By Machelle James
When I met my husband more than 25 years ago, I never could have imagined how life would have changed as it has in the past year. Now that the children are adults and we are grandparents, we decided we did not want to work for corporate America anymore. So what do you do when you want to open a business that is fun and meaningful? You find what you and your spouse are passionate about and figure out a way to earn an income doing it.
My husband, AJ, is the one who introduced me to camping. I never really camped growing up as I was city girl and that was just something we did not do. That and the fact that my family was very poor and my parents worked so much we rarely had an opportunity to go anywhere. So when my husband said we were going to go camping, we borrowed a tent, a portable stove and sleeping bags, and packed an ice chest full of food.
For my first camping trip, AJ took me to the sand dunes of Glamis, California. It was not a very welcoming first camping experience! Not only did we pack a summer tent in the middle of winter, the portable stove caught fire, and all of the food we had was covered in sand and fire retardant. I thought for sure the children were going to freeze to death as the cold wind came through our vented tent. I vowed I would never camp again unless AJ bought me an RV.
We tried out a class A motorhome, but it didn’t have enough sleeping options. The class C motorhome was not an option as our daughter kept opening the doors as we were driving. When we rented a fifth wheel toy hauler, we knew we had found the best RV for our family.
What we eventually chose was a new 2006, 35-foot Fleetwood toy hauler. She is still going strong and is currently parked in our garage. We have been to Glamis, California, and the White Mountains in Arizona more times than I can count. However, we have come to realize that being in nature, in the trees, is what makes us the happiest.
WE HAVE CAMPED in state park campgrounds only a handful of times. We prefer not to be stuck so close to people we don’t know. You see, our daughter has developmental disabilities and we are fiercely protective of her. She is 22 years old, yet she is 13 years old mentally. She is so trusting and will just wander over and start talking to people. Some people are OK with that; others, not so much. However, we have noticed that she, like most children away from their electronics, comes alive in the trees.
Many times during the campfire cocktail hour we have said that we should open an RV park – a place with enough space so you can’t hear your neighbors. An area that has a cool happy hour meeting place, and with community events where we could have smoking BBQ smackdowns. A space for events like a wedding or a band to play. A camp where you can ride your off-road vehicle to the nearby trails. A place that would be welcoming to all kids, no matter what their abilities are.
After years of saying it, I started to truly research how to open an RV park. It took us 10 months of searching properties and talking to different planning and zoning departments. We found several pieces of property that were beautiful and had great access to park an RV. However, there are so many rules about lawful entry from forest service roads, legal access from the highway, wrong zoning codes, no electricity options. We were getting frustrated that we couldn’t find the right piece of land.
Finally we found 15 acres in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, that had everything we needed to open a campground. Our daughter was playing in the snow, throwing snowballs at me. She told us she loved the property and wanted to move there. We all knew that land was meant for us: water, electricity, septic, correct zoning and, most importantly, trees!
Our home is going on the market in a few days so we can make this happen. Are we crazy for giving up a 3,300-square-foot home to live in a 5th wheel on 15 acres with our daughter? Maybe. I can’t imagine doing this without the help and support of my husband, family and friends.
We plan to have our campground grand opening in the summer of 2020. Until then, I’d like to share with you the journey we are about to embark on. Please join us on the developments of AJ’s Getaway, Family RV Park.
Until then, see you in the trees. And, please leave a comment.
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