Aye, Matie—Here Be Your RV
Roadtrek’s Gordon Payne delivers his company’s 210-Popular, a 22-foot van conversion, what’s known in the business as a class B motor home. He has driven it 500 miles from Roadtrek’s Ontario headquarters to my Massachusetts driveway with his Toyota trailing behind for the return trip. Built on a Chevrolet Express extended van, expanded sideways, vertically, and lengthwise, with a raised roof and a skylight, the RV looks like a van on steroids. The bulged-out sides make room in back for a king-size bed, an air conditioner, and a DVD player with a flat-screen TV, and, in the middle, a bathroom with a shower, across from a galley with a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, and a sink. The 210-Popular, my home for the next month, is more luxurious than the average house in Ulaanbaatar, and with 300 horsepower it can do better than 90 mph on the road. Not that I would ever drive that fast.
Gordon had only two hours to bring me up to speed on my high-speed home: how to use the generator, water pump, water heater, furnace, and liquid-propane tank; how to fill the freshwater tanks, dump the black-water (toilet) and gray-water (sinks and shower) tanks; when to activate electricity and which modes (battery or AC) to use; when to run the refrigerator on gas or juice; and a dozen other things peculiar to a home on wheels.
He gave me tips on RVers themselves, warning me that they prefer nautical language. The cord for connecting to the AC electricity in an RV park, for instance, is called a shore line. Avast! I was reminded of John Belushi’s fey pirate on Saturday Night Live: “Aye, we are manly men.” Gordon also warned me that it was traditional to lie about one’s gas mileage. Don’t be surprised, he told me, if an RVer in a 40-foot motor home claims to get 18 mpg (probably closer to 6 mpg). RVers do their part for the environment by fibbing. For the record, the Roadtrek got 15 mpg (that converts to 42 mpg for my RV friends out there).
Weathering My First Storm
Under way! I roll the Roadtrek out of the driveway to begin the 224-mile trip northwest to North Hero Island, Vermont, in Lake Champlain. The weight is a shock. I’m used to a little BMW, and here I am trundling down the road in a 10,000-pound studio apartment on wheels. The water tanks are sloshing, my inexpertly packed load is shifting, badly secured drawers and cabinet doors are opening and closing. I turn up the radio to drown out the noise.
I arrive at North Hero State Park campground around sunset. It is a beautiful site on Lake Champlain, with Canada north across the water. I back into my campsite, not without some difficulty, and find that my auxiliary battery is low, so I hit the button for the generator. It makes a horrendously loud noise, like Ethel Merman having an apnea attack. I feel like a lout, as my neighbors, regular tent campers who have just kayaked 15 miles around the island, are trying to enjoy a quiet evening around the campfire sans engine noises. By way of apology I carry over a six-pack of beer, plus salsa and chips, and meet the kayakers—three men, one woman. They actually request a tour of the Roadtrek, and love it. We spend hours around their fire, and I admire the “purity” of their camping compared with my newly discovered RV life. The next morning I awake to a rainstorm and the moans and cries of my neighbors as they break camp in the rain.
It’s no fun taking down tents in a storm, stuffing them wet into sacks, or running 500 feet to the bathroom, soaking wet. I simply walk to the middle of the RV, use the bathroom, and go back to my warm, dry bed. I close the window vent so I don’t have to hear my neighbors’ cries of anguish. This RV life is okay