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Road trip season is upon us! Summer is the traditional season for packing up the camper or RV, and setting out on the open road to discover America and make memories. But have you ever given thought to the origins of the modern American road trip, the RV life or roughing it on the open road with all the comforts of home?

The Great American Road Trip

The American road trip is an iconic tradition. It is synonymous with freedom, exploration, and the spirit of adventure. At the heart of modern road trip tradition lies the recreational vehicle. The RV has become the quintessential symbol of the open road and the ultimate enabler of wanderlust. But how did this cultural phenomenon come to be?

The story begins in the early 20th century during the infancy of the industry and the Good Roads movement. There were no RV standards. The design and amenities were only limited by the imagination, and the depth of the pockets.

In 1915 the Conklin family set out on a crross-country trip in their custom-built “Gypsy Van.” This luxurious 25-foot, 8-ton vehicle was a marvel of its time, equipped with an electrical generator and incandescent lighting, a full kitchen, hot and cold water, a “roof garden” and motorcyle for use in case of emergency.

The Conklin’s Gypsy Van and the family’s epic adventrue inspired countless road trips. And it also inspired adventurers and entrepreneurs that envisioned thousands of Americans taking to the open road in comfort.

With establishement of the U.S. highway system in 1925, and subsequent push to develop all weather roads and highways, the recreational vehicle soared in popularity. Nature lovers, adventurers, and car enthusiasts merged their passions and began creating customized vehicles that could carry all the comforts of home.

One of the earliest motor homes was built in 1910 on a 3-ton Packard truck in 1910. The behemoth could sleep 11 and came complete with an icebox, toilet, and library!

By the end of the decade, trailers became the focus of manufacturers looking to capitalize on the growing trend. And during the depths of the Great Depression, the modern concept of the travel trailer was born.

Manufacturers began to produce a range of models, from the compact to the commodious. The iconic Airstream Trailer made its debut in 1936, with its riveted aluminum body resembling an airplane, it could sleep four and carried a supply of water. After WWII, Americans took to the road in record numbers and the travel trailer soared in popularity as veterans sought affordable family getaways.

In 1967, Winnebago introduced the first mass-produced mid-sized motorhomes. That fueled another surge in RV popularity as lifestyle became accessible to a broader audience.

Today, RVs are more popular than ever, with state-of-the-art features and all the comforts of a modern home. RV parks such as Crazy Horse Campgrounds on the picturesque shores of Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, have evolved into communities offering amenities like Wi-Fi, fitness centers, and social events, catering to both the weekend warrior and the full-time traveler.

The RV has come a long way from its humble beginnings. It has transformed from a simple mode of travel into a lifestyle. The history of modern RVs is a testament to the human desire for adventure and the pursuit of the American dream on wheels.

As we look to the future, one thing is certain: the road trip camping tradition will continue to thrive, with the RV at its center, inviting us to explore the vast and beautiful landscapes of America.

So, the next time you hit the road and head for the desert oasis of Lake Havasu City in your travel trailer or motor home, remember the rich history that paved the way for your journey. Here’s to the next adventure, the next discovery, and the endless possibilities that await on the open road. Happy travels!

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America