Have RV, will travel
Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
John "Canner" Culp has been hauling his house trailer around since it was built in 1947. Sometimes it has been his only home and sometimes it was used just for vacations. He and his late wife lived in it for the first two months of their marriage.
For more information
- More information about Tin Can Tourists is available at tincantourists.com.
Now it is Culp's permanent home.
"I'm at home wherever I am," said Culp, 81. "Everything I need is with me all the time. I never have to pack anything and I can sleep in my own bed wherever I go."
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Culp, is a member of the Tin Can Tourists, a group gathered in Cedar Key this weekend to show off their vintage and restored recreational vehicles.
The care that Culp took of the house trailer over the years has paid off. The tiny combination living room, dining room and kitchen serves well as his home, and the original paneling and cabinets still gleam from years of waxing.
Culp and the other Tin Can Tourists are also part of a resurgence in RVs.
RVs are drivable and towable housing units that range from pop-up campers that cost a few thousands dollars to self-contained vehicles costing more than a quarter million dollars. Between 80 percent and 85 percent of the RVs built in the U.S. are towable units like travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers and — other than custom-built RVs — most are 40 feet long or shorter, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
Studies commissioned by the association have found that one of every 12 U.S. households that owns some kind of vehicle also owns an RV.
The association tracks production and preliminary figures show that RV manufacturing was at its highest level last year since 1978.
Production began to decline in the 1970s because of a nationwide gas shortage, inflation that eroded buying power and changing recreational interests.
But between 2001 and 2005, RV ownership increased by 15 percent to a point where nearly 8 million households own an RV.
Apparently, fuel price fluctuations over the past 24 months have not dampened the enthusiasm RV owners have for traveling.
"Motor homes took a little hit when the gas prices got so high, but overall, RVers tell us that when the prices get higher, instead of going 500 miles, they may just go 50 miles but they are still going," said Jim Lubinskas, the association's marketing communications manager.
Culp is among a few dozen Tin Can Tourists parked at the Sunset Isle RV Park on State Road 24 in Cedar Key this weekend who have seen interest in RV camping wax and wane over decades.
Tin Can Tourists were organized in Desoto Park, Fla., in 1919, taking their name from the soldered tin cans on the radiator caps of their cars and trucks, according to Forrest Bone of Bradenton, a retired teacher credited with reviving the club nearly a decade ago.
Bone said the Tin Can Tourists club gathered in northern states for summer conventions and gathered in Florida over the winter, drawing up to 100,000 members in the early 1930s. The organization began its slide to near obscurity in the 1930s for several reasons, including internal political battles, the nation's economic depression and then the rationing of raw materials that accompanied America's entry into World War II in 1941. By the mid 1970s, the club had disappeared.
Bone and his wife, Jeri, began working to renew the club in 1998 to encourage the promotion and preservation of vintage trailers and motor coaches.
On Saturday from noon until 3 p.m., the public is invited to see what Culp and the Bones and other have accomplished.
The restored and preserved RVs will be on display, and the owners will be on hand to answer questions and show off their RVs.
"It doesn't take very long to see ours," said Gail Kent.
She and her husband, Danny Kent, drove up from Tampa for the weekend gathering towing their 1963 Shasta trailer, which is 10 feet long, 6 feet wide and required 10 months of work to restore.
Karen Voyles can be reached at 486-5058 or voylesk@gville sun.com
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