Friday, August 22, 2008
I have seen the future in Scotland -- the future of RVing.
I've been in Scotland now for three weeks, exploring the countryside -- the big towns and the little villages (lots of them). Everywhere I go, the roads are packed with motorhomes and travel trailers. In the United Kingdom, travel trailers are called caravans. Those who travel with caravans or motorhomes (sometimes called campervans or motorcaravans) are called caravaners.
RV parks are everywhere and are called caravan parks. Most are non-descript grass-covered fields with designated campsites (called "pitches"). The cost to stay is about the same as in the U.S. -- $25 to $35 a night in our dollars. Most offer hookup and non-hookup sites. Holing up in a freebie place is called "wild camping" -- the U.K. word for "boondocking."
The cost of unleaded gasoline here is roughly about 4.5 British pounds -- which translates to about $9 or $10 a gallon in U.S. dollars. Ouch! But the steep price isn't stopping the "caravaners." In Oban the other day, on the West Coast, a parade of motorcaravans (small motorhomes) passed through town one after another, morning through evening. I was stunned at the numbers.
MOST CARAVANS (trailers) are in the 15- to 20-foot range. Motorhomes seldom exceed 24 feet with most 18 to 22 feet. They look a lot like the fuel-efficient U.S. motorhomes built on the new and very popular Dodge Sprinter chassis. Only rarely do you see a motorhome here with dual wheels in the rear: 95 percent have only four. Of the thousand or so RVs I have seen, only three were recognizable American brands. The big diesel bus-type motor coaches favored by full-timers in the USA are absent. They would be a tough fit on the mostly narrow, two-lane roads of this country.
Trailers are pulled by four- and six-cylinder cars and vans. If you listen closely when a motorhome passes you will hear the tick-tick-tick of a small, fuel-efficient engine. There are no fifth wheel trailers in Scotland, and only a few truck campers. You very seldom even see a pickup truck. RVs don't have slide-outs. Instead, many, many RVers pack along a tent patio which attaches to a caravan outside its entry door.
Europeans have paid a lot for petrol for a long time unlike we North Americans who are still in shock over seeing the cost of our own fuel more than double in the last couple of years. The Scottish newspapers report that caravaning is more popular than ever despite rising fuel prices. In fact, with so many RVs on the road, a new term has been coined -- "caravanger," as in "caravan anger." The term applies to the feeling of drivers stuck behind a slow caravan on a two-lane road.
IN AMERICA, with our wide roads, larger RVs are much easier to maneuver. And until recently, how much fuel they burned wasn't much of a factor in the cost of RV travel. But suddenly, the high cost of fuel has become an issue with Americans and Canadians to the point where many are traveling less or even selling their rigs.
A caravan with a tent-type patio. This is a common scene in caravan parks.
Here in Scotland, I see the future -- where RVing is as popular as it ever was in the USA or Canada, but with most RVers traveling with smaller, more fuel-efficient rigs. What I have seen leads me to believe that while RVing in America is going through a tough time, as the months and years pass and more RVers opt for smaller, more fuel-efficient rigs, the pace of RV travel will return to where it was when our fuel was cheap.
And a final note: if you are looking for a beautiful country to visit, put Scotland on your itinerary. A great way to get around is to rent a motorhome.
Posted by Staff Report at 8/22/2008 12:02:00 PM