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RV demonstrates off-the-grid living

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Brian Brawdy's motto is "Wonder. Explore. Believe." Over the past year, the 47-year-old Tampa resident logged more than 50,000 miles in his green recreational vehicle and has hiked, biked and paddled in every one of the Lower 48 states. This weekend he will have his Wonder machine at the Florida RV Supershow at the Florida State Fairgrounds. "I wanted to do more than just recycle old newspapers and tin cans," said Brawdy, a former police officer from upstate New York. "So I decided to do what I can to get more people outdoors. I believe that the more people we have who go out and enjoy nature, the more people will want to protect it."

Brawdy began his journey more than 20 years ago, after his father's suicide.

"I had a hard time dealing with my father's death," he said. "The only solace I could find was when I was by myself out in the middle of nowhere."

The road warrior

So Brawdy quit his job and traveled the country, eventually ending up in Colorado, where he worked as a meditation instructor, helping people focus through this timeless Eastern discipline.

"I discovered pretty quickly that the mind was a powerful thing," he said. That led to a similar post in Chicago, where he picked up a part-time position at an outdoors outfitter.

"I wanted to go camping," he said.

Then, in 2000, a local TV station called the shop looking for a survival expert. "I showed them how to build an igloo," he said. "That was the beginning of my television career."

In the years that followed, Brawdy eventually became a traveling outdoors survival expert, filming more than 1,500 segments, including appearances on Good Morning America and the Today Show.

The eco-RV

In 2007, Brawdy found himself in Tampa, recovering from surgery to remove skin cancer (the byproduct of a lifetime outdoors). Global warming was a hot topic on the news shows, but Brawdy knew there was an alternative to traditional fuels. So he decided to develop a mobile base camp, partially powered by non-petroleum-based energy sources.

"Just look around you," he said as he stood in front of his RV on Gandy Beach. "We have the sun, wind and rain. Why not use it?"

He started from the wheels up. A 2008 Lance Camper is the control center of his operation. It sits atop a Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 (power stroke V8 turbo engine uses Ford's clean diesel technology). The camper, tough and spacious, allows him to rough it without really roughing it. "It's got a queen-sized bed," he confessed. "But it allows me to go off road and off grid."

Sun and wind

With a 60-gallon fuel tank filled with biodiesel, Brawdy can get to remote places, where he harnesses the energies of the wind, sun and rain. His 12-volt/200-watt AirBreeze Wind Turbine, the most powerful wind generator in its class, six, 85-watt solar electric panels and four 100-amp Lifeline Deep Cycle batteries, power all the comforts of home, including an air conditioner, microwave, refrigerator and two satellite dishes, which keep him connected to the outside world.

"This is my mobile base camp," he said. "With this, I can go anywhere."

Newly designed on-board rain gutters and a Katadyn water filtration system, allow him to collect and store rainwater for drinking and washing. Twin Garmin GPS units with Nexrad weather antennas keep him from getting lost. And just in case of emergency, he has a Superwinch with 16,500 pounds of pulling power to help extricate him from sticky situations.

Tread lightly

Brawdy's goal is to stay off the gird and have as little environmental impact as possible.

"I'll have the WonderExploreBelieve Base Camp at the RV show to demonstrate that there is an alternative," he said. "You have to remember that this was just an idea a little over a year ago."

On the front of his green RV, which he estimates took $130,000 out of his own pocket to put together, is mounted a custom license plate that reads "MindUps."

"They are mental exercises, like pushups or sit-ups, except they condition the mind …" he said, "… because adventure is the sign of a healthy mind."

For more, visit www.brianbrawdy.com.

. Fast facts

Florida RV SuperShow

When/where: Today through Sunday; Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa

Hours: Today, Saturday — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: Adults $8; kids under 16 free.

Information: www.frvta.org or call 1-800-330-7882.

RV demonstrates off-the-grid living 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:16pm]
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