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TRAVELING THE ROTEL WAY

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Over the years Sara and I have seen just about every conceivable type of RV on the road. From tiny motorcycle campers to 40 ft. motor homes, they vary in space, size, price and accommodations. We thought we had seen it all until a strange orange and black bus pulled in next to us at our site in Cape Breton Island, Canada.

The vehicle had the typical tour bus front section with large slanting windows and comfortable airline type seats. But that is were the similarity ended. The back half of the rig was box like with three rows of small windows (twenty one in all) on one side and flat panels on the other.

We watched in amazement as the travelers exited the bus and began to transform it into what appeared an old time Western chuck wagon. Just as an insect pupa undergoes metamorphosis into a butterfly, the rig wiggled, and jiggled and transformed into a new and strange form. The flat side of the bus suddenly was dropped to form a stage-like platform complete with steps, railings and curtains. Then the top panels flipped up to expose 21 crib-like sleeping compartments, each with its own privacy curtain.

The 21 travelers then like some ancient ritual performed thousands of times, arranged suitcases all in a row, opened side compartments to expose stoves and cooking stations, began to peal vegetables, set up dining tables, placing individual eating utensils bags at predetermined locations. Some of the travelers collected bedding and clothing in net bags and headed for the laundromat. Everyone had a specific task and performed it in a quiet, determined manner that betrayed any thought of not knowing what one was to do next. Dining tables were unfolded, and, as the meal was served, we wandered closer.

What was this strange group of travelers? We noticed a sign on the bus in bold letters, “ROTEL” and a foreign license plate. The folks spoke mostly in German. Most of the travelers appeared to be in their late fifties or older. One blond woman in broken English invited us to her table as we stared at the tiny windows on the side of the bus. “Dat is aur chicken coup!!!!” she blurted out much to the chuckles of her fellow travelers. Our new friend then went on to explain that most of her companions were from Europe, mainly Germany, and were on a 29 day tour which started in Boston, traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine then Nova Scotia. After Cape Breton Island they would move on to Quebec and end their adventure in Montreal. The group sometimes cooked their own meals, particularly breakfast or lunch, and usually ate out for one meal a day. There are no bathing arrangement, but there is a tiny toilet on board at the back of the bus for emergencies. Occasional stops were made at RV parks and campgrounds for the express purpose of bathing. Each person has his or her own bunk which was about 6 feet long, three feet wide and three feet high. There was a window on one end that could be opened, bedding, night light and radio/DVD unit with head phones. The roof had a hammock for personal items, and one entered this tiny sleeping compartment through a curtain with a zipper. Upper bunks were accessed by a small ladder. We looked on in astonishment, and I must admit a bit of embarrassment, as many in the group stared at our 36 ft. triple slide RV with a queen side bed in the background, with more astonishment and an expression on their faces that shouted “Those damn Americans; why would anyone need that much room when they travel?” I quickly explained to our impromptu guide that our RV was our house and that everything we owned was in it. I told her we were on a five year adventure and planned to buy a new, and I emphasized, smaller home than our original, when we were finished. She shared my explanation with her fellow travelers in German and the response was met with looks of amazement but little empathy.

Now if you think that the privilege of traveling with a ROTEL is cheap, keep in mind that the Maritime Tour that we happened upon cost each participant well over $4400. There are trips available to all parts of Europe, Africa, Russia, India, China, South America and even New Zealand and Australia. Many of the travelers are return customers in this unique method of travel. I commented to the bus driver that the travelers must get to know each other quite well on a ROTEL tour and he laughed. I asked if a trip had resulted in any marriages and said he wasn’t sure, but that he was confident that a few divorces had occurred.

As the bus packed up and quickly returned to its original compact configuration, Sara and I walked back to the RV. We waved goodbye and waves were returned. I asked Sara if she thought it might be fun for us to try a ROTEL tour. The returning stare answered my question with acute clarity. “Over my dead body!!!!!!” which was somewhat appropriate when one considers the coffin like sleeping quarters.

For more information on the ROTEL experience, copy and paste:

http://www.clui.org/clui_4_1/lotl/lotlw99/roll.htm

http://www.rotel.de/rotel-tours/de/index.php

http://www.rotel.de/rotel-tours/de/reise2006.php?Reiseziel=62&Reisebeginn=&Reiseende=&Reisedauer=&Reiseart=&detail=086&ReiseNr=086&Headline=Ostkanada%20mit%20Labrador%20-%20Neufundland
THE ROTEL BUS PULLS IN TO THE RV PARK
THE ROTEL BUS PULLS IN TO THE RV PARK
THE SIDES ARE LIFTED UP INTO POSTITION
THE SIDES ARE LIFTED UP INTO POSTITION
A WALK WAY AND CURTAIN IS POSTIONED
A WALK WAY AND CURTAIN IS POSTIONED
THE WINDOW SIDE OF THE BUS
THE WINDOW SIDE OF THE BUS
THE KITCHEN AREA IS OPENED
THE KITCHEN AREA IS OPENED
A MEAL IS PREPARED IN RECORD TIME
A MEAL IS PREPARED IN RECORD TIME
BREAKFAST IS SERVED
BREAKFAST IS SERVED
EATING AT THE TABLES
EATING AT THE TABLES
MORNING EXERCISES AND THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY
MORNING EXERCISES AND THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY