We arrived around 4:30 PM at a pleasant ocean view campground in Maine. Shortly after we pulled into the assigned site and plugged into shore power, a beautiful new Class B pulled in. After a suitable period to settle in, we went to see their new rig. Al and Clara Strickroth from Seaford, Delaware had toured the Canadian Maritimes on their inaugural run in their brand new camper. They waved at us to come in and shared a remarkable story of upsizing and downsizing.
Al had been family camping all his life. Every summer since he was a young boy his family drove to the Atlantic City shore lot his parents rented for $100. Al and his three sisters would erect a dark brown wall tent and set up folding cots. They roughed it, but each summer they improved one feature. One summer their father drilled a shallow well for drinking water. After all, 150 miles from home was a different world. They tied the tent down when storms hit. Al and his dad brought back bluefish. Another summer they erected a screened kitchen.
Clara had grown up in a camping family, four kids in a Ford Econoline van. They enjoyed a trip through the Great Smokies, but had added a tent for longer stays. When Al and Clara married they invested in a used Class A. Their adventures took them to Florida and Hershey Park in PA.
They upsized to a Shasta 24-footer, then in 1995 they bought a longer trailer. They fell in love with Maine. Sipping tea at Campabello, President Roosevelt’s summer retreat, was one of Clara’s memorable events. “It was so formal, you almost felt that the President and Eleanor would appear at any moment!” said Clara. But the long trailer was too uncomfortable and it swayed wildly while being towed. They traded the trailer and bought a big red truck and a 5th wheel. The GMC Sierra was Al’s toy (It frightened Clara and she refused to drive it.)
Fast forward to 2008. The 5th wheel was a chore to pack, a bear to set up, and had more space than the two of them needed. You just couldn’t pick up and go. Unless you had a pull-through campsite, maneuvering and jockeying the behemoth was not fun.
That’s when they talked about downsizing. They attended an RV show where every kind of camper was on display. There were booths offering a drawing for a free vacation at various RV parks. But Al and Clara were hooked on traveling, not just camping in one spot in an oversize trailer or motorhome. “We saw this Class B and wondered if it would be too small,” said Al. They kept returning to the same small motorhome, sitting in it, and imagining what it would be like to go places without the fuss and bother of retrieving the 5th wheel from a storage yard, cleaning it, and loading up with food and belongings. They asked the salesman about the possibility of trading in the Sierra truck and 5th wheel against the $100,000 Class B camper van.
A few minutes after the salesman inspected their big rig, he made an offer they could not refuse. They drove away in their brand new small motorhome. Now they were nearing the end of their maiden run with their new toy. “What have you learned since you have spent a couple of weeks in your new motorhome?”
“We packed more stuff than we needed,” Al said.
“Way too many clothes,” added Clara. “I forgot you can stop at a Laundromat, a grocery store, and any gas station just when you need to. And I’m not afraid to drive it!” The Strickroths, now in their 70s, have recaptured all the joy of travel camping with none of the old drawbacks.
Lynn and Roger have camped all their lives, too. Roger started with station wagon camping, then a pop-up trailer, a travel trailer, and now a Class B. His family went to Key West, California, and Michigan. Lynn’s family spent days in tents, and a fancy used travel trailer. A Western tour was a highlight of growing up. When Roger and Lynn started cycle camping, they hauled all their tent and gear in panniers on their bicycles. They were part of a party of 14 that camped and cooked their way from San Diego to St. Augustine on bikes. Their camper is named Red Rover and in it they have seen all the Eastern States and Canadian Maritimes and are now ready to head west.