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The Love of the Open Road

by Sabrina Campbell & Scott Degnan & Robert Morales & Kenny Phillips & Sarah Cushman Slavin 
Sabrina Campbell & Kenny Phillips

There is nothing quite like the feeling of the open road – the endless possibility of adventure, the energy from great tunes on the radio, the time spent exploring with our best road trip buddies.

For more than six decades, Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque partner Winnebago Industries has helped people experience the joy of being behind the wheel and exploring America’s open roads and national parks. Through partnership with the National Park Foundation, this commitment comes to life through support of parks and programs dedicated to inspiring the next generation of park champions and connecting all people to transformative experiences outdoors.

And according to Scott Degnan, Sabrina Campbell, Kenny Phillips, and Robert Morales, nothing beats exploring parks by RV.

Scott Degnan, Vice President and General Manager of Winnebago Towables, began RVing as a kid in California, traveling with his parents by RV to sites across the state, everywhere from the deserts of Death Valley to the granite cliffs of Yosemite. Fast-forward to today and he is helping others experience the joy of the road through his work at Winnebago Industries, and revisiting so many favorite RVing memories from his childhood with his wife and daughters.

Three years ago, Sabrina Campbell and Kenny Phillips began living in their RV to accommodate Sabrina’s fulltime work travel to hospitals across the country as a pulmonary and critical care physician. They love the RV lifestyle and community – though the biggest fan of life on the road is probably their pup, Belle!

Robert Morales, dubbed “Traveling Robert," knows firsthand how addictive the RV life is. Robert loves sharing stories from the road as he travels the country. His biggest piece of advice? It’s about the journey, not the destination.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to catch up with Kenny, Robert, Sabrina, and Scott, and we are excited to share their favorite park memories and tips for hitting the road with you. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into our conversation.

How is your life connected with RVing and what is it about RVing you love so much?

Robert Morales on the open road (Robert Morales)

Kenny & Sabrina: Our RV is such a huge part of our life and as RV full-timers we work, play, and live all from our RV. We use our RV to travel across the country, moving from hospital to hospital depending on where Sabrina is needed most in her work. We typically travel over 25,000 miles a year and move every other week. We first began our RV journey in a rental and did not know much about RVing, other than what we learned from watching videos on YouTube.

We thought the best way to learn more, and see if we liked it, was to give it a try for an extended weekend. The trip had its ups and downs, but by the end of the four days we were completely hooked on the idea of RV living. Before, we were barely seeing each other with Sabrina’s travel for work. RVing allowed us to spend time together, while traveling to various destinations for her work. There are so many things that we love about RVing but if we had to choose one, the thing we love the most is spending time together and the memories we make while on the road. We laugh every day. And we learn a ton – we love exploring the places we visit and learning about the history and people.

Robert: As an immigrant, my memories from the road did not really start until I arrived in the United States in my late teens. Even then, I never gave RVing much thought until a little over a decade ago, when my brother-in-law rented a class C RV to visit family in Georgia for Thanksgiving. That piqued my curiosity and soon after, my wife and I rented one too. The rest is history. We loved the freedom and convenience of traveling with our own home, of being able to stop wherever we wanted. We were able to see parts of the country we would have missed had we taken a flight to our destination. My favorite RV memory is of exploring the Four Corners region. The drive through the Rocky Mountains was spectacular. On that trip we visited Arches, Mesa Verde, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. We liked it so much that a month later we decided to buy our first travel trailer so we could do more of it. The road trip experience is unique in the sense that you can see how the landscape gradually changes, almost imperceptibly, as you go through different climate zones. This is particularly alluring on a cross-country road trip, where you can go from prairies to mountains to desert in a single day.

Scott: As a kid growing up in Riverside, California, I was exposed to the RV lifestyle as both a business and as a great way to vacation with family and friends. Riverside was the home of Fleetwood Enterprises, a Fortune 500 company and at that time a major player in the RV market. After college and a failed attempt to become a professional golfer, I was hired by Fleetwood. The first 20 of my 33 years in the RV business were spent at Fleetwood.

On the travel and vacation side, California offers some of the best RVing spots in North America. As a kid, my parents and I would travel from the deserts to the mountains to the beaches in a rented RV. As an adult, I have been able to return to many of those favorite spots with my wife and our daughters.

How do you plan an RV trip and why is preparation so important?

Winnebago RV set up for camping (Robert Morales)

Scott: I was not a very good planner when we first started taking our girls RVing. We often simply packed the RV and took off. Although we always managed to find our way, we learned that planning ahead for our trips can save a lot of headaches. Now, the first thing we do is create a timeline for our drive. Then we map out our route – where do we want to go and how are we going to get there? Next, we make sure we have budgeted enough to get us there and back. Finally, we determine what we need to pack based on our activities and weather.

Robert: I think there is something to be said for spontaneity and letting serendipity take a turn at the wheel from time to time. But there are certain things you must plan for. First you have to figure out which destinations on your trip will fall on a weekend and make sure you get reservations. Many campgrounds are more likely to have vacancy during the week – depending on the demand, those can be a bit easier to get in to. You will also want to be very aware of any regulations regarding weight, length, and height of your RV. Some tunnels have prohibitions for traveling with propane, so keep that in mind and plan accordingly. It is a good idea to have a checklist for setting up and breaking down you camp, too.

What would you say is the biggest surprise about life on the road?

Denali Park Road at Denali National Park & Preserve (NPS Photo / Kent Miller)

Robert: How addictive it is. You may never want to fly again if there is a road to your destination, assuming you have the time. There is also a great community of RVers – the friendliest most helpful people you will ever find.

Kenny & Sabrina: The biggest surprise has been the people in the RV community.  We have made so many strong friendships along the way and keep in touch with people we have met from our first year of RVing. We still remember the first time we hooked up our RV at a campground, someone walked up to me and said “you look kind of young and your RV looks pretty new, do you need a hand setting up?” That completely blew us away.

How is your RV story connected to national parks and what do you personally appreciate about national parks?

Mount Rainier National Park (NPS Photo)

Kenny & Sabrina: When shopping for an RV one of our requirements was that it needed to be under thirty feet long so that it would be allowed in many national parks across the country. The first trip we took in our RV was to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We would pull over into one of the scenic lookouts, make lunch and take in the views of the mountains. We remember sitting in our dinette, gazing out the window while dreaming and planning our future trips. We have been to a few national parks now and they are always filled with beauty and wonder – each one has had a unique personality and we love exploring through them.

Robert: RVs and national parks are a perfect combination. The National Park Service is often called America’s best idea, and I would agree. I have never met a park ranger who was not professional, knowledgeable, and passionate about their job. Visitors centers have a plethora of information about the park, often with raised relief maps and exhibits depicting the flora, fauna, and history of the area.

Scott: Growing up in California, so many of our family trips included our national parks. I love that they preserve some of America's most beautiful places, that they keep nature wild, that they offer some of the most spectacular hiking trails around, and that they provide access to many of the country's remote areas.

Why is Winnebago Industries’ support of the parks and partnership with the National Park Foundation important to you?

Students on a field trip
Open OutDoors for Kids field trip to Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve (NPF Photo / Dawn Kish)

Scott: Our purpose, throughout our Winnebago, Grand Design, Chris-Craft and Newmar family of brands, is to help our customers explore the outdoor lifestyle, enabling extraordinary experiences as they travel, live, work and play. We firmly believe that America’s national parks offer unparalleled opportunities to experience the beauty of nature and the depth of our shared heritage at some of the most scenic and historic locations in the United States. It is an honor to support the work of the National Park Foundation in pursuit of our shared goal, to connect more people with transformative outdoor experiences.

I could not be prouder of our affiliation with the NPF. Together we offer the backdrop to bring families together, as they explore some of the most beautiful places on earth.

What advice do you have for folks interested in RVing in national parks?

(Sabrina Campbell & Kenny Phillips)

Kenny & Sabrina: There is no such thing as over planning a trip and when it comes to the national parks our best advice is to start with their websites. That is the best place for information on where to camp, what to wear, how to get around using the shuttle system (if applicable) and to how to stay safe. RV forums are also a great resource to ask questions and receive tips from fellow RV owners. And if you can, plan on staying a little longer than you would expect. I know for us we are never ready to leave and wish we had more time to see it all. Of course, that is always a good reason to come back and visit it again.

Wind Cave National Park (NPS Photo / Lauren Reid)

As part of their commitment to exploring America’s open roads and parks, Winnebago and the National Park Foundation are celebrating favorite memories and dreaming about the road ahead. For every share of Winnebago’s On the Road Again anthem, $1 is donated to NPF so we can keep protecting and preserving our beloved parks. Wherever the road takes you, we hope you will share your experiences with us on social media using #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque and in the comments below.

Scott Degnan is the is the Vice President and General Manager, Winnebago Towables, at Winnebago Industries. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the RV industry. Prior to joining Winnebago, Degnan worked in a variety of sales and marketing leadership roles with companies such as Fleetwood, National RV.

Robert Morales, also known as “Traveling Robert,” travels the country with his wife Ileana, sharing stories from the road. Robert creates informative and entertaining RV travel videos, hosts a podcast, and performs all the music featured in his videos. He is also a brand ambassador for Winnebago Towables.

Sabrina Campbell, Kenny Phillips, and their small dog Belle have been living in their RV full-time for over three years. Sabrina is a pulmonary and critical care physician and travels full time for work, filling in at hospitals across the country. Kenny is the co-creator and co-host of a podcast focused on the people, products and services that help make RVing great. Kenny and Sabrina are frequent contributors to the WinnebagoLife blog.