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A commencement address for the New RV Owners “Class of 2022”

FIRST, A PERSONAL NOTE: Everyone has a bucket list. Some write it all down in excruciating detail, ceremoniously checking off each item as they progress toward their own demise. As for myself, I tend to live life as it comes. I married a list maker, so I leave the tracking to her. There is one personal bucket-list item that I’ve long held and likely won’t fulfill at this point. I’ve always thought it would be neat to give a commencement address. Since I doubt I’ll be getting a call from Cornell or Harvard this spring, I’ve decided to give the commencement address to the Class of 2022 New RV Owners. Here goes…

Congratulations to the Class of 2022 New RV Owners! You have now joined the ranks of millions of Americans who have systematically stripped dealer lots of nearly all usable inventory.

It’s invigorating to stand here, staring out at all your eager, smiling faces. It’s easy to see that you can’t wait to start rolling down America’s highways and byways, gathering nothing but pleasant memories as you pull into one expansive, luxurious, affordable, and easily reservable campground after another. Imagine the life you’ll live, unencumbered by schedules, deadlines, or the need to be at a certain place at a certain time!

Before you throw your new Winnebago hat in the air and head for the highways, let me share a few facts about this life you’ve chosen.

The facts

#1: In your mad rush into the outdoors, you may not have allowed yourself the time to do the necessary research before you purchased your new RV. Granted, it’s been slim pickings these past few months. Many dealer lots have resembled a Walmart at the close of Black Friday. Any rig capable of forward movement was snatched up at premium prices. It didn’t seem to matter if that brand-new RV was still waiting for a showerhead, carpeting, or even a bumper. If it rolled, it sold.

#2: Don’t feel too bad if you’re already having a twinge of buyer’s regret, even before your first adventure. You are New RV Owners, after all. If you fear you’ve purchased the wrong rig, don’t despair. After all, about 50 percent of us don’t select the right spouse on the first try. That’s what second (and third and fourth) marriages are for. Your RVing needs and preferences will change along the way. If you stick with RVing, you’ll likely own as many rigs as you do dogs in your lifetime. There’s plenty of time to find the perfect RV.

#3: That “brand-new” smell that was so alluring at the RV show won’t last. You are about to get very familiar with the literal dirty underbelly of RVing—dumping the black water tanks. It’s one of the necessary evils of RVing, and one that you’re pretty much left to figure out for yourself. That slick salesman won’t be there when it comes time to unfurl the gnarly accordion hose, make that tenuous connection between rig and ground, and say a silent prayer as you pull that black lever for the first time. But take heart. If you mess things up, it will draw a crowd of helpful RV veterans eager to offer advice.

#4: Yes, New RV Owner, you did spend tens of thousands of dollars on a factory-fresh, brand-new recreational vehicle. No, it will not be as problem-free as everything else you’ve ever purchased off the shelf. What you now own is a wooden box filled with all sorts of cardboard, plastic parts, glue, and miscellaneous nuts and bolts that will shake, rattle, and roll down the highway. It’s akin to putting a really nice garden shed on the back of a flatbed truck and driving it down a dry riverbed. Accept that things will break, and roofs will leak. Sooner or later (usually sooner) you’ll discover your brand-new RV has a few quality-control issues that you missed on delivery.

#5: The RV manufacturing industry likes you, but they don’t love you. You now own a piece of equipment that was hand-made by mostly inexperienced workers as fast as humanly possible on a rapidly accelerating assembly line. This is the industry that was maxing out to make 430,000 units in 2016. Suddenly, this same bunch was able to crank out 600,000-plus RVs in 2021 from basically the same manufacturing facilities? The only differential was the speed of construction. Speed can be fatal to quality, too.

#6: RV dealers are … dealers. There is a set progression to the manufacture and sale of an RV, and it seldom favors the buyer. Once your RV cleared the big doors at the factory, the manufacturer added it to their shipped numbers and hoped to never see or hear of it again. The dealer takes the new rig, shines it up and puts it on display. Once you fell in love with it and rolled it off the lot, the dealer joins the manufacturer in never wanting to see it again. This puts you in a tough spot when the inevitable problems occur. Getting anyone to take on “warranty work” can be a grueling, all-consuming pastime. Good luck getting anyone to take responsibility for a factory defect. Even if you were lucky enough to find a dealer who wants to help, parts are in short supply and your first year of ownership might include many weeks or months of leaving your RV at the lot awaiting repair.

Now, it’s important to note, New RV Owners, that we don’t want to put all manufacturers and dealers, ironically, in the same crumbling box. There are still good ones out there in both categories. If you stumbled on your first attempt at purchasing a quality RV from a reputable dealer, keep looking. Some still take great pride in what they make and stand behind what they sell.

#7: You aren’t alone. Not by a long shot. There are millions of new RVers just like you and, together, you are putting a tremendous strain on existing campgrounds and parks. Take heart. Money and new development always follow demand. It might take a while, but new campgrounds will be built and expanded. Sometime in the hopefully not-too-distant future it won’t be necessary to book your summer camping three summers out.

Now the good stuff, New RV Owners

So, now that we’ve covered the downside of your new lifestyle, let’s talk about the good stuff.

There’s no need for a long, numbered list on this side of the ledger. There is a simple reason humans have been camping as long as there have been humans. We all have an innate need to connect with the outdoors. In some way, it calls out to every one of us.

After you’ve overcome all the downsides I’ve listed above, the huge plus of just getting outside, seeing the country and spending quality time with those you love trumps all the aggravations for most.

Are the hassles of RV ownership worth it? That will be your personal decision based on your own experiences. Give your RV life the time it needs to reveal itself. Many of you will find that the good far outweighs the bad.

At the end of each day—after all the hassles of packing, making reservations, buying gas, and dealing with the possible mishaps along the way—you still have the opportunity to sit peacefully staring into the flames of a warming campfire, having conversations with the ones you love.

You’re also surrounded by a community of like-minded, experienced RVers who are more than willing to share their knowledge (along with a cold beverage), should problems arise. Your fellow RVers are your best source of information, inspiration, and enjoyment.

So, Class of 2022 New RV Owners, I congratulate you on boldly joining the ranks of the millions of happy campers out there. Just remember to be kind, be patient, and be the type of camper your Scout leader trained you to be.

And for Pete’s sake, figure out how to properly dump those black water tanks.

##RVT1041

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Steve Baldwin
2 months ago

He missed an important point in the commencement address: clean up after yourself, especially if boondocking. Those leaving really messy stuff are costing us places to boondock.

Neal Davis
2 months ago

Very well said, Mike. Thank you! We were in the class of 2016 and agree with all that you said, especially the bit about essentially no inventory at dealers. Our search for RV #2 taught us that if there was a model available to see at a dealership, then it had already been sold and would move to the buyer shortly. In five months of searching we found five exceptions to this rule. We gave up, placed an order, and eagerly await the early-June arrival of #2 (and, sadly, the departure of #1).

Irvin Kanode
2 months ago

re:  “it’s been slim pickings these past few months”

That was back last summer. Around here (NC, TN, GA), dealer lots have been overflowing since December!

I grew up in Elkhart County and RV sales have always been a roller coaster ride of boom and bust.

Grant Edgar
2 months ago
Reply to  Irvin Kanode

I have just returned to Canada from Arizona and was surprised how many RV there were in dealers lots. I expected them to be empty. Not so.

Bugsy
2 months ago

Truly great!

Bob M
2 months ago

Be careful how far away from home you buy your RV. With the number of RV’s being pushed out with poor quality. You might have to take it back a few times. With the high price of gas and getting 9 miles to a gallon. It can be expensive. I had mine back to the dealer 100 miles away twice and they claim Jayco’s is one of the better ones.

Ran
2 months ago

Good Job Mike. That was spot-on! I think a little list of do’s and don’t addressing camping would be a great addition! Like turn glaring lights off at night, keep noise levels down, curb your pets, respect others, etc……Nicely done! Kudo’s!

sherry
2 months ago

Cute cute idea. As the mother of 3 and the mother in law of 2 all with advanced degrees, and seeing as “graduation” ceremonies start with preschool, I have set through dozens of commencement speeches. This is one of the better ones.

Gayle V.
2 months ago

“You now own a piece of equipment that was hand-made by mostly inexperienced workers as fast as humanly possible on a rapidly accelerating assembly line.”
“Mostly” might be a bit of a stretch, but I enjoyed the article nonetheless.

Randolph Myerson
2 months ago

Mike Gast, you crushed it! Cornell and Harvard won’t know what they missed at commencement. Your address to the new owners of the RV Class of 2022 was great.

Bob p
2 months ago

Ditto

Gregory Brott
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

And…double ditto!

Jesse Crouse
2 months ago

Mike must be an optimist. The newbies have no idea how bumpy a ride they are in for.