(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
RVing -- a lifestyle (some ramblings...an article for first time RVers or those thinking of it)

How'd you get started in RVing?  In the early 1960s I was having lunch with a co-worker (Dick Wolters,
illustration editor of
Business Week and avid outdoorsman) who described his motorhome -- it was
fascinating.  It was the first time I had heard of a motorhome.  A short time later I read an article of his in
New York Times, Travel Section
and I was hooked.  But for us motorhoming was a long time coming.  Our
family started by tent camping in the mid '60s and later we used tent trailers.  Some of our fondest memories
of family vacations were with the tent trailers.  After retiring, in 1991, we had both the time and resources to
justify our first RV -- a motorhome.

WHAT is the RV lifestyle?  It depends upon your perspective.

    Companies that make RVs say RV stands for "Recreational Vehicle" -- that refers to the vehicle --
    that's how they see it.  That's what they're selling -- vehicles.  

    To RVers, RV means much more.  To some it means "Relaxing Vacations" to others it is a
    "Recreational  Vacation"; to us it means a Roaming Vacation wandering all over the US and Canada.  
    To some it is a home -- full time or part time.  To all, it's a lifestyle that surpasses their expectations.   

    To some it's an economy family vacation.  

    To others it is a luxury vacation with suitable amenities.  (We have actually seen a chauffeur driven
    motorhome -- the driver arrived at the camp site, hooked up to electric and disconnected the towed
    car and drove off to a motel for the evening, leaving his employers to enjoy their oceanfront site.)  

    To all RVers it is an opportunity to do as they want.  Some expect to tour the country, others plan to
    be either out in the woods away from the pressures of civilization or to be in a friendly community of
    like-minded people.  Some pursue special interests like square dancing, retracing Civil War battles,
    hiking mountain trails, golf -- it's endless.  Others participate in volunteer activities.  Most expect a
    blend of these with the convenience of their own living accommodations.  RVers have suitable
    sleeping and dining areas; bathroom; cooking facilities with gas stove/oven, microwave,
    refrigerator/freezer; air conditioning; TV; computer, etc.  No hunting for restrooms or a place to eat.  

    In a RV park you'll probably strike up a conversation with another RVer, learn where they've been and
    maybe get ideas of places you shouldn't miss.  Activities are unlimited.  As you are in your home away
    from home you may spend the evening at a campfire with your neighbor; read a book while sitting
    under a tree,  help your child learn to ride a bike or be inside working on a project that you enjoy.  
    You might even be working on your computer or viewing TV.

    An important aspect is that the RV lifestyle attracts people of all walks of life and varied backgrounds.  
    Their interests are diverse -- maybe they are history buffs, golfers, hikers, or seeking photo ops.  
    They may scuba dive to see the underwater wonders or they may parasail over the ocean.  They may
    drive an ATV over sand dunes or hike along the river's edge.  They may be interested in the local
    flowers or be on the lookout for new birds to add to their life list.  It goes on and on.

    They may be retired and touring the country or they may be on a one week vacation with their
    children who head back to school next month.  We have met campers who were professors, writers,
    farmers, politicians, physicians, airline pilots, construction men, sales people, truck drivers, corporate
    executives, even a prison guard (and what stories he could tell).  They all relish the RV lifestyle.

    So... it boils down to the fact that the RV lifestyle is what you want it to be!

    What it's meant to us...   We were suburbanites -- the corporate slave type...go to work early in the
    morning, return late in the evening; family time with our daughters; PTA, Girl Scouts, and other
    activities.  Sort of routine.  RVing has enabled us to travel and experience things we didn't anticipate.  
  • Like visiting a couple in their home at a remote bay in Newfoundland;
  • learning of earlier civilizations while exploring cliff dwellings;
  • waiting over an hour for hundreds (thousands) of caribou to cross the road ahead of us;
  • walking on glaciers;
  • white water rafting; deep sea fishing; enjoying a fresh trout dinner;
  • flying over Florida Keys in an ultralight;
  • retracing Civil War battles;
  • reading a book while sitting outside our motorhome and watching seals sunning themselves;
  • walking along the beach at sunset;
    ... and this is only a sampling.

Any tips for newbies in selecting a RV?  

    Probably the most important thing is to take your time and don't let a fast talking salesperson talk you
    into buying the unit on which he gets the largest commission.  "This won't stay on the lot long...you've
    got to act fast."  (Keep in mind all salespeople, whether they are on commission or salary, are
    evaluated by their sales volume.)  
    The job of the salesperson is to sell to you.
    That is different from your job.
    Your job is to make a sound purchase for your family and to properly evaluate the alternatives.
    Many of the salespeople are not RVers but have well developed sales pitches that boost the
    customer's ego.  Most RVers have experience with only one type of unit (including us) -- so weigh the
    variables and make the decision on your own.  

    Keep in mind, you are not just purchasing a trailer or motorhome -- you are purchasing a
    lifestyle.  That's what it's all about.  

    Think back to when you decided to live in your present home -- you first selected an area based on
    lifestyle characteristics: quality of schools, recreational and cultural opportunities, proximity to your job,
    etc.  It was only after you evaluated these factors that you selected your home in the neighborhood
    you believed would have the best overall lifestyle for your family.  

    Today there is no one unit on the lot that will surpass anything you'll see in the next three months or
    year -- there is no reason to rush.  All units look nice...and the bigger and more expensive units look
    bigger and more expensive -- but importantly, you have to consider your needs.  It may be that the
    lifestyle it provides will not be the lifestyle you hope to have.  You simply cannot expect to stay in state
    or federal parks in a 40' motorhome and have 50amp service.  At the other end of the spectrum there
    are a few membership luxury RV parks that only accept large motorhomes of a specified purchase
    price ($500,000 and up).

    Do a self analysis of what you want a RV to do for you.  What lifestyle do you look forward to?
  • Do you want to leave it at a nearby lake for the summer and go fishing on weekends?  
  • Do you plan to go to a nearby campground with a strong social or children's program?  
  • Do you want to migrate with the sun and seek a warmer spot for the winter and a cool one for
    the summer?  
  • Do you want to "camp" in the woods and enjoy the sound of birds and see the deer?  
  • Do you plan to travel to Grand Canyon and other national parks?  or tour Alaska? or
    Newfoundland?  or Washington, DC?
  • Do you want to take the adult children, in-laws, or others?  or would it be more convenient to
    put them up in a nearby motel for the limited time they'd be with you?
  • Does your build or physical condition require special consideration?  
  • How many people will occupy the unit?  How about pets?
  • How many months a year will it be used?  Do you have a place for it when not in use that
    conforms to zoning or HOA regulations?
  • About how many days a year will the unit be traveling?  How many miles?
  • Do you plan to live in your unit full time? or extended time periods?
  • Do you favor traveling on the less traveled roads or are you content to stay on the  Interstates?
  • Do you have special needs related to your job or interests that must be accommodated?
  • What is your budget?  In addition to the purchase price have you considered the cost of
    operation, maintenance, and fixed costs of storage, taxes, insurance, replacement cost, etc.?  If
    a towable, have you considered the costs of operating the tow vehicle?  Is your present tow
    vehicle up to the task?
  • Do you want to visit out-of-town family members without interfering with the host's routine and
    have the comforts of your home on wheels by parking in their driveway or a local RV park?  
  • Is your emphasis on a casual travel experience or is your top priority on comfortable living at
    stops along the way?
  • Do you need to tow a boat or other toy?

    As you weight the options you'll see that you probably have a blending of interests that favor both a
    large or small trailer or motorhome.  Over time your interests and needs may change as the family
    matures so you may wish to anticipate this.  It's trade off time -- a bit of give and take.

    A website that you might go to for helpful information is  www.rversonline.org which discusses the
    purchase of a RV.  The Gonsers have owned various types of RVs and share their experiences.  
    (Updates to the site have been temporarily suspended -- however, there's still much of interest that is

Note: The balance of this page is biased and is based on our perceived needs and interests.

    We considered both trailers and motorhomes.  We felt that the decision would determine our lifestyle
    on the road, so the decision was very important.  Our goal was to travel and see America on a
    reasonable budget.  We planned to be on the go -- touring five or six months a year and expected to
    do this for six or seven years into our early 70s.  (Now, two decades and 230,000 miles later, we're
    traveling in our third motorhome.)  Our idea of touring is to leave in the morning and stop to see the
    places along the way and at the end of the day locate a suitable place to stay.   Sometimes we find
    we've only gone ten or twenty miles and return to the park we stayed at the prior night or other nearby
    park.  Our priority is on the travel experience though we have been snowbirds and as we are getting
    older (less young) we tend to stay places for a longer time.  With this type of traveling we felt a
    motorhome would be more suited to our needs than a trailer.  Trailers are preferred by most families.

    When we purchased our first RV we felt the best way for us to come to a decision was to get a small
    used unit with the thought that this would be a trial period and our second purchase would benefit
    from a better understanding of our needs and whether the lifestyle was as we anticipated.  Our
    reasoning was that it would be easier to later get a larger unit to add essentials than to have a large
    unit and "downsize" by giving up nonessentials we'd become accustomed to.  Our first unit was a 22'
    class A motorhome with a corner bed.  Two years (and 30,000 miles) later we purchased a 25'
    motorhome with a walk around bed -- that was the only additional need we felt was important.  We
    continue to travel several months a year in a 26' unit, which has more storage space than our earlier
    units.  We travel in a casual manner without adhering to a rigid itinerary -- our preference.  

    It is not a perfect world.  In a perfect world a motorhome would be 20' long on the outside and 40' long
    on the inside.

    In retrospect we feel our decision was right for us.  We read the forums in which people ask for
    information of campsites or routing and say their concern is the overall size of their unit.  (They seem
    restricted in where they feel comfortable or are able to drive.)  We do not have that concern, which
    means we are free to roam.  (And roam we do.  In one year we stayed at over 40 different RV parks.  
    In one 2,800 mile segment we only traveled 110 miles on the Interstates.)  On the flip side, our living
    accommodations when parked are not quite as comfortable as some other units -- it's a trade off.

Some nitty gritty   Never been camping or
RVing -- maybe some of your questions or
uncertainties will be covered in this section.  
For starters -- it's doesn't have to be "roughing
                                     Click here
(In contrast, when you check into a motel you go to your
room, figure out what you'll do for dinner, have a meal
that is prepared at a nearby restaurant, and return to
your room to enjoy TV or a book, etc.  You seldom leave
your room or exchange greetings with other tourists.  
There's also increasing concern about bed bugs.)