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Getting Around the High Cost of Living

And workers, in turn, need someplace to live. Short-term rentals -- whether apartments or residential hotel rooms -- are expensive, and houses can be out of reach to buy or rent. For many, an RV is the answer.

At Aquia Pines Camp Resort in Stafford, demand is so high that owner Everett Lovell said he's considering ripping out some of his tent sites and adding to the 20 spaces he reserves for long-term RV dwellers.

Remi Bergeron works on his computer at a work station he created to fit over the steering wheel of his RV. (Andrea Bruce Woodall -- The Washington Post)

RV Campgrounds: These are some of the sites around the metro area that allow long-term RV camping.
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Cherry Hill Park in Prince George's County has taken a surge of calls since 2002, when the fear of terrorism began to subside and workers felt comfortable taking jobs here again, said Janice Stabinsky, the park's office manager.

When callers hear her park's monthly rate, about $1,400 per RV, many believe they can find a place to live for less, Stabinsky said.

"Then they try, and they can't," she said. "And they call back and ask for a space."

Cherry Hill reserves as many as 40 or 50 spaces for long-term campers.

The RV phenomenon first appeared in Silicon Valley during the mid-to-late 1990s, when some dot-com workers turned to RVs for relief from long commutes and steep mortgages and rents.

"The economy was so hot in that area at that time, some companies were letting [workers] park RVs in their parking lots," said R.B. Brinton, marketing director for Escapees RV Club, a Livingston, Tex.-based organization that caters to RV users. "Most all of the parks in the area were full with waiting lists."

Making the transition from a "sticks-and-wood" home into an RV is much cushier than it used to be.

"Most RVs now have at least two TVs," one in the living area and one in the sleeping area, Brinton said. "As you get into higher-end models, worth $200,000 and $300,000, you have plasma TVs that swing down from the ceiling. You have your complete theater surround system. . . . It's not what people 40 years ago used to think of as an RV or RVing."

Brian and Jo Lynn Forney's 36-foot-long RV, which they keep parked at Cherry Hill, comfortably holds a medium-size couch, matching La-Z-Boy chairs, a dining area for four, a queen-size bed and the couple's cat, Smokey.

It's as wired as almost any home, with a 27-inch television, DirecTV with TiVo, satellite cable, a built-in stereo system and a DSL hookup. Brian Forney, 42, and Jo Lynn Forney, 41, both master sergeants in the Army National Guard, even ride the Metro to work every day from Greenbelt to Crystal City.

When the two are asked how they could possibly live in an RV, they reply as unabashed fans.

"Does your house have oak cabinets all the way through?" asks Brian Forney.

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