Why We Cry

Earlier today I was watching YouTube and noticed a new video called

‘Welcome to Hotel Walmart’

Well, I made it through only the first few minutes before I began to feel my body reacting to something I was watching in the video and a surging emotion that could only mean one thing. I was tearing up! Sometimes empathy is a cruel master.

As it happens, I knew exactly what this reaction was because in a way, I lived it and within that experience, I found a clandestine section of our jaded society that was so very wrong!


Our story begins with a healthy 50-something-year-old Morgan, a graduate of the San Diego Local #12 Union of Operating Engineers Land Surveyors Apprenticeship Program and later their Land Surveyors Crew Chief Program. In conjunction with my years as a surveyor, I was also a licensed contractor in the lucrative swimming pool industry in sunny San Diego. Over the long years, I kept both of these occupations active side-by-side which kept me very busy.

As the 2000s rolled around, my mother reached the end of her journey and passed away. My bossy sister thought it would be a good idea for me to live with my dad since he was now alone so I moved up onto the property.

Without going into detail about our property, just know that I loved it! No, it was something beyond love. A spiritual feeling that would never die. I had been traveling to our family home and Jamul property for the entire time my folks had lived there and had helped build walls and do maintenance on the 4-acre property. In 2004 my older sister took my father with her and her husband to their new home in Washington state and I purchased the home and property from the estate. My dad passed away quietly in his bed in 2007.

I shall never forget the feelings of elation when the paperwork was signed and I took full possession of the Jamul property. I felt as though I walked a foot off the ground. I set to work with the energy of my 50s and made major improvements on the house as well as many upgrades to the property. To me, this place was paradise!

Upon reaching my early sixties I began the tumultuous process of slowly losing my health. My body went into a gradual decline until one ungracious day when I realized it was all over and I could no longer safely perform the duties of my chosen careers. Early retirement was just a few short weeks away.

With retirement came a huge decrease in my income and although I worked hard and fought to hold on to my property, nothing I could do or say to Chase Bank in Rancho San Diego would convince them to help me stay on my beloved and sacred land. In the end, I had to leave it all behind. My 40-year family home, all the family times in that house, all the work we put into the house and property, and all my dreams… just gone!

Looking back, the things I did and thought then were extremely puzzling to me now. I knew something was wrong with my thinking. What I did not know was that I was entering the gates of cognitive dissonance.

Many choices became available to me and looking back, I made the first of several huge mistakes in judgment. My thinking was that after living up on that beautiful hill, watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean all those evenings, my perceptions would never allow me to accept anything less so I opted for a nomadic lifestyle. I entered the full-time RV life and the challenge of free camping. I purchased a Lance Truck Camper and found my way down a dreadfully difficult road.


The state of California was involved in a clandestine war against free campers as were many other states. The first few weeks were hell. I stayed at the Lakeside Walmart parking lot for a few nights; the Walmart that just weeks ago would find me happily shopping for groceries and supplies for my home and property was now my domicile of sorts.

I hated it! With my beautiful black lab mix pup Margo, we traveled east up into the Palomar Mountains and tried to find the designated BLM-free camping sites in that area. Apparently, I was not in the right place at the right time as one evening two BLM security vehicles, looking much like military vehicles, crept slowly up on me. I was sitting on the back steps of my camper and they positioned their vehicles in a V shape facing me with their high beams on me like I was some kind of criminal. The short, fat, ugly, and very well-armed female Chicano officer said I was illegally living on forest land.

Oh no! Driving into the forest high on a cliff with no one else in sight? What a tremendously horrible crime!!!

That wretched thing sporting a gun and a badge took my driver's license and actually ran a make on me to see if I was a wanted man! I could see that she was using our California taxpayer's money ever so wisely. Why I could have made illegal tire tracks, taken illicit pictures of the natural wonders, or worse yet, awakened to the birds singing and the smell of wildflowers. Why everyone knows that is just not allowed!

From a highly educated professional landowner to a corralled would-be criminal I had fallen far into the abyss of social gangrene. I was mortified and just wanted to get away from what California had become.

The next morning I remember resetting my trip odometer and heading for Oregon like that would be any better. My oldest sister and her young son and his family had made a home for themselves there some years ago. It seems I was the only one in our family still in the golden state and I had been treated to the golden shower by her ugly authority.

After a short time with my family, I somehow thought I would like to stay for a while and sold my camper and rented a shabby double-wide in a forested area of Deschutes County at elevation 4,000 plus feet above sea level. I soon became even sicker and after 2 years realized that my COPD and my sleep apnea were reacting terribly to the high elevation. I should have known that would occur.

I saved up through the worst winter of my life and purchased another, much nicer Lance camper, and when summer returned, I headed west for the coast and sea level. When I arrived on the Oregon coast, my health was instantly better. That first night and the first morning after arriving in Florence, I was amazed at how great I felt and my body was well again. I knew then that I must always remain at sea level or very close to it for the duration.

I became a Snowbird and for three seasons rotated from Florence Oregon to Yuma Arizona. During the last summer season in coastal Oregon, my truck began to need repairs and I was relegated to staying in the Florence area until I could afford the repairs. Until that time, I had been exploring the coast, finding such great free camping areas. Those were some very happy times for Margo and me. This was the beginning of an eye-opening time for me. I met a new friend by the name of Jamie who showed me where all the homeless encampments were and I was shocked to see small villages in the forest where folks lived hidden away.

“What about the endless Oregon rains?” I asked.

Where else could the homeless go? And so many of them. But why?

My paradigm was once again being shattered!

I met many folks living in old RVs and their cars in parking lots with old towels kept up by the rolled-up side windows for privacy while they slept. I learned first-hand how little money some of them had from month to month. I listened intently as many of them related their stories to me about how they had fallen into the homeless trap! Some were living on as little as $300 or $400 a month and by those standards, I was a rich guy.

I had worked hard all my life, paid my taxes, and tried to be a good citizen the best I could.

This had left me with a pension from Social Security as well as a small pension from the Local #12 Union ( which by the way was cut in half by San Diego's Local #12 Union upon my retirement citing missing paperwork and gaps too great between jobs. In actuality, the Union ripped me off! It seems that they love you when you are working but hate you when you retire!)

Those days on the Oregon coast in 2015 and 2016 showed me the soft white underbelly of the Oregon elite. Quite possibly worse than California’s wine-sniffing ilk!

One day, I was down near the Siuslaw River mouth near historic Florence Old Town and had heard that folks were staying in a huge parking lot in the area. I noticed a sign on a lamp post that read ‘Overnight Camping with Permit Only.’ I found the local Forest Service Office and went inside. I asked about purchasing a permit but the lady in the front office was clearly incompetent and no help at all so deferred to a gentleman who was working in a small office behind her.


He came out and told me that those signs were put up by the hotel in the area and that to stay in that parking lot, you had to be a paying guest in the hotel. When I told him I was a free camper, he said,

“There is no free camping in Florence!”

And then just walked right past me while I was still talking to him and rudely disappeared into another room shutting the door in my face. In this wretched man, I began to see the collective disparity of the elitist Oregonian society. The look of disdain on his face floored me. He could have been talking to his worst enemy and that look would be no different. As a fully enrolled member of the Oregon elite, I guess he was just doing his job.

“Never allow the little people into our circle! Always look down upon those whose bank accounts are low and whose vehicles are not brand new and dazzlingly shiny! Why they are scum and should be removed from our fine little Florence township!”

I got mine and fuck you! Talk about disgusting!

I would have difficulty processing the concept that would eventually lead me to the truth. They just wanted the homeless, which I now understood to them included free campers, to simply disappear.

In Florence, out at a place called South Jetty, the paved road ends and the unfolding environment is unimproved. I’m going to repeat that. This was a totally unimproved area! No bathrooms, no walkways, no lawns... just rough, natural, rocky coastal terrain which would lend itself perfectly to those of us wishing only to be left alone for a night's sleep.

Indeed, lots of free campers, most with four-wheel drive vehicles, would find that area to be somewhat of a sanctuary. After all, what harm would it be to stay where nobody else would go? How could they? Driving a sedan out there would quickly lead to the tow truck and a big automobile expense. Even tourists whom you would think would be welcome would have a difficult time navigating that rocky and ruthlessly rough area.


One night, Jamie and I were in my camper watching a movie at about 11:00 PM and a Forest Service officer crept upon us in a huge, well-adorned Dodge 4 x 4. I quickly got up and went outside to speak with him. He said,

“You're not staying overnight here are you?”

To which I replied that I wasn't. (at least not that night anyway) That great big gorilla with a gun and a badge actually looked at me amd said

“You should go to a campground and PAY!”

Yet another paradigm shift in the world of free camping!

In the end, I would go out to South Jetty in the daytime as I had purchased a “Day Pass” for the coast and it was nice and peaceful out there for Margo and me. A good place for a writer to exist undisturbed in nature. In the evenings I would drive back into town and stay in the Grocery Outlet parking lot which was like a little Walmart camp. I hated parking lot camping but they had driven me out of all the other great places. You would have thought that hey why would it matter if campers found a little spot in the bushes and trees, out at South Jetty, but I was told that the ‘aristocrats’ had complained. Again, I got mine and fuck you! Allow me to explain; from South Jetty to the other side of the river, you cannot make out the shapes of people. That part of the river was more like a moving bay and led to the ocean. It was a massive expanse. Anyone on the other side glancing across the water to the west side where we were would only just see a glimmer of metal but they simply decided that this distant vision was to be free of people for their viewing pleasure. Talk about arrogant assholes! When I worked in construction we called this the NIMBY effect.

“Not In My Back Yard!” and “I got mine so to hell with you!” These are today's elitists. They have forgotten they are members of the human family and have replaced compassion, integrity, and caring with money. Money is king!

On yet anyther occasion, I was busily working on a manuscript when a big Forrest Service pickup with five people in it stopped at my camper. I again went outside to see what they wanted and could not believe what came out of this little uniformed degenerate’s mouth. He was short and fat and had the most disgustingly ragged full beard. An ugly little piece of work! They all wore their Forest Service uniforms and stared at me like I was an artifact. I pittied them.

He looked up at me and said,

“Are you camping here?”

I stared into his beady little eyes for a moment and instantly decided he was crazy and responded,

“It is daytime!”

He looked a bit bewildered and then repeated,

“But are you camping here?”

By this time, every cell of my body wanted to pound the little puke down into the asphalt concrete!

“What is wrong with you?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”

To which the unkempt little man responded,

“Well, I see you parked here almost every day and so I thought you were sleeping here!”

I gave him a look he did not soon forget and climbed back up into my camper. He was evidently too stupid to think that maybe he would do better in his twisted little walnut brain to come back after dark and check then. I swear the mentality of these people is atrocious!

The end of the summer and my seasonal Oregon experience would find me hanging out in another big parking lot behind the Florence Events Center. That lot backed right up to the edge of a fragmented piece of lush Oregon forest. It was somewhat secluded and very quiet. A perfect place to hang out and work.

The Events Center attracted the upper echelon of the coastal populous but only held events about once every few months. During the time between events that huge empty parking lot had absolutely no purpose and attracted many free campers and folks who just wanted a nice place to park for a day to get away from the masses or like me, to work on my manuscripts.

Then, it happened again! A contractor arrived and began working on installing a gate over the entrance. When I asked him how his day was going, he said,

“Oh, they are tired of all the homeless people hanging out in their lot and they ordered an iron gate!”

He told me that he was hired to install a gate with a card reader so that only the paying Florence Events Center clientele would be able to park there. I laughed at him because the majority of the homeless in the area do not generally drive cars and were living in the bushes and not the parking lot. They so hated the homeless that they were willing to shell out their precious profits to pay a contractor to put up a gate in a failed attempt at disdain for the unfortunate. The divide was growing!

It was at this time that I began to feel the spirit of homelessness. I could no longer roam about the beautiful Oregon coastline since my truck was having mechanical issues. I had become increasingly aware of the growing urgency to once again head south to Yuma ahead of the impending cold winter rains.

During the following few weeks, I was relegated to the free camping still available at the Grocery Outlet. Then came the tire issues on my truck. The left rear had succumbed to a tire anomaly I had not seen before. The tire had several swollen lumps in the treads and I could see that it would only be a matter of time before a catastrophic breakdown would occur. I used my only remaining credit card to purchase tires which began the process of impending debt. I recalled that when doing my research into free camping before leaving my home in 2013, the one repeated item I had read was that free campers must be ‘debt-free!’

My world was closing in on me.

For some reason, I believed that my trusty 2005 Ford Super Duty 6.0 Diesel truck had yet one more trip south to Yuma left in it. I would soon learn that to be a very bad decision. In October of 2018, I rented a U-Haul Cargo Trailer, cleared out my storage area in Florence, and headed south one more time. I had enough room on my last credit card for fuel and $500.00 cash in my pocket and now not only had Margo, my long-time canine companion but also Jamie's precious cat. She had severe problems in her life and could no longer care for little Kitty Boy so I rescued him.. (another story in itself!)

On my way back to Yuma, my truck experienced catastrophic failure, glow plugs, and the fuel injection system. When that happened it was engine shut off!

Again, another horror story in itself. I began to think about how in the 1970s, we would just pull over, file the points, check the plugs, and then all good. I was beginning to hate the digital era. I’ll take points & plugs and a carburetor every time! I should have been driving a 1985 Chevy square body pickup with a 454 in it! Today's crappy digital engines do not allow limping in; they just shut off. That's it! You're done driving so live with it.

In the end, the wonders, freedom, and confidence-building experience of free camping was something I loved and would never regret.

Blog Note:

After reading this, some of you may be thinking that I am out of line telling folks that law and order is a bad thing or that the forest service officers were just doing their job.

Well, let us think about this for a moment. Those who are given a uniform, gun, and badge are only human, just like the rest of us. They put their trousers on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. In a way, it is not authority but those who make up the rules that I am disgusted with, and I know who they are. When officers receive orders that are wrong and bad for humanity, there will always be repercussions. I am merely an observer.

Those of you who will say that we need those rules or everyone would be camping everywhere need to take another, broader look. Free campers like me pick up trash when I find it and take it to a designated bin. All the folks I met out there would do this too and they fully appreciate law and order. Free camping on the land; camping where no one even sees you, should never be a problem. We are salt of the earth people who are free thinkers. We are the most responsible campers you will ever come across.

Through my eyes, I see a Bonanza world. One where you can go out across the open land and stop for a picnic under any tree of your choice that does not have a fence around it. Rose-colored glasses? Possibly, but I see a better world out there. If you break the law, you must be judged according, but clearly today, the regulations all over the globe have become that of stringent control. If you are a dolt with Disneyland between the ears, you are probably alright with that. Perhaps like a frog in the saucepan, you do not perceive the water temperature rising. That frog does not have to be a rebel to jump out.

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