Travel trailers. Campers. Motorhomes. Summer used to be the prime time to see them come rolling out.
Recreational vehicles are now a common sight all year-round, but RV park owners agree that in some instances, the typical visitor has changed, according to the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader.
There are still travelers who camp out in their motel on wheels for the fun of it or to save money on lodging, as well as people who live in a “permanent temporary” home as they follow their work or use the RV as a mobile home and office.
“Many RVers are retirees who stay here overnight or for a few days while they visit relatives in the area or they’re on their way from one point to another,” said Jeri Lee of the Silver Bell Park on U.S. 60 west of Rogersville, Mo.
Case in point: Kansas City retiree Kenneth Huggins, his wife and two dogs. Being able to take the pets with them is the biggest advantage to traveling in an RV, he said.
“We went to West Plains to a family fish fry for three days, back to Springfield where we have relatives … been here three days,” said Huggins.
Others — like construction workers or people taking medical treatments — live in their RVs permanently but don’t live in any park all year, Lee said. They may stay a month, six weeks or two months.
“We’ve been very busy now because of all the highway construction in the area like the 60/65 interchange and also the new power plant they’re building west of Springfield,” said Lee.
Curtis Adair is employed by a company working on the interchange.
His wife, Caron, said they own a home in Texas, but live in their RV with their cat and two dogs wherever he is working. They recently came here from another project in Louisiana.
“We’ll probably be here for about two years,” she said.
RV park owners say their business has not been affected overall by the present economic slump, but higher fuel prices did cause noticeable drops in overnight visitor numbers.
“Instead, the economy has perhaps helped the RV business because people are seeking a cheaper way to travel,” said Terry Evans of Marshfield’s RVExpress RV Park & Motel.
Jim Fowler, owner of Timbercrest Park in Springfield, agreed.
“As the price of gas increases, so do our customers,” Fowler said. “We’re nearly full every night through the summer.”
Ditto for Diane King of the Springfield/Route 66 KOA.
“It’s the most economical way to travel if you consider the gas prices and you sleep on your own sheets in your own bed,” said King.
In addition to 16 RV spaces, Evans and his wife, Iwana, built three motel rooms in the building that houses their office, laundry and gift shop. Being right on Interstate 44, most of their visitors are in for an overnight stay, they said.
“One setback is that people who are traveling in RVs often ‘boondock’ on Wal-Mart parking lots,” said Terry Evans. “I don’t have a problem with that and Wal-Mart encourages it. Travelers cut corners every way they can these days.”
Wal-Mart counts on travelers stocking up in their stores before they leave, he said.
Jackie Stone of Country Squire Mobile Home Park on West Farm Road 112 only rents spaces by the month, but said she has noticed an increase in inquiries about spaces.
Of Lee’s 30 spots, 23 are presently rented long term — not to overnighters.
“RV people are always happy because they’re doing what they want to do,” she said.
Home and office
Judy Simon of Sulphur Springs, Ark., and Paula Wright of Rogersville said their business goes along with them.
Simon — who travels a six-state area selling home décor items to antique, floral and gift shops — said she previously was in sales for 30 years and had to stay in motels.
“I prefer my own bed, and I can make my own meals at probably a third the cost of a motel,” she said. “I RV all year long.”
Wright and her husband, who have lived in an RV since 1996, do tenant improvement work. They — along with their cat — usually are in one place less than six months, she said.
“It gives me long enough to see what there is to see,” said Wright.
“Some people retire at 60 to do what we’re doing. We’ll probably do the opposite,” said Wright. “People sometimes say, ‘Don’t you miss having a house?’ Not so much. I don’t miss having to maintain the gutters, don’t miss doing yard work.”
Both women love travel.
“I can step out my door and see the beauty of our country and relax,” said Simon. “I have the opportunity to see the country close up. I meet people from all over the country at the RV parks that I would have never have met in a motel.”
Wright said their RV way of life has taken them to so many interesting “little” places they’d never otherwise have heard about.
“Right now I couldn’t imagine my life any different,” she said.
Rick Harp, sales manager at Reliable RV, said sales have been pretty consistent.
“We had a little dip when gas prices went up and the market initially shifted from the larger units to some of the smaller ones,” he said. “More recently, the market has drifted back toward the larger units.”
The industry is pretty solid in regard to economical travel and lodging as well as people living in RVs as they follow their work, he said.