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Operating an RV park: 4th of July recap, and we messed up!

By Machelle James
I feel bad for missing my deadline to write two weeks ago. Our lives were truly chaotic and I just could not find the time to be still and have intelligent words come out of my mouth. The 4th of July week was a mix of happy campers, Chamber of Commerce events, the town parade and fireworks, and a massive rainstorm to boot.

We feverishly weed-whacked the sites, stocked the store with new merchandise, answered calls until 8:00 p.m. every night and then collapsed into a sleep coma. However, I am the lucky one who wakes up in the middle of the night with anxiety. Did I return that phone call? Did I bill the site for firewood? What about ordering enough supplies for the store? Did I buy enough hot dogs for our internal BBQ?

Big party for Independence Day

We’re a first-time Sponsor of our town’s event.

Not to mention, we have the biggest party on the Mountain for Independence Day. We were busy with Volunteer meetings, meetings with the Sheriff’s Department, ADOT, making sure the bands were all set, ordering banners for the sponsors, setting up our local park for the weekend long events. And, of course, I was in charge of the Beer Garden. I had to figure out how to order and pay the distributors and to have the beer and wine delivered to the Chamber of Commerce on what days and when to pick up the leftovers. It was nerve-wracking.

Parade on the closed highway.

I will say we have an AMAZING Board at the Chamber and our town really pulled together with all the Volunteers to make it happen. WOW, WOW, WOW, was it magical! Our band on Saturday was so talented, it felt like an hours’ long concert. Truly amazing vocals and musicians! I have never bartended before and I learned real quick how to pop a top with a paint can opener. The vibe was so awesome that we all just took it all in. As a small town, we truly appreciated the hugely successful turnout for the weekend.

Fireman Anthony hosing off the kids and parents!

Meanwhile, back at the Campground, we had a parade of Side x Sides and bicycles that drove around and showed off their 4th of July decorations. Then we had the Fire Department come out and hose off the kids, and then the parents were all hosed off, as well. That was a day to remember! We had a BBQ afterwards, and everyone had a WONDERFUL time playing in the water.

Everything we hoped it would be

We had rain, we had wind and we had unbelievable sunsets that weekend. It was everything we hoped it would be! The icing on the cake was that our son, daughter-in-law and our grandsons came up to visit us during this time. We had four glorious days with all four of them. Then the kids left and we said we would keep the grandbabies for a week and then bring them home. Levi is 2 years old and Max is 6 years old.

Papa AJ with Max, going for a ride!

WELL… It seems we forgot how busy a 2-year-old is. Levi was hungry, tired, needed diaper changes, playful, happy, huggy, needy—and all the wonderful things a 2-year-old has to offer. Max was pretty easy to have here, as he is a helper, and he played with the other Camping kids. He also helped us clean up the campground, so he was much easier to have here. We decided we had to take the little Levi home early as he needed way more attention than we could truly offer him. We were struggling to juggle the chores around nap time and his eating schedule. (The kid LOVES to eat!) We will try again in the off-season when we can dedicate all our time to little Levi and Max. Overall, we got the best cuddles a grandparent could ask for.

While we stay busy with daily arrivals, we are learning to stay on top of the weeds and ants. The wet weather has brought out both of them in the worst way. It is a constant battle of the weeds, and we pull them out every chance we get. At a bare minimum, we whack them to death!

We goofed

We have to own up to a situation that happened where we were at fault. One of our Campers told us he lost a leg on our 50-amp circuit. Well, we have heard this over and over and it has always been operator error. Until now. Our guest kept tripping the breaker and AJ kept telling him to lower is electric usage as he had a 42 ft. 5th wheel with 2 AC’s. AJ went out with his volt meter and it read 220 volts. He showed it to the guy and he said everything worked fine while boondocking, just not here. So, we all kind of forgot about it as we went about our weekend. Well, after they left, a Camper across from him, who shared an electrical panel with that guest, said his breakers popped when he turned on his hair dryer. (Don’t ask!)

AJ went over to his site and it clicked: These sites were all wired to the same panel. He realized that our 200-amp fuse was the culprit. It popped the fuse and the sites were no longer working at full capacity. AJ tested the fuse and it was open, or, in layman’s terms, it was smoked! Apparently four sites, with two AC’s each, microwaves, hair dryers and extension cords connected to a 50-amp circuit, will melt the system.

We owed our guest an apology; we made it right

AJ ran over to the local Ace Hardware store and the guy shook his head and basically laughed at him. They don’t carry a fuse that big and said he needed to go to an electrical supply house. We had to move guests around and cannibalize fuses to make those sites work until he could run into the Valley to get replacement fuses.

We owed our guest an apology for not believing him that the voltage wasn’t working right. So we made it right. AJ emailed the guests and invited them to come back with a two-night stay at no charge, so they could really enjoy their stay. We had no idea that the panel wasn’t working as designed. Needless to say, we bought three more fuses for when this happens again.

As we prepare for another full house this weekend, we want to thank you for following our Campground Journey. We look forward to sharing more learning experiences with you all!

See You in the Trees, and please leave a comment!

Machelle, AJ and Jenna

Read previous articles here.

Machelle James and her husband, AJ, built, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them at their website, or on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park, or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.

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Mike (not J.A.M.)
26 days ago

Sounds like a GREAT time!!!!! Glad to hear most everything went well.

Also, as an ‘older’ people, I understand trying to keep up with a 2 year old. Virtually impossible at my age. Faster than greased lightning they are!!!

Regarding the “opening” of a single 200a fuse on a 240vac ‘single phase’ circuit, is a cause for concern. Serious current draw somewhere in that branch.
May want to contact ‘Just Ask Mike’ thru the forum for his thoughts. He is well versed in this area.

Thomas D
26 days ago

Fuses? They still use those things? A circuit breaker would have clicked off all phases and all 3/4 sites would have gone dead. By resetting you would have brought up everything.
You’d think up in the mountains they wouldn’t need all that AC.. I’d ampmeter the load next time and see if both phases are halfway equal. As it was ,you know you blew a fuse so one phase was higher. May be able to switch ( move )some load to other phase!

Ed D.
26 days ago

Good morning Machelle, AJ and Family. Looks like you had a successful weekend for the 4th. I have to say, I am quite impressed as to how quickly you guys have learned the Campground business. The really good news is: It will only get better! That, in itself, should make both of you feel successful! Other than the Fuse (which is something that you just have to learn from experience), you didn’t mention a single negative. Great job! I am sure your customers had a wonderful weekend, filled with many thigs to do. The Campground Picnic was a wonderful touch to the festivities.
We did miss your column 2 weeks ago. Especially me! Every other weekend, I look forward to reading it. Just glad you are back and that things are going well. Thanks for letting us share the ride! See you in the trees.

Machelle James
26 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Hi Ed! I know, I know.. I was slacking in my writing and truly felt bad for not being able to get it together. We are in several wonderful, Campground Owners Facebook Groups so we have learned a lot from others mistakes and successes. I’ll be on top of my writing as we have a new deadline that will probably work better for me anyway! Happy Camping and we will update more in 2 weeks!

Joe Allen
26 days ago

Congrats on a successful July 4th celebration! Things will always come up and you handled that with grace and followed up with free night stays to top it off! You two will be very successful in your endeavors as park owners! Wishing you the best of ’22 and ’23 and beyond!

Machelle James
26 days ago
Reply to  Joe Allen

Hi Joe! Thank You Sir! We really felt bad, but now we know the fuses could go bad at any time now. 1 year life span as those are our most popular sites, so they get a ton of use.

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