As summer gets serious, Americans are hitting the open road in their RVs in record numbers. After the economy tanked in 2007, RV sales and rentals plummeted. But business has steadily picked up in recent years. And with the many options available from basic campers to luxury motorhomes with electronic bump-outs, and stylish throwbacks like the vintage airstream, we are being lured back into the craze by the thousands.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, recreational vehicles are a 14 billion dollar market annually. Manufacturer shipments to retailers of all RVs were measured, by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, at 33,774 units in April of this year, a gain of 5.4% over this same month last year, which also saw large increases. And while retirees are flocking to RV living, partly to be freewheeling but also to retire inexpensively, most of us are using RVs as vacation getaways.
There’s a lot of cachet to the words “road trip,” that keeps us entranced, and focused on relaxation with an adventurous spirit. According to the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory, there are over 8,000 RV parks/resorts in the U.S. Exploring the country, especially in the wide-open spaces of the west, is high on many people’s vacation itineraries.
Adam Blair, owner of Avalon RV in the Benicia Business Park, provides routine maintenance for all types of RVs, but specializes in renovating vintage Airstream trailers for his clients. “Vintage Airstreams have retained their popularity over time. They were born from the concept of the airplane – built upon the same idea,” says Blair. “We take them in and redo everything, right down to the rivets.” The iconic, riveted silver shells can be seen around town and on the highway. Completely tricked out, they can sell for up to $100,000. Blair has renovated Airstreams for many purposes, from traditional RV use to conference rooms parked at local businesses—one was even transformed into an upscale hair salon in the Napa area.
So just what makes the RV so alluring? The convenience factor, for one, of bringing one’s temporary home along for the ride. But the feeling of adventure, freedom and spontaneity are part of the experience, along with seeing what the rest of the country has to offer. Whether you hitch up or drive off, nothing speaks to the quintessential American “camping” experience like getting on the road in your home away from home.