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August 13, 2023
Free, abbreviated edition
When camping was free and RV parks didn’t exist
By Chuck Woodbury
FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER
Once upon a time, camping was free or close to it. I speak from my own experience as a well-aged human and RVer. I began RV camping as a child with my parents and then as a 20-something adult on my own. By campgrounds, I am referring to public campgrounds, operated by the government. There were few RV parks early on as we know them now. Those that existed were called trailer parks or mobile home parks.
KOA was the first big player. Its first RV park debuted in 1962 along the route west to the Seattle World’s Fair. Campers paid $1.75 a night. The concept was soon franchised and grew fast. But most other parks were still in the future. As long as the government provided free stays or very cheap stays in its campgrounds, how could a private operation compete, at least in a popular tourist area?
Congress had debated since the 1940s about charging for recreational use of national park and other federal lands (the Forest Service included). Some legislators believed access to federal lands including national parks should be free — a benefit to citizens for their tax dollars. Others favored modest fees, especially for the use of developed facilities like campgrounds.
In 1973, a total of 122 campgrounds in the National Park System charged a fee: Seven charged $4 a night per site, 38 charged $3, 36 charged $2, and 41 charged $1. The remaining 311 were free.
Congress’ bad decision
That same year, Congress legislated when a federal campground could charge. Oklahoma Senator Dewey Bartlett wrote: “No fee may be charged for access to or use of any campground not having the following — flush restrooms, showers reasonably available, sanitary disposal stations reasonably available, visitor protection control, designated tent or trailer spaces, refuse containers and potable water.”
Alas, it was a bad decision. Few campgrounds could qualify. The National Park Service and the other agencies were thus forced to drop their campground fees. For awhile.
About this same time, I was working summers as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. We also did chores. I remember installing small collection boxes at individual campsites in a popular campground. Campers would need to pay $1 a night. No more “free.” My pals and I thought charging to stay was horrible.
Then something happened
I am not sure exactly when public campgrounds started raising their rates. But as they did, entrepreneurs realized that they could now build an RV park near a national park or other popular area and “do one better” than the government. They could offer nice restrooms with showers, phones, electric and water hookups, dump stations, swimming pools, game rooms, playgrounds and laundry facilities, and charge enough to earn a profit.
In the late 1980s, I began traveling in an RV as a roving journalist. RV industry trade publications increasingly celebrated the government’s higher camping fees. All of a sudden, building a private campground — an RV park — made financial sense. Before, how could a would-be park compete with “free or nearly free”?
Now, decades later, as public parks raise their rates in order to put more burden of support on park users, not just taxpayers, RV parks, too, can raise their rates and remain competitive. And they do it as often as they can. Why not? It’s a business for them.
I don’t know where camping fees are headed, but I do know that for many Americans, the cost of camping with an RV has already become unaffordable. But that’s another story, a big one, that we will continue to pursue.
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Today’s RV review…
HE’S BAAACK! Tony (Barthel) is back with all-new RV reviews. His reviews will appear in the Monday and Wednesday editions of our RV Daily Tips Newsletter, and the Sunday edition of this newsletter. Make sure you’re signed up to read them.
2024 Jayco Greyhawk 29MV—More than a Class C?
I have been accused of dissuading a lot of people from Class C RVs and, you know what? It’s for a reason. Class C RVs often are built so close to the GVWR (gross weight rating) of the chassis manufacturer that they often can barely hold a driver and passenger. But today’s review is of the Jayco Greyhawk 29MV Class C RV, which is one Class C I like. And almost 1,500 pounds of cargo carrying capacity is just one of the reasons.
RV Service Centers and Repairs Report
“Camping World didn’t do anything until we threatened them with court. They ‘fixed’ it; it broke again within a month”
In this column, we summarize some of your emails and comments regarding RV service centers and repairs. This week Nanci Dixon shares our readers’ reports on more reasons RVers are avoiding service centers, and the poor quality of RVs. Gary H. has spent, and continues to spend, so much on repairs that, if he could afford it, he would just give the RV away. (We bet some other RVers can relate to that sentiment.) But there are some rave reviews for service centers, as well. And Don T. has some advice for first-year RV owners.
Replacing your RV skylight
By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Need to replace your RV skylight? “Why would I ever need to do that?” you ask. … [P]erhaps it’s cracked, faded or just plain ugly from the elements. Regardless of the cause, replacing an RV skylight isn’t a difficult task, nor particularly time-consuming. It just needs to be done right. Here’s the skinny on skylights.
How to prevent being electrocuted while swimming
In this segment from The RV Show USA, Mike Sokol explains how someone can easily be electrocuted while swimming near a dock where a boat’s electrical hookup is miswired. And it’s not just the fact that someone can be “shocked” to death, but the way they die that’s the scariest. Watch the video—it could save your life or someone else’s.
Dumpster diving across America: How one full-time RVer turns trash into treasures
Reader Fred B. isn’t ashamed to admit that he’s a dedicated dumpster diver. And not for things like moldy fruit or half-eaten steaks. Nope, he finds much more than just food in apartment complexes and campground dumpsters. In fact, he’s saved himself and his wife thousands of dollars over the years—and he hardly ever has to buy anything new! Read about some of the “treasures” Fred has found and some great money-saving tips from this very frugal RVer.
RV Fact or Fiction?
RV tires tend to lose pressure at high altitudes
RV blogs, social media groups and YouTube videos have exploded over the past few years. Some provide great information, others questionable information and some downright bad information. Can you tell the difference? In this regular column, we will post a question based on information we find online. You can then test your RV prowess by seeing how your answer compares with our experts.
When traveling at high altitudes, RV tires tend to lose pressure in the thin air.
Around the Campfire
RVer “fixed” the campground’s high sewer connection with a hacksaw! What?!
By Gail Marsh
“I couldn’t believe my eyes!” Janet exclaimed. “Yes, the campground’s sewer connection was high, but that’s no excuse to take a hacksaw to someone else’s property!” Janet was talking about an RVer who arrived at the campground this afternoon. Upon arrival, “Mr. Hacksaw” discovered that the sewer connection on his RV site was too high. Because of this, the RVer’s sewer hose would not connect properly and stay in place. Seems “Mr. Hacksaw” took things into his own hands—literally!
RVing with Dogs
By Cheri Sicard
Innocent puppy’s playful nip sparks bizarre legal battle. What to do if traveling?
I write this as a cautionary tale. If you are a dog owner, being aware of the situation when you report dog bites of ANY kind may save you some grief and major aggravation. Or it might make you rethink reporting a dog bite at all. Here’s what happened. [This is almost unbelievable!]
How to store dog food in an RV
Melissa S. recently posted a question about how to store dog food in an RV in our RVing with Dogs Facebook group. She got a lot of useful responses, so I wanted to share them here as well, as I know that Melissa is not the only RVer to struggle with the dilemma of where to store all that dog food in the RV. Read Melissa’s question and all of these great ideas.
These incredible castles are right here in the U.S.—no passport required!
By Gail Marsh
Forget your passport and expensive airline ticket. If you want to tour a real castle you can stay much closer to home! Just put these four castles on your “must-see” list and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You won’t even know you’re in the United States!
Highlights from this week’s RV Daily Tips Newsletter
- Many RV uses for dry erase boards
- These small insect screens keep wasps and bees from colonizing your RV
- How to get rid of rust spots on a stainless steel sink
- Safely carry LP cylinders in your pickup with this clever mod
- Is it safe to camp in a desert wash?
DID YOU KNOW our RV Daily Tips Newsletter is our readers’ favorite newsletter? And for good reason—it’s filled with so much great information! Read any issue here, and then make sure to sign up here. You won’t regret it!
Is it okay to play Taps in the evening at an RV park?
Please let us know. After you click your response, you’ll see how others have responded. Feel free to leave a comment.
POPULAR POLL FROM THIS PAST WEEK
We asked: How satisfied are you with your life today compared to 10 years ago? See how more than 1,600 other RVers answered, then cast a vote yourself!
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook”.
This past week’s questions that Dave answered:
- Why does my RV’s generator stop running while driving?
- Can lithium batteries start my RV’s onboard generator?
- RV’s sinks are plugged but the shower drains, P-traps not clogged. Now what?
- Why doesn’t my RV’s generator charge the house battery?
- Why are RVs tailllights different brightness, and no brake lights?
?? MYSTERY PRODUCT OF THE DAY ??
It IS a really weird thing, isn’t it? We still can’t believe it! How did this happen? It’s just TOO WEIRD! See how weird it is for yourself!
In the RV shop with Dustin
RV slide out locks prevent damage to your slide outs during travel
By Dustin Simpson
Join me in the video below as I explain how to use a slide out lock made by American Technology. These locks are typically used to secure a slide in a fixed position. It’s a mechanism designed to prevent the sliding portion of an RV from moving, providing an additional level of stability.
RV Gadgets and Gizmos
Jackery Explorer 1500 portable power station/solar generator review
By Cheri Sicard
Let me begin by stating that the term “solar generator” may not be technically correct, as these devices capture energy from the sun, they don’t technically generate power. However, a lot of people refer to and search for portable power stations such as the Jackery Explorer 1500 with the term “solar generator.” So, for the purposes of this article, we will use both terms, solar generator and portable power station, interchangeably.
RV Tire Safety
Tires without traditional rubber? A tire expert’s opinion
The concept of tires made without rubber from “rubber trees” has been around for many decades. World War II and the potential of no “natural rubber” aka latex from rubber trees became a concern for the Allies. Plantations in Asia were under threat of attack and so were the plantations in West Africa. This spurred the development of “synthetic rubber” made from petroleum products…. Roger Marble reports on the newest type of tires made from natural rubber derived from the guayule desert shrub, grown in America’s Desert Southwest. Does he think RV tires will be made from this material?
Ask Roger anything about RV tires on his RV Tires Forum.
Adventures in prospecting and boondocking, Part 5
By Randall Brink
In less time than it takes to build a good fire, Bebe and I moved our camp the short distance from the boondocking site to the prospecting location, where we had staked the new mining claim. Here we would remain for the rest of the season—until the nightly low temperature drops into the thirties. Though the day had been allocated to the camp move, we were finished early—before the sun had crested the high ridges. There was plenty of day left for work.
Did you miss yesterday’s Latest News for RVers?
If so, stories you missed:
• New 2022 travel trailers going to auction houses. What’s going on here?
• Federal judge dismisses deadly “overnight RV parking” lawsuit against Walmart
• Campground Crowding: Raising prices will lower demand. ‘I would happily pay $800 a night to camp to keep the ‘casual interest’ campers out!’
• NEW Disadvantaged RVers on “the Street”: Are there really homeless RVers?
• Notorious house-crasher “Hank the Tank” exposed as hungry female mastermind in Tahoe
• Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks may boost campground fees
• Texas woman attacked by falling snake, assaulted by hawk in unbelievable sequence of events
… and much more
Recipe of the Day
by Melinda Wolowicz from Springfield, TN
You will be requested to take this easy s’more no-bake dessert to all summer parties. The rich and creamy pudding is sweet and full of chocolate flavor. Stirring in graham cracker crumbs adds a touch of texture. We loved the mini marshmallows throughout the pudding, too. We guarantee you’ll be wanting s’more after your first bite.
Readers’ Pet of the Day
“Franc is our 16-year-old Dachshund. He travels everywhere we go in the motorhome. When we are driving, he has his bed in between the captain’s chairs on our Class C motorhome. When we are stopped, he prefers to use the captain’s chair as ‘his spot.’ He can look out the side windows from the seats.” —Daniel Merkovsky
• RVing with Dogs group on Facebook. You’ll love it.
WHERE ARE THE WILDFIRES AND SMOKE? Find out here:
If you’re planning a surgery, avoid having it done on the surgeon’s birthday. According to the British Medical Journal, there’s an increase in patient deaths after surgeons perform an operation on their birthday. Scientists tracked how many Medicare beneficiaries died within 30 days of an emergency surgery. When the surgery was performed on a surgeon’s birthday, 6.9 percent of the patients died. On other days, it was 5.6 percent.
We just came across this old post of ours and it made us laugh all over again! Sit in the grandstands and watch race cars towing travel trailers compete on a Figure 8 race course.
Did you miss last week’s RV Travel?
RVtravel.com All Star Team
Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Editor: Emily Woodbury. Associate editor: Diane McGovern. Senior editors: Russ and Tiña De Maris. Senior writers: Nanci Dixon, Gail Marsh, Dave Solberg and Cheri Sicard. Contributors: Roger Marble, Dave Helgeson, Janet Groene, J.R. Montigel, Randall Brink, Dustin Simpson, Dale Wade and Tony Barthel. Moderator: Gary Gilmore. Financial affairs director: Gail Meyring. IT wrangler: Kim Christiansen. Artificial Intelligence (AI) contributors: Johnny Robot and Milly MacWilly. Canine Mascots: Archie and Astor “the Disaster”
Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we occasionally get something wrong. We’re just human! So don’t go spending $10,000 on something we said was good simply because we said so, or fixing something according to what we suggested (check with your own technician first). Maybe we made a mistake. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com or this newsletter.
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