Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Great RV Roadtrip 2009: Day One

I know what must be thinking -- Valerie? In an RV? That little Anthropologie-loving girly girl in an RV? Yes and yes. And I love love loved it.

Last week my husband, son and I took off on a little three-day jaunt in a great big Winnebago. As in a 12 & 1/2 feet tall, 8 feet wide Winnebago. Since it was Spring Break and all, I decided a road trip was just what the doctor ordered for my workaholic husband, and being that we have access to a brand new RV, well, we just had to take advantage of that. Now I don't necessarily have what you would call a "Bucket List" (you know, like the movie), but I do know that there are certain things, if the opportunity presented itself, I would love to say I tried. There was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity to take the RV out.

The whole catch to this little excursion was the fact that I was going to be the driver, even though I had never driven anything larger than our 4Runner SUV in my life, and now I was looking to climb up into something as large as a city bus and somehow maneuver it on the roads without maiming anyone else. Oh yes, that was the plan. So Wednesday morning, bright and early, I got my first lesson, mere hours before we were to take off on the road in that thing. Seriously -- my first lesson in the RV was not in a parking lot far away from others, but driving it from the storage facility all the way to our house via the highway in our little city's rush hour traffic through the older neighborhoods with very narrow streets not built with RV's in mind. No pressure. Ha. No room for mistakes at all my very first time in that captain's seat!

Miraculously, the good Lord above saw fit to deliver the RV and I to my house all in one piece without any fender benders. I won't tell you that I was confident in my newly attained RV-driving skills at that point -- far from it, actually. My leg didn't stop shaking for an hour or two, and besides all of my tense muscles from gripping the wheel with white knuckles, there was also a lot of Lamaze-styled breathing going on. But I had at least begun to conquer that beast, and I felt ready enough for us to load up and head out.

On our way out of town we stopped at everyone's favorite -- WalMart, and I picked up a trucker hat. Yes, a genuine trucker hat, complete with mesh panels on the sides and back. It was one of the only ones I could find without some sort of beer advertisement on it (complete with bottle opener built into the bill, oh yes, there were plenty of those to pick from), and it had an embroidered skeleton head with an Indian Chief headress on it. Being a proud card-carrying Indian myself and the chief driver of this big rig, I figured it was halfway appropriate. After asking me a zillion times over if I was sure I needed a trucker hat, my husband obliged and made the purchase. I'm sure that he was questioning my sanity from having made many a purchase on my behalf previously at Anthropologie stores across the country, but never for a trucker hat from a WalMart. True love, I tell you, true love.

Here I am in all my trucker glory. Try not to be too jealous of my awesome hat.

We finally got the heck out of Dodge sometime around 1 or 2 in the afternoon and headed out to Atchison, Kansas. There wasn't much of a plan for this roadtrip, but being physically unable to be 100% spontaneous (it's the control freak side of me), I knew I had to have a few points of destination in mind to start out with. I had heard that it was a cute town, so I thought it would be a good starting off point. We used the GPS system in the RV to guide us, which honestly might not have been the absolute best idea towards the end since it sent us on this two-lane road filled with one-lane bridges and lots of oncoming traffic. My husband wasn't so amused at one of the bridges that had a weight limit of 13 tons and had holes in the concrete where you were basically driving over rebar. I think he held his breath for sure on that one. As for me, fresh out of truck driving school, I definitely held my breath, held on tight to the steering wheel and simply tried to coast across those suckers without losing it. Thankfully this technique worked and we arrived at our destination before nightfall.

Our first night of the roadtrip brought forth another new experience for me, one that I never thought would happen in my little world -- boondocking at Walmart. Know what that is? Oh yeah -- we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. No kidding. Apparently all you have to do is call ahead, speak to the store manager for approval, and you can stay overnight for free in the Walmart parking lot. You know, just typing it is making me laugh out loud that we really did this.

Now don't get me wrong -- staying at Walmart had it's perks. For example, there was a Subway located just inside this Walmart Supercenter (oh yeah, baby, we do things top-notch, no regular ol' Walmart for me), so we had easy access to dinner that night. Secondly, in my haste I forgot to pack pajamas for myself, so all I had to do was run in and purchase a pair. For $10 I got myself a dandy little pair of Eeyore pajama pants. Hey, don't knock 'em, they really are comfortable.

Let me tell you a little about the RV, in case you were wondering. That baby is not too shabby. There are two captain's chairs in the front, and then a little living area with a couch and a u-shaped eating area around a table, both of which can fold down to make beds. Then there is a little kitchen complete with sink, refrigerator/freezer, oven and microwave. Down the hallway is a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. At the back is a bedroom with a queen size bed and a TV and a built-in wardrobe for storage. Once you are docked, there is a set of buttons to level the RV. Basically this means that the jacks go down to stabilize and then it lifts and lowers the various corners to make the RV level for you to walk about without being seasick. Then there are two buttons to expand the sides of the RV out -- one side goes out a couple of feet, and the other seems to go out 3 or 4 feet. Once it is expanded, it's got decent space to walk about. There are also curtains that can be drawn across the front windows to ensure total privacy. This particular RV is outfitted with satellite TV, satellite radio, and a crazy sound system. Oh, and don't forget the Internet -- my husband was able to still work on his laptop whenever he wanted (so much for curing any workaholic issues). Throw in a thermostat to keep it perfectly warm or cool, and you've basically got all the comforts of home wherever you go.

I found this picture on the Internet of an RV almost identical to the one I was driving. Out of all the pictures we snapped, I hardly took any of the actual RV. Oops.

After our "$5 footlong" dinner we popped in a movie for the three of us to watch -- appropriately, I had checked out "The Wizard of Oz" from our local library being that we were going to be in Kansas for a night. It was my son's first time to see the movie, and we weren't sure what he would think about it, especially about those flying monkeys, but he loved it.

The boy kept saying that his favorite part was the bad witch. Go figure.

At first I was a smidge uneasy about trying to fall asleep in a Walmart parking lot, but after a tense first day of driving a house on wheels, I gave it up and got some rest. Not too bad...

This was our "beautiful and oh-so-scenic" view the next morning.

Tune in tomorrow night for tales from our second day on the road. Oh yeah. There are gonna be three of these posts, baby. Can you handle all the RV goodness?


~Michelle~ said...

Man, I'm loving this... We used to camp in a pop-up camper quite a bit when I was a kid...but never a fancy-schmancy RV! And yep, I knew about the campers & truckers in Walmart - I used to work @ one, and would come out @ store closing to find some random vehicles in the corner of the parking lot.

LauraJ said...

I remember the year I was 8 and travelled in a Motorhome, we called it. The whole summer we lived in that thing. Good times, good memories. Makes me smile to think on it. What a fun adventure for you and your family!

Karen said...

I can't believe you actually drove that thing....and how in the world did you find out you could sleep at the Walmart. I always wondered why there were campers in the Walmart parking lots...now I know. Thank you for ending this great mystery. I wish you good luck over small, unsteady bridges my friend.

Happily Ever After said...

LOVE IT!!! I can't wait to read more!

The hat is fabulous! A must have for Trucker Valerie!

Shannon said...

What I really love? The hat, sitting at the big steering wheel and beef jerky in your hand! Hey, where was your spit cup?

Steven Fletcher said...


You're my kind of gal!

I enjoyed your RV adventure and your writing.

Found your blog via a Google Alert.