What Does an RVer Do After Having Seen It All?
Many aspiring retirees can't wait for the day they can leave their cares behind and hit the road in an RV to explore America's highways and byways.
But what do you do after you've seen the most beautiful sites in North America and start getting a little tired of life behind the wheel?
Many RV enthusiasts buy a recreational park trailer or "park model RV," place it on a leased site at their favorite campground and stay there for weeks or months at a time, enjoying an outdoor-oriented lifestyle and establishing new, long-term relationships with other campers who have a similar background and love of the RV life.
"It's a great way for Snowbirds to escape the cold and follow the sun, while pursuing their love of the RV lifestyle in America's warmer climates," said Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), a Newnan, Ga.-based trade association.
Financially, the park model lifestyle is hard to beat. Most units retail for less than $40,000, and they can placed on leased sites in roughly 3,900 of the nation's 8,000 private campgrounds and RV parks for $1,500 to $7,000 per year, depending on location.
At that price, many retirees are finding that they can afford to purchase two park models, and keep one north for use as a summer retreat and one in the Sunbelt for use as a winter vacation home.
This is precisely what Minnesota natives Doug and Beverly Dahlquist did after spending six years traveling across the country with a 35-foot fifth wheel.
"The first year we were in the RV we traveled extensively," Doug Dahlquist recalled. "We would move every two or three weeks to a different location. In fact, the first winter we drove from Minnesota to San Diego, and by March we were in Florida. But then what we found out is that each year we would travel and move around a little bit less and stay for longer periods of time in a comfortable RV park."
The Dahlquists also started making friends at some of the parks they visited. "You establish friendships when you stay in a park for weeks," he said. "So you like to return to those parks and the travel part becomes less and less important."
So four years ago, the Dahlquists traded in their fifth wheel and bought a Cavco park model at Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, where they spend the winter, and a Breckenridge park model at Lakeside Acres RV Park in Brainerd, Minn., where they spend the summer.
"On our income, we could not have a summer home and a winter home if it were not for the park model concept," said Dahlquist, who previously worked as a clinical psychologist. Plus, the locations of their units enable the Dahlquists to spend several months of each year near their daughters, one of whom lives in San Diego, Calif., while the other lives in Minneapolis.
Dean and Deb Neild, a semi-retired couple from southern Michigan, enjoy a similar, two-park model lifestyle. They keep one unit at Sandy Pines, an RV resort in Hopkins, Mich., the other at Towerpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Ariz.
"Summer never really ends for us," said Deb Neild, 45. "When it's really hot in Arizona, we're here in southern Michigan. And when everybody here is complaining about how cold it is and they're shoveling snow, we're in Arizona where it's 60 or 70 degrees. It's really the best of both worlds."
Garpow of RPTIA said the idea of purchasing two or more park models and placing them in different geographic locations is a newly emerging phenomenon, accounting for about 5 percent of the consumers who purchased park models this year.
But the idea is catching on, and active traveling RVers aren't the only ones pursuing this concept.
Butch and Lynne Cleveringa of Grand Rapids, Mich. were restauranteurs when they bought their first park model in Florida as a winter getaway 11 years ago. Then they got the idea of purchasing a second park model at Sandy Pines for use as a weekend retreat from the restaurant business.
But when the Cleveringas retired three years ago, they realized that their park models gave them the ability to enjoy an endless summer. So they sold their house in Michigan and moved into their park models.
They now spend May to October in their Trophy park model at Sandy Pines, so they can be close to their five children and nine grandchildren in southern Michigan. Then when the leaves start to change, they head down to Pine Island, Fla., near Ft. Myers, where they have another Trophy park model.
"We have near perfect weather year round," Butch Cleveringa said. "Even in December and January, we're enjoying temperatures that average 74 degrees."
The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association represents nearly 50 park model manufacturers who collective produce about 95 percent of the 10,000 units purchased each year. To obtain photos, statistics, consumer and campground contacts or other information regarding the growth of the park model industry, visit the association's website at http://www.rptia.com.