There’s nothing like seeing Iowa and the country in a recreational vehicle.
It’s the opportunity to experience nature up close and personal with your family, while also enjoying amenities like television, king-sized beds and air conditioning. It’s the camping experience many enjoy in today’s RVs, a home on wheels filled with all your own things.
RV owners in Clive say the investment has been well worth it, and they have the memories with loved ones to prove it.
Paul and Jen Storbeck first got their feet wet with RVs by buying a reasonably priced, used travel trailer from a neighbor.
“We had a number of friends that had campers, and we thought it would be fun to join in with them,” Paul Storbeck says. “But we didn’t know exactly what we wanted.”
What they figured out, they say, was they wanted separate kids’ quarters with bunk beds and its own bathroom to give their children more space. More storage and a bigger refrigerator were also important. So in 2009 they decided to buy a fifth-wheel camper, which attaches to the bed of a truck.
An additional amenity Paul likes is the four slide-outs, which are areas that slide out to make additional space.
“If it rains, or the weather’s bad, that’s where the size of your camper comes into play,” making sure everyone can comfortably spread out, he says. The Storbecks
have 5-year-old twins, Codi and Chase.
Having an RV gives them the flexibility and opportunity to go wherever they want with all the conveniences of home, including their personal things and groceries.
“We refer to it as ‘urban camping’ because we have all the amenities of home with us,” Paul says. “It’s not roughing it by any means, but it’s getting away from home.”
Camping brings them closer to nature. When you stay in a hotel, he says, you’re not going to wake up right next to a stream or forest.
On their outings, their kids spend all day outside playing, catching frogs and fireflies, and watching deer and raccoons, Jen Storbeck says.
Right now, they’re right in the midst of what the family calls “camping and boating season,” which is from May to October. Jen says the kids look forward to their trips, and are never ready to come home.
They primarily camp at Saylorville Lake during the weekdays, when it’s a little easier to make reservations and find spots next to their friends in areas they like, Paul says. The campgrounds are also more relaxed during that time, Jen adds.
Other places they like to camp in the state include northeast Iowa, Lake Anita in southwest Iowa and the KOA campgrounds in Adel, which have a pool and activities for the kids, Paul says.
They’ve also traveled to Nebraska and Utah. In Utah, they made the KOA campgrounds in Green River their home base and took daytrips from there, Paul says. In the next few years, they may consider a trip to the Black Hills, Jen says.
Camping gives them the chance to focus on their kids and friends, free from the distractions of the things you need to do at home, Paul says.
“When we’re out camping, we’re out having fun,” he says. “We’re not worried about doing house projects. We’re relaxing, we’re playing with the kids, going on walks, spending time with our friends.”
There are so many special memories from camping that it’s tough to pick favorite ones, they say. It could be having one of the kids sit on your lap around the campfire, watching wildlife or spending time with close friends they only get to see while camping.
“I look at it as a memory maker,” Paul says of the investment in their RV. “That’s what I thoroughly enjoy about camping.”
An investment in their family
Larry Long has fond childhood memories of traveling in a pop-up trailer with his family on camping trips.
“We went all over the West Coast and up and down California and Phoenix,” Long recalls. “It was so much fun — all the campgrounds, all the national parks.”
His parents liked to camp, he says, and it was a very inexpensive way for their family of six to go on vacation.
“We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cooked out on the stove,” he remembers.
Long then had his own family, and they bought their first RV around 2001.
“I told my wife it was an investment in our family,” he says. Long wanted his two daughters, now ages 20 and 22, to see and experience the country as he had — sort of.
“I wanted to take my kids to all the places I had been as a kid — in a little more luxury,” Long says. “Like, way more luxury.”
Their current RV, with air conditioning, leather seats and slide-outs, is a far cry from the pop-up of Long’s youth.
They can travel off the beaten path and sleep in their own beds, he says. (“You don’t worry about bed bugs.”) His daughters, unencumbered by airline limits on the number of suitcases they can have and weight restrictions, can bring along as much of their wardrobe as they desire (“That’s a huge plus.”).
“I like the family time, when you’re all together, and you control your own time schedule,” he says. “You come and go as you please. You’re not waiting in line like cattle at the airport. And you get to places in the country you can’t get to in an airplane.”
The Longs have traveled coast to coast, visiting more than 40 states. One of his favorite trips was to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where some of the campgrounds were literally right on the beach, he says. Other favorites include driving down the Oregon coast, seeing the redwood trees in California and experiencing Glacier National Park in Montana.
Campgrounds, Long says, are very fun, safe, family-friendly places.
“The people are so friendly,” he says. “It just reminds me of when I was a kid, so I like that. I’m recreating my childhood with my kids.”
While it’s been a good ride, their family expeditions may be changing soon. One of Long’s daughters graduated from college this year and is going to be starting a job, limiting her vacation time. So the trip they took last month to Michigan may be their last as a family, he mused.
Long and his wife plan to keep RVing. If their kids move, they’ll have use for it then as well, he thinks. Someday, they’re hoping for grandkids. When that happens, that will mean introducing a whole new generation to the joys of life on the road.
Decades spent making memories on the road
It’s been about 30 years since Warren Hunsberger and their family bought their first camper, a used pop-up trailer.
Prior to that, they’d been tent camping with their young kids. But the loading and unloading of equipment became a lot of work, particularly with their big brood. The Hunsbergers have seven children — the oldest turns 37 this fall, the youngest graduated from high school this year.
“We’ve gone all over the place,” Hunsberger reminisces, traveling in all types of weather. He shoveled their camper out of snow one year in early January so they could head down to Disneyworld.
They’ve visited many county and state parks in Iowa. They’ve traveled along the West Coast and set up camp in Washington, D.C. They’ve taken in the sights at Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Devils Tower in Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. They’ve camped at the Florida Keys.
“You literally open your trailer and it’s on the beach, on the Gulf of Mexico,” he recalls. “There’s some beautiful spots you can enjoy right here in the United States without ever getting on a plane.”
One of his favorite memories is after arriving at Yellowstone; most of the family couldn’t wait to get out of the car. Hunsberger and his oldest daughter decided to drive on, south through Yellowstone and to the Grand Tetons. He’ll never forget the excursion, when they saw a mother grizzly bear and her cubs and a big bull moose.
Camping came naturally to Hunsberger and his wife, both of whom did it as kids. While his wife’s family liked to camp in tents, one of Hunsberger’s most memorable vacations was “a month-long excursion of the West,” where he, his parents and two siblings took to the road in a Chevy Greenbrier van, he says. As adults, Hunsberger and his wife continued to camp, even before they had kids.
Part of the appeal of owning an RV, Hunsberger says, is the independence of travel and the extensive amenities onboard.
Their latest RV is their fifth, a 42-foot diesel pusher that is also their first motor home. It differs from their previous campers in that it’s driven versus being pulled behind a vehicle.
Their investment in RVs over the years is one they definitely don’t regret.
“We’ve never looked back,” Hunsberger says.