Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, sailing, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged. The organization is pretty much by date of publication. Please use the SEARCH option below to find what you are looking for.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Base Camps

Base camps are a semi-permanent base from which to launch your outdoor recreational activities. They should be conveniently located, with good vehicle access. They should provide convenient access to trails, streams, lakes, etc., depending on the type of activities you'll be participating in.  If you're in a group, they need to be large enough to accommodate all participants. When you are desert camping you want your camp to be visible and easy to find when you're returning from activities, such as hiking or riding OHVs. We use flags attached to our RVs to help identify our camp, both for new arrivals and for returning riders. Collections of RVs can all look very much alike from a distance and you don't want to have to ride from cluster to cluster to find yours. One member of our group flies his Shamrocks off-road motorcycle club flag. I created a simple "DESERT RAT" flag to identify our group of unofficial, family-oriented, recreational riders that I mount on a flag pole that attaches to the tongue of my enclosed motorcycle trailer. At night I add flashing strobe lights on the top of my motorcycle trailer so late arriving members of the group can find us more easily in the dark.

You probably won't be setting up a base camp for a single overnight stay, but they are very helpful for weekends or other extended outings.  They are perfect for OHV or horseback riding and are useful for other roaming activities like hiking, hunting, and fishing.  You can set up a base camp from which to explore many trails or other points of interest.  When you return from a long day you'll have a comfortable spot waiting for you where you can rest and relax and refuel both your ride and your body.  Base camp makes a welcome respite from bad weather.

RVs make great base camps for all kinds of outdoor activities but if you don't have an RV, you can build your base camp around your regular vehicle and your tent. If you're on your own you don't need to worry too much about the size or layout of your own dispersed camping site as long as it meets your personal needs. You can choose the spot you like and set it up any way you desire. You will want it to be functional, well-organized, and easy to find when you return from activities. You want it to be fairly compact.  Your layout and location will be pretty much dictated when you stay in developed campgrounds. But if you are in a group, you need to plan ahead a little bit and organize yourselves to best advantage. It doesn't matter whether you're in a designated group site in a commercial campground or staking out your territory in a remote area when boondocking, there are some fundamental guidelines that will make thing work better. When we set up a base camp for our Desert Rat dirt bike outings in the desert we usually use the old wagon train model and "circle the wagons" around a central fire pit. That keeps everyone fairly close together and we can share one fire, which makes for really great camaraderie and conservation of fire wood at the end of the day. I have a home-made Desert Rat flag and flagpole that fits into a pipe mount on the tongue of my motorcycle trailer, which helps guide other members of our group to the camp. We also put out "Desert Rat" signs along the highway and access road. They are usually just cardboard. I splurged and had some nice painted aluminum signs made up a few years ago with big red reflective arrows but the first time I used them about half of them got stolen. They're too expensive to be disposable so now I only use them close to camp and rely on cheap paper and cardboard signs where I can't keep an eye on them. For cheap and easy signs, I just print them out on my computer printer and slip them into the clear pocket of the cover cut from an old 3 ring binder. You can usually get cheap binders at thrift stores. Look for the ones with clear plastic on the covers. Since they aren't totally sealed they still let rain soak the signs, but most of the time they hold up pretty well.  Installing them with the opening down will help protect them a little bit from moisture (rain or dew).  Make sure you secure the paper inside so it doesn't fall out.  Usually the tacks that fasten the sign to the post take care of that anyway.

Location, location, location is the slogan of real estate agents and developers everywhere. It is also applicable to choosing the site for your base camp. You want a spot that is easily accessible, has enough room for you and any companions, and is easy to locate when returning from activities away from camp. We use flags and road signs to guide people to our camp in the desert during the day and flashing strobe lights at night. You will want your base camp in remote areas to be near enough to roads for easy access but far enough away that you aren't bothered by passing traffic, which can create a lot of noise and kick up a lot of dust and may create safety hazards. When using group sites in developed campgrounds, you will have to pay strict attention to the rules or face ejection or possible fines. Take care to know and follow the rules for primitive camping on BLM and forest service lands too. Just because you're out in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean there aren't any rules.

Group camp sites are available in some developed campgrounds. They will usually have  large, centrally located gathering area with a permanent fire pit and sometimes even rustic seating.  Some even have a "bowery", pavilion, or canopy for protection from sun and and precipitation for group activities.  These special facilities usually require a reservation and may have a fee associated with their use.  Lacking a group site, you may have to reserve multiple individual sites.  It will make activities more efficient and convenient if you can get the individual sites close together.  Camp ground managers will usually try to help you get sites that will work well for your group, but prior reservations might prevent them from being able to give you exclusive use to a bunch of adjacent sites.

When group camping in remote, open camping areas, you'll need to pre-select a spot that is adequate for your group.  Pick a spot that is easy to find and to get to, yet off the main roads and not blocking any roads or trails.   One site we often  used in the desert near California City was on a cul-e-sac -- perfect for easy access without blocking any thoroughfares.  The whole area had once been prepared for a housing development that never happened.  Scout out your site well in advance of your outing so you can be sure of access for all vehicles and sufficient space for your group.   In many open camping areas there are sites that have been used before and may already have a rustic, rock fire ring.  Organize your individual camps around that central fire ring.  If you find yourself in an area without an existing fire ring, try to form your camp around an open area where you can build a fire ring and your campfire won't be at risk of spreading and be sure to properly prepare your fire ring (see Campfire Safety).

Spacing. When joining a group always leave room between your rig or tent and others. You and your neighbors will all need room to unload and maneuver your OHVs or other gear and may want a little privacy. But don't leave TOO much space, which may use up real estate others may need. If you prefer not to camp too close to a specific someone in the group, make sure you leave enough room between your rig and theirs for another rig to fit in -- or camp away from the group. How much space you need to leave depends on the type and quantity of equipment and machinery or livestock each camper has.

Organization. Whether you are camping in an RV or a tent, organize your personal space as well as community space in a logical manner. If you have friends in the group that you usually socialize with, you'll want to be near them. Keep your OHVs and related support stuff (tools, spare parts, fuel cans, riding gear, etc) more or less together near your tent or RV and away from the community fire pit, trails, roads, and other campers. If you are camping in a tent, you'll want to set up your camp upon arrival, creating your kitchen and eating area and setting up your tent and preparing your sleeping bags long before you need to use them. I like to park my OHVs inside the "wagon train" circle and chained or cabled and locked for added security. I've never experienced any theft problems in an OHV camp, but it is better to be safe than sorry. OHVs are tempting targets for young people looking for joyrides and are sometimes the targets of vandalism by anti-off-road interests. I did have a dirt bike I left parked in a designated area while we were doing trail maintenance with the forest service vandalized by such people. Later the rangers caught the same vandals tearing down motorcycle trail signs in the same area and they faced stiff fines. The culprits were dumb enough to drive right into a group of 11 rangers and about 200 motorcyclists with the stolen signs still in the back of their pickup truck!  Duh!  The bikers showed amazing restraint in not pummeling the offenders and the rangers gleefully issued them a fist full of tickets.

Community interests. Sharing a common fire pit means sharing your fire wood and sharing room around the fire. We usually make a common wood pile convenient to the fire where everyone contributes what they brought along and anyone at the fire uses what they need throughout the outing. Sharing room around the fire means not hogging the best spots and making room for anyone else who joins the party. You may have to shuffle positions if the wind changes direction. You'll also want to monitor the wind direction so the smoke doesn't blow into someone's RV or tent. Spontaneous pot luck dinners are always fun. You can drum one up just about any evening and turn it into a party. Each Thanksgiving the Desert Rats had the Granddaddy of all pot lucks for our "Turkey In The Dirt" outing. Admittedly, it wasn't spontaneous but well-planned. We dug a pit and baked turkeys in the pit all day and had previously coordinated other dishes to round out a bountiful feast. One year we had 142 RSVPs and 175 people show up! The sing-a-long has been a campfire staple for decades. Acoustic guitars, banjos, tambourines, and harmonicas fit the campfire ambiance and traditional campfire song choices well. If you don't already know many of the folk music classics that are popular for sing-a-longs, take time to learn some. Some other community considerations include respecting each other's privacy, ensuring the community campfire doesn't create problems for anyone, and making sure group activities don't overwhelm non-participants. One of the best ways to do that is make sure everyone is invited to share in group activities. We found that sometimes it worked well to have two campfires: one for the "grownups" and one for the teenagers. The teen fire was within sight of the main campfire so there was adequate supervision but they were able to have their own music and conversations.  I was amused how often the songs around the teen fire were the same ones we enjoyed around the more traditional "old folks" fire.  If you are planning a large group gathering, consider how you will deal with inclement weather.  At one Turkey In the Dirt we managed by setting up our serving lines inside the enclosed motorcycle trailers generously shared by a couple of participants.  Then everyone returned to their own rigs or tents to eat.  Another time one of the guys brought a couple of really big EZ-ups that he used for activities for the motorcycle club he belonged to and we were able to get everyone out of the rain for our pot luck dinner and subsequent activities.  On occasion we have parked two RVs side by side and stretched large tarps between them to create a protected area.  Having some overhead covering is helpful when you need to escape from the hot sun and pretty essential when its raining, unless you like sitting in wet clothes and eating soggy food!

Setting up a base camp isn't as important for day rides, but for longer excursions (including weekend outings) it is essential and it adds to the convenience and comfort of everyone at any outing. You probably won't want to invest the time and effort it takes to set up a complete base camp for simple day rides.  However, wherever you park your RV or other vehicle becomes your default base camp for short outings. A good base camp can also serve as an emergency center if anyone it the group has problems with their equipment or gets sick or injured. I carry a large first aid kit in my motorhome and let my fellow campers know I am certified in first aid, CPR, and as a Red Cross Professional Rescuer and hold a certificate in Advanced Wilderness Life Support. I have helped splint a couple of broken bones for transport to the nearest hospital Emergency Room and have extracted dozens of cactus spines from riders who experienced the prickly plants too intimately. Superficial burns, bug bites, and road rash are common injuries requiring minor first aid treatment. I long ago stopped counting treatments for minor scrapes, cuts, burns, and blisters. They are just a routine part of just about any outing.  Regardless of the kind of outdoor activities you choose, it would always be a good idea to have basic first aid skills and equipment with you when camping. Even simple injuries such as blisters or splinters can seriously dampen your fun and need immediate attention to prevent infection and minimize discomfort and can occur anytime, during just about any activity.

Sanitation. If you're camping in an RV you have your own personal sanitation facilities, but when you are boondocking, your resources (fresh water and holding tank capacity) are limited.  If you are in a campground with sanitation facilities, take advantage of them. I know the pit toilets in some places can be pretty foul, but better to endure a few minutes there now and then than overfill your RV holding tanks and endure the odors for the rest of the trip -- and possibly weeks thereafter!  I've seen sewage overflows that required all the carpet and padding to be removed and replaced before the odors went away.  If there are no facilities and you are tent camping, move well away from camp and dig a small hole to take care of your needs, then cover it up when you're done. The ladies in your family will probably appreciate having a "port-a-potty" instead of having to use the great outdoors but port-a-potty capacities are very limited. If it fills up you will need to carry the holding tank away from camp to a suitable location, dig a hole, and bury the contents if there is no dump station or pit toilet where you can empty it. Disposing of wastes in this way is frowned upon and in most places is down right illegal. The best place to empty a port-a-potti is a dump station.  If you're in an RV, make sure your dump valves are closed and the cap is tightly installed on the dump fitting. You don't want wastes from your RV polluting your camp site or your neighbors'. In some remote desert locations I've seen people connect a garden hose to a special cap on the dump port to carry gray water away. In many places this practice is strictly prohibited, but it may not be harmful to the environment in places like the open desert if it is done correctly and the waste water is carefully directed away from all campers and where it will not be in any road or trail or drain into any waterway. Local plants may thrive on the extra water.

Lighting. Be careful about lighting up a base camp. You don't want to spoil yours or anyone else's night time experience with too much light. Coleman lanterns and the exterior lights on RVs can provide more than adequate light for most activities. Don't use more than is necessary. You'll just be wasting fuel or batteries and perhaps annoying your fellow campers. I have a pair of small strobe lights I put on the top of my trailer to help guide late arrivals in at night. They're bright enough to be seen from the access road but the height and the intermittent flashing doesn't seriously impact campground ambiance. I've seen high-powered LED strobes designed for the top of flagpoles to serve the same purpose, but they're a little pricey. Mine just plugs into a cigarette lighter type 12-volt receptacle. They were designed to mount on the roof of a vehicle using a big suction cup. I modified the original red, amber, and blue covers using theatrical "gels" to create custom colors unique to our group but to be honest, the colors don't really show up as very distinctive from any distance - but the flashing strobes do! They are are real godsend for late arrivals coming in after dark.  These days you can get powerful LED strobes designed for law enforcement and construction vehicles that would be VERY bright.  That would be great for late arrivals, but might impose on your fellow campers.  Might be all right if they are aimed toward the road and away from camp.

Entertainment. The evening campfire is natural place for sharing stories and talents. Bring along your acoustic guitar, banjo, harmonica, tambourine, etc. I've never seem anyone bring brass instruments, but the traditional folk instruments previously mentioned are perennial favorites. Most people enjoy folk music and singalongs. Be prepared to take requests -- and hope you're not asked to play Long Ago and Far Away!  If you do get such a request it is time to turn over the spotlight to someone else.  Very loud music may have its place at Raves, but it is usually inappropriate and unwanted around the campfire, so leave the electric guitars, amplified keyboards, and brass instruments at home. We sometimes even put a folded towel in the back of the banjo to muffle its bright sound a bit.  Sometimes turning the campfire into a big bonfire can be an exciting group activity, but mostly it just wastes wood.  An appropriately sized fire around which people can gather is more intimate and usually more enjoyable.  The fire needs to be just big enough to accommodate all the people in the group who want to sit around the fire. 

Shared treats. Folks in my Desert Rat group each developed their own specialties they would prepare and pass around the campfire or sometimes take them from family to family. Examples include some rather fancy hors d'Ĺ“uvres like stuffed jalapenos, cool drinks, and a warm chili and cream cheese dip with corn chips that was especially welcome on chilly nights. Snow cones were always a hit on hot desert afternoons. And don't forget the S'mores! They are a long-standing campfire tradition. Just plan on having gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate everywhere! I've recently found campfire marshmallows the size of racquet balls! Just imagine the amount of gooey stuff those will produce! If you're not careful you could end up like Brer Rabbit and the tar-baby!

Wind breaks (not to be confused with breaking wind). Sooner or later you're going to encounter a windy day in camp. Sometimes, in wooded locations, the trees provide some respite from the wind. We've camped at desert sites among huge boulders that served as partial wind breaks. Consider the possible need for protection from the wind when you choose and layout your campsite to take advantage of trees and rocks if you can. Lacking any natural sources, you may be able to park your RVs to provide some protection for your campfire and other activities. A couple of large EZ-ups can protect quite a few people from sun, wind, and rain. Using RVs as wind breaks has its limitations. First of all, you'll still get wind beneath the vehicles. Secondly, the gaps between and under them may serve as a venturi where the wind velocity is actually amplified. You may be somewhat protected while sitting or standing directly in the shelter of the RV, but the wind coming through the gap may wreak havoc with your campfire and may generate a rather loud and irritating noise. The venturi affect may actually make the wind worse. And remember to park your RV with the front facing the prevailing winds if you can to minimize rocking while you're inside.  Doing so, of course, reduces the effectiveness of the RV as a wind break, but as mentioned before, the gaps between and under RVs may create even more of a problem than if the wind were unrestricted. It may become a tradeoff between stabilizing your RV versus sheltering your central campfire.  You can buy or make wind guards for your camp stoves and BBQs to minimize the effects of wind on cooking.  I've seen times in the desert where the constant wind make it almost impossible to cook on our little portable BBQ and we had to finish the burgers in a fry pan on the stove in the RV.

Sharing is a strong advantage of group base camps. You can share firewood, companionship, expertise, assistance, food, water, fuel, spare parts, labor, knowledge, and entertainment. "There's strength in numbers" is a popular old saying. Camping in a group may deter potential vandalism and even keep wild animals away. Being able to share experience and expertise enhances just about any outing and sometimes can, quite literally, be life-saving. Whether you're learning from someone with more training or sharing your own skills with less practiced campers, it is a rewarding experience.

Variations. As the kids in our Desert Rat group reached their teen years, they often wanted their own campfire, away from the adults and their "old-fogey" music and stories. We often allowed them to set up their own fire, some distance from the main fire, but where anxious parents could still more or less keep an eye on the activities. I was very amused to often find them singing the same songs we traditionally sang around the "old folk's" fire. Some folk music really does have a universal appeal.

Combined RV/tent base camps. While most people will gravitate towards groups that share their camping styles, other shared interests may bring RV and tent campers together in one base camp. Our dirt biking group included people in big motorhomes, small trailers, truck campers, tents, and some just sleeping in their cars. There should not be any problem accommodating the unique needs of all groups, and, in fact, the synergy can be quite helpful, especially when tent campers can set up on the leeward side of an RV to be protected from the effects of wind and rain. And everyone can benefit from shared firewood and camp labor, experience, and companionship.  A spontaneous pot luck dinner is almost always a hit too.

Base camp rocks!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Setting Up a Toyhauler

The kind of trailer you choose to haul your toys will depend on the type, number, and size of the machines it is going to haul -- and what you have to tow it with -- and how much you want to spend. Any tools, gear, and other equipment you may want to bring along may also figure into the design. The requirements for an appropriate vehicle to transport snowmobiles or jet skis are different than those for motorcycles and ATVs. Motorcyles and ATVs each have their own space demands that will dictate the best trailer configuration. Snowmobiles and jet skis need large, flat areas. Jet skis need trailers that can be backed into the water. That means waterproof lights and wheel bearings. Dirt bikes can be lined up side by side. ATVs can sometimes be stowed for travel with their front wheels raised to reduce their footprint and put more units in a smaller floor space. Although there are many fundamental configurations to choose from, once you have decided on the basic style, there are a lot of adaptations you can make to customize the trailer to meet your specific needs and make it easier, more convenient, and even more fun to use.

The term "toyhauler" usaully refers to trailer with both living quarters like a travel trailer and garage space to haul OHVs or other toys (like golf carts).  However, you might choose an open, flatbed or utility trailer to transport your toys, especially if you already have an RV for living space.  Cost, weight, availability of a tow vehicle with sufficient capacity, and storage considerations may determine what kind of trailer works best for you.  From personal experience I much prefer and enclosed trailer for my dirt bikes, but you might not have the same needs or the budget for or a place to park such a trailer.  Much of what appears below applies mostly to actual toyhauler trailers or enclosed motorcycle trailers but some of the needs might be adapted for other types of vehicles.

Regardless of the type of toys you're hauling or the type of trailer you use, you will want to set up your trailer so it is convenient to use. Of course loading, unloading, and securing your vehicles will be one of the primary concerns. You will need appropriate ramps for loading and unloading and secure tie-down points to keep your cargo safe.  Next will be organizing your personal gear, tools, equipment, and supplies. You will want everything where you can find it when you need it and have it secured so it doesn't end up all in a heap on the floor when you arrive in camp. You also want to take care that you don't "bury" things by placing stuff in front of or on top of it. If you don't remember you have something or can't get to it when you need it, you'd be better off leaving it home and saving the weight and space.  An enclosed trailer or toy-hauler will probably give you room to hang or otherwise store your riding gear where it is safe and convenient to use.  If you're using an open trainer, you will probably want to look into some off-road gear bags to organize your personal protective equipment. 

Commercial toyhaulers or trailers adapted by previous owners may already have many features you will need but you will probably have to do just about everything yourself if you're starting with a new or otherwise unaltered utility trailer.  Even commercial toyhaulers can usually benefit from some custom improvements to fit your particular needs.

Open versus enclosed trailers. Open flatbed trailers or utility trailers are often used to haul dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles. Specialized trailers are need to successfully transport and launch Jet-skis and other personal watercraft. Dirt bikes can also be hauled on flatbed trailers or "rail" trailers. Open trailers are lighter and thus have less impact on the gas mileage of the tow vehicle. They are also generally less expensive.  You can usually use a trunk or box or portable gear bag to transport necessary riding gear, tools, and other equipment.  Enclosed trailers provide protection of equipment, gear, tools, and supplies from weather and theft. They can often be used to store equipment, gear, tools, and supplies at home between trips. The most popular and convenient enclosed trailers are known as "toyhaulers". They often combine garage-like storage for transporting your OHVs with living space so you only need one unit.

I tow my enclosed motorcycle trailer behind my motorhome so I don't need the living space of today's all-in-one toy haulers. I bought a used enclosed motorcycle trailer. It happened to have been custom-built by a mechanical engineer for his own dirt biking needs. One of the features it has that attracted to me to it over a commercial cargo trailer is that is has a 5500# axle. Most single axle cargo trailers have 3500# axles so you have to buy a multi-axle trailer to accommodate more weight. Another asset was its 1" square steel tubing infrastructure and sturdy 2x4 steel channel ladder frame. Not many commercial cargo trailers are built as strong. It already had a toolbox and a counter/workbench built in across the front with a set of cubby-holes above, but that was it. The rest was raw space, not even painted. The "garage" of many toy haulers comes from the factory about as empty as my motorcycle trailer was when I bought it, so you may find some of the tips below applicable to adapting even fancier units to your own personal needs and preferences. Most come with some built-in cabinets and usually some tie-down points. You will probably want to upgrade and customize the storage space and add tie-downs to fit your specific vehicles.

Tie downs are an essential feature for safely hauling just about any kind of OHV.   Even lightweight units like bicycles should be secured to avoid damage during transport.  Tie down systems range from simple eyebolts or "D" rings to fancy adjustable rail systems.  Even if your trailer comes with tie downs you may want to add more where you want them for added convenience or extra security.  I found that I wanted more convenient tie down options in my trailer so I added several eye  bolts that are stronger and easier to get to than the original "D" rings on the floor.  Typical tie down straps use simple locking mechanisms.  Ratchet tie downs like those used to secure loads on pickup trucks can be used but take care not to ratchet them down too tightly or you may damage your suspension.  Ratchet straps can be tightened hard enough to damage vehicle components or pull the tie down points loose.  I like to secure the loose ends to the straps so they don't flap around in any breeze.  That is mostly an artifact from when I carried my dirt bikes in a pickup truck or open trailer, but it also keeps the ends where I can find them easily when I'm ready to unload even in an enclosed trailer where wind isn't a problem and prevents them from loosening from vibration.

I made several other additions to enhance the usability of my enclosed trailer. The original owner had installed very limited lighting -- just a single 12-volt RV ceiling fixture with a built-in switch. I added a second ceiling fixture plus a couple over the workbench -- all with convenient residential style switches near the entry door.. I also added several outside lights to facilitate working on the bikes after dark. I scrounged up a couple of really bright white lights salvaged from an ambulance that really light things up. The only downside I've found is that the bulbs are specialty items, hard to find, and kind of pricey. I wired all my lights through residential style light switches instead of 12-volt toggles for convenience. If space is a problem, 12-volt switches are much smaller, but I like the convenience of residential style switches. The 120-volt, 15-amp rating of the household switches is way more than is needed for simple 12-volt lights, but they work perfectly and will probably never wear out. The outside work light on the rear is set up with two 3-way switches: one inside the man-door up front and a second, waterproof outside switch near the rear ramp door. An ordinary RV porch light illuminates the tongue and hitch. I mounted a hitch receiver vertically on the tongue where I could insert my motorcycle tire changer stand to have a sturdy and convenient place to change tires. Sure beats kneeling in the dirt and gravel! Another addition to the tongue is a bench vice also mounted on a pedestal. It comes in really handy when repairing bent motorcycle and ATV parts.

Electrical power is mostly provided by a 12-volt deep cycle RV battery. I also added several 120-volt outlets and a 12-volt converter to run the lights etc when plugged into to 120-volt power. To keep the battery charged I included an automatic battery charger that runs whenever shore power is supplied. I plug the trailer into a dedicated outdoor outlet on my motorhome in camp so the battery is charging whenever I run the generator. I ran a dedicated 20 amp circuit for the trailer outlet on the motorhome so it could run the roof A/C or the air compressor in the trailer too (not at the same time). A convenient 12-volt control panel on the wall over the workbench can select BATTERY or CITY power for the water pump and lights.

Lighting in and on a toyhauler can be essential to convenience. You need good interior lighting to see tools, spare parts, supplies, and riding gear. You need good exterior lighting to facilitate after dark OHV repairs. I used ordinary RV interior light fixtures but I hooked them up through residential switches in convenient locations. The residential switches are definitely overrated for 12-volt use but I expect they'll last "forever". I even used some 3-way switches so I could turn lights on from either just inside the man door or from the back of the trailer. My trailer is about 12' long. I used two ceiling fixtures for general lighting and added an extra one under the cabinets over the workbench for better work lighting. For the outside I got a couple of really bright 12-volt flood lights off ebay that came from a salvaged ambulance. They are very bright and very durable, but the bulbs have to be special ordered and are very expensive. I used a waterproof outdoor 3-way switch so I don't even have to open a door to turn the work lights on or off. You might want some lights even on an open trailer to facilitate hooking up the trailer, working on your toys, and loading/unloading after dark.  The small investment of time and money in good lighting can easily save you losing expensive gear and equipment if, in the dark, it isn't properly secured.  These kinds of modifications are usually not practical on open trailers but you might find some kinds of lighting useful.

Flooring in a trailer is usually just what it comes with, but there are things you might want to consider to adapt yours for your specific needs.  Because of the dirt and possible fluid spills that are common on OHVs you will probably want a hard surface, gas and oil resistant floor.  However, if you also use your enclosed hauler to change in and out of your riding gear you might want t have a rug or carpet you can roll out for both comfort and cleanliness when changing clothes.  I also like to put some foam anti-fatigue mats in front of my workbench, both for comfort working at the bench and to protect the floor, tools, and parts when something gets dropped.  I also use foam padding on my workbench.  It is kind of unique, and was actually a foam tile kids puzzle with animal cutouts.  I got lots of teasing from my dirty biking buddies when they first saw it, but they changed their tune when they saw how well it worked and how easy it was to clean!

General storage. My trailer came with just one storage area across the front above the counter/work bench. It had no doors, just cubby-holes. After finding the contents of the cubby holes scattered throughout the interior of the trailer after a couple of trips, I fashioned doors from peg-board to keep stuff from falling out in transit. I also added a shelf down each side to accommodate helmets and other gear. Each shelf consists of a 1x12 with a 1x4 lip all around the edges to keep things from sliding off. I had originally planned to use residential closet rod supports to hold the shelves and to put closet rods under the shelves for hanging jerseys, jackets, and pants but the clothing would have hung out into the aisle way too far so I designed short rods made from PVC pipe and fittings running perpendicular to the side of the trailer under the shelf so clothing and gear would hang flat against the wall under the shelf. That gives me about 4' of closet-rod on each side, without anything sticking out into the open space for the bikes. Peg board above the work bench keeps frequently used tools well organized and at the ready. The old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place" is a good rule to follow when setting up your toy hauler. Doing so will make the most efficient use of space and make everything more convenient when you need to use it. I am probably too much of a stickler for putting things back in place, but that way I can find things when I need them, even if it means going back to their regular storage locations many times during a single task.  Storage on open trailers is usually limited to a footlocker or tool box.  It might be attached to the trailer for security or removable to you can store it in the garage between trips.

Custom storage adds a lot of convenience. I made the shelves in my trailer just right to hold helmets and plastic tubs of small accessories. The shelves have a lip around the outside edge to keep things in place.  I used a 1"x12" shelf with 1"x4" edges.   In lieu of standard closet rods beneath the shelves I mounted PVC pipes perpendicular to the walls so gear hangs flat against the walls instead of protruding out into the aisle space. I added a metal rack on one wall on which to hang tie-downs when not in use so they stay clean, untangled, and ready to use. I built gas-can racks into the rear corners just inside the ramp door so they would be easy to get to when being filled at the gas station or when needed in camp to fuel up the bikes. Each rack, one on each side, holds 3 of the square "motocross" gas jugs.  The peg board above the counter can be configured in an endless variety of ways to organize tools and supplies. Having lens cleaner and tissues readily available makes cleaning goggles before each ride a snap.

Spare parts need to be easily accessible and well labeled so you can find them when you need them. I use plastic bins for larger parts, like inner tubes and brake and clutch levers and a set of plastic drawers for fasteners or keep them in their original divided plastic boxes. The main thing is to make it so you can see what you have and get them when you need them.  A set of small plastic drawers organize small nuts and bolts.  I heated the ends of some thin welding rod and pushed into the plastic frame around the drawers so the rods passed in front of the drawers to keep them from sliding open in transit.

Furnaces and air conditioners are often standard or optional features on modern toy haulers. Some older units, or cargo trailers you might purchase to use to haul your toys, may not have a furnace or air conditioner. Since these appliances can be expensive to purchase and install, you might want to explore getting used appliances. That is what I did for my old Smuggler trailer. I was able to buy a furnace out of camper at a Pick-a-Part junkyard for $25. I paid $100 for a working roof A/C from a wrecked motorhome in another junkyard. Keep in mind appliances like these require proper installation for safety and correct operation. If you aren't comfortable tapping into the propane system for the furnace or doing the 120-volt wiring for the A/C, have them installed by a qualified RV technician. Prior to adding the furnace we used a Coleman liquid fuel catalytic tent heater to heat the Smuggler. If you use a tent heater, be sure to leave a couple of windows open a little bit to ensure adequate ventilation to prevent suffocation.  Of course heating and cooling isn't usually needed or practical for open trailers, but you might find a truck tent that fits the bed to provide some protection for gear and tool from the weather in camp.  And, if you choose to sleep in the tent, you might be able to use a catalytic tent heater.  Just remember to maintain adequate ventilation, 'cause even if they don't give off toxic fumes they will consume oxygen.

Gas cans. I built a rack on the floor into the back corners, just inside the rear ramp door to keep the gas cans secure and readily available when needed. It is simply a 2x4 frame mounted to the floor to secure the bottom of the cans. I added an eye bolt on each end and run a tie down through the handles to make sure they don't tip over during violent maneuvers. The location, just inside the rear door, makes it convenient for filling the gas cans and gassing the bikes. BTW, always take your gas cans out of your trailer or truck and set them on the ground to fill them. Leaving them in the vehicle can cause a static electric charge to build up during filling that has been known to ignite the fuel vapors. Such an event would certainly be exciting but not very productive! Other convenient options for fuel transport and storage include gravity fed delivery systems and pumped fuel. If your toy hauler already has a gasoline tank for its generator, you may be able to add a pump and nozzle to make it easier to fuel your toys. Some of the fancier models come with a built in 12-volt gas pump. A gravity fed system consists of a fuel tank mounted near the ceiling or on the roof and a hose and nozzle that can be used to fill fuel tanks. Filling the ceiling or roof mounted tank might require a little bit of acrobatic maneuvers. If your toy hauler has an on board generator, you might be able to use a common gasoline tank for the generator and fuel for your toys.

Boots. Riding boots are bulky and often dirty so I like to keep them in the trailer rather than track dirt into my motorhome. I use spring clamps to hang the boots by the back of the top. This prevents the sag that otherwise sets in when they sit flat on the floor -- and it keeps them in place during transit. It also allows them to dry out faster if they have gotten wet. A rubber boot mat beneath them captures any mud and water that drips off.

Plumbing. Plumbing is not a necessity for an OHV trailer, but I had gotten spoiled by the plumbing facilities in our old Smuggler trailers so I added a sink to the counter/work bench in my motorcycle trailer. I used a fresh water tank salvaged from a wrecked Volkswagen Vanagon camper and a Flo-jet 12-volt RV water pump. I got a bar-style stainless steel sink and the high-arching bar-style faucet. This gives me a place to conveniently fill our Camelbaks before each ride and facilities where we can wash up when we get back or after working on the bikes, saving a lot of mess in the motorhome and a lot of running back and forth. Most commercial toy haulers come with built in plumbing in the living quarters but not in the "garage" area. You may find it convenient to add a sink to the garage area if it doesn't already have one.

Tools and spare parts. Most of the tools fit nicely in the large Kennedy toolbox under the counter, but I added pegboard between the counter and the overhead cabinet to keep frequently used tools readily available. Spare parts are organized into to plastic bins in the cubby holes and on the side shelves. I like to use translucent tubs so I can at least partially see what is inside. If that isn't sufficient you can always label the tubs using a Magic Marker or Dynamo or adhesive labels.

Luxury additions. Because we do a lot of dirt biking in hot desert climates, I picked up an RV roof air conditioner from a junk yard and installed it on the trailer so we could have a comfortable place to change in and out of our riding gear. In a pinch, we could use the open space as an additional sleeping area. The trailer has to be plugged into the motorhome and the motorhome generator running to use the air conditioner. Most factory built toyhaulers will either come with an air conditioner or already be wired so you can add one easily. I also added an air compressor for inflating tires and running air tools. Actually I have two air compressors. One is a 120-volt "pancake" compressor. The other is a heavy-duty 12-volt unit. This is not one of the little things that plug into a cigarette lighter with a motor slightly larger than a Tootsie Roll, but has a Delco motor the size of an automobile starter that I found on ebay. Just having an inexpensive plug-in type compressor could save you a lot of effort inflating tires, but it will take longer, won't run power tools, and it probably won't last very long if it gets much use. For convenience I ran outside air lines to both rear corners of the trailer and to the tongue so I could attach an air hose wherever I needed it. A 120-volt bench grinder is another upgrade to workbench. I also rounded up a manual, crank operated grinder to use when I don't have 120-volt power. A lot of this may be overkill, but it provides a lot of comfort and convenience and capability to handle field maintenance as needed to keep our toys running on extended outings. When I put this together I was supporting 8 bikes (mine and my wifes' and six kids' off road motorcycles). With that many machines there were always plenty of field repairs and routine maintenance to be done. I also become the "go to guy" when my riding buddies needed mechanical assistance, tools, or parts in the desert. A boot and glove dryer might be a nice addition if you ride often in wet or snowy conditions.   For now I just use large spring clamps to secure the top rear of riding boots to a panel so they can hang free to drip dry and don't bend over in storage.

Toy haulers typically include standard travel trailer living features such as a bathroom, bed, and galley along with the "garage" for the toys. Often the garage is configured so it can be used as living space once the vehicles have been removed. That might include fold-down bench seats along the sides or a drop down bed for additional sleeping capacity. You will want to maximize the convenience of your living space by carefully choosing and organizing your on-board equipment and supplies. Then customize your garage to organize your gear, tools, and supplies to your liking. Having a rug or carpet to roll out over the hard "garage" floor will make the area more comfortable and inviting as living space.

Basic trailers. If you don't need the living space of modern toy hauler you can start with just about any sturdy cargo trailer. An open, landscape trailer will haul your toys but you might want an enclosed trailer to house your tools, riding gear, spare parts, and other equipment. If you are concerned about weight, an open trailer will be lighter. You might use an old Army footlocker for your gear.  An enclosed trailer gives you more protection for your machines, your tools, your gear, and your self if you have to do any repairs in camp. You might be able to convert an old travel trailer, but your options will be limited by the floor plan of the trailer. Check the axle rating to be sure it can handle the load you'll be putting on it. Also check the Combined Vehicle Weight Rating, hitch weight, and towing capacity of your tow vehicle. Include the weight of the trailer itself, tools, spare parts, riding gear, fuel, water, and your OHVs to avoid over-loading. Over-loading will create handling problems and excessive tire and brake wear which could result in an accident or blowout. You many want to haul firewood, camp stoves, etc in your trailer. Just be sure to include the weight of everything you put on board so you don't exceed the rated weight capacity. You will also want to stay within the weight limits for your tow vehicle. Be sure to keep any eye on the tires to make sure they are properly inflated and you haven't overloaded them. Check tire temperature whenever you stop. Tires WILL get hot on warm days, but if any tire is noticeably hotter than the others or if any tires are too hot to touch, you are probably overloaded or the tire is under-inflated and in danger of having a blowout.

Organizing your stuff. If you already know enough about what you'll be hauling and where you want to put it to be ready to use you might be able to design your storage compartments accordingly. My solution was to use plastic tubs on the shelves and in the cubby holes to store extra gloves, goggles, spare parts and other small items. On the shelves I stack the tubs two deep. The bottom one is held in place by the 1x4 lip on the shelves. The top one nestles into the lid of the bottom one and I put a big car wash sponge between the top and the ceiling to hold it down. This method has held the tubs in place in all but the most violent of maneuvers or roughest of roads. As you plan and use your storage, keep in mind you are likely to be driving on rough roads or even off-road. You will open up your trailer and find a huge scrambled pile of stuff if you don't secure it properly. If that happens you're going to lose a lot of valuable riding time cleaning up the mess and may have to write off and toss out damaged goods. Things like spare goggle lenses don't fare well when they are mashed onto the floor by other stuff that falls on top of them. Spilled fluids make a real mess and can ruin other gear if it also falls down. The recovery will certainly cost more time and money than organizing things right in the first place.

Suggested spare parts and supplies. I soon learned, the hard way, that going riding in the desert required some extra preparation. On our first outing I didn't even have extra spark plugs for our 2-stroke bikes. Anyone who has ridden two-strokes knows what a mistake that was! Now, in addition to spare spark plugs for every bike, I carry spare brake and clutch levers, master-links for the drive chains, and sometimes spare shift levers along with a wide assortment of metric bolts, nuts and washers. I started out with a box of spare scrap fasteners obtained from my local motorcycle shop but more recently I have added bolt kits that are specific to each bike. It is really nice to have the right fastener when something gets lost off one of the bikes. An assortment of inner tubes to cover all the tires on your rides is also a good thing to have on hand. I also carry a tire repair kit that includes regular adhesive patches, hot vulcanizing patches, and tire plugs. The supplies you need will depend upon the needs for your bikes. Some typical items that are helpful for almost all OHV situations include lens cleaner and WD-40. If you have 2-stroke engines you'll want to carry extra 2-stroke oil. You will also want engine and transmission oil for all your rides and appropriate coolant for water-cooled engines. Check the requirements for your particular machine as there are at least three different types of coolant and generally they should not be mixed with each other. Anti-fog preparations for your goggles are needed if you are riding in cold or wet weather. Over the years I've found it useful to carry extra goggles and gloves as they have a tendency to get damaged or lost. They are also handy for guests.

Customization is the key to making your trailer work for you. There is no reason you need to do what I did, unless you want to. I did what I did after years of experimentation with other trailers and checking out what other riders had done. Your needs and preferences may be very different from mine. I found places in the exposed overhead supports to store signs and camp chairs and added a rack to hold tie downs when they weren't in use. I added a strip of indoor/outdoor carpeting on the wall where the tie-downs hang so they don't make unsightly marks on the wall and to keep them from banging around too much in transit. I added sturdy eye bolts where I could tie down the bikes, along with flip-up D- rings in the floor. I also found a couple of chock devices that fold flat into the floor but when opened provide a slot and chock to hold the front wheels of my dirt bikes. I carry a rug I can roll out once the bikes are removed so I have a warm, comfortable floor to stand on when changing in and out of my riding gear. The original floor was just plywood, that at first I painted with a garage floor paint. Eventually I covered it with black and white checkered vinyl tile, but the rug is still a welcome addition, especially on cooler days when the floor is cold to stand on. The tile floor is easy to clean. I have a couple of old fashioned folding aluminum camp chairs that store neatly out of the way in the overhead space between the trailer frame and the roof. They make very comfortable places to sit when fastening boots etc.

Inventory control. One of the secrets to having a useful unit is appropriate inventory control. This includes replacing spare parts and cleaning supplies as you use them up and keeping track of what you use and what you don't use so you can eliminate unnecessary items and make room for other things you need. You also need to organize things so you can find them quickly. I use a checklist to keep track of expendable things like lubricants, spare parts, and cleaning supplies. You'll also want to manage your gear. It is easy to accumulate and haul around more than you need, so once in a while, go through everything and sort it out. It is also easy to forget to put it back after a ride. Make sure you have appropriate gear for the weather you'll be riding in and leave inappropriate stuff at home. It will reduce your travel weight and make it easier to locate the things you need. Given the rather unpredictable nature of the weather, you may want to always keep some rain gear and warmer jackets on board, even in the sunshine months, but you probably won't need Windchill jerseys, long johns and parkas all the time -- though for winter months you will want to always have them handy.

Routine housekeeping. Let's face it, housekeeping is not one of our favorite activities. But it is necessary if we're going to keep our vehicles, gear, equipment, and toys in good condition. Excessive dirt or other spills on the floors will damage the surface and sometimes will create a slip/fall hazard. Tools left out or put away dirty lead to potential loss and deterioration. Dirty tools can be hazardous as well as unpleasant to use. They may slip, damaging the fastener and most likely your hands. Cleaning supplies and lubricants often end up with residue on the cans and bottles that make them sticky or slippery and can leave stains on shelves and cabinets if they aren't kept clean. A little effort invested in keeping things clean and well organized will pay big dividends in the convenience and pleasure of working in a clean environment with readily accessible tools and supplies. With that in mind, include convenient paper towel racks and/or hooks to hang shop rags and a handy waste basket for soiled paper towels and other trash.

Loose ends make things messy and make getting packed up to go home more difficult and time consuming at the end of your outing. Make sure you have a convenient designated place for everything. Hang up your tie downs neatly when you remove them from your OHV. Keep pairs together. Doing so doesn't make you a neatness freak, it just makes you organized and means you've got your stuff together and it will be readily accessible when you need it next. Having "a place for everything" also helps you keep track of tools and supplies so they don't get lost or left behind. An empty spot on a socket rail is a sure sign you need to check your work area one more time.

Anchor points for bungee cords are helpful to tie down items and keep them from migrating all over your RV on the road.  If you have a pegboard rack, you can use pegboard fittings.   In other places you might use ordinary cup hooks.  What I like best for bungee cords are eye straps used as guides for ropes on sail boats.  They are usually made of stainless steel to they are rust and weather resistant and are more secure and easier to use than cup hooks but are kind of pricey.  A distinct advantage to eye straps or rope guides over cup hooks is are pretty smooth and don't have an open end for things to get caught on.  Here is one source where can get them so you know what to look for:  sample rope guide.  They can be fastened on with two grabber screws so they hold better than cup hooks.  You'll probably have to go to a marine store to buy them or order them on line.  You can get them in black plastic or bright stainless steel.

Designing, building, and then using the custom features of your trailer can be a lot of fun and add a lot of convenience to your OHV outings. You'll be surprised how much easier (and even fun) repairs can be when you have the right tools in the right place at the right time. Almost any task can almost be fun when you have the right tools. Conversely, even the simplest task can be a pain in the neck (or a couple of feet lower!) if you DON'T have the right tools. And having the right tools means knowing where they are and having them where you can get them when you need them. If you can't find them or can't get to them, you'd be better off leaving them at home and saving the weight.

Commercial race trailer accessories can enhance the appearance and convenience of just about any OHV trailer. However, they tend to be a little pricey. In many cases they may be worth it. If nothing else, looking over the options may give you some ideas about how to better organize your own trailer. In some cases you may be able to design your own versions that are less costly and fit your exact needs even better than the ready-made products. In other cases, you'll need to come up with your own, personalized solutions.

External modifications. Some of the adaptations I've found useful include adding a bench vise and a place to mount my motorcycle tire changer and a flag pole holder to the trailer tongue. I added a waterproof 12-volt receptacle outside so I can plug in my portable strobe lights to help guide late arrivals to camp at night or to use other 12-volt accessories outside. I added bright 12-volt flood lights on the rear and side of the trailer to aid in after dark bike repairs. An awning on the curb side provides protection to park the bikes under between rides and extra "patio" space if needed. I also roll out a lawn-like artificial grass mat to reduce tracking dirt into the trailer. It also helps keep tools and small parts from getting lost in the dirt when working on the bikes. I ran pipes and connectors from the air compressor to all four corners of the trailer so I could hook up air hoses as needed to inflate tires or clean parts. I also have a strobe light on the top to help guide late comers to camp after dark.

Suspension upgrades. You may be able to increase ground clearance or load capacity of your toy hauler to better suit your needs. I "flipped the axle" on one of my Smuggler trailers to gain ground clearance and bring the tongue up so it was level with the hitch on my motorhome for improved handling. Flipping the axle really consists of changing the mounting of the springs. The original springs were slung under the axle. I purchased longer U-bolts and relocated the springs so they sat on top of the axle. You won't want to try this if your trailer is already top heavy or rides high. I chose to make this change at the same time I had to replace a broken spring and upgraded the springs with 4500# capacity springs. Note: just upgrading the springs alone will not increase the weight rating since spindles, wheels, tires, and brakes would also have to be upgraded for safety. I think my Smuggler had been originally designed to look as much like a standard travel trailer as possible, with a low profile and ground clearance that was better suited to paved roads and commercial campgrounds than the dirt roads and primitive camp sites associated with the off highway vehicle activities I used it for. Several of my riding buddies had made or have since made similar successful modifications to their motorcycle trailers. Most modern toy haulers usually already have sufficient ground clearance. Most trailers don't have shock absorbers but adding them can increase stability and reduce the bouncing that shifts contents around inside. You'll probably need a competent welder to install the mounting brackets.

Cosmetic considerations.  The most important aspect of a utility trailer for hauling your toys is that it provides the utility you need, but many users like to customize their trailers to make them enhance their appearance. Painting or applying vinyl stripes to match the motorhome that tows the trailer fairly popular and makes the combination makes an attractive package.  Professional racers often add graphics or even a complete vehicle "wrap" to promote their team or sponsor.  Vinyl decals and murals are available in various sizes and motifs to represent or satisfy your personal tastes.  If you choose to match your trailer to your motorhome you may be able to purchase over the counter spray paint that closely matches the color scheme on your coach and there are many different colors and sizes of vinyl striping tape, usually allowing you to get a pretty good match.  If your motorhome has fancy swirled graphics you may be able to purchase the same pattern to apply to your trailer.  If you are simply matching horizontal stripes like those on many older rigs, begin by thoroughly cleaning the trailer walls, then measure the positioning of the stripes on your motorhome and using a pencil and a straight-edge, mark the location of the stripes on the trailer.  You need only make one line for installing vinyl striping tape but you'll need to mark both edges for painted stripes.  You will need a good quality masking tape (use the blue or green painters' tape, not ordinary tan masking tape).  Use the tape to define a clean line for the stripe and to secure newspaper to protect adjacent surfaces from over spray.   Remove the masking before the paint dries completely to get sharp edges and avoid pulling off part the paint along with the tape.  You can usually paint stripes up to about a foot wide with a spray can and get good results.  Larger areas may need a more professional approach using a spray gun in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.  It is best to remove attachments such as emlblems and the latches for holding your door open before painting rather than painting over them.  It will give you a more professional looking result.  It is also a good chance to clean up or repaint any rusty pieces.  I like to use a "chome" metallic paint to refinish rusty or tarnished latches and trim pieces while I have them off.  And don't forget to paint the screw heads to they'll match.  Twist the screws into a piece of corrugated cardboard and spray them all at once.  With a little creative effort and a bit of work you can have a toy hauler that closely matches your motorhome.

Make it YOURS!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RVers and OHVers are True Environmentalists

RVers and OHVers are true environmentalists. You've got to be kidding! At least that is what a lot of our critics will say and I'm sure I will take a lot of heat from some people for even suggesting the idea. Many self-styled "environmental" groups strongly oppose any type of RV or OHV activity and often frown on ANY kind of human presence in wilderness areas.  "Environmentalists" tend to believe theirs is the only valid position on the use (or more acurately, non-use) of public lands.  The famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Sierra Club in California had a written manifesto in the late 1900s calling for the TOTAL elimination of ALL off road activity by the year 2000.   Fortunately, they did not succeed but they did manage to alienate their own Explorer 4WD group.  They depict OHV folks as criminals, insensitive to the environment, seeking only to defile it.  In reality, most of the people I've met while RVing and OHVing are very much concerned with the environment and strive to take good care of it. Virtually every group I've ridden dirt bikes with for nearly 40 years makes sure they leave a camp site cleaner than it was when they arrived and strives diligently to comply with local rules and regulations. We are off-road USERS, not off-road ABUSERS. Admittedly and unfortunately there are abusers out there, just as there are those among the general public who abuse alcohol and their on-road driving privileges. Our group once observed a rider showing off and doing donuts in the middle of the main street of one of the small towns we sometimes visited on our dirt bikes.  The offender got away before we could counsel him, but one of my buddies did approach the riders he had arrived with and warned them if he kept it up he'd end up with a shovel handle in his spokes one of these days.  The other riders quickly disavowed any association with the offender and agreed that some kind of disciplinary action was needed.  People like that can spoil things for everyone else.   Most RVers and OHVers have a real appreciation of and love for our natural resources. They're actually out there enjoying them, not sitting behind some desk 500 miles away filing frivolous lawsuits like many of our opponents. Yes, I admit I am a bit cynical about arm-chair environmentalists. When I lived in southern California we had a 100-year old road closed in a popular OHV area by legal action from a group in Arizona who had never even seen the location. The road should have been protected by federal law under RS 2477, which protects existing right of ways on public lands. But that didn't stop the self-styled do-gooders and their liberal judge from issuing an injunction against the Bureau of Land Management who had legitimately designated the road as open to off highway vehicles.  The road had been a popular off-road route for more than 40 years and in existence for mining and ranching activities for more than 100 years!  The closure was not based on any actual (or even imagined) concern about erosion, noise, traffic, or threat to wildlife. It was purely a paper and political attack based on a alleged minor procedural error by the BLM, inflicted by people who had never visited the area and had no legitimate business challenging the BLM ruling in another state. It was clearly an issue of pure harassment and an unabashed attack on the OHV lifestyle. To add insult to injury, the filers of these environmental lawsuits have their legal costs reimbursed by the Federal government so our own taxes are being used to sue us! Yet off-road organizations and even government agencies are prevented by law from recouping costs of defending against these frivolous suits. Seems more than a bit one-sided to me since I'm on the OHV side of the battle!  Here in Utah there is a vocal environmental group whose CEO lives in Switzerland and has never been to Utah.  More than half the members of their board of directors are convicted felons.  Can you blame me for being very skeptical of their alleged concerns for the environment in Utah?  On the other hand, my associates in the OHV community are all upstanding local residents who are frequently actively engaged in service projects to clean and maintain BLM and Forest Services facilities, not all of which are open to OHVs.

Speaking of service projects. Many RV and OHV groups sponsor service projects to perform cleanup and maintenance of camp sites and trail systems. The Good Sam Club, the oldest and largest RV club in the world, sponsors may service projects every year.   In 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013 I had the privilege of coordinating a clean-up day for the Utah Trail Machine Association at File Mile Pass, a popular OHV area about 20 miles west of Lehi, Utah. Our volunteers (about 100 each year) scoured acres and acres of BLM land, picking up trash -- including discarded appliances and automobile chassis, overfilling a big dumpster. The mantra of the UTMA, the oldest and largest dirt bike association in Utah, is "Conservation, Courtesy, and Safety". Very little of the trash collected came from RV or OHV use of the area. Most was household waste illegally dumped by residents of nearby communities: sofas, TVs, plumbing fixtures, refrigerators, automobile engines, transmissions, and entire cars. I've worked on similar projects in the BLM managed lands in the Mojave Desert and on trail maintenance projects with the U.S. Forest Service in the Sequoia National Forest. In every case I found all volunteers very appreciative of and eager to protect and preserve natural resources. In one case, we spent days rerouting an OHV trail to skirt around a designated equestrian campsite.  And in each and every case, very little of the trash collected could be attributed to RV or OHV use. One of my California OHV service projects included members of a student environmental group from a nearby college so I KNOW environmentalists and OHV activists can work together, but most of our invitations to environmental groups to participate in service projects have been flatly ignored. I guess they're too busy filing their next frivolous law suit. They'd rather lock up an area and throw away the key than help take care of it for legitimate recreational use. It never ceases to amaze me how self-styled environmentalists will twist or ignore facts to achieve their goals. When an OHV dealer here in Utah proposed using remote land recently purchased by the city to create an OHV park for residents, he was met by strong opposition claiming dirt bikers were responsible for huge amounts of household trash, such as couches and appliances, that had been dumped on the property. I can honestly say I've NEVER seen anyone carrying couch, a TV, a toilet, or a kitchen appliance on a dirt bike or ATV but there are sure a lot of them cluttering up our designated riding areas!  Many times I've talked with both land mangers and organizers of service projects and in virtually every case, the huge amounts of trash collected was due to illegal dumping, NOT to OHV users.

Off roaders often get a bad rap in movies, on TV, and in the media in general. It is somehow "OK" to bash them in ways that would invite large scale protests if other non-mainstream groups were equally "profiled" while totally ignoring reality. They are typically portrayed as mean, nasty, lawless creatures with no regard for anyone or anything but their own perverse pleasure. If a movie wants to portray an individual or group as bad, they often put them on dirt bikes.  I must admit that, due largely to misrepresentation in the "lame stream media", even I had a distorted and untrusting view of off-roaders when I first started riding, but that changed quickly. During one of our first outings I was watching from a hill top as my boys rode in a "playground" below. My younger son (about 8 years old at the time)  accidentally rode off into a gulley as deep as his bike. At least a half-dozen other riders -- all strangers -- were there to help him before I could reach him from only a short distance away. Our Desert Rat group included people from a variety of walks of life:  a banker, a chiropractor, a nurse, an IT executive, and a whole bunch of rocket scientists -- really:  they were guys who built things like the space shuttle, the B-2 stealth bomber,  and the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.  Another riding buddy is a high level manager at NASA.  All law-abiding, respected citizens and all a far cry from the stereotypical outlaw dirt bikers the media are so fond of portraying.

Off-road activities are a great source of family recreation, a fact that is largely ignored by the media as they label and depict off-roaders as loners, renegades, and outlaws. In reality, you'll find a lot of families riding ATVs and dirt bikes.  A few years ago the BLM fought vigorously and rather futilely to combat depiction of riding areas in the Mojave Desert as having huge tracts being devastated by off-roaders. The photos, which were published and re-published over and over by local media, were presented as representative of large scale damage when in fact the photos were only applicable to less than 1% of the riding areas and were restricted to areas where environmentalist sponsored closures had concentrated heavy activity unnaturally into small areas near legal staging areas -- a fact the BLM sought diligently but in vain to get the media to report. In another area we had over 600 miles of dirt bike trails in the Sequoia National Forest for more than 40 years without any environmental problems. Then a large portion of the trails were closed by a new wilderness designation. The very first year it was wilderness, a card-carrying Sierra Club member (the organization that had campaigned hard for the wilderness designation) burning her toilet paper (why the heck was she doing that?), set the place on fire and burned 55,000 of brand their new wilderness acres to a crisp. Over the next 15 years or so, backpackers set it on fire at least 4 more times while we were camping and legally riding in the vicinity still open to us. On several occasions the rangers came to our dirt bike camp and asked us to ride our OHVs up into their precious wilderness and help rescue hikers from the fires. We never turned them down.  Despite our differences, we value all human life, a sentiment not necessarily shared by environmental groups who overtly sabotage OHV trails and spike trees, often maiming or killing people!  A second casualty to the wilderness designation was the pristine condition of hundreds of miles of single track trails that soon became whooped out and widened into double-tracks the size of fire roads due to forced two-way traffic resulting from the wilderness designation deliberately cutting off trail loops and forcing riders to back track. Wise resource management, not indiscriminate wholesale closure is the key to protecting the environment. I greatly admired the local U S Forest Rangers in Sequoia who petitioned for an allocation of California's "Green Sticker" money (from OHV license fees) to build new connecting trails to re-establish some of the loops lost to the new wilderness area.  If you looked at a map of the wilderness area you would see perfectly straight borders that took unexpected detours in order to cut off looping trails in an attempt to discourage use.

Most OHV riders I know readily admit there are certain areas that deserve wilderness status and that those who prefer hiking, backpacking or horseback riding are entitled to quiet trails that are free from motorized traffic. I have yet to meet anyone of the anti-OHV groups who is willing to acknowledge that OHV enthusiasts have any rights at all. Most irrationally seek a total ban of OHV access to public lands. As mentioned before, the "Sierra Club" of California had a written mandate demanding the elimination of ALL off-road activity by the year 2000 and caused their own 4-wheel drive division to separate themselves from the Sierra Club.  BTW, a wilderness designation even prohibits wheel chair access, a likely conflict with federal ADA laws.

Since 1976, the BLM has been charged under Federal Law with managing lands for multiple-use public access and for the most part they strive diligently to live up to their responsibilities. However, self-style environmental groups and power-hungry politicians continually seek ways to force their own selfish goals on everyone else. Strong opposition from Congress in 2011 thwarted a "Wild Lands" mandate from Interior Secretary Salazar that sought to designate million of acres of public land as defacto wilderness without the Congressional approval required by law. Even today the current Obama Administration is threatening to designate new protected areas without Congressional review or approval and without input from the people who live there. Imagine the uproar that would erupt if someone attempted to designate OHV areas in a similar way!

Go Green! (Maybe that's why my family favors Kawasaki dirt bikes!)