The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of: Our Vintage Motorhome

NOB HILL--Two words that are rarely seen in the same sentence are “practical” and “motorhome.”  So let’s not waste our time trying to justify driving a multi-ton bedroom around on that basis.  No, a motorhome is the ultimate impulse buy.  Any arguments about paying for itself are merely a rationale for embracing a dream that includes roadside picnics with a view of the redwood forests and waving fields of grain.  That dream also includes spending the night among the wildlife and whispering pines under the clear, starry skies of New Mexico.

So Very Early
And why not?  We wanted a place to get in out of the cold when the days are so short it gets dark around supper time...a place to read, or play games, or talk before turning in.  And even though we do sleep in motels occasionally, they are not our first choice of accommodations.  We like to camp.  We like everything about it except that it does get difficult when that cold darkness falls so very early.

So we bought a motorhome--a used motorhome.  Used RV’s are selling at bargain prices these days.  It is not hard at all to find a good running unit for around $10,000, and many times a lot less than that.  I know that sounds like a lot of money, but even a good running used car can cost that much.  It’s like getting a kitchen, bath, bedroom, and several tons of steel thrown in for free.

Low Mileage
Actually, and understandably, the larger the unit, the cheaper they can be.  I know what you are asking yourself:  “What kind of mileage do they get?”  Well, those big engines seem to run about 8 miles per gallon.  But remember, an RV isn’t what one would call a “daily driver.”  Generally, people don’t take them to work or to go shopping.  They are a special use vehicle used pretty much only for vacation-type trips.

Consequently, RV’s generally have extremely low mileage for their model year.  It is not unusual for one to be twenty years old and have less than 50,000 miles on the motor.

The Class A
When we started thinking about getting some kind of RV we looked for the perfect unit for our needs:  a small RV of some sort with room to sit, cook, and sleep.  We didn’t care about a bathroom, but did want a full-time double bed...not a fold-out couch or dinette.  Also dismissed was a bed way up in the air, like over the driver’s compartment.

We thought about a trailer, but that seemed to entail buying a truck to tow it as well.  Someday we might do that, but for now we decided to get a short “class A” motorhome.  A “class A” means that the motorhome is built from the frame up, rather than the front being part of a truck with the living quarters added to it.  That meant we should get more room for the same length as the front seats would probably rotate and become part of the seating area.

We also wanted the interior to be something that we liked.  So many motorhomes ended up being furnished like they were city apartments or suburban living rooms with lots of drapes and carpeting.  We wanted something a bit more rustic and practical.  What we really wanted was the feel of the old vintage trailers with their birch paneling.  That golden wood was exactly what we were looking for.

That birch with its shellac finish was not what we found.  What we did find and purchase was a vintage 1975 Apollo motorhome--22 feet long with a rear bedroom.  It is beautiful:  gorgeous paint on the outside, vintage 1970’s stuff on the inside...including the original upholstery in nearly pristine condition.  It has a double sink, a four burner stove with an oven, a refrigerator with separate freezer, a full bath, a wonderful sort of vanity that runs alongside a double bed, swivel front seats, lots of windows, a real maple floor, and a comfortable L-shaped dinette.  The engine is a big Dodge 440 with wrapped Edelbrock headers.

Got Yer Ears On?
Yes, it does have a CB radio with the microphone hanging from a spiral cord.  I can only imagine what kind of trouble may come with using that piece of equipment.

“Breaker, breaker...this is Johnny_Mango.  Sweet Pea, what’s your 20?”
“Never you mind, Johnny!  I’m going 10-100 by the side of the road!

So far MaryAnn and I have taken two trips in the Apollo.  The first trip was in October.  We went to Percha Dam State Park and had a wonderful time.  MaryAnn came back to Albuquerque and I stayed behind and drove the RV over to Rockhound State Park southeast of Deming.  Rockhound overlooks a big flat valley and the sunsets are pretty amazing.  If you like wide open spaces, Rockhound just may be your spot.  Then  I drove up to Elephant Butte and camped out a couple of nights there before coming back home.

A Hundred Bucks
We bought a season pass for the state parks.  The pass cost $100 for seniors or $200 otherwise.  Basic camping is included in the price for 12 months.  Electricity costs an additional four bucks a night.

We liked Percha Dam so well we went down there again for Christmas.  The birds were spectacular.  I had bought a small electric heater and we were very comfortable inside our Apollo.  We then went down to Leasburg Dam State Park which is just north of Las Cruces.

We met some very interesting people in both parks:  retirees, gold prospectors, handsome scientists, explorers, birders,a man waiting for subsidized housing, a guy living in a converted schoolbus, a family having a reunion.  The people were from all walks of life and all circumstances.  Some were permanent residents of their RV’s.  All the state parks, however, do have a two-week limit.  The one thing everybody seemed to share was an absolute love of the life they were living.

Until Spring

We left the Apollo in an RV storage facility in Las Cruces.  We had to go to San Antonio, Texas and just drove our 4-Runner on that part of the trip.  The Apollo will stay in southern New Mexico for the winter.  That is where we will be using it until spring, and it is cheap and easy to leave it there.

What a life!  How wonderful to have dreams!  And MaryAnn looks so good, so happy relaxing in the doorway of our Apollo.  By the way, she is retiring from the classroom this spring.  Our adventures are just beginning.

Views: 1910

Comment by Izquierdo on January 28, 2014 at 3:01pm

I've always wanted one, but something would get in the way. Have a lot of fun with it. Beautiful shot on the rim of who knows where there. It looks a little like the Grand Canyon.

Comment by Clifton Chadwick on January 28, 2014 at 3:24pm


Comment by Johnny_Mango on January 28, 2014 at 4:07pm


Believe it or not that is Rockhound SP.  About 15 miles southeast of Deming.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on January 28, 2014 at 6:32pm

oops, I have extreme 22' envy.  We do love our little 13" Aspen (1978)--pretty cherry but no bath facilities.  Great kitchen in ours.  WE will be geetting out of town one of these days--took it to the Jemz last spring and we the sole occupants in a valley of Aspens (maybe they were Birch).  Ours pulls behind our pickup.  I think yours is sooooo cool.  Love it.

Comment by Johnny_Mango on January 28, 2014 at 8:58pm

Sounds like a perfect setup Merimee.  And the Jemez are really fascinating!

Comment by RunLikeADog on January 29, 2014 at 8:09am
We took our 17' Starcraft to Rockhound and then City of Rocks a few years back. Our dream is an Airstream someday.
Comment by misterhinkydink on January 29, 2014 at 9:08am

That's a nice motorhome. I have a '68 23' Silver Streak Sabre travel trailer. It had a few factory upgrades in it's early life as the previous owner was very active in the Silver Streak club. I had to replace the refrigerator, water heater and re-plumb but other than that it's original. It stll has the avocado green sink, range and vent hood. I tow it with a '71 Chevy C10 Custom Deluxe.

Comment by Johnny_Mango on January 29, 2014 at 10:57am

mr hinkdink-  Hope to run into you sometime!  No literally of course.

Comment by Johnny_Mango on January 29, 2014 at 10:58am

You too rlad!

Comment by Grumpy on January 29, 2014 at 2:40pm

This article is not going to help my husband's campaign to dissuade me from this particular dream! Thanks Mr. Mango.


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