No film crew followed Rich Royer and his 8-months-pregnant wife, Michelle, when they rented a recreational vehicle and drove it across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with their two young sons last summer.
But, according to a report in the Detroit News, their real-life family vacation was nearly as hairy – and (in retrospect) humorous – as actor Robin Williams’ star-crossed adventure in the hit movie “RV.”
“Driving over the Mackinac Bridge in a 31-foot RV, I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” recalls Royer, an account manager at Compuware in Detroit. “With the grid and the wind and everything, it was unbelievable. I wouldn’t look to the right or the left my neck was sweating. I wouldn’t dare look over the sides. It was an experience I will never forget.”
It’s also an experience that puts the Royers, both 39, among the growing ranks of travelers who are sampling the RV lifestyle. But “enthusiast” doesn’t quite capture how the Royers feel about RVing after their five-day trial.
Recalling their 1,100-mile saga, which ended in a “desperate” overnight in a Petoskey motel with unlimited hot showers and very tight parking, the couple alternately laughs and shudders at some of the goofy situations they experienced in their monster RV.
Still, both say the trip was “great,” especially for their two boys, Brad and Joey, then 8 and 6, respectively.
“Brad, our third-grader, wrote a paper calling it the ‘the best trip ever,’ ” Michelle Royer says. “The boys played games at the table as we were driving and had snacks every two minutes – they were in heaven. It was just a very cool experience for them.”
It was a different story for her husband, who craved Starbucks, thick newspapers and civilization, she says, rather than foraging for firewood and circling repeatedly around campsites to get into perfect parking position.
And even as their family enjoyed exploring the UP’s colorful Pictured Rocks and waterfalls, having a front-row seat on glorious Lake Superior sunsets and grilling s’mores over the campfire, Royer says he couldn’t quite kick back and relax.
Stopping frequently was an issue, Royer says, since his wife was very pregnant. “It was really a pretty nice RV and had a bathroom, but Michelle wouldn’t let anyone use it,” he explains. “She didn’t think I would know what I’m doing when I hooked up the toilet pipe to the waste area at the campground and didn’t want to deal with all that, so we just used public facilities.”
For the record, he says, he did figure out and do all the hook-ups – just to prove he could.
Royer was a big fan of the RV’s “super slide-out” walls. “You just push a button and the rig gets real wide, but you don’t do it while you’re driving,” he says. “I was more on pins-and-needles worrying that someone might push it by mistake.”
Still, in retrospect, Royer says: “It was a great trip – every family should do it.”