Friday, February 22, 2008

Holiday Rambler History repeats

On Tuesday, February 19th we took delivery of our "new" 1998 29' Holiday Rambler - just 40 years after I bought my first Holiday Rambler (1964 20') that provided our family with 50,000 miles of "see the USA" from 1968-1975. Some things have changed, some haven't. The latest HR is still a quality outfit with high-end furnishings and equipment and it is HEAVY, even though it's called an "Alumalite" referring to the framing which is all aluminum, now. The old HR was also HEAVY but it was built with wood. My trailers have been called "Jennybell" after my mother's name and the marine ship's bell which hung outside to call the kids from their play. In 1975 we traded for "Jennybell II" - a 25' 1971 Airstream with double twin bunks. Unfortunately, we didn't do much traveling after that, and I sold it in 1986 to a young family just starting their travels. Recently they located me and sent pictures, saying their family is still using and loving Jennybell II.

Tom and I decided to try trailering in the spring of 2005. We started with a pop-up Coleman - a year-old. That became Jennybell III, and we cut our teeth on the joys of pop up campers. It served us well. but it became obvious that we couldn't travel distances in it because of the pain of setting up and tearing down each night on the road. So we started looking and found the perfect answer - a year-old 18.9' Shadow Cruiser - Jennybell IV. It had everything we needed for travel and pulled beautifully with our '97 4Runner. Last year we took it to Myrtle Beach for our Professional Innkeepers annual meeting, and then continued to Florida, and returned via the Gulf coast and up the Mississippi River. We ended at a campground in Pennsylvania, thinking that we might like to keep it there, since storage for a travel trailer is very expensive here in New Jersey. We left the trailer and returned home without it.

In April I broke my leg, so we didn't get back to the trailer until May. With good vibes from the campground, we selected a permanent site, and spent the summer planting flowers and enjoying the camaraderie of the campground. As the price of oil continued rising, and we calculated the cost of future trips, we decided that long travels with the trailer were becoming prohibitively expensive - so our trailer was going to "stay put" on our new lot - essentially becoming a "cottage". Both Tom and I love the camp and are looking forward to spending as much time as we can there.

But while an 18.9' trailer is perfect for towing and travel - it makes a very tight "cottage" living experience. So we started thinking about getting a big old travel trailer to set up as a permanent home away from home. We also developed a list of specs for the new trailer. It had to have a front window so that we can see out into the campground. We're ideally located to watch activities. And we've discovered the joy of watching the birds feed at our collection of feeders. This is the first home we have had where that has been possible. So we wanted a curb-side dinette with a window facing the feeders. Unfortunately, this floor plan hasn't been manufactured since the mid-1990's. All the companies have started putting the bed in the front, and the dinette on a slide-out opposite the curb. These plans won't work for us.

Finally, after much shopping, I stumbled on a Holiday Rambler for sale near our campground - just what we were looking for. They were glad sell it, because a heavy old Holiday Rambler that isn't designed for a family - isn't very popular. On the other hand - our lightweight traveler is much more likely to entice a buyer. So we traded, and now - 40 years after my first HR we have "Jennybell V" - presumably our last trade. We'll put it up on blocks, build a deck, and make it our retreat space.

Our campground is open year-round, though our trailer's water is shut off from November to May. Our lot is ideally situated, close to the central complex, where there is a heated indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and social hall - open year-round. So we don't miss having running water. Year-round social events are a plus, and the cost of being there is only slightly more than "dead storage" for our trailer if we kept it in New Jersey. Next month we'll be adding cable TV and Internet connections.