It all started in 1965 when, at the age of 19, we purchased a 1965 Chevy van with a fiberglass top on it. My husband decided this would be perfect for the two of us to use camping so he proceeded to convert the interior. He put in a queen size mattress over the cab and designed the interior to include a dinette/sleeper, a full kitchen and a custom made screen door to keep the bugs out.
We had twins a couple of years later and we packed them into the camper along with the blowup swimming pool and took off camping. Within 3 months I again was pregnant with my son, but it didn’t stop us from taking the twins camping. After my son was born, we continued to use that camper until the engine blew up in 1972.
We then purchased another Chevy van. This time a brand new 1972 van and my husband proceeded to cut the roof off, take the fiberglass roof off the 1965 Chevy van, put it on the 1972 Chevy van, and weld the 1972 van roof to the 1965 van. Believe it or not, he sold the 1965 van for more than we had paid for it even after all that.
We had many fun camping years in that 1972 van. We watched our children go from sleeping on the dinette/sleeper to taking over the over the cab queen bed. In 1978 my husband came to my job one day and told me he had found a 1978 Champion Transvan. I went to look at it with him and interjected that it only had a couch that converted to a bed and the dinette that converted into a bed and that the children were getting too big to all sleep in the same bed. Then it happened! I saw that look I had seen before and he said, “No problem, I’ll just cut the roof off and put the top from the other van on it. I’ll have to make it bigger, but I can do that.” Yes, ladies, I am one of those women who has a husband that can do anything; which by the way, I sometimes considered it a curse. So, it started all over again, cutting off the roof, putting the fiberglass top on it and finishing the interior. I must tell you here that many of my neighbors would come to me and ask me if I saw what Chuck was doing to my new motorhome. My response was, “I trust him.” I will admit that I was beginning to think the guy had a few screws loose though.
Well, I guess you think this story is over. Heck no, it didn’t stop there. In 1989, he decided he wanted to add a bathroom to it. So what did he do? He cut off the back of it, extended it two feet and added a bathroom to the inside. He redid the entire interior with custom cabinets, lighting, upholstery, wallpaper, carpeting, blinds and enlarged the kitchen. Of course, since he had it all apart, he decided to insulate it and install central air conditioning. Then, naturally, the outside had to be painted. It is a work of art and on the front by the over the cab bed he has written, “I Did It My Way”.
Yes, we still have that 1978 Transvan motorhome. We still have all the wonderful memories of the camping trips taken by “The Roamin’ Rhodigs” in that motorhome. And keep in mind; we still have a piece of the camping life we started back in 1965 with the very first conversion van…the fiberglass top. It has been with us throughout our entire 45 years of married life.
We did recently retire and bought a new Itasca 40’ Horizon and gave the Transvan to our son. He keeps it in covered storage and the interior still looks just as nice as it did when my husband completed the 1989 renovation. The back is getting a little bleached by the sun and will need some tender love and care soon, but it is part of the Rhodig family history and will be very hard to ever get rid of.
Submitted by Linda Rhodig of South Florida as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
Do you have a favorite RVing or camping memory you’d like to share?