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Sunday, May 3, 2020
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Coronavirus Updates for RVers
Here’s the latest news and information about the coronavirus and how it’s affecting the RV community. We feature this in every Sunday’s edition of the RVtravel.com Newsletter.
PLUS: A video message of hope from former President George W. Bush.
••• READ TODAY’S CORONAVIRUS NEWS •••
RV shipments decline sharply in March
It should come as no surprise that the RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) March 2020 survey of manufacturers revealed a steep decline in RV shipments in what will likely be a trend in the months ahead. Shipments of motorhomes took a nosedive — down nearly 40 percent. Total RV shipments ended the month with 30,288 units, a decrease of 20.3 percent from the 38,015 units shipped in March 2019. Learn more.
That was the RV week that was
April 26 – May 2, 2020
An RV park owner in Pennsylvania learned how fast cooped-up campers can snap up sites: About as fast as a bear can snag a picnic basket. Gary Quigley runs Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Harrisville. Last Monday they got word they could open their campground on the following Friday. The campground’s 155 sites “sold out” in just three hours.
America’s Midwest may be plagued with the occasional tornado, but Canada apparently has its own style of punishing weather: Ice jams. Up near Stettler, Alberta, Andre Mercier, who manages River Creek RV Park, has major headaches that he says will be hugely expensive to put right. Last Monday he got a call that he should check out the park. On arrival the sound of cracking ice was loud in his ears, but that wasn’t the worst of it. A huge blockade of ice from a nearby river had blasted through the park, tipping over RVs, shoving some of them hundreds of yards, and making others vanish to parts unknown. Mercier fears that most RV owners will simply end up with total-loss situations and have to start over from scratch.
If you’re looking to make an RV trip and need an open campground, Oklahoma’s okay. While Army Corps campgrounds are still closed and will be gradually reopened, state parks and private campgrounds are seeing plenty of action. Some RV parks report that out-of-state reservations were cancelled, but locals, looking for relief from being home, are more than taking the vacancies. It’s a good thing for park owners; last year storms and floods raised Cain with revenues, and the “early” season interest is helping out.
Alaska residents in the Lower 48 and wanting to go home through Canada, your trip may take a bit of time. According to Anchorage, Alaska, TV station, KTUU, getting through Canada may require a few hoop jumps. First, says the station, U.S. Customs and Border Protection assured it that an Alaska resident crossing into Canada to get home is considered “essential travel.” However, Canada has the final authority to say who can cross north into their jurisdiction, and according to Canada Border Security, those crossing in will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Once an Alaskan makes it to the border with their home state, they’ll be welcomed home – but they’ll need to sign a form indicating where they’ll spend their state-mandated 14-day quarantine. Bring plenty of board games, four weeks is a long time on lockdown. Meanwhile, if you are planning to make the trip, it’s recommended you call Canadian authorities to discuss your situation before you hit the border. Call them at Canada Border Security Agency, 204-983-3500.
Fire wiped out a fifth-wheel in Lebanon, Oregon, April 22, and the location gave smoke-eaters a bit of a workout. The fifth-wheel was located on a rural property, and the driveway didn’t allow for immediate access. Apparatus had to be left on the roadway and firefighters pulled 300 feet of fire hose to take on the flames. While no people were hurt, sadly, the owner’s dog wasn’t able to escape the flames. No fire cause determined, but is listed as “not suspicious.”
How much of an impression has COVID-19 made on RV park owners? Here’s a hint: RV park franchise king KOA reports that it has refunded KOA franchisees $5.2 million for deposit and cancellation fees that park owners had refunded to customers for cancellations in March and April. If you add in KOA-owned park cancellations, the total came to $6.4 million.
It appears that freak circumstances have led to the deaths of three Story County, Iowa, residents in a travel trailer. On April 21, an RV park resident noticed they had not seen anything of Connie Dilliner (62), Elizabeth Ennenga (41), or Trevor Brommel (20), in several days. They also spotted a piece of skirting that had been installed around the travel trailer had come loose and blown over the rig’s furnace exhaust port. Police were called for a welfare check and, sadly, all three of the trailer’s residents and three dogs were found inside, deceased. A preliminary report says all died from asphyxiation, likely by carbon monoxide gas. The three people were all relatives of one another.
You’d think this pandemic would shove RV stocks downhill. Winnebago bucked the trend, and one stock research firm, Zacks, says that since its last earnings report about a month ago, the big RV manufacturer’s stock price has actually shot up nearly 17 percent. That’s beat the daylights out of the index it’s traded in, the S&P 500. What accounts for the big shoot-up? Zacks opines that its second-quarter earnings of 67 cents per share, although missing predictions, still looked pretty. Taking over Newmar and Grand Design didn’t hurt the company, either. But Zacks says it feels all that high flying may be headed for a tough landing and urges investors who have Winnie stock to kick it off to the side of the road.
An unusual fire in Oscoda, Michigan, involved a house and an RV – and in this case, the house came off the loser. A visitor parked their rig close to a home there and plugged the rig into the home’s electrical system. Dates and times are not available, only listed as “recent,” but firefighters were called out after midnight when a blaze broke out in the house. After pumping 5,000 gallons of foam and water, the fire was out. Total damages to the house and contents: $60,000. Total damages to the RV: None – with the presumable exception of a demolished electrical cord. Firemen say the blaze was due to an “electrical malfunction.”
Coronavirus may have shut down schools across the country, but an RV and a private internet-based academy is broadening the education of one 9th-grade Michigan student. Rihanna Peterson and her mom, Heather Zigler, are cautiously scooting about Michigan in their RV exploring the countryside as restrictions allow. Zigler says they’re practicing social distancing as they go. She points to lessons shared that may go beyond the books and into a more practical setting. Teaching her daughter sewing for one; and learning fractions while cooking.
Snowbirds returning from the U.S. to Ontario have been heating up the phone lines to St. Clair Township. Returning Canadians must quarantine themselves for two weeks, and full-time RVers heading back into Ontario say they have no place to go. St. Clair has three municipally operated campgrounds which don’t normally open until early May, but the pandemic caused officials to push back the opening until at least May 12. Township officials looked at their requests and have decided to leave well enough alone. The community services director put it this way: “Our main concern is that once we open the campgrounds, there will be all sorts of problems. One fear is that everybody is just going to be coming out of the woodworks saying they are snowbirds.”
A New Mexico RV dealer, Chisholm Trail RV, may not be having huge numbers of would-be buyers prowling their showroom but they’re keeping busy, nonetheless. Company owner Erin Chisholm says the outfit has taken to putting together “care packages” to help state residents eat during the economic downturn. So far the company estimates it’s put together 45,000 meals for some 3,500 to 4,000 residents in a team effort with the New Mexico State Auditor.
Looking to travel in the Northeast? Don’t expect welcoming arms in Vermont. While private campgrounds are opening, there are certain severe restrictions. Those welcome to stay are the homeless, health workers, and other essential workers as long as the stay-at-home order is in place. Seasonal campers can come – provided they made a reservation before March 25, and will be staying the entire season. Even then, your home is not only your castle, it’s your “prison.” Visiting others in the campground is verboten. If you’re arriving from another state, a mandatory 14-day quarantine will apply. Bring all you need for the two weeks – you won’t be allowed to leave the inside of your RV. Want to stay in a state park? They’re closed to camping now, but will be accepting reservations for dates AFTER June 14.
While some of the major RV manufacturers are moving ahead to reopen production in their Indiana plants, one RV support facility has kept “working” despite – or rather because of – the pandemic. Elkhart, Indiana’s ObeCo Incorporated produces netting-based products used in some RVs. When COVID-19 reared its head, the company shut down production to protect its workers. But when employees heard that the shortage of personal protective equipment was endangering health care workers, they prevailed on company management to reopen plant doors. Instead of producing nets for RVs, the company began turning out reusable face masks and hospital gowns using donated materials. Earlier this month ObeCo had produced and donated 4,500 masks and 400 gowns, most of which stayed in the area, although some ventured as far as Texas, Idaho, and South Carolina.
City council members in Goleta, California, have ratcheted back some restrictions for RV parking at the local Elks Lodge. With the coronavirus pandemic creating real issues for where RVers might stay, councilors lifted the 14-day stay restriction at the lodge, as well as allowing non-members to stay. However, only eight of the 16 sites are available, as social-distancing restrictions required leaving an unoccupied site between parked rigs.
Arkansas residents may be breathing a little easier – state parks opened up for RVers to overnight on May 1. BYOB – that is – bring your own bathroom. The shower houses won’t be open, and if you’re from out of state, sorry, state residents alone are welcome.
“Sleeping Beauty” she wasn’t. Sheriff’s deputies in California’s Tuolumne County got a report of someone breaking into an RV parked next to the road in the old gold rush town of Jamestown. The report came in early on Saturday morning, April 25. On arrival, deputies found an RV parked beside the road with a For Sale sign posted on it. Shining a light in a window, the deputy spotted a woman who quickly laid down on the couch, “playing possum.” Elizabeth Cooper, listed as a resident of Sonora, must have been a good sleeper, as she failed to hear the commands to come out of the RV, so the deputy called for backup to help him wake her up. With California Highway Patrol officers assisting, the woman was cuffed and hauled off to jail – but not before spitting in an officer’s face. She now faces charges of burglary, tampering with a vehicle and, of course, battery of a peace officer.
It didn’t take long for arson investigators to sniff out their man in Marble Hill, Georgia. On Monday, April 20, firefighters were called to a fifth-wheel fire; the rig was completely burned down to the floor deck. On Tuesday, April 21, police picked up William Lanier Cantrell (47) of Marble Hill. Cantrell is charged with felony arson. If found guilty, Cantrell could see up to 20 years in prison and fines in the neighborhood of $50,000. No motive for the fire was noted.
A Florida man is facing trespassing charges after security found him camping on Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Discovery Island was a zoological attraction before Disney’s Animal Kingdom park opened, and has been closed since 1999. All of Disney’s Orlando-area theme parks are also currently closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The man said camping on the island was a “tropical paradise.”
Can togetherness get to be too much? Maybe so, as illustrated from an incident in Bismark, North Dakota. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from the Bismark KOA campground on April 25 to an apparent family disturbance. They found a 47-year-old man with a knife stuck in his neck and promptly sent him off to an area hospital. Before leaving, they arrested a 14-year-old girl – a family member – as a suspect in the case. The family had been living at the campground for almost a month.
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.
Trucks rule, but safety improvements necessary
Driving a pickup truck feels safe. Long-time users know the feeling well. Newbies to the segment usually understand quickly. Yet it’s not always as safe as possible. Sitting high off the road and in a vehicle with all-wheel drive or 4WD capacity provides a sense of security. But 2020 trucks don’t always have top safety ratings – at least so far. Learn more.
Global Expedition Vehicles takes extreme RVing to off-grid max
Expedition vehicles take RVing to extremes. Global Expedition Vehicles makes extreme vehicles on truck chassis that redefine “extreme.” The Missouri-based company creates its vehicles utilizing several truck manufacturers. Its latest creation is the $650,000 UXV-MAX. Check it out.
Convertible pickup truck? Yup, Mecum Auctions has one
The Dodge Dakota Convertible pickup truck and other mini trucks were all the rage until SUVs began to infiltrate the automotive market in the early 1990s. To be different, Chrysler’s odd entry made in 1990 had a manual vinyl top and only 909 were manufactured. Only a few of the convertibles remain in good shape. One example will be available at auction June 23-28…. Read about it here and get ready to put in your bid.
What do the following words have in common?
• Assess • Banana • Dresser • Grammar • Potato • Revive • Uneven • Voodoo
(And don’t miss the Sunday funny below that!)
Do you need full- or part-time employment to make ends meet?
Want to attend an RV show? You’re out of luck for at least a few months. All those scheduled have been cancelled or postponed. So far, the giant Hershey RV Show is still on — starting in 135 days, September 16, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
On March 20, GEICO voluntarily announced it would pause policy cancellations due to non-payment and policy expiration through April 30, 2020. Now the company is extending the cancellation pause to further assist customers during this period of great uncertainty. The new date is May 31. GEICO has also committed to offering maximum flexibility to policyholders who need special payment options and adjusting policies for customers driving less because of stay-at-home directives.
Richard Curtin, director of surveys of consumers at the University of Michigan, tells the industry that it will have to adapt, and begin acting now, to changing trends and attitudes rising out of the COVID-19 crisis. He expects manufacturers will face more pressure to produce less-expensive RVs. Describing RVs as already self-isolating homes for trips or vacations, he indicated the industry should recognize current health concerns and design new RVs with amenities like making hygienic cleaning easier.
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.
Did you miss yesterday’s RV Travel?
If so, stories you missed:
• Use your RV air conditioner in low-power situations.
• Our new directory of RV parks with storm shelters.
• Watch out for mice in your spring RV cleaning.
• Husband says “No” to danger; wife says, “Let’s go!”
• Can your pet give you COVID-19?
• Reader Poll: Will you have trouble making your RV loan payment this month?
• Rain coming? Shut off that cruise control!
• VIDEO: RV Electricity Basics. Part One.
• RV Education 101: Maintain water level in RV lead acid battery.
• Preliminary report on Vitrifrigo Swing Compressor Refrigerator.
• Is moisture in tires a bad thing? What about in RV tires?
… and much more
Latest fuel prices
Here are the latest U.S. average prices per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel as of April 27, 2020:
Regular unleaded gasoline: $1.77 [Calif.: $2.65]
Change from week before: Down 4 cents; Change from year before: Down $1.11.
Diesel: $2.44 [Calif.: $3.21]
Change from week before: Down 4 cents; Change from year before: Down 73 cents.
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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.
Brain teaser answer:
If you take the first letter and move it to the rear of the word, you get the same word when read backwards.
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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