Boomers Find Comfort Aplenty in Their Motorhome
Ron Haynes’ 35-foot recreational vehicle has all the conveniences of home, including a roomy bathroom, recliners, satellite television and the same brand and style of mattress he sleeps on in his Pella, Iowa, home.
“So I sleep well,” says Haynes, an avid camper – ummm, RVer. Haynes, 52, and his wife, Carol, 54, take their Winnebago Chieftain on four trips a year. And most of the summer, the home on wheels is parked at Cutty’s Campgrounds near Grimes, Iowa, where the Hayneses spend weekends. “We love the comfort and freedom of the RV,” Haynes says.
Baby Boomers such as the Hayneses make up the largest number of RV owners, according to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The typical RV owner is 49 years old, married, with annual household income of $68,000. On average, owners spend 26 days a year traveling in their RVs, covering about 4,500 miles.
Camping, even locally, is a chance to get away from the daily grind, if only for a weekend, says Nocona Mollendor, assistant business manager at Cutty’s. The RVs she sees at the campgrounds have become more elaborate over the years, now including washers and dryers, fireplaces, expensive countertops, built-in computer stations and more, she says. “Those are their second homes,” she says.
Many of the Cutty’s visitors park their RVs there all season, some year-round. Some take side trips with their motor homes, others never move them, she says. Haynes, who is semi-retired from the Culligan water systems dealership he owns in Pella, takes yearly treks to Door County in Wisconsin and to Florida, Arkansas and other locales.
The trips are easier because of the RV, he says. “You are taking your home with you,” he says. “When we visit relatives, we don’t intrude on them. With the RV, we have our own beds and shower.”
The family cat nestles onto the dashboard for long trips, and there is never a worry about hotel reservations or crowded restaurants, he says. His grandmother was able to join the couple recently on a trip to Florida because in the RV she could plug in her oxygen machine. And the couple bring along their Wii Fit program so they can get do their daily aerobic exercise while on the road, Haynes says. “We make sure the curtains are down,” he says. “It keeps us on track.”
Like many RV owners, the Hayneses started their camping career in tents about 15 years ago. From there, they moved to a pop-up trailer. “As our finances got better, we went to a motorhome,” Ron Haynes says. Three years ago, they “traded up” to the Winnebago Chieftain, which has two slide-outs, a spacious living room, bedroom and bathroom, a roomy refrigerator and two air conditioners. Haynes already is crafting his wish list for the next RV.
“The next one will be a little bigger, run on diesel fuel and have a washer and dryer,” he says. He also would like a one-touch system for retracting the awnings, a built-in wind meter for the roof and a desk area for a laptop. “I might as well get it the way I want it,” he says.
Touring the United States in comfort appeals to Baby Boomers, says Mark Polk, owner of RV Education 101, which publishes books and videos on owning and operating RVs. The sour economy is taking a bite out of large motorhome sales, he says. As the economy recovers from recession, a new generation of RVs will emerge, he predicts. “They won’t do away with amenities, but they will scale down in size,” he says.
“They will be more fuel-efficient and be smaller and lighter, like the European version.”
Linda Schinckel and her husband, David, of Grinnell take their large Holiday Admiral motorhome on jaunts to the Iowa Speedway in Newton on race weekends or to campgrounds with trails, where they can ride their horses. “It’s like having our home with us wherever we go,” says Schinckel, 56. “We love to sit outside our RV with our coffee and watch the sun come up.”
The couple pull a horse trailer or a smaller one toting their Harley motorcycles.
“We just throw in our clothes and go,” Schinckel says. Their retirement plan will include a bigger RV and more travel, she says.
“It’s on our bucket list.”