By Judy Czarsty, F79148
Have you ever thought about all the adventures (or should I say misadventures?) you had when you first started motorhoming? Well, I’ve been thinking about that, and I have to admit that many of the errors we made can be traced back to me.
But I am getting ahead of myself. First you need to know how we got into motorhoming. My dad was an adventuresome person. He decided that it would be fun to drive his fellow Lions Club members to their events in a motorhome, so they could “boogie on down the road,” if you get what I mean. He bought a very old Winnebago that was about 25 feet long.
He took us on his first road trip from Newport News, Virginia, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was exciting until he started the engine and we began to move. We had square tires. They made a horrible “thump, thump, thump” sound. I felt like everyone was looking at us and laughing at our tires. I didn’t know that tires had to warm up to become round (that was what I was told).
It was an okay trip, but motorhoming was not for me. Then things changed. Dad went through a succession of vans until he finally got a Midas van-style motorhome that did the trick for me. It was really neat, with opera windows, a dining table where we could eat going down the road, and a bathroom. The downside was the sleeping arrangements. The entire inside of the van turned into one big bed. It was like having a sleepover with your family. Getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom was a real challenge, because it involved easing over five sleeping bodies.
Steve and I borrowed the van for a weekend, and we traveled to Pennsylvania. It was such a good time that I decided we needed a motorhome of our own. Steve, on the other hand, envisioned a big vehicle rusting away in our driveway. I finally wore him down, and he gave me money to buy a motorhome. Boy, I could buy a fancy unit with the money he gave me “” or, so I thought.
We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I commuted to Washington, D.C. I figured there had to be a lot of motorhomes in the area. Where else would you look except in the classified ads? As soon as it got light enough to read on the way to work, I searched the classifieds for leads. It rapidly began to be discouraging. With every call came the answer, “Sorry, I just sold it.” Weeks went by and I had nothing to look at. Discouraged is not the word to describe me. I was determined. We would have a motorhome.
My stubbornness finally paid off, and I talked with a lady in Columbia, Maryland, who had a motorhome for sale. She said that she had someone interested, but the person had not yet been by to look at the motorhome. I explained my long search, and we talked and she began to warm up some (you know how women are). Finally, she agreed to sell us the unit if we paid in cash before the other party made an offer. I was so excited that all business sense left me, and I told her I would bring the asking price with me. We made arrangements to be there that evening.
Steve was not what you would say enthusiastic about my call. “We need to be in Columbia before 7:00 p.m.,” I told him, “because I found us a motorhome.” He was 60 miles south of Washington, did not finish teaching class until 4:00 p.m., had to go to the bank, and needed to pick up our son at daycare before starting the 100-mile trek to Columbia. Of course, all his driving would take place in the midst of Washington, D.C.-area rush-hour traffic. I graciously took the subway that day and met him at a Metro station on his route to save time. (This translates into: I didn’t want to be late and not get the motorhome.)
It was hectic, but we got to Columbia in time. I was so excited “” it was like Christmas. And then we saw the motorhome: a 19-foot Jamboree. It wasn’t what you would call awe-inspiring. It was tiny and looked a bit worn on the outside. But the inside was something else. It had a cab-over bed, a table that folded down into a bed, and a gaucho in the rear (a long kitchen seat that made into a bed at night). It even had a cubbyhole for my pots and pans. And a bathroom with a shower in it “” all we needed. I could see us tooling down the highway and stopping wherever we wanted, setting up our home, and just relaxing. (Yes, I had seen Lucille Ball in The Long, Long Trailer.)
Of course, I didn’t think about things like whether we needed a generator, or whether the condition of the engine was okay, or any of those technical things. Steve kicked the tires, started it up, drove it around the block, and it seemed okay to him. Steve’s not a mechanic, so he wanted something that he wouldn’t have to do a lot of work on.
We struck a bargain and were now proud motorhome owners. Little did we know that we had just purchased a big, deep hole into which we could pile quite a bit of money.
Our maiden trip was full of mishaps, mostly due to my inexperience. I should have known from the beginning of the trip that it was going to be a disaster. First, I insisted we go to the place where my parents spent part of their honeymoon in the 1940s. After visiting the place in the 1980s, I believe it is a miracle that my parents made it past the honeymoon. I don’t think the place had changed a bit. It was very isolated “” and so far removed that if you walked on the grass into the woods, you would be in the next state.
We settled in and checked out the area. It was used for church music camps with groups there for the weekend. They were even going to give a concert. Things weren’t so bad. Soon it was time to start supper, and I had my food out on the small countertop and was ready to go. I opened the compartment where my pots and pans were, and saw nothing but space. I couldn’t believe that we had gone to all the trouble to put everything together and had forgotten the cookware.
Our only alternative was to unhook the motorhome and drive 20 miles over the mountain to the local Dairy Queen. Our son, Steven, grumbled all the way about what a good meal we were going to miss. I, on the other hand, was very philosophical about it. What better way to get out of cooking and cleaning up?
After our dinner of burgers and fries, we headed back for the first night out in our motorhome. Things were uneventful after that, but I learned a good lesson. If you don’t want to cook, you need to be less obvious. Don’t put on your INCOTT (I’m not cooking on this trip) button, because it is a dead giveaway.
Looking back on that first experience, it’s a wonder that we even stayed in motorhoming. We were out there by ourselves, making all the mistakes, and missing out on being with friends. But we still used that 19-foot Jamboree to build lots of memories.
You may wonder what our biggest mistake was. Well, it was not joining FMCA right away. You see, Steve and I had read all of my father’s Family Motor Coaching magazines. We didn’t know that we could join FMCA with any type of motorhome “” we thought you had to have a Type A. So, we waited until we got a Type A. I’m hopeful that all current FMCA members realize that owners of any self-contained, motorized RV are welcome to join. So, please invite all your motorhome friends and those you meet in your travels to join our fun-filled family.
Steve and I also didn’t realize that we could have used my dad’s FMCA member number with the “D” designation for daughter. FMCA honors legacies and encourages families to share a membership number, adding the appropriate designation to the existing membership “” “D” for daughter, “S” for son, “G” for grandchild, or even “P” for parent.
So, you might say that Steve and I made more than one big mistake when it came to being FMCA members. But we’ve certainly never regretted the decision to become involved in the motorhome lifestyle and to join this wonderful family of motorhome owners.