In the battle of RV Show vs RV Expo, our kid wins!

Sometimes, life has a way of helping us make an easy decision.

While we were parked in San Antonio for our biannual visit last month, there were two popular RV shows going on in Texas, but unlike last year when we were able to attend each one, both the Houston RV Show and the Austin RV Expo were scheduled for the same weekend in 2017.

The former: 200-mile drive, heavy traffic, overnight stay required. Houston? We have a problem.

The latter: 90-mile drive, heavy traffic, day-trip distance. But… our younger son, a second-year University of Texas Longhorn, lives there and as you might expect, he happily allows us to take him out for shopping and dinner. Austin? We have a winner!

For those who might need a different set of parameters before making a decision in time for the February 2018 shows:

The Houston RV Show is big. As in, TEXAS BIG. In fact, according to the event’s web site, this is the largest RV expo in Texas, with 9 dealerships offering more than 600 recreational vehicles, plus RV-industry related vendors and campground representatives, and daily educational seminars.

In 2017, the show ran from Wednesday through Sunday, with admission prices of $12.00 for adults, $5.00 for children ages 6-12, and free for those under age 6. It is held in the NRG Center, which is adjacent to NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans. I’m telling you: big.

When we attended this RV show in 2016, we ended up spreading our visit out over two days in order to take looks and second looks at everything we wanted to see, and by the end of Day 2, I literally resorted to drastic measures (grabbed another man, then faked death) to get out of there.

By contrast, the Austin RV Expo is petite. There were only 6 dealerships and a single row of RV-industry related vendors in the Austin Convention Center, which stretches over six city blocks in a highly congested downtown area. I was unable to find an estimate on the number of recreational vehicles offered, but this preview of “just some” shows 95.

Now there’s a familiar name.
Just look how clean and shiny it is!

In 2017, the show ran from Thursday through Sunday, with admission prices of $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for seniors and children ages 7-12, and free for those under age 7. In 2016, we spent several hours there, as we were intentionally shopping for a new RV at the time. Since then, we’ve decided to keep and upgrade our 2008 Bighorn, so this year we made it in and out in a record 90 minutes!

Know before you go to Austin

Tip 1: City traffic is notoriously heavy, and the convention center is surrounded by narrow, crowded, one-way streets, half of which always seem to be under construction. If you want to score a surface lot or street parking, arrive early. We ended up getting a late start, arriving after noon, and had no choice but to park in the garage at 2nd and Brazos, two blocks away. Although we made it in and out safely with our 1-ton dually, it was a white-knuckle experience watching the top of our cab just barely clear the concrete ceiling beams, and we will not repeat it.

Source: austinrvexpo.com

Tip 2: Visit the event web site for $2/off general admission coupons, or try what worked for us in 2016. On our way to Austin, we stopped at an RV dealership to take a look inside a few models on the lot. When we mentioned to the salesman that we were heading to the expo next, he handed us a pair of complimentary tickets from a stash in his desk drawer, as thanks for visiting his business!

Tip 3: The convention center concessions are overpriced and unpalatable. Pack a lunch, or leave the building to dine in one of many nearby downtown restaurants. Just remember to get your hand stamped if you plan to return!

Tip 4: That said, there’s a bar. Inside the expo. You can walk around the exhibit hall with beer in hand, if that’s what it takes to get you through.

No lines, no waiting.
I can fix that.

Tip 5: Austin is full of places to have An Experience, whether you’re into food, microbrews, indie book stores, live music, athletic/outdoor endeavors, museums, people watching, shopping, or any number of interests and activities. Open your favorite internet travel resource, search “Austin,” and then take or make time to explore more than just the RV Expo while you’re there. You won’t regret it. After all, friends do let friends get weird in Austin.

Go with it.
Let it happen.

(Author’s note:  a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

RV show, Day 2: I had to grab another man

No, really. That’s how I tried to get out of there.

We went back to the Houston RV Show yesterday with a couple of RV-ing friends, Jay and Kris. I’d joked with Kris early in the day that if we couldn’t get our husbands to quit talking to sales reps (they are both big on asking questions, crawling underneath the chassis, and in short gleaning every possible detail about any rig that captures their interest), then we could try leaving — with other men.

And when the clock hit 7:55, at a show that ends at 8:00, and our two guys had started asking yet another rep yet another round of questions, Kris looked at me and said, “I think it’s time to try that trick. I’m doing it.”

Since it was my idea in the first place, what could I do but fall in step behind her?

And that is how two very bewildered Holiday World salesmen ended up walking us toward the convention hall exit, linked arm in arm like groomsmen escorting wedding guests down the aisle. Good sports those chaps, but then I think we made their day with our conspiratorial winks and “Can you just walk with me for a second while I explain…?”

Did it work?

Hell no.

Tim and Jay noticed right away, but then called our bluff by hollering loving sentiments like, “Good luck!” and “You get the mortgage along with her!”

Much laughter ensued — from our escorts and from a small assembly of bemused onlookers.

So I put Plan B into motion and flopped to the floor, feigning Death from RV Show.

(Photo by Kris, who was probably laughing)

(Photo by Kris, who was probably shaking with laughter)

That didn’t really work either, but hey, it made for a great story, eh?

Oh, and no, we did not buy a new RV. Someone had already bought the one we were most interested in, but we were impressed enough with it to continue researching the manufacturer, dealerships, options and pricing, so stay tuned!

Sold to a guy with the same first name as my brother. "Aww, Mom. Why does *he* always get the new toy before I do?"

Sold to a guy with the same first name as my brother.
“Aww, Mom. Why does he get to have it?”

Tim came armed with a spread sheet...

Tim came armed with a spread sheet…

... and a tape measure. He just happened to find this eager little helper on the couch.

… and a tape measure.
He just happened to find this eager little helper on the couch.

But it's all for good reason. We've been burned once on RV purchasing, and he's going to make sure that doesn't happen again.

But it’s all for good reason. We’ve been burned once on RV purchasing, and he’s going to make damn sure that doesn’t happen again.

As I'd mentioned in my last post, exterior TV mounts are a popular thing, along with outdoor kitchens. I guess they appeal to folks who do a lot of tailgating. For us, they made for an easy way to rule out hundreds of RVs!

As I’d mentioned in a Feb. 10 Facebook post, exterior TV mounts are a popular thing, along with outdoor kitchens. I guess they appeal to folks who do a lot of tailgating?
For us, they made for an easy way to rule out hundreds of RVs!

FullSizeRender 2

And hey, any day that includes a hug from this guy is a good day. I met Yogi Bear! I met him!

You just can’t drape yourself over an Airstream

I know. I tried.

There's no hood, and draping myself over the top just wasn't going to work. Too many witnesses. Here's the best I could do.

There’s no hood, and flopping languidly over the top just wasn’t going to work. Too many witnesses (including that guy inside). This here’s the best I could do.

We’re in Houston for the 52nd Annual RV Show — which makes it older than we are, but younger than most of its attendees, although we were happy to see so many young families there on opening day yesterday. And by happy, I mean we didn’t grumble over dodging a few strollers, witnessing a few melt downs, and returning a sippy cup that had been left behind by a little girl who’d been understandably distracted by an electric fireplace.

Opening day is on a Wednesday. Hooray for no weekend crowds! (Remind me of this when we go back with friends on Saturday.)

Opening day is on a Wednesday. Hooray for no weekend crowds!
(Remind me of this when we go back with friends on Saturday.)

The show boasts a convention hall filled with more than 600 RVs of all varieties, from those cute little teardrop travel trailers (basically a towable hard-sided tent with a grill on the back) to conversion vans, to luxury motor homes with price tags in the six-figure range. One of those prices actually started with a 6. Not kidding. We walked through it. Meh.

Price tag for a much less expensive mobile home. Yes, you could buy an actual house for that, but would it come with a Lifetime Womanfy?

Price tag for a Mobile Suites fifth wheel, a few of which are for sale here if you want to see what such a thing looks like.
Yes, you could buy an actual house for that, but would it come with a Lifetime Womanfy?

After an incredibly expensive and nearly inedible lunch purchased from the only open concession stand we could find inside the NRG Center (Kirby Cafe. Don’t eat there. Seriously. Starving is better.), we attended a seminar called “Making Electricity on the Road: Generating & Using Power Efficiently.” I made it through solar and wind generators before my mind wandered off and landed on the true ol’ Texas cowboy sitting next to Tim. You know you’re in the presence of the real thing when he’s wearing a Wrangler shirt and pressed jeans, and his hat matches his boots, which match both his belt and suspenders.

This is Billy Thibodeaux, who's been a presenter here for more than 20 years. He's got miles and miles worth of knowledge to share, and it's certainly not his fault that I am so easily distracted.

This is Billy Thibodeaux, who’s been a presenter here for more than 20 years. He’s got miles and miles worth of knowledge to share, and it’s certainly not his fault that I am so easily distracted.

Anyway, after that we meandered in and out of what felt like about 800 RV’s — yes, even though there were only 600 there, and we stuck mostly to fifth wheels, with the exception of one mobile home, and the aforementioned Airstream.

We saw lots of nifty features, some more interesting and/or useful than others.

Yes

Wine rack: Yes!

Yes

Another yes!

Ewwww

Strip of LED lights above bed: Ew and no thanks.

Why, why, whyyyyyyyy?

Bathroom with a screen door: No, hell no, and seriously WTF, y’all?

The captain is in command -- of a fold-out porch.

Relax, captain. You’re in command — of a fold-out porch.

That's Tim on the right, getting the undercarriage report from the salesman of this unit. We uh, we could be in trouble...

That’s Tim on the right, getting the Undercarriage Report from the salesman of this 2016 Highland Open Range.
We uh, we could be in trouble…

And at the end of our long day (health app says I walked nearly 4 miles), this is how we found each other.

And at the end of our long day (health app says I walked nearly 4 miles inside that convention hall), this is how we found each other. I’d taken a seat; he’d marched on.

We’re gonna take two days off to consider a few things, and then go back again on Saturday with friends, and what the hell, maybe the checkbook and a pre-approved loan too.

Strap in, y’all. Road could get a little bumpy ahead…