Winnebago’s Revel is a Nice Contender

We thought we had found the right vehicle. So close.

Our Instagram account was recently tagged by a clever RV salesperson in Spokane, who uploaded photos of the 2019 Winnebago Revel, that iconic company’s entry into the quick-growing adventure-van category. The caption read: “Come and get it!”

“Count us in!” we said. And when we arrived on the RV lot to check out the Revel in person, we were impressed.

These vehicles rolled out last fall and have been a smash hit, combining the go-anywhere capability you get from on-demand four-wheel-drive and the comfort consumers expect from Winnebago. It has the interior layout we’re craving, with a work/live space up front and a bed in the back.

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The Revel’s bed is on a mechanized lift at the rear of the vehicle.

This bed, a comfy full size, is on a mechanized lift that rises to the roof so you can stick a bunch of stuff underneath while traveling. (Although it seems a stretch that you’d wanna load a couple of dusty bikes in the bedroom space.)

Besides that space, storage seems adequate for short trips, but maybe a bit tight for living on board: It has kitchen drawers the size of Kleenex boxes, for instance.

And there’s that business with the toilet black water. Like its competitor in the Class B category, Hymer, Winnebago has opted to go with a “cassette toilet” to cater to the off-the-grid boondocker who doesn’t want the hassle of going in search of a dump station to unload the nasty bits. The cassette toilet is about the size of a carry-on suitcase that can be accessed from the outside of the rig and dumped in a public bathroom.

Easy or ewww? The question hangs in the air.

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Listening to the pitch for the Winnebago Revel.

Still, we loved many things about the Revel, including the Mercedes diesel engine that promises almost 20 miles to the gallon. The driver and passenger seats swivel to face the bench seat and table in the main cabin area. Hello, dinner party!

The kitchen has a stylish fold-down faucet sink, a small fridge and a single induction burner. There’s an AC unit above the bed and a heating system that runs off the auxiliary battery. On the roof, a couple of solar panels contribute a little more juice to help make the off-the-grid experience last a little longer.

But it turned out that even if we wanted to pony up the price tag ($150K), we really couldn’t even get it — at least right away. The vehicle had a sold sign and the soonest possible delivery was in late August.

“It’s almost impossible to find one of these on a lot,” the salesman explained. “They’re so popular.”

And that delayed gratification got us thinking: At $150,000 for a vehicle with a few question marks, it felt like the best choice was to sit tight and continue our search.

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The design for the Revel is well thought-out, with a seating area up front.
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Learning to Roll With It

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It was 95 degrees when we pulled into Sisters, Ore., after a six-hour drive from Mount Rainier, and the traffic was backed up for blocks.

We hadn’t realized this was the weekend of Sisters’ annual Outdoor Quilt Show, a feel-good event that draws thousands to displays throughout town.

Hmmm. After selling our house in Seattle and moving out, we had hit the road for our first adventure. Was this going to derail our plans to stay near this pretty central Oregon mountain town?

We provisioned at the excellent Rays Food Place — including grabbing a thick New York steak — and headed toward Three Creeks Lake Campground, 16 miles south of town. Surely, there would be a site at the first-come, first-served campground.

Well, no. There were dozens of cars lining the dirt road, and when we finally got to the campground, everything had been snagged.

Shut out on a busy weekend. We were tired of being in the car, hot, and hangry, so naturally we jumped in the lake. Ahhh, yes –much better. We drove back to Sisters, discussing how to learn from our mistakes.

Next time, when you face a long drive, rule No.1 is: Make sure you have a reserved campsite waiting for you.

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Fortunately, we grabbed one of the last spots at Creekside Campground, a 10-minute walk from downtown. It was packed with RVs and trailers of every shape — which ended up being interesting for two people shopping for a vehicle.

Our neighbor, Petra Hegger from Moab, Utah, had an adorable Casita travel trailer, small enough to pull with her six-cylinder Kia. Hegger has been solo traveling for the past year and a half, and had lots of suggestions for places to visit. It’s so cool to connect with this adventurous community.

Staying in a small-town campground wasn’t how we thought this would go, but it’s a good lesson in the importance in being flexible. We are learning to roll with the challenges of the road.

Now, if we could only remember where we put everything. Next challenge: Getting organized!

Wanna connect? Please check out Our Grand Tour on Instagram.

4 Cool Spots to Camp on B.C.’s Hot Springs Route

The “Hot Springs Circle Route” in British Columbia is a 500-mile adventure through some of Canada’s most gorgeous countryside in the Kootenay Rockies region.

We did it last April in a CanaDream RV, which proved to be a great experience. The Class C RV was super comfortable and warm, which was nice during the early spring. Best of all, it allowed us to camp in some great spots along the way.

When we weren’t soaking in British Columbia’s hot springs, we explored some very interesting towns, met lots of friendly Canadians and hiked amid the beautiful mountain scenery.

Here’s a look at four excellent spots for full-service RV camping along the route:

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Leslie hangs out in our camp spot at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke.

1. Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke

Just outside of Revy, as everyone calls it, is this clean and scenic full-service campground. The heavy winter snows were still melting, but the campground was up and running to a hardy group of travelers. Info: williamsonlakecampground.com

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The snow was deep, but the camping was excellent at Nakusp.

2. Nakusp Hot Springs Campground

High in the mountains about 25 minutes away from the town of Nakusp, British Columbia, this campground felt very remote. We were the only people camping at the snowy site, which offered easy walking-distance access to the beautiful Nakusp Hot Springs. Info: www.nakusphotsprings.com

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Sunset dinner along the shore of Kootenay Lake.

3. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park

On the shores of Kootenay Lake about 20 minutes away from Nelson, British Columbia, this campsite was another full-service affair, and it offered fantastic hiking through the park. The nearby picnic tables were perfect for our sunset dinner. The campground was a short drive from Ainsworth Hot Springs. Info: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/kokanee_crk

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Our site at Fairmont was convenient to the pools and hiking trails nearby.

4. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

This resort is ginormous and has its own set of hiking trails to go along with the expansive pool. Just down the road about 30 minutes is another great place to soak — Radium Hot Springs. Info: www.fairmonthotsprings.com

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Within a few minutes, we were away from the resort on the trails above Fairmont.

 

 

Real Talk: The Next Chapter’s Unfolding

As we’ve previously mentioned, Our Grand Tour is ramping up to head out on the road for real very shortly. We’ve sold our home in the super nova hot Seattle real estate market and set a date for our departure in mid-August. (First major road trip: North to Alaska!)

When we tell friends and family about this plan, there are two reactions:

You’re so cool! Man, I wish I were doing something like that. How awesome!!

OR….

You’re crazy!! Where will you go? What will you do with all your stuff? Are you NUTS?

The answers to all those questions are all still very much TBD. We’re both thrilled and a little terrified to start this new chapter with so many unknowns ahead. But, hey, that’s life, right?

We definitely never dreamed we would be taking this path, but, honestly, part of the reason we’re making this bold move… we can no longer afford to live in Seattle! It’s not the same city we moved to in 2007. And, while we truly wish nothing but the best for this beautiful spot on the Puget Sound, all the signs keep pointing us in this direction: GET OUT OF TOWN!

We’ll miss our friends, the vibrant food scene, the playoff-bound Mariners, our neighborhood, the Space Needle and so much more, but this isn’t goodbye forever. It’s just so long for now.

And… on that note! We have a new blog on our old newspaper. Please check out Going Mobile on The Spokesman-Review. Talk about going full circle!! We’re so grateful to have that platform to connect! We’re also posting our adventures on Instagram. Hope to see you down the road…

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Olympic Peninsula in a Peace Van

6 Reasons Why We Absolutely LOVED Airstream’s Basecamp

We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.

1. It’s So Adorable

The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received Basecamplogo2lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park  and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)

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The Airstream Basecamp proved to be nimble on the roadway.

2.  It’s Easy to Manuever

Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!

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Breakfast was a breeze on the nice Basecamp stove.
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Northwest succotash with prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was easy to do on the two-burner.

3. The Kitchen is Dreamy

The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.

4. Comfy Sleeping Space

A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.

5. Outdoor Shower’n

If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.

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The seating area was a comfortable place to enjoy wine and snacks.

6. Happy Hour in the Cafe

That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.

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In North Cascades National Park, we explored the Skagit River Loop Trail in Newhalem, Wash.
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The Basecamp was a fun rig to take up in the mountains of North Cascades National Park.

 

Review: Malibu RV Park is AWESOME

Leslie says: I just returned to Seattle after a magical weekend in Southern California, where I visited our daughter. She was a great sport when I suggested spending a night out on the coast in a van. The experience was life-affirming.

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The view from our campsite at Malibu RV Park was stunning.

Stunning Beauty

There’s a good reason the wealthy have gobbled up the available land and built homes on the waterfront in this part of the world. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Long stretches of golden sand punctuated by dramatic rock formations. Sure, the weekend traffic can be a drag on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), but the scenery’s a calming distraction. Smack in the middle of all this beauty sits Malibu RV Park, high on a hill, with views that cannot truly be described in words. Well, except maybe awwwwwesome.

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Retro Cool

This rambling park has been around for 50 years, owned by the same family, and the attention to detail shows great care. When I called to make a reservation, a live person answered, and was so friendly and helpful. Same treatment when we checked in at the adorable office/corner store. The place is laid out on a series of terraces, with tent camping available up top. Spaces are tight, but, fortunately for us, we parked next to Gordon, a friendly guy from Red Deer, Alberta. His rig, the Hymer Aktiv, was new to me, and after a tour, I was really impressed. It’s going on the wish list.

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Ocean Viewing

I paid $50 for a site with a sweeping vista of the Pacific. (The price goes up after Memorial Day.) It was so worth it. We sat on the bluff and watched the sky turn pink at sunset. We spotted a pod of dolphins and pelicans drifted by in the sky. The WiFi didn’t really work, but that gave us the opportunity to catch up, and dig deep into important discussions, without those darned devices in hand. In the morning, an ultralight aircraft flew by as we ate breakfast. So entertaining.

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This trail leads to the incredible Malibu Seafood, a casual fish shack and pristine market.

Highly Recommended

My only regret about the Malibu RV Park is that we weren’t able to stay longer. We absolutely loved exploring the nearby trails, including one that led to the outstanding Old School Malibu Seafood. (Don’t miss the butter-poached mussels, and the fish-and-chips.) The bathrooms were spotless, and warm, there’s a laundry on site. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and offers $1 cup of coffee. Talk about a throwback! I’m definitely going to stay here again… when Our Grand Tour kicks off its cross-country adventure later this summer. Reservations are essential.

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Van Life: Looking for the Right Rig

Maybe you’ve purchased a house. More likely, you’ve bought a car or three. Fun and exciting, but also pretty stressful, right? Imagine shopping for a vehicle that’s going to double as home. It’s essential to find the perfect fit. The process can feel intimidating. Here’s how to.

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Research, Research, Research

We’ve been reading articles and talking to experts, studying the vans and RVs we see. We’ve done deep dives into online sales sites like RV Trader, swiping right on the photos that show features, lavish and sometimes spare. Trying to imagine what it would be like to cook or read or sleep in the snug space. But nothing beats…

The Test Drive

After renting various vehicles since we began to get a sense of what we want: Something that handles well, gets decent gas mileage and offers some creature comforts. We can’t really afford anything over the top and we aren’t the DIY types who could convert a cargo van. Or could we do something that meets in the middle?

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Considering the Ford Transit

This van has become a favorite to transform, and Leslie’s friend, Bryan, did just that a few months ago before taking a long road trip around the holidays. He took a minimalist approach, building a wooden platform for a mattress, adding rails with hooks, draping a shower curtain between the front cab and the back. No frills, but so functional. Especially the bed, because the Transit is wide enough to stretch out sideways, leaving lots more space up front. And it drove like a car, quick to respond, on the steering and brakes. The backup camera might take some getting used to, but it sure beats having a passenger jump out to act as a guide while trying to maneuver in tight spots. The Transit has just joined our list of possible purchases.

Coming Up Next, A Big Twist

We’re heading a whole new direction next week with a three-day journey pulling an Airstream Basecamp, a newish model that was designed for the active traveler. Can’t wait!

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Gear Review: A Boat that Folds Up

John says: One of the hardest things about road-tripping is hauling all of your gear.

Boats are big and bulky, and pretty much must be left at home — or that’s what I thought, anyway.

Then I tried out two folding kayaks made by a Bay Area company.  Oru Kayak has created a line of boats that fold up ingeniously into small cases that can be stored and transported easily. Starting at 26 lbs., they’re unbelieveably light and perform remarkably well.

Origami style

Oru says it has created “The World’s First Origami Kayak,” and that’s exactly what they look like.

“I have two boats and both of them fit under my bed,” said Ben Williams, sales manager for Oru Kayak, during a demo on Lake Union in Seattle.

The 5 mm double layered extruded polypropylene skin comes folded up in a carrying case. When you want to use the kayak, you unfold the skin, then you snap and zip it together.

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Williams demonstrates The Beach kayak’s stability.

The kayaks

The company offers three models:

  • The Beach LT: At 12 feet long, it’s a stable, open-hulled kayak great for casual day trips. Price: $1,299.
  • The Bay ST: A more high-performance kayak with a skirt-ready cockpit, deck rigging and bulkheads. This is Oru’s most popular boat. Price: $1,599.
  • The Coast XT: At 16 feet long, this is a full-on expedition style boat with skirt-ready cockpit, deck rigging and bulkheads that can be used in ocean adventures. Still, it’s only 34 lbs when assembled. Price: $2,499.

Performance

I tried out The Beach and the The Bay and found them to be fun, lively and ultra-stable. Because they are so light, they move easily with simple paddle strokes.

At the same time, their light weight makes them susceptible to wind. None of the kayaks have rudders, so you need to control all of your navigation by paddling.

As for durability, the skin, while fairly thin, won’t break if you hit a rock, Williams said. The company recommends you treat them as if they are a fiberglass boat, but Williams said, “You don’t need to baby them.”

Takeaway

The price point of these boats is higher than other kayaks, but they offer such great portability, they’re worth considering, especially for travelers.