Dallas, TX – Since time began, and well before there were roads, humans of all types and stripes have wanted to hit the road (or trail or path). Whether they were hunting, gathering, or hunting for a gatherer, the unknown was a seductive mistress not only for men and women, but entire civilizations. And in an election year when seemingly everyone has hit the road (and some have headed back home), we took a walk thru Dallas’ Spring RV show, in and around Dallas’ Market Hall. And while RV shows may not offer the rarefied atmosphere of a car or boat show, cars rarely offer you a toilet/shower combo, and boats require water. Although America’s infrastructure may be going to h*ll faster than you can say ‘pothole’, wanderlust remains the very real desire to wander lustily, if only in your head.
If there is a gathering that cuts a wider demographic swath than the RV show I can’t imagine what it is. Tent campers costing $5K and Class A motorhomes costing 100 times are all parked within a few feet – OK, it’s more than a few feet – from each other. Advanced production techniques, such as Airstream’s riveted aluminum construction, are juxtaposed against box-type trailers constructed of so many 2X2’s, while opulent master suites sit in spacious contrast to convertible sofas and wet baths, where taking a shower means later wiping down the toilet. The democracy seems to make it more social – or democratically social.
Knowing that I wasn’t buying anything, I enlisted friend and photographer Ron Hector to both take a few pics and – as the owner of a Class A diesel pusher – provide some perspective on the myriad choices available to the motorhome prospect. Class A, of course, references the big box motorhomes built on the dedicated motorhome chassis. And while gas-powered entrants can often be had for less than $100K, diesel-powered pushers are typically closer to $200K – and might very well cost double that figure. In short, bring either a small trust fund or substantial 401K.
Going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ means you’ll be going from between 30’ and 35’ to something closer to twenty feet of overall length, and from a vehicle width of eight feet to something closer to seven. We were very impressed by the Ram-based Travato, built by Winnebago. If asking ‘Why Travato?’ know that Winnebago’s brochure provides six reasons – the sleep system, easy-to-swivel cab seats, exterior speakers, etc. – while we’d mention the front-wheel drive powertrain, which provides better all-season traction than rear-wheel drive platforms, as well as a much lower step-in. We also liked the easy functionality of the Travato’s interior trim, recalling – at least for me – the same functionality you’d see on VW’s Westfalia campers a few decades back. The Travato window sticker’d for roughly $80K, which is a lot of money, but not that much more than a well-optioned Suburban. And it’s a figure somewhat ameliorated by the Travato’s ability to function as a second car.
The jump from ‘B’ to ‘C’ gives you a cab/chassis – again, Mercedes’ Sprinter is a popular donor – onto which is built an 8’ wide box. The additional interior volume allows for greater separation between dining and sleeping, along with a shower that gets wet while its adjacent toilet area doesn’t. (If you’ve seen the Emarites airline ad, this is what Jennifer Aniston would buy.) Of course, this bigger size makes full-timing a consideration, although limited storage – relative to the Class A – suggests you keep some sort of base camp in your hometown. Investment is typically north of $100K, and in some instances well north. We were impressed by Leisure’s 2016 Serenity, with its Mercedes powertrain, usable layout and impressive cabinetry.
At the entry-level end are the travel trailers. One of our favorite examples, with its roots firmly embedded in our ongoing penchant for nostalgia, was the TAB teardrop. Looking just like it sounds, these recall the early days of camping, albeit with updated amenities. And in that they represent an investment of under $20K, and are easily towed with a midsize SUV, they represent a credible option for young families and retired (or about to be retired) empty-nesters. There aren’t many floor plan options, but know you can have one with the kitchen inside – or the kitchen outside. To get in touch with our pioneering roots, we’d go outside. Or go out…
Slightly more substantial, in both footprint and investment, was the Retro 166, which did a credible job of recalling the Shastas of the late ‘50s. With a full aluminum frame and weighing just over a ton, the Retro offers – as the blurb puts it – all of the charm of an old trailer with all the conveniences of a new one. Just as the TAB was just under $20K, these hovered just over that same figure – and (again) could be towed by a midsize SUV.
At the end of two hours, we had seen what we needed to see. As mentioned, I wasn’t buying anything, but if the folks at Ram were to offer a long-term loan of Winnebago’s Travato we’d have to consider it…for about five minutes. I can’t think of a better platform for a trip to this summer’s Democratic confab in Philly – and a ‘Feel the Bern’ bumper sticker.
What you say?