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Have Home, Will Travel: to Robert Pendarvis, the Prevost Royale is the King of the Motor Coaches, a Luxury Condo on Wheels
Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, August 16, 2005 by Steve Clark

For some, home is on the road.

In Robert Pendarvis' case, that's close to being literal.

His 500-horsepower, stainless-steel Prevost Royale luxury motor coach is nothing less than a rolling condominium, and a very poshly appointed one at that.

Not your father's camper. Still, dad's camper did have something to do with it.

"I grew up with motor homes," says Pendarvis, owner of B & D Electric Co. "My dad had motor homes when we were coming up. Nothing the magnitude of what you see on the road today, but back then I was fortunate and blessed enough to be able to camp and do those things."

Maybe he didn't know it then, but the road had seeped into Pendarvis' bloodstream. He bought his own recreational vehicle, a 28-foot Winnebago, in the early '80s. His wife, Ella, was skeptical at first but "fell in love" with the experience, Pendarvis says.

Since then, he's traded up regularly. He broke into serious Class A RVing when he bought a Bluebird in 1990.

The Bluebird, he explains, is a fine RV. Pendarvis has owned three of them, most recently the '99 43-foot Bluebird LX1 that he traded in just last May for the Prevost.

"We love Bluebirds," Pendarvis says. "But Prevost is kind of the top of the mountain."

Here's his take: A Cadillac is a fine machine. Nothing rides better than a Cadillac--except a Rolls. The Bluebird, likewise, is a fine machine. Nothing rides better than a Bluebird--except a Prevost.

Indeed, the "Ultimate Class" is how the coach maker--the Prevost Car Co., a Quebec firm that started building passenger buses in 1915--refers to its coaches.

The Prevost is made for heavy cruising and lasting a long time. The engine, a massive Detroit Diesel Series 60, is designed to go at least a million miles before rebuild. Same with the driveline.

The exterior is impressive enough: When one of these gleaming steel behemoths steams past on the interstate, you take notice. You probably even wonder which celebrity lurks behind the midnight-tinted windows.

Of course, it might just be the Pendarvises, with Robert behind the wheel, loving every mile, nodding his head to the bluegrass music thumping from the coach's Bose sound system. He'll be sitting comfortably, since the leather pilot's chair adjusts the air pressure of the seat to the weight of whoever happens to be sitting in it.

The cargo area underneath the passenger cabin contains a water purification system, exterior shower head and sink, a 20-kilowatt diesel generator to sustain the Prevost's all-electric systems when hookups aren't available, and seemingly enough stowage to park a Mini Cooper.

Then there's the inside.

Pendarvis' interior was done up by Royale Coach by Monaco, one of the country's premiere coach conversion companies, based in Elkhart, Ind. Royale converts just 24 coaches a year.

Black marble tile extends from the cockpit back to the master bedroom, which is carpeted. Wall sconces, tasteful wallpaper, a comfortable sofa and beige leather chairs complement the cherry wood paneling and cabinetry.

Stooping isn't necessary; even so, bow-to-stern ceiling-mirrors contribute the illusion of even more headroom than there is. A large plasma screen can play DVDs, videocassettes or programs via the dual-receiver moveable satellite dish mounted on the roof.

Then there's the large sink in the galley, along with a full-size residential refrigerator behind a cherry wood facade. Just aft of the galley is the stacked washer and dryer and the double-vanity bathroom with a private toilet and a shower stall.

Finally comes the bedroom itself, which sports a plasma screen perched at prime viewing level.

So aren't these things expensive? Customized coaches like the Prevost Royale go for nearly $1 million new, though Pendarvis bought his, a 2001, for a good deal less.

Obviously it's the ultimate tailgating machine, though for Pendarvis a motor coach, especially a Prevost, is the best way to get to some of their favorite spots--the Smokies, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Colorado.

This fall the Royale is scheduled to make stops in the Amish country of Ohio and at Niagara Falls and the Adirondack Mountains.

"We like the mountains more than the beach," Pendarvis says. "I really want to go to the Wyoming/Montana area. I've never been out there in a motor home."

Pendarvis, who concedes his motor homes choose him more often than the other way around, has a word of advice for someone who wants an RV but avoids it because they are expensive; Don't get behind the wheel.

"If you like RVing and you like driving, as I like driving--if you don't want to get hooked and don't want to have to come up with the money to buy a Prevost--then don't drive one," he says. "It's that good."

STEVE CLARK covers health care, higher education, environment and transportation. Reach him at sclark@businessreport.com.

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