For some, there’s just nothing better than setting out in search of adventure in the great outdoors. That’s why approximately 8.9 million households in the U.S. have some sort of recreational vehicle, a vehicle that combines transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation and camping. Some of those vehicles are motorhomes and others are towable trailers, but they all evoke an image of family fun, affordable vacationing, and connecting with nature. The RV bug has bitten these Grimes families, and they’re happy to take their adventure-mobiles wherever the wind blows.
Tom and Mary Letsch love their time spent camping. Tom says they purchased a new motorhome, a 30-foot Winnebago Adventurer, about two years ago, but he’s owned RVs all his life. They’ve always enjoyed taking off and spending family time at the campground.
“We used to go camping when I was a kid,” he says. “We had a tent that didn’t even have a floor, and there were nine kids. There weren’t any real toilets or showers, so we’d go down to the lake in the morning on Sundays because we always went to church then and took a bar of soap and bathed in the lake.”
Tom took his own kids camping, too. Now that they’re grown and out of the house, he and Mary continue to spend time in the great outdoors. Just recently they went to Minnesota with Mary’s extended family for their annual family reunion. There were about 200 people in attendance, and they basically took over the campground.
“We had a fishing tournament for the kids ages 0-10 and 11-18, and my 12-year-old granddaughter won the prize for biggest fish, and she was just bursting with pride,” Tom says. “She caught a 19.5-inch fish, and she was thrilled.”
For Tom, that’s what it’s about — making sure the kids have fun and want to hang out with their families. They do fireworks and set up obstacle courses for the kids with some old-fashioned games, like the egg and spoon race. There are beanbag tournaments and volleyball tournaments and just time spent enjoying one another’s company.
“With sports and school and their friends, anymore today families are getting less important, and it’s not a good thing,” he says. “Camping with multiple relatives and generations and friends is a good way to keep that going and to keep those close ties to their families.”
Though Mary is still working, Tom says when she retires they will likely do even more time away in the motorhome. They went up to northern Minnesota years ago and spent time along Lake Superior seeing all the waterfalls, enjoying the scenery and spending time together. They’d like to do more of that in the future.
“It can be about keeping your relationship with your wife, too,” Tom says. “If the two of you enjoy that stuff together, it’s a great way to bond.
Jay Brewer doesn’t describe himself and his wife, Gloria, as dyed-in-the-wool campers, but he says they definitely got more interested in longer and more plentiful trips after they purchased their RV about 10 years ago.
“We were headed down to Indianola, and traffic was backed up so far we spent an hour trying to get into town,” he says. “Here is this RV for sale on the side of the road. We had time to look at it while we crept by and took the number down and went and looked at it. It was a Georgia Boy, only about three or four years old and had about 8,000 miles on it. We thought about it and drove it, and we ended up buying it.”
Since the purchase, the Brewers have been traveling all across the country. They try to take one short trip and one long trip a year. They take their time and enjoy the scenery and the experience as they go.
They’ve been to Canada and New England, as well as down to Atlanta, Georgia. Last year they headed down to Virginia and North Carolina. They visited Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, Williamsburg and other historical sites. They’ve seen the Grand Canyon, and they’ve been to Branson, Missouri.
“We’ve been up into Wyoming and Montana, Idaho and Glacier National Park, Devil’s Tower,” Jay says. “We camped right at the base of that. We have a big windshield with a great view. When we hit the trees in New England and Lake Placid, New York, and there is 10,000 acres that are beautiful. It’s like being in a panoramic picture; you can see so well and you’re up high.”
The couple already has their next trip planned. In a few weeks they head to Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Yellowstone. Jay says the beauty of traveling this way is the simplicity of it. They pack once, and they pack everything. When they pull into a campsite where they have reservations, they can be set up in 15 minutes. Then in the morning they can be on the road as quick as they want to be.
“You don’t have to lug suitcases in and out of a hotel every night,” he says. “We have a grill we take along, and we’ll grill something when we get in. When we went to New England and Canada, we were gone 27 days and ate out twice. It’s very relaxing, and you can do what you want on your own timetable.”
The Brewers say they have no plans to stop their travels anytime soon. They love their little home on the road, complete with air conditioning, a furnace, a bathroom and a kitchen. It’s a great way to travel. They plan to just keep going where the road takes them.
“Some places we stay a night and others place we might stay a couple, three nights,” he says. “We have learned how to pace ourselves. The first day we might drive 720 miles because there isn’t much between here and Idaho that we haven’t seen. Some days we might only go 200 or so. It’s a beautiful ride and comfortable, and we really enjoy it.”
RV fun facts
There’s an RV for every taste and budget. Prices for new RVs are typically $5,000-$22,000 for folding camping trailers; $6,000-$55,000 for truck campers; $8,000-$95,000 for conventional travel trailers; $43,000-$200,000 for Type C motorhomes and $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes.
RVs are made by American companies employing American workers that are located in America. In fact, more than 60 percent of recreation vehicles are made in Elkhart Country, Indiana.
Today’s typical RV owner is 48 years old and married, with an annual household income of $62,000 — higher than the median for all households. RV owners are likely to own their homes and spend disposable income on traveling — an average of three weeks annually, RVIA research shows.
RV vacations are more affordable than travel by personal car, commercial airline or cruise ship, according to vacation cost-comparison studies by PKF Consulting. Even factoring in RV ownership costs, and considering resulting tax benefits, a family of four can spend up to 59 percent less when traveling by RV.
With more than 16,000 public and privately owned campgrounds nationwide, RVers are free to roam America’s roads for a weekend — or months at a time.
RV demand remains robust and the potential for future sales is bright, according to a University of Michigan study. Among U.S. households that have never owned an RV, more than one in seven expressed interest in purchasing an RV in the future.
Both parents and empty-nesters are strong potential RV buyers, and promising future prospects are emerging among younger, ethnically diverse consumers, reveals a Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Go RVing Coalition. Generation Xers exhibit interests in outdoor activities that are highly compatible with RVing, the study found.
Information courtesy the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association