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  1. #1

    Default RV parking (with or without hookups) near AT

    So here's a crazy idea. I want to attempt a thru hike next year. My husband is in full support of this. There are a couple of things which could prevent me doing this. One of the biggest ones is missing my husband. He's been my best friend for nearly 30 years. We also have a goal of converting a school bus for full time living. He can get a job working remotely. The mobile life was theoretically going to be a few years from now. BUT.... if we did the skoolie soon, I could backpack Mon-Fri while he works and then see him Friday, maybe hike some on Sat and Sun but get shuttled by him. We would likely need to tow a vehicle (jeep more than likely) to make our meetups easier. It would be of value for many reasons.

    The big question would be finding places to park, either with or without hookups. (we would like to make it capable of being 100% off grid) I'm thinking he could move it every couple weeks or so as needed as I moved up the trail.

    What do y'all know about places to park a converted school bus "along the AT?" It will legally be an RV. Thanks.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  2. #2

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    People have "RVed" the AT before. Usually one person minds the RV while the other hikes.

    Mostly you need to base out of a developed campground, be it Forest Service, National Park, or commercial. The farther north, the more you'll need commercial campgrounds. You might want to tow a car for the short (and not so short) hops back and forth to the trail. Getting to some of the trail crossings can be difficult if it's not a paved road for larger vehicles.

    There are probably a few AT road crossings where you can park an RV for a day or two, but that would be the exception.
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  3. #3

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    What size school bus (how many feet)?
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
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  4. #4

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    Most campgrounds that have online reservations typically will ask for your rv length. Also, you might be surprised at some of the places that have campgrounds tucked in. Sometimes even cities and counties have them. Most national forests have campgrounds as well as dispersed camping. Dispersed sites are very often accessible by vehicle and will fit smaller RVs. Many times free to boot and nicely situated. State parks and forests are additional options.

    Smaller RVs <25 ft usually fit in most less developed campgrounds. When you reach about 30 feet, you end up in more developed campgrounds. Good for hookups but less privacy.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  5. #5

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    The folks that seem to have done it successfully have a larger RV towing a small car or a smaller RV that is small enough to get up and down the many forest service roads that cross the AT. There usually is Walmart within 20 minutes of the trail everywhere south of VT and they allow free overnight camping in almost all their lots. Many open the doors early in the AM to allow campers to use the rest rooms (no showers). Finding dump stations can be challenge. The new Mercedes 4WD sprinter based campers look to be nice option but the 100K entry fee is not going to line up with your screen name.

    There are plenty of paved road crossings of the AT, they are just far less convenient and not evenly spaced than the many dirt forest service roads. That means you have to fit your weeks hiking into the distance between two paved roads or head down off the ridge a few miles to meet the driver or end up zeroing at a road crossing.

    IMO, realize that the media over romanticizes the converted school bus concept. It appeals to the target audience of younger folks who vicariously want cheap travel and free lifestyle. The reality frequently is that old school buses are sold because they are old, worn out or have corrosion issues. Repairs are not cheap and if you need a tow its usually a $1000 for the tow firm to turn the key. Diesels used to be simple but now they are complex and there are not a lot of service techs in rural areas qualified to work on them. A lot of folks buy RVs, try the lifestyle and realize its not for them and then park them and eventually sell them for far less than they paid. The dealer profits on new RVs are quite high and they depreciate quickly. The quality of the construction is variable, they are frequently designed to look great but not last very long. Servicing the camper aspects can be nightmare and many folks just trade them in when the problems start piling up. Going completely off gird is challenge, not all campgrounds have good wifi and many are shaded. Many of the developed campgrounds in my area with the amenities want long term seasonal campers. They may have few transient spots but they would rather deal with the long term folks.

  6. #6

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    What Peakbagger said.

    I was thinking the same thing about using a school bus. It's not a very good base for a RV, having to remove all the seats, blank out all the windows, rebuilt the inside, add heat and A/C, etc. Plus there is no passenger seat. The amount of money and work you'd need to put into it does not seem worth it.

    A mini school bus might be a short term option. It's basically built on a Ford truck frame. A friend of mine got one which was already partly converted. He uses it to carry his carpentry tools and is set up so he can live in it on a job site. It's small enough to naviagate back roads and fit into trail head parking lots. It would be a bit small for a long term home for a couple though.

    As Peakbagger said, there are a lot of deals on used RV's. "Just get it out of my yard" is a common sentiment.
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  7. #7

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    Check out this app : https://www.parkadvisor.com/apps

    It shows you on a map the rv parks, national forest campgrounds, etc., etc,, etc. in your area of interest. Great planning tool.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    People have "RVed" the AT before. Usually one person minds the RV while the other hikes.

    Mostly you need to base out of a developed campground, be it Forest Service, National Park, or commercial. The farther north, the more you'll need commercial campgrounds. You might want to tow a car for the short (and not so short) hops back and forth to the trail. Getting to some of the trail crossings can be difficult if it's not a paved road for larger vehicles.

    There are probably a few AT road crossings where you can park an RV for a day or two, but that would be the exception.
    We would likely be towing a jeep for road access on those less than stellar roads. Jeeps are "flat towable" which is an added bonus.

    Since our "plan" (which is only in my head right now) would mean he would get me on the weekends only "should" give us more flexibility with parking options as he will need to have internet access (equipped in the RV/skoolie) and while internet equipment for mobile remote workers is "common" now, it can still be difficult in some areas to get good speeds.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    What size school bus (how many feet)?
    not longer than 35 feet. Many of the national parks and most campgrounds won't allow anything longer.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    Most campgrounds that have online reservations typically will ask for your rv length. Also, you might be surprised at some of the places that have campgrounds tucked in. Sometimes even cities and counties have them. Most national forests have campgrounds as well as dispersed camping. Dispersed sites are very often accessible by vehicle and will fit smaller RVs. Many times free to boot and nicely situated. State parks and forests are additional options.

    Smaller RVs <25 ft usually fit in most less developed campgrounds. When you reach about 30 feet, you end up in more developed campgrounds. Good for hookups but less privacy.
    this is why part of the thinking is that we buy a used RV under 25 feet, flexibility of parking spots. The problem with that is eventually we want to get into a bus. So why would we waste money on an RV and not just go to a skoolie? Definitely something to think about. We could do a 25' bus first, temporarily, and then live in it while we build our "permanent" home in a 32'-35' skoolie.

    I was kind of hoping someone would pop up a list of parks (state, national etc) for us who had already done this or simply rv'ed "along the AT" as a way for me to get started.

    I am also curious if there are friendly towns that allow you to either just park on the street for a few nights or in parking lots. There are places where places like Walmart allow you to overnight park. The general etiquette is that you confirm with the manager first and not put out your "lawn furniture" and if you have slide outs, put them out only as much as necessary if at all. We will also look at places that might have 24 hour businesses to park at - Planet Fitness is a good one because we could get a membership and use the showers as well.

    Thanks for your reminders!
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  11. #11

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    @Slo-go'en and @peakbagger and @TexasBob

    Thank you as well.

    The mobile and tiny life isn't a passing fancy for us.

    We live in TX and have access to lots of auctions of buses where we don't have to be as concerned about corrosion issues. (just have to make sure we avoid buses that got flooded!)

    We have met many people who have gone tiny, either mobile or stationary, and have been down sizing for a while. One of our considerations has been our son. He hasn't been ready to launch on his own yet but is actually working on enlisting in the Marines right now.

    As one of you mentioned RV's are expensive, even used ones in good condition. I'm not a fan of RVs. I actually met someone who worked building these and he confirmed what I thought about the "quality" of construction of these things are. If we did buy an RV it would likely be a Class C on the shorter side. But then again, it would only be a temp solution.

    Thanks for the input
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I was thinking the same thing about using a school bus. It's not a very good base for a RV, having to remove all the seats, blank out all the windows, rebuilt the inside, add heat and A/C, etc. Plus there is no passenger seat. The amount of money and work you'd need to put into it does not seem worth it.

    A mini school bus might be a short term option. It's basically built on a Ford truck frame. A friend of mine got one which was already partly converted. He uses it to carry his carpentry tools and is set up so he can live in it on a job site. It's small enough to naviagate back roads and fit into trail head parking lots. It would be a bit small for a long term home for a couple though.
    If one wanted a passenger seat (or even a couple), it should be easy enough to leave the front seat (on one or both sides) installed to provide that, while still leaving a fair amount of space behind for other uses. Probably even to make that space double use and build some kind of table that would fold and fit into the aisle between the seats for use when not moving as an eating area?

  14. #14
    Registered User ScottTrip's Avatar
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    It has been done before. The year before my hike in 2014 a 14 year old girl hiked the AT with her parents meeting her at cross roads and they camped together. She only spent about 5 or 6 nights camping on trail. The year I hiked the AT a couple slack packed the trail and never stayed anywhere but hotels and hostels. Required some logistics but it can be done.

  15. #15

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    The Don's Brother Method: How I Thru-Hiked the Appalachian Trail and Rarely Slept ... https://www.amazon.com/dp/1530473012..._5pAuEb69FAWBR

  16. #16

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    There are lots of examples of great school bus conversions. There are whole families living in these things. (not for me!) We have met a number of families (from 1 to 7 people) living in a skoolie full time. But yes, it can be done and quite elegantly.

    Here's just a couple examples
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYLF1YFDf_Q

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN07qoFqksY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuTxvvijMls
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  17. #17
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    The Blue Ridge Parkway has campgrounds spaced about 50 miles apart. Reservations accepted. Hookups available in some of the campgrounds. The Jeep will handle to & fro duties in places where the AT & Parkway diverge.
    Grayson Highlands State Park has RV camping facilities.
    Oh yeah, we left Texas for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. If your dream comes to fruition, give me a shout. Were close to the Parkway and Grayson Highlands.
    Good luck!
    Wayne
    PS: Friends of ours spend a lot of time on the road in a full housekeeping Dodge van conversion. The definition of Downsizing. Im sure it would tow a Jeep. Just a thought.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    The Blue Ridge Parkway has campgrounds spaced about 50 miles apart. Reservations accepted. Hookups available in some of the campgrounds. The Jeep will handle to & fro duties in places where the AT & Parkway diverge.
    Grayson Highlands State Park has RV camping facilities.
    Oh yeah, we left Texas for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. If your dream comes to fruition, give me a shout. We’re close to the Parkway and Grayson Highlands.
    Good luck!
    Wayne
    PS: Friends of ours spend a lot of time on the road in a full housekeeping Dodge van conversion. The definition of Downsizing. I’m sure it would tow a Jeep. Just a thought.
    Thanks for the info! We will definitely try to remember to let you know if we end up there.

    We looked at van conversions for full time. we just have certain things that we don't want to do without. for me, it's a bathroom with a door that isn't paper thin and the ability to have a separate bedroom with a door. Also, he likes to bike and i do genealogy. He needs space to stretch out and work as do I. Oh, and he's 6'3". I also need a bit of "me time" and after going from travel trailer to truck camper to class A/B/and C to 5th wheel to van conversions we have finally landed on a skoolie as it will give us the space we need, inexpensive to buy, lots of info on how to customize it for full time living. And it gives me the space I need to just have "quiet time." I'm quite the introvert.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  19. #19
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    You might want to be careful on those FSRs.
    ''Tennessee Viking'
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    Former TEHCC (AT) Maintainer
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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee Viking View Post
    You might want to be careful on those FSRs.
    with the bus? We plan on towing a jeep for that purpose.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

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