Saturday, October 23, 2021

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Building an RV park: We were bank approved! And more good news!

By Machelle James
As I sit down to write this week’s article, I am exhausted. Emotionally and physically. We heard back from the bank and they are going to fund our loan – with conditions. Meaning, we have to have a commercial appraiser come out and estimate what our campground will appraise for once it is completed. We need to have a 60% loan-to-value for them to fund us. We paid the appraiser and now we wait for them to show up and give us a good number!

Thank you for your emails to the bank!

As you may know, your emails and support really made an impact with our banker. She realized what a huge support system we have with our network of friends, family and readers. We were working outside when our banker, Shoshana, called and told us to, ”Pop the champagne. Your loan is approved!” She went on to add, “It’s is not every day we meet potential clients who sold everything they own to pursue their passion. It shows you really do have skin in the game. You are the type of clients we want to invest in.”

As you can imagine, tears were streaming down my cheeks. AJ had to hold me up because I was shaking so bad. Shoshana told us the next steps of the loan process, and we thanked her for working so hard to get us approved. We ran inside the house to call our parents to tell them the good news. AJ just choked up when he tried to tell them we were approved (which tells me he was even more stressed than he led on). Then we all started crying tears of relief and joy. It is so hard to truly describe the trials we went through to get this loan approved.

Dividing up the business roles

There were the behind-the-scenes arguments AJ and I had out of fear, frustration, miscommunication and flat out not knowing how to work together as business partners. We had to have several honest conversations of defining our roles within the business. We decided I do all the marketing, reservations, responding to emails, and the design of each space (which shrubs come out and what stays). Also, I mark out where the fire pit and picnic tables go. I plan the events, the children’s activities, the sign designs, networking within the community, chainsawing smaller limbs, and ordering for the store.

Our homemade site numbers on posts. We still need a solar light on top

AJ does the website and IT security, internet, field work, coordination with the construction crew about everything, and laying out the site lines (which I did help with, but not very well as he had to redo them). He’ll do labor as needed, installing the ramadas, watering the trees, making the posts for the campsite numbers, chainsawing the big stuff, making wood bundles. In addition, AJ will be the escort to each camping site, plus whatever else needs to be done.

Visualizing the RV sites

I cannot visualize what an RV site looks like when it’s at an angle and covered in shrubs. But I can see it when it’s marked out, which way the RV enters, and what side needs to be cleared of shrubs. Rule of thumb: passenger side = party side. Party side needs to be cleared out the most. This is probably where we argue the most. AJ wants to keep everything; I do not, as I see a fire hazard and water-hogging shrubs that take water away from my pine trees. So, last week, he said it’s all my decision. So, we “went to town” knocking down scrub trees and keeping mostly just the pine trees.

A site with full hookups! But it’s not finished yet.

This is where my exhaustion came from. We had worked for HOURS last Saturday and we must have taken 5 HUGE loads to The Brush Pit. We had our friend Alan help out a ton, and we all were beat by the end of the day. I am feeling a sense of urgency in getting each site cleaned up so we can have a soft opening in a few weeks. Our goal at this time is our GRAND OPENING the week of the 4th of July!

You get to see our new map first!

New map of campground

Now our check-in store probably won’t be completed in time, but the rest of the campground should be up and fully functional by then. We are aiming for our reservation system to be up next week. We are still working behind the scenes on how this reservation system works. Also, we had a new map made of our campground which you get to see first! This is an accurate description of our sites and our buddy sites. We have three 3-RV buddy sites and two 2-RV buddy sites. The rest are individual RV sites.

Propane fire pits

Quikfire Propane Campfire

We had a local business owner come by and give us a demo of his patented propane fire pit. Mike Brewer, career firefighter/paramedic, and owner of Quikfire Propane Campfire, came over and showed us his product. We were super-impressed. We were looking at other propane fire rings for when a wood campfire is prohibited but you can still use a propane fire ring.

Some reasons we liked this fire ring are: It is made in America, it’s lightweight at only 5 pounds total, is super easy to use, it can produce approximately 150,000 BTUs per hour, and it puts out some heat! Also, we could rent this out for the nights when we can’t burn wood due to fire restrictions. We are working on bulk pricing now, so we will keep you posted on this item.

More shrubs to remove

While Mike was here, he also walked the property to show us which shrubs needed to be removed or cut to at least 4 feet high, if not 6 feet high. Mike is also a Fire Captain and knows all about how fires spread and how to minimize the fire hazards in our campground. I felt so relieved to hear we needed to trim up the brush and that we could keep the pine needles on the ground as they are great insulators for the trees to survive. That is a huge Win for us to not have extra work to do!

Other great news is we had our water meter installed as well as the backflow preventer. The backflow preventer was something we didn’t know was required, and it was more than a $1,000 extra cost for us. We had to have it inspected and certified before the water company would turn the water on. We are SO excited to finally have water!

Our first event!

We can now confirm that we have partnered with UTV Offroad Adventures to host the Annual Fire in the Sky UTV Fun Run at our campground! This is our first event – and we could not be more thrilled. This event will be September 17-19, and you can come camp here and participate in 3 guided off-road rides. We are super-excited to be a part of the Alien ride, cornhole tournament, food trucks, and raffle prizes.

More great news to share is that we have 3 sites that have full hookups! Now, the sites are not fully landscaped or finished, but they are installed. I can say that each site is HUGE! As in WOW – you just don’t see sites spaced this far apart!

Our reservation system should be up in a week and we will be sure to let you all know when that system goes live. We have been having trainings behind the scenes as well as working with our credit card processor. We know a lot of you are SO ready to make your reservations – and we are almost ready to take them!

Thank you following our Campground journey and See you in the Trees!

And please leave a comment!

Machelle, AJ and Jenna

Read previous articles here.

Machelle James and her husband, AJ, are building, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.

##RVT1000

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Ellen
4 months ago

This is thrilling to read! I’ve been following your arduous journey for a little over a year now, and my heartfelt congratulations on finally getting approved for the loan. Your hard work is beyond admirable and oh, we really, really hope to be able to stay there this year!! If not, next year FOR SURE. So happy for you all!

Cathi
5 months ago

How early does the snow usually start up your way? I am thinking of a November outing if that is not too late.

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathi

Hi Cathi! I believe Thanksgiving was our first snow! We were planning on closing for the Winter on Nov 1st.. BUT you never know what the future holds!! We will decide as we open up if we will extend that date or not!

Michael Galvin
5 months ago

Wouldn’t the shrubs have increased privacy screen between sites?

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Michael Galvin

Hey Michael. So we needed room for a fire pit and a picnic table at each site. Also you cant have any shrubs or hanging limbs near the firepit, so we had to remove the fire hazards. It is also a requirement on our Insurance Policy to not have shrubs that are under trees as they will accelerate a fire. So it was more than we just wanting to whack everything!

Diane Mc
5 months ago

A mega congratulations from my husband and me. We feel a small part of your enormous effort as we donated and sent a letter. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. So happy for you and AJ. All the best and hope to see you one day soon!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Hi Diane! Yes you and your husband were very generous in your support for us! We have ordered the fencing and it should be here in 2 weeks!
We thank you very much for your support and belief in us!! 🙏🙏🙏

Erik
5 months ago

Can’t believe it’s been 2 years. I have followed with great amusement and hopeful thoughts. Congratulations on getting approved
You guys deserve all the happiness that is going to come your way.
Every reader should be very proud of you and all your efforts to make your dreams a reality
Please continue your updates

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Erik

Hi Erik! Awwww..thanks for following our journey for 2 years! We truly appreciate your kind words of support!! I will write as long as Chuck let’s me!!

Ed K
5 months ago

Be for warned that the Back-Flow Preventer will require annual recertification if your water supplier is following the national code. I had to schedule the annual testing for the Hospital I worked for before I retired and before Michigan switched to the National Standards, I was certified to do our testing. When they changed the law, I dropped my license as it was very expensive to re-certify every three years and I was too close to retirement.

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed K

Hi Ed! Yes they did tell us we would need to do this every year. I was quoted $100.00 a year, so we can live with that! I am sure there are many variables that differ from a Campground to a hospital. I wonder if what state your from makes a difference??

Craig
5 months ago

Yay! Best of luck to you!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Craig

Thank you Craig! We appreciate your support!

Leo Suarez
5 months ago

Hi, you should add a small compass on the map so people know which way they are facing when camped. Most RV’er usually prefer east facing patios. Also arrows showing direction of traffic will help a lot.

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Leo Suarez

Oh these are great ideas Leo! We will add to the changes to be made!

Don
5 months ago

VERY Cool. It’s been fun following your trials and tribulations. Hoping to stop in and camp with you guys one of these days. A couple comments on the map: That’s a very complicated road system. I assume most are 1-way. If they are, you need arrows on the map. And the concept of “buddy” sites isn’t immediately clear. I think you should label those sights as what they are intended to be. Good luck with the opening!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Don

Hi Don! That is an excellent idea! We will add arrows and make the buddy sites with a marker on the Legend!
Thank you for the well wishes!

Duane R
5 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

Another comment about the Buddy Sites. The map says “2 person” and “3 person” sites. I believe they would be more-clear if they read “2-party” and 3-party”, or “2-RV” and “3-RV” sites. We are a 2-person RV when it is my wife and me.

Congrats on the loan approval, and all your progress. I have been reading about it all along, and am very excited for you! Hope to camp there in a year, or two.

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Duane R

Hi Duane- GOOD EYE! We noticed that too and we will change it this week!
Thank you for following our journey for 2 years!

Chris Crosswhite
5 months ago

P.S. – I’ve enjoyed your series of articles. Thank you for sharing!

Machelle James
5 months ago

Thanks Chris!

Chris Crosswhite
5 months ago

I like your map and your layout. I’d never heard of buddy sites before! Some campgrounds have a dump site, a propane site and showers. If you have these, you may want to add them to the map.

Machelle James
5 months ago

Hi Chris! Our market likes to camp in groups, so we felt it vital we offer a few buddy sites!! We were not allowed to offer a dump since we have full hookups here, so no dump…also we are not having public showers/bathrooms at this time.. Our Campers will need to have fully self contained bathrooms in working order to stay here.
There were many restrictions with Covid on how to clean and most private Campgrounds closed their bathrooms, and are keeping them closed.. Also the cost factor …you have no idea how expensive they are to build! That’s why in a few years, we will revisit this option!

Mojo
5 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

You are on track with avoiding public restrooms when permitted. I would only suggest considering how you would handle emergencies campers may have with their in unit facilities. Congratulations with your progress, Thank you for sharing the governing hoops involved in building a campground.

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Mojo

Hi Mojo! Well…since our Campers are short term only, they would need to call a mobile RV Repair person. We are fortunate to not have a public bathroom mandated!

Ed D.
5 months ago

Good morning Machelle,
I told you that you would be approved! Having “skin in the game”, makes a huge difference. It shows that you are serious about your undertaking. I am so looking forward to when we can come to stay at your Campground. It was my pleasure to help out by writing to the Bank and showing our support. Glad it helped. You guys are doing something that very few people do…..You are actually making your dream come true! We began our distributorship back in 2006 and now I wonder why I didn’t do this many years earlier. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than working for yourself, in a business that you built from scratch. It really isn’t like working at all. It is having fun. You will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment you will get when you see your Campground full for the first time and realize that “WE DID THIS”! We made it happen! The dream becomes a reality when you open your gates for the first time! I believe I speak for all when I say “We are proud of you”

Ed D.
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Continued:
The Propane Fire Rings is a great idea for when you can’t burn wood. At some point, are you planning on installing a Pool? Just curious. For families with children, that would be a great attractor. Above all, I believe that your passion and drive for your new business will make your Campground a huge success! Good luck and may God Bless and keep you safe!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Thanks Ed! And we are not saying NO to a pool.. just a not right now. There are many rules we have to follow for ADA accessibility, lifeguard..and it is SUPER expensive… so we can visit that in a few years!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Awww.. you made me tear up and I haven’t even finished morning coffee yet Ed! Your perspective is even more confirming that, Yes…we did do this!
And we need to remember all the hard work we’ve done for 2 years!