By Chuck Woodbury
It’s Friday. Gail and I drove yesterday (my usual writing day) from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Ponca City, Oklahoma, for a quick stay before heading on to Missouri. We are on our way to the RVillage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana, in mid-May, where several RV Travel staff members and I will speak to the estimated 1,000 RVers on hand. I believe there are still some hookup sites available if you’d like to attend.
The big news this past week is that once again monthly RV shipments to dealers have hit a new high. A total of 51,607 RVs were delivered last month to dealers around the country, up about 10,000 units from last March. It was the first month ever that shipments exceeded 50,000. I’ll take a wild guess at how many new RV park spaces were added that same month: 100? 200? Or maybe zero?
The last RV park where I stayed, which was in Wichita Falls, had 84 spaces. Twenty-nine were occupied by long-term pipeline workers. The smaller park I am in today in Ponca City — a clean, pleasant place — is about 90 percent occupied by oil workers. Every third or fourth site has a child’s bike or two outside. We had planned to head down to the Branson area next week but every park there that looked decent is booked. Such is the life of an RV drifter these days.
I didn’t want to get on my soapbox again this week, but I have matters on my mind I can’t ignore. First, I will tell you that I did not hear back this week from Recreational Vehicle Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer, who I wrote to Monday in response his statement to a industry magazine that “Camping obviously is what everyone in an RV is doing. . .”
In my email to Frank I said, in part: You think someone in a 40-foot diesel pusher; or a two bedroom, two bath fifth wheel with a wine cooler, residential fridge, built-in vacuum, dishwasher, heated floors, washer-dryer, cell phone booster, four TVs with a satellite receiver on the roof, stereo system. . . etc. — you really believe they are “obviously camping.”
I did hear back from RVIA PR person Kevin Broom, who said he would talk to Frank to see if he’d like to respond. Well, it’s Friday and no response. So does Frank think those of us with our nice, comfy rigs who travel a lot or full time are out having an ongoing “meaningful relationship with nature?”
THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY is having its issues but is responding far different than our own RV industry. I was given a report recently about how dozens, maybe 100 or more trucking companies, associations, individuals, and related businesses were joining together to learn how to create more places for long-haul truckers to stay the night. It’s a big problem. Isn’t it interesting how members of the trucking industry realize there’s a serious problem and are coming together to find solutions? In the RV industry, nobody (except us) talks about anything but how many RVs they can sell and how much money they can make.
Honestly, I’m tired of using this space to complain, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. Nobody else is addressing the question of “Where will you, me and all the new RVers stay in the years ahead?”
Look at this graph from KOA. It shows very clearly how the popularity of RVing has grown in the last three years. Where will this lead? I don’t know, but my gut feeling is it’s not a good place.
We are adding new writers to our staff, covering a wide range of topics related to RVers, but what we really need is a good investigative-type reporter who can dig into a subject to help us influence the creation of more quality places to stay, establish decent RV lemon laws, and pressure RV manufacturers to quit turning out so many crappy vehicles. Read the horror stories some of our readers have told us about their experiences.
We also need to bring awareness that some dealers, Camping World in particular, are promoting very unwise buying practices — promoting no money down loans or those with payments stretched out 20 years — two decades! Slick salesmen are suckering dreamy-eyed but financially unsavvy consumers, of which there are plenty, into such deals. Some will be forced into bankruptcy down the road if they lose a job or their stock portfolios dive, as happens.
If you are retired or semi-retired and have a background in investigative journalism, and would like to stay involved in effecting change that matters, please contact our associate editor Deanna Tolliver at deanna (at) rvtravel.com and introduce yourself. We don’t have a lot to pay, but we will do our best.
And it’s only because of the 2,400 of you who have “voluntarily subscribed” to this newsletter that we can retain such a person in the first place. If you have not pitched in learn more or donate here. If you are reading this newsletter and the more than 3,500 articles on this website for free that’s perfectly fine. But if you believe there are problems brewing in RV paradise, please chip in what you can afford to help us to challenge an industry with 1,000 times more money, far more influence and lobbyists whose job is to protect RV manufacturers, not you and me.
The fact is, in my experience, I’d say that most industry players have little respect for RVtravel.com or any other RV consumer website, even though in our case we have a substantial audience (see chart).
I will conclude on a positive note and say that despite all I have written here, please understand that I still love RVing, and that is why I am so passionate about helping it stay so wonderful. I simply see problems ahead that need to be dealt with starting NOW, and I am lucky to have a platform where I can share my thoughts.
And now I am stepping off my soapbox to refill my coffee cup.