By Chuck Woodbury
In 1981, Barbara Mandrell recorded a song titled “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” For those of you new to RVing, there was a time when RVing wasn’t cool. In fact, 10 years ago it wasn’t cool. It was still “Grandma and Grandpa’s Playhouse” (popular bumper sticker for a few decades). It was for old people. If you were 20, 30 or 40, it was for your parents or grandparents.
The pandemic has changed that. The only safe way to travel now is by RV. For anyone accustomed to hopping a plane to Europe every summer, or booking a cruise in the Caribbean, hitting the road with an RV and exploring the USA sounds a lot better than sitting at home. Europe can wait. Even if you’re 25, RVing is okay. It’s hip! Everybody wants to do it.
But this coolness has come with a huge price – crowding. RV parks are packed. Good luck finding a spot in a National Park campground without reserving it a year ahead. Some National Parks now require a reservation to just drive through the front gate!
I liked RVing better when it wasn’t cool. I could move around easily. I never made camping reservations.
THE RV INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION predicts more than half a million new RVs will ship to customers this year. KOA, the chain of campgrounds, predicts that nearly 20 million people will camp over the July 4th weekend. If you think you might want to join them but don’t have reservations yet, then plan on cooking your holiday hotdogs in the microwave in a Walmart parking lot (“America’s Overflow Campground”).
The relatively sudden “coolness” of RVing struck a nerve with me last weekend when Parade Magazine featured a cover story. “This could be you,” a caption near the top said. And there, in full color, occupying the entire cover of a magazine that would be read by 20 million people was a Class C motorhome crossing a beautiful highway bridge along the Pacific Ocean beach. I’ll tell you, if I were not yet an RVer, I’d be drooling: “I want to do that!”
I’m a road trip kinda guy. I don’t like parking my motorhome for months on end at a fancy resort to play pickleball and make jewelry in the craft shop. I want to be out searching for the world’s largest hairball or wolfing down any hamburger with a weird name (my all-time favorite was an Earl Burger). I want to drive blue highways, walk small town main streets, and grab coffee at the local cafe. “What can I bring you, Hon?” That’s what the servers ask (they used be called waitresses). They’re always women. Half are named Betty. I love ’em.
But those days are going, going … almost gone.
Okay, I’m venting about the good ol’ days just like every other old fart in the world. It’s a new world – yeah, I know – and most of the folks buying RVs nowadays don’t remember when you could drive whatever road you wanted, any direction, and at 4 p.m. find an RV park, pull in, and spend a night or two. They accept today’s realities of a crowded world.
What peeves me big time is that the RV Industry Association and its advertising and PR agencies are still pitching RVing as the way to “go where you want, when you want,” like it really was 20 years ago. That’s a whole lot of B.S. I suggest that today it’s far easier to find a hotel or motel room closer to a popular tourist attraction than a campground or RV park.
To be honest, I don’t even know what RVing means anymore – is it traveling with a $400,000 motor coach with built-in heated floors or a 20-foot travel trailer? Is the RV for camping or living? Do “houseless” people living on the streets in $150 junked Class C’s qualify as RVers? Do people who live year-round in a 45-foot luxury fifth wheel – are they RVers? Do workers on pipelines and wind machines, and traveling nurses, who spend three months in one place and then move to another, home-schooling their kids – are they RVers? Do van dwellers squatting on public lands, pooping in Home Depot buckets — are they RVers?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
Thank you for listening (reading). I needed to get this out.
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