MIDDLEBURY, Ind. — Americans are hitting the road in recreational vehicles (RVs). Sales this year top half a million dollars — the highest in nearly four decades.
Part of northern Indiana is the birthplace for 85 percent of all the motor coaches in this country. And they can’t seem to build them fast enough.
The lots at Jayco, a subsidiary of Thor Industries, are lined with all kinds of RVs selling for $15,000 on up, way up.
CBS News opted for the cavernous luxury of the Entegra model with Thor’s CEO Bob Martin. On board there are couches, cabinets, a fridge, a fireplace — and more.
“People love to travel with their own bedding,” said Martin. “Their own linens, their own showers.”
During the Great Recession, unemployment in this region was close to 20 percent. Today, it’s 2 percent.
Matt Lester was once laid off, but now he is a foreman.
“Things have loosened up a lot,” Lester said. “We’ve come a long way in the industry. We really have.”
A Jayco warehouse will soon need 400 more workers at starting salaries near $50,000 a year.
Nearby Elkhart, once down on its luck, is now high on the hog with a bustling downtown and a local KFC offering a $150 hiring bonus.
So, what’s driving the revived RV industry? Low interest rates, gas prices and a renewed wanderlust.
“I just love being on the road,” Andy Littlejohn said. “Romance of the road, meeting new people. That’s very important.”
At a time of deep divisions in this country, Americans may once again find common ground on the road.
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