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Being Cheap?

We’ve arrived at Mystic Springs Airstream park, about 30 miles north of Pensacola FL. Finally! The long driving spree is over for a while. We’ll hang here amongst the moss-draped pine trees through Sunday or so. We need the break.

Mystic site.jpg

Our camping budget has been greatly helped by all the courtesy parking we’ve been doing lately. Our stay at NTAC was free (because we were the guest of one of the lot owners), as were our four nights in Weathersford. Then we hit Wal-Marts along the way up to Indiana, spent a few days at Airstream of Indiana, and stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the way down to Florida.

The upshot is that in the past 15 nights we have only had to pay for parking twice (at Kickapoo State Park in IL and Mammoth Cave NP). So for two weeks our total camping expenditure has been $32.

Now it’s sort of a quest: how long can we go without paying? Eleanor says I’ve gotten cheap, but I prefer to consider it Yankee frugality, or perhaps just an expansion of the way we travel. Anyway, we just put hundreds of dollars into batteries so we can get along longer without power connections — let’s make use of them! Didn’t we buy an Airstream for “real travel independence” as they say in the brochures? But she still says I’m cheap.

We need to make a few more tweaks to be comfortable living “off the grid”. I’d like to be able to power our laptops and cell phones off the trailer’s 12v system without using an inverter, so I am considering a IGo everywhere universal power adapter. This thing has little power tips to fit all sorts of equipment, so one IGo will power both the laptops and the phones (assuming I buy the right tips to go with it).

On Saturday night I went out to Radio Shack and bought their universal 12v adapter for $5.99. This allows us to run the factory-installed Sharp flat panel TV on the 12v system, bypassing the inverter that came with it. (Formerly it went from 12v to 110v AC power, then plugged into the wall.) So that’s one less appliance that needs AC power. Now we can watch DVD movies even while boondocking.

Once we have the 12v adapter for the laptops and phones, everything in the trailer except the laser printer and vacuum cleaner will run off the house batteries. I can recharge the cordless drill, camera batteries, and other misc battery-powered devices using a basic Radio Shack cigarette-lighter inverter, if I really need to.

So, I’ve dumped the Honda eu1000 generator that we were hauling around. With an SUV, toting a generator means gas fumes in the car, less storage space, and more weight. We’re going to see how it goes with just batteries and — eventually — a pair of solar panels.

Mystic Springs is a nice spot, but it’s in the boonies. Sprint doesn’t cover the area, and there’s no Internet access to be had anywhere nearby, so I have to drive 30 miles into Pensacola to snarf wifi from Panera Bread or one of the hotels. I already got booted from the Luxury Suites motel by a grumpy matron earlier this evening, so I think from now I’ll stick with Panera. At least there you can get a nice cuppa and muffin while you work. While I’m doing that, Eleanor and Emma are going to run errands and find something fun to barbecue — the park is planning a barbecue night on Thursday. I’m voting for salmon… would a cheapskate do that?

5 Responses to “Being Cheap?”

  1. Michael Young Says:


    You can eliminate the 110v vacuum cleaner too, if you like. Here’s what we did.

    We’ve been researching small vacuum cleaners for our new Airstream 25FB that has carpeting in the bedroom and a vinyl floor elsewhere. We looked at portable cordless models by Shark, Dirt Devil, and Black & Decker (Dustbuster).

    The Shark model we once owned only lasted a few weeks and then the battery died and could not be replaced. This seems to be a common problem with Sharks. The Dirt Devil and Black & Decker models don’t seem to have enough suction.

    While shopping at Target we found a Durabuilt 12-volt, twin-motor, auto vacuum cleaner for the grand price of $12.99. It has a 12-foot extension cord that plugs into the 3 power sockets in our trailer. The second motor is in the rotating brush attachment. Weight is only a pound or two because there is no heavy battery.

    Performance has exceeded our expectations. We have 2 dogs and the little vacuum picked up all the hair embedded in the carpet and cleaned up the vinyl floors well. The crevice attachment gets into small spaces with even greater suction. Emptying the dirt container and filter were easy too.

  2. Michelle Plunkett Says:

    I don’t think you are being cheap. But then we “boondock” as much as we can when we are traveling between two places. I’m not sure I would dump my generator though, even with more/better batteries. Cannot be without enough power to run my husband’s C-Pap machine.

  3. Rob Baker Says:


    My 34′ Limited had two on board 12v cigarette lighter outlets, one in the galley area and one in the rear bedroom. Does the Safari have any? I assume you already have 12v chargers for your cell phones for while you are driving.

    Get a splitter.



  4. Rich C Says:


    You’ll like the IGo 130 if you pick it up. I packed away my Apple plug, HP plug, Ipod plug, and Motorola plug. Over the past week the IGo is probably one of the most used items in my trailer. All those other plugs really do take space!

    Rich C.

  5. Ed Carp Says:

    Panera Bread is a great place to hang for the afternoon or the day – and their pastries are great!

    As for power, if you go the solar panel route, you’ll still have to buy a charge controller and have enough batteries to run everything for the cloudy days, and solar panels are expensive. I picked up a 3000W generator last night for my 1972 Argosy 26′ travel trailer, and it works great. Most everything I use is 12V, so all I use the generator for is to charge the deep cycle battery and run the A/C, water heater, and microwave, so I usually only have to run the genny for less than an hour at a time. It also fits in the Argosy when I’m traveling, leaving me more room in the SUV.