When Nick Fears retired from Farley Nuclear Plant 15 years ago, he and his wife Melba decided it was time to hit the road, the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle reported.

Rather than rely on airlines and hotels for their vacation travel, they decided to purchase an RV and embrace the camping lifestyle.

Three motorhomes and 41 states later, the Fears are still going strong, regularly traveling in their RV and taking their grandchildren along with them.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RV ownership is on the rise. The number of RV-owning households in the U.S. is around 8.9 million, up from 7.9 million a decade ago. About 8.5% of households in the U.S. now own RVs. Retirees make up a big chunk of RV buyers . Ray O’Keefe, a salesman at Runaway RV in Dothan, said retirees make up 35-40% of his customer base.

Fears, a Headland resident, said he and his wife enjoy the RV life and are happy that they get to sleep in their own bed at night on the road instead of staying in a hotel. Fears said he and his wife have made lasting friendships around the country thanks to the camping lifestyle.

“Campers are some of the best people you’ll ever meet,” Fears said. “I was pulling into a campsite with a flat tire one time and before I backed in I had five people offering to help change my tire.”

Fears said he also enjoys the opportunity to help his grandchildren experience the outdoors when they go to campsites in the motorhome.

“I think it’s a good environment for kids, especially in this day and age when a lot of kids have no idea what dirt looks like,” O’Keefe said.

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