This week we get the inside secrets about RV dealers…how much they should be willing to discount, how much your brand new RV depreciates the moment you drive it out of the lot, why it can sometimes be so hard to find good service and what upsells they’ll try to talk you into like extended warranties and insurance you should reject. Our guest is the straight-taking Bob Zagami of the New England RV Dealers Association and you will not want to miss his interview on the RV Podcast this week.

Also this week, your questions, RV News, tips and another great off the beaten path report from the Burketts.

But first, my lifelong traveling companion and my bride…Jennifer

Show Notes for Episode #255 Sept 12, 2019 of The RV Podcast;

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

This week’s show comes to you from the Holly State Recreation Area near Holly, MI

Besides camping in Holly, we also traveled across Michigan to Holland Motorhomes where we met some other RVers and did some modifications to our Leisure Travel Favs Unity.

This week, we plan to leave Holly and head to Lakeside Ohio, a long established resort and conference center right on the shores of lake Erie on the Marblehead Peninsua.

We also want to give a shoutout to our reviewer of the week…Keithafer who left us this wonderful five-star review on iTunes:

“We currently are not RV owners; however, we are in the process of considering an RV lifestyle. There are, of course, a great many things to learn. Even though we had a travel trailer many moons ago, a lot has changed in the industry. The RV podcast has helped me to approach this with a broader perspective. I thought I had in mind what I wanted to do, but their style has got me thinking. There are several things about this particular show. First, the show is that it is well rounded. It is a combination of news, interviews, places to visit, industry trends, and so much more. They pack it with excellent information that is also entertaining. I’m often listening, and then, the podcast is over! Second, he is not over-advertised. I like their commitment to keeping a healthy balance of sponsorship and information for the listener. Third, they seem very personable, and Mike and Jennifer work well together in the podcast. I like their honesty and family orientation. There are a lot of podcasts that I have found on RV living, but this one I look forward to the next weekly episode. I’m hoping someday, my wife, and I will get a chance to meet them in person. They also have a YouTube channel and website that adds to the overall learning experience.”

Thank you, Keithaver. We so appreciated those kind words and your review. And we invite you dear listener, to do the same. Please leave us a review and a rating on iTunes or Stitcher or whatever app you listen to us on. We so appreciate the feedback and we read every one! 

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK 

JENNIFER
Grandma never saw the ocean or mountains, so her grandson set out to show her
A story captured the hearts of many who saw it last week about a grandson – in his late 30s – taking his grandma – in her late 80s – camping in all 61 national parks so she can see the world. The grandmother has been a widow for 20 years, worked minimum wage jobs, and never saw much of the country – which was a regret. So her grandson set out to turn that around, seeing the country’s national parks.
MIKE
Family tent camping in southern Arizona fight off bobcat as it attacked 4-year-old girl 
A bobcat attacked a 4-year-old girl camping with her family in southern Arizona last week. When the girl’s family heard her screams, they all ran to help and were also attacked as the fought the animal off. Officials came out to try to trap the animal but were unsuccessful. Fifteen people ended up being treated for rabies as a precaution and the wildcat, as of this writing, was still on the loose. 
JENNIFER
Park service has a message: Don’t pet the bison 
Don’t pet wild bison. Seems obvious, right? But apparently it is not. Last week a picture went viral showing a man petting a wild bison at Yellowstone National Park. The photo led the park service to issue statements warning the public not to do this. Recently a 9-year-old girl was tossed into the air and injured by a wild bison after getting too close. And at Theodore Roosevelt National Park a 17-year-old was gorged by one. Bison are wild animals – who can kill. The recommendation is to stay far away …. and definitely do not touch.
MIKE
Man thinks he sees Bigfoot so he tries to shoot it
Federal officials are investigating a report that a man fired a gunshot while camping at Mammoth Cave National Park, an incident that another camper says was prompted by an alleged sighting of Bigfoot. Mammoth Cave said law enforcement rangers responded early Sunday to a report of a person with a firearm at one of the Kentucky park’s backcountry campsites. Brad Ginn told news outlets that he and his girlfriend were camping nearby and were awakened about 1 a.m. by a man with his son. The man said they were going to investigate strange noises he kept hearing. Ginn said he heard a gunshot minutes later and the man returned to say Bigfoot had emerged from the woods, so he fired. Ginn said he and his girlfriend decided to leave and report the incident. Park spokeswoman Molly Schroer says an investigation continues and the park is safe to visit.

 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

Questions we tackle this week:

A listener asks about what to do if they need to fill a prescription in Canada?

            Canadian provinces require that pharmacies dispense medications pursuant to a valid prescription authorized by a Canadian practitioner. Therefore, U.S. prescriptions received by a Canadian pharmacy must be approved by a Canadian physician, who issues a Canadian prescription, prior to it being filled. This practice is often referred to as cosigning. To be clear, a patient or doctor in the U.S. only has to send a prescription. You do not need to worry about finding a Canadian practitioner. The pharmacy will take care of the approval process from there. Generally, U.S. pharmacies will not transfer your prescription to a Canadian pharmacy. If you decide to buy a medication from a pharmacy in Canada and you have a prescription with a U.S. pharmacy, you’ll most likely need to request a new prescription from your doctor.

A pastor form Ohio heard we’re visiting Lakeside of Ohio soon and has a recommendation for a great fish restaurant nearby – Jolly Rogers – for fresh Lake Erie Perch.

This question came in via our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group from Beth: “I just watched You tube RV Lifestyle on a fitness club. I’m wondering if anyone has parked the night in the parking lot after working out?”

        This is not something we would do. The fitness club is just a tenant in the shopping center and while most people would probably never have an incident, most cities and shopping centers don’t take kindly to overnight camping in their lots/

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

This week we get the inside secrets about RV dealers…how much they should be willing to discount, how much your brand new RV depreciates the moment you drive it out of the lot, why it can sometimes be so hard to find good service and what upsells they’ll try to talk you into like extended warranties and insurance you should reject. Our guest is the straight-taking Bob Zagami of the New England RV Dealers Association

Here’s a transcript of the entire Interview:

Mike Wendland:
Bob Zagami joins us right now. Bob, how’s New England these days?

Bob Zagami:
It’s incredible. It’s 91 degrees. I’m sitting out on my deck of my park model up in Maine, and just enjoying the scenery. So, it’s been hot like the rest of the country.

Mike Wendland:
One of the things I really like about Bob Zagami is that you know what RVing is all about. You just came back from a bunch of 4 or 5 thousand mile trip, didn’t you?

Bob Zagami:
I did, Mike. I’ve been RVing for 40 years in everything from a pop up to a motor home. We love it. We love the lifestyle, we love the passion of it, and I did just come back from a visit to Winnebago in Iowa. They loaned me their new Boldt, which is a energy efficient, I wouldn’t call it a hybrid, but Lithium-ion batteries, 200 watt solar panels on the roof, totally self-sustaining, but it was one of the more comfortable motor homes, and granted, it’s a class B.

Mike Wendland:
Yeah.

Bob Zagami:
One of the more comfortable motor homes that I’ve driven, well insulated, easy to drive. It could be a popular unit.

Mike Wendland:
Yep, it is. Well, I want to have you put on your professional hat and help us understand a couple things about RV dealers. When things go wrong, it’s always the dealers that get kicked. And when I look at some of the stuff like at our Facebook RV lifestyle group, the complaints about dealers, and I feel duty bound to get the other side of the story. And I think there’s a lot of information out there about dealers that are wrong or maybe are based on things that happened in the past.

Mike Wendland:
But let’s jump in and talk about the things that RV dealers would like us to know. And the first question always has to be service. I’m not saying anything out of school that we don’t already know, but service has always been an issue in RVs, particularly now in the midst of the boom. Help people understand why, when they call, they may not get service for three or four weeks or longer.

Bob Zagami:
Well, it’s a great question. I appreciate you asking it. So, we should probably tell your viewers that don’t know me what my background, just a little bit about my background. I actually have been an RVer for 40 years, as I said. So, I’ve been a consumer for a long time, but I’ve also been a consultant in the industry, but I also run the New England RV Dealers Association. So, I’m the executive director and we have 35 dealers.

Bob Zagami:
So, I spend every week with dealers throughout New England. I had dealers in all six New England states, and that service question is one that comes up all the time, whether we’re talking on some of the social media channels and platforms the dealers and I follow, or we get it when we do seminars. I think the biggest misunderstanding that a lot of people have, especially if they’re new to RVing, everybody wants to compare the RV industry to the automobile industry. And you can buy a Chevy in Boston and go to California, have a problem, and that dealer will treat you exactly as the dealer in Boston. He has to, she has to, or they will lose their franchise. They have franchise laws that say you will do this, you will warranty this, you will cover this customer in [inaudible 00:03:15] hours, you will get the part in 48 hours. Very strict guidelines.

Bob Zagami:
But we sell 18 to 20 million cars a year. We sell 500 thousand, a little bit less than that now, RVs a year. So, it’s not apples and oranges. And the other issue is that cars and trucks and [inaudible 00:03:34] trucks are pretty much automated. A lot of the manufacturing operations have been replaced with robots and numerically controlled equipment that is very precise. More precise than a human being. Every RV is made by a human being. There is very little automation. There’s some automation on cutting out panels and windows and doors, but it’s a human, handmade instrument.

Bob Zagami:
So, when you take it to a dealer, and the thing that I like to caution customers on, prospects on, develop a relationship with a dealer. Even if it costs you a little bit more money because you are going to want to have a friend at the RV dealership because it is not unusual. And we know this is, the dealers know this, and I tell people this. It is not unusual for you to buy an RV and Massachusetts, and go to California, and let’s say it’s XYZ company, and go to an XYZ dealership in California and they look at you like you’ve got four eyes. And they say, “Well, we can get you in in three or four months because we’re going to service our own customers right now.”.

Bob Zagami:
Number one, they can do that because there are no franchise laws. Now, it doesn’t always make the consumer happy, but in many cases, they have to do that, because we have a tremendous shortage of technicians in the industry, and the ones that they do have, they’ve got to put on the most [inaudible 00:04:55] cases, which in most cases are their customers, they’ve got the relationship with them. So, what I would wish… Now that is not an excuse for bad service, and what I caution our dealers on and ask them, and I do it when we do the seminars, if we as an industry, forget whether it’s new England or California or New York, if we as an industry would manage the expectations of an RV buyer from their initial exposure to our industry, we would not have two thirds of the problems that we see out there right now.

Bob Zagami:
But the consumers get enamored with the product, they get emotional on it, and they buy it, and they haven’t done their homework. They had just had not done their homework as to how this industry works compared to automobiles, and the only thing they have to compare it to is automobiles.

Mike Wendland:
Now-

Bob Zagami:
This whole aspect… Go ahead, Mike.

Mike Wendland:
Back to the service guys. So, I’m RVing across someplace in another state, and my water pump goes out. And I’ve heard this over and over, and you pull into an RV dealer and “Hey, I think my water pump’s gone.” And they say, “Yeah, bring it back two weeks from Thursday.” And meantime that person is stuck there, and so, they get angry and the dealer gets bad press. But I guess I’m trying to look at the dealers side here, and they are triaging everything that comes in just like a hospital emergency room. And while that may be important, it’s not as important say as somebody who has a propane leak, which could explode, right?

Bob Zagami:
Right.

Mike Wendland:
So, help us understand what goes on in a service shop that would would help people get that.

Bob Zagami:
Well, you used a good term, because it is triage. You only use these things a few months out of the year, a few weeks, and you always want it to be right, and maybe you haven’t done the right preventive maintenance, and then all of a sudden you’re outside wherein you have a problem. So yeah, probably 90% of what the dealers see in the course of a day is a triage and a problem. Something breaks and- [crosstalk 00:07:01]

Mike Wendland:
So-

Bob Zagami:
Then you’re at the mercy of the dealer. I will tell you, I have a couple of the service centers, one in particular that I know of, that builds [inaudible 00:07:13] on Cape Cod. So, anybody on Cape Cod in the summer time is on vacation, and when their RV breaks this dealer allocates two bays of his operation for daily work, just for people who show up and need emergency service.

Mike Wendland:
Now, that’s a dealer-

Bob Zagami:
And he’s very well known.

Mike Wendland:
I’d like to do business with that dealer [crosstalk 00:07:35] because so many don’t do that.

Bob Zagami:
No, but here’s the problem. He’s not really a dealer. He’s a service center and a parts and accessories store. He doesn’t want to sell new units. He doesn’t want to sell used units. He’s got all certified techs. Now, how many of those are in the country? I don’t know, but I know when we have problems here in New England, I have a couple of places like that that I can send people to, and people do find me when they have emergencies. I must get three or four calls a week on my cell phone, and people are stranded, and on the side of the highway, and they have no idea what to do.

Mike Wendland:
Let me, let me- [crosstalk 00:08:12]

Bob Zagami:
We don’t advertise. We don’t have advertise our service.

Mike Wendland:
I know. I’ve got a couple of other questions before we run out of time, and I want to just clear a couple of things up here. Number one, there is a service tech shortage. There has been in all seven years that we’ve been doing this. Is the industry finally moving to build more service techs to get pay up a little bit and to hire more techs?

Bob Zagami:
It’s a double edge sword, quite honestly. We are. We’ve got a new initiative with the RV technical institute in [inaudible 00:08:41] to train retirees, to train people that are coming out of the service, men and women who are looking for a career, and even down to the high school level. So, we’re putting in place, but that’s going be a little bit longer term to get people in, get them trained and what have you.

Bob Zagami:
Locally, our people do try to hire more people, but one of the issues in our industry, and it’s known, but we’re not paying the techs enough money. And I talk to my dealers about this, and I talk to people in the industry about this. They can pound their chest all they want about all these great programs, but if we train these people, and then push about it on the street, and somebody wants to pay him 12 or 15 dollars an hour to work on a 200 thousand dollar motor home they’re not going to get too excited about that. So, we’re moving in the right direction. [crosstalk 00:09:33] should’ve been 10 years ago.

Mike Wendland:
But it’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time- [crosstalk 00:09:37]

Bob Zagami:
We should’ve done it-

Mike Wendland:
Yep.

Bob Zagami:
Right. And it’s also a seasonal business. They’re not busy, I don’t think, unless you’re into a place where it’s always nice weather, but it is seasonal. We do understand that, but pay is is a big issue. And we could talk about service for a long time. What the industry does and doesn’t do. Frankly, I just recommend people when they break down on the road, call a mobile RV tech. Those guys know everything, and they’re usually there to fix it wherever you are. So, I always recommend that, but I want to talk about the- [crosstalk 00:10:10] yeah, go ahead.

Mike Wendland:
Before you do, let me add to that because I agree with that 100%. I take it one step further. I say to people, and they say “Where do I find them?” And they are difficult to find because they’re so cherished. They’re busy. They don’t need to go looking for business. What I tell people, if somebody around the area where you are, if there’s no one, call your local campground. Every campground has a list on the wall of mobile techs who come into the campground to fix emergencies of their customers. They have to because they don’t want a customer who can’t get service, and ruins their vacation at a campground because the first person they going to blame is the campground owner, not the RV dealer who sold it.

Mike Wendland:
Plus they want to get those people out of those lots and turn them over, and get that RV working.

Bob Zagami:
Right. So, get ahold of the closest campground, say “Look it, I’m really stuck. Give me the name of somebody that’ll come running over here and bail me out.”

Mike Wendland:
Alright, here’s a question I’m asked all the time. How much wiggle room is there in a retail price when somebody does shopping? Again, they make the same assumption that it used to be in the auto industry when you could really bargain. But generally, what are… should people expect to pay full sticker or is there a… what’s a ballpark that they can wiggle round for a… negotiate a cut?

Bob Zagami:
Well, let me put it this way, Mike, I’ve been RVing for 40 years and I’ve had many RVs. Never have I paid MSRP and I’ve never met anybody who did. So, it is a discounted price. It is negotiable and it depends if you’re not trading in a unit, 25, 30% off of the manufacturer’s suggested list price is a fair price for the consumer, and still allows the dealer to make good money on it.

Bob Zagami:
When you start to throw a trade in there, there are so many variables, you almost can’t provide guidance because you don’t know the age, you don’t know how well the customer took care of it, you don’t know any hidden damage. I’m always amazed when I go to shows and people buy at the show, and they give them a trade in on their product that they haven’t seen, so he shows him a couple of pictures and that’s it. [crosstalk 00:12:24] There’s a fine print that says it’s subject to an actual inspection when we see the coach. Well, they want to sell the product at the show. When that coach shows up and if it’s not in good shape, they may or they may not stick the deal. I mean, they may stick with it and they may just say no. So, it’s tough. There is wiggle room and you have to do your homework- [crosstalk 00:12:47]

Mike Wendland:
But straight out buy, expecting 25% off is not a bad way to start the negotiation. Right?

Bob Zagami:
No, no. And quite honestly there are dealers in the country, I don’t have any in mine to do it, but there are some pretty large dealers in the country that tell you up front everything on their lot stopped at 25% off list price. [inaudible 00:13:06]

Mike Wendland:
Alright. Now, when you drive that new RV off the dealer’s lot, how much does it depreciate?

Bob Zagami:
Oh, maybe 20, 25%

Mike Wendland:
Day one.

Bob Zagami:
Again… Yeah? Yeah. Depends on what you bought it for. If you buy it really well, then it’s a lot less than that. If you’re on the high end of the price tag, it could depreciate significantly. Again, it’s not a car, and the resale, when you look out there at resale values, people say, “Well, we’ll just get the Kelley Blue Book price.” Well, the Kelly Blue Book and the Napa used car prices, they’re pretty rock solid. You can bet that they’re in there, but when you look at their books for RVs, and dealers have them, and consumers can see them, but they give you, it’s a wide range of price between the lowest wholesale and highest wholesale and average price because there’s so many different options that you can put in an RV. I mean, a car is a car.

Bob Zagami:
I don’t know you, you’re not as old as me, Mike, but when I first bought my first car, they gave you a piece of paper and you picked out all the options that you wanted, then you sent it to the factory, you waited a while, and then it came, and it got delivered. Well, they don’t do that anymore. They buy hundreds of cars. They put them on the lot and almost all of them the same ones, got different color ones, got different stereo. So, the trade in prices can hold much [inaudible 00:14:40] with a car, then they ever will with a used motor home.

Mike Wendland:
Alright. [crosstalk 00:00:14:48].

Bob Zagami:
It’s crazy.

Mike Wendland:
So, depreciation is a huge factor. Now, where do dealers really make their money? Do they make it… We’ve heard that they make their money in upselling you to extended warranties, all the little additional insurances that you can pick up, and I don’t want you to bite the hand that feeds you there, but help us all understand. How much is just playing upsell, trying to make what they can, or how much are good stuff?

Bob Zagami:
Well, I think that they try to keep the coach separate from the upsell once you get into finance and insurance, because obviously they want you to buy the coach first, and then depending on how you’re going to use it, depends on… There’s several things that once you get to the finance and insurance person, they’re going to talk to you about an extended warranty, because again, these things are handmade, and warranties are misunderstood in this industry. A lot of times people don’t read the warranties, but you may be getting a warranty from the manufacturer on the coach itself, but you may be subject to individual warranties on the components inside. The refrigerator might have to go to the refrigerator person, stove might have to go that. So, you’ve got a lot of individual pieces. So, if you’re going to be using it a lot, then you got to look at an extended warranty.

Bob Zagami:
They are worth the money because, as you see in these forms, things break, and you want some additional coverage. You want might want fabric protection if you have dogs or kids that like to use them for trampolines. So, additional insurance options that you might want to have. But the caution I tell everybody is read before you sign. Don’t come to the bank crying after the fact. And some says, “Well, you know it’s right here and it’s on page 45, paragraph three, section B.” And you say, “Who the hell reads that stuff?” Well, guess what? This is probably your second biggest expense besides your house, you better read every piece of paper and understand what the warranties are and what you have to do to adjudicate any warranty claims. But you can protect yourself on all this stuff.

Bob Zagami:
So, having said that, there is a responsibility and sometimes it’s maligned and people don’t take it seriously, but buyers of RVs have a responsibility. The first one is to read that paperwork and make sure you understand. Don’t leave it up to… And these days, when was the last time you talked to somebody that read the software agreement as their program [inaudible 00:17:28] software into their computer?

Mike Wendland:
Same thing.

Bob Zagami:
Nobody’s read one of those in 15 years.

Mike Wendland:
Alright.

Bob Zagami:
But you have to do it. And then it’s just… But a lot of this stuff is depending on preventative maintenance, and here again, I go back to do we manage the customer’s expectations the right way? Do we tell the customer that twice a year you have to get up and inspect that roof, that twice a year you have to check the lug bolts after every trip? [inaudible 00:17:57] My argument is we don’t get more sales, if we treat the customer like an adult, manage their expectations and say, “Look it, these things at handmade. These things break. These things need maintenance. You just don’t let it sit for six months and say, honey, let’s go to Yellowstone, and hop in the motor home and you never make it because you got tire problems or you got something that breaks down.” So, there’s caution on both sides of that.

Mike Wendland:
Alright. Before we run out of time, last question, give somebody an advice on how to pick a dealer. How do you pick a dealer? There’s great big huge chains, there’s big multi-store corporations, there’s mom and pop shops. What are a couple of things that people should look for when they are choosing an RV dealer to buy from?

Bob Zagami:
And I think that’s an excellent question, Mike, but I’d like to say you don’t pick a dealer, you pick people. You have to have people that you’re comfortable with. You can find the greatest people in the world in a mega dealer that’s got 50 locations across the country. 49 of them might be terrible, but you might find the one that is absolutely incredible, that’s got dedicated employees, that’s been there a long time. You can find a mom and pop dealer who will take care of you that you could never imagine. I mean, I’ve got dealers that they only sell one product line, and they’d be selling one product line for 50 years, and there’s no high pressure. It’s what matches up with the personality of the buyer. And I always said that I’ve been in sales for over 50 years. There’s a buyer for every sales rep, sales rep can find somebody to buy something that they’re selling, and there’s a product for everybody.

Bob Zagami:
So, it depends on how well you’re going to [inaudible 00:19:53] what you want, how much homework you’ve done, how receptive that sales person is. Are they just trying to sell you a unit? I would argue you shouldn’t even look at a unit for at least an hour when you go into a dealership because, unless you have that discovery presentation where the sales person can ask you the questions that might dictate the units that they show you, you don’t want to. I’ve seen it happen. People go on a lot and they give them the keys, they say, “Look it, all our units are open. Go ahead and look, and when you see something you like come and tell me.”.

Bob Zagami:
Well, if that’s a first time buyer, they don’t understand the destination camping, they don’t understand the class B, they don’t understand how an [inaudible 00:20:33] is made lesser materials than a large quality trailer. So, until you talk to the person and say, “Tell me, I got to know-” and I tell people this during the seminars, we have to know your budget. You have to be honest with them. If you can only spend 200 bucks a month, tell them that, and I’m not going to show you a 45 [inaudible 00:20:52], but we have to know how many kids, we have to know do like to cook at the campground, or are you going to eat at McDonald’s every night? You go through the same, almost the same kinds of questions as when somebody buys a house, and I always come back to that example because it is a big investment.

Bob Zagami:
You wouldn’t go to an open house for a half a million dollar condo if you could only afford a 250 thousand dollar one. So, the same thing there, but people don’t understand RVs. It’s new, it’s exciting. So, they get caught up in that excitement. So, you’ve got to sit with the sales person, and if the sales person is willing to do that, I tell people get up and walk out. If you’re not comfortable with the dealer, get up and walk out because right down the street, you’re going to find one that you love. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with that first dealer, it’s just an incompatibility between the buyer and the seller. And if you’re in that kind of a situation, as a buyer, you don’t spend your money.

Mike Wendland:
That’s great advice, Bob Zagami. As always, I so appreciate your insight and your wisdom, and I know our listeners to the RV podcast will too. Bob, thank you so much for being our guests today.

Bob Zagami:
Mike thanks very much, and by the way, a quick note, I want to congratulate you on your new ebook series. I downloaded, purchased you’re [inaudible 00:22:11] one, and the one for the Michigan upper peninsula, and you and Jennifer are doing an absolutely incredible job with those, and that this is not a paid commercial, but I’m looking forward to all the new ones. And I know you’ve put out one today on the Adirondacks, but congratulations, because you guys really hit a home run with those.

Mike Wendland:
Well, thank you, Bob. We’ll see you down the road, and we’ll see you I think at RV… well, we’ll see you at the Hershey RV show in September. So-

Bob Zagami:
We’ll see you at Hershey.

Mike Wendland:
Bye-bye.

For More info on Bob, check out these links:

www.facebook.com/rvinginnewengland  / Online weekly talk show and podcast

www.nervda.com  /  Executive Director, New England RV Dealers Association
 
www.rvinsights.com  /  Principal Consultant

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   

Patti and Tom Burkett

By Tom and Patti Burkett

We were sitting in our folding chairs on the front lawn, eating a lunch of egg salad sandwiches and grapes.  Once in a while a car would drive along the road in front of the cabin.  Tom, in his usual melodramatic way, would wave his arm and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Move along.”  And the car would pass on by.  This went on for a full half hour, although it was only two or three cars.  It was a beautiful spring day with birds in the trees, wildflowers blooming, and elk grazing in the meadow across the road.  And here we were, enjoying lunch all by ourselves on the front lawn of the Jarvis Palmer cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited park in the USA, host to eleven and a half million visitors last year.

Our campsite in the not too crowded campground nearby adjoined a fast-running creek, noisy with the spring runoff, and enjoyed enough af a breeze that the bugs stayed away.  Granted, it was a bit of a pull to get here.  The road from Interstate 40, just a dozen miles away, winds wickedly up and down along Cove Creek and through Cove Creek and Sal Patch Gaps.  Our class B didn’t have any trouble with it, but we were amazed that a full size tourist bus made the trip each evening to bring photographers out to shoot the elk that gathered in the meadows.

This is Cataloochie, one of the most remote areas of the National Park.  It’s a fertile valley settled by Europeans in the early 1800s.  A hundred years later there were two towns here, with schools and churches, stores and craftworks, and many homes.  The mountain forest had been totally cleared to make room for crops and pastures.  Now, a hundred years later still, the forest has reclaimed the settlements and the tilled land, leaving only a few historic buildings and the natural meadows that draw the area’s biggest attraction, an elk herd re-introduced to the park in 2001, after having been hunted to extinction when the settlers arrived.

Now they’re back, hopefully for good.  One evening as we stood watching them emerge from the woods into the meadow at dusk, we chatted with Jane, the campground host, who also kept an eye on the nightly crop of lookers and photographers.  “A few years ago,” she told us, one of the big bulls headed up over the mountain and wound up in downtown Cherokee.  The rangers darted him and brought him back over here.  Two weeks later he did the same thing.  They darted him again and brought him back.  A few weeks later comes the call from Cherokee that he’s in town again, this time with a harem of three females he’s brought with him.  So they decided to let him be, and now there’s a small herd over there, too.  The elk have done well here.”

The next morning we were back at the meadow just after dawn, mostly to look for birds along the tree lines.  Two trucks arrived and park workers began unloading tools and lumber.  The nearby Hiram Caldwell House, it seems, needed a new floor on the back porch, and they were here to take care of it.  We visited with Mike, one of the Park Service carpenters, as he laid down new boards.  I commented on his modern cordless tools and how different it must have been to work on this house when it was built.  “Yep,” he replied, “it must be a lot easier now than it was then.  But I’ll tell you what, when I get ready to cut these boards I still do it by hand.   Somehow the sound of a power saw just doesn’t seem quite right out here.”

As we walked along the road, spotting a variety of warblers passing through on their spring migration, we could hear the whoosh-whoosh of Mike’s saw slicing a clean edge on the new porch floor, and reckoned it was not so different than it might have been on a similar morning a century ago, out here in this long green valley, two ridges off the beaten path.

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