Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it’s nice to have the comforts of home as you travel the highways and byways. TRAILBLAZER checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
This month, we chatted with Radio Trop Rock owner and DJ, Eric Babin
There’s nothing quite like rolling down the road in your rig, heading to your next adventure, with music that makes you happy blaring from the speakers. For Eric Babin and his wife, Gina, they not only get to listen to the tunes they love, but they get to program and create a musical experience that they can share with others. Owners of Radio Trop Rock, these full-time RVers and DJs are traveling the country to record house concerts, bar gigs, and multiple-day music festivals and sharing the magical melodies on their online radio station.
More formally known as Tropical Rock, trop rock is a relatively new genre of music that, according to Eric, can be described as “music that takes you to the beach, on vacation, poolside, or anywhere else that work is not allowed.” Its influences are from rock and roll, reggae, country music, Caribbean, Calypso, and Zydeco.
In 2016, around the time that Eric was to retire after 26 years in the United States Navy, the Babins started hosting trop rock house concerts at their home on the white sands of Gulf Shores, Alabama. Their house concerts became well-known within the trop rock community, and they were asked by an online trop rock radio station to broadcast the concerts live on the station. They also started traveling to concerts and recording them for the station. Later that year, the Babins were approached by the owners of Radio Trop Rock and asked if they were interested in purchasing the station. With retirement looming, and with a newfound love of radio broadcasting (done exclusively online through their computer and smartphone), they purchased the station in December 2016 and spent several months revamping the programing and updating the music. Within the first month of the relaunch, listenership was up 300% over the previous best month in the three-year history of the station. And since they purchased the station, they have been recognized as Radio Station of the Year (small market) and Radio Show of the Year by the Trop Rock Music Association and are considered to be the fastest growing radio station in the genre.
RVing came into their lives at the suggestion of some of the trop rock musicians that had visited their home. After much discussion, they put their toe in the water with a used 40’ 2007 Damon Escaper long before they purchased the station. As things progressed with the station and their love of traveling the country to attend concerts grew, full-timing seemed to be the natural direction. But they wanted something a bit newer and more reliable, so they upgraded to a new 2017 Fleetwood Pace Arrow 36U, which now serves as their full-time home and recording studio as they travel the country attending and recording house concerts, bar shows, and big-time music festivals.
What do you love about RVing? Why an RV over a hotel?
Freedom. Anyone that is a full time RVer probably can relate to this feeling: As soon as I release the park brake and place the rig into drive and begin to roll, I feel amazingly free and relaxed. With that said, that isn’t our favorite part of being on the road full time. People within the trop rock community are the most enjoyable, friendly, helpful, and just downright good [people] than any other group we’ve come across. Meeting these folks and making new friends is the best part of the traveling.
I actually did the “math” for the comparison of “hotel vs RV.” There is no doubt if you strictly use “math” to make your decision, hotel will win every time. However, before you make your decision, talk to folks that are out there doing it. You’ll soon learn there is a lot more to the decision than overall cost. The convenience of not having to pack and unpack is very valuable to your mindset. The thing that tipped the scale in the favor of the RV for us is pets! We travel with two small dogs. Many hotels allow dogs, but not all of them. We have not run across an RV park that hasn’t allowed dogs. Our dogs are very important to us, even to the point of appearing on some of our promotion materials and making appearances at some of our live broadcasts. You ask anyone that has been listening to Radio Trop Rock for a while and they’ll know Carlos “The Bartender” and Delaney “The Diva,” our two Shih Tzus.
I do all the driving. One day in the future we may train Gina to drive, but for now, it’s important she be able to work while we are driving, since most of our drive time is during the week, during the day.
What are a few of your favorite things onboard?
Our new RV has full-size separate washer/dryer, residential-size fridge, and a king size bed. Those items have now become my “favorite things.”
What are a few favorite destinations and why?
Each year, the largest trop rock convention takes place the first weekend in November in Key West. It’s called “Meeting of the Minds” and brings in about 5,000 folks to Key West to share the fun. Last year we began a trip to Meeting of the Minds we call “Karavan to the Keys”. We start ten days prior to the main event with a house concert just outside San Antonio, Texas. We then caravan with a group of RVs and cars toward Key West, stopping each day at a different location for a different show. Last year we had seven RVs and 24 people. This year we had 15 RVs and 70 people.
Any camping rituals that you have or do?
Since we frequently travel with another couple, we often start the day enjoying coffee, and sometimes a Bloody Mary. The middle of the day we all spend working. Even when we are not broadcasting, I have to spend time programming the station, promoting events, etc. Gina spends the day with her insurance work. Once we are all done working for the day, we eat dinner (we take turns cooking). After dinner, we either go out to see some live music, which we call “research,” or we stay in and play card games or dominos.
What are some favorite meals that you make onboard?
Although our RV has a propane stove, we rarely use it. I find in the summer it really heats up the RV. I prefer to cook with an induction cooktop or outdoor grill. I’m also becoming quite handy with the convection oven, which is a learning curve since I’ve never owned one. I’d have to say my favorite meal may be fajitas I grill or a pulled chicken sandwich, which I cook in a slow cooker. Simply slow cook the chicken, shred, drain excess grease, add BBQ sauce, and stir.
Any favorite restaurants on the road?
I’ve never been much of a “foodie,” but traveling is beginning to change that. You should know most of the smaller events we attend are a “bring a dish” type of event so we get to experience home-cooked meals with local flavors. That is a treat for sure. We also always ask the locals where to eat. This way we can enjoy the best cheese steak sandwiches in Philly. The best BBQ in Memphis. The best Cajun food in New Orleans. The best steak in Texas. We’ve even had Buffalo Wings at the place they were invented! You get the idea.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened while you were RVing?
There is a song that Donny Brewer—the friend we travel with—was writing and at the end of the song there is some banter back and forth. The song is called Winnebago and it appears on his CD Winnebago Tapes Vol. 1. During the banter, I mention to him he left his antenna up. He shoots back, “Shut up Eric, you left your slide out,” to which I reply, “That thing hasn’t worked in a while.” Well, guess what? The next day when we went to leave, my slide out didn’t work. True story. You can find the song if you search YouTube for it.
Is there anything about RVing or your RV that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
[For] anyone thinking about going full-time, I’d have to encourage them to do their research. Find out what things are important for you to have in your RV. Research what camping clubs are best for you to join. Try several different types of navigation applications to see which is best for you and your circumstances. Talk to people that have done it and are doing it. While parked, don’t stay holed up in your RV. Get out there and meet your “neighbors.”
To “get out there and meet your ‘neighbors,'” you’ll first have to journey in your RV. Take the first step by visiting our website, thousandtrails.com.