We’ve all been there. It’s summer. We’re headed somewhere fishy and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can assemble the 4-weight and hit the water. We’ve squeezed a weekend’s worth of beer and grub into the back of the SUV, and we’re ready to stand knee-deep in a trout stream and wash away all that’s wrong with the world. We’re on some two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere, and the speed limit is merely a strong suggestion.
Well, except for the old guy in the matching belt and shoes wearing the floppy hat and the too-big, might-have-just-gotten-his-eyes-dilated sunglasses driving patiently down the road hauling an RV. For him, he’s going the speed limit, but not the one offered in black-and-white on the sign alongside the road. He’s going as fast as his rig will pull his home away from home, complete with slide-outs, an on-board flat screen, the La-Z-Boy recliner, the marble-countered kitchen with the convection oven and the master suite armed with a second TV and, of course, the satellite dish.
He’s got his window down, his arm on the door, and he looks in the side-view mirror every now and then, somewhat apologetically, at the line of traffic he’s managed to assemble behind him.
And there we are are, third in line waiting impatiently for the next nexus of a dotted yellow line and a break in the oncoming traffic. Damn it. It could be hours. I hate that guy. I hate his massive trailer. I hate his snot-nosed kids who can’t wait to get to the campground so they can plug in the xBox, and I can’t stand his grumpy wife who insisted that the massive micro-mansion on wheels “is what it’ll take to get me into camping.”
And then I bought a camper.
In my defense, it really is a camper. It’s not a massive 40-foot beast that could support a small caliphate during the zombie apocalypse. It’s a trailer with some extra clearance and a handful of amenities that will make summer a bit more fun for a guy who likes to chase trout in the Rockies.
But I get it. I’m going to be that guy. Well, not exactly (but I am a proud member of the Good Sam Club!). No slide-outs, and no xBox (and no grumpy wife). Nevertheless, I did make a major purchase this spring in anticipation of a multi-month work sabbatical which I'll spend traveling — and fishing — a route that will take me from my home in Idaho, through Canada, and all the way to the far northern shores of Alaska. It’s a cute little trailer, and while it doesn’t have the amenities one might find in a massive fifth-wheel towed behind a dually and equipped with a jacuzzi and its own massage therapist, it does have a toilet, a microwave, a small fridge and, most importantly, a shower.
Indeed, I’m kind of a princess.
I’ve had it out on the road a time or two, and my trusty FJ is a bit slower on the uptake thanks to the 3,500 or so pounds I’m toting behind it. I have no doubt I’ll be the bane of everyone who gets caught up in my wake as I abandon the Interstate somewhere north of Missoula in early July en route to the Arctic. I’m sure I’ll collect my share of haters as I slowly fly fish my way through the northern Rockies and eventually the Alaska Highway. And I suspect the oilfield truckers on the Dalton Highway will wonder what on earth I’m thinking as I tow my high-clearance, mini-RV over the Brooks Range on the way to Deadhorse.
But before one can actually hit the road on any extended adventure, it pays to learn all the little things about being an honest-to-God RV owner. You know, things like, don’t store the heavy stuff up high (every try to clean a half of a bottle of exploded dish soap off a vinyl floor? Comical, so long as you’re not the poor soul trying to soak it all up). Store heavy stuff down low. Don’t drive with the window blinds down. Keep your battery charged and understand some basic electrical concepts. Know the limits of your propane tank and just how long you can be “off the grid” without a recharge. Most importantly, get to know your “black water.” Not intimately—that’s the stuff pink-eye is made of. But understanding how your little traveling fishing cabin works “under the hood” is vital, and nothing is more vital than the management of your utilities, of which where the poop goes is one.
I think there’s value in practice, no matter what you’re doing, and toting an RV around is no different. In just a few weeks, I’ve learned quite about the inner workings of these amazing vehicles. They truly are engineering marvels. Considering that all of the necessary comforts of home (and few unnecessary ones) can be toted along the highway in a box that weighs less than 3,000 pounds, much respect should go to the folks who have helped these traveling mess tents evolve into something so portable and yet so functional.
There’s no doubt that a RV, used appropriately, of course, can enhance your fishing and make it more comfortable, if that’s a concern for you (as I’ve gotten older, it certainly has for me). It allows me to stay on the water until the last possible moment and “retire” to the camp chair under the awning, enjoy a drink and eventually fall into a relatively comfortable bed. All of that will allow me to fish harder and longer on the day that follows.
My motivation for such a purchase was basic tunnel vision. I wanted to travel in some semblance of comfort without expending a small fortune on hotels and meals while putting myself in the best situation when it comes to time on the water. And, of course, it has long-term value, assuming I use it for years to come. It was calculated, for sure.
Ideally, I’ll get good at this RV thing. Maybe, if I get good enough, I won’t be that guy.