Best places to visit >> Washington DC info

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MichaelB

date

November 24, 2015


QUESTION

Enjoyed your website. Noticed in your destinations list you’ve done Washington DC. I have a quite old ‘camper-conversion’ conversion van (hi-top E-150, 279k miles!, fitted as rough camper) and I live 20 miles west of Washington DC, so if you wish to visit in stealth camper/RV again, I could help with information.
The easiest way is likely paying for using the Cherry Hill RV campground. I’ve never used it (I live here…) but it has good ratings and a good location that allows usage of the public transportation network, thru a Metro bus stop right at the campground, and that takes you to a Metro train station (Cherry Hill, or Greenbelt on Sundays) that can get you to most of the attractions in DC without pulling up camp or needing to look for parking. One of the major attractions not so easy (might be easier to drive there) is Mount Vernon.
If you are cheap like me, then you might select to do urban stealth camping. I’ve ferreted out legal street parking (good for max of 10 days between moves) at a couple Metro train stations near my hometown.
For Dunn Loring Station on the Orange Line: park at Hilltop Road (you’ll see several trailers and trucks there), 7 minute bus ride (every 60 min) or 1.3 mile, 22 minute walk to Metro Station.
For Greensboro Station on the new Silver Line: park at Boone Ave near Bed Bath and Beyond (again, you’ll likely see some work trucks there). 7 minute walk to Greensboro
Station.
As usual for urban stealth camping, you’ll want to ‘only discretely sleep and park’ at your nighttime parking spot. If you plan to hang out at your vehicle, or cook a meal there, you’d be advised to drive a short distance to a park for such. For the Boone Ave – Greensboro location, a likely small park is Freedom Hill Park, a few minutes drive away. Likewise, for Dunn Loring Metro – Hilltop Road location, the Dunn Loring Park only a few minutes away has parking and first-come first-served picnic areas.

I’ve been surfing European style cargo van (Sprinter, NV, Promaster, Transit) stealth camper-RV sites for ideas, as I am within a couple years of 2nd retirement and might select to sell off my beater van and start anew with a high top Euro van self-conversion (sort of minimalist, with gravity water, compost toilet, 2nd battery, fold down beds to enable motorcycle transport sort of job), a bit more expensive and more comfortable version of what I use now (which cost me total <$2000). I’ve also been searching for the sort of information shown above for Washington DC, except for New York City. I have one likely site, on Staten Island and then taking the Staten Island (free) ferry to Manhattan, but it’s a bit of a long tourist-commute, and I’d like to find something right on Long Island transit system to cut the commute time in half.
Regards, Mike.

ANSWER

Dear Michael B:
Thanks for visiting CargoVanConversion.com and giving your detailed information on Washington DC. I appreciate your info; the times that I visited the area, I often stayed at Bull Run Regional Park. Fairly close and with a reasonable connection to the city, but rural enough and with quiet campsites. Those times have always been in a regular travel trailer, so with a future van, I may go the stealth way.
As you may have read, I started converting my current cargo van, but recently decided to buy a new van, which may happen any time now. I do want to go the same way as you plan to, especially with a little more comfort.
You can follow that on the website or I can send you my newsletter. I would also like to include your info as a comment on the page in question as it may help my readers. Hope to hear from you soon!
Van Williams

ANSWER

Yes, I know Bull Run and it’s also very good, more rural and further out for DC urban touristing, but would work well with a trailer you could detach and then drive the tow vehicle into DC, or to the end of the Orange (Vienna) or Silver (Reston) Metro lines and take the metro train into DC.
You are welcome to provide my info on your page, just make sure my name doesn’t appear (you can use “Mike” but not last name or email, please).
My NYC researches are coming up with some possibilities for stealth or regular camping, but not nearly as good for New York City as for Washington DC!
Mike

ANSWER

Dear Michael B:
I just posted your info on the website and you can have a look at it here:
cargovanconversion.com/destinations.
Unfortunately, I have little experience in the New York area, mostly due to the fact that I always try to avoid big cities (one notable exception is Washington DC); it is however a desirable location.
Van Williams

ANSWER

Van (if that that’s your name, or a moniker…),
I thought I’d give you my take on your unresolved issues, since I’m in a similar state to you (have a beater self-converted van, planning for a future European style van conversion).
Heater propane. For my current van….I have a Mr. Buddy propane heater that I would ship and use only during day, awake in very cold weather. I have a trucker’s DC electric heater pad that I use for sleeping in cold weather, off the leisure battery. For future van, I’d keep the heater pad (and have a 2nd), and I also haven’t resolved the interior heat….considered just a long-burning candle-lantern to take off the edge of cold, or a propane heater as you propose, or an alcohol heater (small boats use them).
Toilet shower. For my current van….I have a choice of portipotti or a bucket toilet…..I keep the bucket toilet in the van as it’s lighter weight and dual use. I have ‘Double Doodie’ coagulant bags, and it’s meant just for emergencies. For shower, I have a sun-shower and shower pop up tent….only good for rural or beach areas, not for urban. For future van, I plan on wet toilet shower as you have pictured, in the size range of 2×3 to 2.5 x 4 feet…I tend towards the larger. Probably a Coleman Hot Water on Demand sort of system for hot water without a lot of plumbing. Probably with Nature’s Head composting toilet eventually, but with one of my current toilets interimly. I plan a very simple floor drain to ground, use of biodegradable soap, with option to screw on a small holding tank.
For my own future design….my requirements differ a bit…..

  1. I currently camp mostly solo, but I’d like the future van to be ‘slightly more elegant’ so that I might occasionally lure my wife to travel-camp with me. My current van can sleep three…but the 2nd and 3rd have only passable comfort, whereas the 1st is very comfy.
  2. I have both pedal bikes and motorcycle, and would like the option to take either.
  3. I tow a horse trailer on occasion, and thus wish to keep the weight down to retain my towing capacity. My current van interior outfit is quite light weight.
  4. I have an extended family for whom it’d be convenient to have the ability to safely seatbelt about seven for longer trips. This is a hard need to fulfill with the other requirements. My current van only seats three comfortably with seatbelts (captains chairs)…the third can be removed to enable motorcycle transport. For future van, my best bet for this so far is use of a wider van (ProMaster…) for a rear transverse bunk that also serves as a rear bench seat, and removes for bigger cargo. I’m 6ft 4inches tall, so transverse bedding is tight for me.
    BTW, I very much value my current rotating front seats for giving more living space parked, and would also want that in the new van.
    Regards, Mike
ANSWER

Dear Michael B:
Heater propane. For my current van….I have a Mr. Buddy propane heater that I would ship and use only during day, awake in very cold weather. I have a trucker’s DC electric heater pad that I use for sleeping in cold weather, off the leisure battery. For future van, I’d keep the heater pad (and have a 2nd), and I also haven’t resolved the interior heat….considered just a long-burning candle-lantern to take off the edge of cold, or a propane heater as you propose, or an alcohol heater (small boats use them).
I have been researching propane heaters quite a bit lately, and decided against radiant and catalytic heaters. Main reasons are excessive moisture in a small area like a van and the dangers of oxygen depletion. Best solution for me so far has been the Propex propane heater, the underfloor model that doesn’t take valuable space in the van. It however requires an external propane tank and total cost will approach a $1,000.00. However, I was looking for a Non-Propane solution; in a Diesel van one could get a Webasto diesel heater with approx. the same cost, I’m still in the market for the gas version of the cargo van. In that case, I could also install an auxiliary Diesel tank, but that doesn’t make much sense to me either. Therefore unresolved.
Toilet shower. For my current van….I have a choice of portipotti or a bucket toilet…..I keep the bucket toilet in the van as it’s lighter weight and dual use. I have ‘Double Doodie’ coagulant bags, and it’s meant just for emergencies. For shower, I have a sun-shower and shower pop up tent….only good for rural or beach areas, not for urban. For future van, I plan on wet toilet shower as you have pictured, in the size range of 2×3 to 2.5 x 4 feet…I tend towards the larger. Probably a Coleman Hot Water on Demand sort of system for hot water without a lot of plumbing. Probably with Nature’s Head composting toilet eventually, but with one of my current toilets interimely. I plan a very simple floor drain to ground, use of biodegradable soap, with option to screw on a small holding tank.
I may keep my Porta Potti, but might change that into a fixed toilet as that may be a requirement to register the converted van as a RV. I do prefer a Thetford Cassette Toilet, but those are fairly expensive too and difficult to obtain in the US. For stealth purposes and on longer trips, I prefer a ‘regular’ shower but with a small black watertank, again for stealthy purposes. Great idea, the composting toilet, yet still bulky and pricey.

BTW, I very much value my current rotating front seats for giving more living space parked, and would also want that in the new van.
A rotating front (passenger) seat is a must; some new vans have it as an option and that will be part of the decision process when buying a new van.

For my own future design….my requirements differ a bit…..
1. I currently camp mostly solo, but I’d like the future van to be ‘slightly more elegant’ so that I might occasionally lure my wife to travel-camp with me. My current van *can* sleep three…but the 2nd and 3rd have only passable comfort, whereas the 1st is *very* comfy.
I drive solo only, but in my current layout design, the single bed can be easily transformed into a double bunkbed. Placed sideways and suitable for larger persons. You can find my latest concept layout under ‘The Plans’.

2. I have both pedal bikes and motorcycle, and would like the option to take either.
I do have an option for one or two bikes, but you may consider to raise a rear bed, so you can store multiple bikes underneath with access thru the rear doors.

3. I tow a horse trailer on occasion, and thus wish to keep the weight down to retain my towing capacity. My current van interior outfit is quite light weight.
Weight is a constant factor during the build and will determine what can be included in the van. I hope , that with my own woodworking, I can use solid wood in my designs and delete the chunky parts, where it is out-of-sight. I have not much need for towing capacity, except for a small work trailer.

4. I have an extended family for whom it’d be convenient to have the ability to safely seatbelt about seven for longer trips. This is a hard need to fulfill with the other requirements. My current van only seats three comfortably with seatbelts (captains chairs)…the third can be removed to enable motorcycle transport. For future van, my best bet for this so far is use of a wider van (ProMaster…) for a rear transverse bunk that also serves as a rear bench seat, and removes for bigger cargo. I’m 6ft 4inches tall, so transverse bedding is tight for me.
With seatbelts, you get into the Federal Safety regulations and that will make your conversion a lot more difficult.

All in all, I think we have very similar goals and overlapping interests and it would be nice if you would update your progress. Again, I would like to add your story to the comment section.
Van Williams

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