NIRVC’s Sizzling Summer Service Specials

If you’ve been waiting to service your RV, now is the time to do it!

For a strictly limited time, NIRVC is thrilled to present our Sizzling Summer Service Specials. Don’t miss out on these fantastic deals, offering discounts of up to 20% off parts and labor. Get your RV ready for a summer of adventure and fun. But remember, these service specials are only available until July 31, 2024, so act swiftly!

At NIRVC, our RV technicians boast an average of over a decade of experience in RV service work. These seasoned professionals have dedicated their careers to this field, treating each RV they service as if it were their own. With our Sizzling Summer Service Specials, you can rest assured that your RV will receive top-notch service, delivered promptly and at a competitive price!

Sizzling Summer Service Specials

Preventative Maintenance
Roof Inspection & Sealing 20%
Annual House Inspection/Multipoint Inspection 20%
Annual House Service 15%
Chassis Service Maintenance
Chassis Service Packages & LOF Services 10%
Safety Products
Proteng Packages 20%
Basic RV Services
Battery Services 10%
Generator Services 15%
Rooftop AC Services 20%
Slide Services 20%
Hydronic Heating Services 15%
Water Heater & Sanitation Services 15%
All Tow Bars and Base Plate Packages 10%
Paint & Body
Retail Paint and Body Services 10%
Exterior/Interior Care Services
Exterior/Interior Wash & Detail Services 10%
Ceramic Coat – Gold and Platinum Protect 15%
Ceramic Coat Silver Protect 10%

Sizzling Summer Service Specials may not be combined with any other promotions or discounts.

For personalized service tailored to your RV’s needs and specific information about our discounts, contact an NIRVC Service advisor for a custom quote. We’re here to assist you, whether you prefer to call us at 1-800-250-6354, log into your service portal at nirvc.com, or visit any of our 6 locations. Please visit our RV Services page for a complete list of our services and current pricing.

Atlanta | Dallas | Las Vegas | Nashville | Phoenix | Washington, D.C.

RV Our Way Event At Camp Margaritaville

Meet RV Our Way

Carl and Kay Kunkleman of RV Our Way have been RVers since 2011.  They sold their Dutch Star in 2021 and purchased a B-class (van).  In 2 ½ years, they have spent over 400 nights traveling to the more eclectic, remote attractions that B-class life allows. When not traveling, they live on South Padre Island, Texas.  

About 18 months ago, they held their first B-class rally. Since then, they have had six big Rallies, twenty-plus Socials (mini rallies), and six Ladies Breakfast Clubs. They have built a YouTube channel with 79 videos and 50,000+ views of quick fixes, hacks, and modifications specifically for B Van owners.

RV Our Way

Meet Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach sets itself apart from other RV destinations, providing a laid-back outdoor experience with all the comforts and conveniences of a luxurious resort. Located on the sunny, picturesque shoreline of the Bolivar Peninsula, this dynamic destination was reimagined from the ground up to offer campers, nomads and endless-road’ers an unparalleled, all-in-one beachside haven and entertainment hub. When you’re living on island time, there’s no pressure to do anything but unwind, let go, and feel the waves.   

RV Our Way – To Adventure (the event)

September 19-22. 2024 at Camp Margaritaville RV Resort in Crystal Beach

RV Our Way and Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach are co-hosting an event called RV Our Way—To Adventure, which will be held September 19-22. If you are an avid B Van enthusiast or are considering the B Van life, you will want to check out this exciting three-day weekend event filled with fun, education, camaraderie, social gatherings, entertainment, and laughter with fellow RVers at the amazing Camp Margaritaville RV Resort in Crystal Beach, Texas.

NIRVC is hosting a dinner, and AIM, Techno RV, and THIA by Proteng will exhibit at the event. Engaging speakers, informative workshops, and the latest RV B-class models and accessories will inspire you.  Grech RV and Midwest Automotive Designs are joining the event to answer questions and provide support.

Join the escape on wheels at RV Our Way – To Adventure and let Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach put you in the Margaritaville state-of-mind instantly with laid-back luxury under the sun.  Join fellow travelers and blend relaxation and community during this exclusive weekend that is $100 for the event and $80 per night for a beautiful RV site at Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach RV (an exclusive rate for attendees – code will be given after event registration).

AIM All Inclusive Motorhome Club

Grech RV  will have representatives at the event. They will be offering service support and you will be able to register for service once you have completed your registration for the event. If you are looking for a new B Van NIRVC is proud to carry Grech RVs and you can view our full inventory by clicking the link.

Grech RV

Register now for this incredible opportunity to connect with the RV community and create lasting memories. Mark your calendars and get ready for an unforgettable experience.

RV Our Way To Adventure

Lubricants for Your Motorhome

Proper maintenance is critical to keep your motorized RV in working order and prevent breakdowns. Engine oil changes are the most common service procedure but a motorhome is equipped with numerous other components, such as axles, transmissions, wheel bearings and other components that all require periodic service. Many of these components require specific lubricants so it’s important to select the proper lubricant for each specific component according to the chassis manufacturer’s specifications.

 

Lubricants are designated with a series of API or MIL category numbers that identify their suitability for various applications. Choosing the proper lubricant consists of reading the owner’s manual for your specific coach to determine which API service level you need to meet, then matching the lubricant’s viscosity and rating to your operating environment.

Ratings

There are two types of ratings that apply to any lubricant – viscosity and quality. Viscosity is another term for thickness. Viscosity also determines the flow rate or ability of the oil to flow in low temperatures. Every engine is designed to utilize a specific viscosity oil for any given set of operating conditions. For this reason oils are rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) according to a standardized numerical rating. When selecting any engine oil you should always consult your owner’s manual to determine the viscosity that should be used for your specific operating environment.

 

The quality of the oil is determined by the chemical makeup of the oil and it’s imbedded additive package. Base oils account for about 85-90% of the total formulation. The remainder consists of additives that provide full protection and include antioxidants, viscosity modifiers, dispersants, detergents, anti-wear agents, rust and corrosion inhibitors, anti-foam agents and a host of other additives. The American Petroleum Institute has established the API rating system to identify the quality of each particular oil and both the API and SAE ratings will be marked on every container. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for the minimum API rating specified for your engine. You can always exceed the API ratings and use a better grade oil but never drop below the minimum API rating specified for your particular application.

Viscosity

The SAE ratings of a lubricant identify its viscosity. The larger the number, the heavier the oil. For example, an SAE 40 oil will be heavier than an SAE 30 oil while an SAE 10 weight oil will be significantly lighter. The viscosity determines the ability of the oil to flow at a given temperature. As oil heats up it thins out, flows faster, and doesn’t provide the same level of lubrication as a thicker oil. If the oil is too thick it won’t flow fast enough to provide lubrication for the critical components that it is supposed to protect. SAE ratings reflect the ability of the oil to flow at 210 degrees Fahrenheit and can be useful for determining how that oil will perform in summer use but it doesn’t take into account the low temperature performance of the oil, which reflects winter use. A second test is taken at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to rate an oil designed for winter use and these ratings are given the “W” rating. For example, a 10W oil is thinner than a 20W oil but both are designed for winter use, although the thinner 10W oil will flow better in colder temperatures.

 

The majority of the wear and tear on any engine occurs during startup when the engine is turning over and firing but everything is cold and the pistons haven’t yet expanded to their operating tolerances. The oil begins to flow but by the time it gets pumped to all of the critical areas the engine has been running for a few seconds and it’s during those few seconds that most of the wear occurs. Using a lighter weight oil helps in that regard because the oil pressure comes up faster than a thicker oil. However, once the engine is working under a heavy load this oil becomes too thin and doesn’t provide adequate lubrication. This gives the choice of living with a heavy oil and live with the startup wear or use a lighter oil and pay the penalty when the engine is really working hard. Fortunately, multi-viscosity oils are available that eliminate that problem.

 

Multi-viscosity oils are designed to correct those shortcomings of single viscosity oils. A multi-viscosity oil has two ratings. For example, a 10W-30 oil will have the cold temperature performance of a 10W winter oil, yet retains the high temperature performance of an SAE 30 summer oil once the engine reaches its operating temperature. This gives you the best of both worlds and does a better job of protecting your engine at both startup and when under load.

Engine Oil API Ratings

The owner’s manual for your engine will detail the minimum API rating oil that should be used.

Diesel engines will have an API service classification such as CJ-4. The “C” means commercial so the API rating for every oil designed for use in heavy duty diesel engines will begin with a “C”. The following letter, which in this example is “J”, designates the latest specification. Whenever a new specification comes out the letter will increase. For example, an API CJ-4 spec will be a better quality oil than an API CI-4 and can be used wherever an API CI-4 oil is specified. You can always use a higher letter than what your engine’s specs require because your engine’s specification is a minimum requirement and it never hurts to go with a better oil. The “4” at the end merely designates that the oil is designed for a 4 stroke engine.

 

Gasoline engines have different requirements than diesels when it comes to lubricating oils. Their API service classifications begin with an “S”, followed by a second letter. The “S” stands for “Spark Ignition” while the second letter designates the service classification. Just as in oils designed for diesel engines, each letter that is higher designates a better oil so an API service classification of “SM” is better than an API service classification of “SJ”. Again, you can always exceed the required minimum service classification for your engine but never go below that specification.

 

Motorhomes using the EPA-2007 spec engines generally began showing up in the 2008 model year. The new emissions requirements required use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel due to the Diesel Particulate Filters that were added to the emissions controls, which were susceptible to fouling by any contaminants, such as sulfur. This required ULSD fuel with less than 500 PPM of sulfur. Motor oil contained levels of zinc as an anti-wear additive but unfortunately the DPF was also fouled by levels of zinc that would be present in the exhaust so a new motor oil was designed for use with these engines. This oil was the API CJ-4 specification and the zinc was removed from the oil and replaced with other anti-wear compounds that would not leave any ash content in the DPF.

Shell's Rotella Synthetic Oil

A Case for Synthetic

Conventional motor oil is pumped from the ground, basically from dead dinosaurs, and contains impurities, such as sulfur, wax and asphalt. Because conventional oil is “found”, rather than “created”, there is a fair amount of inconsistency within the size of its molecules. Synthetic oil is chemically created in controlled laboratory conditions which eliminates any impurities and also provides for molecules that are consistent in size and shape. Because synthetic oil is created from scratch it can be fine-tuned to have just about any properties that the chemist chooses to incorporate into it. Synthetics have the ability to pour at much lower temperatures than conventional oil, which greatly improves cold weather performance without diminishing the high end performance. It’s common to find a high-end synthetic oil of 5W-40 that can replace a non-synthetic 15W-40 oil for better initial startup and cold weather protection.

 

All oil will eventually boil once it gets hot enough and will vaporize and harden as carbon deposits once it hits hot spots within the engine, such as the area immediately above the top piston ring where this carbon buildup accelerates wear on the cylinder wall. Another area is the turbocharger oil galleries where oil cokes up and plugs the critical galleries that supply oil to prevent failure of the turbocharger bearings. If this continues the flow will be restricted and you will experience premature turbocharger failure. Conventional oil tends to break down at about 250 degrees but synthetics are good to 290 degrees which minimizes the chance of coking and increases the life expectancy of your turbocharger.

 

Synthetic oil manufacturers claim that you can extend your service intervals when compared to conventional oil but not every engine manufacturer allows this so you may not be able to do that without voiding your engine’s warranty. Most motorhome owners change their oil based on time rather than mileage because they don’t get driven as often so the idea of saving money by extending service intervals may or may not apply due to the increased cost of synthetic oil. However, synthetic oil will give your engine better protection. Cold starts and operation in cold weather will be easier with synthetics due to the lower pour point of the oil. The increased boiling point of a synthetic oil will also ensure that you have an edge on protection during those few times your engine is really working hard as well.

RV Engine

Automatic Transmission Fluids

Engine oil is designed to lubricate bearing surfaces that are under compression and have detergent and additive packages to help clean the engine and trap combustion deposits. Automatic transmission fluid is designed to lubricate fast turning shafts, clutch packs, to transfer power through a complex system of servos, pumps and fluid couplings and is the primary method of cooling the transmission so the lubricants that are used in them are also quite different. SAE viscosity and API ratings also do not apply so a different rating system is used.

 

If you have smaller class B or C motorhome chances are you may have a Ford or Chevy transmission in it. These transmissions utilize the Dexron or Mercon variants of automatic transmission fluid that are available at auto parts shelves almost anywhere. Coaches built on the Mercedes sprinter series of chassis most likely use the MB 236.x series of transmission fluids, such as Shell’s 134 MB236.14. Allison’s TranSynd is also rated as meeting the MB 236.91 specification.

 

Most class A coaches with diesel engines are equipped with the popular Allison automatic transmissions. Sometime during the 2004 model year, both Freightliner and Spartan began shipping their chassis pre-filled with Allison’s synthetic TranSynd fluid, which met the TES 295 specification. This replaced the Dexron non-synthetic fluid used in earlier years and greatly improved performance and extended service intervals. Recent improvements in fluid technology evolved into Allison’s TES 668 specification.

Allison’s TranSynd synthetic transmission fluid

One big question with Allison owners is whether they need to find Allison’s TranSynd synthetic transmission fluid or if another brand will suffice. Allison has done extensive testing with other synthetic fluids and has published a TES 668ä specification listing to identify which brands are compatible with Allison transmissions. Any ATF that is approved by Allison will qualify for the extended service intervals identified in any Allison service schedules. A complete listing of approved lubricants can be found at https://www.allisontransmission.com/parts-service/approved-fluids/on-highway-fluids .

Bottle of Valvoline 80w-90 gear oil
Bottle of Royal Purple Synthetic Oil

Gear Lubes

Gear lubricants are used to lubricate high load areas that receive friction during motion, such as rear axles and wheel bearings. Gear lube is heavier than motor oil and ranges between SAE 75 and SAE 140 in viscosity. It does not have to deal with the combustion requirements of an engine so its main concern is being able to do its job under high operating temperatures and loads.

 

Gear lube applications generally fall into one of two categories – standard duty or extreme duty. The majority of situations require your basic 80W-90 gear lube and is used to lubricate wheel bearings, gear cases, and rear axle ring and pinion gear sets.

 

Sometimes the load is greater or the conditions are more extreme so the manufacturer has determined that greater protection is required. In that case a heavier gear lube, such as SAE 140 will be specified. Actually, this is the perfect place for a synthetic gear lube. Many synthetic gear lubes come with an SAE 75W-140 viscosity rating. This multi-viscosity gear lube flows well in low temps with its 75W rating, yet has the rating of an SAE 140 gear lube when things get hot. A synthetic 75W-140 gear lube is the ultimate protection for any axle or gearbox, such as a cooling fan jackshaft. Synthetics are also less prone to foaming than conventional gear lubes, which allows for more efficient lubrication. The following chart illustrates typical low temperature (pour point) and high temperature (flash point) properties of these gear lubes.

 

Viscosity

Rating

Pour Point

Degrees (F)

Flash Point

Degrees (F)

80W-90 Conventional

-17

208

75W-90 Synthetic

-60

347

75W-140 Synthetic

-60

390

 

As the above chart indicates, synthetic lubricants flow much better in colder temperatures and also hold up better at high temperatures.

Bottle of Mag1 Power Fluid

Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil is commonly used in diesel pushers to operate power steering units and any hydraulic fan motors that are commonly found on motorhome’s equipped with a side radiator. This motor, as well as the power steering system, is driven via a hydraulic pump that is mounted on the engine and fed by a hydraulic fluid reservoir. Hydraulic oil needs to be clean and non-foaming to provide adequate protection to the components in the hydraulic system and also to transfer power from the pump to the motor.

 

Hydraulic fluid is generally used in either AW32 or AW46 formulas. The AW stands for “anti-wear” and is used to identify hydraulic fluids. The 32 or 46 represents the weight of the fluid with higher numbers indicating a heavier fluid with AW46 being the most frequently used in a motorhome application. Keeping this fluid cool and free from moisture or dirt is critical so filter changes and fluid changes are all part of a routine service schedule.

Side by side of Shell's Gadus moly grease and Lucas Oil's Red n' Tacky.

Chassis Grease

You might think that grease is grease but there’s actually quite a bit of difference between the various formulations and their applications. Not every component has the same lubrication requirements so the ideal grease won’t be the same in every situation either. Matching the correct grease to the application will increase the longevity of those components.

 

Classification of grease is much easier than motor oils. Whereas motor oil is rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers SAE numbers, the viscosity of grease is referred to by its rating by the National Lubricating Grease Institute, or NLGI. The most popular chassis grease is an NLGI 2, which is commonly found at any auto parts store. A grease with an NLGI 1 rating is a thinner grease that will melt and flow at a lower temperature and is probably the stuff you’d want in your equipment if working the Alaska pipeline but NLGI 2 works for 90% of automotive applications. Conversely, NLGI 3 is a stiff grease and would be used in extreme conditions where extreme heat is encountered and has no real application in the RV industry.

 

Grease is a mixture of three components – lubricating fluid, performance enhancing additives and thickener. The lubricating fluid can be petroleum based oil, vegetable oil or any synthetic lubricating fluid and makes up the majority of the grease formulation while the additives make up a relatively small portion. The thickener is what separates grease from oil or other liquid lubricants and makes the product semi-solid rather than liquid.

 

Plain lithium grease works well for wheel bearings but is marginal for driveshaft universal joints and front end components because universal joints and front end parts have different needs than wheel bearings. These components don’t use rotating rollers within bearing races but rely on a thin layer of grease to separate two metal surfaces so that they don’t gall and bind. If enough force is applied to these two surfaces the grease can compress and slide away from between them, allowing metal to metal contact and increased wear. Additionally, when surfaces pull apart from each other the grease film can fall away rather than stick to the surfaces. Fortunately there are more advanced greases that improve upon the basic lithium grease. They are still lithium greases but they’ve been enhanced with additives to improve the characteristics of the grease. Naturally, they cost a bit more than your entry level lithium grease but are well worth it.

 

One of these characteristics is to improve the tackiness of the grease. If you place a small wad of lithium grease between your thumb and index finger and squeeze, much of the grease will ooze out but a small layer will remain. But when you pull your two fingers apart you’ll see that the grease breaks free and sort of leaves a slight film on your fingertips. Each time you squeeze and release you’ll lose more of the lubricant and eventually there won’t be any left. Better quality greases are available to improve on the tackiness of a basic lithium grease. If you were to place some of this between your fingers and do the same test, you’d find that the grease would tend to stick to your fingertips and it would be harder to pull them apart. When you did pull them apart, if you looked carefully, you’d notice that the grease would stretch like strings between your fingertips. One popular grease with this characteristic is Lucas Oil’s Red-n-Tacky grease. This “tacky” version of the grease will do a better job by staying in place better than a less expensive lithium grease.

 

When two surfaces are being forced together, which is typical of a ball joint or tie rod end, the grease tends to squish out from between the two surfaces. If you could keep these two surfaces from impacting each other the grease film would remain in place and your components would last longer with less wear. For this you need to go to a Moly grease, which is a grease that typically has 5% Moly content added to it. Molybdenum is technically a metal but moly particles have unique properties and are actually lubricants and won’t scratch or damage metal surfaces. When Moly is added to grease, it comes in the form of small round particles that act as miniature ball bearings. Moly’s unique characteristic is that it will not scratch the metal, yet it is very hard and it won’t crush or be destroyed when put under pressure. The Moly particles are carried in the grease and they prevent metal to metal contact and allow the grease to filter in and around the small moly particles to cool and lubricate the components. Moly grease typically has a black color to it and is messy to clean up but is an excellent grease for front end work and universal joints. The one application where Moly grease is not recommended is for wheel bearings. The Moly particles tend to force the rollers away from the races, which tightens the bearing clearance and increases heat. For wheel bearings it’s best to go with a more fibrous general purpose or tacky grease that has no Moly in it. Grease that is designed for use in wheel bearings will generally meet the NLGI GC-LB or SAE J310 specifications.

 

There are super greases available. Synthetic grease is available by many lubricant suppliers. Synthetics offer a greater temperature range than conventional greases and are great for extreme conditions but the vast majority of RV owners won’t realize the benefits of them because they don’t encounter those extremes. My personal favorite is a lithium based grease with a tacky property that also contains Moly, such as Schaeffer Oil #221 Moly Ultra, Shell’s Gadus S3 V460 D2, Mobil Centaur Moly or Valvoline Palladiumâ grease. These greases have excellent tackiness as well as Moly particles and resist water penetration, hold up well to heat, stay in place and resist shock loads. I’ve been running this type of grease for a long time in numerous vehicles and my universal joint and front end component longevity is remarkable. Note that many greases are available with improved load carrying capacity, even non-Moly greases. These greases will carry the EP label, which stands for Extreme Pressure.

Check the Manual

A proper maintenance cycle for your coach revolves around matching every component with the correct lubricant that will deliver the best lubrication. Your owner’s manual will detail the minimum specifications required but keep in mind that exceeding those specs with a higher quality lubricant will generally yield greater longevity. Always follow the recommended service schedule for that vehicle and change filters regularly. Taking proper care of your coach will save you money in the long run and deliver trouble-free service.

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Mark Quasius profile picture

Has the RV Industry Hit Rock Bottom, Or Will it Get Worse?

In our current video series, “Brett Talk,” NIRVC President and CEO Brett Davis shares facts, figures, and insights on the current state of the motorhome market, and what the next two years may look like.

Brett will walk you through a thoughtful and detailed analysis of how the economy has impacted the motorhome market and the opportunities it has created for people who are considering purchasing a new motorhome. Coming off the historic boom in motorhome sales the pandemic created, Brett will also share insights on how far the motorhome market will fall and when the bottom may occur. 

The objective of every Brett Talk is to inform and educate the audience, and this video will not disappoint. We hope you enjoy learning about the current state of the motorhome market as seen through the eyes of a veteran investor and fund manager.

Greetings National Indoor RV Centers family of customers and friends.

I know many of you were expecting my next video to be part two of my musings on why the motorhome market has been in decline for the past 40 years. However, coming off of three rallies and three shows, all back-to-back, overwhelming, the two questions I was repeatedly asked were:

  1. What does the motorhome market look like today post-COVID?
  2. When will be a good time to buy a motorhome?

I promise I’ll finish the two videos on why motorhome sales have been declining for four decades, and what needs to happen to correct the trend. However, at the moment, what seems to be of the most interest to motorhome owners is the current state of the market. So, I’m calling an audible and will share my thoughts on the current state of the motorhome market, and what the next year or two may look like.

If you’ve watched any of my prior videos, it should be abundantly clear videos are not my expertise. I am very uncomfortable during their filming, and reluctant to make them. Videos are not second nature to me like they are for Angie. And, as I have said before, we are masters of what we silence and slave to what we say. Hence, if you are watching this video, just know I am in my stress zone!

If you like data, and if numbers speak to you, then this video should be right up your alley. Otherwise, it will just be another antidote for your insomnia.

Speaking of uncomfortable, I have never been comfortable with making predictions or projections! Yet, in business, we must make them both. They are simply necessary evils. And, now is probably a good time to discuss the difference between a prediction and a projection. 

A prediction is to prophesy or foretell what is likely to happen in the future, whereas a projection is the exercise of calculating a numerical value associated with a future event. I think of predictions as changes in direction, like market tops or bottoms, whereas I view projections to be more like a pro forma or a budget. To make the distinction between a prediction and a projection more clear, let’s look at a couple of examples of predictions. 

Some predictions are clear and much easier to make, like this directional prediction from a video we published on 4/24/2020 just as our nation was shutting down due to the Pandemic. 

In another video we published on 6/30/21 I shared some of the data I was relying on in April of 2020 when I felt the RV industry was going to see a boom. 

Here is an interesting statistic to close the loop on TSA security checks. On 4/23/23 TSA security checks were 2,570,184, or 48,787 more passengers than the pre-pandemic 2,521,397 recorded on 4/23/19. Boy, that was quite the four-year ride for the airline industry!

Here is a second example of a prediction that wasn’t directional in nature, but rather spotting a market dislocation or imperfection, like this statement from our 6/30/21 video:

For almost two years used motorhomes increased in value by 22%, when they should have depreciated by 24 to 30% during those same two years. And, they didn’t just appreciate in value, their premium to Book Value also went up by 50%! By the peak of the market used motorhomes were overvalued by 52%! During this same period of time the price of new coaches had only increased by 4%. That dislocation between new and used motorhome prices provided an opportunity we had never seen before for those of us who already owned a motorhome to upgrade to a new motorhome for little to no cost. And, at record-low interest rates! Who wouldn’t make that trade?! Unfortunately, also implicit in my message was the fact there had never been a worse time in the history of the RV industry to have purchased a used motorhome. 

Now, let’s talk about projections. What do we think the market is going to look like over the next couple of years? Before we jump to figuring it out, I would like to make a few disclosures.

First, the truth of the matter is, that we do spend an incredible amount of time on projections every year here at National Indoor RV Centers. And the projection we spend the most time on each year is… what will be the size of the motorhome market in the coming year? If we are wrong in projecting the size of the motorhome market by more than 5%, the compounded ripple effect throughout our P&L could be devastating. If we are wrong about the size of the motorhome market, we will also be wrong about how many Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes will be sold. Consequently, when we apply National Indoor RV Center’s market share to each class, we will be wrong in how many motorhomes we will sell. Which in turn means our budget will be wrong from the top line all the way down to our bottom line. Our headcount, capacity, and utilization of our capacity will all be wrong as well, which means our breakeven point will also be wrong. And, if we are wrong on our breakeven point by 10% the wrong way, we will have no net income. And, we don’t get the luxury of revising our projection and budget every quarter. Just like Julius Caesar so famously stated after crossing the Rubicon, “The die is cast!” The same is true for our annual projection and budget. Once published, for better or for worse, we have to live and die by our projections and our budget for the rest of the year. Consequently, we spend a lot of time and focus on what we believe the size of the motorhome market will be each year, and we don’t simply rely on other industry authorities or experts, because those folks don’t know our business as intimately as we know our own business. Nor will it cost them a dime if their projections are wildly wrong. They have no vested interest in our business. 

Second, I do believe every projection is wrong the second it is made. With that said, our projection MUST be correct directionally, and we MUST be within the ballpark. What do we consider being in the ballpark to be? As I mentioned a moment ago, I believe we MUST be within 5%. 

Third, I do realize many who will watch this video will mistakenly discount it as just another RV dealer trying to sell motorhomes. I’ll do my best to make certain that isn’t the case. As a company, we have always strived to follow John Wooden’s advice of being more concerned with our character than our reputation, because our character is what we are, while our reputation is merely what others think we are. So, I’m going to pull back the curtain and walk you through the exact data set, assumptions, and process we used for creating our 2023 and 2024 market projections for our budgets. In other words, our money is where our mouth is. Literally! We are truly eating our own cooking with our projections. 

And lastly, I would like to quote Warren Buffett:

“We are living in a time where intelligent people are being silenced so that stupid people won’t be offended.” 

Unlike Angie’s videos, I do receive quite a bit of hate mail after each of my videos. I want you to know this is not my intent. I sincerely hope no one will feel offended by this video. Rather, I truly hope you will feel this was a worthwhile and intelligent exercise, and hopefully you will learn something from my observations.

With those disclosures out of the way, let’s move on to how we build our projections each year here at National Indoor RV Centers. We start our budget process every September by projecting what we think the size of the motorhome market will be for the upcoming year. And, I would like to take you back to September of 2022 when we built our 2023 projection because you will see later on how our 2023 projection served as the foundation for our 2024 projection. 

Of course, we always start each year’s budget process by looking at what the industry’s authority, the RV Industry Association, or the RVIA for short, is projecting. In September of 2022, the RVIA projected the motorhome market would drop 7.8% from 53,700 units shipped at the end of 2022 to a bottom of 49,500 units by the end of the second quarter of 2023 but finish the full year at 50,000 total motorhome units. The RVIA projected the motorhome market would decline 6.9% in 2023 stating:

“RV shipments will move along the back side of the business cycle (Phase C, Slowing Growth, followed by Phase D, Contraction) into the middle of next year. Expect Phase A, Recovery, to characterize the second half of 2023.”

The RVIA sited they used U.S. Domestic Product, ITR Retail Sales Leading Indicator, U.S. Light Retail Sales, U.S. Disposable Income, U.S. Single-Unit Housing Starts, and U.S. Total Retail Sales as their “Relevant RV Industry Indicators.”

I will admit, the RVIA’s projection of 50,000 shipments of motorhomes for 2023 didn’t inspire much confidence in terms of probability for me, and certainly not enough confidence to anchor National Indoor RV Center’s 2023 budget to their projection, for two reasons:

  1. We were coming off a bull market which had just seen a 43.1% increase in the shipment of motorhomes. For the RVIA’s projected decline of 6.9% to come to fruition, it would have meant both the shortest and shallowest decline in the history of the industry would need to occur. 
  2. We found no significant statistical correlation between their 6 “Relevant RV Industry Indicators” and motorhome sales. In other words, no predictive value when projecting market demand. 

Now, if I may, I would like to pull back the curtain and walk you through in detail how we built our 2023 projection. So, let’s start by seeing what we can glean from history. Then, I will juxtapose what history tells us with current market conditions.

As a point of clarification, we have always used history, because of its predictive value, the 30-Year Treasury Bond, the S&P 500, the U.S. Median Household Income, and the 35-foot Tiffin Allegro Diesel motorhome as our “Relevant RV Industry Indicators,” because we have never found any other indicators with higher correlations. Remembering back to our high school statistics class, a correlation of 0.7 or greater, is considered a strong correlation. We found the 30-year Treasury Bond to correlate best to the standard 20-year retail motorhome finance rates, with a negative correlation of -0.75. The strong negative correlation to motorhome sales simply means when interest rates go up, motorhome sales go down.

The U.S. Median Household Income is highly correlated at 0.86 to purchasers who finance their purchase of a motorhome. And, the S&P 500 is also highly correlated at 0.83 to purchasers who pay cash when purchasing a motorhome. Lastly, we use the Tiffin 35’ Allegro Diesel motorhome expressed as a multiple of both the S&P 500 and the U.S. Median Household Income. The reason we use the Tiffin  35’ Allegro Diesel motorhome is because it’s the only motorhome that was in production in 1980, and is still in production today.

As Mark Twain once said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Looking in the rear-view mirror at the past 44 years of the motorhome industry, we asked ourselves if the industry had ever seen economic and market conditions similar to what we found ourselves in back in September of 2022. Or, more precisely, when adjusted for inflation, had we ever seen the 30-Year Treasury Bond, the S&P 500, and the U.S. Median Household Income as it relates to the Tiffin 35-foot Allegro Diesel motorhome akin to what we were seeing in September of 2022? And, the answer was yes! We found the years 1988 through 1991 to certainly “rhyme” with what we were seeing in September of 2022. 

I would first like to take a look at interest rates in September of 1987, 35 years to the month prior to when we were making our 2023 projections in September of 2022. From September of 1987 to the end of the year 1988 the Fed raised the Fed Funds Rate from 7.25% to 8.75%. For that economic cycle, the Fed stopped increasing the Fed Funds rate at 9.75% in February of 1989. That was a 34.5% increase in the Fed Funds rate from September 1987 to its peak of 9.75% in February 1989. In terms of the real Fed Funds rate, the rate after inflation, the real Fed Funds rate in 1987 was a positive 3.6%, and by the end of 1988, it was 4.61%. After February of 1989, the Fed consistently cut the Fed Funds rate reaching its low for the economic cycle at 3.0% in September of 1992. 

In September of 2022, at the time we were developing our 2023 projection, the Fed Funds rate stood at 3.25%, and the real rate, the rate after inflation, was a negative -5.05%. Clearly, money was too cheap, or inflation was too high, or a combination of both. Regardless, sooner or later they would need to come back into line. 

However, when we looked to the Swaptions Market to see what investors had priced into the market we saw the market had priced in the probability of 5.276 one-quarter point interest rate increases by the end of 2023, for an implied Fed Funds rate of 4.412%. To be clear, the Swaption’s Market was pricing in the Fed Funds going from 3.25% to 4.412%, or a 35.7% increase over the coming 15 months. I think we can all agree the 35.7% increase in the Fed Funds rate the Swaptions Market was implying for 2023 certainly “rhymed” with the 34.5% rate increase for the same period of time back in 1987.

So, what actually happened to the Fed Funds rate in 2023? As it turns out, from September 21st, 2022 to the end of the year 2023 the Fed raised the Fed Funds rate 6 times to 5.5%. Basically, the Fed had one more rate increase than what the market had priced in back in September of 2022, and the Fed Funds rate ended up 1.09% higher than what the market had priced in. However, the real interest rate was now a positive 2.1%. Here at National Indoor RV Centers, we use the Fed Funds rate to help us project and budget our flooring interest costs, and we didn’t feel a negative real Fed Funds rate was sustainable. So, we did project and budget our flooring interest expense assuming the real rate for Fed Funds would return to its long-term average of 2.5%, which translated to a 6% Fed Funds rate by the end of 2023. Thankfully, we were a 1/2% higher than what the Fed Funds rate turned out to be.

Now, let’s take a look at the 30-year treasury bond since it correlates closely to the retail finance rates for motorhomes. And, those retail finance rates certainly do impact motorhome sales!

In 1987 the 30-year treasury bond yielded 9%, and the real return after inflation was 5.35%. By the end of 1988, the 30-year treasury bond yielded 7.98%, and the real return was 3.84%. Much closer to its long-term average real rate of 3.63%. 

Now, let’s look at what we were seeing 35 years later in September of 2022. The 30-year treasury was yielding 3.61%, and its real return was a negative -4.69%. That was absurdly cheap money, and especially for 30 years! Clearly, unsustainable!

When we looked to see what the futures market was pricing in for the 30-treasury bond by the end of 2023 we were surprised. The futures market was pricing in a 10-basis point, or 1/10 of a percent lower yield at 3.51% by the end of 2023. Given where inflation was at the time, we felt strongly at National Indoor RV Centers the yield on the 30-year treasury bond was destined to go up, and not down as the futures market was suggesting. Just like in the case of the Fed Funds rate going up 34.5% from September 1987 to December 1988, we felt we should assume the same for the 30-year treasury bond, so used a yield of 4.85% in our modeling and budgeting.

Again, what happened to the yield on the 30-year treasury bond by the end of 2023? How accurate was the futures market? How accurate were we? Well, the yield on the 30-year treasury stood at 4.03% on 12/29/23, and its real yield after inflation was finally positive. Albeit at a measly yield of just 63 basis points, which was still a full 3.0% below its long-term average real yield of 3.63%. At 3.51% the futures market ended up being too low by 12.9%, and at 4.85% National Indoor RV Centers ended up being too high by 20.3%. In percentage terms, the futures market was closer to the mark than we were. All I have to say about that is… I would rather sleep well than eat well.

My last comment on rates before we move on is this. In terms of real interest rates, meaning after inflation, you can’t have cheap money in both short-term and long-term interest rates without inflation. Think of it this way. You can’t incentivize borrowing and de-incentivize savings to that degree across the yield curve without inflationary consequences.

Now, going back to our 44-year history we can see there have been 6 completed cycles. Or, put another way, 6 downturns followed by 6 recoveries. We are currently in our 7th downturn, and way away from a recovery starting. So, I’m guessing that statement will prompt two questions:

  1. When will we hit the bottom of this current cycle?
  2. And, where will the bottom be in terms of new motorhome sales? 

When we look back at the 6 completed cycles, we can see the average length of time from the peak of each cycle to the bottom of each cycle was 2.833 years, or 34 months. We can also see motorhomes reached their peak in 2022 at 58,403. More specifically, March of 2022 is when motorhomes reached their high-water mark for this cycle. So, with these data points let’s see how history might rhyme.

We can see from history that from the 1988 peak all the way down to the bottom in1991, the decline was 43.1%. And, it was the second-largest drop in the industry’s history. The largest drop in the industry’s history was during 2008 and 2009 at 81.5%. However, I believe 2008 and 2009 to have been a Black Swan event, and it certainly wasn’t going to be repeated during this cycle. We also felt the drop from peak to the trough was probably going to be slightly greater than the 43.1% in 1987 for two reasons:

One, we were coming off a bull market which had just coincidentally experienced a 43.1% increase. Yet another rhyme with history. 

And two, real interest rates, the rate after inflation, were significantly higher in 1987 and 1988 than they were in 2022, and what they were forecasted to be in 2023. 

When you look at this chart of the Fed Funds rate and the yield on the 30-year treasury bond, you can see how ridiculously low real interest rates were in 2023 when compared to 1988. Real interest rates were going to need to increase some more, which wouldn’t help motorhome sales.

All things considered, we felt the drop for this cycle would be slightly more than the drop in 1988 of 43.1%, so we landed on a drop of 45%. Or, put another way, we felt the drop from peak to trough this cycle would be 4.4% greater than the cycle that began in 1988. Which meant the bottom of this current cycle should be in the neighborhood of 32,122 motorhome sales. And, as I previously mentioned, the market peaked in March of 2022, and the average peak to trough for the previous 6 cycles was 34 months, so we felt in September of 2022 the bottom would occur around February of 2025. However, we also knew we would get another “look-see” at current market conditions at the end of 2023 and adjust our timing of when the market would bottom in our 2024 projection. Which we will do here in a minute. Therefore, we used the average of 34 months, or February 2025, to help us project the trajectory or the slope of the decline for our 2023 projection.

I would like to point out we didn’t use a 34-month linear decline from March of 2022 to February of 2025. Those dates were merely our beginning and ending points. As to the trajectory, or the slope of the decline over those 34 months, we determined it based solely on my prior 44 years of experience across several market cycles in equities, fixed income, and real estate. Bottom line, a good rule of thumb for me has always been that 2/3 of the total decline between the peak and the trough will occur during the first 50% of the drop, and the remaining 1/3 will occur during the final 50% of the drop. Using the peak in March of 2022 as our beginning point, this math indicated there would be 39,218 motorhomes sold during 2023. And of course, we knew we would get to take another look at the market at the end of 2023 and adjust our trajectory as necessary.

As I previously mentioned, our 2023 projection would become the foundation for our 2024 projection. This means we need to see how our 2023 projection stood up to the market’s actual performance, so we could make any necessary adjustments to our 2024 projection.

As you can see from this chart, Statistical Surveys Inc. reported total motorhome retail sales of 39,737 for 2023. This was 519 more motorhomes sold than the 39,218 we had projected. Basically, our projection for 2023 missed the market’s actual performance by 1.3%. Yes, we were both pleased and a bit lucky with our 2023 projection. Fortunately, it was another year we were within our tolerance of 5%, and more importantly, our miss was on the low side, and thankfully not on the high side.

Hopefully, you can now see how our 2023 projection made our 2024 projection so much easier to make. Our 2023 projection confirmed we had picked the right cycle in history to project off of, 1988 through 1991. Plus, it confirmed our trajectory of the drop from the peak in March of 2022 through December of 2023 was also correct. From there, it was just a simple math equation. Motorhome sales will need to drop another 19.1% to get down to the trough we are projecting of 32,122.

As we do every September, let’s see what the RVIA was projecting for 2024. And, as I mentioned earlier, let’s now also look at current market conditions to see if we need to tweak our trajectory in our 2024 Projection.

For 2024 the RVIA was projecting total shipments of 52,900 motorhomes, or a 15.3% increase over 2023’s actual shipments of 45,879. Once again, the RVIA’s projection of a 15.3% increase in 2024 didn’t inspire much confidence in terms of probability. Especially, when history during very similar economic conditions was pointing towards a 19.1% decline in 2024. For what it is worth, Statistical Surveys, Inc. just released their January 2024 retail motorhome sales, and year over year, motorhome sales were down 17.8% in January 2024. That is 6.8% better than what National Indoor RV Centers projected when we created our 2024 projection. However, there are still 11 months to go, and I’m clearly betting we will end 2024 within 5% of our projection. And whatever we do miss it by, it better be because we projected a bit too low. 

Let’s take a minute and stress test the RVIA’s assumptions a little bit. And, let’s also see what the current supply of motorhomes sitting on dealer’s lots looks like. This will also let us know if we are still on target to reach the trough of this cycle somewhere between the end of 2024 and February 2025 as history would suggest.

The first column of this chart shows dealer inventory by Class at the end of 2023. 

The second column shows the RVIA’s projected shipments from manufacturers to dealers by Class.

The third column reflects what the total 2024 supply of motorhomes will be if manufacturers continue to build and ship in line with the RVIA’s projections.

The fourth column reflects National Indoor RV Center’s projected 2024 motorhome sales, or demand if you will. 

The fifth column reflects what dealer inventory will be at the end of 2024 if manufacturers build and ship in line with RVIA’s projections, and if National Indoor RV Center’s projection of motorhomes sales is in the ballpark. 

The last column reflects how many months’ supply of motorhomes dealers will end the year 2024 with. Now, I’m sure everyone has an opinion of what they believe an adequate, or healthy level of inventory is. But I think we can all agree it is not 15.7 months’ worth. That is 1.3 years’ worth of inventory!

When it comes to the supply and demand of motorhomes, I liken it to produce at the grocery store. Just because manufacturers decide to increase their production of produce, and grocers are willing to go along and stock more produce, doesn’t mean they’ve generated any additional demand. The produce will just sit there and rot on the grocer’s shelves. The only difference is motorhomes have a little longer shelf life than produce. The shelf life of a new motorhome is one year, after that NADA publishes a Book Value every 60 days, which declines between 2% and 2.5% with each change in Book Value. 

Reasonable minds can, and do disagree, on what is a reasonable supply of motorhome inventory, as expressed in months’ supply. Let’s see if we can bring some perspective to what a reasonable amount of inventory for a motorhome dealer is.

According to Automotive News, the big 6 publicly traded auto dealers ended the fourth quarter of 2023 with 36 days’ supply or 1.2 months of new vehicle inventory.

If you look at inventory turns by economic sector, you can see Consumer Discretionary, which is the sector motorhomes fall into, is 6.86 inventory turns per year. Or, 1.75 months’ supply in inventory.

And lastly, when it comes to housing the National Association of Realtors says a 6-month supply of homes for sale is a balanced market. They consider anything less than 6 months to be a seller’s market, and anything over 6 months to be a buyer’s market. I would like to point out that while a lot of motorhomes cost as much as a house, I don’t believe houses are a good comparison for dealer inventory for two reasons:

First, homes appreciate, and motorhomes depreciate just like produce. 

Second, regardless of the industry, 6 months of inventory equals two inventory turns per year, which makes it very difficult for any retailer to be profitable. In fact, home builders who carry an average 6 months of inventory go out of business.

However, while I don’t agree with the comparison, I am still going to use the housing market for purposes of stress testing our 2024 projection.

Going back to our chart we can see that given current dealer inventories, RVIA’s projected motorhome shipments, our projected 2024 motorhome sales, and assuming the housing market’s inventory levels, in the motorhome market’s best-case scenario, we will not reach the bottom of this cycle until October of 2025. If we split the difference between autos and housing, we won’t reach the bottom until January of 2026. January of 2026 would result in a peak-to-trough for this cycle of 46 months. Again, 46 months sure does “rhyme” with the 47-month peak to trough of 1988 through 1991.

Two things will need to happen for the bottom of this cycle to occur by the end of 2024, and they are lower production coupled with more demand. More demand would require a significant increase in the stock market, and or, lower interest rates. How probable is any one of these three things to occur? Well, let’s look. 

The long-term earnings yield of the S&P 500 is 4.29%, or in other words, a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.3. The current earnings yield of the S&P 500 as of 3/7/2024 is 3.51%, or a price-to-earnings ratio of 28.5. Also, the Volatility Index, or the VIX for short, is a measure of market volatility and is often used as a confirming indicator of relative value for the stock market. The VIX closed at 14.22 on 3/7/2024. As the saying regarding the VIX goes… when it’s high you buy, and when it’s low you go! Readings above 30 are considered high, and signal a good time to buy, and readings below 20 are considered low, and signal a good time to sell. Based on the current earnings yield of the S&P 500, coupled with the VIX, the stock market looks frothy to me. I don’t see the stock market creating any additional demand for motorhome sales during 2024. 

When we look at the real returns of the 30-year treasury bond at 63 basis points versus its long-term average real return of 3.63%, I also don’t see lower interest rates in 2024 creating more demand for motorhomes.  

So, that leaves us with what is the likelihood of manufacturers cutting their production even further in 2024? As you look at this chart reflecting a 15.7 month supply of motorhomes on dealer’s lots at the end of 2024, and we use the absurd assumption of 6 months in dealer inventory as being healthy, how much would manufacturers need to cut their production in 2024? Well, the math is simple. They would need to end the year with 16,061 motorhomes in dealer inventory, and not the 41,911 motorhomes the RVIA’s projection of motorhome shipments would produce. So, 41,911 minus 16,061 means manufacturers would need to cut their production by 25,850 motorhomes, and only produce 27,050 motorhomes during 2024. The industry hasn’t produced so few motorhomes since 2011, so I don’t find this to be a very probable scenario either. Personally, I don’t believe they can cut their production by that much and still maintain a workforce. 

This has been a long video just to get to what all this means for those of you who might be considering the purchase of a new motorhome. What are the four key takeaways from this video? 

The first takeaway would be, that the motorhome market is clearly overbuilt across all classes, which means this is a buyer’s market. 

Secondly, with stocks, we all know the very bottom of the market is the best buying opportunity. However, that is not the case with motorhomes. The very bottom of the market in terms of motorhome sales is when supply and demand have reached equilibrium, and prices have started to increase. With motorhomes, the very best time to buy is when the market is the most overbuilt.

Thirdly, the motorhome market hasn’t been this overbuilt in well over a decade. I did state in 2021 I had never seen a better time in my lifetime to buy a new motorhome if you already owned a motorhome. That market dislocation occurred because of an extreme seller’s market. Existing coaches were way overvalued! This time I’m saying there will not be a better time to purchase a new motorhome until we reach this point again in the next cycle 6 or 7 years from now. And I don’t believe the market will get this overbuilt in the next cycle. The confluence of events that led up to the current level of overbuilding was truly unique. 

And fourth, there is no more blood to give. The entire supply chain is losing money. The component suppliers are losing money. The manufacturers are losing money. The dealers are losing money. And not just a little money! For example, one of our country’s largest dealers announced their fourth-quarter earnings this morning. To give their earnings some perspective, they ended their 3rd quarter of 2023 with $265,840,000 of shareholder equity, and they just reported a fourth-quarter pre-tax loss of $137,685,000! Their pre-tax loss equaled 48% of their shareholder’s equity! My point is this, should you happen to be a buyer, you can rest assured there is no margin left in motorhomes for anyone in the supply chain.

This is a buyer’s market, the likes of which I haven’t seen since becoming a dealer. The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was the only buyer’s market better than this buyer’s market. But, as I said earlier in this video, I truly believe the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 to have been a Black Swan event. 

It’s said, “Life’s biggest tragedy is we get old too soon, and wise too late.” When I think back over all the memories our family has shared since purchasing our first motorhome in 1985, I was very blessed to have grown wise too soon, and old too late in this regard.

I wish you all safe travels, and only the best. And thank you for your time.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America’s First National Park

Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares all about her trip to Yellowstone National Park, America’s very first National Park. 

Yellowstone National Park is an amazing RV destination filled with dramatic scenery, abundant wildlife, and numerous options for outdoor fun. Every year millions of visitors are captivated by the endless beauty that spans its 3,471 square miles across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park is so big that it has five separate entrances!

Established in 1872, Yellowstone holds the prestigious title of being America’s first national park. Its popularity consistently draws visitors during the summer months, but if you want to avoid the crowds you might try the shoulder months in the spring and fall. For the very hearty, parts of Yellowstone are even open in the winter, although you need to be part of a snow coach or snowmobile tour group for some areas.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

There are campgrounds with many activities both inside the park and in the towns surrounding the various entrances. We stayed on Hebgen Lake, just 15 minutes west of Yellowstone where we boated, fished, and even went on trail rides and ate a great chuck wagon meal at a nearby dude ranch when we weren’t in the park. Whichever time you choose to visit, planning early is key in this popular spot. In fact, now is a great time to be booking for 2024!

Geothermal Marvels

Yellowstone sits in a 30- by 45-mile basin that was created by huge volcanic eruptions many years ago. An underground super volcano feeds the world’s largest collection of hydrothermal features, which involve heated water in the earth’s crust. The park is home to more than 10,000 of these natural wonders including geysers, hot springs, and steam vents. It is so cool to see plumes of steam floating skyward, giant water sprays, and bubbling hot pools throughout the area.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park
An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

One of the park’s most popular attractions is Old Faithful. It is the most famous geyser and was so named because of its history of faithfully erupting at predictable times (about every 90 minutes). There is even a schedule so you can plan your visit. Although I had seen pictures, nothing compared to witnessing the geyser expel 8,000 gallons of boiling water high into the air!

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

My personal favorite sight at Yellowstone is the enormous Grand Prismatic Spring. Its colors are mesmerizing! The deep blue center is surrounded by steamy rings of vibrant green, yellow, orange and red. You don’t expect to see such brilliant colors in nature, which are due to temperature-dependent algae that thrive within the spring between a very hot 149 to 189 degrees. We first did a short hike on the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail to get a great panoramic view of the spring. Then we parked near the spring to walk the wooden boardwalk out to this beautiful thermal pool where you can feel the heat and steam up close.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Wildlife Encounters

Yellowstone’s expansive wilderness provides the opportunity to observe an incredible array of wildlife in their natural habitats. The most abundant large animal is the elk which live in herds of up to 10,000! We spotted several as we drove on the main road into the park from West Yellowstone. The best animal views are during this early morning time when they tend to be more active.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Other popular animals in the park are bison, black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, coyotes, pronghorn, and moose. The Lamar Valley is particularly renowned for its abundant wildlife and is a great spot for photographers. It has even been nicknamed the “Serengeti of North America” for its numerous wildlife sightings.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

If encountering animals in the wild makes you a bit nervous, there is a great nonprofit park and educational center in the town of West Yellowstone. The Grizzly Wolf and Discovery Center has a variety of animals, but the star attraction is the grizzly bears. These bears are unable to survive in the wild and now serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. A bonus is they do not hibernate so you can see them all the time. I loved watching them participate in testing “bear resistant” garbage containers as part of their play time.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Scenic Beauty

In addition to the geothermal features and wildlife, Yellowstone’s landscapes are a photographer’s dream. The park spans over 2.2 million acres, featuring mountain ranges, dramatic canyons, pristine lakes, and alpine meadows. You won’t have to look far to find a picturesque spot here!

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National ParkAn RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Situated in the northern section of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs is a captivating sight of beautiful travertine terraces. These stairstep-like formations are formed from deposits left after hot water rises to the surface. The soft white and beige terraces look like frozen waterfalls in a winter wonderland (even in the summer!). Boardwalks allow visitors a closer look at the unique formations and thermal features.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

One of the most photographed views in the park is at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. From a place called Artist Point you will see water plunging 300 feet over the Lower Falls and then roaring down the 1000-foot-deep canyon. We did several hikes along the north and south rim trails where overlooks provide an up-close look at the powerful rush of water at the falls. These were moderate hikes because of the terrain, but well worth it.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

If you prefer a more tranquil setting, visit the largest high-elevation lake in North America. Lake Yellowstone is 400 feet deep and has 141 miles of shoreline in the southeastern area of the park. The reflections of the surrounding mountains and forests on the lake’s surface create a mirror-like effect that is breathtaking.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Outdoor Activities

Yellowstone is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities to satisfy visitors of all ages. Hiking trails crisscross the park, ranging from easy walks suitable for families to challenging backcountry routes for experienced adventurers. We enjoyed a morning hike on the Purple Mountain Trail where we climbed 1500 feet over 3 miles to be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Gibbon and Madison River valley. Much of the trail is wooded and there is a register to sign when you make it to the top. Hikes are a great way to escape the crowds on a hot day.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Fishing is also a popular activity in Yellowstone, with numerous rivers and lakes offering a great place to wet a line. Permits are required and park guidelines must be followed. Boating and kayaking are also popular on Yellowstone Lake, while horseback trail rides give a unique perspective from the land. You can even enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter season of December to March when snow blankets the landscape.

An RVers Guide to Yellowstone: America's First National Park

Get Ready for Adventure!

From the awe-inspiring geothermal features to the diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, Yellowstone is the perfect place to witness the beauty of this amazing area. With so many acres to discover, you will be sure to find sights and activities that enthrall you. After visiting many national parks, Yellowstone still stands apart as one of my favorites. Plan your trip soon and be ready to make incredible memories!

Robin Buck

Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.

Your Ultimate RVer’s Guide to Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2024

I’d never imagined what it would be like, walking through the entrance gate, through a break in the row of festival tents set up on the perimeter of an enormous, grassy field, in the midst of a bustling, joyous crowd of onlookers and participants… to witness hundreds of huge, brilliantly-colored hot air balloons suspended in the air directly in front of you, some landing RIGHT THERE; some gently bobbing along, at higher and lower elevations, to other destinations…

Q: So how can you experience the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in your RV?
A: Your Ultimate RVer’s Guide to Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2024!

1) REGISTRATION INSANITY

According to AIBF (Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta):

Intense competition for RV camping spaces in January 2023: The website to reserve one of 1,785 spaces opened at 9 a.m. sharp… 70 minutes later a record was set as all spaces were gone and a waiting list was activated. The website received 2.5 million requests per second… [and crashed repeatedly]

I had no idea… The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta wasn’t on our RV Bucket List, since we’re usually on the East Coast, heading toward Florida in October. The Balloon Fiesta, of course, is in Albuquerque, 1,800 miles away from our winter destination. 

However, when our best RV friends, fellow Entegra owners and NIRVC family, called us in January to join in the registration challenge for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend with our besties… How could we refuse?

Registration Day was insanity: Chaos! Between the four of us, we tried to coordinate being on the website, and communicate by phone and text, at exactly the moment registration opened, to grab two RV spaces in any of the six different camping areas surrounding Balloon Fiesta Park: TOTAL FAIL. We did, however, somehow manage to get on a Wait List, for one of the areas… I don’t even know which lot it was.

For the lucky people who were fortunate enough to get a reservation in that crazy process, I’m told it feels like winning the lottery! Fortunately, for the rest of us… I didn’t know it at the time, but there are other ways and means to get an RV site at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival:

  • GET ON THE WAITLIST: Patience. Wait it out. (Much like an AIM Club Rally! 😉) Six months later, in June, we received an email: “Congratulations Mr. Caldwell! There has been a match to your criteria on the waitlist for October 5th – October 15th in Standard.” Yay?!?!
  • Back-up plan: By then, we had come up with another plan. In April, we signed up for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Rally Event with ECOA – Entegra Coach Owners Association [https://entegraowners.com/].

NOTE: If you are at all interested in attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the very first thing you’ll want to do is GO TO THE WEBSITE: https://balloonfiesta.com/ – Scroll down and sign up for the E-Newsletter… as soon as you’re done reading this article!

Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Xfinity Balloon landing in the SOUTH RV LOT!

2) RV CAMPING OPTIONS

  • Balloon Fiesta RV Camping
    • After you sign up for the Newsletter, go directly to the RV Information page on the website to familiarize yourself with the RV Camping options. There are maps, descriptions, pricing, and all the current information to prepare for the online-only Registration Event in January.
    • RV parking at Balloon Fiesta Park is mostly DRY CAMPING, with a 3rd party vendor available for pumping and fills at additional cost, cash only.
    • Before Reservation Day, there will be even more detailed instructions and a video to help you through the process for booking reservations.
    • When Reservation Day comes around in January: Be ready. Be online and signed in at the exact moment the window opens! Have your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th and 5th choice in mind… and then reserve anything you can get into, by the end of it. If your choices are full, BE SURE TO GET ON THE WAITLISTS!
    • May the odds be ever in your favor.
  • Other Albuquerque Campgrounds: If you have to wait out the waitlist, or make other arrangements, there are plenty of RV camping options to consider in the greater Albuquerque area. All accommodations book out EARLY around the dates of the Balloon Fiesta, You’ll want to reserve as far in advance as possible. 
    • Research campgrounds, resorts, and free camping (if you boondock) in the area on your favorite RV trip planner. Check campground reviews and Google to find your best match. 
    • Another great source of general area information and RV campgrounds in any city is the local Visit[city].org Convention & Visitors Bureau online. For Albuquerque: https://www.visitalbuquerque.org/places-to-stay/campgrounds-rv-parks/
        • FOR THE WIN: RV Clubs & Groups! This is how we got in, and how we would choose to go again. We were able to sign up for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Rally with our Entegra Coach Owners’ Association. Not only did we secure great resort reservations, well in advance of the event, we enjoyed camping with our tribe: Entegra friends, old and new. It was an organized rally, with scheduled events at the Balloon Fiesta and at the resort, with all the arrangements, reservations, tickets, transportation to/from Balloon Fiesta Park, entertainment, and several meals provided. Other group options for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta include:
          • Brand Groups – Like our ENTEGRA Group, there are many other RV brand-specific owners’ groups that organize rallies for the Balloon Fiesta. We camped with ECOA at the Route 66 Casino RV Resort, which is about 30 miles from Balloon Fiesta Park. Our NEWMAR friends enjoyed their group rally, camped in the Balloon Fiesta Park RV SOUTH LOT – fantastic location! – right there, amidst all the action! They enjoyed the view and proximity to the Balloon Fiesta, with organized events and activities. Check into your brand and manufacturer’s groups!
          • Tour Groups – Fantasy Tours (AIM Sponsor) & Adventure Caravans. While these are more expensive options, they are generally more organized, with more amenities, events, activities and services, including entertainment, Happy Hours, catered meals and organized sightseeing adventures in the Albuquerque area. We had NIRVC friends who camped with both tour companies in 2023. Both were in different sections of the Balloon Fiesta Park RV SOUTH LOT. From both accounts, FANTASY TOURS is the recommendation:

            We were in the SOUTH LOT w/ 30 amp and water. One free pump out which Fantasy handled. Great location. Easy to walk to balloon field or catch shuttles. Balloons flew over each day. You can tell Fantasy is a well-oiled machine. All ambassadors were very friendly. I would recommend this to someone for a first trip there. — Thanks for the review, Ruth Candler! 🙂

            • Other RV Groups – Escapees RV Club and closely affiliated Xscapers Group both offer unique Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Rally experiences to their members.

            Xscapers 2023 Registration Info:

            Parking is in the Box View section of the SOUTH RV LOT. It is walking distance to the event or you can take one of the free shuttles offered on-site (wait times can be long).  All parking will be dry camping, so please plan appropriately. There is a dump service and water fill available on grounds throughout the week for an additional fee.

            • Another opportunity – Monaco International Group offers a number of Rally Experiences throughout the year, including Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The group is open to new members as follows:

            If you own any FMCA-approved recreational vehicle and are a member in good standing of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), we invite you to explore our website and consider joining our organization.

            3) BALLOON FIESTA PREP

            Once you’ve secured your reservations, it’s time for some pre-planning!

            • FOLLOW GROUP / CAMPGROUND INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY: As far as your dates, schedule, timing, directions, and arrival instructions, especially if you’re going to be in Balloon Fiesta RV Parking. It gets complicated, with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area every October. Fortunately, after 51 years, it is a highly coordinated and well-choreographed event, as far as people moving, accommodations, and schedule.
            • Before & After Balloon Fiesta: Don’t forget to plan your travel days and schedule before & after Fiesta camping reservations in advance, according to your Albuquerque arrival and departure dates and timing.
            • Boondocking: If you’re going to be boondocking or dry camping in the Balloon Fiesta RV Camping Lots, reserve your before & after campgrounds as close as possible, to prep before, and dump tanks after. Arrive with black and gray tanks empty, fresh water full, and all the provisions you’ll need, so you can focus on the fun at the event!
              • Balloon Fiesta Park is in an urban area, with many restaurants, stores, and services close by. However, it can be difficult to get in and out of the area during heavy traffic and event times.
              • For more info & advice about dry camping at events, see: Roughing It At RV Shows & Rallies – You Can Do It!
            Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

            Early morning Dawn Patrol Launch testing The Albuquerque Box

            4) WHY ALBUQUERQUE?

            • Weather: Albuquerque is known as the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World due to its high desert location (elevation: 4,967’), geography, and weather – 310 days of sunshine a year! October averages: 71°/44℉, 10% chance of rain. It will be COLD in the early mornings and at night. It will be WARM during the afternoon!
            • The Albuquerque Box – Wind conditions and air temperatures contribute to the famous Albuquerque Box phenomenon: The wind blows predictably north at one elevation and south at another, allowing pilots to launch, fly a great distance, change altitude and backtrack to return close to the launch site.

            5) SOURCES OF INFO

            Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

            Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2023 – Full Schedule of Events

            • Schedule – The Balloon Fiesta runs 9 straight days: 5AM to 10PM on weekends (including Thursday); and 5AM to NOON on weekdays (and final Sunday). You can see above on the 2023 schedule, it’s jam-packed from Day 1 to Day 9. Even on the weekdays, you have to consider, with traffic and transportation, to see it all, you’ll be getting up by 4AM and going all day, every day. 
              • For that reason, many people (and group schedules) choose to attend part of the week, including either Opening Weekend – or – Closing Weekend. We were there Closing Weekend, and it was fabulous! I’ve heard from other friends that Opening Weekend is “quieter.” Weekends are definitely more popular, busy, and CROWDED. Consider your energy levels and preferences when scheduling your time at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
              • On the busy weekends, consider getting naps in, between the AM & PM Sessions.
            • Download the App – The schedule is available online and they hand out the VIEW FROM ABOVE brochure at the entry gate, before all sessions. The official FIESTA App, for your smartphone, includes interactive maps, FAQs, the list of vendor booths, entertainment, and daily weather updates and event info. Much of the Balloon Fiesta is also simulcast Live on TV on local station KOB 4 in Albuquerque.
            • Weather dependent – It happens! Two of the 14 sessions in 2023 were canceled due to poor weather conditions. If an event is canceled due to weather, you can use your ticket for another session.
            • Sightseeing – Albuquerque and nearby Santa Fe are great places to explore on weekday afternoons, or if the balloons are grounded due to weather. Both cities’ Convention & Visitors Bureaus staff booths onsite at Balloon Fiesta Park with info, maps, and suggestions about the local area.
            • Event Tickets – AM & PM sessions are ticketed separately, general admission. Tickets are $15 per person, per session. Tickets are not specific to a day or session. Tickets can be purchased online in advance (recommended) or at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free.

            6) GETTING INVOLVED

            One of the best ways to experience the Balloon Fiesta is to get involved! Yes, you! Those friends who dragged us into the Reservation Day arena in January, then recruited us onto the Chase Crew for HAM-LET – The World’s Largest Flying Pig!

            Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

            Getting ready to Chase HAM-LET – The World’s Largest Flying Pig!

            It was truly the experience of a lifetime, wrangling a big pink hot air balloon pig for a week! 

            There are several ways to get involved at Balloon Fiesta:

            • Chase Crew: Helps the pilot inflate the balloon and launch or tether in place. 
              • After launch, Chase Crew follows the balloon in a chase vehicle on the ground to help land safely, deflate, and pack it all away.
              • If the balloon is stationary, or tethered, Chase Crew assists with crowd control and interaction— answering questions and handing out balloon cards!
              • Chase Crew does require some early mornings and physical stamina!
              • If you are interested in being on a chase crew, you can register online at https://balloonfiesta.com/Crew-Registration or visit the Chase Crew Tower on the launch field to sign up.
              • You might also see people with CREW NEEDED signs walking around. If a pilot doesn’t have enough people to help, they can’t fly the balloon.
            • Navigators: 1,134 Navigators volunteered at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2023. Navigators (not including Chase Crew) are volunteers who provide guest services, administrative service, balloon coordination and safety, set-up and logistics, and much more, in over 40 different operational areas of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. More info: https://balloonfiesta.com/Volunteers-New
            • Balloon Rides: Media and volunteers might have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to literally see the world from above in a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta! Another opportunity to get a lift is to purchase a hot air balloon ride at the Balloon Fiesta with Rainbow Ryders. Rainbow Ryders is the ONLY company authorized to give balloon rides from BALLOON FIESTA® PARK for the world’s largest balloon event, the ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FIESTA. Again, be sure to schedule your reservation IN ADVANCE!  
            Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

            Rainbow Ryders Balloons taking paid guests aloft at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2023

            7) INSIDE THE GATE

            → Be prepared for CROWDS and TRAFFIC – especially on the weekends!

            • Transportation: There are several options, around the Albuquerque area and Balloon Fiesta Park. No matter which you choose, give yourself extra time to allow for heavy traffic:
              • General parking is available at Balloon Fiesta Park for $20 per session.
              • Park & Ride is available and encouraged during Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, with pick up and drop off locations throughout the city. **Admission to Balloon Fiesta Park is included with your Park and Ride Ticket**
              • Courtesy Shuttles are on designated routes in and around Balloon Fiesta Park, and can get you where you need to be, to/from the parking lots or RV Camping areas.
            • Weather Reminder: In October, mornings and nights can be COLD, while it can be very WARM during the day. Dress in layers!
            • Getting through Security:
              • ALLOWED – Backpacks, folding chairs, picnic blankets and soft-sided coolers (including food and non-alcoholic beverages) are allowed.
              • NO alcohol, glass containers or hard-sided coolers.
              • NO DOGS OR ANIMALS ALLOWED – except for service animals. 
            • On the inside: Balloon Fiesta Park is more than 360 acres, the size of 54 football fields, all put together. Guests walk the field and are part of the action. That’s a lot of walking! Wear comfortable shoes. Stay light and mobile. A limited number of benches, bleachers, and picnic tables are available. You can bring your own folding chairs and picnic blankets.

            8) AM EXPERIENCE: SUNRISE

            Honestly, I’m really not an early morning / sunrise kind of girl. And yet, somehow, after the first morning (when I did second guess myself all the way to Balloon Fiesta Park)… It was second nature: get up at 3:30AM to leave by 4:00AM to GET THERE! We had to leave early to get through traffic, especially toward the weekend, to park and get through the gate by 5:00AM; or earlier, if you want to stand in line at the Official AIBF Merchandise Tent to purchase one of the Limited Edition Balloon Fiesta Event Collector’s Pins, very limited quantities only released at AM/PM opening.

            Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

            Dawn Patrol Launch

            Not-to-be-missed balloon events during AM Sessions:

            • SAT/SUN – 5:45 AM: DRONE LIGHT SHOW – Incredible drone formations light up the early morning sky above Balloon Fiesta Park, and again on weekend nights after all the activities of the day. The shows are absolutely breathtaking.
            • DAILY – DAWN PATROL / DAWN PATROL SHOW – Choreographed inflation and launch set to music. A dozen balloons light up and launch before dawn to test the air currents and conditions of The Albuquerque Box. It is spectacular. Dawn Patrol inflations begin, weather permitting, about 5:45 AM, with launch around 6:00 AM.
            • SAT/SUN & WEDS: AM BALLOON GLOWS – In the predawn darkness, as the balloons are inflated, still tethered to the ground, Balloon Glows are early morning light shows: firing up the propane burners and lighting up the colorful balloons in an ethereal display before the launches begin.
            • EVERY MORNING – 7:00 AM: OPENING CEREMONIES – Weather permitting, the balloons go up every day, in different launch sequences. Always led by a designated balloon flying the American Flag, with the singing of The Star Spangled Banner by a featured guest, broadcast over loud speakers across Balloon Fiesta Park. Accompanied by spectacular aerial flyovers by military and other flight groups.
            • SAT/SUN – 7:00 AM: MASS ASCENSIONDuring mass ascensions, balloons launch in two waves. Launch directors, also known as zebras because of their black-and-white-striped outfits, serve as traffic cops, coordinating the launch so balloons leave the field in a safe and coordinated manner.
            • THUR/FRI – 7:00 AM: SPECIAL SHAPES RODEO™ – Featuring the 100+ Special Shapes Hot Air Balloons (our HAM-LET, The World’s Largest Flying Pig and all the others!) lighting up and launching in the first coordinated wave.
            • AM SESSION CONTINUES UNTIL ABOUT NOON EACH DAY: While the balloons are flying and chase crews are chasing, the activities and fun continue at Balloon Fiesta Park, with shopping and entertainment, Chainsaw Carving Exhibitions & Auctions, Kite Shows, Remote Control Balloon Exhibitions, various Hot Air Balloon Competitions, and so much more!
                    Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

                    Mass Ascension begins…

                    There is a break, each day, between the AM & PM Sessions, when everything shuts down for the afternoon. On the weekends, when there is a PM Session, this is a great time to get in a nap, to be rested and ready for evening events, from 4:00PM until…

                    9) PM EXPERIENCE: SUNSET

                    Saturday/Sunday Opening Weekend & Thur/Fri/Saturday Closing Weekend: As glorious as the AM Session events are, the PM Session is just as thrilling:

                    At twilight the burners of tethered balloons are ignited, illuminating the night with colorfully glowing envelopes [balloons] that guests can wander amongst before enjoying the Drone Light and AfterGlow™ Fireworks shows. 

                    • 5:00 PM – TEAM FASTRAX™ SKYDIVING: Before and after the PM Balloon Glows, professional skydivers enchant the crowd below with incredible aerial manuevers, with smoke trails and light shows in the gathering darkness at sunset.
                    • 6:00 PM – PM BALLOON GLOWS: Every Night Glow event is just a little different, with TWILIGHT TWINKLE GLOW™ (1st Saturday); The Original BALLOON GLOW (Sunday); SPECIAL SHAPES GLOWDEO™ (Thursday & Friday); and NIGHT MAGIC™ GLOW (2nd Saturday).
                      • The evening balloon glows are magical! The crowd is intimately involved in the action. The balloons are inflated and tethered to the ground, and onlookers are invited to mingle and explore at will, taking pictures with their favorite balloons, asking pilot & crew questions, and collecting balloon trading cards!
                      • The SPECIAL SHAPE GLOWDEO™ features the special shape balloons, some very intricate, like our HAM-LET, The World’s Largest Flying Pig, with wings and tails and legs – it’s a lot to fill with hot air and wrangle, on the ground and in the sky! In 2023, there were 107 special shape hot air balloons, including BEAGLE MAXIMUS – an enormous flying dog! – DARTH VADER & YODA from Star Wars – a many-faced Jester (kinda creepy!) and many others, including favorite classic cartoon characters. 
                    Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

                    Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Drone Light Show 2023

                    • 7:45 PM – DRONE LIGHT SHOW: As the crowd settles in for the spectacular closing events each night, chase crews deflate the balloons and pack them away. Hundreds of small, lighted drones fly in formation, enchanting the crowd below with intricate choreography to form objects and scenes in homage to Albuquerque culture, flavor, and history.
                    • 8:00 PM – AFTERGLOW™ FIREWORKS SHOW: As the drones fly off into the night, fireworks light up the sky in the most amazing display I have ever seen, with a spectacular fireball finale– you have to see it to believe it! 
                    Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

                    Collect Balloon Cards at Balloon Fiesta – just ask a crew member!

                    10) BALLOON FIESTA SECRETS ROUND-UP

                    • Arrive early – getting there & getting through traffic & security.
                    • Check into RV Rally Camping with the Monaco Group!
                    • NO DOGS in Balloon Fiesta Park. (Service animals are welcome.)
                    • NO SMOKING!!!
                    • Enjoy close-up, ACCESS TO BALLOONS ON THE FIELD!
                    • ⚠️ WATCH YOUR STEP, when you are walking on the field: balloons are fragile – never step on them! There are ropes everywhere, above and below. The balloon baskets are very heavy and can slide along the ground before they lift off. Pay attention to the zebras! 🦓
                    • Collect Balloon Trading Cards! Each balloon has its own Balloon Card. Some of the chase vehicles do, too! Ask the Chase Crew! 😃
                    • Purchase Balloon Fiesta Pins! Event Pins & Limited Edition Special Pins available at AIBF Merchandise Tents or online at balloonfiestastuff.com 
                    • FOOD is twice the price at BF Park. Consider venturing outside to Blake’s LottaBurger – local fast food recommendation. 😉 (4th & Pueblo best location, according to locals!)
                    • REMEMBER: Weekends are BUSIER, with more going on AM &  PM – ALL DAY.
                    Ultimate RVers Guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

                    HAM-LET mascot Kim Silva with Balloon Fiesta Zebras (launch coordinators)

                    At the end of your time at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, you’ll leave with incredible memories and hopefully some amazing photographs, too! You might be exhausted from early mornings, long days, and a whole lot of walking, but it’s all worth it for a lifetime of colorful, balloon-filled stories and memories.

                    I hope you’ve enjoyed Your Ultimate RVer’s Guide to Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

                    Best Wishes for Blue Skies & Safe Travels!

                    National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

                    Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com, a full-time RV travel blog and PODCAST! 😉🎙️🤠  Click to enjoy Episode 12: Insider’s Guide 🤗 RVing the ABQ Balloon Fiesta about our 2023 Chase Crew Adventure! With her husband, Russ, she is currently living, working, and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares some ways you can stay fit and healthy while you’re on the road.

                    We all strive to stay fit and healthy in our daily lives so we can feel good, live longer, and enjoy all of the things we want to do. It’s not always the easiest thing to do even at home, but maintaining good health while traveling can present its own unique challenges. However, with some creativity and planning, you can take care of yourself while having amazing adventures on the road.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    According to medical experts, three keys to being your best self include staying active, eating nutritious food, and getting adequate rest. Making the effort to maintain good health while you travel will also give you lasting benefits like reduced stress and increased energy levels. After all, you want to be able to enjoy all the interesting places and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that drew you to RVing in the first place, right?

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Stay Active

                    One of the easiest ways to stay active is to make walking a regular part of your routine. It is a low-impact exercise that has many health benefits and few risks. The CDC recommends that most adults aim for 10,000 steps per day. You can get a lot of steps in while sightseeing without even feeling like you are exercising. We like to sign up for walking tours because we enjoy learning the history of an area and getting to see things up close. Food tours and capital tours are some of our favorites.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Another option is to get out and enjoy nature with a hike. The AllTrails app is great for finding hiking trails in an area and provides details on location, distance, and difficulty of each hike. There’s nothing like fresh air and sunshine to boost your mood.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Doing a fun activity is another great way to stay active. Many parks, recreation areas, and even campgrounds have places where you can swim, bicycle, or kayak and often offer equipment rental as well. Rails to Trails paths are great places to ride a bicycle and explore the countryside at the same time. If you enjoy sports like golf or pickleball, you’ll find public courses and courts readily available. For days when the weather isn’t cooperating, you might even try a yoga class or dance lessons!

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road
                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Strength training is an important way to build your muscles so you can participate in activities and stay strong. We carry a set of adjustable dumbbells with us in the RV, so we can workout anytime. Resistance bands are an inexpensive and lightweight option and can provide a similar workout to weight training. You can also do bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, and sit-ups without any equipment at all. If you need guidance or inspiration, check out the plethora of workouts online for all types of strength exercises and fitness levels. Finally, some travelers opt to keep a membership at one of the nationally based fitness centers that have locations all over the country.

                    Eat Nutritious Foods

                    Just like at home, one of the best ways to eat healthy nutritious foods is to cook them yourself. When you prepare your own meals you have control over ingredients, portion size, and cost. Keeping a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator will not only help you prepare great meals but will also keep you from the temptation of convenience foods. Cooking in your RV is easier than you think!

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Some key nutritional pointers that have worked for us include making 80% of our intake from whole or nutritious foods. The other 20% can be for treats or favorites so you don’t feel deprived. Incorporate a protein source and a fruit or vegetable into each meal. Try cutting back on sweetened beverages and opt for more water. Water has zero calories and drinking 8 glasses a day helps your body function more efficiently.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    These tips work whether you eat at home or go out to a restaurant. After all, part of the fun of RVing is getting the opportunity to taste local cuisine when we visit new places. If you overindulge and eat a large meal, cut down on the next one. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, just consistently do the best you can. According to the CDC healthy eating is worth the effort as it boosts your immunity, helps digestive function, and strengthens your bones.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Get Some Rest

                    Sometimes it’s hard for people to decompress and relax so that they can enjoy their RV adventures. They’ve been looking forward to a fun trip and want to see and do it all. Just remember that you can’t see and do it all in one day! When we first started traveling, we got caught up in the excitement and wore ourselves out in the first week. Finally, we realized that we needed to plan some downtime into our schedule and slow the pace down a bit. We learned that when we were rested, we had a better time and enjoyed our planned activities even more.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road
                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    In addition to slowing down the pace, it’s important to get enough sleep. At least 7 to 9 hours is recommended to keep your mind sharp and your energy up. A good bedtime routine can help your body prepare for the night. Start winding down about 30 minutes before bed and set a time for lights out. We enjoy reading to help us get sleepy but avoid tv and device screens as the blue light they emit can make it difficult to fall and remain asleep. The last thing you want is to be cranky on your travels. 

                    Happy (and Healthy) Travels!

                    It doesn’t have to be complicated to stay active and healthy during your RV travels. As you see there are easy and enjoyable ways to get exercise no matter where you are. Take advantage of fun opportunities in each area you visit to maintain or even improve your fitness level. Being aware of what and how much you eat will help you to avoid any major weight changes. It takes a little discipline, but you can still travel and have your cake too! And finally, a well-rested traveler is a happy traveler. Get a good night’s sleep and you will be ready for whatever the day brings.

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road

                    Being healthy and enjoying your travels do not have to be mutually exclusive. Taking care of yourself allows you to travel in your RV and have amazing adventures. Make being strong, healthy and fit a priority and you can still have the time of your life. Happy travels!

                    Staying Fit and Healthy on the Road
                    Robin Buck

                    Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.

                    We’re Proud to Offer a Military Discount

                    As a simple yet meaningful way of saying thank you for your duty and dedication to our country, NIRVC offers a special discount to military veterans, reserve force members and active service members.

                    All U.S. military members and vets are eligible for a 5% discount on storage, parts and labor. There is a $250 discount limit per visit.

                    To learn more, chat with your local NIRVC dealer or contact us at info@nirvc.com.

                    7 Easy Ways to Preserve Your RV Travel Memories

                    Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares about ways you can preserve your travel memories. 

                    A great benefit of owning an RV is the ability to travel the country to visit new and interesting places. Whether you are taking a quick summer vacation or going on an extended trip, you will want to remember all of the fun times you had. We like being able to share our journey with family and friends, but also want to make sure our travel experiences stay vivid and unforgettable later on. These 7 creative ways to preserve your trip will help you capture those wonderful memories and make sure they stay with you long after the trip is over.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    1. Journal Your Adventures

                    One of the most traditional yet timeless methods of preserving travel memories is by keeping a travel journal. The act of putting pen to paper can help you relive your experiences, capture your emotions, and document the small details that often get forgotten. Try to write daily entries about your activities, the people you meet, and your impressions of the places you visit. As an alternative to a full-blown journal, I have found that a planning calendar can be a good place to document travels, notes, and timelines.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    2. Compile a Travel Scrapbook

                    One step up from a travel journal is a travel scrapbook. Here you can combine your journal entries along with sketches, photographs, and mementos all in one place. Many people enjoy including postcards they sent to themselves from each place or ticket stubs and brochures from attractions they visited. This tactile and creative approach allows you to craft a personalized keepsake to hold your cherished memories.  By using decorative paper, stickers, and markers to embellish your pages you’ll not only see but also feel the memories come to life.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    3. Collect Souvenirs with Meaning

                    Souvenirs are more than just trinkets; they are everyday reminders of fun times and new places. Choose souvenirs that have a special meaning or tell a story about your trip. Since space can be a concern when you are traveling in an RV, we usually look for small items like refrigerator magnets, keychains, flattened pennies, or park tokens. Sometimes, though, I might purchase a handmade craft, a t-shirt, or even jewelry as a memento. Displaying these souvenirs in your home or RV can spark conversations and bring back pleasant memories for you to share.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    4. Map Your Journeys

                    Many people like the visual appeal of seeing their travels and routes displayed on a map. You can plot your travel adventures using pins, stickers, or color-coded markers to represent each destination. Another fun option is a scratch off map. We have one for all of the national parks and scratch off a sticker for each place we have visited. If you want to go digital there are sites like Google Maps or MyTravelMap where you can input your travels and then print it out or share with friends.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    5. Capture the Moments with Photography

                    Photographs are perhaps the most immediate and visually stimulating way to preserve travel memories. You can use a good camera or even a smartphone to capture breathtaking landscapes, vibrant street scenes, and candid moments with locals or other travelers you meet. Experiment with different angles and lighting to make your photos unique or try an action shot of fun activities. Interesting new foods, unusual architecture, and famous landmarks are other great subjects for your pictures.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    One key thing about photos is that they can pile up quickly. I suggest going through them frequently to pick out your favorites while everything is still fresh in your mind. Once you know which photos you want to keep you can create a digital album on your computer, or you may also want to print them out for a traditional photo album. Mixbook, Shutterfly, and Snapfish are just a few of the online companies that will help you create a high-quality bound photo book with just a few clicks. Better yet, I like to view mine on a Nixplay digital picture frame and even have one set up with my parents, so I can email pictures directly onto their frame too!

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    6. Create Dynamic Video Memories

                    If a single image can speak a thousand words, imagine what a video can convey! Videography captures not only the visual but also the auditory and emotional aspects of your journey. You can use your camera, cellphone, or even a GoPro to document a bustling city scene, your serene hike at sunrise, or an amazing swim with dolphins experience. Many people post their videos on YouTube channels so they can easily share with family and friends. Videos take a great deal more space than photos, though, so make sure you filter and edit them, or your collection will take up a lot of your camera or computer memory.

                    7. Share Your Travels Online

                    In today’s digital age, creating a travel blog or website has become an accessible and engaging way to document your adventures. Like a travel journal, a blog is an excellent way to write about your travels and allows you to include more in-depth information and even insert pictures and links.  I started my travel blog so that we could share our experiences with our family and friends, but I’ve since expanded to include sharing advice and tips for other RVers as well.

                    Ways to Preserve Travel Memories

                    Many online platforms, like WordPress and Blogger, make it easy for beginners to get started. If you are not up for the ongoing upkeep of a blog, you might just focus on sharing via social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. There you can upload pictures or albums to share your trip quickly and easily.

                    Enjoy Making Memories

                    Documenting our experiences has become part of the fun as we visit new places in our RV. Travel memories are precious and preserving them ensures that you can relive your adventures for years to come. Whether you prefer the traditional approach of journaling and scrapbooking or the modern methods of blogging and videography, there are countless ways to capture the essence of your travels. By combining these creative techniques, you can create a comprehensive and meaningful record of your journeys that will continue to inspire and enrich your life.

                    Robin Buck

                    Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.

                    Glacier National Park: Crown of the Continent

                    Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares her firsthand experience with NIRVC.

                    Visiting some of our country’s beautiful national parks is often at the top of many RVers’ bucket lists. After all, it is the perfect way to appreciate nature in a very up-close and personal way. While we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in each national park we’ve been to, some of them really stand out as favorites. One that is at the top of my list is Glacier National Park.

                    Glacier National Park is located about as far north as you can go in the wilderness of northern Montana. We were so close to Canada that our phones even dinged with a “Welcome to Canada” message! Nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent,” this park’s 1 million acres are home to stunning mountains, frozen glaciers, thundering waterfalls, pristine lakes, glorious meadows, and an abundance of wildlife. This vast diversity offers something for everyone whether you choose to enjoy it by car, from a boat tour, or on foot on one of the many hiking trails.

                    Going to the Sun Road

                    By far the #1 attraction in Glacier National Park is the Going to the Sun Road. This 50-mile-long scenic drive crosses the park from east to west and offers some of the most breathtaking natural views in the country. The narrow road hugs the mountainside as you twist and turn your way up and over the Continental Divide. At the top, Logan’s Pass is the highest point in the park that can be reached by car at 6,646 ft in elevation. There’s a visitor center here and trailheads for two of the park’s most popular hikes: Hidden Lake Nature Trail and the more strenuous Highline Trail.

                    Driving the length of this national historic landmark can take several hours, depending on traffic and how many times you stop. There are numerous turnouts and parking areas where you can take a break to stretch your legs, take photos, and admire the stunning views. I especially recommend stops at the Jackson Glacier Overlook, Triple Arches, and the Weeping Wall. If you do nothing else in the park, this road will give you a sense of Glacier’s rugged terrain and towering mountain peaks. As you enjoy the view of alpine meadows and wildflower fields, be on the lookout for grizzly bears, mountain goats, deer, and bighorn sheep to name just a few.

                    St. Mary Entrance

                    If you start your journey on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, you will come in through the Saint Mary entrance. There is a nice visitor center here where you can speak to a ranger, get trail information, buy souvenirs, or get your park passport book stamped. As you begin up the Going to the Sun Road, one of the first things you will come to is Saint Mary Lake. It is the second largest of the park’s over 700 lakes!

                    You can enjoy lots of nature opportunities in this area without even going very far into the park. We loved the different perspective we got as we rode on a boat tour and learned more about Saint Mary Lake. The tour includes a stop at Sunrift Gorge where a short walk leads to the rushing waters of Baring Falls. There are also several other hikes to waterfalls in this area. The Sun Point nature trail leads to an overlook with spectacular views of Saint Mary Lake and the mountains looming above it. This spot is especially magnificent at sunset! You can also see the tiny Wild Goose Island popular from the opening scenes of The Shining movie.

                    West Glacier Entrance

                    If you enter the park from the western side, you can stop in the Apgar Visitor Center or visit the nearby shops and watersports rentals. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park and offers many water recreation opportunities, as well as wonderful photo ops of its popular colored pebbles. At the northern end of the lake, you can look over McDonald Falls where brilliant aquamarine water rushes towards the lake.

                    Other popular sights on the western end of the park include Avalanche Creek and the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This wheelchair accessible trail winds its way into the forest of towering old-growth cedar and hemlock trees. Some of these ancient trees are estimated to be 500 years old! As you walk through the lush forest with its tall trees, ferns, and mosses make sure to stop for a photo at the footbridge over Avalanche Creek. The power of the water rushing through the gorge is stunning.

                    Many Glacier Entrance

                    If you want to explore another fascinating and popular part of Glacier National Park, the Many Glacier area is full of jaw-dropping landscapes as well as lots of trails and wildlife. The entrance is about 17 miles north of the St Mary entrance on the eastern side of the park. I suggest stopping for lunch at the historic Many Glacier Hotel or taking a sightseeing boat ride on Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes.

                    If you want to hit the trails, there are lots of hikes to choose from with something for all levels. We hiked to Grinnell Lake which amazed us with its turquoise waters and numerous waterfalls tumbling down the steep cliffs of the glacier. Those up for a more strenuous challenge can hike all the way up to Grinnell Glacier or try the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. It’s a very “cool” experience to stand on a massive glacier!

                    Know Before You Go

                    Glacier National Park is one of the parks where timed entry tickets are required during the busy summer months. In addition to the park entry fee, you must go online at Recreation.gov and reserve a timed entry ticket ahead of your visit. If you are not able to get a timed ticket, you can always enter the park before or after the designated ticket hours. We found that going into the park before the opening hours allowed us to deal with less traffic and increased our chances of spotting wildlife or getting a peaceful lake picture with the mountain reflection.

                    It’s important to note that there are size restrictions on Going to the Sun Road, so it’s best to leave the RV at the campground for this adventure. There are campgrounds in the towns just outside both the eastern and western sides of the park that can accommodate big rigs. If you don’t want to do the driving, you can opt to take the park shuttle bus or sign up for a guided Red Bus Tour.

                    Weather is also a concern when visiting this northern park. The Going to the Sun Road typically opens in late June or early July each year after the snow is plowed. We encountered snow along many areas even after the road was open in late June during our visit, so if you want to see more wildflowers and less snow then visit later in the summertime.

                    Beauty Abounds in this Park

                    As its name implies, you will see massive glaciers in this park along with the hundreds of lakes and valleys that they helped to form over millions of years. Spectacular mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls are around every bend. We marveled at the plant and animal species that thrive here and were excited to see more wildlife here than any other park we visited including bear, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and marmots. We truly couldn’t believe how amazing the views were no matter where we looked.

                     

                    Glacier National Park is an explorer’s paradise, and there are so many areas not even mentioned here. You could spend a week or two in the park and not see it all. Whether you choose the exhilarating Going to the Sun Road, water fun on one of the many lakes, or an incredible hike to see a glacier, you will not be disappointed. An RV trip to Glacier National Park is one you will remember forever.

                     

                    Robin Buck

                    Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.