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One for the road: RV show displays camping comforts

Source: The Fayetteville Observer, North Carolina
Publish Date: Monday, March 3, 2008
Summary: Plenty of RVs to see at North Carolina RV Sales Event

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By Paul Woolverton

Mar. 3, 2008 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) --

Eastern North Carolina RV Sales Event

As a soldier with 21 years of service, Tim Slaughter knows all about rustic camping from his deployments to remote parts of the world.

But when he takes his wife and kids out for a few days in the campgrounds and state parks of North Carolina, he'd like something that offers more weather protection than a tent. And sleeping on the ground has become hard on his ailing back.

So the Slaughter family went to Cumberland County's third annual Eastern North Carolina RV Sales Event at the Crown Expo Center in Fayetteville on Sunday to shop for a camper.

Tim and Heather Slaughter saw a lot more than the basic camping trailer they were shopping for.

The event drew camper and recreational vehicle dealers from across North Carolina. They filled the Expo Center and its parking lot with dozens of recreational vehicles.

Some are as big as a city bus and cost $120,000 to $200,000. The pricier ones come with small but complete kitchens, solar panels to supplement the electricity, washers and dryers, faux fireplaces and king-size beds. Four or five flat-screen, high-definition TV sets -- with satellite TV -- are installed throughout each vehicle.

"I'm not sure this is camping anymore," Tim Slaughter said after salesman Phil Matthews of Hawley's Camping Center showed him and Heather around a luxurious Fleetwood RV. (NYSE:FLE) But it doesn't mean he didn't like it.

He said it's something he might buy later, after the children are grown and he saves some money from his new career as a military contractor after he retires from the Army.

Many RV buyers are retirees, said sales representative Susan Dwyer of Howard RV Center in Wilmington. "They're done working, and they're ready to have fun" and see the United States, she said.

Delores and Earl Bullock of Fairmont plan to do that. They bought a 26-foot camper trailer at the show from Allsport RV Center of Fayetteville.

The Forest River Surveyor camper they bought, with an asking price of about $20,000, wasn't nearly so fancy as the expensive RVs. But they expect it to serve well for their vacation and travel plans, which include trips with their grandchildren.

With the camper, Earl Bullock said, he and Delores won't have to constantly pack and unpack as they travel across the country. They can cook their own meals, or "if you don't want to eat a meal, you can grab something out of the fridge and sit in the campground and kick back," he said.

The fanciest and most expensive RV at the show this weekend was the Travel Supreme Select Limited. With an original sticker price of $677,000, this demo unit was marked down to $475,000. Shoppers could view it by appointment only.

Inside, Howard RV Center General Manager Bill Mirrielees demonstrated the living area's halogen lighting with the bulbs recessed in mirrored ceilings. The window shades can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button. Crown molding trims the walls. Meals can be prepared on granite countertops, fried on an electric stove or baked in an oven that works both as a convection oven and a microwave.

For safety, three outside cameras show the driver what's beside and directly behind the RV. And a special system connected to the cruise control monitors the traffic around the vehicle. If a car up ahead slows down or one next to the RV sudden cuts in front, the RV automatically reduces engine power and downshifts to slow down.

Meanwhile, the driver and shotgun passenger sit in soft leather seats that rival a recliner in style and comfort.

Matthews, the salesman for the competing Fleetwood line, said the RVs serve many people as a second home and some move into their RVs permanently.

"I've got a lot of full-time customers. This is their home," he said.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at woolvertonp@fayobserver.com or 486-3512.

Newstex ID: KRTB-0072-23473057

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