Carolina: Cruising Past 70

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cruising in an RV as a Lifestyle

full0time RV cruising in Alaska

Excerpted from Chapter 1, Appendix 1, and Appendix 2 of Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream

Sometimes we cruise along with just a general direction, waiting to be surprised by what new things-- sights, foliage, wildlife, for example--that we may encounter down the road. After driving for a couple of hours, we may shift to cruise-control to relax our tired muscles on the freeways of America. Other times, we will deliberately slow down because the scenery unfolding is just so spectacular.

Now imagine doing all of this cruising, not just in a car, but in an RV! And imagine it being a lifestyle, even if it is not full-time as I wrote about in this previous post.  Cruising in an RV has become very popular. Consider how the RV industry has grown. Today there are more than nine million RV owners (more than thirty million users if we include renters), more than 12,000 RV-related businesses, and more than 16,000 public and private campgrounds in America.

Definition of Cruising

escaping to the beach

Dictionary.com defines cruise as 1) to travel about without a particular purpose or destination; 2) to drive at a constant speed that permits maximum operating efficiency for sustained travel; or 3) to travel at a moderately fast, easily controllable speed. Before I go any further, let me state that I have eliminated 4) to travel about slowly, looking for customers or for something demanding attention, i.e. taxi drivers, policemen, and prostitutes!” To the first three definitions, I add my own take: aimless (no big aims), effortless (no big efforts), timeless (no big limits on time), deeply personal and enjoyable drive through life, usually with a loved one(s).

I like to compare and contrast this cruising lifestyle with the driven one because, for years, I had to endure the latter, bringing up my children as a single parent in the corporate jungles of Metro Manila. Bill was driven in America, too, though not as a single parent. His children were already on their own when his wife passed on due to cancer. While the driven lifestyle is usually characterized by big goals (building a home, bringing up kids, getting an MBA), cruising is marked by little ones (baking a pie, spotting a deer, gazing at a sunset). While the driven lifestyle needs lots of energy to sustain, cruising works at whatever energy level one may have. The driven lifestyle means deadlines but cruisers often say: ‘When I woke up this morning, I had nothing to do; when I went to bed, I was only half done.’

motorized RVs
Kinds of RVs

Let me first give a description of RVs.There are two general classifications: motorized and non-motorized. The motorized version is a vehicle that includes a housing area as well as the engine to run it. The second is a housing unit that is towed by a motor vehicle powerful enough to do that.

There are four kinds of motorized RVs according to size. The smallest are camper vans, very popular in Europe where the roads are pretty narrow. Class B and Class C motorhomes can go up to thirty feet in length and are complete with kitchen, dinette, and bathroom. The distinctive feature of Class Cs is a sleeping area on top of the driver’s compartment, while Class Bs has the sleeping area at the back. Class As is upwards of thirty feet in length with as many as four slide-outs that make the living areas so much bigger when parked. They can tow a dinghy, a dolly for cars, or even a big toy hauler.

non-motorized RVs
There are two kinds of non-motorized RVs: travel trailers or fifth-wheels. Travel trailers are tagalongs of various sizes, from the lighter pop-ups to teardrop campers, to the bigger Airstreams, and even larger ones. Fifth wheels, on the other hand, are those tagalongs with large noses that engage to the load bed of powerful pick-up trucks. These are usually as big as Class As, and like the larger travel trailers, often have slide-outs can also be used to expand living areas. 
                     
Types of RV Cruising

The various kinds of RVs give enthusiasts the appropriate one for the type of RV cruising they choose. In hindsight, there seem to be three types. The first is called escaping when you still want a home and just need to pause to be recharged. You may be a student, an employee, an executive, a business owner, or a housewife with a nagging urge to escape from everyday life. You want the benefits of cruising without suffering the disadvantages of being away from a home base. So you escape with your RV on a weekend or a longer vacation. Smaller, motorized RVs are perfect for this. Bill and I did not go through this type because we were already on the road to retirement when we met. But now that we have settled into a home base in Viewpoint, we may buy a campervan for the hot summer months.

We jumped straight into the second type, the fulltime RV cruising lifestyle. We finally had the time to attend to our bucket list that had grown long because we could not escape often enough in our past driven lifestyles. Given the number of years we had left on this planet, we focused on an intensive exploration of America. In the beginning, we stayed for just three or four days and used a 24-ft. Class C Telstar and a Vino scooter, a pair we fondly called Star and Vino. When we decided to stay longer in the areas we visited, two to three weeks at a time, we upgraded to a Class A with a slide-out and bought a little Saturn for a tow vehicle. We finally had a 350-sq.ft. living space and began to receive guests from family and friends. We did this for five years, stopping only after we had almost finished visiting all of North America.  Motorized RVs are perfect for this RV cruising lifestyle.

snowbirding in Viewpoint, Arizona

The third type is snow-birding. We follow the sun to be warmer, much like birds do when it gets too cold where they stay. During the winter months, we migrate to someplace in the warmer south;.during warmer months, we return to our primary homes. Droves of Americans who live in the northern states, along with many Canadians, drive to Arizona, Texas, Southern California, or Florida for three to six months a year to do this. After a search of the best campground/resorts in all the candidate states, we chose Viewpoint in Mesa, Arizona because it was the biggest and offered many amenities and activities. We did this for three years, using our RV as a home base during winter and exploring the other continents during the other months. Large, non-motorized RVs are ideal for this stage.

Whether you are in a camper van just escaping or in the larger motorhomes fulltime RVing, or in a fifth wheel snowbirding in the south, RV cruising is a lifestyle that can catch anyone's fancy. I have met people who continue their RV cruising well until their 80s; or, like us, moved from one stage to another over eight years and stopped. It was "one hell of a ride," one which we will never regret we took. We were pleasantly surprised by all that we saw and experienced. And now in our 70s, we have gracefully slowed down to a life of cruising saying "We've been there; done that!"