What is a Boondock? Why do we do it?

As you read these posts of our summer trip from Tucson, AZ to Alaska and back, you will encounter the word boondock, as in “We boondocked beside…”  If you have never set foot in an RV (recreational vehicle) you’d have no reason to know the word, but it is essential when talking to the strange breed of people who spend a good bit of our time traveling in RVs.

First a picture: Monument Valley Boondock

This is a direct photo through the windshield of our motorhome, Turtle, of The Mittens in Monument Valley,  Arizona. I doubt there is a very expensive RV resort, or Five Star hotel, that could offer an equal view. This was a no service parking spot on the Navajo reservation. Boondock spots (sometimes called dry camping) are free, but we paid $5 for this one. I’d say $5 is close enough to free to qualify.

We almost never park in RV resorts/parks. We have nothing against them. We have a park model at Far Horizons Tucson Village, a great RV resort in Tucson, AZ where we spend most winters. We love it, and the annual fee, while high, is not unreasonable spread over a few months. But when we are traveling, we refuse to spend $20 to $50 per night to be packed together with other RVs just to have electricity, water and sewer. We need all that once a week or so, and we can get it at fuel stations and parks for free. Saving an average of $30 a day allows us to travel indefinitely, instead of budgeting tightly for short trips.

This summer trip to Alaska and back, from Tucson, close to Mexico, would be beyond our budget if we spent approximately $1000 a month — we’ll be out for six months — for RV parks. For the first three months, we have paid to park a total of $37 for two nights on Homer Spit and one night at a Forest Service campground overlooking Turnagain Arm, both on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. What we saved went to food, a 30,000 mile service on the motorhome, fixing a leak (important this wet summer) diesel, food and a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park.

“But aren’t you afraid?” We have been hearing that since we first began bicycle touring in 1995. 40,000 miles and hundreds of tent boondocks (we call it bush camping in a tent) and several years worth of motorhome boonedocks, and we have never had a problem, save for a very few overzealous hire-a-cops. Barney Fife lives out there folks, and he might just make you move on to prove his authority, but not very often.

(I’ve written an essay on why Americans are so afraid. Read it at:Just One Opinion

We’ve boondocked at Walmart and other commercial establishments with space who allow parking. We’re don’t open an awning, put out lawn chairs or haul out the barbicue, we just park, cook inside and sleep. But our favorite ones are dirt roads on public lands where parking is almost always allowed. Last night we spent about one foot above the almost flooding waters Matanuska River near Palmer. We decided on what we call “anchor watch” by setting an alarm on our Android every two hours to make sure we weren’t trapped by rising water. All was well each watch, and we got to see the light change throughout arctic the night. You can’t buy that.

So now you can impress your friends with a news word of the day, boondock.


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