Ten years ago, the average RV owner was months away from retirement, preparing to spend his golden years on the open road with a closet full of Hawaiian shirts. Not any more. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, today's RVer is closer to 49 years old, with a household income of $80,000. RVers are getting younger and richer, and they expect trailers and motorhomes to start catering to their lifestyle.
Case in point: Six years ago, Airstream found itself ahead of this curve when it hired San Francisco-based architect and designer Christopher C. Deam to reinvent the ovoid reflective-chrome shell's interior. The CCD line that resulted contained the kind of chic landscape of black walnut cabinetry, bright orange cupboards and lime-green fabrics more often found in a trendy boutique hotel than in a trailer.
According to Andy Thomson, dealer/principal at Can-Am RV Centre in London, Ontario, CCD sales were slow to take off in Canada. In 2004, his dealership moved only four units. Now, it's the top seller, accounting for close to 50% of his sales. He'll sell two dozen more, at close to $80,000 a pop, in 2007. Thomson agrees that some buyers want an alternative to million-dollar cottages, but Airstream owners, he says, are far from being Muskoka wannabes. "This generation's couples are typically both working and have less time to keep up maintenance on a cottage," he says. With the time they do have off, they like the freedom of going anywhere they want to.
Meanwhile, RV parks--once little more than glorified parking lots--are being transformed into RV resorts, with clubhouses, spas, pools and tennis courts. Hell, the guy parked in the motorhome next to you might be a Fortune 500 CEO or Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola, who owns a 28-footer. He'll have plenty of time to justify Godfather III as you grill some steaks under your awning.
It's an open secret among RVers that Wal-Mart allows motorhomes to park overnight for free. Why? Because they'll wake up and buy supplies at Wal-Mart, of course. The Wal-Mart Locator, currently in its seventh edition, offers detailed maps and directions to every Wal-Mart on the continent. $25 (U.S.); www. walmartlocator.com
The relaxing benefits of a paddle around the lake are undermined if you first spend an hour assembling your tricky skin-and-frame boat. The upshot of this inflatable kayak is that it puffs out to 17 feet in a speedy 15 minutes. It's not flimsy, either: High-pressure side tubes promise enough rigidity to handle whatever you're floating on--even whitewater--and its proper sea-kayak enclosed cockpit will keep an adult dry. Best of all, when you're done it folds down to a parcel the size of a backpack. Innova Seaker Inflatable kayak, $3,150, http://www.mec.ca -Denise Balkissoon