My Experience Full Time Living in a Vintage RV

Table of Contents

Acquiring My Vintage RV

I got my RV from Craigslist in Los Angeles and built it up a bit before I took it out on the road. It took quite a bit of elbow grease but it started to feel like home after a while. The RV was a 1979 Class C GMC Vandura. It was only 20 foot long so I could comfortably fit in the average parking spot. But since it was older, there were a lot of problems that seemed to constantly show up.

First, the starter went out. Then the fuel pump.. and alternator.. and radiator. The list of problems was ever growing. I learned how to fix all the parts on my own to save some money, and to know more about my vehicle. I’m no mechanic by any means, but YouTube helped me through every step. Luckily the older vehicles are much easier to work on than the newer ones out now.

Time To Build & Repair

The inside was in pretty good condition but to make it feel a little more modern I painted the dull fake wood walls a nice clean white. I chose to use high gloss paint so it would be easier to clean any of the inevitable scuffs that will show up over time. I also decided to take out the propane refrigerator and replaced it with a regular mini fridge. I also replaced the stick on laminate flooring with snap board vinyl flooring. This gave my RV a nice hardwood floor feeling without adding too much extra weight.

By the time I had it fixed up (which took about 8 months…) I decided to head up the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH from Los Angeles to Oakland. Luckily, I had no mechanical problems along the way. I stopped to camp in Big Sur and Santa Cruz and some other small beach towns. Though, I found out, not all campsites will accept an older vehicle like mine. They said it was a “fire hazard” and the campsite insurance wouldn’t allow vehicles older than 10 years old. But I found that most of the campsites that wouldn’t allow my RV were RV specific campsites. I had solar on my RV and didn’t need hookups, so I preferred more primitive campsites anyway. I even had some luck boon-docking on the side of the PCH.

Finally On The Road!

When I got to Oakland it was pretty nice actually. People really seemed to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. Although there were a few times that I came home to some not-so-nice letters on my windshield. The letters were never too bad though. Usually they just were asking me to leave the neighborhood. Occasionally I’d have someone come by and explain to me that they understand my lifestyle but they have kids and don’t want a strange vehicle parked outside their house. Which, of course, is totally understandable.

After a few months of boondocking around Oakland I decided to try out the next town north; Berkeley. I stayed in an industrial area near the train tracks by the bay. It was grimey, but I liked it. I felt comfortable there. I’m a long-time punk fan and I was staying just down the road from a classic bay area punk venue. It was cool to be able to go to punk shows and be able to just walk home to my RV afterwards.

Being Harassed Until I Move Away

(F*** The Police…)

But, all good things must come to an end I suppose.. I wasn’t the only RV parked in the neighborhood but for some reason I seemed to be the only one having problems. For several days straight, I got tickets for expired registration at the same time every day. But, my registration was current and my tags even showed it. I saw a parking enforcement officer one day and asked him if he knew why I would be getting invalid tickets. He looked at my tickets and said it wasn’t parking enforcement writing them, it was a police officer. The next day, someone had attempted to peel off my registration stickers.

Every day I would get a ticket and take it to the police station and give them my proof of registration to have it cleared. I still had to pay a $25 “processing” fee for each ticket though. It got pretty frustrating following rules and being penalized for no reason. The cost of $25 a day started to hit my budget pretty hard, and I could tell I wasn’t welcome there anymore. So, it was time to move on to my next destination.

Finally Got Some Peace!

I moved up north to a small farm town I had been to before on previous travels. I knew the town pretty well and still had some friends living there. At the time, I was sick of city boondocking and wanted to find a more permanent spot for a bit. I had experience working and living on farms through WWOOF and wanted to get back to nature. So, I went to the local small coffee shop every day to see if anyone knew about somewhere I could park my RV and do a work trade situation.

It was only a couple of days before I found a farm that wanted me to come by and see if I would be a good fit. When I showed up on the farm I introduced my self to the farmer and crew and within one hour the farmer told me to move my RV on in. It seemed too good to be true! But, as I’ve learned now, things that are too good to be true, usually are..

Be Careful Who You Trust…

The farm was nice, but each day that went by I realized more and more that something weird was going on. The first and most obviously strange thing was that the farmer identified as a “space-viking” . I wasn’t sure what that meant at first.. so I asked him, and it was about what you would expect.. he is an alien race of Lakota Indian that is also Vikings somehow. In reality, he was a mentally unstable older white man who happened to own some land. “Viking” was clearly not mentally stable. But he had all these people living on his farm working for him. But as I got to know all the other workers I realized that I was living in a cult..

I tried to ease my way out of the situation and move on from that crazy farm. I ended up getting away after several months. But I lost my travel partner I had by my side the whole time in the RV. She got sucked in to the teachings of the “Viking” and left me for one of the older cult members.. it was hard to get over, but as they say, time heals all wounds.

I left the farm feeling empty and distraught. I had my RV still but it felt empty now. I tried traveling more through some cities throughout the West Coast. But it seemed that everywhere I would go I would get nasty looks and notes on my door. The more I traveled the more I noticed parking signs that restricted vehicles specific to vehicle dwellers. The signed would read “No Parking Vehicles Over 7 Foot Tall or 22 Foot Long”. My RV was under 22 feet long but it was taller than 7 foot. It got harder and harder to find safe places to boondock, especially in the city.

People Suck, But Traveling is Fun

I found that living in an RV was nice, but the judgment was in abundance.. As the nomadic lifestyle becomes more popular, people do seem to become more accepting though. From talking to other travelers I noticed that if you chose an RV as your home on the road you may find more people treat you like you’re “homeless”. But if you live in a Sprinter Van, Tiny Home or Skoolie then it’s more “cool” and people are more accepting on the road. Especially when it comes to boondocking in cities along your travels.

I still wanted to live the nomadic lifestyle despite the trials I had to over come in the RV. I just wanted to be treated a little better on the road. So, for that reason and many others, I decided to get rid of my RV and upgrade to a Schoolie! Living in a Schoolie may not be perfect either. I’m sure I’ll still get some dirty looks and maybe a few parking tickets along the way. But I feel like the judgment will be less and I can freely and comfortably live my nomadic life.

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