RV lovers celebrate the open road

November 14, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WILLIAMSPORT - Unless it affects their cable reception, the campers who flooded Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park this weekend rarely have a reason to check the weather.

Warm temperatures bathed the area as members of the Maryland Recreational Vehicles Dealers' Association enjoyed their homes away from home.

About 330 people, including the families of employees of about seven recreational-vehicle dealerships, turned out to celebrate the industry over the weekend, association president Kelly Shanholtzer said Sunday, the final day of the three-day event. Dealer employees who have no vehicles of their own were given loaners to enjoy the weekend, Shanholtzer said.

From pop-up trailers to massive houses on wheels, the campground was filled with vehicles promising a relaxing way to rough it. In Mark Masser's bus-sized behemoth, a satellite hookup and 235 channels help quiet the traveling refrain, "Are we there yet?"


Masser, a Frederick, Md., home builder who sometimes hauls vehicles for Beckley's Camping Center in Thurmont, Md., where Shanholtzer works, said his 8-year-old daughter has no problem passing the time on the road.

"She still swears it only takes five minutes to get to Florida because she's either on the laptop or sleeping. She wakes up, and we're either in Hilton Head (S.C.) or the Outer Banks (N.C.) or Florida," said Masser, who talked outside his 40-foot-long traveling home as his four dogs snoozed in a makeshift pen.

According to Ron Vitkun, owner and operator of the campground, the weekend was a success. Balmy weather has kept the campground busy on weekends, and the RV crowd was just the kind of clientele Vitkun said he likes.

"I'm the happiest when the campground, it's full of kids. That's when the place is alive," Vitkun said.

Masser said he has put 18,000 miles on his 2004 RV since buying it new in August 2003.

He and other RV owners said gas prices cannot steer them from a lifestyle they love.

Sales at Beckley's Camping Center have been strong, despite high gas prices, said salesman Louis Weaver of Fayetteville, Pa.

"We see a lot of people that come back, and we see a lot of first-time buyers ... it's hard to judge the mix. Once you're bit by the bug, though, it's contagious," Weaver said.

The biggest RVs can cost as much as $300,000, but the most popular vehicles are trailers, which are much less expensive, Beckley's Camping Center sales manager Charlie Wolf said.

Wolf said he bought a motor home and put about 8,000 miles on it during a five-week journey across the country.

"Mainly, I wanted to take that big trip where the kids could have more spread-out space, where the kids could play video games while we were moving," Wolf said.

The vehicles can get about 10 miles to a gallon, Shanholtzer said. Beckley's Camping Center has no problem moving them off the pavement, though.

"There's a lot of baby boomers with expendable income that want to do this lifestyle," Shanholtzer said.

Masser, who is looking to buy an even bigger motor home, said the hobby is his only way to relax.

"If there's no snow on the road, and they're not calling for any snow southward, we're going," he said.

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