‘TIRED OF LOOKING AT FOUR WALLS’
OKLAHOMA CITY – When COVID-19 began forcing Oklahomans indoors and away from large groups, the airline industry began to feel the pinch. But where the airlines were smarting, the recreational vehicle dealerships began seeing a booming business.
Talking to Ryan Sims, a sales manager for Lewis RV Center in Oklahoma City, RVs (either travel trailers or motor homes) are rarely on the lot because they sell so fast.
“It’s been a record-breaking year for everybody” in the RV business, Sims said, adding, “The used market is extremely strong.”
Sims said since March, people from as far away as California and Colorado have been coming to their RV lot seeking out travel trailers and motor homes.
“It was back in March when cabin fever set in and people wanted to get out of the house,” Sims said, noting that flying on a crowded airplane – with COVID-19 spreading unabated – was out of the question.
RV travelers – families, couples and individuals – that Sims has encountered are primarily traveling and staying within the boundaries of Oklahoma, heading to state parks like Beavers Bend and Robbers Cave in southeastern Oklahoma as well as many other corners of the state like Quartz Mountain State Park and Fort Cobb State Park.
“Many stayed in the state because their children were still in school” dealing with online learning while out of the road.
At Lewis RV Center, which is part of the nationwide Route 66 RV Network, Sims said for all RV buyers, they offer a very thorough overview of how the trailer works – from water lines to electrical systems - and how to tow a travel trailer behind a vehicle.
Sims has warned people seeking RVs to be careful about buying used RVs from individuals as some have engaged in price gouging.
Over at RV Connection in Lawton, Mike Terry said many RV purchases are made by folks from the area – and as far away as California – who are “tired of looking at four walls” and want to get out and about, explore Oklahoma and visit relatives.
Having an RV “gives them options,” Terry said, adding that they just delivered an RV to a buyer in California, where it is hard to find RVs, or RVs that are reasonably priced.
TAKING TO THE ROAD
Although it may have been overlooked due to the pandemic and few people venturing out to movie theaters, one film in 2020 explored the RVing world in Nomadland, a film by Chloé Zhao and based on Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book of the same name. In the film, Fern (Frances McDormand) travels across America, finding jobs where she can, not unlike the Great Depression-era “Okies” and others who headed West in search for work.
And in the 21st century, if you can afford it, an RV motor home can be a mansion on wheels. The story is a greater examination of the increasingly untethered nature of American life, when working within the “gig economy” is something to aspire to. And if you want to see the land that Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie first sang about eight decades ago, hitting the road is the way to do it.
As David Waldrip told the Associated Press earlier this year, when interviewed about his RV travels across the U.S., “My motivation was to continue to live life the way I wanted to live it and not be stuck at home and stuck searching for toilet paper. An Airstream trailer is the best way to quarantine and be socially distanced on planet Earth. You’re self-contained.”
Leslie Blair, with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, said between January and October of 2020 Oklahoma’s state parks tallied a total number of 11,465,046 visitors. During that same time frame in 2019, state parks had experienced a total of 8,520,420 visitors.
“We are way up over 2019 and thankfully the weather – save for the ice storm – has been really excellent,” Blair said.
The top three state parks visited this year have been Beavers Bend, Lake Murray, Lake Thunderbird and Robbers Cave.
“We have had tons of out-of-state visitors,” Blair said. “The majority have been from Texas. Throughout the pandemic, state park camping was never shut down, while parks in other states shut down.”
For more information on Oklahoma’s state parks, visit travelok.com.