Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Zen Of The Atomic Nomad's Mighty Mugwump

Hello again readers!

The other day I received a comment from a reader regarding the environmental effects of operating a classic motorhome. Well, I expect that right now is a good time to let it be known how we balance our day-to-day karma whilst on the road.

Let's start at the beginning. I am a motorhome person having purchased my first rig in 1973. When Weng and I first married we generally took an economy car on our road trips (excepting our honeymoon when we took an old Caddie). Later when the children arrived we began taking to the highway in classic old motorhomes. We have a tradition - just like the president of the usa having any aircraft he flies in being called air force one - any vehicle we travel in becomes 'The Mugwomp'.

Now, lets consider the facts surrounding environmental concerns:

We have been fortunate enough to have coaches that are upper end, well constructed, very low miles with decent maintaince. Most were bought by middle class americans in the 60's and 70's - cared for and taken out on national holidays. Most of the original owners have passed on now and most of these monsters have been trashed. However there are still a few around. Many have been converted to cabins. Others have really poor people living in them. The ones on the road today are technical jewels of the Atomic Age.

Transportation. I dont know anyone who drives a motorhome to work personally. I have met dozens of people living in them full time. All ages, all incomes. All sorts of places.

We all have a carbon footprint and a lot of it is hidden. Every month our little family is using power and consuming products that consume power. Im not sure what the equivalent gallons of gasoline it would take to power the average household in electricity, natural gas, delivery of water and the like but I do know that if you are not home and not using utilities then they dont cost a lot. If you are traveling in a vehicle that you are living in while you are not home in, then naturally home costs/carbon use offsets part of the fuel consumed in transportation.

Actual costs of transporting you and your stuff. This one is very interesting. Consider this -

You and your little family drive an economy car that gets 30 mpg. Total weight is maybe 2600 lbs. Doing the math that breaks down to using about 1 oz. of gasoline to move apx 650 lbs one mile.

Now you and your little family are getting 10 mpg but you are towing a car and your total moving weight is, say, 16,000 pounds. Doing the math that breaks down to to using about 1 oz. of gasoline to move apx 1,250 pounds the same mile. That is twice as efficient!!

Additionally when you are living in a motorhome you are not leaving a decent sized carbon footprint every night at a motel or eating as often in a restaurant. These things lead to additional offsets against your fuel use.

And there is more!! NO PEE STOPS WITH 3 SMALL CHILDREN!! Just think - children sleeping when tired in the bedroom. Hot coffee while driving. Home cooked meals whilst parked in some beautiful location. Ahab our trusty Rat Terrier travels fantastic and is a great guard dog. Not to mention hot showers, wi-fi, or the fact that the fuel used to move the motorhome also charges the batteries that run the lights, power the music machine, run the laptops and, of course, the movie screen - all long after the motor is shut off!!

Granted, using gas is still using gas and it is really part of the peril facing our planet today. I wish there was another way available but we dont abuse this gift of big time mobility. We tow our 1983 Toyota 4wd Station Wagon behind us to get around when we are docked somewhere. Fully loaded it gets 35 mpg.



  1. Hmmmm...must be the "new" math. Seems like the Mugwump would be 3 times less efficient in moving your family than the little car. It sure would cost 3 times as much for gasoline. Perhaps you should work in advertising!

  2. I stand by the math!! I did say moving our family AND our stuff (along with our economy car, not to mention the carbon offset! As far as dollar cost goes, well, at todays rates and using say,30 gallons of gas a day, travel in a motorhome is still cheaper than getting a hotel/ dinner/breakfast for a family of 5! Speaking of working in advertising - ever see the australian movie 'Bliss'? Made in the 1980's and starring Barry Otto. The story of Harry Joy, an advertising genius. Great flick.

  3. As I suspected you are able to justify it because it would be inconvenient if you didn't.

    I don't hold it against you for driving a vehicle that gets 10 mpg and pollutes. But I do feel you are being quite hypocritical when you preach to others about saving the environment. Do what Ed Begley Jr does and I'll change my mind about you.

  4. That's interesting that your Toyota 4WD Wagon gets 35 MPG fully loaded yet the government website that reports gas mileage for all cars has a different story. They only go back to 1984 but I suspect there isn't much difference in mileage.

    The only 4WD Wagon listed in 1984 is a Tercel. Perhaps you have something different but if that's what it is it gets 22 city and 29 highway. And that's normal loading. I wonder how you are able to get so much better mileage with yours. I must not have all the info for yours.

  5. Hi Francisco,
    I am sure you know this, but as a reminder:
    "The only things that others say that are important to you, are the things that you agree with. All other things, stuff you do NOT agree with, are simply opinions!"

    Su amigo,

  6. Jorge,

    You are sooooo correct! I dont mind it when people are ignorant, that is a sign of intelligence really, and it usually shows up in their opinions.


  7. We practice what we preach! (well, as much as we can.......) for many years we have been hypermiling.... i drive a 1984 mazda pick up using this technique and generally get better than 30mpg in town....check out this link:


  8. And another good thing that is kind of invisible - all the energy / carbon used to build the "classic" MH or car has already been spent and you are continuing to use older vehicles rather than get the latest model and the recent built in carbon cost of that - even if it gets higher mileage. I am coming to understand that the clunker program may not be all that beneficial if some of the not-so-old clunkers could have kept running a bit longer. The "sunk costs" of building some of them weren't expended that long ago.

  9. Check out this link. That forum/website is owned and set up by me.

  10. And I think you just called me ignorant. Funny coming from someone like you.

  11. Whoa!! Seems to be a 'hot' topic!! I would suggest that all of my readers take the time to check out the website referenced above - - not only does it support my belief and practice that by changing our way of doing things we can change the world. With a few simple mechanical changes (like right air tire pressure, oil grades in gearboxs, tune ups, etc) and altered driving habits one can get an increase in fuel economy of 10 to 20%.

    Regarding ignorance, well, I stand by my comment but let me quantify - I personally dont believe that to be ignorant is in itself a bad thing. As I said, it is a sign of intelligence. I find that I am ignorant on many topics but I do not chose to judge or make snide remarks about others just because they do not know the particulars of a given subject or person's life or experiences. I expect the same consideration of those who chose to comment on my postings.

  12. I will certainly post comments in the same vein as you comment back to me. You did suggest I am ignorant and therefore when I suggest you might be less than perfect I'm only doing the same as you.

    But that's just like a lib to suggest anyone who disagrees with them is stupid, ignorant, or evil instead of just wrong. See Fran, I just think you're wrong and don't think you're stupid. Yet you don't apply the same thought process because you're liberalism won't allow that. I do feel a bit sad for you though if that helps. ;)