Editor’s Note: Outdoors Writer Tom Stienstra filed this story for the San Francisco Chronicle.
For some, the vagabond life in an RV is the last way to live free.
You turn the key and away you go. Just by parking, you can create your own coastal villa, lakeshore cottage or mountain retreat.
You can roam wherever you want, stay at a spot overnight or for days, and venture off on daily adventures.
Suddenly, you are off the grid, beholden to no one. This might feel like perfection for those who subscribe to the philosophy of Billy Joe Shaver, the old Texas songwriter, “Moving is the closest thing to being free.”
In the era of Wi-Fi for computers, satellite TV and radio, and do-it-all cell phones, you do not have to sacrifice being connected.
RV sales, particularly sales of used trailers and fifth-wheels, are strong this winter, according to several dealers and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The new, high-priced 2011 models are getting a second look this week by customers at the Pleasanton RV and boat show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
One reason for the RV surge is the widespread collapse of California’s housing market that has people looking for a way out. An RV can provide it.
In my travels, I’ve run into several people who have bailed on the American Dream of owning a home and refinancing against their equity to buy plenty of goodies (and then in the past year, watched as others saw their home value fall below what is owed). They bought RVs.
“No more house payments, no more property tax,” said Peter Borgards, who decided to buy new, not used, symbolic of a new start. “I got rid of my house and bought a fifth-wheel. Best thing I ever did. The pressure is off. I love the thing.”
Simpler can be better
An RV doesn’t have to resemble a rock-star tour bus. It can be as simple as a shell on a pickup truck, where you stash an inflatable bed in the back and throw a kayak or canoe on top, your fishing gear behind a seat and a mountain bike on a bumper rack.
It can range from a little pop-up camping trailer to a typical 26-footer, or extend to a Class A motorhome. There are also van conversions, fifth-wheels, overhead campers and countless variations of trailers. Some have multiple slide-outs and awnings to expand the living space, inside and out.
RVs of all styles are great for the outdoors because many RV parks and campgrounds are at beautiful destinations within walking distance of adventures.
Instead of paying a fortune to buy an oceanfront cottage, park at San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica or at Half Moon Bay State Beach, then walk the beach, play golf, or, in Half Moon Bay, ride your bike on the Coastal Trail.
Drive up Highway 1 to Gualala on the Sonoma Coast and stay at pretty Anchor Bay Campground, or any one of another dozen sites on the way. Head south to Big Sur, and venture beyond to San Simeon, Pismo Beach … or just keep going to Arizona and the Mogollon Rim. You could even end up in Luckenbach, Texas, where you actually might run into Shaver himself, sitting against an oak tree, drinking a Lone Star.
Good deals can be had right now. Tracking sales and auctions, I’ve found that top-quality used RVs with little wear are often available at low prices, providing you know value and work the Internet to find bargains.
There are three reasons: 1. Some seniors buy a new RV and find their health does not allow them to use it, so they sell cheap; 2. People find the lifestyle is not for them, so they sell cheap; 3. People like the RV life so much that they are eager to upgrade, so they sell cheap. The common thread is “they sell cheap.”
The best prices are often for used, mid-size trailers, usually 22- to 30-footers. These include a bedroom, kitchen, dining area, couch and small bathroom in three separate rooms.
It’s only the first week of January, but it’s never too early to begin planning camping trips and vacations in a new recreational vehicle.
The annual Tarrant County RV Show begins today (Jan. 6) at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Metroplex dealers will display more than 300 recreational vehicles of all types, from big motorhomes to smaller trailers, said Pat Hahn, the show director.
Other exhibits will feature resorts, RV destinations and related products and services.
After plunging along with the U.S. economy to a two-decade low in 2009, RV sales rebounded sharply in 2010. When December’s results are tallied, wholesale shipments of RVs are expected to be up about 43% to 236,000 units, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“We’re expecting continued growth in 2011,” said Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Reston, Va.-based group.
Two trends in the industry — increasing sales of trailers at the expense of motorhomes, and the emergence of younger buyers — continued in 2010.
“The industry had been trending toward the travel trailer for several years, and we saw that, if anything, intensifying in 2010,” Broom said. Travel trailers of all types made up nearly 90% of unit sales.
The wild card for RV sales is fuel prices, but barring a big, sudden surge, people seem to adjust, Broom said. Surveys have shown that RV users save 20% to 60% on lodging and meal costs.
Hahn said she expects turnout for the 2011 show to be up, both because of the economy and a forecast for much warmer weekend weather. Several dealers with exhibits will be new to the show or returning after skipping two or three years as the industry anticipates that better economic conditions will lead to more sales.
“I’m expecting bigger and better things,” Hahn said. “A lot of times after an election year, business seems to pick up.”
The show concludes on Sunday.
For more information visit http://fortworthrvshow.com/.
To watch a video courtesy of KFOR-TV, Oklahoma City, Okla., about the following story, click here.
In the past week there have been two deadly fires involving RVs in the Oklahoma City, Okla., area. In both cases they were parked on private land, not in an RV park.
How safe is it to live in your RV and are there any ordinances restricting that type of living?
Terry Gayler is a metro resident who lives in an RV on private land.
He says, “It’s home to me for now. Right now this is about all I can afford.”
A 16-foot RV holds him and his dog, Junior, along with a television, a refrigerator, a bed and a few pictures of his loved ones.
Gayler says, “I had to simplify what I have in here.”
He keeps warm with two space heaters.
Gayler has taped up the windows and added foam around them, he’s also blocked any openings to keep the cold air out and warm air in.
He does have running water and electricity.
A hose connected to a nearby building gives him water for his sink and bathroom.
An extension cord is what keeps the lights on and the heaters running.
He’s received permission from the owner of a nearby building to use their power.
He does make sure to keep the area around his heaters cleared and turns them off when he’s gone.
As for the recent tragedies involving RVs, he says that’s never far from his mind.
Gayler says, “I’m always afraid of fire. There’s no doubt about it, but it’s just common sense. Make sure everything is done right.”
We talked with city officials here in Oklahoma City; they say it is against city ordinance to live in an RV for more than two weeks.
It is legal to park it on your property but it must be at least 12 feet from the curb and the property must have working utilities.
Along with parades and college bowl games, RVs will be in the national spotlight on New Year’s Day.
HGTV’s annual RV special, “RV 2011,” will premiere Saturday (Jan. 1), at 4:00 p.m. EST. Check your local listings for the time in your area.
Chi-Lan Lieu hosts the show.
This marks the 13th consecutive year that HGTV has showcased new RV products and trends in a one-hour program, according to a news release from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Producers worked with RVIA and its agency, Barton Gilanelli, to tape this year’s show last September at the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey. It will be rebroadcast several times throughout the year.
HGTV — America’s leader in home and lifestyle programming — is distributed to more than 99 million U.S. households and is one of cable’s top-rated networks. HGTV’s website, HGTV.com, is the nation’s leading online home-and-garden destination, attracting an average of 4 million unique visitors per month.
“RV Buddies” listed 12 of the most popular items people look for when they are choosing an RV.
The poll results are in and, surprise — everyone wants a large kitchen countertop. While everyone isn’t asking for a gourmet-sized kitchen, a sink cover really doesn’t count as counter space. Hint, hint manufacturers!
Second on the list is the desire for a large shower. A comfortable shower is a luxury and some of our RV Buddies (including Mark Summers) need the extra space.
Third, and this makes a lot of sense, is residential-sized beds. It’s easier to replace a mattress and get linens etc.
Here are the rest of the results:
- 25% large kitchen and countertop.
- 18% large shower.
- 16% residential-sized bed.
- 9% all-in-one bath.
- 7% table/computer desk combo.
- 5% free-standing dining table.
- 5% dinette
- 4% slit bath
- 4% bath-and-a-half.
- 3% sofa bed.
- 2% fireplace
- 2% bunk beds
For more on the poll results visit www.rvbuddies.net.
“RV Buddies” is an RV adventure-lifestyle show featuring reviews of RVs, accessories and gear. The show chronicles Mark, Elise, and Robert as they visit America’s most beautiful campgrounds and resorts.
The program is distributed as an Internet Television production on its own website, on Apple iTunesTM and through other distribution channels including phone friendly versions for iPhone, Blackberry and Android.
Richard LaViolet isn’t afraid to call it “a tax revolt.”
LaViolet has approval from the Missouri Secretary of State to begin collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment that would do away with Missouri’s personal property tax, KMOX Radio, St. Louis, reported.
LaViolet thinks the taxes on cars , RVs, boats, farm machinery and manufactured homes are “a nuisance,” but one that can’t be ignored.
“It’s as if your renting your personal property from the state. If you don’t pay the tax, the state can appropriate our asset” said LaViolet.
He now has until April 30, 2012, to collect 235,000 signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the November ballot that year.
He plans to hire a firm to help collect signatures.
Missouri officials estimate abolishing the personal property tax would cost the state and local governments more than $1 billion a year.
Editor’s Note: The following news release was provided by PR Urgent and promotes a new book titled “In Search of America’s Heartbeat,” which chronicles the author’s 12-month trip in an RV.
The past two years have seen the recreational vehicle industry in its worst shape since 1991. Recent figures however suggest that the RV industry is on the rebound at last and Americans are preparing once again to take to the road for those highly anticipated extended travel trips. Bob Mottram, the author of ‘In Search Of America’s Heartbeat’, is relieved to see this happen now.
“Many people, including myself, are happy that the RV industry is pulling out of its Great Recession nosedive,” Mottram said. “This means there is significant pent-up demand for entry into the RV lifestyle, and my book is nicely positioned to help those who would like to take that plunge. ‘In Search of America’s Heartbeat’ not only provides practical advice for persons contemplating a life on the road, but also captures the feelings and the allure that draw so many into the lifestyle in the first place.”
“In Search Of America’s Heartbeat” is both an engaging tale and a guide to the ultimate road trip. Mottram and his wife lived the secret dream of countless American couples; a year on the road – with no timetable – that took them more than 30,000 miles into the far-flung corners of the nation. Along the way they came face-to-face with personal grief but also with the warmth and humanity of America and its people. The book has garnered excellent reviews. Readers find the story engaging and the information provided invaluable. Mottram also was featured recently on The Authors Show, and was selected to be included in “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading,” produced by The Authors Show.
“I’m delighted to have been selected,” Mottram said, “from among the hundreds who have done broadcast interviews on The Authors Show for inclusion among only 50 in ’50 Great Writers You Should be Reading’. As a life-long professional journalist, I find the recognition gratifying.”
Bob Mottram is available for interview, and can be reached using the information below, or by email at searchforamericamsn.com. More information, including a pre-trip checklist, a list of America’s best RV parks, America’s top 10 must-see locations and photo galleries are available at Mottram’s website at www.RVAcrossTheUsa.com. ‘In Search Of America’s Heartbeat’ is available through most online book retailers and wherever books are sold. “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” is available at The Authors Show website at www.TheAuthorsShow.com.
About Robert Mottram
Robert Mottram has spent his life in journalism. His career has taken him from the North Slope of Alaska to the humid jungles of Costa Rica, into classic smoke-filled rooms where politicians have decided the fate of important social programs and even into a small Russian Orthodox Church for what purportedly was the first canonization ever conducted by any church in the Western Hemisphere. He has spent more time in courtrooms than many lawyers, and has covered courts at every level but one in the American judicial system.
Lake Adventure, a private campground community near Milford in northeast Pennsylvania is challenging a township restriction that could prevent half of its 1,200 owners from using large RVs on their own property.
Dingman Township changed its definition of a recreational vehicle in June, ordering that the maximum size of RVs allowed in the township to be no more than 300 square feet, the Pocono Record reported. Problem is, at least 600 Lake Adventure property owners already have RVs larger than 300 square feet. Modern RVs can be as big as 430 square feet, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The size restriction was originally included in the Dingman Township zoning ordinance. “The definition was deleted in the 1970s,” said Township Secretary Karen Kleist. She went through records to determine why the change was made but could not find a reason.
The township put the restriction back in the ordinance in June. There was a concern that larger rigs could strain the sewer system at Lake Adventure. More living space could bring more people and more toilet flushes.
Lake Adventure appealed the restriction, asking the township to change the rule or give the RV community a variance that would allow larger RVs.
Arguments in the matter were heard by the Dingman Zoning Hearing Board Tuesday night (Dec. 14).
Representing Lake Adventure, attorney Tammy Clause, told the board that owners will be deprived of significant property rights if not allowed to use their RVs in the community. She called Robert Ferri of Niclaus Engineering as an expert witness in wastewater treatment. Niclaus Engineering is currently upgrading the Lake Adventure sewer system.
Ferri performed tests on newer and older model 400-square-foot RVs and found the newer models are more efficient.
“Based on results of my investigation I am of the opinion these units are going to use less water and produce less sewage than older models,” Ferri said. But a test on the usage differences between 400-square-foot and 300-square-foot models was never conducted, as Dingman Solicitor John Klemeyer brought out in his questioning of Ferri.
By 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Ferri was still testifying and it was likely that the hearing would be continued to another date.
The atmosphere at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., was clearly more upbeat than 2009’s convention and reflected an industry that is obviously mending from the most dire effects of the recent downturn.
But veteran industry statistician Tom Walworth noticed a fairly rampant theme at last week’s (Nov. 29-Dec. 2) Louisville Show that he’d like to address regarding U.S. RV shipments and dealer inventories because, Walworth maintains, there are some false assumptions out there that could skew forecasts and obscure the fact that the industry’s rebound is continuing in a serious way.
The bottom line, according to Walworth, is that dealer inventories – contrary to some perceptions – are in line as the industry heads into the final phase of 2010.
“The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has forecast that we will ship 235,000 units in 2010, and SSI anticipates that 180,00 of them will be sold (at retail),” Walworth, general manager of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), told RVBUSINESS.com. “If you do the math, that would put us at a 55,000-unit gain in inventory. But what isn’t generally known in the RV industry is that the RVIA number also contains shipments to Canada.”
Those Canadian shipments, says Walworth, comprise approximately 20% of all annual shipments by RV manufacturers.
“If you take 80% of the forecast shipment number — 235,000 — we’re talking about 188,000 units shipped to the U.S.,” he said. “Since SSI expects to track 180,000 units at retail next year state-side, we actually are looking at just an 8,000-unit gain in inventory — not the 50,000-unit gain the raw numbers might suggest.
“The floor planners may want to hear this,” he added. “This would reassure the industry that inventory is not exploding on dealers’ lots.”
Walworth acknowledged that the shipments would be dispersed among fewer dealers in 2010 due to retail closings attributed to the recession, but this should present no long-term problems. “Fewer dealers would mean that there are more units on the remaining lots,” he said. “But this is manageable.”
Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared in Pete’s blog at www.petesrv.com that promotes Pete’s RV Center in South Burlington, Vt.
Pete’s RV Center of Vermont experienced a 200% increase in Canadian sales in 2010.
Customers traveled to the South Burlington dealership primarily from northeastern provinces Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The longest trek was by a St. John’s, Newfoundland, customer who traveled more than 1,500 miles to pick up his new Keystone Cougar fifth-wheel.
The recent strength of the Canadian dollar is no doubt a big factor in the increase, but Pete’s RV Sales Manager Todd McGinnis points out the dealership’s geographically-favorable location.
“Being located in northern Vermont and less than 50 miles from the border makes it convenient for Canadian buyers to travel into the United States and purchase an RV from our dealership. It also doesn’t hurt that we are so close to downtown Burlington, Lake Champlain and surrounding mountains. With so many shopping and recreation options, most of our customers make a long weekend out of their trip to Vermont.”
If Canadian customers choose not to lodge at a local hotel or campground, they can take advantage of an overnight stay at the dealership. Customers access outdoor electrical and water hook ups, allowing them to enjoy the comforts of their newly purchased camper or motorhome.
McGinnis elaborated on the increase in sales, crediting experience as another factor in why Canadians will continue to buy from Pete’s RV regardless the value of their dollar.
“There’s no doubt Canadians are currently saving quite substantially when buying here in the U.S., but our knowledge on how the purchase and importation process works definitely helps everything go smoothly – especially the paperwork. We’ve been doing this for many years. Whether picking up from the dealership, or even meeting them at a specified border crossing, Pete’s RV ensures a positive buying experience for Canadian customers.”
Importing an RV into Canada is not as complex as one may think. While policies are always subject to change, it’s typically less than $300.00 CDN in import fees, and there is no waiting period for non-motorized vehicles such as travel trailers and fifth wheels. Documentation and fee requirements for RV importation into Canada are outlined and referenced on the Pete’s RV website.