As America’s RV industry kicks off its centennial in 2010, I have to consider that age-old question: should I get one? I favor the miniature ones, the kind that look like vans and don’t require any special license or even a really big parking space. The cool thing is that these babies contain everything in a tiny space. If you were reading this blog back in October 2008, then you followed me on my weeklong RV trip with a free Roadtrek provided by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Here’s a wrapup post from that RV trip. So, as warmer weather is around the corner I start searching the ads for a used Roadtrek…
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The National Park Service is offering free admission to the nation’s 391 national parks this weekend, July 18-19. This is the second of three free-admission summer weekends, with the third scheduled for August 15-16. Information on fee-free visits to the national parks is here.
“During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
A total of 147 parks normally charge entrance fees ranging from $3 to $25, while 244 national parks never charge entrance fees.
And here’s info on RVs, if you need it.
[UPDATE: Scores of RVers fought back and won. The state of Maine backed down. Read the whole RVs in Maine story here.]
For the RVers out there, did you know that Maine legislators want to ban overnight RV parking in parking lots — in any public parking lot in the state, even if the owners welcome RVs. The fine could be $100.
From the RV Travel.com story:
The fact is, most RVers, me included, don’t need hookups all the time. We don’t need to pay $30 for an RV park if we just want to pull off somewhere and nod off for awhile. Personally, on a typical RV trip, I stay in an RV park or public campground five nights out of seven. If I find a good place to stay for free, I stay. I like saving money. Sometimes I don’t feel like driving 20 miles out of my way to find an RV park and then discover it’s a dump or ten yards from the main line of the Santa Fe.
We know you boomers love yer RVs, but the fact is that sales are down and the industry is going to have struggle through. Two RV companies — Monaco and Country Coach — just declared bankruptcy. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the fine people who lent a gorgeous RV to yours truly last fall, predicts 2009 will be a rough RV year:
As the current recession is expected to affect all sectors of the economy, RV shipments are expected to be lower in 2009 as well. Credit restrictions are causing RV buyers to delay purchases and RV dealers to keep inventories low. Sales in 2009 will be affected by stringent credit standards, falling employment, and continued declines in household wealth and home prices.
We returned the Roadtrek to the RVIA in Reston, Virginia, this morning at 10 a.m. It was sad to say goodbye. I must say, I had a blast! I loved driving the RV, cooking in it, sleeping in it, watching DVDs on the flat-screen TV in it. I could see owning one of these rigs sometime. Here’s how the week went:
DROVE: 1,200 miles
LOVED: Southern fried chicken; Cade’s Cove (Tennessee); historic Michie Tavern in Charlottesville, Virginia; Pam from Tennessee; the drive between Kingsport, Tenn., and Asheville, North Carolina; the little town of Jonesborough, Tenn.; the friendly folks in the RV campgrounds.
NEVER KNEW: Tennessee was so crazy for buffets. Every restaurant seemed to feature a buffet.
SPENT: From $25-$47 for a campsite.
FOR THE FIRST TIME I: pumped sewage from an RV; met real hillbillies and drank moonshine; ate PB&J sandwiches for breakfast many mornings in a row; held a rifle.
You may have noticed I was missing in action yesterday. You see, each campground has different Internet access rules. Some places you can hop right onto the Internet, one place I had to pay, and last night it was impossible to get on without a code. I called the emergency after-hours phone number that each campground provides to get the code, but no dice. I called twice. So this morning I went to the Aquia Pines Camp office, got the code and posted today (for yesterday): We did our first RV sewer disposal. It went pretty well. We had a lot of driving ahead of us. We went first to Appomattox Court House. We parked at the Appomattox park made sandwiches in the RV, then sat outside and ate them. Then we walked around park. This is the spot where the Confederate army surrendered to the Union army. There’s a bunch of restored or reconstructed Civil War-era buildings on a beautiful stretch of land. In the gift shop, they sold Confederate and Union flags. As a northerner, born and raised in New Jersey, Confederate flags have always scared me.
We stopped for gas and in the convenience store I saw what I’m calling The World’s Largest Selection of Beef Jerky (click on photo above). Then another long drive over to Fredricksburg. We filled up the gas tank on the way. We saw some historical buildings in Fredricksburg and ate at an Irish pub. Fredricksburg felt very cosmopolitan and Northern. I was sad that we were no longer in the South. I missed the friendliness, the quiet, the food. We found a campground in Stafford, Virginia. It was woodsy but you could hear the traffic on the nearby highway. We spent about a half-hour getting rid of travel brochures and other paraphernalia we no longer needed, and packed our suitcases. Tomorrow we return the RV to the RVIA in Reston. Lights out.
Did you know there was a diesel shortage down here in the South? No, we didn’t either. We’ve pulled our rig into a few gas stations to fill up and have found that the diesel pumps are emblazoned with signs that read “No Gas.” Also, on the subject of gas, we topped off our propane supply today. An employee at the RV park filled us up this morning. We need propane to cook and to run one of our heaters and the fridge. By the way, I took a shower in the RV and ran out of hot water halfway through. One day, I’ll figure it out.
We drove a few miles to that famous Monument to Excess, the Biltmore Estate, home of the Vanderbilt family from 1895 to 1957. It is the largest home in America, with 250 rooms. A small percentage are open to the public. The grounds were gorgeous and we darted through the palatial rooms in record time. (Click on the pic above for a view from one of the balconies.) Did you know news reporter Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt?
We also visited the winery and enjoyed a nice Cabernet Sauvignon before lunch. We went to the barnyard and met some baby goats and pigs and a blacksmith who comes from a family of seven generations of blacksmiths. We also heard a bluegrass duo (one half of the duo is in the photo below). In the parking lot, we met a Biltmore Estate employee who drives a shuttle bus there. She was admiring our Roadtrek RV, so we invited her in. She loved it and hopes to get one like it when she retires in a few years.
We drove straight down Route 40 East, found a truck stop that had diesel for us and stopped for the night in the little town of Mocksville, North Carolina, at an RV community that is filled with RVs that are essentially homes. There were front porches on these trailers, and Halloween decorations all over the place, and the trailers actually had mailboxes. I made a pasta and string beans dinner in the RV and we ate at the picnic table. Then we strolled around and chatted with some of the regulars in the park.
This morning, our Tennessee hostess Pam took us to her church, Indian Springs Baptist, for a service that featured contemporary music and a preacher who rocked. Church is a central part of Pam’s life and I was happy she wanted to show us what it was like. Afterward, we bid goodbye to Pam after an amazing weekend. Her hospitality and warmth are impossible to beat. She totally rocks!
We drove down to Asheville, North Carolina. It was nice to be back on the road in the RV. We still have to so much RV life to experience. I was bleary-eyed when we arrived in Asheville, but I wanted to see the town. Asheville is progressive and kinda hippie-ish (see street mural above). We walked around the shops and art galleries for an hour or two, and bought some provisions at the local natural food store. We saw a dog in the window of a closed store (see below). My favorite place was Mast, a huge, old-fashioned general store that sold all manner of stuff. We drove outside of Asheville to a campground that featured a lake. We actually arrived before dark. A miracle! The campground wasn’t as pretty or woodsy as our campground the first night, but the people who ran it were super-friendly, and it was good to be ‘home’ for the night. Lights out.
The rig is parked in Pam’s driveway and she is graciously driving us around in her car while we are visiting her in Tennessee. So, me and Yani and Pam were traveling over to the Smoky Mountains when we stopped at a yard sale. The two guys holding the sale had a big rifle for sale. I had never seen or held a gun before, so I asked if I could pick it up. After that, the conversation turned to moonshine and hillbillies. The guys said “We’re hillbillies.” Then one guy, Eric, asked, “Wanna try some moonshine?” It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I yelled, “YES!” He went up to his house and brought back a Mason jar and a glass. He poured a bit of the crystal clear stuff. I tried it. It was strong, but not overwhelming. Eric said the stuff was five years old and had mellowed. What a great yard sale!
We got to see Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, resort towns with Dollywood nearby along with lots of other amusements. Then we were on to the Smokies. We had a gorgeous fall day with blue skies and balmy breezes. Pam showed us her favorite spot in the world, the Chimneys, where we had a picnic. Then we went on to Cade’s Cove, a beautiful drive bordered by mountains and expansive fields. We stepped inside some buildings built by the pioneers who settled there about 200 years ago. We saw deer and caught just a glimpse of a bear.
On the way home we stopped at an outdoor market festooned in full autumn regalia and bought about 15 pumpkins for a wedding Pam is directing next weekend.
Then we stopped for a country dinner. On the way back to Kingsport, we told stories in the car. UFO stories, ghost stories and Bigfoot stories. Pam’s husband Charles was home from working his gig at a food concession at the storytelling festival. We got to hang out and get to know him a bit.
Below are photos of the lovely Pam Archer at the Chimneys, Cade’s Cove, a deer, me and Jeff and Eric at the yard sale. Lights out.
Yes, I did. I met a couple of hillbillies today in Sevierville, Tennessee, and they offered me some moonshine, and I accepted. There’s much more to the story but I’m too tired to tell it. See you early tomorrow with the rest of the tale.