Sunday, February 26, 2012

How it All Began

Admittedly, RV ownership isn’t something that most thirty-somethings dream of, and actually follow through on so how did this dream come to be? 

Ten years ago my dad retired and my parents decided that they would buy an RV, this was something they had dreamed about when they were younger and they were getting to act on their dreams.   In December of 2001 they brought home their 36 ft Country Coach Class A (like the Barbie Dream Camper) Diesel Pusher.  It was just before Christmas when we set out on our “Maiden Voyage”.    I was in graduate school at the time and had a very long winter break so I came home to Cincinnati and helped them pack and organize and went along for the 1st trip.  At first I really though the RV was going to push my parents marriage over the edge, it was quite a transition, with a lot to learn, but 10 years later I think the RV has only served to bring us all together.

My plan had been to bring my tent and sleep there while my parents slept in the coach.  I even got a nice Kelty Backpacking Sleeping bag  and a new Thermarest for Christmas that year.  Our first night out we were in Lexington, VA (I think), heading 1st to Williamsburg with plans to get all the way to the Everglades (overly ambitious plans I might add), and it was mid-December.  It wasn’t the cold the got me, it was the wind.  The tent kept moving and the noise of the wind in the trees was deafening.  Within an hour I was in the coach sleeping on the foldout couch.

A similar scenario played out in Charleston, SC when the wind was blowing so hard one of the tent stakes blew out of the ground.  That night it was already so late when I decided to abandon the tent I decided to sleep in the Jeep.  My parents had given me a key, in case of emergency, so I let myself in and put the seat down, then snuggled up next to the tow bar my dad had removed from the front of the car and went to sleep. 

Over the years we tried a few more times for me to sleep in my tent while my parents slept in the coach but it never lasted more than a night or two before I migrated in to the foldout couch in the Coach.  I really wanted to like camping, sleeping in the tent just didn’t do it for me.  I didn’t like that I couldn’t see out and no matter what I tried I couldn’t find a comfortable bed solution. 

In 2007 my parents were planning to drive to Alaska and wanted me to come along.  I decided that it would better if I rented a small RV so I’d have my own place.  They set out from Virginia in May and got to Anchorage a few days before my flight arrived mid-July!  I had a 21ft Class C (cab over – your typical “Camper”) and it seemed to be just perfect for me!  I’d never driven anything like it before so my parents decided that I would go in front so they could “help” via walkie talkie.   We set out from the rental agency and headed down Turnagin Arm, a narrow two lane road with mountains on one side and water on the other.  It was beautiful, but stressful for your 1st time driving in an RV, especially when your mom is behind you yelling at you through the walkie talkie, talk about a backseat driver!  The next day I managed to get behind Mom and Dad and finally started getting more comfortable behind the wheel. 

The second night of our Alaska trip we were in Homer and we camped right on the beach!  Of course Alaska beaches are different from say Florida beaches, this one was all rocky and the water was too cold for swimming, but it was surrounded by mountains!  We just pulled into a spot and put it in park!  The view out the windshield was outstanding and we got to watch Bald Eagles and seals right from our RVs.   The sales pitch was working. 

Later in the trip my dad and I hiked to the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park.  It was raining as it did the whole time we were in Seward.   It was also cold.  There were no views of the Ice Field, yet we climbed all the way up there anyway (7.5 miles with 4,000 ft of elevation gain/loss).  When we got back to the parking area we were soaked – inside (from sweat) and outside (from the rain) and cold.  Lucky for me we had driven my little RV and all my stuff was right there.  I quickly changed into warm dry fuzzy pajamas!  Yep, I needed to have one these! :-)

A few years later in July 2009 I went on a solo RV trip to Maine.  I rented a Phoenix Cruiser, which is basically an overgrown camper van.  I liked it enough but it was very big, especially for trying to navigate small towns and such in Maine. Also, because I was solo it was my only car so if I wanted to go somewhere I had to drive it.  Luckily I spent a week in Bar Harbor at Acadia NP and they have a bus system that provided me with all the transportation I needed for the week! 

My two weeks, mostly on my own (there were a few phone calls to Mom & Dad in Williamsburg) in Maine further solidified my desire to own my RV!

I still wasn’t ready to make a purchase though and in July 2010 we went to Washington State.  OMG.  I thought Alaska was my favorite state but now I’m pretty sure it’s Washington!  We saw all the big stuff: North Cascades, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Olympic.  I again rented a small RV – a “compact” from Cruise America.  This was the smallest unit I’d had and I definitely liked it best.  I could see myself driving it in towns or to remote areas in the mountains.  I navigated Seattle traffic in it.  I even drove it to a remote trailhead.   It was still very much an RV though, boxy and I found it exceptionally hard to back into campsites.  

By the time we started planning our trip to California last summer I knew that Class B Camper Vans were what I was interested in.  Mom stumbled upon a rental company that rented 19 ft Vans!  There was no thinking about it, that was what I was going to rent to see if it was too small.   From the 1st moment I set foot in my Apollo RV “Cheapa Camper” I knew a van was for me!  It was easy to drive and maneuver in traffic, I had no trouble parking in a crowded parking lot to grab a In and Out Burger for lunch.  When I arrived at my campsite in Sequoia NP and found it to more closely resemble a parking spot at Wal-Mart than a campsite, I was able to easily back it in!  Space was at a premium, but it was just me and I had all that I needed: a bed, a 12 volt plug to charge my technology, a bathroom, and propane stove to make my coffee! The ease in driving, parking, and overall maneuverability made up for the lack of space. 

I knew that once I’d gone to a van I couldn’t go back so started seriously thinking about buying one.  I started frequently checking RVTrader for good deals.  In January I went to an RV show and saw the whole line of Roadtreks in person for the 1st time.  It was love!  I’d seen them all plenty of times online but seeing them in person was so much better! 

The one I’m buying is a Pleasure-Way, which isn’t what I originally had my heart set on, but the more I read, the more research I do, the more I realize that it’s better.  WAY better.  So many little things make it better, we’ll explore those in future posts!  The one thing I’m worrying about though is it’s length – it’s 23 ft long, which is closer to the length of the Phoenix I rented rather than the van.   I just can’t wait until April 1st when I get to pick it up and drive it for the 1st time and start learning all of it’s quirks!

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