I first laid eyes on her while prowling a dirty, half-forgotten, backwater moorage on a waterway somewhere in the Pacific northwest. It was dusk, the light was failing and I almost missed her.
She was nearly hidden in the low hanging mist among a dozen or so others, listing noticeably to port and alarmingly low in the dark and oily, debris-laden water. With outriggers askew and rotting lines hanging here and there at odd angles, she looked lonely, forgotten and hopeless but her classic profile reached out to me.
Hat brim pulled low and trench coat collar turned up against the cold; I called out to her, “Mitzi!”
No I didn’t. I’m just kidding.
Our trip to where we are today in the RV world is probably similar to that of most others. Starting out we spent enough time with “modest” to test the lifestyle. Then, once we were hooked, graduated step-by-step to a little bigger and a little better. We’ve had three coaches so far, each nicer than the last, and are cautiously contemplating another.
In the interest of full disclosure though, before we had motorhomes we had a different kind of RV. We had a boat. Hercules 110 diesel power, 185 gallon No. 2 fuel capacity, big foursquare wheel, nine knots top at full throttle, but no wheels.
Thirty-three feet long, double-end, 12-foot beam, mostly Iron Bark, but no wheels. Her name was Mitzi and we think of her as our first RV.
I grew up on the beach in Santa Monica – warm sun and sand, pretty girls, bikinis, sunset swims, volleyball and all that. For me, moving to the Pacific northwest, where it rains most of the time, was somewhat of a shock.
For my wife, on the other hand, it was not so big a deal. She originally hails from the wilds of eastern Idaho, where neck-deep snow drifts are routine and snow shoes and Ski-doos come with the territory.
Along with all that rain in the northwest comes the best boating and fishing in the world. Those who track such things rate the Puget Sound region second only to the Mediterranean when it comes to pleasure boating. Considering the great salmon fishing, I would have to rate the Puget Sound area No. 1.
Mitzi had been a classic wood commercial fishing boat, a Frazier River Gillnetter. We acquired her through one of the northwest fisheries buy-back programs and did all the grunt work ourselves. She was almost beyond saving. But, after two years of sweating, swearing and bloodied knuckles, we were able to bring her back to the proud vessel she once was. Only now she was no longer a work boat, but a cruising and sport fishing boat.
We re-christened her “MV Mitzi.” Whenever time and work permitted, we prowled and fished the spectacular islands, backwaters, harbors and inlets of Puget Sound, Vancouver Island, the lower San Juan Islands and Canadian Coast. I may write a book about all that.
Upon learning of an impending transfer, we were compelled to let Mitzi go. But, she did end up in good hands, acquired by a retired army colonel who promised to take good care of her. We moved on to the next thing which would be a motorhome.
Our first coach was a 1977 28-foot Executive. Even by today’s standards, a well-built and good looking motorhome, and in subtle ways well ahead of its time.
One feature I remember in particular was the water heater/cooling system linkup which provided immediate hot water upon arrival. The Dodge 440 mill had that legendary power, was forgiving and practically indestructible, and it was accessible. Even I could get in there and work on it with relative ease.
We were all over the place in that coach, Canada, Mexico, and all over the western half of the United States. She was a good friend.
Our next move was to a 1980s vintage Winnebago Elanden. “Low coach luxury” is what Winnebago called it.
You remember the bullet shape. We don’t see many of them around today.
I remember test driving it. I couldn’t believe the steering! As much fun as it was, steering the Executive was a full time job. You just could not relax at all on that steering wheel, but that was state-of-the-art then. Steering the Elanden was still work, but more like a car.
That coach also took us to many a delightful destination and eventually brought us to the desert southwest where we lived aboard for nearly a year while our home was being built.
In time, we decided a newer coach was in order. We now own a 32-foot Winnebago Adventurer. This was our first coach with slideouts which, as you know, make a huge difference. We travel less now but in more comfort and we still get south of the border and to the Pacific northwest from time to time.
What’s next? Bigger and better or maybe downsize? Either way, as always its fun to think about the possibilities.