Fire up those charcoal briquets, because it’s almost Friday. Memorial Day weekend is around the corner, and it's the start of something a little brighter.
For RVers, car campers, and #vanlifers, it’s a great time to pull ol’ Bessie out of the carpark, check for critter damage and liquid propane leaks, clean batteries, run the water and sewer lines, appliances, prime the generator -- then take a nap, because wow, that was a lot.
From Alaska to Florida, the RV market in the United States is exploding. According to national trade group the RV Industry Association, the industry contributes an economic impact of $50 billion, including 290,000 jobs and a record-setting 504,600 RV units shipped in 2017.
Reasons for the uptick in RV users abound: Tax deductions, innovations in fuel efficiency and green tech, and lifestyle choices rank highly. Families, couples, and individuals can take more trips and do more of the activities that drive them, and they can do them closer to home (with 16,000 campgrounds nationally), for less money.
(Vic and Robin Stevens with Norman the RV and their RadMinis, Dash Point State Park, April 2019.)
RV owners, by no coincidence, are also Rad Power Bikes owners. Ebikes make the perfect passenger in any home on wheels. Where pedal bikes and motorcycles have historically been the go-to for when you get there, now, when you’re at a campground and want to venture out further than you feel comfortable doing on your own power, you can just unfold your RadMini and go -- getting the best of both worlds.
For full-time RVer Anthony Nalli -- executive producer, host, and self-proclaimed head bottle washer of the soon-to-debut PBS show “The RVers” -- the experience of taking the plunge into RVing full-time was so incredibly positive that he wanted to share it with the world.
... A lot like when he became a pilot and created the show “The Aviators,” (going into its eighth season on PBS), "Except that it’s a lot easier to walk into an RV dealership and drive out than it is to walk into an airplane facility and say, 'OK, I want that one. Training is expensive and time consuming. Aviation has been on the decline for decades because it's so prohibitive to get into," he said.
We chatted with the Toronto-based Nalli this week to find out about common barriers to entry in the RV world, his new show, and the dreaded black tanks.
“When I was a kid,” Nalli said, “there was a show on Saturday mornings called ‘Ark II.’” It was a single-season, post-apocalyptic kid’s show featuring scientists and a talking chimpanzee who tooled around in a mobile science lab – “the ark.”
“I really wanted one of those super cool mobile science labs and as I grew older thought, okay, well you're not gonna get the science lab part but there are these other things,” he said.
“It took me decades to take the plunge." The choices were too abundant. It was overwhelming. When he and his wife, Lisa, finally pulled the trigger, they went from having no RV to selling their house and living in one full-time in a matter of months. Their first was an Outlaw -- a Class A toy hauler they used to carry their motorcycles. Then they went all-in with a 42-foot fifth wheel and giant pick-up truck.
“It was massive – about as nimble as an 18-wheeler,” he said.
When they realized they weren't going to travel in it as much because of how much work it was to drive it, they turned it into a home base and bought a Hymer Aktiv camper van.
When it comes to knowing all there is to know about RVing, there’s a lot to know. You need to know how to fix things, how to stay connected, what to look for when you're buying an RV. So Nalli enlisted some help for "The Rvers.” His co-hosts are all full-timers too, and they all take turns covering topics that run the gammut. The response from the community so far has been absolutely overwhelming. "In a decade of doing 'The Aviators' I've never seen anything like it," he said.
Here are a few of the rules of the road, according to the people who know them best:
1. Learn what your chores are, do them, and move on.RV Geeks (142K subscriptions on YouTube) have been RVing full-time for 15 years. “They were the first people I reached out to because they were the first video I ever watched," Nalli said. "I didn’t know if the whole black tank thing was going to be such a horrible process that it would be a showstopper, so I went on Google and found a video. Once I watched it, I realized it wasn't the end of the world, and I was hooked. They'll show you anything you want to see.”
2. Ebikes FTW.“We just love our RadMinis," Nalli said. "Not only are they cool because they're electric, but Rad is such an appropriate name for them because they are just badass. People just have to look at them when they go by. My RadMini does everything the pedal bike does and a little bit of what the Harley does, and the Harley’s not too happy about that. You can't just throw a Harley in the back and go. There's so much convenience with RadMini -- you fold it, unfold it, and you’re off.
3. Staying connected is a constant challenge.“You're always keeping up with various cellular plans in various technologies to keep yourself connected," Nalli said. “RVers” co-hosts Technomadia (62K subs on YouTube) are the experts for running business remotely.
4. There will be gadgets.Beyond figuring what class of vehicle is best for your needs, you’ll have questions about racks, appliances, and the like. “We’re still hunting for the right rack. A must-have? YES! But which one? Still working on it! I just wish I could find a place to put a 90-inch TV!” he said. Also featured on the show (starting in season 2) are rig-review specialists Big Truck Big RV (171K subs on YouTube).
5. Share the love, document, and spread the word“Mortons on the Move (35K subs on YouTube) are a young, adventurous couple that have this amazing ability to capture the story and pass down knowledge in a way that's just gorgeous,” Nalli said.
6. Have a bucket list.Anthony and Lisa are going to the Maritime Provinces this summer. "We did the Grand Canyon for our 30th anniversary, the Florida Keys are on the list ...” Every day is a new adventure. This winter, the Nallis had the time of their lives when they put 12,000 miles on the camper van in 6 weeks.
Check your local listings to find out when "The RVers” debuts on PBS this fall. And then find a way to watch it from the road.