Camping is a new ballgame as a full-timer

Camping is a new ballgame as a full-timer

 

By Chuck Woodbury
editor, RVtravel.com

I wrote about my crowded RV park in today’s (Dec. 10, 2016) RV Travel newsletter. I did not paint a rosy picture. 

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My current “campground.”

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.

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With my shorter RVs I would often stay in public campgrounds. But without a car, I would never stay more than a few days.

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.orange-grove772

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 can stay for weeks or months at a time in gorgeous remote areas, sacrificing few creature comforts. 

 

##RVT772

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17 thoughts on “Camping is a new ballgame as a full-timer

  1. Denny Wagamam

    We still have our sticks and bricks home that we live in during the summer. We travel the other 6-7 months. From WA state to NC , Fl, .Hilton Head wherever. About 2:30/3:00 we call ahead to CG ‘S and in the last 8 yrs have seldom had a problem finding a place to stay. It may take 3 calls. It sorta kinda sounds that you are not particularly happy bring a full timer. It takes us about 15 -20 minutes to set up . Departure Take 30-45 minutes as I check tire pressure , engine coolant, and double check connecting my toad. (most every day). For us It’s NOT about the destination it’s about the travel! Sometimes we might stay a week. We never travel in .Sunday as we like all the political programs and football-golf . Our rig is a 43ft DP and our total length w/toad is 64 FT. There are many awesome RV parks out there. I agree with the earlier comment Get out of CA.. I enjoy reading RVtravel every Saturday. I am going to call about the new sewer hookup!

  2. Karen

    Hi Chuck, I think the problem today is that many people are living in RV parks. It’s cheap, only $400-$500 per month plus utilities. This is subsidized by daily campers paying $40-$50 per night. On our recent trip to Austin, Texas we had to stay 1/2 hour outside the city as all the RV parks were full. One park didn’t even have space for daily campers as the full timers have taken over. We stayed in the state park right in Austin during the week but needed to leave as they had no space for us on the weekend…..we needed to book that space months ago.

  3. Trevor

    I am looking for some input with regard to RV trip from Toronto to Calgary in March/April next year. Direct trip by remaining in Canada without toll roads and highways. Can anyone suggest a nice route..? Also do you know of a good website that shows all camping grounds on Canadian routes..?

    1. Paul

      Trevor, not sure where you’re from so let me ask you the obvious question – are you really sure you want to do that drive in March or April? It’s usually still winter up here at that time so if it’s a “normal winter” you can expect cold and snow. Possibly a lot of snow. And many campgrounds don’t open until some time in May. Toll roads won’t be a problem – there aren’t any outside Toronto. But it’s just not possible to do a direct trip without sticking to the highway through Northern Ontario, and while there are alternative routes to the main highway through the prairie provinces they also will not be direct. My suggestion would be to take Highway 17 through Ontario (more scenic and fewer big trucks than Highway 11) and then Highway 1 through the prairie provinces. Outside of the cities, the highway is not overly busy. And give yourself lots of time – it’s a long drive, especially in an RV. The Good Sam Club website is one of the better, more complete listings of campgrounds that I’ve found, but I haven’t found anything that lists every campground. In my experience, the KOAs along that route are all very nice.

  4. Bev Redmond

    We’ve been fulltimers for 22 years, and have lived in a 40-ft Teton 5er, a 28-ft TT and now a 35-ft MH. We’ve recently completed what might be our last “job”. (We’ve volunteered most of our time on the road, in state and national facilities all over the country, most recently for the Corps of Engineers..) We’re both 77 and (Lord, I hate to admit this) we’re getting tired. We’ve both had medical issues in the past year that have taken a toll and we’re thinking it might be time to hang up the keys. It’s been an awesome life and we don’t regret one minute or one mile of it. We know that if we do give it up, we’ll be like fish out of water for a while until we get our “land legs” and return to sticks and bricks. I wish you the best of luck in your new lifestyle and hope that you’ll enjoy it every bit as much as we have.

  5. John Alexander

    Certainly the RV Park/Resort is under siege, most were created back in the day before big rigs, slides, toads and all the accessories. So other than a few new or updated sites . . . cramped is standard. We live full time in our 40′ diesel pusher with 3 slides (one a superslide), 2 queen beds, 2 flat screen TVs, and all the amenities allowing us to “glamp” but we prefer full services. When that isn’t available we overnight courtesy Walmart.
    Although we do travel in USA at times, for medical and other reasons we stay in Canada all year, (winter weather is beautiful in Victoria BC).
    Our major concern is the lack of consistency, (aka honesty), in how RV parks are advertised and presented in websites and online listings. It is rare to find a listing which don’t rate themselves as “big rig friendly” but when you arrive the soil won’t accept the weight, there is no room for toad, 20 AMP service and no sewer.
    We need a reliable registry.

  6. Michael

    This is my wife and I third year living full time in a motorhome. We have a 31′ Winniebago and toad. This year we did experience difficulty in finding available spaces in RV Parks. With the ever increasing number of RVers this takes away the fun. We also have experienced parks taking advantage of the situation by charging higher prices. Since we are both retired on a fixed income sticking to a budget is a concern. The increased prices may not be of concern to occasional RVers or vacationers but it certainly is to us. Hopefully the time will not come when the RV Parks find they can charge whatever they choose and only those with high incomes will prevail.

  7. Diane M

    Chuck, take a deep breathe. We travel from CA to FL every year for 3 months & CA to IN most every year for 6+ weeks. There are more RV parks than you can imagine that have more space & not packed like sardines. You need to get out of CA, trust me, especially the bay area (we live in SJ). Even small desert parks have a special ambience. We have a 39 ft Diesel pusher & tow. Yes, we are limited at Natl Pks, but even Yellowstone has Fishing Bridge, with full hook ups, where we fit in a tight spot. But it was worth it. It was June & it snowed during the night & we awoke to a beautiful sight. Until we get to Fl (where we have reservations) we just call sometimes a day ahead or same day to reserve a spot. Most times we just ask if we need a reservation, most times they say no but give me your name….don’t even ask for credit card. Bottom line we try to stop in small towns or outside of the larger ones. Not sure why it takes you an hour to hook up or unhook. I’m sure after awhile you’ll reduce that time way down. All the best & hopefully may run into you sometime on the road.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Diane, I still have a lot to learn as a full-timer. But, the reality is that I AM in northern California right now and where I am there are not a whole lot of choices of where to stay in one place for a month. So far, even though my present park is tightly packed, it’s been very quiet, and the location has been great for running around. I’ll get to those out-of-the-way parks down the road, I’m sure, and I plan to stay in public parks as well for a week or two at a time which is all some permit.

      But the reality is that there are a lot more people in RV parks today than what there were ten years ago, so finding one’s ideal location is more challenging.

  8. Diane L

    Dear Chuck – That RV Park looks like my idea of hell! I am a camper, not an RV-er. I would only stay in a reasonably spacious state park, private park, or boondock. if I couldn’t sit around a campfire I wouldn’t go! To have that many neighbors packed together that close is worse than living in an apartment building in a city! I would never do that either. from Diane

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Diane, keep in mind that I have “camped” for more than half my life. I’ve sat around a thousand campfires, roasted five thousand marshmallows (okay, an exaggeration) and seen some of most beautiful star-filled night skies on earth. My priorities are different now; my present situation, while your “hell,” works for me. –Chuck/editor

  9. AC7880

    Chuck has finally discovered there is more to RVing then he thought all these past years.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      It’s true. But my experiences part-time in earlier years with smaller RVs and no tow car still represent the way many RVers travel. Now, I am finding out what’s it like to travel with a larger RV with a tow car full-time. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of travel.

  10. Carl and Kathryn Hazlett

    To be comfortable boon docking, be sure your MH has large fresh water capacity, 80 to 100,large gray and black tanks, 100combined, solar panels, internet jet pack, direct tv and you are good for a week or 10 days anywhere.
    The most beautiful places are not in a crowded park.
    We have had many wonderful times in a 30 ft fleet wood.
    There’s no life like it.

  11. J French

    We are retired, not full timers since spending too much time away from grandkids is not an option so we have kept the house.
    Personally, I abhor crowded wall to wall zero space campgrounds or resort type kiddie campgrounds.
    Discovered the best for us was National & State Parks. We solved the lack of sewer hookups common to these type parks by carrying a wheeled portable which we mounted to a platform on the rear trailer hitch. Since it is like a cart, pull it if in walking distance to a dumping station every 3 days.

  12. Calvin Rittenhouse

    I am one of those who would boondock with any equipment. Smaller is better for me because of that.

    I do not tolerate private campgrounds well. I presently live in a small apartment with only one neighbor within 20 feet of where I’m sitting. I have rarely achieved that in private campgrounds, but I’ll admit I didn’t keep trying very long.

  13. Brenda

    We are full-time and only stay at private parks for overnight stays on our way to COE and State Parks. We do have to make reservations in advance as we stay two weeks at a time. We do need electric and water hookups. Sometimes they do have sewer too. If we want to visit all the big city has to offer we head out in our Honda Fit. But we come back to nature.
    You don’t have to stay for extended times in crowded RV Parks. It’s not just boondocking or RV Resorts. There are options in between. We camp on the east coast so maybe that makes a difference. BTW our MH is 39ft towing a Honda Fit.

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