Building an RV park from scratch: Why I sold my house to open an RV campground


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.

Follow us on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Sandie DeMarco-Sanchez

I can’t wait for opening day!!

Machelle James

Thank you Sandie! We will have networking in the trees!! Please come visit us!!


Hi Machelle, sounds like a wonderful dream. My best advice, although late, would be to move to the community and live there first. You may find that it isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. I wish you the best and will follow your journey.

Machelle James

Hi JW. We have been living there part time for a couple months and have made really good connections. We also have met a couple of the neighbors who have voiced their concerns. Change is hard we understand. But so far the town officials are super excited to have us there!

Gene Cheatham

All the best on a long, tough, ultimately rewarding journey. We went through the entire process in 2003 to start a 200 site CG on 40 acres from scratch near St Louis, MO. We joined ARVC, met with our state’s CG owners board and were welcomed with open arms; had flown in a well respected industry expert for advice and information. The short of the long – the housing boom was in full swing and supply and demand laws came into play and we were competing with residential home developers for property and could not get the ROI we needed.… Read more »

Machelle James

Hi Gene! That is where we are. Building from scratch. Its so sad that you couldn’t get your ROI back then. It’s even more expensive now to build. That is why we are so thankful for our family and friends. They are lending a helping hand wherever they can and that definitely helps with keeping costs down.
We hope you make it out our way as well when you retire!

Pat Greenwood

So excited for you and for all of us who love to camp. Your new campground will definitely be a destination point for us! I’m sure you are living the dream that many of us have dreamed! Good luck with your dream! Will be following.

Machelle James

Thank you for your support Pat! Hope to meet you next summer!!

Gina Eggers

I am so excited for you! And me! I am looking forward to hearing about your progress. You have the right idea about the space between trailers. Thank you for thinking about privacy issues and a central fire pit. I will plan to visit you in the summer of 2020!

Machelle James

Hi Gina! Yes! We agree about the spacing. We love our privacy when camping and we know most others do as well. I like the communal firepit as it lets us all come together, talk about life or whatever the topic is over a cocktail or two! See you next summer and keep following our journey for updates!

Charles Korte

Would like to follow your updates. Clicked on the subscribe button but not sure it works. [email protected]

Machelle James

Hi Charles, sorry about the sign up error. If you have Facebook, follow us there as well. AJ’s Getaway RV. I update articles there as well! Thank you for following our journey!


It’s called living the dream – Bless you and your family and GOOD LUCK! We will watch for the opening bell. We will look to spend a few days with you down the road!

Machelle James

Thank you Steve! Keep reading for updates and when we will be officially open!


When we stay at a new campground, I always look around for revenue Streams. I want all campgrounds to succeed. I think wifi, showers and use of pools should be free. But I expect to pay for and appreciate when there is a well stocked Camp store, laundromat, coffee shop etc. A campstore isn’t Walmart, but items should be priced reasonably to discourage long drives to nearby towns for milk or ketchup. It’s a bonus when there are Tshirts with cool designs and or things made by local artists or artisans. Best of luck.

Machelle James

Thank you for the tips Peter! I agree with you about other streams of income. We will have an area for RV/boat storage as well. I agree with having cool swag for sale, coffee mugs, fun camp sayings on drink cups, hats, t-shirts. We also want an event area for weddings, cook offs, reunions. We’ll make it an efficient use of space to gather and make memories!

Jamie Shaver

I am so excited you and AJ are going to be living your dream. Wish it was closer to us in Happy Jack, but we will have to come see it. If anyone can do this you two can. Love that you are keeping so much space between the spots and still having a group area. As I told you before that is one of the things we always wished was at some of the places we have stayed. LOL, I love to hang out for happy hour or dinner and then retreat to my own space for the night.… Read more »


Hey Machelle Very interesting article and will be curious to see how you progress. I wanted to make a note to you that the so-called “architecture“ of the campground I think is important. We discovered over many years that location of the activities can be really helpful to encouraging a community spirit. A good example is the sun n fun campground in Sarasota Florida where the check-in/checkout, pool, bar,cafe and other activities are all together and centered in the campground. This causes a general hubbub of activity because while any one of those things might be lightly attended all being… Read more »

Debbie Wilson

So excited for your new adventure. I will try to follow as we would love to come visit your campground when it opens


I would love to be informed as to the progress of your campground; I used to live in Phoenix. My Facebook name is Sierra Carson, look me up if you are on there!

Ted Werner

My wife, Jan and I came to Gila Bend, Arizona for a 3 day stopover in 2010. We stayed the winter and every winter since. The reason was [then] Augie’s RV Park (It is now the Gila Bend KOA). John and Donna built the park from the ground up after a year of traveling the country deciding what they liked/disliked about various campgrounds. The sites here are 75 feet apart, diagonally parked, and 80-100 feet long. The lack of trees in the “desert” is made up for with 360° views and a great group of people. We look forward to… Read more »

Machelle James

That’s great to hear! I do like camping on a diagonal as well. We are going up to the property this weekend and make a decision on parking. Drive thrus, back in, diagonal, side by side…we will have a team of family members in the construction industry to help us envision it as developed. Right now its overgrown trees, grass and shrubs!

Bill Austin

Machelle. Relative to my comment on layout earlier. Here is a picture of our favorite one Fun n Sun in Sarasota.

What I wanted you to see was how the “activities” are clustered centrally and in the front thus giving a sense of excitement to passersby while keeping the “sounds” contained and isolated from the quiet areas. As I’d mentioned, the bar/pool/snackbar area really gives those who are wanted social time a great place to go.


Randy Smith

Hi my name is Randy. My wife and I just retired in November of 18 and bought 37ft 5th wheel and are living in Mohave Valley Az. I have experience in the construction field. I would like to help if possible.

Machelle James

Hi Randy! Congratulations on your retirement! I know we do need help in the area of fencing. Of course when we move up there, we will get a better handle of what else we need as well. I have a GC who is flexible about what we want to do to save costs and what we cannot do per the planning and zoning rules. Follow us on FB @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park and message me your information please. I really appreciate all the help we can get!


Hi Machelle, Congratulations for moving forward with that dream. When in the area I will plan to visit your park. One thought; I would have liked to have seen your name on the business as well.
See ya in a couple of years,

Gerri Lilly

So glad you are going to build your own campground. Last summer we stayed at Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor, Maine. It was built by an anonymous generous benefactor who saved the land from becoming a golf course. He, or she, designed , built and paid for a new campground and then donated it to the National Parks. Sites are spacious, wooded and gorgeous. Best of luck in your venture. Looking forward to staying with you.

Joe Brett

I look forward to reading your blog on how your plans are proceeding. I hope and pray things work out for you!


Incredible. I cannot wait to follow your story.

Jeff Schwartz

I have wanted to do this for a few years now myself. I am very close to retirement and are disposing of all our personal stuff and tons of antiques we have collected over the years. The house is soon going up for sale and we are looking for property, as you did for an RV park.
I look forward to the follow up articles. I wish you and AJ the best and hope to meet you someday at your new RV park.
Best of luck to you, your husband and family.


What a great adventure. Please keep us up on your progress. Post pictures too.


We wish you great success in your dream. Please look into an automated method for booking your sites. Making people call only adds to your work(answering phones…) but makes it harder for people too. Sure you can have a phone number to call to book(which would basically just be you using the automated system for people that are not willing to DIY) as well but having an automated method over the internet makes things easier for most of the people these days.

Machelle James

Yes! We are already looking into which Reservation system is the most user friendly and owner friendly ! Good advice!

Barry Homer

Not an adventure we would seek, but good luck following your dream.

FYI, we don’t like to park under trees and choose to not park where trees block our rooftop satellite TV antenna. We want access to Directv for recording and watching, so campground cable or off-air does not work for us.


I look forward to your adventure. I’m sure there will be trials but I love what you are going to do. Wish you the best.

sheryl bright

I think this is awesome that you are doing this as a couple. My husband and I full-timed in our new fifth wheel for 5 years and loved it. We always talked about what was wrong and what was right about all the various campgrounds and rv parks, and seeing the need for RV parks in our area of southern Oregon, we have talked of the possibility of building an RV park. So GOOD FOR YOU TWO!! I hope the adventure is enjoyable and a tremendous success!

Barry Homer

read above separate posting


If you ever build an RV Park please let me know, I love southern Oregon camping! BTW, I am on Facebook as Sierra Carson.

John Fleming

Adding to the below folks — Congratulations ! ! You two are doing what most of us are afraid to think about. God bless and good luck through the construction.

Gregory Smith

I really think you guys made the best decision for the next chapter of your life. Thank you for taking that leap of faith to build this RV Park. I’m confident you’ll have quite a few new visitors to your RV Park and some may be regular, yearly visitors – I hope to be one of them. With respect, Gregory Smith, MSgt, USAF (Retired)

Machelle James

Thank you for your encouragement! Also, thank you for your service!

Steve De Baets

I’m so excited for you. Not many people have the guts to take the first step, good for you.
I’m looking forward to future post about the progress you are making. Best of luck to you. We’ll visit when you finish.

Sally Smith

Thank you for having a place that welcomes special kids. We have been to COE parks and they are great. We have met some wonderful friends that have become life long friends. Our son is like your daughter. Stosh is 33 but will never be more than about 15. That is ok cause he is a great guy and I have found that most people love having him around. I always tell folks that if you don’t want him around all you have to say is I am going in or going somewhere so you need to go home. He… Read more »

Machelle James

Sally, that is so cool! Your son sounds so happy!! So many times I hear parents that are afraid to let their special kids out of the house. Whether it’s because of behaviors, wheelchair reasons, or the “hassle” of packing for a weekend getaway. I say, get them out to the trees! It is such a beautiful sight to watch kids who finally have a chance to be in a forest, to see a lake, to ride in an off road vehicle time. The smiles and joy it brings them will melt your heart!! I do hope you’ll visit someday!!


i visit that area a lot..i hope you will be open year around

Ed Craft

Wish you the best in this endeavor, and would love to visit when your park is complete in 2020. Keep up the good work!

Cheryl Fair

I’m excited for you and your family! We will definately be looking you up when you open! Best of luck!!!

Old Prospector

Love your idea. America needs more campgrounds. – Please, Oh Please, Do Not become RV Snob’s and Make it into a RV campground which only accepts RV’s 10 years or less, or only those that are factory made. America already now has Too Many of those types, and the majority of the RVer’s and campers can’t stand them, and don’t want them ! ! ! – Anyway folks, Wish you the best of luck.

Laura A Waddle

Congrats on living your dream. Love everything in Arizona we will be coming to your new RV park when finished. Love the vision you have of a community but with private space.


You are living my dream .I let life pass by dream . Best of luck If you need workcampr let me know

Machelle James

Hey Everyone! I am overwhelmed and humbled with your words or encouragement and support! I value your feedback and while I may not be able to reply to you all, I do read what you are saying. Please follow us here on, on FB @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on IG at AJ’s Getaway RV Park.

Machelle James

OOOPS, search us on IG at ajsgetawayrvpark

Jude Trafficano

Sounds very exciting. Wishing y’all the very best and just maybe we’ll be one of your campers. Good Luck !
Jude & Kathleen Trafficano
New Orleans


Kudos to you for living the dream….it won’t be easy……you just have to do your research and proceed with an open mind… creative and think outside of the box……remember that experience is our ability to recognize our mistakes… will make them….but don’t let them deter you……move forward…although no one knows for sure… took Edison thousands of times to invent the light bulb….but he never refered to each dashed attempt as a failure…..only a method that didn’t work…so move on…..and keep this in mind…..I can’t remember where the quote came from…..we all have an end to journey towards….but in the end… Read more »

Carl J

Sorry, I havent read everyone of the replies here but in case no one else mentioned it, there is a large group of RV’ers called workcampers, who for the offset of a free campsite will provide free labor. Yiu might look into that as you build and staff your facility.
Look forwad to your progress reports.

Katalin H Heymann

Are you going to be RV snobs and limit the RVs to newer models? Too many RV parks wouldn’t accept my 1998 Fleetwood Wilderness or let me camp in my 2014 Toyota Sienna minivan equipped with a bed, porta-potti, 12 volt fridge and solar generator.

Erik Jensen

I think that you are very special people and I wish you all the success in the world. When my wife & I retire and get our own 5th wheel, you will be one of the first places we will want to stay. Good luck & God’s speed
Your new friend from Canada ??

Machelle James

Thank you so much for your support! You can follow our progress and see photos on Facebook @ Aj’s Getaway RV Park! We would love to host you as well!!

kenneth serr

I can’t wait to travel that way in 2020 when we retire. Look forward to all your posts on the campground.
Blessings Ken

Theresa Farone

So excited to camp in your campground! I am excited for you!


How inspiring! I can’t wait to hear more1 The best to you all!


Wonderful story, praying that this dream comes true for you all.


Beautiful area! Go for it guys! Campgrounds are a remarkable business to own if you have the energy to sustain you. Stay fit, get rest and eat well. Enjoy the journey. If you do it right, you can write off practically everything you do! God bless you and we’ll follow along, praying for greAt things!

Machelle James

Great advice here! Thank you for your support!! It really is such a lovely area up there!!!

Karin Callander

Keep us posted, we PLAN to be in the area in 2020! We had many of the same discussions and even had a friend willing to buy the property and let us run it for a split, but we just never found the right piece of ground. Best of luck to you! Hope we can meet up!! In your wonderful new park!

Machelle James

Oh how exciting!! We just LOVE it there!!
Thank you so much for your support! You can follow our progress here as well as see photos on Facebook @ Aj’s Getaway RV Park!

Charles Wehland

It’s a great adventure that you are embarking on–Congratulations and best wishes. I noticed that you will have a dumping station but not sewage at the sites. This will undoubtedly cause hesitation by campers wanting a campground for more than a short stay since it is very cumbersome to move an RV just to empty the holding tanks. How have you worked this lack of an important amenity into your business plan? Also, do you have plans to provide WiFi and TV? Unfortunately, more and more RV’ers are looking for campgrounds that include these features. I don’t want to sound… Read more »


I would be one. I can live without tv and wi-fi for the surrounding and adventures they offer. More and more people use their phones for internet (I don’t but I know many who do). Providing internet is very costly. For tv, bring your dvd’s. If a person wants those then stay in the city. Q


It’s up to you if plumbing all the sites and transfer pumps make sense on your property, but otherwise I would recommend loaning “blueboys” or offering a honeypot service for those who want it as a more economical option. I’ll also say I would much rather see 2-3 dumpstations abreast than plumbed sites. Yes, based on my typically weekly stays, but a recurring big complaint is single or inline dumpstations for us tank-dwellers who get stuck in half-mile lines on “checkout day.”

Machelle James

Hi Charles. So this campground will be a seasonal campground from April- November. Most of our clients will be weekend warriors getting away from the Arizona heat. We will not be catering to long term residents, mostly people wanting to ride in the forest, take a break to recharge and go back home. As far as not having a sewer connection, it is a cost factor at the beginning as well as a test. We will have options for a honey wagon to come through for those who stay for a week or more. We also will have wifi and… Read more »

Barbara Abe

Thank you SO much for doing this! My husband and I have been full-timing since 2006 and have seen a real increase in the number of RVers out there. I’m sure owning a campground will be a lot of hard work, but I would think the rewards will be great! Good luck and I look forward to reading your future columns.

Alice A Beamer

So happy for your project and pray it is a success! Taking care of your Daughter is what seems to make it so special!

Machelle James

Thank you! She will be the welcoming committee!!! We are putting her to work as well ?

John Koenig

Machelle, I hope this succeeds beyond your wildest dreams and, I look forward to the time I can stay at your RV park. Best of luck!


Can’t wait for your next post.

John Bloxham

I pray for the best in your adventure, we need more good RV parks. How many sites do you have in your plan? Like one other person commented below, I would suggest to have less than 80′ between sites so you can fit more rigs at any given time and allow more of us RVers to enjoy your park. It sounds like you will be full up next year when you open. Make it so more of us can enjoy your new park. I will plan to be in the area next summer

Machelle James

Hi John. So this park at first will be small. Approx 25 hookup spots and then an area for dry camping. There are rules about daily water usage and if we can stay under 3000 gallons per day for the whole camp, we do not need to get ADEQ involved. And it saves us about $25,000 in fees. So in time, we can build a more spots. For now, we want to keep it small and manageable.


Sounds great, Machelle. I don’t know when I’ll make it there, but I’ll keep you in mind when in the SW… Another pet-peeve since you mentioned dry camping — a common complaint seems to be people running generators in dry spots. Since you’ll have limited electrical sites, hopefully you’ll have IMHO reasonable rules on generators. Maybe “under XX-dbKim Christiansen′” but then allowed 9A to 9P or something? Here in the Northeast, many places have 1 hour slots morning and night regardless of how quiet your genny is, and that’s not IMHO reasonable for most people’s needs. I TOTALLY understand the… Read more »


Um, I respectfully disagree! I choose where I stay heavily based on ample space between sites. The builder here said that was one of their own motives in building a campground, so they shouldn’t compromise that vision.

Machelle: Charge more if you really have to, buy more land when you want to add sites, but don’t make yourself just another place I WON’T visit because of crowding. Hold onto what’s special, and trust enough of us will appreciate it.

Miranda Melchert

We can hardly wait to stay there!

C.B. Sheward

First I would like give you a thumbs up on what you are doing, Wish you best of luck We had a campground for 5 years in Curcha, Colo. we got a going CG It was very nice adventure, we were campers, we had a partner. it was a family CG. we had small game room for the kids, we picked up trash every day, the kids went with me then we played games, every year we mailed out to the people that stay with us, the kids came in with the cards, parents said we had to come back… Read more »

Machelle James

Great ideas here! Yes, people need to remember to get back to the basics. Ice cream, potato sack races, pot lucks, cookouts, movie night under the stars, roasting marshmallows. Make meaningful memories with their families. I want our guests to feel like family when they visit us!

Nancy Michaels

What a fabulous undertaking!! Fun and challenging. I hope you and AJ are very successful and happy that you decided to do this! If we return to Arizona, we will certainly be looking for your RV park. God bless you and your family!

Beverly Armstrong

Wishing you all the best in your new adventure..we have been fulltimers for 12 years and a campground like yours will be so welcome! We’ll be following you and would love to come stay opening day!

Machelle James

Hi Beverly! Thank you! You can follow our progress here as well as see photos on Facebook @ Aj’s Getaway RV Park! We would love to meet you!

David Swarat

Good luck we would love to come in 2020, like the idea of RV Travel folks getting the first crack at staying, maybe you could post pic`s as you build, and tell a little about the area
God Bless

Machelle James

Hi David! Yep, you can follow us here as well as on FB @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park. I’ll post pics on the progress there for you to see!

Margee Scannell

I totally agree with many of the comments. I wish you all the best in your endeavor. I, too, would like to be among the first to camp at your facility! I will be following closely. The facebook suggestion is a good one!

Machelle James

Hi Margee! Thank you so much for your support! You can follow our progress here as well as see photos on Facebook @ Aj’s Getaway RV Park! We would love to meet you!

Julie Lazaro

Machelle what an awesome adventure and opportunity. I can’t wait to spend some time there with you and the family. Looking for the perfect toy hauler now. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying your story

Barry Thomas

Will really enjoy following Machelle James on the trials and tribulations of their project.


My brother in law and his wife love to camp in the northern AZ area. They live in Chandler, but take their 5th wheel north as often as possible. We would love to bring our TT out to AZ, but since we live in upstate New York, it’s quite a trek. We hope to do it some day. I will definitely be sending the info on your park to my brother in law as soon as it becomes available!! Sounds perfect!!
I’ll be looking forward to your updates!!


We love the area the area you’re building in and looking forward to staying with you in the future. We will be following your column and wish you the best of luck.

Marilyn R

Read many of the comments – love the positivity (I know, not a real word!) Though I love the idea of the 80″ between the sites I think that if you go a bit smaller (maybe 50′) it will give us the campers lots of unheard-of privacy but will enable you to have a few more sites.
Will be following your progress.
Would love to be on the list for a reservation for 2020! Are you taking them yet?

Chris Gray

What an awesome adventure; the campground sounds great! We will definitely come stay. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes.


Love love love this!!! Cheers to listening to your heart! Best wishes. Hope we will be able to stay at your park some time.


Have you thought of asking for volunteers from retirees. like if I was was retired from concrete work and you were going to do the pads, you could ask me to help in exchange for a lower rate to camp there. just an idea.

Vicky Cali-Smith

I love your story and can’t wait to follow every episode along the way. I will be praying for you also that there won’t be too many bumps in your journey to bring the perfect campground to fruition. I am from the west coast and hope that I can visit when you open.

Bill Austin

Congratulations and good luck on pursuing your dream!

Betty L Kees

So excited for you we live in our fifth wheel and trying to find a park that we are both happy with and with the weather and to have trees for shade we have been doing this since 2016 still have not found the right one
Hope you can get this going and HAVE FUN AT IT

Julie Lazaro

I have just sold my home and am strongly considering living in an rv and traveling. I would be interested in hearing your ups and downsides of this.

Jann Forrest

That is so exciting for you. Hope things go smoothly (as possible) for you.

Bob Ogletree

Just a piece of advice. Make sure you separate your living space and any full time RV campers from your seasonal RV’s . Save yourself the problems of people who don’t value your business and livelihood as those that do .

Machelle James

Hi Bob! Good advice! We will eventually be living in a small cabin that came with the property. It is uninhabitable right now.
We also will not be having long term residents. We want everyone to have a chance to come stay, play and go away! (That’s a joke!)

Mike D

We wish you good luck. Looking forward to keeping up with your progress and staying at your new park in the future. We love AZ. and will be back there in 2021 God willing.


Best of luck! Can’t wait to read more about your adventure.


Love it! Would love to follow you!


I highly recommend Chuck’s suggestion of reserving the opening of your campground for RV Travel readers. You are bound to have quite a few “kinks” that need to be worked out during your first days, and RV Travel readers, most of whom will have followed your adventures in establishing the campground, would be very likely to offer constructive criticisms and suggestions, rather than just gripe and whine as other campers might do. They would be happy to tell you what works and what doesn’t, and may even volunteer to help you fix things. They’d also be more likely to give… Read more »

Machelle James

That’s a great idea! I’ll have a soft opening and see what you all say!!

Fran Pearson

Oh my goodness it sounds like your park is going to be a must stay! Can’t wait to hear more and come visit when it is complete. BTW, when we went full time our first rig was an 06 Fleetwood Gearbox too. It left some areas of desirability (opposing slides, real closet space, a real oven) but others I loved Storage, storage storage. Good luck, can’t wait to hear more.


I think you really made the right decision! Perfect getaway for the hot summers in Az ?. You will be booked solid all Summer! Would love to know a more detailed location if possible? We are retirees and do like to boondock some, however, would need hookups periodically.


This sounds like an exciting journey, and for all the right reasons. I look forward to following your adventure.

Thomas Polignani

Great adventure. Please post pictures of everything as you progress

Philip Saran

I want to follow along as you build your campground. My wife says add Pickle Ball Courts (she plays Pickle ball).


Wow , good for you! I don’t know the area but sounds like it is in the mountains. What are you winter temps there?

Brian Grooms

I love it. My wife and I, with our two children, have started the fulltime life. I have often said we should start up our own park, but we are into the nomad tourist trip right now. Trying to show our kids all the things we never got to see living in Florida for 40yrs. We have traveled the southern part of the country, always heading West. We stay about a week at our campsite, do all the local attractions, and then off to the next. CA has been the hardest to navigate so far. There is a lot to… Read more »

William M Thompson

Fantastic! Looking forward to the next article, and we will definitely come and visit.

Debbie L Moyer

Sounds great and we wish you the best of luck.

Keith Freitas

Machelle, You have highlighted all the right reasons to make a business judgement decision. I think desire, demand, motivations, and research all culminate into a direction of success. I measure success pretty different than other people do; i.e. I measure success based on my freedoms to what and when I want anytime I want to. Most people think you need money to reach those lofty goals, but all you really need is love, conviction, and determination. Your desire to pursue a path that allows your daughters dreams and happiness to be incorporated into this goal is very refreshing to me.… Read more »

Machelle James

Thank you for the advice Keith. Your comments made my eyes water. #3, I’m not crying, you are!
I will remember these when it’s time to build. I want to help make fun memories for our families where they want to come back year after year!


Loved your article and cant wait to read about your journey. My husband and I are currently looking into buying a campground and getting out of the city. Our stories are similar, we have a 15 year old with developmental disabilities and he is about 5 years old mentally. We are also big on camping. Your story is an inspiration for us. best of luck and we will definitely come camp here.

Machelle James

I hope you are able to follow your dreams as well! It’s ok to have family tell you you’re crazy! They just don’t see clearly like we do!
My only recommendation would be to make sure your son receives services as he is still young. Or, hire on an amazing respite care or Hab provider to help you out while you work! Jenna can only do so much before she’s tired and CRANKY! Best of success to you as well!!


Absolutely fantastic idea, can’t wait to hear more on the build progress. Do post updates i am sure you will get a lot of RVer’s wanting to stop. We travel with a 41ft 5th wheel and full size dual wheel pick up. We routinely find stops either to small or barely enough to fit. Think of us while your constructing (smile).

pete morris

WOW what a great response from rvtravel readers. I would be honored to be among the first to stay at your new RV park. I usually boondock. Homebase is Kingman, AZ.


Sounds Great! Wish you the best of luck. My wife and I have talked about it many times. It’s nice to hear that some one is living the Dream!

Karen Willis

Best of luck to your family venture! Looking forward to your weekly article.

Patrick Granahan

I have to congratulate you on making this life changing move….have often thought about
establishing a campground on 18 acres we owned on the Vermont/New York state line but
the local town prohibited any Campgrounds.

I’ll look forward to your reports including costs and the “bumps in the road” you may encounter.


We are over the moon excited for you guys. Looking forward to many trips up to Heber in the coming years. Live your dreams and leave behind the haters. ❤️❤️❤️

Debbie Anderson

It sounds beautiful! Can’t wait to read more of your adventures creating this new RV Park!


I’m so excited to read this! My husband has been saying for years he wants to open an RV park.


Good for you. Enjoy the journey. I look forward to following your project and will definitely come. My personal thoughts: dont bother with a pool, rec room, fancy bath houses. Just a cozy gathering room adjacent to the office, maybe a TV and fireplace. When laying out the sites, please make allowances for large rigs. Most full timers have 38-42 foot rigs. Many, like your toyhauler, may also have drop down patios in the rear and possibly side patios. If you have the resources, make finished walking trails for us with old knees and hips. Not clear cut paths, just… Read more »


Mike says, “I would love Jenna to give tours! That would be awesome.”

Scott Ellis

This is a great story, I applaud your undertaking, and the odds are better that I will one day stop at *your* private campground than any other I’ve ever heard of (we’re generally far-from-the-crowds boondocking types). That said, PLEASE don’t take offense when I–the former English teacher–beg you to refer to your enterprise as “AJ’s Gateway Family RV Park” . . . WITHOUT that extra comma. 😀

Roy Ellithorpe

Hate to be nitpicky, but I believe it was “Getaway” not “Gateway”.


Good luck Machelle and AJ! Your dream sounds like a place I would love to park my RV for a week or so. I know Jenna will bring along Pokémon for entertainment!! Lots of love to all.


What a wonderful story. We have been fulltiming since 2006 and now spend winters in Benson, AZ and summers in Star Valley, WY. We have two 5th wheel trailers which remain in two locations and are planning to purchase a smaller toy hauler to bring our RZR along for weekend trips; longer trips to see friends and family in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado ann Texas and to use to travel between AZ and WY. Your place sounds delightful. We are looking forward to staying with you and following along with your journey.


I think what you are doing is fabulous.Don’t pay attention to the negative comments of family or friends that discourage you (if their are any?).I hope you are super successful and hope to visit in a few years.

Machelle James

Thank you Bob! We have several family members that are so excited for us and others that think we have lost our minds. We know what makes us happy and just block them out. Still love them of course, we just don’t talk to them about the business.

Patti Lounsbury

There’s nothing quite like the scent of pines in the air. Good luck to you and your family as you begin this great adventure, I can hardly wait until the campground opens and a bunch of us are enjoying the communal campfire on a star filled night.

Jayne Kelly

Oh how I love that area. We live in Tucson but travel for the summer months. You are actually doing what I consider to be a lifelong dream. I wish you luck in this endeavor. And I really want to be there for your opening. I will be following your articles with much anticipation!


Congratulations! Always wanted to do what you are doing but somehow we have gotten past the age of doing so. Good luck and hope to see your new campground in 2020.


Good for you!! Hope it is wildy successful, it is a beautiful area and we will come and see you as soon as you are ready!

Freddy Beers

That is awesome! My wife and I have done the city rat race and are tired of it. We are looking at travel trailers to live in. We are both restaurant professionals and have worked all over the country including many national parks. Heading to Creede CO in May to run a restaurant. Hopefully we can purchase our trailer after the season. Good luck on your endeavor.


Freddy., Are you going to be at Antlers Rio Grande? Wonderful place, great owners (Chuck N Patty). Fabulous restaurant! Enjoy!

Freddy Beers

Love Antlers! I was a manager at Kips three summers ago. We will be working at Cottonwood Cove Guest Ranch just outside of Creede this time. We plan to buy a camper after Summer. We do a lot of seasonal work so it will be much easier to live. Heading to Bisbee AZ or the FL Keys next Winter.

Cindy Schadowsky

Congratulations to you and your husband on your new venture. Looking forward to 2020 when you open. Please email me when you open.

John Holt

We live in Prescott Valley, have a 30 foot FR3, would love to be there on your opening weekend. Please keep us updated.

Jeannine Demers

Your heart is at the right place: helping RVers find a beautiful campground/campsite while inviting people of all needs. May God bless your endeavor along the way, as well as when you open your doors to the public. Be strong during the difficult periods, and let your heart be warmed during the easy times. God bless!

Wayne Mullis

Good morning,
My wife and I have done the snowbird thing in Douglas, Az. and found it very enjoyable. We would love to give your place a try when you’re all done. Hope to see some pics as you grow and build. God be with you as you build.

Stephen White

We have driven cross country the last two years from Tacoma, WA to Louisiana and Florida. This year I experience two campgrounds that were unique to me.

These campgrounds arranged the RVs facing in different directions. The water, sewer and electric were bundled together. This allowed the other side of the coach not to see all these connections when walking out there front door.

I hope you will consider planning your new RV Park in this manner.


That’s a great idea for most RV parks, where sites are relatively close, but probably not practical if these sites are 80 feet apart.

Roger Becht

Sounds like a wonderful adventure. My wife an I just started full-timeing this year in a fifth wheel. We would love to come out and camp with y’all.

Skip Boomershine

I think what your doing is Awesome and I Love that area too. I am a recently retired electrician from Alaska who also bought a 5th Wheel Toy Hauler as my choice for an RV. I have been considering doing the same thing here in Alaska. We Love our Alaska summers and try to head South with the RV as winter approaches. I will be following your progress. Let me know if I can help with the electrical! ?
I’m coming through there in late March or Early April and could stop by for a visit.


Can you start a blog on a Facebook page that we can check in on your progress weekly? This is so exciting, and we can live our dreams through you, and cheer you on when for sure there will be some challenges….but you will do great!!!

Machelle James

Hi Marylee! Thank you so much for your support! You can follow our progress here as well as see photos on Facebook @ Aj’s Getaway RV Park!

Nice, good for you. We don’t stay in many RV parks. One, because most are overpriced for what you get, and two because we like our space. There is nothing worse than opening the blinds in the morning to stare at somebody else’s RV parked 10 feet away. With their sewer hose lying beside your lawn chairs.

Please, if you do nothing else… have metered electricity at the sites. Don’t force us frugal people to pay for somebody else’s wasteful electricity use!

Kenneth Roof

I really love the idea of the site separation. I would imagine the price goes up for every foot of separation, so this will be an interesting project. Hope your resources are sufficient and good luck!


Beautiful area. Go through on our way home from Phoenix. Can’t wait for your narrative. Would love to be there for your grand opening.


Machelle and AJ. Wow! Your plans sound wonderful and challenging. I wish you the best with this new life you are choosing, I think it will be Great!! I am anxious to read about your continuing story. Thank you for wanting to share this with us all. Your journey may be an inspiration to others.


Look forward to following your endeavors. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have a small accessible enclosure around the hookups to complement the surroundings!?


I can’t wait to read the rest. Maybe we will be able to head out that way after you open. Best of luck!!


Finally! Someone who gets it! Room to breathe when you’re camping! Good luck! Heber-Overgaard is where I boondock and will check out your place when open.


I look forward to hearing your story and following your adventure.

Doug Randolph

We love that part of Arizona. Sounds like you are going to do all the right things from the start. We’ve all stayed in a RV resort and said “if this were my place, I would of done this or that”. I also would like to be there for your grand opening.

Kent Smith

May the Lord bless your endeavor and bring it to completion. Look forward to reading about your progress and hopefully using your campground some day.


Good luck with your dream – and thank you for taking this on. The world needs more people like you two. Thanks for doing this for all RV’ers. Look forward to reading about your adventure and Keep up the good work. May this path be blessed with all “green” lights so you can move through hassle-free. Look forward to visiting your Campground in the future.

Starr Tyroff

I would really love to follow your progress as you follow your dream. Hope you continue to share through the RV Travel Newsleter. Or create a site where we can read about your building progress.


Good luck!!! Looking forward to future threads on your progress and how things are going.
Hope to stay at you campground in the future and thanks for taking this adventure on.

Mary Pat

Thank you for sharing! We look forward to the experience and perspective. It sounds like a great plan. Good luck.

Marty Chambers

I look forward to reports of your progress. I also look forward to to seeing the finished project, in pictures and in person .

Live the dream, life is too short not to.


Good luck all the best

Richard Slater

Good luck with your new endeavor. I’m looking forward to following your progress and who knows, I might be staying at your park in the future.


Thank you for sharing your excellent back-story. You captured the essence of every RV-er’s basic motivation. Godspeed opening your new RV Park, hope one day after your grand opening in 2020, to stop by…

Don and Connie Peterson

More power to you and AJ. Thanks for taking the plunge.

Bryan Sims

My wife and I are interested in jumping into the RV park business as well. Only we are going to purchase one that is very well established. I will be interested to see how things go for you and your family. Good luck we will try try to visit someday!

LaVaun Sykes

Wonderful idea! Would love to follow you!

Jeff Kirk

One of our favorite places is Canyon Point Campground and it stays booked all summer so I expect your place will too.
I know we will love to come up and spend a few days with you once you are open.


Building a RV park has always been a dream of mine, but not one shared with my husband, so, I will live vicariously through you. Thank you for willingly sharing your journey, I look forward to cheering you on.


Good luck! Your doing what a lot of us wish we would do.


Great story and endeavor, wish myself and more across the country were in a position to follow.

Tom Adamo

Fantastic endeavor. Nothing more satisfying than chasing a dream. Good luck ….

Jason Odom

Don’t forget about workcampers. They will often exchange free labor for a place to stay for a few months. My wife and I have been through your area and would probably visit if interested?


A truly unique way to start off full time rving, love it, Best of luck and will enjoy reading the rest of your story as it unfolds.


Wish you all the best and look forward to staying at your park, we have been FT for 2 years now.


Good for you…enjoy the journey!


Excited to follow your journey in building this new campground. We are fulltimers living in a toyhauler bringing our UTV with us. Arizona is on our list for winter 2019!

Leroy Stephenson

Being able to develop a brand new campground is a wonderful opportunity! Good luck to you and your entire family. As a campground owner I would only offer one bit of advice…. document everything. Tens years from now when you need to access something underground it will be a lot easier if you have a “map” and pictures to help you locate those lines. As much as everyone wants trees and level, wide spaces they all want lightening fast broadband internet just like they enjoy at home too. Spotty internet or cell service is our biggest complaint. Sharing our DSL… Read more »


Sounds just like the kind of place we’d love to go camping. Thank you for your efforts. We’ll try and go there all the way from eastern Canada. We love Arizona, and the mountains area in particular. We wish you all the best.

Jim Lee

Ok, you’ve got me when you said pine trees with wide spaces in between sites. I hate these campgrounds where I am so tight to my neighbors. I could camp in my yard and have more privacy than most campgrounds. I will come when you open. Good luck!


Congratulations! We will do our best to be there on opening day!

Kim Delfing

Sounds wonderful, how can we follow you?

Bryan Douglas

Best of luck to you and your family. I have done some talking with my wife about the need for more RV campgrounds and wished we could do it. I can’t wait to read more about your new adventure. It may gives us ideas as well.


I always love hearing about people who ditched their hamster-wheel existence to pursue their passion! It makes anything seem possible. May you have a wonderful journey!

Denise Nobles

So excited that I stumbled on to this email. Very intrested in hearing Machelle and AJ Story.
We are in the process of trying to get approved to build an RV park.
Looking forward to reading your story.
And may want to get a few pointers.
Denise and Jack


Good for you. May all your dreams be granted!

Liz Collins

we would love to come to your rv park when our retirement adventures begin. do you have a blog or website where we can follow your progress.. would love to see it grow. we had talked many times about doing the same thing. good luck.. sure hope it works out for you.. thanks for sharing.

Donald Wright

I prefer the State parks, national parks, Corps of Engineer parks and private campgrounds. The koa’s and good sams, all the spaces are too close and too expensive. I have an Aliner popup so I do not need all the space or toys that they do. One day I will make it to Arizona .

Joe Goldstein

Best of luck to you! We’ll come up (from Phoenix) when you’re open.

Steve Parks

Following Machelle & AJ, Thanks for sharing and willing to invite us into your adventure.
Looking forward to your story as it continues.

Dan Fritzsche

That is a wonderful plan! We love that area and look forward to you opening! Keep up the great stories. Hope to see you in 2020!

Cheryl & Dennis DeNoi

What an adventure! We have been full-timing for 12 years and camping a combined 100 years; both my husband and I have been camping since we were very young…right now I’m sitting with our 10 year old granddaughter who spent the night. If you need any advice/assistance we’d be glad to assist, if possible. We own a vintage RV that has been featured in many RV magazines (see website) and we look forward to staying at your dream RV park!
Semper Fi & follow your dream!

Bob Zagami

This is terrific, and a great start on your journey. Chase your dream and enjoy every minute along the way. Congratulations on taking the steps to create a new campground . . . as Chuck notes almost every week – there is a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to open new campgrounds to meet the demands of today’s new RVers, and millions already on the road out there. It will be fun following your journey in this newsletter. There will be good days and bad days along the route, but rest assured this audience of experienced RVers and wannabes will… Read more »


That’s pretty Cool. I’m jealous, but look forward to coming to your new adventure as soon as we can! Keep us in the loop. Maybe we can come over and work/camp for a couple weeks with you to help get it off the ground!

Lee Bevan

Randy, that’s a great idea. I just started full-timing 3 weeks ago and have been contemplating work-camping. I love Arizona so sounds like a plan. Machelle, are you listening? Please start your Workamper list with me at the top of it. ?

Christine Geiser

You are designing the perfect park for us. We too like space and trees. Camping side by side on what equates to a parking lot seems ludicrous to us. Finding state parks, our preference, where we can park and be “hidden” among foliage is difficult. We camp because we want to get away from the stressors of working with people every day. Gathering socially at a camp event should be by choice, not because your lot is so close you feel your neighbor is a houseguest.

Can’t wait to hear more.

Chris Agro

Machelle your story is inspirational. Having been full time RVers for 5 years my wife and I have thought about starting our own RV park in an area that has a need. We won’t due to a number of reasons so I look forward to following your journey. I am a graphic designer that works with RV parks so if I can help please let me know. Good luck and I hope to visit your park in the future.

Richard Davidson

WOW! Our prayers for success are with you both! We can’t wait to see and read about your journey! There will be problems but there will be successes also. We wish you the biggest of successes and hope to see your campground in person in the near future. God bless you both!

Michael D.

Way to go, great article. I am looking forward to reading of the journey.

Willie Miller

i’m looking forward to reading more as you progress in following your dream. Wishing and praying that you have great success in establishing AJ’s Getaway, Family RV Park. Love the Apache Trail from Roosevelt Dam To Apache Junction. I will keep AJ’s as a target place.

James Brooks

Not many people get to live out they’re dream job. Congratulations, and I’ll look forward to reading about your progress and hopefully visiting one day.


We will be looking forward to your article each week and looking forward to the opening!
By the way, we are raising a special needs grandson that is now 10 years old and love taking him on new adventures.


Iam very much looking forward to following you on your journey!

Ron Padgett

Congratulations on following your dreams! Sounds like your campground is going to be a great place to stay. We will follow your story and look forward to the opening.

Ira Giese

Good for you. I will enjoy watching the progress on your new site.


Congrats. Looking forward to staying with you during your first year… and later.


Congratulations on your adventure. I know your struggles, my daughter is now 11 and the complete opposite. She is afraid of everything and anyone. But she does love to travel and camp. Best of Luck.


I’m so happy to read your story and look forward to watching y’all take these steps! We are 5yrs from retirement, also with a special needs son. Wishing you all the best in your endeavors ??

Carmen Arroyo

Very endearing story, of why you choose to embark on this adventure with your family. Look forward to reading and learning more about RV park from a different perspective. While I dislike cramped parks, especially those where you are back to back with another RV, one of the enjoyable things about RVing is walking (or biking) around the park and meeting ppl. Can’t even imagine what sites 50 ft apart, will be like.

dawn Marie

….. GREAT article Machelle ! Congrats on being SO brave to take the steps towards your dream …. as Chuck said …. we are “snowed in” …. early Saturday morning at 2:30 am and it’s still coming down so we are catching up on the RV Travel Newsletter and enjoying your plans …. keep up the blogging and maybe i’ll meet you in person sometime in 2020 if/when i get on the road ….. regards, dawn Marie