THE GRID: More at Home on the Road

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Dave Davidson finally broke down and bought a motor home last year. The Glendora, Calif.-based electrical contractor says the recreational vehicle (RV) makes it easy to spend quality time with his wife and three kids. We use every excuse to get out in it, says Davidson, 40.

He heads one of 6.9 million households in the U.S. that own an RV. The vehicles range from trailers to self-propelled motor homes. Last year, RVers spent some $11 billion on such vehicles, up 150 percent from $4 billion in 1992, according to the Reston, Va.-based Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. The number of households with RVs is projected to rise to 7.8 million in 2010, up 13 percent from 2001, according to Crowe Capital Markets Research, a Chicago-based investment bank. The growth will be fueled by Baby Boomers, like Davidson, as they enter their prime RV-buying years. As buy-rates among Baby Boomers rise, within the decade, close to 1 in 10 Boomer-headed households (9.2 percent) will hit the road in an RV.

The accompanying map, created by Claritas for American Demographics and based on data from Mediamark Research, Inc. (MRI), shows where to find households that are most likely to own motor homes the most upscale of all RVs, ranging in price from $6,000 for a simple trailer to an average of $136,000 for a fully loaded model.

Owners tend to hail from rural counties, where campgrounds and parking are plentiful. The PopUpdate boxes surrounding the map highlight the top five counties with over 50,000 households, where households are more likely than average to own motor homes. States such as Florida, California and Arizona, which are rich in natural resources and home to strong state park systems and swelling retirement communities, are particularly fertile spots for RV dealers.

Today's typical RV owner is white, 50 years old and married, according to MRI. With a mean household income of $71,900, they are more affluent than average and tend to own their homes. They spend approximately 19 days a year in their rolling homes.

On the way, they're more likely than average to listen to country music or all-talk radio. They also prefer Velveeta to ricotta or feta cheese. But their rustic tastes didn't stop Western Horizon Resorts, an RV resort operator, from developing the first RV park inside a winery at Pahrump Valley Winery in Nevada. It's one way to lure Baby Boomers, the fastest growing segment of the market.

As Boomers take to the road, they'll likely travel in comfort. High-end motor homes, which can easily run up to $500,000, come loaded with amenities, including surround-sound entertainment systems and satellite dishes. These days, getting there is half the fun.

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