Editor’s Note: The following is a first-person feature story in USA Today tracking reporter Jayne O’Donnell driving 1,400 miles in a rented RV with six teenage girls that are members of the Virginia all-star softball team. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) public relations team worked closely with USA Today on the story. The group traveled in a rented Jayco Greyhawk motorhome.
“Just stand outside your RV, put your hands in the air and yell ‘help.’ You’ll be fine.”
That’s Twin Oaks RV Park co-manager Lisa Gannaway’s advice when I call en route to my first overnight stay in a motorhome in Elko, Ga., as the office is about to close. A logging truck is overturned on the bridge nearby and I can’t get there on time.
I have water and electricity to hook up, a pesky leak that sprung after my fender bender in Skippers, Va., and, well, a potty to dump. She’s got to be kidding.
In this, my first trip in a “recreational vehicle,” I’m driving 1,400 miles with six rowdy softball players and learning, above all else, that we RVers stick together. Thank God, because there are countless switches, valves and buttons to decipher and extremely large turning radiuses on these rolling condominiums.
Still, even though I can’t get the fresh water to come out of the faucets or the “black water” (read: toilet) to come out at the dumping station on the ride home, the whole experience is oddly relaxing. I can’t wait to do it again.
I’m hardly alone. After nearly crashing thanks to the recession and high gas prices, RV sales are revving up again. RV shipments in 2013 are expected to be up 8.4% over last year, reaching 309,800 vehicles, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. That’s an 87% increase from the industry’s recession low in 2009. It would also mark the first time shipments topped 300,000 units since 2007. RVIA estimates about 9.1 million families own RVs this year, up from just 5.8 million 20 years ago.
RVs include everything from a trailer that can be pulled behind a vehicle to Class C motorhomes like my Jayco Greyhawk, which is a camper built on top of a big, honking Ford E-450 pickup chassis.
My new RV friends, John and Carolyn Mitchell, have a to-die-for Class A motorhome made by Tiffen. I meet them at the Southeastern Regional Softball Championship in Warner Robins, where my daughter and her teammates are competing. The Mitchells bought their RV to bring their cat, Heidi, when they got tired of sneaking her into motels.
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