Winnie and me

Sometimes, in the course of a journalist’s career, it is necessary to put down the pen and step out of one’s proverbial cubicle for the sake of getting the other side of the story. Like the time, desperate for a feature, I agreed to a story on bass fishing, despite that the extent of my knowledge was a Ronco Pocket Fisherman I had as a kid. Or the time I bought Rollberblades (used ‘em once) and hit the whitewater in a giant, inflatable gerbil wheel (talk about death trap.)

OK, so to call the end results “good journalism” would be a bit of a stretch (and to refer to myself as a “journalist” perhaps even more so.) But I did prove that, although I will probably never make much of a fisherwoman (I’m a total wuss when it comes to removing the hook), I am able to occasionally leave my comfort zone and explore that which once scared/confounded/squeamed me. It’s all about gaining a whole new perspective. You know, like walking a mile in someone else’s fruitboots or, yes, even getting behind the wheel of a big Ford 350 and driving a couple hundred miles in a glorified motel on wheels with an extension cord.

Otherwise know as a recreational vehicle.

Yes, I know over the years, we have not been kind to the RV-ing genre in these pages. For starters, when I think “recreation,” it conjures up images of actual physical activity. In the outdoors. However, I would argue there is really nothing physical about hitting the cruise control from the comfy captain’s seat of a motorized barca lounger on steroids. Leisure mobile, sure. Even motor home is acceptable. But let’s drop the whole recreation charade, shall we. Not to mention the fact that traveling with one’s own bed, microwave, shower, toilet and couch is hardly the picture of conservation. And truth be told, if I never have to sit behind another Jamboree with Florida plates going 10 mph on Red Mountain Pass again, it will be too soon.

But, when it comes to peer pressure, I hold up like a bug on a windshield. And the thought of being able to get up from the dinette and grab a cold beverage out of the fridge while barreling down the interstate at 60 mph was intriguing to say the least.

So, when college friends floated the idea of a mini Winnie chickation, I was in like Uncle Eddy. Plus, a couple totaled vehicles over the years practically guaranteed I would be exempt from driving responsibilities.

That’s right, for a few short days, I went deep undercover and explored the pleather and faux oak-veneered underside of one America’s greatest pastimes and lived to tell (although a few instances of sticker shock at the pump nearly killed me.)

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a synopsis of “The Real Housewives of the Rockies” meets “Road Rules,” you’ll have to wait for the book, or at least the reality series. However, from a purely journalistic standpoint – and what with summer tourist season almost upon us – you’re in luck. After three long days of exhaustive research, I am here to share with you some of my hard-won helpful hints as well as “technology, features and enhancements that make RV’ing so enjoyable for the entire family” (with thanks to Cruise America’s web site, a veritable cornucopia of great one-liners). So without further adieu, I introduce the Telegraph’s first “RV-ing for Dummies.” And whatever you do, when the lady at the rental shop asks you if you’ve watched the mandatory video, just smile, nod and keep on rolling.

- “Ample sleeping room” – if you enjoy couch surfing, look no further. Beware this does not necessarily equate to “ample head room,” which will become apparent after the first few concussions. Also take into account that one bed doubles as the dining table, perfect for the early birds in the group.

- Blackwater – Has nothing to do with covert military contracts or Dick Cheney. However, it’s still one of the lesser known, shall we say “crappier” aspects of RV-ing. Despite the leisure nature of RV-ing, this task requires serious combat gear including gloves, goggles, rubber boots and a strong constitution. A perfect job for the second in command.

- “Extra sturdy dinette support and wall mount” – Although we see this as practically an invite to table dance, we do not recommend attempting this while vehicle is in motion.

- Have someone assist you when backing up – So, technically the spotter is supposed to be outside, but we see no reason it can’t be done from the comfort of the back bed. No sense in exerting yourself more than necessary – after all, this is vacation!

- “Curtains provide full blackout and exterior roof vents are darkened to minimize sunlight intrusion” - In fact, aside from pit stops at fast food joints with low-hanging drive-thrus, it is possible to never have to leave the RV. Ever.

- Rear wipers – Maybe a sticky subject for some, but yes, RVs do have their own special kind of toilet paper. After all, these are not airplanes where you can just spew your overflow into the stratosphere without giving a darn. Not to worry, Wal-Mart has a complete RV section to fulfill all your discreet RV-ing needs.

- “No extra class in rocket science required” – In fact, we’re not even sure if most RV drivers need basic driver’s ed.

- Hook-Ups – the key to roughing it while running the A/C, water pump, TV and microwave in generator-free style. Make sure you know where these are ahead of time – pulling into a full campground late at night and asking strangers where the “nearest hookup” is may yield unsavory results.

- “No reason for the first-timer to be apprehensive at all” – Sure some friends may no longer respect you in the morning, but then again, they probably didn’t respect you to begin with.

- “Extra large power cord and sewer hose compartment door for easier access - gone are the scraped knuckles” – Having never dealt with the smaller hose or compartment door, we can only imagine how painful this may have been. But then again, no one ever said RV-ing was gonna be easy.

– Missy Votel