Delegates from the Chinese city of Shaoguan visited a California recreational vehicle dealership to experience the American lifestyle, while the owner expressed interest in exporting RVs to the rapidly growing country.
The Victorville Daily Press reported that during the visit that lasted a few hours at Range RV in Hesperia, eight officials from the city in southern China sat down with owner Joe Range and learned about the RV lifestyle. They diligently took photos and checked out amenities inside the RVs.
It wasn’t easy for them to grasp the luxury lifestyle tied to the vehicles; RVs aren’t common in East Asian countries as they are in the United States. But Range gave them full-color posters illustrating the RV lifestyle such as tailgating at sporting events that helped the Chinese make sense of the unfamiliar ideas.
“They were more excited about getting those posters because they can bring back the lifestyle,” Range said. “I gave them a brand new set.”
The visit was part of a friendship program between the U.S. and Chinese chambers of commerce aimed at promoting understanding between the two countries and developing two-way trade.
Representatives of China’s Feishen Group Co. Ltd., a multi-billion-dollar importer/exporter of science and technology hardware out of Yongkang City, Zhejiang Province, China, were among the crowd of out-of-towners traversing the streets of Elkhart, Ind., this week (Sept. 19-23) as part of Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House Week. Feishen Group Chairman Asun Chen is shown here with his entourage at the Carriage Inc. display near the intersection of County Road 17 and U.S. 20 on the city’s southeast side, where the Chinese company had agreed to purchase a number of higher-end towable units for use in a large campground/RV park the company is currently developing in China, reports Carriage Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ed Kinney. Personnel from Feishen, which distributes the Razor scooter throughout the U.S., visited Carriage’s Millersburg, Ind., facilities a couple of weeks ago, says Kinney, and returned at his suggestion to get a better look at the industry at large. Those units, adds Kinney, require some customization. “Yes, they’re obviously looking for things that are wired 220 (volts),” he told RVBUSINESS.com, “and then we hooked them up with some people who can do some conversions for them. But basically that’s it (as far as customization). It’s pretty much a standard build for us, except they need some wiring changes made.”
Zhang Zhiwu and his wife Hou Yingqian, both 63, have become local celebrities since their return from a nine-month multi-country roadtrip in their motorhome.
Chinadaily.com reported that the pair clocked up more than 14,000 miles during their adventure and took in 15 provincial regions within China and the Southeast Asian countries of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Their neighbors in Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, love dropping by to marvel at their air-conditioned recreational vehicle that is fully equipped with a kitchen, desk, sofa, TV, double bed and a solar generator. And they enjoy hearing tales about the journey that is recorded on the back door of their RV on a map that shows the many places the pair visited.
Mostly, their neighbors are incredulous that Zhang, who didn’t even know how to drive three years ago when he retired from his work as a lawyer, made his long-held ambition come true.
“Traveling around the world was my childhood dream,” he said. “But there was never enough time when I had the money or money when I had the time.”
He said he finally seemed to have enough of both when he retired in 2008.
“Besides, my wife and I were still in good health and we decided to go for it and start traveling and enjoying our lives.”
He had first seen motorhomes in 2000 at an auto show in Dalian.
“I was fascinated by them immediately although they were far beyond my reach in terms of price,” he remembers.
He ended up going online and finding a secondhand one for a little more than $15,470. Zhang next needed to get himself a driving license.
After a few months of intensive training, he passed and, two months later, successfully drove his caravan home from Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. His wife remembers that the journey was a watershed moment.
“I wondered if we would make it, but when he got us home safely I knew I did not need to worry any more,” said Hou.
After modifying the motorhome to meet their needs and testing it on trips close to Dalian, they decided to hit the road.
“Life in our RV is similar to life at home,” Zhang said. “We bought food at the market and made meals in our small kitchen.”
They could even watch their favorite shows via a satellite TV and browse the Internet.
“But the thing that is different is the landscape that flows past outside the window,” Zhang said. “It is a fabulous experience to drive through the fascinating scenery, trudge among vast fields and communicate with different people in different places.
“The most frequently used words we used throughout our journey were ‘thank you’.”
The only serious obstacle the couple faced was the language barrier. Zhang said they would ask embassy clerks to translate daily expressions before visiting a foreign country. It helped, but sometimes communication with body language was also necessary.
“Anyway, we survived,” Zhang said, smiling.
Other problems on the road included finding parking spaces, maintaining a supply of water and charging up their battery. He said China still has relatively few RV parks compared to other places such as North America and Europe where such travel is more common.
The couple went to an RV park only once on their epic road trip, stopping in Beijing where they met 24 like-minded travelers in 12 motorhomes who had driven all the way from Italy.
“I was surprised to learn that I was the same age as the youngest among them. If they can drive from Europe to China, why I can’t I drive to Europe?” he said.
Looking back on their experience, Zhang said they made their dream come true because they simply went for it.
“There are always problems when you just think and do not act. If you keep worrying, you’ll never step out. But if you step out, everything becomes easier to handle,” Zhang said.
Having got their adventures off to a good start, the couple has no plans to stop. After another week or so of rest at home, they plan to hit the open road once more.
“Some day, we might even drive to Europe,” Zhang said with a smile.