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RV show draws crowd

By Staff | Jan 27, 2015

For many, the dream is to be able to go outside first thing in the morning, a fresh cup of coffee in hand, and see the Grand Canyon, or Mount Rushmore, or the sunrise over the ocean.

If you own an RV it can happen, and thousands came to the Lee Civic Center over four days this past weekend to see some the latest and best of these motor homes at the 30th annual RV show, one of the oldest and biggest in the state.

Nearly 13,000 hit the turnstyles last year, and judging by the long line of RVers and dream trippers at the ticket window on Friday morning, at least that many, if not more, were expected this year.

Hundreds of new motorhomes, travel trailers, park models, toy haulers, folding and van campers and more from 15 area dealers, as well as nearly 100 vendors selling everything from accessories to RV holidays, were available throughout the grounds.

Jack Carver, show manager, said the show brought an overwhelming response from RV lovers, community members and first-timers.

“The RV industry has recovered with the economy. With interest rates and gas prices low and people wanting to see more of America rather than go outside the country, things are coming together again,” Carver said.

The prices ran the gamut from roughly $50,000 for a towable unit, to a top-of-the-line motor coach teetering on the brink of $1 million.

Those coaches looked like mini-mansions on wheels with the marble floors and countertops, wood trim and electricity rather than gas generating from one of two diesel engines.

John Improta, dealer for North Trails RVs in Fort Myers, was showing people around a 45-foot, full-wall-slide, 600-horse-power diesel RV with 1.5 baths priced at about $630,000.

“It’s worth every penny. We’ve had a lot of interest in the high-line units. But we generate good business with every line of coaches,” Improta said. “Events like this beat going from dealer to dealer. This makes it more efficient.”

Carver said with the good deals came sales, and on the second day of the show plenty were ready to take the plunge.

“On the first day, not many are going to throw down money and say ‘Sell me something.'” Carver said. “If people are educated, they’ll go online to see what they want, visit with the dealerships and see if they’re compatible.”

About the only drawback with these machines is fuel economy. Many of these machines get between six and 12 mpg. Then again, for a million-dollar coach, economy usually isn’t a concern, and it sure beats $300 a night for a hotel.

Dale Thompson and his wife, Barb, have been living the RV lifestyle for seven years and are spending this winter in Fort Myers. They aren’t in the market for a new vehicle, but came to look at the new Winnebagos.

“In the ’60s I wanted to hit the road and was jealous because everyone else was. I promised myself if I had the chance, I was going to see the world,” Thompson said. “We love it. We travel all over the country and enjoy seeing different things.”

Dan Gerten and his wife, Marianne, snowbirds from Pennsylvania, were admiring a $500,000 home on wheels with their daughter, Christina, in hopes of trading up to a longer RV with a third or fourth slider.

“It’s nice, but the problem is the toilet in the half-bath is in an odd place,” Maryanna said, adding she needed a half-bath. “We have to take our daughter into consideration.”

“With our daughter it’s the only way we can travel because she has respiratory treatments three times a day. Hotels are too much for her,” Dan said.

The main idea of the event is to promote the RV lifestyle, the ability to see the USA in something other than a Chevrolet.

“This is definitely a lifestyle to get into for anyone. You can go wherever you want, first-class travel, and do it in your own home,” Improta said.