Thinking about buying at RV? Hold up. Don’t do it until you follow our advice. What advice is that?
Simple: Try before you buy.
Unless you are an experienced RVer and know – from experience – just what you want, RV newbies should try out an RV for a couple of days to make sure it fits their needs and lifestyle. In our interview f the week coming up in a few minutes, we introduce you to Outdoorsy, a company that specializes in helping people find RVs to rent.
Also this week, RV news, especially about the dangers of taking selfies in daredevil locations; RV tips, your RV questions and a great off the beaten path report from the Burketts that all who love Mexican chips and salsa will appreciate.
Show Notes for Episode #216 Oct. 31, 2018 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
We talk about:
- Our plans to head to Florida this week and Pogo’s Happy Campers Gathering at Walt Disney World
- The dilemma of whether we bring Bo or leave him back in Michigan with our daughter
- Using our RV all year around
- Our winter camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – We are taking Bo up camping at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula January 11-13th. This is not an “official” gathering but an informal one. We have a tradition of five years of doing this and Bo insists on a snow vacation before we head south. Anyway, we have reserved site 177. If you also want to head up there, you need to reserve your own spot with the Michigan DNR at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, at the Lower Falls Hemlock campground. Here's the website:
If you do reserve a spot, then join our winter campout group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1697339513886451/and let us know there that you're coming and what spot you reserve.
This part of the program is brought to you by AllStays Pro, the best tool for RVers looking for places to camp.
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Park rangers investigate deaths of couple who plunged off Taft Point at Yosemite National Park
Another sad story about people slipping and falling to their deaths at a national park – this time it happened in Yosemite National Park. They were a couple who had a travel blog, citizens of India who were living in the US. Their blog has been taken down but previous posts had a lot of photos of them in precarious places and the woman wrote that they were fans of “daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs and skyscrapers, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL???” Ironically, she then added: “Is our life just worth one photo?” The National Park Service is investigating how the pair fell. Their bodies were discovered Thursday about 800 feet below Taft Point. Taft Point is the same place we told you about in last week's newsletter where a photographer took a stunning picture of a proposal. Again, just how this couple died has not been determined. But the tragedy is a good reminder that many of the most breath-taking locations in our parks do not have safety rails. There is an inherent risk in getting too close to the edge. While we do not know yet if this couple had a camera, let's use this sad story as a reminder to be careful because no photograph is worth dying over.
RV dealer shipments drop 29 percent for month of September
RV shipments from manufacturers to dealers for the month of September were down about 29 percent between 2017 and 2018 according to a story out of Indiana last week. The story quoted an industry spokesman who attributed the decline to a number of things including RV manufacturers increasing their capacity so dealers do not have to order far ahead, and tariffs. While the drop is being carefully watched, many are not worried. Attendance at fall RV shows, like the recent one we attended in California, is setting records. Also retail sales are up, suggesting maybe the wholesale drop was a manufacturing issue.
Camping costs rising at Nebraska's state parks
Camping in a Nebraska state park next year will be a little more expensive after the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a staff recommendation last week to raise camping fees. The fee increase, which varies based on the type of camping spot, is expected to bring in $2 million in revenue. The new money will be used to maintain the campgrounds and address a maintenance backlog. A full service RV spot will now cost $35 a night most of the time, with a primitive tent-only location costing $10 a night.
Thinking of selling all and hitting the road as a full-timer? Then check out this story
I came across a fun story in Newsweek last week about a couple from Long Island, New York, both in their 30s, deciding to sell their home and move into an RV to travel the country for a while. The story is one we run across in person pretty regularly – couples, or sometime single people, deciding to hit the road and live a nomadic life for a while and get out of the rat race. I'll share a link here. The couple gets into their predicted expenses and provides a tour of their new home on wheels, in case any of you are considering such a move.
Tennessee Park Blonde Ale sales bring in $7,000 for state parks
Here’s another story on funding for state parks. Lastyear a microbrewery in Tennessee came out with the Tennessee State Park Blonde Ale, pledging to donate a small portion of the profits to Tennessee State Parks Conservancy. One year later, the effort raised $7,000. A story out last week quoted a park official as saying Tennessee is one of seven states in the country that does not charge an entrance fee to its state parks in part because of such partnerships.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by OvernightRVParking.com, the only place you can access a searchable database of the most complete, accurate and up-to-date listing of places where RVers are and aren't allowed to park overnight.
JENNIFER'S RV TIP OF THE WEEK
Have any of you women campers ever struggled when applying makeup because the lack of good lighting in your RV? This week's tip comes from a reader named Debra who wrote in to share her solution.
Debra camps in a Roadtrek 190 Popular. She says she enjoys it very much but has found it very challenging to find good lighting to apply makeup.
The Riki Cutie Mirror by LimeLife. Debra wrote that she was not a salesperson for the company and does not order their make up but loves this mirror. The size is just right for the RV lifestyle, Debra writes, and the mirror provides plenty of light.
Well, Debra's email raised my curiosity so I went online to learn more. The Riki Cutie Mirror is about the size of a cell phone, costs about $55, and has three different light levels. The mirror appears to be VERY popular with many YouTubers who do makeup tutorials and many have filmed themselves unboxing this mirror.
The mirror comes with a built-in stand and a retractable finger ring, so you can wear the mirror on your finger as you apply your make up. It also comes with a carrying sleeve and micro USB cable as it is rechargeable.
It weighs 11.7 ounces and could easily fit in a purse. It operates on 1 Lithium ion battery and appears to have very powerful lighting. Its size makes it easy to carry to all sorts of settings.
I must say I, too, have found lighting to be a challenge when camping so some time ago we bought I lighted vanity mirror, with magnification, that we attached to the wall above the sink in our bathroom. I do not recall what brand I am using, but it has worked pretty well.
But, after reading Debra's email and learning more about this product, it has caught my attention. I like the idea of a mirror that is so lightweight, powerful and mobile. And with so many on-line recommendations from people who do make up tutorials, it must work very well.
Thank you so much Debra, for sharing your tip. I really appreciate it and share it in hopes of helping others.
Here’s the link – https://amzn.to/2yFNKN8
Jennifer's tip of the week is brought to you by RadPower Bikes ,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping. To see our Rad Power Bikes in action, just click here. Visit WWW.RADPOWERBIKES.COM
LISTENER RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
- Chris from Chicago asks our opinion about RV inductive cooktops versus propane cooktops.
- Sharon asks for a good campground reservation near Pensacola, FL. We suggest Fort Pickens on the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach. It is located very close to the water and contains 137 family sites with electric and water hookups, as well as 41 non-electric tent sites. A group site with water hookup is also available. Amenities include flush toilets, showers, drinking water and a dump station.
This part of the podcast is sponsored by Steinbring Motorcoach, Roadtrek’s newest dealer and a third generation family business in Minnesota’s beautiful Chain of Lakes region built on quality motorhomes and excellent pricing and service.
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
If you are a regular listener of the podcast, you know our absolute Number I piece of advice we give those trying to buy a new RV is to try before you buy. Well this week we are going to talk about that and tell you the best way we know that you can find an RV to rent.
Here is a video version of the interview that also shows the way the Outdoorsy service works:
And here’s a transcript of our interview with Austin Green.
Mike Wendland: So one of the problems that people have when we say, “Rent a vehicle first, go out and rent an RV, make sure you're comfortable with it,” is finding what, most people go straight to a dealership and many dealers around the country do indeed have an RV available, but probably there's one or two in their rental fleet and they're often booked up for months, if not a year in advance. So that presents a real challenge unless you use one of these companies that work kind of like VRBO does for vacation rental homes. You can rent an RV the same way. Joining us right now to help us right now to help us understand that is somebody from a company called Outdoorsy. His name is Austin Green and Austin joins us right now. How you doing, Austin?
Austin Green: I'm doing real well, Mike. Happy to be here.
Mike Wendland: Well, glad to have you with us. So tell us how you guys can help those people who want to try before they buy.
Austin Green: Yeah, absolutely. So, we started out in the US and Canada and we have over 30,000 unique vehicles right now between those two locales. So these are all the vans class A, B, C, RVs, towables, pretty much any vehicle you can imagine that would fit the adventure vehicle mold. We let these owners make money on renting out their vehicles to people who are interested in trying out an RV or a van before they actually go and buy one. So we are the platform, we're the marketplace that helps facilitate that process and we're helping more people get involved in the van life and the RV life and see what it's like to kind of live, or at least try the kind of American road trip, right?
Mike Wendland: Now, how does this work here? Your website, Outdoorsy.com. We'll put a link in the show notes and in the description here with this video and in this interview on our podcast as well. So I go there and I type in, I want to rent a vehicle and I type in the location, right? That's a good start. Then what happens?
Austin Green: Yeah. So you can go in and type in a location or it'll just geo locate to where your IP addresses and it will show you all of the rentable vehicles within that area. Again, we have tons of things, anything from RVs, to vans to teardrop trailers. Basically, once you're on the platform, you find the vehicle that you like for the price point you like, you can request a booking, the owner will receive a notification immediately. You'll communicate back and forth. We facilitate a lot of that communication as well. Once everything is worked out, you go pick up the keys directly from the owner. There's a trade-off. They'll give you a walkthrough of the vehicle, how everything works, and they'll send you on your way. It can be anywhere from a nightly trip to a month long trip. Really the flexibility is there for these folks to really do whatever they want.
Mike Wendland: So it will automatically know where you are based on your IP address as you log on. But for example, I just was thinking about maybe doing a quick trip flying out to Yellowstone before it freezes up and I jumped in and I said, “Wow, that's [inaudible 00:03:05] fly out there, but I want to rent an RV,” and I typed in Jackson, Wyoming and bam, there were like a dozen of them there that would meet our needs really well. So I'm really impressed with how easy it is to find one. Take me to the part with the owner, however. How do you know that this vehicle is safe? You're dealing one on one with somebody, but you're maybe renting it long distance so you don't have a chance to inspect it. How do you know it's safe?
Austin Green: So that's the one of the coolest things about Outdoorsy is we actually provide all of the insurance for these vehicles and we vet everyone who uploads their vehicle to Outdoorsy. We also make sure that all of the renters have a valid driver's license. The average star rating for our owners and renters is over four and a half stars. So we definitely vet everyone that's using our platform and we're making sure that everything is in place so that users can have a safe journey, but also that owners are not risking their vehicle when they're renting it out. For the insurance piece, we provide up to a million dollars in liability insurance for every approved rental. Then on top of that we also provide $250,000 in comprehensive and collision as well. So you're safe knowing that Outdoorsy has your back. We have our own claims department as well, so owners can make claims if something is damaged along the trip and we'll help them throughout that process, making sure that they're taken care of.
Mike Wendland: So the one on one dealing though is with the owner of the RV, if I'm a renter. So I call, say it's you and I say, “Hey Austin, I want to rent that Coachmen Galleria that you're in right now for a week.” How does it go from there? Take me through a typical rental process.
Austin Green: Yeah. So you'll communicate with the owner via our platform. We can help with the text messaging side. A lot of that goes through our platform. You can directly message on the Outdoorsy platform as well on your computer. As soon as you all come to an agreement on the dates and we help with that booking process as well. So there's a calendar where you can select the dates. The owner can approve that it's available for those dates. The pricing is there. So users basically put in a deposit and they go and they meet with the owner and then there's the key handoff. So they'll walk you again through the vehicle. They'll make sure you're ready to go and that you have all the information you need. A lot of them actually have a YouTube channel as well and they have instructional videos on how to use their vehicle.
We definitely have some pros among our audience that really do a good job of that handoff process and we really like the personal aspect of that as well because we want like-minded folks helping each other get involved and used to the industry. So once that's done, users can take the vehicle really wherever they want. Usually the way it works is I think the average rental stays within like a 300-mile proximity, but there's really no limitations. You can take it wherever you want. Once you're done with the rental, you take it back to the owner. Some owners will actually go pick it up if you want to drop it off somewhere or drop it off to you if you don't want to drive the vehicle itself. Then from there, if there's no issues, then you're done and you can go and do another one whenever you're ready.
Mike Wendland: So my recommendation to people is try them all, try a class B camper van, try that Galleria you're in there in the spinner or try a Pleasure-Way or a Roadtrek and then you've tried three class Bs, maybe do a weekend in all of them. Try a class C, see how you like that and get a chance to actually try it, to work it through in a camp ground to see how the galley works. It's a great way to really understand whether the RV lifestyle is really for them. Now, I'm also curious, on the other end of this Austin Green from Outdoorsy and that is I'm an owner and I've got an RV and it sits in my driveway half to three-quarters of the year. I could be making money with that.
Austin Green: Exactly. That's actually part of the reason we really started Outdoorsy. Some of our founders who actually lived in an air stream doing market research before they founded the company, they realized that there are over 13 million RVs in North America that sit unused 350 days out of the year. It's almost kind of like when you buy a boat. Some people are like, “Well, there's two great days of buying a boat, the day you sell it and the day you buy it.” Well, we wanted to make people who own these valuable assets, we wanted to offer them a way to make money as opposed to just sitting, collecting dust in their garage. So what we did is, with Outdoorsy, we're giving these folks the opportunity to make up to 3,200 bucks a month just renting out their vehicle.
Mike Wendland: Really?
Austin Green: So it's great. Yeah. Yeah. It's a great way to to earn a supplemental income. We've actually had folks among our platform that maybe their early retirees so they work part time. They've actually turned Outdoorsy into a full-time job where they started out with one vehicle. We're renting it out, realized, “You know what, this is something I enjoy. This is something that we can scale.” We actually have folks who have bought additional RVs and rent them out full-time and make a living doing.
Mike Wendland: Really? There is that much interest in a rental RV.
Austin Green: There really is. The RV industry, as I'm sure you're well aware, is really booming. There are a lot of people that are ready to get outside and try kind of an alternative travel lifestyle and we're excited about that. We are those types of folks as well and we want to make the outdoors more accessible.
Mike Wendland: So back to me being a renter and I have rented this vehicle and I'm going to take it to Yellowstone and I get up there and all of a sudden it starts to snow and I turned on the heater and it doesn't work. What do I do then? Who's got my back in that situation?
Austin Green: So we actually operate 24/7 roadside assistance through I believe it's Coach-Net for all of our rentals as well. It's an opt-in that renters can choose. So if something happens along those lines and they contacted the owner and the owner can't walk them through how to fix it in that specific moment, we do have the protection with that 24/7 roadside assistance where they'll come out and they'll help you get set up and even tow you if you need.
Mike Wendland: Wow. It sounds like it's pretty foolproof and it's a great way to really save a lot of aggravation. Make sure you get the right RV and it sounds like a great way to make some money. So we'll put links to all of this, Austin, on the website or on our websites and on our show notes for this, but the website that you, who are looking to rent an RV or maybe you're looking to rent yours is called Outdoorsy.com. Austin Green, you've been our guests. Thank you so much for helping us understand this new process.
Austin Green: Yeah, it's been a pleasure.
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
TRAVELING TECH TIP
By Andy Choi
When you think about all the beautiful scenes you find along those RV adventures, there's no question capturing them is a top priority. And it's why this week's tech tip is all about introducing you to the photographic powers of the Google Pixel 3 smartphone. And Verizon is your home for this smartphone.
The Pixel 3’s camera will help make you a better photographer, even if you don’t try, thanks to new AI functionality that can select the best shot from your motion photos. Your Pixel 3 can even recommend a photo where everyone has their eyes open and are facing the camera.
A new Super-Res Zoom feature uses computational photography to reduce the amount of noise and artifacts in your photos when you zoom into a shot. If you like your portraits with a more artistic flair, you can also change the blurriness of the background in your photos before or after you click the button.
In addition, the new Pixel Stand is wireless charger that turns your Pixel into a smart visual and audio experience that can be controlled by simple on-screen actions or by using your voice. You can even transform your phone into a photo frame, and control some of your smart home devices as well.
By the way, right now, if you buy one Google Pixel 3, you can get a second Pixel 3 on Verizon. So before that next photo op on the road, make sure you’ve got a smartphone camera that can maximize the beauty your great adventures.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by Verizon, which operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom and Patti Burkett
When Katy Griggs was a teenager, she told her uncle she'd like to open a restaurant. He owned a hotel and trading post complex in the town of Mesilla, New Mexico. Being fond of her, he said she could use a corner of the hotel courtyard. Katy borrowed four tables and recruited her mom to cook family favorites in the small kitchen.
Everyone wanted to try Katy's restaurant, and on the first day she sold out of food almost immediately. Swearing no one would ever leave her place hungry, she laid in a big stock of tortillas and red chili sauce and, from the second day on, put a basket of tortillas and a bowl of chili on each table. Culinary legend says this was the beginning of the practice of Mexican food restaurants serving complimentary chips and salsa.
The Mesilla Valley is a fertile oasis in the arid Southwest. Its soil has been enriched by centuries of flooding of the Rio Grade River. It's home to numerous bosques, strip oases that follow a river drainage. Although the region has been settled in some way since the mid-1600s, the town itself dates to 1848. That’s the year the treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and group of citizens unhappy with the outcome moved just south of the newly-established border into the Mesilla Valley.
Over the next decade, Apache raids became such a problem that the US government established a fort in the area and claimed the valley as US territory. Mexico disputed this claim. Eventually, mostly to provide a secure route for a southern transcontinental rail route, the US purchased the valley from Mexico in an agreement called the Gadsden Purchase.
James Gadsden was the US Minister to Mexico, appointed by President Franklin Pierce. The ten million dollar purchase price bought almost thirty thousand square miles at a cost of about 52¢ an acre.
In 1881, Mesilla was the biggest city around, bustling with cantinas and hotels at the crossroad of the Butterfield Stage line and the legendary Camino Real. Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and Pancho Villa were regular visitors. It was a hub of the quintessential Wild West. When the Santa Fe Railroad began to build through the region, it was assumed that it would run through Mesilla. Local landowners, angling for big payments from the railroad, were thunderstruck when ranchers in nearby Las Cruces offered the railroad free land and stole the line away. Mesilla has not grown since.
Brothers Sam and Roy Bean (yes, that Roy Bean) operated a freight line here when it was still part of Mexico. After the Civil War, the Corn Exchange Hotel was considered one of the best in the region. Katy opened her restaurant in the corner of the hotel compound in 1939. Today, La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant is a sprawling complex full of tropical plants and birds that plays host to national and international dignitaries. It feels like the mother of all Mexican restaurants!
Drive the Butterfield Stage route west from Arkansas or Missouri, and look for us out here where the West is still wild, off the beaten path.
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