Life as a Campground Owner; Never Underestimate the Entertainment Factor

Campground resort advice and tipsCome September, scenes like this put a wide smile on campground owner’s faces.

We have often considered buying a campground when this trip is over. So whenever we can find an owner who has time to chat about what it’s like to run one, we love to listen and hear about what it’s really like. When we arrived at one resort in Maine, it was a quiet weekday, and the owner was happy to share some advice about the realities of running a campground.

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Live / Work Report One

Whenever we find locals willing to chat (of which there are many in the rural places we visit), we ask loads of questions about the area, their work, the weather, you name it. They think we’re playing “20 Questions,” but what we’re really doing is trying to figure out:

  • where the heck we might move to, permanently
  • and what on earth we’ll do for a living

As summer winds down, the locals have more time to talk. Information is getting thrown at us as quickly as the summer days are going by. The following is a summary of what we’ve learned recently, so we can look back on it a year from now — if we do decide to settle down somewhere . . . or start to run out of money, whichever comes first!

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The View is Always Different

For the record, the trees all over the hills around Deadwood, SD have always been dead. One can only assume that’s how the town got it name. But one thing I enjoy about this full-time RVing thing is how the view from our kitchen table is always different. and whenever I look up through the skylight in our shower – yeah, that’s cool too – …

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Beef Country and The Mashed Potato Tower

Wyoming steak and mashed potato towerWorked most of the day yesterday, finally developing our long-awaited road trip soundtrack page – complete with lyrics to classic travel tunes we’ve deemed appropriate for our trip, local radio stations that have stuck on our dial, and interesting internet radio streams.

But I couldn’t leave Devil’s Tower without a report of this awesome place I’ve always wanted to visit. OK, technically, I did leave since I’m writing this from our new home for the week at Whistler Gulch Campground in Deadwood South Dakota. But I digress…

Traveling across Wyoming, we saw numerous signs stressing that we were in cattle country. As if all the herds weren’t enough to indicate such. As a vegetarian, René was especially amused by the billboards boldy telling us to “Eat Beef!” Personally, I took it as a sign to seek out and grill a great big Wyoming steak. And of course, I would just have to do my best Richard Dreyfus impression by sculpting a replica of the Bear’s Lodge from my mashed potatoes.

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Mountain Biking in Moab, Finally

Rat’s Radical Ride in Moab, UTSince the first time my knobby tires hit dirt back in the early 90s when I regularly biked Mt. Tam in Marin, I’ve always wanted to hit the trails in Moab, Utah. Those red mountain single tracks, biking to the edge of a thousand foot drop on some mesa . . . all those things I heard about, there they were, at our disposal when we arrived in Moab on July 8. But there was just one problem: it was a record-breaking day weather-wise, a whopping 100-something, in a town that never gets that hot. Only a fool would ride under those conditions.

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Campground Review: KOA Flagstaff, AZ

Get to Know Your Neighbors in FlagstaffDo yourself a favor, and skip this area of AZ any other time of year except winter.

We don’t like KOA parks, but we decided to stop here because it was easy to meet my parents there, and we could use it as a base camp to explore the area south, Sedona. The tightwad in me also wanted to avoid the few overpriced RV parks closer to Sedona. So upon check in, we weren’t expecting much other than the standard swimming pool and hookups that would allow us to run our AC. But what we found out after check in was, this KOA is, simply put, a dump.

The place is run down, trash is everywhere, the sites are crammed together, and management is so cheap they won’t even buy toilet seat covers for the restrooms. Unlike other KOAs we’ve overnighted at, this one had no DVDs for rent, the office doesn’t open till 8am and you can’t even buy a newspaper until then because they’re in the office. And they don’t even have a pool! In Arizona!

As we sat in the cool comfort of our Fox’s air conditioner while the outside world baked in 100 degree heat (ok, it was 95, but is there really a difference?), someone knocked at our door. It was a KOA Flagstaff clerk, who arrived to tell us that we weren’t allowed to run our AC on their 30amp hookups, “because the park is so old it can’t handle it.” If we had been told this ahead of making the reservation, we never would’ve stayed there.

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Campground Review: 49er Village RV Resort, Plymouth CA

49er VillageSometimes in small towns, you’ll often find that the businesses located there only exist because they have a captive audience. Their prices will be sky high and quality can really stink, but hey, where else are you going to in a 50 mile radius? Being from a small town, I’m used to that.

Say you’re traveling, and you want to check out a place, but there’s only one RV park in the entire county and nowhere to boondock? Well, you fork over your dough and hope for the best. That’s what we did at Far Horizons 49er Village.

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Talk about Interference…

After chatting with Linksys Tech Support and troubleshooting my router’s Wifi signal for over an hour at the Travelhome RV Park, I went for a walk with Jerry and quickly discovered why there was so much radio interference in the area. I couldn’t tell if this was a local cable company, television station, or a regional NSA office, but it most certainly wrecked havoc on …

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Campground Review: Lake Francis Resort, Dobbins CA

Lake Francis Resort, Dobbins CALast week we discovered Lake Francis Resort thanks to our hard copy of the Woodalls Directory, after trying so hard to find a place that wasn’t booked up for Father’s Day weekend. Located in the Gold Country Foothills about 2 hours from Sacramento, we had no idea what to expect.

Pulling into the registration area, we saw a kitschy old west style restaurant, saloon, theater area and swimming pool with lawns and chuck wagons. My first thought was “uh oh, we’ve arrived at Wally World.” We drove back up the hill to the campground. What a relief to see that, as far as RVing goes, it was real camping. Only the pull through spots were paved, the rest were gravel and dirt spots, with lots and lots of shade to help stay cool in the hot afternoons (not so good for satellite internet/TV connections). Although the sites are almost a little too close together when the place is crowded, at less busy times the resort layout offers a lot more elbow room. It reminded me a lot of a great place I used to go to with my family as a kid, Camp Edison Shaver Lake, just outside of Fresno CA.

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If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.

After a fun visit with some friends who drove all the way from Oakland to visit us at Lake Francis, we have now made it to Yuba City – just down the road from the RV Service Center where we’ll take the rig tomorrow to get the fridge checked out. Of course, it seems to be working well now. Hopefully it was just bad power at that campground. This trip has certainly become one of discovery.

Good news is, we do have internet access with our dish here. Bad news is, our computers can’t see our wireless network. I’ve wired in to troublshoot the problem and have determined there is just too much WiFi interference here. Various other networks keep showing up and disappearing. Ours was visible momentarily then went away for good. At least we are only here for the night … hopefully!

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Camp WiFi vs. Satellite Internet

Here’s a question for the web-savvy full-timers:

Would you rather rely on spotty campground wireless service for your internet connection, or have your own more reliable yet much more expensive satellite dish service such as MotoSat? This may be irrelevant to the weekend warriors but for those of us on the road full-time, who need to remain connected for either business or pleasure it is a serious consideration. So consider this…

We have a top of the line .98 meter F2 satellite dish from Datastorm with MotoSat internet service and a Linksys 300N wireless router. Yet I have spent most of this morning trying to publish these posts and get pages to load with a very weak connection to this campground’s 802.11b network. Why you ask?

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Permanent Weekend

The reality of this trip still hasn’t sunk in yet. With today’s news from the mortgage folks, we are one step closer to being free but not quite yet clear.

I felt a bit strange today telling one of my campground neighbors, “have a good weekend” knowing very well that he was indeed out for a weekend adventure with the kids while I was off on a new adventure that may last a year. Or years.

While camper dad will return to work on Monday, I will be dealing with the repair of our new trailer’s refrigerator at the nearest RV service center to Lake Francis in Dobbins, CA. Unfortunately that’s in Marysville or Yuba City.

But as Whitman said, “These are the things that must happen to you.”

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Day Two

Hitching up the new foxWhat a trip! And it’s just begun…

We enjoyed the first night in our new mobile home and drove another ninety minutes to another Premier RV Resort in Eugene Oregon. So far the trip has gone off without a hitch.

Well, not quite. We couldn’t have even made it off the lot without our new Pullrite Superglide Fifth Wheel Hitch. Having never towed anything before in my life, I was a little concerned about pulling a huge trailer. I hadn’t even really gotten used to the size of our new Dodge Ram 2500 yet… But this hitch made it simple! (Read on to see the video that confirmed my decision!)

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