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Chuck Woodbury: RV Business is Building Now

Chuck Woodbury, whose RV business is sponsoring seminars and an open house on Saturday, says increased design and performance help fight the high cost of gas, the Edmonds Patch reported.

In the spring of 2007, when gas prices first started to spike nationwide, the recreational vehicle market got slammed.

“People just quit buying RVs,” said Woodbury of Edmonds, Wash.

But today, even with prices around $4 a gallon, Woodbury says there are still plenty of enthusiasts in the market for RVs, tantalized by the lure of adventures on the open road.

Even if that road isn’t very long.

“What happened is that people are accustomed to high gas prices, and they’ve learned they can just drive 20 or 30 miles to a campground and enjoy themselves,” Woodbury said. “Driving across the whole country, that’s different. But the difference between $3 a gallon and $4.50 if you’re only going 50 miles one way and 50 miles back — you’re only talking about a few more dollars a weekend.”

Woodbury, whose rvbookstore.com is the largest online retailer specializing in RV books and DVDs, will hold an open house and seminars Saturday at his headquarters located in the Harbor Square business complex. Ten experts on RV technical and lifestyle topics will speak at the event, which will be held in three venues at Harbor Square.

The open house is free, and refreshments will be served. Visitors can browse through a variety of books for sale, most for just $1 or $2. The fee for the seminars is $15.

“It’s really for those who have an RV or are planning to get one,” Woodbury said. “It’s only going to be of interest to RVers, and those who have no interest in it will probably be bored.”

In addition to Woodbury, speakers include RV Doctor Gary Bunzer, RV performance expert Eric Davis, veteran Alaska RVer Nyla Walsh, RV Life magazine columnist Dave Helgeson and RV driving instructor Lorrin Walsh. Topics will include maximizing an RV’s performance, RV plumbing and waste systems, preparing an RV for spring, how to drive a motorhome, boondocking, traveling with an RV to Alaska, RV insurance, and solo RVing for women.

More information can be found at rvtravelseminars.com, where portions of the day’s events will available for viewing in a webcast. Regular webcasts are so popular that Woodbury says in the future he might make them available in a pay-per-view format.

Woodbury also oversees rvtravel.com, which publishes a weekly newsletter he says is read by 60,000 people.

Woodbury himself, of course, is an RV fanatic who first felt the thrill of the road on trips with his parents. Raised in California, he moved to Edmonds 15 years ago from Nevada City, Calif.

“My wife at the time loved Seattle,” he said. “I’d traveled a lot in the Northwest and always loved it up here. I don’t plan to go anywhere else.”

Woodbury’s travel writing began from a humble trailer, where he pounded out copy on a typewriter and sold stories to magazines. Many RVers remember Woodbury from an on-the-road newspaper he published, mostly from a 24-foot motorhome, called Out West.

Now, his writing is strictly online, where his main website is rvtravel.com (rvbookstore.com is his e-commerce site). He says he has about 70 websites overall, most of them centered on recreation vehicles and the RV lifestyle, but admits only about half of them are active. At least 300,000 viewers a month visit all the websites, Woodbury says, including one, freecampgrounds.com, that is reader-driven.

When asked about his income, Woodbury said: “It’s easy to make six-figure income, that’s all I can say. Some times are better than others. It was pretty lucrative four or five years ago. But my needs are simple. I’m very happy to just make a good income so I don’t have bill collectors chasing me.”

Woodbury has four employees on staff and edits a handful of paid bloggers. They are all sensing a recent upswing in RV interest, economy be damned.

“People are buying them again,” Woodbury said. “We see it at rvbookstore.com because of the number of people purchasing books on how to buy RVs has gone way up. They don’t buy those unless they are ready to buy.”

Woodbury defines RVs as popup trailers, $800,000 motorhomes, and everything in between, including teardrop trailers and those pulled by motorcycles. He says the average RVer is 49 years old, and many take advantage of technology to blunt the high cost of gas.

“Many RVs are built with a Mercedes diesel engine,” Woodbury said. “I have one, and it gets 15-19 miles per gallon, far better than the old days. Then also, a lot of lightweight composite trailers pulled by cars and SUVs are today far lighter and better equipped. I’ve really seen that coming on the last couple of years—they’re incredibly strong.”

So how does a RV expert who spends a lot of time in front of a computer in Edmonds relax?

“My goal is not to be working at home,” said Woodbury. “It’s to be traveling around the world and doing it.” This summer, he plans a trip to Iceland, where he’ll pick up a rented camper van, exploring the sites while blogging and uploading Webcasts.

Of course, man — or woman — cannot live by RV alone.

“It’s always had a dream of just roaming around and writing about it,” Woodbury says. “I’ve been traveling by RV for a long time, several decades. I still enjoy it, but it’s great to stay in a nice European hotel as well.”

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