RVing off Highway 31, Oregon's Outback National Scenic Byway.
RVing off Highway 31, Oregon's Outback National Scenic Byway. Andy Isaacson
Freelance writer and photographer Andy Isaacson rented a 19-foot motor home in the summer of 2011. He enlisted two friends, and together they spent eight days traveling from California to Oregon and back.
With a bathroom, kitchen and beds onboard, they found the freedom to roam without reservations — spending nights in a Wal-Mart parking lot, a winery and beside a stream in a national park. Isaacson discovered what he calls a tribe of people who travel by RV, and wrote about his trip for The New York Times.
NPR's Neal Conan talks with Isaacson about his trek through the RV world, and the interesting people he met along the way.
On how RVers band together
"It's always been about camaraderie. I mean, in the same way that you get motorcyclists going on caravans and going to rallies together, you get RVers going on caravans across the highways and congregating in rallies, [one of] which I attended. It was billed as the greatest RV rally in the world. And it was pretty great. And you had over 2,000, 2,500 RVs sprawled across the sagebrush outside of Bend, Ore., at these expo grounds. And it was fun.
Steve and Pam Collins attended the Good Sam Club annual RV rally in Redmond, Ore., with their "McMansion on wheels."
Steve and Pam Collins attended the Good Sam Club annual RV rally in Redmond, Ore., with their "McMansion on wheels." Andy Isaacson
"There was a doggy swimsuit contest. There was a world record attempt for the most simultaneous high-fives. There were seminars in green RVing and how to look younger on the road and ... how to stay fit and healthy on the road was another."
On the most amazing RV Isaacson saw
"There was one particular guy that caught everyone's eye in the lot. He had a 45-foot RV with a glass-walled deck that came off the side, a 42-inch screen TV, and he was sitting there. I found him in bear paw slippers, drinking a beer, watching the game. He had two Great Danes and flock of parakeets; and three electric skateboards [and] a go-kart that all fit into this spacious storage bay at the bottom of the RV. And everyone was rubbernecking this guy's spot. And the license plate said, 'TOYZILLA.' And he told me his wife wanted 'I GOT MINE,' but he didn't really want the people hating on him."
On the difference between people who RV, and people who don't
"RVs are a polarizing mode of transportation. People either feel like they're really into it, and you get a devoted population of RVers. And then also you get the people that wouldn't want to be caught dead in one.
"... I think it's a class thing. I think there's some overlap between the people that have some disdain for Hummers and the people that have disdain for RVs, although arguably RVs are more practical on the American highways than Hummers. But I think ... this is how it's been, Neal, since the very beginning. RVers were derided as gypsies, trailer trash and tin-can tourists back in the early days, and I think you still have that.
"... It [also] symbolizes, I think, for some kind of American excess and decadence. I mean, you have this 45-foot monstrosity on wheels hogging up the highway. But I think it depends on where you're coming from ... Whether you see it as like a symbol of environmental indifference, or whether you see it as this wonderfully freeing thing just depends on kind of where you sit."