Gr8LakesCamper: Recap of the Fall Detroit RV Show

October 15, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

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RV Show 1 By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one — and certainly the best in the last few years.

I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap. (You can also read my individual reports from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five. All but Day Five includes a video.)

The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16 percent over the previous year.

“Show attendance was up 20 percent over the 2009 numbers,” Sheffer said. “Dealers and exhibitors reported positive sales numbers and responses from those in attendance, and several $200,000 units were even sold during the show. Many dealers reported meeting and/or exceeding sales goals for the duration of the show.”

Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Michigan to take a look around.

And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.

“We generally come to all these shows,” said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan, who was at the show with his wife, Karen. “We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens.”

“You know, when you’re camping, you spend all your time outside anyways,” Karen added. “So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense.”

Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.

Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motor home behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Naturally, I found the Yates inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.

A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Michigan. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite #1809S travel trailer, and they’ll be back to the February show to make the purchase.

As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.

Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:

• Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floor plans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.

• Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.

• Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.

• Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.

• Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan White’s travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.

The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motor home. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.

The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver’s side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach. Click here for my video tour of the slide-within-a-slide.

All in all, the Fall RV Show was a lot of fun – but I would expect nothing less. I was able to get to the show four of its five days. I enjoyed exploring all the RVs and talking to the people enjoying those RVs. And now the countdown is on for the Spring RV shows!

From the personal blog: I’ve been posting a lot of information lately about travel destinations and specials they’re having, including Ohio’s Brilliant Fall Colors and Halloween Fun at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.

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: Crazy people have crazy dreams

September 27, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 17 Comments 

This post is just for fun.Freud-art

I had a weird dream about our camper the other night.

At the risk of subjecting myself to wacko theories from all kinds of amateur psychoanalysts, I’m going to tell you about it.

In my dream, I was a passenger in the truck owned by a friend of my Uncle Ed. His name is Joe, and his F150 is one of those vehicles that was built to tow things. Big things. Heavy things. Like his big and heavy travel trailer. But in my dream he’s pulling my small, lightweight camper.

Uncle Ed is in the truck, too.

So we’re in Joe’s truck, he’s pulling my camper and we’re going fast. He goes fast over a set of three railroad tracks. These tracks are surrounded by woods.

A few hundreds yards or so we go down a very steep hill and I hear the camper bottom out behind us.

From the back seat of Joe’s quad cab truck, I turn around and see that the camper became separated from the truck. So, I yell for him to stop. Which he does.

We drive back to the camper, and as we’re getting closer I notice the only thing left of it is the floor. Nothing but the floor, the frame and the wheels. The floorboards were wood planks that looked like the floor of an old boat, and it was stripped clean of everything on top of it.

Not being stupid — remember, I’m dreaming — we decide to back track and find the rest of my camper.

Of course, we find it back at the railroad tracks. Well, we find the pile of it anyways. But what was weird — weirder — was that it was a big pile of camper stuff, but none if it was broken. It was like someone had disassembled the camper, piece by piece, and put it in a big pile. I distinctly remember seeing in my dream the kitchen cupboards sitting there with stuff still neatly in them, just as we had packed them.

Being cheap, I decided I could salvage it.

So the three of us started trying to hook up the pile to Joe’s truck. This makes no sense, because the floor and wheels of the camper were not underneath the pile of camper stuff, but whatever. This was my dream, and in it I am trying to hook up my camper pile to Joe’s truck.

Naturally, I can’t. The cables are in a huge knotted ball bigger than a basketball. I am trying to unravel it, but it’s not working. It seems the more cables I unravel, the bigger the knotted ball is becoming. I look around, only to see the green forest that surrounds us. The forest extends down the three sets of train tracks, like the tracks are a hallway through green walls.

That’s when I see the train lights in the distance illuminating the tree lines from around a bend. Next I hear the train horn, and know that my big pile of camper is doomed.

Then I wake up.

Let the pschoanalysis begin!

From the personal blog: I’ve had a whole bunch of things posted to my personal blog in the last week or so, including a preview of the National RV Trade Show, Missouri State Park’s final Wonders of Wildlife class, and a preview WITH VIDEO of the 21st Annual Fall Camper & RV Show in Metro Detroit.

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: Two RV Shows a Bellwether for Industry

September 8, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 4 Comments 

Picture 1Two RV shows in the next few weeks will be an interesting study on whether we can truly believe the recent reports that the RV industry is on the rebound.

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Why Our Next President Should Be an RVer

April 21, 2010 by Brian Brawdy · 15 Comments 

By Brian Brawdy

I’ve spent just about two years now RVing full-time in my Lance Truck Camper. I’ve traveled to 48 states and three Provinces in Canada as well. Most of the TV and radio interviews I participate in, now over 150, I’m usually asked about the “coolest places” I have been. Each time I respond the same way. “It’s not the places I’ve been, but the people I’ve met that have left an indelible mark on me.”

Through the many compliments and a few criticisms, I’ve learned quite a bit. I told the audience at the Mid Atlantic Truck Camper Rally last week that I am a lot smarter now then when I first started “bringing the far away to my own front door.” RVing has taught me a ton. Sadly, I wasn’t all that bright when I first began so, I still have a bunch of catching up to do.

Perhaps my most powerful lesson comes from the common thread and underlying attitude of most RVers; THEY GET IT DONE.

It takes a certain craftiness, a unique creativity to take to the open road, to “handle” whatever comes up, and to adjust your sights along the way. I’ve also learned through countless “fireside focus groups” that RVers would make great government officials. They see a problem, they fix it; there’s not much “running from anything” in you folks. You put your seat belts on, set your gaze and you get there!

I think our Senators, Representatives and even our next President should have some full-time RVing under his/her belt. I don’t much care that McCain travelled and campaigned in one or that President Obama spent a vacation in one how ever long ago. Some in our industry do…they need to get out a little more.

There is a pulse, a certain and definite energy that comes form traveling our country, listening and learning from the people you meet along the way. You don’t get that from a White House, you only get it from living in a house on wheels.

To learn more bout Brian Brawdy, please visit

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From Bookdocking to Bugging Out, the SRMR covers it all

April 13, 2010 by Brian Brawdy · 3 Comments 

by Brian Brawdy

I like to think of it as my “Just in Case Place.” Balanced between wanting to boondock or needing to bug out, the SRMR (Self Reliant Mobile Residence) has multiple functions.

From the moment I began RVing, I realized the duel purposes of recreating on the one hand and evacuating on the other. There is no better way to bolt to somewhere or from something. Family vacationing emergency vacating, your home away from home can be a perfect base camp, wherever you find yourself. In a few short weeks I will be launching 3 videos here on highlighting the engineering and building of the SRMR. Read more

Shrinking Trailers, Shrinking Cars, Shrinking Hitches

It seems, my friends, that the sun blotting trailers of yesteryear are quickly giving way to the sub-compact micro-trailers. While I’m all in favor of increased fuel economy and parking in one zip code, I wonder how far this trend will go. While perusing the new units at the Hershey RV show last year, I asked a dealer why there were holes in the wall at the end of the bed.

“Feet,” he replied.

And so it goes. As I pondered the idea of waking up in the wee hours with an unknown creature of the wild licking my toes, I had to admit that some of these manufacturers were getting downright crafty in their designs. I saw outside kitchens, TVs that dropped from the ceiling, and a dinette that expanded into a dance floor, complete with the cheesy DJ.

Okay I made that last one up. But you get my drift. I assume, the laws of physics being what they are, that we’ll eventually hit a minimum size trailer. Unless you work for Ringling Bros. and wear a red nose, you might demand enough room to inhale (insert Bill Clinton joke here).

But why fight it? If you can get a 20′ trailer with all the modern luxuries and tow it with your Moped, rock on! We’re certainly not fighting it. For sixteen years Hensley Mfg. has built trailer hitches geared toward the mobile estate. And we’ve built them well. So well, they’ll work on any sized trailer.

“But it looks so big on my trailer!” you cried.

CubButte2Fair enough. Aesthetics are everything. So we designed smaller hitches for smaller trailers. It seemed risky, because we thought that folks with smaller trailers don’t have much issue with trailer sway or, in the case of 5th wheelers, bouncing.

We were wrong. What we failed to consider was this: you’re not just buying smaller trailers, you’re buying smaller tow vehicles as well (i.e. the aforementioned Moped). While you may not feel the sway or bounce of a small trailer with your ¾ ton truck, you’ll definitely notice it when you go to the more fuel efficient models. By the way large truck fans, the sway is there, just ask the guy behind you. Yes, that’s him, the one slowing down to put a state or two between you and he.

BD3-hitch-cutoutAnd you were right. Since we’ve launched the Hensley Cub for small trailers and the TrailerSaver BD3 air-ride hitch for smaller 5th wheels, they’ve taken off. So much so that we’re back to the drafting table (yeah, I know…so twenty years ago, but it’s a nice image) to see how much more we can scale it back.

These are exciting times in the RV industry. New ideas often spring from a tough economy. And nowhere else is it more clearly displayed than in the auto and RV industries. If you haven’t been to an RV show in years, go! You’ll be amazed at what they’re doing with those little boxes on wheels. Then give Hensley a call to see what we’ve got to fit your new compact, efficient, yet stylish camper.

For more information on the Hensley line of anti-sway hitches or the TrailerSaver line of 5th wheel hitches, call 1-800-410-6580. Check out their websites at and

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RV Weekly Round-Up (Nov. 12-20, 2009)

November 20, 2009 by RV Today Archive · 8 Comments 

 1. Olympic parking spots for recreational vehicles sitting empty: With less than three months until the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, only 80 campers have signed up for the 350 available RV camping sites at Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks. But the Vancouver parks board says it is confident bookings will soon balloon, due to a marketing campaign it launched last week. “We’ve been getting a ton of inquiries and it’s really ramping up,” said parks board spokeswoman Barb Floden. “It’s the million-dollar view for less than $100 a night.” According to the city’s site, motorhomes, truck campers and vans up to about 9 metres long (27 ft.) can be accommodated in spaces that are 6 metres wide (18 ft.). While tap water will be available, there are no utility hookups, and sewage pumping and propane services are extra. Both parks have restrooms with showers.

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The Mystery Camper Challenge

August 20, 2009 by Lug_Nut · 21 Comments 

The Mystery Camper is at it again!

So get your thinking cap on and figure out where he is.

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RV Today Archive – Product Showcase – Truckcamper

June 12, 2008 by RV Today Archive · 3 Comments 

This episode, filmed in 2006 for the RV Today TV show, features an affordable and easy to maneuver pop-up truckcamper. If you like to go to locations of difficult access, consider this type of vehicle. It is an aerodynamic, lightdrive Grandview 4-wheel pop-up truck camper, that weighs less than 1000 lbs. Watch the video below describing this model that makes it so easy to switch from travel mode to camping mode that this step can be accomplished in less than a minute.

The pop-up feature is not only easy to use, but it allows full height people to move comfortably inside.

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