Sunday, 11 March 2007

2007 Caravan And Camping Show

Basically? Big show, small brains organising it... What sort of disservices did the organisers do for themselves and for we the paying public? Argh, where do I start?

To begin with, the show was held at Belmont raceway. This is NOT a venue famous for lots of parking, and honestly, how many caravanning people would NOT come to the venue in their own car? It's all about being off the grid and public facilities like Transperth after all. So parking pretty much ran out after organisers, exhibitors, and staff parked their cars... Consequently the vacant land in the track was used as a giant car park, but it slowed incoming traffic to a trickle.

To add to the stupidities, Belmont raceway management themselves had instigated a major stupidity which the caravan and camping show now felt in aces. Two lanes on each side of the Graham Farmer have easy access to the entrance to Belmont. That's four lanes packed full of traffic which on a normal race day would be funnelling down to two lanes, one heading left and the other right. But as the caravan show was using much of that space, it left four lanes of traffic all trying to fit into ONE lane, the right hand one. Thirty-five (!!!) minutes elapsed between the time we approached the East Pert Powerhouse and the moment we turned into the raceway entrance.

The 4WD trip which crossed and followed the racetrack several times didn't help improve the mood any, and then we got to park miles away from the nearest shuttle bus pickup point. Definitely not the kind of thing a couple of baby boomers (and face it, Grey Nomads drive the caravan industry these days) really needed to have to face on a day that was steadily getting hotter and hotter.

Last year's show was at Ascot and as far as I'm concerned that was by far a more suitable venue, Belmont was just - let's face it - what could at best be called a logistical mistake.

By the time we got through the gates, a mere 13 kilometres from our doorstep, it had taken over two hours to get to the show. That is really pathetic, considering we could get to Skyshow, parked, and a spot on the foreshore, in under 35 minutes at the busiest time.

The next organisational lacuna (="hole") into which the show fell was the matter of food and drinks. I don't know where they got their footage from for the TV ad but it was absolutely crap also. Compared to the smaller show late last year in Victoria Park, this one was a famine in a desert. Even compared to last year's caravan and camping show, this year was distinctly slim pickings.

Look, caravanners are a sociable lot, and us wannabe caravanners similarly are social animals too. We are also as I mentioned, quite a lot of comfortable, spoilt, baby boomers who like their comforts such as being able to choose from a range of meals and drinks, and - yes, I found this to be the total pits also - we like to be able to SIT and enjoy our meal not try and juggle the greasy foultasting chips and a limp chicken roll and drink while standing.

I felt that having been crapped on just gettign to the gate, then crapped on again because of having to haul my emphysemic ass miles across the racetrack because the organisers were too cheap to make it worth Ascot's while, that was bad. Then to pay good money for the privilege of that, that was expected but none the less a bit more than I felt the show was worth all things considered. And then to find that we'd also been left in the lurch for eats and drinks, well that has almost turnedme off the show for good...

The show itself... Hmmm most everything here I'd seen six months earlier in Vicrtoria Park but still a few things became evident. RICH Baby Boomers now drive much of the market. There were a lot more large rigs, big buses with Winnebago logos, a bus with it's own remote-drive-on smart car, HUGE and opulent rigs with driving seats like a cross between a Mack top of the line cab and an airliner cockpit, and more.

The other thing which I saw much more of is fifth wheeler rigs, either as complete sets or as pan trailers, generally with slide-out side sections now. These rigs I must have seen a dozen of, where six months ago there were two at the show.

Portable power generation was evident in accessory stalls all over the place, and as yet only a very few caravans and campers had solar panels and batteries, of those most are pathetic little set-ups that barely manage to keep the fridge running all day, and I predict that once my ideas to do with solar panels and energy get out, you'll be seeing a lot more caravans with all the bumps taken off the roof and solar panels along the roof instead.

Let's face it, currently caravans are miserly with energy and use a roof-mounted air conditioner and roof vents because that saves energy. But these are also the dust and water ingress points that are GUARANTEED to leak because they will tend to sag in after a bit of travel on rough roads. And if you have all that roof for solar energy instead, why not install a small split system instead? You won't need to be saving energy if you do the right thing.

So as I saw a swing to 5th wheelers, I expect a swing away from roof mounted air conditioners and vents in the future, and a swing toward much greater use of solar energy, providing as it does freedom from grid power.

Seen at this show also were the "origami boats" - several manufacturers now produce a small dinghy sized boat which folds flat for transporting along on your caravanning holiday or epic journey and offers comfortable and easy water transport for when you want to go fishing. I wouldn't use them at sea or in white water but as a putt-putt for getting out from the river or lake shore to where the fish are, they seem ideal.

Something else I am not seeing is bikes. All the major car sales places are represented and have tow vehicles galore, but what about the good old dirt bike that can be hung off the back of the caravan or driven up on the A frame? A reasonable bike is almost a must-have for outback caravanning yet few take advantage of the show to exhibit suitable 125cc - 250cc machines...

So all in all an average show in terms of innovative content, and this year also a very disappointing show as far as oranisation or looking after the public.

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