News from RVIA 2011

I know I said I’d blog from RVIA, the annual industry trade show, but things didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped. There was the predictable constant pouring rain of course, and the show was useful from a business perspective, but I was thrown off course by two surprises. First, I discovered that our favorite pizza place was closed for renovations “until 2012,” which threw off one of the things I really look forward to each year. Second, somebody zapped me with a virus.

The virus wasn’t completely unexpected. I count every year that I manage this trip without getting sick as a bonus, since the schedule requires me to fly on the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving weekend when the airports and airliners are packed with sneezing people. The air terminal was almost standing-room-only and the flight to Louisville was full. Also, it’s hard to get a full night of sleep when you are jumping two time zones and running around for 17 hours a day. Monday and Tuesday night, when I would normally try to blog the events of the day, I was collapsing into bed. Then it all caught up with me. I slept for ten hours and awoke Wednesday with a sore throat, just in time to head to the airport for Tampa. So no blog from Louisville.

Now I’m established at Brett’s place in Tampa, still dealing with the virus but basically functional. At this point RVIA seems a distant memory but I’ll share a bit of what I remember. The big news from Airstream was the trailer pictured above, which is a concept by Airstream and Chris C Deam in the International CCD series, called “Sterling.” Chris happened to be inside later in the day so I asked him about it and he told me that his primary goal was “authenticity,” which is reflected in the aluminum finish on the cabinetry. It’s real (thin) aluminum atop a substrate, not a fake laminate.

The couch is white ultraleather, and the floor is a a unique weave that has a distinct texture and resiliency. If the concept gets traction with the dealers at the show, it will go into production. The floorplan shown was the usual 25 Front Bedroom layout, a popular starting point.

At long last Airstream is introducing an approved bike rack. They haven’t had one since the 1970s. Various people have for years been spreading the misinformation that Airstreams cannot carry any weight on the rear bumper without risking frame separation. This may have been true at one time, especially in the dark days of the Beatrice era, but all modern Airstreams in good condition (no floor rot) have a certain loading capacity at the rear. Airstream hasn’t been active in discounting the myth because if they do they’ll run into the “idiot factor,” meaning someone who overloads the bumper and then wants warranty repairs on it.

But now they’ve got a bike rack that is truly factory approved up to 77 pounds, which is more than enough for two bicycles. Only Airstream will be able to sell it initially. It is aluminum, of course. The retail price wasn’t yet available, but I’d guess it will go for $200-300.

The rack requires permanently mounting four brackets to the bumper and body (drilling required). The rack will be easily removable, although the four mounting points will stay. Even with the rack installed, you’ll still have access to the bumper compartment and any rear body compartments on the trailer. We played with it a bit and it seems very sturdy. I may get one next year for evaluation purposes.

Zip-Dee was showing a prototype electric awning with a remote control. We may be seeing that on Airstreams starting next year. It should eliminate a lot of questions that newbies have about deploying the awning, and you can put the awning out exactly the distance you want. The remote is a key chain unit much like a car keyfob. Zip-Dee is even considering a 12v outlet on the awning for your LED lights.

There wasn’t a ton of exciting new tech out there, but I see that MVP (another RV manufacturer) was showing an electric Class C motorhome. It was strictly a prototype, with only a 100 mile range. They are aiming to expand that to 200 miles soon. No word on whether it will really go into production.

The guys from EFOY were back (read my blog from last year’s RVIA to get their story) with their electric fuel cell generators, but they still aren’t ready to expand in to the US yet. I’m going to stay in touch with them in the hopes that they’ll start delivering units and the ultra-pure methanol fuel required sometime in 2012.

Now our job is to follow up with a couple dozen people, and Brett and I will be doing that for the next few weeks. Between those calls and emails, I am working on the Spring 2012 magazine and putting the finishing touches on a new book that will be released soon: The Collected Adventures of Tin Hut (Volume I). It will come out in print and as an electronic book for Kindle and iPad, hopefully in time for Christmas. Just editing the final copy makes me smile and forget that I’ve got a virus, so I think a lot of people will enjoying reading or re-reading the fantastic adventures of my favorite Airstreaming couple. By the way, after five years of secrecy, the actual author of the Tin Hut series will finally be revealed in the book.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine