Monday, August 17, 2015
Rant Written For Me (Motor Homes)
Am reading and enjoying The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck. It's about taking a covered wagon across the Oregon Trail in 2013. On pages 122-125, he tees up motor homes. His perspective is different from Top Gear's ridicule of caravans and caravaners, but just as therapeutic for those of us who hate these lumbering behemoths. They are the bane of fast drivers and truckers everywhere. I have driven the stretch of Highway 36 in Kansas that Buck describes. It's arrow-straight and was almost deserted when I passed through. It needs a higher speed limit. But I've seen the kind of driving and social behavior he describes often enough. The ellipses and brackets are mine:
"Someday, when historians perform their 'why the Mayans declined' necropsy on American society, they will marvel...that...at a time of high anxiety about energy resources and costs, millions of elderly people took to the road in the clumsiest, most inefficient vehicles... The lunacy of America is all right there, in the RV's.
"Highway 36 through Kansas is, essentially, a motorized ghetto for the massive Winnebago and Gulf Stream motor homes that American seniors... drive... As they head out toward Yellowstone Park or to visit their grandchildren in Seattle, these road geriatrics follow the advice of their guidebooks and [follow] the 'Pony Express Highway' between St. Joe and Marysville, and then lumber up to highways 30 and 26 in Nebraska to... the Platte...
"Spending six figures for a McMansion... on a bus chassis is truly an adventure in bad taste... [T]he proud owners of a Winnebago Adventurer or a Newmar Mountain Aire would occasionally insist that we step inside their rig for an inspection tour. Everything desired by America's gaudiest consumers is inside... immense flat-screen TV's in the kitchen and living room, microwaves big enough to stew a whole cow... whirlpool baths, extra dens and porches that extend off the sides by activating humming motors. The designers at Winnebago and Gulf Stream seem to understand the Walter Mitty fantasies of American seniors... [T]he driver's seat is called the "pilot's cockpit." The passenger side, which includes a laptop stand on the dashboard, is called the "copilot" seat.
"Of course, the RVers were thrilled to see a covered wagon... Opportunities to create traffic hazards are much coveted by RV couples, and they loved us. They were relentlessly bad drivers and would sway their big [units] around the back of the wagon, rumble alongside at four miles per hour, just inches from the mules, and then open their windows and flash away with cell phone cameras for several minutes as traffic backed up behind them.
"Several times a day, packs of RV's would pass us on the highway, and then the drivers would stop a half mile ahead, positioning themselves to take better pictures. They parked with about two feet of the [unit's] girth on the shoulder... with the remaining eight feet blocking our westbound lane. The driver of an eastbound RV, curious about why the [unit] with Wisconsin plates had stopped, of course had to stop too, allegedly parking on the shoulder on his side of the highway. There was just enough room in between for us to squeeze the wagon through this RV gauntlet...
"Apparently there is considerable gassing off of formaldehydes and vinyl parts inside a moving RV that causes aggressively boring men to consider themselves wildly funny..." The Comradeship of the Road as felt and expressed by motor home people was lost on Buck. Me too.
Professional drivers of 18-wheelers are used to being surrounded by idiots in 4-wheelers. They expect us to cut them off with sketchy lane-crossings and the like, and allow extra margins for safety. But the astonishing lack of situational awareness of motor home drivers can defeat even a CDL holder. We rarely see an 18-wheeler slam on his brakes. But if he does, chances are it was for a motor home. I always give them an extra wide berth too.