The RV park experience from hell

The RV park experience from hell

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.

R&T De Maris

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.



38 thoughts on “The RV park experience from hell

  1. Keith Krejci

    We’ve been full timing for over 12 years, never boondock, and use PA extensively. Our expectation when we joined was that many of the parks in PA were not what we’d want, but we cross check any projected stay with It’s worked well for us, and we’ve often been surprised at how nice some of the parks are. PA doesn’t review and rate parks so why do you expect them to police their listings? For less than 50 bucks you can’t beat the deal.

    1. Terry

      This is our 1st year of PA, which saved our hides a few times while quickly crossing relative no-man’s lands from FL to WA & WA to the AZ/UT/CO corner. Not everyone is familiar with all areas of the country and the first trip can be angina-inducing when West of the great MS River. We found some tiny but user friendly and owner friendly sites for one nighters, a couple of parking lots ( one we refused to even register), and some nicer ones too. Just to pull in, plug in, go shower and make a quick dinner, not having to deal with setting up/slides (no walkway when slide is closed! Purchasing error…)/satellite dish/etc, hot cocoa and watch the news on antenna or play a game, the safety& feeling like we weren’t just doing a destination made all the difference to us. Now, with a bit of experience using the rig and its limits on tanks, and in traveling, having added power & solar capabilities, and much more knowledge about public lands and boondocking, the transition will be fun… when it works in our favor.

  2. Jesse

    Okay, sometimes left hand ignores what right hand is doing, but in this case Passport America couldn’t more…

  3. Paul Goldberg

    We are lifetime Passport America members. We have recovered the cost of the membership many times over as we travel extensively and often want a full hookup park to augment our boondocking and dry camping stays. The quality of Passport America parks varies exactly as all other parks we have stayed in over 17 years. Half off for one night or 2 sure beats full price and if we like the place and stay for 4 nights 1/2 off 2 of those nights is still a whole lot better than GS 10%. Sure free is better yet, but traveling in the East it is not as easy as out West.

    1. Terry

      We keep GS mostly for the discounts and Camping World’s free dump for members, anywhere in the country. The propane discounts are a significant 25% off, on Tu/Wed… but regular CW prices are still usually less than camps’, and CW will do partial fills where camps’ almost exclusively have a flat rate. (So far, have found 1 camp that only charges by volume)

  4. Gary Ripple

    Hindsight is always 20-20, but it appears to me that due to the impending water shutoff, that you should have dumped the tanks earlier in the morning at your campsite. I’ve never had a problem of having a dump hose too long to dump. Start earlier in the morning to get all the chores done and it’ll mean less stress for you.

    1. terry

      And the dump hose is corrugated…that 15″-er is only 6-8ft long when closed don’t think they make shorter hoses…
      There are some nice PA camps, we also have the membership and with only 10 stays still have saved hundreds of $. Almost worthless in summer in the NW, we found out, and most anywhere on a weekend –forget holidays totally ! Planning is key — including reviewing actual website and area info, sometimes calling directly to get answers.
      Remember, PA is a club, not an owner of any camp…would give them a detailed review — sometimes there is a valid reason for PA to delist a camp

  5. Michael

    Although Russ and Tiña De Maris are my absolute favorite writers at, this was not one of their better experiences. Yes, I agree that “pre-screening” the park would have negated this whole column, there may be extenuating circumstances that contributed to there staying there of which we are unaware. Yes, Passport America, of which we have been members for a number of years, may not have the best RV campgrounds in their inventory, but I agree with others that they are great for singular (and sometimes two) nights when one is just “passing through.”

    1. Terry

      The area is overrun by illegal aliens, illegal activities, gangs, cartels, and homeless … the barbed wire says all I need to know.
      As for the water shutoff, all camps do routine maintenance and post notices in advance. The key is to ask where any notices might be posted when you check in. Many RVers that are in a house rather than a camper, do not leave their sites or visit the laundry area or main message board because they do not need to, and forget that checking for notices applicable to them is still important. Those camps that do not provide handouts usually have a central message board that will have an advisory posted.

  6. Sheridan J Ball

    I agree with Jacques. We tried to use PA for a year or so, but more often than not, the time was blocked out and the campground would not honor the discount price. VERY ODD POLICY. What is the point of a PA membership if the meager discount doesn’t apply MOST of the time (we’re full-timers). Obviously, we concluded that Passport America was not worth the price of membership.

    1. Jeff

      My Wife and I are Passport Life Members and we have to wonder why we paid for that. When making reservations you have to look months in advance to find a Park and then make sure there aren’t any special stuff going on, which would not allow you to use the PPA card.

      You can’t complain to PPA either, they have some of the rudest people to deal with.

      We have more than paid for the membership over the years we have had it, but I would not recommend it to anyone.

  7. Linda C.

    I know the place you’re writing about and it is pretty horrid. Just a couple of miles south there is a very nice place if you don’t mind a clothing optional environment (doesn’t bother us) and it is clean, neat, friendly and comes sans razor wire. There are lovely pools, tennis, pickleball and dances over the weekends. You might want to check it out next time you’re down that way. Glen Eden Sun Club.

  8. Crepidula Crookshank, II

    Amusing article. Kind of puts the “new” in “newbie.” But I wouldn’t hold this particular experience up as an example of anything but a stroke of bad luck. I’ve only been full-timing for 3 years, but I’ve certainly run into some crazy bad parks, some really nice ones, and a whole lot of the mediocre. Just like some boondocking spots are crunchy with broken glass, while some are pristine wilderness havens, RV parks run the gamut. I once arrived at a park that I’d reserved, only to find that a tornado had preceded me by half an hour. My first thought was, boy, what a dump! Then I realized that it looked like a tornado had hit it…and that’s exactly what had happened. I didn’t exactly get what I’d paid for, but I found a spot that the twister had missed and although the power was out, I had a place to myself. This RVing thing is all about living in the moment. People pay big money to learn how to do that!
    We do it because we just happen to live that way…and that means rolling with the punches and not going off half-cocked when something dodgy pops up on the radar.

  9. Dave H

    That’ why I camp in the boondocks. No hassle, no disappointments, no check out times

  10. LFJ

    I had a Passport America card but after I saw a couple of their never been inspected campgrounds I decided the discount was not that valuable. It is a great concept and helpful for one night stays but not if the park is a disaster.

  11. Erin James

    It’s too bad that this couple had such a bad experience at this particular RV park. But it does sound as though they weren’t very experienced at researching a likely place to stay. If the only places they ever camped were State or National parks then perhaps their experiences were somewhat limited. I hope they don’t blame Passport America for this one bad (OK, very bad) experience.

  12. Ron

    How can a sewer hose be too long? And as others said, a little research beforehand would have alerted you to the problems this park has.

  13. Jerry X Shea

    Great story guys, and “oh so true” of some of those “discount” RV Parks. A Passport America card comes in handy when you are looking for just a one night stay as you cross America. Yes, we have stayed in some real dumps, however, we have also stayed in 9 & 10 rated parks. Check out the Pechunga RV resort in Temecula. It is a 10 park for $25 a night (sun-thur).

      1. RV Staff

        You’re correct, Terry. Thanks. —Diane at

  14. Jim A

    Glen Ivy is just about the only game in the Corona – Norco area and 13.1 miles from Norco.
    However just West of Corona off the 91 Freeway you could have stayed at Canyon View RV Park but you would have paid $75.00 a night and been 13.7 miles from Norco.
    And if you consider the price, perhaps the old adage that you get what you pay for is simply true… Just West of Corona off the 91 Freeway you could have stayed at Canyon View RV Park but you would have paid $75.00 a night
    The reviews on Campground for Glen Ivy say pretty much the same as you described in your story. We hav3 stayed at both and each provide a very different cost and campground experience.
    We’ve been Passport America members for 15 years and three coaches and we keep renewing again and again.. For us it’s a VERY good value that has paid for itself time and time again. But like all of RV’n you need to be a wise consumer, like you usually are..

  15. Liz

    Russ tells the story in an amusing, engaging way. A splendid writer. But the commenters are correct. It had nothing to do with Passport America, and showed the risks of being committed to staying in one particular (unknown, untried) RV park without any modern research, not making reservations based on combined length of your rigs, scoping out online reviews, assessing layout via images on Google maps…to name a few ways modern RVers select suitable campgrounds. Years ago, all this research was unnecessary. Times — crowding and park deterioration — have changed the “where shall we stay?” process.

  16. Robbie

    Russ, we’re boondockers too. Sorry you have to put up with people who can’t understand that if you don’t use RV Parks, you don’t need Passport America even though it may be a good deal for them.
    For example, we paid $60 for an FMCA membership….saved hundreds on new tires……Will rejoin in 5 years.
    Sure is nice and quiet out here in the desert, no silly people distractions.

    1. Terry

      That was a pretty ignorant comment. Your assumption that there is a lack of understanding is incorrect. Maybe a lack of sympathy…. but then, most routine campers have experienced the good, the bad, the ugly, and the intolerable , over their years of roaming. Perhaps it was the lack of agreement that PA is the culprit, which seems to be a common thread in the postings. Just because many campers choose the creature comforts of showers and running water and safety of organized camping does not mean they have never boondocked, nor does it mean that a pity party should occur bc the authors are so used to boondocking that their poor choice of that particular camp was such a culture shock to them.
      The lacking was on the authors’ part… lack of research, for starters. Not that I am condemning Russ in any way… we’ve all been blindsided a few times even after the best due diligence. One poster noted a good theory: take it as it comes … to us, that means Murphy’s Law may prevail at times despite our best efforts … and to be prepared to not follow our usual or desired routine. We carry items to camp as if in a tent, cook/dishwashing /basins for ‘sink baths’/water jug with spout for washing hands outside, a small screen tent that we rarely use but won’t give up, and duffles for ‘Go’ bags, just for surprises (floods, mudslides, wildfires). The best advice I can give, is be careful not to get so set in your ways and routines that you are frozen in place by frustration, and do not get complacent about watching weather patterns, potential ‘surprise’ risks, less than suitable (much less ideal) conditions wherever you park the rig for the night(s).
      BTW, happy St. Patrick’s Day… Erin go bragh!

      1. Terry

        Oh… and a great set of ear plugs … if a neighbor cannot foresee the nite before they leave that they will need to use 1/2 our site to get their fat long rig with toad out if their site, and let us know to park our car accordingly, then they will wait til we are up and about &fully clothed, around 8am. And no, we do NOT care that they might be a bit behind in the schedule for the day if they did not care enough the note before while we were awake, dressed, and available. That’s where ear plugs also come in handy … when people choose sites for convenience rather than equipment-need, then somehow have righteous indignation when you don’t answer the door at 6am… ok, now I’m venting… breathe… breathe…breathe … ah, all better

  17. Dr4Film ----- Richard

    I have never heard of having a sewer hose TOO LONG to dump anyplace but having one TOO short is a BIG a problem!

  18. Curt M

    I guess I don’t understand!!! We’ve stayed at many many RV parks and never had this type problem. Granted some were “bad”, and won’t ever go there again, but to not use any RV Park????? What do you usually use???

  19. Moaboy

    Ok, u convinced me it’s a lousy park, but I’ve had nothing but good experiences with parks that belong to PA. I suspect if PA were aware of repeated problems at this park they would pull their affiliation. I have always found PA very good to work with.

    1. Terry

      Many private parks join multiple clubs for the weekday business boost …helping their revenue stream during slower days /seasons can help them fund improvements while saving us some bucks for choosing to travel/stay on those discounts days. Most of us just want the basics for FHU, & maybe a bathhouse, for 1 night, and not paying full price for water slides and horseback riding amenities we won’t use is a perk. Pull thru is desirable!

  20. James

    After reading the article, I searched with RV Parky,f found this “24601 Glen Ivy Road, Corona, California” and read the reviews.

  21. Booneyrat

    I have been RV’ing for many years,going back into the 1960’s and over the years as monstrous land yachts get bigger,and RV sites seemingly get smaller,especially at older KOA’s,I have grown to accept the idea that greed and lack of common sense has permeated the entire RV industry from the manufacturing process to the end result,and beyond.All over America this is a problem as the manufacturers pump out record numbers of monstrous land yachts with ever rising prices,and poor quality.Trying to deal with many of these RV parks anymore is akin to a snowbird trying to get out of hades.

  22. Egwilly

    Interesting article, but not of much information.
    What was the name of this RV dump? It won’t help those to stay away if you don’t share the name.

    1. Richard

      Concern about a lawsuit I would guess. If you go on the Passport America web site it’s pretty easy to figure it out.

  23. Michael King

    There are bad parks and good parks. That fact has absolutely nothing to do with Passport America. If you have a terrible experience at a park or with it’s management you should name the place so that others can be forewarned. Also, if you ever pull into a park and find that it doesn’t meet your requirements simply turn around and leave. If management can’t or won’t resolve the issue take it up with your credit card company at a later date. You ALWAYS have the option of disputing a charge with good reason regardless of a park’s policies. I have used this option with excellent results. Don’t accept trashy service.

  24. Ward

    Sounds like Russ is blaming Passport America for his bad stay.
    Passport America had nothing to do with his stay.
    His problem was that he didn’t do any research on the campground. Didn’t check any reviews on it. Didn’t check how the sites looked like a measurements of sites. That can be done on Google Earth very easy. Also writer doesn’t carry a short sewer hose so he could dump at his site. They have 5′ ones that should have worked if his was too long.

    With more camping experience in privet campgrounds Russ will get to know what equipment to carry with him to make his camping experience much better.

  25. Rita Black

    Even if you don’t have PA. You should let them know that the treatment you got at that park has turned you off from joining PA. Also there are places to rate RV parks so others will be warned.

  26. Daniel Varcoe

    Why do you imply the unpleasant experience at this park was because of Passport America? We are members of PA and have had only good experiences at parks who honor the discounts. We have had good and bad experiences at non PA parks also but we don’t hold Good Sam or others responsible. I don’t understand you identifying this park by discount club name rather than by the patk name, which would be more helpful in assuring that other RV’rs don’t fall into the same trap.

  27. Jacques

    I no longer RV, but I had a Passport America card for the last 5 years of my RVing time and I never experienced what you described here. Parks went from good to very good. The only complaint I had was that the card was often not honored in the periods of the year we were RVing.

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