Wheels for the wanderlust | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wheels for the wanderlust

Susan Wood

Steve Newell / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Herb Strandberg enjoys the modern conveniences his RV has to offer while staying at the Zephyr Cove Resort RV-Park and Campground. He is using his satellite Internet service provider to check out his own Web site.

Today’s travelers can get lost in luxury “RVing” in America – especially at Lake Tahoe where campgrounds are sprucing up their grounds or considering it for the burgeoning market.

Forget high gasoline prices. These open-roaders have money to spend and the gumption and wherewithal to use it.

“For people who can afford them, fuel may be less of an issue,” AAA spokesman Sean Comey said, further estimating RV travelers may simply adjust their schedules to accommodate the fuel prices.

South Lake Tahoe Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss estimates 70 percent of the business at the city-run Campground by the Lake comes from RV travelers – a growing market.

Camp Richardson Resort’s upcoming redesign of its grounds may include a beefed-up RV section. The resort hosted an Airstream convention last year.

Moreover, the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s travel planning magazine dedicated three pages to specifically an RV park listing.

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“We get a huge response off that,” said Carol Chaplin, spokeswoman for Aramark’s Zephyr Cove Resort in Nevada. She’s noticed more people traveling in them and the crowds getting younger.

The resort’s $3.5 million expansion four years ago takes direct aim at these tourists and keeps the welcome mat out year-round. For this year’s busy upcoming season, the resort has added 20 bear-proof trash containers on the grounds worth $2,000 each.

The 2001 renovation included a paved surfacing of the roads, registration office, more bathrooms and showers. All the RV camp sites have Internet, cable television, electricity, water, sewer and telephone hookups. The upgrade paid off as the post 9/11 travelers relinquished air transport for the ground. And family get-togethers became the outing many were seeking.

“We have a lot of family reunions,” said Scott Englehardt, the resort campground manager.

Englehardt just checked someone in from Pennsylvania on Sunday, but he added one would be surprised by where a lot of guests are coming from. As it turns out, many Reno and Bay Area RVs come up for the weekends.

He said the commonly asked question is: “How long is the space?” because many RVers have drop-in visitors along their excursions.

“They want to know the length of the stations because RVs have gotten bigger. And they want to be able to pull through,” he said.

It can’t be easy backing up a house.

Englehardt said the 93 sites for recreational vehicles remain 30 percent occupied in the winter. It completely fills up from June through August.

“If the sun shines on the weekend, they’re coming, and sometimes they won’t call,” he said.

Herb and Melitta Strandberg of Roseville got a jump on the summertime traffic, pulling into Zephyr Cove Resort Saturday.

Their 36-foot RV – Allure by Country Coach – has all the comforts of home for this couple of retired computer programmers. She worked for IBM and he was on the Hewlett Packard team. Now they book a singer they enjoy, Tommy “O” Organiscak of Branson, Mo., in entertainment venues.

They started traveling via RV a few years ago after hauling boats, then a tent trailer, then a travel trailer. They got a $187,000 bargain for their home away from home, which matches their Honda tow car.

She noticed the African print valances and carried on the theme by throwing out leopard rugs. The desk they had built in has a pull-out feature for a dining room table.

The Strandbergs have found they like being out on the road more and more with their 2-year-old cat Missy, enjoying the perks like updating their Web site, http://www.suncitykid.com, with pictures of their journey.

“Look at this one,” he said of their stay at the Emerald Desert Golf and RV Resort. A photograph shows the RV parked next to a lit Christmas tree in Palm Desert.

They pick campgrounds like Zephyr Cove Resort off Highway 50 between Stateline and Carson City, where wireless technology provides access at every site.

“We’re connected to everyone in an instant. Before, we would write letters and people wouldn’t hear from you,” she said.

When they feel like cutting loose from the computer, they have DVD, videocassette and TIVO players.

The duo likes making friends on the road. Sometimes they see the same people more than once. They’ve encountered many travelers who with the right hookups live and work on the road in their RVs.

“It’s like having a new house and new view,” she said, playing with the remote-controlled awning. When the wind blows more than 17 mph, the awning automatically retreats back into the RV. Melitta knows her way around the RV, trading off the steering wheel with her husband.

“Most women don’t like to drive, but if something happens to him, you got to know how to get home,” she said.