This week we talk about RV Clubs and why you may want to consider joining one. We talk about their many benefits, including their efforts to help us find and preserve free overnight places to camp by promoting a Good Neighbor policy. Our guests are the people who run one of the most popular and active such organizations, Travis and Melanie Carr of the Escapees and Xcapers RV Clubs. RV clubs serve as a network of like-minded folks, offering support, encouragement, adventure and fun, usually with special perks and discounts for its members. I think you’ll enjoy meeting the Carrs in the interview of the week segment, coming up in just a few minutes.
But also this week, we’ll update you on our activities, share the RV News if the weeks, answer some of your questions and get another great off the beaten oath report from our friends the Burketts.
But first, my lifelong traveling companion and my bride… Jennifer.
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
JENNIFER -We are in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York, where we plan to spend a couple weeks taking photos and video and researching things to do and places to stay for another of our Seven Day Adventure Guides.
MIKE – Look for it later this summer. We arrived here Sunday after spending the past several days near Montreal, Quebec, attending a rally put on by the French-speaking Leisure Travel Vans club of Quebec. Although neither of us speak French, club members made us feel very welcome and we had a wonderful time meeting folks and touring their RVs.
JENNIFER -Many of those attending spoke English as well and when Jen and I gave a little talk to the group they provided a translator. We’ve attended many rallies and gatherings over the years but this was one of the best organized such events e have ever seen. We had a ball!
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Grand Canyon National Park set to receive designation for promoting dark sky
Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park has been working for years to reduce its light pollution and apparently it has paid off, as it is about to become an official International Dark Sky Park. The International Dark Sky Association promotes reducing light pollution so people can see the stars in all their glory, and recognizes certain spots throughout the country and even world that do this. I highly recommend finding a Dark Sky spot near you. Jen and I had members of this organization on our podcast a while back. To learn more and hear that podcast, click here.
Campers urged to stay below 4,000 feet in New York’s Adirondacks to protect alpine zone
If you are heading to the Adirondacks, where Mike and I are this week, be sure to keep all your boondocking below 4,000 feet elevation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is advising people against camping above 4,000 feet in the High Peaks and is ticketing those who do not follow these guidelines. The agency is trying to keep campers out so plants in the fragile Alpine zone won’t be trampled,. contributing to soil erosion.
Writer describes his love affair with state parks, offering beautiful places to camp often inexpensively
When Jen and I are somewhere new to an area and hear there is a state or provincial (if we are in Canada) campground nearby, we often check it out. State campgrounds are usually in beautiful locations and are relatively inexpensive. So when I read an article recently in the New York Times by a writer who tells of traveling the country and searching out previously unknown gems in each state, we had to share.
Stopping to view bears along a stretch of highway near Canada’s Jasper National Park not allowed
If you’re heading to Canada’s Jasper National Park anytime soon, there is now a no stopping rule along highway 16. The reason is so many bears feed along the highway this time of year, it is not safe for tourists to stop. The closure is temporary and will be lifted when more food is found at higher elevations.
RV Industry contributes $32.4 billion to Indiana’s economy, study says
We all know the RV industry is a big – with a large chunk of the industry headquartered in Indiana. A study from the industry written about in several Indiana publications last week says it contributes $32.4 billion to Indiana’s economy annually, supporting 126,000 jobs and 650 businesses there. Nationally the study says the RV industry contributes $114 billion to the U.S. economy.
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 QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Chris is looking for a manual for his Roadtrek RV
We send him to: https://www.roadtrek.com/owners/#section-manuals
A listener named Melanie heard our podcast last week about traveling alone and what can go wrong and called us to share a harrowing tale about something that happened to her that had a happy ending, thanks to help she received from fellow campers.
Do you have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990. If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.
This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at https://rvlifestyle.com/lithium
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
We’re big believers in RV Clubs.
As we shared at the top of the podcast, we just returned from attending a rally by a big club in Quebec and we had a ball.
So this week we talk about RV Clubs and why you may want to consider joining one.
There are quite a few that you can choose from, some quite large, others small. Some are organized around special interests or shared activities; others are geared towards owners if certain RV brands.
It’s safe to say there is an RV club out there for everyone!
Our guests are the people who run one of the most popular and active such organizations, Travis and Melanie Carr of the Escapees and Xcapers RV Clubs. RV clubs serve as a network of like-minded folks, offering support, encouragement, adventure and fun, usually with special perks and discounts for its members. I think you’ll enjoy meeting the Carrs
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Mike: Well, joining us right now, Melanie and Travis Carr. You guys, welcome again to the program. I think we had you on about a year ago, year and a half ago.
Travis: I would say so.
Travis: It’s been a bit.
Melanie: I can’t even remember when. It seems like it’s been forever.
Mike: I know it was there, but I’d have to go back and check. But so much has changed and is changing in the RV world. And I think a huge draw of it is what you guys are all about, and that is community and networking and a tribe, if I could use that word. Tell everybody about the Xscapers, and just how that is just phenomenally growing across North America.
Travis: Yeah. Do you want me to kick it off? Or do you want to start?
Melanie: Yeah. Go ahead.
Travis: Yeah, we founded Xscapers almost five years ago.
Melanie: Yeah. It’s been about four and a half years now.
Travis: Yeah, about four and a half years now, on March 8th, 2015. And the reason we founded it is we’re involved with Escapees RV Club. I’m the president of Escapees. Melanie is the vice president, so we’ve been involved with the club my entire life. Joe and Kay Peterson were the founders of Escapees RV Club, and they’re my grandparents, so the club has been in my bloodline for a long time, and RVing is nothing new to me. And what happened was when we came back and started working for Escapees directly in our own travels, in our own experiences and stuff, we started realizing that there was this big void within the club. We would travel around to the parks and talk to people, and meet others who were working from the road, or who had kids, or were in the younger audience.
Travis: And we would kind of ask them, “Hey. Have you heard of Escapees? What’s your thoughts? What’s your feelings?” And too often, we got the same story, and that story was, “Well, Escapees is really for retired full-timers.” And we’re like, “Wait a second. We’re not though. we’re a club for everyone.” But we realized we were not meeting the needs of a segment of those RVers that were really important to the club, and actually the founding roots of the organization. So Xscapers was created as way to come back to those roots and bring the younger generation, those working on the road, into the fold and feel welcome and have a place to call their own and have a community that they connected with. And that’s really what it was all about, and kind of where the concept came from.
Melanie: It’s still a part of the Escapees membership, so everybody that joins, even if they’re just joining to be a part of the Xscapers community are an Escapees member first, so it’s kind of folded into the membership. You pay the $39.95 a year for the Escapees membership, and then you basically flag your account to become an Xscaper, and that will get you access to the community, the specific information that goes out to that group, so it’s all one membership.
Mike: It’s kind of, if people have been involved with other organizations, there’s the FMCA, which used to be motor coaches, now it’s everything. And then they have their individual chapters with different subsets of different interest groups. And this is kind of that same principle. You see it in many, many other clubs and organizations. Escapees is the parent organization. Xscapers is that part of the community which are working age RVers, digital nomads, full-timers, correct me if I’m wrong, people who are not pursuing the traditional career, kids, work, and then the kids go and then you get an RV.
Mike: They’re skipping all that and going right to the, let’s travel and enjoy it.
Melanie: Yeah. We have families in there too, people that have families, kids, and they’re traveling and working on the road, so yeah.
Travis: One thing that sets us apart a little bit than our other groups within the club, like you said, a lot of clubs have interest groups and things like chapters and interest groups and such. And we have those too. The difference a little different about Xscapers versus those other community groups within the club is that this is ran by national Escapee staff. Me and Melanie directly oversee this program, and we have national staff who host the events and participate in this, so that separates it a little bit in kind of the dynamic of how it operates. It’s not member ran is what I’m trying to say.
Melanie: Yeah. Most of the chapters, they do have presidents that are members that keep those going. They have a different board that [inaudible 00:04:20] makes their rallies and events happen. But yeah, like he was saying, we have a dedicated team of staff members through Xscapers headquarters that help us run Xscapers too, so it’s all ran off of national resources.
Mike: Well, let’s start a couple things. Who is a typical, if there is such a thing, Xscapers member? Or give me kind of the demographic profile of your-
Melanie: Our target audience, it’s generally the way that we define it is for working age RVers. And that’s really what we use to describe what Xscapers is catered towards. For example, our events are much different than a typical RV rally. They’re usually longer, about a week, because our activities don’t start until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, if not later, because people are working during the day. We try to be flexible around an average work schedule, which would be 9:00 to 5:00, so that’s a little different. And then I would say our typical age range is really anywhere between 20s to 50s, so there’s a lot of people that have even retired early, and it’s all about their mindset. They have an active mindset, and it may be that they’re still, even though they’re retired, they’re still looking to do something on the road to make an income and things like that. So it’s generally we kind of try to advertise it as what you can expect at the events, and you can kind of make the decision from there and come out and attend and event and see if it’s for you.
Travis: Yeah. I would agree. And I think, like you said, if you were to put it into a few words, it’s definitely the working RVer, those who are actively looking or running a career, or have a full-time job while they’re on the road. And that’s really our audience.
Melanie: Because the community, the people that attend our events, they really find a bond with other people who are going through those same challenges that they are. It’s not easy to work on the road, but they’ve made the conscious decision to do it, and they face the barriers like finding internet, finding good locations where they can stay for the week while they’re working and things like that. So it’s really about connecting those people together.
Mike: Some of the benefits of Xscapers, one of the things that I have heard much talk about is the job board. You can actually help people find work, guide them to that process, things they can do as digital nomads on the road, and also, people who have jobs that they can offer, so you kind of match and mix. What are some of the jobs that people tend to have that you hear about out there?
Travis: It’s all over the place. We created the job board about two years ago, and it’s now moved under its own website called rverjobexchange.com. And that’s put on by the club as a whole. We actually ramped it up. It used to be just hosted on the website as a little small thing to test it out. But we actually moved that to its own website called RVer Job Exchange. And you can find resumes on there for anybody. A lot of it is IT related, I will generally say. A lot of people in the tech world find remote work easier, or more accessible, just because those employers are used to having remote workers. It’s just kind of more a part of that culture and that company culture. But we’ve seen house flippers. We’ve seen remodeling people. We’ve seen administrative assistants. It really is a full, pretty comprehensive.
Melanie: Even people that [inaudible 00:07:42] in the job world because they kind of build them from the ground up, but a lot of people in our community, not everybody, but a lot of people have started blogs, YouTube channels. The online industry is just booming right now, and so many people are looking to hit the road and learn more about the RV lifestyle. It’s making income for those that are familiar with it and who have been doing it, that can share their experience and their education. It’s making it so much easier to do these days for everybody, the people looking at RV and the people living the lifestyle.
Mike: Now your events are, as you say, a little bit different. Tell us some of the things that are coming up. I love the word, you call some of them convergences. Explain that. I keep thinking about a bunch of zombies, a convergence of zombies. I think that’s the phrase that started with Walking Dead.
Melanie: Yeah. That was actually when we were launching Xscapers, we were consulting with Chris and Cherie from Technomadia, and they helped us with a lot of the foundation pieces of bringing the club together and the formation. And that was actually a term that they used when they were out on the road meeting with friends. And we were like, “Yeah, we don’t want to call it a rally.” And we just fell in love with it, and it’s taken its own shape.
Travis: Yeah. It’s about bringing people to a location together and kind of taking over. And that’s really what it is. They’re pretty laid back rallies. It started off really laid back. And now over the years they’ve gotten more intense.
Melanie: They have a combination of all things, yeah.
Travis: But generally speaking, they’re really laid back. It’s all about just socializing and bring community together and connecting and having a good time together. Those that work full-time, they need a time to cut loose and just be among their community, just like everybody else does. And that’s really what these events are all about, is just bringing people together and sharing and making friendships.
Mike: One of the frustrations that many RVers have said as they’ve tried to network with like minded spirits out there in the RV world, is that so many of the gatherings were only for those who had a certain brand of RV, and they were kind of exclusive. You guys, everybody is in everything. Right? Tell me what you are.
Travis: Absolutely. It has been a philosophy since day one of this club that we are inclusive to everything. We’ve always allowed every type of RV. It doesn’t matter your income, what your lifestyle is about, who you are, what you believe in. We don’t care because we all share the common interest of RVing, and that’s what we’re about, and that’s all we’re about.
Melanie: We pride ourselves in being that way from day one. It’s a founding value of the club to welcome everybody. And when you come to our rallies, you’re not segregated in a section, anything like that. You’re all there together and you’re all experiencing together because you’ve found the same bond of living the RV lifestyle. That’s what it’s really about.
Travis: I think you would get made fun of if you came into our event and had a different personality or expectations that you should be different than others just because you’re in a certain type of rig or whatever. I mean, we have people in Prevosts, to people in class B vans, remodeled-
Melanie: School buses.
Travis: Yeah, school buses and things like that. And everybody acts the same. Everybody treats each other with respect, and that’s just our philosophy as being Escapees.
Mike: That’s great. And among other things, you also are very good at helping people find free or inexpensive places to stay, to boondock. Tell us about that.
Travis: Yeah. We have a lot of resources from our own parks and discount parks, and a guy gets and puts on the days in directory, which is a whole resource for cheap or free boondocking sites.
Melanie: We have overnight parking with skips for Escapees members who still have home bases, or land lots that you can park on. They’ll share that fellow members, and it’s a way to connect with other people and also get free parking. And then for some of the things we don’t offer, we partner with other industry people who specialize in it. We have relationships with Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and we help put little [inaudible 00:11:34] and discounts on there because those are products and resources that we truly believe in.
Mike: One last thing I want to ask you guys about, and I know this is maybe more with the Escapees, the larger group, but your Good Neighbor Policy. So many RVers now have discovered Wal Mart and Cracker Barrel and all of the places that welcome RVers to spend the night in their parking lots overnight. Talk about the Good Neighbor Policy a little bit.
Travis: Yeah. The Good Neighbor Policy is really an achievement that my mom, Cathy Carr, is very proud of, and she should be very proud of. It came about, about 20 years ago due to a pretty big stink in the industry, really, about campgrounds not wanting RVers to stay at overnight parks because they want to save the campgrounds, and people were abusing overnight parking options, not doing the right things, not taking care of the facilities.
Melanie: Staying too long.
Travis: Staying too long, or just taking advantage. And so the Good Neighbor Policy was really a compromise that she put together as basically an industry standard, accepted standard that was meant to put everybody on the same page and set expectations of doing the right things, and not taking advantage of Wal Marts, or so forth, so on, so we don’t lose that ability. We all want to have the ability to have free parking, and as a right as an RVer. But if we abuse it, it will go away. So the Good Neighbor Policy is all about protecting that. And you can find it on our website, just search it, Good Neighbor Policy.
Melanie: It’s a friendly reminder of things that, best practices for when you’re parking at a Wal Mart or a Cracker Barrel, to be respectful. Ask permission if you’re concerned about the area that you’re in, things like that. We highly recommend that RVers check it out, just as that reminder. Maybe share it with others who may not be familiar with it because there’s a lot of people in the industry that stand behind that as well.
Travis: Yeah, like you said, it’s just a reminder to educate those that are unaware that they’re doing the wrong thing. There’s a lot of people that just don’t simply know necessarily that the issues that have been fought, and the hard work that’s gone behind protecting that right to stay, for those companies to let us be there.
Melanie: That reminds me, his mom just wrote an article in the Escapees blog that kind of talks about the actual history behind it, and how hard the fight was to get those rights protected still. So there’s a lot of history there that we’re not 100% [inaudible 00:14:01], but it’s pretty interesting when you read about it.
Mike: That’s great. Well, we will put links to that, to the Xscapers, all about them. We’ll send everybody to the Escapees Club. And I just can’t speak enough about how great it is to have a community where everybody is welcome, and everybody has a really, really good time. And that’s Xscapers, for those of you who are working age, or those who have lots of ideas and are out there full-time, and abandoned the traditional home and life, and enjoying it on the road. And Escapees, which is maybe a little more, I don’t want to say laid back, but maybe it’s not quite as active. So it’s all different stages of the RV spectrum.
Travis: Absolutely, that’s what it’s all about.
Mike: And Melanie and Travis Carr, you guys are great. We’ll link again to everything. And thank you so much for sharing some of the excitement about Xscapers and Escapees.
Here are the links we discussed on the show:
Escapees and Xcapers RV Club –https://www.escapees.com/refer/RV+Lifestyle
Escapees Good Neighbor Policy: https://www.escapees.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Good-Neighbor-Policy-May18.pdf
Protecting Overnight Parking Rights blog post: https://www.escapees.com/protecting-overnight-rv-parking-options/
You might be interested in checking out the results from a recent census survey done by the club. It sheds some light into some of the changes the RV lifestyle is seeing and the growth of working-age RVers: https://www.escapees.com/census-results-are-in-who-are-rvers/.
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom and Patty Burkett
The rain was just ending when we pulled into Logan, Ohio late on a Friday afternoon. One of our friends from the winter freeze out had invited us to join him at an event called Urban Air. Many of us have discovered, upon buying an RV, that our particular brand has an owner group. Some have internet forums in which handy people discuss, endlessly, the merits of batteries and how to solve this or that annoying little problem. Some share tips on campsites and itineraries. Many plan trips together, or gatherings. This was a gathering for owners of Airstream trailers. The organizer, Kirk MacKellar, had a notion that a Main Street lined with travel trailers might be just what a struggling small town needs.
After a quick stop at the police station to get an OK, and to let ourselves be known, we found a great parking spot a half block from the action. These trailers, almost all shiny aluminum, have an iconic look, and seeing two blocks of them, nose to tail along both sides of the street was a sight not to be forgotten. Big and small, old and new, they made the roadway a campground, with awnings out and camp chairs arranged for visiting. Friend Mark met us in the street and introduced us around.
MacKellar’s idea is that RV owners can have a unique experience in an out of the way place while bringing some much needed custom to a struggling community. Logan, like many small towns, has a lot going for it. It’s nestled in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, a popular vacation and recreation area. Abundant mineral resources and water power made it an early center for milling and the production of brick and fire tile. Industry faded, and a bypass of US route 33 left the busy downtown with many empty storefronts and little traffic. As in many small towns, intrepid residents are reimagining their community in this new century.
We had dinner on the outdoor patio at the Utopia Bar, listening to a local combo. At a break, the bass player asked where we were from. “Thanks so much for coming,” she said, “you don’t know how great it is to see our town filled up with people.” This wasn’t the only music on offer. Just down the street is the Artista rock school, where, later that evening, a dozen middle-schoolers brought the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Cream onto the stage and took the house down.
Saturday morning was quiet the way campgrounds are, with folks out walking their dogs and visiting in small groups and wandering through the local hardware store. Amazingly, Logan has two operating bakeries across the street from each other, and both were doing a brisk business in donuts, sweet rolls, and local gossip. While many folks headed for the fairgrounds and the Rotary pancake breakfast, we opted for the M&M Family Diner. Michelle, the owner, bustled and schmoozed her way around the room making locals and visitors feel at home.
Most of the money raised by various events over the weekend went toward the restoration of the local theater, a project recently underway. The 1926 Masonic Hall, bought by the Chakeres movie chain more than a half-century ago, was mothballed in the early 90s. We were treated to a tour and a talk about plans to return it to its art deco glory. Having seen a few of these elsewhere, we recognized what a job they have ahead of them and what a gem it may some day be. Before leaving town, we took a tour of the Columbus Washboard Company, the only factory of its kind still operating in the USA, complete with live jug band music.
This locale has a lot to offer, with more coming in the next few years. The new John Glenn Astronomy Park nearby offers the darkest night skies in the state, and there’s plenty of hiking, camping, adventure sports, and local crafts among these hills. Even if the Airstreams aren’t here, you can still have a good time waking up downtown in Logan. Just skip the bypass and head down that old road that leads off the beaten path.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by Harvest Hosts – https://rvlifestyle.com/harvesthosts a network of farms, wineries, museums and attractions where RVers can stay overnight, for free.