By Charlie Schrenkel, L140050
FMCA National President
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Big Wing Airlines flight 007. Please make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and your seat back and tray tables are in the upright and locked position. The sooner you find your seat and store your carry-on luggage, the sooner we will get on our way to our final destination.” What does this have to do with motorhoming? Read on.
Our motorhome was out of service for a mechanical issue, and so we took to the skies for a trip from Florida to Cincinnati, Ohio. We were scheduled for an early Monday morning flight out of Orlando, which would have meant arriving at the airport by 5:00 a.m. My wife, Jean, and I elected to stay at a hotel close to the airport the night prior so we didn’t chance any delay on Interstate 4 the morning of our flight.
Even though I have logged many hours as a commercial airline pilot, our favored mode of travel these days is via motorhome. And this trip reminded me of why that is the case. I found the comparison of the trip via air and motorhome to be enlightening.
First of all, when the flight attendant made the announcement about reaching our “final” destination, I found myself hoping that would not be the case. I am getting up there, and I couldn’t figure out how the airline knew of my advanced age. Even with a stay near the airport, Jean and I still had to get up at 4:30 the morning of departure; as we proceeded to the hotel van pickup area, I thought about what we would be doing if we were traveling by motorhome.
Motorhome: First day. Arise at a decent hour, say 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. (the day before the scheduled flight) and have a leisurely breakfast. Unhook the coach, place items in storage, and prepare to depart Florida. Checklist complete, car hooked up, and on our way about 8:30 in the morning. Find a comfortable campground (preferably an FMCA Campground Connection participant) 400 to 450 miles up the road and stop for the night. Enjoy home-cooked meal and watch TV; retire about 10:00 p.m. Driving time, approximately 8.5 hours; time on the road, 15.5 hours.
Air: First day. Drive to hotel, leaving the motorhome pad about 11:00 a.m. — traffic heavy, as expected, on the interstate. Arrive at hotel, which is 45 miles from starting point, approximately 2 hours later, and check in. Have supper at hotel and retire early in anticipation of early launch the following day. Travel time, 2 hours; time on the road, 2 hours.
Motorhome: Second day. Awake about 7:00 a.m., have a nice breakfast, pull in slides, and depart about 8:00 a.m. — no hooking up the towed car, as we had a pull-through site for the night. Travel another 450 to 500 miles. Arrive at destination about 5:00 p.m., in my own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and comfortable surroundings. Driving time, approximately 9 hours; time on the road, 9 hours.
Air: Second day. Up at 4:30 a.m., get dressed, and catch the hotel van to the airport. Arrive at 5:15 a.m. Everyone who lives in the Orlando, Florida, area, or has been visiting Disney World from places as far away as Canada, and other parts of the world, has come to the airport this morning for some unknown reason, at the exact same time as Jean and me, and are forming indistinguishable lines under the sign that reads “Security Check-in. All Flights.”
Jean and I dutifully become absorbed into the masses and shuffle toward a series of bright lights and official-looking uniformed personnel. Shoes off; laptop computer in its own bin; coat and cell phone in another bin; toiletries and prescriptions in a third (who doesn’t have at least one or two prescriptions to take with them on a long trip); and a fourth bin for my carry-on bag, jacket, gloves, and hat (going from Florida to Ohio in February requires certain items of clothing not commonly worn in 80-degree weather). We reach the officers standing by a huge device that people are entering while holding their hands over their heads as if some invisible bandit were asking for their wallet — the full-body X-ray machine. I immediately thought of my wife, Jean, who was behind me. Several years ago, she had the misfortune of falling and fracturing her left hip. She underwent surgery, and the doctors placed three titanium screws — each about three inches long — in her hip to hold it together. The thought crossed my mind: “What if she doesn’t pass inspection, is rejected, and returned to who knows where? Will I be able to find her again if that happens?” Didn’t happen! She came through with flying colors, and suddenly she was ahead of me! Turns out I was the one who didn’t pass inspection!
“Please come with me, sir,” the uniformed agent said firmly. What she didn’t say, but should have, was, “After you get dressed and stuff everything else in your bag where it belongs and put your shoes on and find everything you have laid out in four plastic bins that are now being slowly pushed off the end of the conveyor.”
I managed to get myself together, literally, and follow the agent off to the side where she discovered the source of her concern: a penknife given to me by my grandfather many years ago. I have carried this heirloom item for so many years that I did not even think about it when I dropped it into my carry-on bag before leaving the hotel. I’m thinking, “Busted. I wonder how much will the bail be and do I need an attorney?” Instead, I ask, “Can I leave it here and pick it up on my return flight?”
“No,” she said. “I’m sorry, but you can mail it to yourself.” Great, I thought, I can DO that. I was escorted off to a small booth, where I filled out an address form and wrote down a credit card number to cover the postage, which I vaguely noted was about $11.50! The agent securely placed the small package in a mailbox type of enclosure, thanked me for my cooperation, and we parted ways. I signaled Jean to stop trying to contact our lawyer at this early hour. Later I read the receipt: “Expect delivery in three to four weeks.” Great! I had mailed the package to my destination address! How was I going to get it back home? Jean suggested I have it forwarded from our destination, when it arrived, back to our Florida address. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that in the first place.
Finally, we board the flight — no beverage service, because of turbulence en route. We arrive at our “final” destination one hour and 45 minutes later; rent a car; and reach the hotel at about 3:30 p.m., after a brief stop at the office. Time on the road, approximately 11 hours.
Please note in the motorhome travel scenario that our arrival on the second day at our “final” destination was only about 1 1/2 hours later than when we arrived by air.
I know, I have made no mention of motorhome fuel costs; tolls, if any; wear and tear; and all of those other things associated with motorhome ownership. However, the point of this month’s column is, of course, the benefits of travel by motorhome. Granted, for trips of more than 1,000 miles that involve a short stay at the destination or other considerations, alternative forms of transportation might be a little faster, but you can’t beat the motorhome for the convenience and comfort it affords, especially for shorter trips and longer stays at your destination — even with family members on board — children, grandchildren, good friends, in-laws . . . well, maybe not in-laws, but you get the drift.
With a membership in Family Motor Coach Association, these trips even provide you with much, much more enjoyable opportunities. The chance to visit with other members, sightsee with friends, and take in the sights at ground level that are not available at 30,000 feet. For beverage service or a good lunch, you just pull over and stop. And as far as turbulence goes, so what if the road is a little bumpy; you can’t fall very far when you’re sitting in a motorhome on a highway traveling across this beautiful continent.
Remember, sometimes the destination is really the journey; enjoy the journey.
Safe and Healthy travels.