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We all know the price that’s paid for deferred maintenance. You delay oil changes to save $60 and you need an engine rebuild for $4,000. You delay transmission fluid changes to save a couple of hundred bucks and you need a new tranny for $6,000. You avoid getting a roof leak fixed and you need—well, a new RV, for $20,000 or $40,000 or more.

Deferred maintenance is undeniably false economy.

Now think about something so many of us use and enjoy, the National Parks System. According to National Parks Service deferred maintenance reports, the agency has delayed nearly $12 billion in park maintenance—$313 million in fiscal year 2018 alone. The cumulative maintenance backlog includes $6.5 billion in roads and structures, and $5.77 billion in other facilities, such a campgrounds, fresh water systems, housing, utilities, dams, manmade waterways, marinas and more.

As quoted by nationalparkstraveler.org, Deny Galvin, a former deputy director of the National Park Service, told the House Federal Lands Subcommittee two years ago that most national parks facilities are more than 50 years old. Reed Watson, the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center based in Bozeman, Montana, told the same committee that fees would need to increase to help cover costs if Congress continues to refuse a significant increase in appropriations.

RVIA, RVers Want Action

The Recreational Vehicle Association has noticed, and it has gone on record to urge the first major upgrade to national park facilities since the 1960s.  (Yes, you read that decade right.) The RVIA says there’s an additional maintenance backlog topping $5 billion in National Forest Service lands.

RVIA said improvements are needed but added that it wants to see parks remain affordable to visitors.

RVIA found that in a survey of 2,000 RVers, 98 percent said the national parks facilities need to be upgraded. RVers in the survey expressed a desire for longer and wider campsites, improvement of the day-to-day upkeep of campgrounds, and more RV campsites, RVIA said.

RVIA correlates the state of disrepair of national parks and a drop in national park overnights—from over 4 million annually in the 1980s to 2.5 million now, despite increases in RV ownership. Overnights in state parks and privately run parks continue to increase, it noted.

Public-Private Partnerships

Is the entry of private businesses into park operations the answer? RVIA thinks so.

Watson already had suggested that some parks should be franchised to private operators.

In its survey of RVers, RVIA said, 85 percent expressed support for the idea of public-private partnerships to accomplish repairs and improvements. Partnerships could improve not only campsites, but also roads and bridges, making the campsites safer, RVIA says. It also suggested that better connectivity for cell phones and Internet would improve visitors’ access to weather information and emergency services when needed.

RVIA’s position is that National Park Service input on fees would keep rates affordable. But the whole premise of its support for private partnerships in national parks is that private companies would solve the need for money, then recoup their investments over time through fees. How high fees would have to be to satisfy investors’ needs is a guess.

In the meantime, if you want to let your representatives in Congress know how you feel, you can find email addresses online for members of the House and Senate.

Friday, 27 September 2019 14:12

Preventing Top RV Accident Causes

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If you look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s leading causes of RV accidents, most are avoidable.

Some have to do with driver error while operating a motorhome or towing a trailer or fifth wheel, and some with human error before heading out on the road.

Here are some safety tips that could help eliminate these causes.

Don’t Drive When You’re Tired

It’s so simple it seems almost silly to even list it, but overly tired drivers are a leading cause of RV accidents, according to a 2012 study by the agency.

To avoid adding to that toll, do some really simple things:

  • Get enough sleep. Simple, right?
  • Plan your trip realistically. Trying to meet unrealistic distance or time expectations may make you weary.
  • Be honest about how tired driving makes you, and the effects on you from the number of hours you’re on the road, traffic conditions, wind and weather, dealing with mechanical troubles, or the stress from not being able to find a dump station or fresh water.
  • If you’re a couple, make sure both can drive in shifts.
  • Nap if you’re tired, then get back on the road, or just stop early for the night.

Load Your Rig Properly

Carrying more than your rig’s payload capacity can cause an imbalance. Overweight trailers and improperly loaded trailers are both among leading RV accident causes.

Have your rig weighed on a scale that shows the weight on each wheel. That way, even if you’re not overweight, you can at least distribute the weight evenly. If you’re consistently overweight, do a cleanout. Make three piles: leave at home, discard and donate. Then reload your RV with fewer things and better weight distribution.

Leave enough time to dump tanks so they’re empty when you travel. Traveling with 100 gallons of fresh water and waste adds more than 800 pounds. That may approach half your maximum recommended payload on a modestly sized RV.

Use a Weight Distribution Hitch and Anti-Sway Bar

Rollovers stemming from an RV’s higher center of gravity are another leading accident trigger. Many drivers don’t account for the different weight characteristics of an RV, especially travel trailers. They are either unaccustomed to the top-heavy RV or unprepared to deal with the behavior it exhibits at speed and in crosswinds.

Use a weight-distribution hitch and anti-sway bar. The hitch shifts weight toward the front axle of a tow vehicle. The anti-sway bar discourages the back-and-forth motion that is a notorious prelude to a trailer’s overturning.

Also helpful is a brake controller with an instrument panel-mounted controller that lets you apply the trailer brakes only if you feel or see sway coming on.

Eliminate Blind Spots

Failing to see vehicles overtaking you through blind spots is another top accident cause, according to FMCSA. Install an aftermarket system if your motorhome lacks blind spot monitoring. You can also install one on your trailer or fifth wheel, with a backup camera that doubles as a rear view mirror.

If you’re towing a trailer with a truck that lacks towing mirrors, add them. You can do it inexpensively with oversized clip-on mirrors that attach without tools to your truck’s smaller mirrors. The clip-on mirrors extend far enough from the truck body to give you a clear view of approaching vehicles.

Slow Down

Speeding is another major cause of RV accidents with a simple solution: Drive slower, especially in foul weather, strong winds, and heavy traffic, and on poor road surfaces. High winds, another frequent accident generator, affect an RV more the faster you drive. Sometimes the best way to prevent speeding is to plan your trip well, leaving enough time to reach destinations without having to hurry.

Failing to stop in time, also a major cause of RV crashes, is closely related. Keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of you and travel at a speed that’s appropriate for the gap between you and that vehicle. Remember: A motorhome or RV-towing pickup needs a longer distance to stop safely than a smaller vehicle you may drive daily.

Check Your Hitch, Then Check Again

Runaway trailers also make the list.

Make sure your hitch is seated properly on the ball before locking it up. Cross your safety chains. And make sure the tether that triggers the trailer brakes in a breakaway is not too long—typically no more than 16 to 20 inches. Longer cables delay application of trailer brakes if the hitch becomes disconnected. Check to make sure every latch, pin, lever and chain is properly in place and tightened.

Never Too Late To Learn

If you change RVs, especially if you move up to a Class A or a much longer trailer or fifth wheel, consider taking a driver instruction course, even if you had taken one years earlier. Bigger size changes many factors, including weight, turning radius, handling and stopping distance. You also will benefit from instruction in the many new technologies in today’s RVs.

Mistakes by senior drivers are among the leading causes of RV accidents, the motor carrier association says. If you’re an older RVer, your experience is invaluable, but think about taking a refresher RV driving course.

Photo Credits: flickr.com/JoonasTikkanen

You know if you’re a “dog person” or not. So do dogs, usually. They’re often as interested in having you pet them as you are in doing it.

But it’s one thing to know a dog you like a lot, another to have a dog in your stationary home full-time, and still quite another to hit the road with Rover—full-time or even for just a few weeks at a time.

Is traveling with a dog a bad thing? Far from it—especially if you’re otherwise traveling alone. More than 60 percent of RVers take a dog along, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Dogs are great company, and they’re loyal, loving creatures. And they definitely increase your security. But don’t fool yourself: Dogs are a big responsibility for any RVer.

Before you go RVing with a dog, answer some questions.

If you haven’t had a dog:

  1. Do you like dogs enough to have one with you 24/7? To feed it, pet it, groom it?
  2. Can you afford a dog? Even on the road, dogs need vet examinations, shots, maybe routine medicine, and healthy food, not table scraps. It’s not unusual for a dog to cost $100 a month or more. Over its lifetime, Money magazine reported, a dog will cost about $14,500 to almost $16,000. That would pay for a lot of RV repairs.
  3. Are you willing to train your dog or have it trained? An unruly dog can be a legal and social liability.
  4. Can you tolerate the messiness of a dog—the fur it sheds, the unpleasant odor of a dog in need of a bath (ah, thank goodness for the otdoor shower!), the slobber, and the teething (and chewing) that a puppy goes through?
  5. Are you willing to exercise a dog daily? Many dogs need exercise more than once a day. Are you willing to play with it? You may have to take extra time on fueling and provision stops to walk the dog—although the walk will do you good, too.
  6. Are you willing to make the effort to find dog-friendly RV parks, some of which charge an extra fee for dogs?
  7. Are you willing to kennel your dog or pay for and allow a dog sitter into your RV if you plan to travel without your pet—say, to visit friends or go tent camping for several days? (You can install a keypad security system that accepts a temporary visitor password.)

If You Already Have an RV:

  1. Do the RV parks you’re accustomed to using allow dogs and have facilities for dog play?
  2. Is your RV accessible to dogs? Could a small dog get up the steps? Could a big dog fit comfortably through the doorways?
  3. If your RV is a trailer, are you willing to have your dog ride with you in your tow vehicle, properly restrained? After all, dogs are as unsafe in a moving trailer and a moving vehicle as a person would be.
  4. Do you have means to keep your RV cool if you’re not there? You must have or add a rain-hooded exhaust fan with a thermostat and opening windows to maintain the temperature at or below 76 degrees.
  5. Does your RV have room for your dog to be comfortable under all conditions, even if you can’t open the slide-outs when you’re parked overnight? RVing with a dog may require you to compromise on the size of dog you buy.
  6. If you don’t allow a dog to use furniture, is there enough floor space for him to rest comfortably on a dog bed or blanket and for you not to think he’s in the way? Does it have room for water and food bowls?

One Last Question

  1. Are you willing to take and give unconditional love? Dogs give it. You should return the favor.

Photo Credits: Andre Boeni (flickr.com)

Now, there really was no excuse for Lucille Ball and the Italian grape stomper to get into a fight in the grape vat on “I Love Lucy.” But, hey, stuff happens—especially with Lucy.

In Northern Georgia, starting in late summer and continuing into the fall, you can get in on the act, all while enjoying your RV at Crossing Creeks RV Resort and Spa. Crossing Creeks is a Blairsville neighbor of one grape stomp, 45 minutes from another and about an hour from two more. If you don’t get out there and enjoy the grape harvest and the grape-crush ritual, as Ricky Ricardo would have said, “You got some ’splainin’ to do.”

Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest

This year’s event, on Saturday, Aug. 24, is the 10th annual Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest. About 5,000 people turn out to hear local bands, sample the vineyards’ wine, dine on fare from select food trucks, and, of course, stomp grapes.  

The grape crushing at Yonah Mountain adds a personal touch: Owners Bob and Jane Miller serenade grape stompers with their own accordion and guitar music at 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, and 6:30 p.m. Live music is performed from 11 a.m., alternating every half-hour between the Atlanta Pipe Band and the Atlanta Pro Drumline.

Yonah Mountain Vineyards is near Cleveland, Georgia, about an hour’s drive from Crossing Creeks.

  • Event: Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest
  • Location: 1717 Hwy 255 S, Cleveland, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019
  • Times: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Admission: Free, age 16 and under; $25, age 17 and older without wine tasting; $40, includes souvenir glass, tasting of four 3-oz. wine samples (age 21 and older); $35, Yonah Wine Club members. Tickets at the gate.

Paradise Hills Grape Stomp Fest

Just an 8-mile drive from Crossing Creeks, outside Blairsville, is the 6th annual Grape Stomp Fest at Paradise Hills Winery Resort. Paradise Hills not only celebrates the harvest and crush, but also goes all-in on Lucy lore. Every year, a contest matches costumed Lucy imitators against one another. The “I Love Lucy Look Alike Contest” runs twice during the day, at 2 and 4 p.m. Best costume wins wine.

There’s much more to the day than the crush. Live music plays all day. Available for purchase are crafts (including a kids’ corner), wine, craft beer and local barbeque.

  • Event: Paradise Hills Grape Stomp Fest
  • Location: 366 Paradise Road, Blairsville, GA 30512
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
  • Times: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Entry times: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. or 3-6 p.m.
  • Admission: Tickets: $15, under age 21, includes one non-alcoholic drink; $25, age 21 and over, includes souvenir glass and tasting, or one wine or craft beer.

Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival

How much do you know about wine? Trivia is part of the entertainment at the Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival in Dahlonega. The 2019 crush is on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The winery is about a 45-minute drive from Crossing Creeks.

Attendees will have the opportunity to observe or participate in the crush, and to hear discussions of winemaking at the crush pad. Live bluegrass and folk music will play throughout the event. A Kaya trivia contest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. places the names of players who answer all questions correctly into a drawing. The prize: a Kaya wine tasting for two.  

A raffle benefits the Georgia Veterans Day Association. The drawing is at 3:30 p.m.

Food and beverages are available for purchase. Admission without wine tasting is free, although non-ticket holders must pay $5 for parking.

  • Event: Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival
  • Location: 5400 Town Creek Road, Dahlonega, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
  • Time: 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Free without tasting, but $5 for parking; tickets: $25, includes a souvenir glass, 5 tasting tickets, grape stomping, presentation on harvest season. 

Stonewall Creek Harvest Stomp

Will you always remember that first crush? Well, maybe as long as your souvenir T-shirt from the Harvest Stomp at the Stonewall Creek Vineyards does. The festival near Tiger, Georgia, comes with a twist: After you stomp grapes, you can deliver red footprints on a T-shirt and take it home.  This year’s stomp is Saturday, Sept. 28, from noon until 5 p.m.

Live music plays throughout the day, and barbeque is available for purchase. If you don’t want to buy food, bring your own picnic lunch. Paid admission includes not only the tee, but also a wine goblet, a tasting of four wines and a wine cocktail. Reservations are recommended to ensure that you get a T-shirt.

Stonewall Creek is just over an hour’s drive from Crossing Creeks, on a scenic route that takes you past Lake Hiawassee on U.S. 76.

  • Event: Stonewall Creek Harvest Stomp
  • Location: 323 Standing Deer Lane, Tiger, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019
  • Times: Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Tickets: $35, adults, includes goblet, tee shirt, four wine tastings, wine cocktail; $10, children. To reserve T-shirt: www.eventbrite.com or phone 706-212-0584.
Wednesday, 03 July 2019 18:49

Finding Free and Cheap Overnight RV Parking

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RVers are always looking for free overnight parking to save a few bucks. There are thousands of options, but you’ll have to do some homework to find them.

Always ask permission at any location. Sometimes chain restaurants are owned by franchisees who set their own policies. And sometimes a local ordinance bars a store from living up to what is normally a chain policy to allow RV parking overnight.

Whenever you park overnight, be courteous, quiet and clean. Quiet means no generators, no parties and no music. Take as little space as possible—no awnings, pop-outs or barbecue grills. Park where you’re supposed to. And no dumping tanks (do we even need to say this?) or leaving trash behind. Avoid using jacks, which could damage parking lot surfaces.

Here are some tips.

Truck Stops

Can you park overnight at a truck stop? Usually.

Should you? That’s a decision you have to make.

Flying J, Travel Centers of America and Love’s typically allow RV overnight parking. The simple truth, however, is that truckers don’t like having to deal with RVs taking spaces they believe are theirs. In fairness, they’re trying to make a living, and in most cases, you’re trying to take a vacation. Priorities, if you know what we mean.

At a truck stop, you may have to deal with idling diesels, especially in winter. If the stories are to be believed, you also may get parked in by truckers upset with your presence.

Use your head. First, ask at the counter if you’re welcome and where you should park. You may be directed to the truck area, an RV area or car spaces. Forgo facilities such as the showers that are intended only for professional drivers.

Return the favor: Buy your fuel there if you overnight and supplies you may need, and use the restaurant if you need breakfast before hitting the road.

Business Parking Lots

Quite a few businesses allow RVs overnight. Among them are Camping World, which caters to RVers, and Walmart/Sam’s Clubs, which will be glad to sell you whatever you need for your journey. Some restaurant chains that target travelers, such as Cracker Barrel, also allow RVs overnight.

Casinos with huge lots typically say yes to RVs. They get RVers all the time, and casinos are always glad to take your money (and usually do). Casinos have proliferated, so find out about one you may be planning to visit or merely park at.

Some sports stadiums allow parking when there’s no game, but they may charge a fee and they may not allow overnight stays. Visit their websites or call to find out.

Again, if you are allowed to stay overnight, return the kindness by patronizing the establishment. If the only gambling you do is driving on less than a quarter tank of fuel, consider dining at a casino. They’re open 24 hours; the food is usually pretty good and, for the amount a buffet offers, inexpensive.

Parks

RV overnight policies vary by locale, and by state. You may be able to find RV-friendly parks online by checking municipal rules for various locations along the route you map, and by visiting the municipality’s website.

State parks may charge a fee, but some have facilities for dumping tanks or topping up with water.   

Rest Stops

This varies by state, and usually by highway within the state. In Ohio, for instance, RV overnighting is allowed at stops on the turnpike but not at stops along other highways.

At rest stops, you’ll be parking just for the sleep and the toilets. Some, however, do have facilities for emptying tanks, and for refilling your water tank.

Good Resources

Consider these two books. They’re previewed on Amazon. The Wright guide is especially helpful in finding cheap or free overnight camping or parking. Both list seasons and hours of operation, approximate fees, pull-through availability, amenities and the number of sites that include them, directions, phone, website and reservation details.

“The Wright Guide to Free and Low-Cost Campgrounds” by Don and Joyce Wright. $25-$35. Listed state by state are campgrounds that cost less than $20 per night $12 or less in earlier editions). The guide includes regulations for overnighting at rest stops. The book is updated periodically.

“RV Camping in Corps of Engineers Parks,” Roundabout Publications. $15-$20. Only campgrounds that accept RVs are listed, and there are more than 600 in 34 states, many with lakes. Camp prices vary, but many are inexpensive.

Overnightrvparking.com. For $24.95 a year, you can consult this site, which says it lists 14,144 free overnighty parking locations for RVs.

There’s a lot to like about the 2019 Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruiz-In, July 11-13 at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, especially if the burble of a Detroit V8 is your idea of an unmatched musical treat. If country music is your preference—how do Pam Tillis, Neal McCoy, Ricky Skaggs and B.J. Thomas sound?— head back to the fairgrounds July 19-27 for the Georgia Mountain Fair.

The fairgrounds are in Hiawassee, a mere 18 miles from Crossing Creeks RV Resort & Spa, so you can stay at Crossing Creeks and venture over to the fairgrounds along Lake Chatuge for one or more days of the festivities.

Cruiz-In Has Moonshine Roots

Illegal moonshining is the inspiration for the Cruiz-In. When liquor dripped from stills tucked away among the mountains, men with hot cars and trunks full of illicit spirits did their best to outrun the law and make their deliveries. Those runs were the progenitors of stock car racing in the South. Who among those outlaws would have guessed that their lights-out midnight drives would generate a sport that’s become a national obsession?

The Cruiz-In will commemorate those runs with a much tamer parade of horsepower. The sounds of engines from cars entered in the show will reverberate off the hills of northeast Georgia as owners drive their candy-colored creations over 60 miles of rural roads.

Have a hot rod, street rod, rat rod, bike or other custom vehicle? You can have it pictured in color on an 11x17-inch poster with the Cruiz-In logo for $20 or on an 18x24-inch poster for $30. Posters can be ordered Friday and Saturday for delivery by mail.

And there’s a real still at work on the fairgrounds.

On July 13, three 1960s rock and pop bands will perform: the Grass Roots (“Midnight Confessions”), The Association (“Along Comes Mary”) and the Box Tops (“The Letter”).

For details see the Cruiz-In website or Facebook.

Georgia Mountain Fair

Here’s an old-fashioned country fair, mountain-style.

The Georgia Mountain Fair features everything you’d expect at a proper country celebration: arts and crafts, food, a cooking contest, a Miss Georgia Mountain Fair competition, a flower show, and, of course, lots of music.

In addition to local acts, including the Georgia Mountain Fair Band, there will be well-known chart toppers, all playing two shows: 2 and 8 p.m. Tillis will headline the musical entertainment on opening day, Friday, July 19. Neal McCoy will play Saturday, July 20. The Booth Brothers will add Gospel on Monday, July 22. Skaggs will be the feature act on Tuesday, July 23. The Spinners will take the stage Wednesday, July 24. Thomas will perform on Friday, July 26. T. Graham Brown will close out the fair on Saturday, July 27.

No Georgia fair is worth an over-ripe peach without a bluegrass day, which is Thursday, July 25, at the Georgia Mountain Fair, with Del McCoury, Mike Snider and Jeff Parker. Gospel music day is Sunday, July 21, with the McKameys, Primitives and Inspirations.

The fair offers a chance to learn a few things, too. You can visit the still, tour the old-time Pioneer Village, and take in “Old Ways Demonstrations,” where the experienced show how to make shakes (wood, not ice cream), squeeze cider, mill corn and perform other country skills.

Fair rides, which require a wristband for admission, run daily.

See the fair website for times and admission costs. Parking is free. Pets are not allowed.

Photo Credits: Facebook

Friday, 03 May 2019 18:33

RVing Saves Vacationers Money, Study Shows

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If you wanted to, you could stuff a lot of money into a camper. And if you’re wondering where the money would come from, it’s from the savings you experience by using a camper instead of other forms of vacation travel. Seriously. More American families are buying and using recreational vehicles for vacations, and the savings are a big reason. A major study shows that even when factoring in expenditures for the RV, including fuel and maintenance, vacations are cheaper when families go RV camping than when they use hotels and restaurants.

It all depends on the type of RV being purchased and used, but the study by CBRE Hotels Advisory Group, done in 2018, indicates savings can hit as much as 64 percent for a family of four hitting the road with a foldout camper, and more than 50 percent for two people. Even on the lower end of savings, researchers discovered, owners of a Type C motorhome could save 21 percent for a family of four and 8 percent for a couple.

Two groups, Go RVing and the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, financed the study. Go RVing represents RV manufacturers, RV dealers and campgrounds that work to grow RV camping. The RVIA is a trade group representing RV manufacturers and parts makers.

Income-Appropriate Comparisons

CBRE, to avoid skewing the results, compared the use of different RV types to a range of alternatives. CBRE didn’t just compare vacationing in a folding camper trailer to flying and staying in a five-star hotel. The savings would have been obvious and unrealistic. Researchers did compare the costs of buying and using a luxurious Class A motorhome to flying first class, renting a premium car, staying in upscale hotels/resorts, and eating meals in restaurants.

Other modes of travel measured were:

  • Folding camping trailer.
  • Lightweight travel trailer.
  • Compact motorhome (not specified, but probably Class B and/or pickup campers).
  • Class C motorhome.
  • Traveling in a personal car, staying at hotels/motels, and eating meals in restaurants.
  • Traveling by airline, renting a car at the destination, staying at hotels/motels, and eating in restaurants.
  • Traveling by personal car or airline, staying at a rental house/condominium, and eating most meals in the rental.

In addition to gauging the cost for two adults/two children, and two adults alone, CBRE researchers measured costs for vacations lasting three, seven and 14 days.

Calculated Savings

CBRE researchers left little to chance. Among the other factors they considered were such ownership costs as insurance, average ownership periods, and annual days of RV use, and even residual value.

Here’s how vacation cost savings added up for a family of four, by RV type:

  • Folding camping trailer: 50-64%
  • Lightweight travel trailer: 31-50%
  • Compact motorhome: 31-50%
  • Type C motorhome: 21-43%
  • Type A motorhome – 41%

Here’s the vacation costs savings for a couple, by RV type:

  • Folding camping trailer: 43-53%
  • Lightweight travel trailer: 20-34%
  • Compact motorhome: 20-34%
  • Type C motorhome: 8-24%
  • Type A motorhome: 19%

Fuel Price Fluctuations

You’re probably thinking, “Ah, but fuel prices were low, so the savings could evaporate quickly when prices rise—and they’re rising now.”

It would take an exponential increase in fuel prices to erase all the cost savings, research indicates. Fuel prices would have to soar to $13 a gallon for RVing to cost more than other vacation forms, according to the study.

When fuel prices rise considerably, RVers have ways of cutting expenses rather than eliminating their RVs, the RVIA says: They drive fewer miles with their RVs by vacationing closer to home and staying longer at one location. What they don’t do is abandon RVing, the RVIA says.

The research did not include figures on the return on investment of adding a vault to an RV interior. Maybe next time.

Thursday, 28 March 2019 19:54

American Campers get Younger, More Ethnically Diverse

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More Americans went camping last year, even with many traditional campers giving up on the lifestyle, probably due to advancing age. Campers are getting younger—maybe younger than ever—and coming from more diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The question: Will newer, younger campers embrace RVing as their parents and grandparents did? So far that appears to be happening.

Figures reported by Cairn Consulting Group in the 2018 North American Camping Report, the fourth such survey conducted for Kampgrounds of America, show that between 2014 and 2017, the number of U.S. households that camp a least once a year increased by more than 20 percent. Many campers, especially new and first-time ethnic minority campers, said they intended to camp more often last year, the report shows.

As of 2017, the number of U.S. households that camped at least once a year numbered 38,558,000, up nearly 3.9 percent from the year before. Between 2014 and 2017, the researchers found, the number of households that camped three or more times per year increased 64 percent, from 11 million to 18 million.

Bouncing Back from the Great Recession

The Great Recession in 2009 and 2010 had lingering effects on American camping, as it did on many segments of the economy that involved discretionary spending. Researchers at Statista.com found that the number of American campers increased about 3.1 percent between 2012 and 2017, but that the total number of campers was lower in 2017 than for each year between 2008 and 2011.

Increasingly, Americans who do camp are using their own RVs. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association reports that manufacturers shipped about 483,700 RVs in 2018. That was a 4.1 percent decrease from 2017, but remember this: 2017 RV shipments were an all-time high, at about 504,600 units. The 2018 figures were still 12.3 percent higher than in 2016.

In 2016, the RVIA said, more than 9 million American households had an RV, the most ever. With sales increasing since then, and more first-time campers, that figure is likely higher in 2019. It’s dramatically improved over recession-level RV shipments, which totaled a mere 165,700 in 2009.

New Faces of Camping

The camping experience on all levels is spreading through the American population as never before, the 2018 North American Camping Report shows:

More young campers: Gen Xers, who make up 27 percent of the population, according to the Census, comprise 36 percent of campers. Millennials, a generation that has shown interest in the environment and physical activity, echo Gen Xers’ involvement. Although Millennials comprise 31 percent of the general population, they make up a larger share of campers—40 percent, the largest group by age. Baby Boomers, who made up 28 percent of campers in 2015, are down to 19 percent. Mature campers—that is, seniors—are down to 5 percent, less than half their share of the general population.

More minorities: More people from ethnic minorities are getting into camping. African Americans, once less enthusiastic about camping, are now participating in numbers more nearly proportionate to their makeup in the general population. Among new U.S. campers in 2017, Statista reports, 14 percent were African American, 17 percent were Latino and 17 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders. Among all U.S. campers in 2017, whites made up 72 percent; African Americans, 8 percent; Latinos, 10 percent; and Asians/Pacific Islanders, 7 percent.

More children: More children are camping because two parent-age groups, Millennials and Gen Xers, together make up three-quarters of all U.S. campers, and many have children, Cairn researchers found. Just over half of all camping families have children who participate.

More RVs: Buyers 35 to 54 years old are the largest segment of RV owners, according to the 2011 University of Michigan study of RV consumers commissioned by the RV Industry Association. Leading-edge Millennials are fast approaching that age group. Historically, senior campers have been the strongest segment for RV ownership, an age group that baby Boomers are beginning to reach. That makes it likely RV sales will continue to rise.

Tuesday, 02 April 2019 18:54

National Parks and RVs

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Can you take your RV into a national park and use it to camp?

Yes, you can. And no, you can’t.

Confused? You might be, because every national park and national monument has its own set of rules for RV camping. The rules differ because every park differs.

If you want to take your RV into a park, whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome, the National Park Service cautions that you must check out the rules for the specific park you plan to visit well in advance. You have to make a park campsite reservation well in advance, too, because space is limited—in more ways than one.

Some RVs Welcome at Some Parks

Here’s what the National Park Service says about RV camping at national parks and monuments: “RV and towed campers are more than welcome at national parks that can accommodate them.” Note the boldface italics, added for emphasis. The simple facts are that some parks can handle RVs, some parks can’t, and some can handle RVs only if they’re within size limitations or a certain type.

“RV and towed camper sites vary from park to park (i.e., pull-through campsites, back-in campsites), and there could be space issues with slide-outs,” the park service advises.

The need for reservations is quite simple. Campsites for RVs, where they are available, are few in number compared with demand.

Parking Your RV, Not Camping in It

At some national parks—there’s that phrase again—RVers can park if they don’t drive into the park. Some have spaces even if RVs can be driven into the park or monument but not camped. But not every park has RV parking spaces, which typically are where buses also are parked.

The park service makes finding RV parking rules for each park convenient online.

Even when spaces are available, they aren’t always adequate for the number of RV-driving visitors. The parks are perennially popular. At Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana, for instance, the park service makes a creative suggestion to RV drivers who can’t find a space during the peak months of June and July—that they “drive out on the 5-mile driving tour road to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield and Entrenchment trail.”

Why? “Upon returning,” the service says, “there should be parking available.”

Simple enough.

Few Parks Have Hookups

RV hookups are rare at national parks. Where RV campsites are available, expect to boondock. After all, the parks are natural wonders. Preservation and RV hookups don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

The website Tripsavvy.com does list three national parks with RV hookups:

  • Yellowstone National Park, Fishing Bridge Campground only, 340 sites with 50-amp electrical, water, sewer.
  • Grand Teton National Park, Colter Bay RV Park, 112 sites with water, sewer and electric; Headwaters Campground, an unspecified number of sites with 20- and 50-amp electric, sewer and water.
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Trailer Village, sites with 30- and 50-amp electrical, water, sewer, cable; RVs up to 50 feet in length.

Private Alternatives

National parks are tourist magnets. That means there are many nearby RV facilities, some with full service, some without. Look online; it’s not hard to find a privately owned RV park to suit your needs.

We added the italics because that phrase is key to understanding whether or not you can.

Always check with the park you are visiting for size restrictions and the number of sites that can accommodate RVs and towed campers.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Thursday, 07 March 2019 19:52

On the Set: Movie and TV Productions in Georgia

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The “Walking Dead” TV show, all of Tyler Perry’s productions, the next Avengers movie and a reboot of the classic American TV soap opera “Dynasty” all have something in common: They are filmed either partly or entirely in Georgia.

You’d be amazed at how many productions are created in the Peach State—enough that you’d have a hard time missing the final product on your TV screen or in a movie theater. Since 2016, more feature films have been made in Georgia than in California, so move over, Hollywood.

Take a look at a list of scheduled releases filmed in Georgia. And that list grows continually.

Why Film in Georgia?

For one thing, the state encourages the production of TV shows and movies. It does so pretty much the same way other industries are encouraged all around the country: through tax incentives.

Film and Video producers can save money by producing in Georgia. They pay no sales and use tax. They get a 20 percent income tax credit on up to $500,000 in expenses, and another 10 percent if they use the Georgia Entertainment promotional logo onscreen toward the end of their film. Within their first decade, the claimed credits increased about 50 times the original claims in 2005. That means a lot of companies are producing here, and they’re spending considerable amounts of money in the state.

Where Filmmakers Work in Georgia

Georgia is attractive as a production destination because, quite simply, it has the looks—a great deal of diversity in its readymade scenery—and a temperate climate. Atlanta alone offers skyscrapers, historical buildings and a variety of neighborhood types for street scenes, from upscale to less than savory. (Just about any major city does.) There’s an industrial side, railroads, bridges, sports arenas, parks—you name it.

Nature didn’t short Georgia with interesting places. It has mountains, a coastline, a countryside, farms, rivers and whitewater. It also has a wealth of small towns, picturesque college campuses and some old cemeteries that are downright eerie.

Production centers in Atlanta, but there’s also a good deal of activity in Norcross, as well as in other locations.

Studios in Georgia

Turner Studios, part of TimeWarner, has been in Atlanta since its inception. It has produced both TV programs and movies in Atlanta. Perhaps its highest profile TV property is CNN, the 24-hour cable news network. Turner also owns truTV, TNT, Turner Cassic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and other properties.

EUE/Screen Gems has renovated and expanded buildings at the Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta under a 50-year lease with the city, signed in 2010. Added was a 37,500-square-foot soundstage. Feature films, TV shows and commercials are recorded at the facility.

Tyler Perry Studios was founded by the actor/writer/director in 2006 in Atlanta. Perry films all of his movies there, including those in the highly successful Madea comedy franchise. Part of the “Walking Dead” TV episodes are filmed there, too.

Marvel Studios, a spinoff of the famed comic books, also films in Georgia. Among its Georgia-shot films are “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Ant Man and the Wasp” and the megahit “Black Panther.”

Other filmmakers find Georgia just peachy, too. Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood, whose film-acting career took off when he acted in Italian and Spanish Westerns, has filmed several movies in Georgia. Among them are “Tully,” “American Sniper,” “Trouble with the Curve” and “The Mule.”

Seeing Where Movies Are Made

If you want to get closer to Georgia movie productions, you can actually take tours of locations where films and TV shows have been made.

For example, you can visit sites where the zombies have tread while making the wildly popular “Walking Dead” TV series. If you’re a fan of the show you’re bound to recognize some of the places. There are scads of other sites that have appeared on film and the small screen—the minor league ballpark from “42,” about Jackie Robinson; President Snow’s mansion from the “Hunger Games” films; and the Blue Ridge TreeHouse, built by The TreeHouse Guys for an upcoming series—and available for overnight stays.

You can also tour studios, just as visitors do in Hollywood, but with Southern hospitality thrown in. The link lists studio hours and contacts.

Want To Appear in a Movie?

If you’d like to actually be in a production—maybe as a passenger at an airport, a sporting event spectator, a body in a morgue, or a zombie—click here and we’ll tell you how to go about it.

Image Credits: Steadicam

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