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Sunday, February 23, 2020
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Part Two: The dysfunctional RV industry and you
Editor Chuck Woodbury continues with his series about an RV industry that could be described as “dysfunctional” and how it is focused almost entirely on selling RVs with little concern for those who buy them. For example, those in the industry at the highest levels do not care if you have a place to camp with your rig (hey, Walmart works, right?). They do not care (not really!) if your RV breaks down and on average it will take 21 days to be repaired. (Oh, boy, a lot of RVers would love that fast of service: some wait months!) Read today’s Part Two of the series, but if you didn’t read yesterday’s Part One then read them both here.
Did you miss yesterday’s RV Travel?
If so, stories you missed:
• RV makers putting heat on buyers who don’t read their warranty.
• What to do if your propane tank gets overfilled.
• Milestone reached for Harvest Hosts.
• Readers reveal their favorite RV mods or add-ons, Part 2.
• Reader poll: For every 100 nights in your RV, how often do you have a wood campfire?
• A sad day for snowbird capital Quartzsite.
• Full-timer explains “Why I miss a home base.”
• How one RVer figured out how to never do laundry again. (Hilarious!)
• RV Shrink: Obnoxious “party animals” ruin state park stay.
• RV Doctor: RV levelers raising tires off the ground – occupants queasy!
• RV Electricity: Did the campground industry association save RV park owners millions of dollars by nixing electrical upgrade?
• RV Tire Safety: Why inflate your tires to their max when parking for a long time?
… and much more
That was the RV week that was
February 16–22, 2020
A leaky RV holding tank is partially responsible for what could be an eight-year prison sentence. Before we see RVers everywhere hitting the panic switch, here’s a little more explanation. Oscar Florencio Gonzalez-Leon (33) brought his motorhome through the U.S. border checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, on Interstate 35. A strange, crystal-like substance was seen clinging to one of his rig’s holding tanks. Turns out the tank held 235 pounds of liquid methamphetamine. The discovery was made in 2015. Gonzalez-Leon’s court sentencing date is set for April 17, where the meth, worth nearly $5 million on the streets, could cost him eight years in prison.
When the words “motorhome” and “credit card skimmers” are in the same sentence, one envisions a motorhome driver getting taken for his money when he fills up his rig at a gas pump. In this case, authorities in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, say they think the motorhome driver is the one doing the skimming. Nearly 20 card skimmers have been found on fuel pumps in the parish, and police say that a motorhome has been spotted both in Iberia and other parishes where the cheating devices have been found. Pump users are reminded to take a close look at the fuel pump before they swipe their cards – look for something that doesn’t look like it ought to be there, and for signs of broken security tape on the pump. If you do use plastic for purchase, you are safer to use a credit card, as a debit card’s PIN code can be compromised by some card skimming schemes.
John Denver sang about the Colorado Rocky Mountain High – but we doubt he meant “high” to apply to the number of visitors to the national park bearing that name. More visitors than ever before was the mark in 2109, with 4,678,804 popping through the gates, up nearly 2 percent over the previous high record set in 2018. For perspective, the 2019 number is more than 44 percent over 2012. Biggest turnout month? July, with 976,042 guests.
Some employees of Keystone RV’s Pendleton, Oregon, RV manufacturing plant will be staying at home for a while. Flooding by the Umatilla River has shut down Keystone’s operations there. While some workers have been transferred to other operations until flood restoration work can be completed, others were sent home, and paid $500-a-week compensation for up to three months. The company says it will have to junk 150 RVs that were damaged by the flooding.
Surely there are considerate and polite off-roaders on this planet. But it takes just a few that aren’t to give the rest of the field a bad name. Death Valley National Park (California) officials say it’s the bad ones that are causing them to apply for grants from the state to try and restore landscapes damaged by illegal off-roaders. While it’s illegal to drive in wilderness areas, the National Park Service says they have at least 130 miles of off-roading tracks where they shouldn’t be, causing damage in such memorable places as Stovepipe Wells, Badwater Basin and Panamint Valley. Earlier this week park staff held a public meeting asking for help in ideas and comments that could be part of the park’s grant application.
A group of self-described “blue-collar neighborhood” residents in Palos Hills, Illinois, say they’re fed up with city restrictions on RV parking. A standing-room-only group turned up at city hall, holding the city and its ordinance officer in contempt after the officer had gone through neighborhoods issuing citations where she found RVs and boats parked in driveways but too near the sidewalk, or in “excess” of what a local ordinance allowed. Turns out the ordinance, which one alderman described as being written “with the best of intentions,” had been in place for 15 years, but evidently city officials only recently decided to send out their ticket-writer, drawing a great deal of heat from recipients. There was sound and fury, but like Shakespeare says, it may signify nothing. Aldermen said the ordinance stands, but perhaps they could do better with communications in the future.
A horrific incident in an Aransas Pass, Texas, RV park has stolen a child from a visiting family. Two-year-old Charleigh Nicole Nelson was playing on the grounds at Paradise Lagoons RV Resort when an apparently unsecured septic tank lid gave way and Charleigh fell 15 feet into the tank. Park guests and the family attempted to reach the little girl with a rope, to no avail. A backhoe was used in a further attempt to make the rescue; but it wasn’t until rescue services sent a man down a two-foot access port that they were able to reach her. Sadly, it was too late.
Three years into the present administration, the National Park System has no leader or other key administrators. No administration in recent history has had as many vacancies this far into a term. For three years, the National Park Service has been without a Senate-confirmed director, an agency whose 20,000 employees oversee 419 of America’s national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails. The lack of permanence at the top of these agencies means the nation is lacking established leaders in critical positions in our government – without the expertise and guidance the American people deserve. The Park Service is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of infrastructure it manages.
A planned 86-site RV park in Orting, Washington, has drawn the ire of nearby residents. The 10-acre site is located on the Carbon River, and is at the end of a road in a small residential neighborhood. City officials have taken 27 comments by email, most of them calling for the city to dump the proposal. The area is frequented by walkers and hikers, and some residents fear even more would start tracking through the area if the park were approved. Others were upset that the plan included an allowance for some guests to stay up to six months at a time. The city hasn’t take action yet, there’s still an environmental review slated and another public comment period.
What happens when a rock star gets tired of his old touring motorhome? He orders a new custom coach. What happens to the “old” motorhome? For $170,000 you can get answers to that question and more by buying Bret Michaels‘ 2014 Entegra Aspire, “available at a realistic price,” as the spin-doctors put it. Michaels and his band Poison have used the rig to plow 111,615 miles down America’s roads to put on shows. Included in the deal are all the upgrades the singer put in, including five televisions. The 45′ coach is on sale on rvtrader, but no word on whether the guitar in the picture is included in the deal.
If you’ve ever tried to negotiate an RV through I-95 and New Jersey Route 4 at Fort Lee, heading to the George Washington Bridge, we feel your pain. Russ and Tiña De Maris recall taking a fifth wheel through there years back. The site is Number 1 on the Top Five List of Big Truck Bottlenecks. Who else gets to be on the dubious list of horrors – er – honors? According to the American Transportation Research Institute, other “fellows” include: Number 2: Atlanta’s I-285 at I-85 North interchange. Number 3: Nashville’s I-24/I-40 at I-440 East interchange. Number 4: Houston’s I-45 at I-69/US 59 interchange. And rounding out the list, Number 5: Atlanta’s I-75 at I-285 North interchange. Mark your travel maps, and hit the “avoid” button on your GPS.
There’s less room for RV camping in Adel, Iowa. All campgrounds at Island Park there have been shut down indefinitely. One of the primary reasons, says the Parks and Recreation Board, is that it hasn’t been able to recruit a campground host. But the last straw for the campgrounds was damages from flooding by the Raccoon River in 2019. It took several months to put things right enough to allow camping then, and even now the city is still working on road repair.
A company press release crows that the Number 1 selling travel trailer (for the 15th consecutive year) is Jay Flight, by Jayco. The company explains the reason behind this huge popularity is their “dedication to customer satisfaction along with a focus on quality construction, floorplan design, and affordability.” We’ll let Jay Flight customers determine whether they agree with that statement or not. We noted a new “amenity” in the 2020 Jay Flight lineup that other RV manufacturers might do well to imitate: baggage compartment doors that use the same key as the entry door.
Spring floods in 2019 damaged a bridge leading into South Dakota’s Randall Creek Recreation area near Pickstown, locking out campers since March. Now state park officials say it looks like camping will get started again soon, as the bridge job looks to be done by Memorial Day Weekend. To err on the side of caution, reservations are not being taken yet. The state says it will evaluate how the work is progressing and make a call on when to take reservations in mid-March.
Several dozen residents of Cullman, Alabama, have petitioned the local city council opposing the city’s development of an RV park. Back in 2011 the city plunked down $1.5 million to buy up 170 acres, and is now developing a 50-site RV park on five of those acres. Last Monday a representative of the opposition group took to the podium to scold city commissioners. “The plans and ideas were hidden from the public intentionally, too, with a complete disregard for the community’s wants and needs,” said Elizabeth McDowell. “You have insulted our intelligence repeating that this was not done in conjunction with or for Rock the South. The RV park has one use and one alone, and that is so the wealthy can have their own private parking lot during this event.” McDowell refers to an annual music show, originally set up to help support tornado recovery efforts. McDowell, according to cullmantimes.com, promises citizen protests and boycotts “until this is rectified.” The city is pushing ahead with plans to open the park this summer.
When the horrific Camp Fire devastated areas of Northern California, the government housed first responders in travel trailers. Now that the first response is over, what happens to those previously occupied RVs? Thirty of them will soon become home to families stuck in the middle of another emergency: homelessness. California government is putting the trailers up in Los Angeles at a city-provided site where families with children will have a safe home to live in while working with service groups to find long-term affordable housing. The RVs all have a bedroom, bathroom, galley and dining area. California’s Department of Transportation is providing the transport for the rigs. A non-profit group has been directed to find families in need, most of whom are presently living on the streets or in cars.
Hollywood, Florida, city officials want to buy a 45-acre parcel and turn it into a park and nature preserve. They’re willing to pay $12 million for it, but the present owner, who originally bought the land for an outdoor paintball adventure spot, says nah, he’ll settle for $14.3 million. And since the locals took potshots at his paintball idea, he says, no problem, he’ll just build an RV park if the city can’t cough up the additional two million. City officials are head-banging, trying to figure out how to get their nature preserve, but if that doesn’t happen, RVers may have a new place to hang their hats in Hollywood.
Big motorhome users won’t be included as guests if and when an RV park is opened in Wayne County, Indiana. In 1940, Camp Clements opened as a YMCA camp, and continued as such until it shut down in the 1980s. The place lay fallow until someone bought it and restored it as a campground in 1998 – but it, too, eventually shut down. Now new owners want to reopen the place as an RV park, but since it’s been more than a year since the property operated as one, local law requires a zoning variance as the land is technically zoned agricultural. When new owners Joe and Brandon Creech brought the matter up, opposition came right along with it. Too much noise. Too hard on the environment. Ah! Big RVs on little narrow county roads. The Creeches tried to play ball and said they’d exclude Class A motorhomes from the customer list. They also downsized their plan to allow only 38 rigs on the site. The zoning board listened, and also heard from road engineers who said there was little worry that RVs would be a problem on the local roadways, and in the end, voted 4 to 1 to allow the zoning change. The opposition was told they’d have other opportunities to attempt to torpedo the plan before final permitting would be allowed.
A fight, an angry man, and a propane cylinder with an open valve made for a volatile mix that ended peacefully in Menasha, Wisconsin, last Sunday. Police responded to a fight call around two in the afternoon. On arrival, one of the men, a 45-year-old, had locked himself into an RV and blockaded the door. He responded aggressively toward the police and told them he’d opened a valve to a propane “tank” he had inside. Officers broke out a couple of the rig’s windows to ensure it was ventilated, then waited him out. Finally, after five-and-a-half hours, the man surrendered and was carted off to a medical facility for evaluation.
Want to attract law enforcement attention? Just drift around in your traffic lane. A Nebraska state trooper spotted an RV “having trouble maintaining its lane” on Interstate 80 near Lincoln, Nebraska, and followed the rig into a gas station. The trooper offered to assist the driver, but a check turned up that the driver, Jason Wolff (43), of Sacramento, California, was driving with a suspended license. A little digging revealed that Jason and an associate in the rig, Michael Wernecke (48), of Madison, Wisconsin, were sitting on more than a suspended license. In the rig were 100 pounds of marijuana and a half-pound of methamphetamine. No word on whether it was the steering on the RV or ingestion of product that may have caused the lane control issue. Either way, both men are in the county lockup charged with possession and intent to deliver.
There are a lot of unhappy RVers on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Campgrounds operated at Mill River Resort, a privately owned outfit, are being shut down. It’s one of those “business decisions” that often leaves unhappy customers in its wake. Mill River officials said the campgrounds were only in operation four months out of the year, and with them shut down the company can construct chalets that can be used year-round. Folks that have utilized that four-month season in the past use the terms “heartbroken” and “devastated” as their reaction to the shutdown. One Mill River official consoles the past guests, saying he hopes other outfits can accommodate them.
Two developers in Warren County, New York, spent the last five years building The Brampton Lodge, a “glamping” resort, without any permits. The owners allegedly violated health and environment laws and also failed to comply with fire and safety codes. The Brampton offers luxury yoga retreats and weddings near the Hudson River, but not a single structure on the property had an Adirondack Park Agency (APA) or state river permit. The wastewater system was also located near a drinking water source, a violation of state health regulations. “Respondents refused to bring the property into compliance, instead continuing to expand their tourism accommodations,” said senior APA attorney Jennifer Hubbard. The resort faces a $1.5 million fine.
Was Cookie Monster responsible for the destruction of a motorhome in Estero, Florida? Grover won’t confirm it, but we know this much: Last Tuesday firefighters were dispatched to Lazy D Farm Road where a motorhome was heavily involved in flames. With the fire out, investigators traced the origins of the fire to the microwave oven. Turns out somebody stuffed an entire package of Oreo cookies inside and started it up. Investigators say that metal in the packaging sparked, starting a fire, and shot flames through the appliance’s control panel, out the vent and into the coach.
DID YOU KNOW? On Feb. 10, 1885, the first seat belt patent was granted to Edward J. Claghorn of New York. Many historians don’t like to give Claghorn credit for the invention, however, because his design was for restraining tourists. The patent indicated, ”designed to be applied to the person, and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object.”
Pickup truck news
According to our recent survey, about 80 percent of RVtravel.com readers own at least one pickup truck. Recognizing that, we’ll provide the latest news highlights about the vehicles here each week.
RV owners considering buying a new truck should beware. Just like new cars, the average price of a new pickup in the United States has increased. It’s now around $50,000 according to automotive analytics businesses like Edmunds and JD Power. With its calculations, the average price of a new truck in 2019, according to Edmunds.com, was $49,543; JD Power determined the average 2019 new truck price was $51,700. Not all manufacturers’ 2020 models have been unveiled, but the average price is expected to further increase. Read more.
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org are investigating whether a class action lawsuit can be filed on behalf of owners and lessees of 2018 Ford F-150s. Some drivers have complained that their trucks are consuming oil too quickly and, in some cases, needed engine replacements. If this problem is the result of a manufacturing or design defect, drivers may be able to get their money back for repairs and related expenses. If your Ford F-150 is burning too much oil, attorneys want to hear from you. They are considering whether a lawsuit can be filed but first need to speak with drivers to learn more about the issue. Learn more.
QUESTION: What brand of pickup truck do RVtravel.com readers use for their RVing? See our survey, with more than 8,000 responses (and counting).
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The Indiana Beach/Monticello Kampgrounds of America (KOA) plans to operate its normal season from May 17 to Oct. 27 despite the announcement Tuesday (Feb. 18) of the closure of its neighbor, Indiana Beach, a nearly century-old amusement park in Monticello.
Black Book reported that the average motorhome price at auction jumped during January, up 21.1% from the previous month, while towable values slipped 2.8%. “Although we expect an increase this time of year, the significantly lower auction volume may be skewing the values a bit,” reported Eric Lawrence, principal automotive analyst, specialty vehicles. The average selling price for motorized units was $51,616, up $8,983 (21.1%) from the previous month. Towables came in at $14,812, down $441 (2.8%) from last month. One year ago the average motorhome sold for $40,158 and the average towable unit brought $13,035.
The National Park Service (NPS) maintains more than 5,000 miles of paved roads, as well as tunnels and bridges. Many of these roads are showing their age, and park managers are grappling with a backlog of transportation-related repairs — part of $12 billion in deferred maintenance that is challenging NPS sites across the country.
Furrion announced five new additions to its lineup of RV refrigerators. The new models include 15- and 16-cubic-foot French-door models and a 15-cubic-foot, double-door model, all available in a high-end stainless-steel finish. The new professional series models include a 16- and 20-cubic-foot, side-by-side design, and is available in stainless steel, black steel, and a new midnight glass finish. “These new designs and luxury finishes create a residential look and feel in their RV,” said Aaron Fidler, co-founder and CEO.
Lazydays RV has opened its first dedicated service center. The 30,000-square-foot facility is located in Waller, Texas, a suburb northwest of Houston. According to a press release, Texas is the home to the most RV owners in the United States, and Houston is the largest RV market in Texas.
Several RV aftermarket suppliers and distributors have confirmed that the recent novel coronavirus outbreak is likely to cause a 30- to 60-day delay in shipped goods. “There could be a disruption in the RV industry, I believe, because that will coincide with the kickoff of the high retail season.” John Tinghitella of RV Designer told RV Pro Magazine.
The Pennsylvania state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will allow pets at more state park campsites in 2021. Dogs, cats and caged animals such as birds and hamsters will be permitted in the parks. Livestock such as horses, cows, pigs, sheep and goats are not considered pets. Pet camping started as a pilot program in the state parks in 2001. Currently, 56 of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks allow pet camping. Additionally, 26 state parks allow dogs in designated cabins, cottages and yurts.
All six members of Utah’s congressional delegation announced earlier this month that they oppose a possible reservation system at Zion National Park, saying it would reduce visitation at Utah’s most popular scenic getaway and harm southern Utah’s economy. The park had 4.3 million visitors in 2018, a 62% increase over 2010. Proponents of a reservation system say the current growth is not sustainable, and the long lines, crowded trails and safety concerns are already affecting visitors’ enjoyment of the park.
Airstream is currently developing new technology that could incorporate an electric drivetrain. Plans to support an electrified future are underway, and the company is working on delivering electric-powered trailers that offer more freedom and range. Airstream is experimenting with affixing an electric engine to the camper’s axle to provide extra driving force while also refining the aerodynamics to make the trailers lighter and sleeker.
The Canadian RV Association reports that RV wholesale shipments into Canada for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31 totaled 10,023 units compared to 13,784 for the same period in 2018, a decrease of 27.29 percent.
The University of Nevada at Reno Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives Department is currently featuring an exhibit “Into Nature: The History of Camping in the Far West.” It focuses on the transition from camping being a necessity to being part of a vacation. The exhibit also explores homelessness as a form of camping and the difference between Native American experiences and summer camps when recreational camping was starting to become popular. “There is more to camping than people think,” says research assistant Kim Roberts. “Camping was not always a fun activity and for some it still remains a way of life instead of a fun recreational activity.” The exhibit will close next month.
Developments at RV parks and campgrounds across the USA
Janet Groene reports each week on developments at RV parks and campgrounds across the USA and Canada. There’s a lot of good information here that you can use to plan your travels. Read the current installment of “Campground Chatter” here.
Stolen RV Report
UPDATED THE FIRST ISSUE OF EACH MONTH
Have you seen any of these RVs? They were stolen recently in various parts of the United States. Authorities would like your help in locating them, so keep your eyes open. Here’s February’s rundown of stolen RVs.
RV recalls posted since our last newsletter
Latest fuel prices
Here are the latest U.S. average prices per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel as of February 17, 2020:
Regular unleaded gasoline: $2.43 [Calif.: $3.36]
Change from week before: Up 1 cent; Change from year before: Up 11 cents.
Diesel: $2.89 [Calif.: $3.77]
Change from week before: Down 2 cents; Change from year before: Down 12 cents.
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Upcoming RV shows
Dallas RV Supersale, Feb. 20-23, Dallas, TX
Red Deer RV Show, Feb. 20-23, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
West Palm Beach RV Show, Feb. 20-23, West Palm Beach, FL
Harrisburg RV & Camping Show, Feb. 21-23, Harrisburg, PA
Pennsylvania Adventure RV Expo, Feb. 21-23, Altoona, PA
Maryland RV Show, Feb. 21-23, Timonium, MD
Raleigh, North Carolina, RV Show, Feb. 21-23, Raleigh, NC
Ocala RV Show, Feb. 27 – Mar. 1, Ocala, FL
Toronto Spring Camping RV Show, Feb. 27 – Mar. 1, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Rhode Island RV & Camping Show, Feb. 28 – Mar. 1, Providence, RI
Columbus RV Show, Feb. 28 – Mar. 1, Columbus, OH
Overland Park RV & Outdoor Show, Feb. 28 – Mar. 1, Overland Park, KS
Battle Creek RV & Camping Show, Mar. 5-8, Battle Creek, MI
CNY RV & Camping Show, Mar. 5-8. Syracuse, NY
Colorado RV, Sports & Travel Show, Mar. 5-8, Denver, CO
Montreal RV Show, Mar. 5-8, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Central Illinois RV Show – Peoria, Mar. 6-8, Peoria, IL
Brain teaser answer:
(The question appeared in yesterday’s newsletter): Are you asleep yet?
Free and bargain camping
Click here to view this week’s free and bargain camping spots.
Overnight RV Parking, with more than 14,000 locations listed, is the largest and best resource for locating free and inexpensive places to spend a night in an RV. For membership information and a demo of the site, click here. A modest membership fee required, but try the free demo. Watch a video about OvernightRVparking.com.
RV Travel staff
CONTACT US at editor@RVtravel.com
Editor and Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Emily Woodbury. Senior editors: Diane McGovern, Russ and Tiña De Maris.
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Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we occasionally get something wrong. We’re just human! So don’t go spending $10,000 on something we said was good simply because we said so, or fixing something according to what we suggested (check with your own technician first). Maybe we made a mistake. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com or this newsletter.
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