Lots of interesting RV information is in this episode of the RV Podcast, including a fun – but instructional – account of a newbie RVer. And in our interview of the week, we’ll meet a man who is following his life’s passion of engineering and building luxury Class B motorhomes, gorgeous custom-made campervans that start in price at a quarter million dollars a year!. Plus the RV news of the week, your questions, comments and a great off the beaten path RV report.
Show Notes for Episode #227 Jan 30, 2019 of The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
What a week this has been!
It sure has.
We talk about change the RV Lifestyle blog and our decision to end our role as brand ambassadors for Roadtrek and to return the RV the company provided as we rebrand ourselves under the RV Lifestyle banner (see https://rvlifestyle.com/announcement-why-we-have-changed-from-roadtreking-to-rv-lifestyle/ )
So we have ended one chapter that we have enjoyed very much as we are looking forward to this new chapter that will expand our horizons. Bottom line, though, is nothing in our reporting will change except maybe that we will reaching a lot more people who previously thought we were only about one brand of RV… Really, we’re not about any brand at all…we’re about the lifestyle. In fact, I call an RV an “Adventuremobile.” That’s what they all do… take us to great adventures.
Thanks to the many who sent us encouragement and well wishes and support as we continue what we have been doing in reporting the RV Lifestyle and traveling North America. In fact, we’ve been doing that. We’re in the midst of visiting various RF manufacturers around North America, learning about new technologies and RV features and seeing their different build processes. It’s been really fascinating. There is so much innovation out there.
We’ll have a video released tomorrow on our RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube about one such company Advanced RV near Cleveland. We spent some time at their factory last week and I think you’ll enjoy seeing the beautiful custom Class B coaches they make. The CEO of ARV, Mike Neundorfer, will be our special guest in this podcast episode’s interview of the week, coming up in just a few minutes.
And tomorrow, we’re off to Elkhart, Indiana for another factory tour of another manufacturer, Elkhart of course being the RV Capital of the world where so many great RV manufacturers and accessory companies are headquartered.
As we explained on the RV Lifestyle blog in announcing our rebranding here under the RV Lifestyle label, we are shopping for our next RV and taking our time. Maybe we’ll buy a used one. Or a new one. Or get one from a rental fleet. Or maybe we’ll become brand ambassadors for another company. We really don’t know yet. It’s pretty exciting, really. There are so many wonderful machines out there.
But we will have to do something soon because a lot of RV events and stories are on our schedule over the next few months and we are going to need an RV to do them. But we doi want to get away, preferably to a warmer climate. Right now, our home state of Michigan is gripped by the arctic vortex. Today’s high… the high… is supposed to be no more than minus 4 degrees F. That’s the air temperature…four below. With the stiff winds blowing out there, the wind chill is supposed to be 50 below.
Hmmm. Florida does seem to be beckoning quite assertively doesn’t it?
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Couple and two dogs rescued by helicopter after becoming stranded by a snowstorm that hit when winter camping
A couple and their two dogs were airlifted out of a remote, snow-covered road north of Los Angles last week some two weeks after they became stranded. The man and woman were pick-up truck camping on a mountain when a severe snowstorm hit. They stayed warm by turning the truck on occasionally but after running out of food and fuel they knew they needed to find help. The couple hiked several miles for cell service, called 911, then hiked back to the truck to get their dogs.
RV shipments slip for 2018 for first time since recession, but still second highest total on record RV wholesale shipments slipped by 4.1 percent last monthin 2018, the first slip since the 2008-2009 recession. But the year, which started with strong numbers in the beginning before dropping toward the end, still can boast the second strongest shipment total on record. So that was good news.The news is even better for Class B (campervan) and camper truck shipments. Both continued to increase from 2017 to 2018 with no slowdown in the fall months. Class B shipments for the year were up 12%. Truck Camper shipments were up nearly 21%.
North Dakota judge supports decision to allow oil refinery near national park
An oil refinery that will pump 55,000 gallons a day from a location three miles outside the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is closer to opening after a North Dakota judge upheld a state permit for construction. The move deeply upset environmental groups who argue the oil refinery will cause major pollution and is too close to the popular national park. The park is the state's top tourist attraction, drawing 700,000 visitors a year, and is one of Mike and my favorites that we visited just last year (see our report here.) My guess is environmental groups may try another appeal, but right now the oil refinery is looking more and more likely.
Banff visitors and residents urged to travel in groups and carry bear spray after several cougar sightings
If you're planning to head to Canada's Banff National Park any time soon, be sure to keep an eye out for hungry cougars. Parks Canada issued a warning last week for the town of Banff, saying cougars in search of food have been spotted more than once around the town. So anyone heading out at dawn or dusk should be especially cautious and travel in groups, carry bear spray, and be on the lookout, the Parks service warned. Bear spray is something anyone heading into true wilderness should have with them at all times. Here is a link to an interview with a bear spray expert that aired on our podcast some time ago.
‘Champing' – camping in a former churches – a growing trend in United Kingdom
Lastly for our news of the week segment, I came across a camping story out of Europe last week that I found fascinating. Apparently a trend is spreading in the United Kingdom called champing – camping overnight in an abandoned church. The trend started as a way to help pay for upkeep of the beautiful, now closed former houses of worship. And the trend has taken off so much, now other churches used only periodically by dwindling congregations are thinking of getting into the camping business, setting up “sleeping pods” with heat, comfortable furniture, etc., for those who like the idea of “camping” in a rarely used gothic church building. To read more, click here.
This part of the podcast 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
LISTENER RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
First, we played a nice message of encouragement from one of our readers which was typical of the overwhelming support we have received from so many in this past week.
Then, in what we hope will be an ongoing series, we played a voicemail message in response to our appeal to the audience for stories about newbie RV mistakes. We like to think of mistakes as educational and improvement opportunities. Hopefully, after hearing about these as we share them over the next few weeks, you will learn from the mistakes of others.
Please share your newbie mistakes by calling our special Google Voicemail number at Great info at 1-586-372-6990.
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
Advanced RV in Willoughby, Ohio, has a worldwide reputation for making high quality, luxury Class B motorhomes that feature customized interiors, innovative designs and state of the art engineering.
We’ve known owner Mike Neuendorfer and his wife Marcia since they started the business in 2012 and consider them good friends. Advanced RV is a custom upfitter known for great engineering and expert craftsmanship. No two ARV coaches are exactly alike. They are also expensive, starting at around a quarter of a million dollars. They typically take over a year to build.
But until last week, we had yet to visit the 85,000 square foot factory, located on 6 acres of land near Cleveland. You can see a video of that tour tomorrow on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel at https://youtube.com/rvlifestyle But right now, Advanced RV’s Mike Neuendorfer is our interview of the week. We think you’ll find his insights fascinating.
Here’s a full transcript of the interview:
Mike Wendland: Well first Mike, thanks so much for making us feel so welcome at Advanced RV today. We really enjoyed seeing this place. We've heard so much about it and we've met you and Marsha many times on the road, but it's really great to actually see your beautiful vehicles.
Mike Neundorfer: Well thanks Mike. It's a pleasure. Since we first talked and we met on the road a few times I wanted you to visit, so I'm so pleased and honored that you're here today.
Mike Wendland: Well, tell us a little bit. You certainly serve a very special niche in the Class B, these are not for everyone as you have always said. They cost … While everybody would like one, they certainly cost a lot. Who is the typical customer that spends upwards of 300,000 dollars on a Class B RV?
Mike Neundorfer: It's quite a range, our new RVs that cost a quarter of a million dollars are not all we do. We do have clients that come in and we do a lot of upgrades on their do it yourself ones, we put in special battery systems and suspensions and stuff but our typical client is somebody who loves to travel, they love to drive. It's usually a couple but they're often single. We have a couple … a few at least, full time single women, so there are people that … not necessarily are wealthy but they might choose and RV instead of a second home somewhere.
Mike Wendland: Talking about some of the interesting things that we've seen, your customers really decide what's in the van, you work hand and glove with them to make sure it's a great fit. What do you think are the most important factors now driving this class B sales boom that everybody is seeing from the low to the high end?
Mike Neundorfer: That's hard for me to say because Marsha and I love to be off the grid, which is one of the objectives to apply engineering and technology so that we don't have to plug in … I think we've been on the road about two months this year, maybe a little more than that, and we've never plugged in. We've actually never hooked up to camp ground water, we've been at a camp ground out of those eight weeks maybe two or three days and that was for a rally, so it's hard for me to say … and we often park in the center of a city or wherever we want to be and it's stealth. We don't have cutouts on the side and class B's in general fit in a parallel parking lot, off the grid is important and nimbleness is important. To be able to drive anywhere, to be able to switch driving, have Marsha be just as comfortable to drive in it as I am, I think that you have to like to drive though.
There are some people that don't like to drive and the class B gives you the ability to move around, to go wherever you want to, off the interstates, gravel roads, trail heads, I don't think that's a tend that's going to stop anytime soon as long as people are active.
Mike Wendland: Do you find or has it been your experience that solar is sometimes overstated as the end all be all for off the grid living, it's not … somebody says they have 600 watts of solar, that's pretty rare that they really have 600, am I right on this?
Mike Neundorfer: That's our experience and there are a lot of reasons for that, one is that the angle of incidence of sun on a class B is fixed and so only one point, one minute during the day, is it optimal. It's fun to watch and we have solar on quite a few of our motor homes, maybe half of them, and it's fun to watch the needle current coming in but when you look at the cost benefit, which we do, we've tested a lot of solar, we look at the cost of solar versus the cost of maybe another cell of lithium battery, and often it adds … solar adds a little more complexity and a lot more cost and it's often cost effective just to add more battery.
Mike Wendland: Lithium batteries, the technology has just changed and evolved, how are they know, there used to be a lot of problems with lithium batteries in cold weather, has that been largely solved now?
Mike Neundorfer: It has, one of our battery systems, our 12 volt systems, will store at a peak coldness of 40 degrees below zero and then we put heaters in for operation because although they'll store at that temperature when they are off, for operation and charging they need to be at a higher temperature.
Mike Wendland: How much time should people expect out of lithium batteries in running the most draining part of an RV, the air conditioner?
Mike Neundorfer: It depends on the outside temperature, the outside humidity, so essentially the duty cycle which means you have the air conditioner turned on, it's being operated by a thermostat, but it's not on constantly for hour after hour, so in some conditions Marsha and I have had the air conditioning on for 12 hours and usually it's overnight, so you don't have the sun load, and with 30 percent or 35 percent of our state of charge left in our lithium battery set, but there are other times when it will only run for four and a half hours. If it's running constantly, if the doors open a lot, suns beating down on it, so it's a simple calculation, it's watt hours. You can convert amp hours to watt hours and watt hours on air conditioner, will use 1200 to 1500 watts and you just say okay, per hour, and what's your total watt hour capacity of the batteries and divide that out and that tells you what it'll do.
Mike Wendland: Often times the people asking that question are in Florida in August or Texas in August and the temperature and the humidity is sky high and it's just … is it not unreasonable to expect that any battery system is going to go 10, 12 hours in those kind of conditions?
Mike Neundorfer: It's unreasonable if the duty cycle is 100 percent, absolutely.
Mike Wendland: Now, convenience and comfort, the trends your seeing that people are asking, how are most of the customizations, what are some of the things that they are having you put in?
Mike Neundorfer: Our clients want to sleep comfortably, so we custom make bed mattresses, sometimes they'll even pick a mattress for some reasons and we design it in, so sleeping comfort is huge. Bathroom comfort is huge, having enough space, what I say is for me to pick up the soap if I drop it in the shower without sitting on the toilet or crawling out into the hall and leaning over, so the shower, the bed. Some people like to cook, some people just use a cook pot and sink all day to cook up some stew, so everybody is different. We do some pretty custom kitchens with hood evacuation and stuff but I think the bathroom and the bed, sleeping arrangement, and also sitting arrangement is the biggest place where clients tend to have good ideas and know what they want.
Mike Wendland: Electronics, what are we seeing in terms of electronics on vans today?
Mike Neundorfer: A lot of cool stuff we're testing right now, a Siri Alexa control system for the motor home, it's been all programmed and we're just in the test process right now. A lot of multiplexing, which means your switching signals are digital and also solid state outlets where it tells you if it trips it automatically resets, tells you the current and the voltage that tripped it so that you have a history of what the challenge is, and you can troubleshoot it. A lot going on in electronics from remote control to multiplex control to better displays, we've used it for seven years, a Silver Leaf touchscreen display and we've had a great partnership with Silver Leaf where we're developing new products with them and testing out their products and so …
Mike Wendland: Mike, this is obviously a labor of love for you, tell us how did you come to form Advanced RV?
Mike Neundorfer: I was in air pollution abatement and engineering, a vertically integrated engineering company that worked with heavy industry to reduce their energy use and air pollution for 40 years, sold that company to my number two guy who was with me 35 years and decided actually before I sold it when I made him president that I needed to get out of his hair. Marsha and I have always had a passion for travel, we've been fortunate to travel all over the United States and the world, and we love travel in North America in a Sprinter. We rented one maybe 20 years ago now and the motor home didn't work so well but the sprinter chassis and size was awesome. So I thought and we had bought three of them, I was never satisfied with the level of quality and the innovation and I'm not saying that other people shouldn't be, but I'm a little OCD and so anyway, I thought that there would be other people in addition to myself who might want to first of all, have total freedom to design the motor home they want and to be able to know it was built by craftspeople with attention to detail.
So I started it, the company, a little under seven plus … about six months, seven years ago, without knowing much about anything and I'm learning and it's been … two things have been … part of the vision but tremendous surprise. One is that clients and potential clients are the most wonderful interested adventurous energetic people. We have clients in their 80s who never stop moving and we have clients a lot younger as well, they're all wonderful people to meet, a diverse backgrounds and interests, the other part that was part of the vision that I never thought that would be as good as it is, is working with a group of crafts people with the attention to detail, attention to clients, and the love for each other and it's … I wanted to create a place where I like to work and I'd love to come to work with these guys every day.
Mike Wendland: What excites you now for the next year?
Mike Neundorfer: The 2019 Sprinter is very exciting, Mercedes is going through a huge challenge with their new plant but we're very excited to start getting the 2019 build on them.
Mike Wendland: And the technology on that, I had you on the podcast several episodes ago talk about what you saw, but for those who didn't hear that and to give them something to look forward too, what can they see?
Mike Neundorfer: Automotive type safety and communication, voice communication that works, I tried it out when I drove it … glass LCD display all the way across the front, safety features that I mentioned, another speed in the transmission from five to six speed, and an electric slider door, which we've all been waiting for forever. Some other things that make it a measurably improved product and it was already a very good product.
Mike Wendland: Where do you see Advanced RV in five years?
Mike Neundorfer: Going forward it's about improvement and innovation, that's what gets me excited, just looking forward to getting better.
Mike Wendland: Tell us about this event called Advanced Fest, who is that open for?
Mike Neundorfer: Advanced Fest is open to everybody, everybody interested in our community and everybody whose part of the community, it's a combination of an open house, technical conference, we have good food, healthy food, but good food, entertainment a couple of the nights, and we invite our technical support partners to come in and share technical information during the day. It's very different seminar than what you usually see at these events, its client driven, it's about listening to clients, it's about sharing ideas, it's about answering questions. So last year we had over 100 people, every single person who attended went to every seminar and that's not an exaggeration, so I hope we can keep that. It's a wonderful community of people for that weekend, the first weekend in May every year.
Mike Wendland: Mike, thanks so much, we'll put links of course in the show notes and the description here for the podcast and we want to remind everybody we'll have a great video on everything we say here at Advanced RV coming up on our RV Lifestyle YouTube channel.
Mike Neundorfer: Thank you Mike, thanks for finally visiting and thanks for all your curiosity about what we're doing.
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
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom & Patti Burkett
We were headed south through Kentucky, following US 62. Late in the evening, in some small town, we spied a large lot full of trucks. They may have been for sale, or belonged to a transport company. Whatever the case, they were empty and idle on a Saturday night, so we pulled in among them and went to sleep. We’d heard that a church in nearby Princeton was hosting a pancake breakfast the following morning, so we rolled into town early. Too early for the breakfast, as it turned out. At the center of the town was an impressive art deco courthouse.
From the markers on the courthouse lawn, we discovered that the original courthouse had been burned during the Civil War, and that Princeton was at the heart of the Dark Tobacco Wars. “Buck” Duke began producing cigarettes here in 1879, and by 1890 had built an enterprise called the American Tobacco Company. Using his virtual monopoly on cigarette sales across the USA, he drove tobacco prices so low farmers were not able to make any profit. Sounds familiar, no? By the way, dark tobacco is so called because the fire-curing it undergoes leaves it a deep brown color. It’s primarily used in pipe blends and for chewing tobacco.
In 1904, growers met and formed a planters’ protective association, intent on guaranteeing a fair price for their crops. American Tobacco fought back, paying bonuses to those who didn’t join the PPA. Boycotts, intimidation, and coercion increased as farmers became frustrated with the lack of progress. Shortly, a country doctor and farmer organized the Silent Riders, who rode their horses on muffled hooves to burn the barns and fields of holdout farmers. On November 30, 1906, they slipped into Princeton and burned the factory and two warehouses full of non-PPA tobacco.
This continued for several years, with the Night Riders and the Tobacco Trust engaged in what amounted to terrorism across the region. In 1910, the Kentucky National Guard brought the Night Riders to heel (and many of them to jail). In the same year, the US Supreme Court broke the back of American Tobacco, ruling it an illegal monopoly.
We spent the better part of a day poking into this history, seeing the sites of the burned factories and warehouses, admiring the historical murals around town, and driving among the remaining tobacco farms. For anyone who enjoys harrowing tales and intrigue, this area is a gold mine. Besides the war stories, Princeton boasts Big Springs Cave, whose fast-flowing water is the source of Eddy Creek. Also downtown is Colonel Newsome’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham, where Nancy the ham lady runs the business her grandfather started over a hundred years ago.
Once upon a time our mental map of the United States looked like a set of Christmas lights, big attractions strung together by interstates. Now it’s more like a patchwork quilt, each piece calling to mind a person or event from the time we’ve spent there. We spent part of an evening a few years ago at a restaurant called Killer Seafood, talking with the owner and cook about how to make the perfect seafood chowder. When Hurricane Michael hit the Gulf Coast it wiped out the town of Mexico Beach, where the restaurant was located. There’s a hole in the quilt now, there where that restaurant used to be. We feel connected to it, and it draws us in. Get behind the wheel and join us out here, willingly getting sidetracked, off the beaten path.
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