Remember Jack Nicholson driving a Winnebago Adventurer motorhome in the movie “About Schmidt”?
Well, more than a hundred RV enthusiasts like him attended the Life On Wheels conference at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Ankeny, Iowa, on Saturday, Sunday and today (Sept. 20-22), according to The Des Moines (Iowa) Register.
Between the teachers and the students, it was a University of RV Living.
Life On Wheels was held at DMACC for the second year and it offered loads of information about RV operation, maintenance and safety. An average of about four 90-minute classes were held per day during the three days.
Leading the faculty was Life On Wheels founder Gaylord Maxwell, a longtime travel writer and lecturer. He is the author of Fulltiming: An Introduction to Full-time RVing. He teaches a course called “Snowbird Roosts.”
Maxwell and his wife, Margie, spend most of their time in a motorhome but maintain a house in Idaho, where they go during the summer months for a “vacation,” they joked.
“We are on our 13th motorhome, with number 14 (a new Winnebago Journey with two slide-outs) coming up in January,” the RV guru said. For seven years, they’ve been driving a 38-foot Coachmen Destiny that Maxwell helped design. It’s powered by a 300-hp Cummins diesel engine.
“We like big ones. No point in being uncomfortable just because the house is on wheels,” he said.
Maxwell’s long-held dream of a “college of RVing,” was started nine years ago at the University of Idaho as a single Life On Wheels course that became part of the school’s enrichment program. Now it offers a weeklong course. The DMACC conference – in its second year – is one of a handful of nationwide “extension schools.” The others are at Harrisburg, Pa., and Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky.
Life On Wheels instructors are RV experts, authors of books and major contributors to RV publications. Many of the nearly 50 courses are aimed at novices, but others may appeal to more advanced RVers.
For example, class No. 202 addresses camping without any electric, water or sewer hookups. The course is called “Boondocking – Use Those Holding Tanks!” taught by Dave and Sandy Baleria.
Other teachers on the faculty are Mike and Pam Steffen, RV full-timers who travel with a complete computer system and two cats. Andra Savage test-drives and reviews new motorhome models and provides a female perspective to the RV world.
Attendees come from near and far – as far away as Japan, England, Scotland and Chile.
“Most attendees are retired or near retirement age,” Maxwell said. “However, we’ve got folks in their 40s and 50s, even a few in their 30s.” About 25% of them are people who do not yet own RVs and are going to school first.
“We can help them enormously,” Maxwell said.
Some 104 registered for the courses in Des Moines, but a few more were expected to sign up before Saturday.
The fee for the three-day conference was $199 per person. No reduced fees for partial attendance were available.