Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A conducted by The Root magazine with Elbert Smith Sr., president of the National African American RVers Association (NAARVA). To read the entire article click here.
The Root: What is the history of NAARVA?
Elbert Smith Sr.: It was formed 20 years ago by Norman Ellis in Ohio. We started hosting annual national rallies in the summer as a way to bring families together. My first rally was in Buena Vista, N.J.
Back then we used to have in the neighborhood of 900 coaches that showed up at the rallies. What was ironic is that we seldom saw one another en route. But when I got to Buena Vista, there were motorhomes and RVs owned by black folk as far as the eye could see. People were of all ages, but when the economy got bad, the crowd got a little older because the young folk couldn’t afford to travel as much.
But things seem to be picking up. This year our rally was July 22-29 in Marion, N.C., and we drew about 600 coaches. We are trying to recruit more young people. NAARVA is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.
TR: Are there many African-American RV owners? What’s the average age and occupation?
ES: We have about 800 paying members across the nation. We range in age from late 50s to early 60s. We have members of all stripes, including blue-collar workers, lawyers, educators and a Tuskegee Airman. Everyone is welcome.
TR: What is one of your fondest road trips?
ES: I bought a cab-over class C camper in the late 1980s — you know, the kind that you hitch to your car — when my son went to Kansas State University. We used to go there a couple of times a year and park in front of the football stadium during the season and stay in it instead of a hotel.
It was great. It was a house on wheels because we had everything in there but the kitchen sink. The kids thought we were big dogs. My son used to walk around with his chest poked out. They didn’t see many of us black folks in RVs or campers. I would barbecue a brisket, and my wife would bake cakes.
Because of those times, I unofficially have about 15 kids. They call me Pops. I just saw one of them when I rolled through Atlanta. Anytime any of them are in the city, they will come by the house to holler at us.
TR: What are some pitfalls of traveling by RV?
ES: I’m an avid camper, so you have no complaints from me. All my wife and I have to do is look at each other and say, “let’s” and the other says, “go.”
We’ve seen all but four of the states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Delaware — but you could never get me to live in an RV full time. I like having a home to come back to after being on the road. I like walking out the door and looking at the grass and turning around and walking back in the house. I like having a place to call home.
AccessCamping.com, a camping website portal with links to more than 500 campground databases across the U.S., has added links to RV clubs as well as databases of Canadian campgrounds, according to a news release.
“We think these latest additions will further enhance AccessCamping.com’s stature as a ‘must see’ website for anyone planning to visit campgrounds in North America,” said Brian Schaeffer, president and CEO of Texas Advertising, which launched the website portal a little over a month ago.
Texas Advertising launched AccessCamping.com as a web portal with links to more than 500 databases with listings of both privately owned and operated campgrounds as well as government-run campgrounds.
The newest additions include links to more than 40 RV clubs, ranging from brand-specific groups, such as the Coachmen Owners Club, Gulf Streamers International, the Jayco Travel Club, the Vintage Airstream Club and the Winnebago-Itasca Travelers Club, to clubs that cater to specific demographics, such as RVing Women, the National African American RVers Association and the International Snowbird Travel Club.
AccessCamping also added links to more than 70 Canadian campground databases that collectively list more than 2,000 public and privately owned campgrounds in Canada.
AccessCamping.com also includes links to online databases of the major campground industry directories, including those provided by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the Trailer Life and Woodall’s North American Campground directories, as well as the websites of campground chains, such as Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
Schaeffer said AccessCamping.com is needed because most websites have limited campground listings. “The government run websites, for the most part, list only government run parks while the websites for campground industry associations typically limit their listings to parks that are members of their associations. As a result,” he said, “most websites only give the camping consumer a partial view of what’s out there in terms of potential camping venues. The good news about AccessCamping.com is we truly ‘pamper the camper’ by giving them more camping options than any other source.”
For more information on AccessCamping.com, contact Schaeffer at (817) 307-0129 or email him at email@example.com.