John Schneider’s RV an ‘Observation Deck’ on Life
April 5, 2011
Filed under Lifestyle
When climbing into your RV to hit the road, it’s guaranteed that you won’t find an inspector waiting to paw through your belongings and tell you your shampoo bottle is too large. That’s one of the many benefits of RVing for John Schneider. The freedom to go where he wants when he wants without intrusion or hassle is a strong lure for the 51-year-old actor-singer-producer best known for his role as Bo Duke in the 1980s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Schneider’s passion for RVing began early. At the age of 7, he and his family — father, stepmother and two brothers — would travel with their Airstream trailer from their home in Mount Kisco, N.Y., to Bradenton, Fla., to visit his grandparents. “My first memory of traveling around was in that Airstream, falling out of the bunk, back in the days when you could drive down the road with passengers in the trailer,” Schneider told MotorHome in an interview at his Agoura Hills, Calif., home.
The family graduated from that Airstream to a GMC motorhome his father affectionately named “Olive” (“it had a green stripe but I have a feeling there might have been martinis involved,” Schneider said with a smile). Schneider was 9 years old then and to him, Olive seemed gigantic at 28 feet long. He fondly recalls family skiing trips to Vermont as his father would “slip and slide the motorhome” to get there.
Travel in the coach was fun for the young boys. “The bunks would swing down on those chains and we could lay in the back,” he said. In that model, the driver could see out the back from the cockpit. Schneider remembers playing cards in the cabin with his brothers, but when Dad needed to see the traffic behind him, the boys were told to duck.
Even at such a young age, Schneider appreciated travel by motorhome. “I remember really being impressed with the fact that you could have everything with you the whole time,” he said. “With a motorhome, your trip really starts when you get into it in the driveway. There’s no airport security and gates and waiting and all that. Having an airport on either side of a vacation destroys the vacation. I can’t stand it. And I got that impression from a very early age.”
Schneider’s first motorhome as an adult was a 34-foot, gas-powered, “problematic” Vogue he traveled and lived in when filming a movie in Texas in the early 1980s, “Eddie Macon’s Run” co-starring Kirk Douglas. Later, he owned a Lance cabover camper and a Coachmen fifth-wheel.
In 2003, the actor purchased his current motorhome, a 40-foot Alfa See Ya! Class A diesel-pusher that he has traveled in on vacations to such places as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley with his wife, Elly, and their three children or used as accommodations when on location doing movies, TV shows, plays and concerts. Perched on the dash of the See Ya! is a lone reminder of his “Dukes” days: a set of Bo and Luke Duke figurines, which he said serve as his “Patron Saints of RV Travel.”
Schneider admitted he’s no fan of hotels. “I like having my things in one spot,” he said. He also enjoys the freedom of travel that a motorhome affords him as well as the ability to take in the surroundings.
“Because of the nature of those huge front windows in an RV, it seems like you’re on an observation deck,” he said. “And you really get to see the country from an RV. … Something about just deciding you’re going to take the next exit, wherever it is — that’s very appealing to me,” he added.
“I’m one of those people who likes to just go. Occasionally when you’ve had enough, you just want to leave. You want to pack your family into the RV and go. You don’t want to pack them into a car and go to an airport. It’s great to know that the motorhome is there for that purpose.”
Air travel is frustrating for Schneider. “The surprise when you travel by plane is when it works — when you get your bags. … Nobody is going to look through my bags on the way into my motorhome and tell me I’ve got too much shampoo. How dare they?”
His Alfa is no General Lee, the bright orange Dodge Charger the actor drove in the “Dukes” series, but he said “it’s amazingly easy” to drive something as big as his motorhome. Schneider does do all the driving and the emptying, pretty much everything except the maintenance, which he leaves to the experts. “I like pulling up to a campground, leveling the RV, plugging it in and doing all that stuff,” however he admitted he’s never watched television in it.
“I’d rather sit and read or go and wander around the campground,” he said, sometimes visiting with others at the clubhouse.
It’s that community feel that attracts Schneider to RVing. While he’s refueling the Alfa at a gas station, he’ll chat with customers. Or when at an RV park, he and the other campers “talk motorhomes. We talk hibachi grills and dryer vents,” he said, as well as compare the pluses and minuses of their motorhome models. “You communicate with people more. I never talk to anybody in an airport. Ever.”
“When you’re RVing, it’s something you’re in charge of,” Schneider continued. “When you’re in an airport, you’re just another cow in the trailer. And I really hate that. If I didn’t have to be somewhere across the country tomorrow, I would never fly again.”
But his schedule won’t allow that. Upcoming work included performing a couple of winter concerts with fellow “Dukes” co-star Tom Wopat on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, followed by a trip to Birmingham, Ala., then to Vancouver, Canada, for filming of the CW Network TV show “Smallville,” in which he portrays Clark Kent’s father.
Schneider has some advice for those wanting to make the most of their RVing adventures. When traveling, “don’t plow through it like a truck driver.” Enjoy the journey, stop along the way and “smell the roses,” he advised. He recommends traveling no more than 300 miles a day and staying at least two days at each destination. And he suggests that families don’t get a motorhome that’s too big. “It’s about taking a trip together,” he said. “So don’t get a vehicle that breeds separate travel,” explaining that some coaches are so large that the kids end up doing their own thing in one part of the motorhome while the wife will do something else. “It’s not about little separate worlds. It’s about sharing and traveling together.” Schneider admitted that now that his children are older and no longer go RVing with him and his wife, he may downsize to a 28-footer, the size he thought was so huge during his childhood trips.
What would be a dream outing for Schneider? “I’d love to stick my golf clubs in the motorhome and go to 15 to 20 different golf courses in 20 or 30 days,” he said. “I think that would be just grand.” He can envision heading to Palm Springs first, playing a course, sleeping, playing another course, driving to Kingman, Ariz., finding one there, then heading to Flagstaff or Scottsdale, Ariz., for yet another round. Or perhaps he would drive to Wyoming or Montana, where he has never played golf.
But that excursion will have to wait. Up next for his See Ya! is playing a different role: that of advertising billboard. Opening later this year is “Doonby,” in which Schneider portrays Sam Doonby, a mysterious drifter whose presence makes an impact in a small Texas town. The studio plans to rent his Alfa from him, wrap it in a billboard and drive it throughout the U.S. to spur interest in the film.
“The Doonbymobile will be wandering all over the country starting in February,” Schneider said. Just look for the See Ya! with those crazy Duke cousins, the “Patron Saints of RV Travel,” keeping watch from the dashboard.