The Ocala RV Show spurs interest in motorhome living during a pandemic 

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For Chris Weiser, a recreational vehicle show represents more than just an outdoor experience. Joined by her husband, Weiser, a retired Ohio resident, has spent eight years driving down the east coast and connecting with other adventurers.

Although their home is in Ohio, their RV is currently stationed in Chiefland located in Levy County. Weiser, who spends half of the year traveling, blames her family for her interest in a life on wheels.

 “My parents started camping, and we just followed them around wherever they would go,” Weiser said. “We started in a tent, and now we are in a Class A.” 

On Thursday, the Florida RV Trade Association celebrated the start of its four-day RV show in Ocala. The event, held in Ocala’s Florida Horse Park, opened its doors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will continue to take place throughout the weekend. For $5, families and adults like Weisers can enjoy RV models of all kinds. 

RVs give people another opportunity to get out and experience the U.S., said Keith Brasier, general manager of Lazydays RV at The Villages.

“Most people try to visit other countries before they even know our country,” Brasier said. “So, what ends up happening is a lot of these folks want the freedom of just going wherever they want, they can leave and bring the house with them.” 

Travelers can make their way across the country and see parts of history that many people don’t get an opportunity to look at, Brasier said. Motorhome living is also an efficient way to keep your family together because everyone can travel in one coach. 

With the pandemic’s latest surge, Brasier said he has seen a lot more customers at the dealership sell their homes in the northern U.S. and purchase an RV to travel throughout the South. 

“They can stay in Florida in the winter, and then they can go back to their family in the summer up in Michigan or Ohio or New York,” he said. “Then come back here until it gets cold again.”

Mike Ryan, 68, the association’s former chief financial officer, looks forward to contributing to the show, which he said is near to his heart. This year, he serves as the volunteer DJ.

“As part of my severance, I get to come here and play oldies music and talk to people and meet people and participate in this beautiful RV show we’ve got,” Ryan said. 

During the pandemic, the association has seen a lot of people working from home on the road — an advantage that only the RV lifestyle can offer, Ryan said. 

“With the COVID situation, a lot of people stopped spending nights in hotels and started camping in RV resorts,” Ryan said. “It is a big industry, big business. It is a great place to spend time with your kids and your family and enjoy the open road.”

For Morgan Spoonhour, 22, a University of Florida mathematics fifth-year student, RVs are synonymous with family bonding time. Growing up, her family used to own a campground lot in Ocala and owned various kinds of RVs. Now, they own a Class C RV, which they have used for Spoonhour’s UF Gator Marching Band performances since 2017.

“Through the years, when we’ve like transitioned from campers, it’s always like when you sell your car and get a new car,” Spoonhour said. “You’re just sad to see it go because you know that there are so many memories in that camper.”

As Spoonhour’s graduation approaches this spring, she looks back at her family’s RV with nostalgia. It reminds her of all the seasons her family came to see her at the football games.

The Ocala RV Show also allows small, family-owned businesses to present themselves to residents from different states. 

Randy Fife, president of Nature Coast RV, a family-run RV dealer in Crystal River, a city on Florida’s western coast, has been attending the Ocala RV Show for 10 years. Fife said the event is profitable for business owners like him. 

It’s very important to the community because it adds a lot of business out of this and creates a lot of jobs and things for this area,” Fife said. “We are looking to sell every trailer, so we don’t have to bring them back.” 

The presence of RVs has grown across the state in counties such as Miami-Dade due to high rent costs. A RealtyHop report released February named Miami the least affordable housing market in the U.S., surpassing New York City.

Charleen Martínez, 17, a Miami-Dade County resident,  has had an RV for five months now. She said her family decided to get an RV to make the motorhome an extra source of income by renting it to another person inside their house.

“It all depends on preference,” Charleen said. “They can be a little bit small, but they are very convenient because they don’t take up too much space. It is amazing how you can fit a house in such a small space.”

Aside from uniting families, camper vans also represent the pursuit of happiness for some. 

Diego Carro, 22, decided to embark on a journey across the country with his fiancé this January and pursue the camper life of which they have dreamt. They went from Miami to Washington D.C. and began a traveling vlog on YouTube.

  This month, they plan to change the scenery and start a new life in Dallas, taking all of their belongings in one drive. 

“People are definitely living in RVs because of how expensive it is,” Carro said. “Not just in Florida, but everywhere in America. It is a better way to live, especially in the era of COVID with remote work.” 

About Denisse Flores Lopez

Denisse is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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