Following the death in September of founder Gaylord Maxwell, Life on Wheels (LoW) – the highly regarded RV education program for consumers – is closing up shop, according to Margie Maxwell, Gaylord’s widow and spouse of 61 years.
“Without Gaylord’s leadership, Margie Maxwell decided to discontinue the Life on Wheels program,” LoW conference coordinator Peggy Waterman said in an e-mail Thursday (Oct. 16) to LoW instructors.
“I made the decision,” Margie Maxwell told RVBusiness. “Gaylord had been having trouble finding sponsors because of the economy – many of them had cut their sponsorship by 50% – and he wanted to close down anyway so that we could spend the next couple of years just being with ourselves.
“He wanted the Hershey Show (in mid-September) to be the last show, but he committed to going to Tucson. He loved Life on Wheels. It was his baby.”
Waterman said that the conference scheduled to begin March 16 in Tucson, Ariz., has been canceled and no others are planned. She said that Life on Wheels will be missed as much as Gaylord Maxwell.
“Life on Wheels gave a venue for the consumer to learn about a lot of different aspects of RVing without the pressure to buy anything,” she said. “Life on Wheels minimized commercialization and maximized education.”
The idea for LoW was launched in 1994 as an “extended-time RVing” summer lifestyle class at the University of Idaho. “It was just going to be a little class that we would offer to the community,” said Waterman, who at the time worked for the university. “We underestimated Gaylord because we had 80 people from Oklahoma, Kansas and other states come to the first class after he wrote about it in his magazine column.”
Life on Wheels soon developed into a 4 1/2-day course at the school during which up to 50 instructors taught some 200 classes from which RV owners and potential owners could pick and choose a wide array of subjects. The program’s main office earlier this year moved to Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.
The Idaho program soon spawned a 2 1/2-day version associated with the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa. Sessions were also held in San Marco, Texas, Bowling Green, Ky., and Tucson.
“One of the things that Gaylord used to say was that people who buy these big, expensive machines deserve to have the knowledge so they can use them better,” Waterman said. “Life on Wheels really gave people the background so they could be confident to go out RVing.”
Waterman estimates that 15,000 RV owners and potential owners passed through the LoW classroom. “There was one session alone in Idaho where we had 700 people attend,” she recalled.