For most of January, my garage-less car roof has worn a 12-inch bonnet of encrusted ice and snow that simply refuses to thaw and fall off.
Preheating the vehicle on frigid days has wrought havoc with my fuel mileage, the carpet is stained with road-salt residue and the water bottle left in the cupholder is diamond-solid from the deep freeze. Slithering on slick roads has a lot of us rethinking those high auto-insurance deductibles as we eye the tire tracks veering into roadside ditches, or sometimes eye the unlucky ditchee himself, waiting for help in a belly-to-the-snow car with headlights facing the wrong direction.
When the mere thought of dry asphalt seems like a fairy tale, it’s none too soon for a motorist’s mental health break. You can sort through road maps, order some travel guides and cull that folder of “vacation ideas” torn from magazines, all with an eye on the calendar and frozen toes reaching out toward springtime.
Or for a more high-octane fix, you can do what I do: Head to Novi in February for the local RV industry’s winter show.
Even if, like me, you’ve never owned a rig and possibly never will, it’s revitalizing to spend a few hours spent pondering pop-ups, evaluating the relative merits of travel trailers and fifth-wheelers and inspecting novelty items like toy haulers (they’re travel trailers that sport a special cargo area for those who like to travel with dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles) and retro-look Airstreams. Model names like Denali, Cedar Creek and Sunseeker and their glossy marketing literature inspire thoughts of summertime exploration on back roads and lakeside trails.
The motor homes are intriguing, from the modest little units built on van platforms to the giant coaches that cost more than my small house — and probably have greater square footage. Technology and décor that aims to provide the comforts of home — from fireplaces to laundry equipment, from wine-glass racks to sliding sections that ease out to expand living space — are quite ingenious. It’s interesting to see how designers weave amenities and appliances into small spaces; TV screens abound — some even mount outside the rigs open-air viewing or to pass the time while using the barbecue grills built into a rig’s exterior.
The notion of a portable vacation house — one that doesn’t commit you to a single location the way a cottage does, and that can hit the road to chase better weather, seems to be appealing to more people these days.
Motor home sales for the first 11 months of 2013 were up a whopping 35 percent nationwide, noted Bill Sheffer, director of the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), which promotes RV expos around the state.
And overall RV sales, including travel trailers and other products, hit a six-year high in 2013, with wholesale shipments to dealers up nearly 10 percent.
Sheffer attributes the boost to a revitalized stock market and rising home values, which make people more comfortable with big-ticket purchases. And indeed, the market research firm IBISWorld is bullish on RVs, suggesting in a recent report that sales in the $15 billion industry will climb more than 3 percent a year over the coming five years — aided in part by the demographics of an aging, retirement-prone population.
There’s also the “life is too short” factor, which particularly resonates among the baby boomers who form the backbone of the RV market.
“Today’s consumer is saying ‘I don’t care,’ ” about operating costs and such, said Sheffer. “If they had a dream of traveling this way, seeing the country, they are determined to do it.”
And then there’s the “it’s too darn cold” factor — never has a portable cottage sounded better than on a zero-degree day amid a frosty Michigan winter.
If you go: MARVAC’s 48th Annual Detroit Camper and RV Show will take place Feb. 5-9 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. For hours, ticket prices and other information, visit www.marvac.org.
Melissa Preddy is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Reach her via email@example.com.