The Perfect RV: Part II
By Carl Franz
Is Bigger Better?
|Before we get into details, heres a brief aside on a related RV question, "is bigger really better?"
As it happens, shortly after receiving Kathys email I spoke with an old friend who bought a 36 foot motorhome especially for Mexico. Fred has been traveling down here since "the good old days" and like us, has driven virtually everything on wheels at one time or another. I consider him to be both a serious "Mex Tripper" and a very skilled driver, so my ears definitely perked up when Fred began recounting his experience with this stretched out "highway yacht".
Fred is currently single, and even though the 36-footer seemed very large when he first bought it, he found that he definitely enjoyed the generous elbow room, as well as an extra bed for overnight guests.
Once he crossed the border and headed into Mexico, however, Fred soon realized that navigating such a large rig on broad American freeways is one thing, and driving in Mexico is quite another. It didnt take long before the RVs luxurious size began to feel more and more like a liability.
To be fair, Fred emphasizes that he encountered no real problems on well-maintained Mexican tollways. These highways are often divided four-lane, with little traffic and very few of the unpleasant surprises that can make driving here a challenge. (Review the Driving chapter in The Peoples Guide To Mexico for a blow-by-blow description of chuckholes, cattle, slow sugarcane trucks, etc.)
In fact, Fred says that if hed stuck close to the autopistas, everything would have been fine. As any dedicated Mexico traveler knows, however, one of the countrys greatest attractions is the search for the perfect beach, and the constant temptation to explore interesting side roads and tempting detours. Naturally Fred couldnt resist. Turning his jumbo rig off the main highway, he immediately steered into a maze of dogleg village streets, fender-bruising corners and twisting, one-lane gravel roads.
Freds near-tearful account of struggling to back the RV down a steep, cobbled, dead-end alley too narrow for side mirrors, caused me to break into a cold, sympathetic sweat. I was reminded all too vividly of an incident in our schoolbus near Coatzacoalcos, when Steve somehow mistook a treacherous mile-long mud dike for a shortcut to a beachside restaurant. Words were exchanged as we backed out of there, but they definitely werent about the menu.
Fred finally accepted that as cozy and comfortable as it might be, the 36 footer just wasnt a practical "all around" vehicle for Mexico. His solution was to buy a view lot on a hill north of Puerto Vallarta. The motorhome is now permanently parked there, overlooking a beach. As Fred said, however, even this didnt come without a struggle.
"The hill was so steep I had to hire a tractor to tow the RV to the top. It took six hours to inch that beast up there, so theres no way Im moving it unless I absolutely have to." The deluxe motorhome makes a great little tropical vacation "cabin", but as Fred acknowledges, it came at a premium price.
In fairness, I must add that in our travels to remote, outlandish corners of Mexico we constantly meet intrepid RVers who dont seem at all intimidated by their extra-large rigs. These people tend to be tough and even-tempered, however, handy with tools, and well equipped for improvised repairs. Lorena and I dont happen to fit this description. Our preference is a smaller rig, reasonably comfortable yet not so large that it cant negotiate relatively tight corners or be dragged out of a sand trap with a team of stout mules.
Weve seen some very stout, well-equipped pickup/camper combinations in Mexico. The compact size and mobility are tempting, but our conclusion is that a pickup camper really isnt spacious enough for our needs. Another major drawback, which also applies to towed trailers, is the physical separation between the driver/passenger compartment and the living area. In fact, in considering a camper or trailer, we find this to be a deal breaker. On a typical driving day in our van, well crawl back and forth several times for snacks, books, or a quick nap. We just dont want to give this up in a larger RV.
Continue with Carl's article: The Perfect RV: Part III