Welcome aboard to the Living the RV Dream Newsletter first edition.!! We will try to give you timely and useful articles that will help you enjoy your RVing experience.
This month we have chosen some articles from a couple of our friends in the consumer side of the RV industry. For now, this will be a monthly publication, but we’ll see what the future brings.
Hello Happy Campers!! We are getting ready for our first major RV trip since Kathy got sick 17 months ago. We have been sitting still in Bradenton, Florida the whole time except for 3 months in Zephyrhills last winter. Wow! We have a lot of work to do to get the rig ready for travel. We have accumulated a lot of weight in stuff we don’t need on a trip. Much of it is stuff for the Gathering Rally coming up in October.
Fortunately, our son has a house nearby and we can store a lot of stuff in his garage. Then there is cleaning off all the black streaks from roof run-off and a bunch of other rig maintenance things. We’ll depart here on July 11th and spend 3 nights at the King’s Bay Naval Base Famcamp. We want to explore Jekyll Island, GA as well as Fernandina Beach. Fernandina Beach is a throwback to “Old Florida” and should be a lot of fun.
Then we’re headed to Maryland for a week’s visit with our youngest son and his family. We’ll be staying at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Army Famcamp there. We’ll take 2 days to get there and use Passport America parks along the way. It’s been 3 or 4 years since we’ve been there and we’re really looking forward to it.
We’ll leave there and make a 2 day trip up to Essex Junction, VT and the Escapees RV Club’s annual Escapade rally. We were invited to come and speak, and we will be doing 2 seminars. One is on lessons learned while living the RV Dream and another on Workamping. Hopefully we will sell a few of our books while we’re there.
We’ll return to Maryland for one more week with our son and family before heading back south to Bradenton. We’ll be gone a month this time.
All this is possible because Kathy’s recovery continues and all her health care providers have cleared her to travel again. It will be a bit of a challenge though, because we have to arrange for weekly shipments of her IV nutrition and supplies as well as shipments from several other suppliers along the way. That is another reason for the 2 stays in MD.
We are resigned to the fact that her reliance on continued periodic shipments of refrigerated material will permanently change our previous mode of travel. No more seat of the pants trips without reservations. It will probably end our long trips across country as well. Everything must be carefully planned out in advance and coordinated with her drug suppliers. Unfortunately, shipments to General Delivery for pick up are out. They want a solid address for refrigerated shipments.
Once we’re home, planning for the October Gathering Rally will accelerate as we will only have 2 months until it starts. We are really looking forward to the Gathering and we hope many of you will be able to attend. Just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for details and a sign-up sheet.
As soon as the Gathering is over, we will depart on our second trip of the year to the Workamper Rendezvous in Heber Springs, Arkansas. We’ve been invited to speak there on Workamping and we are very excited to do so. That will probably be a shorter 2-week trip, but who knows? We may extend it and go down to Alabama and visit the Thomas hospital in Fairhope where they saved Kathy’s life. We’ll see.
John and Kathy
The short answer is yes, however there are some issues that you need to consider when you do this. The first thing to know is that if you are in a 50 Amp RV and there is 50 Amp service available then you should go to the site that is dedicated to 50 Amp service. Some people will try to save a few dollars by going to a 30 Amp site, and while you may get away with it, in the long run you could be opening yourself up to potential RV issues. So rule number one: only use a 30 Amp if 50 Amp is not available.
Now that we have established that, if you must connect to a 30 Amp service with your 50 Amp RV, be sure to get a good 50 to 30 Amp adapter. A good adaptor is always a good thing to have in your tool box in case you need it, and if you travel enough, you will need it at some point.
Now let’s get into the electrical considerations. If your 50 Amp RV is plugged into a 30 Amp service, you will not be able to use everything in your RV. You cannot count on the campground breakers to protect your RV from an overload situation. Let’s look at the numbers. A 30 Amp service will provide you with 3600 watts of availability. I arrive at this number because a 30 Amp service is run by one 120-volt line, so 30 Amps times 120 volts = 3600 watts (Amps X Volts=Watts). Generally, the breakers used in an RV park are not going to have a tight tolerance for when the breaker trips, maybe 10-20% over or under the 3600 watts. So doing some rough math, the breaker could reach its limit anywhere from around 2850 to 4300 watts. This won’t be a problem for a RV that is made to run on 30 Amps because they are built to run well within the limits, but for a 50 Amp RV, this wattage limitation can quickly become an issue.
So does a 50 Amp RV only require about 60% more wattage than a 30 Amp RV? After all, 50 is only about 60% more than 30. Not so in this case, because a 50-amp service runs on two 120 volt lines instead of the one 120-volt line that a 30 Amp RV uses, and therefore the equation is 50 Amps times 240 volts which equals 12,000 Watts of availability. WOW! That is nearly 3 times the amount of power for a 50 Amp RV than a 30 Amp RV. Again, some rough math, and I can possibly only use a third of what I may normally run on a normal 50 Amp service. Now this is still doable if you need to. You will certainly be limited to one AC unit, and I wouldn’t be cranking out a 1200 Watt hair dryer while I am staying there. There are charts online that you can look at how many watts an average appliance uses, and this could be helpful. Keep in mind, an air conditioner may run on 1000 watts, but it could take double that to start it.
Now, there are 50 Amp RVs that are being run on 30 Amp service in parks every day, so don’t be afraid to do this if that is all that is available. Just take the advice of this article and be about 2/3’s more frugal on what you normally run in your RV. There will be times that you pull into a park after a long day of driving and find that a 30 Amp is all that is available. Just pull out your adapter plug, and make sure you do not exceed the wattage availability. You can always refer back to this article if you forget the calculations.
Some time ago, my friend Phil May sent me copy of his book From High-Tech To High Plains, in which he tells the story of how he and his wife Tracey left their high pressure lives and careers and became full-time RVers, homeschooling their two children on the road, and operating a mobile business selling all sorts of tech type goodies at RV rallies across the country. The book is an excellent read, and I experienced a bit of déjà vu when Phil shared their dismay that, within a week of purchasing their new 2005 Class A motorhome, the leveling jacks were malfunctioning, they had a transmission problem, a slide room would not work, the side mirrors were loose, the furnace would not ignite, window blinds had broken, a leg fell off the table, and the roof leaked, among a litany of other problems. Phil was surprised to discover that their problems were nothing new, and in fact were par for the course when one purchases an RV.
We had the same experience back when we purchased our first motorhome in late 1998; a 1998 Pace Arrow Vision which came to be known as the Motorhome from Hell. We had all kinds of problems with that lemon, which included having the hydraulic system fail repeatedly, the living room slide go out while driving down U.S. Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast (tearing the safely hooks right out of the floor in the process), the water heater trying to burn the rig down (it was in competition with the stove, which turned into a blowtorch one evening while Terry was cooking supper), experiencing parts and pieces falling off the walls and ceiling while going down the highway, a leaking shower stall, and on and on and …. you get the idea.
I have said all along that the absolute worst thing about the RV lifestyle is not high fuel prices, poor campground electrical power, driving in high winds, the neighbor’s’ yappy little dog, or getting a campsite within spitting distance of a railroad track. No, the worst part of the RV lifestyle is the junk that so many RV manufacturers are foisting off on the American public. We paid $120,000 for our Pace Arrow, and the same week, we also bought a new Toyota pickup for $20,000. During our long and fruitless battle with Fleetwood to try to get them to fix our RV, I was having a conversation with a Vice President of their motorhome division. I told him that we had never had a problem with our truck, and asked him why Fleetwood could not build something as reliable as a Toyota for six times as much money. He couldn’t answer that question.
I’d like to think that things have improved in the thirteen years since we bought our first motorhome, or in the six since Phil and Tracey bought theirs, but sadly, they have not. At our rally last week, a number of people I talked to had either just come from an RV dealer or factory where they were getting repairs made, or were headed for one when the rally ended. And it’s not just the low end RVs! We know people who seem to routinely make trips to Tiffin in Red Bay, Alabama; Newmar in Nappanee, Indiana; and Winnebago, in Forest City, Iowa to get things fixed. Simple things caused by mistakes that any high school freshman in shop class would catch, as well as major problems. And those three manufacturers are what I have always considered to be among the best of the best!
Years ago I was listening to a fellow at an RV rally complaining about problems in his $250,000 diesel pusher, that included a windshield that popped out going down the road, an air conditioner that shorted out and filled the coach with smoke, leveling jacks that either would not deploy, or would not retract, and a long list of other shortcomings. “But what can you do” he said with a shrug, “It’s the nature of the beast.”
I told him horsepucky! If you paid a quarter million bucks for an airplane, you can be pretty sure that the wings or propeller won’t fall off in flight. If you spend that kind of money for a boat, somebody probably didn’t forget to put the plug in the bottom of it! Because there are certain standards that manufacturers of planes and watercraft have to meet. Apparently, in the RV industry, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has suggestions, not standards. And we, the consumers, are just as culpable, because we settle for the crap they make. So we have only ourselves to blame.
That is why, in all of our years of publishing the Gypsy Journal, Heartland is the only RV manufacturer whose advertising we have ever run. They convinced me that they build a quality product and stand behind it, and I have known many Heartland owners who reinforce that belief. We have been approached by others, but when they suggest that I might want to tone down my criticism, and I tell them that I call it like I see it, they go away. That’s probably just as well, because sooner or later, I know I’ll write something that would piss them off anyway.
I find it highly ironic that today, the official start of the Independence Day holiday weekend, that the largest independent RV manufacturer in the industry, Jayco, is swallowed up whole by the largest publicly-traded company in the industry, Thor Industries. The good news is that 83 percent of RV manufacturing is now under the control of two people – Bob Martin, the CEO of Thor Industries, and Peter Liegl, the CEO of Forest River.
Wait, is that really good news?
The industry was screaming last fall when Keystone Automotive announced the acquisition of Coast Distribution to lock up 80 percent of the RV aftermarket with the formation of LKQ-KEYSTONE-NTP-STAG-COAST.
From what I’m reading today, Thor’s acquisition of Jayco isn’t considered good news at all, except by traditional industry cheerleaders, ie: my competitors. Consumers are concerned, suppliers are nervous and Jayco dealers have an “oh, crap” attitude.
The consolidation of power in the RV industry around a handful of people is a disaster in the making. • Manufacturing is controlled by Thor and Forest River • Dealerships are being consolidated by Camping World • Distribution is controlled by Keystone Automotive • Suppliers are being gobbled up by Lippert Components • RV insurance companies are being acquired by Brown and Brown
If just one of these big companies goes down in the next recession, the ripple effects through the industry will be mindboggling. There are several companies in the RV industry that are literally too big to fail.
Their demise or even a significant falter will bring others down with them, like people trapped by the suction of a sinking ship. The reason being, the RV industry has now placed way, way, way too many eggs in too few baskets.
I will address this in further detail starting next week with a series of editorials about the RV industry’s death spiral.
I’ll readily admit that I have never been a fan of big business. • It stifles innovation – Corporate bureaucracies simply move too slowly to implement needed change. • It wreaks havoc on customer service – Have you ever tried to call Google? • It lowers quality – If there is no competition, who really cares what customers think? • It demands obedience – If there are only one or two big players serving an industry, people and smaller businesses are forced to comply with inane rules, pricing games and competitive restrictions or risk being completely shut out of a market. • It confines entire industries — New companies have little chance to bring better products to market due to long-term and often exclusive contracts with big firms, and the monumental task of scaling huge barriers to entry.
Jayco and Winnebago were considered the last vestige of big independent manufacturing companies in the RV industry. Keep in mind Winnebago is a public company, just as Coast Distribution was last year when it was gobbled up by a billion-dollar behemoth of a public company.
There are a few others, like Pacific Coachworks, Adventurer RV, Lance, Augusta, Northwood, Omega and NeXus, but together they control a much smaller segment of the industry. Today, just one in six RVs are manufactured by independent companies.
While it presents the independents with decent opportunity to guerrilla market their way into the industry, do they really have a voice? When there are 20 players, each pretty much have equal power. When there are two voices, who makes the rules?
Today’s merger puts the RV Industry Association into another precarious position. The association, and thus the industry, was led by Doug Gaeddert, the general manager of Forest River, from 2012 to 2014. Forest River controls 35.66 percent of the market.
Derald Bontrager, then the CEO of Jayco, replaced Gaeddert at the helm of RVIA. Wow, an independent company did have the ability to influence the industry! Now, thanks to today’s acquisition, Thor Industries is technically in charge – and the firm now accounts for 47.1 percent of all RVs sold in America.
Two huge players in the RV industry enjoyed back-to-back opportunities for influencing the direction of the industry to their advantage, and who can stop them when they lead the association that governs the RV market?
Through sheer buying power alone, the juggernauts can keep suppliers and dealers in line by insisting on a “our way or the highway” approach. With Camping World enjoying sweetheart deals with Thor and Forest River, independent dealers are even more helpless today to maintain a competitive advantage.
If Bontrager steps down, and even If he completes his full term next year, who is likely to step into the position as RVIA chairman? Big Banking.
Bob Parish currently serves as first vice chairman and is next in line to the throne. He’s the vice president of national accounts for Wells Fargo, which consumed GE Commercial Distribution Finance earlier this year to become the largest source of floorplan financing for RV dealers.
I won’t ever let the industry forget what GE did to dealers in the great recession. If there is an economic downturn next year, few will be comforted by the fact that the big banker responsible for that mess is at the helm of the RV industry.
One thing the sale of Jayco to Thor Industries suggests is that Jayco’s senior leadership had little confidence that the next generation or two of Bontragers would be able to lead the company.
Jayco’s tagline for years has been “Generations of Family Fun.” It’s a nod to the long-time family-owned business founded by Lloyd Bontrager in 1968 when he started making pop-up campers in a barn on his family farm.
After Lloyd Bontrager was killed in an airplane accident Easter Sunday in 1985, his wife, Bertha, assumed control of the company. Eventually, their two sons, Derald and Wilbur, both took over key leadership positions in the firm.
Year after year at Jayco “homecoming” events, Bertha, Wilbur and Derald Bontrager assured dealers that their children were being groomed to take over the “independent” company as Jayco prepared to pass the mantle to the third generation.
But when a shakeup of leadership positions in April 2014 did not reflect any third-generation children in key functions, people wondered if that was really the case.
Today’s sale to Thor Industries obviously reflects a huge move away from the “generations of family fun” premise. Look for plenty of tap dancing at Jayco’s homecoming event in Orlando when it begins one month from today.
The merger of Jayco and Thor Industries had been heavily rumored for weeks. In fact, I posed that question to Bob Martin and Derald Bontrager June 22 and simply asked that they deny the rumor. After all, denying a rumor is the surefire way to beat it down.
Martin was the first to respond when he emailed back this statement: “There are always many rumors floating around in the RV industry. It would be a full-time job to try to comment on all. So with that, and the fact that we are public, I can’t and don’t comment on rumors. I get calls every week on who we or many in the industry are buying or selling. Since we are public, we get news out as soon as we can. So you will know timely whenever there is real news through a press release and I will be happy to comment as always.”
Ashley Lehman, Jayco’s director of marketing and member of the company’s third generation, responded next by noting, “There have been rumors about Jayco in the past and there will be in the future. That’s the nature of our industry. Jayco has always taken the position of not responding to them and that practice remains the same today.”
That’s very good to know. Because of responses like this, these “non-denial denials” have forced a policy change at RV Daily Report. In the future, when seeking comment on a rumor, we will assume it is true unless a company official expressly denies it.
Watch out folks, there are storm clouds ahead.
Registration is open for the second Living the RV Dream Rally from the 11th to the 16th of October, 2016 at the Horseshoe Cove RV Resort in Bradenton, FL.
We will have 4 provided meals, entertainment on Friday night the 14th, door prizes, and seminars by the Geeks on Tour, TechnoRV, Al Hesselbart, John and Kathy Huggins, and a few others to be named later. Rig weighing will be available from the RVSEF at $60.
We will have to limit this event to 100 Rigs and there will be a waiting list. The camping cost will be $22/night during the event and $150 for a 7-day week. First time visitors to the park can stay 30 days for $199 plus E, a popular option. There will be a special price for those who used that option last year.
A special 1-month golf cart rental has been arranged with Gator Carts of $220/mo.
Due to the extra day and meals, the rally fee will be $150. Email to email@example.com for sign-up form and information.
John and Kathy Huggins Living the RV Dream, LLC Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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