Now that I’ve had a smallish RV for almost three years I have some real insights on what it’s like to hit the road and/or depend on a vehicle for shelter. I have a 2004 Chevy Express conversion that is about 12 feet tall and 18 feet long. It has a garage door and storage in the back so they call that a toy hauler. I call it the Escape Pod.
When I started looking for a Pod I had some requirements in mind. I had to consider that I might need to join the more than one million Americans said to be living full time in an RV. I’m sure the one million person statistic does not count the brave souls and determined humans making a go of it in small, cramped, undependable American sedans.
Since it might be the only thing standing between me and living under the Bridge on the Fraser River in Tabernash I needed a few comforts. It had to drive (no trailer), it had to be tall enough to stand in, it had to have a toilet and shower. Anything else would be extra.
I studied the culture online.Most of the folks you see making online videos and living the life are white and apparently have endless money and massive luxurious land yachts. (Their complaints tend to be lousy internet service and water pressure issues at the RV parks.)
I would not own a giant land fortress even if I did have the money. What some might not realize is that campers the size of a bus (and all RVs) take a lot of maintenance. Expensive maintenance.
Plumbing. Poop. Electrical systems. Engines. Brakes. Water filtration. Tires, transmissions and tie rods. Cleaning. Vacuuming. Laundry. Home entertainment systems. Kitchens. Waste tanks.
Look at any storage facility in the USA that accommodates RVs. They are packed with the flashy husks of broken dreams and shelved ambitions. RVs sit in storage for years. Storing one costs at least $100 per month for a spot outside, or you can rent a heated, inside storage unit for an average of $230 per month in Colorado. Someone is making some bank in Tabernash. That storage unit is crowded with millions of dollars worth of wasted space on wheels.
If you store an RV outside it must be winterized. RVs literally dissolve in the sun if you leave them outside long enough. Mice and other rodents love RVs.
Look around the neighborhood. How many RVs do you see sitting there in the yard, a colossal waste of money and resources? Purchasing an RV is like purchasing an exercise bike. Or a boat. Or a cabin on the lake. It’s a ball and chain for some. And a grim, daily reminder of a ticket to paradise that didn’t get redeemed often enough.
If you are one of those nine million American households who go out in your RV an average three times per year I applaud some of you. Seems like there are plenty of us out there. The most obvious ones are massive buses or trailers. Or buses with trailers driven by wealthy senior citizens looking for something to do. Gas gobblers.
RVs are often trailing cars, jeeps or other canisters full of toys that would not fit in the RV itself. The bigger the RV, the more likely you are to need to tow another vehicle to get around after you park the bus. Unless you grew up in a city driving a bus, you may not be qualified to drive a bus towing a car around the mean streets of America.
If civilization lasts long enough to look back, historians are going to laugh at the luxury RV movement in our country. It’s out of control.
I like to boondock, without the advent of hookups, internets, electricity or cable TV. I like it quiet. But many folks who head out to the lake for the weekend or park in remote places near others feel the need to run a generator for the air conditioner, television set, outdoor speaker system and refrigerator.
So many tend to bring their bad habits out to exotic sites. Shitting in the woods. Fireworks. Generators. Guns. Loud music. Trash. The list goes on.
If you are seriously considering an RV think about going small like many of the millennial RVers out there driving those fancy Mercedes vans that get good mileage and can go off road but still cost upwards of $150,000. Just don’t let it rot in the yard. Better yet, rent one every time you want to go out for a year and see how often you go.
And now I’m on the road.
It was hard to do but I drove past the sign reading, “World’s Biggest Golf Tee.” Sure I’d like to see it and yes I have a place in mind where I’d like to see it deeply installed but I don’t have that luxury. I had already passed the “Horseshoe Pitching Hall of Fame,” which was also a difficult decision.
If it wasn’t for the pandemic I would have stopped and lingered over Uncle Billy’s golden horseshoes or his Bud Lite cooler which would on display with his lucky shorts. And the golf tee along with the “World’s Biggest Mailbox” would have lured me off I-70 if I hadn’t been closing in on my destination.
When you are crossing this great big country with a small dog in a small RV you have to choose your attractions wisely. There’s so much to see on the way to a lakeside cabin in Maine.
Despite mankind’s best efforts the most gratifying and memorable experiences are provided by water, trees, sunshine and rain.
I forgot about rain until I drove into a storm cell in Missouri. The rain in the plains is f#$+ing insane! Visibility went from miles to millimeters in a matter of a few seconds. I’m a pretty good driver but I was clutching the wheel like an Indy Car driver coming into the last turn with the pack hot on my heels. After 15 minutes it was all over and the world returned.
And Kansas? Kansas is the real land of lakes and me and Chooch found ourselves on the shore of a big man made one. We took a spin on the stand up paddle board, braving wind and waves caused by power boats and wave runners. After making it back safely to shore we decided to take a little dip.
I thought that all dogs knew how to swim. I was wrong about that. I got in the water and encouraged my little 25 pound shelter mutt to swim out. He did. Doggystyle. Cute. His little legs propelled him along and things we going swimmingly. But then I started wading to shore and encouraged him to follow. I watched in horror as he rolled over like a sea cucumber, the stubby legs paddling air and the belly in the up position. I grabbed him just before he went under looking for Davie Jones’ locker.
In Indiana we stopped at Lieber State Park. It was quiet and foggy and moist. Moss was growing on everything from the trees to the picnic tables. The trees created a dense thicket with a canopy 70 feet up. Ash, maple, willow, red pines. It was like an American rainforest not all that far from the world’s most famous oval asphalt.
Rain had fallen recently and the tress shed droplets when the breeze came up. I made rice on the stove and just gazed into the gathering dusk. As darkness fell bright embers began to swim in my vision. I’ve seen tracers before but this was different. Fireflies danced all about us as we watched nature’s Netflix display. I was thinking that it must be a lot of work lighting up while flying around. What remarkable skill.
Kind of like penetrating a storm cell in Ohio while you are driving 70 on I-70 surrounded by 18-wheelers in a hurry to bring truckloads of plastic crap to American consumers. Now that’s work.
Steve Skinner is on the road where he has noticed that there is a MacDonald’s on every exit as you head east on I-70. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.