One of the first things we decided to do when we planned our RTW trip was to rent a motorhome in the USA and drive it around for a month. At first we thought we'd do a coast to coast trip, but we quickly realized that this would take too long and/or mean we would miss a lot of the things we had listed as the "must sees". So instead we decided to return the car to Portland Oregon where we were starting our US tour.
The second important question was where to rent the car from. Kilroy had served us well in arranging our flights and a few other things and they were offering deals with a firm called Cruise America. We decided to go with their smallest RV, a 19 feet long "Compact" version dubbed "The Green Machine" because of its suggested low fuel consumption and the rooftop solar panels. This ended up costing us dearly but since it was one of those things we really wanted to do, we went along with it anyway. Our road trip was going to be on high season in July, which of course upped the price even though we made our reservations almost a full year ahead of time. The actual end amount is too horrid to put on a blog, but to say the least, renting an RV in the States is expensive. A lot of it is probably due to the ridiculous insurance deals they have here. Apparently our insurance could cover damages of up to $1 000 000!
We were visiting my old host family from my exchange year in Salem for the 4th of July festivities and that's why we got the car from Portland. We got a ride to Cruise America's branch early in the morning on the 6th, which was a Monday following a weekend when no-one was at work. This meant that they were busy and not the least because you're supposed to call in ahead of time to reserve a pickup time. We hadn't done that and were informed, at about 9 a.m., that our car wouldn't be ready until 1.30 p.m.. This left us a lot of time to do some shopping at a nearby Fred Myers, where we stocked up on everything one could need on a road trip. In addition to different foods we purchased things like shampoo, sun screen, paper towels and a two feet long sandwich for lunch. Even with the massive sub the end amount was just over $80 for eight bags of groceries. At least that could be considered cheap.
We stayed in the store for so long that the car was actually ready when we got back and we got a grand tour of it. The RV was everything we had hoped for and more, it was actually a 2016 model and had been driven only about 7000 miles. In other words it was bran' spankin' new! The bed was above the cabin, in the middle we had a dining table with comfortable sofas that could fold down into a small third bed and in the back we had a decent kitchen and a bathroom. There seemed to be plenty of storage places for our things, all of the windows had mosquito nets and curtains which would offer us some privacy and darkness. Most importantly, I could fit in to the driver's seat. I hadn't been able to drive our Toyota Hiace in New Zealand because of my long legs but here I could fit in nicely.
In other words, we really liked the car and continued to do so later on as well. Everything wasn't perfect, however, as the case usually seems to be with these things. Our travel agent at Kilroy had given us an offer of the car including the necessary things like linens, kitchen utensils, unlimited miles and unlimited use of the generator. We had thought that all of these were pretty much mandatory and came in the normal package deal anyway. This wasn't so. We were paying $144 for our linens, which included two pillows with casings, two blankets, two sheets, four bath towels and a few smaller towels. It was a long penny to pay for such a small amount of rental stuff which we probably could have bought for less. To make matters worse, a note on the wall said that the price for one package, when paid there, was just $55. The same was true for our kitchen utensils, which we were renting for $131 even though it should have cost $100. But the worst of all was the unlimited generator we had paid $225 for. It turned out that we were the second people to arrive at Cruise America's Portland branch with that paid. Ever. Normally people pay $3.50 an hour for using the onboard generator. We would have to use it over two and a half hours a day to make the deal worthwhile. We had also thought that most of the RV's facilities would be powered by electricity, which would make using a generator seem more important, but the refrigerator and the hot water were both propane fueled and the inside lighting got its power from the solar panels and the movement of the car. That left only the microwave oven for the generator. We decided to pay $5 extra for a toaster to get some further use of the thing…
OK, sure, the generator can be used to recharge our laptop and camera and to power the roof air-conditioner, but the truth is that it's not the most convenient of machines. We found this out as we were using it. First of all, it uses a gallon of fuel per hour of use, which is ridiculous, and makes more noise than the RV's own engine. Also, using it is limited to certain hours in some campgrounds or is prohibited completely. It was a bad deal for us and a one that we couldn't cancel at the branch. They tried contacting their superiors and we contacted Kilroy, but to no use. The generator was prepaid and would remain so, and no refunds were coming from the extra we had paid for the linens and the kitchenware either. Also, the box of kitchenware we got was missing a whole bunch of items listed on Cruise America's website. We contacted them about it and demanded to be allowed to buy them on the road and to have them pay for them afterwards. They agreed to this. Another thing that should have gone more smoothly was the fact that our car was in need of an oil change. Apparently one was required every 6000 miles and even though our car had been driven just over 7000 they had not done the necessary maintenance. It would be up to us to take the car to a service station and have the oil changed. Cruise America would pay us back for it for sure, but considering how much we were paying them I would have assumed we would get a car that didn't need to be serviced right away!
So all was not perfect, but a lot was good anyway. We took the car to the highway and found it to be easy enough to drive, big as it was. Then again "big" is rather relative. It was bigger than anything either of us had ever driven, but still only 19 feet (5.8 meters) long. Cruise America's Standard model was 25 feet and Large 30 feet long, so we really had nothing to complain about when maneuverability was concerned. Later we found that it was actually quite easy to park in a regular parking space, which was a great plus. We tried it first at a Walmart Superstore in Salem when we single handedly destroyed Earth's prospects of a future by purchasing 35 half liter bottles of water instead of bigger containers. They were cheaper by the ounce… Then again we were already driving the "Green Machine", promised to get 14 to 15 miles per gallon of fuel (15.7-16.8 l/100 km), but in reality was getting closer to 10 (23.5 l/100 km) when driving on freeways. We did get to 14 miles per gallon on smaller roads a few days later though, so it wasn't all just a lie.
And thus we started our great road trip in America. We took to the road with open hearts and a rock solid determination to make the best of the time we had, despite the setbacks. Worrying about the extra money we had used wouldn't return it to our wallets and doing so could potentially ruin the whole thing for us. We had 25 days and thousands of miles to go, by the time we would return we would be richer in experiences at the very least.