Warn away the beasts

I never really thought it through when I climbed into Beastie, back in LA, back in 2015. I didn’t really think about any of it. I didn’t think about boots, or sensible clothes, or water canteens, or propane. I didn’t think about levelling blocks, or food stocks, or bears or cougar or falling branches in storms, or leaking rooves. I didn’t think about human creatures that prowl rest stops and gas stations, and bathrooms in truck stops where the men shoot eight balls in the parking lots, accompanied by sad looking whores barely over the age of legality, depending on which state you are in. I didn’t think about much except getting away from Pig, from Japan, from beatings and a certain eventual premature violent death at the hands of the man that was meant to protect me. I didn’t think. I probably fucking should have done, eh.

I didn’t think about tin plates, or coffee presses, or how to stow things so nothing sharp or heavy didn’t fling itself at our heads somewhere down the Highway 1, as we fell round some sharp bend, or coming to an abrupt stop as a deer rushed to cross from east to west in front of us. I didn’t think about casino nights on Indian Reservations, having to play the slots in return for their “free camping.” Man, did I not think. Probably for the best, probably all for the best I didn’t do much thinking, just a lot of run run running for the hills and the prairies and the mountain passes and the wilderness.

The wilderness gives you room to breathe

I have regrets. Of course I do. Who wouldn’t have regrets. Would I leave, would I do it again, would I go on the road with Huckleberry Finn and the Beastie and the children? No. No I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have the guts to, the grrrl-balls, the sheer ovaries to throw myself upon the American wilderness and the open highway.

Boondocking. Slang for not plugging in your RV and camping in a paid for official campground, instead choosing to camp somewhere that is wild and free and costs nothing but your ability to survive independently from the grid. We boondocked on National Park land, in laybys and rest stops, and off highways guerilla style, keeping one eye open for an angry farmer with a gun, or a serial killer with bad thoughts on his mind. It was how we survived, and it is getting harder and harder to just live, to just live and breathe and not pay to camp. They shut down places, they move people on, herds of homeless-in-RV’s shifting from parking lot to wasteland, to dump to forest and back again, in some infernal danse macabre, surviving day by day, moment by moment, sewage dump to sewage dump. To boondock you either have to be willing and able to bury your shit, or else have a working bathroom in your RV which fills up to a black water tank that needs emptying often, or else the smell of death fills the camper ominously. A solar panel or a generator helps. Generators are not great, because they are noisy and noise brings interest, and interest is not what you need. Low profile, baby is the only way to do it.

The base of a giant Californian redwood

There are a few spots along the one, the great hip beat highway of the west coast, that it splits into the scenic Old Highway 1, and diverges into a safer more boring Highway 101 which runs parallel to it tracing that west coast, hugging the sea cliffs and water’s edge of this beautiful country. We generally took the scenic route, and regretted it, our 26 foot giant Beast tiptoeing like a careful buffalo, trying not to fall off into the sea. The section around Trinidad and Eureka are my favorites in California, with the tall trees and the desolate camping. There is one spot we camped in after it was just the three of us, and I had my little breakdown. No electric, no bathrooms, no water spigots – do not try and boondock with less than 10 gallons of water in the camper, you will just not function. You become very aware of how much clean water you need to survive. You use drops to wash hands, rationed out, drops to clean plates. Wet wipes become your best friend, and dry shampoo. Good job it is only the wildlife out there to smell ya, really.

We boondocked in Montana on the drive over to Minnesota, headed up this trail, praying Beastie wasn’t too big to make it, gravel pitting our windshield, my anxiety rising. It is very easy to get trapped when you are driving something so huge, unable to turn around or go forwards, and it was my idea of a very bad day to lead us into such sticky situations.

Civilized camping is overrated. They cut all the wild out of it

The trail opened out, us shaking and rattling, on shot suspension, opened out into a rudimentary closed old campground, no utilities or facilities, just vaguely marked out spaces and the very definite sense that “Here be Bears.” This was advanced level boondocking. I backed us up into a clearing, hammering on the back of the Beast to stop Billy driving her over the edge of a sheer 20 foot drop. A small ring of stones marked out somewhere people had once built a campfire, and not for fun, or for cooking, or for heat, but to scare away the beasts I started gathering wood to light a fire. I grabbed both the kids, my Tokyoite babies, and told them Real Big Animals eat ya out here, there are cats that look like they belong in Ueno Zoo, and Bears with big appetites, I told them to stay close and near to me and each other, no wandering. This was not a KOA. The fire was easy to light, the wood in Montana was dry and burnt bright and easy. I brought out my fire stick with the forked end, that I had saved and taken with me, and sat there guarding it nervously. It was beautiful, daylight dappled fell through tree cover, and glimmered on the forest floor, birds jumped up closely regarding us with interest not fear, chipmunks and squirrels didn’t seem to have got the memo to be scared, either. I stoked that fire, up, I made it shine, while Billy stood there looking at me with folded arms, telling me I was doing it all wrong. I generally ignored him, or else gave him the stick and told him to move the log then, how he wanted to do it. Night fell, and I kept that fire going, I fed it and fed it and fed it, until I got tired and went to sleep. Billy put it out. Late in the night I heard the sounds of the forest outside and hugged my sleeping bag closer. I would not want to be in a tent, I thought, no sir. Padding, growling, purring, snuffling, large feet and big wings in blackness darker than I thought possible, not even the starlight getting through the trees. We stayed a couple of nights with nothing bad happening. As we pulled out, the large furry backside of something much bigger than a dog, disappeared into the darkness of the forest, and I shuddered.

Boondocking…oh yes….Those nights in Montana were not the scariest, Ill reserve that title for the casinos, and the rez and the truck stops in places like Redding and Smackremento.

The city might be an open toilet and a drug-ridden, gunshot riddled hard boiled detective novel, but I feel safer here than I ever did on the road. False sense of security driven by safety in numbers, I suspect.

Ill see ya at the Casino later…I have a story or two to tell…


  1. Ron Pavellas

    I dream, i.e., fantasize, of living in a cave, away from all things electronic, shiny and loud, with birds and trees as companions. It’s my own private faerie tale. Maybe for a month. Even an introvert needs people.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      My first girlfriend looked me straight in the eye and said, “you might think you are a misanthropist, but you love people.” She was right, Im actually quite gregarious. Still, it was an experience. Five years all in all. By the end I was desperate for a bed and a shower inside!

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