Posts Tagged ‘motor home’

Snowbird, Marsha Rowe, right, says goodbye to fellow snowbird as she and husband Bill, prepare pull out from the San Carlos RV resort.

Snowbird, Marsha Rowe, right, says goodbye to fellow snowbird as she and husband Bill, prepare pull out from the San Carlos RV resort.

Three blasts from the air horn signaled the last of many goodbyes.

With that, the 40-foot motor home with Bill and Marsha Rowe and German wirehaired pointers Dieter and Gretchen lumbered away. Destination: New Boston, southwest of Detroit.

“We’re all leaving: It’s just a matter of time,” said Dick Werning, a neighbor of the Rowes at San Carlos RV Park near Fort Myers Beach.

Werning and the Rowes are Southwest Florida snowbirds — that human species who help make the local economy purr between November and April.

This month, improving weather, family and business ties beckon them north. It’s a bittersweet time for many snowbirds — and for the local businesses who count on their dollars during “season.”

The week following Easter also marks the beginning of the end for local tourism’s “high season.’ At stake: In Lee County, a $2.4 billion-a-year local industry that employs almost 43,000 people. In Collier County, a $1.4 billion industry accounting for an estimated 32,300 jobs.

By all accounts, Southwest Florida had a slam-dunk good season. Business leaders credit improving consumer confidence, decent weather here — and bouts of bitter temperatures in New England and the Midwest.

“This was the best first quarter I’ve seen since 2008,” said Jeff Webb, owner and general manager for the Hampton Inn & Suites off Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.

As for the departing snowbirds, Bill Rowe freely admits to having mixed feelings about leaving. He looks forward to getting behind the wheel of his modified Pontiac Grand Am for a summer of drag racing events in the Midwest.

But he’ll miss winter and early spring in Southwest Florida where “every day the weather is just boring perfect.” And, he’ll miss his snowbird neighbors and their in-park parties and their treks to Bonita Bill’s, Doc Ford’s and other nearby restaurants and bars.

Merchants also will miss the snowbirds. “I had quite a few in yesterday, shopping and saying goodbye,” Anita Cereceda, who owns the Local Color and Pier Peddler shops on Fort Myers Beach said, adding that through seeing the same people year after year, the relationship transcends “what are they going to buy from me … They’re like cousins.”

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Forest River Surveyor Travel Trailer

Forest River Surveyor Travel Trailer

After slumping during the recession, sales of recreational vehicles are on the rise as U.S. consumers give in to the lure of the open road — with amenities — and are once again able to get credit to buy what many consider an affordable second home.

Sales of RVs, which include travel trailers and motor homes, have been rising since 2010, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Today, RV owners number nearly 9 million in the United States — a record.

The increase comes thanks to more available credit, growing interest in RV travel, and a push by RV makers to load up the vacation homes on wheels with high-tech extras, the Reston, Va.-based association said.

And many people are just fed up with traditional travel hassles.

“We’re seeing a lot of first-time buyers who have traveled other ways and are tired of the air travel or questionable accommodations when they get where they’re going,” said Greg Merkel, owner and president of Leo’s Vacation Center in Gambrills.

Wholesale sales of RVs, which reached a 30-year high in 2006, began falling off the following year, hurt by plummeting consumer confidence and the tightening of credit markets, said Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Sales from manufacturers to dealers dropped sharply in 2008 and 2009, the group says.

“RVs are discretionary purchases that are primarily financed,” Broom said, adding that would-be RV owners could not buy even if they wanted to during the credit crunch.

That has changed. National sales rose 4 percent last year, to more than 252,000 RVs, and are projected to grow as much as 6 percent this year.

About 90 percent of RVs sold are travel trailers, which cost about $35,000 on average and require towing. The rest are pricier motor homes.

“That’s incremental, steady growth, and what we anticipate happening is this steady growth,” Broom said. “There’s a substantial savings in RV travel, even including the purchase and ownership,” because RV travelers — who pay about $35 per night at campgrounds — can forgo hotel, restaurant and airfare costs.

“People want to get out and spend time with family and want the outdoor experience,” Broom said. “But they want comfort.”

Sales at Chesaco RV in Joppa are up more than 20 percent this year over last, general manager Rob Lentz said.

“Truly it’s a lifestyle choice to some degree,” Lentz said of the demand for RVs. “This is something people enjoy doing.”

RV owners, he said, share “a really strong feeling of community and loyalty.”

This year, the dealer, which also has locations in Gambrills and Frederick, has seen a bump in sales of travel trailers in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, Lentz said.

Financing with lower interest rates has helped sales, he said, adding that the interest on vehicles counted as second homes is tax-deductible.

Manufacturers, too, are trying to win over buyers by including more amenities, such as high-end audio and video systems, a homier feel in decor, upgrades in kitchens and bath designs, new floor plans — and power-everything, including the awnings, he said.

“A lot of the allure with the RV lifestyle is the ability to travel with a lot of the amenities from home, to have your own bed and your own bathroom,” Lentz said.

Some owners store their trailers at their homes and tow them on trips, while others keep a trailer at a permanent site. Some campgrounds will store trailers in the off-season and then tow them to a campsite for the owners.

Linda Abel and her husband, Frank, just bought a 33-foot motor home with full kitchen, bathroom with a standup shower, living room with leather sofa and big-screen TV, and bedroom with two wardrobes and another TV. They traded up after owning travel trailers.

Before their first trailer purchase three years ago, the Perry Hall couple considered buying a permanent vacation home.

The eastbound Solomon, Kansas rest stop on Interstate Highway 70 remained closed early Friday morning following Thursday afternoon’s fiery crash between a semi and a parked motor home.

A Texas man died as a result of the crash; his wife and the semi driver are reported in good condition Friday morning at Salina Regional Health Center.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said Martin L. Bal, 67, Pointbreak, Texas, and Joan C. Bal, 72, also of Pointbreak, Texas, were sleeping inside the recreational vehicle when the 2007 Peterbilt semi driven by John R. Boteler, 68, Shelby, Ind., entered the eastbound rest area at a high rate of speed The semi collided with the back of the 2010 Ford motor home, which was parked at a curb.

Martin Bal died following the 12:51 p.m. Thursday crash. A spokesman for Salina Regional said Friday morning Joan Bal and John Boteler had been admitted and both were in good condition.

Technical trooper Benjamin Gardner said the impact from the crash caused the motor home to catch fire. He said people at the rest stop were able to remove the semi driver and the sleeping couple, who were in the very back of their motor home.

Read more: Abilene Reflector-Chronicle

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