AKA: EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RVING I LEARNED FROM DESI ARNAZ
Imagine my surprise in mid-May when I won a Twitter contest with Marcus Lemonis (CEO of Camping World) and became the proud new owner of a Coleman Lantern LT travel trailer. After hours of exclaiming, “No way … really? REALLY?”, and pinching myself, it finally sunk in that I was indeed about to embark in an adventure of a lifetime — in an RV! Within weeks, I found myself at the helm of my Subaru Ascent climbing Stevens Pass through Washington’s picturesque Cascade Mountains with ‘Hortense’, my new RV, in tow. Holy cow — is this real?!
The online shopping spree that transpired immediately after Hortense’s arrival at Camp Peavey was of epic proportion. Undoubtedly both my UPS and FedEx drivers have figured out there’s something exciting happening at Camp Peavey. Fortunately, Camping World is loaded with countless gadgets, gismos and do-hickeys to keep my water not-too-pressurized, my septic system happy, my trailer leveled, and everything in-between. All that was left to do was to start planning where I’d go first!
But I digress …
Let me start from the beginning! Back in late 2021, I realized to properly fulfill the expectation everyone has in their head of the newly-retired, I’d need to jump feet-first back into the world of travel. However, while 2021 was filled with tasty road trips, I just wasn’t quite ready to hop on a plane in the midst of a global pandemic. Instead, my thoughts turned to finding a cozy, portable abode and towing it behind my Subaru. When the Seattle RV show hit town, I was first in line to elbow my way through CenturyLink’s exhibit halls gawking at slide-outs, regaling in wrap-around windows, and wondering which of the gorgeous RV’s at the show could be towed by my new Subaru Ascent. While I found a number of dreamy options for lightweight RV’s, I left the show with the notion that instead of buying something on a whim, I’d, instead, rent a few different RV’s throughout the summer to get a better feel for the lifestyle. Mr. Maven wasn’t immediately as hot on the idea as me, so he was quick to agree to anything other than coughing up cash for a new toy. Little did we know I’d have the perfect little trailer find its way right into my lap via Marcus Lemonis!
Now, with my new RV tucked beneath the canopy of ponderosa pines on our property in Leavenworth, I was ready to start planning for my first trip. Without a doubt, Washington state is the best place for any would-be RVer. The PNW offers hundreds of choices for National Parks, State Parks, and National Forest lands to make a temporary home for a few days (or more). With that in mind, I scanned maps, searched websites, and found the perfect spot for Hortense’s maiden voyage: Daroga State Park. With just 28 RV spots, close proximity to home, and views of the Columbia River, I knew Daroga would have everything I’d want for my shakedown cruise.
My initial response to having an RV was that I could jam all the comforts of home into a compact space. The reality is that I’m pulling it with a Subaru Ascent (rated for 5,000 of towing capacity and a 500-pound tongue-weight), so I’d have to pare back just a bit (i.e. leave the waffle-maker at home). Fortunately, the State Patrol has a CAT weigh-scale within just a few miles of home, making it easy to swing-through and get a reading on tongue- and trailer-weights on the way out of town. Much to my surprise, the GVWR of 3,850 was significantly over our actual packed weight of just under 3,300 pounds, with a tongue-weight of just about 80% of the maximum allowed with my vehicle. I found a lot of resources to help me adjust my load with proper weight distribution (following a 60/40 rule with 60% of the weight being in front of the axle and 40% behind). I stowed most heavy items equally side-to-side in the area closest to the axle, thereby reducing being either tail- or nose-heavy — and it worked!
Upon arrival at Daroga Park, I was quick to proclaim to the ranger that we were on our maiden voyage — and was warmly greeted, quickly checked in, and easily swooped right into my drive-through spot. The level parking pad meant very little adjustments to be made to get the “rig” (I learned that term from Desi, by the way) sitting level. Our site was tidy, clean, and boasted a fresh water hookup and shore power — along with a sweet picnic table and fire pit. The park itself has miles of hiking trails, gorgeous views onto the mighty Columbia River, swimming beaches, volleyball courts and endless opportunities for relaxation and renovation. After settling in for a campsite dinner, gawking at at active osprey nest just yards away, and stoking up a crackling fire, I was ready to proclaim my maiden voyage achievement to be unlocked!
You’re probably asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with Desi Arnaz?”.
Since you asked …
Desi and Lucille Ball were co-stars in The Long, Long Trailer – a motion picture about a young married couple’s first RV adventure in the 1950s. I watched this my first night in my long, long trailer (an exaggeration, yes – I know) and definitely related to a few of the challenges the newlyweds were presented with. Backing up a trailer? Dumping “black water”? All tests to even the strongest of marriages! My biggest takeaway, however, was in the sweet ending which reminds us all of the power of, “I’m sorry”.
As I continue to trek with Hortense this summer, I’m excited to share the experience in my destinations throughout the Pacific Northwest, to give a little insight to RV life (tips and hacks immediately come to mind), and to share the many beautiful spots within this gorgeous region of the U.S. As always, if you have insight to camping spots with stunning views, sweet amenities, or stories of where you’ve made unforgettable memories, I’m all ears!