Posted by: nickgerlich | August 30, 2007

Green Daze

Maybe I’ve been listening too much to Al “Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do” Gore, for we tweaked vacation plans twice this summer to add a shade of green to the black exhaust of burning fossil fuels. And you know what? It’s easy, fun, and healthy. Set aside your political leanings, and start re-thinking how you can have a great vacation yet save some dough and stay on Al’s good side.

All you need is a bike rack and a bunch of bikes.

The dark side of our vacationing ways is that we love to travel in our motorhome. On a good day (i.e., downhill with a tailwind), we can get 10 mpg; most other days we get between 8.5 and 9.5 mpg. My heart often skips a beat when I fill up the beast (75 gallons ain’t cheap). Your mileage and mode of travel may vary, but the bike part remains a constant.

I defend our RVing ways because we actually travel cheaper in it than we do by any other mode we care to employ. Sure, we could stay in Dumpsters, but we’re fussy about what kind of garbage we’re willing to sleep with.

If you eat most of your meals in the RV, and occasionally spend a night at Camp Wal-Mart while en route to destinations, you can avoid those $100 and up motel stays as well as $40-50 family dining extravaganzas. Groceries are cheap, so we eat out sparingly. Private campgrounds with wifi are commonplace, and for those nights in national or state parks, we just make sure there’s a coffee shop nearby or that my AT&T wireless card can find a signal before setting up camp. I can stay in touch with the world, teach my classes, and put out office fires from anywhere.

So this summer our traveling ways started with a trip to the midwest, and concluded a few months later with two weeks in Colorado. Both trips included the RV and a slew of bikes, along with a vow to simply park and ride. Our end-of-summer fiesta included three nights in Fort Collins CO, four nights over the mountain in Estes Park, and six nights nearby in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And we did the whole trip for under $1000.


The key to our success was those bikes, and resisting the urge to either tow a vehicle along with us for the duration, or rent a car locally. Once we arrived at a destination, we hid the keys and used human power or public transport for all of our activities. In the case of Colorado, it was Hikes, Bikes, and Shuttle Buses for two weeks.

It was all too easy.

For grocery shopping, I attached my trusty B.O.B. trailer, the same trailer I had used 10 years ago for an 8-day, 800 mile tour of Florida with three other guys. One nice thing about going shopping this way: You save lots of money, because you cannot carry much. You’re thus forced to be prudent and buy only what you need.

And so our family rode around Fort Collins, visiting the New Belgium Brewing Company, eating at Beau Jo’s Pizza, shopping at Lee’s Cyclery, and browsing the stores in the pedestrian mall and along College Ave. Our campground was only 4 miles by bike path to the center of town.

In Estes Park our mobility was even easier, with only two miles separating us from Elkhorn Ave, the main drag. We shopped more than once at Colorado Bicycling Adventures, visited several outdoor-oriented stores, ate brunch at The Egg and I, and revisited one of our favorite haunts, Ed’s Cantina.

Staying up in RMNP was a little more of a challenge, simply because it was 6.5 miles from camp into town, with a 700′ elevation difference. But we dealt with it anyway. Staying in RMNP has its benefits because there are  numerous shuttle buses running through the Bear Lake corridor, meaning we could walk to a bus station, hop the bus to go to various trailheads, hike a few miles, and then reverse the whole procedure.

We had so much fun doing our vacations like this that we plan on doing more next year. The personal and environmental benefits are huge, and it keeps cash in the pocketbook. Thanks, Al, for the motivation. This is one convenient truth we’re glad we stumbled upon.




  1. It sounds like funny trip. I think RV car is very interested because it can safe my money. I have been living here for seven months and I traveled in many places such as LA, Oklahoma, Lubbock, and Las Vegas. I had to pay high cost for motels and meals, therefore RV is better choice to safe my trip. In the future, RV is my priority choice to join if I can find RV car here.

  2. […] there are many tradeoffs people are willing to make to compensate for the price at the pump. In my earlier blog I wrote about how we took a very different type of vacation in our motorhome, and spent very little […]

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