Thursday, June 1, 2023


A change in how we camp not always easy for old folks

By Chuck Woodbury
Sooner or later you show your age whether you want to or not. I just watched the video below that was produced for a Jellystone RV park, one of 79 franchised Jellystones around the country.

Staying at this park would be a bit of hell to me. On the other hand, if I were 10 years old, this would almost certainly be a piece of heaven. From what I see in the video, the idea here is to entertain kids. And, of course, entertain the kids and the adults will follow (and pick up the tab).

I grew up camping with my parents in National Parks, National Forests and sometimes on public lands of Southern California, first with a tent trailer then a 15-foot travel trailer with only basic amenities — a stove, sink (but no holding tanks), butane lights, beds and a dinette. I don’t recall if there was 12-volt power. The bathroom was a short walk away — a stinky pit toilet that doubled as a fly sanctuary.

I accept that times have changed, and I understand that the change does not always please me. My early camping days meant fishing with my dad, hiking, playing with other kids in the campground, and in the evening sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows. No WiFi, no electronic games, no phones, no TV.

Sometimes there was a general store nearby, which was excellent for a candy run. One camping trip was absolutely horrible: A nearby lodge held a Saturday night dance. I was probably 13. The dance itself was okay. The bad part was my parents making me dance with my 10-year-old sister. Maybe you can understand how horrible that could be. I’m not saying this is true, but it’s possible that any mental illness issues I have today could be traced directly back to that humiliating experience.

Times change. To me this Jellystone is an amusement park with RV parking. I’m just letting off a little steam here, so please excuse me.

Feel free to call me an old fart because that’s what I am, even though I don’t want to be.

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Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.


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3 years ago

Some of our kids and grandkids fondest memories are Jellystone Park in Warrens Wisconsin. Some of our fondest memories too. The kids had lots to do. It was so safe and was one of the first times we could let them go by themselves to play mini-golf, basketball, buy an ice cream cone or go to the playground. Still had camping time- s’mores over the fire, walking in the woods. It was a tradition and in that wonderful way kids can make instant friendships, they still keep in touch with a few of the friends they made there.
Each area has its place and this was the treat for our kids,

4 years ago

Back in the 1980’s, when I had my first RV, a VW Vanagon, I drove into a Yogi Bear in Ashland NH. What I saw was RVS stacked atop of each other, kids every where. I took a U turn, left, and never went back. I found a lot of laid back RV parks, and started parking in all night resturant parking lots.

Donald Fredericks
4 years ago

Everyone is missing one thing, Camping is always about the younger generation. I started camping in scouts where a backpack, a tent and a fishing pole was all that was required. As I aged it was about just getting away from family, school, and bullies; so I went camping again to prove myself. Following the life cycle the wife and I dragged the kids camping with all the upgrades of real tents, sleeping bags, tables, lights, and a boombox to get away form school, work and city life. Guess what? Scouts is where the kids wanted to be to get away from us parents and really challenge themselves to become real campers by collecting merit badges. It was the kids and our ageing backs getting older which drove us to various forms of RV camping. The 60s, 70s, and 80s (years old that is) and now the doctors cause us to live young again with all the comforts that age related needs allow us. To go camping again in our 5th wheel this time with our Great-great grandchildren. Yes, it is still about the children. For us it never is about what the park has to offer us but the thrill of something away from home, out in God’s country.

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse
4 years ago

I remember the old days. Laughed at your description of a fly sanctuary. As far as the abuse of being forced to dance with your little sister, I had school sponsored abuse by having to square dance with “that girl,” who knows, maybe she felt the same about me. OK, so I can call you an old fart, can I join the club?

4 years ago

When we were young we stayed in a tent because that’s all we could afford, but the primitive sites were great and we had a great time with our kids. I miss those days but I am too old to sleep on the ground now. If we have the grand kids with us we usually stay at state parks with trails, swimming pools and amenities so that the kids do not get bored and we can have a little of both worlds, if we are traveling and by ourselves i want full hook ups and cable because I’m there to tour the area and I don’t want to be working just to have a place to stay.

Marie E
4 years ago

Personally my husband and I on our would prefer somewhere that is more likely a State Park with hiking trails but are usually on the hunt for a preferred one with access to water. Fishing, swimming and reading while on the beach is pretty much perfect to us. When we take our Grandson ( 8)he is happy with our choice. If we really wanted to give him a treat we would opt, happily for a campground like the Jellystone in the video. He would have a blast and we would too. Like most people have already said if you don’t want to stay somewhere like the Jelleystone or a KOA resort then don’t. But, somehow your obvious distaste for this kind of Park is putting campers who prefer this type of camping in a “lesser” category.

4 years ago

I’ve always been grateful to the KOA’s and Jellystones of the world. A large number of kids and all that goes with them are drawn there, like moths to a porch light. Leaves much of the rest of the world the way I like it: dark, quiet, peaceful, and lonely.

RV’ing is a wonderful lifestyle. You get what you want, I get what I want, and everybody goes home happy, Doesn’t work this way all the time, of course – folks with Harbor Freight generators and loose dogs (“Oh don’t worry, He’s friendly.”) can be found in some of the most out of the way places. but this is the exception, not the rule, at least in my experience.

Is it time for flag raising yet?

4 years ago

Just as there are senior campers looking for glamping resorts with clubhouse, cable and wifi vs. those who still like the simplicity of nature, so are there families who are willing to pay for built-in kids activities vs. those who prefer to make their own experiences. All about choices…and $$$. However, it has to be a good thing when kids are playing laser tag and moving rather than sitting in front of the video game console!

Mark B
4 years ago

You just need to chill, pal.

I started tenting at 18 and later forced my family to lie in the dirt with me. For my benefit, we alternated between the state or federal campgrounds without electric or water (“roughing it”) and the family campgrounds with petting zoos, horseback,pools and water parks, mini-golf, soft-serve ice cream, shuffleboard, swings – everything.

I married late and this is my first year not in a tent. Retired, bought a comfy old Class C and will be driving my 18 yr old in the motorhome where he’ll hike 160 miles on the Colorado Trail, while I camp on a comfy bed, with every comfort of home.

I accept we are all camping, even those who pull in with a mega luxury bus, have multiple A/C units running 24/7 and barely ever come outside unless it’s to watch the 65″ outdoor TV where they can sit far enough back to simulate the stadium experience.

We each have our own idea of what camping is.

Cam Lawson
4 years ago

Look closely at the early RV’ers photo and see the “boom box” on the table. Even back then folks needed their tunes.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago
Reply to  Cam Lawson

You’re talking, of course, about the little hand held transistor radio? Ha.

4 years ago

We rarely visit commercial parks and favor the pubic campgrounds at state and national parks. We have gone the private route when the park was co-located next to a bike trail or other point of interest that we wanted to visit. They are crowded sure but really not all that bad. The ones that do not have seasonal sites seem to be a bit better in our experience.

Diane Mc
4 years ago

Our 7 grandkids would love that. Us not so much. Although I saw fishing & paddle boats, something we would both enjoy. Much of it looked like physical activities which would be good for kids. Plus parents know where they are and what they are doing. Would I stay there, nope. But families wouldn’t stay at more adult oriented campgrounds. Nice that there is variety for all of us. And no way would I stay where I had to use a pit toilet or campground showers…lol!

4 years ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Just don’t try to take all your grandkids at once. These “family friendly” places are only good for 3 or 4 kids. Any more and you have to rent a second space. We have six kids and a bunkhouse that fits them all. Jellystone told us only six people firm allowed on one site. We often have this problem with parks with amenities – so state parks are our usual place to stay.

warren trout
4 years ago

If you don’t like it, don’t stay there.
There are untold RV parks that are not such.

Why do old people always have to have everything their way

Tommy Molnar
4 years ago
Reply to  warren trout

Just curious warren. What qualifies as “old people” to you?

4 years ago
Reply to  warren trout

Same reason young folks do.

Captn John
4 years ago

Most people close up the RV for the winter. Our 5er rarely, if ever, moves between June and August. Most CGs cater to children during those months… did that 45 years ago, no longer interested.

Billy Whitley
4 years ago

We like the Mom & Pop type campgrounds. Usually there is a fishing hole, horseshoe pit; and just down the road a little store where you can buy a bottle soda and drum up a conversation with a local.

Astrid Bierworth
4 years ago

Most southern states have a lot of RV parks aimed at the senior crowd. There are also some campgrounds around the country not geared for families, but aimed at travelers. We found some on a long trip this year.

4 years ago

Not my cup of tea as an empty nester, but if you had small kids (or grand kids) it’s probably a pretty good vacation destination. It’s not really camping, but then most of us don’t do what would traditionally have been called camping. I’ve certainly been in worse looking campgrounds.

George Shafer
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul

My grandkids enjoy
These type of parks and still do the campfire marshmallows in the evening Dont be a stick in the mud you to might enjoy laser tag water games My grandkids love when I partake in those type of activities

4 years ago
Reply to  George Shafer

Of course the grandkids would love it … everyone loves a slow moving target … !!

Denny wagaman
4 years ago
Reply to  Roy

Traveling down I-5 during the recent California fires we encountered the poor escapees leaving their homes and also filling up campgrounds. we could not find a place to stay for the night. During a fuel up at Flying J my fantastic wife found a camp site at Jellystone Park. We Never had been in one. What an experience! Our very close neighbors and their friends stayed up until 3:30 AM, camp fires at so many sites, (hundreds). kids staying up late having fun. Everyone was nice. I could go on an on. Just families having fun on a 3 day weekend. Will never stay in one again unless we were forced to but what an experience ! And the cost? Wow! But we were glad that we had a place to stay. ?

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