Getting away from it all, with the comforts of home
Like the products it sells, Alexandria Camping Centre has come a long way since it started 12 years ago.
From modest beginnings, the business has become one of the top towable recreational vehicle and camper dealerships in Eastern Ontario.
“I am very proud of what our team has accomplished,” says Dominique Tan, operations manager at the company which employs 16 during the peak season and has locations in Alexandria and Lancaster.
“It did not come overnight,” he observes. “It took blood, sweat and tears.” There was another key element -- service.
“Serving the customers right, offering fair prices -- that is the real recipe,” adds Mr. Tan.
The company’s clientele is “everybody and anybody,” he observes, noting that models, hauled by “fifth wheels,” are available in all sorts of styles and price ranges.
“Young families, people who vacation in Florida, Baby Boomers are among our customers. You can start with a tent on wheels, for $5,000, and go all the way up the food chain,” remarks Mr. Tan, who runs the business with his father, Ping, and brother, Gabriel.
The Alexandria Camping Centre’s reputation has extended beyond the immediate region. “We have customers from Ottawa, Montréal and Toronto. We recently shipped a trailer to British Columbia.”
Happy campers help promote the local firm. “Camping is a social thing. When you look after your customers, the word gets around,” points out Dominque Tan.
Versatility is one of the big attractions of recreational vehicles. Some want to get away from it all by taking transcontinental treks. Others want to travel a few hours and park the RV in a camping area.
Sales of used RVs have been soaring lately, adds Mr. Tan.
Over the years, materials have improved. Today, most trailers are made of fiberglass, which is 15 per cent stronger and lighter than substances used to manufacture older units.
The RV industry is making an appeal to families who may yearn for simple vacations.
Here is the GoRVing pitch that is regularly seen on television at this time of year: Kids want their wild-hoods back.
They want to play not have playdates.
Get dirty not sanitized.
They want you to trade your parenting books for a fishing rod.
They want to wander.
Be left alone for more than five minutes.
They want to sleep in a bunk. Stare at the stars past their bedtime.
They want to eat with their hands. Eat from a stick.
Visit their neighbour without a chaperone.
They want to run, skip, and roam free.
Let’s give them what they are truly missing.
Let’s give them back their wild-hoods.
Keep your RV stocked with basic supplies, non-perishable foods, linens and clothes, and you’ll be ready to go anytime, anywhere. RVs give you the freedom to be spontaneous.
Everyone has favo-rites and must-haves they can't survive without, but here's a list of some stock items to keep on board at all times:
-Adapters for 30 amp and 50 amp outlets
-Camera and memory cards
-Grill and fuel
-Heavy-duty extension cords
-Maps and GPS
-RV toilet paper
-Nature field guides
-Pillows, blankets, sheets
-Plastic bags (large and small)
-Pots and pans
-Rope and bungee cords
-Shovel (small folding type)
-Soap and toiletries
-Towels -Trash bags
-Water hose (white potable water type)
Before you leave home, be sure to balance your load – and don’t overpack. Consult the weight label on your RV for more information.
The trail of the RVs
The first motorized campers were built in 1910. Before then, people camped in private rail cars that were pulled to sidings along train routes. The year 1910 brought a new freedom to people who didn’t want to be limited by the rail system. RVs allowed them to go where they wanted, when they wanted.
Known as “auto campers” or “camping trailers” a century ago, these vehicles were a forerunner of today’s modern RVs.
The 1910 RVs offered minimal comforts compared to today’s homes-on-wheels.
But they did provide the freedom to travel anywhere, to be able to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy home cooking.
The First RV Models
Camping trailers made by Los Angeles Trailer Works and Auto-Kamp Trailers also rolled off the assembly line beginning in 1910. A version of today’s Type B van camper, the Pierce-Arrow “Touring Landau,” was unveiled at Madison Square Garden that same year, complete with an on-board bathroom. These companies and innovative products were featured in a Popular Mechanics issue in 1911.
The Tin Can Tourists
RV camping clubs date back to the Tin Can Tourists of the 1920s and 1930s. The Tin Can Tourists were RVers who braved dust and mud to drive their Tin Lizzies across the U.S. before transcontinental roads were paved. They camped by the side of the road, heated tin cans of food on gasoline stoves and bathed in cold water.
RVs sold in the 1930s used aircraft-style construction and came equipped with beds, dinettes, electricity and water. After World War II, the RV industry flourished as more North Americans sought mobility.
From tiny do-it-yourself kits to plush 30-foot models, travel trailers came into their own as true towable RVs by 1950. Many of today’s RV manufacturers started production in the 1950s and 1960s. The RV’s evolutionary path included advances in aerodynamic design and interior comforts.
Through war and peace, booms and busts, fuel lines, fads and the cyber-revolution, the RV lifestyle has endured.
Dominique, Ping and Gabriel Tan.