Experiencing The RV Life

Photo by Randy Stern
Photo by Randy Stern

One can talk about doing anything your heart desires. However, one must experience it fully. 

In our case, we can now add living with – and in – a Recreational Vehicle to that list. 

Earlier this year, we gave you a primer on living the RV life and how it has grown over the past few years. We heard from you about your experiences with your RV and those who were interested in experiencing one. We also heard from GoRVing.com and they loved our article. 

They loved it so much, they arranged for us to take in the full experience. What transpired was a series of events that landed us with a Winnebago Solis to use for the weekend down in Clear Lake, Iowa. 

Photo by Randy Stern

We met our camper van down at Winnebago’s Visitors Center in Forest City, Iowa. The Solis starts out life as a Ram ProMaster van. They select vans with a 159-inch wheelbase equipped with the high roof. There are two lengths for the Solis: 19 feet, 9 inches in the 59P model or a full 21-foot model for the 59PX model.  Either version of the Solis allows for an interior height of six-foot-three-inches. 

From there, we took the short drive down to the Oakwood RV Park near Clear Lake for two nights of RV living and relaxation. 

Photo by Randy Stern

We got the 59PX model, which not only has the longer body – it has an air conditioning unit and a few extras not found on the “smaller” model. You do get a lot on board, such as an on-board generation for electrical power, plus an external electrical socket, water, sewer, and brown water ports, a propane stove, refrigerator, and a shower/toilet unit. 

The Murphy Bed folds down from the side to accommodate two average-sized adults. There is a pop-up tent-like section that can sleep two more. You access the upper bunks by a ladder. The “dining room” set features two bucket seats along with the two seats from the cab of the van swiveling to face the portable table. For privacy, you can put up the shades over the van’s cab windows, along with zipping up the shades for the windows all around. 

Photo by Randy Stern

The Solis is very well equipped with plenty of portability. It is best enjoyed for a solo adventurer – or, a couple. If you want to be adventurous, bring another two along to sleep up in the pop-up loft. 

The Oakwood RV Park is not part of the adjacent Clear Lake State Park. This park is privately-owned and operated with a friendly couple who runs it from mid-April to mid-October. There are long-term park users, but your open spot had access to water, electricity, and a sewer hookup. You also have a picnic table just outside your space. 

If you choose, you get access to a “bathhouse,” which is an enlarged bathroom. There are two showers, along with toilets for each gender. If you choose to use these, I’d pick a time when they are empty to take care of what you need to do. 

You do have the availability to get water from the outside tap. Make sure you have the water hose to connect to the port inside. Oh, and follow the grid at the water panel to make sure you have enough for your adventure. 

Photo by Randy Stern

The park itself offers not much in amenities. However, you can come and go during your stay. Some folks bring their car along with their RV. In our case, we only have the Winnebago Solis.

One thing we found at the RV Park is how many people stay there for a longer term. The park is open from April until mid-October every year and they have several sites set up for those long-term users. There are some RV Parks across the country that are open year-round for campers to find a permanent site to stay through the winter

Whether it is a Class A coach or towable trailer, these RVers certainly made themselves at home. It reinforces the idea we discussed back in March on how living the RV experience can be an alternative to home life. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Part of the RV Life is to explore the surroundings are nearby the camp site. In the case of our Winnebago Solis, it is easy to unhook from the site and drive it into town or other places nearby. We were just a few miles from the center of Clear Lake and Mason City where we could drive to either an attraction or two – or, to get supplies.

What Clear Lake is known for is the Surf Ballroom and the events of February 3, 1959. The night before, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper performed at the Surf as an extra date on their Midwest tour called the Winter Dance Party. Due to heating problems in their tour bus, as well as the cold temperatures the entire party were dealing with on their tour, Holly chartered a plane to get the headliners up to their next tour stop in Moorhead. 

A moment after takeoff, the plane crashed into a nearby cornfield. There is a memorial set up at the crash site. The Surf continues as a music venue today, while retaining most of its late 1950s charm. There’s plenty of dining in the center of Clear Lake, as well. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Crossing over Interstate 35 into Mason City, you can check out a place where Frank Lloyd Wright and Meredith Wilson intersect. Wright’s first Prairie Home resides near the center of town, whereas you can check out at the 27-room boutique hotel the famous architect designed. 

Meredith Wilson’s Music Man was conceived in this town. You can visit the musical’s inspiration at Wilson’s boyhood home and the indoor Music Man Square – both located right in the heart of Mason City. 

After you’re done exploring, it’s a simple re-hooking up of the electrical, making sure your toilet cartridge is not full, and you have plenty of water in your tank before you settle down for the evening. 

Since we’re in the winter months, it is never too early to plan your RV adventure. RV Parks at the more popular destinations will fill up before spring comes round. Get your reservations for the prime spots early. That also includes getting your RV ready to go on your adventure. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Rather, choosing your RV wisely. The Solis may be great for a solo traveler or couple looking for compact RV to explore off the grid in, but some of us might want a bit more room. A Class C RV is a great compromise between a van conversion and a full-sized coach. In fact, Winnebago still makes the Minnie Winnie – the RV that changed the industry some 45-plus years ago. 

While we wait out winter, think about the fun you can have in an RV come next spring. Your home away from home can provide some of the best memories you can have. 

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