For many, the notion of boondocking in an Airstream trailer might be enough to move the oxymoron needle from sublime to ridiculous. There are those whose purist sensibilities are offended simply because my RV has AC, TV, LP and TP. To them, my mobile home is an affront to Bear Grylls, surviving in the wilderness with only flint, rope, and a knife. On the other hand, there are Airstream extremists who would argue, “What’s boondocking, and why would you even want to?”
Being caught in the middle of a philosophical referendum on outdoor living has offered few choices when looking for like-minded enthusiasts, since traveling on the road. Mainstream Airstreamers (or Airstream mainstreamers) I’ve met seemingly flock to RV parks that offer a variety of amenities that complement the home-is-wherever-you-are lifestyle. So I have turned to Air Forums—a community resource for all things Airstream—to find adventure seekers who are not opposed to finding a lesser road traveled.
In fact, there is a breed of Airstream aficionados who brag about never paying a camping fee. Of course, many of them belong to the Walmart or Cabela parking lot crowd, for whom I draw an analogy to those who over-extend to buy a house they can’t afford to furnish. But to be fair, there are others who simply want to get away from it all—to be free from campground constraints and rules. I call them “liber-trailer-ians.” (While the idea is enticing, it would also mean giving up cable news, and I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet.)
I met such a person from Prescott, AZ while the Airstream was in dry-dock at Turquoise Trail Campground in Cedar Crest, NM. Leah and I had returned from an East Coast red-eye, and I needed a couple of days to prepare for several anticipated days of camping (“glamping”) without services, as we would be swinging through the western National Park circuit in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. Our biggest concern was having sufficient self-sufficient power, if shore power (30/50 amp hook-up) should be unavailable. My intention after researching the Air Forum: to replace the two troubled 12-volt OEM deep-cycle batteries, with two 6-volt golf cart batteries.
Without going into the science, I can report that swapping out two 12-volt cells connected in parallel for two 6-volt cells connected in series yields an extra 80 amp hours, or the equivalent of 33% more power, and the ability to re-charge them endlessly. The only hitch would be finding right-sized batteries that are compatible with the pre-existing dimensions of the battery box that’s welded to the A-frame of the Airstream hitch. My gratitude to the internet for guiding me to an online retailer who shipped two Lifeline GPL-4CT batteries in three days at a competitive price. On paper, it was the right choice for the right job. All I had to do was replace, connect, and bask in the accomplishment…or so I thought.
Back at the campground, I was scratching my head, trying to figure how to stuff 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag when Prescott came by with his Boston terrier to satisfy his curiosity. Approaching me was a skinny guy in his mid-50s, with a long hair braid covered by a dirty red “Make America Great Again” cap.
“I was admiring your Airstream. There’s a few others here in the campground, but yours seems to be on the newer side,” he observed. “I like that they kept the fundamental design.”
Prescott’s rig was nothing fancy. He was parked at a site just up the hill from a scratchy patch of red dirt near my location. “I just bought that two weeks ago,” he bragged, pointing to his 30 foot Jayco Eagle. “It’s a 2006. Sold my house. Sold my garage. Got rid of all the shit I was never gonna use, and put the rest of it in the trailer with my two dogs. I figure I don’t need much, ‘cept my tools, my dogs, and my Harley. Got the Harley and the tools in the van.”
“That’s quite a payload over there,” I offered.
“I figure, between the trailer and what’s in the van, I’m probably towin’ close to 10,000 pounds, but I got a V-10 in there, an’ it does the job real nice,” Prescott responded.
“You say you got tools in there?” I inquired. I was thinking about the work in front of me, and wondered if anything inside his van could be useful to my installation job. Specifically, I had two new batteries that fit the box perfectly in length and width. However, the security lid had no way of closing over the assembly with the connections brimming over the lip of the box.
“Somethin’ ya need help with?” he asked earnestly.
“Just adding new batteries to the silver bullet. I thought I’d try to buy a little more flexibility and a little more freedom while criss-crossing the country,” I shared.
“Know watcha mean,” Prescott related. “I mean, I’m not ready to retire an’ all. That’s my living in the back of my van. Any kinda auto body work you need doin’, an’ I can take care of ya. Even got a welding torch back there. But I hear ya loud an’ clear ’bout bein’ free. The way I see it, there’s no reason to go back to the way of life I had before, when all I ever did was keep payin’ the man, an’ never really gettin’ ahead. But this here trailer is a game-changer.”
“What about your hat?” I asked. “Is Trump doing the job you expected him to do?”
“That asshole!?” Prescott quickly reacts. “This hat is just a reminder that the whole fuckin’ government can go fuck itself!”
Prescott’s admission makes me smile. “Really!?” I’m amused now.
“Damn fuckin’ straight, man! In fact, the best government is no government at all. That’s real freedom. Think back to the Wild West. Everything was just fine until the Sheriff came to town and infected everybody with his corrupt justice, when actually, all those folks ever really needed was a gun an’ a reason to use it if necessary. That’s exactly what we need here today,” Prescott confessed. “All them police can just go fuck themselves.”
“Sounds like anarchy to me,” I responded.
“Fuck yeah!” he asserted. “Just so ya know, there’s this Freedom Rally comin’ up in Arizona later in June… Just in case you’re interested in puttin’ the free back in freedom,” asserted Prescott.
“Sorry, man,” I exhaled. “But we’re heading north through the end of September. I hesitated, “But it sounds like my kind of fun.”
“You ever change your mind, you’re always welcome,” he enthused.
I’m happy to report that the batteries are now in place and making a real difference. With the help of Dan, Leah’s son-in-law, we were able to build up the battery box rim to accept the lid.
Consequently, there’s presently enough power to run the water pump, the lights, and the refrigerator while we simultaneously charge all of our electronics. And equally as important, there’s energy to spare to watch cable TV news.
Here’s hoping that Prescott avoids the news crews.