What do you use your RV for?

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March 24, 2012

By Bob Difley

chili_cook_off2There are as many different reasons why people buy RVs as there are makes and models to choose from. RV ownership usually begins with a single purpose, such as spending an annual two-week vacation and several additional weekends a year at popular RV resorts like the Jellystone Parks or your local state park when you have young children.

Many buy their rigs to make frequent family visits to relatives or reunions, visiting plush RV resorts with golf courses, fishing or hunting trips, connecting Harley riders at rallies like in Sturgis, South Dakota (some of which tow multiple Harleys in a trailer behind their motorhome), and hobbyists who follow the chili cookoff circuit, remote-controlled model airplane rallies, bluegrass festivals, and participants in civil war re-enactments.

If you bought your RV to visit your grandkids, who don’t have enough space to offer you a room (so you stay in your RV in their driveway), you probably don’t even know that there are such things as chili cook offs (photo above), where hobbyists spend several weekends a year–competing in chili cooking contests competing for thousands of dollars in prizes–from the Desert Rat Regional Chili Cookoff in California to the Massachusetts State Cookoff. In fact you probably also don’t know that the International Chili Society’s website lists these cookoffs in states all around the country, including several winning recipes.

The point is that once you purchase your RV–whether a motorhome, trailer, or fifth-wheel–you are now the owner of a magic carpet that will transport you to adventures that you never knew existed before. And you will find out that there are many RV owners–not quite just like you, but with a common bond–that will pique your curiosity about their life and hobbies enough that you will want to find out more.

jam session3

All it takes, whenever you spot a group of RVs that seem to be participating in some group activity, is to wander over and check it out. I have yet to find any RVers that do not welcome others to join them, either because they are always seeking new participants in their hobby, or just to join them around the campfire.

I have ended up spending hours with groups as disparate as ham operators–I had never seen a ham radio before–abalone divers, square dancers, Civil War re-enactors (I ended up taking part in a Civil War re-enactments at Ft. McAlister outside Savannah, Georgia), or just groups of like-minded individuals like the Loners On Wheels for solo RV travelers, gay and lesbian RVers, musicians (I don’t play but found their impromptu jam sessions [photo left] extremely enjoyable), and the au naturale (that means nudists–sorry, no photo).

There is another single factor that ties a lot of these folks together, other than that they all use RVs, and that is that they often gather together in boondocking locations where they can circle their rigs around a common campfire, sharing evening potluck dinners, and “talking shop” on their particular interest.

And when you learn how to use your RV for different reasons than why you bought it (including boondocking), a new world of adventure opens before you like the unfolding of a wildflower under a warm Spring sun.

Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (or for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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60 comments

  1. joe

    We had no idea how many uses our RV would have when we bought it.

    We have used ours for weekend camping, a guest room for visitors at our house, a guest room for us when visiting, moving van, showers and snacks at kids sports events, emergency generator and fridge for hurricane season, trips to Disney, home base for hospital visits, and home for a 3 month tour of the US.

    I honestly don’t know how people live without an RV.

  2. Hastings Lamb

    For the most part, to visit family members and relatives, especially the grand kids, out of state. I recently purchased a 2012 Winnebago Via (last year in 2011) and had some significant problems that I won’t go into here. However, as the price of fuel is driven higher, my intentions for use will probably shif to using it for more frequent short trips within my home state of montana to take advantage of the many local state and national parks and campgrounds. A secondary use I keep in mind is as a backup to home in case relatives visit and I need extra space for lofging Furthermore, it can also be used as an emergency backup for electrical power and even a “bug out” vehicle to our favorite lesser known camping hideout in the little belt mountains or highwood mountains that are only minutes away.

  3. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy guru Bob,

    At the present, with the gas prices as HIGH as they are, we’ve circled our MH into an
    encampment of one; with plenty of empty space for others, here on our RunningStar Ranch, in Coleman county Texas… We are open to dry camping(boondocking) as long as they wish!! We only ask that you DON’T TRASH-OUT THE PLACE!!! We offer free hot Folger’s cowboy coffee and lotz of listening to your tales…

    We hope everybody’s day is going great, for them!!!

    Joyce & butterbean

  4. @butterbean
    Nice gesture.
    We have a couple of full hook ups, including internet, available too; at a nominal fee.
    We have a small ranchett setting in N.E. Colorado Springs.
    We are RoadToad at comcast dot net.

  5. Ronald Hamann

    We using for camping with our camping group and Vacations

  6. Gary

    At the present moment it is our portable outhouse. Our house plumbing is “kaput”, and the plumber will be here on Monday. It seems that the whole sewer system has failed !! Glad we got one, or it’s motel time.
    We usually use the motorhome for fun and travel. Hopefully to a lake that has fish in it. But generally : travel. That’s it. Ready to go, and willing to go. See you on down the road. Arizona looks good !!

  7. JJLJR

    We use our RV for weekly vacations in Spring, Summer and early Fall plus a month in Florida in March and mid October to mid November.

  8. Kenneth Fuller

    Being newly retired from teaching, this was the first winter we have had free. We suddenly Winter Texans and began volunteering at a children’s orphanage or to be more exact Children’s Haven International ( a safe haven for children in Reynosa, Mexico.) It has been a great opportunity to work with those less fortunate than us. If you are ever around Mission/Pharr, Texas, check it out.

  9. Tom S

    We have owned a variety of RV’s, from a Coleman tent trailer, to a 36′ Class A. Just prior to retirement we sold the Class A. It was 10 years old and I was offered me $3,000 more than I paid for it, used.

    Three years after retirement, I took up a new hobby. 1/8 Scale ride-on trains. Since many of the train club locations that have a large layout are in remote locations, I needed and bought a 19′ travel trailer for me to stay in while at these locations. At that time we also moved to a Sun City development in Henderson, NV and joined the RV Club there. This necessitated a larger trailer so we bought a 27′ 2011 Keystone Cougar travel trailer.

    We store this trailer at my daughters house and the wife uses it as a extra bedroom to their house when she babysits the grandkids.

    As you can see our trailer is used for multiple activities throughout the year

  10. We are fulltimers – our 37′ Newmar Dutch Star is our home. We travel around the US visiting friends and family (spread from Seattle to Gainesville FL, Philadephia to Tulsa OK, and southern IL to Madison WI). We also participate in many Newmar Kountry Klub rallies and give courses at the RV Owner’s Lifestyle Seminar on the last week in June every other year in Kelowna, British Columbia. We stay at state, local, and Army Corps of Engineers parks, and Harvest Hosts sites when in transit between rallies and other obligations. We enjoy exploring the history of the US and Canada, and taking in the wonders of this country as we travel.

  11. marty

    oh, you know, an rv is just an enabler. It helps us reach a point where we can sit outside and think about things. At night when I’m camping, my wife has gone to bed, I’m sitting there by the fire, breathing that wonderful night air, looking at the stars, thinking about life, how I raised my kids, how I work my job, how I’m good to my wife. If you can’t do this outside your home on a weekend night, perhaps the RV will help. If this sort of time isn’t a cherished moment for you, perhaps an RV will be just the ticket, especially when you boondock. Often there’s no one around but you and the stars and the trees and the campfire. If you know how to beat this, please let me know!

  12. Marty – you hit the nail on the head. Folks, Marty has just defined exactly what RVing is all about. Jerry X

  13. Genealogy has been the unexpected bonus use for our RV. Serious genealogy involves frequent visits to courthouses, libraries, archives and cemeteries all over the country. The KOA Campground near Washington, PA has been a frequent stop for us when researching Washington Co, PA land records in the local courthouse. Also, campgrounds in the Harrisburg,PA area when visiting the Pennsylvania Archives and State Library. And the Fort Wayne, Indiana Johnny Appleseed campground when visiting the excellent genealogy library in that city. Or the campground at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis when researching at the State Library and the Indiana State Historical Society. There is nothing more fun (to a genealogist) than sitting around the campfire at night, re-reading photocopies of the exciting documents found that day at the courthouse or the tombstone picture from the cemetery.

    There is a campground near every courthouse in the country. Genealogy at home by computer is fun; but real, live genealogy where the actual records are to be found, is even more fun. For every record you can find on-line, there are dozens more that are only available in local county courthouses. Especially land deeds, wills & estates, local tax records, early land surveys and original land patents. It is a wonderful way to enjoy camping, study of American history and genealogy all at once.

  14. Jim G

    Marty;
    Excellent !!,
    I could not have said it better !!

  15. Dan

    Marty, I have to agree with you and the others that have chimed in. The RV is an enabler to many things and those you listed are the most important to most all of us! I am going to copy it down and every time someone asks me why I have that expensive motorhome I am just going to hand them a piece of paper with your description of the RV life.

    Thank you!

  16. Jim Imholte

    My partner and I have been together for over 30 years and have “camped” the whole time. First in a tent, then 10 years in a pop up, 10 years in a class “C”, now the last five years in a class “A”. We get to travel at least 3 months if not more every year. April through Oct. (here in Ohio) we do campouts with our camping group every month. We will do weekday at campgrounds. (not as crowed during the week) This year we will be going out west for 3 1/2 months. We love traveling in the rv. Meeting new people and seeing places that I never would have dreamed of growing up. So far the price of fuel has not slowed us down yet. Hope it never does.
    jim

  17. Elario

    Our 40-ft Cardinal 5th wheel is our home. It’s like always traveling, and taking an apartment with us. We have met so many new friends it’s getting hard to keep up with communication, and we meet them periodically in different parts of the country. Especially at casinos.

  18. Dan Rambow

    The RV can be all those things mentioned in the comments above, and many more, for sure. But for me, it is a long time dream come true.

    I have had a life full of camping and traveling, tents to motorhomes, growing up in the Pacific NW mountains, living across the country, from the South and north to Alaska at the request of military life, so what’s the big deal about RVing to someone like me?

    I always wanted to live in an RV but it never really seemed attainable. My father always wanted to live in an RV, but he passed away at age 84 without experiencing it. At that point, I decided to make it happen. Over the next 5 years, my wife and I made lots of sacrifices to that single goal.

    Now, my wife has retired and I continue to work. But from my office window, I get to see mountains, lakes, farmlands, rivers, seacoast, palm trees, and desert, depending upon where we happen to be parked.

    I have parked in the mega-parks, small private parks, government campgrounds, and boondocking, I just need reasonable costs and internet. I don’t know how long we will be doing this, but for now, life is good!

  19. Joseph Lucas

    Our Motorhome is sitting in the driveway since 2004. It serves as storage, refrigerator, and a painful reminder that it was my dream to have and travel in. Gas prices are deadly.
    This Ford 460 Cubic Inch engine gets 6 Mpg.
    Does anybody know of anything that could increase that to 10 Mpg.? I’ve tried a lot of electronics.
    I really want to use it.

  20. H. Nicholas

    The motorhome is used to save my life.
    Thanks for posting this question. I hope sharing my experience will help others.

    Several years back my new doctor at Yale University Health Care forewarned me that if I didn’t start getting some proper rest and relaxation that I was “without doubt” facing a major (and probably debilitating) heart attack within the next two years.
    I’m one of these guys, who can’t stop working, so when I’m not “in” work, I’m “at” home working. I’d constantly push and push myself until I’d collapse into bed, or had one of the five occasions I ended up in the emergency room due to exhaustion. I’m middle-aged and my heart just can’t take the pounding I’d been giving it for years. Yes, you can say I’m some kind of crazy far off the charts from Stress Type “A”. It’s the way I’m wired. And I’m overburdened. Everything truly would fall apart around me.
    I knew the only way I could follow the doctor’s orders would be to find a way to actually remove myself from my home, since I couldn’t remove myself from my job.
    I have a complete aversion to even the finest hotels, restaurants, and commercial travel. I want to know that my sheets, towels and food are clean, as well as the seat I occupy. So the only solution for me was to buy a yacht or a motorhome. I’d had two fine boats many years back but they were in constant need of exterior cleaning (more work) and they required driving to and loading from a marina. As well, they were very limited in places to visit, particularly so for a weekend. Due to the latter my boredom level always rose quickly. Add to this, once out on the water boats are for the most part socially alienating except for the people who come with you, so this fact added to my boredom.
    I made the decision and purchased a big Class A motorhome. I couldn’t be happier. I have NOT suffered a heart attack because:
    ONE- I make a point to use it.
    TWO- When I leave my home in the motorhome I enter a mind set that it’s now “play time” and I don’t do ANYTHING that resembles work or doesn’t suit me, until I return back home.
    Somehow the overburdening things wait, even for a long weekend. And things have yet to fall apart around me.

  21. We don’t have an RV – YET, but when we get one, my husband wants to go on a cross-country road trip, without worrying about where we’ll stop and paying for hotels and all. I want one because I LOVE TO TRAVEL – any way I can get it! I love seeing different people and places and experiencing new things!

  22. SamG

    Thank you Bob and thank you Joyce and butterbean for the extension of hospitality. The reason I purchased my old motorhome is the woman may threaten to kick me out again. Also bought a new enclosed trailer to load my things. Then when the time comes, head out to a couple acres by the petrified forest. Along the way visit the sites and socialize between fuel stops and bank deposits. And anywhere I visit, practice the camping rule “when leaving, leave a place as clean as you found it”.

  23. Very interesting all the ways to use an rv We got our first one to use Square Dancing Now we are Winter Texans and still Square Dance We have been on many trips, and the price of gas never stops us going where we want.

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