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Searching For the Perfect Campsite

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here’s my truck and trailer in the new camp, nestled in the Beautiful Sierra NF.

After the Rendezvous ended, Cheri and I wanted to go back up to our old campsite on the knoll because it was the perfect place to spend the summer. It was gorgeous and had internet and cell phone reception. As a bonus, the “road” into it is so poor that there would never be anyone camping near us. But that created a problem. Because no one ever used the road, it was getting overgrown with manzanita and every time we drove in and out our vehicles were getting scratched up. My old F150 is so beat-up I didn’t care, but Cheri really loves her van (which she lovingly calls “Hulk”) and so she was very afraid of scratching it. So we looked around in other parts of the Sierra National Forest and found a campsite we both loved. It was nearly perfect. It was open but surrounded by beautiful forest and of course it had an incredible view…BUT, no internet or cell phone.

Here is Cheri’s van “Hulk” ticked into her little campsite. She likes the shade!

We decided to spend the summer their anyway because it was so nice. We were driving into town every other day to use the phone and internet, but we both found that pretty unacceptable. The trip into town ended taking up most of the afternoon and was it hard on the dogs.
So we were up visiting James and Kyndal (their Astro minivan is narrower and doesn’t get scratched up as bad) and we took another look for campsites. We found one that is just barely okay, but it has both internet and cell phone reception. As a huge bonus, we were a 10 minute walk from James and Kyndal. It was a tough decision, but we both decided that having internet in camp was worth it, so we’ve moved over there. Cheri is tucked into the woods so her van stays cool all day, and I am in the sun so I get plenty of solar power. It’s a good campsite, just not nearly as good as the last two we had. But it has internet, so we are glad we are here!

She actually has a nice clearing for her camp.

To get Hulk in, I took my saw and cut back the worst of the brush that was growing over the road. Then as she drove in I walked along beside her van and held back the rest of the brush that would have scratched it. We are just a short distance from the main road so it really wasn’t that hard. Normally being this close to the road would be a problem because it would bring traffic, but the main road is pretty poor so it doesn’t get much traffic, and very few people would look down our side-road and think they needed to go explore it. So far we haven’t had anybody else back here and I don’t expect we will.
Once again this raises the question of freedom versus comfort. We are free to go back here because we have small, not very comfortable rigs. I am expecting another friend to join us in August, but she has a 24 foot Travel Trailer and their is no way can it come back here. So she has much more comfort, but she also has much more limits in where she can go. We all have to set our own priorities and make our compromises. I’ve found her a great campsite a few miles away I think she will love, and then she can just drive up to see us.
So how did I find this place? First, I have a beat-up old pickup that can’t be damaged by overgrown roads, so I explore a lot. Second, I really like my privacy! The only way to get it is to head down bad roads other people won’t take. Third, I love to take my dog for long walks in the woods. So back when I was working as a campground host, Homer and I camped here on our days off and we walked all over the knoll. I’ve discovered nearly all my favorite places while we were out walking.
Bottom line: I think we finally have our campsite for the rest of the summer. It’s good to be home!!
I use a Verizon MIFI to get internet and the reception here is pretty good, but it could be faster. I’ve heard great things about Wilson cell signal amplifiers, but they are so expensive, I never bought one. Then a friend told me about one he used and liked so I bought it. It is the Wilson Sleek and works very well. But most importantly, it is reasonably priced at $84. I also bought a Wilson Trucker cell phone antenna and between the two I get a great signal. I’ve seen my cell phone go from 1 bar to 5 bars. You may want to check it out! Click here for info on the Sleek and here for info on the Wilson Trucker Antenna. Bob


  1. Michelle(She)

    Hey Bob love your new blog! Man you are living the good life even if you have to compromise.

    • Bob

      Michelle, I’m afraid Compromise is inevitable in life. Everybody has to do it. But we vandwellers have chosen to NOT compromise on things the majority wouldn’t even consider, like our freedom from the Rat Race. i may not be as free as some vandwellers, but I am still spending my summer in one of the most beautiful places anywhere doing only the things I want to do. that is the Good Life!!

  2. MichaelinOK

    Thanks for the glimpse into how you go about things.
    And though you were speaking about finding a good campsite, when you said “The only way to get it is to head down bad roads other people won’t take” you really encapsulated with that sentence what’s necessary for vandwelling in general, or even peace of mind or enlightenment, overall.

    • Bob

      Ah yes, the proverbial “Rode less Traveled” often leads to the best life!! Bob

  3. Greg

    Bob, I love bad roads! They call me. When I venture up to the Adirondacks I always find myself going down the path least traveled. Right now I’m looking to outfit my rig with my KLR 250 dual sport. That should make the exploring easier, more fun and affordable.

    • Bob

      Greg, I envy you! I think carrying a 250 dual sport is the ideal thing for a vandweller. You can set up camp and ride the bike to town for supply trips and then blast around the back roads for FUN! With gas prices the way they are, everyday you don’t drive the van is money in your pocket! Bob

  4. Twokniveskatie

    I wonder of that would also work at the farmhouse, if mounted in a window or if it would need a 12 volt connection….I think my son would buy one.

    • Bob

      Hi Katie, glad you are here!! I only wish you were here in camp with us!! Cheri and I talk about you all the time and say how much we really do love you!!
      I think the Sleek is by far the most bang for your buck for a cell amplifier. There are other amplifiers that are probably better, but they are hundreds of dollars. For $84 the Sleek is worth a try, even if it isn’t good enough for the farm, at some point you will be glad you have it. It really does work. I put my cell phone in it and it jumped from 1 bar to 5 bars. But since it isn’t Bluetooth, I couldn’t use it (see my reply to Tim).
      It can be either 12 or 110 volt. The power cord is a standard 5 volt USB cord. So it can be plugged into a 12 volt or 110 volt adapter. Right now I am using it on 110 volt off my inverter. The MIFI also uses a 5 volt USB cord and right now it is plugged into a 12 volt adapter, but it could be 110 volt by switching the adapter. My Kindle uses the same cord, and I have really fallen in love with that system!! Bob

  5. Tim McDougall

    Nice article Bob. How does the mirror mount booster connect to the cellphone? One of my older phones had an antenna jack but my current one doesn’t. The description of the item didn’t say and the photo was too small to tell. The other one looks like it may work by conduction but I’m not sure. They might be a big help as I always have signal problems here.

    • Bob

      Tim, the Sleek amplifier has a connector jack that lets the antennas screw into it. It comes with a 4 inch antenna, but I upgraded to the bigger Trucker Mirror mount antenna. Since they are all Wilson products they work well with each other. The Trucker antenna came with an adapter that let it work with the Sleek.
      Because the phone has to stay in the cradle to work, your phone either needs to be Bluetooth or have a speakerphone. Otherwise you would have to hold the cradle and phone up to your ear. I think that is a bad idea, the manual says not to do it. With my MIFI, it doesn’t matter since all it is doing is sending out wifi signals to the laptop/Kindle. Bob

  6. Nemo

    Hey there Bob, was wondering about this type of thing just this morning… you have the time in up there that I can only dream of at this point, but was wondering how hard it would be to find places all summer up there ) sounds like there are enough pull offs that it’s still doable 🙂 my mind just automatically makes california crowded… How would the big truck fit where you are?

    • Bob

      Nemo, nothing would make Cheri and I happier than if you joined us!! There are a huge number of dispersed camping places up here, you would have no problem finding places for the entire summer. The problem is that there are few places with cell or internet connection. Your box truck could make it in here just fine, but, it would get scratched up. But your box is so high off the ground, it would be mostly unscratched. And if you brought the bike, you would only have to drive the truck in once, and then it could sit all summer while you rode the bike for short trips. And of course Brian is up here too at your old campground.
      Do you have the insurance problem squared away? If so, come on up!! We’d love to have you here!! Bob

      • Nemo

        haven’t gotten far enough to call for Insurance yet this year, figure I’ll hit the road again in November, so not this summer 🙂 but the thought of being able to come up there and stay is very attractive for down the road.. it’s been to hot here on the property this summer, even at 6700ft I’m hitting low 100’s

        • Bob

          Cheri, James, Kyndal and I are tentatively planning to leave here and go to either Pahrump, NV or Quartzsite sometime in October. We’d love to meet up with you!!!!!! I think Brian is going back to Baja again this winter, would you consider going with him? Bob

          • Nemo

            you folks are welcome on the property too 🙂 not southern Utah, but not far off! and I dont see me and mexico happenin for a while, since I carry firearms when I’m on the road (at least for now). perhaps in time though.

          • Bob

            We were planning on getting up there to visit you before the RTR, but it sounds like you won’t be there. We’ll be glad to see you anywhere! Bob

  7. Offroad

    These are great notes on the cellphone coupler-cradle. Am going to buy one and test with my iphone 4 on verizon. will also need to investigate on a mount for my trunk for the antenna, if that is the best antenna. maybe there is a mag mount version.
    Would like to see reviews on WIFI antennas. have read that they can be as simple as a pringles can with the proper mechanical-electrical wire connected. But of course would rather have a commercial wifi directional antenna.

    • Bob

      Hi Offroad, it comes with a small 4 inch magnetic mount that seemed to work pretty good. But I flollow the principle “If a little is good, a lot is better” so I ordered the big antenna. They also sell a 12 inch mag mount which would probably be all you need. Amazon sells it and I think it is pretty cheap. Sorry, I don’t know anything about wifi antennas. Bob

  8. Camping

    We’re going to be camping next month. Can anyone give me tips on things you would normally forget to pack so I’m well prepared. There’s going to be water parks, and rides, plus the traditional camping stuff like fishing. We’re going to be staying in tents, not a cabin or RV so we won’t be needing any kitchen stuff I don’t think. Any ideas would be great, thanks!

    • Bob

      Hi Camping, that one is kind of hard for most vandwellers, because everything we own in the world is in our vehicle. So when I pull into a campsite, if I own it, it’s with me. Why won’t you need kitchen stuff, are you close enough to restaurants to eat-out? Mosquito repellant and rain gear/wind breakers are often forgotten. If you are going to have a campfire take matches, newspaper (for kindling) and marshmallows! Bob

  9. Carl

    Bob,My van is very close to what Cheri has.Is it possible to see how she has the interior set up? Thanks

    • Bob

      Carl, Oh great, just what I need, another project to get around to LOL!! I love Cheris van!! It is huge inside and she has it setup very comfortably. You are lucky to have found one, they aren’t common. Yes, I intend to do a story on her setup as soon as I get the time. She did something I think is a very good idea. She went to thrift stores and found two desks and some wood storage units that she (actually me) mounted to the floor with L brackets. It was cheap and gives her great organization and storage. I highly recommend thrift store desks. She was lucky and one of them is roll-top so it even gives her some vertical storage. Bob

  10. Kitty

    Hello Bob and Cheri and friends,
    I have the same style van (including hightop) as Sheri. I am all built in; plywood shelves, closets and cat walk in the hightop area. I have workvan metal partitions at both ends so I can open the entire van to fresh air but keep the cats inside. I wish I had a way to draw my van interior plan and show it to every one. I do not have a camera.

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