I spent a couple of days at the Roadtrek factory this past week and came away with a brand new headboard for the rear of our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL and a belly full of brats from an employee barbecue.
First thing first: The brats. I had two. And, no, Jennifer wasn't with me. But I spaced them out over the afternoon and was good the rest of the day. They were served up as part of a pre-Victoria Day long weekend holiday that celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria, who died in 1901.
It's the unofficial start of the summer season in Canada, like Memorial Day will be in a week or so in the U.S., and Roadtrek cooked brats and burgers for its 256 employees, 90 whom also received service awards from President Jim Hammill honoring them for the many years they've put in building motorhomes. Several had 30-plus years of service and many more had been at Roadtrek for 25, 20, 15, and 10 years.
Talk about institutional knowledge and pride in their workmanship. As Hammill handed the awards out it was clear from the expression on the workers' faces that this was much more than a job. The men and women who work at Roadtrek do more than build motorhomes. They make dreams come true. They consider Roadtrek owners as family and they love hearing the stories about how Roadtreks are being used across North America.
I've gotten to know many of those workers during visits to the factory in search of stories during the last three years and it was an honor to hang out with them. Many regularly follow this blog and our Roadtreking Facebook posts and they're always asking me, “Where are you going next?” They follow the adventures and the photos posted by our readers because, well, there's a part of them in every Roadtrek out there.
I drove our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL up to Kitchener and found that deep caring and connection extends right up to the President and CEO. In fact, it was Jim Hammill himself who designed a headboard for the back of the sofa bed on our CS.
It happened because of a conversation we had on a previous visit a month or so ago when I mentioned I'd like to find a way to separate the sleeping area from the back storage area.
He whipped out a pen and a piece of paper and started doodling. This week, when I returned to the factory, he was ready. My headboard would be the prototype. Gird and Donnie, who have been building cabinets together for 14 years at Roadtrek, took Hammill's design, ran it through a CAD machine and crafted a beautiful piece of furniture that precisely matches the ebony color scheme of our CS.
The headboard even has a mantle that is perfect for phones, chargers, glasses and the stuff you like to have right next to you in bed.
While at the factory, I saw a lot of the new Zions coming off the production line and heading out to customers across North America. As I drove east to Kitchener, I had noticed a several of them on the 402 heading to the Blue Water Bridge and the crossing into the U.S. at Sarnia/Port Huron.
And while at the factory, I got a chance to look up Big Red, a 1974 Roadtrek that Hammill is having restored. When I last saw it, the paint was old and chipped, the engine a mess. Now, it's been stripped down to metal and is in the process of being returned to pristine condition. The engine has been rebuilt and cleaned and the red and white-striped paint job is so bright and shiny you can see your reflection. The inside is awaiting cabinetry.
Hammill has some very special plans for Big Red, which he'll be sharing closer to completion.
Besides the headboard and the good eating, my main reason for the visit was to interview Hammill for an upcoming episode of the podcast. We talked about his view of the future of small motorhomes and increasing demands for technology and energy independence, including some new power technology that he says will “forever change the RV industry.”
But I don't want to scoop myself. You can hear the interview in next week's edition of the podcast. Suffice it to say, there's a lot going on.