Building an RV park: Septic update and a dirty cabin!

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By Machelle James
As I write this, I am still recovering from a week-long food coma. We had family come into town last week for two very special reasons. Not only was it Thanksgiving, it was also AJ’s 50th Birthday – ON THANKSGIVING!

AJ’s family made our campsite numbers by hand as his Birthday gift! We have 43 numbers and one for our store!

We rented a huge cabin near us so we could all be together to celebrate the big day. What we all found interesting was the actual cabin itself was just perfect. Four bedrooms and a HUGE loft. Unfortunately for us, it was not clean. Being that we are in the Hospitality Industry as well, it was super disappointing to rent a cabin that still had someone else’s clothes shoved under the sheets at the foot of the bed. Also, when Jenna found A LOT of dried dog poo in her loft area, that sent me over the edge.

I will say after we emailed the homeowner with our numerous concerns and sent over photo evidence, he offered to send over a house cleaner and asked if he needed to hire a new cleaning crew. I would say a big “YES,” as we read online that the cabin wasn’t clean for another family as well. But we declined because at this point, we had already scrubbed and disinfected all the surfaces and threw the undergarments in the trash.

There were more disappointments, but I don’t want to totally throw this guy under the bus. The reason I decided to share this with you all is because we have to leave a review of our stay online. Do we really want to share every discrepancy with the public or do we just tell the homeowner and hope he makes it right for the next guests?

We as campground owners will also be faced with this as our guests leave us and give us a review. Is our campground clean? Are our cabins cleaned 100% and sheets changed every single time? What about our store? How is our communication and customer service with our guests? I can only say that we will have a checklist of daily, weekly and monthly tasks for us to complete to make everyone’s stay clean and comfortable.

This is building trust in us, as you know when you come here you will not have to worry about seeing dog poo, trash in your camping spot or trash stashed around the property. I know we will make mistakes, as this is how you learn what works and doesn’t work. I would hope our guests will come to us and let us know if a situation arises so we can make it right with them.

In the end, we did get our cleaning fee waived, so that was something. But it does make you wonder if the sheets were even washed!

Our septic system update

We had to have concrete sections poured into the septic tank. I cannot tell you exactly why at this point, but I am sure it has to do with the filtering of the waste in the septic tank. We have had concrete poured in when it was about 45° outside and freezing temps at night. It’s good to know that we can continue having work done when it’s cold outside, just not when it’s snowing! Luckily for us, we have only had one snow day in the past two weeks and even that was a super light dusting of snow.

Septic tank with compartments added and with the forms removed.

We just had the outside forms removed from the tank and now we can see what it looks like. It looks like a massive bunker to hide in if an earthquake hit us! This process is very time-consuming due to not only the size of the tank, but also the expertise of the workers and the weather play a huge part in how fast it gets completed.

Our general contractor update

I hate to have to admit this again, but we still haven’t been able to give our bank the final numbers for our loan. Our general contractor came out again and brought his right-hand man to see the project in person. He said he will give us a price to give the bank in a few days. He said our estimates were close and we shouldn’t be too far off-base from our original estimate.

I will say we just got our estimate from our electrician to do everything he needs to do to get electricity to all the sites, septic, store and more. This will be a whopping $105,000 (all parts and labor) and another $30,000 from our local power company. (AJ is helping me describe this next section as I know nothing about electricity). This includes 5 transformers at 600 amps each supplied by two primary lines. Our power company does not support 800-amp transformers as they do in big cities. We currently have aerial power lines to our cabin that need to be removed and replaced with underground utilities. This process is included in the pricing above.

AJ had great advice when applying for an SBA Loan. Keep every receipt, canceled check, bank statement and/or proof of work you have had done before the loan funds. This goes into your Equity Injection towards your loan as you will need 30% of your own money that goes towards your loan. This is to prove we have a stake in the result of our investment – otherwise known as ”Having skin in the game”!

I think we could write a book just about how the SBA loan process really works. I can REALLY see why people would quit the process. It is such private and personal information about you, your finances, your spending habits, and your credit rating. Let’s save this topic for another day as I cannot believe how long this process is taking.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thank you all for following our campground journey.

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.

##RVT977

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tim palmer
4 months ago

Two comments:
First, being a landlord I always make sure when i put a place up for rent it is spotless for the next tenant. As a result I always had a waiting list of new tenants to move in.

Second, how large is your septic tank? Never seen them poured on site, though I guess for any foundation contractor it would be like pouring for a house.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  tim palmer

Hi Tim! That is so good to hear you also agree on meticulous cleanliness. I cannot begin to tell you how shocked and disappointed we were. It was just gross not knowing if the sheets were even washed. Truly made us all cringe.

Our septic tank is 14,000 gallons. It is approx 12 feet tall. And 20 ft depth x 12 feet wide. It’s HUGE!!

tim palmer
4 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

Yikes! I hate to think how much it costs to pump it out.

Livan_Life
4 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

That is huge! How long will the drain field be?

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Livan_Life

Hi LivanLife. Since we are Alternate Septic, we will have 3300 feet of dripline and 1700 emitters!

Bruce Wallace
4 months ago

As a busy owner you are spot on about your views on customer service. It pays big dividends.
When you open you might include a personal note letting guests know you are new and request their feedback.
You will be busy, but the personal contact throughout the campground will also make you aware of guest satisfaction.
I have enjoyed following all of your posts. Thank you for allowing all of us to follow along and best wishes on your project.
I plan on continuing your way.
Regards,
Oregon RVer

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Wallace

Hello Bruce! Yes we will absolutely request feedback from our guests! We believe in continuous learning and want our campers to come back year after year! We do hope you can make it our way once we open next year!

littleleftie
4 months ago

Machelle—write up your TripAdvisor review 100% honestly. That is what I do. And what I hope others do. When I access the reviews on a potential rental, I certainly want to know the truth. The sheets absolutely couldn’t have been changed. That is so darn gross that it makes my skin crawl!!

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  littleleftie

I agree littleleftie. Looking back we should have packed up and left. We didn’t seriously think of it as we needed 4 rooms for all us of over a holiday weekend. It truly is disgusting to think about. I will leave a complete and honest review.

ValC
4 months ago

Looking forward to experiencing your new campground with my pup Kiyah! When do you expect to start taking reservations? We are snowbirds and usually spend Sep – Apr in the lower 48 states, most often Arizona.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  ValC

Hello Val! We should be getting our reservation system in a month or so..we will know more about our opening in February. Our goal is middle of April to no later than Memorial Day, 2021. We hope to meet you and your puppy when we open!!

Suru
4 months ago

Ugggg! I can’t imagine staying at a place that didn’t wash the sheets between EVERY guest!

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Suru

I cannot either! It was the last night when the under garments were discovered..truly made our skin crawl!

Jim
4 months ago

Can’t wait to see this complete. We hope to make it down and stay when you are done. Best wishes.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Thanks Jim! We look forward to meeting our readers!!! Thank you for your support!!

Tony J Rose
4 months ago

You guys are sure working hard. Kudos for hanging in there on the SBA loan. We arre excited to visit the finished getaway this summer

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Tony J Rose

Hi Tony! We will get there eventually!! It is not an easy process!!

Ed D.
4 months ago

Good morning Machelle. We hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
On the topic of the rental cabin. By all means, be honest with your review. I would find it really hard to believe the owners had not had these complaints before. Which tells me right away that they either ignored them or do not actually have a “clean up crew”, to begin with. The fact that there were other reviews that state the same problem, leads me to believe that the owners must not care much about it. The other point of being honest is that you are warning others that are looking forward to enjoying their vacation, only to be shocked when they open the door of the rental Cabin to see the mess. I can tell you right up front, I usually review places we go to. But rest assured, any review I place on trip advisor, or anywhere else, will be totally honest and truthful.
On a brighter note, we are happy to see that you are progressing, despite the cold weather. Looking forward to visiting you. Stay safe.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Hi Ed! Well good to know how deep should dive into our review. I didn’t even mention Cheetos on the carpet in our room and the urine stained rug from the dog… it was too much!

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

The owners are looking to make a fast buck and do little to nothing in maintaining a clean and safe environment for their guests. Don’t let them get away with it! Inform anyone that reads the review on this place, how bad it really is! Finding someone’s under clothing under the covers, is at best, disgusting.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

I think you are right. It needs to be said and others forewarned. Truly disgusting.

Tom
4 months ago

We have only stayed in a cabin once. The cabin was supplied without any bedding. We were forewarned. We have a set of bed bags that travel with us.
However, we probably would not have stayed in that cabin, under any conditions.

Machelle James
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Hi Tom! What also freaked me out was there weren’t any mattress covers to prevent bed bugs. That just made me imagine bugs crawling on me. Luckily there weren’t any that we found!