Going Mobile In Your Own RV

By Thomas P. Caldwell

Freedom. For some people, it can mean spending a carefree day fishing or boating on one of the lakes. For others, it is hiking into the wilderness and exploring the myriad of trails cut through the mountains. Still others may find freedom in hitchhiking or heading down the road on a motorcycle.

Or someone may choose to go RV-ing.

Today’s recreational vehicles have options ranging from essential needs — bed and storage for camping items — to offering all the luxury of a traditional home. They can be tow-behind campers, fifth-wheel travel trailers, or motor homes, where the cabin is built over a truck chassis or the whole thing is incorporated into a Class A coach.

People often graduate to RVs after having done tent camping. Tenting offers the attractive incentive of sleeping under the stars and feeling part of nature, but it has the drawback of possible discomfort from uneven ground, noise and dampness from thunderstorms and rain, and the chance of problems during high winds. With an RV, one can drive in, set up, and relax, regardless of the outside weather conditions.

Chris DeMeritt, sales manager at Camping World in Chichester, said that, in the past, older people bought the higher-end RVs, while younger people went for pop-ups, used campers, and the smaller motor homes. However, in recent years, as financing options have improved and the Internet has transformed the industry, a lot of young buyers have been stepping up to the more luxurious models.

“You might see an older RV selling for $12,500, while the price on a newer model could be $16,995, with better interest rates on the financing,” DeMeritt said.

The newer models also have the latest technology, including USB ports for iPhones and gaming, as well as options for big-screen televisions and theater seating with built-in speakers.

Manufacturers and campground owners have tailored the amenities to reflect more active interests and higher expectations. Satellite dishes on the RVs and wi-fi capabilities at most RV parks have allowed people to remain tuned in to the world, even as they head out to get away from it all.

RV parks range from the basic — a place to park for the night, without electrical or sewer hookups (“dry camping”) — to modern resorts with full hookups, cable TV, swimming pools, showers, stores, and clubhouses. Most RVs are built to adapt to the type of camping, with the ability to carry in water, operate appliances on propane, and even carry a generator to provide electrical power while dry camping.

Owners may elect to add party lights, outdoor mats, zero-gravity reclining chairs, portable fire pits, propane grills, solar panels, and pet cages to make a campsite feel like home. There are awnings, step extenders, folding tables, and even collapsible bicycles that one can buy.

Many people will get into RV-ing with a basic model, taking it to campgrounds for family weekends, but then decide they like the campground, so they purchase a larger model that they will leave there for the season, providing a second home for days off and special get-togethers with friends and family members.

As tastes have become more discriminating, and people have sought an easier lifestyle, the pop-up campers have all but disappeared, with other tow-behinds offering better amenities and not requiring so much work. Like a tent, a pop-up has to be dried out after a rainstorm to prevent mildew, so owners need to open them up once they get home. With a self-contained camper, one needs only to park it when the trip is over.

DeMeritt said this has not been a bad year for RV dealerships, with plenty of interest in the Class A and Class C vehicles, as well as fifth-wheels. The trend, though, has been toward the new diesel models that offer better mileage than gasoline-burning RVs.

He warns, however, that buying an RV is not like buying a car. It is more like buying a second home, and carries responsibilities for maintenance, similar to owning a boat. Motor homes take a lot of beating on the road, so owners have to be diligent in checking for roof damage, leaks, and wear-and-tear.

Financing also is a bit more restrictive than regular auto loans, although DeMeritt said it is getting better each year. Interest rates and the length of borrowing are determined by the selling price, with low interest and longer payback terms available for the high-end models. But he cautions that paying a little more monthly on a 15-year loan can save a lot of money in interest charges over a 20-year loan, so he urges people to think carefully about that decision.

DeMeritt also said it’s a good idea to spend some time sitting in an RV before deciding to buy. Is the seating comfortable? Is the bathroom large enough? What are your storage needs? Some people find, after buying an RV, that they feel cramped, or that it’s inconvenient to get to certain things. Taking the time to check out those details can make a big difference in how enjoyable the purchase is, he said.

Perhaps the best part of traveling with an RV is having everything at hand and not having to repack everything each time one wants to go out. Stock up with food and head out on the road, and you won’t have to worry about finding a good restaurant; you can cook your own meals.

Some people purchase an RV only for going to motorsports events such as the NASCAR races in Loudon. Others have a fifth-wheel towed to a campground for the season. Still others purchase a motor home for a cross-country trip, and sell or consign it after they return home.

Weekend camping is popular throughout New England, and the State of New Hampshire maintains several state parks with RV sites, including Ellacoya State Park on Lake Winnipesaukee. Located in Gilford on the lake’s southwest shore, there is a 600-foot-long sandy beach, with views of the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains. There also is a small-boat launch area for canoes and kayaks.

White Lake State Park in Tamworth offers camping alongside a glacial lake and a 72-acre pine stand that is a national landmark. There is a huge beach and the ability to rent kayaks to get out onto the lake. There’s also a playground for the children, making it a great family getaway.

The state also has three campgrounds in the White Mountain National Forest: Cannon Mountain RV Park, Lafayette Place Campground, and Dry River Campground. Cannon has only seven RV sites, but its location at Echo Lake in Franconia Notch State Park provides a base camp for hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming. Nearby, Lafayette Place offers 97 campsites, with access to other trails. Dry River Campground is located in Crawford Notch State Park where there are hikes to beautiful waterfalls and the Frankenstein Cliffs.

Longer excursions are possible in the smaller RVs, but for week-long stays, or a cross-country trip, there is a definite advantage to having a large motor home. If the weather turns foul, cramped quarters can make for a miserable vacation, while the larger RVs provide some breathing room and the opportunity for home entertainment: card and board games, as well as TV and movie-watching.

Those looking to purchase RVs have several choices. In addition to Camping World, which has locations throughout the country, including stores in Chichester and Conway, there is Route 125 RV and Marine in Rochester and Big Moose RV Sales, on Route 16 in Ossipee.

14 August 2016

Despite its small size, a tow-behind camper finds room for bunks, table, sink, stove, and bathroom.

Slide-outs expand the living area of RVs, making them as roomy and luxurious as any regular home.

Chris DeMeritt, sales manager at Camping World, stands with a Class C motor home.

Georgetown Class A motor homes are so popular they don’t remain on the lot for long, according to Chris DeMeritt of Camping World.

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