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Operating an RV park: The phone is ringing off the hook! And more adventures

By Machelle James
The phone has been ringing off the hook! We took out an ad on Facebook for the Tucson, Phoenix and Maricopa market. WOW was that a hit! Tucson is about a 4-hour drive to us, Phoenix is about 2.5 hours, and Maricopa is 3 hours from us. People are so excited that there is a new campground in the White Mountains and they want to visit.

With rising gas prices across the country, we were nervous about how our business would be affected. As of this writing, we are sold out for the 4th of July and almost sold out for Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. Some guests said they are canceling their cross-country trips but still traveling, just closer to home. Others said they are still going as they aren’t getting any younger and want to enjoy life while they can still drive.

We are both so thankful that we are in a location that is close enough to get out of that awful Phoenix heat to experience at least a 20-degree temperature change in the daytime and 30 degrees at night. This will be our plan to market our campground as soon as the Valley heat starts becoming unbearable. I grew up in Phoenix and lived there almost my whole life. When the temps go over 110, you do not go outside unless you have to. Even then, you grocery shop at night and the swimming pool isn’t refreshing anymore. This is camping season!

This week’s adventures

This week’s adventures in owning a campground include having the leaky water lines fixed for eight RV sites. Our contractor, Thomas, came up from Tucson to fix all the leaks we discovered last season. It was two leaks, as it turned out. The PVC piping material wasn’t glued properly and the copper lines were bent in a way that they sprang leaks. Thankfully that was fixed in a day, as AJ worked with Thomas to get it done as fast as possible.

Unexpected snow put a stop to our projects for a couple days!

We also had to seal the wood beams and ceiling on the patio and the outside of the store area. It took a week for the winds to die down and we had a snowstorm come through unexpectedly.

AJ getting ready to seal the wood.

Our siding was delivered and AJ is working on this with a contractor starting Friday. He couldn’t install that yet as he had to lay electrical wires in a trench with conduit for our store. Then he had to install our electrical panel on the building and wait for an inspection. It passed with no concerns.

Burying electrical lines at the campground

One very efficient project happening is we are burying the high wire electrical lines. They are going underground, all the way to the corner pole of the property. We could not be more excited about this! RVs can fit under the high wires, but it looks dated, and they definitely won’t be swinging in those 50 mph winds anymore!

AJ and I drove to a sawmill in Young (1.5 hours away) to pick out our countertops for inside and outside at the store. We need eight pieces of wood that range from 100” long up to 121” inches long. They will be counter depth for inside, and about 12″-18” for the outside bar top. Now, we aren’t having a bar, but a place to come sit and have a beverage while people-watching or just staying in the shade under the patio cover.

The garage being delivered. It is 14′ x 36 ‘.

AJ had his garage delivered from Graceland, and WOW is it big! We waited 22 weeks for this bad boy and, so far, it is solid. AJ is just thrilled it finally showed up. What this means is, I can have my laundry room back with NO TOOLS and oily things, paint cans, nuts and bolts, etc., sharing a space with my laundry! It means all the items that have been out in the elements for three years will finally have an indoor home! Shovels, rakes, sign post tools, saws, tool chests, whatever, can get out of our way—no tripping! I think I am more excited about this than anything this week!

The steps AJ built.

Refurbishing metal chairs

I am working on a project that includes refurbishing metal chairs. My mom and her husband love to go to moving sales and garage sales, and use OfferUp to find steals on items. Well, they scored BIG TIME when they helped us look for bar-height chairs for our outside seating area at the store. We will have 12 chairs and 10 need to be refinished. I already wire brushed all the old paint and rust off and now I will paint them after this writing. I purchased material from various stores and am having a local seamstress sew/staple the material and batting on the seats. The chairs are heavy and good quality—they just needed to be fixed up.

We have our Polar Cups at the laser engraving store to have fun sayings on them etched in with our logo. We have T-shirts on the way with our new verbiage and logo starting next week. Also, we ordered hats and sunglasses from a local vendor to bring up in two weeks.

More work on the campground store

I had purchased a scanning gun to ring up items in the store as well as for inventory. I had to figure out how to use it since I never used a scanner before. These next weeks will be setting up inventory SKU’s, ordering snacks from Sam’s Club, finalizing our beverage order from our Pepsi vendor, getting the commercial refrigerator and working on the store, inside and out.

Our regular foam insulation guys have been so busy that we have had to shop around for one that would actually return our calls. That is another holdup we have for not working inside as we have no insulation to start on the walls.

I have a feeling these next four weeks we will be working as hard as ever to get the store up and running before April 15th. Hopefully, then we will have the store finished and you can see what we have been working so hard on!

Thank you for your continued support in following our campground journey and 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 at their website, or on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park, or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.

##RVT1045

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Wesla Ranalli
5 months ago

Amazing progress! I’ve been following your articles on RVtravel.com from the start because my husband and I are doing something similar to your adventure. We are creating a new 51 site RV park and campground on a lake in eastern Maine. Reading about your progress is both exciting and engaging – thanks for the encouragement!

Machelle James
5 months ago
Reply to  Wesla Ranalli

Hi Wesla! Oh how wonderful and exciting for you! I’m thankful you read about the trials and tribulations of building a Campground. Create a place that families will come back to, make memories and you will beam with pride! Wishing you the best of success in your new adventure!

Sabrina
6 months ago

So fun to hear about your adventure! I’ve spent the last year helping a campground switch from a franchise to an independent park and it’s been a lot of fun and frustration all mixed together, but so rewarding to have people come in and enjoy the property! I love to hear that you are starting out with an eye towards reuse with those chairs!!! Not only the money savings but spending so much time out in nature really reinforces how important it is to conserve our natural resources and reduce waste. Not sure if that’s on your mind too, but I just wanted to jump in here and thank you for making a more sustainable choice. It’s not always easy or convenient but so worth it! All the best to you on your upcoming camping season!

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Sabrina

Hi Sabrina! Oh how exciting indeed for the Campground Owners and you. That probably was really challenging to say the least! These chairs came out SO NICE that I cannot wait to share pictures when they are all done! Thank you for the kind words of support, we really do appreciate it!!

Diane Fox
6 months ago

Don’t you just love the Spring snow storms!?! Just when you really get into some warmer weather and all the great outside projects, WHAM, snow and high winds!

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Diane Fox

Hi Diane! It was very unexpected and luckily for us, it melted the very next day. We were able to do some things, but then you have to wait for the mud to dry as well!

Patricia Leeb
6 months ago

I have been following your saga, and I am just in awe at your persistence, hard work, and above all humor and perspective. You and AJ truly are inspirational. We’re hoping to stop by in early September as we work our way back east. I cannot wait to see the results of your incredible labors, say hello and acquaint ourselves with the nearby town.

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Patricia Leeb

Hi Patricia! Thank you for your kind words! I love the word SAGA because it really does feel like an EPIC story, except WE are really the characters in this SAGA! Please do come in and see our Campground and we would love to meet you!!!

Tina W
6 months ago

How far is your park away from restaurants, grocery stores, running or biking trails, hiking trails, and / or other businesses like hardware stores, malls, etc.?

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Tina W

Hi Tina- We have numerous wonderful locally owned restaurants here in town and 2 small grocery stores. We have a Dollar General, Family Dollar and one of the biggest Ace Hardwares in the country! Biking and hiking trails are plentiful in town. Malls are in the Valley (2 hours away) but we have Ross, Big Lots, Walmart, Safeway, in Show Low. (45 minutes away) It is a great town and we truly love living here!

Paul
6 months ago

As I read about your progress I started thinking about your location relative to an eastbound trip I am planning. We are headed for Rochester NY by way of Charlottesville VA from Temecula CA via Redlands CA. After the coach is serviced in Redlands we will be just under 8 hours from you. We only drive 4 hours a day so with a stop in Quartzite we should be arriving at your location on the 27th of April. I will not know for sure, until the service center finishes, whether it will be then or a few days later. I have modified my initial route to be able to spend the night and see the place for myself. We are in a 36 ft DP

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul! We will be open and happy to meet you and show you the progress of the store and Campground! Give me a call to reserve your site or make a reservation at:
Ajsgetawayrv.com . See you in a few weeks!

BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago

Nice article. Good for you guys.

Last edited 6 months ago by RV Staff
Machelle James
6 months ago

Thank you Billy Bob! We are working hard every day here and it will pay off for sure! I’ll post pictures of my chairs when they are done. I think you will like them….

Tina W
6 months ago

But her emails!!

Steve
6 months ago

The photo of your garage made me think about the RV parks and state park campgrounds we have used that rent cabins, yurts, or vintage camping trailers. They are very useful for non-RV guests during events like RVing family reunions, as we have had several times. I realize you need to get everything built and “paying” right now. But in a few years and with the skills and experience you and AJ now have, refurbishing a couple of inexpensive old camping trailers as rentals should be a piece of cake! “Build it and they will come”.

A couple of questions: despite the 20-30 degree cooler summer temps you will have over Phoenix, are you putting AC in the store/office? With your “dry heat”, does anyone in the mountains use swamp coolers in place of refrigerated air? Our family’s homes in Colorado have relied on evaporative cooling for the past 65 years. Works great and our summer cooling bill (estimated electric and water usage) is about 15% of friends’ refrigerated AC electric bills.

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve! Oh, I did forget to write that we partnered with a gentleman and his RV Rental Company. He lives here locally to move his RV’s into sites and he will remove them and clean them when the guests leave. SO that was a win win for us! We are installing a Mini-Split system as we need the heat and the air conditioning. Most folks up here use those as they are incredibly inexpensive and work super efficiently. That will be installed next week!

Donald Schneider
6 months ago

Good Morning Machelle and AJ, Y’all are real busy getting ready for campers. Be sure to scan the SKU into the system instead of manually entering them. Having setup 3 stores I learned that the hard way when the manual was wrong…no check digit!

Machelle James
6 months ago

Hi Don! Oh I agree completely! I added a Bubly Water to practice on and I figured it out pretty quickly! I just need the Inventory to arrive so I can start scanning!!

Ron
6 months ago

Have enjoyed following your adventure. Keep the updates coming and best of luck

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Hi Ron! Thank you for following our journey. I am truly thrilled to be able to document this journey as it has been a WILD RIDE! Thanks for your support and encouragement!

Joe Allen
6 months ago

Congratulations on your accomplishments so far! When done, you will look back with amazing pride and it will show. Hope to make it out there in the White mountains next year for a visit to your wonderful piece of heaven!

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Allen

Hi Joe! Thank you for that reminder! Sometimes we work so hard to complete a project, you get there and don’t truly appreciate all the blood (his), sweat (ours), and tears (MINE) that went into this project. We would love to meet you and show you the Campground when you are up this way! Thanks again for your kind words!

Stephen Malochleb
6 months ago

Darn, Machelle, following your adventure I want to visit your campground but alas you’re so far away from Taxachusetts. I mean Massachusetts. Sorry but that puts you to far away for a weekend trip. Hopefully retiring in the next year or so. This would put you on the list of places to stay. Your family has been on one amazing adventure. Thank you for sharing it with the RV community. Good luck in this new chapter of your lives. God Bless.

Machelle James
6 months ago

Thanks for your support and kind words Stephen. We are still on this roller coaster and it just hasn’t stopped yet! Our furthest guests from the U.S. so far have been from New Hampshire and you would be a close second! We hope you can make our Campground one of your stops along the way as we would love to meet you!

Tina W
6 months ago

Yes you should move away and lose the benefit of your great health care. Might I suggest Florida, where health care is highly suspect?

Ed D.
6 months ago

Good morning! Tell AJ the steps look great. You are lucky to have such a talented partner to share this adventure with. You as well. Not everyone can take a used Chair and refurbish it to look good. The underground Electric lines is definitely a great idea. No worries about high winds knocking the power out due to fallen lines. I am sure your guests will appreciate that too! I am looking forward to seeing your Store completed. It is hard to fathom all of the hard work you guys have done in such a short time. But at the same time, you remind me of myself. Once I start a project, I work until it is done. Procrastination is not an option!
Keep up the good work and your rewards will be plentiful. You will also appreciate it more because you built it from scratch. As I say each time I respond, we wish you success and happiness. I will look forward to your next report and photos. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Machelle James
6 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Hi Ed! Great wisdom and insight from you! I agree about having an incredibly handy guy to share this with. I knew he was Keeper! The chairs are almost done already and they look incredible! We picked out juniper slabs for the outdoor seating and even unfinished, they are AMAZING! Can’t wait to share those photos with you! More photos next article as the outside will be completed! Stay Tuned Ed!

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