Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it’s nice to have the comforts of home as you travel the highways and byways. Trailblazer checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
This month, we chatted with Captain Lyman Louis.
Plying the rivers and bays of the United States in a boat is often likened to driving the highways and byways in an RV. Traveling the open roads (or waters) of the country, exploring stunning nature and unique landscapes, meeting like-minded travelers, and existing in small spaces where everything has a place are activities celebrated by both sailors and drivers. For Captain Lyman Louis and his wife, Deb, RVing on land was a natural extension of his life on the water.
Growing up in Washington State, Lyman spent his childhood boating and owned several boats through the years. After getting his USCG Masters license in 2002, he started boating professionally and began working on passenger boats almost 10 years ago. After gaining international experience all over North America, Lyman began to work with UnCruise Adventures
As captain of the SS Legacy until late 2017, Lyman served as the lead trainer, morale officer, passenger liaison and general go-to guy onboard. After five years of enjoying the scenery and wildlife of Southeast Alaska and the wild and varied landscapes of the rivers of the Pacific Northwest—not to mention being away from home for six or more weeks at a time—Lyman decided to pursue new challenges closer to home. Still sailing the same rivers, Lyman has transitioned to Shaver Transportation Co. to assist in moving grain barges or doing harbor ship assist work.
When he’s not on the water, Lyman and his wife enjoy RVing. Having spent many years RVing around the country with his parents and siblings, he got bit by the RVing bug at a young age. We caught up with Lyman after his last voyage with UnCruise Adventures to find out how he compares the two modes of wanderlust.
How did you get into RVing?
My family car camped from the time I was very young. We’d head out to the state parks or other campsites, almost always developed sites, and spend the weekend running around in the woods. When I was 11 or 12, my parents met up with some hippies on a West Coast train trip and they spent a lot of time chatting with them about their travels… It sort of lit a flame for my folks. They started planning a road trip that would cover the Lower 48.
I remember there were maps taped up on the wall that had markers, push pins, and highlighter marks at all the stops they wanted to make along the way. In the end we hit about 20 states. They sold the house and packed everything into storage and we were off…in a privately rented 36’ Class C with a 16’ travel trailer behind. It must have been a sight in that era what with mom and dad, four kids, a dog and a cat all traveling across the country for almost six months and 18,000 miles of winter driving.
Since then I’ve had travel trailers, fifth wheels, a Class C, and now a Class A, which is my favorite.
Tell us about your RV.
We have a 2004 Itasca 40AD. It’s our first Class A.
We purchased it used from a dealer near Portland. The previous owners got out of RVing due to health issues, so we’re the second owners. It’s got just 80,000 miles on it and is in great condition overall. We are getting the carpet and overheads replaced this year and I plan on doing some exterior touch-up painting. We love the layout, since it’s got the middle bath and back bedroom with doors in between.
Do you find any similarities between sailing and RVing?
There are a few things, what with trip planning and thinking about things in terms of systems and preventative maintenance schedules. I guess the biggest is safety equipment and I’m probably overstocked in that regard.
What do you love about RVing?
Nature. We love to get out to state and national parks. Getting away means getting into the back woods and exploring. We load up the Jeep and head out to the Forest Service roads and find picnic locations or just a place for the dogs to run.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling in an RV versus staying in a hotel?
We can load in and go with less than half-hour notice, so there’s a lot of convenience. I have a lot of continuing education type studies that I have to do so I occasionally will take the coach and, depending on the school, will either park in their parking lot or find a nearby RV park for a week. That’s another way we can save money by using the coach. It’s cheaper and healthier since I fix my own meals instead of eating out all the time.
Who do you travel with and who drives?
My wife, Deb, and our three dogs, Chip, Charlie, and Castro are my traveling companions. I’m the driver and take care of the trip planning, routes, and maintenance. I’m also the primary cook, though Deb chips in as the world’s best sandwich maker… She does the navigation and cleanup after meals.
What are a few of your favorite things onboard?
I love how the coach handles on the road. It drives like a sports car and I’ve got enough power to get up the mountain passes around here. Being able to divide the living spaces so one of us can nap while the other watches a movie or listens to music is a great feature. I do all the day-to-day service on the coach, so having a well-designed wet bay for all that fun stuff is great. There’s tons of storage, so I can keep a guitar, some fishing gear, and a set of golf clubs at hand without cramping Deb’s need for space for the dog’s gear (which is always growing!).
What are a few favorite destinations and why?
Dayville, Oregon, has a cute little RV park that we’ve been to a few times and love. Just a handful of spaces with lots of green space and a nice little café a short walk away. There are tons of trails a short drive away, so we can explore without having to drive too far. We love being close to the fossil beds; the scenery there is so dramatic.
There’s a bunch of primitive campgrounds near Joseph, Oregon, that are beautiful. We try to get out there every couple of years, but we haven’t taken the coach out there yet so we’re overdue. Our favorite campground only has 11 sites and I think I can get into just two of them. But, it’s primitive and quiet with lots of wildlife all around and a very cold river to cool off in.
Anything on the Washington and Oregon coasts is prime territory for a quick weekend trip, so we’ve got a few spots that are favorites. Heading down 101 and stopping at an overlook is a great way to spend the weekend.
Do you take the highways or the back roads?
It depends on our goals. The coach is great on the freeway and I could drive 70 miles per hour, no problem, though I rarely do...I try to keep to less than 300 miles per day and prefer around 250. It’s vacation and I don’t want to spend eight to 10 hours a day at the wheel.
But our preference is to be on two-lane highways and backroads as much as possible. Two lane roads have the history and the best scenic vistas and that’s what we are interested in seeing.
Any camping rituals?
I love sitting around the campfire with friends and a cocktail just telling lies long into the night. I play guitar and Deb and the dogs just hang out. If the weather is inclement, we watch movies or read. We’re pretty boring actually.
What are some favorite meals that you make onboard?
I do a “camp breakfast” that my mom used to make when we were kids. Just a scramble with potatoes, bacon, and eggs, but I juice it up with peppers and onions. And, we do burgers and steaks on the grill from time to time.
Any favorite restaurants on the road?
We look for local treasures and there are a couple of favorites. Anytime we’re within striking distance of Yakima I make a detour to Miner’s Burgers. I used to live in Yakima and they’re the best in the region. If we’re in Astoria, we’ll usually pop into the Bridgewater Bistro. They do a lot of modern takes on old favorites. In Tubac (AZ) we fell in love with Tubac Jack’s.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened while you were RVing?
I still laugh about a CB conversation that my dad had back on our extended road trip in the early-70s. The CB was pretty big at that point, but the whole country wasn’t in on it yet. As I recall, we were in Wisconsin and they were talking about getting together for a “break” where everyone who was on the radio could meet up for a cup of coffee at a local stop. Anyway, someone popped up with the idea for people to come in costumes matching their CB handle. A few people were chatting and laughing about that when my dad chimed in, “My handle’s The Streak. What should I wear?” Ray Steven’s song had come out about six months earlier and it was still on the charts so everyone had a good laugh about that. The best response was someone who came back, “You got a wristwatch?”
To follow in Captain Lyman Louis’ footsteps, plan your next RV Adventure with us through our website, thousandtrails.com.