CC Capsule: 1965 Ford F-250 With Chinook Camper – Perfect For Boondocking

The big RV with Roadmaster dinghy post set off some pretty strong anti-RV comments. Fair enough, and to each his own. As an avid owner of a 1977 Dodge Chinook  Class B, my opinions are…mine. And the way we use ours may not exactly be the most common. A few basic rules we follow: avoid “campgrounds” like the plague, with crowded state park campgrounds at the top of the list. Who would want to “get away from it all” with a teeming horde in a smoky refugee camp that makes staying home seem peaceful and uncrowded? No, my friends, the key is to get really away from it all, and for that one need the right kind of rig. Like this one, which I very much lust after. Perfect for boondocking:

Now my very abbreviated paean to boondocking may not apply to the Eastern two-thirds of the country so readily, although with a bit of creativity, I know folks who manage aspects of it to some degree or another. Anyway, here’s the thing: you own an almost infinite number of free campgrounds, as a stakeholder debtholder in our nation’s assets: National Forests and BLM land. It’s yours, to camp in as long as you do it with some thought, respect, and consideration of some possible local district regulations. That applies more to NFS than BLM land, which is usually pretty wide open. But generally, if you drive a bit off the beaten path, nobody’s going to bother you, most of all an official, given how thin their ranks are. Anyway, you’re legal, unless there are certain local restrictions.

And if you just have to see those famous sites and National Parks, go in the fall or spring. Last time we were at Yellowstone, there were more bison on the road than cars; it was practically deserted (late October). Cold nights, though.

We’ve gone for weeks without ever paying a campground fee. It’s not so much about the money, as it is about getting really away. We’ve spent night after night in superb locations, right up against rushing rivers, mountain peaks, and swimming holes. Enjoy the dead quiet, or if in the mood, enjoy the Dead without bothering anybody. In a pinch, and if it’s late, just turning into any National Forest road off a highway, and finding a flat pull-off does the job, and beats Wal-Mart. Although in some locations, like on the California Coast, obscure parking lots work fine too. Having the right vehicle helps.

And this ’65 Ford would be perfect. Trailer are pretty much out for boondocking; sometimes you have to turn around on a dead-end road, or one that just won’t do. And a simple, fully amortized and rugged rig is preferred, one that can take a bit of abuse and getting scratched by branches without causing a coronary by having ones’ $100k palace on wheels dinged.

This Chinook slide-in has a bit of historical interest to me, as it’s one of the very first products made by that firm. I might not be wrong, but my guess is that this camper and its truck have been joined at the bed since new. Even their paint jobs match.

If I remember correctly, this Ford sported a V8 emblem on the hood, meaning the 352 FE, a rugged but inefficient beast. My MM version would have the 300 CID big six, with a two-barrel carb added. The 300 has killer torque, and its not like you’re going to spend days trying to keep up with traffic on the freeway. For bopping down two-lane highways, and lugging up little roads and such, the 300 is plenty strong enough, with the right gearing. The really ideal setup for that would be a modern six-speed manual, with a low first, four nicely spaced intermediate gears, and an overdrive top gear.

One of my endless regrets (I lean to that) is not getting an F-250 instead of my F-100, so that I could put a camper on the back. But then the Chinook has a number of advantages, except for the need to maintain another old truck. The endless internal debate…Meanwhile, the real challenge this summer is to find the time to actually go and do it. Probably explains why I’m writing this.