Well I loaded up the Floyd family truckster and went out to Yellowstone National Park. Being an experienced outdoors type I have seen all sorts of things that have made my blood pressure rise - litter, initials carved into 200 year old trees, people feeding wild animals, Iíve even seen kids running through the thermal regions of Yellowstone. Look honey, natural selection in progress! Today Iím hear to speak out after this last trip about the goliaths of the American highway, the recreational vehicle.
Now before I get 500 e-mails from RV owners upset because they drive RV's because they have a bad back, or children, and they drive responsibly, Iím not fussing about you. I am not against the concept or for some the necessity for mobile camping facilities that offer more comfort then a tent or the lodges of Yellowstone. I believe on the whole that RV drivers are a responsible group. I can't imagine why some one would spend in excess of $100,000 for a palace on wheels and then drive like an idiot -- BUT...
What has olí Floydís blood pressure up after this trip is the irresponsible way some RV's are driven through the National Parks. I donít want to go off on a rant, but I have seen RV's crossing the yellow line at on coming traffic forcing cars off of the road. I have been stuck behind RV's crawling up mountain sides at 15 MPH in a 45 MPH zone that refuse to use the turn outs. I have had to circle for parking in areas clearly marked as no parking for RV's because some bozo parked his RV in nine spots designed for nine cars, vans, trucks, or other light vehicles.
On another trip I even followed behind one brain surgeon that drove his 35' RV through Zion up Canyon Drive despite numerous signs indicating RV's in excess of 19' to turn out and use shuttles. This winner in particular parked at the Narrows in a no parking zone. There were two others campers there -- both with NPS parking tickets. Why did he drive down all the way to the end of the canyon? Hike up to Weeping Rock? Go to the Virgin River? No! This guy never shut the RV down, took four pictures with a 35 MM camera, and got back in. His family never even left the comfort of the home but watched from the window.
If the National Park Service does not allow me to take a truck or bus through the Mt. Carmel Highway of Zion, then why do they allow campers that are just as large? I realize that when the tunnels were cut in Zion, Route 43 paved over Cedar Breaks, the carriage roads laid in Acadia (no cars allowed), and the wagon roads made in Yellowstone, 50 year-old sub-retired yuppies from Virginia were not plowing America's highways in 40 foot custom motor homes with pollution producing diesel engines that get two miles to the gallon.
So, if your thinking about buying your three bedroom house on wheels, you know the one youíve looking at with the ceramic tile and home theater system, please take this into consideration:
1. If you are not comfortable driving your vehicle on a narrow National Park road Ė then donít do it.
2. If your RV does not fit between the edge of the pavement to your right, and the yellow line to your left (yes, that line should be to your left, not passing under the driver seat) Ė it probably doesnít belong on the road. Your half of the road does not come out of the middle. The Floyd family truckster needs some room to get by without scraping the branches and with both side view mirrors intact.
3. If there are signs indicating no parking for RV's obey them. I realize that driving a 40 foot vehicle makes you feel like Darth Vader at the helm of the death star, but those of us who plow around in the X-Wing fighters of life have clearly designated parking areas. The Death Star must park only in Death Star designated parking. Anyway you really donít want a parking ticket from a federal agency. Do you? I hear if you donít pay them, the IRS will audit you for the next ten years.
4. If you are UNDER the speed limit by more than 15% (e.g. 30 in a 35) AND when you look in your rearview mirror (or video screen) and see a long line of cars weaving as if they were warming their tires for the startup of the Indy 500 use an available turn out. The NPS sign, "slower vehicles must use turn outs," does not leave slower vehicle to personal discretion. For those of you challenged by road laws in most states and the English language, slower vehicles equals faster vehicle behind you wants to pass. It is not your job to enforce the speed limit -- that is the NPS job. If you are under the speed limit and it is a bright sunny day on clean pavement Ė let the faster traffic pass. And on another note, don't decide at the top of the hill on a blind right hand turn to finally stop and wave 15 cars by blissfully over the top. Trust me, the person behind you is not waving because they are nice and from Virginia too!
5. If you are putting out blue smoke (burning oil) or black smoke (poorly tuned engine) then get your vehicle fixed. I did not come to a National Park to breathe your exhaust fumes.
Finally, who is the genius that came up with rental recreational vehicles. This has to be the worst concept I have ever seen. At least most people won't rent a U-Haul based on the fact that they fear driving something that big. But when Bubba at RV-Rentals-R-Us explains to Bob and Martha that a camper isn't much bigger than the Suburban you drive today they say, why not. The donít realize it handles different, brakes different, accelerates different, and although it may not be much longer than a Suburban or Excursion, it is much wider and taller. Sign some papers, leave a security deposit, and you are ready to cruise America.
Based on what Floyd saw on this trip I give RV's about three to five more years in our parks before a major crack down or a major accident involving multiple lost lives. I am of the opinion that if you are crawling up a hill, refusing to let people pass, and some one behind you loses patience, passes on a blind turn or no passing area and causes an accident -- you are just as guilty of the accident as the person doing the illegal pass.
In some states like New Hampshire, drivers are routinely pulled over and ticketed for driving too slow. The state recognizes that people that drive 20% under the limit plus people that drive 20% over the limit equals a lot of accidents and they fight this battle on both fronts.
Now before I get hammered on this speeding thing I do agree that if you see Bambi, or Thumper, or a host of other furry Disney characters that yes, stopping to take a picture or park on the side of the road is a normal thing in our National Parks. I sat in a 30-minute traffic snarl to view a wolf where dozens of cars were blocking the road on both sides. This is to be expected in a park -- I am referring to the plying the roads side of things.
I donít hate recreational vehicles; I hope to own a real big one. My wife likes the one with the wine cellar but Floyd has got his eye on the one with the home gym and computer room. I mean why would I want to go outside anyway when I have a forty-foot couch on wheels. Who goes out on the trails when they go to a national park anyway.
There, I feel better now...