Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Gun-shy about boondocking near Mexico border



Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
This is our first year living in our RV. We are not looking for the next RV resort with a pickleball team; we prefer the wide-open spaces. The problem is one you have talked about before: border safety. We have never camped down near the border on boondock BLM land because of all the stories we’ve heard about problems with illegals. We keep talking about going but then back out. Are we overreacting? Should we just try it? —Gun-shy in Glendale

Dear Gun-shy:
First, stop reading the paper and cancel your satellite contract. Life comes with no guarantees, so I suggest you ease into situations you find uncomfortable. If boondocking and hiking in the desert is something that sounds appealing but makes you nervous, here’s a plan that should work for you.

Spend a week basking in the sun in Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. It is only a mile from the border. It has hikes and scenic drives that come so close to the border you can wave at our neighbors to the south.

Go on a few ranger-led hikes and drives. You will learn a lot about the desert and most likely start to feel comfortable about your new surroundings. Don’t let the fact that the visitor center is named after a young ranger that was killed by drug cartel members scare you from enjoying the park and its surroundings.

Once you immerse yourself in the park doing ranger activities, then drive north to Why, Arizona. There you will find three commercial campgrounds and 1,100 acres of free BLM camping. This area will let you ease into the boondocking lifestyle. It’s kind of like breaking in a new pair of boots: It won’t take long and you will feel comfortable with your surroundings. You will enjoy some of Arizona’s warmest weather and view fantastic desert sunsets and sunrises. You will wake up every morning to a chorus of coyotes with often a bass section of burros.

Drive down to the BLM and look around. You may feel comfortable once you notice there are dozens of others scattered around the property. Talk to them or hike with them. You might even have to drink with them. The woman that acts as the host has her own band and will assure you there are few problems you need to be concerned with. There is more border patrol personnel stationed there than cactus in the desert.

Try it, you’ll like it. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his new e-book: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.


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5 years ago

Like others, I, too, have an interest in camping in the Southwest as well as boondocking on BLM lands. I intend on staying where there are others, perhaps starting out in the long-stay areas and paying my $. Once I have some experience with the desert, boondocking etc., I will venture outside of the long stay area. It is great advice to camp at that National Monument and I think I will take that advice.
We do hear all the negatives about the border and even the border patrol. But I don’t see myself as someone who is going to be close enough to interact with the BP unless something drastic changes in my plans.

5 years ago

What is the draw about plopping yourself right at the border? So many places to see and you narrow your choices down to an area where you are afraid. Sounds like a good recipe for a perfect night’s sleep. If you are concerned enough to be asking if it is safe, perhaps you should find another place to go visit. There are a lot of other places to go see. You don’t have to follow all the others like a lemming. But I might be considered biased in that I have no fascination with Mexico or the southern border. I can’t see what there is to see in Mexico that I haven’t already seen or can be experienced elsewhere in the US. Architecture and culture? Try the many old cities in TX, NM and AZ. Desert? The US has a lot of desert areas. Beaches and palm trees? I’m from FL. There are lots of deserted beaches there. Just not in the areas that the tourist lemmings like to frequent. Mountains? I prefer the Southern Appalachians. BLM land with free camping is widely scattered and in places that you might feel safer in. Who knows, you might find the next great place that all the lemmings will follow you to.

CB Roberts
5 years ago

We not only go to the border but we cross to RV all over Mexico – 29 of the 31 states so far. We go to dentists in Palomas near Deming, NM and Algodones near Yuma, AZ. Traveling in and around Mexico since 1971 without even one single problem. Cartels are criminals killing criminals. Do killing of school children stop you from going to Connecticut? Does slaughter in a movie theater or a church stop you from going to Colorado or South Carolina? Let’s try to be brave and not live in fear.

Gregory Illes
5 years ago

We were nervous about border proximity, but decided to “brave it”, and did what the good shrink has suggested, staying at Organ Pipe. We drove our 4×4 all over the area, including a long stretch right along the big steel I-beam that identifies the border. We passed piles of empty black plastic water bottles (less visible at night), and saw MANY border patrol personnel. The border folks were polite, and occasionally friendly, but usually just business. The area was spectacular, vast, and gorgeous. We never felt scared, but certainly we stayed alert. Illegals don’t want to have any contact; if they were there, they avoided us. [That ranger who got killed was caught in a crossfire between Mexican police and a gang of felons they had pursued above the border; a one-in-a-billion circumstance.] We will go back again. Highly recommend the Puerto Blanco Drive loop road, but it is occasionally closed by the border patrol.

Tommy Molnar
5 years ago

I think this sentence carries some weight.

“Don’t let the fact that the visitor center is named after a young ranger that was killed by drug cartel members scare you from enjoying the park and its surroundings.”.

Huh? I find that extremely scary.

However, if there ARE several more boondocking RV’ers within sight, I may venture in. Heavy on the “may”.

Calvin Rittenhouse
5 years ago

My concern is the Border Patrol. I passed through that part of Arizona a couple of times. The Border Patrol is heavily armed, aggressive, and just plain nasty. In addition, they have a variety of corruption scandals.

5 years ago

Fiction, pure fiction. Should be deleted as it is actionable to slander like this.

Marcel Ethier
5 years ago

We have wintered in Texas since 2004 and have found the Border Patrol people to be efficient, professional and polite. Maybe Calvin had a run in with a bad apple. It happens.

Sherri Dennis
5 years ago

My advice: don’t go. As someone who grew up on the border, I can tell you it is not safe.

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