The Rent is Too Damn High: The 2015 PGH RV Show

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) A travel trailer decked out in Pittsburgh garb.

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) A travel trailer decked out in Pittsburgh garb.

By: Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

It’s no secret that the costs of secondary education continue to rise. Like it or not, the life of a college student is often one marked by penny-pinching frugality. It is with this thrifty perspective that I entered the 2015 Pittsburgh RV Show.

See, I had an idea. One of the unavoidable expenses of low-income collegiate living is just that—living. More specifically, housing. The vast majority of Duquesne students live in either dorm rooms or apartments. The normal thing to do, so to speak.

That’s all well and good, but what if there was a better way? What if—stay with me here—college students instead chose the path of the Recreational Vehicle? Uninhibited mobility. A reasonable amount of space. Flexible, in a word. Not unlike college students.

I decided to go on a fact-finding expedition, to see if I had found the elusive solution to the expense of college. What I wanted to know first, however, is what other, non-students saw in the RV lifestyle.

That’s where Ed Coleman and Greg Giancola of Clem’s RV and Trailer Sales come in. For the two of them, it is the ability to escape normal life that offers the most appeal.

“It’s getting away and enjoying, you know, with the family,” Coleman said. “Just getting away from everyday life and hardship, and just relaxing.”

Okay, they may not be doing it to save money, but that doesn’t mean students can’t. When I brought up my (ingenious) idea, they were not as enthusiastic as I had hoped. Coleman pointed out that RVs take up a considerable amount of space, and require hookups for things like sewage and electricity. Giancola claimed that interior volume would be an issue as well.

“There’s not that much room,” he pointed out, “there’s nowhere to pile your dirty clothes.”

I’m not sure Giancola has been in your average dorm room lately, as they aren’t exactly bursting with space.

I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t looking for a mobile tent—I wanted a mobile house, amenities and all. I’m economical, not savage. With that in mind, the first model I checked out was a Tiffin Motorhomes Allegro Bus. With a king size bed, full kitchen, two bathrooms and laundry facilities, it was 44 feet of opulence. Goodbye dorms, I have better places to be.

Or so I thought.

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) The interior of an RV on display at the show.

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) The interior of an RV on display at the show.

As you may have guessed, such luxury doesn’t exactly come cheap. This particular example was priced at a cool $416,998. I don’t think my student loans can cover that. No worries, I was sure there were more affordable choices around.

There were in fact some cheaper options. That said, they weren’t quite what I was hoping for. I found a Travel Lite Express E16TH trailer for a mere $11,495. Split over four years, that’s not half bad.

Unfortunately, the accommodations were … sparse. It was a 17-by-7-by-6-foot box, meaning that there were no king size beds, full kitchens or laundry facilities. A hot plate, small sink and little closet of a bathroom was about it. Also, being a trailer means it would require the expense of a tow vehicle.

It was, to say the least, discouraging. Apparently I was not the genius I had presumed. Ping Pirrung and Dennis McCann of Butler, Pa. were at the show to look at a potential step up in RV size, and gave me some encouragement, despite my apparent delusions of grandeur.

Pirrung pointed out that it could work, there would just be some logistics to sort out.

“If you had universities that are joined together you could travel to a different university to take that class, and travel to another university to take that class. I don’t think it’s out of the question,” she said.

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) A hefty pricetag on the side of an RV, a common sight around the floors of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

(Seth Culp-Ressler/Features Editor) A hefty pricetag on the side of an RV, a common sight around the floors of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Obviously, as she explained, proper space and facilities would be needed to make the plan feasible. A difficult idea for sure, but not a completely useless one.

I appreciated the pep talk, but my spirits had already been sufficiently deflated. After all, here at Duquesne the one thing we have none of is extra space. So as it stands my hopes of revolutionizing university living are extinguished. RVs are just too expensive and logistically difficult to be reasonable as rolling dorms.

Maybe one day, though, we’ll have herds of student-run RVs roaming the country, spreading knowledge to all corners of the land. If that ever comes to fruition, you can be sure I’ll be sitting my grandkids down, regaling them of that one day in the bygone year of 2015 when I had a simply wonderful idea…

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