I hadn’t really expected that Stephanie would want to come with me on this trip. She had said from time to time that she could drive the minivan and support me or the group I was riding with, but I never counted on that. I couldn’t expect her to plan such an effort around my dream. When you’re driving, a trip across the country in 50 to 100 mile increments could be tortuously slow. And being available to rescue me if I crash or honk or just run out of water on a hot day seems like an imposition on what could be a nice vacation. And she’d have to take time off from work, or retire or find a new job, too. No, I’d just have to expect to find a group to ride with, or go it alone with a credit card and hotels and campgrounds.
But I’ll be damned. She’s as excited as I am. And what was going to be a lonely, long bike ride is now going to be a family adventure. It turns out that Stephanie loves road trips, with fond memories of her childhood, when her family would pull a pop-up tent trailer or cram into an Itasca RV, camping in National Parks. She was ready to do this again, with the dogs along for the adventure. So now we can have a bike trip for me, and a camping trip for all of us. We’ll see some National Parks, small town America, and family and friends along the way.
So one day Stephanie says we should go to the RV show in Pleasanton to look at campers. OK, we’ll look at the pop-up trailers and plan to pull it behind the car. But it turns out we found other much more appealing (though more expensive) options. As we looked at the pop-up and small trailers, they started looking small and cramped for a 90-day trip. And the RV show presented a wealth of options. We learned about class B RVs (converted van chassis sleeping 2 or 3 people that could get about 18 miles to the gallon), Class C RVs (heavy duty pickup chassis with room for a bed over the cab), and class A motor homes (buses that could be fantastically appointed the be a home away from home, or a rock band tour bus, with multiple bedrooms and electronics). We asked about renting an RV for the trip, and realized that rental plans for that long are very expensive. We still needed something small and maneuverable, because we could be driving every day to new locations. And as we started looking at the class B RVs, we began to appreciate the potential of just driving into a campground and parking without any setup time, with a shower if we needed it, heat and air conditioning for intemperate days and nights, and even TV and WiFi at times. Some people tow cars behind their RVs so they can park the behemoth in the campground and use the car to go into town or tour nearby destinations, but the class B vehicles were small enough to drive around and park in town. We wouldn’t need to bring a car.
Among the Class B vehicles, a couple of manufacturers stood out as having well-built and attractive products. We didn’t like the boxes on wheels— some of them looked like they should have big “Rent Me” signs plastered on them, or they looked like corrugated sheet-metal boxes on wheels. We were quickly impressed, though, with the Unity RV made by Leisure Travel Vans up in Manitoba, Canada. It had an stylish exterior design—not a box, and the interior was well-conceived with quality materials. It was on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis, which is bigger than a standard van and provided us with a sense of quality. So it’s a little bigger than a typical Class B vehicle, but not as big as a class C. See the salesman calls it a “class b+”. So here is what it’s going to look like:
So we will be part of the #vanlife movement!