Where can go you go with a rented RV? Get creative. People use them as a convenient place to sleep after riding their "quads" on the beach at night, McGehee says. Or they'll trek family members out to the coast for summer family reunions. Don't worry about passes in the Coast Range, McGehee says. Today's motor homes are more than powerful enough to scale them. "There are not very many places you can not take a motor home," she says. "A 26-foot or 29-foot model can go pretty much anywhere that it should go."
If the prospect of piloting one of these behemoths is making you nervous, keep in mind that dealers will get you comfortable behind the wheel before you leave the lot. When customers come to pick up an RV from Willson's dealership, she gives them a thorough walk-through, complete with a cheat sheet and owner's manual. She also lets them practice backing up on the lot.
Mark West, owner of RVs To Go Inc. in Wilsonville, says his orientation covers tail swing issues and height clearance. "People are more apprehensive when learning to drive an RV, and that's good," he says. "That's a good thing for us. They won't be daydreaming when they're driving."
When West's customers call him with problems on the road, he says, it's most often related to something that didn't sink in during the orientation. "There's a lot of power systems: AC, DL, LP. Appliances use one, two, or all three. I quiz people after my orientation. I've made some people watch it again."
Willson says that when people call her hotline with trouble, "most of the time, it's pretty simple things. I walk them through it, try this, try that."
Newbie drivers sometimes have a hard time getting used to plugging into power at an RV park, then switching all their systems back to RV power the next morning, McGehee says. Small children fascinated by the RV toilet have been known to hold the handle down and empty all the rig's water into the sewage tank. One child flushed a whole container of Baby Wipes down a toilet, she remembers. The solution? "Guidance and gloves."
In the rare event of a flat tire, rental outfits will likely want you to wait for road service. "Sometimes people panic in terms of having a flat tire," Willson says. "You have to have road service do it."
Finding a place to park for the night is easy. RV parks operate up and down the coast, and state and national parks are RV-savvy too.
A more common problem, Willson says, is people not knowing where to find dump sites for their sewage. Oregon offers lots of options, in state and private parks and in most rest areas. Just look for the "Dump Site" sign: blue, with a white picture of a trailer and a "J" that represents a sewer hose.
Pets are usually welcome. Willson asks for a deposit. One renter's nervous poodle chewed through $800 worth of seatbelts, she notes.
Insurance is usually provided by the renter. Check with your auto insurance company to see if your plan covers motor homes, or if you can purchase a rider from your carrier.
Finally, if you are comfortable with striking out on your own, you may be able to find a private owner who will lease you his or her vehicle. You'll need to verify that the RV and all its appliances are in good shape before you take off, and keep in mind that a private owner may not be carrying commercial insurance on the RV.
Whether you rent from a dealer or private owner, make sure you're comfortable with the decision you make. Because once you hit the road in your rented RV, surrounded by all the comforts of home, you'll be ready to relax.
Oregon Coast September/October 2007