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Triple amputee nomad heads south with hand-built teardrop

B Neil Brown is a wintertime nomad. With his tiny, hand-built camper in tow, he travels throughout the Southwest United States during fall and winter months to avoid the harsh and dreary winters of Western Kentucky.

Neil is not just a happy-go-lucky guy in search of adventure. He is an interesting fellow who pursues life to the fullest, always with a plan, a goal, an objective in mind. He doesn’t let obstacles deter him. I’ll let him describe himself: “I am a retired fire/EMS operator, a triple amputee, a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu 3rd degree blue belt under Master Pedro Sauer, a bestselling author, and all around general raconteur.”

A sore throat in 2010 led to amputations of both legs below the knees and most of one hand. He developed a serious infection that spread into his lungs, then his blood. He was in a coma three weeks and when he awoke his feet and fingers were dead. “The medication they used to save my life starved my extremities of blood pressure,” he explained.



Despite his handicap, Neil set out to build his own camper in 2014. He describes it as a “grasshopper style teardrop” built on a 4x8 Harbor Freight trailer frame. The height from floor to roof is four feet. This past summer he completely revamped the exterior. You can get details on his YouTube channel, YouTube.com/teardroprvtravels.


“I originally built the camper so I could save money while traveling and training Jiu-Jitsu, choosing to stay for $20 a night in a campground instead of $120 a night in hotels. The camper paid for itself in the first three training trips. “Along the way I discovered that I enjoyed the traveling as much as the Jiu-Jitsu, and began taking trips just for the sake of travel and then just looked for places to train wherever I ended up with the camper.”

This will be the third winter for him to snowbird with the camper and the second in the desert Southwest.

“I designed it in my head and built it without even drawing up plans. I just had a few notes on measurements. I had to cash flow the build, and I work a bit slow with prosthetics and only five fingers, so it took me about three months to get it built.” 


On the inside is a roof fan, full-sized bed, TV, compost toilet, both AC and DC wiring, and propane heat. The galley on the back has a sink with running water and storage space. He uses a Coleman stove for cooking and has nine gallons of on-board water storage with a built in pump.

“I have an ARB awning with tent room attachment for when I need more space,” Neil said. “I have 100 watts of solar on top and 103ah of batteries. I am completely boon-dock self-sufficient. Fully stocked with spare water, food, etc., I could spend nearly three weeks in the woods or desert without needing to visit civilization.”

On the inside is a roof fan, full-sized bed, TV, compost toilet, both AC and DC wiring, and propane heat. The galley on the back has a sink with running water and storage space. He uses a Coleman stove for cooking and has nine gallons of on-board water storage with a built in pump.


“I have an ARB awning with tent room attachment for when I need more space,” Neil said. “I have 100 watts of solar on top and 103ah of batteries. I am completely boon-dock self-sufficient. Fully stocked with spare water, food, etc., I could spend nearly three weeks in the woods or desert without needing to visit civilization.”

He prefers to camp in back-country national forests or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  While camping he does day-trip exploring, visiting historic sites, old cemeteries and local attractions. And he does a lot of writing, too. His first stop will be New Mexico.

“I will be in New Mexico for about a week for the Enigmatic Nomadics Van Build Party, where I will be doing solar installs,” he said. “I plan on checking out all of the Billy the Kid sites around Sumner as well as visiting Roswell. I love history and I love the controversy of UFOs so I get to see both while there. And of course, I always try to find good Jiu-Jitsu schools to drop in at.


“If I do hit a campground I try to stay at primitive ones as they are less expensive and normally less crowded,” Neil said. “Generally, if it costs more than $5 a night, I won’t camp there. I try to plant myself for at least a week at a stretch, and if on BLM or national forests two weeks. When I am traveling I will overnight in truck-stop parking lots if it takes me a few days to reach my final destination.”

“If I do hit a campground I try to stay at primitive ones as they are less expensive and normally less crowded,” Neil said. “Generally, if it costs more than $5 a night, I won’t camp there. I try to plant myself for at least a week at a stretch, and if on BLM or national forests two weeks. When I am traveling I will overnight in truck-stop parking lots if it takes me a few days to reach my final destination.”


He pulls the camper with a 2007 Chevy Silverado V6. He loves riding his motorcycle and last winter took it along. He said the loading and unloading was more trouble than it was worth, so this winter he will take a small electric scooter. He plans to leave around the 3rd of October and will return in mid-March 2019.

Neil, who is 45 with a grown son, has written and published three books, the first an autobiographical titled Stand Tough: The Courageous Story of One Man’s Fight Against Rare Illness and Multiple Limb Loss. The other two he describes as “urban fantasy fiction” -- Personal Security Detail: A Short Story and The Souls in Between: A Novella. More information is available on his author website, www.bneilbrown.com.



“I have one fiction novel I am currently writing and a slew of outlines for more,” he said. “I plan on doing a coffee-table book for this winter snowbird season, with pictures of my travels and my thoughts along the way.”


His life at home is a bit slower paced, he said. “I do a lot of DIY builds, ride my motorcycle, and hit the dojo to train as often as possible. I sometimes do motivational speaking on the road, but when I am home I give a lot talks to groups. I also squeeze in camping and travel trips closer to home.


“I don’t let amputations get in my way. I find a way to do what I want, how I want, when I want. I have always been driven. I am always setting goals, making plans, and doing what I need to do to keep myself going. I am productive and I enjoy the hell out of life. My personal motto is ‘No Legs. No Problem.’ And that is how I live my life.”

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