Our First Write-Up (LA Independent)

Posted by vern | Posted in Storytelling, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 29-12-2006



A pair of young filmmakers give a glimpse into the RV subculture.

“We’re homeowners now, and the world is our backyard,” says Vern Moen, 26, while sitting in his kitchen table with his feet up on the sink. The table doubles as a desk when there’s work to be done, and folded correctly, it can turn into one of the four beds in the house. For one year Moen and his roommate Jeff Stone have lived in a 1973 Winnebago Chieftain motorhome as part of their ongoing project as filmmakers. “We decided that this is just an experiment that we could do to see how it would change our lives,” says Stone.

As members of a Costa Mesa-based church called Rock Harbor, Moen and Stone met and through participating in the cultural arts projects the church organizes. Moen says he learned to edit film at Rock Harbor, where he did several shorts of various themes. One of the shorts was a promotion video in which Stone played a major role, so Moen and Stone quickly became friends. They had decided to rent an apartment together, Stone says, yet before they could find something in their struggling artists price range, he found himself homeless for a couple of months.

Instead of opting for one of the 2,425 single beds of emergency shelters in the L.A. County, Stone decided to move into a tent at the Malibu Beach RV Park and turn his circumstance into a documentary. Through this experience, he says, an inspiration came out. “I called [Moen] one night and I was like ‘I got an idea, we should buy an RV and live at this RV park.’”

Under 30-day camping rates — which is the maximum amount of time an RV is allowed to stay, — two people can park their RV at the Malibu Beach RV Park for $1344 with an ocean view or $1155 with a mountain view, so what began as a fun idea soon proved to be perfect for a tight budget. “The prices to live there were way cheaper than any apartment that we had found,” says Stone. The two friends dropped the apartment search and started looking for RVs in what Moen describes as a “very involved process.” After one month of researching the motorhome market, they found the ‘73 Winnebago Chieftain in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico through the Internet. $2,500 later and the project began taking a groovy shape.

“We decided that if we were going to be living on the streets [the Winnebago] better look nice,” says Moen. The new roommates bought house paint and turned the brown motorhome white just outside Moen mother’s house in Oxnard. “My mom is very supportive,” he says, “she’s a Polish mother and she has some weird things, but as long as I’m safe she’s fine.”

The experiences Moen and Stone have been through in this past year are all recorded both in camera and in a journal they call Captain’s Log. “Personal hygiene was the biggest struggle,” Moen says, adding 13 is the record number of days without a shower. “We could actually take a bath in here,” says Stone, since they have a full bathroom with shower in the Winnebago, but the plumbing is broken so they use the space as their storage shed. For a while they collected rain shower on a tarp they put on the roof of the RV, and they even had aspirations to bathe in a public fountain, which has not yet happened, they say. “Eventually we upgraded to a gym pass,” Moen says, yet he admits most of the time they use other resources. “We developed a technique for staying clean and fresh-smelling,” Stone says, “body wipes, you know, a shower in a box.”

Though living in a motorhome may seem like an easy-going lifestyle, Stone and Moen keep their project organized and focused. Above the driver’s cabin they posted maps of L.A. and started putting pins with a color-coded key: Red pins signal places where they have lived, ranging from Van Nuys to Studio City to Playa del Rey to Venice, where they currently park. Blue pins mark the places they have showered in, black pins show where they have empty their toilet, yellow pins indicate friends house, where they might do a load of laundry or take a shower every now and then. White pins represent points of interest like a good bar or restaurant, and finally green pins are for resources.

In the life of two struggling artists, resources usually translate places where they can improve their skills, and for Moen and Stone those places only have two requirements: An electricity outlet and wireless Internet.

Since there is no electricity in the Winnebago, the roommates usually go to a coffee shop, a library or a 24 hour Kinkos to work on their projects. “It’s like a job: Punch in, punch out, buy coffee,” Moen says. They also use the Internet to publish their work. www.thehobosoul.com shows pictures of their adventures in the Winnebago and shorts they have produced.

When Moen and Stone decided to embark on the “hobo project,” their friends were skeptic about the idea. “They gave us six months,” says Stone, but this month marks a year since they started and the achievement of their goal. “At the beginning we just figure we would make it for a year, we didn’t know the challenges, but I don’t really want to move out, I really like it,” says Stone.

Moen, on the other hand, has pressure to move on. “I only want to move out because my girlfriend wants me to move out,” he says laughing.

Not only have they the two filmmakers met their goal, they have inspired their friends to follow on their footsteps. Three of Stone’s friends, he says, are now living in RVs, including one who is currently their neighbor. “We definitely want to do a documentary and somehow involve other hobos,” says Moen, adding they have met strange people along the way. According to the homeless count made by the Los Angeles County Homeless Service Authority in 2005, there is an estimated 3,740 people living in vehicles ranging from cars to vans and RVs. – Photos by Gary McCarthy


A Hobo’s Life is Ramblin’

Posted by jeff | Posted in Winnebago Experience | Posted on 22-12-2006

This post is dedicated to Jon Karp, our good friend and “motormate”.  Karp moved this morning, he moved “home”.  I find it somewhat ironic that he was driving his home to his home, alas, that’s not the point of my rambling now.

As he drove his home away, through the alley that had become his home the last three months, my eyes were opened.  His RV, his home, everything he owned, bobbling it’s way down that small street, resembled the hobos of old, bobbling their way down the tracks with all they owned on a stick on their backs.

A hobo’s life is a rambling life.  We generally don’t stay put in one place too long-we have move along, we have the world to experience and only a short time to do it in.  Jon Karp is a hobo.  I’ll always be glad to call him one, to call him my motormate, and to call him my good friend.  I’ve moved apart from roommates before, I’ve said goodbyes, I’ve parted ways with many before-and in this time of life, when goodbyes are a way of life-I was sad to see him go.  I almost shed a tear, and wouldn’t doubt if I eventually do.  He’ll be missed next door-whether he’s working on his roof, waiting to go get tacos, or peeing on the sidewalk, he brought joy to our streets and our lives.

Our paths will cross again, Jon Karp.  Our paths will cross.

Showering On The Street

Posted by vern | Posted in Resourceful Living, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 21-12-2006

Showering can be very entertaining. We recommend staying out of the gym if you’re looking for adventure. Look for water sources. Here are some leads.

The Ocean – Salty, cold, occasionally/often dirty, public, sandy. Can be fun with the waves. Easily accessible. Good for the skin.

Public Showers – Public, Often Dirty. They are free and accessible. Check in parks and near the beach. There are some in Malibu and Venice – any state beaches will have them although they are often just for washing off sand — so make haste with the shampoo and body wash.

Hoses – Risk of getting caught by residents, Cold, Awkward but entertaining. Hoses are everywhere, but a good one is tough to find. Look in alleys and businesses. We’ve tapped into hoses with our Winnebago and had running water. A bucket is a lifesaver when showering with hoses.

Sprinklers – Crowd pleaser, classic, usually early morning, lots of variables (timers, neighbors, location). We’ve never showered in sprinklers, but we have talked with a hobo who created a device that hooked up to a sprinkler and turned it into a water tap suitable to plug an RV into. Golf Courses are good.

Fountains – Very public, very entertaining. It’s tough to find a dimly lit fountain around LA. Santa Monica has a few around 2nd St. Community Colleges also – after hours. Look out for treated/filthy water. Video tape all fountain showers for your future kids to see.

Other Options – Friends houses, Places of employment, High schools/Community college (Locker room or pool), Movie Studios (you can get work as an extra), Hotels.

Good luck.

Winnebago Personal Hygiene Basic

Posted by vern | Posted in Resourceful Living, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 21-12-2006

Huggies Baby Wipes, Baby Powder, Deodorant, Strong Cologne, and no physical activity. IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE TO GO OVER 1 WEEK AND MAINTAIN A RELATIONSHIP. Pay close attention to feet, pits, and below the waist. For the face, we recommend Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Face Wipes. Personally, I go with Old Spice Deodorant and (most recently) Kiehl’s Musk No. 1 (which has changed my life). These two will neutralize any smells. Dental — carry a pack of tooth picks/floss in the car. Take a sip of water and immediately brush your teeth. Finish, take another sip of water and spit. Finish with mouth wash. Done. No running water needed. Basic.

Longest dry streak: Jeff Stone – 13 days

I dream of being a Hobo

Posted by jeff | Posted in Storytelling, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 15-12-2006

For some reason, I’ve been remembering a lot of my dreams lately.
Two nights ago, I dreamt I was home, yet two hours from my house in NH, having taken the wrong bus and ended up at the coast. I decided to walk home. I trekked down the road a bit and began to walk off to the side, climbing hills and scaling steep, difficult terrain.
It all made sense when I found myself walking down the tracks. We (I have no idea who I was with, it was Vern at some points, but well, dreams change a lot and it all makes sense when you are in it). From there, it went to someone trying to kill kittens (perhaps stemming from a conversation that “every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten” that we had over dinner for Jon Karp’s birthday) and someone using a death ray/vaporizor just after I closed the window getting the last kitten in (they were hanging by their claws from a sheet that was out the window).
Phew. Dreaming is great. Even better when you wake up in an RV, and you really are a hobo. I love life.
No kittens were killed in the making of this dream.

Free Internet

Posted by vern | Posted in Resourceful Living, Travel, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 13-12-2006

The “It’s A Grind” on Santa Monica and 6th (Santa Monica) has free internet and is open til 11pm. It’s occasionally a bit crowded, so show up a bit early, grab any seat, and then wait til an outlet opens up. ALSO — always carry a surge protector or other type of multi-outlet. It’s good for making friends. I met a guy who was a producer. Me too pal. Right now I’m sitting on the curb of the Santa Monica Library bumming their internet. A homeless man asked me for a smoke. Children are playing…
Also — in Portland, OR it’s easy to kill ducks.

Dead Duck

Thursday, 12/7/06 – Street Sweeping

Posted by jeff | Posted in Resourceful Living, Storytelling, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 09-12-2006

In our current neighborhood, we have street sweeping every Wednesday and Thursday. This Thursday was no exception, but Dick didn’t want to move.

It started in my sleep, when I had a dream that for some reason Dick wouldn’t start and I had to push the Winnebago across the street. Karp (our motormate neighbor) was in it-as Vern works early in the morning-and we had the time of our lives. He thought he had to push really hard so did a running shove and pushed as hard as possible. In the dream, he pushed so hard that I had to steer frantically to keep from tipping over-which broke/stretched the steering wheel so I was turning it diagonally and much larger and distorted than normal. Oh man, what a way to start your day-waking up with that image.

So I wake up, early enough to move and get to work on time. I batten down the hatches (close all our cabinets, take breakable things off the tables/counters, and make sure the fridge is locked shut) and hop in the driver’s seat. Nothing. We’d been having battery problems lately, so I got out, pulled my car up and jumped it. First time, Dick is ready to go. I move my car back to the side of the road, turn it off and get back into the Winnebago. I let it warm up while I finish “Beeing The H’s” as we like to call it, throw on my captain’s hat, and get ready to move.

The gas pedal was on the floor. No problem, I think, it probably just came disconnected. I climb under the dash, and nothing. There’s a metal rod, but it doesn’t move. Another rod piece is there as well, which I pop into one of the two holes on the underside of the pedal-thinking I conquered. Still, nothing. So I turn it off and call Karp-ready for my dream to come true.

His first thoughts-”You got any chains?” “Why…to pull it?” Of course, no chains-and I don’t really want to pull my own Dick (well…sometimes I do…). So of course he says it’s too big to push-which I balk at and tell him Vern’s done it and I had a dream that we did it, so we have to! So he comes over.

In the meantime, I turn the house off and climb underneath where the gas pedal stuff happens to check out what I can check out. There I find the piece that had come unconnected from the rod that I connected to the pedal that rod that came up inside to the actual hose/rod/wire whatever that makes acceleration happen. Did you get all that?

So I hook it back up-it just pops back together. Climb in, still nothing happening. Can’t push the pedal down. Karp is meanwhile outside starting to get it jumped. Back under the dash, I pop the rod out from the underside of the pedal and hook it into the second hole. Ah ha! I win again! It works…until it pops out from underneath the car. I jump out, fix it.

And for the next 45 minutes, we attempt to jump the Winnebago. Nothing is happening. We adjust the clamps, clean the terminals, attempt to jump from battery #2 (which normally powers our lights but we have long since burned out) so we try jumping that one too. Dick does not want to move.

As a last resort, before we really do push it across the street, Karp suggests we take the battery out of my car and put it into the Winnebago. Keep in mind, RVs use Deep Cycle batteries, which are almost twice the size of a normal car battery. So we have no idea what is going to happen. To both of our surprise-Karp stood in front of the Winnebago in case it exploded-Dick fired right up. Now it was just a matter of getting him turned around and on the other side of the street.

I take off slowly (Dick will sometimes die right away as you begin to press the accelerator), and we’re off. Turn my first corner, and I hear things falling. Dang! I left the food cabinets open, a cardinal sin in battening down the hatches, and food is flying everywhere! After cleaning it and making my u-turn – yes, Dick can make a solid u-turn when he needs to – the gas pedal comes unattached underneath the car. I just can’t win!

At this point, I’m not turning it off again, cause who knows when it’ll start. So, I coast – I can’t just pull over because I’m in a no parking zone. It’s a good thing that inertia exists (thank you God), so I make it around the corner and coast right into his rightful place, underneath the shade of the trees in front of the abandoned apartment buildings.

Karp and I embrace, and I leave for work. It’s now 9am exactly, the time I was supposed to arrive at work.

The rest of this morning, well, was refreshing. I get to work, and they send me to GEP in Sherman Oaks – our first home. It made me wistful-the memories of our fledgling RV days, with neighbors complaining, cops kicking us out, and not being able to sleep because an irrational fear that they were going to tow my car…even though it was just on the street like any other vehicle. I took a ride into one of my favorite homes – the Sepulveda Basin Dam Reserve area – where we lived for one month despite weekly film crews kicking us out at 4am, Wednesday stunt motorcyclsts whizzing up and down the street late at night, flash floods, and the early morning wake up call of toy airplanes dive bombing us. It wasn’t until a creepy man was seen snapping photos of me pulling up to my house late one night that we moved.
And thus, my first real blog ends. Thanks for reading. PS-I’m in the middle of editing our experience purchasing our 1973 Winnebago Chieftain. It wasn’t as easy as it looks.

I’ll leave you with a picture. Essentials go in the Daily Drawer. Wallets, phones, keys, cigars, pipes, receipts, and harmonicas.

In memory of “Steam Train Maury”

Posted by vern | Posted in Bringing Back The Hobo | Posted on 06-12-2006

Founder of the National Hobo Society
see www.hobo.com


December 5, 2006

Posted by vern | Posted in Resourceful Living, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 05-12-2006

Our site is up. A lot of official work began today. My New Year’s Resolution last year was to write one thank you note every day. I’m over a hundred behind. So I sent one to Conan O’brien, the staff of LA Times, Imogen Heap, Clap Your Hands, and other fun folk. Coffee Connection is closing and I have no idea if this is what I’m supposed to write on a blog… I’ll learn.

The Hobosoul

Posted by jeff | Posted in Friends, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 03-12-2006

Our First Logo Idea

We welcome you to us.

Here you’ll find the most up-to-date adventures of the Hobos. Check back often.