Friday, June 11, 2010



I recently went on a RV trailer trip to the beach with El Fisho Jr. We were the invited guests of one of El Fisho Jr.'s friends and his father. Very nice folks. And it's hard for El Fisho to pass up a beach trip where the goal is fishing, particularly when the trip is to one of my favorite beach towns..

Any regular reader who suffers through this blog knows I like surf fishing and saltwater fishing in general and that our family spends a lot of vacation time at the beach every year. It's our vacation place, and has been for quite a long time. But my family are condo or beach house rental people, not RV'ers. Although I've been on road trips in some of the smaller Class C motor homes (i.e. all in one), I'd never been on a camping trip in a separate trailer and tow vehicle combo.

My experiences with pulling things behind cars is somewhat extensive as to pulling boats, or as my wise father used to say, "dragging" a boat. Because that's what it is some of the time. Dragging a boat over potholes and inclines and the like. Back in the day, I drug our family fishing boat up and down Highways 59 and 77 many a time to Port Isabel for fishing. It's been to East Galveston Bay and Lakes Conroe and Livingston and Houston many times as well. Even with a powerful tow vehicle, it's dragging a boat. After many years of boat ownership, we decided it is cheaper and lots easier to either rent a boat or better yet, hire a guide at the fishing location with a very nice boat to take us fishing.

When you figure in buying the boat, buying gas and oil, maintaining the boat, keeping the boat legally registered, keeping new tires on the trailer and keeping the trailer bearing maintained, it does become cheaper if you're just using the boat 2 or 3 times a year to just hire a guide or a rental boat. Hell, gas savings alone can pay for a half day of a rental boat or a cheap guide.

I make the same analogy for having an RV as owning a boat. As I said, I'm a condo and beach house kind of guy. Although I'm not by nature claustrophobic, throw in a noisy kid who can't sit still (El Fisho Jr's friend) and a dad who is constantly fiddling and adjusting with every aspect of his trailer and the small space of a trailer becomes el tiny. Extra tiny. With no escape.

I think our host was nervous about having non-family members in his sacred trailer. We, of course, treated it with great respect. We made sure no sand from our feet entered the trailer. We made sure to keep sandy and wet clothes outside either drying on the awning arms or in an old sail bag I use for beach and fishing trips to keep wet and sandy clothes in.

I think the first clue that I knew it was going to be a loooooonnnnnnnnnnnnng weekend trip was when our host announced that our prior plan of staying actually "on the beach" was no more and that we would be staying in a "five star" RV campground. I've never set foot in an RV campground before, but somehow this announcement sent chills of fear through my very being.

My daydreams of keeping rods in the water held in sand spikes and going to check on them every now and then was, of course, out the window. My daydreams of listening to the crashing of the waves washing away my stress was no more. My host said he had a generator, so I had dared to daydream of an air conditioned repose at the beach, a retreat from the heat and humidity. When the sweating got too much, we could just retreat into the trailer to get cool.

Of course, when one is staying "on the beach" and fishing constantly, the chances of catching fish rises exponentially. Just being able to keep a couple of surf rods out there with several types of bait on each means that some passing big fisho might bite in the middle of the night. Of course, you don't want to leave rods unattended for any length of time at the beach, as they could be hauled into the surf by a shark or other large fish, but having a cowbell on the rod pretty much works as a strike alarm if you're in the general area and a fish hits.

It's been awhile since I had been at a beach fishing camp, and this seemed like the ideal way to test how comfy and fun a trailer at the beach would be.

No matter that I had packed in anticipation of such an adventure. We were off, and soon we were at the promised land RV park. We set up the trailer and got the A/C blowing. I could pretty instantly tell that the small A/C unit was going to be laboring against both the high temperatures and the near 100% humidity. It didn't seem to be putting out much more than the A/C in some SUV's I've owned. In fact, I've been in Sequoias and vans that put out more and colder and less humid A/C than this trailer.

But again, trying to look on the bright side, I reasoned that some A/C was better than none, and on this point I was right. At least we sweated less in the trailer than outside, even with the A/C running at maximum the entire time it was hooked up. After we got the trailer all set up in the five star RV park, I used the restroom, which apparently caused no small degree of concern with the host.

Silly me figured, hey, trailer has a restroom, I have to go, hence I use the restroom in the trailer. My host was outside when I committed this transgression, but perhaps he heard the flush, as he then announced that "we would not be using the bathroom in the trailer but instead the one at the RV community center/pool area", which was conveniently located about 200 or 300 yards from our trailer. I did end up finding a route to the restroom that cut through empty spaces (which by the way is against one of the many, many rules at this RV park to walk through empty RV spaces as one is to use the streets and driveways) that was closer to 200 yards, but if one followed the RV park rules and walked only on the streets, it was near to 300 yards.

Which is problematic when you are drinking gallons of water to stay hydrated in the stifling heat and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife. So I made the walk to the restroom many, many times for both me and El Fisho Jr, at all hours of the day and night. The sometimes sketchy types who tend to favor the RV lifestyle means no kid of mine gets to wander around without me in the RV park.

There are a lot of really nice folks and what appear to be good folks who follow the RV lifestyle. Unfortunately, like in every other group, there are also the sketchy, random and weird ones that automatically scream "STAY AWAY FROM ME" when you first see them. And these are the types that seem to like to hang out in the community center, looking to "make friends" with everyone who crosses their path.

At this point in my life, I have all the friends I want or need. In fact, I've been blessed to have more friends than I can really tend to. I have many good friends who have been friends of mine since I was in my teens and early twenties, and these are the relationships I tend to pay attention to. I'm always open to making a new friend, but I prefer to make my friends through established friends I already have. It lessens the chance of meeting what one friend used to call "BeBe LaStrange" types of persons who you know nothing about and whom you soon regret meeting.

Big Jim, an old friend of mine, used to say that He can only have ten friends at any given time, and that any more friends than that is too many to deal with.

In any event, life at the RV park was, like the inside of the trailer itself, cramped and in your face. No privacy whatsoever. Your neighbors were close enough to touch on three sides. They could clearly see into your trailer and you into theirs if blinds were open. Their sounds, smells and sights become yours, and yours become theirs and there is no choice about this.

In addition to the previously mentioned sketchy types, there were two other distinct life forms I encountered at the RV park: The Swingles and The RV Commandos. I'll talk about them in a future post, but suffice it to say that the RV Commados work part time for the RV parks in exchange for rent reductions and their job is not only to think up silly rules but also to enforce them at every opportunity. No rule is too useless or stupid or minor to be enforced as if someone's very life depended on it. Which leads to lots of folks who have never had any power in their lives suddenly becoming the RV police.

The Swingles, of course, act and appear to be hep cat, free drinking, hot-tubbing swingers, and although most appeared to be couples and not singles, Swouples isn't as catchy or descriptive as Swingles. Swingles are not, by nature, rule followers, and thus the Swingles and the RV Commandos are constantly at odds, with the RV Commandos trying to get the Swingles to (as South Park's Cartman would say) "Respect My Author-i-tay" and the Swingles basically not giving a damn what the RV Commandos say or do.

For a short weekend trip like the one we took, I fail to see the economy of staying in an RV park. $140 in gas to drag the trailer down and back, $30 space rental fee and other miscellaneous costs (propane, etc) means we coulda stayed in a cheap condo or motel with a better performing A/C unit for damn near the same money. For just a bit more money we could have stayed in a nice condo with a view of the waves. As it was, our trailer space was about a half a mile from the beach, and so really staying in a nice condo or motel room to me makes a lot more sense.

When you factor in the cost of buying the trailer, say $2oo or $300 a month, you lose any economy. Yes, you do own it, but again, you're not staying cheap or free when you travel. We go to the beach several times a year and we don't spend anywhere near $2400 or $3600 (the amount of trailer payments one would make) for our condos as we often get deals of free nights when staying for several days. And we don't have to empty the restroom or drag the condo room back home with us.

I've written recently about building a fishing vehicle, and to me, a nice used 4x4 extended size van with a top mounted A/C unit and a generator makes a lot more sense than having a huge 4x4 truck to tow a trailer, as far as having a fishing camp vehicle goes. You can find a real nice used conversion 4x4 van for the same price as a trailer, with about as much useable room in an extended van as in a trailer.

So for me, unless you're staying in the wilds fishing or hunting, an RV makes little sense. If I was a big deer hunter and had a deer lease where I could leave my RV, or if I had a piece of land and didn't want to build a cabin, I could see having an RV for awhile. But even then, I think I'd opt for a much larger used mobile home instead of a trailer.

And I'd make damn sure it had a high performing air conditioning unit.

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