Saturday, September 24, 2022


Building an RV park: Stress and more stress, but Max brightens our days

By Machelle James
Now I understand why I keep getting asked, “How are you and AJ doing?” I always have said, “We are good, and we are learning to work together.” Well, even the best of marriages are going to be tested when opening a business together.

Last week when we were tense and started snapping at each other, we weren’t speaking much and knew we had to have a talk. Once we realized what was happening to us and why we were short with each other, we realized it was severe STRESS. We were both having major stress issues due to the amount of work that needs to be done to open our Campground. We took a step back and realized it had nothing to do with each other personally, but we are both secretly scared it won’t be built in the time frame we need it to be built.

We went outside to cut limbs from the downed trees for days. My legs felt like concrete blocks towards the end and I could barely walk. AJ was using the chainsaw and his back was so sore that he was crooked. But we keep plugging along as we know we need to do this now before the weather changes.

We are approaching winter and we cannot dig our septic system when it’s freezing outside. We haven’t completely decided on a septic system due to our Engineer and our Septic Salesman who are working together on a plan for us. They are coming out to walk the property on Saturday to finalize a plan and system for us. How much space we need for the septic tank, the leech field and … it also needs to be so many feet away from our detention area as they need to have separation in case of overflow from either area.

We also needed to reduce our Gallons Per Day of water usage to stay within the approved septic systems within ADEQ’s (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) list of approved septic vendors. Otherwise, we would need to present a whole case of why we need to use XYZ’s product and to get it approved within a short period of time would be impossible.

We also realized that we may not want to use the polymer road surface as we haven’t tried it out yet. We have been getting emails left and right with people telling us not to do it. So we need to make a decision on what type of road material we will use. We didn’t want to use asphalt due to cost and the look that we are trying to get away from, which is a city look. We also didn’t want to use “quarter minus” gravel due to the severe rains we get here and the mess it would bring.

But I will say one thing about our soil. It drains VERY well after it rains and there is no mud on our shoes, more like sand. So I think the hardest part right now is finding the sweet spot with cost vs. looks vs. what would really work best for us on the internal roads.

We also are super stressed about the timing of the funding of our loan. Who would have thought bank funding takes so long and so many items needed from a checklist? We had another meeting two weeks ago with the bank and they assigned us our Loan Processor.

In the meantime, we have another packet of paperwork to fill out which is about 20 pages long. We need to verify our land usage, our zoning, our neighbors’ zoning, and hazardous businesses next to us, and TONS more personal information the bank needs to verify. We are worried that we may not have enough time to open by April 15, 2021.

Our son and his family

I think once we build this Campground and figure out how all the Government side works with permits, ADEQ, Planning and Zoning, Building Inspectors, Septic Engineers, etc., we will be Consultants for the next group of adventurous Campground Builders!

Aside from all the stress above, we did manage to get a weekend in to go visit our grandbabies in the valley. We drove down when the temps dropped from 117 to a cool 107.  We opened the car door and the heat and the humidity stung our faces, skin and lungs. It is Monsoon season here and the air is thick with humidity and hard to breathe. We just left 85 degrees to come to the HOTTEST city in the state!

We happily played with our 4-year-old and 9-month-old grandsons. We babysat so the kids could have a date night and go shopping with no one but themselves. I remember how much I valued shopping alone when the kids were little. It was so nice to have our parents take the kids so we could still have date nights too. I will always do this for them as long as they will let us!

Having a campfire in August!

It also was so good to catch up with our son and daughter-in-law. It is pretty cool to see your children transition into full-on adulthood, own a house, get married, become a father and figure out how to juggle life. He is a teacher and we were having the whole back-to-school quandary conversation that is happening all over our country. I would not want to be in any position as a teacher, parent or a student in today’s crazy pandemic world!

Max the Pirate!

As we left their house, we had a tag along with us. Our grandson Max is up here with us for a week and we are loving every minute we are having with him. He has this HUGE, happy personality and he makes us laugh all the time. He likes to run outside, sing, dance, play pirates and eat marshmallows. NOT roasted marshmallows, but straight from the bag, we learned.

It is Jenna’s Birthday Party this weekend and we are having some friends up from the valley to celebrate with us. We have made some real friendships up here and everyone is super patient with Jenna and they “get” her. She may be 24, but she is mentally about 13 or 14. So be prepared for our next story of her Birthday Celebration with all her junk food favorites, musical chairs and scary campfire stories.

Thank you all for following our Campground journey and as always, See YOU in the Trees! And please leave a comment!

AJ, Machelle, Jenna and Max

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.



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2 years ago

We just stayed at a campground in Georgia that used what appears to be the ground asphalt from the grinding of highways. It packed hard and did not move with heavy rains, Something to check out

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  robert

Hi Robert. That is really good to know. I wonder if they blended it with the Polymer product to hold it together. We have heard of this, but didn’t know if it was a good idea. Thank you for letting us know. I’ll make some calls!

2 years ago

One material you might want to look into for your interior roads is recycled crushed concrete. It is less expensive than gravel, gives a good hard durable surface that looks like gravel and won’t scatter every time it rains.

Tim Burke
2 years ago
Reply to  Billh42

If you go with the recycled concrete, make sure that the product is Clean.I went this route years ago to supplement my gravel driveway, and found pieces of reinforcing mesh in some of the pieces.

Also, suggest a back support brace while using the chainsaw.
Good Luck, and thanks for the progress reports.

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Burke

This is good to know as well Tim. I really appreciate your input!

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  Billh42

Great idea Bill. I have definitely not heard of this option. I can look into this too! Thank you!

tim palmer
2 years ago

The trials and tribulations.
Hang in there!
Once you get your first RV pulling in and all the others following it, and seeing the smiles from them, you will be glad you did this.
I think you will find the support from all who are following your story on this site will make your venture a true success.

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  tim palmer

Thank you Tim! I really do look forward to those days of welcoming our guests here! Its hot as heck in the valley and they get here and they need sweaters at night! Relief from the heat and families reconnecting again. We truly do look forward to the future and making those memories possible!!

Warren Eoff
2 years ago

You have chosen a very tough job, the creation of an RV Campground. I understand the stress that you are going through but I also know that your efforts are badly needed and when the dust settles it will feel so good to see what you have created. If this industry is to survive we need more people like you to choose this same journey. Best of luck to you.

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren Eoff

Thanks Warren! Your words remind us WHY we need to keep plugging along. There really is such a shortage of RV Camping and we are going to help fill that gap. Once we navigate the R&R needed to open, we will be more prepared in case we ever do this again or to guide other people on their Campground Journey. There is NO step by step book to opening a campground!

2 years ago

Awesome! Keep up the good work you 2! I know it will be the dream come true after all the Regs get passed. I will volunteer (onsite) anytime to help out, and look forward to seeing your park! Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

Machelle James
2 years ago
Reply to  Ran

Hi Ran! Thank you for the support and kind words! We will get there eventually and we have to work a little everyday to make this happen!!

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