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Let the Fire Burn Bright!

It’s 10:00 pm Thanksgiving day and I am writing this after a wonderful meal and gathering with many old friends and making many new ones. Steve wanted to put on a Thanksgiving dinner, which I thought was a wonderful idea, so we planned it and he cooked practically the whole thing by himself. I bought a whole, frozen turkey breast and Steve deboned it and cooked it in foil on his barbeque grill. He made mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing to go with it and it all turned out great. It was as good a Thanksgiving meal as I have ever had!
But Thanksgiving is more than just Turkey day, it is a time to gather with friends and family. I think of all of you as part of my family, so I put out a general call that everyone was welcome. The response was pretty good. There were 12 of us total for dinner:

  • Myself who full-times in a Converted Cargo Trailer
  • Steve who full-times in a 4×4 Chevy van
  • Terry who Stealth parks in Long Beach in a high-top conversion van,
  • Bill a full-timer from Tucson in a Roadtrek Class B,
  • Charlene a full-timer in a Chevy Express van
  • Bill and Judy who are full-timers in a Chevy Express Van towing a 21 foot Travel Trailer
  • Fred who full-times in a Travel Trailer
  • Anna who part times in a Ford Van
  • Doug who full-times in a 5th wheel in an LTVA
  • Michael who full-times in a 5th wheel in an RV park
  • Phil who full-times in a Chevy Express van

Thanks Steve, for a wonderful meal with wonderful friends!

As we sat around visiting before and after dinner, I was struck by what a very diverse group we were. We came from many different areas of the country with very different backgrounds. There were trained professionals, college graduates and folks (like me) who never got past high school. Some were very traditional, “normal” people and others were totally unconventional. And yet we sat around laughing and having a good time like we had been old friends all our lives. The common connection was that, for whatever reason, we were all disenchanted with our old lives and had set out to make new ones. And this time we weren’t going to blindly follow society’s dictates but were going to live life on our own terms by living a life of freedom and independence in a vehicle and “normal” be damned!
It was obvious that we all treasured our alone time, independence and freedom above everything else, and yet we equally long to make a connection with other like-minded people. Vandwelling offers us a unique combination of freedom and comradery that appeals to both those sides of us. Oddly enough, MS Word doesn’t know the word “comradery” so I looked it up and it is defined as: “used to characterize the easy familiarity between those who know each other well.” And that is exactly how I feel whenever I meet a fellow vandweller. I may be meeting them for the first time, but there is an instant familiarity, like we were old friends. Everything about us may be very different, but the fact that we have chosen to live in a vehicle means that deep-down there is some drive, some kind of a fire in each of is that is very much alike. I can’t exactly put my finger on what that drive is, I just know it is there, and I could see it in each person as I looked around the circle at dinner.
Since you are reading this, you must have the same fire in your belly. Maybe you have made the leap and are living in a vehicle already, or perhaps the fires is still building and you are fanning the flames by reading and dreaming on the internet. Whatever your situation, I want to acknowledge and honor that fire in you. And I want to encourage you to honor it as the wonderful and unique gift it is. So many people go through life without ever feeling any spark, merely surviving by going through the motions of living. They allow fear and apathy to douse the flame. Don’t let yourself be one of them; don’t let that fire go out!

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of a man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. ~Jack London

As another Thanksgiving comes to an end, what I am truly grateful for is the very good fortune to have played some small role in spreading that flame to other people. I am grateful to the internet for allowing us to learn about this wonderful way of life and find each other. And my prayer is that we will each burn bright and find each other in a very dark world.

“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived?
Find your passion, whatever it may be.
Become it, and let it become you
and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.” T Alan Armstrong



  1. Brian Howard

    Sounds like a wonderful time. I plan on buying a conversion van in the spring and convert it after I sell my motorcycle and get a little taste of what your doing. Sounds like a great time. My health is not so well and I am way over weight so I am going to have to do some trial and error myself. I’m hopping getting out side and a little more physical will help me in many ways. I read all your blogs, bought your book and visit your web sites offen for knowledge and inspiration. I love the out doors and hate being cooped up in the winters here in central New York. I have gone south several times in the winter and love it but I see from your pics some beautiful land out west and I happen to read a lot of western books so maybe one day I will get the chance to travel out that way. Please keep having fun enjoying vandwelling (trailer dwelling) and maybe one day we will run into one another on the road. From up northeast in the cold, Brian

    • Bob

      Hi Brian, I don’t envy you living in the cold at all. I put in my time shoveling snow and hopefully NEVER AGAIN! I’m sure the photo of the cactus in the sun didn’t make you feel in better! The weather here has been so great, the highs are in the low 80s every day and the nights cool off perfectly.
      About your weight, believe me I am not offering any judgements, I have struggled with my weight all my life. But this life makes it much easier to loose weight. One person in camp lost 100 pounds in the last year since he went full-time boondocking. Another person lost 80 lbs. The fresh air, the extra activity, the limited access to grocery stores, all add up to a much healthier lifestyle. A huge reduction of the stress in our life is another factor that makes us immeasurably healthier.
      Vandwelling may save your life! Bob

  2. Calvin R

    Bob, thanks for another moving essay. I can picture that fire and maybe I can be there another year. At about the time you wrote that, I was online with my sister in another state talking about our “genetic wanderlust.” Thank you for including those of us who are not currently on the road in your blessing.

    • Bob

      You are very welcome Calvin. I like that phrase a lot “genetic wanderlust.” Bob

  3. Kitty

    Thank you for your writing. Yesterday (Thanksgiving) I spent with 200 stangers who all had love in their hearts and Empty bellies ,soon to be filled. The Woodstock NY annual Thanksgiving feast, all organized and run by volunteers from the Woodstock area. I was housesitting nearby so was able to contribute homemade stuffing, mashed potatos, cranberry sauce, steamed kale and mashed rutabags. So many people cooked and shared and served and cleaned up. I also was able to donate some food to a local soup kitchen in Kingston, a nearby town. I gave alot and received more. Living alone can get empty. Being with people of like mind can fill the emptyness with love.

    • Bob

      kitty, thank you for your loving service to others. I’m sure it meant a great deal to the people you served. A few years back I spent the winter in Pahrump, NV where there is a very large population of people who live in vehicles of every description in the desert around town, including me. On Thanksgiving day a church group went around and brought hot Turkey meals out to all of us. I am not “poor” and can afford plenty to eat (which is obvious when you see me!) but I appreciated the intent to be a blessing so I accepted it with gratitude and thanks. Whether you are hungry or not, knowing there is someone who cares enough to go to all that work is a wonderful thing!!
      Thank you for your kind heart! Bob

  4. HoboBerg

    Happy belated Thanksgiving! I am in Tucson with the family for now ,but will be heading out after Christmas for the RTR. Look forward to meeting everyone.

    • Bob

      Thank you Hobo, and best wishes to you too! I really enjoy your blog and I’m looking forward to meeting you and Candy! Bob

  5. gretchenrose

    Good morning Bob, I sat down while waiting for my tea water to boil, started reading your musing about your Thanksgiving gathering, didn’t finish because I was overwhelmed by your encouraging and thoughtful words, I’ve now collected myself enough to express my gratitude for your insights about those of us who have that fire burning in our bellies. My dream of full timing is coming to fruition, when my Toyota Sienna sells I’ll be on the road in my 2004 Road Trek I purchased two months and I truly know about genetic wanderlust, the gypsy in me is from my father and I’ve passed it on to my oldest son who will be following me in the coming months in his vintage travel trailer pulled by his vintage Lincoln. Looking forward to meeting you and all the other folks at Quartzsite!!! May all the blessings of the season be yours.

    • Bob

      GretchenRose, you are too kind. I appreciate your generous words. I see you also appreciated Calvin’s phrase of “genetic wanderlust”. I think that is very appropriate.
      I’m afraid there were some literal fires in our bellies last night because we ate too much. Some of us have sworn a pact to keep the other from going back for seconds (and thirds) next time. But it was worth it!!
      I envy you your Road Trek, they are wonderful rigs, I think you will love living in it. I’m looking forward to meeting you and your son as well! Bob

  6. Darrell Borland

    Thankyou for a wonderful essay, Bob. Your digs remind me of the land near Yuma where I used to live many years ago. Having a sense of home and friends, where ever that may be, is vitally important to most human souls. Your feelings come through with much clarity. Thanks again from Darrell and Gita.

    • Bob

      Thanks for your kind words Darrell! I really like this phrase you used:
      Having a sense of home and friends, where ever that may be, is vitally important to most human souls.
      It’s easy to get caught up in our search for freedom and independence and loose sight of this critically important part of our personality. I have become increasingly aware of it in myself and so my efforts at building a tribal community of vandwellers is actually selfish. I need it as much as anyone else! Bob

  7. Kim

    “Whatever your situation, I want to acknowledge and honor that fire in you. And I want to encourage you to honor it as the wonderful and unique gift it is”.
    I’ve never thought of it that way. Sometimes the nomadic urge feels like something that should be repressed in our society. But, you are right – those of us who possess that urge should be proud of it. And, most of all, grateful.

    • Bob

      Kim, we are so outside the box, it’s easy to start thinking there is something wrong with us. if enough people tell you that you are crazy to travel in Road Trek, eventually you may start believing them. BUT THEY ARE WRONG. How can following your heart and being happy be wrong if you aren’t hurting anyone? Bob

  8. Don McKee

    Hi Bob, Great post,Sure hearing how great things went out there in the warm spot still makes me want to be there.
    Possibly next year I and my other half can make it.
    Ihope you and all the friends that have gathered there have a great Holliday A Merry Christmas & A Happy new Year!

    • Bob

      Thanks Don! Best Holiday wishes to you as well! Hope to see you next year. Bob

  9. Steve & Zeke the Mountain Dog

    Steve here, just chiming in on what it took and how i pulled this Thanksgiving off with 2 small BBQ’s and a two burner Coleman stove making allot of people smile and grateful… I have always said you dont need those huge kitchens and fancy dew-dads to feed many people, great food, in the middle of the Arizona desert…
    Ingredients: 1 turkey roast, 1 bone in turkey breast, Idahoen instant mashed potatoes, canned turkey gravy, Stove top turkey dressing, 1 can chicken broth, 1 large can sweet potatoes, 1 can chilled cranberry sauce…
    Added by others: 2 types green bean dishes, fresh fruit medley, nice butter rolls, 2 pumpkin pies, 2 apple pies, whipped cream, Ice cream, fresh fruit, assorted nuts, and snack chips… We also had beer, scotch, wine, and more to make this a fantastic thanks giving…
    How I did it with 1/2 hour prep and 1 hour total cooking time: Pryer to cooking I had to prep 1 turkey loaf and bone 2 breasts off a whole turkey piece… I boned first and laid each breast in tin foil to cover over the breasts, cut onion slices for the breast to sit upon for flavor and to keep moist… Taking my knife and fresh whole garlic i separated the cloves and cut them into say cashew halves… taking my knife i poked into the breasts and inserted the garlic buried into the breasts… I then lathered butter and followed with a pepper, onion flake, garlic salt mix… then took 4 sheets of tin foil and wrapped the breasts up nice and tight…
    The Turkey roast to my surprise came in its own seasoning and sauce, so I took the netting off it, set it to on a bed of onion slices and poured the rest of the seasoning sauce over it and wrapped like the breasts…
    I had the two “go anywhere” BBQ’s on high, turning them to medium and setting the 3 packages on the 2 BBQ’s noting the time… I figured 45 mins cooking time and then shutting off the propane to set and finish cooking…
    open beer and converse with some really great people for a half hour…
    So now come in the challenge of a two burner stove with 15 mins to play with to make 4 dishes, Potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and sweet potatoes with the off stove dish of cranberry sauce in the 15 min window, so ya set priorities…
    Open the sweet potatoes and get to a boil, while boiling 4 cups of water for the potatoes… Water boils faster and potatoes hold in heat so in a side dish put the instant mashed potatoes and wait for the water to heat… Mean time open the canned gravy and ready it for the stove to take the place of the water… Water hot pull off and replace with gravy and the and the hot water to potatoes and stir like crazy and set aside… fill the coffee can with chicken broth for dressing and when sweet potatoes are hot cover, remove and place broth in its place, cover sweet potatoes to keep warm… gravy is beginning to boil turn down to simmer as the broth gets hot, remove brother and pour over stuffing on bowl and stir….
    With the help of friends all the other stuff is done and time to pull the turkey off the grill and carve… take all over to the buffet table hot and ready to serve to the most appreciative people and good friend a sort can have…
    Prep to service 1.5 hours…
    I have just shown that there is nothing that cannot be done in this life style, you give up nothing but the stress of life in what I call the matrix… listen to bob and all the rest of us, there is another logical, sane, and happier life for you, ya just have to, like this dinner, plan, and execute your plans and not look back…
    I do hope you all had a grand Thanksgiving, for this one this year will always stand out for me…
    Steve and Zeke….

    • cyndi

      sorry to have missed your turkey feast, Steve! Looking forward to January and sharing a meal or 2 in Q!

      • Bob

        Cyndi, i didn’t think the day could get any better, but you being here would have done it!! Miss you. Bob

  10. Steve & Zeke the Mountain Dog

    I just want to add to those that are on the fence… Ya know there are bad apples in every group, there are stigmas with this life style, but what gets reported is the bad apples and malcontents…
    What does not and never will be reported is the good times with great people we meet… We dont cause trouble, break laws, or hurt anyone… this last Thanksgiving gave me real hope as we met new people who were to say the least apprehensive, yet 2 days later are laughing and enjoying life, even after the most traumatic things have happened to them… We are out here, we will give true help, will will listen and we will not let you fail… Just hold this to your heart, we are out here, we will help those that help themselves… God Bless

    • MichaeinOK

      You sound like a good man. I admire and appreciate your message: “We are out here, we will give true help, we will listen and we will not let you fail… Just hold this to your heart, we are out here, we will help those that help themselves.”
      The best kind of community functioning cannot be mandated; it must come from the hearts of individuals–and your words above constitute a good example. May you be blessed for helping others…even beyond the blessing of helping others.

      • Kathy

        Hey Steve,
        I second Michael, 100%. I want to reprint what he reprinted, because it was so beautifully put: “We are out here, we will give true help, we will listen and we will not let you fail… Just hold this to your heart, we are out here, we will help those that help themselves.” I was heartened to read it and continue to be buoyed up by you and by Bob. Your sincere interest in helping others is so warming, and takes me back to last June in the mountains at the summer RTR. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again at winter RTR. Bless you!

  11. MichaeinOK

    Once again your warm heart and inspirational spirit come through in this, your latest post. And you summed up your message so well by saying: “And my prayer is that we will each burn bright and find each other in a very dark world.”
    I’m thankful for warm-hearted, independent thinkers like you.

    • Bob

      Thanks Michael! Bob

  12. Carolyn

    wow …. Needed your words this morning … 8 months for me traveling in my minivan …

    • Bob

      Very cool Carolyn! I checked out your blog and you are putting on some serious miles! It sounds like you may be headed this way and you are very welcome to join here in Quartzsite if you like. Right now there are 9 of us camping together, but people come and go often. It’s a big desert so you can camp a little ways away if you prefer your privacy or join right in if you feel like some company. The weather is perfect and it is a beautiful part of the desert. Quartzsite is a wonderful, eccentric little town full of like-minded people. Feel free to stop by! Directions to my camp are on the right side-bar. Bob

  13. Dan, Phx.

    Hey Bob, Now that you have had your satellite for a few days, and I assume you have watched alittle more tv than normal. I was wondering about the draw on your batteries. I believe I read that you have a electric refridgerator. Are your solar panels sufficent? Thanks, Dan.

    • Bob

      Hi Dan, so far the batteries are doing fine, I can tell I am using more power but not a problem. I do have a 12 volt compressor fridge, but it draws very little electricity so it has never been a problem.
      Awhile back I came across a good deal on a 140 watt solar panel so I bought it to put on the van when I finally got one. I started the process to mount it today. Monday I will buy new batteries for it in town. That will give me 190 watts on the trailer with 2 golf cart batteries, and 140 watts on the van with 2 golf cart batteries. That’s a whole lot of power! i will put an inverter in the van and run an extension cord to the trailer for when I need more power in it. Bob

      • Dan, Phx.

        Looks like you have everything under control Bob. I have been working on my truck and camper, getting ready for my new life next spring. It`s funny how much we spend on our trucks in order to live cheap. Thanks for the pictures Bob, I enjoy seeing what everyone looks like and what they are doing. And of corse, the scenery where ever you are.

        • Bob

          I do know what you mean Dan. I’ve been spending some money on the van and it isn’t even going to be my home for very much. BUT i figure in the last 10 years I’ve saved at least $72,000 on rent (at $600 a month for 120 months). And that is a very low number. Most of us are paying much more than that plus utilities, plus furnishings, plus maintenance. If you “own” a home, you can probably triple that number.
          Think about it that way Dan, and it becomes much easier to spend the money!! Bob

  14. Brian Howard

    Bob its started snowing that wet heavy crap today, but I copyed that picture of the cactus and made it my background on my iPad. It gives me hope to make it till spring. Thank you! Keep the great pics comming. Brian

    • Bob

      Oh Brian, it hurts me to even think of it!! Hang in there, spring is coming!!!!!!I am so glad I don’t live in place where it snows anymore. I can’t imagine how I managed to live in Alaska for over 40 years! NEVER AGAIN!! I may visit again in the summer, but it would take something very special to get me back there in the winter (like my son getting married).
      I’m glad the pictures are helpful. I enjoy photography a lot. I’m going to do a post once a month of my favorite shots in specific areas. Someday I will do a post on taking better pictures. Just a few tips can really improve every-bodies snapshots. Bob

  15. Michael (owl)

    I am one of the lucky ones who got to spend my Thanksgiving with Bob and everyone. I count myself very fortunate to have met and teased and laughed with the interesting folks there. My heartfelt thanks goes out to you all.

    • Bob

      Meeting you was our pleasure Michael, you are always welcome in my camp (and Homer says Miss Kate is always welcome too)! Bob

  16. Rick

    I just spent 3 months staying with friends in Long Beach, CA, from July 26th to Nov 2nd. Would you consider writing or having your friend who stealth camps in Long Beach write about the experience? I’m told there are many people who stealth camp in SoCal and probably more than 70 in Long Beach itself.
    Because of the high cost of rent, I’m kicking around the idea of stealth camping in Long Beach part of the time and yet being free to travel to other places since I won’t be tied down to an apartment. If you think others might be interested in urban camping, please help out us newbies with a blog post. Many thanks.

    • Bob

      Hi Rick, I am not all that familiar with So. Cal. Is Long Beach part of the Los Angelas metro area sprawl? I don’t think I know anyone specifically in Long Beach, but I do have two friends who stealth camp in Los Angelas. Both tell me they never have any problems. Rick, are there lots of empty apartments there? If so, I think you have very little to loose by giving it a try. If apartments are scarce, then you may have to take that into account. I suggest getting a mini-van since they get better mpg and nobody thinks you would be living in a min-van. Plus it will force you into a simpler, more minimalist lifestyle which is a good thing in itself. Maybe give it a try over the winter when it isn’t as hot, then in the spring re-think if you want to stay in it. While stealth is very important, I am getting the impression that many police are taking a softer attitude toward people living in their cars and vans. They probably have family and friends (or at least know people who know people) who have lost everything in this economy and are doing it themselves. However, it’s still important to be as stealthy as possible to avoid the one cop who has zero tolerance for us.
      I have to admit that now that I am retired and live on public land I no longer stealth camp. The result is it isn’t part of my life any more so I am not inclined to write about it. But many of my readers are like you, they have to work and the jobs are in cities so stealth camping is very, very important to them. When I first moved into a van I had to work and my job was in a city of 350,000 people and that meant I had to learn right away how to do it.
      So, very soon, there will be a blog post on stealth camping. I also suggest you post this question on the forum. I hate to be self-serving, but I think I cover the topic pretty well in my book.
      I wish you the very best and encourage you to give it a try. Who knows, you may hate it, but even so one day you will look back on it fondly as a great adventure you had in the old days and I am sure it will make you smile!! Add enough of those smiles up and they become a wonderful life. A life well lived!!! Bob

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