Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tioga George: The Ultimate Extreme Urban Boondocker

(By Greg) While building my boondocking map, I ran across the incredible blog of Tioga George. I've spent quite a bit of time adding his boondocking sites to my on-line maps. I've added more than 1000 of his sites.

George is an amazing character and is well known in the boondocking community.

In 2003, at the age of around 66, George was diagnosed with a serious cancer (non-Hodgkin’s lymphonia) and was given a poor chance of survival. After extensive treatment, George was in cancer remission. Circumstances in his life led him to have very little in retirement savings, but he vowed to live life to it's fullest and travel the West. He had a limited pile of money saved up, enough to purchase and outfit a 12 year old Fleetwood Tioga C Class RV.

The day he was told he was in remission, he purchased his Tioga and began his 10+ years odyssey of boondocking adventure.

He named his RV MsTioga and had conversations with her. He named many of his key devices and talked with them extensively: his digital camera; computer; refrigerator; levelers; internet satellite dish; GPS navigator; generator. They were his company on the road and they talked back to George giving him lots of excellent advice.

George and MsTioga boondocking on the beach at Aticama, Mexico.
Photo Source:  (Little Mavicito via Tioga George)
Because of his limited monthly income, mostly from social security, he could not afford to stay in fee campgrounds. He would travel the roads of the West and find out-of-the-way places to park free overnight. George calls them "Nite" sites.

He would spend his days at fantastic places where it was typically legal to park during daylight hours and then when dark fell, retire to his Nite sites.

Some of his favorite Nite sites were near tire stores, auto repair places, next to apartment buildings, on riverside beaches, at highway pull-outs, in front of storage places and down quiet forest roads. He became an expert at finding places to park - where no one would bother him, including the police! A majority of his Nite sites are in cities where George could go to restaurants, do his laundry, purchase groceries or buy repair parts.

George had been in a cancer support group and the folks in the group wanted to keep up with George's adventures, so at the beginning of his trek, he started his now famous blog. Eventually a few readers suggested he put ads on his blog and one reader in particular helped him get started making money with posts. George became an extremely popular blogger and his posts were bringing in a relatively decent cash flow to help him continue his wheeled journey, just when his funds and his spirits were getting very low.

George had a huge numbers of readers. He has a very engaging writing style and a very human story. Many credit George with giving them the courage and insight to strike out on their own fulltime RVing adventures.

George would let you know what was going on each day in his life, even if what was going on was not always the greatest thing. He would share the joy of finding a new boondocking spot with incredible views or the troubles when MsTioga's wheels got stuck in beach sand.

George, because of having limited funds, usually traveled only 30 or 40 miles a day in order to keep gas expenses down. He is a guy that doesn't like to stay long in any one place (although towards the end of his RVing career he did slow down quite a bit).

George has suffered great tragedy in his life and he has had great joys in his travels. He shares these all with his readers.

After a few years of traveling in the West and Canada, he decided to explore Baja in Mexico. He actually parked and lived for weeks at a time in the small Gulf of California mining town of Santa Rosalia in Baja and got to know many of the local folks. He learned to be a proficient Spanish speaker.

Later, he explored extensively in mainland Mexico and eventually found a quiet beach town near Puerto Vallarta called Aticama that he loved for long stays in the winter months. He developed many friendship there. In summer months he would head for the small towns in the mountains of central Mexico. Two towns he loved the most there are Tequisquiapan and Guanjuato.

His goal in his travels was to be in "T-Shirt and Shorts" weather all the time. He was very successful at accomplishing this goal.

I have been truly inspired by George's story. Through everything that has been thrown at him over the years, he has always managed to bounce back and regain his balance (literally and figuratively) and his positive attitude.

George himself would admit he is not the easiest guy to get along with. He has worked hard to not be judgmental of other people's choices, actions and attitudes. Being a loner comes naturally to George and this helped him to be very happy traveling solo for so many years. That's not to say George does not have friends, he has many friends. A surprising number of his readers would just show up unannounced at his boondocking site and enjoy George's company for a short period or go out for a meal with George to a nearby restaurant.

Being a male in our American society can be difficult. We are expected to be stoic and self-sufficient every minute. We have trouble being close to others, especially other males and particularly between fathers and sons. I really felt for George when he faced some tremendous challenges and tragedy with his relationships.

In about 2011, traveling in Mexico felt more dangerous for George. He was robbed in his RV twice in rapid succession while boondocking on the streets of large Mexican towns. He changed his boondocking habits and preferred to stay in fee RV parks or pay a hotel for a spot in their parking lot.

Despite any reported dangers in Mexico, George always encourages people to not let fear paralyze them into avoiding traveling to a country he absolutely loves. George loves the people, the food, the low costs and the laid-back accepting attitude of the people who live-and-let-live without interference or suspicion of an unknown RV parked on their street.

Prior to 2011, George felt perfectly safe everywhere he went in Mexico. In fact, he felt safer and more accepted in Mexico than in many American cities. Let's hope that safe feeling returns soon. (Karen and I plan to adventure in Mexico in a few years.)

In 2014, George was driving along an interstate in California when he suffered a serious heart attack and blacked out. He woke up in the crumpled remains of his beloved MsTioga. That was the end of his RV boondocking career. After open heart surgery, George eventually got himself back into travel shape. Meanwhile, he had moved into a small senior apartment in La Mesa near San Diego, California.

Today, George is out exploring again! As I write this, George is adventuring in Guatemala at Lake Atitlan. His current mode of travel is by air. When he arrives in a town, he takes a taxi around to seek out a decent low-cost hotel (with wifi so he can write his posts). Taxi drivers are happy to help him with hotel hunting advice.

At 79, George is still out there enjoying and sharing his travels! He is truly an inspiration to those who desire travel adventures, despite the adversities we all face in life.

George's Blog and Magazine:

Map of George's Boondocking sites:

Full screen version of the above map.

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