Outdoorsy

I do not see any scenario where we would offer our coach up for rent. We have way too much money invested in our coach and it is a surprisingly complex machine to operate safely. That said, if we had a trailer that sat unused most of the time, we might consider being part of Outdoorsy.

Outdoorsy is a sharing economy technology startup. It connects owners of RVs with potential renters. If you are interested in renting an RV at a certain location, you can jump on their site and see if there are any available RVs, everything from trailers to motorcoaches.

Outdoorsy just raised $25 million in Series B funding from several venture capital firms.

Here is part of their press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Outdoorsy, the world’s fastest-growing outdoor recreation marketplace, powering road trips and recreational vehicle (RV) adventures, today announced it has raised $25M USD in Series B funding led by Aviva Ventures and Altos Ventures. Aviva and Altos are joined by existing investors Tandem Capital and Autotech Ventures. The Series B funding will be used to expand the company’s sales and marketing efforts, broaden its geographic footprint and grow its engineering and product teams.

Outdoorsy is tapping into a new consumer travel trend and building a third lodging category with mobile rooms. Users are able to go where home-sharing sites and hotels cannot go, reaching more places than ever before.

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in San Francisco, Outdoorsy is turning the travel industry on its head, having booked over 263,000 days in the last year alone and generated nearly a hundred million dollars through the platform. The company hosts the largest bookable inventory of RVs worldwide online and is rapidly expanding its global fleet towards its goal of mobilizing the more than 17M idle RVs around the world.

“More than 12 percent of American households own a recreational vehicle, yet rarely use it,” said Jeff Cavins, co-founder and CEO of Outdoorsy. “At the same time, more than 35Mconsumers try to rent a recreational vehicle in America each year with no luck. With Outdoorsy, we leveraged this global, cross-cultural phenomenon of RV travel, especially among Millennials, and brought this multi-billion dollar RV industry online and into the sharing economy.”

Millennials now make up 38 percent of all recreational vehicle usage in North America as part of the larger trend of experiential travel and the desire to have unique experiences. With 40 percent of its user base being under the age of 40, 17 years younger than the industry average, Outdoorsy is tapping into this new consumer travel trend and building a third lodging category with mobile rooms. Users are able to go where home-sharing sites and hotels cannot go, reaching more places than ever before.

“RVs are the perfect gateway experiences for consumers, and the rising demand for campervan and RV travel was a growing trend in which we wanted to invest. Moving this market to an on-demand, online sharing economy was a logical way for us to participate in this new travel market,” said Anthony Lee, Managing Director at Altos Ventures.

“Every on-demand agency in the recreational vehicle market needs to be using Outdoorsy and its pro tools across their operations,” continued Lee. “Outdoorsy built the first solution that definitively shows the world’s largest enterprises down to the at home operator, that they can list and rent safely, while enjoying peace of mind and economic benefits that were never before possible.”

To create this on-demand marketplace, Outdoorsy utilizes state-of-the-art technology. In its first year in market, it introduced Wheelbase, a free, cloud-based and fully-insured RV fleet and rental management application for any business operating from three to 3,000 units. It also built, distributed and parallelized computation and real-time analytics engines to monitor and report on useful real time data, which promises users privacy and security.

“Our marketplace didn’t exist just a few years ago,” says Ryan Quinn, co-founder and head of software development. “The platform is a game-changer in this industry and ensures that our users can enjoy ease of use and peace of mind with every interaction.”

Fly In and Buy

The view from my window seat on an Airbus. This was taken last year when Lorraine and I made a trip down to Las Vegas.

Sunland RV Resorts sent me two different promotions.

One for Naples Motorcoach Resort and one for Silver Palms RV Resort.

Between March 15 and April 1st, Naples is offering a limited-time Fly & Buy offer. You leave your motorcoach at home, explore ownership opportunities at Naples, and if you purchase a lot by the end of the stay, your trip is reimbursed. Pretty narrow timeframe though. A mere two-week window.

Silver Palms is also offering a limited-time Fly & Buy offer. Their window? May 15 – September 15. Much longer.

I wonder what that means? Is Naples more popular than Silver Palms?

The pricing is always a bit of a mystery as neither park publishes their prices on their websites although some of the lots are listed on other property websites and lot prices seem to be roughly similar, around the $150,000 mark.

We might consider ownership at some point. Particularly if we find ourselves returning to the same area year after year.

But not right now. We want to explore a bit first.

In terms of a Fly & Buy promotion, I’m not sure why I would want to leave our motorcoach behind. After all, the whole point would be to experience the park with our motorcoach. Staying offsite at a nearby hotel seems almost pointless.

Of course, when the motorcoach is stranded in storage for the winter, it might be the only option if there was a desire to buy right now. I can’t imagine requesting such an offer and then having to manage the pressure to purchase if I wasn’t already sold on a lot. Oh well. Perhaps they have lots of people go down on impulse.

Here is our coach in its storage facility.

Sad and lonely I imagine.

Launching A New Line Of Luxury

Jayco unveiled a new “luxury” coach at the Tampa RV SuperShow. Here is some of the press release information:

The Jayco Embark luxury coach is designed to meet consumer demand for a premium, more accessible package for younger RV buyers, as well as customers looking to drive a smaller coach, while remaining on the premium motorhome foundation. Spartan’s premium chassis features an independent front suspension with Bilstein shocks, providing the 37-foot coach with best-in-class ride and handling; it also features better serviceability, and Spartan’s extensive service and support network.

The Embark Class A Diesel luxury motorhome features:

  • Three eye-catching premium exterior paint choices
  • Choice of two stunning interior décors
  • Galley kitchen galley complete with residential refrigerator with ice maker and water dispenser, induction cooktop, 1.5 cu. ft. convection microwave oven, solid-surface countertops and stainless steel sink
  • Versatouch Lyra command center with App
  • Entertainment system including a 50-inch LED HDTV with a sound bar in the living room and a 32-inch LED HDTV in the bedroom
  • Exterior 39-inch LED HDTV
  • Industry-leading manufacturer’s limited 2-year warranty and 24-hour roadside protection plan

The Spartan K1 360 chassis features:

  • Industry first Cummins B-series engine packaged chassis with an Independent Front Suspension
  • Bilstein 46mm shocks which provide consistent ride tuning
  • Easier serviceability with Spartan’s exclusive side-mounted service center
  • 10,000 lb. towing capacity
  • Raised rail design for frame strength and basement storage
  • Rear-mounted radiator and charge air cooler, parallel air flow system with low-profile radiator with clutch to minimize noise and dust kick-up

This is Spartan’s first foray into the Cummins B-series diesel market segment and an indication that the red hot RV market sees room for an entry level diesel pusher with some upscale pricing.

Specs and features here.

I configured the 37MB model with the following options:

  • Canadian Standard (not sure what that is but being a Canadian I thought, “what the heck, eh?”)
  • Customer Value Package which includes an 8kW diesel generation, 2,000 watt inverter, 15,000 BTU air conditioner with heat pump (2), automatic leveling jacks, backup and sideview cameras, power awning, solar shades and a couple of other minor items. (Not sure why you would order a coach without most of these items.)
  • Central Vac
  • Theatre Seating
  • Winegard Satellite Dish
  • WiFi Extender
  • Slideout Storage Tray
  • Solar Prep
  • Washer/Dryer

This is the floorplan:

And this is an interior shot from their website.

Add it all up and the coach lists for $300,000 USD or about $380,000 CAD. Assuming a 25% discount off MSRP and adding in taxes and dealer prep, this coach is roughly $325,000 CAD. Seems a bit high for younger RV buyers. North of $300,000 and you can find some wonderful lightly used models albeit with a larger chassis.

And it doesn’t look all that great in the photo gallery. Seating, finishes and cabinetry don’t cry out luxury to me.

Seems like a lot for a little coach.

It would be interesting to see how it drives on the Spartan chassis. And perhaps it does fit a certain customer segment.

Either that or there is so much demand that price and value aren’t all that meaningful in the market right now. Build something as cheap as possible and sell it for as much as possible.

Tampa RV Supershow

I still haven’t been to the Tampa RV Supershow. Perhaps next year depending on our travels south.

According to RV news, the show achieved record attendance levels:

The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) enjoyed a record attendance of more than 73,000 participants at its five-day 2018 Florida RV Supershow last week.

“We experienced the perfect storm of pent-up demand, record stock market levels, low interest rates, stable gas prices and five beautiful days of weather,” said FRVTA Marketing Director David Kelly.

The Supershow’s theme was “Wherever You Roam, You’re Always at Home,” reflecting the reality that RV users can bring hunting, fishing, and camping equipment in addition to anything else their traveling companions want, and even if they move on to a new location, everything is still with them. One of the highlights was a new seminar, “RVing 101- Everything You Need to Know,” which was aimed at first-time RV buyers and tried to answer all basic consumer questions. The seminar was so popular that more chairs had to be added to the seminar area after the first session.

“We feel that the Supershow reflects the attitudes of the RV consumers nationwide as so many attendees come from all over the country,” Kelly said. “If the Supershow is any indication, the industry is on pace to set more records again this year.”

Hopefully the Goldilocks economy continues to roll along for a few more years. And hopefully there will be some sites available as all of these first-time RV buyers hit the road. We are planning to book way ahead of our travel plans just to make sure we have a good spot.

Snowbird Safety Towing Checklist

The Freightliner Chassis Owners Club had an article in their Winter 2017 publication of RV Soul on the importance of having a towing checklist. They credit the list to Blue Ox, a company that specializes in products for motorhome owners to flat tow their vehicles.

Here is the list:

  • Inspect the tow bar, dolly or trailer for loose bolts and worn part – tighten or replace before hooking up. If you have bolts that are consistently coming loose, use Loctite® or put on a double nut to keep them tight.
  • Hook up on a flat, smooth surface.
  • If you have a coupler-style tow bar, check the fit of the coupler on the ball. Adjust if necessary.
  • Hook up the tow bar.
  • Set up the towed vehicle’s steering and transmission to tow.
  • Check your parking brake to ensure it is off and disengaged.
  • Latch the legs on a self-aligning tow bar.
  • Attach the safety cables. Cross the cables between the vehicles and wrap the cables around the tow bar legs to keep from dragging.
  • Attach the electrical cable and tow brake system connections.
  • Check the function of all lights on both vehicles.
  • Locate your spare key and lock the towed vehicle’s doors.
  • Drive with care and remember your vehicle will be about 25 feet longer while towing.
  • Each time you stop, make sure to check the tow bar, baseplate and safety cables to ensure they are still properly attached. Pay particular attention to the hitch clips and pins that secure your tow bar or drop hitch to the motorhome hitch. Many breakaways occur because a pin clip has been removed and the pin drops out, allowing the toad to be dragged on the safety cables. Check the tires of the towed vehicle to make sure they are not going flat. If you are using a dolly or trailer, check the wheels to make sure they are not hot to the touch. If the wheels are hot, it may indicate a brake or bearing problem.
  • Before you start each day, check the lights to make sure they are working properly.
  • Between trips, clean the tow bar and cables to keep them in good shape. Also, clean and lubricate the tow bar as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions (usually by applying spray silicone lubricant).
  • Have a checklist. It’s just too easy to get distracted and forget something (like ignition position, emergency brake, breakaway hook-up, transmission in wrong position, etc.).
  • Make sure you have a second key to the tow vehicle. That way you can leave your rig parked and hooked up without having to worry about unlocked doors.
  • Check all the connections every time you fuel up or make a rest stop.
  • Never let yourself be interrupted when hooking up. Keep your mind on your work.

There were a few items that stood out for me. Making sure that we have a second key to the tow vehicle safely stowed. Checking hitch clips and pins. And having a thorough checklist.

I remember reading about Nina and Paul, the couple behind the popular Wheeling It blog, when they had their first RV accident in 2016: their tow car came loose while in transit. They avoided a potentially devastating accident although they did incur a fair amount of damage to their toad and some damage to the rear of their coach. One of the big lessons that they learned through the experience:

More Regular Checks On The Road: It’s possible we could have avoided all this by implementing more checks on the road. When we first hook-up we follow a pretty rigorous process where both of us double-check each others’ work (4x check), so we know without a doubt that the cotter pins were firmly on there when we started driving. But once we start driving we generally don’t check again. In this case we took a ferry (we were stopped for a while) and then had some bumpy driving thereafter and admittedly we did not double-check the tow connections after either of those events. I honestly have no idea if this would have helped (we really don’t know exactly when we lost the cotter pin), but I think that getting into the habit of walking around the rig and doing a double-check of tow connections whenever you are stopped (or things significantly change) is a good idea.

One thing I do think about when getting ready to travel is to treat every trip as a new trip and to be disciplined in running through our circle checks. Sometimes I just want to hop in and get started as quickly as possible. Easy to do in a car. Not safe to do in a large motorhome.