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In Travels With Charley, Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck attached a custom-made cab complete with bed and hot plate to his pick-up truck and went cross-country and back from his Sag Harbor home in an attempt to "get to know" the heartbeat and pulse of America. Having feared he lost touch with the land and the people, Steinbeck chronicles conversations, mishaps, landscapes and the kindness and madness of a changing country. He was his own captain, the land was his guide. Charley, his companion, was his faithful dog. Yes, cruising around the world in a great big motor home is akin to having a rolling yacht.

Nowadays, touring companies lead groups of RVers around the globe in great big caravans. From Central America to Oregon to European vacations, RV touring puts drivers and countries on intimate terms, showing people roadside stops and inland jewels acquainting culture, societies, villagers, small towns with adventure -- all in the comfort of your own rolling home. Or, your rented rolling home. Here are some resources for finding your own RV to rent and tour groups providing long and short driving adventures.

Adventure Caravans (tel. 800/872-7897; www.adventurecaravans.com) leads RV tours all over the world, literally. The tour company, which prides itself on having professional and seasoned group leaders and impressive, luxurious, lead vehicles equipped with state of the art communication facilities, leads tours in China, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and throughout the United States including Alaska, Central America, and Mexico. These tours range in length from two week short trips to six or seven week lengthy trips that really give you the feel of the long road. The longer tours leave once or twice annually based on weather and optimal road conditions. Several of the more popular tours already have 2007 departure dates. A 32-day Copper Canyon, Mazatlan, Mexican west coast beach tour beginning and ending in Nogales, Mexico leaves next February 7, 2007, giving you plenty of time to prepare for the trip. The cost of the 32-day adventure starts at $3,795 for two people in one RV with $1,395 for additional people in your vehicle. This tour stops along the Mexican Riviera focusing on beach culture and the sheer, lush, verdant beauty of the Mexican countryside. The price includes RV camping fees, tips at all trip functions, an official Adventure Caravan jacket, the services of the Wagon Master and Tailgunner teams who lead the tour and bring up the rear of the group, travel logs, rig decals, side excursions, briefings at all sightseeing spots and meeting locations, organized social hours, independent time for self-exploration, assistance with border crossing and vehicle problems, tourist visas, and a Mexican information packet. You can save $100 dollars if you register 8 months in advance.

For a limited time offer, Adventure Caravan has a special American trip called the "Great River Road and Fall Colors Special" that traverses the full-length of the mighty Mississippi River from Bemidji, Minnesota to Venice, Mississippi. The two-person price of the tour is approximately $3,995. The tour comes with the same standard features as the Mexico tour cited above and additional perks such as boat cruises and traveling Broadway shoes. This tour has annual departures of September 26, 2006, September 25, 2007 and September 23, 2008. Check out the detailed itinerary on this tour that stops in Davenport, Iowa, Hannibal, Missouri, St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg, Mississippi and New Orleans. If you sign up for this tour before May 31, 2006, you can get $200 dollars off the total price of this American experience.

Tracks to Adventure (tel. 800/351-6053; www.trackstoadventure.com/index.asp) is another large outfit catering to long and short RV tours. A 23-day tour of the Pacific Northwest in the United States leaving on August 25, 2006 covering Oregon, Washington and the British Columbian coast costs approximately $5,050 for two people. These trips are all-inclusive and give discounts of up to $300 for early bird booking or $100 if you book five months before the tour leaves. Totaling up to 1,756 driving miles and covering two national parks, Ashland, one Indian reservation, the High Plains Desert, the Olympic Mountain ranges Seattle, and Vancouver Island, the tour includes thirty-two sightseeing excursions, ten meals, and all services associated with group RVing including the guides and professional roadies. See the detailed itinerary to get a feel for the sheer amount of activities and locations visited.

Tracks to Adventure happens to be the only tour group currently operating an RV tour in Russia. For you splurgers out there looking for the adventure of a lifetime, the Russian tour lasts 6 weeks, leaving on August 14, 2006. Starting in Frankfurt, Germany and going through Poland, Russia, Latvia, Belarus, and some of the Czech Republic on the return trip, the trip costs $18,500 per two travelers. Visiting rural villages and cosmopolitan cities such as St. Petersburg and Krakow, this incredible tour goes through eight former Soviet Bloc countries. If you're wondering how you're going to get your RV over there, stop worrying. Tracks to Adventure takes care of renting you vehicles in Russia and all other global tour areas. The price of the RV is included in the price of the trip. With 31 years of RV Caravan planning, Tracks covers all RV park details. Their guides are RV enthusiasts turned professional wagon masters with tremendous road and travel experience. As with most RV tours, pets are welcome.

If any of these RV tours interest you but you don't own an RV, the largest RV rental company in America is Cruise America (tel. 800/327-7799; www.cruiseamerica.com). Renting a total of four different vehicles that carry four to seven people comfortably, Cruise America has rental locations all over the country. Costs vary based on vehicle, time of rental and drop-off locations. Rates are discounted during winter months and go up during the high-season of July and August. Use the sites easy rental quote engine to get a sample price. Cruise America can also help with purchasing an RV. Then again, there's always eBay (www.eBay.com). Plenty of RVs for sale there.

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