On The Road Again: One Woman’s Journey To Discover The Story Of Her Grandparents’ RV Adventures

Every family has its history, its stories. Maybe we hear them when we are children, and distracted by other things, don’t listen. But sometimes, when we are older and more interested, they may reveal a treasure of information.

For Baltimore-born Carla Brown, a photographer, printmaker, and filmmaker who uses her skills to examine themes of gender, race, and family, the discovery of an amazing family story happened when she was in her thirties. Although she had always been close to her grandparents, Benjamin and Frances Graham, spending summers with them in their travel trailer at Jellystone Park in West Virginia, she was too young then to understand the importance of their personal story.

For over 35 years, starting in 1965, when Benjamin was 38 and Frances was 40, the Grahams visited the 48 contiguous states in their travel trailer at a time when few African Americans took the risk of cross-country travel. And during each of those trips, which covered more than 94,219 miles, Grandfather Benjamin kept scrupulous logs.

“As a child, I was vaguely aware of their trips and of some travel logs my grandfather had kept,” says Brown, now 43. “It stayed somewhere in the back of my mind. But years later, for some reason, I thought, ‘Let me get my hands on those logs, let me take a look at them.’ And once I did, I was completely blown away by the details. There are three logs, covering thousands of miles. It covers where they went, what they saw, what they spent, and even what they ate. If they bought two soda pops, they listed it.”

The logs inspired Brown to plan a documentary called “Everyone but Two,” a project supported the past three years by Go RVing. Working with industry partners, Go RVing provided Brown with RVs for portions of her travel, as well as technical and logistical advice. Go RVing is continuing to support the project through the editing process and is looking forward to a release date in 2021.

In addition to retracing her grandparents’ travels, Brown was able to visit, as a surrogate for Benjamin and Frances Graham, the two states the Graham’s could not get to — Hawaii and Alaska — thus completing the family’s journey to all 50 states.

It was after a summer trip to New York City in 1965 that Benjamin first decided he would save up his 30-days of leave every year to see the country. Summer travel was possible for the Grahams because Frances was a teacher and had summers off. Benjamin was a postal worker and could use his vacation time when they could pack up and hit the road.

“This was how they traveled until they retired in 1981 when Benjamin was 54 and Frances was 56,” says Brown. “Once they retired, the length of time they traveled was extended.”

There was little advance planning in the beginning.

“They were totally winging it,” says Brown. “They just happened to find a trailer to buy, and so they just got in the trailer, opened a map, and picked a place that sounded interesting. At first they were just interested in the travel, and over the first few years they centered their trips on visiting relatives. But as time went on, they got more comfortable, and set some interesting goals. One was to drive on every interstate!”

The 1960s were a time of high racial tension in the U.S., and traveling could be risky, complicated, and uncomfortable for African Americans. During their travels, Brown’s grandparents were able to avoid most potential racism and hostility because their RV allowed them travel on their own terms. They didn’t need to stay in hotels or go to restaurants, which helped insulate them from the discrimination and mistreatment that was common. Their travel trailer was what allowed her grandparents to travel across the country and go places that other African Americans did not feel comfortable going at that time.

“African Americans weren’t on the road as much then,” says Brown. “There was once a publication called the Negro Motorist Green Book, created by Victor H. Green, an African American postal worker from Harlem. It was published from 1936 to 1967, listing the cities, places of entertainment, lodgings, and other businesses welcoming to African Americans.”

“The Green Book was not the only guide though,” says Brown. “My grandfather, started his own log in 1965. He wanted to document his family’s travels through the 48 contiguous states. Although both he and my grandmother were very aware of the racism in the US at that time, they took no apparent notice of what was simmering in the United States the week they decided to leave. The day they left, August 10, 1965, was during the week that the Voting Rights Act was signed and the Watts riots erupted.”

Along thousands of miles, the Grahams took hundreds of photographs of one another, often in front of a state sign to document just where they were at the time.

“If they were making those trips today,” Brown says, “they would be posting to Instagram, with thousands of followers!”

As she continues work on her film, Brown says it’s fulfilling several important personal goals.

“One is to celebrate my grandparents’ love of adventure. My grandmother has passed away, but my grandfather is 93, as sharp as can be,” Brown says. “I wanted him to be a part of this film. I have already interviewed him and plan to conduct an additional sit-down with him sometime this year as I continue to shape the film.  Another reason is that I want people to know that there is so much to see across the country. I’m supportive of everyone who wants to travel in an RV and explore. Remember, if you don’t see it, you don’t know for sure it exists.”

Go RVing works with a diverse group of influencers to reach new audiences and tell their stories and how the RVing lifestyle has shaped their lives, families, and future generations. The Go RVing team continues to work with Brown in the development of the film and hopes to promote the film upon its release.

For more information about Carla Brown and her film, visit EveryoneButTwo.com.

Families Save Money When Owning, Using RVs Compared To Other Types Of Vacations

new study conducted by CBRE Hotels Advisory Group has found that RV vacations cost much less than other types of vacation travel, even when factoring in fuel prices and the cost of RV ownership. According to the study, commissioned by Go RVing and the RV Industry Association, there are cost savings of 21-64% for a four-person travel party, while a two-person travel party saves 8-53%, depending on factors such as the type of RV and type of vacation.

“The study reaffirms that RVs are a great way to save on family travel, and it’s equally important to remember that RV ownership provides benefits that go well beyond affordability,” said RV Industry Association president Frank Hugelmeyer. “To take an RV trip is to experience togetherness with family and friends, along with the flexibility to travel whenever and wherever you want.”

The CBRE study analyzes vacation costs using two sets of hypothetical travel groups: a four-person travel party of two adults and two children, and a two-person travel party of two adults. CBRE analyzed major costs these hypothetical travelers incur traveling to nine popular vacation destinations. For each destination, researchers analyzed vacations lasting 3, 7 and 14 days.

The study compared different methods of travel, including a folding camping trailer; a lightweight travel trailer; a compact motorhome; a type C motorhome; a type A motorhome; traveling in a personal car, staying at hotels/motels, and eating meals in a restaurant; traveling by airline, renting a car at the destination, staying at hotels/motels, and eating meals in restaurants; and traveling in a personal car or airline (as appropriate), staying at a rental house/condominium, and eating the majority of meals in the rental unit. The type A motorhome, typically the largest and most luxurious RV, was compared to travel options such as flying first class, renting a premium car, staying in upscale hotels/resorts, and eating meals in restaurants.

RV vacations show a clear family budget benefit over other forms of travel, regardless of the RV type. According to the CBRE analysis, a four-person travel party can expect to save (by unit type):

  • Folding camping trailer: 50-64%
  • Lightweight travel trailer: 31-50%
  • Compact motorhome: 31-50%
  • Type C motorhome: 21-43%
  • Type A motorhome – 41%

A two-person travel party saved, according to the CBRE analysis:

  • Folding camping trailer: 43-53%
  • Lightweight travel trailer: 20-34%
  • Compact motorhome: 20-34%
  • Type C motorhome: 8-24%
  • Type A motorhome – 19%

The study included analysis of how fluctuations in fuel prices could affect the economic advantages of RV travel. Researchers found that for a four-person travel party it would take a rise in fuel prices to nearly $13 per gallon for a Type C motorhome vacation to more expensive than the least expensive non-RV vacation. None of the fuel increase scenarios for a four-person travel party resulted in other RV vacation types being more expensive than the least expensive non-RV vacation.

For a two-person travel party, fuel prices would still need to rise significantly (from $5.50 to more than $13 per gallon) from current levels for RVing to lose its economic advantage.

“While fuel costs are a component of the overall vacation cost, they aren’t significant enough to materially affect the outcome of our analysis,” said Kannan Sankaran, managing director of CBRE’s Advisory Services, and lead researcher.

Research by Go RVing and the RV Industry Association shows that when fuel prices are higher, RVers save on fuel costs by driving fewer miles, taking trips closer to home, and staying longer in one destination.

CBRE Hotels Advisory was commissioned by Go RVing to provide an objective comparison between the cost of a summer vacation using recreation vehicles (RVs) and the cost of other types of vacations during that same timeframe. CBRE factored in an estimated cost of ownership of the applicable RV equipment that was based upon published data regarding average ownership periods, residual values, annual days of utilization, insurance, and other costs of ownership, as well as any applicable tax benefits.