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Why blogs are better sometimes

We are still parked in Frisco campground, National Seashore, town of Frisco, on Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina. Still enjoying the fresh breezes and dramatic view down to the pounding surf. But today was a work day and we didn’t go anywhere so I can’t talk of adventure.

It started off rainy as we expected, and for a while I was a little bit concerned about our power status since I knew I’d be on the laptop all day. But the weather here changes frequently, and the only constant seems to be wind. The rain gave way to overcast, the sun popped out right around midday to pump as much 12 amps into our solar panels, and in a few hours we were again in no danger of running out of power. Then clouds, sun, clouds, less wind, more wind, and now we are looking at overcast again.

Since our only outing was an hour-long walk at the end of the work day, I want to take this momentary pause in our travels to talk about something else entirely. Faithful blog reader and un-indicted co-conspirator Dr. C sent me a link to an interesting article about the declining quality of travel guides. Travel book publishers and authors are facing a challenge to remain relevant in the age of Internet-based information, and this is manifesting itself as increasingly poorer quality information in those books.

The good doctor suggested that our travels would be best presented in book form as a series of trip segments which bridge the gap between guide and travelogue, not attempting to be definitive in any way, but providing value through honest perspective. In other words, refuse to be pedantic or pre-judgmental, and let the reader be the judge of the experience. That’s what I’ve attempted to do here, but I haven’t been absolutely strict about that.

For sure, the RV traveler community deserves better than what it has for guidebooks. On the bookshelves today are an embarrassing heap of seriously outdated titles that purport to tell you how to become full-timers, how to work from the road, and how to camp. Some were written two decades ago and still (despite “updates”) have completely ludicrous advice in them.

I picked up a book about full-timing a few weeks ago which had several pages describing how to have a landline telephone connected to your RV at a campground, which is something few people do anymore. In an update, the book had a couple of paragraphs grudgingly acknowledging that since the book was written, cell phones have been invented and could be used if you were willing to try one of those newfangled “expensive” devices.

That reminds me of the full-timing seminar I went to last year. A speaker was set to talk to a roomful of wannabee full-timers about cell phones. I thought perhaps he was going to help potential full-timers choose the best calling plan? Identify how to use the cell phone to connect to the Internet? Talk about ways to charge the phone when boondocking? Nope, he very carefully explained how cell phones work as if we’d never heard of them before. I looked around the room: every man had a cell phone strapped to his belt already and half of them were texting each other to say, “OMG is this guy killing U?”

Sadly, this is not the exception. It’s the same with mobile technology topics of all types (the exception being Rich Charpentier’s radically different book on mobile technology), but that’s not the only gap. The RV industry has some of the worst guidebooks ever. Most are written as if the only people to read them are retirees, which is ridiculous. (Most of the readers of Airstream Life magazine are still working, so why are so many books pretending that only retirees own RVs?)

I like Mike & Terri Church’s “Traveler’s Guide” series, which is why I carry them in our online store, and the Woodalls/Trailer Life catalogs are good when used as RV yellow pages for finding commercial campgrounds. But other than that, the rest of the bunch really seem to stink. If anyone knows of some good RV travel books, post a comment below so we can all know.

What’s happening to the travel guide industry can be summed up in two words: The Internet. There are now tons of free information to be had, and for all their flaws, blogs like this are giving people a more realistic, more focused, and more relevant view of the travel experience. It’s not about providing great literature or comprehensive listings, but it is about honesty. Even if my experience will not be your experience (and it won’t be, I guarantee), the value is that I gave you a perspective on what lies ahead and let you be the judge of what it means to you.

Paradoxically, by not attempting to be a guidebook, and making no claims to accuracy or completeness, a blog is more useful because it focuses solely on the reality of what happened and what was seen. I won’t tell you the sands are dazzling white if I haven’t walked on them, but I will tell you if I see raw sewage draining into the harbor. Perhaps I can be more useful if I give out less advice and the more impressions. You can compare my impressions to others, and use Woodall’s and the Internet to find the phone numbers.

OK, now two completely unrelated anecdotes to wrap up this blog. First, when you have an Airstream, it’s always open house, and when you have one with big colorful graphics all over it announcing you’re on a TOUR OF AMERICA, it’s even more so. Today I was still in my pajamas at 11 a.m., in fact I was wearing my emergency backup pajamas with the holes in them because we haven’t done laundry in a while. I hadn’t brushed my teeth and was sitting at the laptop intensely multi-tasking while talking to Colin on the phone about Matthew McConaughey’s trailer. Eleanor is drinking coffee in her pajamas and reading an Agatha Christie novel, and Emma is doing who-knows-what. Got the picture?

Now add a “knock-knock” on the door, and the smiling faces of two people we’ve never met (Ann and Fim) saying, “Hi! We’re Airstreamers!”

Fortunately, they really were Airstreamers, evidenced by the fact that they were not at all put off by my attire or the disarray of the trailer interior, and soon were sitting down at the dinette drinking coffee with Eleanor. It’s a commonality to the breed that we are all very comfortable with each other right off the bat. We had a nice visit and gave them the interior Grand Tour, advised Ann on her next Airstream purchase, and exchanged business cards. More new friends!

Second anecdote. I have long wanted to write down all the “Eleanor-isms” that my wife utters. Some of them are just priceless but I never have a notepad when I need one. Yesterday we drove past the American flag here at the campground and noticed it was at half-mast. Eleanor gasped and said, “Why is that? Who died?” I didn’t know. (Turned out it was Peace Officers Memorial Day.) After racking her brain for former presidents who might have died, Eleanor turned to me and asked, “Is Reagan still dead?”

6 Responses to “Why blogs are better sometimes”

  1. Terry & Greg Says:

    Rich… liked your take on travel blogging…some of the best info we have is simply from fellow RVers who have been there and what they thought about it, good and bad…we rarely expect to have exactly the same experience, but get the basics…then, as you say, we get the phone number and directions from Travel Life or Woodalls! As you know we don’t do a daily blog per se, but a travel log of our travel antics with lots of pics and probably more rambling than anybody really wants to read (TMI…too much information)…but we figure if someone is interested, we might as well give them the full monte…and we like to make them anecdotal so it’s not strictly business. Happily we’ve actually had several readers thank us for for our take on various places because they are planning trips that include our destinations… This very approach is why I enjoy your blog so much…carry on!

  2. Terry & Greg Says:

    PS: Reagan IS still dead…

  3. Rob Super Says:

    Two thoughts:
    1) The impact of the internet on the printed word (ink on paper) is not limited to travel writing. The hegemony of the world’s presses currently struggles to contend with the internet just as surely as the scribes of the late middle ages struggled to confront Herr Gutenberg’s device.
    2) Great travel writing is not about where to go, what to do, where to buy your ticket, which way to face, where to put you feet, who was there before you, what the weather will be like. It is, rather, about the idea that we can all get out there and have our own individual experiences; that if I went THERE and did THAT and got THIS out of it, then YOU can can go WHEREVER and have your OWN experiences, learn you OWN lessons, savor your OWN joys. And, yes, sometimes suffer your own disappointments. It is not about directions. It is about encouragement.

  4. Judy Says:

    That gave us a chuckle with our morning coffee (and in other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is STILL dead!)

  5. Jim Breitinger Says:

    Another great web log entry.

    And, sadly Eleanor, yes, Ronnie is still one of the departed.

    We all miss him!

    An Airstreamer in Phoenix

  6. Rich C Says:

    Thanks for not putting me under the bus! 🙂

    Seriously, most of the RV guide books I bought years ago were a touch behind. It is surely tough to keep up with the latest. The worst part is the “experts” don’t travel the way the new generation of RVers travel. Many guides are written to a completely different crowd.

    I’ll be doing another revision of the Digital RV before the end of the year because I have to. More new tech on the horizon. Gotta keep up with it!

    Oh, just FYI. Sunny and 90 today. That’s the forecast here…….