Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Operating an RV park: We were down and out, but we’re back better than ever!


By Machelle James
As I sit here, reflecting upon the last several weeks, my mind is pulled into a million different directions. I can start with saying that our whole family was really sick for almost a month! We all took turns at different times and we had a hard time recovering. The only good news to share about that experience was that since we were sick on different weeks, we could still stay open and continue to operate the RV campground as normal as possible.

I was out sick first, and AJ did his best trying to make reservations. It was a learning curve for him and I was writing out what to do as he was talking to guests because I had no voice. He had to tell our guests he was new at making reservations, and they all were incredibly patient with him. AJ did a great job as we still had reservations coming in while I was down for 10 days. He also had to fill out RV Storage contracts and clean each site by himself. There weren’t any social media posts during this time and that’s OK.  I am so thankful AJ held the RV park together while he worked alone.

Fast forward 10 days and AJ caught my bug. He tried to tough it out at the beginning, but it was just too much. He was down and out like I was. Thankfully, I was recovered enough to take over the jobs at the campground that he normally did. Not only did I learn how to use a brush mower and change out the strings on my own, I also went to gas station, filled up a 5-gallon jug of gas, bought oil for it AND filled the machine myself. I also had to weed whack.

I’ll just say that whoever invented the stringing for that needs a new system. It was awful trying to pop the head off and insert new string while the string falls to the ground. But I found a system that worked for me and now I am a pro at it. But I fought it like heck, and that didn’t do me any favors. I HAD to figure it out. YouTube was helpful in showing me step-by-step how to string our weed whacker.

Remember all that rain we had in August? It ended up being more than 11 inches and HOLY MOLEY did that rain affect us! First off, our heavier RVs were sinking into the ground! Even though we compacted the ground as much as we could, we could not have prepared for that amount of rain, that fast!

We had to place boards under our guests’ tires so they could get unstuck. They stayed that way until the roads could dry out a bit. The roads in general had HUGE tire marks in them from the weight of the RVs and we had to try and fix this ASAP! We ordered more gravel from our gravel pit to help fill in the tracks and divots. Well, they were THREE WEEKS OUT for delivery. Oh, boy. That was not good news.

We did our best to fill in the sunken spaces with dirt, rocks and any spare gravel we could get our hands on. We learned to have a space for just gravel to manually shovel into low spots and to have a good supply of wood pieces to help level out RVs.

Before Labor Day weekend, I sent out an email to inform our campers to make sure they brought wood, or anything they could to make sure their jacks had something to sit on besides the soft gravel ground. It worked well and most campers understood. But, of course, there were a few who just weren’t reasonable and we couldn’t make them happy no matter what we did. We did end up supplying wood to those that needed it so they wouldn’t sink.

What else happens when it rains that much? Weeds and grass! Good heavens! We didn’t even know we had grass up here! The weeds were out of control as some of them grew a foot overnight. They were up to our waist and, oh, were they hard to get rid of.

This happened while AJ was still sick and I was having a panic attack of HOW was I, alone, going to weed whack the sites and the common areas. First off, I recruited friends to come up here from the valley and paid them in food! Not only did they help weed whack, they helped dig the last of the fire rings on campsites that didn’t have them yet. Then they helped build them up with rocks, so that chore was checked off the list. As they left, I cried, hugged and thanked them with every ounce of my soul. I could NOT have done it without their help.

When they left, I was weed whacking and mowing by myself when a frequent camper asked if he could help me weed whack the sites. I didn’t know what to say as I was thinking, “YES PLEASE!” Then my thoughts changed to, “Will he sue me if anything happens?” It was almost a fear of accepting help as I hear horror stories of campground owners getting sued.

I was honest and told him I wasn’t sure if I could accept his help. He insisted that he knows how to use a weed eater and had nothing but time, so I printed out a Volunteer Waiver and had him sign it. I asked about not getting too close to other RV’s in case rocks flew up. I will say he cleared out about 7-8 sites in the RV park, and I am not ashamed to say he did a WAY better job that I normally do! He was humble and just truly wanted to help us out right before the big weekend. I will add he got a nice AJ’s T-shirt for his help, since he refused me trying to buy him a meal as a Thank You.

My girlfriend and her husband came over unexpectedly and dropped off dinner because she knew we were all sick lately. She asked if we needed anything and, of course, you know what I needed by now. Her husband came over the next day and weeded for a few hours.  Our entrance and backyard area looked so clean and welcoming.

During this time, the key broke off in our Golf Cart and I needed a new alternator ASAP. Can I say how lucky we are that in our tiny town, NAPA had ONE left. I ran up to NAPA and our friend had it installed in no time. If you normally are a do-it-yourself type of person like AJ and I are, it is REALLY hard to ask for help. I am so thankful for friends during this time to help us succeed, as it was crunch time. That was a HUGE weekend event at our RV park and we needed this place to be in tiptop shape.

The weeds were popping daily and we ended up hiring a weed control company. There was no way we could get them out of the road and RV pad areas. We still have them and we work very carefully to pull them out of the ground as to try and not disturb the seeds so they don’t multiply by the millions. It is a never-ending chore that we just need to accept. I have to admit that I bought the wrong weed spray for touch-up areas. I bought ground kill spray and, oh, was that a big mistake. One site has completely dead shrubs and the edges are straight-up brown. It’s my fault and I’m owning up to it!

I am happy to report that we had a super successful Labor Day weekend. It was our first SOLD OUT weekend! We were so excited to see the RV park full of happy campers. We even turned the long weekend into a Vendor Event and had several off-road companies come out and sell their wares to our campers. The campers and vendors, too, were wildly happy. We may do this every year at this time as it was SO popular!

We were fortunate enough to have a drone company up here and they filmed a short commercial of our RV park for us! It is posted on our Facebook page if you’d like to see it and share it. It came out beautifully and now everyone can see how our Campground turned out. We love it as it captures those happy faces we always talked about. Seeing our dreams come to life after all the roadblocks building we had building our RV park brings tears to my eyes. This was not an easy road and even though we get to see the smiles all day, it is different seeing it all in a video. This is us, our campground, our happy campers – and it still amazes me that we did it!

Thank you all for continuing to follow our campground journey. Stay tuned as more exciting news is coming next time.

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

AJ, Machelle 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 on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.


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Steven Sims
1 year ago

Loneoutdoorsman, If this is the way you treat everyone then it comes as no surprise you’re a lone outdoorsman. What entitles you to ask personal questions regarding someone’s health? What grants you the right to judge your fellow RV’er?

Please consider your behavior and try to tone down your belligerence and sense of empowerment to pry into someone else’s life.

1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Sims

Hey. Steven Sims. Loneoutdoorsman here. “Pry in someone else’s life?” AJ and Machelle laid their life out in their article. Ey simply suggested that it was an incomplete story. Ey can ask all the questions that Ey feel like. Frankly, EY think that they are ANTI VAXERS THAT PUT THEIR CUSTOMERS AT RISK. So yes Ey called them out, but did not get any response.
Ey think UNVACCINATED adults should not be treated in Intensive care units, taking up beds that are needed for emergency treatments for people with heart attacks or appendicitis and the like. UNVACCINATED adults should be made very comfortable in tents in the parking lot, given sustenance and medications. NOT IN THE ICU.
Love, The Loneoutdoorsman

Machelle James
1 year ago

First of all, you have no idea about our personal health and you are ASSUMING it’s your business. I have no respect for keyboard warriors. And NO we didn’t put anyone at risk. You are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Antivaxxers- whatever. Your opinion of me is none of my business.. but hey BOO- You do you- if it makes you sleep better at night, attacking strangers, well that is a sad life indeed. And bless your heart. God Bless You and I’ll say a prayer for you.

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Sims

Thanks Steve for your support. He would be so embarrassed if he knew what we really had. And I’m not telling him either. You or I cannot control how others behave- whether in person or behind a keyboard. Let’s all enjoy the beautiful outdoors and breathe in the fresh air of the Mountains! Have a blessed evening and thanks again for sticking up for us!

EL Laws
1 year ago

What an ordeal! So glad you’re all recovered, and, as other commenters have said, accept help when it’s offered. I’m sure both the camper was happy to be of help. I watched the drone footage and have told my husband we have GOT to stop by next year after the winter!

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  EL Laws

Hello EL! We are very much back to normal now! Yes, we both learned a valuable lesson in having help. We are now training a new person for reservations in case anything happens to us and we can’t take reservations for some reason. (sick parent, sick child, emergency away from home, etc). The drone footage was AWESOME and I’m so glad you saw it! It was such a FABULOUS weekend. I have more info to share in our next article !! Stay tuned!

Diane Mc
1 year ago

Never a dull moment in “the trees”. Glad to hear you are all well. Learning about each other’s tasks was probably a benefit of a terrible situation. At the least, you each have understanding of what each of you do and can better appreciate what each responsibility takes. Especially when dealing with the public. Sorry there are grumpy people. Hopefully the exception. Most people are kind, happy and generous. BTW, you can send some of that rain our way in California. We are in another drought. Take care.

1 year ago

I get a broken link on Facebook from your link in the story. Stay safe and stay healthy.

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  Glenn

Thanks Glenn- we are all 100% back to normal! I see the link below is on working order and I hope it is working for you!

Ed D.
1 year ago

Machelle, first let me say that I missed your column the last few weeks. It is probably the one thing I look forward to reading. Your adventure has truly been an experience that you will always cherish and be proud of! I was sorry to hear that you all became sick and had to take time off. I hope everyone is fully recovered and at 100% now.
People are good for the most part. Accepting help when you are in dire straights is nothing to frown upon. You work hard each and every day to run and maintain your Park and it is a Godsend to know that there are people that actually care and will “pitch in” when the chips are down! No one could have foreseen the heavy rains and the weed problems. Hiring the weed control service was the best decision you could have made. They are pros and should have it under control in short order.
Congrats on the “Full House” on Labor Day Weekend. It has to be super satisfying to realize what your hard work and efforts have produced as a result!

Ed D.
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed D.

I will look forward to your next installment on here. Until then, be safe and see you in the trees!

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Hi ED! We are back! I am so thankful for you and your continued support. We are all 100% healthy. I have come to realize that our true friends and supporters will pitch in when we need them. I saw it and lived it. It was a beautiful gift to accept. We had another very exciting weekend and I can’t wait to write about it! Thanks for waiting for us to come back. Because we are BACK!

Donald Schneider
1 year ago

SO glad y’all are OK and have posted another article. We missed you. Thanks for the post about sinking jacks and RVs. We carry large square jack pads and use them on every campground that has grass or gravel sites. Carry them in your store and put a notice in your rules that they are required to be used. We have seen that notice in a number of campgrounds this year due to the increase in rain. Y’all take care and keep the articles coming.

Machelle James
1 year ago

Hi Donald! I am so glad to be back and write about our Campground Ownership experiences.
We have been so busy this past week, that I can FINALLY respond to you all. We will definitely carry those “LEGOS” in our store. They were the only ones that didn’t sink! The rain has paused for weeks and we are enjoying the cooler weather now! I’ll keep writing as we had quite the adventurous weekend!

1 year ago

You Go! Girl.

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  tom

Thank You Tom! We are slaying it this week!!

Adrian Pryke
1 year ago

So glad to hear you are all on the mend,

You have a great bunch of friends to help out when needed so you will be back to normal soon

must look for one of your T-shirts, do you ship them internationally 🤞

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Pryke

Hi Adrian! Thank you for your well wishes! We are all 100% back to normal and working harder than ever. Please email me where you are and we can talk about sending you a shirt- That would be so cool to have our First International T-shirt!!

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