Last week, I spent a few days on the road alone with my daughter, XY and my RV, Roxanne. Alan asked me to collect a few impressions of the trip. Here goes!
Act 1: Grandma Camp (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Michigan’s up north, and sits on the far end of the Eastern Time Zone. So it’s 10 p.m. and still light enough to keep XY and her four cousins wide awake and giggling in the tent set up on my mom’s deck. The end of June brings Grandma Camp. This year, the five youngest granddaughters are enjoying the long days and mild Michigan summer by fully intending to stay up all night.
I decided to take advantage of the fact that I am NOT in charge, and have retreated to Roxanne, who is parked on the shady side of the lawn next to the house. I stealthily crept out to the van and climbed in quickly, since my younger nieces really want to play house in here and come out whenever they hear the van door open and close.
Once inside, I can no longer hear anything from the tent. The windows are open and the rooftop fan is blowing, so it’s nice and cool. I got a snack from the fridge, and settled down on the bed with a book. Bliss!!!
Act 2: Repair Mode (Still in Grand Rapids)
Zoom ahead 24 hours- Grandma Camp is over, and XY is bunking in the van with me. She sleeps soundly. I frantically thumb through manuals and scour the internet for advice on how to repair a broken toilet flush pedal, which fell off at about 10 p.m. My first response when something mechanical breaks down is to panic, then text Alan, and I admit that I did those things.
Then my Tinker Training kicked in. Luckily XY and I have spent the year building Tinker Crates, which are monthly science kits we receive in the mail. We’ve built marker robots, fiber optic constellations, and most recently, a table-top trebuchet that launches ping pong balls. “We are girls who do science! We are scientist girls,” XY proudly exclaims whenever we successfully finish another kit. So I decided to remember what I was training my daughter for, and to stop whining and tinker for a while.
I learned to tell the difference between a waste ball valve drive arm and water valve drive arm. I also learned that when RV accessory manufacturer websites fail, the Travato owners’ Facebook group comes through. I posted my problem at 10:30, by 10:45, the group posted video solutions and advice (and also many, many bathroom puns). I fixed it using a combination of science and brute force. I posted a photo of the fixed pedal. The group wrote that they were flushed with pride for me.
While I was at it, I read most of the rest of the owner’s manual, and downloaded a level to make sure that we were within the appropriate incline range to operate the fridge safely. We were.
Exhausted but decidedly more smart, we hit the road the next morning, two chicks (three if you count Roxanne), driving through the Midwest, on our way back to Maryland.
Act 3: “Even My Wife Could Drive It!”
The RV world is still mostly focused on guys. At RV shows and dealerships, salesmen (where are you, RV sales ladies?) would mostly talk to Alan. One video we watched talked about a particular model being easy enough for the ladies to drive. This is a message for all the RV sales managers out there- you need to cut that crap out. We are girls who drive RVs. We are driving girls!!
That being said- Roxanne IS easy to drive. I am a good driver, too. XY and I took the back roads and some highways, and reached Mosquito Lake State Park in eastern Ohio by that afternoon. Mosquito Lake is a busy campground filled with families, and XY and I did not feel out of place among the many moms, dads, kids and grandparents. We cruised the campground on XY’s scooter, cooked vegan mac and cheese in Roxanne, then headed over to the campground amphitheater to see “Big Hero 6.”
The park had roomy, shaded sites that were close to the water and easy to get in and out of. The central shower building had flush toilets, but the pit latrines elsewhere in the campground made me extra grateful for our own little bathroom — especially now that it was working perfectly again!
Act 4: Back Home
We needed to get on the road by the next morning, which was July 4th. After a quick stop at the beach, we had our first experience emptying and filling the tanks ourselves. (Alan did this with us last time we went camping together.) No big deal! We drove through Pennsylvania and Maryland and were back home by late afternoon-just in time to rest and unpack a little before going to see the fireworks.
This family checks a lot of boxes that not all families usually check at the same time- vegan, minimalist, multiracial, RV-enthusiasts. Those two days, we were also only 2 girls on the road by ourselves. Luckily, because we are in these situations while XY is still young, she knows that we are unique, but not out of place.
(Also posted at Winnebago’s GoLife blog)
Also published on Medium.