Home, Home on the Road

There may still be no place like home. But attendees to this year’s Progressive Insurance Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow will see a pretty good approximation, on wheels.

The huge show, currently running at the Exposition Center, celebrates life on the road – emphasis on “life.”

The house trailer, which became the camper, which became the RV, which became a home away from home, has now become, for some, a permanent home, a vacation home, or a weekend home – emphasis on “home.”

These huge conveyances, a familiar sight on the nation’s highways, are decked out in all the domestic conveniences – soft leather furniture, elegant wood cabinetry and designed trim, tile flooring, comfortable bathrooms with showers, full kitchens with glass tile backsplashes, high-end residential refrigerator/freezers and dishwashers, convection microwave ovens and two-burner stovetops, air conditioning systems modeled after residential systems, sleeping as many as six to eight, charge stations for cell phones and digital flat-screen TVs with satellite dish on the roof.

Boat and RV Show_CH05Northside RVs in Lexington, Kentucky’s largest dealership, has brought a number of models and sizes to the show. Its 2015 Class A Phaeton, manufactured by Tiffin Motorhomes of Red Bay, Alabama, is as close to the top of the line as these things get.

Spacious on the inside, at about 340 square feet with 12-foot ceilings, it makes maximally efficient use of that space with chairs that slide out to extend the seating capacity, couches that convert into beds and kitchen countertops that unfold into sinks and stovetops.

There are also four pushbutton “slideouts” that extend the width by 10 feet on either side when the RV is parked.

But this isn’t life in miniature. There’s a full queen-size bed in the rear bedroom, which also has a semi-circular glass shower stall and washer/dryer closet.

“This is a lifestyle vehicle now,” says Don Salyer, Northside’s sales manager. “People hit the road for weeks at a time, and live in these. There are campgrounds all over the country where you pull in, plug in and you’re good. These campgrounds have swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants and stores.”

And if the grounds are full, Salyer says people just pull into a nearby field or parking lot and fire up the auxiliary generator.

“Walmart encourages RV drivers to use its store parking lots,” says Salyer, “because they become captive customers.”

Boat and RV Show_CH02Demand for camp space is growing, especially during the holidays. Salyer says the Boonesboro campground, one of the nicest in the commonwealth, usually requires about a year-in-advance reservation for Halloween week.

And Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, says the RV sites in its Fort Wilderness Resort must be reserved a year in advance for peak seasons. In the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s Eve period, people park their RVs in the grounds for as long as a month at a time, at $160 a night. (Off-peak, the Disney rate is around $60.)

For that, they can access kayak rentals, fishing excursions, campfires and water taxis to the park.

During Easter, Salyer says, Northside rolls about 70 or 80 units into the spacious, well-appointed Kentucky Horse Park Campground for a special three-week sale. “The campground is filled with vehicles,” he says.

The Phaeton retails for a manufacturer’s suggested $370,330, but bank financing is available at somewhere between a mortgage and a conventional auto loan. Fifth Third Bank will loan up to $150,000 for up to 15 years. Its marine and RV rates, currently between 9.74 and 10.24 percent, are between 25 and 50 percent greater than its current auto loan rates.

The IRS says a mobile home qualifies for mortgage interest deduction if it is the owner’s primary or secondary residence.

Boat and RV Show_CH07Primary residence? Salyer says more and more people are using it that way. “It’s such a mobile lifestyle we lead now,” he says. “I have customers with family all around the country whom they want to see more than once or twice a year. And they can come and go as they please. They just fill up the tank and head out, no hotel reservations necessary.”

That tank takes about 150 gallons of diesel fuel and, says Salyer, gets 6-8 miles per gallon.

The heavy chassis and powerful suspension system make these vehicles smooth-riding and easy to drive. No special class of driver’s license is required.

A set of large rearview and sideview mirrors, plus a backup and sideview camera system, prevent almost all blindspots.

Boat and RV Show_CH08The gear shift is a pushbutton six-speed Allison transmission, the “mac daddy” of transmissions, says Salyer, and a hydraulic leveling system maintains equilibrium on the road and in the campground.

Also, the two padded, soft leather cockpit seats swivel around to become extra seating when the RV is parked.

This year’s RV and boat show runs from Wednesday, Jan. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 25, and Salyer says tire-kickers are more than welcome. But buyers will find real bargains on hand.

The $370,330 Phaeton will be priced at $284,999 on the show floor, a 23 percent discount.

Tickets to the show are available through www.louisvilleboatshow.com.  Adult tickets are $12, and senior citizens admission is $10. Children under 15 and active military (with military ID) are free.

Show hours are Wednesday, 5-9 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, noon-9p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. VT

For more information visit LouisvilleBoatRVShow.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; #LouBoatRVShow.