In December of 2017, I bought a van. Not just any old van. I bought a Winnebago Travato, a so-called “Class B” recreational vehicle.
The Class B is easy to drive and easy to park. The Travato has two beds, which can be modified into one big bed, a galley with convection microwave, refrigerator and freezer, two-burner propane cooktop, sink and workspace. It also has a bathroom with a shower. The vehicle is exceptionally well thought out, with plenty of storage and all the comforts of home, except this home has four wheels and a 280-horsepower V6 engine on a Ram Promaster chassis.
There’s a flat-panel television with a digital antenna and a Jensen sound system, a generator and solar panels, heating, air conditioning, bike rack and kayak racks.
The Travato is designed for self-sufficiency. RV enthusiasts refer to that self-sufficiency as “Boondocking,” which essentially means that you are seeking out places to camp without paying fees to campsites or RV parks. The Travato is small enough and stealth enough that finding a place to pitch camp, particularly out in the bookdocks, is relatively easy, although in a pinch you could end up overnighting in a Walmart parking lot.
In short, I could live in this vehicle. And I will. To some degree.
How I got here came as a surprise to me. I’ve been a travel writer for nearly 40 years. I run two travel websites, avidcruiser.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com. I love cruising, especially expedition cruises and river cruises.
I’m also an avid cyclist and someone who enjoys active travel in general. I’m fortunate to have someone in my life who appreciates the same sort of lifestyle. She through-hiked the Appalachian Trail about a decade ago. We were a good match, as I had bicycled across the States in my younger years. The two of us enjoy epic adventures.
The Travato is our adventure-ready escape pod. Our intention is to get out and discover America. The Avid Traveler, this website, will be our platform for publishing travelogues, gear reviews and musings with the goal of informing and inspiring others who may have interests similar to ours.
We’ve name the RV Charles Kuralt, partly because I had an obsession with Kuralt. For those of you who did not know of him, Kuralt was a CBS Newsman who, during the 1960s, set out in an RV with a film crew to explore the backroads of America. In the decades that followed, Kuralt produced more than 600 episodes for an Emmy-winning series called “On The Road.”
Back in 1999, I wrote a book about Kuralt based on around 100 interviews with his friends, family and colleagues. Though only a few copies of the book survive, I still maintain a much-neglected website, rememberingcharleskuralt.com.
We plan to model our travels after Kuralt’s style to some degree, though we will be looking for active experiences and epic adventures, activities that were somewhat foreign to Kuralt.
In essence, the journalists traveled around America to seek out ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things. His were stories of unheralded heroes and of hope.
“The country that I have found does not bear much resemblance to the one we read about on the front pages of newspapers or hear about on the evening news,” Kuralt told me during an interview in 1994. “The country that I found presents cups of coffee and slices of apple pie and people who always want you to stay longer than you have time to.”
In the spirit of Charles Kuralt, a new adventure begins on the road, and off.