Friday, September 17, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021

Operating an RV park: We are officially campground owners and operators!

By Machelle James
WOW! What an amazing past two weeks we’ve had! As we navigate the transition from building a campground to actually operating a campground, it is quite eye-opening. We are still learning the reservation system, how to give refunds, camp credit, and even helping our campers set up their campers. We’ve had two females that were brand-new to camping stay here. They both had smaller RVs and they pulled them up the hill with no problems.

We, of course, had to help them unwrap their brand-new septic hoses and teach them how to attach them to the septic lines. We also have the joy of teaching all the campers that we are on a septic system and they cannot flush any feminine hygiene products down the toilet as they will clog the lines! Many people who stay here have never experienced a septic system before and we have to explain the rules/guidelines to them.

We have met so many wonderful people at our RV park

We have met so many wonderful people from not only our state, but Washington, Minnesota, Colorado, California and Nevada. They are so excited to get here and to have privacy when camping! We are still having an issue with people who want to take their own tour of the campground, but we do not like that approach. We want to make sure we know who is driving through our campground and making sure they are going the right way as well as answering any questions they have. I had to make a huge sign for the potential guests to call us for tours. It is helping somewhat with the curiosity factor.

Monsoons have arrived

Our first monsoon rainstorms came through over the past two weeks and they are still coming through this week. I am happy to report that our drainage system is working beautifully. We did discover some low spots where the water pools, but it is manageable and we will fill the low spots in with more gravel.

New Ramada at one of our Buddy Sites

We FINALLY received our Ramada, and AJ and Alan helped install it over three days. It looks SO nice in that buddy spot that we know it will soon be our most popular site!

You cannot please everyone

While 99% of those that stay here are  FANTASTIC – it is that 1% that riles you up. We have been taught to not let the 1% ruin it for the 99% of fabulous campers, so we do talk about it and let it go. One very new-looking 5th wheel came in and the gentleman asked where the public bathrooms are. Well, we do not have public bathrooms. That is stated in our rules and on our website. And when I am making reservations, I let them know. He let us know he was NOT happy having to use his own bathroom. I just don’t understand that mentality. I  would SO MUCH rather use my own facilities than a public bathroom! He let us know in his checkout survey that he didn’t like that there were no public bathrooms, no high-speed Wi-Fi, and our campground was too dark.

Well, we are happy to say that our Wi-Fi guy is here now with repeaters. So far, Starlink is working throughout the campground AND at high speed! We have added lights to the top of our number signs at each site and it illuminates the streets beautifully. I have added solar lights to the roadway entrances, and this helps illuminate the roads as well.

A lot of guests want to store their RVs in our RV park

We are learning that A LOT of our guests want to store their RVs here in our storage area when they leave. They like the ease of making reservations when they are available and pull directly into their spot when they get here. I am really liking this idea as we have multiple reservations for our guests to come back up at their convenience. We haven’t been full yet since our Grand Opening, but it is steady and  getting better every week. I think once the word gets out about our site sizes, the trails right outside our property and being Family Friendly, we will be full in no time.

Networking with fellow RV park owners is important

What else we are learning is that networking with your fellow RV park owners is so important for several reasons. First, our campers are short-term vacationers looking for a place to go to get out of the heat or a stopover between long hauls. This is where the other RV parks who get calls for overnight camping come into play.

I met the new owner of the RV park down the highway and he came by and took a tour. It was wonderful to meet him as we have two completely different sets of clientele. His park is for full-timers and maybe a few overnight spaces. He has been sending his overnighters our way and we have been sending him the guests that want to live up here for 6 months. Same goes for the other RV parks in the area. It has been a mutual relationship of referrals and so far it has been working out very nicely.

I look forward to checking on the arrivals and departures at our RV park

Waking up and pulling the day’s reports on who is coming in and who is departing is something I look forward to. There is also an area for notes that I pull for those coming in that have a Birthday or Anniversary and make sure we recognize their special day. I haven’t messed up too badly yet with our reservation system. The only thing we need to stay on top of is departure times. We get caught up in the pulling weeds, raking or whatever our chore is for a site and forget to make sure the guest is packed  up and rolling out.

Interesting phone call from our Fire Chief

We had an interesting phone call from our Fire Chief a week ago. He was helping a lady who had a flat tire out on a busy highway. He called me and said we needed to go help her as she was one of our guests. Well, of course, AJ and Alan went out to help her fix her flat tire and she was SUPER thankful. We always heard we would be a jack-of-all-trades and BOY is that right! She also clogged her septic tank and THAT was a “joy” for those two guys to unclog her toilet before she left it in storage. Again, educating our guests is a priority as they will come back and not feel embarrassed as we help them learn the ropes of RV camping.

“See you in the Trees!” gifts from one of our Campers

We received the sweetest gifts of homemade t-shirts, towels and a bag from one of our campers. They say, “See You in the Trees”! We are SO thankful to have met the kindest campers you could hope for. It made my heart full to know there are people out there who relate to our story and cheer us on from the sidelines.

Jenna’s first day of her new school!

Jenna likes her new school

We are pleased that we found a new school for Jenna as she was having a hard time with boundaries with our campers. I believe she was so lonely for friends that she couldn’t help herself when other kids came to the campground. Now I think she is finding that she isn’t so aggressive when other kids are around. We are super proud of her and her learning what she can and can’t do when other kids are here. Heck, we are all still learning. But we, as her Mom and Dad, are truly enjoying seeing this side of Jenna.

I hope as the weeks go on, we will keep finding our groove to find balance in our personal and professional life.

Thank You for following our Campground journey and See You in the Trees!

And please leave a comment!

AJ, Machelle 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.

##RVT1010

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Dietrich Kanzler
1 month ago

Have enjoyed your stories. I have a thought for you. Air B&B has a feature where renters are rated by the owners. This may be something for you to consider with other local owners. A list of campers who are a joy to host and others who are a PITB. Those who are a joy get priority when booking and the pains get the ‘no space available’.

Machelle James
1 month ago

Hi Dietrich! This is a great program for Air BNB! We as Campground Owners have a great network of contacting other CG Owners if there is a problem guest that they should be aware of. So far, I’ve only needed it once to verify a guests story… and that person is blocked from camping here !

David F.
1 month ago

Continuing to enjoy your story!

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  David F.

Hi David! Thank you for following our journey for so long! I will keep writing as long as I can and show the other side of the business!!

Jacob Alden Walker
1 month ago

Congratulations on your new camp!!
I’m a traveling photographer that just finished up two drone shoots at two different rv camps in Alabama. We drive a tesla, so i like to plug in at rv camps when my clients don’t have a budget to put us in a hotel.
You can see my stuff at http://www.neworleansportraitphotography.com.

Kelly Diamond
1 month ago

Machelle, first let me tell you how nice it was to speak with you the other day and you are right about how important it is to be able to network and communicate effectively with similar businesses in our area. Not only is it helpful from the perspective of business management, I believe it also helps us to provide better service to our guests when we’re able to work together.
Please remember that we are always available to do whatever we can to assist you and to enhance the experience of your guests.
We are so happy to welcome you to our community and to see the addition of a beautiful family friendly park. We look forward to meeting with you in person and to sharing in your journey. Your contributions are appreciated and your blogs are well written, informative and entertaining. Keep them coming!

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Diamond

Hi Kellie! It was a good conversation too. It’s so important to have other RV Parks to refer to. There is plenty of room for all of us here and I hope to meet you in person soon!

Jennifer
1 month ago

Thank you so much for writing this!!! I help run a campground in Western New York and the part about the RV guy angry about having to use his own bathroom hit home!!!! I would love to chat with you and compare our struggles and figure out solutions to some of the “odd” things we encounter.
All the best!!

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Hi Jennifer! I bet you do have some stories to tell! We may not have all the answers yet, but we sure can brainstorm to find a solution. Please feel free to email me so we can swap information! Machelle@ajsgetawayrv.com

Ron V
1 month ago

Congratulations on opening and have been following and enjoying your updates for a while now. We will have to get up there and out of the heat here in the Phoenix valley sometime soon.

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron V

Hi Ron- thank you for your kind words of support! Please do come visit as we are in the 60’s right now! We have had the most rain that we had in many years and our trees are loving it!

Barbara
1 month ago
Reply to  Machelle James

What is the elevation there?

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Barbara

Hi Barbara! We are at 6600′ elevation here.

Henry Huizenga
1 month ago

Congratulations on getting into full operation, I host in a small park and can relate to the many things you discussed. My wife and I are full timers, we may just have to come through this winter and stay with you for a few days!

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry Huizenga

Hi Henry- I bet you have way more stories than we have! We would love to meet you and compare horror stories! Let us know if you are up this way and we would he happy to have you here!

Dennis G.
1 month ago

Really enjoy reading the updates. Very happy that your park is up and running. We hope to visit your park in the next two years. Unlike the 1% camper that said the grounds were too dark. Personally,…I like a dark camp experience. Stars are my friends.

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis G.

Hi Dennis! Thank you for your support and we do hope you will mauke it up here. It would be so nice to meet our readers in person and thank them in person! Please let me know if you are coming up and we would be happy to meet you!

Diane Mc
1 month ago

Love the update. Sounds like everything is coming together perfectly. Nice to hear Jenna loves school & it is helping with her friendliness with the campers. Definitely don’t let the 1% ruin all the positives. Some people are just miserable & nothing would make them happy. Our own bathroom, bed, kitchen, stuff, it’s why we bought a motorhome in the first place. Some people don’t want to have to dump their tanks, I guess. Our friends did use the shower at campgrounds. They were both very tall and the shower in their trailer (which was the trailer they wanted for many other reasons) wasn’t really big enough for them to shower comfortably. To each his own. That guys problem was he didn’t read! Good thing him complaining about it in the review is it will help deter others. Kind of you to help the newbies.

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Hi Diane! We are moving right by the nay sayers. I don’t have time to convince everyone that they should camp here or not camp here. I now say, ” Oh I am sure you will find a Campground that better suits your needs. Good luck with your search and have a great day”.

Thomas D
1 month ago

Glad for your report . Re: restrooms. My next door neighbor had a class c for 12years and NEVER once used his potty. I on the other hand never once used public facilities. Now with a truck camper we have no shower,but a porta potty. Guess like you said, can’t please everyone. But to continue to harp on it, grow up guy.

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Hi Thomas! I cannot even imagine the struggle of using a public bathroom in the middle of the night! That’s crazy talk! Well like you said- to each their own! I’m just not having them here at all!

Ed D.
1 month ago

Good morning from the Mountains of North Carolina. I see you found an appropriate new Title for your articles! Good change! The 1% are usually those that, no matter what you do, you can’t please them. So as you said, deal with them and move on! The majority of Campers will enjoy and be grateful for all you have done for them! Most of us feel that we have shared your trials and tribulations of getting to where you are through your articles and are truly thankful for being able to share it with you through your eyes! You are a gifted writer and RV Travel should ask you to work for them! But I know you have more on your plate than will allow you to do anything else!
Lights at the Campsite can be a good thing, as long as they are not too bright. Bright lights take away from the ambiance of being in the woods! Nature is best when observed in its natural state! By the way, have you given any thought to the light show in the trees I suggested to you. Just try it sometime.

Ed D.
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed D.

CONTINUED: The little ones will absolutely love it. I am sure Jenna will too. I agree with you about the “public restrooms”. We would much rather shower and use our own facilities, as opposed to those supplied by the Campground. Well Machelle, enjoy the weekend and we will eventually “See you in the trees”!

Machelle James
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Hi Ed! I have been asked to continue writing so I will do so as long as I can! We installed solar lights and they are not too bright at all. Seeing the stars at night is so important that we do not ever intend to take that away from our campers. I’m with you on the public bathroom thing. WHY?? The privacy, and my own families cooties- I can handle that!! Have a great weekend and I will keep you posted on the light show!!

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