America is full of vacation lodges . . . on wheels!
They are known as motor homes - literally kitchens, living rooms, and beds on the move across America. There are more than 1.5 million of these self-propelled rolling dwellings in the United States. They range from simple pick-up trucks with camper units attached to deluxe recreational vehicles - or RVs - as big as a moving van.
Since a motor home vacation is often cheaper than a trip requiring stays at hotels and resorts, one might think the RV industry is thriving, despite the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s. But not so. About 62,000 new motor homes rolled out of dealerships in 2004, but just one-third that many were sold last year. Orders are up early this year, however, as consumer credit loosens somewhat.
Out west, especially, where there are plenty of campgrounds and national parks, you see thousands of motor homes. Their owners have clubs, magazines, a national association - even conventions, twice a year! They are warmly welcomed in most places, because they are often retired couples who have money to spend, teachers with an entire summer available for travel, or well-behaved families on vacation. Many motor home owners have driven to all 50 U.S. states - except, of course, Hawaii, way out in the Pacific Ocean.
Often neighbors take several trips together each year, sharing gasoline costs, home-cooked meals - not to mention laughs and memories. Even with poor gas mileage on most RV units, these vagabonds can travel for about one-fifth what others pay who fly, buy meals in restaurants, and stay in motels.
And while drivers and passengers alike in large motor homes are supposed to keep their seat belts fastened on the road, it's not uncommon to find someone in back reaching for cold refreshments, spreading maps out on a table - even taking a nap, fully reclined!