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James and I just got back from our most recent trip! Were we at the beach? Nope! A national park? Nope! WE WERE IN IOWA!!!!
We’ve had “Winnebago” on the brain lately, so it seemed fitting to go snoop around their headquarters and check them out. It all started in January when the Winnebagans came to Salt Lake City for the giant Outdoor Retailer show.
The OR show is THE trade show for all things active and outdoorsy. The public isn’t invited, but James and I get to attend as part of the press corp. Winnebago, who’s clearly motivated to connect with this active, outdoorsy crowd, actually showed up with the Travato! We were so excited and impressed. No other RV manufacturers were around.
James and I see the Travato as an exciting part of the current shift in HOW people are RVing. Did you see the article on CNBC about this very topic? (Plus they mentioned us!)
The days of sitting in the lawn chair all day at the RV park are being replaced. RVers are shifting to a more active and adventurous demographic, and they want their RVs to fit that lifestyle. And here we have Winnebago stepping up and taking notice. Finally, FINALLY! In talking with the Winnebagans, they have lots more in store for the active RVer, and they are constantly updating their plans for the Travato. That made us even bigger Winnebago fans.
We had to go see all this for ourselves, so we headed to Iowa. Iowa is nothing new for me. My parents were raised in Clinton, Iowa, both ISU alums (go Cyclones!). They actually met at college, never knew each other before that, even though they’re from the same hometown. My grandpa Howard (dad’s side) owned Elmwood Dairy in Clinton; any of you remember it? It was back in the milk delivery days, but the dairy was most fondly remembered for its unique ice-cream flavors and getting cones and shakes in the front of the dairy.
My grandma Ginny (mom’s side) was a nurse for DuPont, which had a huge plant in Clinton back then.
I was actually born in Iowa City (go Hawks! yeah, I got both covered), though we didn’t live there long.
My parents now reside just north of the Iowa border. My sister, however, is still an Iowan, and lives rurally in the northeastern part of the state.
If you’ve never been to the Winnebago headquarters, prepare to be surprised. You’d think, as big of a company as they are, they’d be in a bustling big city. But actually, Forest City, Iowa is a typical, tiny Iowa town (population 4,000) with a large agricultural influence. That’s not the only surprising thing. Even though this is a publicly traded company, and not family-owned like our other favorites (LTV, Pleasure-Way, Advanced RV), it had that family feel to it. It’s small-town people running it, so it makes sense. I find this incredibly endearing; perhaps partly because I feel such a connection, with Winnebago being a huge part of my birth state and all. There’s a lot of pride in this company, and there’s even a long list of people who have been working there OVER 30 years!
We had a blast on the factory tour, and will eventually put up a video so you can see it, too…but since we took 217 video clips on the tour (a little overexcited, I admit), it might be a while. We also swung by my folk’s place in Minnesota while up that way, and got to see my siblings, too. What a great trip!
We’ll be heading out in the RV again in a few weeks….heading to the Advanced Fest Open House, and then northward to visit our friends at The Hitch House in Canada. Will keep you posted and we hope to see you on the road!
Here I am in my parents’ Open Road van. Maybe THIS is why I’m such a huge Class B fan today!!!
This 1973 Chevy Open Road is probably closer to what your parents drove.
I especially love the PS comment at the end of the ad
LOL! I refuse to talk to creepy weird people either!!
Wait! I AM a creepy weird people!
Just saw a 1994 Chevy Open Road Camper listed for sale. It looks like a newer model than your parents and the configuration might be different.
Perhaps this would be a candidate for an “EliVan” restoration.
OMG that is AWESOME! Can’t wait to share that with my folks and see if it brings back memories…
I chuckled imagining your differing responses to this video:
For Stef – warm memories of childhood adventures on the open road
For James – “Cool….. Minions!”
Awww! How cute the little girls helped with the remodel! One of the grandkids, the 2.5 year old “Eli”, is obsessed with tools, cleaning supplies, and always wants to help. Whenever he comes over, the 1st thing he asks is if he can “bacuum”? Or can he help dude with the “yawn-mooer”? I could see him LOVING getting to help on an RV remodel project in the future! James, whaddaya say? Get an old junked B van and make it a family event?
Be careful what you ask for. Hopefully the “AmeliaVan” or “EliVan” will not transform from a junked B van renovation into a project like this one:
I saw somewhere on a different site this guy spent over $22 million on this monster. I noticed “the wife” was nowhere to be seen in this video. The interview with the granddaughter “Kira” was pretty funny as well.
Wow!, 217 clips? I’m sure the folks at Winnebago are scratching their heads and checking their pockets. “Did we just let those two walk out of here with the keys to the kingdom?”
I hope you guys got a chance to check out the Era touring coaches as well as the Travato 59K
You’re probably right, Ted, LOL!!! And, yes, sadly. 217 clips. Two days worth of poking around their facilities. How do we condense all that into a less than 20 minute tour? It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. We definitely DID check out the Era’s and got to see them being built. That’s done with the Travato’s in a neighboring town. Building a Class B is a completely different process than the A’s and C’s, so they separate them from the main factory. Seems to make them more special, since they get their very own facility! We planned to make a video review of an Era and Trend, but ran out of time. But! We’ll probably have the opportunity again soon, so stay tuned! (And thanks for reading…)
I came oh, so close to heading to Forest City last week to buy a Winnebago (and go on the factory tour, of course), but decided instead to order a 2016 through a dealer in Salt Lake City. Can’t wait for your upcoming videos of your experiences there.
That’s so awesome, Ray! You must have purchased through our friends at Motorsportland, a great dealership, super nice folks. We’ve shot a few videos there…James’ slingshot windshield washer test video, and part of the Travato 59g video. Congrats on your new RV!
Love the shag carpet in the Open Road. Bring back shag carpet!!!! (J/K, J/K, please don’t bring back shag carpet.)
My sister had pair of those Groovy pants.
I look forward to the Winnebago factory video.
LOL! Gary, I have to admit, I actually have an identical fuchsia pair of shoes…just like the ones in the groovy pants picture. Maybe that’s why I bought them! Some subconscious memory of my 2 year old grooviness?
Great article, I think I want a tour of that Winnebago plant!
Do it! They encourage tours and they’re open spring, summer and fall to give them!