Big wheels, and you're livin' large on the road
© St. Petersburg Times
Drive out Interstate 4 4 just a few miles, really, and enter a whole different world. As far as the eye can see, RVs, acre after acre of the steroidal vehicles lined up, one after the other, over so much territory you have to ride among them in golf carts. But we pass up Lazydays, the world's largest recreational vehicle center, and turn into RallyPark, owned by Lazydays.
It's got 300 massive parking spaces, and for $29.95 a day you can park your RV there, eat free breakfast and lunch, swim, play tennis and -- this is the real draw -- shop for a new RV. Right now there's a big sale going on, and, guess what, my brother-in-law and his wife drove down from Louisiana with friends Bob and Mary, who were thinking of trading up on their 35-foot Winnebago.
We stepped up into the Winnebago and were offered drinks and a look around: a queen-sized bed, a nifty pull-out pantry, a couch that reclines or opens into either a coffee table or a bed. Three TVs, two big screens and a little one that fits into an outside shelf where the deck chairs were set up. And, do you know what? They had made grilled cheese sandwiches while whizzing down the expressway! Why, Bob had even taken a shower while Mary was driving!
There were photos of the places they had visited in their RV, like the one of the pristine shore of Lake Superior. "And we were parked right there!" Mary said, pointing off the end of the photo.
The four of them had gone to a seminar that morning put on by two full-timers. Bob and Mary are looking forward to going full-time -- that's when you sell your house and live entirely in your RV.
We were regaled with the advantages of RV traveling. You have your own bed, so you always feel comfortable. You have your own pillow. If you need anything, you can just pull into a Wal-Mart. Did you know that you can stay the night in any Wal-Mart parking lot? You can! It's a courtesy, though, to stay only one night.
Well, that's convenient, I said, rapidly thinking of where my in-laws could park the monster they were already considering buying when they came to visit us, the RV lifestyle having taken them over like some kind of cult. They could park at Wal-Mart in Tampa! At which point, Bob whips out a thick blue directory -- of all the Wal-Marts in America!
Why, at a Super Wal-Mart, you can get your nails done!
They also have a directory of interstate exits, and what's there.
It was getting too heady for me.
I just had to take a walk.
Up and down the rows of RVs, some with little dogs sleeping in the front of the coach, one with parakeets in a cage, some with stuffed animals piled up, most with little signs identifying the owners and their home base: "Bill and Sue Butler, Van Wert, Ohio."
"Hi," said a couple in sweatsuits as they passed me by, "Kind of fun just walking around looking at the rigs."
A new one about the length of a city block was backing into a space. The wife was standing outside near the back of the RV, talking into her cell phone to her husband, the driver, guiding him in.
Lazydays gets 1,250,000 -- this is not a typo -- visitors each year.
"So how many miles per gallon do you get?" my husband is asking them back at the coach.
'Six point six," they answer, and no one bats an eyelash.
Besides, once they've reached a destination, they don't drive the big lug around. They tow a Jeep for that.
- Sandra Thompson is a writer living in Tampa. She can be reached at email@example.com . City Life appears on Saturday.
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