The day after leaving office following an eight-year stint as Maine’s governor, Angus King hit the road.
For the next 5½ months, King, his wife and their two children lived together in a 40-foot RV, driving 15,000 miles and traveling through 33 states.
The journey was King’s way of making the shift from being “The Man” with a staff, constant press attention and 24-hour-a-day police protection to being “simply a man,” he writes in his new book, “Governor’s Travels, How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up a Bus, and Found America.” The book will be on bookstore shelves in mid-July.
“The trip turned out to be the perfect transition from a job like governor because it was utterly different from what I had been doing, but it was still engaging,” King told the Associated Press. “I didn’t go from the intensity of being governor to sitting in a rocking chair and reading a newspaper. I went to something that was very engaging. But instead of worrying about the Legislature, I was worrying about whether the next RV park had a dump station.”
King was elected governor as an independent in 1994, his first run for public office, and was re-elected in a landslide in 1998. Prohibited by law from running for a third term, he left office in January 2003.
He and his wife decided to buy a motorhome equipped with all the comforts of home, take 12-year-old Ben and 9-year-old Molly out of school and embark on an extended, leisurely trip with no specific itinerary. King kept a log during their travels, which he then took to Down East Books.
The result is a 160-page book that chronicles the voyage, which took them from Maine to Florida, then west through the southern states to California, north to the Pacific Northwest and back east through the northern states and Canada.
The book drives home the themes of transition, family and travel, King said, while encouraging people to live their dream.
“It’s amazing the number of people I talk to who get kind of misty about the idea of traveling across the county with their family,” King said. “Either they did it as a kid, they knew someone who had done it or they always want to do it. It seems to be a fantasy many Americans have, and part of the purpose of the books is to encourage people to do it. If I can learn to back up a bus, believe me, anybody can.”
King, 67, said he’s also going to the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) annual convention in August in Madison, Wis., where he’ll present a slideshow and try to sell a few books.
“It’s a fun book,” he said. “This isn’t going to replace `Look Homeward, Angel’ in high school literature classes, but I hope people will enjoy it from the perspective of travel and RVing.”
The following is a column written by Cindy Quick Wilson of the Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore., offering a snapshot of her travels along the Oregon coastline.
Whether it’s dry camping in the wilderness or enjoying the comforts of a full-hookup RV park on the shores of Oregon’s spectacular coast, all RV enthusiasts agree — it’s all about the joys of camping.
For some hardy souls, camping means pitching a tent, snuggling in sleeping bags and cooking on a Coleman stove or a grill balanced on a fire ring. For the rest of us — some of whom may have left those days behind — we freely admit to enjoying a soft bed, a plug-in coffeemaker and a hot shower in the morning.
The best part is traveling with all the comforts of home: your own bed, your own shower, and being able to cook whatever you want to eat,” says Sheila Frampton of Junction City, Ore., who comes from a family of RV enthusiasts, including four siblings who all have motorhomes and fifth-wheels. She and husband Clayton just returned from a two-month trip to Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Click here to read more…
Rent an RV, hit the road and save gobs of money on your next vacation.
Really? Maybe not, even some advocates concede, according to Jane Engle, travel writer for Los Angeles Times.
“You could probably pack four people in a car, eat at restaurants, stay in hotels, and I imagine it’s about the same cost,” said Chuck Woodbury, editor of RVTravel.com, a consumer website offering tips and tricks for RVers.
But consider the intangibles.
“The real advantage of the RV is that the family’s together, and you can cook and eat healthy meals,” Woodbury said. “There’s something about being in a little house that’s very appealing. Sitting around a campfire at night is a lot more fun than sitting around a hotel room and watching TV.”
Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer’s Travel Guides series for budget travelers, said she was won over by her first-ever family RV trip last year. (And, yes, “we probably spent exactly what we would have spent if we went on a car road trip,” she added.)
I priced a hypothetical one-week vacation trip for a family of four from Los Angeles to South Lake Tahoe and back in July by rented RV versus going in the family car and staying at a hotel. Excluding food, the cost was about the same. But because it’s typically cheaper to make your own meals than to eat out, the RV won by a nose. (I priced a 25-foot Class C RV rental with a KOA campground stay and used a standard AAA calculator for driving costs of a medium sedan, with some tweaks.)
But why spend more than you need to? With that in mind, I gleaned tips from Woodbury and Frommer on how to save.
Rent the right size. Many people overestimate what they need.
Frommer’s family of four rented a 30-foot RV to tour the West. But in Sedona, Ariz., she said, “we realized we couldn’t drive it to a trail head. It was too big to park anywhere. So we turned out having to rent another car.”
Next time, she said, they’ll rent a smaller unit or even a pop-up camping trailer, which Woodbury said often rents for a fourth of what a regular RV costs.
Scout out free or low-cost parking: On my hypothetical trip, it cost $69 a night to park my RV with full hookups.
“You picked the high season and a very popular spot,” which boosted the price, Woodbury said.
Many private and national forest campgrounds charge less than $25 a night, he said. Cheaper spots don’t come with hookups or may just have water and electric. So consider doing without for a night or two, Woodbury said; rely more on battery power and siphon waste into a dump station.
You can park free on some public lands, he added, and many Wal-Marts will let you pull into their lots and spend the night — not exactly a nature experience, but OK in a pinch. For tips on cheap parking places, check out websites such as FreeCampgrounds.com.
Don’t write off private campgrounds, such as KOA, which may cost more but provide a resort-like experience.
“KOA is great for kids,” Woodbury said. “They’re in heaven. Many KOAs have swimming pools, game rooms, pancake breakfasts, movies at night and ice cream socials. It’s safe. There’s a store for supplies.”
Vacation off-season. By avoiding summer, the peak time for RV rentals in most places, you’ll pay less. Cruise America, which claims to be North America’s largest RV rental company, was recently giving 25% off rentals between Sept. 10 and Dec. 15.
Grab a one-way special. Rental companies sometimes need to move their inventory around, and if you help them, you can get “incredible deals,” Woodbury said.
Cruise America, for instance, was recently offering one-way autumn rentals from Carson, Calif., to Phoenix for $24 a night, with 1,000 free miles and no dropoff fee. By comparison, when I priced the 25-foot RV for my hypothetical trip in July, the company quoted $169 a night, plus 32 cents a mile.
Gilbert Brown grew up in inner-city Detroit and went on to a successful football career — 10 years as a defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers and one season as a Super Bowl champion.
Wealth, fame and “The Gravedigger” nickname he earned opened many doors, but Brown could never have predicted they would open one to … the joys of RVing, according to USA Today.
Brown, his wife and four kids, ages 1 to 16, love to load up their recreational vehicle, hit the road and camp. “I’m 39 years old, and I never knew what a S’mores was,” Brown says. “Growing up in Detroit, there is nothing really in that area as far as camping.”
He was introduced to recreational vehicles when his Gilbert Brown Foundation, which contributes to 144 children’s charities, partnered with the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO) to raise money. Every time a campground hosted a fundraiser, he would go.
Brown now owns an RV and has inspired friends to do the same. He encourages people — especially those in urban areas — to at least try it once. “Get the kids outdoors instead of sitting in the house playing PlayStation,” he says. “Nobody’s got money to get four or five kids on a plane and go to California.”
Newcomers to fun
A new generation of Americans searching for ways to have fun in a wobbly economy is giving a boost to the 100-year-old RV industry.
Wholesale deliveries of RVs to retailers totaled 84,500 in the first four months of 2010, nearly double the total from the same period last year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports.
Some RV camps and resorts are seeing double-digit percentage jumps in occupancy and in new faces, according to Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVCs. “It had been mainly the 55-plus,” she says. “The fastest-growing segment is the younger market — 35 to 47 … younger people entering the market with families.”
Reasons: affordability, a return to simple pleasures and a desire to get kids outdoors and away from electronic screens.
Don’t own an RV? They can be rented and delivered to a campsite at any of the 14,000 RV camps and resorts in the U.S. and Canada. About 8,000 camps are privately run. The rest are in public parks.
Campgrounds and resorts are adding amenities to offer more than simply a site to pitch a tent or park a pop-up camper. Their goal is to keep city slickers entertained and comfortable.
“We have a class of individuals looking to enjoy all the comforts of home without necessarily having to pay the price of a resort,” says Rob Schutter, chief operating officer of Leisure Systems Inc., franchiser of 75 Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts.
The industry targets niche segments — from hardcore outdoor enthusiasts and snowbirds to urban families who may no longer be able to afford plane tickets and hotels but still expect amenities.
“I call it ‘glamping,’ ” says Kenny Johnson, recreation director at Campland on the Bay, a San Diego RV resort that has a sandy beach, skateboard park, cafe and game room. “It’s like a city inside a city.”
“It’s unbelievable,” says Aaron Justice, 35, who joined RVing friends at the camp. “It has an arcade, market, laundromat. You really never have to leave here.”
Justice, who works in construction and lives in Temecula, Calif., usually flies to visit family in Tennessee. “Times are tough, so it makes sense to come here,” he says.
A range of activities
What camps offer:
- Fun. Giant water slides, skateboard parks, wine tastings, zip lines, restaurants, carousels, swimming pools and playgrounds are among an expanding list of amenities. Geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunting game that uses GPS devices to locate hidden treasures, is popular. Some want to get away from it all and seek camps out of range of cellphone towers. Others want wireless access. “We’re in the entertainment business, the experience business,” Schutter says. “We can still cater to people who desire a rugged experience or a true family experience, sitting around the campfire and cooking S’mores.”
- Comfort. “Park models” that look like cabins but can be moved like an RV have become popular rentals. Higher-end models offer bathrooms, kitchenettes, separate bedrooms and real beds. Cheaper units are more primitive.
- Proximity and cost-savings. Parks within 150 miles of a metro area are in demand because they can be reached in a couple of hours, says industry consultant David Gorin, who owns the Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez, Fla.
Robert Franz likes to vacation near his home in Berryville, Va., in case he is needed at work. His family goes to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Luray, about an hour away.
His five children love the swimming pool and slide, he says. “If my kids went to Disney World, they’d be bored,” he says. “Here, the boys will go from the paddleboat to the basketball court. … I can turn them loose.”
Brown, the former football star, recalls his introduction to RVs. “It was eye-opening,” he says. “Once you experience something like that, it’s contagious.”
The Wednesday (July 8) edition of ABC’s Good Morning America featured a very positive segment following New Hampshire family of four, the LoPilatos, as they saved thousands of dollars on their family vacation by taking their fifth-wheel travel trailer to Disneyland this summer, according to a release from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The family’s decision to take their RV to Disneyland was “a decision that cut their costs by more than half,” GMA‘s Elizabeth Leamy reported. “Instead of $4,500 for one week, which did not include airfare for the family of four, the price became $2,000 for 12 days. Lynne LoPilatos added that taking the RV made the family vacation possible: “It’s huge, it’s huge savings.”
“RVIA’s public relations team has been actively pitching the ‘affordability’ message to media outlets across the country since the economic crisis began,” said Gary Labella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer. “We know that American families are looking for affordable vacation options this summer, and it’s great that national media has caught on to the idea that RVing is not only family-friendly, but also very affordable.”
The segment is available for online viewing at: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8030316.
On July 7 NBC will premier “The Great American Road Trip,” a new reality series produced by BBC Worldwide featuring seven families of four taking a cross-country road trip in Class A motorhomes being supplied by El Monte RV.
Producers contacted the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for assistance in obtaining motorhomes and identifying families for the show.
Over eight episodes, the families will travel classic Route 66 while competing in games that will ultimately lead one family to victory. These comical challenges will take place in well-known locations such as the Grand Canyon or along the Mississippi River. Along the way, viewers will see quirky American landmarks ranging from the World’s Largest Rocking Chair to the Muffler Men to Cadillac Ranch. Scenes will also be set in campgrounds.
Family outdoor fun is the centerpiece of the show. One family will be eliminated each week based on their performance in the “end of the road” elimination game. One family will win the grand prize.
NBC is promoting the new series heavily with promotion spots already airing. RVIA Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President Gary LaBella said, “‘The Great American Road Trip’ will showcase the fun of family RVing to a broad network audience. And as millions of American families look for affordable travel options this summer, we expect that NBC’s new reality show will guide many of these families to discover RVing.”