Elkhart’s EV Dream Dies as RVs Surge Anew

Elkhart, Indiana, is known as the RV capital of the world.

Newmar factory tour, Nappanee, Indiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city suffered badly when the recession hit, and demand for recreational vehicles all but screeched to a halt. That’s when local and state leaders started looking for ways to bolster the area’s manufacturing industry, reports NPR.

The northwestern Indiana County saw electric vehicles (EV) as its salvation after its unemployment rate soared to 20 percent—the highest in the nation at the time.

Electric cars were supposed to be the silver bullet to revive Elkhart’s economy. President Obama visited twice, promising stimulus funds to spark a new economic engine in EVs.

A common criticism of President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package has been that it failed to produce anything—that while the New Deal built bridges and dams, all the stimulus did was fill some potholes and create temporary jobs.

One success the Obama administration duly claimed is the rebirth of the EV industry in the U. S.

Automakers unveiled a number of mass-market EVs, which saw small but rising sales. Battery and parts manufacturers built 30 factories and created new jobs.

It was all part of an effort to promote “green” manufacturing and put a million electric cars on the road by 2015, reports Pro Publica.

The question was: Would it last?

Elkhart once believed it would.

Eager to seed a new industry, the county witnessed EV ventures sprout out of nowhere as the stimulus took off in 2009.

This is Amish Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But by late summer 2011, what had sprouted were mostly weeds. The parking lot of the Think Electric Vehicle factory had an ample supply of them and looked deserted.

There wasn’t a single car in the parking lot. The doors were locked and the windows dark.

At the back of the 200,000-square-foot facility were about 120 road-ready models, called the Think City—a little two-seat fully electric coupe that has a range of about 100 miles before it needs to be recharged.

Hundreds of laid-off factory workers were supposed to have found jobs churning out these Norwegian company’s bug-like, plastic-bodied cars.

Today the Elkhart factory employs two.

That’s right—just two employees are working in this auto plant. At its peak, the plant employed 25 workers. Then two waves of layoffs dropped the payroll down to just two people.

It’s a far cry from the more than 400 that Think Electric Vehicle promised it would hire two years ago.

In June (2011), Think’s parent company filed for bankruptcy.

The decision left the Elkhart plant on the brink of extinction until the American subsidiary was purchased by a Russian entrepreneur who promised to restart production in early 2012.

Then in late January (2012), its largest shareholder and battery maker, Ener1, which received $118 million in stimulus money, also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, reporting that the demand for EVs “did not develop as quickly as anticipated.”

Navistar International had received $39 million in stimulus money to build 400 electric delivery trucks in the first year. But by early 2011, it had hired about 40 employees and assembled only 78 vehicles.

Little remains of Elkhart’s dream of becoming the EV capital?

Elkhart’s economy, however, is on the way back with the RV industry again leading the way.

Welcome to Nappanee, Indiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They’re heartened by a rebirth in the industry that some here thought might never bounce back—the RV business.

“Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated,” says Gregg Fore, president of Dicor Corp. Its companies supply components to RV manufacturers.

Fore says the industry’s downturn was brutal, with business falling off close to 60 percent. But demand for RVs has come back strong, he says.

In 2011, the industry produced more than 250,000 RVs. That’s 100,000 more units than the low-water mark in 2009.

Dicor’s factories are once again humming—and hiring, he says. And Fore believes the market for motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and campers is here to stay.

But one thing that hasn’t changed, he says, is that the fortunes of Elkhart and its 51,000 still lives or dies with the RV industry.

Nearly half of all the jobs in Elkhart County are in manufacturing. And fully half of Elkhart County’s manufacturing jobs are in making RVs and their parts.

The “free” money has now been spent.

The RV industry has come back—it always comes back and without stimulus money from the White House.

This is why government should get out of the business of telling the people they should drive.

Worth Pondering…

Keep your eyes on the horizon and blaze a trail.

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Thor Motor Coach Ranks No. 1 in Motorhome Sales

Elkhart, Indiana-based Thor Motor Coach’s Class C and Class A Gas motorhomes captured the number one position in retails sales, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.

The company’s Class C motorhomes captured the number one market position in 2011 and accounted for nearly 24 percent of all Class C sales.

These results showed Thor Motor Coach’s Class C brands grew fastest amongst the top manufacturers with a 17.5 percent increase, the company noted in a news release.

In addition, Thor Motor Coach’s Class A Gas motorhome brands led the market in 2011, capturing 23.7% of all gas powered Class A sales.

The company attributed its success to a talented dealer network. The partnerships formed between Thor Motor Coach and its dealers solidify the foundation to develop innovative products with superior value.

“Reines RV and Thor Motor Coach have been partners for over 12 years. Finding the right motorhome manufacturer was an important factor for our long term success as an RV dealership. Thor Motor Coach’s products have always been known as “the best value” with a solid reputation for standing behind their motorhomes”, said Lindsey Reines, owner Reines RV in Manassa, Virginia.

Consumer focused programs such as “Gold Star Inspections” and “Concierge Connection” emphasize a commitment to quality driven products. These industry unique programs create unyielding partnerships with dealers and retail customers.

2012 Challenger 37DT interior (Credit: thormotorcoach.com)

“You cannot be the top single brand retailer of motorhomes without partnering with great dealers. These alliances are essential, allowing us to provide our customers a superior ownership experience”, emphasized Jeff Kime, President of Thor Motor Coach.

In an earlier story, we reported that Red Bay, Alabama-based Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. finished 2011 as America’s No. 1 manufacturer of Class A motorhomes.

Details

Thor Motor Coach
Thor Motor Coach was formed when Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International strategically merged in late 2010. For over 23 years Damon and Four Winds have been building many of the most recognized brands of motorhomes.

Thor Motor Coach manufactures Class A Front Engine Diesel motorhomes (Serrano and Avanti), Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes (Astoria and Tuscany), Class A Gas motorhomes (A.C.E., Hurricane, Daybreak, Windsport, Challenger, and Outlaw), and Class C motorhomes (Four Winds, Chateau, Siesta, Siesta Sprinter, Citation, and Citation Sprinter)

Thor Motor Coach is a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Factory Tours

2012 Tuscany 45LT dash (Credit: thormotorcoach.com)

Thor Motor Coach conducts factory tours Monday through Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. EST; no appointment is necessary. For more information about tours, call (574) 584-3655.

Address: 701 County Road 15, Elkhart, Indiana 46516

Phone: (800) 860-5658

Website: thormotorcoach.com

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Worth Pondering…

I choose to live by Choice, not by chance; to make Changes, not excuses.
To be motivated, not manipulated; to be useful, not compete.
I choose self-esteem, not self-pity.
I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinions of others.
—Anon

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Newmar Announces 2011 Customer Service Award Winners

Newmar Corporation, the Nappanee, Indiana-based manufacturer of high-quality Class A Motorhomes and Fifth Wheels, announced the names of its dealers who are being recognized for providing excellent customer service over the past year.

The Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Award is presented to dealers who scored in a pre-determined percentile based on results from customer surveys. Thirteen Newmar dealers earned this coveted award by providing excellent customer service to Newmar customers receiving warranty work.

The 2011 award winners include:

  • Ansley RV, Duncansville, Pennsylvania
  • Buddy Gregg Motorhomes, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Coachlight RV Sales Inc., Carthage, Missouri
  • Dave’s RV Center, Danbury, Connecticut
  • Dick Gore’s RV World, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Guaranty RV Center, Junction City, Oregon
  • Independence RV Sales & Service, Winter Garden, Florida
  • Midstate Camper Sales, Black Hawk, South Dakota
  • Midtown RV LTD, Penticton, British Columbia
  • Midway Motor Homes Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • North Trail RV Center, Fort Myers, Florida
  • Professional Sales RV, Colleyville, Texas
  • Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, North Carolina
Mahlon Miller, left, is the founder of Newmar Corp. He has been named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the History of the RV Industry” by RV Business Magazine. With him is Matthew Miller, president of the company.

“Newmar feels this award is important because we value how our mutual customers are treated and that the service experience is a positive one,” said Newmar’s Vice President of Service Operations, Matt Utley.

“Newmar is pleased with the customer support provided by our dealer partners. As confirmed by their customers, the dealers earning this award possess a strong commitment of customer satisfaction that permeates through their entire organization. We are proud of their achievements.”

Newmar also recognized four dealers with the Mahlon Miller Service Excellence Award. Miller is the founder and owner of Newmar and the award in his name recognizes those dealerships that most embody the spirit of customer service.

This elite group of winners includes:

  • North Trail RV
  • Guaranty RV
  • Dave’s RV
  • Coachlight RV Sales

“Mr. Miller and the entire Miller family have a passion for customers,” added Utley. “Through his guidance and leadership, customer service will be forever engrained into the fabric of Newmar.”

What does it take to become a top RV dealer?

Being a top Newmar dealer for both sales and service may seem like a dream but it takes planning and attention to customer service.

Midtown RV LTD, Penticton, British Columbia

Midtown RV has received the Newmar Customer Service Award for the past nine years from 2003 to 2011. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The heart of the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia seems an unusual location for the only full line Newmar dealer in Canada.

“Service is key! Every member of our staff knows that their first and foremost duty is to look after our customers—and they do,” said George Stayberg, President of Midtown RV in Penticton. “We believe that our business grows because of our customers’ support, and we strive to attract and keep outstanding people by creating a culture where they can grow to their full potential and make a positive and important contribution to our company and our customers.”

Midtown RV, Western Canada’s largest Newmar dealer, offers an indoor showroom, sales and service, RV parts and accessories, and four serviced RV sites for customers receiving service.

Midtown RV has received this coveted award for excellence for the past nine years from 2003 to 2011.

To read an earlier article on Midtown RV, click here.

Details

Newmar Corporation

Established in 1968, Newmar is an innovator and leader in the RV manufacturing industry and recognized nationally for its excellence in quality.

Newmar is privately owned and has a dealer network that spans across the United States and Canada.

Newmar Corp currently manufactures Class A gas motorhomes (Bay Star Sport, Bay Star, and Canyon Star), Class A diesel motorhomes (Ventana LE, Ventana, and Dutch Star), luxury Class A diesel motorhomes (Mountain Aire, Essex, and King Aire), and fifth-wheel trailers (Kountry Star, X-Aire, and Kountry Aire).

NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference

Address: 355 N. Delaware Street, PO Box 30, Nappanee, Indiana 46550-0030

Phone: (800) 860-0086

Website: newmarcorp.com

Worth Pondering…
In every thought and action, think excellence.

—Byrd Bagget

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Progressive Industries Offers Lifetime Warranty

All Energy Management Systems (EMS) and surge protectors manufactured by Progressive Industries are now covered by a lifetime warranty.

“This warranty demonstrates Progressive Industries’ commitment to its valued customers, as well as the RV industry, to build and stand behind our electrical and surge protection products,” said Thomas Fanelli, president of the Morrisville, North Carolina manufacturer of RV electrical products.

“We continue to be the only manufacturer with built-in surge fault indication on all of our EMS and surge protector models, which sets us apart from the competition,” Fanelli added.

Progressive Industries was the first manufacturer to introduce microprocessor technology in the production of surge protectors, as well as a digital display on all models, according to in a news release.

They also continue to offer built-in surge fault indication on all of its EMS and surge protector models.

The new lifetime warranty covers the following models:

  • EMS-HW30C
  • EMS-HW50C
  • LCHW-30
  • LCHW-50
  • EMS-PT30C
  • EMS-PT50C
  • SSP-30
  • SSP-50

Disclaimer: We use a Progressive Industries Energy Management System (EMS-PT50C)

Details

Progressive Industries

Progressive Industries has been a leader in the RV electrical and surge protection industry for the past 13 years.

In 1999, a full time RVer determined there had to be a better way to provide electrical protection to the new generation of RVs that now included high-end electronic equipment.

That vision led him to design, engineer, and manufacture several products that offer state-of-the-art, reliable electrical protection for today’s RVers.

Since those early beginnings, the company has grown and expanded its product line to include high quality, innovative electrical adapters and connectors for RV’s. Still today, the company remains privately owned by the original RVer with the products continuing to be proudly manufactured in the United States.

The Progressive Industries philosophy is simple: The quality of the product is long remembered after the price is forgotten.

Address: 414B Airport Boulevard, Morrisville, North Carolina 27560

Phone: (919) 462-8280

Website: progressiveindustries.net

Worth Pondering…

Oh, what a beautiful morning’,

Oh, what a beautiful day.

I got a beautiful feelin’

Ev’rything’s goin’ my way.

Oh, what a beautiful day!

—“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from the musical Oklahoma!

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MCD Expands to Double Roller Shade Production

In July 2010, MCD Innovations moved its corporate and manufacturing headquarters to a new 9.6-acre campus in McKinney, Texas.

Now, just one and a half years later, due to high demand for its unique products, the shade supplier is expanding again.

The first stage of the planned expansion was recently completed, doubling the production capacity for MCD shades, according to a news release.

“When the current expansion is completed, we will be in position to be one of the largest, if not the largest, roller shade manufacturers in the entire world,” said Travis Townsley, senior RV market manager, noting that MCD has been selected for inclusion as Original Equipment (OEM) in over 24 major brands of RVs.

“We will be positioned to continue to meet the ever increasing demand from OEMs, dealers, and individuals, as well as new markets.”

With this first expansion stage, MCD increased their in-house machine shop area and added several new state-of-the-art pieces of equipment including a fourth axis CNC milling machine.

MCD lobby with many MCD products displayed (Source: mcdinnovations.com)

MCD also enhanced their 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week automated testing stations, which utilize computers and PLC controls to ensure that the highest level of performance possible is built into every motorized shade produced by MCD.

Further, the company enlarged their fabrication department and added several new pieces of equipment and applicable personnel to accommodate the increased demand for the installation of products at their headquarters in McKinney.

“I am a firm believer in the ingenuity of American workers and the ability of American companies to compete with oversees manufacturing companies,” said company CEO Dave Townsley.

“At MCD, we are committed to the ‘Made in USA’ philosophy.

Our research and innovation team is continually developing new products and even better manufacturing processes for our MCD Shades.

“I believe in continuing to raise the bar and am constantly challenging our dedicated employees. This ensures that MCD produces the very best products possible every day,” he added.

“This new expansion will allow our team to design, prototype and build more and more exciting, new shade systems right here in McKinney, Texas, USA.”

The engineering department of MCD utilizes state-of-the-art SolidWorks 3-D Design software in the development of new products.  The engineering group also utilizes advanced, space-age 3-D Printing to prototype and prove new concepts before moving to hard tooling.

“We are dedicated to maintaining this leadership by using the latest technology to manufacture the best shade systems available anywhere, all produced in the USA, not imported, he added.

MCD Innovations American Duo Shade System (Source: mcdinnovations.com)

MCD Innovations has been engineering and producing an array of industry-leading sun protection products since 2003 in their state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in McKinney, Texas. The company supplies a wide range of innovative products to numerous RV manufacturers as well as a number of dealers and RV owners throughout the United States and Canada.

MCD also supplies an array of unique energy-saving and merchandising shade products to the residential and commercial markets.  For example, MCD Shades are found in more than 8,000 Dunkin Donuts locations as well as in a number of other nationally-known restaurant chains.

Details

MCD Innovations

MCD Innovations is a one-of-a-kind, American-owned, family-operated, company. MCD utilizes state-of-the-art, computerized manufacturing equipment to ensure the highest quality and consistency.

From an in-house finish-out shop to convenient 50-amp hookups and on-site installation facilities, MCD has the resources to provide customers with outstanding products and installation.

The MCD in-house Research and Innovation Group is dedicated to developing and proving groundbreaking product designs and have earned their reputation for being innovators, not imitators.

Address: 3303 North McDonald Street, McKinney, TX  75071

Phone: (972) 548-1850 or (800) 804-1757 (toll free)

Website: mcdinnovations.com

Worth Pondering…

There is only one success—to be able to spend your life in your own way.

—Christopher Morley

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Arizona Snowbirds Staying Longer Due to Gas Prices

Snowbirds appear to be staying longer in Casa Grande, Arizona, this winter, partially because high gas prices have kept them from moving around.

Casa Grande RV Park at Pinal Avenue and Rodeo Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to three RV park managers in Casa Grande, located midway between Phoenix and Tucson, a number of factors are contributing to the prolonged stay of some, TriValleyCentral.com reports.

“I’ve noticed a lot more people are staying longer,” said Sally Johnson, manager of Sundance 1 RV Resort on Thornton Road. “I’d say the cause is that gas prices are getting up there and the weather here is much nicer than back home.”

Wendell Johnson, general manager of Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, agreed, saying, “Our longer stays are up 20 percent this year. They seem to be coming for longer periods of time—three to five months.”

Johnson attributed this phenomenon to rising gasoline prices and residents of his park embracing the community.

“RVers are used to moving around and staying different places,” he said. “But gas has prohibited that this year. They seem to be staying here longer instead.

“One of the reasons our residents come to Casa Grande is for the small-town feel,” Johnson said. “The longer they stay, the more they become a part of the community.”

Founded in 1879, Casa Grande was named for the famous Hohokam Indian Ruins 20 miles to the northeast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Casita Verde RV Resort manager Kathy Wallick noted that the Canadian visitors in her park—which she said is roughly half—are the most active.

“The Canadians are great,” Wallick told TriValley Central. “They want to be a part of everything in the park and in the community.”

Wallick said that while gas prices may be affecting winter visitors who come out in RVs, the media coverage has been making it worse. “Yes, the prices are going up, but when you hear about it all the time it just keeps reminding everyone.”

What worries Wallick is next year’s season if the prices continue to rise.

“What I’m concerned about is if the gas goes up as high as they say it will—up to $5 per gallon—what next season will be like.”

The sense of community among winter visitors has been a growing trend, said Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce CEO Helen Neuharth.

“Our winter residents support our local businesses by spending money here, but they also have an overwhelming sense of community. They have been volunteering at the chamber more and more.”

On the state level, the winter visitor population has been holding its own, said JoAnn Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “Most tell me that it’s just about the same as it was last year. It has been kind of stagnant this year—as far as how many people have made the trip out.

“The gasoline prices may be the No. 1 reason people are staying longer this season,” Mickelson said. “The part of the industry that has been hit the hardest in the down economy hasn’t been the parks, it’s been the RV dealers and manufacturers.”

Although the number of snowbirds coming out to Arizona this year may have reached a temporary plateau, they still have a major effect on the economy.

“NAU (Northern Arizona University) recently did a study on the whole industry,” she said. “Statewide, it represents a billion and a half dollars each year.”

Details

Casa Grande

The annual O'Odham Tash Celebration, a gathering of tribes, is held in mid-February and features Native American arts and crafts, ceremonial dances, rodeos, powwows, and parades. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Casa Grande is strategically located at the intersection of two interstate highways (I-8 and I-10) in an area known as Arizona’s Golden Corridor.

Founded in 1879, Casa Grande was named for the famous Hohokam Indian Ruins 20 miles to the northeast.

Midway between Phoenix and Tucson, the city has grown to be the largest community in western Pinal County since its incorporation in 1915.

Casa Grande’s location, mild climate, and scenic attractions make it attractive to tourists and snowbirds.

The annual O’Odham Tash Celebration, a gathering of tribes, is held in mid-February and features Native American arts and crafts, ceremonial dances, rodeos, powwows, and parades.

Casa Grande offers 15 RV parks in the area.

Elevation: 1,405 feet above sea level

Worth Pondering…

Winter in ‘Zona is spring
Spring is summer
Autumn is our winter
And summer is Hell.
—Cherishe Archer

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Reduce the Risk of Fire in Your RV/Mobile Home

The BC Coroners Service and Office of the Fire Commissioner are urging owners of mobile homes and recreational vehicles and operators of mobile home and RV parks to take special care to prevent fires in the wake of a calamitous New Year’s weekend for fire deaths in British Columbia.

Fire safety in a recreational vehicle and mobile home is important. (Credit: klinesrvwisdom.com)

From December 29, 2011 to January 2, 2012, seven lost their lives in five separate fires. Three of those fires and five of the deaths occurred in mobile homes or travel trailers being used as living accommodation. The BC Coroners Service and the Office of the Fire Commissioner are continuing to investigate these fires.

Studies show that fires in mobile homes and recreational vehicles, especially older units, tend to be more devastating than those in other forms of residence.

Mobile home and RV fires claim the lives of 345 Americans each year and injure 765 more according to a fact sheet prepared by United States Fire Administration (USFA) in June 2006.

Fires are a terrifying reality of traveling in a RV. However, it is not something that travelers often consider. (Credit: ohiorvdealer.net)

Heating and electrical system malfunctions are the leading causes of fire in mobile homes and RVs. Together, they account for one-third of the fires.

Tires and brakes are the culprit in almost 20 percent of RV fires. Some of the worst fires are those caused when one tire of a dual or tandem pair goes flat and then scuffs and ignites, long before the driver feels any change in handling.

At each rest stop, give your tires at least an eyeball check. Remember a pressure gauge reading on hot tires is NOT accurate. Tap duals with a club and listen for a difference in sound; you can often tell if a tire is going soft.

Safety Precautions

Reduce the risk of a fire in your RV/mobile home by following these fire safety guidelines:

  • Install and maintain at least one smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm in your RV near the sleeping area
  • Install and maintain a propane (LP gas) leak alarm at floor level in your RV, no more than six inches above the floor
  • Test your smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and propane alarm once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year
  • You should have three fire extinguishers for your coach—one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the coach in an unlocked compartment or in your tow vehicle
  • Make sure family members know how to use the extinguishers and understand which extinguishers are effective on various fires
  • Ensure electrical wiring and appliances are in good working order
  • Never run extension cords under rugs/carpets
  • Have your fuel-burning appliances checked annually to ensure they are properly vented, free of any obstructions and dust, and are in good working condition
  • The stove should NEVER be used to heat the interior of the RV
  • Never leave cooking unattended
  • When using the RV stove top or oven, turn on the exhaust fan and open a nearby window to allow fresh air in and carbon monoxide gases out
  • Ensure that your 110 power cord for connecting your RV to the campground pedestal is in good condition and of suitable gauge wire to handle the electrical load placed upon it
  • Driving with propane on can add to the danger if you are involved in an accident or have a fire; shut off the propane at the tank and turn off all propane-powered appliances while driving
  • Confirm that the local emergency number for police, fire, and ambulance is 911 and is available in your current location
  • Develop and practice an escape/evacuation plan
  • Recognize that impairment by alcohol or drugs can reduce one’s ability to respond quickly to a fire and get out in time
  • The first rule of RV firefighting is to save lives first and property second; ensure that you and your family are safe before attempting to extinguish any fire
  • Never re-enter a burning RV to retrieve anything—GET OUT & STAY OUT

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…
Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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Enjoy Spring at a Texas State Park

With the redbuds and bluebonnets blooming, it’s time to get outside and enjoy spring in Texas.

(Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

“Much of Texas is still way behind its average annual rainfall, but it looks like winter rains in many areas of the state will make for an excellent spring,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith. “Weather forecasters say we may still be in for more drought, so it’s a good idea to make the most of spring while it lasts.”

With apologies to a certain late night talk show host, here are the top 10 reasons to head outdoors and enjoy a great spring:

1. The fish are biting. The white bass, which travel like salmon upstream to lay and fertilize their eggs each spring, are already running in East Texas and in streams with sufficient water. The action should be starting any day now in Central Texas, with Colorado Bend State Park a perennial hot spot. Black bass are also heading into the spring spawning season with several ShareLunkers already on the board at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Plan a visit to TFFC for an up-close and personal look at these amazing fish. Likewise, conditions along the coast are heating up and a tour of Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson offers a front row view of some impressive saltwater specimens.

Devils River Horsemint (Credit: Chase A. Fountain, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

2. It’s that time of year…Wildflowers. The wildflowers are beginning to bloom in all but the most drought-stricken parts of the state. Prime public viewing and photographic opportunities can be found in traditional wildflower havens such as Lyndon B. Johnson and Washington-on-the-Brazos state historic sites, as well as East Texas destinations like Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, and Tyler and Purtis Creek. Sandy soils typically produce some of the better wildflower displays, so head to Palmetto, Inks Lake and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to see bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other early bloomers. For wildflower sighting updates, starting March 15, call the Texas Department of Transportation Hotline at 1-800-452-9292. 

3. The camping is great. Take advantage of mild days and cool nights for overnight camping in more than 90 parks across Texas. Weekend campsites go early in the spring, so book your reservation early.

4. Go ahead, make some s’mores.In many parks, burn bans that were in place last summer and fall and have been lifted. Depending on the weather and altitude, it’s a wonderful time of the year to enjoy a campfire.

5. Hit the road, Jack. Well, hit the trail. Mild temperatures and relatively low humidity make it a perfect time to go for a hike. Not only will you enjoy the scenery and wildlife, from butterflies to game animals, you’ll burn off those s’mores you ate around the campfire.

6. It’s Texas history season. One hundred and seventy-six years ago, the Texas Revolution was underway. State parks at sites that played a role in the brief but sanguinary military campaign that gained Texas its independence from Mexico include Washington-on-the-Brazos, Goliad and the San Jacinto Battle Ground.

7. Go and park it. If you visit almost any of our state parks on weekdays, you’ll find them far less crowded than they are on weekends this time of the year. Try one of the typically less crowded hidden “jewels” such as Copper Breaks, Seminole Canyon, Caprock Canyons, Meridian, or Village Creek.

Goliad State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Head to the beach. If you don’t like crowds and partying, wait until Spring Break is over, and then pack your fishing gear, surfboards and sunscreen and head to the Gulf sands of Galveston, Goose Island, Mustang Island and Sea Rim state parks. You’ll not only enjoy great beaches, but a variety of camping options.

9. Go turkey hunting. Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens in March and Eastern turkey season starts in April. With an abundance of gobblers available, the prospects look good this season.

10. Spring is for the birds. Spring is one of the best times of year for birding. Discover more than 950 places in Texas to see our feathered friends by picking up a Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail or Great Texas Wildlife Trail map.

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Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is neither southern nor western. Texas is Texas.

—Senator William Blakley

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Pilot Flying J Launches New MyRewards Loyalty Program

Knoxville, Tennessee-based Pilot Flying J announced yesterday (March 16) it will launch its new MyRewards loyalty program this spring.

The MyRewards program has a card for every customer: RV customers, professional drivers, and now for preferred fuel customers as well.

MyRewards members are eligible for in-store retail and restaurant discounts.

MyRewards for the RV customer will offer discounts on fuel and dumping fees. Professional drivers will accumulate shower credits and points for purchasing fuel that are redeemable for in-store merchandise and food.

Customers can find their MyRewards account details on customer receipts, at the in-store kiosk or on the Pilot Flying J website.

“MyRewards allows us to tailor rewards and benefits that best fit our customers’ needs and wants,” said Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J.

“As the driver-driven company, serving our customers is always our top priority, and we wanted to make it easy for them to simply ‘join, drive and save.’ That’s how the MyRewards loyalty program works.”

Customers can pick up a MyRewards loyalty card at any participating Pilot or Flying J location and register it online, with the store cashier, or at the store kiosk.

Professional drivers and RV owners who have a Driver Payback or Frequent Fueler Advantage card are not required to get a new loyalty card or re-register.

As part of the launch, each customer will have a chance to win $10,000 in the “Trace Adkins Ride for Rewards” cash giveaway.

Adkins, the country music star and new Pilot Flying J spokesperson, said he is proud to represent Pilot Flying J’s new rewards program for customers because it’s all about loyalty.

“Loyalty is important to me, my fans and the hardworking Americans out there who know the value of a dollar and who appreciate a company that values its customers like Pilot Flying J does,” Adkins said.

“The people who rely on Pilot Flying J for fast, friendly service will get great value from this new loyalty program.”

Now through the end of April, every time customers swipe their MyRewards card at the register, in-store kiosk or the fuel pump, they’ll be entered in the “Trace Adkins Ride for Rewards” sweepstakes to win $10,000 cash.

Which cardholder are you?

If you’re an RVer, professional driver, or frequent customer, Pilot Flying J has rewards designed specifically for you. With MyRewards, it’s your card, your choice.

RV Customer: RV customers want to get in and fuel up easily. Your fuel discounts, Start the Pump registration to stop fuel cut-offs, plus other great rewards are just our way of making life easier for you!

Professional Driver:  Professional Drivers spend long days out on the road. Your rewards are designed to help you refuel and refresh so you can keep truckin’ day in and day out.

Preferred Customer: Not a professional driver or RV Customer? No problem! This is the card for you to get great rewards in our travel centers and restaurants.

Details

Pilot Flying J

Pilot Flying J, the driver-driven company, is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has more than 550 retail locations across North America. Pilot Flying J is also one of the nation’s largest wholesale fuel providers, delivering over 500 million gallons of fuel to thousands of customers in 47 states and eight Canadian provinces.

The company employs approximately 18,000 people and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.

Website: pilotflyingj.com

Pilot Flying J MyRewards Program

Website: pilotflyingj.com

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March RV Manufacturer Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced recall notices involving three recreational vehicle manufacturers—Tiffin Motorhomes, Entegra Coach, Dutchmen Manufacturing, and NuWa Industries.

Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc

Red Bay, Alabama-based Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. is recalling certain model year 2009-2010 bus, as well as certain 2009-2011 and 2013 Zephyr RV chassis equipped with an electronic control module, part number 2791-NN2E-001 or 2791-NN2E-002.

When the brake is applied, the cruise control may not cancel. Additionally, these vehicles may exhibit an inadvertent, moderate increase in vehicle speed until the vehicle reaches its governed speed after the cruise control is set.

A driver may experience reduced control of the vehicle if either the driver attempts to cancel the cruise control by applying the brake or the vehicle speed increases and the driver is unaware of the increased speed, increasing the risk of a crash.

Tiffin will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering wheel switch and reprogram the module, free of charge.

Tiffin has not provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Tiffin at 1-256-356-8661.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Entegra Coach

Middlebury, Indiana-based Entegra Coach is recalling 29 model year 2011-2012 Anthem motorhomes manufactured from July 17, 2010 through November 30, 2011. The front tires could become overloaded due to cargo distribution within the storage area.

Overloading of front tires may cause tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

Entegra will notify owners, and dealers will replace tires, and on some models replace the wheels to provide additional load capacity, free of charge.

Owners may contact Entegra at 1-800-945-4787.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Dutchmen Manufacturing, Inc.

Goshen, Indiana-based Dutchmen Manufacturing, Inc. is recalling 28 model year 2012 Rubicon travel trailers manufactured from October 12, 2011 through February 23, 2012. These vehicles have been manufactured with a frame support located too close to the trailer tires, which could result in the support contacting the tires when loaded.

Contact between the support and tire could result in tire failure, leading to loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

Dutchmen will notify owners, and dealers will remove the interfering frame support and install a new frame support, free of charge.

Owners may contact Dutchmen at 1-574-537-0700.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

NuWa Industries, Inc.

Chanute, Kansas-based NuWa Industries, Inc. is recalling three model year 2012 Hitchhiker Discover America RVs, manufactured from October 10, 2011 through January 30, 2012, equipped with electric/hydraulic (E/H) brake actuator pumps. Some of these pumps may not have been properly heat treated.

This condition can cause premature wear of some critical components in these pumps, which can render the unit inoperable.

The E/H brake actuator provides braking power to the trailer brakes. Failure of the actuator can result in the loss of braking effort by the trailer, increasing the risk of a crash.

NuWa will notify owners, and Dexter Axle Company will replace actuators, free of charge.

NuWa has not provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact NuWa Industries at 1-800-835-0676.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the eleventh in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls.

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