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Life may not be an endless vacation, but for those living in an RV, it comes close

Category: Labor Day
Source: pressofatlanticcity.com
Publish Date: Monday, September 8, 2008
Summary: While summer vacation has ended for most people, these massive recreation vehicles containing full kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms continue to line the highways, whisking their owners away on another adventure at a moment's notice.

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Life may not be an endless vacation, but for those living in an RV, it comes close


By COURTNEY McCANN Staff Writer, 609 272-7219
Published: Monday, September 08, 2008

  Frank and Sereida Kopitskie have watched herds of buffalo roaming the plains in South Dakota's Custer State Park, toured the city of New Orleans in the days before Hurricane Katrina and paid their respects at Abraham Lincoln's burial site in Springfield, Illinois.

And they did it all without giving up any of the comforts of home.

The Kopitskies are RVers, a growing subculture of travelers who prefer to take it all with them when they go. While summer vacation has ended for most people, these massive recreation vehicles containing full kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms continue to line the highways, whisking their owners away on another adventure at a moment's notice.

John Worthington, marketing director for Driftwood RV Center in Clermont, has seen people renting small towing trailers for family camping trips and tailgate parties. But the motor home lifestyle is favored primarily by older travelers, retirees who no longer have the trappings of career and children to keep them grounded.

The Kopitskies, both former scout masters from Old Bridge, Middlesex County, have been feeding their love of the outdoors for more than 40 years. They started out with tents, then worked their way up through pop-up campers and trailers until they finally gave in and purchased an RV.

 
Now the couple travels the country at will. They lock up their house in Old Bridge - sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months -and hit the road, leaving their son to look in on the place and collect the mail.

"Whenever we decide to go somewhere, we just pick our butts up and go," Frank Kopitskie said.

A black and white map of the United States hangs on the inside of the RV door. Colored markers designate the states the Kopitskies have visited. There aren't too many white spaces on the map.

"I'd eventually like to go to Alaska," Frank Kopitskie said, pointing to one of the few blank states on the map. "I was there in the service and it was beautiful."

Last weekend found the Kopitskies close to home for once, settled in at the Atlantic City North Campground in Tuckerton for their annual end-of-summer family camp out.

Sereida Kopitskie sat in a lounge chair in the shade enjoying a sandwich while her husband fussed with the grill. The tranquil camping scene was marred somewhat by the sound of a soap opera playing on a TV inside the RV and the yowling of their cat begging to be released from the motor home.

The Kopitskies' 35-foot vehicle comes with a separate bedroom, bath, full kitchen and slideouts that transform the main cabin into a living room area with couches and chairs.

"We have everything we'd have at home," Sereida Kopitskie said. "My RV has its own set of silverware, linens and clothes."

In a way the lifestyle almost spoils RVers who aren't accustomed to roughing it without their creature comforts.

"They want the home on wheels," Worthington said. "They want the big screen, flat panel TVs, the microwaves, the washer and dryer."

Phyllis Geller spent a sunny Friday afternoon outside reading the paper and half-listening to the bustling sounds of other campers at the Outdoor World: Lake & Shore Campground in Ocean View. Her husband, Art, chose to spend the afternoon in his RV basking in the cool breeze of the air conditioner while reading a mystery novel.

The Pennsylvania native doesn't fool around with his creature comforts. When he recently realized the two TVs in his RV only afforded him a few network channels, Geller packed his satellite TV box from home and installed a dish on top of the vehicle.

"I like traveling with these things," Geller admitted. "I like having the air conditioning. I like being able to watch TV."

On the road again

The shelf above the driver's seat in the Gellers' RV is full of guidebooks. One, about as thick as a telephone book, lists all the campgrounds in the United States that are RV friendly. Another, aptly titled "The Next Exit," is a highway guide of truck stops, restaurants and campgrounds organized by exit for travelers who want to make last-minute stops.

The life of an RVer is nomadic, but by no means are they hermits. Travelers create a network of friendships while hopping from place to place.

Harold and Doris Webb of Hainesport, Burlington County, are spending most of September at the Sea Pirate Campground in West Creek. In November they'll travel to a senior citizens' community in Florida where they'll park the RV and spend the winter line dancing, attending potluck dinners and gathering for drinks at "the tiki hut."

"We've got friends down there from Minnesota, Canada, Michigan," Harold Webb said. "They actually have something lined up for us in February for Valentine's Day, when we'll be married 50 years."

As the RV subculture has grown, their parking options have improved. Rather than just paying $50 a night for a campsite in the woods, RVers can shell out a couple hundred dollars for more deluxe accommodations.

"We're seeing resorts popping up that have beautiful amenities," said Recreation Vehicle Industry Association spokesman Carol White, who has seen resorts in southern California outfitted with indoor pools, golf courses and waterways for boats.

RV expenses

Traveling with your house can save money on hotels and restaurants, but it's hardly a cheap lifestyle.

Class C RVs, smaller motor homes built on truck chassis, can start around $50,000, according to Worthington. The bus-style Class A RVs start around $83,000 and quickly sky rocket to $500,000 or more.

The Kopitskies spent about $150,000 on their Class A RV.

"They gave us 15 years to pay (on the RV)," Sereida Kopitskie said. "So it's like having a second mortgage."

Fuel is another issue, as most motor homes get less than 10 miles to the gallon. The Kopitskies spend about $300 every time they need to fill their 75-gallon gas tank, though they justify the expense by the fact that they don't need to spend money in restaurants or hotels.

Travelers who don't balk at the expenses are sometimes hesitant about maneuvering the large vehicles on highways and through small towns.

"I hate driving it," Phyllis Geller admitted. "I let my husband do it."

Travelers can tow a car behind the RV to make day trips more convenient, but that comes with its own set of problems.

"You can't just back up when you're towing a car," Art Geller said. "I've had to unhitch the car, turn the RV around and then re-hitch it."

There are ways to work around the expenses of RVing. Carol White and her husband sold their cars and leased their home in order to purchase an RV and cover their traveling expenses.

"We really found that we spent the same amount of money on our yearlong trip as we would have staying home," White said. "You just have to deploy your money differently."


****

With Labor Day weekend over and grandchildren back to school, the Kopitskies are free to hit the road again. First it will be a short trip to Lancaster, Pa. After that, it's a toss up. Maybe to North Carolina for a cousin's wedding. Or perhaps a trip to Nashville to visit another relative.

That's the beauty of the RV life. Such decisions can be left unmade up until the next exit sign.

To e-mail Courtney McCann at The Press:

CMcCann@pressofac.com


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