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Wayne M. Mertes knows a thing or two about life on the road. The 63-year-old co-founder of motor home and trailer maker National RV Holdings Inc. left his tiny North Dakota hometown when he was just 15 and headed to California. Living in his car for the first few weeks, Mertes found work at a mobile-home manufacturer. "I lived in a rented travel trailer, garages--any place I could find to hang my hat," he recalls of his early days.

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