One of the things I enjoy the most about worldbuilding my science fiction setting, which is also an alternate history diverging from our timeline around 1900, is considering transportation technology in such a wealthier and more advanced world. It has recently struck me that it’s entirely possible, even likely, that motorhomes are much thicker on the ground in my setting than in real life.
Consider that people are generally investors in my setting, without the need for a job, and those investments provide high incomes, to the tune of $5 million per year. If you wanted to simultaneously flit around nice hotels and rental properties, own a (by our standards) supercar, and own a full-grade motorhome you could probably cash-flow all of it on a median wealth level! That alone takes away some of the barriers to motorhome ownership in our time.
Infrastructure for Road Warriors
Additional incentives are provided by the high grade of road infrastructure in my setting. Freeways and major highways are designed to be traversed at 250 mph, a cruising speed the average car easily reaches, and traffic congestion is a thing of the past as road lane-miles have expanded enough to absorb all travel demand; even in major cities road space is abundant in “Underways”, tunnels (dug out by nuclear TBMs that literally melt rock (a real concept!)) deep underground hosting freeways and parking garages, elevators and escalators providing access to the surface (and direct access into skyscrapers?).
Even better is how “autodrive” technology is more advanced in my setting, computer technology generally being 50 years ahead. The level required for full self-driving by vehicles is debated, but I’m sure a computer could drive a well-known path down a freeway on its own by the early 21st century. The average car, including motorhomes, has jet engines can easily cruise at 250 mph all day.
Long Hauls aslumber
The ability to autodrive continuously at this speed means over an eight hour sleep the vehicle can drive itself 2000 miles down the road. For perspective that means you could fall asleep in New York City and wake up in Yellowstone. Tunnels and new (scenic and recreational) highways mean more locations are accessible; the same 2000 miles by road can take you in my setting from New York City to the ski resorts of the Torngat Mountains in the northern tip of Labrador.
My world has supersonic overnight passenger jet flights and high-speed rail routes (400 mph maglev, not the 100 mph wimps Amtrak passes off today) which would be competitive at longer distances, but it nevertheless is an attractive ability to have in a road vehicle.
Rest Stops recast as Pit Stops
One wrinkle is that fuel range in my timeline isn’t much better than today in order to reduce fuel tank mass and enable higher speeds to be reached. This means that after a few hundred miles (less than two hours!) refueling will be needed. It would be simple enough to have parking spots off the road with fuel hookups similar to today’s mid-air refueling hoses so the car can refuel itself without waking the passengers; freeway and highway “oases” or service areas thus are ubiquitous in this world. Such locations might even become destinations unto themselves if they’re scenic, something of a community center for the global (continental?) village akin to an aerotropolis or a shopping mall.
Eventually of course, by the mid 21st century in my world, such vehicles will be powered by nuclear reactors, which obviates the need for any refueling. At that point restaurants and other attractions might have to serve as the main draw.
Motorhome Life in my World
As for the actual design of such vehicles, the largest such vehicles tend to offer perhaps 1000 square feet of living space, comparable to a middling apartment. In my world, however, most people are used to 5000-15000 square foot accommodations; for temporary traveling arrangements that might suffice, but I doubt many would want such a small space on a permanent basis.
The 1000 square foot figure is for two decks to boot, and this is dictated by roadway geometry. Trailer upon trailer linked together like the Australian road trains is another possibility, though this just takes care of the length. Width could only be widened by expanding it to occupy two or three travel lanes instead of just one. Height could only be heightened by adding decks, but then you’d have trouble with overpasses and tunnel entrances.
For those who want a mansion-sized mobile home, personal aircraft such as jets, tiltrotors, and zeppelins would be a much better bet in my world; these kind of vehicles take over eventually for just this reason (leading to mile upon mile of abandoned Underways by the 22nd century…).
As for the motorhomes, I imagine the average motorhome in my world’s early 21st century comes in both single and double decker versions, ranging up to the size of today’s largest buses or even larger; all have sleeper cabins similar to trucks or luxurious airplanes. While on the road soundproofing is essential for a good sleep, and the quality of that is very high, complete with windows that can black out automatically, like those the spaceships have in my novel “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” (also set in the early 21st century).
The design will be streamlined, so the curved box design seen today will still be ubiquitous, but I imagine there is more variety than today, with more aesthetic flourishes. Bright vivid colors are the norm; candy apple red, golden yellow, fruity green, vivid violet, and the like. These vehicles will predominately be convertibles, the top retracting for both the driving and home sections, exposing it all to fresh air and sunlight. The whole vibe will be quite flashy I imagine. In this it shares much in common with my world’s cars.
In a world like mine, I imagine hordes would be roaming the roads continuously worldwide, the random encounters and new vistas, with pit stops serving as at once community centers and the new cathedrals, the lifestyle sharing much in common with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for “Broadacre City”.
And these roads would truly be worldwide. The key link is the Bering Strait tunnel, long completed in my setting with the attendant highways linking Alaska and Siberia. But that won’t be the only link between North America and Asia!
A continuing interest in New-Deal-style roads built for pleasure driving leads to the Pacific Coast Highway, which directly abuts the Pacific beaches of California, being extended into Oregon and Washington; from there it gets more exotic, as many tunnels will be needed through the fjords.
The ultimate Pacific Coast Highway
But this world can build them easily. So the highway is extended through the west coast of Vancouver Island (a tunnel going under the Strait of Juan de Fuca), and from there it goes east back to the mainland to snake northward along the east shore of the Inside Passage into Alaska. Later a branch route from Vancouver Island through Haida Gwaii (a.k.a. Queen Charlotte Island) and from there to Alaska will be constructed so as to grant more access to the open ocean. A 125 mile tunnel will be needed; nothing in this world.
Passing through Yakutat and the Kenai, long tunnels then enable it to go through the south shore of Kodiak Island before rejoining the mainland in the Alaska Peninsula. From there the roadway follows the southernmost beaches of the Aleutians island after island, the longest tunnel, the one connecting America and Russia, being over 200 miles long. This scenic route might be very popular. From Kamchatka any destination in Eurasia can be reached by road.
The Pacific beach highway might even snake southward through Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, thence to Japan, through the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, and ending at Tasmania. None of these tunnels would be as long as the Aleutian stretch, so in my world it should be possible. Another branch could easily snake through the Solomon Islands.
Tunnels into Polynesia?
Stretching it a bit to a 225 mile long tunnel Vanuatu could be included. A 400 mile long tunnel could link it to Fiji, but if I’m willing to go there two 400 mile long tunnels, coming up for air at Norfolk Island, could link New Zealand to New Caledonia and thence to the rest of the Pacific highway. Tunnels of this length could link almost all of Polynesia; tunnels 1300 miles long or shorter could link literally every inhabited island in the world, though I wonder if people in my world would bother with tunnels this long when they have aircraft and ships unless, like the Pacific coast highway, there’s some kind of attraction to driving such a route.
Other Extensions of the Tunnel Network
The southern extension could be through Baja California, then through central America and the Darien gap (maybe even a tunnel under that!), thence down the west coast of South America to the southernmost parts of Chile. A 500 mile long tunnel could link South America with Antarctica, an interesting possibility, but at that point it’s not really the Pacific anymore.
It’s also worth noting that with tunnels 300 mph in length at the most North America could be linked directly to Europe through Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
So there will be plenty of scenic roadway for motorhome owners to traverse, both natural and (in the case of the Underways) artificial scenery. Aside from the spaceplanes and spacecraft that host homes, ubiquitous in my stories, there are also land vehicles that do the same, at least at the near-future technology level, and I for one find the concept rather interesting, one perhaps worthy of further exploration in blog posts and even stories.