Finally leaving LA was really difficult, in pretty much every way: emotionally, physically, financially, and maybe even anthropologically. But there's no better balm for a bruised soul than a nice long road trip. Long like trans-continentally, and in a nice 70s-era RV. We've officially been on the road one day, and have so far staved off Road Madness. Here's what it's like so far.
First, let's set the scene here a little: the vehicle is a 1976 Dodge Tioga RV, with a massive, thirsty 440 engine and all the things you'd want in a car, like an oven and toilet. Along for the ride is me, my wife, my 3-year old Otto, a three-legged dog, two cats, and whatever parasites I may have brought with me. Hopefully it's a wise-cracking tapeworm I can set up a nightclub act with.
Our first leg out of LA took us to Lake Havasu, and this trip, which normally takes about four hours, took us between five and six hours. That's the first clue about what driving a vintage RV is like. Slow. Especially when you're towing something, like a whole other car. It's an interesting kind of slow, and I certainly know about slow in cars. There's different kinds of slow, just like there's different kinds of fast. Hauling ass in a 707 HP Hellcat, for example, is a very different manner of ass hauled than the manner of ass hauled in a Lotus Esprit.
Similarly, there's variations of slow. Slow while your foot is to the floor in a 1963 Mazda 360 Automatic is a wildly different beast than slow in a heavily laden RV. The slow of this Tioga is a powerful slow. It's the sort of slow lumber of a mastodon. Sure, the RV isn't quick, but you can still somehow feel the lumbering power of that massive 7.2L V8 beating right by your right leg. It feels like a beast that you're not really afraid of attacking you, but you know if provoked it could turn you into paté.
That beating V8 is also the source of my biggest complaint about the Tioga so far: the heat. It was around 105° driving through the desert, and this rig only has the roof-mounted aircon unit that cools the rear living section quite well. But, up front, in the cockpit, holy crap is it hot. As much as I love cab-over vans, sitting in one does mean you're essentially sharing the cab with the engine, and while it provides a nice surface to sit your drink, that big doghouse gets hot. And then it heats up everything. Your feet get slowly roasted into tender little steaks in your shoes. There's handy crotch-cooler vents, but opening them to the hot desert wind only serves to turn your scrotum into something that resembles a leather pouch full of herbs that I imagine would be used by a shaman or something.
Handling is about on par with any van that's been driven into a corrugated garden shed: top-heavy, very cross-wind susceptible, long stopping distances and a turning circle (especially towing the car) best measured in acreages.
On the plus side, passengers in an RV have a much better time, since they're essentially in a little house. I installed a little flat screen and we plugged in our Wii U, so my wife and kid were playing Mario Kart while I drove, which I'm pretty sure realizes a huge number of childhood dreams of mine.
RV living is cramped, and demands a lot of neatness discipline. Everything has to get put away after its used, or soon things get unlivable. Once you get used to it, it's not so bad.
The animals are adapting better than I would have thought; the dog is confused but pretty accepting of the situation, the chill cat is just finding novel places to sleep, and the lunatic cat is imprisoned in the brig/pet carrier, and is accepting the indignity with an impressive amount of contempt and grace.
I think the biggest surprise was the shower. Both that it works, and how fucking fantastic it feels after a day of desert driving. I'm looking smugly at every wealthy jackass who drives by in a Benz or Bentley, because I know that, if they only knew, they'd trade all those acres of beautiful leather for an in-car shower. At least, that's what I thought in the shower.
The one thing I'd like to have is some way of dumping the wastewater tank while driving, for a sort of repulsive oil-slick effect, because I'm really sick of that white Scion xB that's been riding my ass since I started the trip.
It's about time for me to figure out how to dump these greywater tanks and get back on the road; I'll have another update soon.
Oh, and if any Jalops are in the Grand Canyon later today, let me know!