Your editorial in issue 925 really hit home.
“SORRY, SIR. WE DON’T HAVE ANY SPACES AVAILABLE FOR THOSE DATES. YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED FIVE OR SIX WEEKS AGO.”
These were the words we heard over and over on our three-month trip to Alaska this past summer. It did not happen everywhere we wanted to stay but it did happen enough that it caused continuous changes to our travel plans.
For years I’ve told anyone who would listen how wonderful traveling in an RV was, but NO MORE! The days of driving ’til you decide to stop are gone. Now we need to call days or even weeks ahead when traveling during prime vacation time or in popular areas.
This was our third trip to Alaska in the past 14 years, and what a difference this trip was when it came to finding a place to camp. We decided to leave in early July with the idea that we might be behind the early northbound travelers.
And we were, but not enough to make a huge difference. Often the commercial campgrounds told us that they were swamped in June and still busy in July, but if we could dry camp they could find us a spot to overnight. So we did a lot of dry camping.
The provincial and state parks were better, but with so many now taking reservations it was still a challenge.
On our way southbound, back to the lower 48, we left Alaska for the last time on September 18. Though the weather was still nice, a number of the commercial campgrounds were already closed for the season, as were some of the state and federal campgrounds in both Alaska and Canada.
Thinking that by late September we would be long past the throngs of summer tourists in the Canadian Rockies, we traveled southbound via the Cassiar Highway headed toward Jasper and the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The plan was to spend 10 days in Jasper and Banff National Parks. This time we called 14 days ahead of our arrival, yet there was nothing available in Jasper (to be fair the park’s largest campground was closed for remodeling), but we did find campsites in Banff NP on the 23rd of September for a week. This was in the middle of September and we already had seen snow! In fact, it snowed on us while we were in Jasper at the Icefields.
So we dry camped at the Icefields and on the morning of the 23rd we headed to Banff. In the paved parking lot with us were 36 RVs dry camped. What was interesting, of those 36 rigs of every shape and size, only 7 were not rentals.
We had seen a lot of rental RVs on our trip north and on our return back south from Alaska, but nothing like we were seeing in the Canadian National Parks.
On the morning we left Jasper headed to Banff we decided to keep track of the rental RVs we saw on the 120-mile drive southbound. The drive took us about 2 hours and 45 minutes. We counted 143 RVs. We could definitely identify 102 as rentals plus another 41 that had no signs or indication if they were a rental or not. So more than 71% of the RVs we counted were rentals.
You know, it’s really great the rental RVs are allowing more people to experience how neat it is to travel and experience North America in an RV. But if the proliferation of rental RVs in the U.S. becomes like what we saw in Canada, U.S. RVers are in for a real surprise — and not one they will like!
I’m not sure there is any real answer to all of this, but I am kind of glad I didn’t go out and buy a new quarter-million-dollar coach like we almost did four years ago. Instead, we opted to refurbish our 19-year-old, trouble-free diesel pusher, adding two additional slideouts and pretty much redoing the whole interior. That’s a whole other story. —Jim Anderson