By Betty Fitterman
The difference between my husband and me is that while I am impulsive and curious and not at all worried about getting lost, he is a strategist and a planner and the kind of person who reads the manual before assembly. And he hates getting lost. So he does all the work of mapping out our routes, getting the RV attended to, and other chores I find boring or distasteful. Which, happily, allows me to be a happy-go-lucky, go-along companion who rarely objects to his plans, except for the ones that include rushing through an adventure in order to get home to see a football game.
This article is dedicated to all of you who would rather plan than jump, and comes to you courtesy of a few lunchtime interviews with my man. For all of you who feel the joy of an adventure in the pages you read beforehand, here are some of the ways you can travel, places to stay, savings to take advantage of, and the manuals and websites we’ve found to be most helpful to us as we traverse this great country.
You can buy a recreational vehicle in every state in the country, but don’t go to the big city. RV dealers are rural and suburban for obviously practical reasons. They take up a lot of space. And first, do your homework. The RV Consumer Group out of Washington State is an independent group that rates RVs on such issues as highway control, reliability, value and safety. Membership costs about $140 and includes a ratings CD. A great investment and a great way to educate yourself before buying. They also offer numerous books and reports, including one on how to negotiate your purchase. http://www.rv.org
You can travel in a mode to suit any budget and lifestyle. Take your car and bring a tent, pull a pop-up, or do as one avid RV author did – travel with a modified van (bathroom, kitchen and TV but no real sleeping except for emergency stops) and stay in motels along the way. She just never wanted to sleep in the open. Fine. That still counts as RVing.
If you want to live either full or part time in your vehicle, here are some good choices: pull a trailer behind a car or truck, buy a truck and fifth wheel, which is attached to the bed of the truck and can be detached at campsites, or choose a Class C Motor home, which is looks like a truck in front, a Class B, which is a converted van that you can stand up in, or a Class A motor coach, which looks like a bus and can run up to 50’ in length. For the Class A, you will need to pull a car, since it will be too big to negotiate narrow streets and big cities. Towing a car is not difficult. If you can pilot a 45’ vehicle, you can manage another few feet easily.
I never wanted to stay in campgrounds. I thought they were crowded, tacky and dirty. When I realized that you can’t just pull off to the side of the road for a night in a rig this enormous, I discovered the virtue of places designed to accommodate one’s need for water, electricity and oh yes, a dumping facility. Besides, I was very wrong about campsites. While there are some really tacky, really crowded and really under-tended places, if you choose well, you’ll find your campground is clean, safe, properly outfitted and quite often, very beautiful, with superb views of the surrounding area, be it lake, seaside, mountain or desert.
Two other options also offer distinct advantages: Walmart Supercenters dot this country’s main roads, and they offer free overnight parking to both truckers and RVers. I’ve never felt safer than when parked next to a big ol’ semi. It’s dry camping – no water or electric and no dumping, but that’s what generators are for.
State parks are also wonderful places to stay. They’re inexpensive, may offer water and electricity, and usually have the most beautiful and biggest of spaces. This was true in Canada especially, where the campgrounds seemed more rustic and the state parks more pristine. One of my favorite places to stay turned out to be less than 10 miles from my home and I had never been there in all the time I lived there! It was huge, gorgeous and offered everything from boating, swimming, and hiking to peaceful sleep and quiet surroundings. It‘s the perfect place to stay while visiting my friends in the area.
Another very important piece of the planning puzzle is the matter of reference materials.
We couldn’t live without our Woodall’s, the granddaddy of all campground guides, which gives important info about each campground and also rates them with one to five W’s. Now one man’s five-star may be another’s three, but we’ve agreed with most of their ratings. We cross-reference Woodall’s with the Big Rig Guide, then often go online for a look-see at the facility. In our library are also the Trailer Life Directory, Best RV Tent Campgrounds in America, and Frommer’s Exploring America by RV.
We joined KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and Passport America for the discounts they offer at their campgrounds, and they sent us their directories too. KOA.com (10% discount), passportamerica.com (50%)
For general information and news of events and rallies, we joined the Family Motor Coach Association. www.Fmca.com
And finally, we bought a Tom-Tom GPS navigation system that works in both coach and car, a large-print book of state maps, a calendar to jot down our stays because it’s incredibly easy to forget where you’ve been when you’ve been to so many places, our computers and cell phones, and a phone card that lets us get online anywhere there is cell service. Our Co-Pilot computer program maps our itineraries and gives us mileage and times in much the same way that Mapquest does, but the maps are bigger and easier to read, and the program includes audio directions if you don’t have a GPS. We use every one of these things every day.
Maybe I’m more of a planner than I thought.
Here is a link to the first article in Betty's series on living the mobile lifestyle in retirement
And here is the link to Part 6 of the series
Bio Information: Betty Fitterman was in advertising for over 30 years before her retirement in July of this year. An award-winning writer, she was EVP/Creative Director and a member of the Board of Directors of Lintas Advertising until 1997, when she and her partner Frank DeVito formed DeVito Fitterman Advertising, which today is a successful agency serving blue chip clients like Johnson & Johnson, Ricola, ASCAP. Fujifilm and Arch Insurance, among others. To read her humorous observances on mobile living, visit her blog at http://adventuresinthebettybus.blogspot.com.