RVs and banana skins

The seasons are shifting and as Fall hits the migration has begun. Around these parts it’s not just the Canada Geese flyin’ south in North America, it’s also snow birds: the term appropriately describing the retired folk who can’t handle winter any more and drive in their droves south to warmer climes – usually California or Mexico on this coast or Florida, of course, on the other. What that means for bike tourists is that the roads are packed with RVs (recreational vehicles) – big mobile homes on the move, as these oldies flee the north and head south on the 101 coastal route.

This migration is happening in such numbers and with such overwhelming speed and road coverage that I feel compelled to write about it.

Why? Well, RVs are like a living nightmare for cycle tourists. These are not just your classic cars pulling caravans, oh no, they are state of the art buses fully equipped with everything you’d need as a retiree in a campground (we guess that means TV and a microwave…). Picture them tearing past at 40 miles an hour while we truck up hill with all our gear in 2 panniers and a pack on the back rack, seemingly depicting all things bike tourists try to avoid: gas guzzling, fast travel, not stopping to talk to anyone, isolating oneself indoors and not meeting neighbours in a new place. Then staying in that place for a long time.

We gave up counting how many pass us – they’re so frequent. Instead to date we’ve counted 27 RVs pulling SUVs with bikes on the back and, incidentally we’ve also counted 29 banana skins on the roadside in Oregon. But the RV that went by pulling a helicopter takes the cake, for sure…

Scarily, for those sharing the road with them, these oldies don’t even need a heavy vehicle license to drive these monstrosities – meaning we’re on the road with no bike lane, just a mere shoulder, passed incessantly by massive buses piloted by potentially senile old farts that aren’t even required to learn how to drive.

And RVs seem to be a recent trend. One evening we camped out with a lovely Swiss couple in their sixties who’d ridden the road here 15 years ago – a time when there were none of these vehicles. Oh how nice that must have been. So what on earth has happened and what are they all thinking?! I asked an elderly man in an RV campsite what the deal is with RV life. His response? He’d “packed up his home in 05, been living the RV dream ever since”. Meaning, driving from site to site, often staying on permanently in some parks for months on end. Not quite trailer parks but a similar idea.

We had a good insight to this one night. Mostly we’ve been camping in state parks – with hiker biker facilities, which I totally recommend for anyone taking the coastal road through Washington, Oregon and California. So staying in an exclusive RV park was a whole new experience. The town of Bandon, a beautiful location on the Oregon coast, doesn’t allow campsites in town for tents. So we ended up at an RV only site looking to set up camp for the night. The unfriendly hostess – a mid seventies lady who rolled over to us in her golf cart she’d driven 30 metres from her trailer – insisted we’d have to pay RV price, also known as a “Full hook up”. Not needing to fully hook up, we pitched our one man tent, smaller than the picnic table it was next to, and took advantage of the hot showers and laundry. And at the end of the day as I sat in the drying room waiting for my laundry to finish I reflected on the absurdity of it all – the waste, the resources, the unhealthy lifestyle, the trend and realised just how much I love my bike and the choice I’ve made to travel this country in this way. And hearing the stories of older bike tourists I’ve met in their retirement, I smile, knowing that RVs can be bikes too.

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