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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Tell me if I'm Crazy

    I've been toying with the following idea for a month. All of you experienced car campers tell me if this sounds ok.

    I usually stay in hotels on my trips, but after receiving my oh so lovely credit card bill after the last trip I decided something needed to change. My Dad owns a 93 Aerostar van that is in good condition, needs a little work just from wear and tear on an almost 13 year old van. It has 150,000 miles on it, but I'd say that at least 65% of those are interstate miles.

    Anyway, I was thinking about getting it fixed up and using it to car camp. I've already figured out that I can fit a double bed airmattress in the back (he lost the backseat years ago - and no, I don't know how he accomplished that). I was thinking that it would be easy to put curtains up around the windows (stole that one from Gen I believe) and could put alarms on the doors like we had at my old job that sounded when the magnetic seals were broken.

    I guess I should mention that my Dad has ok'd me fixing up his van and "borrowing" it for a week or two every year.

    Does this sound silly? I keep thinking that with all of the seedy locations I've stayed at over the years out of desparation for a motel room, that camping in the van couldn't be any more dangerous as long as I use common sense.


    Laura the possibly insane

  2. Default Your idea is not silly.

    Our first camper was an old 1969 Dodge Van which wasn't a large as the full size vans are now, but probably a little bigger than the Aerostar. There were no seats in the way back so we built a bed platform so we could use the below area as storage. I made curtains for the windows. We had a large coolers that could double as a table when it rained. This worked great for several years for DH, DS and myself. You might also want to invest in a camp stove so you can also cook your own meals to save a lot of money too!

    Rest areas are not really safe areas to camp so I would go to campgrounds. Private campgrounds will run between $12 & $25. National Parks, State parks will run between $10 and $18. National Forest will be the cheapest. All private campgrounds will have showers and the other places will vary by location.

    I'm not sure I, as a woman, would feel safe camping alone.

    Utahtea

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    I'm a woman who camps alone quite often....and in a tent! So, no locks, no alarms, nada. I have always felt quite safe. I always camp in established campgrounds. I know other women who do this as well. To date, no one has been robbed, mugged, or harmed in any way.

    I would not camp alone in a dispersed camping situation like in a national forest. I'm not gutsy enough for that. I think I watched way too many Twilight Zones and Outer Limits while growing up. I probably read too much Stephen King books as well. I'm more afraid of some crazed animal or unknown monster than I am of humans. My imagination is too active, I think. I do backpack and camp in the woods but only with other people. Even one other person makes me feel safe. Go figure. Established campgrounds with other campers close by have always been very safe places, in my experience and those of my fellow, solo, women tent-campers.

    There are a lot of threads in this forum about women going on solo roadtrips, on camping, etc. You might do a search through them to see what hints you can glean from them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France
    Posts
    761

    Default not quite insane

    Laura,

    if you are possibly insane, then a lot of women are definitely crazy in America!:o) I always say that trusting your instincts is the best thing when you're traveling alone, if you don't feel safe, go someplace else! I always carry some kind of weapon, whether it's a pepper spray device or/and a knife just in case (I never had an opportunity to use them yet). A good alarm system or a panic button is always a great thing if you sleep in your vehicle.

    I camped alone a few times. Like Judy said, I recommend you stay in relatively crowded campgrounds, you never know! I prefer to sleep in a vehicle because it gives me some sense of security (the walls, the alarm system), maybe I'm wrong but that's the way I feel. I did camp a few times at non official campgrounds or on private property (gulp!) in a tent but I either didn't sleep at all because I was worried I might get caught or, just like Judy, my imagination was very active so I woke up every 5 or 10 minutes because I thought I heard something ... Unlike Judy, I'm more afraid of human beings than the other stuff though:o) If you can't afford campgrounds or you're stuck somewhere where you can't seem to find any campground, head to the closest Flying J or TA Travel Center, those are huge 24/7 busy truck stops and there is always some people around...oh and they have showers! But bring your ear plugs to sleep at night!

    Good Luck!

    Gen

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Thanks!

    It would definately be very seldom that I would be alone. For my more adventurous undertakings into the wilderness I tend to drag my sister with me. I was actually more concerned about dragging a 12 year old van around the country than the actual camping. Thanks for the tips!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    If you don't want to drive an older van on long trips, do you have a car available to you that you feel is more road-worthy?

    I camped for 5 days last week. Tents, sleeping bags, chairs, portable table, food, cooking gear, clothes, etc., all fit just fine in my New Beetle. Add a 55# Belgian Shepherd, and a 200+# husband, and we still fit just fine.

    Unless you really want to sleep in the van and avoid a tent, I'd just drive whatever car you have (as long as it's road-worthy) and go. But that's me.

    Edited to add: Just because a vehicle is older doesn't mean it won't safely make a long trip. Just make sure to have it checked out, do any necessary maintenance/tune-ups, and replace the tires if needed. And invest in AAA. Although I believe no matter what you drive, AAA is a great idea...even if you have a new car.

  7. Default 150,000 miles old van

    As long as you have the vehicle checked over by someone who knows what to look for, and as long as it is in generally good overall condition to begin with, it wouldn't bother me to take off on road trips in a vehicle as you've described. It's usually the auxiliary items that "get" you -- radiators, hoses, belts, alternators, batteries, fuel pumps, etc. Have it regularly checked and serviced while you use it and you'll probably be fine. Occasionally, you will find yourself awaiting a repair here or there -- that's inevitable -- but that can be part of your adventure. It's all in how you look at it. Just my 2 cents. You'd be wise to invest in a road service plan with an outfit like AAA, so you can get an easy and convenient tow when you do need it (only one number to call, no muss, no fuss). Bob

  8. #8
    outdoorman Guest

    Default

    Laura, I'll give you my perspective as a guy who for the past 25 years has ventured into the outdoors mostly solo.
    Don't recommend it to anyone but the most confident and cautious.
    Even then, One takes a risk. That being said, when I go out I am prepared.
    Now, as far depending on a older vehicle is concerned, it really depends on the vehicle condition. If you are certain it's "up to" the trip-no sweat. But if you have question, it's better not to risk getting broken down miles away from the nearest repair shop. Being 'between jobs' myself, I plan to do a solo road trip along the southeastern coast staying in campgrounds and hostels starting the next couple of weeks.
    Best wishes and enjoy your travels.

    Ellis "outdoorman"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Thanks everyone!

    I don't have any real doubts about the vans past upkeep and my father briefly spoke to his mechanic who said that it is in good shape except for the one repair and new tires that I already knew about.

    I do have AAA (actually used them for the first time this summer while trapped in Manchester, New Hampshire). I usually drive my Taurus (I'm on my second one now) when I do my travels and have managed to fit what seems like most of my house into it. The thought of sleeping in a tent just doesn't do it for me, that's why I'm converting the van. Also, I have pretty nasty allergy problems, so sleeping in a tent as opposed to a somewhat controlled environment (the van) would be a problem.

    Watch out if you're in the Shreveport area - I've got a year to learn to drive the van (much bigger than my Taurus).

  10. Default No problem "learning"

    Only two things you need to remember for sure about van driving -- keep it slower as the center of gravity is higher -- so you can't drive it like a sports car. They are therefore prone to roll-overs when pushed. Also, keep in mind the Aerostar is NOT built on a truck chassis, so these problems can be exacerbated (these vehicles tend to "wallow" a bit). So take it easy, always.

    Second, avoid backing up whenever possible -- pull straight through into parking spaces, etc, whenever you can. Lots of little mishaps occur when people back up in vans.

    As long as you keep these things in mind, you'll probably find it fairly easy to drive. Maybe even fun, such as it is! Bob

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