Special Visitors At Gerry Rodeo

GERRY – One RV that has been sighted in the local area is sure to turn heads.

Karl Peitsmeier and Doris Paetsch, from just outside of Stuttgart, Germany, have been cruising around the globe for a decade in their diesel Mercedes-Benz 1117 A. This week, it was stationed at the Gerry Rodeo.

The vehicle, nicknamed “My Laster” – “laster” meaning “vice” in German – has been built and maintained by Peitsmeier since 2000, when he purchased the chassis and began converting the vehicle into a livable RV.

“It was always my dream to do this, to go with an RV down roads that most people don’t travel on,” Peitsmeier said.

Paetsch, who previously worked for an insurance company, said that the plans for travel were in the works for years.

As he was a Mercedes-Benz testing and development engineer for 30 years before retiring, Peitsmeier performs all maintenance on the diesel truck himself. The vehicle was not introduced to the United States or Canada, making it a rare sight in this country.

“In the U.S., most people know Freightliner, Western Star or Sterling trucks,” Peitsmeier said. “(This model) was not introduced to the United States, so people often ask if it is a Unimog – a Mercedes model that is available in the U.S. – but it is not.”

According the Peitsmeier, he and Paetsch enjoy taking advantage of the fact that the truck was not built for paved roads. The truck includes an instrument panel with the ability to raise and lower tire pressure, a reduction gear, the ability to lock the front and rear axles and a winch that is capable of pulling 20,000 pounds.

“The speed limit in much of Europe is 50 miles per hour,” Peitsmeier said. “Trucks in the U.S. drive much faster – 70 or 80 miles per hour – but we usually stay between 50 and 60 miles per hour.”

Paetsch added that despite a decade of travel, the two have not had any accidents, major issues or tickets.

“If you can drive on the small streets in Germany or Italy, you can drive anywhere – including New York City,” Peitsmeier said.

Peitsmeier said that he was once pulled over by a police officer not because of a traffic infraction but because the officer was so interested in the vehicle he talked to the two for nearly an hour and a half.

“We meet nice people everywhere we go,” Paetsch said. “We’ve never had a bad experience. (With the RV) we can see the real places, not just tourist attractions.”

Peitsmeier said that for tires, he generally looks on the Internet to find a dealer. The last set of tires he purchased, which usually are marked around $2,000 per new tire, he found in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for $600 per new tire. According to Pietsmeier, the tires weigh around 350 pounds when filled.

Alongside their native tongue of German and a solid understanding of English, Peitsmeier said that a working knowledge of Spanish and French has helped them throughout their travels.

Peitsmeier and Paetsch also occasionally travel with other friends who drive Mercedes-Benz 1117 A vehicles, including during a recent trip through the Sahara desert. At night, the group would park their vehicles close, set up a “biergarten” and enjoy each others’ company.

The world travelers have completed multiple tours in the RV, spanning countries in several continents, including Libya, Africa, Iran, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Russia, Mongolia, Morocco, Egypt, Poland, Canada and more. They have also traveled along the Silk Road in Asia.

Depending on visa restrictions and personal preferences, Peitsmeier and Paetsch make various trips back and forth to Germany, either leaving the vehicle in storage or shipping it home. On at least one occasion, they lived out of the vehicle as it was being shipped.

To document the countries they visit, the two keep a record by placing stickers of country flags on the vehicle’s driver side and passenger doors. They also display a large map of the world on the driver side of the vehicle with a red trail detailing their adventures.

Peitsmeier joked that he and Paetsch have seen more of the United States than most Americans – over the course of their travels, the two have visited roughly 44 states, including the non-contiguous state of Alaska.

“It’s my dream to also drive through India and Vietnam,” Peitsmeier said of his future plans.

Peitsmeier and Paetsch will be in the United States and Canada until October, with plans to travel into New York City for the first time and through the New England states, as well as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In October, the two will send the vehicle from Canada to Germany via a cargo ship, and take a plane back to Germany.

With such a large vehicle, the question asked the most by onlookers is regarding gas mileage.

“We get 12 to 14 miles per gallon,” Peitsmeier said with a smile.