The Winnebago: A Slideshow Tribute

Just last week, we reported (via Thrillist) on Tonke Campers, the coolest custom RV’s ever to hit the road. Well, Thrillist has done it again, this time providing veteran road warriors with a slideshow retrospective dedicated to that most classic of caravans: the Winnebago.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I long to live in a retro camper (just as long as it takes me to cover several continents; I’m not trying to become Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt”). Clearly, I’m not alone, given the ever-increasing number of Airstream hotels and motels, vintage RV parks and rallies (an acquaintance of mine just returned from the 6th annual Trail Along to Pismo Vintage Trailer Camp), and trailer-courts-turned-food pods or flea markets (check out the one in the industrial Georgetown ‘hood in Seattle).

Whether your idea of a sweet ride is a janky gypsy wagon or a sleek Roadtrek camper van, we don’t see RVing going out of style anytime soon. Cheers to that.

Tonke Campers Are The Modern Nomad’s Motorhome

When I was 3 years old, my parents invested in a Roll-A-Long camper. It wasn’t sleek, like the Winnebagos of the day. It was more like a super-sized camper shell mounted on the forerunner of a dually truck. It was badass, and survived innumerable family vacations and sleepovers (when my brother and I were in college, we’d bring friends down to my parents ranch, and use it as a dorm of sorts).

Sadly, my parents sold the camper after I graduated. Unbeknownst to them, I’d been silently contemplating living it it, in order to save money and support my nomadic lifestyle. Not long after the sale, my dad said, “If I’d known you were going to move so often, I would have just sold it to you.” Dammit.

I’ve longed to live in an RV ever since. I still fantasize about it, and despite my love of vintage trailers, I find the immediacy of a camper more appealing. Interior design is also crucial to me (the Roll-A-Long’s was hideous, even for the early ’70s). Therefore, I was delighted to discover Tonke Campers.

Thrillist aptly describes these groovy, custom Dutch campers as “old-world Gypsy carts.” The Fieldsleeper 1 model they feature is mounted on a Mercedes Sprinter. It boasts polished wood interiors and exteriors; teak flooring; colorful retro fittings; an ample kitchen; cozy sleepers for three; and a bathroom kitted out with a shower and eco-friendly toilet. The rear doors open for an al fresco dining experience, and there’s hidden bike storage. Most ingenious, hydraulic legs make it easy to ditch the shell so you have an “around town” vehicle. Should all that not be enough, Tonke Campers founder Maarten van Soest will happily create a “motorhome” to suit your needs. That’s what I call living the dream.

Six things NOT to do when renting an RV

Forget your trailer park misconceptions: If you’re planning a long haul road trip, either in the U.S. or abroad, renting an RV may be your most cost-effective way to travel.

At least that’s what my husband and I found when we took a 24-foot-long campervan through the South and North islands of New Zealand last fall. Not only did we have more freedom to go where we wanted without waiting for buses or trains, we saved money on eating out – and had fun meeting other travelers at our campsite each night.

RVing does have its pitfalls, however, and we noticed plenty of them on our week-long trip. Here’s a few things that could inject a sour note into your open road opus:

Rent the biggest vehicle you can find. You might see this trip as a time to indulge your Big Rig fantasies. But you’re much better off renting a smaller campervan that handles well, particularly if you’re going anywhere that involves twisty roads or mountain overpasses. Smaller RVs are also better on stretches of open highway, where strong winds can push your vehicle around the road.

Ignore vehicle briefings. Our campervan came with a DVD that cut off halfway through the instructions. “We’ll figure it out,” said my husband, who was eager to hit the road. Ha. Those 15 minutes we saved by leaving the parking lot early were nothing compared to the hour it took us to figure out how to dump out the sewage. Never again.Pack too much stuff. Most campervans have elaborate storage systems, with cubby drawers, hidden compartments and spaces under seats to place your things. Which you’ll need, because if you don’t put your hiking shoes away, they will become projectile missiles during the next curve in the road.

We passed several RVs that looked stuffed to the brim, with stressed-out people in the driver’s seat. Only bring the basics; most RVs come with all of the dishes, silverware, bedding and towels that you’ll need.

Fail to check your surroundings. The scene unfolded like one from a Chevy Chase movie: Our mouths screamed “Nooooo” as a neighbor pulled out of his campsite with his RV electrical cord still hooked up to the outlets. The resulting noises were not pleasant. If you’re absent-minded, write your debarkation routine on a slip of paper that you review each morning.

Annoy your neighbors. RVers are an early bunch, with many hitting the road before dawn. You’ll be the star of the holiday park if you invoke MI6 agent stealth and leave noiselessly, without rattling all of the recycling bins (you know who you are).

Once you’ve selected your campsite for the night, it’s also considered poor etiquette to walk too close to your neighbor’s vehicle. Saying hello at the communal BBQ pit is fine, lurking outside someone else’s windows isn’t. And when that van is rocking, definitely don’t go knocking.

Plan a packed itinerary. Sure, you could take 72 hours to criss-cross Arizona. But where’s the fun in that? Plan two-day or three-day stops at RV parks so you have time to leave the vehicle and see the sights. Otherwise, you might as well fly.

Travel writer Chris Gray Faust writes about Value Luxury Vacations on her website, Chris Around The World.

RVing – the enviromentally-friendly travel option?

Recreational Vehicles: giant, gas-guzzling monsters, or eco-friendly transportation? Our friend Peter Greenberg recently analyzed a new travel trend: the “green RV.” The term may seem contradictory; after all, can a lumbering, fuel-thirsty behemoth really be labeled “green?” But Greenberg points out that “the RV industry is adjusting to the demands of a more environmentally conscious public.” And those adjustments don’t just include simply trying to improve fuel efficiency (though a sleeker, more aerodynamic design and lighter composites contribute considerably to better gas mileage).

Features of these new, more environmentally-conscious RVs include solar and wind turbines (for powering that gourmet kitchen), and hybrid models that run on both gas and batteries.

Greenberg also points out that many consumers are simply buying smaller vehicles, which reduce environmental impact by using less fuel and creating fewer emissions. Further, he notes that the self-contained nature of an RV reduces travelers’ carbon footprint, since folks are not flying, eating out, or staying in a hotel.

Still, even innovative hybrid models get around 12 miles to the gallon, which doesn’t seem too eco-friendly to me. What are your thoughts?

The best RV money can buy? Globecruiser Action Mobile

The Globecrusier Action Mobile sounds like something my 6-year old son would like for Christmas–one of those toys with all sorts of promises of playtime wonder.

Though, I have to say, for the $670,000 price tag, this RV certainly comes well equipped with the wonder factor as in a capital W. Like WOWZA!

This RV includes a satellite navigating system, the ability to go through all sorts of terrain–including water, and a luxurious inside despite its armored vehicle-like appearance on the outside.

The Globecruiser is featured in SQUOB, a newish online magazine dedicated to RVs, campers and travel trailers. Along with the shot featured here are several more photos that accompany the article that highlights the bells and whistles.

For anyone looking to find the latest styles and trends in road travel where you take everything AND the kitchen sink with you, SQUOB is a worthy stop.

One camper that caught my eye when I was browsing is Tonke, a road worthy vessel that combines craftsmanship and cleverness. There are other articles of interest such the one that provides info on how to make your new RV look not so new so thieves don’t bother.