By Russ and Tiña De Maris
As the sun begins to fall, you not only see it, but feel it. If you’re piloting your motorhome or tow vehicle down the highway, it’s that old body clock telling you it’s time to get off the pavement and relax before hitting the hay. But like many RVers, it’s not always easy to find a place to park the rig, at least not without a reservation at an RV park. There are plenty who respond to the beckoning Walmart sign and pull into Wally’s parking lot. But for those who “get their kicks” on Missouri’s part of Route 66, there’s a new overnighting game, and it’s not Walmart. However, unlike Walmart, there’s a price tag.Southwest of St. Louis, on what’s also known as Interstate 44, is the tiny burg of West Sullivan. The town has the distinction of hosting what may well be the first self-service RV park in the nation. Tired out? Don’t need a lot of “flash and splash” but just a place to park the rig and hook up to utilities? Then RV Self-Park might be just the place for you. Roll in, park it, swipe your credit card, and hook up to water, electric and sewer. Need a good internet connection? You’ve got one. If you “plan” your trips, you can also reserve one of the 24 sites – all of which are wide, clearly marked, and pull-through, by the way.
The brains behind the new-wave RV park is Jim Turntine, himself an RVer who’s personally experienced the difficult drama that RVers can find themselves in at the end of the day with no place to stay. Turntine wanted to make a place where RVers could stop, have their needs met with ease and get on with their travels. Turntine says, “Our goal is to provide the most stress-free parking experience possible.” If a lack of security adds to stress, then relax. RV Self-Park is well-lit and loaded with security cams that keep a watchful eye open 24/7.
And what about cost? A 16-hour layover runs $39, but an additional $10 will buy you a full 24 hours. Like it here a lot? Rates drop the longer you stay, down to $35 a day from two to six days, then down to $32 per day for a week to 28 days. Those rates accommodate two, two-legged guests, and one four-legged one (provided the pet is less than 15 pounds). Kids under 3 are free, but additional older guests and additional pets run $5 a head.
While Turntine’s project is in the “soft opening” phase at present, he’ll soon have the fully automated payment system in place. Will the future mean more self-parks? Jim says a “massive” expansion will happen if the concept takes off, but even if it should go slowly, he fully plans to open more of these “in-and-out” RV oases in the near future. He’s talking about franchises as well, for those who are interested.
Will the concept fly? Here’s our personal opinion: For the big rig RVer who needs full hookups, this might be just the ticket. But those of us who can easily dry-camp, $39 to simply park off the road overnight is too steep. We have proposed a business almost identical to this one, but we believe it can be profitable to its owner charging no more than $20 a night. We’d also limit stays to a day or two to help ensure space is available for RVers just passing through.
For folks with discount campground memberships like Passport America, you might easily be able to get your full-hookup sites for quite a bit less than $39.
Still, there’s something to be said about the spirit of competition. Should RV Self-Park really take off, other knock-offs might well try to jump in at a far lower price point (our hope). Regardless, for those with the need, a network of RV Self-Parks may be just the ticket on their way across the country.
All photos courtesy RV Self-Park