Weekending in the Northeast with the Winnebago Solis
Weekending in the Northeast with the Winnebago Solis
How one family is enjoying van life and finding creative bonus perks!
By: Kristen A. Schmitt
Living in rural New York is definitely full of perks – wide open spaces, local farm-fresh food, plus, plenty of hiking, hunting, and fishing opportunities. But it also has some unique disadvantages, like being two hours away from the nearest Target or other regular shopping, that suburban/urban dwellers may never experience.
Pre-COVID errand running was already an all-day affair, but in a pandemic world where there’s suddenly no public bathrooms – and limited restaurants – hitting the road for the day just got a little trickier. So, we came up with our own solution that redefines BYOB (“bring your own bathroom”) with the added advantage of plenty of far-flung continental U.S. trips in our future: the Winnebago Solis.
Testing Out the Solis
We picked the vehicle up in June after several days of debating whether it was exactly what we were after: a family friendly RV small enough for daily driving, but big enough for our family of three. While we’ve had campers in the past (a Chevy Roadtrek, Toyota Sunrader, Nissan Bandit, and Provan Tiger), this was our first Winnebago – and our first brand-new RV purchase, which made driving home in it that much more satisfying and exciting.
Our maiden voyage was a road trip to visit family in Michigan. With the Canadian border temporarily closed, our typical ten-hour drive (from New York to Michigan) turned into a two-day, 15-hour trip one way.
The trip was a great way for us to feel out the Solis and understand how it would work for us since we hit the road within days of bringing it home. We ended up having to iron out a few kinks (like a leaking water hose) and had to figure out what we really wanted to have in the Solis food-wise (hint: good coffee and plenty of easy-to-reach snacks).
Ironically, we picked our Michigan visit during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. As you may know, the Solis 59P doesn’t have air conditioning – a feature we typically wouldn’t even want, considering how far north we live anyway. Fortunately, the addition of a few USB-powered fans and the Fan-Tastic Roof Vent in the ceiling kept the vehicle breezy and cool when we camped along the way.
One of the best things we discovered about the Solis is that, while incredibly compact, it also expands to three levels: the pop-up top is our daughter’s ‘bedroom’ and the space beneath our bed serves as our dog’s ‘bedroom’ with plenty of room in between.
Jason, Kristen, Bennett, and Mary Schmitt on their first Solis adventure.
Bonus Uses for the Solis
It turns out that we’re actually using this vehicle far more than we expected. Yes, it’s great for road trips, but it’s also become our go-to weekend vehicle to:
1. Run errands and haul bigger buys.
We sold our truck when we sold our farm. We didn’t need to haul chicken feed and other farm essentials anymore. However, whenever we wanted to pick up something that wouldn’t fit in the trunks of our cars, we would question that decision (sometimes rather loudly). When we decided to purchase the Solis, we initially did it so we could travel during the pandemic without need of a rest stop bathroom, restaurant, or hotel room. Little did we realize the added benefit of being able to also haul stuff – finally! – that we’d previously have to forgo or figure out an inconvenient workaround.
So far, we’ve used the extra space to haul arborvitaes for landscaping projects, an oversized outdoor birdhouse for our backyard, and countless 5’x 5’ canvasses to fuel my husband’s painting pastime. It was an added bonus we didn’t even realize we had until the Solis was parked in our driveway.
2. Travel to our daughter’s cross country meets several towns over.
Our 12-year-old daughter is fortunate enough to be able to participate in cross country this year thanks to the safety protocols her school has in place. While daily practices are at her school, early morning meets have taken us to a handful of other towns with a couple nearly two hours away. That’s a long drive regardless, but add to that no bathroom and plenty of coffee to stay awake … well, I already mentioned our new definition of BYOB. It certainly comes in handy after standing on frigid football fields watching middle schoolers race. We pack the fridge with yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and some sandwiches or salads for after the meet, making it a cozy way to root her on (instead of an uncomfortable one).
3. Weekend visits to New York wine country.
Thanks to being so self-contained, we’re able to explore our home state a bit easier despite current travel restrictions. (Food, water, bathroom, shelter? Check! Check! Check! Check!). We’re basically in a self-contained bubble, which is fine by us. While one weekend excursion was more of an errand (we were picking up our new kitten!), other jaunts have led us to Plattsburgh, Syracuse, and the winding vineyards of Seneca Falls. Northern New York wine country is beautiful, tasty, and definitely a place we will return once warm weather reappears this spring and summer. On one of our trips, we even brought ice cream in our Solis freezer for a sweet treat at the end of the day.
We also have a bonus trip on the horizon: In December, we’re heading south where we rented a house in Florida to escape North Country winter and will be using the Solis as our daily driver. Spoiler: we can’t wait!