Surviving in a Van: Scooters & Motorcycles Versus an Economy Car and Tent

This may be the ultimate survival set-up. It's an all-wheel-drive Astro minivan with 280 watts of solar, a 6 inch lift, big mud tires and carrying a dual-spot motorcycle and a bicycles. He can handle just about anything!

This may be the ultimate survival set-up. It’s an all-wheel-drive Astro minivan with 280 watts of solar, a 6 inch lift, big mud tires and carrying a dual-spot motorcycle and a bicycles. He can handle just about anything!

We’re continuing our look at how to survive if Peak Oil is true, but at the same time we are only going to do things that make our lives better now, or at least don’t harm us now. In the last post we started looking at what I think is our best first step and which is getting an alternative source of transportation. If gas prices do keep increasing (which is almost a certainty!) then saving money on the cost of driving is a great idea!!

As we look at the choices, one thing you’re going to notice is that there is a fuel penalty for comfort. Bicycles use zero fuel, but are pretty uncomfortable (almost miserable!). Scooters or motorcycles use very little fuel, but you are out and exposed to the elements and they are much more dangerous, harder to carry around—and still pretty uncomfortable. The next step up is an economy car, and it is so much more comfortable than two-wheeled vehicles, it is probably the best choice for most of us.

This is also an outstanding set-up. It's a small Class C carrying a Honda Trail 70 in a front rack. All the Honda Trail bikes are a great choice because they get 100 MPG or more, they are very reliable and they are so small they are easy to put on a rack. They are small and light, have  an automatic transmission and have a step-through frame. Anybody can ride and handle one of these little babies!

This is also an outstanding set-up. It’s a small Class C carrying a Honda Trail 70 in a front rack. All the Honda Trail bikes are a great choice because they get 100 MPG or more, they are very reliable and they are easy to put on a rack. They are small and light, have an automatic transmission and have a step-through frame. Anybody can ride and handle one of these little babies!

I’ve always liked motorcycles ever since I bought my first one in the early 1970s.  I liked them so much I took two different long tours around the country on large touring motorcycles.  I loved the great MPG but I’ve got to admit that I got really tired of being exposed to the elements  and the lack of any comforts. So years later when I was ready to go on the road full-time again I gave serious thought to doing it on a motorcycle again.  I might have done it  except it wouldn’t let me have a dog, and I wasn’t willing to go it alone. I love dogs too much!!

But, I still own a motorcycle today because it gives me 70 MPG! And with the price of gas, that alone is reason enough. The fact that it is so much fun is just icing on the cake! So I’m not suggesting you live on a scooter or motorcycle, I’m suggesting you carry one to save you money and if the cost of gas skyrockets like I think it will, you will be very glad you did.

Here I am loading my Honda Rebel 250 on the front rack of my van.  Motorcycles are bigger, heavier and much more powerful than most scooters. That makes them harder to handle than a scooter, but it also means you can ride them on the freeway--which is a really big advantage!

Here I am loading my Honda Rebel 250 on the front rack of my van. Motorcycles are bigger, heavier and much more powerful than most scooters. That makes them harder to handle than a scooter, but it also means you can ride them on the freeway–which is a really big advantage!

Scooter or Motorcycle

After a bicycle, a scooter or motorcycle is your next best alternative form of transportation. Why? Because they get from 50-150 MPG! Sure, a bicycle is better because it doesn’t burn any gas, but if you don’t want to have any physical demands then at least you want to get something that burns as little gas as possible and that is a scooter or small motorcycle. Let’s look at the advantages of a scooter or motorcycle:

Advantages of Scooters

  • A 50cc scooter can get at least 100 MPG and even more.
  • In many states 50cc scooters are treated like glorified bicycles so they don’t require a special drivers license, registration or insurance. Check the laws in your state to be sure.
  • With their step-through frames, automatic transmissions, light weight and low power they are easy enough that almost anyone can easily drive them. Even the larger more powerful scooters have those advantages and most people can handle them.
  • Because they are small and light, they are fairly easy to load on and off the van or RV.
  • While they aren’t fast, they are able to go up to 30 mph so a quick trip to town really is a quick trip to town. On a bicycle there are very few quick trips.

Disadvantages of Scooters:

  • They are dangerous. In most cases when a car hits a scooter or motorcycle the driver says they never saw it. We are trained to see other cars but for some reason we just don’t see two-wheelers. So your chances of being hit while riding are much greater and the consequences of being hit are much worse. I speak from experience!
  • Like all two-wheelers you are exposed to the elements so heat, cold, rain, wind and bugs can keep you from riding, or if you do ride you are miserable.

Advantages of Motorcycles

  • Smaller bikes (250cc-500cc) can get from 50-80 MPG.
  • They’re faster than scooters so you can legally ride them on the freeway, plus you can ride them longer distances.
  • There are many dual-sport models that go off-road extremely well. That will be a big advantage if Peak Oil gets really bad and civilization starts to collapse.
  • You can get windshields, trunks, saddlebag and even trailers that make your ride more comfortable and allow you to carry much more cargo than a scooter.
Riding a motorcycle is much faster  and more comfortable than a bicycle or scooter. But they are also more dangerous. Being seen is critical to safety so I have a red motorcycle, yellow helmet, and a bright green coat. I'm hard to miss!!

Riding a motorcycle is much faster and more comfortable than a bicycle or scooter. But they are also more dangerous. Being seen is critical to safety so I have a red motorcycle, yellow helmet, and a bright green coat. I’m hard to miss!!

Disadvantages of a Motorcycle.

  • You can’t have a pet. For me that is a deal-breaker!
  • The big bikes that are comfortable and able to tow a trailer don’t get better MPG than many economy cars; 35-45 mpg is typical for big bikes.
  • They are much harder to load and carry than bicycles or even scooters
  • Because they are so fast, they are much more dangerous.

As you must know, I like motorcycles and I have one now. I love my Honda Rebel but you will have to decide for yourself if their advantages offset their disadvantages to make one work for you. I really do think nearly everyone can handle a scooter so I strongly encourage you to give serious thought to owning one.

This Toyota gets 40 MPG and can carry enough to set-up a very comfortable camp

This Toyota gets 40 MPG and can carry enough to set-up a very comfortable camp

Living in an Economy Car and a Tent

When I was taking my long tours on my motorcycles, economy cars were at their peak of economy. Many cars at that time were getting 40-50 MPG on the highway. So every time it was cold and raining and I had to ride the bike anyway, I’d look at those little economy cars and know they were getting as good or better MPG than I was, and they were warm and comfortable! That made me stop and think, “Why aren’t I in a Honda Civic?” It got better MPG and could carry much more stuff–plenty for to be very comfortable camping in. Most important I could be dry and warm!! Today, I’m still asking myself the same question, “Why am I in a van that’s getting 13-15 MPG when I could be in a car getting 40-50 MPG?

Bear in mind that while today’s small cars don’t get anywhere near that MPG, many economy cars from the 80s and early 90s got an honest 35-50 mpg and now they’re old enough to be cheap to buy. You should be able to find one for $2000 or less. If I were looking, I would want a Honda Civic with a four cylinder engine and 5 speed transmission from 1986 to 1992. As you can see from the list below you can get outstanding fuel mileage and Honda’s legendary quality and reliability.

Check out this page for the 25 all-time best cars for fuel economy: Here are some examples:

  • 1994 Geo Metro XFI    City: 43   Highway: 52   Combined: 47
  • 1986 Honda Civic Coupe   City: 42   Highway:   51   Combined: 46
  • 1995 Honda Civic HB   City: 39   Highway: 50   Combined: 43
  • 1992 Honda Civic    City: 35   Highway: 43   Combined:38
  • 1988 Ford Festiva    City: 33   Highway: 39   Combined: 35

Advantages of Living in an Economy Car and Tent:

  • Great gas mileage! Try to imagine getting 50mpg on the highway in a car!
  • Much more comfortable than a bike or motorcycle.
  • The initial cost is very low and because they are so simple, they’re cheap and easy to maintain.
  • Compared to living out of a backpack, horse or two-wheeler, they have an abundance of room! A true minimalist can live in one nicely.
  • Humans have been living in tents for a very long time and they can be pretty comfortable.

Disadvantages of Living in an Economy Car and Tent:

  • You can’t have much stuff. That’s a problem for most of us and especially so if you are thinking in terms of preparing for survival.
  • Extended bad weather is very unpleasant. If a long period of wind, rain, or cold forces you to be indoors, a small car and a tent can start to feel pretty claustrophobic and closed in.
  • The Desert Winds in the winter will soon tear up a tent and the combination of constant noise from flapping and being cold makes it hard to sleep and gets old very fast.
This is a later year Chevy Malibu and it only gets 28 MPG, but it is much larger allowing you to set up a much more comfortable camp. It is also large enough to sleep comfortably inside during bad weather.

This is a later year Chevy Malibu and it only gets 28 MPG, but it is much larger allowing you to set up a much more comfortable camp. It is also large enough to sleep comfortably inside during bad weather.

I’ve known a dozen people who came to the desert to live in a car and tent, and the wind beat them all. They all gave up on the idea within a year. But they were all on such a tight budget none of them could afford a tent that can endure desert winds. I think if you could, then it would be doable.  You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and decide if it will work for you.

In my next post we will look at towing an economy car with a van or RV and I think you will see that is a pretty good idea.

77 comments on “Surviving in a Van: Scooters & Motorcycles Versus an Economy Car and Tent
  1. Avatar Corky52 says:

    Waiting with baited breath for next section, I travel in a 24ft TransVan based Motor Home towing a Honda Civic, with a Porte-Bote inside under the floor, an electric bike and a small motor cycle. I’m currently looking for a Ultralite to complete transport scheme.


    • Avatar Bob says:

      Corky, wow, you are ready for whatever comes!! That sounds like the perfect set-up! I too would like an ultralight but it is out of price range for now.

  2. Avatar Old Fat Man says:

    Most of those older economy cars were able to tow small trailers. My two Corollas could tow up to 1000 pounds very well. I had trailer hitches on them and hauled building materials to my lake cabin and also hauled a small aluminum boat and motor for fishing. That means a small low profile trailer weighing about 200 pounds could carry 800 pounds of camping gear and food easily. The trailer usually knocked my fuel mileage down by 3 mpg.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Thanks for that info OFM. I think I would try to keep the weight of the trailer down as much as I could, but it’s good to know they are able.

    • Avatar Sean McCloy says:

      I owned the geo metro HORRIBLE HIGHWAY CAR great city pizza delivery ride. I took out the passenger seat installed an ice chest so I could arrive with hot pizza and cold ice cold drinks TIPS WERE UP THANKS TO THIS ! Metro ran great when I sold it but the ac went out and in the South that is a deal breaker.
      I now own the PRIUS 05 bought used $6K 175K miles currently has 213K miles. The 07 was bought new has 130K miles paid $19.3K for it. I bought the car before fuel prices shot up and still own it if I adjusted what I saved in fuel the way I figure the car has paid me back over 50% of the purchase price fuel alone. Unlike the 2 Prius articles on this site my Prius is set so I can transition from sleeping to driving as fast as a mugger can get a blade out. As a former trucker I know the value of being able to get in the seat and moving fast. It has saved me from trouble in the past.
      I have towed a trailer with the car but I made a mistake when I got this trailer it is too large for the car. This trailer is ideal for local towing jobs but not so good for interstate, I want to build a 4×8 sleeper but I want to tow one first and see how it does with economy I dislike the towing I will not go for it. I also want to build a sock to go between the car and the trailer to eliminate the sail affect I think that would allow me to keep the trailer I got.
      My mistake is I got a trailer that would serve to haul my bike to the shop that and for evacuation from storms so far I have not done either. Sure I could convert to a camper should I wish to If I do the conversion it will be just to live around here and drive max 30 miles a day I really hate towing it interstate but will if I have to. The short of it all is you are way better off getting pinpoint result rather than a shotgun one this trailer will make a good camper a good cargo but if you are taking to the road for camping alone get or build a 4×8. I suspect (because I have not tired to build one) that I would like to have a 4×8 that has strength enough to hold me from the roof in a hammock recliner and I can use hammocks to sleep in.
      I rarely ride the bike mechanics for the bike cost too much and I am about to get rid of it for good simply bc it is a hobby not a need and people that treat my hobby like I need them don’t suit my fancy. If I had my way I would live off the bike like I did when I was in my 20s do my own wrenching but after a tornado and massive back and knee surgery I have to anticipate every move I cringe every time something breaks that I now have difficulty doing.
      The ONLY thing I dislike about my current prius set is the seat folded back blocks the sound of my P side rear speaker. I am so tempted to pull that seat out since I rarely ever transport any passengers now that my daughter drives. I figure I could build something that allows sound to pass through or I could remove my board when I am done and transition for transport but who wants to reset every time they go for a nap? IDK we shall see.
      Any of you true inventors out there I want to see somebody build a 3 wheel ride from an old Prius. Why because insurance for a car cost me $3.33 a day but for the bike it cost just 20¢ a day and anybody that knows this game knows that money given to insurance companies is not always a great investment. A ride that has some solar but most of all it has to have a bed to sleep if somebody builds this they will have a great ride for stealth survival in urban centers. I have to say thank you Bob for such a wonderful site I now have means and no longer need to live this way but hard to change my old ways. I was on the road for decades and all of a sudden a tornado puts me at home.

  3. Avatar breid1903 says:

    motorcycle headlight modulator. carry a copy of the federal law. google it. amazon has them. raz

  4. Avatar breid1903 says:

    tents. rei among other people guarantee their products. 100% satisfaction. they don’t sell walmart tents. something else is a hennessy. the wind will not hurt them. some people use a small hammock in their vans. just a thought. raz

    • Avatar Bob says:

      raz, I am a huge fan of REI and their products. They’re legendary for their warranty. But, I don’t think most of their tents will stand up to the wind we can get here. Their 4-season mountaineering tents may (do they make one?), but they are terribly expensive.

  5. Avatar Andy says:

    Having a 2nd mode of transport like a small motorcycle is also great if you happen to get stuck or break down. You at least can use the motorcycle to get help or parts etc. Out in the middle of know where a break down could be very unpleasant. I like the color of the Astro van. Our white vans stick out in the wilderness and are easily seen. A light tan should help the van blend in better. Probably helpful for scanning rangers. The light tan should not cause the van to get any hotter than a dark color.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Andy, yes, that is another big advantage of having a cheap alternative transportation. That Astro is perfect in nearly every way!

  6. Avatar Rob says:

    Nice job on options Bob!

    Tents & rain. We tried living in a tent once, we were not in the desert and the rain was enough to push us to something ‘more substantial’ than a tent.

    The cost of travel… There is no such thing as a free lunch. You want the 40 mpg you sleep in a tent, you want your day to day life to be more on poor weather days you pay for it in miles per gallon.

    I went back & looked at the title of this “Surviving…”.
    ‘Surviving’ can be different from ‘living’.
    Rob recently posted…Mistakes & other things that just happenMy Profile

    • Avatar Bob says:

      A tent is great for short periods of time, we can all do that. But doing it day in and day out is another story! When the weather turns bad, they get old fast!

      Great point about surviving is different from living!! The only reason I would live on a motorcycle or econo car is for the adventure it brings. Being able to drive all I want is pretty great and for many people that is worth the discomfort. It isn’t for me!

  7. You’re not that hard to miss on your motorcycle, Bob. I just get your yellow helmet lined up with the center of my hood, floor the gas pedal, and BAM! 😉
    Al Christensen recently posted…Peace be unto the humansMy Profile

  8. Avatar Tom says:

    I had a 1979 Honda Civic CVCC I bought used in the 1980s when I went back to college and it never, never got under 60 MPG. It had 12 inch tires and (I think) 1200 cc motor with a 4-speed manual transmission.

    Admittedly, being a biker, some bikes are bigger then this car, but it’s beyond me why small cars don’t do better with gas today. Although when you check the facts, the all metal 79 Honda Civic CVCC weighed less then many composite cars today.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Tom, I totally agree! Look at the Smart Car, it’s tiny and still gets poor MPG compared to any of the cars on the list. It’s stating to turn around but it’s still disappointing.

      • Check your mirrors. 😉
        Al Christensen recently posted…Good eveningMy Profile

      • Avatar Douglas V says:

        When I was a child, I thought the econoboxes looked unsafe, well, the smartcar looks even more unsafe. There is a reason it’s nickname is the smart coffin.

        I have driving mostly half ton or larger pickups in my life, so a small car really isn’t all that desirable for me. That’s why when I did go camping with friends, I usually slept in the backseat of my truck while it was snowing, raining or other inclement weather. I give kudos to those that live out of economy cars and tents. I think I would go leather tramping before living out of an economy car.
        Douglas V recently posted…Operation Cold NightsMy Profile

        • Avatar Bob says:

          I’m with you Douglas, I can’t live in an econo car. But I know people who do and it works out well for them. We’re all different!

      • Avatar Jon says:

        Gas mileage solved>> Easy my 59 Corvette weighed in at 2,675Lbs. Thats why it gave 30 mpg . Until i installed the chev 400 inch block, and auto trans. it went down some then ,but I punched it a lot as was the idea.
        But note ,one year the Cad Eldorado, 1986 true ECONOMY, medium size car.. Great car,i owned it was the only year cad offered this. The trick was:> (I am a mechanic/engineer) Lighter weight glass, all magnesium/alloy rear end, alloy chrome bumpers, and alloy bumper supports, an aluminum/alloy block and heads, I think this was the first Northstar design. Slight alterations to the body work too. I dont remember what else, but this car was deceptively light weight and would easily get 34 mpg at 55 mph, for all the years I owned it. GM also did this to my ’82 Aniversary Ed. Corvette too, Titanium headers, thin glass, and magnesium rear end, and rear fiberglass springs, alloy bumper supports and crash plates. Also Special multifinned wheels..They claimed this cut 350 lbs off the total weight.
        It now handled better and gave great mileage, once I removed the crazy dual tiny injectors, compared to the older model Sharks) and still does.
        Its all a mater of weight, My old Toyota weighted 3400 Lbs? What are they doing to us?

    • Avatar John Dough says:

      Mandated safety features have made cars heavier.
      Airbags, crumple zones, side impact protection, all come with the premium of weight.

      I was looking at the 92 Geo Metro, which had great mileage, but they are very hard to find in good condition, and in stock configuration.

      I did a few motorcycle camping trips and I love it.
      But when it rains you hunker down, and then wait for your stuff to dry out, even with great rain gear. I love the bare minimalism of it. It’s like ultralight backpacking.

      • Avatar Bob says:

        John, your right, todays cars are bigger, heavier and emissions standards are chocking the engines. The older cars were simpler and got better MPG. The Geo Metro was a great car but they are actually rare enough now that they are hard to find and they aren’t cheap. The Geo tracker/Suzuki are cult favorites with RVers so they’re price is holding up pretty high as well.

        Motorcycle camping is such an adventure that it makes up for the discomfort for awhile. BUT not for long!

  9. Avatar Wayne says:

    Thanks for a very good review of alternative vehicles. I have only been reading your post for a few months, but have learned very much here. I am seriously considering a full size high top conversion van with a popup tent trailer. I would like to know your opinion on the feasibility of a popup trailer in the desert, especially considering the winds. Thanks, Wayne

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Wayne, I’m not a fan of pop-up rigs for full-time living and usually would say don’t get one.I have a friend who retired and moved into a pop-up camper on his truck. Within a year he sold it and went with a hard-sided camper because it was just not working. However, with the van it might work because when it is cold or the wind is blowing 50 MPH you can close up the trailer and move into the van. If you were willing to do that it might work great. They really are fair-weather rigs.

      • Avatar Wayne says:

        Thanks Bob, That gives me something to think about. I am still researching ways to insulate and strengthen a popup trailer. There is much info on pinterest website about popups. I will continue to read and learn from your posts. It is one of the very best out there. Much obliged. Wayne

        • Avatar Bob says:

          Wayne, the pop-tops have lots of advantages so I can understand why you want to make one work. I’ll be very curious to see what you come up with!

  10. Avatar Calvin R says:

    I have had a 1990 Honda Civic. My particular unit was in bad condition due to prior owners and eventually scrapped itself, but the design and layout worked very well at 45 or so mpg. That Civic was rated to tow up to 1100 pounds, so a trailer might work well with it. In fact, if the trailer had six feet of space the best thing might be to cover the trailer, put the bed there and use camping gear for the rest of the setup.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Calvin, that is exactly an idea I have been playing with. You could get a Harbor Freight folding trailer (4×8 foot)and use aluminum angle iron to frame walls. I would use wing nuts to attach them and tarps to cover it. The traps would be big enough to go over the top and then down at an angle to be staked directly into the ground. I’m hoping the slant would break the wind. I’d use milk crates as supports for the bed and storage and a sheet of plywood for the bed. The the whole thing could collapse down to travel and weigh less than 400 lbs. That’s the weight of two men, any car could handle it.

      Just an idea I’ve been kicking around.

      • Avatar Calvin R says:

        This is probably a viable idea. I have used a milk-crate bed; they’re very easy to make and very light, as well as providing storage for small items. The only caveat I found was that the plywood can slide around when you’re under way, and that’s easy to fix. I have considered some ideas for the framework but never really done any designing with it. I’m thinking that angle aluminum could be set up in a peaked-roof shape and then folded down to travel, but it would take some working out.

        • Avatar Bob says:

          Calvin, my idea was that the whole thing would break down to travel. The plywood wood for the bed would just go on the bottom and everything would be piled on top and strapped down. I’m thinking of how you could tow a home with a very small car, and breaking it down would eliminate all wind resistance.

          But you could build the walls permanently instead just as easily. A peaked roof would be better for wind and rain but make construction more difficult.

          • Avatar Calvin R says:

            My idea is in between these. I would have a closed height of, say, 4 1/2′ with permanent uprights. The peaked roof pieces would be hinged at that point, attach at the top with wing nuts, and come down to overlap each other to keep the height lower than the car roof on the road. The advantage I see in that is that one could still sleep in the trailer while traveling. However, simpler is usually better. By that standard, it’s easier to put up and take down the tarps and uprights when you make camp.

          • Avatar Bob says:

            Right, they each have advantages. I get letters from people all the time who are BROKE, have no mechanical skills and must live in their car. I’m looking for a solution for them which means simple and cheap are critical.

            I’m looking at the Harbor Freight folding trailers because they are 200 pounds and $300–and come on sale often. And they are available everywhere. It’s just an idea I’ve been kicking around.

          • Avatar Calvin R says:

            The priorities (people like me) make your original idea the better. It took time for me to appreciate the simple, workable result of this. If my situation goes in that direction, I’ll be looking to develop it or asking for help.

          • Avatar Bob says:

            Calvin, if you give it a try I’d love to hear what you do.

          • Avatar Calvin R says:

            It occurred to me this morning that the person who has few resources might be able to set up a simple trailer like this and, along with the camping equipment, carry a bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle on the trailer. A person starting from scratch might not be able to get a fuel-efficient car or might need even better mileage. It would depend on the exact circumstances. The versatility of a trailer would help to make up for that.

          • Avatar Bob says:

            Calvin, no doubt that a car or van with a bicycle or motorcycle is more cost efficient in every way. That’s why I have chosen them over a RV and toad. But most people simply aren’t going to do that. It costs them too much in comfort, convenience and safety.

            For them, this is a great choice!!

      • Avatar Jon says:

        Hi guys, I made a great trailer out of 4×8 plywood and a homemade chassis. the chassis was a simple triangle of some discarded steel good stuff, not china iron, so it wouldnt bend easily, alum is OK but it will fatigue eventually and break, stainless steel is best of all ,it never fatigues U can buy it as scrap for about the same price as steel … I use it for everything now,mufflers, brackets, all metal fab. it brazes and welds easily because it conducts heat poorly it spot welds fantastically, much better than iron. (U can make your own spot welder with 2x.. 12v batts.)
        The tires and axle were about, 3/4 way back about, I thought this would give stability. because there would be a slight drag from the tires and it did. I used a car axle with the differential gears removed and put lite oil in it. U can run the axle upside down to give more clearance above it , I did this . My main suspension was the tires. I put big used hi volume tires on it, with low pressure in them, maybe 12 lbs? It gave it about 2 1/2 suspension travel up and down. U need narrow stock rims As the low pressure will give a good wear pattern. I had little wear after 2K miles. I used 14 ” rims because i wanted the big tires available then in 14″, look for a lower load-rating, even 1000, lbs per tire is fine. I did use some rubber blocks above the axle but I doubt they were very useful. this tracked great, I ran it at 75 a couple of times. I think there was a 3′ tongue. I thought the shorter the better, just enuf to provide a sharp turn, longer is easier to back up , but with only about 75 Lb on the tongue, its and easy to disconnect and move it..>. I put my tools and heavy stuff in back, some folks think lots of weight om the tongue is good, not here, as your car wont like a few hundred lb extra weight,in back of its axle, stearing 4 for U.

  11. Bob, I think a van is as small as I’d want to go. I almost came out to RTR last summer in my Malibu and a tent. But, instead, I traded the Malibu for the van, and am I thankful for the issues you mentioned about tent living. Perhaps one day, I’ll get a light weight electric bike with a little cargo trailer and try to let the van sit for months at a time if things got bad enough for that.

    Right now, my main strategy for saving gas and money (you know how I just love to eat out) has been to load up on groceries and water sufficient enough to allow me to sit for up to two weeks, maybe even three weeks at a time! Plus, I got a bigger tote to hold my trash so that I don’t have to get out to empty it as often. So, right now, I’m on an experiment with myself here at Joshua Tree. I went into town to La Quinta last Sunday, found the cheapest shopping I could (Trader Joe’s and Walmart), loaded up with water and now I’m sitting here as long as I can. So far, so good. I’ve made it a week without moving a tire tread. So, we’ll see if I can sit here for one more week. But, the other thing with that, is “itchy feet”. I’m already scoping out other, better camp sites closer to the towns I want to be near, but, it would be hotter since I’m at an elevation of about 1,700 feet. I hope I can do this! If not this time, next time! Ha ha! Great post! Missing you guys BTW! Take care!

    • I play the “game” of how long I can stay in one spot. But I get antsy after a few days. I didn’t adopt this life so I could be bored. To me, moving to the next new, interesting place is worth the cost of fuel. If it ever gets so I can’t afford gas, then it would be time for a different lifestyle.
      Al Christensen recently posted…Peace be unto the humansMy Profile

      • Avatar Bob says:

        Al, you could tow a car and get both!

        If you couldn’t afford gas for the van, what other lifestyle could you afford that would be better?

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Gloria, you are in the conundrum that faces most of us, we want more than we can afford. We want to be mobile and travel but it takes money and sometimes we just don’t have it. With your van you could easily tow an economy car or carry a small scooter. That would give you the best of both worlds, free to drive around and not spend much money.

      But just like most of us, limited funds to buy those things. There are no easy answers. If you could pick up a cheap used bike would you be able to ride it and build up your stamina to use it instead of driving? A bike is one of the few things that we can all afford and gives us mobility. But, many of us just aren’t ever going to be willing to ride them.

      We miss you too and often reminisce about our great times together!!

  12. Avatar Canine says:

    I have a ’94 Metro 5-speed. I get 45 consistently on the highway and have gotten as high as 48. In town is 35. If you get one with an automatic, expect to lose about 10 miles per gallon. It has been highly reliable and is easy to work on. However, it is getting older and parts are not as available as one would expect from a GM car. For example, door handles are not available from parts stores or from dealers. Used parts are getting darn hard to find. The door handles are weak and break easily like much of the rest of the car. I did find some aftermarket door handles, but are of such poor quality as to be non-functional.

    The car weighs 1700 pounds! It is extremely tinny and damages easily. It is not much safer than driving a motorcycle, so it needs to be driven like one. It has 12 inch tires which are getting hard to find as well; very limited selection and becoming more limited all the time.

    Wanted to share my first hand experience with my car. I really, really like it, but parts for it are truly becoming a burden. Something to be aware of.

    I also had owned an 84 Honda Prelude. It was even more difficult to find parts for as it was a niche car and did not sell in large numbers; therefore, parts are discontinued much sooner than more popular cars.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Canine, I’m a huge fan of the Metro! But, I didn’t recommend it for all the reasons you mentioned. My friend with the Festiva is doing good so far with getting parts and they made an awful lot of them. But it too has 12 inch tires and they are a problem!

      I think the Honda Civic was made in such large numbers that parts should be pretty available for awhile now. that’s mainly why I recommended it.

  13. Avatar jonthebru says:

    The difficulty of tent living in the desert could possibly be alleviated with proper planning. Using the vehicle for a windbreak and choosing a lower profile tent may work. Putting up a fortress of tarps could save your sanity. In 1963 my whole family of 6, me being the youngest, went on a 3 month cross country tent camping trip. We got a new Ford station wagon and drove from Vancouver BC across to Minnesota and wisconsin visiting relatives along the way. We mostly stayed at National Parks, there were not many commercial RV parks and we weren’t in an RV. I remember a cousin in North Dakota had built his own 5th wheel trailer from scratch and awed us all with its comfort and capabilities. I wanted my parents to buy it then and there! One thing I really remembered but did not connect with at the time was the building of the Interstate Highway System. Everywhere we went there were detours along gravel roads as the highways were constructed. I also remember driving across the desert from Vegas to LA and how miserably hot it was in the back seat, no AC of course.
    I viewed “The Long, Long Trailer” this weekend Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. It is interesting how the feeling of “wanderlust” Luci states throughout the movie hasn’t changed much for many Humans!
    Thanks for letting me comment.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      jonthebru, the desert wind is pretty vicious. I bought a tee pee style tent to test it out this year to see if it could handle he wind. and wouldn’t you know it this has been the only winter without a single wind storm!! Any tent could have survived this year!

      I’ve know lots of people who came out here with the intent to live in a tent and not one of them was still doing it a year later. That tells you how bad it is.

  14. Avatar Bill from NC says:

    Hello Bob, I was wondering about the electric scooters? I like the idea of them better than my ebike.
    Bill from NC recently posted…Yachting inspired my RV plumbing!!!!My Profile

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Bill, I only know one guy with an electric scooter, and he loves it. I really don’t know anything about them so I haven’t formed an opinion about them. What do you like better about them?

      • Avatar Bill from NC says:

        They acvording to their ads have a higher weight carry capacity. They have bigger thicker tires that probably dont get flats as easy. I used my portable electric wheelchair in Texas last year and had constant trouble with flats due to thorns. It has infatable tires so you can run it in sand and not get stuck so bad. They also look like a much more comfortable seat and I can wiggle and change my prosthesis legs position. My prosthesis leg gets agravated by having a pretty much set nonchangeable position on my ebike pedal.
        Bill from NC recently posted…Yachting inspired my RV plumbing!!!!My Profile

  15. Avatar gary green says:

    hey now bob, i.m.o. there are two different rubber tramp’s . those that travel and those that camp. a traveler is a person that on the move constantly, from one place to another out sightsee this great world of ours. p.s. you best have some bucks no matter what you drive!!!! again i.m.o., fuel is your major cost so your choice in a rv should get good mileage.and then you have the camper who stay in one place for long periods time for one reasons are another.for example, a lot of people camp for up to eight months at a time in the deserts of California and Arizona,boon docking the whole time for free and saving there money. so they can travel during the summer in there rv’s to cooler you can have a bigger rv because you are traveling less. in my travels for the last ten years i have travel almost 400 thousand miles in the us and mexico,i had a 1997 gmc pickup with a side in camper that i put 290 thousand miles and serve me well as a traveler, in 2007 i bought another gmc 2007 pickup and in 2009 i bought 2009 standard 16′ casita fiberglass travel trailer and in 2013 i bought a Honda scooter,so as you can see it has taken me years to assemble my rig now that i’m a camper,i have over 100 thousands miles on this rig,again this has serve me well,hope this will help all you what be travelers and campers.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Gary, that is a very good analysis! And I think you hit the nail on the head, it has a lot to do with what your budget is! Traveling is expensive and probably only going to get more so.

      Congrats on the Honda scooter, that’s a great choice!

  16. Avatar CAE says:

    I am using the Civic right now and it’s ok. But the Astro had a lot more space. I need to drive quite a bit. So the Civic is better for now. But if I could park a week at a time, I would go back to the Astro. In a year or so I should go back to the Astro.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      I gotta tell you I wouldn’t live in a car unless I was just flat broke. I agree with what Al said earlier, I do this to enjoy life and that isn’t enjoying life for me. Now for a true minimalist it works great!! I’m not a true minimalist!

      I could live fine in an Astro, but not in a civic.

  17. Avatar Doug Rykerd says:

    Hey Bob, I like much of what you’re saying in these recent posts. I have much the same beliefs concerning survival at all costs.I love your rack for the milk crate on the Rebel. I have warn you though, when I put a milk crate on my KLR temporarily when I first got it, I was told I was losing man points for having a basket on my bike ha ha.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Doug, I’m afraid you’ve got me there! Actually, the Rebel loses me points itself; it’s just a pretend Harley! I’m a wannabe!

      • Avatar Doug Rykerd says:

        Actually, compared to a Harley rider, you’re the smart one! Harley s are over priced, over-marketed, uncomfortable (for the most part anyway), and get awful mileage. I’d take your Rebel any day over any one of them. I’m old enough I don’t need to impress anyone with what I ride, its just got to work, be reliable, and efficient. Cheap is always a bonus also!

        • Avatar Bob says:

          Doug, I agree 100%! I don’t want to start a war over Harley’s, but you couldn’t pay me to own one. In every way that can be measured, Japanese bikes are far superior. But you can’t measure “cool” and Harley’s win that every time!! It’s just that “cool” means nothing to me!Sounds like it doesn’t mean much to you either!

  18. Avatar Corky52 says:

    Nothing for underwater yet and the last Ultralight put me on crutches for five months.

    My 2001 Honda Civic went up to 37 mpg highway when I put the harder rubber tires on it. The car is fairly cheap and parts are very easy to find.

    I keep looking for one of the rare “Mexican Suzuki Samurai’s” that had the three cylinder engine that also came in the Suzuki Sprints here in the states.

    I tend to plant the MH and spent time throughly exploring an area before moving on, there are usually many things within a couple of hours drive to keep me entertained. Moving MH every couple of weeks is needed to stay within the law in most cases, so I scout out new locations and can usually stay in an area as long as I want.

    Above all when moving the MH holding the speed down to 53 to 55 mph pays huge dividends in mpg.


  19. Avatar Karl says:

    Hey Bob, Looks like a lot of fun! thanks for the breakdown of the trip 🙂

  20. Avatar ash says:


    Do you happen to know which carrier the Class C camper used to carry the Honda Trail 70? I would like to get one of those for my Honda Passport C70.


    • Avatar Bob says:

      ash, I’m sorry I don’t know the brand name but if I remember right it was two individual wheel carriers that were strapped around the bumper. it may have been homemade. Sorry I don’t remember it better.

  21. Avatar Calvin R says:

    11 months later . . . I re-read your posting and noticed what you said about the people you’d seen with tents who could not afford a good one. I have spent some time the past few days looking at “serious” tents and car-dwelling posts. If I get a disability, I will have enough money to get a Springbar tent. Those are easy to assemble and made with better materials than the cheap ones. They have a very impressive piece of owner video on their site with one of their tents standing up to extreme winds. Of course, the price is not for the faint of heart. With the canopy I would add, it’s a little under $680. I think I could combine that with one of those 1990-era Honda Civics and have a fine setup for a few weeks a year in Quartzsite and a lot of travel, which I would like to do for a year or two.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Calvin, I agree that would be a very good combo. Most of the year you won’t face the severe winds we have here in the desert so all you have to do is get through them and then you will be fine. A quality tent should be able to do that.

  22. Avatar Muad'dib says:

    Thank you so much for the post, Bob! I’m a college student seriously considering the nomad lifestyle because of my degree, and my current plan is to camp out of a used Tacoma fitted for off-road. I’d love to live off of a dirtbike or dual-sport, though, for the fuel economy. I live near Quartzite and I love the desert so much, which is why I want to live boondocking and off-road. Any advice between the vehicle options?

    • Avatar Muad'dib says:

      Also, what about towing a small teardrop on such a bike for carrying extra water?

      • Avatar Bob says:

        Muad dib, the teardrops to live in are much too big for a dirt bike, you need at least 1200 CC to tow one. Maybe a small trailer, but I doubt. A much better idea would be an electric bicycle and a bike trailer for it. That would be a viable set-up for you.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Muad dib, as you know the weather around Quartzsite can be very brutal, especially the extreme heat, wind and the monsoon rains. Living off a motorcycle can be done but will very often be quite miserable. If you’re realistic about the level of misery involved, of course you can do it. I have a friend who has lived off a bicycle around Quartzsite for the last several years year-around. It can be done, but it won’t be much fun.

      If it were me, I’d keep the Tacoma and carry a small bike like the TW200 or even smaller like an old Trail 110. You’d set up a camp off-road enough so Rangers can’t see you and ride the bike most of the time. But, in bad weather you could get out of it in the Tacoma. That will greatly reduce the misery of bad weather.

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