On the road again

Jun 9, 2011

Road Trip USA: royal repairs on the RockVan

Sit down, folks, and I'll tell you a story about optimists, doubters, Craigslist, crooks, and something we call the RockVan.

Sit down, folks, and I'll tell you a story about optimists, doubters, Craigslist, crooks, and something we call the RockVan. The iconic Route 66 has offered asphalt adventure since 1926, and from Grapes of Wrath to On the Road and National Lampoon's Vacation, America is the land of the Great Road Trip. For our own Griswaldian-Kerouac Road Trip USA, we deliberated at length about whether to do a mixture of camping and motels, but the logistics of either bringing or sourcing all our camping gear and then the expense of hiring a car as well as paying for accommodation in towns tipped us over to our decision to buy an RV. RV is short for 'recreational vehicle' to most, but when we found a 1977 GMC motorhome for sale, my mate Zoe quickly dubbed it the RockVan.

My husband Stuart and I have long had a penchant for unreliable-but-cool vintage vehicles. My first was a two-tone pop-top 1978 VW combi van, his was a mid-70s Saab 99, and both spent nearly as much time being repaired as driven, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm. Ensuing years saw us drive a 70-something two-door Dodge Monaco called La Bamba ('you could fit five in front, five in back, and five bodies in the boot', we said), a golden '73 Plymouth Valiant, and a two-tone '71 Holden HQ Premier with the classic louvres in the back. The HQ was the final straw, and I for one swore I'd never again drive a noisy old beast that left me with two toddlers by the side of the road.

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11 thoughts on “Road Trip USA: royal repairs on the RockVan

  1. Texas in summer: beating the heat in Texas summer by swimming | Back in a Bit

    […] 100F, why not let the kids watch two movies in a row at the cinema next to the hotel? To be honest, our occasional breakdowns have been our best opportunities for writing and catching up on […]

  2. From field to supermarket, things are amiss » Tammi Tasting Terroir

    […] we encountered initial difficulties with the RockVan, you can imagine our surprise in the rather uninspiring town of Springfield, Virginia to find a […]

  3. The Appalachians: driving the Appalachians in an RV roadtrip | Back in a Bit

    […] comment about duelling banjos. With my west-coast lenses, I even figured it was no big deal to drive straight across them the day after our new brakes and distributor were ready for what was meant to be a probationary […]

  4. Welcome Tammi Jonas and Motorhome Mama Cookin’ | Progressive Dinner Party

    […] Now one of my dearest and closest friends, @tammois and I met on the twitterz and have since cemented our friendship around many tables and fires, cookbooks, meals and bottles of wine. Tammi and the rest of her brood, The Jonai, are at present on a magnificent three month Rebel Farm Tour of her homeland, the USA, in the world’s coolest RockVan. […]

  5. LuckyLectric

    Hi Tammi,

    Just wanted to let you know that the free 94-page book is available on a pdf downoad now at http://caravancamperrv.com. I’m still working on getting the full version edited.

    We had a setback last week, because we got notice from Amazon that all of our 100+ product links for what I recommend for creating the minivan camper conversion (in the book), are going away after July24th, due to an internet tax law that our governor signed into effect recently. So just when I was trying to get this site going, I now have to do double work (and more) to locate other vendors wo have the products I need, and try to change out as many links as I can before they become useless to me.

    I am adding more and more content every day (my own words from experience, NOT from article directories), so it is becoming more usefull day by day. Let me know what you think when you get time. I know you’re out having fun!


  6. Tammi Jonas

    Thanks all, and sorry for slow replies as we don’t always have reception here in the Appalachians! The RockVan is performing beautifully now, as you’ll soon read, and thanks for the link, LuckyLectric, I’ll have a look. 🙂

  7. (the other) BernardK

    oh noes!

    I knew there had been delays, but hadn’t realised why. I did have a niggling “If it seems too good to be true…” when I read that you had snared the deal…

    Still, I am totally loving the Jonai enthusiasm…

  8. LuckyLectric

    Being an avid RV’er, I really liked your story. Although I’ve never owned one, I always considered the old GMC’s as having timeless design, and many of them are still on the road today, and look just as good as they did back then. Sorry to hear about the mess, but the next time, ask for detailed close up pictures.

    We sold a 40-footer a few years back to a couple on the other side of the country, and they flew out and bought it without seeing it, but they had a three-page description and about 50 pictures to go by.

    For when you get back home, I have another idea for you that will be a lot cheaper. I’m creating a brand new site about how to “create” (not “build”) your own fuel-efficient minivan camper conversion, but the different thing about mine is that you have all the luxuries of home, including stand-up room, a shower with “on demand” hot water that will never leave you cold, a microwave, and even TWO coolers plus air conditioning… all without ever making a hole in the van (even for the curtains), and everything can be taken out in 15 minutes and put into another van without even picking up a screwdriver! The investment you make in what you put into it, you will never lose because it will remain yours even if you trade vans!

    I have the free 94-page intro book done that I will use on the opt-in form, but I don’t have everything set up for automatic delivery yet. The site is about 80% complete and functional right now. But you can take a look at it at http://caravancamperrv.com and if you want the free book, just use the contact form on the site and let me know. I can email it to you. It’s a .pdf download that you are free to share with anyone else you know.

    The book describes what has to be done to create your camper and includes advice on everything from hooking up your electric, to how to handle the “plumbing”, to how to save money while traveling and camping. I think you will find it very helpful for any kind of traveling you do, even “down under”.

    There is also a blog with the site, and anyone (especially those doing the camper conversion) can get involved there and seek advice if they need it. Along with all that, we will eventually have links to other sites and services, such as where to find the cheapest fuel, software for RVing use, and much more. We’ve been camping and RVing for over 30 years, and all the RV’s in the header were ours at one time (the Dakota with the slide-in we still have). Come and join us, watch the progress, join in the fun, and maybe even save a little money on the way!

    See you there!

  9. Son of foro

    Love your spirit! More people should approach life in exactly this way (including me!).

  10. Keith is not my real name


  11. RoadTripUSA: royal repairs on the RockVan » Tammi Tasting Terroir

    […] not really keeping up with writing about the big RoadTripUSA just yet, but here’s my latest piece on Crikey, detailing the first week of repairs on the RockVan in Front Royal, Virginia. You can check out the […]

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