Family & Friends
By Steve & Gail Ault, F106024
If you happen to run into Jim and Ottilie (Olie) Anstett, F44848, of Loveland, Colorado, and strike up a conversation with this couple, they’ll tell you that motorhoming “changes your life.” You’ll also learn about the benefits of owning a smaller motorhome – and a GMC at that.
We met this couple in 1989 in Canon City, Colorado, at our very first FMCA rally. We arrived with our three children and mixed in slowly with what was primarily a group of retired folks. The fact that the Anstetts had two boys and a girl, like our family, and that we both motorhomed with kids helped form our bond. We’ve been friends ever since. Another certainty is that the Anstetts’ motorhoming sales pitch has never wavered; the couple is adamant about RVing. They joined FMCA in 1982 and are charter members of the GMC Mountainaires chapter.
The Anstetts’ first motorhome was a Clark Cortez. In the mid-1960s, the Clark Forklift Company of Michigan used parts and ideas from its forklift business, combined them with a slant-six Mopar engine and an 18-foot box, and a motorhome was born. After driving the unit home from Kansas to Colorado, the Anstetts decided the six-cylinder engine was a bit underpowered, so they replaced it with a 318-cid V-8.
The family made many trips in that Cortez, motoring throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. RVing meant the family could travel more with less expense. The motorhome, which had a rear door, also served as a delivery vehicle for hauling carpet rolls, lumber, and other items they used to build their home on the east side of Lake Loveland, facing the Rocky Mountains.
In the late 1970s the Anstetts bought their first GMC, a 23-foot 1973 model. In the 18 years we’ve known them, they’ve owned at least four other GMCs (all 26-footers), but never vacillated from their love of the first coach, which they eventually modified to measure 22 feet. They still own and travel in that 22-foot GMC.
Older coaches are easy to work on and GMCs, like street rods, attract people who like to tinker. Since they are classics, one can only improve on performance and usability. By moving the spare tire from the rear and sucking the bumpers inward, Jim was able to reduce the GMC’s length to 22 feet. We can just see him, grinning from ear to ear, as he forced the Alaska Ferry personnel to pull out a tape measure, confirm the length, and charge the Anstetts the cheaper fare on the ferry. You won’t see a roof storage pod or air conditioner on top of the coach; it’s a product of careful planning and efficient use of space.
Jim has made hundreds of changes to the interior of the coach as well. He installed baseboard heat that uses engine coolant; added insulation to mitigate winter or summer temperatures; relocated the rooftop air conditioner under the bed; and swapped out the original refrigerator in favor of a much larger model, to name just a few adaptations.
And you’ll never find a better equipped kitchen when it’s time to cook. Jim built a drawer underneath the stove that must weigh nearly 100 pounds when filled with an endless supply of food, and Olie has the oversized refrigerator fully stocked all the time. Fortunately, the drawer and refrigerator are on opposite sides of the coach, or it surely would list to one side.
Olie is also a world-class shopper. We can’t even imagine what’s come home in suitcases from their many overseas adventures. Their motorhome has been pressed into service as a moving van on occasion. Just imagine a concrete depiction of a child on a bench (yard art) being lifted into their coach during a trip to San Juan Capistrano, California. Another time a pair of steel reindeer more than 3 feet tall – and a sleigh – were loaded into the 22-foot coach. We helped load them on a trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico. Jim rigged up a pulley system so that during the day the reindeer were stored on the bed, but at night they were suspended near the ceiling.
In the rear bedroom of most GMCs, the bed virtually encompasses the entire area, and you merely walk down the hall and fall into bed or, as we say, the nest. The Anstett nest is well-equipped: hanging shirts and shorter clothing items barely clear the mattress at the foot of the bed, and a TV/VCR and fan make the nest a comfortable place to relax. This couple is able to pack enough clothing in their GMC to last far longer than many folks will carry in a 40-foot coach. Olie’s a veteran packer, and the tiniest cavities are put to use for storage.
We four are very competitive racehorse pinochle players, and, using the GMC for sleeping quarters, we can get a couple days of playing in. When we’re in Colorado we’ll travel more than 50 miles to play, have an evening snack, and overnight in the coach. Once the Anstetts traveled more than 1,000 miles for four days of cards at our place in Arizona. And they have met us in California twice when we were camp hosts in San Clemente. One year, while traveling just east of Salida, Colorado, we saw a GMC approaching and flashed our lights – it was the Anstetts! We found a spot for both coaches, pulled in, had lunch, and, yep, played some pinochle before heading off in opposite directions.
The Anstetts built their garage with a motorhome in mind, a luxury that allows them to keep the coach stocked and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The refrigerator is never turned off and has become additional storage for Olie. Having the RV on-site also provides an extra bedroom when a group of overnight guests arrive.
In addition, the GMC is the Anstetts’ limo. They’ll take it to the airport to pick up friends and family. The motorhome affords plenty of space for luggage; but, more importantly, since the airlines aren’t always on time, it makes a nice place to wait. The Anstetts’ GMC also has transported groups of friends as they’ve traveled to the same event. Sometimes both of our GMCs have met at the beach, providing great cabanas for picnicking, changing out of wet swimsuits, and, of course, playing cards with ocean breezes floating through the coach.
The Anstetts are hooked on small, maneuverable motorhomes. Awhile back Olie drove the coach into a ditch – and back out of it – while Jim was sleeping in the back. Boy, did he get a rude awakening! Jim frequently angle-parks and parallel parks in towns. When traveling in their small motorhome, they seldom have a problem finding overnight parking.
Jim’s a fisherman, and we’ve joined the Anstetts at the Rob Roy Reservoir in Wyoming. It is located in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland and requires a 7-mile trip over rough gravel to get there. Recently, the four of us went to San Carlos, Mexico, boat in tow, with fishing poles and cards on board. We always get in a number of pinochle games and have a fresh fish meal to boot.
Yes, the Anstetts will do their best to convince you that owning a shortened 22-foot GMC is a must. With more than 300,000 miles under their belts, it’s hard to question their authority on the matter.