Friday, 21 June 2013

Collecting our RV from Apollo / Star RV

There are numerous RV rental companies in the USA, some large and many small. After a lot of research, we chose to rent through an intermediary agency in the UK called Complete North America partly because they resell for about 5% less than the cost of going direct and partly because doing so brings an ABTA / ATOL financial guarantee. It also meant that we would have forfeited only our £300 deposit if we had to cancel rather than a much larger deposit if we had gone direct.

With their advice, we chose a fairly expensive rental package from Star RV (which it turns out are a subset of Apollo) because it guaranteed us a van less than 6 months old (and therefore low mileage unlike the veteran we had in Australia with 140,000 on the clock when we picked it up), we get an early pickup with a “dedicated person to show us how to use the van” and a late return, we do not have to return it clean, it includes full insurance plus many other benefits. Of course this is more expensive that other packages but we were spoilt when we rented towards the top of the market in New Zealand and it made a big difference to our enjoyment of the holiday and so we had little trouble in deciding to do it again. It appears that once the six months is up, this van will reappear on the Apollo website decked out in rather more garish livery since Apollo and Star are part of the same company

We wanted a larger van than that which we have rented in other countries and originally we chose a 22ft van because its size meant that we would not have to make up the bed each night! That might seem to be a bit of a feeble excuse but believe me when I say that it does become a bit of a pain (physically and mentally) rearranging the back of a small campervan and then making up the bed night after night.

When we actually picked up the van, it turned out to be 25ft long because there were no smaller ones available.


This however makes driving even more of a challenge and also it

Van side on

delivers a lower miles per gallon (8 instead of 11).

The van had only delivery mileage on the clock and we were the first customers to drive it. It is very spacious – sleeps five, has a large fridge, a microwave, an oven, a large shower, a generator (useful when we are camping in the wild), a sun awning, an outside shower, an outside radio, a satellite and cable TV and numerous other things including a slide out – part of one side of the van slides

Mac Right

out to make the inside of the van even larger when we are


parked and It even has a comfy armchair with pop out leg support !

above cab 

The bed above the cab which we use for storage

The main bed 

the permanent bed at the end of the van next to the toilet and shower


the table and settees which turns into a single bed

Looking towards cab 

looking down the van, kitchen on the right


the cab.

Mac Left

However after a few days living in it, we realised that compared to other vans we have rented, it was very poorly equipped with everyday things such as having: only one tea towel , no oven gloves although there is an oven and nothing you could put in the oven to cook in; no grill pan although there is a grill, no clothes pegs or washing line, no cable to connect the TV to a Cable TV socket – we were told people normally bring there own (although the quality of American TV means this is not much of a loss) and a number of other things which the average traveller would not expect to have to bring with them or to purchase for use in a hired van. It may sound a bit like whining but when you are living in a van for nearly three months, you need certain things to make your life easy.

Maybe these issues are an Apollo thing because when we hired from them in Australia, we also had some equipment issues however when we hired from Wilderness or Maui we had either no or few problems. These issues together with the fact that despite having paid for a “Priority Service”, (we had to wait about 1½ hours to be shown our van and how to use it - so long in fact that by the time we left had left the dealers and done our shopping, we hit heavy rush hour traffic which was something we were trying to avoid) makes it difficult to recommend Apollo USA to other would-be campers.

So in summary – the van is very good (although a bit large) but in our opinion, Apollo are not.

We needed to give our van a name rather than refer to it as “The Van” – for reasons which will be obvious to older readers if they examine the photograph below,

Van Mac 

it was very quickly (at Pat’s suggestion) christened “Mac”.

More pictures of the van will appear in this section of the blog when I have taken them.

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