- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — Russ and Jean Glines have picked the theme music to herald their transition from living in a 3,000-square-foot country club home to full-time roadies in a 400-square-foot recreational vehicle.

The Glines, 43-year-old mortgage brokers, are among a growing number of baby boomers who have pushed the number of RV owners to record levels, including some who hit the road full time while continuing to pursue their careers.

“There’s two CDs by the Allman Brothers. We’re going to put them in and turn the volume all the way up,” Mr. Glines said.

Baby boomers have money, a sense of wanderlust and enough technology to run an office or stay in touch with family while on the road, said Rachel Parsons, spokeswoman for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Thanks to Wi-Fi, satellite Internet hookups, e-mail and cell phones, the Glines will continue to run their California-based mortgage company from their Country Coach Intrigue.

“We’re looking forward to sitting in the Keys in Florida with our satellite dish hooked up and working like we were in our office in San Jose and going out for walks on the beach at night,” Mr. Glines said.

Nearly 8 million households owned at least one RV last year, according to a study by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center. That was a 58 percent increase from 1980. About 384,400 RVs were sold last year, the RV association reported.

More often than not, today’s RV enthusiasts are not the types who prefer sipping beer in front of the campfire, roughing it in communal showers in lieu of a 9-to-5 job. Now it’s all about luxury, said Bob Livingston, editor for Trailer Life magazine.

“Older generations saw it as people who were escaping from society, who didn’t want to hold down a job,” Mr. Livingston said. “It was a substitute living, a cheap way to get by in parts that weren’t very nice. It’s totally different today. It’s a luxury.”

The typical RV owner is age 35 to 54, owns a home, has an annual income of $68,000 and travels an average 4,500 miles a year, the study said.

“They’re a very affluent group compared to the general population, very computer-literate,” said Joe Daquino, vice president of the Affinity Group Inc., which publishes directories of RV parks and campgrounds.

Pop culture also has caught the road-tripping bug. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie drove a chic silver travel trailer cross-country on “The Simple Life,” the sexy cast of MTV’s “Road Rules” has a Winnebago, and even Robin Williams is sporting one in a movie released this month, aptly titled “RV.”

Mark and Crickett Gregorich rely on satellite Internet and cell phones from their National RV Seabreeze to keep their businesses going while they live on the road full time with two children and a dog.

Mr. Gregorich, a 41-year-old Web site designer, and Mrs. Gregorich, a 32-year-old mortgage broker, sold their Orlando home last year and incorporate trips to historic sites, museums and state capitols while they home-school or “road-school” their sons, Adam, 11, and Lucas, 8.

“They’ve learned more from us visiting places and going to different museums and parks,” Mrs. Gregorich said. “They’re incredible with geography and history. It’s just really cool.”

The family started from the Florida Keys, driving up the East Coast to Maine last year. This summer, they’re in the Southwest, where they recently visited the Bendera Volcano in Arizona and pueblos in New Mexico. Next, they’ll travel to Canada and Alaska.

Although specialists say boomers are largely responsible for the sales spike, there is also a surprising number of young families buying RVs in hopes of squeezing in more quality time with their children.

Kevin Olson, 45, said RV trips are a great way for him and his wife to bond with their two teens, away from their fast-paced life in Minnesota.

“The casual atmosphere of camping, hiking and biking or just sitting around a campfire is what allures us to this activity,” Mr. Olson said. “In the hectic society that we live in, we find that these weekends we seem to be able to talk to one another more openly and in depth.”

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