What to Read Next

The RV Road Trip from Hell

April 26, 2014

Story and Photos by Stephanie Laing

I cruised America—well sort of. I rented an RV and drove to the Poconos with my three kids.

Newly divorced and ready to conquer the concept of single-mother holiday travel, I surprised my kids (ages 5, 6, and 8) with a Thanksgiving road trip. Trying to please three kids is hard: two wanted to camp in an RV and one wanted to go to a water park. So we did both.

I never planned on camping in the RV—that was like a horror film waiting to happen. I could picture someone knocking on the window at night. No thanks. Instead, I planned a three-hour tour of America’s Highways, followed by a three-night stay at The Great Wolf Lodge. I called ahead to make sure they had RV parking.

Things were going well and everyone was excited as we arrived at the Cruise America rental agency. Two hours later we set off from Long Island after filling out the paperwork, and watching the how-to video (yes, they teach you about toilets and no, we did not pay attention, since we wouldn’t need them for a three-hour drive).

The RV I rented was a standard size C-25, meaning it was almost 25-feet long. It featured, among other things, a gas cooktop, a generator, a shower, a fresh water flush toilet, and a button I would never touch—cruise control. It was also 14 feet high and almost eight feet wide, so we weren’t allowed to drive on certain highways and basically had to weave our way over to the George Washington Bridge. I was seriously challenged by right turns and changing lanes. I would talk to myself saying, “I’m coming into your lane and I’m big, so get out of my way,” hoping for the best and yelling at the kids to be quiet because Mama was concentrating.

Then, it started raining and then we hit traffic. A lot of traffic. The GPS told me the three-hour tour would now be five long hours.

The kids were filling up on chips and candy—a bad idea, I know. They were excited, and I was terrified. That’s when I realized they weren’t all in their seats and had gone to the bedroom area. They ruled the asylum, and all I could do was focus on driving.

All the stop-and-go traffic made my oldest son, Maclaren, sick. He’s not a good passenger in the best of times, so he was the first one to lose his cookies—literally. The second time he lost them he made it to the toilet we said we would not be using, and I started yelling, “Use the pump!” and other partial phrases from the how-to video. The Little Laings started fighting, and I kept yelling.

My daughter, Patterson, was next in line for RV sickness. She decided to use her backpack as a bucket, smart girl. We hit a bump and the bucket slid toward me, and it stayed there for four hours.

Watson was the last one to succumb and he saved it for the last three minutes of the road trip. As we pulled into the lodge, he tapped me on the shoulder and promptly threw up in my lap. At least he gave me a warning.

From Northern Blvd in Roslyn, New York, to 1 Great Wolf Lodge Drive, in Scotrun, Pennsylvania, I fought the RV and the RV won.

It was still raining as we parked the RV. I grabbed only the necessities, we locked the doors and stepped inside The Great Wolf Lodge for a weekend of water slides and questing. I was determined to put the road trip behind us and forget the Doom Mobile. It loomed in the distance for three days, leering at us. I could almost hear its heartbeat.

On the third day, we set out on the return trip. This time: no chips, no cookies, no candy. My kids would say I starved them that day, but I’m happy to report that no one got sick.

This was the three-hour tour we wanted. I was still terrified driving the beast and still talked to myself as I changed lanes. It took less than 15 minutes to return the RV (no return video to watch) and we cabbed it back to our home in Brooklyn and forgot all about our RV sickness. I won the war.

Our first road trip was slightly horrific, but also funny and definitely one we will never forget. Here’s the crazy thing—I’d do it again. I feel like an expert now.This time we would camp. I can hear the knocking on the window now. I’d also take notes while watching the how-to video.

Stephanie Laing is the producer of the HBO shows Veep and Eastbound & Down. She blogs regularly at putyourprettyonbysl.com and lives in Brooklyn with her three children.