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Gr8LakesCamper: Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the Great Lakes

August 10, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 42 Comments 

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Recently ABC-TV’s Good Morning America came out with a list of “The Most Beautiful Places in America.

In alphabetical order, the list included:

Sleeping Bear Dunes image courtesy of traversecity.com

Sleeping Bear Dunes image courtesy of traversecity.com


1. Asheville, North Carolina
2. Aspen, Colorado
3. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
4. Destin, Florida
5. Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
6. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
7. Newport, Rhode Island
8. Point Reyes, California
9. Sedona, Arizona
10. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Obviously, all of these places are spectacular. Majestic mountains, sweeping vistas, gorgeous sunsets over water – they all very much deserve to be on such a list.

But it got me to thinking: Only one spot from the Great Lakes region? Surely there’s others, right? Where’s Hocking Hills, Ohio … or Door County, Wisconsin … or New River, West Virginia … just to name a few?

Obviously, the Great Lakes/Midwest needs its own list.

I now invite you to submit your nomination for the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the Great Lakes.” No rules, no limitations, no prizes, and no handcuffing on what places would be considered in the “Great Lakes/Midwest region.” Include reasons why your nominated place ought to make the list.

I’ll compile all the submissions, research them with the crack Gr8LakesCamper staff (which would be me) and then – perhaps over a beverage or two – put together the list and publish the results here in a future post. Winners will receive tremendous notoriety and a slap on the back.

From the companion blog: I continue to post something new everyday, and some recent ones that might be of interest include the one (with videos) about when my wife and I ran the Warrior Dash, a muddy, ruddy 5K that was “the craziest frickin’ day of our life.” Another good one was the two-part post about our camping trip to Montague, Michigan. The first post talks about how, while en route, one of our camper’s wheels sheared its bolts, came loose and tried to pass us on the highway. The second post reviews our campground, White River RV Park, and some of the area attractions we took in (with videos).

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog, as well as the Gr8LakesCamper YouTube channel.

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Introducing the Magellan® RoadMate® Pro 9165T…The Ideal RV Travel Companion.

August 1, 2011 by Trailer Life Directory · 29 Comments 

Magellan GPS,  the Good Sam Club and Trailer Life RV Parks & Campgrounds Directory have teamed up to offer the all-new and exciting RoadMate Pro 9165T, a robust GPS device that is specifically designed for those who love to RV.

This new GPS device combines the core strengths of Magellan, Good Sam and Trailer Life Directory.

RP9165T_1

Magellan Roadmate Pro 9165T GPS Receiver

Powered by the Directory, this is a must-have tool for RVers, providing over 11,700 comprehensive listings for the U.S and Canada which include Wi-Fi and Internet access, pet-friendly campground locations, Good Sam Club discount locations, Trailer Life’s exclusive triple rating system and other points of interest specific to RVers.

The extra-wide, high-definition 7-inch touchscreen offers large vehicle and RV settings to customize routes based on vehicle height, width, length and weight, allowing drivers to plan safe routes in advance.

And, with an extremely versatile Heavy Duty Extension Mount designed for vehicles with deep dashboards, you can easily make adjustments to get the viewing position that works best for you. Your drive will be more comfortable, safe and enjoyable for you, your family and friends.

The RoadMate Pro 9165T is the first 7″ GPS navigator made especially for RVers. Customizable for your vehicles and powered by Trailer Life Directory, it offers easy navigation as well as great places to stay and things to see and do, so that every trip is uniquely yours.

FEATURES:

  • Extra-large, high-definition 7” touch screen provides routing and POI information on a huge display that is 50% larger than a standard 4.3” screen
  • Extremely versatile Heavy Duty Extension Mount designed for vehicles with deep dashboards, fully adjustable for comfortable and safe viewing
  • Large vehicle/RV settings adjust routes based on vehicle height, width, length and weight, as well as driver route preferences
  • Highway Lane Assist guides you towards the correct land when approaching interchanges and exits.
  • Built-in Bluetooth® turns your RoadMate Pro into a hands-free speaker phone
  • Easy to Find: Good Sam Discount Locations, Camping World, RV Travel Services, Things to See and Do PLUS More.
  • Comprehensive Campground information includes: WiFi, Pets Welcome, Big Rig Friendly and Trailer Life Directory’s Triple Rating System for privately owned RV Parks.

Magellan RoadMate Pro 9165T GPS receiver come with  pre-loaded maps of United States, Canada and Puerto Rico; extension windshield mount; vehicle power adapter; USB cable; AC Adapter; User Handbook.

For more information visit www.TrailerLifeDirectory.com

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan Campgrounds with Available Sites this Holiday Weekend

June 30, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 11 Comments 

Wanna hear a good one?

FYI: This is not me nor my wife; pretty sure not my kids either.

FYI: This is not me nor my wife; pretty sure not my kids either.

I’m trying to get a campsite for this coming Fourth of July weekend.

I know, I know … why wait till the last minute?

To make a long story short, we thought we’d be ferrying my sons to some baseball tournaments this weekend. But too late we were told they only have one game on Friday night, so now it’s a scramble to find a campground with an available campsite. And I’m hoping beyond all hope that these campsites are mostly level, somewhat shaded and not at all close to anyone with a case of firecrackers. That, and clean facilities.

I know, I know … you get what you deserve.

Fortunately, the Michigan Chapter of the Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds just issued a list of their member campgrounds who have available campsites this weekend. I’m saved, although now all my lectures to my kids about not waiting till the last minute to do their homework/chores/ etc. have been shot to you know where!

Campgrounds reporting availability for the holiday weekend include:

Beaver Trail Campground, West Branch (989-345-7745) http://beavertrailcampground.com
Cedarville RV Park, Cedarville (906-484-3351) www.cedarvillervpark.com
Clementz’s Northcountry Campground, Newberry (906-293-8562) www.northcountrycampground.com
Coolwater on the Pine, Wellston (231-862-3481) www.coolwatercampground.com We have stayed at this campground and it is okay. It is heavily used by large groups of canoer/campers during the warmer summer weekends, however. Also, most sites are not big rig friendly and, again, be sure to ask for a site away from the rowdy canoer/campers (although there might not be that many this early in the summer).
Cranberry Lake Campground, Marcellus (269-646-3336) www.campcranberrylake.com
Duggans Canoe Livery & Campground, Harrison (989-539-7149) www.dugganscanoes.com
Emmett KOA, Emmett (888-562-5612) http://koa.com/campgrounds/emmett/
Frankenmuth Jellystone Park, Frankenmuth (989-652-6668) www.frankenmuthjellystone.com
Gaylord KOA, Gaylord (800-562-4146) www.gaylordkoa.com
Holiday Camping Resort, New Era (231-861-5220) www.holidaycamping.com
Indian River RV Resort & Campground, Indian River (888-792-2267) www.indianrivercampground.com
Irons RV Park & Campground, Irons (231-266-2070) www.ironsrvparkandcampground.com
Kalkaska RV Park & Campground, Kalkaska (231-258-9863) www.kalkaskacampground.com
Kampvilla RV Park, Bear Lake (800-968-0027) www.kampvilla.com
Lakeview UM Campground, Lakeview (989-352-6896) www.lakeviewcamp.org
Lighthouse Family Camping Resort, Mecosta (231-972-2112) www.lighthousefamilycampingresort.com
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, Mackinaw City (231-436-5584) www.campmackinaw.com
Matson’s Big Manistee River Campground, Manistee (888-556-2424) www.matsonscampground.com
Mio Pine Acres Campground, Mio (989-826-5590) www.miopineacres.com
Moscow Maples RV Park, Moscow (517-688-9853) www.moscowmaples.com
Myers Lake Campground, Byron/Linden (810-266-4511) www.myerslake.org
Snow Lake Kampground, Fenwick (989-248-3224) www.snowlakekampground.com
Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort, Traverse City (231-947-2770) www.TimberRidgeResort.net
Timber Trails RV Park, Decatur (269-423-7311) www.timbertrailsrvpark.com
Troll Landing Campgr./Canoe Livery, West Branch (989-345-7260) www.michcampgrounds.com/trolllanding
Twin Oaks Campground & Cabins, Wellston (877-442-3102) www.twinoakscamping.com We have also stayed here. Wonderful place! Again, heavily used by canoer/campers during the warmer months, so ask for a site away from their group camping areas.
Waterways Campground, Cheboygan (888-882-7066) www.waterwayscampground.com

Type and date(s) of site availability vary by property. This is not an all-inclusive list. This list includes campgrounds that responded back to a survey indicating availability, as of June 30. Availability subject to change. Reservations are required.

From the companion blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted at RV.net, so there’s dozens of posts on my companion blog, which I update daily. Some that you might find interesting are: Michigan Legislature names August as Camping & RVing Month; Illinois DNR pumping $12 million into state park improvements; and Summer Festivals and Events in Hocking Hills, a region every RVer needs to visit at one time in their life.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan campgrounds with available sites for Memorial Day Weekend

May 25, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

volleyballtypec-webAttention procrastinators: There are plenty of campsites – for tenters, RVers and cabin-dwellers – available at private campgrounds throughout Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas for the upcoming Memorial holiday weekend.

Courtesy of ARVC-Michigan, here is a list of campgrounds with available campsites for the Memorial Day weekend:

Fine print: Type and date(s) of site availability vary by property. This is not an all-inclusive list. This list includes campgrounds that responded back to a survey indicating availability, as of May 24, 2011. Availability subject to change. Reservations are required.

From the personal blog: I came across this Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station that would be perfect for RVers; Wisconsin State Parks, Forest and Recreation Areas will have special events and free admission during a June 5 Open House; and I love Morels smothered in butter as much as the next guy, but hopefully the chef knows what’s a morel and what’s one of these 50 poisonous mushroom varieties.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Q&A with ARVC Michigan’s New Director

May 4, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

A recent Associated Press story that made the rounds in Michigan suggested that the high cost of gasoline will have a positive impact for campground owners this summer.

People can’t afford to take an expensive vacation that includes air travel, hotels, rental cars and restaurants. Instead, they’ll choose to go camping and, furthermore, they won’t travel very far from home to do it.

Makes sense to me. A year ago people might not have even taken a vacation. But the economy is slowly coming around, at least enough for people to enjoy more affordable vacations. And camping fits neatly into this category.

Reservations at private and state campgrounds in Michigan are up by as much as 18.5 percent over last year, according to the AP article. I would suspect that this trend is not unique to Michigan and would be evident nationwide.

I wonder if this means we might just see another RV boom. These people will discover — or, in some cases, rediscover — what we all love about camping with an RV. And if they aren’t camping in an RV, more than a few will look jealously at those of us who are.

One of the people quoted in the article was Tracie Fisher, executive Tate Fisher imagedirector of the Michigan Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds. She said many campers are looking for seasonal options rather than weekend reservations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with “Tate” via email, and she answered a few questions for me.

First of all, congratulations on being named the director of ARVC Michigan! Tell us briefly about yourself and your background in RVing and camping.

Thanks for the congrats; it’s an exciting challenge for me. I’ve been involved with ARVC Michigan since 2004 when I began working as the office manager of Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, in Mackinaw City. I thought that job was going to be a piece of cake but soon found it is one of the toughest jobs I ever loved. Managing a campground is a very big job and I learned to really appreciate all the hours these park owners put into serving their guests.

I camped with my family as a kid and still love exploring new parks and places. There is something about being outdoors that rejuvenates your spirit.

I’m looking forward to visiting many ARVC Michigan member parks this summer. I want to meet them, see their parks and hear about their plans and concerns. What a great job to have — visiting campground owners in their own environment. I know I’ll learn a lot about what they need from this association.

As you begin your first year as the director, what sorts of things are first on your agenda?

Sadly, there is a trend of disappointment in the industry with park owners wondering about the value of their association membership. They are questioning the cost of membership in relation to the value they are receiving.

The first thing on my agenda is to find out what park owners need and then find a way to provide it. I’ve learned that my ideas of value may not necessarily be shared by an ARVC Michigan member. It will be my goal to hear directly from them those things they want from ARVC Michigan.

What are you hearing from ARVC Michigan members? Are they anticipating a good season, perhaps a sign that we truly are on the road to economic recovery?

It’s early in the game for me but what I’m hearing so far is that things are looking up. The downturn in the economy may have created new avenues for park owners in offering a more affordable vacation option for our citizens.

You recently hosted the ARVC Michigan Spring Convention and Trade Show. How was it?

It was surprisingly well attended with 130 attending — representing 60 parks and also 47 vendors displaying their wares. Cindy Keineth and Cathy Krueger — of Frankenmuth Jellystone had been working on it for months and really had it wrapped up nicely by the time I arrived on the scene.

ARVC Michigan had been four months without an Executive Director and these two women really stepped up to keep the convention on track. Tom Briggs, president of ARVC Michigan and owner of Grand Rogue Campground, worked to ensure that we were able to hand out a huge amount of our 2011 Campground Directories and was able to get many campground owners to take extra boxes and deliver to libraries and Chamber of Commerce in their area. It was quite a successful endeavor and it also saved us much in shipping.

Barb Youman, the senior director of administration and education of National ARVC, attended our convention and filled us in on the many great programs coming out of national this year. Most park owners seemed upbeat and ready to begin another season.

What are some of the things ARVC Michigan offers to campers? Are there plans to improve these, or add anything new?

Our www.michcampgrounds.com website lists all our member campgrounds and provides for ease of searching by campground name, area, or amenity. It gets a lot of traffic and is a great resource for campers to find just the right kind of camping experience they are looking for. We distribute over 300,000 copies of our annual campground directory, known as “The Little Green Book” and it is a very big benefit for campers who wish to carry it with them and use it as a paper reference of where they might like to go camping.

What are the benefits ARVC Michigan offers for its members?

ARVC Michigan member benefits include a listing in our camping directory and also exposure on our www.michcampgrounds.com web page. Both of these venues are very popular and provide great exposure.

We also offer discounts with some of our suppliers and currently the board of directors is working hard on expanding these discounts.
Our Spring and Fall conventions provide seminars which assist our members in keeping up to date on industry trends and the trade show brings over 40 suppliers together in one place for easy access to our members.

I want to reach the park owners who find it hard to leave their parks and attend conventions so I’m working with several people in a variety of industries to develop a series of online classes and informational material to the ARVC Michigan members. These will be targeted for launch in the Fall, along with a revamp of our member website which will be improved and will provide much needed access to topics which our members may have a difficult time researching for themselves.

How does the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds benefit ARVC Michigan?

Well, there are big things happening at National ARVC these days and I’m excited about getting onboard through ARVC Michigan.

They have developed several new marketing campaigns which I believe are going to really help all of us in the industry. June will bring a new “Get Outdoors and Go Camping America, It’s Easy” promotion in which members can offer a 20-percent discount coupon for camping during the June shoulder season.

I anticipate any park owners who make this available in their parks will attract new campers who just may become return campers, and that’s always a good thing. I’ll be sending information out to all our members regarding how they can use this promotion to benefit their parks.

Looking down the road a bit, where do you see ARVC Michigan after your first 3-5 years as director?

In 3-5 years I see ARVC Michigan as one of top three ARVC-affiliated associations. There is huge latitude for growth and we have an excellent board of directors, all of which are ready, willing and able to do big things for our members.

There’s an excitement in the air with Michigan winning a fair amount of travel promotion money and National ARVC digging in to create a buzz about the benefits of camping.

I see our members being entirely satisfied with what ARVC Michigan is providing them in the coming years.

I also see many more of our members stepping up to be involved in the decision making and committee projects we’ll be needing help in developing. The very best way to get your way is to be involved in the process so I’m going to be actively inviting members to join us in becoming better and stronger.

Happy camping!
Rick Kessler (Gr8LakesCamper)

From the companion blog: Ohio DNR officials are hoping to lure campers back to Grand Lake St. Marys State Park with 50-percent discounts. Officials have struggled to correct a toxic algae problem with the lake, which naturally has meant a huge drop-off in campers. Also, the popular camper storage program at select Michigan state parks and recreation areas will return this camping season to help families offset the cost of rising gas prices and enjoy their summer vacation plans. Finally, campers with reservations at Illini State Park in Illinois need to check on the status of the park as it is temporarily closed due to problems with its wastewater treatment system.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Gas prices are putting a serious dent in summer plans

March 13, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 559 Comments 

UPDATE: I recently came across this excellent article by Marianne Lavelle for National Geographic News. Lavelle does a good job of explaining the history of gas gouging, and the reasons for it. In a nutshell, the lack of U.S. refineries means a handful of people/businesses can control the prices. I encourage you to read this article.

87690211 The cost of gas at stations near my home are typically about 15-25 cents cheaper per gallon than those around my in-laws. So, of course, every time I fill up I call my father-in-law to gloat.

But the price of gasoline is getting crazy, even around me. This morning it topped $3.50 per gallon. I realize it’s more expensive in other areas, but – as they say – it’s all relative. What’s worse, “experts” say the cost will only climb higher as the summer driving season approaches, turmoil in oil-producing countries escalates and any number of other reasons these people usually roll out at times like these.

Regardless of the reasons why they’re on the way up, the price of gas is serious business for RVers. For most of us, this can’t help but affect our travel plans this summer.

As for my family, we’ll either be heading out to campgrounds closer to home, or not camping as much as we’d like, or a combination of the both. Other circumstances will factor in for us – two kids are going to camp for a week or two, and the third will likely be playing baseball well into July – but the fact remains gas prices will be putting a serious dent into our RVing plans.

In January of this year, when gas was $3.10 per gallon, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) issued a press release putting a positive spin on how the cost of gas affects RVing. Excerpts of that release follow:

• RV travel is a great value. The PKF Vacation Cost comparison study showed that a family of four can save 26-to-71 percent on vacation costs depending on the type of trip and type of RV used. More than 80 percent of RV owners say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation.

• While fuel prices remain well below their pre-recession high, prices are 36 cents per gallon higher than they were a year ago. When fuel prices rise, RVers adjust by traveling to destinations closer to home or driving fewer miles, according to surveys of RV owners conducted by RVIA and CVENT, a leading provider of online surveys and research technology.

• More than 80% of RVers say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation, even when fuel prices rise.

• To save on fuel, RVers typically spend more time enjoying the campground experience and less time on the road. More than 16,000 campgrounds nationwide give RVers the flexibility to save fuel and cut costs by staying closer to home. Whether they travel five miles or 500, they can still enjoy a great outdoor experience.

• Fuel prices would need to more than triple from their current level to make RVing more expensive for a family of four than other forms of travel, according to PKF Consulting. PKF’s spring 2008 vacation cost comparison study shows that RV trips remain the most affordable way for a family to travel because of the significant savings on air, hotel and restaurant costs, which continue to rise.

• Fluctuating fuel prices affect the cost of all modes of travel and transportation. Airfares and hotel rates rise rapidly when fuel costs increase.

• Many RV owners surveyed take additional measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 miles per hour, packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV, and turning off home utilities to save energy when traveling. RVers travel at a leisurely pace with no tight schedules for flights, hotels or restaurants.

It’s hard to argue with several of those points, especially that the high price of gas also affects all other modes of transportation. Airlines are raising their ticket prices nearly everyday, and tacking on fees – carry-on baggage, really? – at a ridiculous rate.

About the only thing that isn’t going up is my salary, and that’s why our camping this summer will be less than what we had hoped. I suspect I am not alone. Sure, there’s going to be a certain segment of RVers who will continue on as they always have, but for the majority of us camping is one line item that gets cut when it comes time to balance the family budget.

How is the cost of gas affecting your plans this summer?

From the companion blog: Ohio recently improved its online travel site, making it easier to use and the search results better as well. Similarly, Indiana Department of Natural Resources also improved its online campground reservation system. I also have a number of other posts about events, festivals and other information about travel destinations.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Detroit Camper & RV Show reports huge attendance

March 7, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 17 Comments 

Thought I might pass along this bit of good news.

The 45th Annual Detroit Camper & RV Show experienced its best show in 10 years. The show, which ran from Feb. 16-20 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, recorded 18,400 attendees — a 12 percent increase from the 2010 show. The show was sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC).

Saturday alone saw over 9,000 attendees, making it the busiest day in MARVAC RV show history. According to Bill Sheffer, director of MARVAC, show visitors lined up on Saturday before the show opened, with strong ticket sales continuing all day.

I was able to attend the show on its opening day – more later on why I wasn’t able to go other days – and personally saw a ton of people going in and out of the 280 RVs on display. I was also able to talk to several of the RV dealers both that day and more recently, after the show was over and they had time to recuperate. Many reported customers looking for smaller, lightweight and more fuel-efficient RVs.

“Buyers are back,” said Victoria Rokas of Vicars Trailer Sales in Taylor. “Customers were upbeat, positive and confident about purchasing an RV as they look for more value for their dollar.”

“Overwhelming” was the word used by another dealer, Tim O’Brien of Circle ‘K’ RV in Lapeer. “All our salespeople were so busy.”

O’Brien said the record number of people attending the show – and willing to do more than just kick the tires – is a sure sign that the economy is improving. And that’s saying something, because southeast Michigan has been one of the hardest hit regions in the entire country during this past (current?) recession.

“I call it ‘frugal fatigue’,” O’Brien said. “People have been frugal for so long that they’re tired of it. They’re ready to get out and start looking at things, and – I know I’m biased here – but RVing is one of the most affordable ways to travel and spend recreation time. Dollar for dollar, RVs offer the most bang for your buck.”

RaptorRP365LEV_Garage_BtoFLarry See, of A&S RV Center in Auburn Hills, said he, too, was very busy during the show. That opening day I tried talking with him at length, but he understandably was needing to excuse himself as people constantly wanted him to talk about the Keystone Raptor Velocity 5th Wheel and its “rear porch” feature (which is pictured at left).

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RVs are now attracting young buyers between the ages of 18 and 34. In fact, the fastest growing group of RV buyers falls in this age demographic, although buyers between the ages of 35 and 54 remain the largest segment of RV owners.

MARVAC’s Sheffer noted the same trend at the Detroit Camper & RV Show, saying “show attendees varied in age, but large numbers of families with young children were prevalent throughout the day.”

As I said, I was able to attend the first day of the show, and Sheffer told me then that a banking official had casually mentioned his bank was offering nearly $100 million in financing to RV buyers, nearly double from the previous year. Sheffer added that within several minutes of the show’s opening, one dealer was already closing on sales to a handful of customers.

My thoughts on the show? It was bittersweet. It was great, but I was only able to go for a few hours of the first day. I had planned on going every day, but life got in the way.

If you want to read more about my experiences at the show, you can read the post from my companion blog here. In it, I talk more about the Raptor Velocity as well as the Fleetwood Terra and its Hide-A-Loft feature and the brand new Holiday Rambler Trip motor home.

From the companion blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted at RV.net, so I must have about 30-40 posts on my companion blog. Most of them are about great specials and events at popular travel destinations, including St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and in Saugatuck, Michigan, Newsbits from the Illinois DNR, and the Ohio DNR offering big discounts at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: What started us down the RV road

January 25, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 17 Comments 

Brighton 1The following post tells the story of how my family and I got into RVing. I tell this story in the hope you also might care to share what, or who, first got you into RVing.

As for me, my extended family have been RVers for years, and growing up I always envied the tales of their camping trips. Little did I know that the RVing bug had bit me way back then, but it turned out to be an infection itching at me for many, many years before I was able to apply the ointment. It only took about 10 or so years of me whining like a hungry dog every time we passed an RV dealership before my wife finally uttered those three wonderful words … “Oh, all right.”

The first of my family to start us all down the RVing road were my grandparents, Art and Curley Brighton. That’s them in the picture, with two of my uncles sticking their heads out the window of the 1971 25-foot Superior. I love that photo, especially how proud my grandpa looks holding a bucket of KFC!

My grandparents were prolific RVers; they traveled from Alaska to the Panama Canal and all parts in between during their five decades of travel in their various motor homes. Actually, they first started by car-camping, sleeping in the back of their ridiculously huge Town & Country station wagon. Their first motor home was the brand new Superior. They enjoyed that big green motor home for over a dozen years until they bought a new 35-foot Holiday Rambler in 1984. Then in 1987 they bought a 33-foot Foretravel, and finally a 1989 33-foot Foretravel Grand Villa motor home only three years after that. They traveled quite a bit, especially after they both retired from teaching. Often they hooked up with the FMCA-sponsored rallies for months at a time, and later they would say those rallies were among their best RVing memories.

My grandparents have since passed on, but they passed on their love of RVing to several of their eight children and 28 grandchildren (31 great-grandchildren and counting!). My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen have a 42-foot Monaco Dynasty motor home, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Diane have a 2004 Nomad North Trail fifth wheel, my parents have a 25-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon just bought a 2001 24-foot Trail Lite fifth wheel and my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy have a 2003 27-foot Rockwood travel trailer.

My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen were full-timers for a few years and had previously owned a 40-foot Monaco Windsor and a Southwind before that, but my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy hold the record for number of campers owned: They bought the last Foretravel motor home from my grandparents, and their other travel trailers were a 1998 Dutchmen, 1978 28-foot Yellowstone, 1976 25-foot Golden Nugget and a 1984 19-foot Sportsman.

I also have a few cousins who are RVers; Matt and Tracy own a 2005 21-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, and Jill and Bob were proud owners of a pop-up camper until it was completely destroyed when they were rear-ended a few years back (crumpled like a pile of kindling wood, they said).

Us? We’re the proud owners of a new-to-us 2000 Trail Lite Bantam 23-foot hybrid we bought in 2007. It sleeps all five of us, has tons of storage and has withstood many of my modifications. Plus, it’s paid for!

What do we love about RVing? Probably for many of the same reasons that you and other RVers love about it! Before our RV, we tent-camped a few times, always cursing the trek to the vault toilet in the middle of the night and the cold hard ground every morning. Not so with the RV! We’re off the ground, sleep in (mostly) comfortable beds and the bathroom – like everything else we decide to bring – goes where we go.

I like to think of our camper as a cottage-on-wheels. We can take our cottage most anywhere, and although we have a few favorite campgrounds we always seem to return to, we enjoy discovering new campgrounds in distant locations and all the area has to offer. My favorite thing about camping is sitting around the campfire, a s’more in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, and doing nothing more than relaxing and laughing with family and friends.

So there you have it. My story is not that unusual from other RVers, but it is my story and one I enjoy adding to each and every time we go camping.

Now it’s your turn. How did you get started into RVing?

From the personal blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on RV.net, so there’s a couple of dozen posts on my companion blog you might want to take a look at. Most are travel-related, including a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of eight homes and Wintertime events in Chicago. A few RV-specific posts include a comprehensive list of North American RV shows now through April (complete with links), the planned expansion of Detroit-based General RV dealership and my take on RV Buddies’ recent poll results of what features people want in an RV.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 3 Comments 

Here — in no particular order (or rhyme or reason) — is a somewhat decent holiday gift guide for RVers, starting with three new products from the Fastway company:

Fastway Flip automatic jack footFastwayFlipB3WEB
The new Fastway Flip automatic jack foot adds 6 inches to your jack instantly, and flips up and down automatically as you retract or extend the jack. The Flip jack foot eliminates the hassles of storing and stacking wood blocks, or finding a place to store a removable extension. The Flip jack foot puts itself away each time you use it. No springs, cables, or pins are required. The Flip jack foot installs easily using pilot holes in the foot as a guide; then a single bolt (supplied) mounts the Flip to the bottom of the jack. The Fastway Flip jack foot fits most tongue jacks round or square, with models to fit 2-inch and 2 1/4-inch jacks. Maximum tongue weight rating is 1,400 lbs. and designed for use on horse, RV, cargo, boat, and utility trailers. For more information call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

Fastway ONEstep tandem axle wheel chock84-00-4000Web
The Fastway ONEstep is the fastest and easiest tandem axle wheel chock. The ONEstep wheel chock eliminates common chocking hassles like ratcheting, pinched fingers, bending or kneeling down, splintery wood chunks, and stuck wedges pinched by trailer movement. The ONEstep chock sets quickly in place by simply stepping down on the scissor arms, and removes easily by pulling up on the cable handle, even when wedges have been pinched under a tire. The ONEstep chock is adjustable from 16 inches to 24 inches to fit most tandem axle trailers. It works great with horse, RV, boat, cargo, utility, and farm trailers. An XL model that reaches up to 30 inches is also available for trailers with “wide track” type axle systems. The ONEstep is made from solid steel wedges and arms, with zinc plate and powder coat finishes helping it look great for years. For more information, call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

Fastway Zip breakaway cableFastwayZipCableOnlyWEB
The Fastway Zip is the new, fast and easy way to protect your breakaway cable. With the Fastway Zip there are no frayed ends or cables dragging on the ground. The unique coiled cable of the Zip easily stretches to your tow vehicle and clips right on with the included carabiner. There is no looping over and around the trailer tongue to keep the cable out of the way. It is faster and easier to use than the standard breakaway cable. The Zip quickly replaces your current breakaway system with its coated high-strength coiled cable, split ring, and easy to use carabiner. The Fastway Zip breakaway cable is available in 4-foot and 6-foot cable lengths, and is offered as a universal replacement cable only, or a complete set with a cable and switch. For more information, call 877-523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

iWavecube microwaveRedOpen_wDims
For those who want a microwave when camping, but not anything larger than necessary, the iWavecube measures just one-cubic-foot — plus it has all the electronic controls and safety features you would expect, and it plugs in anyplace that has a standard outlet. It’s quiet, super-energy-efficient, and measures just 10 inches by 10.5 inches by 12 inches — weighing only 12 lbs. It features a built-in carry handle and view-through door. The product is available in red, black, and silver. Perfect for a dorm room, camping trip or just at the office. For seeing the different ways campers are using their iWavecube check out this link.

The Perfect CampfireGrillNewOriginal
I have the Perfect CampfireGrill original grill and I have given them as presents. I love mine and recommend them to anyone who cooks over a campfire. The Perfect CampfireGrill original grill ($60), launched in 2005, continues to be popular for its large 20-by-25 inch grilling surface that can easily hold 24 strip steaks, 70 hot dogs or 30 large burgers. The Rebel ($40) fits easily into bicycle and motorcycle saddlebags. It can be used over the campfire or as a charcoal grill where campfires are not permitted. At 10-by-12 inches, The Perfect CampfireGrill Rebel is the smallest of The Perfect CampfireGrill products. The Explorer ($30) with its folding legs can be set up at any campsite on the beach, in rocky terrain or at a conventional campsite. The grill provides 12-by-18 inches of grilling surface. When its legs are folded, its 1 1/2 inch thickness makes it easy to transport in most backpacks and gear bags. The Pioneer ($40) provides a circular 18-inch diameter grilling surface that is perfect for weekend getaways and family outings. It is easily packed into smaller vehicles. For more information, go to www.campfiregrill.com.

REI Camp Mini Kitchen36ad756f-9c74-444a-b6ab-571c7728fb8c
Stow your cooking and dining essentials in the REI Camp Mini Kitchen ($69.93 on sale) so you’re always ready to hit the road! Staying organized in camp helps keep the fun factor high. Features include: Aluminum roll-top table holds most 2-burner camp stoves or other gear up to 60 lbs.; Ripstop polyester storage compartment provides dedicated spaces for a 2-burner stove, fuel bottles, plates, utensils, spices, wet sponges and more; Frame has integrated carry handles. Note: the photo at right shows items not included. For more information, visit: www.rei.com/product/798433

RV Handbook, 4th EditionRV Handbook
Completely Updated – the New RV Handbook, 4th Edition ($29.95) is a 299-page How-To Guide with handy checklists, helpful photos and easy-to-follow charts all designed to keep you on the road and enjoying your RV. This 4th edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is known as the “RVer’s bible” for the RV road warrior; it’s a “no-fluff” comprehensive guide for both novice and seasoned RVers. Packed with checklists; photos; schematics and charts, as well as plenty of sound, user-friendly technical advice. Features hundreds of proven RV tips, tricks and techniques to save you time, money and maybe even your sanity! You simply won’t find this level of detail covered in any other RV book. If you are looking for a complete resource that answers all your RV-related questions, the latest edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is exactly what you are looking for. 
Click here for more information.

QwikShower WipesShower Wipes
Although this product is marketed toward kids who can use them after gym class at school, I think these would be a great addition to anyone’s RV. QwikShower Wipes – from a company that calls itself My Kids Stink, LLC — are large, moist, single-use disposable cloths with a subtle scent and economical price point. QwikShower Wipes are appealing for many reasons:
• Convenient. Each wipe is individually wrapped for portability and to ensure it never dries out.
• Effective. With a large 10-inch by 12-inch dimension and a resilient cloth-like material, QwikShower Wipes are big and study enough to clean the entire body, also leaving a slight fresh scent behind.
• Green. Environmentally friendly, QwikShower Wipes are non-aerosol and emit zero fluorocarbon emissions unlike popular body sprays.  This also ensures the scent won’t invade the personal space of others or overwhelm the small space of a camper.
• Economical. Starting at just 49 cents each coupled with the company’s free shipping policy, QwikShower Wipes are very affordable.
• Versatile. QwikShower Wipes are great for use after sports practices and games, a day at the beach, or an impromptu restaurant outing with the family. Also a stellar solution for adults, the wipes are perfectly suited for boaters, campers and fitness enthusiasts. They are also a must for emergency preparedness kits in the event of water outages.
For more information about QwikShower Wipes visit www.QwikShower.com.

State Parks gift cards
Quite frankly, a state parks gift card or gift certificate is just about the perfect gift to give an RVer. A State Parks gift card is an appealing choice for anyone who likes to play outdoors or unwind in comfort.  Gift cards can be redeemed for camping, getaway rentals, cottage rentals or overnight stays in state park campgrounds, and some are good for use at state park lodges. Many states allow them to be used used at State Parks’ public courses, boat rentals at some state park marinas, or for food and merchandise purchases.

“Drives of a Lifetime” from National GeographicDrives_COVER web
Fall vacations conjure up images of cozy fireplaces, mugs of warm apple cider and drives through gorgeous foliage, rich with the changing colors of the season. National Geographic provides details of hundreds of scenic fall drives and more in “DRIVES OF A LIFETIME: Where to Go, Why to Go, When to Go” ($40 hardcover). Following on the success of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s popular Drives of a Lifetime series, this sumptuously illustrated gift book will appeal to all who have a yen for the open road and for every magnificent sight along the way. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this book.

Duraflame Gold Firelog177 gold_log_lft
Sick of the high cost of firewood? Sick of buying firewood at some campgrounds that’s little more than bark? How about trying the Duraflame Gold firelog for your next campfire. Packaged in chic gold and black, the Gold firelog is ideal for a great weekend fire, and burns longer with brighter with larger flames. The Duraflame Gold firelog is the first 7-pound firelog that burns for over four hours without tending, and is made from 100 percent renewable resources and burns 80 percent cleaner than wood. Available in a four-log pack for a suggested retail price of $24.99 or sold as a single log for $5-6/log. For more information visit www.duraflame.com.

“Winnebago Man” documentary on DVDWinnebago Man DVD
The outrageously funny, critically-acclaimed documentary “Winnebago Man” ($29.95) is available on DVD by Kino International. Following its much-publicized U.S. theatrical release in over 100 markets, as well as Jack Rebney’s national television debut as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the DVD is one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this DVD.

BananagramsBananagrams - Open Banana
Bananagrams ($14.95) is a fast and fun anagram game that drives players bananas! Requiring no pencil, paper or board, Bananagrams comes in a small portable banana shaped pouch and is perfect fun for kids from 7 – 97 years-old, at home or on the go. Bananagrams is available online as a free Facebook Application and on the iPad, iPhone and iTouch as well as in a series of books. Bananagrams recently launched in Spanish, French, Norwegian and German as well as in a larger version – DOUBLE Bananagrams, the big banana for the larger bunch (for 16+ players).

Cascade Sleeping Bag from Peak Camping4_Cascade20
I’m not one for mummy-style sleeping bags, but for those who are then jump in and snuggle up for a long rest with this best-selling High Peak USA Cascade Sleeping Bag.  With a temperature rating of +20, -5, and -15 degrees F (ladies bag is available in +20 and -5), you can be assured a restful sleep outdoors even during the most frigid nights. The Thermolite Quallo insulation is a special fiber technology that promotes warmth and easy packing and maintains resilience and high loft. The Cascade also features an insulated chest collar to keep cold air from sneaking in.  The shell is made of 310T/210T nylon.  Dimensions: 31 inches by 79 inches by 21 inches (footbox).

“Along Interstate-75″ booki75
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at www.i75online.com. Useful travel information to help anyone driving this popular interstate from Detroit to the Florida border and back.

So there you have it. Granted, it’s not the most comprehensive list in the world, but these are things I’ve come across that I thought might catch your eye as well.

From the personal blog: I continue to post information on great getaways to many popular Midwest destinations, including Traverse City’s Winter Wow!fest, as well as great tips on how to protect yourself from the cold. Another pretty cool post was the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds recent announcement of the 32 campgrounds and RV parks that received an ‘A’ grade.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Top 10 Reasons I’d Rather Drive an RV than Fly in a Airplane

December 1, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 14 Comments 

As if we RVers needed any more fuel for our pro-RV fire, here’s a “Top 1087756063 Reasons I’d Rather RV than Fly” list. (With my comments thrown in here and there.)

Note: I came across this great list – slightly modified for RVers – from Dave Hunter, author of “Along Interstate-75,” an award-winning book which helps people enjoy driving this major freeway between the Midwest and the Georgia/Florida border.

1. Before you get into your RV, you don’t have to wait in long lines or wait for your seat row to be called for boarding. (Although I’m tempted to try this with the family next time we go camping.)

2. No embarrassing X-ray or pat down. (Tempted to try this, too.)

3. Your luggage always arrives at the same time you do and never costs extra. (Luggage? What’s luggage?)

4. No need to arrive at your RV two hours ahead of departure time – it will wait for you.

5. You can bring as many bottles of water into the RV as you wish.

6. The bathroom in your RV, or the restrooms at roadside rest areas, do not have line-ups in the aisle.

7. The air you breath is “family” — you know how healthy they are. (Granted, this may or may not be a positive.)

8. No need to surrender your favorite knitting needles or other sharp objects.

9. Stiff legs? No need to wait until you arrive — you are 2 feet off the ground and can stop for exercise whenever you want.

10. And there’s no need to rent a car when you arrive – you are already sitting in the vehicle of your choice, with no insurance waivers to sign!

A quick side note: My parents are about to fly to New York City to visit my brother and his family. When pricing airfare, ticket prices were $2,500 each (not including taxes, fees and luggage). They switched their schedule from Wednesday-Sunday to Sunday-Wednesday and the prices dropped to less than $500 each.

Obligatory “About the Author” information:
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at www.i75online.com.

From the personal blog: I recently posted some great information for traveling to southern Indiana for the holidays, and I continue to add many more regional travel ideas as I come across them.

UPDATE: I have also posted on my personal blog about our recent trip to New York City, where we saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (cross that one off the bucket list) as well as my brother’s Broadway debut! (We drove there, by the way.) Click here to read all about it.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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