I had never camped in an RV or driven one, so I didn't know what to expect until I met Julie in Raleigh, NC, and clilmbed aboard. It was sweet. There was a room in the back with a queen-sized bed. A shower and a bathroom. The middle section extended out about three feet when we camped so we had room for a kitchen (including microwave, oven and stove) and seating for about seven. In the "fo'c'sle" above the drive there was another queen-sized bed.
Within minutes, the boys were running all around the back. Julie and I weren't sure of the safety rules to follow. We did feel pangs of guilt when we heard Owen (7), Jonah (4), Jacob (6) and Joshie (3) jumping on the bed in the back room. Soon there was a crash and we had the boys in seatbelts for the rest of the trip (I fixed the bedroom mirror at our first stop).
Traveling with kids in an RV is great. Someone needs to use the bathroom? Go then. We're not stopping. Thirsty? The refrigerator was stocked with Sprite, Diet Coke and juice boxes throughout the trip. The only stops were for gas.
Sure, this wasn't a very smart time to be driving a gas guzzling RV around the country. On the drive back from New York to Raleigh, NC, I know we spent $440, stopping four times to fill up. (Many pumps have a $75 or $100 maximum fill-up, so I wasn't able to calculate gas mileage very well.) Still, it was worth it because Julie's business, MyDietSolutions was picking up the gas tab.
To pay her back, we plastered decals on the walls of the RV. We wore brightly colored shirts everywhere we went that read: "I'm learning about BLUBBER!" and gave the web address. Whenever we went into the city, I stuffed my pockets with promotional pens and post cards, which we left everywhere we could think of: subway trains, restaurants, kiosks.
My favorite technique was sliding cards behind the posters that advertized on the subwasy in NYC and Boston. We must have given out more than 300 pens!
Driving the RV was quite another task. Since Julie was paying, I was happy to let her drive--and she did for 80 percent of our trip together. The further north we got, the more difficult that became. (Ellie and Owen modeled our shirts at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, right.)
We decided to stop in Atlantic City to check out the action on the boardwalk there. It was fun driving into Atlantic City. Somewhere I learned that the streets in the game, Monopoly, are named after streets there, and I sure was right! We cruised down Atlantic Avenue and crossed Ventnor, Kentucky, and Park Place. Julie and Ellie wanted to check out the Trump casino, so we aimed for Pennsylvania, which went past the Trump Taj Mahal.
Unfortunately we got to the end of the street and couldn't find a place to park. I got out to scout things out. Poor Julie had to turn the thing around. Later, in Plymouth, we would see the Goodyear Blimp at the airport where Julie's husband, Don, parked his plane. I joked, "We should have a competition between the RV and the blimp to see who can make the sharpest turn!"
While Julie stopped and started, back and forth, from one side of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, I slipped into the Resorts Casino across the street. I was blinded by the casino lights. (It really does mess with my brain. It was hard to concentrate on my mission--and I am not yet addicted to gambling.) Finally I found a parking guy who was so nice. He showed us the way to one of the outside lots, and he let us park for free.
This is how Julie got me back. When we got back from the boardwalk--and a buffet dinner at Resorts--she said, "I have a lot of work to do. Why don't you drive this leg?" So I hopped in for my first experience driving an RV and cruised up the Garden State Parkway towards the Big Apple.
Two hours later, I was squeezing my way onto the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Long Island. The lanes were n-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-o-w! My knuckles were white already, and I hadn't yet begun to navigate the interstate canyonlands of Brooklyn and Queens.
It was terrifying. I would be scared driving my tiny Saturn through that area, but driving an RV was horrible. I knew that the only thing worse than driving the Long-Island Queens Expressway would be the streets of Brooklyn. I kept going.
Julie made a game of it. "Let's see how many times you get honked at," she said, after one driver laid on his horn big time. I was scared of changing lanes. I was more scared in getting stuck in an exit only lane or getting onto an expressway that led back to the city. Both hands were frozen to the wheel.
And then the sun went down and we were finally out of the city on our way to Orient Point, Long Island. We stopped for gas, and Julie returned to the driver's seat. I wouldn't drive again until the drive home.
All in all, driving an RV is terrible. Adventure makes it worthwhile, I guess, but I still have flashbacks to the Long Island Expressway. This small town boy really got more than he bargained for there!