Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Who are the best RV manufacturers?

Editor's note: Because I work for RVBusiness, a trade magazine covering the RV industry, I'm often asked which are the best RV manufacturers. My response is usually the same: For the most part each manufacturer tries to build the best RV they can. Granted, there are going to be lemons coming off the line because people make mistakes, and RV production is still a highly labor intensive process. There are certain differences here and there – all aluminum framework and composite materials being one – and each manufacturer will tell you why they have the best quality. But as long as you take care of it, your RV should last a long time. 

Here's another way to tell which manufacturers are better than others. Each year the RV dealers select which manufacturers they think are the best at least in part due to reliability and quality.

RVDA to Recognize Manufacturers with Quality Circle Awards
The Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) will honor RV brands built by 15 manufacturers with its Quality Circle Award in Louisville, just prior to the opening of the National RV Trade Show.  These brands/manufacturers/product categories received at least 15 dealer responses and scored 4.25 or above on a 5-point scale in overall dealer satisfaction in the association’s 23rd Annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey.

“The DSI Quality Circle Award recognizes the high level of success these manufacturers have had in working with their dealer business partners,” said RVDA Chairman of the Board Darrel Friesen of All Seasons RV Center in Yuba City, CA.  “Their commitment to continuously improving products and services ultimately helps dealers serve customers better and preserves our industry’s share of consumers’ discretionary dollars.”

The towable RV manufacturers/brands receiving awards are (in alphabetical order by manufacturer):

  • Airstream
  • Coachmen (Apex Travel Trailers, Brookstone/Chaparral Fifth Wheels and Freedom Express Travel Trailers)
  • DRV (Mobile Suites, Elite Suites/Full House)
  • Forest River (XLR)
  • Grand Design (Imagine, Momentum, Reflection, Solitude)
  • Gulf Stream (Vintage Cruiser/Vista Cruiser)
  • Heartland (North Trail/Wilderness)
  • Keystone (Fuzion/Impact, Montana/High Country, Springdale/Summerland/Residence)
  • KZ (Durango/Durango Gold/Venom, Spree/Spree Connect/Spree Escape/MXT/Vision)
  • Lance (Travel Trailers/Toy Haulers, Truck Campers)
  • Venture (SportTrek/Sonic)

The motorized RV manufacturers/product categories receiving awards are (in alphabetical order):

  • Airstream
  • Leisure Travel Vans/Triple E
  • Newmar
  • Pleasure-Way
  • Tiffin
When rating their brands/manufacturers, RVDA asks dealers to express, confidentially, their level of satisfaction on four core issues:

  • Reliability/quality
  • Parts
  • Warranty
  • Sales


The 23rd Annual DSI survey was conducted between August and October 2016.  Four hundred and eighty-one (481) dealers responded to the survey this year and provided 2,755 brand ratings, an average of almost six per dealer.

Monday, November 21, 2016

State Parks Waiving Fees on Nov. 25 as #OptOutside Grows to 1.8 Million People

As millions of adventurers choose to #OptOutside, several states across the country have announced their plans to waive fees to park systems on Nov. 25. State parks join a growing number (475 to date) of corporate, nonprofit and public sector organizations that are helping people spend more time in the outdoors this holiday season, and several state, local and federal parks that are always free.

“More than 1.8 million people are planning to #OptOutside with us on Black Friday. It’s amazing to see so many park systems join in the movement to give Americans even more ways to connect with our country’s inspiring outdoor places. We are grateful for the park stewards and professionals who make the outdoor American experience so vibrant,” said Jerry Stritzke, REI’s CEO and president.

“America’s state parks welcome people who venture out early to get the best deals and need to decompress in the afternoon, as well as those who prefer to avoid the crowds completely,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. “These experiences can be enjoyed within a short drive from home virtually anywhere in the country.”

State park systems that are waiving fees on Black Friday include:

  • Arizona*
  • California*
  • Colorado
  • Delaware    
  • Indiana         
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada*    
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Virginia*


State park systems that have free basic admission every day include:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Montana*
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee


For the past three weeks, REI has helped promote different leaders discussing the importance of building and sustaining local, state and national outdoor places. Two of these perspectives, which were featured on REI’s Co-op Journal, include:

  • Will Rogers, President and CEO of the Trust for Public Land, recently noted that in 25 of the country’s largest cities, “more than half of residents under age nineteen don’t have a place to play outdoors close to home.”
  • Martha Roskowski, vice president of Innovation at People for Bikes, also recently highlighted the importance of building cycling networks within our towns and cities, so commuting to nearby places to play outdoors is easier.


Additional information on #OptOutside, the co-op’s partners and how to join the movement is available at REI.com/opt-outside.

That National Association of State Park Directors promotes and advances the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Additional details are available at http://www.naspd.org.

About REI 
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 6 million active members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 149 stores in 36 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI.com/REI-Garage or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 170 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI’s Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

RV Videos: Heartland Prowler, Big Country & Torque, Cruiser RV MPG & Shadow Cruiser, Roadtrek Simplicity,

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Rollin' on TV: Lithium Batteries and the Thor Gemini Class C Motorhome



On this week's program (#2016-24), Rollin' On TV learns all about lithium battery systems for RVs. And we take another look at small class C motorhomes, ...this time the Thor Gemini.


About Rollin' On TV
In production since 2010, Rollin' On TV has become one of the leading RV lifestyle television programs on the air today, reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For more information, visit www.rollinontv.com.

Friday, November 18, 2016

National Park Service announces Fee Free Days for 2017

Combine great scenery and history with great savings and visit a national park for free on one of 10 fee free days in 2017.

The 10 entrance fee-free days for 2017 will be:

  • Jan. 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Feb. 20: Presidents Day
  • April 15-16 & April 22-23: National Park Week Weekends
  • Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • Sept. 30: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

“National parks are known for their priceless beauty,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “They are a bargain anytime but on these ten days in 2017, they really will be priceless. We want everyone to visit their national parks and the fee free days provide extra incentive to experience these amazing places.”

During the fee free days, all National Park Service sites will waive their entrance fees for all visitors. Usually, 124 of the 413 national parks charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The other 289 sites do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

To continue the national park adventure beyond these fee free days, the annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks,. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members, fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Acadia National Park
The National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 413 sites including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park in every state.

Last year, 307 million people visited a national park. They spent $16.9 billion which supported 295,000 jobs and had a $32 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

In addition to national parks, the National Park Service works with tribes, local governments, and partners across the country to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Programs such as the National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and the Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program revitalize communities, celebrate local heritage, and provide places for people to get outside, be active, and have fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thor Motor Coach Introduces New Hurricane 35M Class A Motorhome

Thor Motor Coach has expanded its Hurricane line-up with a new 35M floor plan featuring a large open living area with double slideouts and one-and-a-half bathrooms. The luxurious 35M comes standard with solid surface kitchen countertops, leatherette fabrics, and high-sheen cabinetry. 

In the cockpit, leatherette chairs provide comfort while driving and functionality while camping. Swivel the captain’s chairs around and place the coffee table in between to create a cozy dining area for two. For larger families, this area provides extra seating close to the Dream Dinette booth that seats four. 

Places for a good night’s rest are located throughout the motorhome. The 35M features a walk-around Denver Mattress king size bed in the bedroom, expanding sofa, Dream Dinette booth, and a drop-down overhead bunk with a Cotton Cloud mattress that can support up to 500 pounds. 

Other Hurricane 35M features include: 
  • 6.8L Triton V10 engine with 320-HP and 460 lb.-ft. torque 
  • Automatic hydraulic leveling jacks 
  • Back-up monitor and heated, remote exterior mirrors with integrated side view cameras 
  • Dash workstation with 110-volt and 12-volt outlets 
  • 8,000-lb. trailer hitch 
  • 11 cu. ft. residential refrigerator with ice maker 
  • 40-inch LED TV in the living room & 32-inch LED TV in the bedroom 
  • Exterior 32-inch LED TV 
  • Onan RV QG 5500 gas generator 
  • Black tank flush system 
  • 50-amp Service w/Detachable Shoreline Power Cord 
  • Dual 13,500 BTU Roof Air Conditioners 
  • 1800-watt inverter 
  • Stackable washer/dryer combo ready 

For more information and options available, visit thormotorcoach.com/hurricane.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

We're the Russos: Dog-Friendly RV Gadgets, Lance Factory Tour, Lance Hellwig Concept, Sportsmobile Factory Tour & All Terrain Warriors Alpha Camper Expedition



About We're the Russos
In 2015, Joe and Kait Russo quit their jobs, sold their home, and got rid of most of their possessions to live their dream – travel and work for themselves. Together with their rescue dog, Leo, the Russos are traveling all across North America seeking adventure. Their rig is a 2015 Newmar Bay Star, a gas motorhome coming in just shy of 30 feet. Visit their website for tons of more information about the Russos and their travels. You can also subscribe to their YouTube channel, where they have videos on RVing, Living Life on Your Terms, Following their Adventure, and more, plus they're on Twitter and Facebook. You can also help support them via their Patreon site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Moab, Utah, is a growing winter hub for action-packed pursuits

The red rock playground better known as Moab, UT, is one of those high desert destinations that used to hunker down come late fall and winter. But not anymore.

From November to March visitors here find themselves in solitude and silence, at the same time enjoying off-season rates in one of the world’s great natural playgrounds. People who want to avoid the bustle of commercial ski resorts seek out this region for such winter pursuits as cross country and telemark skiing and snowshoeing, sledding and snowmobiling on both worked trails and back country terrain in the nearby Manti-La Sal National Forest in the La Sal Mountains rising some 12,000 feet over Moab.

While responding to the laid-back tempo of winter, Moab Adventure Center in the heart of this recreational community remains open with a selection of outdoor gear, clothing, equipment rentals and tips for visitors in its downtown store location. On request the Center also offers a wide range of guided tours. These include:
To speed things up so people can slow themselves down, the region now has scheduled daily air service from Denver, CO, and Salt Lake City, UT.

Because there’s a lot of energy here, locals arrange events for themselves to enjoy with out-of-town visitors. A few upcoming fall and winter highlights include:

Nov. 24-27: Moab International Film Festival - Showcasing films which inspire change for the better in our world. $5 tickets and $30 passes are available at Canyonlands Copy Center, The T-Shirt Shop, Back of Beyond Books, or online. For more info visit moabfilmfestival.orgor call 801-309-6887.

Dec. 2-3: Winter Sun 10K - A fast course, great raffle prizes and delicious finish food make the 34rd annual Winter Sun 10K a good reason to visit Moab when the air is crisp and the skies are blue and sunny. For more info visit: moabhalfmarathon.com/wintersun/index.cfm or call 435-259-4525.

Feb. 18: Moab Red Hot 55k/33k - The Moab Red Hot was voted Most Beautiful Trail Race In America by Running Times Magazine. For more info visit GrassRootsEvents.net or call 435-260-0886.

Feb. 25-26: The Trashion Show - Winter's most fun party! Design and dress up in your best upcycled outfit for this raging runway and dance party. All proceeds go towards education programs and events helping to create a culture of conscious consumption and wise use of resources in the community. For more info call 435-260-8931.

Mar. 25: Behind the Rocks Ultra – This run was created to highlight Moab's last hidden gem, the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Area. The course was designed to highlight the technical slickrock trails of Moab, the views of the Behind the Rocks Wilderness area, and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. For more info visit madmooseevents.com or call 719-429-9501.

Mar. 25-27: Moab Rocks Mountain Bike Stage Race - Enjoy some of the region’s best classic and new routes including Klondike, Porcupine Rim and Mag 7. Combined, they are a 3-day masterpiece of XC and timed descents in a fully supported format. All this wrapped up in a fun and friendly atmosphere combining camaraderie and competition. TransRockies Events pioneered Mountain Bike Stage Racing in North America with the TransRockies Challenge in 2002, and the 3-day race format with 2009’s TR3. For more info visit transrockies.com/moab-rocks/ or call 877-373-3376.

Unlike more blustery parts of the United States, winter temperatures in the Moab region are moderate, with daytime highs averaging 44°F in December, 43°F in January, 52°F in February and 63°F in March. There is little to no precipitation. Scenery changes very little from season to season. Juniper trees stay green year-round. Cottonwood trees grow in the bottom of washes and lose their leaves. The main attractions - the red sandstone formations - take on a richer hue in moist conditions and transform themselves when flocked with snow. Heavy snowfall is uncommon. Snow usually melts quickly in sunny areas but may accumulate in shady spots. Winter hikers need to be prepared to cross snow on some trail sections and to use care on icy trails. Most go through areas where there is plenty of sunshine making it very pleasant to hike during the day. Typically all that’s needed is a jacket. Spring comes early in the Arches area. By late February, tiny wild flowers are starting to push through the soil and nighttime temperatures are moderating. February is a great month to visit the national parks.

About Moab Adventure Center
Moab Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions (www.westernriver.com), an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, AZ. The company is the largest single tour provider in Moab. The Moab Adventure Center is located at 225 South Main St., Moab, UT 84532. For information and reservations please call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163 or send an email from http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/contact/. The center also has a 2,000-square-foot retail space selling adventure related gear and clothing as well as souvenirs.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cabela's Ultimate Outdoor Giveaway Offering Grand-Prize Adventures and $100,000 in Gift Cards

Cabela’s Ultimate Outdoor Giveaway is offering four outdoor adventures of a lifetime and $100,000 in Cabela’s gift cards to customers who register for the sweepstakes through email, text messaging and/or social media, Nov. 10 through Dec. 14.

The four grand prizes are all-expenses-paid outdoor adventures centered on Cabela’s core departments of hunting, fishing, camping and shooting sports. Grand prizes include: 
  • Northern Colorado private-land elk hunt guided by Mark Peterson of Worldwide Trophy Adventures. A total package of hunt and gear valued at $10,500.
  • Fishing trip to southwest Alaska guided by Mark Peterson of Worldwide Trophy Adventures. A total package of trip and gear valued at $15,500.
  • Pro-shooter experience in Las Vegas, N.V., hosted by current International Practical Shooting Confederation World Champion Max Michel, plus a Sig Sauer firearm. A total package value of $6,000.
  • Six-day backpacking adventure at Bechler River Traverse in Yellowstone National Park guided by Wildland Trekking. A total package value of $5,000.
Registration for Cabela’s Ultimate Outdoor Giveaway is open daily – with one entry per entry method allowed. Online email registration is offered at http://www.cabelas.com. Text message entry is offered by texting “WIN” to 247365. Customers also can enter on social media by using #UltimateHuntGiveaway, #UltimateFishGiveaway, #UltimateCampGiveaway, #UltimateShootSportGiveaway.

The four grand-prize winners will be randomly selected and notified by the sweepstakes sponsors.

Additionally, daily winners for Cabela’s gift cards valued between $500 and $2,000 will be randomly selected throughout the sweepstakes as Cabela’s gives away a total of $100,000 in gift cards.

For additional information about Cabela’s Ultimate Outdoor Giveaway, visit Cabela’s Ultimate Outdoor Giveaway or a store near you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Yours Truly is on Rollin' on TV Again! (Plus Roadtrek/Hymer)



On this week's program (#2016-23), on behalf of Rollin' On TV yours truly talks with Jim Hammill, president of Erwin Hymer Group NA, to take a look at the new Hymer and Roadtrek offerings for 2017 Also, Jeff Johnson gives his take on new RVs and new RV bugs.

About Rollin' On TV
In production since 2010, Rollin' On TV has become one of the leading RV lifestyle television programs on the air today, reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For more information, visit www.rollinontv.com.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Snowshoe-making workshop at Michigan Iron Industry Museum Dec. 3

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum’s snowshoe-making workshop, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., offers participants a chance to lace their own pair of traditional snowshoes.

“Snowshoeing has long been a mode of transportation in the snowy Upper Peninsula,” said museum historian Troy Henderson. “This workshop celebrates snowshoe history and encourages participants to explore our winter landscape.”

The Iron Industry Museum, located at 73 Forge Road in Negaunee, is open year-round and features a network of interpretive trails on the museum grounds. 

Space for the workshop is limited, and reservations are required. The workshop fee of $175 per person includes all materials and a $25 non-refundable reservation fee. The registration deadline is Monday, Nov. 21. The registration form can be found online at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum. For more information about the class or to reserve a place, contact Troy Henderson at 906-475-7857 or hendersonT7@michigan.gov.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan History Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. For more information call 906-475-7857 or visit www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Gr8LakesCamper recognized as one of the Top 100 Camping Blogs on the web

I recently received news that Gr8LakesCamper blog has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Camping Blogs on the web. I was actually listed as #49 among the top 100, which is nice. The honor comes from Feedspot, a website that compiles multiple feeds from a variety of sources. On their Top 100 Camping Blogs the rankings are based on their indexes using search and social metrics. Click over to the list, scroll through the entries and if one or more interests you, click to subscribe to their feed.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

RV Guide to 2017 Solar Eclipse; Missouri State Parks offers early camping reservations

Credit: Sky & Telescope
RV Guide to Solar Eclipse
Here's some great information by Joe Laing, marketing director at El Monte RV, titled RV Guide to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, an article he wrote for Sky & Telescope.

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, there will be a total eclipse of the sun by the moon and it will be visible by a large swatch of the United States.

"If you’re planning on RVing your way to totality, be aware," Laing writes. "You’ll need to do some planning well in advance! Eclipse chasers from all over the world will be arriving on the eclipse path in the days and weeks before and after the main event. So book plane tickets and rent RVs and campsites well in advance. Follow this RV guide to the 2017 total solar eclipse to plan for the big event."

He then goes on to offer up some "Best Campgrounds for Total Solar Eclipse Viewing" on a regional basis, beginning with Oregon, then heading east to include Idaho/Wyoming, then Nebraska/Kansas/Missouri/Illinois, then Kentucky and Tennessee, and finishing with Georgia, North and South Carolina.

I encourage you to check out his article to get the campgrounds he suggests.

Missouri State Parks offers early camping reservations for solar eclipse
Aug, 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be viewable throughout Missouri. In response to public interest, Missouri State Parks is allowing visitors to make plans to observe this major astronomical event in a state park. From Nov. 4-Nov. 25, guests will be able to make camping reservations for the weekend of the eclipse.

Camping reservations are typically available six months before the first night of a stay. This special reservation window will allow guests to begin planning their visits now. 

Of the 42 state parks and historic sites that will be within the path of the total eclipse, 19 parks offer camping. These parks are Big Lake State Park, Lewis and Clark State Park, Weston Bend State Park, Watkins Mill State Park and State Historic Site, Wallace State Park, Knob Noster State Park, Van Meter State Park, Finger Lakes State Park, Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Graham Cave State Park, Robertsville State Park, Meramec State Park, Onondaga State Park, St. Joe State Park, Hawn State Park, St. Francois State Park, Washington State Park, Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial, and Trail of Tears State Park. Reservations for this event require a three-night stay from Aug. 18 through Aug. 21.

To make reservations, visit mostateparks.com or call 877-ICampMo (877-422-6766) 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. CT, seven days a week.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Rollin' on TV: A closer look at the SylvanSport Go & Check your Lug Nuts



On this week's program (#2016-22), Rollin' On TV is at the big industry Open House in Elkhart Indiana where we check out what's new for 2017. Also, Bob Zagami this week's guest host talks with Tom Dempsey, the president of SylvanSport and checks out the new Sylvansport Go. And Jeff Johnston shows us why it's important to tighten those lug nuts.

About Rollin' On TV
In production since 2010, Rollin' On TV has become one of the leading RV lifestyle television programs on the air today, reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For more information, visit www.rollinontv.com.