EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story ran in today’s (Sept. 29) New York Times, offering highlights from the 38th Annual Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa., including a $2 million rig used by actor Robert De Niro.
There was a child bawling in Robert De Niro’s rig. To be fair, the little guy had been patient up till now: the line he’d had to wait in to tour De Niro’s luxury RV was about 40 people deep. But the rest of the crowd huddling in the dressing room of the $2 million RV was pumped; the long wait was a small sacrifice to examine the crème de la crème of recreational vehicles.
De Niro’s unusual vehicle is a tractor-trailer designed as a two-story moving makeup, wardrobe and dressing room with room enough for 30 people to view daily footage during the shooting of a movie.
But the luxury gawking didn’t end there. The crowds could check out more than 1,200 recreational vehicles — some 45 feet long — spread out over the equivalent of about 26 football fields at the 38th Annual Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa., in mid-September. Hershey is an early autumn stop in a circuit that includes shows all over the country: Dallas, Detroit and Pomona, Calif., are a few of the big ones coming up.
All kinds of people pile in to see the acres of RV’s at these shows – couples, young and old; families; and the young singles who linger longest at the toy-haulers, or SURV’s (sport utility recreational vehicles), which start at around $21,000 and are equipped with built-in garages and sliding ramps in back. The adventure travelers who use them can have not only the comforts of home standard in motorized RV’s — kitchen, bathroom, beds, TV’s — but also space for their ATV’s, kayaks and motorcycles.
Some people who stroll with the masses at RV shows are there for the spectacle — to climb around inside the models fitted out with the newest and most lavish goodies: designer interiors, fireplaces, kitchens, rooftop patios with wet bars and grills, entertainment centers with theater mode, where the touch of a button can make the lights dim and electric shades flip down as a 60-inch television screen drops from the ceiling. They pause for cotton candy and swap camping stories and tales from the road.
Others come with wallet in hand.
Tom and Carol Shewbridge of Taneytown, Md., were at Hershey looking to buy their seventh RV. Their RV love affair began in 1972, when Mr. Shewbridge traded in his Fiat Spider for a Winnebago motorhome, which he used to park at the local gas station. “Ah, how the times have changed,” Mr. Shewbridge said, smiling and shaking his head.
There are still low-priced products for families just starting out. Pop-ups, or folding trailers, which fold down for lightweight towing, can sleep up to eight and run between $4,000 and $13,000. Many of them have bathrooms, and almost all every model includes a little stove and a sink.
For $100,000, a buyer can acquire a sizable motorized vehicle with a master bedroom and more sleeping quarters, a roomy kitchen and sections that slide out to widen the living space when the vehicle is parked.
At the top of the price range are charter-bus-size versions, like the two sleek giants, priced at $1.6 million and $2 million, that sat side by side at Hershey and generated the show’s biggest buzz. Buyers customize outsize RV’s with king-size beds, leather armchairs, granite countertops, French doors and most of the other comforts of a high-end home. These two were the most expensive RV’s in the Hershey show — next to Robert De Niro’s, of course.
Not surprisingly, De Niro uses his R.V., which has a retractable second floor, a winding staircase, a pull-out bed and 11 plasma televisions — for film shoots. Ron Anderson, whose company, Anderson Mobile Estates, designed the vehicle, said it has also frequently been used by other stars, including Mariah Carey, Will Smith and Vin Diesel. The cast of “American Idol” recently sat on the curved leather banquettes, and a few weeks ago Tyra Banks’s stilettos left dimples in the wood floor.
Anderson was quick to point out that anyone can have a piece of the action — the De Niro RV is available without a driver for a one-week rental for $8,750 (not to mention a blistering $600 to fill the gas tank). And for a cool $2 million, you could buy it outright. “I’ll just build Bob a new one,” he said.