Before last week, I had never driven an RV before. It’s a bit shameful to admit, since my job here at Outdoorsy is Director of Marketing (Content & SEO).
I’ve found with ignorance, though, it’s always best to admit what you don’t know right up front and get it out of the way. You never want to be stuck pretending you’re something you’re not.
I joined Team Outdoorsy in early June. Our small crew was just moving into our first official office space on my first day. My daughter and husband dropped me off that day. Before leaving, Alice, age 6, made a fort out of the moving box cardboard.
Where I came from…
I have the kind of job that others dream about. I get to spend my days researching something others spend their free time running towards: the human desire to be outside in nature and connected with others.
After having spent nearly a decade working on another topic (restaurants and the world of food) that fuels people’s passions, I recognize signs of happy cultural infatuation when I see them. I can tell you right now: recreational vehicles got it. People’s eyes light up when they hear what I’m working on. They want to share stories of their last trip to a national park, or the time they rented a 70’s Westvalia and had a beach adventure.
And here I am, sharing my own story now.
I was excited to discover the RV experience for myself. When Outdoorsy Founder Jeff Cavins said, “Time for you to get out there with your family,” I was more than ready. (A big perk of working at Outdoorsy is that every employee is comped an RV trip once a year. The goal is to get employees out onto the road.)
Of course I wanted to meet the people behind the stories I’d been hearing. So I expanded the trip into a Meet the Community Tour.
My husband Michael Skrzypek, Alice and I got up early on departure day. Alice couldn’t wait to see our RV, which she imagined she would rule as her own personal palace. I was stressed about getting to our stops on time, and Michael, who would be taking the photos for the trip, was busy focusing on his equipment. We knew we had a big day of travel ahead of us that would take us from San Francisco, where we live, to Coarsegold, California, where we’d be picking up our RV to rent from Yosemite RV Rentals.
Our first stop on our tour was in San Leandro. We visited with Outdoorsy host Jack Huynh.
Meet the Community Stop #1: Jack & his Leisure Travel Serenity
What a cool guy. A professional photographer, Jack started getting into RVs after having his own great rental experience years ago. His favorite thing about his rig? How easy it makes weekend getaways with his daughter.
Something Jack said stuck with me: “I feel like I’m starting to really see young people get into RV travel now. Outdoorsy feels like it’s a part of that. I really like the feel of the people who I’m meeting.”
“It’s not the same as people used to think of it. It’s not just retirees.”
Michael, Alice and I left the San Leandro feeling the momentum of the road. We made our way to Livermore where we met up with Outdoorsy host Tracie Young and her daughter.
Meet the Community Stop #2: Tracie & her Jayco Jay Flight
We met up with Tracie and her daughter at a local Starbucks. “My two trailers are just back from a big festival called Symbiosis,” she explained. “It’s been a busy summer.”
Tracie went on to explain that both trailers needed to be cleaned, but that we were welcome to take photos of them dirty if we thought it would help. “She’s the nicest person in the world,” I thought to myself.
Turns out that Southern hospitality explained Tracie’s incredible sweetness. Tracie, her husband, and their 4 daughters have lived all over the country, but have spent the most time in the South, particularly Tennessee. That’s where Tracie first fell in love with exploring nature with her kids.
Since moving to California so that her husband could open the Tesla plant in Lathrop, Tracie’s been exploring the West Coast in her Jayco (which sleeps 10 comfortably). Once she started to realize that renting out the trailer was a great option to help defray mortgage payments, she and her husband took the plunge on the smaller 2014 Cruiser ViewFinder as well. Now they are able to escape alone together as the girls are getting older. “It’s a good deal for everyone,” she tells me.
After a few shots of espresso got us going, we journeyed on to the home of our final Outdoorsy host, Bobby Balumbu, in Lathrop.
Stop #3: Bunzi “Bobby” Balumbu
Bobby and his wife bought their Grey Wolf travel trailer to celebrate his 40th birthday. It was always part of the plan to rent it out. Bobby says, “I always thought that people who camp are typically very nice and laid back, and it’s been true so far.” I told Bobby that I loved his accent. Light and lyrical, it sounds very musical. Bobby was born in Congo and came to America as a little kid. You can see the influence in the Congolese art hanging on the wall with kids pictures in his big open living room great space. It felt like a happy home.
Final stop! RV Pickup from Susan Rutz at Yosemite Valley RV Rentals
I feel very lucky that my first RV experience got to be with someone like Susan. She was so warm and reassuring. Even as I drove the RV around the parking lot for the first time, I could see Susan’s nice smiling face and thumbs-up peeking out at me through the rolled down window.
Susan made sure my family and I had the full Yosemite experience. She checked the overbooked Yosemite campgrounds and got us a last minute space at the Upper Pines Campground for two of the nights. That was a true trip highlight. (Now I’m dining out on my own stories, thank you very much.) She also provided us a lot of information and a binder to help with all of our questions a long the way. It helped a lot.
Next thing you know, we were off! Here are my top 5 favorite photos that will give you a sense of what being in an RV in Yosemite felt like.
Now that I’ve made my trip, I’m here to help everyone else make theirs. Get in touch if you have any questions about your first RV rental. I’m an expert.