Ex-Vail Valley locals find adventure in motorhome life
Special to the Daily
VAIL — After 25 years, we lovingly put a red ribbon around our Vail Valley scrapbook of memories and descended to the lower altitude of our original home, Denver. It was like retirement in reverse as we traded the inspirational tranquility of the mountains for the vibrant nonstop energy of downtown Denver.
A few years before we decided to move to the city, several of our valley neighbors had bought motorhomes, and over dinners and through emails we heard tales of exploring America and the pleasures of sitting out the middle of winter below the frost belt.
It all seemed interesting, but we were a little unsure whether or not it was for us. However, in our many travels domestically and abroad, our favorite style was definitely a road trip, so the emotional leap of trying a motorhome wasn’t a huge one. The next decision was what kind?
We’d observed our neighbors and pretty universally they had bought larger rigs, and then traded up to even fancier ones. I remember feeling the rumble of a big diesel engine in the house as one of our neighbors pulled into the cul-de-sac in a coach that was the size of a city bus. When he popped all the slideouts out, we walked through agog of seeing two bathrooms, a fireplace and dishwasher. Boy, motorhoming sure had changed since my parents bought their first “large” 28-footer in 1971. This condo on wheels was another 15 feet longer! While comfortably opulent, the thought of moving that bus around the country was intimidating.
Now, one of our big decisions in moving back to the city was to downsize and simplify our life, and starting out in a big rig seemed rather antithetical to our thinking. What intrigued me was a much more compact motorhome built on the Mercedes Sprinter van chassis. Sprinters have very fuel efficient turbo-diesels and are the perfect platform for FedEx delivery vans and Colorado Mountain Express shuttles. They also adapt well for compact motorhomes.
In my months of research, I learned that Winnebago was not only the pioneer in developing the Sprinter as a motorhome, they also have made more of them than all their competitors combined. After months of watching videos and reading online owner forums, we went for a test drive. To our surprise and delight, driving the Winnebago was as easy as a mini-van!
In the fall of 2012 we took delivery of our brand new Navion and set out on a “simple” little shakedown cruise of 6,000 miles, which took us into Canada, all the way to Maine and skirting around Superstorm Sandy. Today, 30 months later, we’ve traveled over 50,000 miles and are now on our second Navion. Our first one has found a fine new home with friends in Gypsum.
Our Navion can go many places larger motorhomes can’t. The living space is compact, but surprisingly comfortable. We’ve got a great galley, shower, satellite TV, generator and many other luxury motorhome touches. To extend our exploring even further, we carry two bikes and tow a Honda Fit, which clips on and off in under five minutes. And, unlike larger motorhomes, our mileage averages about 14 miles per gallon. Living in downtown Denver, we store the Navion 10 minutes away at a heated RV facility with individual bays.
Since we’ve moved, we’ve replaced those wonderful summer mornings looking across the valley to Arrowhead with having coffee in our Navion gazing at the Sangre De Christos at Westcliffe, or the restless Pacific in Lincoln City, Oregon. In the fall, we got our color change fix surrounded by a grove of aspens at Camp Hale. During this past frigid February in Colorado, we traded our boots for flip-flops and the shallow aqua tides of the Florida Keys. On our return home, we dined on stone crab claws at Joe’s in Miami and tapped to fantastic big-band jazz at Snug Harbor in New Orleans, where there’s a great RV park that’s a five minute walk to the French Quarter.
For us, this isn’t camping. We call it travel living. Just like home, you have your same routines, all your “stuff” is with you, you’re in the same comfortable bed every night, and you can eat healthily and well, especially when you’re in places with few good cuisine choices.
We made a calculated bet that buying a motorhome would be a fun thing to do. To our surprise it’s proven to be a much better decision than we anticipated. Compared to other ways we’ve traveled, our experiences have been richer, filled with unexpected adventures and deeply satisfying.
Don Cohen is a former Eagle County resident and is the blogger-in-chief at winnebagolife.com. He will be at the upcoming GoPro Mountain Games at the Winnebago display in Vail Village.