In the summer escape of planes, trains and automobiles, RV travel might sound like a backwoods cousin. If any mention of “RV” brings to mind scenes from Albert Brooks’ classic movie Lost in America or, even worse, out of National Lampoon’s Vacation, you might be missing the boat, so to speak.
Plenty of Houstonians are venturing out onto the open roads in the comfort of a second living room. Sarah and Eric Gibbs and their three children bought what Sarah calls their “home on wheels” three years ago.
“Eric and I are old-school, family-type people,” she says. “We had a boat and loved that family time. At a boat show, we saw RVs and decided we wanted one.
“Life is so fast-paced. This is our way of checking out and relaxing.”
The farthest they’ve traveled by RV is to North Carolina, but the Gibbs’ favorite quick getaway is Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts (campjellystone.com). There are several not far from Houston, all with water parks, fishing lakes, fire pits for s’mores and outdoor movies. “They’re so close, but you feel like you’ve gone to the country,” Sarah says.
Since buying their RV, Sarah says they’ve “dragged” several families on the road with them and, in the process, inspired more RV enthusiasts. “We joke that we’re the Griswolds (from the Vacation movies), but really this is just a great way to make memories with our family.”
Jeff Karchmer and his family are fans of RVs as well, but their journey started out a little differently.
“Our daughter has pretty serious food allergies,” Jeff says. “We were vacationing all over and kept having mishaps with restaurants. I just thought, ‘There has to be a better way to travel.’”
So they investigated RV rentals. (Jeff recommends American Dream Vacations at americandreamvacations.net.) They started out renting a “rock and roll style, 45-foot Class A bus. After a while,” Jeff says, “I realized those big RVs are great, but I couldn’t get into a parking lot.” Now they go for mostly smaller versions, sometimes towing one behind their Escalade.
“Generally you get about 10 miles per gallon,” Jeff says. “It’s more expensive to rent an RV, but what you are buying is an experience. It’s an adventure all the way.”
Not everyone agrees. One reader who asked us not to use her name traveled years ago with her family and another in her ex-in-laws’ RV. “The trouble began when we pulled out of the driveway into a ditch. It didn’t get better.”
By the time the families reached Nashville, this woman was done. “We had two girls, they had two boys, and when the boys started shooting me in the head with darts, that was it.
“I went to a pay phone to buy a plane ticket home. Then I looked to the next phone, and the mom of the other family was doing the same thing.
“Most horrible trip of my life.”
She might have been happier in Glen Wind’s tricked-out bus. Nostalgia brought him to the game. “I grew up camping and have fond memories of traveling with my family in a motor home,” he says. “It’s in my blood.”
But when Glen told his wife Kim he wanted their family to travel in an RV, “she told me it was not going to happen.
“My wife said we could get one, we could drive it to a hotel, and then we could get in a shower.” Glen’s quick to qualify that with, “We do have a shower. She just wants a big one.”
The Wind family’s RV is “a Mercedes van with an Airstream conversion, customized into a full-blown party bus. Made to camp, but, more importantly, it has a restroom. We’re very popular at tailgate parties.”
Dubbed the “Silver Bullet” by the Wind kids, the van makes regular trips to football, baseball and lacrosse games in Houston and around the state, entertaining passengers with a big-screen satellite TV, Xbox, movies and full kitchen. Glen calls it “a Suburban on steroids.”
And then there’s another kind of party bus.
Several readers who will remain nameless remember wild RV trips to Padre or football games. One specifically recounts a trip to Dallas for the UT-OU game: “I swear I think someone got pregnant on that trip. I hope my daughters never ask me to go on an RV road trip in college.
“Can you use that in your family magazine?”