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At Home on the Road

C. Rosenberg

Shachne Arye and Naomi Rowner took their family of nine over nine state lines, through national parks, discovering Jewish communities on an unforgettable RV escapade

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

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Given that the Rowners had been to Niagara Falls the previous summer with a pop-up camper, the idea of vacationing in an RV wasn’t all that foreign — yet an RV gave them far more freedom. With a kitchen (equipped with an oven, stove top, refrigerator and freezer, and microwave), bedrooms, central AC and heat, and a working bathroom and shower, the Rowners liken their RV to a fancy bungalow on wheels. (Photos: Shachne Arye and Naomi Rowner)

T he Rowners’ neighbors weren’t surprised when an RV pulled into the Rowners’ driveway one spring day in 2016. As gurus in kosher, economical, and family-friendly travel (even setting up their own website to advise others), the Rowners turn Sundays and school vacations into trip days, and are always on the lookout for adventure. The RV, though, hiked up their hobby by a few significant notches.

“I saw an RV for sale on Craigslist,” Shachne Arye says. “The owner had lived in it for several months in his backyard while his home was being renovated. He wanted it off his property and sold it to us for $1,700! At that price, I knew that we wanted it.”

Naomi’s reaction to the RV? “Now we can really travel!” And that very June, the Rowners set out on an unforgettable 28-day trip.

Given that the Rowners had been to Niagara Falls the previous summer with a pop-up camper, the idea of vacationing in an RV wasn’t all that foreign — yet an RV gave them far more freedom. With a kitchen (equipped with an oven, stove top, refrigerator and freezer, and microwave), bedrooms, central AC and heat, and a working bathroom and shower, the Rowners liken their RV to a fancy bungalow on wheels.

“We can just park at a camping site, hook up to the amenities, and we have all the accommodations we need!” Naomi says. “There’s no searching for hotels, dragging in half-sleeping kids from the car, schlepping in the luggage, figuring out sleeping arrangements. In the RV, everything is in its place; we simply get ready for bed and go to sleep.”

Still, considerable work went into preparing the RV for their vacation. First, the Rowners kashered the kitchen and removed the dining room table, replacing that space with a crib. Shachne Arye also built a bunk bed, screwed in several hooks, and put up curtains to divide the area and give the older children their own space. Naomi spent time outfitting the RV with paper goods, linens, and frozen food.

Small caption “We can just park at a camping site, hook up to the amenities, and we have all the accommodations we need!”

Once on the road, the advantages became clear. During one late-night drive, Naomi sensed that Shachne Arye needed a caffeine boost. She simply asked him to stop at the side of the road, went into the RV, and made a quick coffee. On another occasion, the hour was late and stomachs rumbled. The Rowners pulled off to the side, and Naomi put up some hot dogs and macaroni.

The Rowners’ RV is of the travel camper variety — it has no cab, but must be attached to a car. This worked out well since driving an RV necessitates expensive insurance and can run into prohibitive gas costs; attaching the RV to their car eliminated those expenses. It also gave them the freedom to detach the RV at campsites and go on day-trips in the car, returning to the campsite at night for dinner and bed. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to rent an RV,” Shachne Arye says. “It’s very expensive, and you may have to get your own insurance. When you own the RV, you can keep your vacation stuff there and can customize it any way you wish.”

Another advantage of owning an RV is getting accustomed to driving with 6,500 pounds on your tail. The only time Shachne Arye had done a test drive (Naomi didn’t brave driving on this particular trip — though she did try on a subsequent trip) was immediately after purchasing the RV and bringing it home. A move, he admits, that wasn’t wise. “Driving an RV is very intense! It’s important to practice with someone who knows how to operate an RV,” he says. “During our second day on the road, we dropped the trailer in Pennsylvania! We hadn’t known how to connect the RV properly. Later on in our trip, a guy at an RV service station explained how dangerous dropping a trailer can be. After detaching from the car, the trailer can roll into it, crushing the car and itself upon impact.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 549)

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