Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Redneck Base Camp

Well, while it may look like this blog hasn't been posted in in a couple years, you couldn't be further from the truth. Alot of the blog's been generated in the last 6 or so months, but is being built slowly out of alot of old stories and forum posts that I've made in various places over the years.

Since I'm a tad burned out on writing up the old tales, decided to skip to the here and now, and post about more recent events :).

For those that have read their way through the blog thus far, they will know that around June, 2008, I decided to become a full-timer of sorts with my camper to cut down on stress and commuting expenses.

For the first couple years of my Full-timing adventure, I stayed at a Farm and later on, in someone's RV pad next to their house. Both were nice locations, the later being less than a mile from work, but neither were really meant to be permanent home stations.

The original problem which lead me to the places I'd stayed in the past was the lack of any RV parks in the Washington County area.

Let me rephrase that, any affordable RV parks in the Washington County area. The two that were in the county, on the far reaching edges down right in the middle of the commuting nightmare no-less, wanted at minimum $500 a month + utilities.

There's spots in mobile home parks for double-wides that go for less than that.....

Eventually, I gave up on the notion of staying right near by work and settled for a shorter commute, but on a less traveled road so I wouldn't be playing the parking-lot game twice a day.

After some diligent searching of the surrounding area via Google Maps, I located two rather nice RV Parks on Sauvie Island.

For those unfamiliar with Sauvie Island, its a land mass out in the Columbia River, on the western outskirts of Portland, Oregon. The south shore of the island is created by the mouth of the Willamette River as it empties into the Columbia. The western shore is created by an offshoot of the Willamette known as the Multnomah Channel, it too, empties into the Columbia up at the northern tip of the island. Finally, the eastern shore is created by the Columbia itself.

The island is predominately rural farm lands which also partially doubles as a giant Water Fowl Sanctuary during the winter months. Wide varieties of Ducks and Geese call the inner island lakes home from late October to the beginning of May.

In addition to the water fowl, there's also black tail deer and elk. Bald Eagles nest on the island, and can be seen in their aeries with a good pair of binoculars.

Residents of the state can apply for special hunting permits during the October to May season to hunt the water fowl and big game on the island, but there is a limit to how many are issued, so if you wish to give it a try, don't wait till the last moment.

The two RV parks that can be found on the Island are Reeder's Beach RV Park and Island Cove RV Park.

Reeder's Beach is the oldest of the two parks on the island, having been started by the Reeder family which has been on the island and farming since the late 1800s.

The park was born out of an issue with Fisherman that would arrive on Earl Reeder's property to fish from the shores of the Columbia River. They would park on the road and hike across the fields to the river banks. Mr. Reeder, tired of his fields being trampled down, decided to let the fisherman park on his property for a $.50 fee.

Some of the fisherman would come and bring their camping equipment and trailers, asking if they could park them there for an additional fee. This resulted in a fisherman's camp that eventually became the Reeder Beach Resort.

Up till late last year, Reeder's Beach was able to offer Monthly Sites, for $390, electricity was included in that rate. However, stuck-up Portlandites who had bought property on either side of the RV Park (Which had been there since the 1950s) chose to attack the park when the Reeder's had applied for permitting to expand the park (which had been approved and then later withdrawn when the complaints came in).

Multnomah County, unique in most of Oregon for being able to garner more stupidity than any other place in the state, had passed a ban on RV Parks allowing anyone to stay for 30 days, counting the RVs in the same category as a Mobile Home.

The County Courts ruled that all the of existing residents had to leave and that the park had to shut down roughly 2/3s of its sites.

The Reeder's appealed, stating that the park had been there, LONG before there was evening zoning on the land, and long before the 30 day rule had been passed by Portland.

Sadly, in September of last year, the Reeder's lost their appeal, but with a caveat that the existing residents for the time being could stay, but would lose their sites if they ever moved.

The Second RV Park on the island, Island Cove, was 3 miles past the county line and in Columbia County, whom had no such ridiculous laws on RV Park stays. They had two different prices, $350 a month + electric for the smaller front sites (Basically the sites for RVs with no slides, or only a single slide), $400 a month + electric for the larger more spread out sites in the back (The sites for larger RVs with multiple slides).

The Park has no real neighbors, except for the Portland Yacht club, and a local gun club. There's one McMansion a little bit south of the park, but its been vacant and unfinished for years.

This park as well sprung out of a farm, but was started in the early 90s, and thus went through all the necessary zoning changes.

In the end, I chose Island Cove (really the only choice since Reeder's lost their monthly option), and went with one of the smaller front sites.

While the price difference is only $50 a month, I have to also take into account the fact that my work is contract based, and my income changes depending on if I'm on unemployment between contracts, or on a contract that pays less.

The big trade off to moving out to the Island and making it my home, was the commute to Hillsboro. My last commute was 2 miles (round trip) a day, my new one.... 46 miles (round trip) a day. The upside was, my drive took me along US highway 30, and Cornelius Pass road, circumventing the major and always clogged arterial Highways 26 and 217.

The other downsides? There's no gas station on the island, and for some reason known only to them, the Utility Companies (Phone, Cable TV) refuse to run new phone line or cable line to the east side of the island. Internet and TV out here is all via satellite (HughesNet is what my park uses for its WiFi * shudder *). The Cellphone companies kinda cover the area, but the bandwith limits are too low for the price. There is wired phone service, but the lines are ancient copper that will at best give you 14.4k speed Dial-up, forget DSL.

Now, enough yammering from me about the park, let's take a gander at what I call my "Docking Station."

Home Base

One thing I do like here is the fact that within reason, and the manager's permission, you can customize your site to your liking. As you can see from my first couple pictures, I've built up around my camper quite a bit since I first moved in here back in February of 2010.

I don't plan to stop traveling with my camper, quite the contrary, this gives me a base station to dock the camper into for my regular "home" life when I'm not out on the road.

The "$49" deck

You read that right, the deck cost me $49 to build. It's entirely made of Red Cedar.

How'd I managed to build a 6x10 Cedar Deck for $49? Craigslist.

I put up an ad mentioning that I was looking for solid used decking material and would be willing to do the work to remove the deck and haul off the sound material from the demo.

I let the ad run for a while till a gentleman down in Tualatin answered my ad with a need to have a 1,400 square foot deck removed from the back of his house.

With his help, I demoed the original deck, filled my truck up with every salvagable piece I could haul and brought it back to my site. The $49 cost comes in for the two boxes of deck screws and one 16' 2x8 I needed to finish the frame. I had the base of the deck cut and fully assembled by the end of the weekend, the railing going in place over the course of the following week.

The gravel path around the deck and solar powered LED path lights were added more recently.

The "$28" Gas Grill

Since I'm on the topic of amazingly low priced items, I'll touch next on my $28 Gas Grill. The grill is older, but not rusted out. When I got it for free from a family member, it had since ceased functioning. The $28 comes in for the new universal bar burner that it needed to get it back into functioning condition. The 20lb propane cylinder was one I'd been using for camping for a number of years.

Plenty of Propane!

Given that its a bit of a drive to get propane and that I tend to go through a fair amount a month when living in the camper, I ended up buying 2 100lb propane cylinders. The first one, the one currently hooked to the camper in the picture, I bought from a fellow NATCOA member for $75.

The second cylinder I bought from a fellow park resident who was getting out of full timing for $85.

On average, during your normal Oregon winter, I consume roughly a 100lbs in a month. Alot of this is due to the need to leave the cab-over's roof vent cracked open to prevent moisture problems.

Also, given that while we're near Portland, we're still somewhat remote, its best to be prepared for inclement weather that might strand one for a while. Our road out here is not plowed, or sanded, or graveled. If the power goes out, it can take between 2-6 hours for PGE to fix the issue.

A backup generator is a MUST. An ample supply of propane to run your fridge and keep your home heated is also a MUST.

The Screen Patio/Living Room

Given that I live in a truck camper, which is not necessarily the roomiest of RVs out there, I had to give myself some place else I could go when I wanted to be outside, but kind of inside at the same time.

The EZ-Up type canopy I've had for a few years, the screen room, though was a recent addition. The space holds my chest freezer and my cabinets where I've begun to store alot of things to lighten my camper back up. Trying to keep it all in the camper had begun to make the thing really heavy.

The patio has both LED white christmas lights as well as an old shop light I got from my father who had it stuffed in his tool shed and hadn't used it in a few years.

I whipped up a switched outlet box with a primary feed cord and thus was born my outdoor living room.

The Garden

Out of the left over deck material, I was able to build a firewood rack (See in the Home Base photos), an extension for the concrete patio on the site, and my garden.

Currently growing Zucchini, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, egg plant, bell peppers, Okra, Romaine Lettuce and Rhubarb.

The two potted Trees are Maple's that are all that remains from a giant maple that grew out in front of my early childhood home. I was able to dig up the seeds sprouts from the front yard of the house and have since then grown them in pots. Eventually, I'll get to a position job-wise that I'll be able to buy a house and finally plant them in the ground, till then, I move them around.

The View

While it didn't look like much today, here's what I normally see off of my back deck, Mount St. Helens sure is pretty, isn't it? Guess I've got a front row seat if she ever blows her top again!

Well, that's enough for now about my little home. If you get the sudden hankering to move away from it all and into an RV, this place is not a bad spot to do it at. The spot next door is vacant, so feel free to stay a night and visit some time.