How NOT to Buy a Used RV

Posted by in Buying an RV

Ah, the permutations of middle-class indulgence.  Here’s how to buy a used RV in a slightly unorthodox way.

You can get a little 16-foot Bambi trailer, streamlined aluminum inside and out with the retro look of the classic Airstreams in the 50s.  You can get a Bounder with a more elegant interior than most tract homes around the country.  You can probably find an old converted Greyhound with imperfectly fitted cabinetry that squeaks when you turn, and you can splurge for a million-dollar rig with In-Motion Satellite Internet and a Jacuzzi for two.

Most people start with the larger expense, a motor home or the trailer they want to pull with their giant pick-up.  What I did of course was exactly the opposite.  Here, I can say after much practice and experimentation, is how NOT to do it:

First, fall in love with a car that is really too heavy to tow with a gas-powered motor home.  Buy that car and then look around for a gas motor home to tow it with.  I believe they call this Putting The Cart Before the Horse.  I love the Mini Cooper but she’s a porker at 2700 lbs.  This may not sound like much but it’s a little too much when you take the following steps:

Laboriously research every coach on the market.  Entertain really great ideas like a motor home with a garage in the back for your Toad (that’s what they call the vehicle you’re towing – don’t you love that?)  Yes, there’s more than one company that make motor homes that carry your car inside.  Then call the manufacturers, go to the RV shows … and ignore most of what you learn.

Then one day it will happen …

Go to a grey lot in central New Jersey.  Stop dead in your tracks in front of an old coach the likes of which you’ve never seen before.  Notice its long, curvaceous lines … really, really long, much longer than anything you’ve ever driven and much longer than you need.  Notice the shine of its aluminum skin, the alluring, if glazed look in its headlights.  Hear an out-of-tune Mariachi band playing while you are standing on the lot gazing at the vehicle.  Demand to see it even though someone just brought it in for sale an hour ago.

The Motyho

Stroke the dated upholstery, the dirty kitchen counter.  Sit in the driver’s seat, turn the key in the ignition and listen to the throaty, antique carbureted engine and burst into laughter.  As your blood pressure rises and your face flushes, cast about for an off-hand remark to make to the salesman, like “You gotta sell this to me or it’s curtains for you!”  Only then ask how much it is and what’s wrong with it.  Fortunately, you know it couldn’t be anywhere near as much as the wacky rigs you’ve been considering so, by comparison, you’re getting a bargain.  Right?  Hmmmm.

Really look at the motor home.  Notice only the finishes and the fact that it is extremely cool.  Fantasize about how you will drive into town and your friends will gape in amazement, think of the hip retro parties you will give in it, the fun you will have furnishing and renovating it, the sexy encounters you will have in the bedroom once you have converted the twins into a huge bed the width of the vehicle.  Fall in love with it.  Pay the full asking price and take it off the lot before they’ve even had a chance to fully inspect it.  Yes, really, that’s how NOT to do it.

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What to Tell Your Friends When You Go Rving

Posted by in Why go RVing?

Tell them you’re really going to do this RVing trip thing; you‘re going to drop everything, strike out into the void, just for a while.  Tell them that you’re going to leave your family, your job, your image as Ole Reliable, all for a 6-month escapade.  Tell yourself it will be a 6-month escapade.  Watch with pleasure as their foreheads wrinkle, their eyeballs bulge, and the phrase forms on their lips, “Buh-, buh-, but….”

Inform them that even though leaving in an RV on a long voyage is about equivalent for Manhattanites to joining the circus, that it’s the right thing to do.  Invite them to come for a stretch.  That will embarrass them.  Pretend this whole thing is just a flash in the pan.  Believe it, mostly.

Maybe you can sell your home or your office that you’ve just spent a lot of time and money renovating.  Never mind that it’s a bad market for selling.

Keep telling yourself it’s just a 6-month trip.

If you really plan to do this, spend some time buying RV supplies.  Most people would probably recommend waiting until you know what you’re traveling in, but why spoil the party?  Yes, cool heads should prevail but since when is throwing your entire life up in the air a sign of good judgment?  Shouldn’t this be an occasion for extravagant splurging?  Or at least extravagant dreaming?

First, sit yourself down at the computer and seek out the catalogs of equipment that you can’t pronounce and for purposes that you can’t imagine.  Then call your friends and explain to them why you need an inverter for your computer and a digitizer for your wetchamacallit.  Condescendingly help them to pronounce the new terms.  Pretend you understand what you are talking about.  After you have exhausted their attention, try to remember what you’re were doing before this particular flight of fancy.

Don’t worry, most of you will forget the details of this stage of your RVing trip after a few years.

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Convincing Yourself to Go RVing

Posted by in Why go RVing?


I was asked by my skeptical New York friends many times:

“Why go RVing?  Why not just camp in a tent?” (read: Buy overpriced camping clothes and high-tech equipment)

“Couldn’t you just stay in hotels?” (read: Go only to charming B&Bs in artsy hamlets)

“I know a lot of people around the U.S. You could stay with them” (read: Why bother with all the fuss?  You don’t know what you’re doing anyway!)

Those are fair questions.  I’m not really sure I know the answers to why NOT those other things.  All I know is:

You really need an RV if you want to sleep in parking lots, listen to other people’s TVs extra loud and too long, and compete for basic services like room in the communal garbage can.

You really need an RV if you like to play the slot machines – in the gas station.  Every time you pull into a gas station it’s anyone’s guess what the price will be for, say, 80 gallons of gas.  Think about that.

You really need an RV if what you want to do is spend at least an hour on either side of a day-on-the-road with the toilette of a huge machine that neither appreciates nor thanks you for your efforts.  A motor home, while responsive to your needs will never improve for long.  It’s a big house in motion with the added benefit of tending to blow up, leak ugly juices, and strand you if you don’t pay careful attention.  You gotta love that.

But you also need an RV if you live to drive, if you love getting to know a vehicle and all its quirks, if you crave the feeling of being at home wherever you are but can turn on a dime (if it’s a pretty big dime) for a wooded glade or the nearest Airstream convention.

You need an RV if you want to be a host, if you want to offer the people you love an experience they would never have otherwise and with a certain amount of creature comfort.

And you need an RV if you want to wake up to new faces and accents and ready conversation seated in the security of each others’ back yards.

You just need an RV for some things.  Not everyone likes to sleep on the ground.

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The Voice of RV Experience, Sort of

Posted by in Why RV?

Some the best times of my life have been spent in my 1986 Airstream motor home.  I’d drive.  Fix something.  Stop for gas.  Drive.  Stop for gas.  Fix something.  It may not sound great to you, but it was heaven to me.  But of course, that’s not the whole RVing story.

I didn’t have a great time without getting myself into a few pickles on the road.  If you’re planning a long RV trip you should probably learn to like pickles; that is, if you’re driving a rig like mine.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I will go to my death defending the Airstream 345.   It’s just 23 years old, that’s all.  An old dream machine and a fitting vehicle for a woman having a midlife crisis.

The reason I’m telling you this is that every RVer runs into The Unexpected and, in fact, many RVers go RVing for just that purpose.  The thing is, the surprises don’t come how and when you’d predict.

And that’s the point.  After all the years of being so damn predictable in my life as a psychoanalyst, I set out to be totally unpredictable … and I accomplished exactly that.

If you’re stuck in your life, here’s the prescription:  First you smell the coffee, then you smell the roses.

I had to leave a lot behind to get my mind on the road ahead.  But the great thing about motor homes is you can take a lot with you.  On the path I’ve been traveling, I can never tell whether I am getting where I thought I was going and that’s about the attitude you need for a long road trip.  Be Careful What You Wish For.  And then Make Sure to Appreciate it When It Happens.

You can be the beneficiary of my mistakes.  I can tell you, step by step, how to create a journey full of problems, breakdowns, bad ideas, and generally stupid mistakes … and still have an experience that can change your life.  That you’ll cherish.  No, really.

So, in case you are contemplating a radical change, or if you’re just one of those people who enjoy other people’s goofs, here are relatively clear instructions on how NOT to do what I did, but how to get out there anyway; how to upset one apple-cart and take another on the road.

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How NOT to Go RV Camping with Friends

Posted by in RV Camping Etiquette, RV Camping guests, RV Travel Adventures

One of the great pleasures – and trials – is having guests in the motor home.  The more you travel, the better you will get at predicting who’s going to present which problems.  It’s not that you don’t present problems to them, it’s that it’s your house and you get to choose which tangles to get into with whom.  But, as I’ve implied, you just can’t tell precisely what’s going to come up. 

Different people have different periods of tolerance.  You’ll want to get to know quickly what your optimal visit-length is.  For fussers, I suppose it’s pretty short; even if you can stand it, your guests won’t be able to.  And I suppose it helps to have a good long stretch in the motor home by yourself first to really settle your fussies down about how the thing operates and what you’re likely to run into.

If you really want to jeopardize some old friendships, invite the inexperienced RVers who are already control-freaks and bring them on your first voyages.  Offer them no comfort that they can rely on your wisdom and experience, just let them loose in the motor home with inadequate instruction and then blame them when they break the equipment and question everything you do.  This works wonders if what you’re trying to do is weaken old bonds for your flight into the future.

On the other hand, if you want to alienate friends who have a taste for adventure, invite them for a really short stay and then send them home just as they’re getting used to the routine.  And remember, no matter how long the visit, once you give some people an inkling of how free they can feel on a trip like this, they’ll never stop thanking you … or they’ll never forgive you.

You will learn a lot more about your friends in an RV because their nights will be an open book.

Psychoanalysts have understood for years that the night belongs to the shadow side of our psyches, it’s the time when the wiggly, wobbly, wonders of our unconscious take over, when what’s really on our minds, the parts we can’t censor all the time and the parts that are truly automatic govern everything we do, our breathing, our sleeping, dreaming and waking, even our emissions.

Friends who will tactfully leave the room to vent in one way or another will not do this at night, not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know they’re doing it.  And the same goes for you.  Six people trying to control themselves in a motor home, that’s 9’ x 34’ …  I’m not sure what the math is that you’d do here, but you do it.  An alternative is that people just don’t sleep well which is a popular alternative.

Of course, that’s the least of it; arguments, food hoarding, undiscovered alcoholism, a propensity to pick one’s nose in otherwise private moments, and everyone’s favorite, the daredevil sex acts everyone hopes no one else can hear  … in a motor home there’s no other room to go to and when it’s raining out, the cost for discretion is just too great.

People are guarded for many reasons.  When they’re not, it’s usually more fun.  But for the ones who can’t help it but feel they should, RVing can be a real nightmare.

My coach sleeps one pair of really friendly people; one pair of really short, really friendly people; and one pair who could be anywhere from extremely friendly to moderately friendly but immodest, depending on whether or not you let them use your gigantic bed or whether you take it apart and let them sleep in the twin beds.  I was surprised at how little snoring there was.  Or how little I heard.  My guests were too polite to comment.

There is nothing more fun than having a pile of people in a cool motor home doing something they never expected to be doing, making discoveries right and left, and warming the shared space with love and laughter.  On the other hand, there is nothing less fun than feeling like there is absolutely no way to be comfortable due to the fact that people can’t sleep or think or bathe because there’s no privacy.

Consider packing a tent for interpersonal emergencies.

(Or read the book How NOT to RV, on the Kindle.)

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