March 1, 2008

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You Can Take It With You

RV Excursions Bring the Comforts of Home to the Open Road

Jacob Moon

March 1, 2008

Imagine having a vacation home in Park City, Moab, Zion National Park, San Diego, Chicago, Florida, Mexico and New England. It may sound like a retirement dream come true, but for RV enthusiasts, anywhere the open road leads can become a getaway destination. Even the government recognizes the benefits of the recreational vehicle, offering tax breaks on interest paid for these 400 horsepower second homes. “How can a fiberglass box on wheels be compared to any second home?” you may be asking yourself. A quick tour of today’s RVs and travel trailers will show that the life of a wanderer is far from roughing it. Take the Scepter by Holiday Rambler for example, the highest-end motor coach sold at Ardell Brown RV in Salt Lake City. At $370,000, the upgraded details and craftsmanship of this 42-foot coach go beyond the standard amenities most luxury condos offer. A full-size, residential-grade fridge sits just behind the driver in a kitchen area that would rival the average new home. Granite countertops are positioned atop hardwood cabinets while the kitchenette floor is defined by ceramic tile. The living area of the Scepter boasts leather seating with an array of Ralph Lauren fabrics choices and a 32-inch flat screen television with surround sound. After a long day on the road, a king size bed welcomes travelers in the far rear of the vehicle. The motor coach also boasts a 450 horsepower diesel engine and heavy duty chassis says Rob Jensen, Ardell Brown RV sales manager. Additional tools, including a GPS system and rearview video and audio, assist the driver in navigating the behemoth across the country. As luxurious and inviting as high-end motor coaches can be, they account for a small percentage of the total sales at the dealership. Jensen says the new trend is “toy haulers” or travel trailers that double as a garage for ATVs, bikes or myriad other recreational toys. Gone are the days of trying to maneuver two trailers attached end to end. Today’s toy haulers offer from 9 feet to 16 feet of cargo space. Once the toys are unloaded, seating and bedding fold down from the sides and ceilings of the trailer. Weekend Warrior’s Full Throttle takes the toy hauler concept to the extreme, with dual slide outs to create plenty of space inside, standard 21-inch televisions and an indoor/outdoor speaker system. It’s clear that each new advancement in technology makes any RV seem more like a home away from home. A Wide World Close at Hand From the Uintah Range on the east to the lesser known Newfoundland Range in Utah’s west desert, the Beehive State offers RV enthusiasts plenty of room to roam. Among the more popular destinations in the state are Moab, Zion National Park and Mirror Lake Highway, says Dee Russell at Ardell Brown RV, but each has plenty of room for campers so that none ever seems too crowded. To beat the heat, Russell recommends a trip to the southern parts of the state in the spring or fall. Moab and Canyonlands National Park are among his favorites, especially when traveling with family. “There is plenty for the kids to do in those areas,” he says. “It is like an outdoor playground. The area is just so unique and has marvelous geologic structures that you can’t find anywhere.” With RVs and travel trailers now being adorned with the most modern of amenities, travelers say they can find peace and serenity on the open road. Some areas of the state are still relatively untouched, says Randy Niemann, a trailer owner and frequent local vacationer. Pulling his Airstream trailer, Niemann says he can find a small piece of paradise in various parts of the state, but is one of few who often goes to the west side of the Great Salt Lake, a desert landscape that is the epitome of getting away from it all. Box Elder County and the area around the Newfoundland Range (check your best state map; you’ll find it) is home to many unique sites, Niemann says, including several oases that many people have never seen. More commonly, travelers enjoy areas like Zion or the Uintah range, where roads and camp sites are more defined and developed. “Depending on the capabilities of your outfit and where you are willing to go, you can see some really amazing things, especially in Utah,” he says. Built to Last 75 Years on Highways and Byways Celebrating 75 years on the road, the Airstream trailer has become more than a brand. When Wally Byan constructed the first frame on his Model T chassis, not only was he building an industry, he was building a way of life. The Airstream has survived longer than any of its rivals and currently has more trailers on the road than any other RV brand, says Ardell Brown RV sales manager Rob Jensen. But the longevity of the company took more than a unique trailer design to carry it through three quarters of a century, Jensen says. Whereas the typical trailer takes 40 man hours to build, an Airstream goes through a much more hands-on, detail oriented approach. It can take up to 10 times as long to build one Airstream trailer. The higher quality craftsmanship and relatively limited supply comes with a uniquely Airstream cost; a 16-foot classic model sells for roughly $45,000. By comparison, a similarly sized travel trailer on the Ardell Brown lot would likely run around $15,000. “It’s an American icon,” says Randy Niemann, president of the Utah unit of the Wally Byan Caravan Club. “Particularly with the Airstream, they will last forever. You’ll go through a lot of trucks before your Airstream will ever wear out.”
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