On Camping and Generators

Makes you wonder why some people go “camping” at all.

For the past few days, my friends and I have had the displeasure of camping across a small inlet from a man in an RV almost the size of my Mobile Mansion who runs his generator from about 10 AM to about 10 PM every day.


His rig is what’s known as a “toy hauler” — a fifth wheel with space in the back and a ramp for one or more motor vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs, or, in his case, a sand rail. He’s got the fifth wheel and sand rail parked in a very large camping spot overlooking the Colorado River and some backwaters. Of course, it’s not actually facing this peaceful view, but I guess that doesn’t matter to him. Outside, he has a table and a few chairs and a barbecue grill. But none of that matters since he spends virtually all of his time inside his RV doing something that obviously requires a generator. We think he’s watching television.

All day.

Every day.

When I asked him, after listening to his generator for most of Thursday, whether he was going to run it all weekend, he replied, “Just during the day.” And if you don’t count the five to ten minutes between 5 AM and 6 AM that he runs it — likely to make coffee — and the time between sunset and 10 PM that it continues to run past what a normal person would call daylight hours, I guess he was telling the truth. Or his version of it.

Generator Man
Generator Man, as we call him, is camped directly across the inlet from us. We seldom see him outside. I guess he’d rather be inside watching television.

Of course, we’re camped here — and we did get here first, if that matters — and we don’t spend all of our time indoors, as he does. Sadly, inside my Mobile Mansion is the only place I don’t hear the damn thing. We’ve listened to it day in and day out. The only thing that’s prevented it from ruining our evening campfires is the fact that we’ve been playing music to drown it out. But I know that we’d all rather be listening to nature’s sounds — crickets, night birds, coyotes — than the never-ending drone of this inconsiderate asshole’s fucking generator.

We do get some silence in the morning, after his coffee is made and we’ve come out for our breakfast chat around the campfire. Yesterday, we enjoyed watching — and hearing — a variety of water birds as they fished and dove in the backwaters. That time was longer than usual, since he drove off in the morning, leaving the generator turned off. We think he went to church. I wonder if he asked God for forgiveness for disturbing the peace and quiet.

And that makes me wonder why someone would drive a truck, RV, and desert toy out to a wonderfully peaceful part of the desert, set it all up in a prime campsite, and then spend the entire time indoors, watching TV. He could have left it all parked in his driveway. Or a truck stop.

At least then the noise he was making wouldn’t really bother anyone else.

He obviously isn’t here to enjoy the scenery, let alone the silence or wildlife. He isn’t even here to play with his sand rail. He’s here to spend time inside a smaller box than his home, probably doing the same thing he’d be doing at home.

I know what you’re thinking right now. Don’t you have a generator, Maria? Don’t you run it?

If you’ve been reading about my Snowbirding adventure, you know I do. I wrote about it when I first wrote about the backwaters. It’s a 2KW Honda, known for its low sound level. I paid more than I needed to for a generator that would be as quiet as possible. And no, I don’t run it every day — especially now that the weather is warming up. I was running it for about an hour or two in the evenings to top off the charge on the RV’s battery so my heat would work throughout the night. But I don’t even need to do that anymore. I think I’ve run it twice in the past week — and once was to work a soldering iron.

I don’t even run it to make coffee — and I have two electric coffee makers on board the Mobile Mansion. I can boil water and drip a nice, strong cup without a fucking generator.

My friends each have generators. One couple runs theirs once a day — yes, to make coffee that they reheats on the stove in the morning; go figure — and the other hasn’t run theirs at all. Even when the battery on their RV died.

We all have solar panels that keep our batteries (mostly) charged. After all, we’re in the Arizona desert. There’s nothing but sun here every day. Why would we burn gas and make noise to get power when the sun is providing pretty much all the power we need?

And what do we really need power for when we’re outdoors, camping?

My friends, although annoyed by the generator sound, have been trying to be understanding about it. “We don’t know his story,” Karen said.

Wow. I’ve heard that a lot lately. It seems like a standard excuse for people to be inconsiderate of others.

But it’s true: we don’t know his story. He could have an invalid wife inside the box who needs electricity for her life support system. (That’s Karen’s suggestion, not mine.)

But is that an excuse for him ruining the peace and quiet of a beautiful place that other people are trying to enjoy?

Hell, it’s not like he’s even spending time outside, enjoying it himself. He’s inside the box all day. He could do that anywhere.

Are you like this when you camp? If so, you’re not camping.

As for me, well, I just have one more day here before I move on. I’ll spend some time with friends, then hit the road on a long-awaited photo trip to Valley of Fire and Death Valley. I’ve already been warned about the generator people at Death Valley.

It’s too bad that these people just don’t get it.

6 thoughts on “On Camping and Generators

  1. Strikes me that there are two options:-

    1) lend him your little Honda. (They are excellent and quiet as a soothing dream)


    2) sabotage his. (Pound of sugar in the tank should do it)

    • I wasn’t about to lend him anything. My Honda is quiet, but I didn’t want to listen to that, either. As for sugar in the gas tank — well, don’t think I didn’t think of it. But my friends talked me out of it.

  2. I live aboard my boat in a marina without elec (at least in my dock) . So I need to run the onboard genset. It is silent, uses 2 pints an hour of diesel. Annoys nobody. 4 hours a day is enough to keep the boats main batts charged.

    • People who care about whether or not they bother others spend a few extra bucks to buy the quietest generators they can and then use them as little as possible. The solar panel on the roof of my Mobile Mansion does a pretty good job keeping the batteries fully charged during the day. There’s absolutely no reason to leave home if you’re going to spend the entire “camping” time inside your box watching television — which we really believe this guy was doing.

  3. Next time, if there IS a next time, just ask him to stop. While it’s likely that he may have told you to get lost, it’s also possible that he may have been totally cool with it. The point is that you never know till you ask. Expecting total strangers to anticipate your needs and wants is a losing game, you have to tell them directly. On the other hand he may have been running a mobile meth lab, so as a single traveler it never hurts to have some backup (or at least witnesses) when you interact with strangers in remote areas. The other thing you can do is ask ahead at campgrounds to see if they have “no generator” areas, some do. If it’s a remote site with no rules or guidelines covering noise, the best you can do is move, even if it is a big PITA.

    • We did ask him to stop. His response was “I don’t run it at night.” Yeah, but he ran it all freaking day long every single day. At night, I wouldn’t have heard it anyway because I was inside my RV.

      I don’t think it was a mobile meth lab. I think he was a full-time RVer, living on the cheap, watching TV all day. Ugh.

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