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boondock of discovery—or, airstream faker comes clean

Boondock dry camping Ana Reservoir Summer Lake Oregon


For five years I’ve been towing alone, passing myself off as some kind of RV studette. Repeatedly on the road I hear, “oh my, a woman all alone with your Airstream, crossing the country, how do you do it?” “Nothing to it,” I brag, with a smug wave of my hand.


I’m a fraud.


I’ve been cheating. For five years I’ve been using the trailer as a glorified tent, essentially car camping. I’ve never showered in it, washed dishes in the sink with hot water, or used the commode for its intended purpose. I’ve never replaced the propane tanks myself, put up the awning, or, god forbid, visited a dump station. (Sexist alert: I have my man for that.)


Shame eventually compelled me to put on the big girl pants and achieve proficiency with all the functions of my little trailer. 


I chose a roasting weekend in late July before an Oregon Wally Club rally for my “boondock of discovery”. Dry camping in the sweltering, shadeless terrain near Summer Lake was good practice and a skills refresher for my week at Burning Man, looming in less than a month. “OK. Here we go, boys,” I sighed to myself as I pulled into the barren campground.


Step One, upon arrival: Slather sunscreen. 

Step Two: Incarcerate dachshunds within portable invisible fence.

Step Three: Bracing slug of near beer. 

Next steps, one by one:

  • Fire up the fridge (“gas on”); start making ice. I know a stiff cocktail is in my near future.
  • Deploy the dreaded awning. (This blog was originally titled “F You, Canopy”. An entire later post will be dedicated to our ongoing struggle with the Airstream awning and my plans to destroy the ZipDee factory.) 
  • Take the owner manuals and how-to books on a systems walkabout, inside and out. (Do you own the Newbie’s Guide to Airstreaming? If not, procure it at once.) As well as a dry camp exercise, this trip was also a cyber vacation, without WiFi or cell service. Phoning Ralph, Googling for answers, and trolling for advice on the Airforums iPhone app were all unavailable. 
  • Figure out and test the hot water heater, shower, and that little exterior trap door for the hose. (There’s a key for that? Locate key.)
  • Troubleshoot the TV (broken, now, again, for some reason), the stereo (which I’m told has an inoperable case of “frame hum”) and DVD player (See: TV, broken).
  • Test provisions. I purposefully left town with only a pair of shorts, change of underwear and some random, unrelated groceries that were going bad in the fridge at home in order to develop a new supplies list using the RV Companion app. New goal: keep the Airstream stocked with the basics. Yes, I have been watching Doomsday Preppers. Don’t judge.
  • Hot shower. Success, but a tight squeeze. Here’s what doesn’t work in a wet bath: fancy plush toilet lid covers.

Fast forward, two days later: No one has openly cried or visited an urgent care or emergency vet. In other words, triumph (so far). 


Now, after relying on the self-contained systems (solar power, inverter, water pump and fresh water tank) it was time to practice hooking up at the campsite for the rally weekend and the remainder of my stay. Full disclosure: while squinting at the shore power inlet with the owner’s manual in my hand and the clean water hose at my feet, a friendly male neighbor (how long had he been watching?) couldn’t resist running over to install it all for me. It’s What Men Do.


After stalling as long as I could at the end of another stellar Oregon Unit gathering, The Terrible Awful arrived. Time to dump. 


I was planning to tow over to a nearby dump station, but as I observed my neighbor’s hose I realized that the sewer hole was next to the electric and water station, right there at the campsite! Oh! So that’s what “full hookup” means! (she said, losing all respect).


This time I really did need help. After seeing me puzzle over the orange aftermarket hose fittings, neighbor Joel took pity and assisted with the hose clamp and step by step instructions. His wife contributed advice and a pair of rubber gloves. Steve, on site promoting Target Hitch, offered moral support. It takes a village. (“Or a village idiot,” quipped Joel.) The owner’s manual—useless for this process (one must first know what a “bayonet fitting” is)—went untouched.


Dumping was easy. Dare I say fun? One tank for both black and grey, one handle to pull—whoosh, rinse, stow, done.


Tip: Get a clear hose connector. You may not have the stomach for looking directly at the matter that flows into the sewer, but others like to “see what’s going on.” 


Thank you Jay at Ana Reservoir RV Park for holding my hand, and Joel from Medford. I owe you guys.



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