Travels with an RV

At Fort Morgan RV park

A complete change of pace for camping, (my base weight < 15lbs), we decided to try out using an RV. There are several companies that hire them and we ended up with cruiseamerica.

We decided to explore the Gulf Shores region in Alabama. It’s on the Gulf of Mexico, near the Florida panhandle, and something of a “red neck Rivera.” So we fit right in. We picked one of our sons up from his university (Auburn) and after spending the night there (Eagles landing RV park is clean, has nice people running it, and is convenient for a stop over.) drove on to Fort Morgan. We stayed in Fort Morgan RV park, which is a small, nice, friendly, and remote place near Bon Secour NWR (about a mile walk from the trail head.)

I’ll post some of the things we saw in another post, but you can see my portfolio here. Instead I’m writing notes about what we learned in the experience.

This is a 25-foot class-b machine. It was just barely big enough for 3 adults and 2 big dogs.  To be honest, it was just big enough for 2 adults and 2 big dogs.

Hooking the machine up to the power and water at the site (the “shore line” and town water) was straightforward, as was dumping the tanks. Follow the instructions and little can go wrong. It is important to let the tanks fill up so you get a clean flush, do the black water first, and then the grey water. It takes about two minutes, tops.

We used almost no propane. Turning on the water heater a few minutes before you needed it and then turning it off worked well. The water stayed warm for most of the day. Similarly we brought winter sleeping bags and between 3 adults and 2 dogs, only needed the heater now and then.

In no particular order, here are points to consider:

  • Bring a wooden cutting board to put hot pots on. Our unit had two small burners, which were enough, barely. Occasionally we needed to boil water, say for noodles, and move the pot off the burner to finish cooking. The countertops are laminate and would be damaged by direct heat.
  • Clean up as you go along.
  • Find a place for everything and put it back.
  • For long-term: an external propane hookup is a great idea.
  • An awning over the door would make life in rainy weather much easier. (The rental units don’t have this because it tends to be fragile and would be damaged by a typical renter.)
  • For purchase: Aerodynamics matter. The flat surfaces on this unit produce significant drag. If I were purchasing one, I’d look for smooth surfaces and rounded contours.
  • Speaking of driving: It handles like a dump truck. You can get up to speed, but anything more than 70mph is a bit dicey. It bounces and rattles. Drawers will open in turns.
  • 30 gallons to fill up from 1/3 of a tank of petrol. Fuel economy isn’t a feature of these vehicles. They’re not too bad on the motorway, but terrible in town.
  • Having a second vehicle would be a good idea. There are three solutions: 1) tow a car behind an RV, b) use a trailer or “fifth wheel” with a detachable towing vehicle, and iii) a truck camper.  Truck campers are about half the size of this unit and relatively rare in the South.  We saw both towed vehicles and trailers at the RV parks.
  • The propane-powered/electricity-powered fridge worked fine. It’s a little small and slower to cool than a home unit, but fully stable.
  • Storage is a bit tight and takes no little thought to organize. We didn’t get it quite right, but it was OK.
  • The black water tank pellets are some sort of detergent. They help to break up the debris. We could not find any for sale and used laundry detergent pouches. No idea about this for the long term, but in a pinch, it worked well.
  • Most RV sites have water, power, wifi, and cable TV.
  • There was no oven. We brought a Dutch oven which worked OK. It helps if you’ve used one before.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, and one we’ll probably repeat. There are people who live in these things year-round. It would be tight, somewhat cramped, but definitely do-able.