TAMPA - Keith and Betty Conine already know their itinerary. The Riverview couple will load their motor home, and head to Branson, Mo., then to Illinois. From there, they'll trek back to Florida, stopping along the way at Civil War battle sites. First, though, they have to deal with the small issue of buying a recreational vehicle. "We're kind of still in the research stage," Betty Conine, 63, said Sunday lounging in a recliner inside a SportTrek 270RL at the Florida Fairgrounds during the Tampa Bay Summer RV Show.
"We know what we want, we just haven't seen it yet," said Keith Conine, 65. The four-day event attracted more than 2,000 people to the fairgrounds, which had close to 200 RVs on display and about 30 vendor booths. The Conines got their first taste of the RV life in 2008 when they rented a motor home, driving it from Arizona to Orlando. Betty Conine, who bragged about doing 90 percent of the driving, said she was sold by how the RV handled the road. "It drove like a Cadillac," she said. "I loved it. If I can get another one and they can guarantee it'd feel like that, I would be in it in a heartbeat." Mark and Lennie Schiefer were agog over the interior of a hulking Entegra Coach Aspire that featured cherry-glazed, hardwood cabinets, stainless steel refrigerator, electric fireplace, porcelain tile flooring and buttery-soft leather. "We're just drooling over these," Lennie Schiefer said of the larger RVs. "Ours is on the other side, but we're drooling on these. They are beautiful." Smiling, Lennie Schiefer leaned into her husband and said, "We'll probably move on up to this." The New Port Richey couple laughed, getting a kick out of the notion. The Aspire's price tag is $365,000. "We're looking for something small because our two children are now in college and graduated," Mark Schiefer said. "So we're looking for something where we can get away and be in nature and not in the hotel scene." Ruth and James Jackson, also of New Port Richey, walked the maze of RVs inside Expo Hall. They're planning on buying within the next year. "We wanted to see different layouts with different lengths and models," Ruth Jackson said. "Kind of narrow down what we think we're looking for." She likes the smaller regional show she was at better than the much larger Super Show, which features close to 800 vehicles, and takes place in January at the fairgrounds. Tamala Pease and Donnie Davis, representatives from Cummins Power South, said RV shows are great places for potential buyers to get a sense of what's on the market. "You do have a wide variety of product to look at," Davis said. "In that aspect, you can broaden your choice." As for the Conines, they were still on the fence. If they didn't buy by the end of the day, they said, they would soon. "We just want to take off and hit the road," Betty Conine said. Added Keith: "We could spend the rest of our lives doing this, you know." firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 371-1860 Twitter: @EDanielsTBO