By Chuck Woodbury
I wrote about my crowded RV park in an article in the December 10, 2016 RV Travel newsletter. I did not paint a rosy picture.
Here’s where I’m coming from: I bought my first motorhome about 35 years ago. It was a whopping 18-feet long. There was no air conditioning, no generator. The heater barely worked. But I loved it. Until this year, I never traveled in an RV longer than 24 feet (all were motorhomes) and I never towed a car. My new motorhome is 32 feet long and I tow a Honda Fit.
With rare exception, with my previous RVs I never stayed in one place more than a few days. Now, in the larger motorhome and car, I will stay put for weeks at a time, maybe even months. I can run errands and explore the local area with the car, so there’s no need to move the RV.
In my smaller RVs I loved to stay in public parks — those in National Forests, State, and National Parks, even on desert lands where I could hole up for free. I could go four to five days on my batteries and holding tanks. Packing up and moving to a new place took ten minutes. There was no car to hitch and unhitch. Now, it takes an hour.
Back then, I did a lot of “camping.” I stayed in beautiful places — by lakes, streams, in the desert under a star-filled night sky. I loved sitting by a campfire.
Now, without a traditional home, I live in an RV full-time. I drive it far less than my previous, shorter rigs. It’s too big or awkward to fit into some public parks and with a height of 12 feet 9 inches, many roads with low bridges are out of bounds. Most of the most-scenic public parks, those in national forests and BLM lands, do not offer hookups.
IN THE OLD DAYS, I detested staying in crowded RV parks and I avoided them as much as possible except for a night or two. Now, I’m okay with them because I need a home base more than a place to camp — with 50-amp service, other hookups, WiFi and sometimes a laundry. Cable TV is nice, too. LIVING in an RV and CAMPING with one are two different things, although on occasion they do overlap.
There must be twice as many RVers now as there were when I began RVing in the mid-1980s. Back then, reservations were not necessary. It was easy to get a camping space. Leave your campsite in the morning and at about 4 o’clock look for a place for the night. No problem. Nobody stayed in Walmarts when I began RVing. Heck, there were only about 250 of them (compared to 11,000 worldwide today). RV parks were less crowded and the prices a fraction of what they are now.
Today, with so many RVers — and so many of them baby boomers who are full-timers like me — RV parks are packed. Sadly, public campgrounds in the same areas may be empty — not enough amenities for RV “residents.” RVers today want their electric hookups, often 50 amps, for their vastly more complicated and comfortable RVs. They want WiFi, and they need longer spaces than in many government parks. They often stay in one place for months at a time. They are not “campers.” They are people who live in wheeled homes that are easily moved. I’m one of them.
So, when I write about packed RV parks, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, you’re packed in with a bunch of other RVers. But inside your RV is most important. That’s where most full-timers and seasonal RVers spend their time. What’s outdoors doesn’t matter as much. Want to spend the day by a pretty lake? Drive there in your car.
And no matter how many times you end up in a crowded park, there will still be special times when you stay in places of incredible beauty. The scene to the right, for example, was just outside my motorhome last week in my aunt’s orange grove near Lindsay, California. It was beautiful! The only sound at night was the distant howls of coyotes.
Yes, I miss the good ol’ days of camping in secluded, scenic places. But it’s a new ballgame for me now as a full-timer, with so many other full-timers vying for spaces along with hundreds of thousands of new part-timers every year who camp on summer weekends and vacations.
For boondockers, many of whom stay on public lands, there is virtually no limit to where they can stay. With solar panels, portable dumping tanks (called Blueboys) and other devices, they can stay for weeks or months at a time in gorgeous remote areas, sacrificing few creature comforts.