Personal solution to traffic jams: Motorhome and Driver

My friends in Cambridge and Berkeley like to complain that the U.S. is a rich man’s world.  A trip out on the highway reveals that in fact it is not.  If the U.S. were a rich man’s world, the rabble would be paid to ride public transit instead of clogging the highways and getting in the way of rich folks’ monster SUVs.  Perhaps every Mercedes would come with an automatic device to fling subway tokens out the sides of the car.  In a rich man’s world, as in London, an electronic toll of $20 would be collected from every driver wishing to enter an already-crowded highway or section of a city.

A lot of rich pilots whom I know don’t own especially fancy cars.  They can’t be bothered to trade in their old Honda Accord for a new $100,000 BMW or Mercedes because the fancy new car won’t get them anywhere any faster than the existing car.  Plenty of rich folks in California, however, do spend more than $100,000 on a car.  And during this past week they get onto the highways blocked off by civil unrest and demonstrations against restrictions on illegal immigration.

What would be an intelligent way to spend serious $$ on ground transportation?  How about a $120,000 diesel-powered 40′ motorhome?  It wouldn’t be as much fun to drive as a BMW M5 and it would certainly be difficult to park in the city.  You solve both problems by hiring an illegal immigrant to act as your driver.  You send him to schoolbus driver school for a few days and let him sleep on the fold-out dinette in the RV at night. Now when you go to the beach, it will still take the same two hours at 5 mph on the clogged freeways that it always took, but you won’t care because you’ll be at home.  You can read in an easy chair.  You can do some writing at the dinette table or refer to your files.  You can make phone calls and take notes.  You can watch TV.  With a mobile phone data connection, you can use the Internet.  You can take a nap in the bedroom in the back.  If you get hungry, you can fix yourself a grilled cheese sandwich in the kitchen.  You’re at home in your second house, so waiting for friends or traffic jams isn’t anywhere near as annoying as it would be if you were in a car.

How about the environmental impact of getting around in 20,000 lb. buses instead of an SUV or a big German sedan?  As it happens, the engineering of SUVs and big German sedans is so spectacularly inefficient that the gas mileage is about the same.  The monster diesel-powered SUVs get as much as 9 miles to the gallon.

New advertising campaign for Winnebago:  “RVs:  They’re not just for camping and traveling anymore” or “Motorhomes for commuting”.

12 thoughts on “Personal solution to traffic jams: Motorhome and Driver

  1. Performance is probably less important if the individual doing the vehicle purchase doesn’t plan on driving it themselves.

    Were I being driven around rather than driving myself, I wouldn’t particularly care how fast the vehicle goes from 0 to 60.

  2. I live in the worst traffic jam city in America-Los Angeles, and there are plenty of my friends who hire illegal immigrants with embarssingly low wages to drive them around the town. Before you shout “capitalist pigs and shameless bastards!”, I considered doing the same thing. I work 65-70 hours a week and somehow sitting in a big parking lot we called 210 freeway for hours each day in LA is not very fun for me. As Dr Greenspun has realized, perhaps there is a lot one can do in the car that can be productive and enjoyable while your driver is suffering from the endless stop-and-gos so why not let the poor immigrant earn some money? I do not condone most of the Californians (many of my co-workers included) the sin of driving 1 ton SUVs just so that they can show off to their friends and family members as a status symbol. Never mind the 9-mile per gallon they are getting when they sit in traffic (a very frequent event at all hours and all freeways-my pesonal experience), what about all that gas exhaust from the tail end of the monsters? I am very worry about the unbelievable air quality here in LA(you don’t really want to see LA basin from an airplane-ugly indeed) and possible gobal warming (subject to lots of scientific debates and political discussions.) Yes, some of my friends spend greater than 80,000 dollars on their cars, apparently for their driving pleasure and “well-made German engineering performance”, they can not drive any faster than my 4-year-old 135 horsepower Volvo. As a matter of fact, one of my co-worker died in a 80,000 dollar-German “performance car” after coming back to LA from gambling in Las Vegas due to head-on crash. It is hard to enjoy the “ultimate driving machine” when you are dead. We should be more mindful of the long-term consequences of unlimited air pollution from 8-mile-per-gallon SUVs or “high performance sports cars” and be careful of the real possible decline of life of quality for all of us who live here.

  3. Don’t you think it’s somewhat amusing that you have to get either a house on wheels or a high-powered aircraft to get worse gas mileage than an SUV? And not just any aircraft, a helicopter???

  4. I think there is something to be said for taking a slightly more Godfather-like “it’s just business” approach to gas mileage, and the associated global warming.

    Buy a German SUV, get 20 mpg, over 100K miles that is 5000 gallons, or $15K over your usage of the car. Buy a normal car and get 25mpg, 4000 gallons, $12K. So $3K difference, or about 7% of a $40K car. For some people (e.g. skiers) having no chain requirements makes that a no-brainer option.

    Airplanes, of course, are usually a lot worse. A twin, e.g. a Baron, takes more than half a ton of fuel. Which you can use to fly down to Nantucket and pick up a pound or two of fresh scallops. Whoopee.

    In any event, if you want to fix global warming, don’t spend hours trying to pick the most eco-friendly car. Buy a Hummer and use your saved time to drive around getting a carbon tax (uniform, across the board) implemented, along with lots more of the London style congestion charges ($20 a day will enlighten many people with the virtues of public transport. Even rich people.)

    Don’t try to fix 0.000001% of the problem. Get a carbon tax and address the whole 100% right away.

  5. Acutally, other Michael, If you want to get really really bad mileage, what you want is a boat. You also get the home-like comforts of an RV. There was an entire class of boats created in the 30’s (I think called an express or express cruiser) Rich guys that worked in New York City, but lived the giant houses along Long Island Sound and up the Hudson had boats built that were basically proto-PT boats, with giant modified aircraft engines. They’d roar back and forth between home and work at ridiculous speeds.
    I think it’s funny that there seems to be a really strong constituency for making it a rich man’s world around here. I mean: you want to have to pay to drive on the street? You gotta be kidding. In California, we’re indignant when we have to pay for parking!
    I think all this congestion-fighting, carbon taxing, suburb hating nonsense is a way for elite or rich people to get middle class people to live like poor people so that they’ll have the roads and countryside to themselves. (Since they’re too chicken to take the aviation risks that the super-rich take)

  6. It already is a rich man’s world. But congestion charges are not about the rich. If you have a road system, which is just another taxpayer supported transport system, and it becomes clogged twice a day, it ceases to work. Any transport administrator with a daily clogging road system that doesn’t institute a congestion charge is guilty of managerial incompetence and political cowardice. Put in a congestion charge, and dial it high enough, whether that is $1 or $5 or $20, until the roads start working again. That lets poor people get to the hospital 24×7 just as well as rich people.

  7. The real cause for congestion in much of the U.S. is design. It’s satire, but anyone that’s actually looked into it will see that it really cuts to the heart of the matter: “Urban Planner Stuck in Traffic Jam of Own Design” Reason magazine ( has done some interesting articles about how “New Urbanism” has attempted to force people (for various reasons) to live in high-density, mixed-use, transit-friendly communities that are more prone to crime and few people actually prefer.

  8. I would happily enter into a traffic jam on the way to work in an M5 if only because it is more comfortable to be in than my office at work. I don’t have a V10 M5 but do have a lowly 530i, which performs very much like an M5 at standstill.

  9. Buying an stretch SUV limousine would be a great option for the rich people mentioned above. They could burn even more gas, write it off as a business expense, deduct it from their taxes, and get even richer while sitting in their limo hottub watching the plasma screen or enjoying the show at the built-in stripper pole. They likely would refuse the option for the automated device that flings subway tokens as they want to keep the congestion on the roads so that more people have to watch them flaunt their wealth. Eat your heart out poor people in your little ugly hybrids…

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