Winterized RV Travel

The Heymanns take their winterized Travato on a holiday trip

Alan Heymann  |  01.21.2017

Greetings from Michigan, where we’re cozily spending this holiday night in a stranger’s driveway (with permission of course.)

In earlier posts, I’ve explored how having a small RV has allowed us the flexibility to take weekend trips close to home and to make last-minute plans. The holiday travel piece is a whole different ball of wax. Lindy and I have been heading back to the Midwest almost every year for the last 16, and we’ve done it every conceivable way before we were parents and after. Driving and flying. With the dog and without. Last year’s trip involved staying in one home and four different hotels over the course of about 10 days. Imagine stuffing a small car to the gills with clothing, food, gifts and kid stuff, and unpacking and repacking that car at each destination. That’s exactly what we were trying to avoid by bringing the RV this time.

(Roxanne, of course, has already been through Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois several times this year.)

We’ve long since abandoned the notion of driving from the DC area to the Midwest in a single shot. It’s a long day behind the wheel, so we prefer to break it up over two days coming and two days going. We were also looking forward to a little more flexibility with our overnights, as we had fewer days to work with this year. So we tried something new. From our house to my mom’s is roughly 11 hours. We left after XY finished school last Wednesday, so I mapped out overnight stops 3, 4, 5 and 6 hours from our house. Depending on traffic and how I felt as the primary driver, we’d simply decide how far to go and then stop.

We settled on the 5-hour version, which ended up being more like 6 hours after rush-hour traffic and a couple of stops. It was the Portage Service Plaza on the Ohio Turnpike, and it was a great place to spend the night. Many of the Ohio Turnpike plazas have dedicated RV parking with electric hookups, a dump station and a water pump. Showers and coin-operated laundry are inside the plaza building. We didn’t need any of these things this time, only a secure and somewhat quiet place to park for the night. We were the only RV in the place, though I understand they get crowded during warm weather. I put my $20 into the machine on site, printed the receipt and put it on the dashboard, and we were good to go. The fridge and the coach heater both run on propane, so we fired up the thermostat, folded down the beds and simply retired. I can’t remember ever traveling someplace and going from the road (or the rail or the air) into my bed so quickly. The heat and our warm sleeping bags had us toasty on a 35-degree night.

Roxanne at Portage Plaza

A toasty night turned into a chilly morning, as we somehow didn’t bother to fill up the propane before we left town, and it ran out while we were sleeping! No propane meant no hot water on the stove, and there would have to be coffee before we got back on the road. I figured I’d fire up the generator and heat some water in the microwave instead, but I tried to do this unsuccessfully a few times before remembering we needed to get gas. Drove over to the pump, got gas, back to the RV parking, heated water, had coffee and breakfast, we freshened up inside the plaza and hit the road. We covered the second half of the drive with no trouble.

I had planned for us to stay one night in a hotel near my mom’s house, and had called the hotel to ask if we could park there overnight before our stay. They said yes. But before we left home, I decided to make it a two-night hotel stay instead. We figured the use of a pool and a treadmill, plus a big hot breakfast and a large bed was worth the price of admission. But we’ve been making good use of Roxanne for sleeping quarters over the rest of the trip.

There is no way to travel subtly in a bright red Winnebago. People give us a thumbs up as they’re passing us on the highway. I had a nice chat with my mom’s next-door neighbor about it when we were parked in the driveway. And we’ve never, ever gone searching around for our ride in a parking lot. The thing makes a statement.

I’m pretty sure our ecological footprint is bigger than last winter’s. We’ve gone from six hotel nights down to two, which saves electricity and all the water and soap needed to wash linens for the three of us. But we’re using a lot more gas than we did even during our summer travels, as the average mileage has gone down with the heat cranked up. And we’re generating more trash than usual, as we’ve turned to disposable tableware because we can’t wash dishes in a winterized RV. The guy who evangelizes tap water for a living had to buy 2-½ gallons of the bottled stuff to take along.

There’s that conflict again, between the minimalist impulse and the travel bug. On the one hand, travel in a small RV makes you acutely aware of how little you actually need to get by. Every square inch of space, every drop of fuel and water makes a difference. On the other hand, for those who don’t live on the road full time, an RV is an extravagance. Plenty of people own second homes, second cars or some kind of time share. These are things for those who have much, not those who have little. So I’m acutely aware that we’ve got a giant red monument to consumerism on our hands.

But the number of ways we’ve been able to use the RV seems to be multiplying.

Roxanne’s first funeral

At a family funeral a few weeks earlier, Roxanne was Penny’s hideaway during a 6-hour visitation and our bedroom during a couple of overnight stays in the driveway. It was also my temporary mobile office for a couple hours when I needed to get some work done.  I have a feeling it will come in handy when we have between four and seven guests coming to stay during the inauguration.

Roxanne in Monroe

Mobile office

This has been a challenging year, to say the least. In our families, in our friends’ families, in the entertainment community, there’s been an extraordinary amount of death this year. At the same time, this was the year of exploring the country in Roxanne. The experiences we’ve had, the lessons we’ve learned, the people we’ve met along the way have been incredible. So I have to remain hopeful for the adventures that lie ahead in 2017.

In the meantime, we’re headed back home Wednesday. I’ve got a couple of overnight spots scoped out. Will it be another Ohio travel plaza? Or a Wal-Mart outside of Pittsburgh? Stay tuned…


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8 Comments

  1. Scott Posted on 02.08.2017

    Judy Meyer,
    You better hurry.. They stopped making the Bright Red Travato. There are still some on the lots. I think they are considering going with the Dark Cherry Red Promaster…
    You might want to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/travatoowners/ to keep up on the latest trends and talk about the Travato.

  2. Anne Brown Posted on 02.05.2017

    We bought a 2016 Forsah and my husband wants to use it this winter; using the antifreeze (pink stuff) for the toilet in between stops. Have any of you used this until you get to a warmer climate. Living near Lake Michigan, we know about lake effect snow and cold.

  3. Gil Strachan Posted on 02.05.2017

    Any issues with heavy condensation overnight, on the windshield and front door windows? I have a Minnie Winnie with double-pane coach windows, but the cab windows are wet in the mornings, even if I close the curtains. I was considering an air-tight, insulated curtain wall between the cab and coach, or maybe insulated window panels for the cab. Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

  4. Roger Bohnke Posted on 02.04.2017

    Great write-up! Sounds like you’re making very good use out of your T. We got our T 59K (silver) last summer, and though we’ve only had a couple of long trips in it, we loved every minute of it. Such a wonderful driving vehicle and it gives us the flexibility we were looking for every day while we’re driving down the road. See something interesting – pull in! Our little T will always fit. All the best to you in your future travels. Hope to hear more stories in the future. See you on the road!

  5. Wayne Lowe Posted on 02.04.2017

    The Winnebago customer services in Junction City, OR are first rate and very thorough with knowledgeable technicians who listen to your concerns. We were stranded due to closure of the pass (snow) to CA so we had several days to remedy some nagging problems with the coach. As we camped in the service center parking lot with electric power available, it was no problem to stay free of charge for several days.

  6. Ron Selin Posted on 02.04.2017

    My wife and I just completed 4200 mile winter trip in our Winnebago ERA. We were gone for six weeks, being in temperatures from 15° to 80° . We were going to do you de winterize but decided to stay winterized and use facilities in RV parks. I also stopped and visited Relatives and friends parking in the driveway. We used bottle water, and the heater did a great job of keeping us warm on cool evenings. We ate most of our breakfasts is in the coach each morning and even some evening meals. We saved a lot of money on food ( more healthy fixing your own food ) and not staying in motels. Overall it was a great trip !

  7. Wayne Lowe Posted on 02.04.2017

    We took a three week winter trip from Denver to the west coast for family visits in our Winnebago Journey 36M. As it was freezing when we embarked, we left the coach winterized and carried water for personal use.
    Once we reached WA we could risk using the tanks and plumbing when we were connected to power. CA was cold this year and rainy in Yosemite and Death Valley.. We camped at several RV parks where we had full hookups and mild temps. AZ was again cold as we camped north of Phoenix in Payson. Then we drained the tanks and plumbing for storage before CO greeted us with a blizzard as we climbed back up to 9300 feet and home. We used two tanks of propane for heat and cooking and traveled 3500 miles in three weeks. We were pleased to have the Winnebago service center available in OR where we camped in the parking lot while doing some repairs to the coach.

  8. Judy Meyer Posted on 02.04.2017

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am terribly interested in buying a red Travato. Are you happy with your choice? I would appreciate your a thoughts.