If you’re going to have an adventure, you’ll want to be familiar with sunk-cost bias. It’s the idea that if you’ve spent a lot of time, money, or energy trying to accomplish a goal, you’ll be inclined to keep at it even if quitting is the wiser move. You know Green Boots, the man whose frozen corpse is a landmark on the northeast route to the summit of Mount Everest? That’s about the worst possible outcome when you make the wrong decision. I’ve never been on the kind of adventure that could end with my dead body getting its own Wikipedia page, but I’ve tried to absorb the message.
Last year presented plenty of opportunities for well-considered bailing. Ahead of Thanksgiving, I spent weeks waffling over whether to attend the multifamily dinner that was in the works before deciding to err on the side of caution, coronavirus-wise. I called my mother (who was not surprised), secured the new Mercedes-Benz Metris Weekender camper van we had on hand, and started looking for the nearest place where I could count on warm, sunny weather in late November. The notion: Spend the holiday weekend hiking in the Appalachians with my dog, Lentil. I eventually decided to set course for Sarah’s Creek Campground, a spot in northeast Georgia where I hoped I would find an open campsite. I left Ann Arbor much later than planned and, after wrestling the rear seat into a bed, spent the first night of the trip in a rest-stop parking lot. I woke the next morning with grains of sand in my eyes, the result of sharing the bed with Lentil.
We’d been on the road for a few hours the next day when the low-fuel warning light came on. The night before, I’d driven 60 miles after the light came on, so I wasn’t worried. When the engine went silent and the dash lit up 40 miles later, a vision of Lentil and I trudging down the highway, lugging fuel cans, flashed in my mind’s eye. But I was only a quarter-mile from an exit that promised a gas station, so I stayed off the brakes, turned on the hazards, and crossed my fingers. I navigated the exit ramp, made a right turn, passed straight through an intersection—mercifully, the light was green—and went right again at the station entrance, coming to rest at an open pump. Momentum can work to your advantage, too.
The Metris’s ride is smooth for a van, the steering as quick as you’d ever want in a tiny RV. Acceleration from the 208-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four is, yes, a little lackluster, and the seven-speed automatic transmission stumbled once or twice over the mountains, but the Metris makes for an excellent road-trip steed. If you want a new camper van like this one, you have two choices. You can buy one from a cooperating Mercedes dealer (they call it a Getaway) or order a Weekender from Mercedes-approved upfitter Peace Vans. The base passenger version of the Metris will run you $38,335, but Peace says to budget $43,000. The Getaway option through Mercedes adds $25,719. The total cost of a conversion through Peace will depend on the features you choose, but expect to spend roughly $70,000. For a full camper with a kitchen, awning, and auxiliary heater, figure at least $90,000.
When we rolled into Sarah’s Creek just before dark, the best campsite was still free. I unfurled the bolt-on awning, realizing only after I’d done so that there was a long metal hook tucked behind the front seats that would have made the job easier. The Weekender’s pop-up roof bed comes with an intimidating set of instructions, but it only took five minutes to set up. The fabric that formed the sides of the sleeping area had a few tiny holes where it had degraded while it was stowed away. There’s no ladder, so I stood on the swiveled front seats and pulled myself up into the bed like I was climbing out of a swimming pool.
The next morning, I drove to the nearest town and located a promising hiking trail. The trailhead was several miles down an unmaintained dirt switchback that climbed to the top of a small mountain and then back part of the way down to the trail. I drove slowly and pulled over once to let an exuberant dirt biker pass. I was less than one mile from my destination when I came to a sharp left turn that coincided with a steep uphill and perhaps 50 feet of road that may as well have been purpose-built to test axle articulation.
Whenever I encounter a sticky situation while traveling, I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen, Green Boots?” This time, I figured the worst-case scenario was that the Metris, with its low ground clearance and long, unathletic body, would fail to navigate the bumps or the hill or the loose gravel and would get stuck or slide off the road and down the hill behind it. I hadn’t had cell signal for miles, so I would then have to abandon the car and hike down to a place where I could call for help.
Calculations made, I executed a many-point turn and drove back to the main road. I found a different trailhead half an hour away where Lentil made his Appalachian Trail debut. Our trip continued, but by this point I’d reached an understanding with the Weekender. It would give me the freedom to roam wherever I pleased and never worry about where I would lay my head at night, as long as I would stop when it said when, no matter how much I wanted to press on.
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