"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Curious about an RV lifestyle?

Dr. David Weber Sr. and his RV

Story by Dr. David Weber, Sr.

Photos by Dr. Susan Weber

Ah yes, the lure and romance of the open road… The nostalgia of Route 66. Undiscovered, quaint places.

We’re tooling down the road and life is good and we just know that there will be fun stuff around the next bend…

Dearest wife, what do you mean we took a wrong turn and we’re 50 miles out of our way? Really! Yep, that happens, so welcome to life on the road.

My wife, Susan, and I have been enjoying traveling in our motor home now for about five years and have really enjoyed our trips. We’ve traveled a lot, learned a lot, and had our share of misadventures. Overall it has been great but there are some things I wish we would have known about before we bought and launched.

Recreational Vehicles (RVs) come in all sizes from small pop up campers to multi-million dollar land yachts. Class A models look a lot like a bus and can be up to 46 feet long. They have all the amenities — do they ever.

Class B vehicles are built using a conventional van with a raised roof. Class C units are larger and built on a truck chassis.

There are also trailer types that are towed behind a pickup truck, either tongue mounted or 5th wheel. With a pickup truck-trailer combination you eliminate the need to tow a car behind your RV.

So what have we learned?

For one thing, every RV, including the very expensive ones, invariably come from the factory with numerous defects. You can count on it. They should all have a label that says, “Some assembly required.”

RVs are complicated, especially the higher end ones. For example they have three interrelated but complicated and distinct electrical systems. This is a house bouncing down the road with all the jarring and vibration that never happens to your land-tethered house. The result is that there are all sorts of things that can and will go on the fritz.

It’s wise to rent before buying. You may find after one trip that this is not for you.

And buy from a reputable dealer and make certain your purchase includes at least a 90 day warranty because you will likely be back many times to get things fixed. I know of new owners who came back after their first outing with a list of 25 to 30 things that needed fixing, some quite major.

Our dealer was in Junction City, Ore., and our motor home was there for weeks while they worked on numerous electrical problems that required multiple trips from Wenatchee. Not fun.

It’s very important to learn all you can about your RV. We found the owner’s manual to be woefully incomplete but still worth reading. Good information is available on the Internet and one good source is www.irv2.com.

Others are member associations and clubs for the specific RV that you own.

It’s not essential but very helpful to have at least some basic mechanical and electrical knowledge. With that knowledge you can save a lot of expensive trips to the RV dealer. You should have at least a basic toolbox plus some zip ties, duct tape, and other repair items. More is better when it comes to tools and supplies.

A Class A or C RV is not like driving a car. It’s a bigger vehicle with a larger turning radius, is wider on the road, and hard to back without the help of someone who can spot for you.

Depending on your past experience and what type rig you have you may wish to sign up for a driving school. A commercial driver’s license is not required for an RV.

It’s less stressful if you have a traveling companion who can act as copilot and navigator. Whoever that is, spouse, friend or other, it’s helpful if they are competent in reading maps and reasonably familiar with GPS. Their help will free you up so you can devote your full attention to driving.

Cell phone service and Internet access has made traveling much easier and it’s highly recommended that you have these resources when on the road.

Traffic snarls, construction, low bridges and dead end streets are all things you need to know about and avoid. There are smart phone apps that can provide excellent and important information about highways, interstate exits, fuel options and RV park information.

Don’t expect travel in an RV to be a cost-saving move.

True, you will eliminate motel costs and you don’t have to dine out, but fuel mileage is meager and repair and maintenance costs can be high.

You can choose to dry camp (also called boon docking) but you forego the amenities that an RV park provides. RV parks range in price from $25 and up. State and national parks are your best bargains.

To the extent possible, try to plan ahead for break stops, refueling and overnight stays. Even the best marriage is challenged when you arrive at the park in which you had planned to stay and find out at your 9 p.m. arrival that there’s no space available. Not good.

Think about what you might need to do in a roadside emergency. On many RVs you can’t change a tire by yourself. If you have to be towed it may take a special type of tow truck. AAA (www.aaa.com), Coach Net (http://www.coach-net.com/), and Good Sam (https://www.goodsamroadside.com) are three companies that can provide such services.

Many travelers have had a bad road experience and we’re no exception.

We had parked in the parking lot of the Hiawatha trail (a great bike trail, BTW) in Idaho and well off the main road. When we returned to our RV we noticed an ominous pool of fluid under the front of the rig, which we found was leaking from the power steering unit.

The unfortunate part was, on our RV, there is a combined fluid reservoir for both the brake system and the steering so we were losing brake fluid too.

We cautiously drove to Kellogg while checking the fluid level every few miles and then got a tow truck to take us to Spokane.

So, four hours later in the middle of the night and after a harrowing ride in the less than clean sleeper compartment of the tow truck, we arrived at the repair shop thinking we were OK.

However, the next morning we found that the tow truck had caused extensive damage to the front end of the RV including the generator slide-out and that the drive shaft, which was detached from the transmission for the tow, had been dragging along the pavement for 150 miles.

Lots of damage, time in the shop and travel back and forth between Wenatchee and Spokane before all was fixed. Fortunately the tow truck insurance coverage covered all the damage. That, however, didn’t erase the bad memories.

And a couple of added thoughts about RV travel. First, it’s as much about enjoying the journey as it is getting to the destination.

If that’s your approach to travel you will likely enjoy it.

And finally, RV travel has an advantage. As my wife says, you always sleep in your own bed. And you get to take along all your favorite toys as well.

If you choose to travel by RV, may your travels be safe and enjoyable.

While they’ve traveled widely, Dave and Susan Weber of Wenatchee decided to see more of America and they chose to do this in an Alpine motor home. They love sleeping in their own bed every night and taking their pets and toys along on every trip.

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