I'm wandering the floor of this gigantic RV show held every January in Tampa, since I was in the area and thought I would go razz the working stiffs manning the Roadtrek display. First thing I did upon arrival was hide my new Roadtrek way back in the far reaches of the staging area parking lot – all the manufacturers are here, and we don't want anyone snooping around the prototype features on my rig. Here I am with the extra Roadtrek stock units – nothing funny about that one on the right, is there? Wait a minute – there's no AC on the roof…
I didn't realize how big this show actually is. I stopped by a couple of years ago when Mike Wendland wanted to meet me and make a video of my strange fulltiming lifestyle, but I didn't go inside. Looking around in here really gives you an idea of how big the RV market is, and how small – and special – the Class B niche is. Most of the stuff for sale here looks very big – and awkward – to me as a Class B owner. Maybe it's just because I can't drive those big things, or at least I don't think I can. I never really tried.
All the big manufacturers are here, including the million dollar plus Class As – Prevost, Newmar, and Foretravel. Here's a photo of a Prevost with some serious bling – LED strip lighting along every possible edge, plus some ghostly blue glow coming out from underneath the coach. I mean, it's nice to see them upgrading to LEDs, but I think they got a little carried away on this one. It's going to be hard to do any stealth camping in this rig.
Here's the business end of a Newmar people were lined up to tour the interior of. I have owned vehicles smaller than that engine. Note the huge 12 volt engine generator on the left under the AC compressor – wonder where they picked up on that idea from? It's good to see it's all serpentine belts now – the older diesels used to have this elaborate system of old-fashioned V belts, with belts driving pulleys that drove other belts, and this system looks to be much more easily maintained. Nobody was going to change a belt on those old ones on the side of the road, I assure you.
Airstream was here also, of course, and the biggest draw in the Airstream display was this tiny traditional silver bullet trailer – I called it the .22 short. People were literally lined up for their chance to get inside, turn around and look at everything, and then get back out. I waited until a relatively small crowd was in front to take this photo.
In addition to all the RVs on display, there are many vendors with RV-related products. Surge protectors, generators, everyone with an RV accessory had a booth. There were people to make personalized signs for your RV, people trying to talk you into campground memberships, people selling collapsing hoses, RV flagpoles, all kinds of stuff. It reminded me of a carnival midway, and it was packed with people browsing through all the products and services.
There were various entertainers wandering around on the floor, adding to the circus atmosphere. We even had a steel band out front by the ticket booth to give the Yankees a taste of the tropics, as well as another musical group inside performing in full pirate costume. They also had a mime, a torch singer, many different acts all over the floor. I tell you, it was wild around here today. And noisy. I had to head out to my rig every two hours or so and just sit out there for a while to rest up from all the sensory overload.
I got to hang out with Joe and Tammy Morales at the Roadtrek booth, and meet many of the sales personnel from the local RV World Lakeland and Nokomis dealerships whose models were on display. There were a dozen Roadtreks here, including a new Zion and some other neat models. I liked the extended length E-Trek in Ruby Red – it was quite a draw. Another thing that really amazed me was the vast number of people passing through – there were 20 or 30 people wandering around at any given time all day long, looking at all the Roadtreks and keeping the sales staff very busy indeed.
I ran into several folks from the Roadtrek internet communities – the Facebook group and the Yahoo message board – and they all seemed to figure out who I was pretty fast. My disguise, such that it was, consisted of a manufacturer exhibitor nametag made up for Yan Seiner that they gave me to sneak me into the exhibition area, but it fooled nobody. For some reason, they figured it out right away. Maybe I should grow a moustache.
I'll go find a nearby Walmart to spend the night in, and head back over tomorrow to see what else is happening.