More than beautiful scenery
Why go RVing? It's more than just the scenery
by Alice Zyetz
When people start out on the road, they usually think of the RV lifestyle as an extended two-week vacation that will last for the rest of their lives. They cherish the thought they don't have to restrict their trip to just one national park; now they can visit ALL the national parks. After that is done, they can see ALL the national monuments. Phew. I've met people who say that they couldn't wait to get off the road because it was exhausting-moving every few days, little contact with others, miles and miles and miles of driving.
Visiting scenic areas is always a rich experience, but it is only part of the equation. One of the great joys of the RV lifestyle is following your interests wherever they are located, as well as discovering interests you never thought you had. How do you find out what is available nationally? For every interest there is a Web site. Do a search by starting with a simple expression inside quotation marks-for example, "square dancing" or "balloon fiestas." You'll find a wealth of information.
If you like to attend different types of festivals, go to Festivals.com. Search by the state you are planning to visit next or by category-for example, culture, sports, kids, music, arts, or motorsports. If you have a specific hobby, go to Buzzle.com. First find your hobby, then locate specific sites and festivals celebrating your hobby.
Always talk to people. Some of our favorite festivals came to us that way. Who knew there was a festival for kite flying? We met friends in Long Beach, Washington, stayed together at an RV park, bought kites and learned to fly the two-stringed variety -- not your childhood kite! We watched an expert controlling five individual but identical kites flying in perfect formation. We were awed by five-foot circular kites that lifted as if they were meant to be aloft. The sky was filled with unusual shapes and sizes.
Another year we pulled into a park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, intending to get our propane heater repaired. "Are you here for the balloon fiesta?" another camper asked me. "What's a balloon fiesta?" I asked. Of course, I had to find out. The number and variety of balloons that fill the sky twice a day is incredible, from traditional hot air balloons to unique shaped balloons like soda cans and a 25-foot Harley Davidson motorcycle. One of the highlights for me was the nighttime "Burn," where the balloons are inflated, lit, and tethered to the ground, enabling you to walk among their vivid colors and shapes. Someone once described that the experience was as if you were walking inside a lighted Christmas tree.
As amateur musicians, my husband and I enjoy music festivals. For several years we have attended a Jew's harp gathering in Oregon. The Jew's harp is an ancient instrument shaped like a miniature harp you hold in front of your mouth and twang to produce the sound. This past summer a group of women entertainers played their harps to my guitar rendition of Hava Nagila, a traditional Israeli dance melody.
There is no end to the variety: Want to visit or volunteer in a lighthouse? Find a list of lighthouses and contact the agency running it. Want to soak in a hot spring? Go to Soak.net, which serves as a clearing house for information about hot springs all over the United States. To find a place to play in a bridge tournament, go to the American Contract Bridge League. Recently I heard about Disc golf. It uses dics, similar to Frisbees but smaller and heavier, and is played on the basis of the game of golf including etiquette, pars, tees, etc. Go to the Professional Disc Golf Association to find out how and where to play.
Finally, my very favorite unusual experience on the road was attending Tuba Christmas in McAllen, Texas -- a gathering of more than 350 tuba players performing Christmas carols. One of our RV friends plays the tuba and every Christmas checks TubaChristmas.com to find out where tuba players are gathering so he can put on his Santa hat, schlep his tuba, and join the local tuba community. Yes, Virginia, there is something for everyone out there!
This article was first published at RoadTripAmerica.com, February 2005. Updated 2008.