Both Robin and I have always liked camping; I’ve done lots of canoeing and backpacking as well. However, after a tent trip to Banff National Park in 1996, Robin put her foot down and said that her days of sleeping on the ground were over. Can’t say I blame her. Not wanting to give up on the outdoors, we looked into RV’ing. We rented a couple of RV’s while we were in Calgary, once for a week’s trip to Jasper National Park and once for a two-week trip to Vancouver Island. The lifestyle really suited us: we got to go into the great outdoors in the national and provincial park systems while sleeping well at night and having some of the comforts of home with us.
When we moved here to the States, it became quickly apparent that, without family and friends in the area, we were not leaving the house very often and were getting that “cooped up” feeling. This led us to look into getting our own RV so that we could explore Texas and the south in more detail by doing extended weekend trips plus the occasional one-to-two-week trips.
We like small RV’s. No forty-foot long behemoths for us. We really liked the Pleasure-Way van conversion RV we had on the Jasper trip a few years ago, so we focused on similar models. After reviewing many different models from a range of manufacturers, we decided on the Roadtrek 170 Popular, which is built in Kitchener, Ontario, close to where I went to university. Locating a dealer in Texas was a little more difficult: Roadtrek does not have a dealer in Houston. We visited Stahmann Sales in New Braunfels, TX and were pleased with the people and service there, so we ended up purchasing from them.
The one we purchased was a dealer demo model, so it had some mileage on it already. However, it also had the full set of options on it so this was a reasonable tradeoff. We did not add a lot of additional items but the ones we did were important to our enjoyment of the Roadtrek:
- We added a hitch-mounted bicycle rack made by Thule (the Apex Swing 4 Bike model would be the equivalent today). This allowed us to take our bikes along and this proved handy on many of our trips. The swinging model allowed us access to the rear doors without having to remove the bikes.
- Because the Roadtrek is so low to the ground, emptying of the black and gray water tanks was always a pain. We read about the Sewer Solution and decided to buy one. It made this potentially messy job much simpler and worked well across a variety of dumps where gravity alone would not have been enough.
- Because of the long distances we typically drove in the Roadtrek, a routing GPS was very handy. My Garmin GPSMAP 60CS which I originally bought for geocaching worked very well as our main navigation device.
Of course, Robin made a lot of little tweeks in the kitchen and storage areas to maximize the efficiency of these spaces. And we did remove the LCD display and DVD player after a year or so; we just were not interested in watching movies when out camping.
Mechanically, the 170 was a complicated vehicle due to having all those systems running throughout the vehicle and maintenance was at times challenging. For example, the regulator on the LPG tank broke on one trip and to fix it, the RV dealership had to remove the trailer hitch and the muffler before the tank could be lowered and the regulator replaced. We also had one problem with a broken drain line from the sink to the gray water tank. But we received good support from Stahmann when needed.
We covered a lot of Texas in the ‘Trek, from Falcon State Park in the south to Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle. We did two longer trips to northwest New Mexico and one to the southeast of New Mexico and west Texas. The craziest trip was the “7 States” trip where we drove through parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma on a three-day weekend. We also used it to drive to Florida a couple of times to visit my parents in Lakeland.
We sold it in the spring of 2008 when we left the US to live in the Netherlands. Robin and I still reminisce about our adventures in the ‘Trek and had no regrets buying when we did. If I were to buy one again as we get closer to retirement, I would probably consider the Ranger RT or the SS Agile.