Five years ago, when I found myself with a little spare time, I took the opportunity to take the family to see some National Parks out west. I had been to many in my youth, but I was barely old enough to remember any of them. The trip went so well, that we planned to next tackle the series of parks that are mainly north of us. This year was the time. I had already planned on renting a vehicle, as I didn’t have confidence that the Pinto could do the job. Lodgings were looking tight, especially in Yellowstone. The solution: Rent an RV. Recreational Vehicle. That’s the ticket.
My extensive research on this subject consisted of watching the Robin Williams’ vehicle “RV”. So all I thought I had to do was find an RV and of course the right rv batteries to get me on my travelling adventures. Turns out, there was more to it then I thought. But this was a start. I figured that if I could manage to not run the RV into a lake or drown myself in human fecal matter, the trip would be a success.
Last time we were visiting the parks, we had seen many rental RVs out there from a company called “Cruise America”. Their rigs (I found later that you can call your RV a “rig”. Kinda cool. I loved “BJ and the Bear” as a young boy. So now I had the rig, but no traveling monkey. Unless you want to count the two in the back…) feature huge colorful murals of America’s greatest natural treasures. I started doing a bit of research and found quite a large number of people upset with their Cruise America experience. We ended up renting with El Monte RV, which cost a bit more, but we ended up with a 2012 unit with less than 27K miles on it. Since I was already forsaking my own vehicle for piece of mind that we wouldn’t break down, be eaten by bears, or forced into cannibalism… I didn’t want to rent what seemed to be the U-Haul of RV rentals (Side note: DO NOT, under any circumstances, rent from U-Haul.)
Here is our trusty steed. Saddle up!
This is a 25 footer, which apparently only the creepy Europeans rent. I am told that real Americans rent the big buses. Nobody wants to be a dirty commie, but I was already a bit nervous about driving such a gargantuan thing (I especially was concerned that we might go somewhere that didn’t have a parking space big enough), and the larger units really didn’t offer much extra except for the rear passengers, who were not chipping in financially for the experience. In fact, they’ve been a negative effect on the family financial picture for many years now, with no reversing of that situation in sight. As it turns out, it was really easy to drive. Trees and bushes will grow back. And mailboxes can be re-set.
Here is the interior layout of said recreational vehicle.
The plan of course was for the adults to sleep in the back and the kids to sleep up in the overhead bin over the front seats. Best laid plans…
Showed up to pick up the RV and there was a slight problem with my driver’s license. It turns out that it was a bit expired. Back in January, it seems. But I was busy in January for my birthday. And then February has less days than most months. March had the vernal equinox and then April I was busy with taxes. And you know what April showers do to May, and then there were all of the June bugs. So I was just about ready to get on that.
I had heard a lot of stories about having to wait at the DMV for hours at a time and, well, that never sounded like something I wanted to be involved with. But the guy renting the $75K vehicle seemed to be a stickler for renting it to someone with a valid driver’s license. So, on to the DMV with about an hour and a half until closing time. I sensed that the wife was a bit upset, but she didn’t let on. And she definitely never mentioned it again. Didn’t drone on and on about it for the next several hours and days or anything. Didn’t steer every conversation back to it. Didn’t write “IDIOT” with an arrow on the front windshield. None of that.
I got the license renewal with seconds to spare, got back to the RV and we were back in business. You’d figure you could pack an RV in a matter of minutes, but it’s kind of like moving from an apartment. You figure you don’t have a whole lot of stuff, but somehow it takes 1,459 trips to move everything. So as it turns out, we left first thing the next day. As long as your definition of “first thing” is 2:00pm.
Here’s the control panel.
Here you’ve got all of your necessary gauges. LP Gas for running the fridge. Battery. Fresh water. Un-fresh water.
The outside of the RV is littered with all sorts of hatches and compartments. And every one of them has a lock on it. Except, curiously, the one for the sewage connection.
We dropped Roxy, the family dog, off at Top Paw Pet Resort and told her we’d be back in a couple weeks. She seemed to take it well.
We instructed the kids to write journals about their experience. I said that I would be writing my own as well. My son seemed surprised and asked what would be in it, suggesting “kids are bad, blah blah blah”. A regular Rasputin, as it turned out.
In the next series of posts, follow us as we travel across some of the most spectacular (and unspectacular areas) of the USA. Off we go…