Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nash trailers, two lifestyles, spur roads,
options, and a shadow



I moved to a spot with longer morning and earlier afternoon shade. I’ve come across a number of places that would be good spots to camp within an hour’s bike ride. Many more looked good but had dead trees or large, dead, overhead branches that could pose a problem. Some had large live trees but with more lean to them than I feel comfortable with. My present spot has one such tree but it’s leaning away from the Nash. Some spots are too tight to position a rig where it would work best. I always want an isolated spot; one where there is not another spot nearby where someone could set up.


If I come back to the Kaibab, I might set up at the end of this unmarked spur. I would have to take my bow saw to some deadfall in order to get the trailer all the way back but it would sure be secluded. The spot is at 8,500 feet and would make another great base camp for my kind of traveling and with close access to the Arizona Trail.


This is another spot, but limited. There is no shade and is totally out in the open with a slope down on three sides, and exposed to the wind from all around. But if I pass through this area during May or September it might be a good spot with distant, open views.

One hears stories about how a Good Samaritan was taken advantage of or hurt. When coming back from a town-run, I saw a couple standing along rt 89A, up on the Kaibab, waving their arms—those stories came to mind. I pulled over and stopped. I’m thinking, am I being an idiot? Some of you are saying, Yes! The couple had a car a mile or so up a dirt road with a dead battery. My Dodge is a one-seater, especially on town-run days so they jumped up in the bed of the pickup. Yes, as I was driving along, those stories were still on my mind. We got to their car and went through the process of jumping the battery. (Does everyone know that one no longer connects a cable negative to negative? Once car engineers started installing all the computer modules, it’s a no-no. Modules can get fried with the negative to negative hookup.) The couple was from Quebec. They sold their cars up there and purchased this $500 car for the drive south. They will sell it at the border before traveling into Mexico. They might hit a coast and try for crew positions on a ship. Anyway, it worked out fine but I was a tad apprehensive right up until I was back in my truck and driving away.

Remember how I groused about the front rock guard on the Nash? How it is too high and the glare from the sun is the pits for the driver? It’s still a problem. At some point I’ll probably paint the top 18” of my grit guard, down to just below the light. I can’t decide on a color. I don’t want to use gray, to somewhat match the trailer’s color. Black would look awful. But any color would just look like a band of paint across the front of the Nash. I need an idea.

Northwood is still putting rock guards that are too high on Nash trailers but now there is hope. I was reading a review in a trailer magazine on the Nash 22H. One line was, “A front rock guard protects the trailer’s finish but can be blinding in the sun.” No sh*t. It’s as if no one at Northwood owns a Nash. Maybe when someone from Northwood reads the article, there will be a change.
The rock guard is way too thin to truly be called a rock guard. A sharp rock will easily pierce it. A sharp look, would probably pierce it. It’s more of a ‘grit guard.’

The article also stated, “It goes without saying that trailers are designed for the great outdoors, but these days, getting away from it all has a different meaning than it once did. Where primitive camping used to be the only choice in many areas, now we can be spoiled by full hookups and a variety of amenities, depending on where we choose to stay. While this kind of convenience is great for a lot of RVers, the side effect is that most travel trailers are no longer really designed for extended use in remote areas.”…”And since they usually spend their time on the road and on smooth, level campsites, their suspension and chassis aren’t designed for roughing it, either. As a result, many RVers must invest in some expensive upgrades to make a trailer suitable for use off the beaten path.”
“…, Northwood Manufacturing prides itself on building its own chassis, which is independently certified and designed to handle the rough stuff.” The frame on my Nash 17K is awesome; way more substantial than on many trailers quite a bit longer and heavier.

This review jives with the research I did prior to choosing a Nash and the trailer has been holding up well on the rough, rocky roads I use to get to secluded spots. Looks like I made the right choice for my 4th RV. Five people who followed along with my research and having then done their own, ended up buying a Nash. Three others emailed me with questions about the Nash 17K but I don’t know if they ended up with one.
I sure do like the new graphics they presently apply to Nash trailers. Way cool. Think Northwood would give me new graphics for selling five trailers?

Remember, I only like one trailer floorplan. Luckily Nash offered this plan in a length I can live with. If they didn’t, I would have ended up with a trailer built by a company other than Northwood (maybe a Keystone Springdale). I wonder how the trailer would be holding up. At least it would have had aluminum siding, which I prefer for this lifestyle.


One reason I might still be enjoying this lifestyle is that I really have two. One is RVing four months in the winter, in a few state parks—my social-fix season. I even hook up to electric sites for six or seven weeks during these months for my annual electric-fix. There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and touch base with others I have met over the years. I make a conscious effort to do this. I probably get more out of these four months than many do in twice as many. This is pretty much the lifestyle that many RVers follow year round. Towards spring I start to get maxed and need to head back to Nature. I only dragged getting out of the parks one spring, and still don’t know why, but once I got back out off-the-grid, all was good.

Then for eight months it’s the hard-wall camper thing, hauling the Nash miles in from the asphalt and off along old, narrow, spur roads (mostly old fire and logging roads). I rarely have a neighbor other than wildlife. I only drive into town once every three weeks for supplies. I love the solitude of being out in Nature. Some are comfortable with this, and many are not. Most would find this boring; I can’t conceive of being bored. It’s important, however, to have a wide range of interests and activities. Most don’t, judging by what I see and hear during my social-fix months. Without a number of interests and activities (indoor, outdoor, whatever season or weather) and a pet, a solo lifestyle would be tough, and more than likely, downright depressing.

Repeat 3-week stints off-the-grid is almost like having a summer cabin up in the mountains (without all the chores that would entail). A place for turning away from everything superficial. A great base camp for hiking, running, mountain biking, meandering, and all the rest. I just don’t have the urge to drive from place to place in the context of seeing things. I don’t need grandeur. There is much to be seen in an area of a few miles if one gets off the roads and goes off through the woods with a daypack.

If I tried to do just one of these two lifestyles year-round, it wouldn’t work. I’d probably end up bagging it all and try something else. And there is always a chance that at some point, I might just do that. Before that however, I’d probably try a different balance, maybe another month or two of social-fix. October or November through March or April might not to be all that bad in campgrounds—but at this time, it’s not what I want. Four and eight is a good balance. Too much solitude or too much socializing would not be healthy for me.

Another option is an occasional month in an RV park, but definitely not the standard kind. I’ve seen some small, probably family owned places, that have a ‘campground’ feel to them, but still offer electric hookups and hot showers. They are not along the popular routes, near interstates, or have a website. Generally, one needs to find such a place a good distance from a town. The ones closer in can have the ‘trailer park’ look and feel to them, as back in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. There are plenty of ‘trailer parks’ still around; only nowadays they go by other names and are filled with all types of RVs, not just trailers—but still have the ‘trailer park’ look and feel to them.

I’d like to keep my eyes and ears open for these small private, off-the-beaten-track campgrounds. Most offer very reasonable monthly rates. Might be worth trying one for a month, during spring, fall, or winter, for a ‘vacation.’ Wish I could remember where I’ve seen one. Anyone have a recommendation?
Maybe I’ll do a little thinking outside the box for other options.


I came across these hikers out on the Arizona Trail. They started at the Utah border and are hiking through to the Mexico border. Not bad. The hiker on the left is 66 and he has hiked the full length of the Continental Divide Trail. So much for that, “it’s part of growing old” nonsense.

Okay, spurs, I’ve been down a whole lot of spur roads in a number of national forests in half a dozen western states. Some I’ve managed to pull a trailer along. Others I travel on my mtn. bike, generally keeping an eye out for spurs I can get a trailer up and looking for places to set up camp. I write down the GPS coordinates for ones I could use in my road notebook, in case I come back to an area.

When the National Forest Service initiated their Travel Management Program, many of the spurs I had, and could have pulled a trailer up are now closed to motorized vehicles. These spurs lead to isolated spots offering the seclusion I look for during the off-the-grid months.


In addition, many of these narrow spurs have young trees encroaching right along their edge. As they mature, the branches will close in the spur. Hard-wall camping in the national forests 30 – 40 years ago must have been awesome.


Many trees are growing with a lean over the spurs and as they age, will get lower and lower, also effectively cutting off the road. In past years I’ve been up some spurs pulling a trailer, that if I went back now, I doubt if they would be open enough to get through. I’m talking about the narrow spur roads that are little used and not maintained, the un-numbered or lettered ones, double-tracks; not the open spurs where one could pull a fifth-wheel with A/Cs on the roof. Seedlings take root on the older spurs and there can have 6’ trees growing in the middle of the road. Erosion damage over the years also make many spur roads inaccessible if one is pulling a trailer. The older spurs are being taken back by the forest. This is great for the forest and hikers, mtn. bikers, trail runners, and horse people. Not so good for hard-wall campers. For standard RVers, it’s no big thing since they don’t take their rigs up the narrow spurs where branches are scaping along the sidewalls.


Out biking one day I turned the Trek onto this spur. It looks more like a primary forest road rather than the spurs I go up but even this road has been closed off the motorized vehicles. This might be the first open-spur I’ve come across that has been closed. Not good.

One will probably be hard pressed, at some point, to still be able to live this lifestyle. The number of accessible narrow spur roads will be way down in number. In twenty years or so, I would imagine RVing in the national forests will be pretty much restricted to campgrounds and merely pulling off to the side of primary forest roads (mistakenly referred to as ‘boondocking’). Spur roads will be covered with trees and rutted and rocky from runoff.

There is probably a law about not cutting live trees in a national forest. But a lot of these small trees encroaching spur roads are packed tightly together. That’s not healthy. The trees will grow to be spindly, weak, and short-lived. Thinning would be helpful. It’s done in areas where there is funding for it so the remaining trees can get the nutrients and sunshine they need to grow strong. So really, is it wrong to take a bow saw to some of these trees in order to get a trailer through to an isolated spot?

There’s still BLM and state lands but for comfortable summer temps for those living/camping without A/C, one wants to be near 8,000’. BLM and state lands are not up at that altitude.
8,000’ if you are out west here and your rig is not always in the shade. My solar panels are on the roof so the rig needs to be in the sun for a few hours each day. Ground panels (with locking cable) would not work for my lifestyle.

I guess a 4WD high-clearance camper van would be able to get up some of the overgrown spurs. I lived in a van for three years back in the early 70s, working full time driving a beer truck back in Jersey (mostly Jersey City and Union City) while taking college classes in the evenings (Montclair State for a teaching degree). It was no big thing, but I was a kid. No way would I feel good about living in a van or truck camper at this point of my life. We’ll see what will come, might have to purchase a few acres at the base of some mountains and park a trailer on it for a few months each year.

If one prefers being around people, pretty much year-round, Workamper employment might be worth looking into. I wrote about it back in 2007 and 2008. It is worth joining for a year to see what it is all about. It’s not volunteer work so one receives a paycheck (always good). Don’t blow it off if you hear someone grousing about their experience. There are hundreds, if not thousands of jobs out there for seasonal workers. You will have the opportunity to find out the aspects of the position before committing to it.

If one prefers working in national forest campgrounds, check out American Land & Leisure or one of the other campground management companies. Again, one earns a paycheck; it’s not a campground volunteer position. AL&L’s website lists all the campgrounds they lease from the forest service, elevations, number of campsites and whatnot. They prefer you get the work done in the fewest number of hours per week (saves them money). There is plenty of time for one to enjoy whatever they are interested in, as well as have campers around for socializing. The campground managers for the few years prior to my working in the Stansbury Mtns. seemed to have let upkeep slide a bit. So I picked up quite a few extra hours painting just about all the outhouses in the five campgrounds I was managing. Not bad.

If you don’t get the Workamper or campground manager job you wanted, keep yourself available and in-touch with the employer. More often than I would have thought, an RVer does not show up for work or leaves after a week or so. The couple who were signed up for the job in the Stansbury Mtns. showed up at the gate, asked a few questions, and turned around and left! So much for being responsible. I jumped on it when I was called.

Another option is applying for a volunteer park host or other position with BC Parks or Parks Canada. That could be pretty cool. One frequently hears how friendly Canadians are. They are so nice there are even jokes about how nice Canadians are. I mean, it’s not as if one will hear jokes about how nice Americans are.


This is a photo of one of my Canadian friends. Jim is a carpenter in BC. Barb and Jim have quite a vegetable garden in their backyard, and a cat, Rocky.
I received a number of emails after my story in RVwest a few years ago with invitations if I make it up to Canada. I’m so thankful for things like this.
The friendliest and most helpful campground volunteers that I’ve come across were a Canadian couple, Donald and Heather, who came south for the winters, in their old Airstream. They were the ones who turned me on to the CBC podcast, ‘Vinyl Café.’

Out mtn. bikin’ on the Arizona Trail in the mornings, I’ve seen quite a few turkeys and deer, an occasional coyote, and numerous squirrels scootin’ away to run up a tree—animals. One morning—it was a shadow. As I was biking along, there were many shadows that crossed the trail in front of me. On one tree shadow, there was a squirrel shadow running along (up?) its side. That was a good morning chuckle. Yet another, simple unexpected little treasure.

I guess if I stop finding enjoyment in the simplest of things, it might be time to bag the lifestyle. It would tell me that I was no longer content and in need of some changes. If simple laughter is not part of one’s life, one might no longer be truly living, but merely existing, waiting for the sand to run out.


I came across this photo in a National Geographic magazine. Check out the teeth and length of tongue on this bat! The body is the size of one’s thumb. The story was about how these nectar-drinking bats and a night-flowering vine work together for the benefit of both. You can see the pollen gathering on the bat’s head. Way cool.

August sixty minutes sixty years—2130 minutes
August Triple 18—pecs/delts: 4305; core: 1880; legs: 9000

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
Mae West


RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’

RVwest article ‘The Spaces Between the Places’

FOR INDEX OF POSTINGS GO TO JULY 2006

4 comments:

Emily said...

Good reading there. Lots of good suggestions for those thinking about living off the grid. Glad to be keeping up with you.

Robert L Knowlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert L Knowlton said...

Hi Sebastian,
I that saw Northwood has tried black paint on the front guard. I've heard of folks painting on truck bed liner on their Casitas. Many color choices to choose on the Grizzly Grip website.
I took the plunge myself and ordered a 17k. Is there a referral program at Northwood? Like to send some appreciation back to you for the reviews.
Rob K.

Greg in Los alamos said...

I don't think a flat black on the front would look too bad, but if you don't care for that try matching the trailers base color and paint iall or part of the rock guard that color. I have the same trailer as you and have not been bothered much by glare while driving. It must me your side mirrors causing the problem?
Greg