We purchased a 1978 Dodge 4-wheel drive van, and with the popularity of camper vans at an all-time high, and the cost of new camper vans also at an all-time high, we decided to convert the van into a modern day off-grid camper van. In this 6-part series, Mark and Dawn Polk from RV Education 101 build their ultimate van camper. This 4-wheel drive off-grid camper van will enable Mark and Dawn to get off the road and do some serious boon docking in comfort. Follow along as we post a new episode on our YouTube Channel each week throughout this 6-part series.
Mark is an RVer and has a very extensive background in the RV industry. He began at age 15, washing RVs at a dealership in North Central Pennsylvania. It wasn't long before he was working as an apprentice RV technician under the guidance of the RV service manager. Mark then entered and served a full career as a Maintenance Warrant Officer in the United States Army. He managed the operation of the motor pool, where he not only had to understand vehicle maintenance, he had to teach young soldiers how to maintain and operate motor pool vehicles. These soldiers came to him from very different backgrounds, and their prior experience with heavy equipment and mechanical skills were similarly varied. Mark had to learn how to communicate with all of them clearly, concisely, and effectively, and he found that he had a talent for teaching. The Army agreed, and eventually he was asked to produce written instructional materials, including driver training manuals and operating procedures for motor pools.
When he retired from the Army in 1996, Mark went to work for an RV dealership in sales and service. He talked to customers about their needs and desires and helped them select the right RV for them. He inspected used RVs for trade-in, he serviced customer RVs, and he educated customers how to operate and enjoy their vehicles. As an RVer himself, through out the years, he has owned and used all the classifications of RVs (travel trailer, motorhome, pop up, 5th wheel and truck camper). He even restored from the ground up, a 67 Yellowstone travel trailer. It became clear to him that there were limited resources available to RV owners who wanted to learn more about how to maintain and operate their vehicles. Owners’ manuals provide limited information, and most consumers find them confusing.
Anecdotal information learned around campfires from other RV owners is incomplete and can be unreliable.
Mark realized that he had the knowledge and teaching ability to fill that gap, and so in 1999, he began writing articles and books about how to choose, buy, maintain, repair, and operate a variety of RVs. To date, he has authored more than 500 educational videos, 15 e-books, 3 paperback books, and more than 1,600 articles educating millions of RVers. His best-selling book, entitled The RV Book, has sold over 50,000 copies to date.
Mark's first priority is the safety of his audience. To Mark, this means anticipating the risks and challenges RVers will encounter when following his instructions, ensuring that the information he provides is complete and accurate, and providing enough information so that his audience can make informed decisions about when to tackle maintenance tasks themselves and when to take their vehicles to professionals.
His second priority is his audience’ empowerment. He sends his students out onto the road with confidence that they are equipped, prepared, informed, and ready to enjoy themselves.Producing material that achieves those goals is a very difficult thing to do. RVs come in a bewildering variety of different types, makes, models, and vintages, and when Mark writes about tasks such as winterizing a water system, as we know there are many ways to winterize an RV, his instructions, need to guide his readers through the process regardless of which RV his reader happens to own.
Like his soldiers, his RV students come to him with widely disparate levels of expertise, experience, talent, and motivation, and his instructions must speak to all of them. Mark’s writing and video presentations are accurate and comprehensive. It is also clear, concise, and easy to understand. He breaks complex, intimidating tasks down to easy steps.