Today's recreational vehicles are just absurdly luxurious. From greatrooms that expand outward with the touch of a button and a pneumatic whisper to gas grills that fold down from the side of the cab, modern RVs are being built with so many amenities that they're giving cruise ships a run for their money.
Now that we have satellite dishes and rearview videocameras (for extra safety in reverse gear, of course) growing from our RVs, the innovations of, say, 50 years ago look awfully quaint. American Wanderlust: Taking to the Road in the 20th Century, a traveling exhibit created by Vermont's Shelburne Museum, stirs up memories at the Missouri History Museum beginning this week.
Visitors can ogle (and, in a few cases, go inside) more than a dozen full-size vintage RVs, including vehicles representing each decade from 1910-60. They can also check out camping, vacation and road-trip memorabilia such as travel board games, portable stoves, folding tables, road maps, luggage and picnic kits from years past. There are travel souvenirs (snow globes and Wall Drug bumper stickers, anyone?) and interactive and audiovisual activities.
Kids will dig the pedal cars, a floor game involving toy vehicles and other fun stuff.
Outside the museum, what is perhaps the weirdest RV of them all greets all comers: a restored, wildly painted psychedelic hippie bus. This relic of the days of wine and roach clips serves to remind us all of the importance of secret compartments and good ventilation inside a recreational vehicle.
American Wanderlust may make you want to travel for the sake of seeing Mount Rushmore or the world's largest ball of twine or whatever -- or just because, as Flannery O'Connor wrote in Wise Blood, "where you're going ain't no good unless you can get away from it."