I am in the process of making my annual pilgrimage to the East Coast. While my fantasy would be to travel in a vintage RV of some sort with my dogs and kids, I am driving my Suburban and staying in a Holiday Inn, instead. This year’s trip began with my researching how to transport my ten-week-old puppy, Stormy, during a two day car ride. Based on what I’d read, I put him in a travel crate where he immediately pooped and cried for forty-five minutes until we realized his dilemma. We washed out the crate with bottled water and my son’s T-shirt and finished the first leg of the trip with him and Sunny, my one-year-old, sprawled about the car. While making the drive, I secretly fantasized about joining Sisters on the Fly. It’s an organization I read about in an article by Pete Zimowsky of the Idaho Statesman entitled Camping Guide: Putting An Artsy Touch On Classic Campers.
Sisters on the Fly is a worldwide group of women who renovate vintage campers and travel in them. It is HG-TV goes on the road. I found myself scouting Route 80 for these vintage campers but instead saw regular campers that still fueled my imagination about card-playing family members sitting in back of the camper while they painlessly ate up the miles.
If I weren’t traveling with two puppies, one un-housebroken, I would make my first stop two and a half hours into the trip. Each year I pull off in Elkhart, Indiana, to top off the gas tank, get a snack and visit my favorite museum of all time, The RV Museum and Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever driven on Route 80 through Indiana, you’ve passed this place. I did for years before I finally stopped in to take a look. This is a marvelous, gigantic place filled with RVs from all along the time line in all shapes and sizes. Surprisingly, many of them you can go into, lie on the beds or sit in the driver’s seat, take goofy photos and fantasize about cutting loose and going out onto the open road!
The museum has lovely, clean bathrooms and a so-so gift shop that has potential to be a great gift shop. They just need a clever and interested buyer. I’ll be honest; I skip the Hall of Fame upstairs each time I stop. I have no idea what that’s all about but I could see from downstairs that it’s full of photographic portraits.
Once you enter the showroom, you can watch an RV video and tour the first section that has the really big, newer RVs. This museum would be perfect if they had a showroom filled with the newest and most innovative RVs such as the Mehrzeller camper. These behemoths are fun and cool to go through but the real treat is in the second part of the museum. You enter a giant showroom that has a small “road” that wends among fake trees and campers dating back to the early 1900s. The museum does a great job with props and settings and you can really get a feel for the adventurous spirit of past and present RV enthusiasts.
My only personal experience with a camper was in 1968 when my parents rented a pop-up model. My dad nearly lost his thumb getting the thing set up. My mom was sick as a dog before the trip but rallied so that we could get a “camping” experience. It turned out that whatever illness she had, had gone through the family and I really only remember trips in the dark to the communal campground bathroom.
I became more interested in acquiring a camper of some sort after taking a road trip out west with my family last year. A Facebook friend was also traveling with her family in a camper dubbed the Soul Sistah! She and her husband pulled their kids out of school and travelled around the US for seven months. While we had a lovely eleven-day trip traveling in our SUV, I jealously watched their progress in their not-so-reliable home-on-wheels. What a fabulous trip! They now use the Soul Sistah to take weekend jaunts.
I have also been following a former work colleague of mine, Mary, on Facebook. She just retired and bought herself a camper. I gave her a call and asked her what made her take to the open road. She said, “I’d been talking about it for years and doing research. At my retirement party, I was given all kinds of RV stuff (whatever that is). I couldn’t chicken out after all of that!”
I wished I had that option with my crew last week, instead of staying in a sketchy hotel room with a view of the parking lot. I had to dress in the middle of the night to take my puppy out to pee. Mary is enjoying the freedom of traveling around the United States, visiting friends and being independent. When I was speaking with her, she had just arrived in Springfield, OH. She asked me, “Do you know where I am?” No. “This place is gorgeous. I’m stopping here.” She later posted a pic of herself with her Teva-clad feet up, a stainless glass of wine on a little table with some munchies and a gorgeous view. Sigh…
Kathleen Thometz is an artist and writer. She lives with her husband, kids and doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com