By Brenda Odom
We have been campers for more than 30 years; we have been work campers for the past five of those. Before that, we spent a year managing a large coastal RV resort. In other words, I doubt we would be called “newbies.”
During our journey we have enjoyed the privilege of serving fellow campers, sharing whatever knowledge we have acquired along the way, meeting new friends and giving back to the community as volunteers. We have the Shutterfly albums, the campground patches, and the hiking medallions to prove it.
As I write this, my husband and I are taking a quick break from our current camp host duties. Below is a quick recap of just the first few hours of our day.
Work campers, the day-to-day
- Check-in time is 4:00 p.m. Check-out time is 1:00 p.m. It is not even 11:30 a.m. yet and campers are lined up waiting to come in! (Shown in the photo above.) If you do the math, camp hosts should have three hours to clean and prepare sites. As near as I can figure, the above scenario results in a negative 1.5 hours of time to do our jobs. I am not even sure how to work backward!
- As we cleaned sites this morning, we actually had waiting campers tell us it was okay with them if we did not clean the site… they just wanted in! Actually, we would love to not have to clean; we could just sit in our chairs and watch the caravan roll by. But we are old folks with that “work ethic” thing going, so we follow the requirements of our host park, which requires work campers to sanitize sites, spray touched surfaces with disinfectant (re COVID precautions), clean fire pits, and rake gravel sites to remove trash. We actually carry a sharps container just in case we find something undesirable that could harm you or your children. And when you say it is “okay” for us not to clean so you can ignore check-in time, then the trash in your fire pit and that big pile of dog poo left behind becomes your problem, not ours.
- A few campers are leaving. Many will wait until check out time; several of those will exceed that time and when politely reminded, will look us dead in the eye and say, “Yes, we know.” (Translation: We are not leaving until we are good and ready.) I can’t swear to it, but I suspect these are the same ones who pulled in well before checkout time expecting to find a site!
- One especially large Class A, pulling a 20’ trailer tall enough to stand in, has requested that my husband precede him as he leaves, trimming overhanging limbs along the way so that his McMotorhome won’t get scratched. This is a state park. We try hard, but there is no concierge service.
Becoming “just campers” once again
As I think about the above scenarios, I find myself tired, wanting a shower, and desperately needing to keep the good memories alive and untarnished by those of this brave new post-COVID-camping culture. And so we have both decided to become “just” campers once again.
We will camp during the week when things are quieter and we will avoid 200-site campgrounds with the crowds, the noise, the expensive glamping amenities, and search for the small town communities where folks are content to hike the trails, visit with neighbors, read a book, relax in their hammocks and smell the campfires and the fresh air. We will return to our camping roots and seek places where folks leave their sites clean, keep their music low, pick up after their pets and children, and abandon their privileged attitudes at the gate.
Those places are out there. I know they are. But I’m not telling where: That is a secret best kept for retired work campers.
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