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Old 07-31-2017, 09:05 PM
firosiro firosiro is offline
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Default Moving tracks

RV there yet? The little princess is ready for her first camping trip. Sleeping bag? Check. Marshmallows? Check. Thirty-five-foot land yacht with LCD TV, bunk beds, full bath, and V-10 engine? Check. Mark Rozzo gets behind the wheel
You guys on tour? Or just on vacation?" https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-c...ng-dave-stenie That's what a chipper New York State Thruway toll attendant said as I found myself squeezing a 35-foot class-A motor home through the narrow chute of the Kingston toll plaza on a recent summer afternoon. It was my first time behind the wheel of a big rig. I did not want to get it stuck. Or have to back it up, which is the last thing anyone ever wants to do with an RV the size of certain herbivorous dinosaurs. At that moment I did, in fact, feel more like the driver of, say, the Willie Nelson tour bus than a dad on a camping trip.

But this was vacation American-style, 2011. As a working musician, I had been on my share of rock tours. Now I was on a greater mission. My daughter was about to turn five, and I was waxing nostalgic about family road trips of yore, the ones I took growing up, the ones, perhaps, we all did: traversing endless miles of interstates; hitting theme parks, national parks, state parks, military parks; the weeklong campouts in musty canvas tents in snake-infested northern Michigan or on buggy national seashores or among giant sequoias you can actually drive through; the treks to race meets, reunions, resorts.



Our excursion would kick off the official fifth-birthday celebration, and it would be a test run for future trips: a short expedition into the Catskill Mountains in the craziest RV I could find. (This one, it turned out, was available for lease just outside Newark Airport, at the excellent El Monte RV.) The plan was for us to pick up one of my daughter's best friends upstate, along with her dad, a sturdy Wisconsinite. It would be father-daughter bonding on the great American open road, in the great American outdoors, but with all the preschooler-friendly amenities of a fully appointed top-of-the-line land yacht: an LCD TV with DVD player, bunk beds, and a galley stocked with macaroni and cheese, breakfast cereal, several kinds of juice, and all the makings for s'mores.

At the toll plaza I had to reach way down to hand the attendant $5.70. The cab of our rig was about level with the roof of the booth. And the rig was, indeed, impressive: a premium-class Fleetwood Fiesta "bunk-house," tricked out in black and gold detailing, with a 6.8-liter Ford Triton V-10 engine capable of pulling a gross weight of 10 tons. That's a lot of marshmallows.

The Fiesta was a striking sight, for sure, but not a particularly uncommon one these days. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, 9 million American households are now in possession of an RV. Last year the RV officially turned 100 years old. Vehicle historians consider the Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau--which made its debut at Madison Square Garden in 1910--to be the first RV. It had an onboard washbasin, a toilet, and even a telephone, the better to ease communication between passengers and chauffeur. List: $8,250.



From the Donner Party to the Griswolds, hitting the road has been an unshakable American habit. It's always a good idea, I think, to keep some road trip trivia in the mental glove compartment, so here are some milestones everyone should know. On August 21, 1915, private banker Roland R. Conklin and family set out from Long Island in their 25-five-foot Gypsy Van--a custom rig finished with linen, silk, and carved ash--and pulled into San Francisco two months later. They'd blazed a modern trail, showing the potential of the RV for transcontinental travel. Around the same time, the "Vagabonds"--that intrepid group that included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and the naturalist John Burroughs--were tooling around the country on their annual camping treks with caravans of newspapermen in hot pursuit. The sight of these illustrious Americans chopping wood and flipping flapjacks stoked a growing craze for motorized excursions into nature, and for the streamlined rigs that would make it all possible. The vision was summed up in Sinclair Lewis's 1929 novel Dodsworth, in which the title character (inspired by Henry Ford) daydreams about "land yachts, of a very masterwork of caravans: a tiny kitchen with electric stove, electric refrigerator; plus size sleeping bag a tiny toilet with showerbath; a living-room which should become a bedroom by night--a living room with radio, a real writing desk, and on one side of the caravan, or at the back, a folding veranda."

Dodsworth could easily have been thinking about our Fleetwood Fiesta, as my daughter and I became the latest in a long line of tin-can tourists, gasoline bedouins, weekend Joads. Our rig was hot stuff. Even so, it could never quite compete with the Airstream in the poetry department. With its fuselage-inspired design, the aluminum-skinned Airstream trailer--more land zeppelin than land yacht-became a highway icon, thanks to Wally Byam, the charismatic company founder, who looked great in a pith helmet as he led caravans of glistening Airstreams around the globe: to Thailand, Nicaragua, Red Square, the Great Pyramids, Afghanistan's Bost Arch. "Keep your eyes on the stars and the stars in your eyes," Byam wrote in one of his many Airstream manifestos, expressing the essence of what would eventually become known as the "RV lifestyle." "See if you can find what's over the next hill and the one after."



The Airstream is arguably the ne plus ultra of weekend nomad vehicles, embraced by design J snobs and the likes of Tom Hanks, who report edly brings his own Silver Bullet on location. (The actor's trailer is a model of understatement compared to Will Smith's 53-foot mobile McMansion, "the Heat.") But when it comes to being the ultimate symbol of American wanderlust, nothing beats a 35-foot RV. (For this, credit should go to Winnebago for being the first manufacturer to mass produce motor homes, in 1966.)

As we bounced along up the Thruway, even the most elephantine SUV felt like little more than a gnat buzzing around our rig. My daughter spotted whitetail deer in the woods, hit the Pirate's Booty, and then happily snoozed, plugged into a booster seat on a comfy, overstuffed sofa behind the driver's seat. I shoved a Gram Parsons disc into the player and kept myself busy scrolling over the mental checklist issued by the rental place. There are tons of little buttons and indicator lights on an RV and loads of new terminology to master: shore power, slide-outs, gray water, black water, leveling jacks, anode rods, thermo-couples. You'd need a garage full of Trailer Life back issues to figure it all out. And driving such a rig when the human occupants weigh about 200 Impounds combined is an adventure. Each cross breeze catches the broadside of the nearly empty vehicle, causing it to heel back and forth like a boat in chop. Land yacht, indeed.

I became convinced that a call for a pit stop from my daughter could spell disaster. What if we rolled into the Plattekill Travel Plaza and then couldn't squeeze out? Would I ever be able to back the thing up with a four-year-old as copilot? These questions only bred more. Is the refrigerator running? Will the Anchor Steam be cold when we reach the campground? Is it okay to have the water pump activated while operating the vehicle? What about the propane? Did I forget to turn off the propane? Was I supposed to turn off the propane? Isn't propane dangerous? It is, right? Will the RV, in fact, explode at any second?

By the time we were climbing up into the Catskills, I was starting to feel more comfortable. Maybe not quite like Neal Cassady driving the Merry Pranksters' bus, but getting there. As for our upstate friends, they were agog when the Fiesta hove into view and excitedly piled in. When we finally pulled into a deeply forested campground, I felt as if the RV had reached its natural habitat. One of the owners came out and helped get everything hooked up: water, electricity, cable TV. I threw the switches on the three slide-outs and our already huge RV grew to eye-popping proportions, becoming a veritable house on wheels, capable of sleeping seven. Night was falling, so we busted out the firewood, the hot dogs, and the marshmallows, ready to take up positions around the fire pit at our cozy trailer site.

That's when the rain started.

And once it started, it didn't let up. Instead of a blazing campfire and ghost stories, it was a snug repast of mac and cheese and stove top dogs around the RV's dinette. The kids were happy enough, and the Anchor Steam was ice cold. We were bone dry and feeling pretty good about ourselves. I could get used to this. I was starting to think, Next year: Grand Canyon. And then Zion! Glacier'. Yosemite! The Great Smoky Mountains! In our modern-day Cones-toga wagon, safe from the elements, the possibilities seemed as vast as the continent itself.


Then it was time to load Shrek into the DVD player. It was a moment the girls had been waiting for. The flat-screen TV would be our campfire, lulling the kids toward bedtime. But the DVD player proved more complicated to work than the water hookups, and, after much fiddling, we had to scuttle the operation. The mood had turned very tense. Mutiny seemed almost certain. Difficult questions were leveled at the dads: "Why isn't it working? Can you make it work? Can we watch Shrek? Why aren't we watching Shrek? Can we have gum instead? Do they have gum at the camp store?" Outside it was blackness and relentless rain, the occasional thunderclap. Thanks to the seductive novelty of sleeping bags, the girls eventually got settled into their bunks, looked at a few pages of Tintin and the Berenstain Bears, and sacked out.

When I think of the road trips I took as a kid, what I remember most is the sight of telephone poles passing by outside, the swooping shapes the wires made as they zipped past, framed by car windows. The anecdotes are more about mishaps than glories: road sickness, the occasional vomiting spell, sibling dustups, a blizzard that once grounded us in Lumberton, North Carolina, the town made famous in Blue Velvet. My friends all had their share of road stories too, usually along similar lines: of kids made to pee into empty coffee cans or jars in lieu of rest stops, of a nauseous little brother pacing along the grassy roadside to gain equilibrium, of a father so averse to refilling the gas tank that the entire family ended up pushing the car. I also knew families who planned all year for their big, blockbuster trips: gone for a month, giant camper, all the big parks. They would have elaborate run-throughs before departure--tent practice, meal planning, laying out all the equipment on the living room floor, making checklists. I found it a little intense, more Burma Campaign than fun family outing. In the Fiesta, these scenes--as well as choice bits from such RV-happy movies as The Long, Long Trailer and Lost in America--flitted around my fading consciousness as I nodded off in the master suite.

And then suddenly it was morning. A loon was softly yodeling somewhere out there. Otherwise, silence. The rain had stopped. I tiptoed over to the bunks and very gently drew back the top curtain to peek inside. There was my daughter, about to turn five, wide awake, looking out at the dripping forest, very quiet. The sun was out, but puddles were everywhere. The fire pit looked more like a koi pond, how to choose a sleeping bag. The forest was a giant green Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped.

The campground, of course, was a magical realm of nature trails, mini golf, game room, and pool, and it felt as if we had most of it to ourselves. We picked wildflowers and played on a tire swing. We walked among towering maples and oaks and little streams, checking out Jesus bugs and encountering the cute little orange newts known upstate as red efts. My daughter adopted three of them and had to be convinced to let them go. There was no more mention of gum at the camp store.

We had all arrived somewhere we didn't even really know we were going. The kids would remember this trip, and there were sure to be more, marking new frontiers, new milestones. There would always be new terra incognita to explore, more toll plazas to squeeze through, more rainstorms to endure. As Wally Byam, the high priest of Airstream, liked to say, "Adventure is where you find it." And home, I thought, at least for a night or two, is where you park it.

Last edited by firosiro; 09-12-2017 at 03:06 AM.
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Old 07-31-2017, 09:22 PM
Stig Eliassen's Avatar
Stig Eliassen Stig Eliassen is offline
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Default Re: Moving tracks.

Welcome to the community.

You can select all clips and create a clip group (Cmd+Opt+G on Mac).
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Old 08-01-2017, 09:52 AM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Moving tracks

If all tracks are selected, Alt-click on any track name(Windows) to de-select all. Probably Option-click on a Mac(guessing as I run Windows)
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