I started off my day by getting up and having breakfast and gathering up my stuff that I was going to take with me to the show. Full of anticipation I gave Colleen a kiss and patted Roxy on the head and made my way outside. The first thing that I saw that greeted me was that my windshield was frosted over and I didn’t have an ice scraper. I put my stuff in the car, started the engine and kicked in the defroster and went back inside to check eMail and grab a second cup of coffee.
Not too much later I was able to depart the campground and started making my way to the show. The Expo Center according to my GPS was only about 6 miles away and the commute wasn’t too bad. Over the JFK and south on I65 there’s a dedicated exit for the center and once I exited the highway the surroundings started getting familiar. The road that leads into the center approached a number of ticket booths that are framed by overhead information displays. This is where the traffic got backed up a little but I was soon able to find a spot and get parked.
For this show the registration center was located in the south wing of the complex. As usual the lines moved pretty quickly and I was able to get my ID holder which I clipped on my shirt and began making way up toward the Press Room. I was greeted by the receptionist, signed in at the desk and was shown where my press materials were located. There must have been a 2 inch high stack of brochures and information that was placed in my iRV2 box for me to go through. I put up my jacket and shouldered my bag and off I went.
The floor space at the show was much less than I remember quite possibly half of what it previously was. The first thing that I wanted to do was scan through all the supplier booths. There were at least a couple of hundred of these I expect perhaps a bit more and I stopped off and spoke with a few of the suppliers and had brief discussions. I stopped off at the Manchester tank display and spoke with Bob Mangus. I have a little issue with my tank display and he took the time to explain to me how the gauge on the side of the tank works. He told me that it was basically just a magnet that was in the gauge that was influenced by the steel on the gauge mechanism in the tank. Bob went on to show me how I could pop off the gauge with a small screw driver and check the gauge using a bolt. By rotating the bolt on the magnets on the back side if the sight gauges this cases the needle inside the case to move. The 2 wires were part of a variable resistor which provides the input the remote panel.
As I made my way further into the show I caught view of the Blue Ox display and took the time to stop and say hello to Jay Hesse the president of the company. He had a computer set up in the display booth and I took the opportunity to show him how iRV2 has progressed over the past year. There were a good number of folks logged in yesterday as I took him through the stats on the bottom of the screen. Of even greater interest I expect was the overall picture of how iRV2 is integrated into the Social Knowledge Network and we even stopped by and scanned through the Airstream Forum. I expect that Jay was pretty impressed with how big iRV2 has grown since he had been following our progress for a number of years in the past.
I had an opportunity to visit Jane Handy at the Fan-tastic Vent display. In the past we have been able to get door prizes from her and I wanted to stop by and thank her for her support of our rallies. Jane told me that she remembers the article that I wrote about the new automatic vent product the 6600R vent upgrade kit. I use my vent fan all the time and having it thermostatically controlled is a nice new feature which I thought was a major upgrade from manually cranking the cover up and selecting a fan speed.
I also stopped by for a moment to speak with the Surge Guard reps, Don Shapansky at Sea level gauges, KOA and a few other service providers and suppliers. I could have actually spent all day visiting these display setups. One thing that this show makes you aware of and that is, it’s takes so many individual suppliers from some of the largest like Dometic all the way down to folks that make small sub assemblies like light sockets, switches, and wiring. Floor coverings, wall panels, ceiling materials, furniture, and fabrics which any one could assume comes from the coach builder are also supplied to the industry. The list goes on and on and it is not at all that difficult to see that when you loose a Country Coach or a National RV or any other of the large RV producers that were viable in the past how that negatively impacts hundreds of people if not thousands of people in the RV Industry.
Having finished up for the moment with visiting suppliers I made my way into the main hall in the north wing and began visiting the coach builders. Thor Industries has the largest amount of floor space at the show and I started there. I wanted to find out how if any the products from last year changed that I had reported on in 2008 but first a stop off at one of the very first name brand recognized RVs, Airstream. I expect that Wally would continue to be impressed with the company. Remaining resplendent in their unfinished meal hulls, Airstream is alive and well. I had the opportunity to meet the new VP of Marketing for Airstream, Susan Dooley, and we sat for a while and spoke about iRV2 and our neighbor website and her favorite I expect the Airstream Forum. For 2010, Airstream has brought new products to market which feature new family budget conscious coaches like the Sport all the way up to the upscale rigs like the International. New for 2010 is a Victorinox Model that features quite a few signature Swiss Army products which add an ambiance and color palette ranging from the familiar reds to grays. In all approximately $2,000 worth of these products are supplied with the coach ranging from blankets, wall clocks, cutlery, fashions and travel gear.
Moving along over to Four Winds I took the opportunity to visit the Serrano display. For 2010 are 2 floorplans the 31V and the new 31Z. Lightweight in concept and well appointed with amenities the Serrano motorhomes are built on the Workhorse W20D chassis and feature the MaxxForce7 engine and Allison 100MH transmission. I was curious about how much of a doghouse the MF7 pushed up into the cab space and remarkably it wasn’t that bad at all. The cockpit is well appointed and features a walnut finish on the center console and the switch panels. These motorhomes were all finished in upscale leather. The galley has a 2 burner top top inlaid into a Corian type counter. A deep circular stainless steel sink is provided. Going back into the coach, the bed sits up high a pedestal and a flat panel TV is featured. A brief interview with John Crider he told me that the Serrano is a big crowd favorite and is doing very well for the company.
Next up I wanted to see how the Damon Avanti was doing and I was not disappointed with what they accomplished with the coach. A new floorplan for 2010 is now based on the Freightliner MC-L front engine diesel chassis. Going forward, the MaxxForce 5 Workhorse W16D chassis was dropped due to engine emission requirements which are not expected to be satisfied by the new 2010 and beyond standards. The coach was very well appointed with contoured cabinetry and new for 2010 is new floor mounted queen sized bed. The bed is tucked away on the street side wall and offers ample access to a spacious bathroom located on the curbside wall. This is a departure from last’s years model that featured the raised bed platform and it brings a new opportunity for customers that want a more conventional floorplan. The cockpit is well laid out and features a Freightliner stamped center on the steering wheel. Constructed in the same manner as the SmartWheel those features in the Avanti are absent.
During the day I also briefly visited Winnebago Industries, Tiffin, Spartan and Workhorse and I will write more about those visits later.