“I’m going home / And when I want to go home, I’m going mobile / Well I’m gonna find a home on wheels, see how it feels / Goin’ mobile / Keep me moving…” — from the 1971 song “Going Mobile” by The Who
As the COVID-19 pandemic extends into its ninth month, thoughts of escape from our cramped quarantine “prisons” grow ever stronger in our minds. We all feel locked in staredowns with the four walls and our backyards and our screens, and surely your kids’ eyes can be pried away from their gadgets for just long enough for them to see that they live on a living, breathing planet and not in some video game or TikTok reality. I mean, that is theoretically possible, right?
And for many of us, the thought of flying or boarding Greyhound (or even a fancy Vonlane) or an Amtrak train is a nerve-wracking prospect, leaving only driving as a means of getting around. And if you are driving long distances, that means motels or other shared accommodations.
How certain are you of their sanitization? Could the previous guests have been infected?
Well, there is another option, one where, as The Who once put it, you can find yourself in situation where no matter if you are “Out in the woods, or in the city / It’s all the same to me / When I’m driving free / The world’s my home / When I’m mobile.”
So what you need to do is buy an RV, but before that, you’ll need to adapt your car to be towed by your RV, and to do that, you’ll want anything? to take it to Smitty’s RV and Welding, a Spring Branch institution since 1978.
Now run by Garrett Smith, the third generation of the family to serve as proprietor, Smitty’s does not buy or sell RVs. What they do is sell and install tow bars, motorcycle hitches, and baseplates, install supplemental brake systems and modify suspensions for towed cars — in short, the A to Z for your car towed by RV.
Smith says business is up in the pandemic, helping make up for a dip in their other field: “On our commercial side, we build the water tanks that hold the drinking water and fire sprinkler water for apartment buildings and office buildings,” Smith says. (In fact, they can fabricate pretty much any metal contraption or doohickey or thingamajig you might have in mind — just ask.)
But thanks to the pandemic, demand for their water tanks has fallen off, Smith says. “Before COVID, our business was about half and half between getting the cars ready to be towed and the commercial side. But once COVID hit, the commercial side is pretty much dead. Everybody’s just waiting until later in the year or whenever to build new apartment complexes, just until they know what’s going on a little bit better.”
The downturn has been partially offset by an uptick on the RV side. “Usually it dies down a little bit in October and November, but this year we’ve been getting a lot of calls from people wanting a set-up, so there’s definitely been a rise in people RVing. People just want to get out and get away. They need a vacation, and they can’t get out and do the normal stuff without worrying about COVID. It’s actually been bringing families (together) a little bit — they can go out and see the outdoors together, when normally they are stuck inside with their video games.”
Smith says he’s saving up money to join that number himself. On the other hand, his dad, who handed the business over a year-and-a-half ago, is on the very cusp of going mobile: “He and mom have an RV and they plan to travel full time as soon as mom is retired.”
Smitty’s RV and Welding
1500 Brittmoore Rd. Suite 102A
By John Nova Lomax