We must be getting the hang of it after five years of visiting RVIA, because we had a rather less complicated second day, with less rushing around. Just by hanging out at the Airstream booth in the morning we were able to find several people we wanted to speak to. I felt like a spider in a web, just waiting for people to blunder into my snare. This knocked quite a lot of business off our “to-do” list and gave us the afternoon to browse some of the more startling RV’s on the show floor.
With the downturn in the industry, the overall show is quite a bit smaller (in square footage) than previously. Predictably, the giant Class A’s in the $500k and up range are fewer, but they are still popular offerings. When the heavy business is done, I like to take a walk through some of the really over-the-top rigs just for entertainment value. Winnebago was trying hard with scaled down A’s, but Tiffen and Fleetwood (among others) still are supplying the people who really need a Class A motorhome with granite countertops, five large TVs, two bathrooms, marble floors, power window shades, and four huge slideouts. I can’t say I wouldn’t like to live in some of them, but it would feel weird to me to drive around a luxury condominium that costs more than any house I’ve ever owned.
The big joy of the day was meeting Sean and Kristy Michael of The Long Long Honeymoon. They were camped outside the convention center and had dropped in for a couple of days to see what RVIA was all about. (If you are thinking about going, keep in mind that it is industry-only, so you must be qualified, and camping on the asphalt is $50 per night.) We were happy to find that the Michaels are just as friendly and fun to talk to as their many online videos demonstrate. I would not be surprised at all to find a video collaboration in our mutual futures. We spent the afternoon talking about ideas and making plans to get together again. They are also now planning to come to Alumapalooza next June, to give a talk and show some of their camping videos.
Airstream made some announcements at the show to the gaggle of financial analysts who always show up at these things. The big news from Bob Wheeler is that production of trailers doubled recently, to 24 trailers per week. That’s still below historic highs but a huge jump and an indicator of the revival of the industry. The whole of Thor Inc. (Airstream’s parent company) is feeling rather bullish about the coming year, and so am I. There are still a lot of companies trying to kill themselves by cutting their way to “survival”, which is like slicing off your arms and legs so you need less food to eat. But more of the companies we saw are making investments and strategic plays for their future, and they came to us with strong requests for new media solutions to help them along. It will be a VERY interesting 2010 for the Airstream Life worldwide media conglomerate…
I know I’ve griped about convention center food and road food many times, so it is my distinct pleasure to tell you about a really good place to eat near the Kentucky Expo Center. Just a couple of miles away is the Windy City Pizzeria, where you can get a Chicago-style pizza, several varieties of microbrews, and a cozy family atmosphere. We found it by chance, in the pouring cold Louisville rain last night. Nobody recommended it, which made finding it kind of fun. We had just hoped to find something local and not too expensive, and this place exceeded our expectations by adding friendly service and great pizza.
I can see it becoming an annual stop for us on RVIA trips in the future. If we can just find one or two more good spots like this, we’ll have the whole trip covered. Then we can stop going to (a) ridiculously expensive business-class restaurants; (b) el-cheap-o and boring chain restaurants.
RVIA runs another day but it is time for us to go. Brett is flying home and I’ve got a 6 hour drive to Grand Rapids to do today, under the threat of lake-effect snow near Lake Michigan. Phase III of my trip begins today, so the blogging will continue.