking they normally do.   I stopped at one, and then bust out in laughter when i found out the price was 20$ per hour.  Really?   How many hours did i need to look around the city and catch the fireworks?!

I moved on and noticed signs for municipal parking was normal rates, about $6 dollars.   There was a garage ahead, the entrance around the next left with its own lane on the street so i pulled in.   Well what they dont tell you, and you cant see from that street before being locked in, is that the entrance to the garage was like 6'2.  So my van did not fit.   So here I am, locked into this lane blocking the entrance, unable to move forward or back. 

Luckily the supervisor for the place was behind me, and she got out, stopped traffic on the street, backed all the cars up and let me out.   What a pain, that they could have avoided by putting a sign on the street you actually use to get in line.  

I eventually debated whether to just give up and head to a nearby walmart for the night, or park in the outskirts (read: ghetto) and walk two miles in. 

I looked online for rules about parking the city on the street, and luckily discovered an interesting fact.   Meters downtown are not enforced after 8pm.  Sweet.   I ended up parking near a hospital about a mile or two away and walking in after 8pm.

Some lovely churches and buildings in San Antonio

Just walking to downtown was difficult.   Google GPS was woefully failing me in the city, even the mighty google was confused by this place.    I did manage to find a canal that scenically takes you through the city, and that helped a bit.   It still took a while to get near to where the fireworks show was happening.

I finally arrived at the park, and was shocked to see so much fanfare.   They had news casters setup like they do on Rockin New Year.   There was a concert area (tho just playing dance music, no live singers till later).  There were food stands and people shuffling about, much like a little carnival.   There was also a separate concert area, that was absolutely packed to the gills with hispanic partiers, and there was a latin band playing.   This spot was a lot different from the other area, it really seemed festive and fun, everyone was actually dancing and having a good time.  I hung around there a while, out of place as ever with my giant white butt, but no one seemed unwelcoming.  

Eventually i decided to find a place to sit and watch the fireworks, places to sit were at a premium.   If you wanted to make some really nice coin on new years, go to this place and rent out little folding chairs.   You'd make a killing.    I eventually found a free spot on a bench next to what looked like a homeless man.   No problem for me !  I sat and watched the fireworks with him and a family who didnt speak english settled in next to us.  I eventually gave up my seat to one of them.

The fireworks show itself was amazing once it finally came.   It lasted way, way longer than any other one i went to, even the one in baltimore.  I enjoyed it immensely, though i was pretty happy to get back to the van after so long.

This year I am back here, its too cold to do anything but sit in my sister's kitchen, and watch the year expire.   A friend I met at the RTR is stopping by, maybe for the night, but I feel kinda bad for him.   Its awfully boring here in the countryside on NYE, but I am glad to see a friend from the road as he sets out back west.    Wish I was going too.

Here is a video I made last New Years, if you want a better idea of what it was like.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Where have I gone?!

It's like where's waldo, but a lot less exciting!  I can't believe it has been sooooo long since i stopped posting to this blog.   What can I say?  I'm entirely at fault.  As an apology, I will spam random earth porn of my travels throughout this post :)

My Home While Camphosting
I wanted to make a post or two about the RTR, but once I was there I had so much fun socializing and experiencing everything, the blog just fell to the wayside.   After that I felt awkward posting about ..basically doing nothing for 3 months in the desert while i waited for my camphosting job.   Then after that i was too busy working, and so on and so forth. 

Island Lake, as seen from Grouse Ridge Lookout
Well enough with the excuses yada yada.   I do have some thoughts about the rest of that trip, and I will begin posting recollections of it in a more timely, but casual matter.   Not a linear one..I want to post what I feel like posting about currently, and too much time has passed to be bound by such frivolities as time :)

Did i just reach Enlightenment?   haha

Carr Lake in the Sierra Mountains
 I do have lots of photos and some footage from my time traveling across the country though, so I will be sprinkling it in.  I also want to post about my experience as a camphost, how to get the job and what it did, and could, entail.  And what I am currently up to right now. 

Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see.
Anyway, for anyone who is reading this, thanks for joining my blog as I move forward.   I hope it helps you, or entertains you. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Winnie City Park, Winnie TX ... and self imposed cop knock?

Winnie City Park, Winnie Texas
335 Park St.
Winnie, Texas
GPS: 29.812117, -94.380234

Youtube Review


As I had discovered in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, some small towns try to attract travelers by offering up their City parks for a few nights of free camping (or parking in some cases).  This brings in valuable tourist dollars that would be spent on campsites for most travelers anyway (unless they are like me) so it is a win-win.  While being out in the wild wilderness camping for free is enjoyable, its also nice sometimes to be near shops and internet.

Winnie Texas is one such example.   Unlike Breaux Bridge however, you do have to register at the sheriffs/clerks office first.  As you head toward the park, you want to stop there first by making a left at the Exxon station onto Broadway, the light before the park.   The process is pretty painless, you just hand over your license to the very nice clerk, she makes a copy and then gives you a permit for 3 days.

The park, like the others I come to find in Texas, is immense.   I guess Texas earns its 'Bigger' reputation in this regard.   The park has a large, elaborate playground, several sport areas, a rodeo/horse track, and what I am assuming are festival event areas with stands.   Multiple covered picnic areas, some with giant BBQ grills/smokers.

Any size rig can easily fit here, more sites and parking than can likely be filled if they try.   My guess is they were preparing for Rodeo shows with this space.   There are water and electric hookups all over the park.   I do not know if they are included for your free stay, I would ask the clerk first.   She didn't forbid it, and since I didn't need them, I didn't ask.  Both the electric and water did work though.

The park has bathrooms, though they are rather spartan in my opinion.   Its rare to find open public bathrooms with absolutely no stall doors or even curtains in them.  According to reviews, the ladies aren't spared this either.   I thought metal urinals were strange too, though since then I have seen they are a common thing in the southwest.  Trash cans are sparse but around.

The park is beautiful, many of the trees scattered throughout were adorned with lights for Christmas (tho it was over already).   Something about manicured grass that makes me want to lay down on it and nap, tho it was still a little on the chilly side for that.

There is a Dollar General about a quarter mile from the park if you take the road at the rear of the park out, and across the highway from that is a local supermarket.   The little town has anything you need, restaurants, gas, even tire repair, though I don't think there is much in the way of entertainment.

After filming several of the areas for my youtube, I decided to settle in under a cute tree at the end furthest from the empty playground after filming it (it is a pretty amazing little castle playground).

It didn't help much because before it even got dark I had a cop knock from a sheriff's deputy.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Status update

Due to several factors, prime of which has been my lack of motivation, i haven't updated in a while.  I decided to give a heads up on my current doings, and upcoming plans.  

Since Quartsite,AZ in January, I spent my time in Ehrenberg, AZ, which is a pretty uninteresting place to look at, as its mostly all rocky desert, but it is the perfect place to long term camp in the winter.  No time limit or fees, a pit toilet i can dump in for free, all the services nearby i need, including free water (tap).  

My main reason for going to Quartzsite this year was to secure a camp hosting job, which i did.  It will be at Fuller Lake in northern California, in the sierras near Nevada City.  I was planning to meander up that way throughout April, and get there in time to start in may.

However, due to some unfortunate circumstances, a friend i met in Ehrenberg needed a ride to San Fran, California right away.  She proposed that since I needed to head that way soon, she would hire me to shuttle herself and her adorable cat Hunter up there. Since it would help me out financially and help her get where she needed to go, it was a win win for everyone (except my back ;])

So a day later I am in the Bay area, about to visit a landmark.  Its a little early for the normal camping season, so finding a place to camp for the next few weeks might be a challenge, but that is what an adventure is all about.  Walmarts here are no go as well.  

My tentative plan is to head up to Mendocino NF and look for some open campgrounds, or if i have to do so, disperse camp.  Then hoof it east to my host job.

Before I get too remote for internet, I will hopefully continue logging my travels and campsites in Texas, a more thorough RTR post, and my Ehrenberg experience so look forward to that.

Thanks for reading!

Checking out the USS Alabama, tanks, planes and memorials at Battleship Memorial Park.

Although I hadn't planned to spend much time in Alabama, I didn't want to completely blaze through the state.   So even though I wasn't camping, I decided to take a small detour and check out the USS Alabama battleship at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL back in december.

If you've been following me on this blog or youtube, you might have surmised I am more clenchfisted than scrooge, so this stop was actually pretty nice for me.  You can pay to take the tour (15 bucks I think) of the ship, but it only costs 2 bucks to enter the park and roam around looking.

Ceremonial Gun outside visitor center.
In the visitor center, you can find bathrooms, and there is a whole area just ahead of the battleship with picnic tables, pavillions and grills.   You almost forget that it is an actual park.  If you have a furry friend, he isn't allowed on the tours, but they do provide kennels and water for your pets.

Kennels, there is a water hose.
 It was crazy humid here, and I went in the winter, I can't imagine what Alabama must be like in the grips of summer.  I felt like I was breathing through a sock like a bellows and I'm from a pretty wet area myself. 
The ship is so huge, this is all i could fit in the shot!
It would definitely be better to actually go on the ship as it is a self guided tour, but I didnt mind.   If you never seen a battleship in person, it is impressive just to look upon.  And massive.  It astounds me no end just how massive ships can be on the water, it almost seems limitless.   Its like someone took a skyscraper and knocked it over on its side.  I can't even conceive how the massive guns must sound when they fire.  I wonder if they ever fire off blanks or something.  I might break open the wallet a little further for that experience.

Its fun to see some of the nick names given to the vehicles.

The battle ship itself is not all there is to see in this park either.   For your $2, you can walk around and check out tons and tons of tanks, artillery guns, and an actual bomber, an MRBM, fighter planes (that have seen better days mind), helicopters, you name it.

Look at the tiny door :D

The aircraft were in pretty bad shape, not sure if just disrepair or war damage?
This plane looked to be in the best shape, I think it could still even operate.  Check out the artwork.
There is also a submarine that is propped up on the ground.   Its a part of the battle ship but you can check out the outside pretty close up from the park.    There is also a giant aircraft hanger, but access from outside the tour area is a no go, which was disappointing to me because it appeared you could go in at first, but the doors are all blocked off.

I'm not a military expert of fanatic, i must admit, but i still get a lot of enjoyment from looking at the marvels mankind can make when driven to destruction (or protection, given your viewpoint).  

I thought this little tank looked awesome with 2 barrels up front.
Since I dont know much about these machines, I don't have much to say about each one, or hell even name them, but hope you enjoy the pictures and video I took of my visit there.  Maybe you can tell me more about them in the comments or identify them for me (some had plaques, but not all did).

Neat up close look at the cockpit.

I will say that my favorite things to see were the MRBM (Medium Range Ballistic Missle)  and the bomber.  You can actually stick your head up inside the missile as the engine has been removed (its there underneath if you want to check it out too).  You can see the gears and chains that I assume actuate the fins that guide it to its target.

The bomber was interesting to me.   It clearly had some work done to it for appearance sake.   The skin of the thing was painted black and it almost looked like it was made of black tinfoil, I don't know if thats how they actually were constructed originally.   The bomber had decals (or painted on) bombs near the cockpit, representing bombs it dropped on the enemy.  There was a lot of them.

Almost in a strange sorta contrast to all the firepower and killing machines, the place has several beautifully made memorials dedicated to the Vietnam, Korean war, and the middle eastern wars (on terror).   I was also pleasantly surprised to see sculptures and plaques dedicated to dogs who fought and died in service.

The Vietnam memorial was especially lovely, yet saddening at the same time.  Even the very large noisy family that walked up behind me quieted here, it had that kind of impact.  There is a statue of a soldier standing between 2 marble slabs atop bamboo.

There is a particularly potent quote from a Vietnam vet across from the names of those local men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war.  I'll type it out just to make it easier to see than the picture.   I highly recommend spending a day at this park, and check out my youtube video to get a better look at everything.

I think this is a good point to end on.
"Vietnam - War/Pain/Sorrow/Mystery/Jungle/Swamp/Mountains/Hot.
Vietnam means something - different but the same - to all of us.
Vietnam has a lasting effect of one sort or another on all Americans.
Vietnam can only be understood by those of us who where there --
--And we don't understand it."