Saturday, December 9, 2023


First-of-its-kind self-service RV park. The wave of the future?

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


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Bob (@guest_178093)
1 year ago

I’ve said for years that wal mart should put some power pedestals around the outside edge of their parking lots. A spot to plug in for AC overnight during the hot summer nights seems like a good idea. I think $40-$50 is a little steep for what you get.

D Lyons (@guest_178063)
1 year ago

I would be willing to pay 20 per night with just electric, that’s all I need when just passing thru.

D watterson (@guest_218654)
10 months ago
Reply to  D Lyons

It should be an overnight stop only, if you want to stay any longer find yourself a campground. Should offer electric only. A dump station to empty and top off fresh water tank. Priced at $18.00 to $20.00 for overnight stay.

Steve (@guest_131701)
2 years ago

These could be the wave of the future. If we can pull in a spend the night with power and maybe water and sewer for a reduced price, why not. Campgrounds are hard to find for a one night stay.

chris (@guest_122111)
2 years ago

I love the idea. All the complaints reminds me of the definition of an RVer: “Someone driving a $200,000 motor home looking for a free place to park.”

DENNIS J CHARPENTIER (@guest_122024)
2 years ago

Love the idea of a “no touch” overnight RV Park and would use such a facility when traveling. I just have one question about the 12-hour reservation. If I stop driving before dinner time, say 4:00pm, I usually leave the next day at about 8:30 or 9:00 which puts me outside of the 12-hour window and I’m forced to sign up for the 24-hour plan.
The run of the mill along side the road RV park does not demand that you stop so late or leave so early for an overnight stay and many of those are less than $40.
Maybe $1 per hour beyond the initial 12-hour limit would make sense or a fee per hour at the outset like the kiosk in a parking lot say $1.50 with a minimum 12-hour fee.

jeff (@guest_62610)
3 years ago

I don’t think people are going to find this offer too attractive. In Michigan I stayed at a park in a small town (forget where) that offered a gravel pad with picnic table. No power or water at site with 2 night limit for free, then $12.00 per night with a total maximum of 7 days. For an addition $3.00 a dump station and fresh water was available near the exit. This was all on the honor system. I used the vending machines and the drinking fountain. I also picked up after my #50 Labrador.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_62864)
3 years ago
Reply to  jeff

Now THAT’S cool! Was it crowded?

Barry Sigman (@guest_62569)
3 years ago

So for a 24 hour stay it’s $49.00??? Is it just me or does that seem a little expensive?

chrs (@guest_122129)
2 years ago
Reply to  Barry Sigman

Keep it expensive. That way it won’t be full and you don’t have to have your slide touching your neighbor’s awning.

Jack (@guest_178675)
1 year ago
Reply to  chrs

Overnite. Why to you need an awi g or slide??

Bill (@guest_62563)
3 years ago

Something close to a KOA Journey. I like the idea for a 1 or 2 night stop over. When we’re destination bound we usually stop for 1 night, 2 nights, 1 night, etc along the way. We do laundry and shopping on the 2 night stops.

Washer and dryers might be a nice addition.

Larry Basham (@guest_62543)
3 years ago

Good idea but for that price there should be a bath house added, a game room….

Wherler (@guest_62516)
3 years ago

Walmart parking lot is free !
Start up my generator got all i need !

chrs (@guest_122130)
2 years ago
Reply to  Wherler

Everybody loves an RVer who runs his generator in a Walmart. Maybe that’s why so many of them are disallowing campers.

Rich (@guest_62514)
3 years ago

i like the concept but waaay too expensive. we encountered a semi-automatic park a year or so ago…just don’t recall where. u make a reservation online , pay and receive a gate code. all FHU pull thru sites. don’t recall the $ but i think it was less than $39.

rvgrandma (@guest_62511)
3 years ago

Reminds me of self service registers at stores – you pay the same price but have to do all the work yourself.

chris (@guest_122141)
2 years ago
Reply to  rvgrandma

But you don’t have to wait in line to get to a checker and a box person who does a lousy job.

Jack (@guest_178676)
1 year ago
Reply to  chris

That’s her point.
You don’t get a discount on groceries.
You don’t get paid to check and bag you groceries.
Really, your an RVer??
And you don’t have a couple extra min. to wait for a checker???

Joel and Betty (@guest_62267)
3 years ago

I would gladly pay to stay where there are no dogs at all.
And there were some amenities……we do not drive all day.
250 miles a day is enough for us in our 28′ class A.
This concept not for us.

chris (@guest_122142)
2 years ago
Reply to  Joel and Betty

Can you imagine how much dog pee is soaked into campground lots?

hclarkx (@guest_62170)
3 years ago

Some RV’ers may need full utilities, but I’d venture most of us don’t for a one-night stay. I’d pay $15 for no utilities, $20 if there’s a dump station and place to top off fresh water. Electric only sites in many public campgrounds fill up quickly. Maybe a range of sites from no-service dry camping for $15 to deluxe for $35.

If the idea is to offer a lower rate because the place is unmanned, the rate has to be lower than $39; most rural manned campgrounds are less than that.

Dave (@guest_62500)
3 years ago
Reply to  hclarkx

i Believe yo have the right idea. A range of options and prices. The concept is a good one!

Glen (@guest_178146)
1 year ago
Reply to  hclarkx

I’ve been thinking of this for years. I would make it Ala carte pay a little to park and add on electric, water, sewer and internet.

Fred Gross (@guest_61909)
3 years ago

I’ve talked to people about this concept before. Such a site say every 150 miles +/- along major RV routes with easy off – easy on access and just far enough back not to be very loud. But I’d rarely pay $39 for a simple overnight spot. Get it down to $20 to 25 and it becomes attractive. You could make bath house access extra. Second pet under 15lbs, get real! May be a third pet extra. Just provide long level pull through site pads, gravel or paved, I don’t really care. Provide a very simple online reservation process and site availability display.

Allan Cardinal (@guest_61605)
3 years ago

Not new idea. Some Nova Scotia provincial parks have been self service for some years.

Esther McBride (@guest_61592)
3 years ago

What? 1-4 legged guest under 15 pounds? Every person I have met on the road has has 2-four legged family members with them and a lot are big dogs. Price is too high for a parking lot off the highway. It’s a good concept and I would consider this for an over-night stop IF the pricing was different and furfamily was 2 at any size. Charging for each child over 3 for an over-night stay? At this time I would pass it up and use my Passport America or Thousand Trails pass.

URaRLfrtSMLR (@guest_61576)
3 years ago

Cline’s Corners in New Mexico on I40 $20/night for full hookup.

Debbie L (@guest_61545)
3 years ago

We enjoyed the many self-service full hook up RV parking spots in Red Bay, Alabama. Cost is flat rate of $20/night or $100/week in the ones we used regularly. We thought it was brilliant and actually looked into trying to get one going in our “home” base city in Virginia. Sadly, ground was just too expensive. We have since stopped full time RVing. We think it has merit and especially once the automated payment method is used.

Pat Mitchell (@guest_61528)
3 years ago

What if the park is full and you go thru the gate after a credit card payment?

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