If you go, RV shopping
That’s right — I’m RV shopping. I was considering travel plans for the coming year, and the notion of having my own portable dwelling somehow wormed its way into my mind. I liked the idea of traveling without reservations. And never again, I thought, would I find myself in the middle of nowhere, forced to depend on Motel 6 for a bed and on truck stops for nourishment.
But other than the appeal of driving off into the sunset with a home on my tail, I didn’t know much about RVs. The last time I’d hung out in a recreational vehicle was when my parents owned a Coleman pop-up — a jack-in-the-box-like trailer that morphs into a tiny house. We must have used it for camping at some point, but my sister and I only remember having it popped up in our suburban carport. With the luxury of indoor plumbing and a stocked kitchen only steps away, we would host friends for sleepovers, staying up late playing Uno and truth or dare. I also remember that the cushions were rust-colored. Certainly, RVs have changed since then. Right?
Driving up Route 15, it’s hard to miss Beckley’s Camping Center. I see RVs in all shapes and sizes, lined up behind a fence along the highway like puppies at a shelter. Pick me! Pick me!
In the showroom, a woman named Sherri describes the two basic types of RVs. Motor homes range from van campers to bus-sized, and towing options include expandable trailers, truck campers and toy haulers, which have built-in garages for things such as dirt bikes and kayaks. RVs cost anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000, and if you have to ask about gas mileage, you probably can’t afford it.
Sherri tells me that the couple of hundred RVs in the lot are unlocked, and she sends me out to explore. It’s a weekday, and I seem to have the place to myself. I meander around, stepping into RVs with names like Raptor, Cougar and Cyclone. Some pop up, some stretch out and most look far too wide for a city street, let alone the interstate. I see signs reminding me that I can ask for a test drive, which I had every intention of doing. Now, I think it would be easier to steer a submarine.
I walk up to the Winnebago Journey, a 36-foot, $264,000 mobile McMansion, which has side mirrors the size of solar panels. There are six stairs to reach the driver’s seat. I slip behind the steering wheel and sink into a comfy white leather chair. In front of me are enough controls that I should be able to fly. My seat is far enough away from the passenger’s that I question the feasibility of sharing snacks. Above the windshield is a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen, one of three. In the kitchen I find a full-sized KitchenAid stainless-steel fridge — some serious camper cred.