By Chuck Woodbury
I was interviewed by an RV trade magazine recently. The editors wanted to know what I thought of the state of the RV industry.
As you likely know, the RV industry is beside itself with happiness because a billion or so people are buying RVs every couple of days or so. The RV makers and dealers like that, of course, because they make lots of money. RV park owners like that because more people can cram into their already packed campgrounds so they make more money, too.
More people have jobs making those RVs now, which is excellent — most of them in Elkhart, Indiana, a pretty little town that looks a lot like Mayberry. Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee could walk by and you wouldn’t bat an eyelash — unless you happened to recall they’re all dead.
Well, I told the magazine that I thought that it’s totally understandable that people in the RV industry would be very happy. Everybody likes money, right? But I said that I wasn’t all that happy myself because all those new RVers are presenting a problem to me: There are just too many of them and they are squeezing me out of the campgrounds where I like to stay. I need to make a reservation to get a spot unless I want to pay $35 for some weed-infested plot of earth that somehow qualifies as an RV park, where people like me go only when they can’t get in anywhere else and its either there or sweating like a pig in a parking lot without my blessed air conditioning.
I used to say it was nice to travel with an RV because you could be spontaneous and stay where you want and not have to search out a motel room. I don’t know if that’s true anymore.
Yes, you can stay in your RV in a Walmart or Cabela’s parking lot, which truly is a lifesaver sometimes. But, really, is that a nice camping experience? Do you get to sit around the campfire at night with all your new Walmart buddies, cook hotdogs over the fire, drink a little firewater and tell ghost stories? Well, no, you can’t do that unless you want to get booted out and then have to drive two miles to Kmart.
And the problem with a lot of these new RVers is they are buying newfangled RVs with outdoor kitchens and outdoor stereo boomboxes and my favorite — big screen TVs. Now, those things are fine for tailgating, but not, in my opinion, in RV parks where you are packed so tightly you can hear Bud and Mable next door going tinkle.
One night last summer on my trip across the USA, my very nice campsite turned into a movie theater when a family of at least 15 (actually, I think it was six) showed up. About 9 p.m., Mom and Dad exited the RV with their brood following. They sat down in various-sized lawn chairs, next to the campfire that, I might add, was blowing smoke into my RV, bringing back wonderful memories of growing up in Southern California and smog so thick I couldn’t see my backyard fence.
Anyway, the family took their seats in front of the outdoor TV, which was probably around a 50-incher, and then fired it up. And for the next two hours, the girls giggled and laughed as they savored every minute of “The Little Mermaid.” I wanted to walk out and say, “Would you turn that damn thing off?” But I love kids and they were having fun and, well, I just couldn’t be Mr. Scrooge. So I closed my windows and fired up the A/C. Ah, camping!
But enough whining. I was just going to write, “Okay, time to get serious,” then I realized I actually have been serious. But putting on my “glass half full” hat, I also must say that I am still head over heels in love with RVing. I still think it is the best way to travel in the world, especially in the off-season when you can still get a campsite without a reservation and avoid kids racing between your legs on their very cool, three-wheeled, all-plastic Hasbro tricycles.
Really, if an RVer heads out onto our public lands there are still millions and millions of acres of wide-open spaces, blue skies and fresh air — room aplenty to enjoy the great outdoors and our incredibly wonderful recreational vehicles.
This essay originally appeared in the RV Travel Newsletter, Issue 739, the week of April 23-29, 2016.