By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Sometimes we’re asked if we have a “Passport America” card. That’s the membership that gives you half-off in cooperating RV parks across the country. It was a question we got a few weeks ago when we made a telephone reservation for an RV park south of Corona, Calif. I guess the park staff was trying to give us a break – but since we didn’t have one, we went full freight. It’s not that the membership isn’t worth the price – it’s just we so seldom stay in an RV park, it didn’t seem to make financial sense. But, we thought, maybe we’ll think about getting one after we see how it goes after our weekend stay.
A couple of times a year we head over to the Norco, Calif., area for weekend seminars, and normally stay in a state park facility near Perris. It’s about an hour travel time, and lately we find that as age catches up with us, that hour can be painful when subtracted from a night’s sleep. The RV park is about 20 minutes away, so it sounded like a pretty attractive proposition. The photos the RV park posted on its website indicated a settled park, with trees, a few older rigs, but hey, our principal focus is on our seminar, so we called in for a reservation.
While the reservation crew was pleasant enough and were quick to take our “first night deposit,” it was a bit of a struggle to get an e-mailed confirmation. When we had to call back in and ask for it again, and when it did come, we found it – well – interesting. The confirmation told us that before our rig could be booked in, we’d need to provide DMV registration papers for it and the tow vehicle. And please, proof of insurance on both of the units. And if you have pets, proof of good health and vaccinations. Proof of insurance is simple for the tow vehicle, everybody’s got to have an insurance card, right? But they don’t hand them out for a travel trailer, so we added a phone call and “time on hold” to get the insurance folks to send us out the necessary documentation.
With all our paperwork sent off, we touched bases with friends who’d be staying at the same RV park to give them a “heads up” about the pet health requirements, as they travel with “Pugsley,” the world’s ugliest deaf, blind, and (you guessed it) lame pug. Seems they’d been having trouble getting their deposit confirmation, too. In the end, after repeated contacts, they didn’t ever get it.
Maybe it should have warned us. But then, we’re slow.
Friends and pug checked in a couple of days before our arrival. A text message declared their arrival: “Looks like a Stalinist-era camp.” “Good old, David, always a joker,” we thought. A couple of days later, as I steered the rig up to the edge of the property, I could understand the “Stalinist” comment. The entire park was surrounded by a tall fence, fair enough. But atop the tall fence? Razor wire. I wondered if I should expect a gate guarded by a man toting a machine gun. Subtract the machine gun, but sure enough, you wouldn’t get inside the electrically controlled gate without first checking in with the 24/7 guard.
The guard’s first words were, “Oh, you’re here for storage.” Storage? “Uh, no, we’re here for our reservation.” The guard gaped at me like I was some kind of bastardized Picasso painting, hanging smack in the middle of a Renaissance gallery. I was directed to pull into “the red inspection box” and wait. Sure enough, a large, red-striped pavement area was just inside the compound. As I waited for the inspector, I peered around, expecting to see skinny folks marching around the camp in striped uniforms. The “inspector,” a young guy riding a golf cart, turned up. Evidently park policy is that incoming rigs are inspected to ensure they have windows, safe electrical fittings, and who-knows-what-else. Evidently my “Inspector General” was in a hurry, as I got a quick once-over, then told to fall into formation behind the golf cart, to be led to our site.
A narrow, curved roadway fronted our designated site, and my leader suggested it might be easier if I rolled completely around the “island” that our site was on, so that I might find it easier to back into the site. I told the fellow that doing so would bring me in on the “blind side,” so I’d just as soon come in on the current approach. It took quite a bit of to-and-fro, what with the narrow road and the 90-degree angle to the road the rig was expected to be parked in. Actually, it took even longer, as our “reserved site” was occupied by a neighbor’s toad car. He wasn’t home, but fortunately showed up eventually, looking chagrined, and puzzled, as nobody had told him where to park his car.
With the trailer finally settled in, I asked where I was to park the truck, because if I left the truck and trailer hitched, the site was so short a good chunk of the truck would be out in the roadway. “Oh, just park it here, next to your trailer,” was the advice. “Hang on, that’s another site. Are you sure nobody will be coming in with an RV?” No, no, just park the truck in the next site over.
Great advice. Until you’ve gone to bed, almost asleep, and a loud banging on the door shoots your adrenaline levels up. “Security!” calls the voice. How the dickens do I really know this guy is “Security” and not somebody getting ready to mug me? Talk about insecurity. A conversation through the closed door revealed that a late arriving RV needed “his site,” and I’d need to move the truck. At my age, coupled with slow reflexes and sleepiness, the wait for the new arrival must have seemed an eternity. Truck parked parallel to the road and real close to the trailer tongue, I could try and get back to bed.
Check-out day rolled around. Since the tight space in the site meant that my sewer hose was too long to actually drain into the on-site sewer drop, the plan was to dump the tanks at the park dump station. Normally we like to take off in a leisurely fashion when possible, but today it wouldn’t be possible: Evidently the park water was to be shut off promptly at 9:00 a.m. to facilitate repairs. I figured if I hit the dump station at quarter-til, then I’d have time to dump and still rinse my hose. But try as we might, driving around we couldn’t seem to find the dump station. Asking friendly neighbors yielded nothing – they’d never used the place.
So, I called the office to inquire about the location. “Didn’t you dump at your site?” was the question. I explained the problem. “Well, OK, but you’ll have to come in and pay $15.” For what? “To use the dump station.” Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, “No, no, we’re staying in the park. We’re not coming in to dump.” No soap. Pay $15 or no dump. Frustrated, I hung up. A couple minutes later, the office called us back. They’d send the “inspector” on his golf cart to our site so he could see what the problem was, and then, if he couldn’t figure it out, well, we could use the dump station for free.
We ended up at a municipal dump station a few miles away.
Do I need a Passport America card? No, but if I suggest staying in an RV park again, perhaps you could order me a psychiatrist.