Reports from the field indicate that the road to the boondocking spot just up from Poncha Springs where I parked in 2015 is no longer pleasantly passable for a rig the size of the Winnie. The road was rough, rutted and potholed when I drove it three years ago, but others more brave than I deemed it “even worse now.”
And Salida East, once a free BLM boondocking spot on the Arkansas River, has recently been leased to Colorado Parks & Wildlife Dept as a part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, now charging $17 a night for little more than a pit toilet ($10 for the site plus $7 vehicle fee.) And that’s for the “basic site.” It’s $25 per night if you choose a “deluxe site,” whatever that is. Apparently, as seems to be happening with a lot of BLM land lately, the area has degraded considerably, so this move was done to “insure visitor’s safety.”
This leaves even fewer boondocking options than ever in the popular Salida area. Good time to try out my new subscription to “Boondockers Welcome.”
Unlike Harvest Hosts, which in most cases involves commercial businesses, Boondockers Welcome is parking on private property, most often in someone’s driveway. From what I understand, it can run the gamut from a simple, safe autonomous place to park for a couple of nights, to hospitality that stops short of a Bed and Breakfast.
The biggest question in my mind is “What’s in it for the hosts?” What are the expectations in exchange for a couple of free nights camping, possibly even with hookups? How to compensate the host for water and electric, if used? The Boondockers Welcome website says hosts are happy with just a good review. But when no business is transacted, (as with AirBnB) what value does a positive review hold for a host?
If there is work to be done on the property, should the guest pitch in? If that is not the guest’s desire, then one needs to be okay with owners working around them while said guest holes up inside reading blogs. 😉
Is it like one of those day charters on the tall ships? You are welcome to do as much line handling as you wish, but feel free to sit back and lounge if that’s not your thing. But in the case of the tall ship cruise, money is transacted, so it’s okay to be a sloth! You paid for it! But not as easy in the case of Boondockers Welcome. Generosity is extended, so generosity should be returned, or so it would seem. It almost feels like it should be like a barter exchange….you park in exchange for….?? Am I a cynic to think there is an “in exchange for…?”
If the motivation for someone to be a host is to spend time getting to know people on the road, then what is the expectation on how much time will be spent together? Is initial greeting and goodbye enough, or is that considered rude? It falls into that whole dance between introverts and extroverts. If you are an introvert, you get what I’m saying completely. If you are an extrovert, you are probably thinking “Why so anti-social?” To the gracious host, is an amended goodbye with “Gosh, we hardly saw you!” considered a blessing or a curse?
Since Boondockers Welcome is involving people to people interaction, I think it would be good to have a profile of sorts for both parties to complete…voluntarily of course. Something along the lines of “Are you an early riser, or do you prefer quiet time in the mornings?” “On the social scale, are you a social butterfly, or do you prefer to slither down the driveway unnoticed?” “Are you more like the Gornicke’s in the movie ‘RV,’ or will they describe you posthumously like they do most serial killers, ‘She was always quiet and kept to herself.” If you fall into the latter category, then Boondockers Welcome might not be the place for you. 😉
My time at “Cabin on the Creek” in Salida was lovely. I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome if I had paid for a room at a nice B&B. I enjoyed trading stories of travel with the interesting hosts and their other guests, and fell asleep to the soft sounds of the creek running nearby. I was even invited to share a meal, for which I contributed a nice bottle of wine. They were more earlier risers than I am, but no hard feelings for the 7:20am knock on the door, and I hope there were no hard feelings at my respectfully declining in my pajamas. LOL! That’s why I am saying knowing one’s preferences up front could prevent either party from feeling awkward.
Will I try Boondockers Welcome again? Possibly. But I confess, I am a bit puzzled by it still. Going in, I thought it was just a place to park. But after my first experience, I see it can be much more if both parties are engaged. But if I am not up to reciprocating with the same level of engagement, will I come across as rude? Or worse yet, allow myself to feel guilt? Where are the boundaries? I suspect they are different with every encounter. That’s why I think a little “Getting to Know You” profile would be helpful.
I think Boondockers Welcome s a great concept, and I applaud the brain trust behind it. I hope my fellow RVers will support it with the $30 per year membership, which can be negated with only one stay. If I still had my house in Atlanta with the long, level driveway, I would certainly be a host as a way to pay it forward to other travelers. But I am a loner, a hermit, an introvert with only an occasional urge to socialize. So although I would have been happy to offer my driveway, I would have likely fallen into the “It’s just parking” category.
Since there is no money transacted but rather hospitality and generosity extended, it is my opinion that understanding the expectations going in, or at least a little more about personalities would make for a more comfortable stay for both parties. Otherwise, it’s a deal that can’t be beat.