Of course, today you may drive a long way before you see an RV Friendly symbol on a freeway sign, but that’s about to change. Oregon pioneered the practice of encouraging qualified businesses to post the RV symbol on highway signs, and the State of Washington will implement the program this spring.
Six states—Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Oregon and Washington—have now joined the movement to allow businesses to use highway exit signs to welcome RVers.
The RV Friendly logo—a bright yellow circle with the letters RV—alerts motorists to gas stations, restaurants and other businesses that have parking space and vehicle entrances and exits large enough to accommodate motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers.
In this column a few years ago, we told the story of how Frank Brodersen, a retired Realtor and retailer from Springfield, Oregon, came up with the RV logo idea after he had trouble finding parking places for his 34-foot motorhome. The Family Motor Coach Association embraced the concept and then the Oregon Travel Information Council took up the idea and posted RV Friendly symbols on business signs on a portion of Interstate 5 in the summer of 2003. The test elicited a good response, and the program was extended to other parts of Oregon on an experimental basis. About 20 businesses are now participating.
Since then, the Federal Highway Administration has given its interim approval to allow all states to use the RV Friendly symbol on highway business signs if certain minimum requirements are met, and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association is pushing for all 50 states to adopt the program.
The Washington State Legislature authorized use of the RV symbol last year. Mike Dornfeld, traffic regulation supervisor for the Washington Department of Transportation, said invitations to participate in the program will be mailed to businesses soon. There are 2,100 businesses in Washington that are listed on freeway and highway signs, and any business that meets the RV criteria will be able to add the RV symbol to its logo.
We have been inviting readers to participate in the magazine by submitting stories or suggesting story ideas, and we appreciate the responses we’ve received. One of the best came from subscriber Joe Schmidt, a cartoonist and retired teacher from the San Diego area, who submitted an account of his experiences as a camper and included wonderful illustrations. You will find his story and drawings in this issue.
Schmidt, who taught animation and art at high schools in San Diego and Chula Vista for 33 years, is now devoting his time to drawing cartoons and taking RV trips. His cartooning and RVing interests are combined in his Winding Roads comic strip that you can find online at www.joestoons.com. At that Web site, you’ll also find a selection of Schmidt’s drawings and paintings on RVing and other subjects.
Trip to Panama
As a publication based in the Pacific Northwest, we usually confine our travel stories to the West, but occasionally we wander farther afield and in this month’s issue, you’ll read about the experiences of John and Harriet Halkyard, who drove a motorhome from Texas through Mexico and Central America.
Harriet, who was born in England, traveled in Europe and lived in Australia before coming to this country and working in the San Diego tourist industry for 20 years. Her husband, John, who holds a doctorate in ocean engineering, has worked in the offshore industry, developing deepwater oil and gas production systems.
The Halkyards were novice RVers when they started out for Panama. Their only previous RV trip was from their home in Houston to California and back, but traveling in a motorhome on Interstate 10 is nothing like navigating the roads of Central America. Harriet said they put their motorhome on cruise control and relaxed when they drove to California, but they used cruise control for about 15 minutes at 35 mph in Central America.
Despite whatever shortcomings the roads may have, the Halkyards are so enchanted by Central America that they are returning there this month and are again traveling there by motorhome.
If you want to learn about RVing in Central America, or just want to share the experience vicariously, you will find a full account of the Halkyards’ trip in their 352-page book, 99 Days to Panama. It is illustrated with 400 color pictures and is available at bookstores or by calling (281) 556-0893. The Web address is www.99DaysToPanama.com.