RVers not happy with editor’s essay, video

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

In the last couple of weeks I have been bombarded with comments on this website and on YouTube about a couple of subjects I’ve discussed lately.

A BLM campground in Arizona.

Last week it was regarding my essay about why we no longer need public campgrounds. I didn’t say we should get rid of them, in fact I concluded by saying I wish they would never go away. I just said that most of today’s RVs are equipped with their own toilets, so the necessity of camping where there was an available toilet (in a campground) is no longer a requirement of where we stay like many years ago. 

I don’t think that was one of my best writing efforts because quite a few readers thought I was advocating doing away with public campgrounds. Dozens of readers fired off comments telling me that I was an old geezer, living in the past, and that my “rich” friends and I who stayed in RV parks were “not camping,” and shame on me for saying we didn’t need public campgrounds anymore.

Designed for “camping” or mobile living?

JUST VISIT AN RV SHOW and look at the RVs. Are most of them made for roughing it? I don’t think so! It’s now common to see fifth wheel trailers with two bathrooms, two bedrooms, built-in fireplace, dishwasher and washing machine! I say these RVs and many others are made for living, not camping: they’re mobile homes! I bet the small, basic, teardrop-type trailers and tent trailers which, indeed, are designed for “camping” represent only a tiny percentage of total RV sales.

The fact is, what more and more RVers want these days is a comfy mobile house they can hook up to utilities to live in seasonally or year round — one they can move periodically to see the country. Many sold their traditional homes to travel full-time. With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day (and for the next 12 years), you can bet this type of RVer will be more common and will increasingly fill up RV parks and public campgrounds in the years ahead. I plead guilty: I’m one of them.

Just a modest camper for roughing it in a little out of the way Forest Service campground? Or a nice place to live instead of a traditional house?

THE VIDEO
Then there was the video I posted on YouTube a couple of weeks ago about the crummy KOA campsite where I stayed in Springville, Utah, the one with my neighbor’s sewer drain right outside my front door. Did the angry mob ever burn up their keyboards on that one — the last I looked, the video had drawn more than 850 comments.

“Stupid you, you should have boondocked,” wrote at least 100 commenters. “You deserved that crummy site for staying at a KOA,” others wrote.

Before telling me what I should have done, I wish these people would have considered I might have been there for a reason other than having a meaningful experience with nature. The fact is, I had an appointment nearby the next morning. “You should have boondocked” many said (and not always nicely)! So I guess I should have driven 50 miles to find some public land, then parked for a night, then got up at 4 a.m. to make it to my appointment? Others said I should have stayed at Walmart. Well, you know, I worked hard my whole life, lived frugally, saved what I could, and I choose today not to stay in parking lots (I did for many years when I was a struggling writer). Yes, many RVers do stay in such places, and for their own good reasons (another subject for another day), it’s just not for me. It’s my choice, not some stranger’s who doesn’t know me.

“You should have complained to the office,” others barked. “It’s people like you with your million dollar rigs (mine cost $85,000 used) who support these RV parks, then don’t complain when you get a site like this. You got what you deserved.”

A “lovely” placement of my neighbor’s sewer hose, a few steps from my RV’s front door.

No, I didn’t complain to the office. I chose instead to make a video about the unsanitary site that has now been seen by more than 100,000 people. Should I have simply complained to the work campers at the desk, who might not have even passed along my complaint to the owners? As is, KOA’s corporate office called me, aware of how the video exposed this badly designed campsite. Its spokesman’s explanation, to my disappointment, was mostly about how proud KOA is of its new patio sites at other parks. 

FYI: I am not on an anti-KOA mission, but once upon a time if you stayed at a KOA you could expect a clean, safe and predictably acceptable experience. Far too often I don’t find that true anymore, and that bothers me. KOA is the largest chain of commercial campgrounds in the world and should be setting the bar high for other RV park operators.

It amazes me how so many people think how they use their RV should be the standard for everyone else. Do these people not understand that each of us buy our RVs for our own purposes — some for weekend outings with the kids, some for summer vacations, some for full-time living, some to live in on temporary work assignments? Some buy an RV to travel to and from their kids’ amateur sporting events. Some boondock in the desert or forest. Some use their RVs to tailgate at football games, to use while hunting, or attend NASCAR races. Some buy a toy hauler to hole up near sand dunes to ride their ATVs. Others buy an RV to plop on a piece of land to live in year-round.

Some stay in RV parks, some stay in remote public campgrounds, others head out to the boondocks to camp on our beautiful public lands. Others are perfectly happy holing up in rest areas, truck stops or parking lots. “Why pay $40 to stay in a crowded RV park for 12 hours just to sleep?” they ask, which makes sense.

Everybody has their way. Isn’t that what RVing is supposed to be — living your life the way you want to live it?

Why do so many people think their way is the only way, and then criticize others because they do things differently?

Oh, how I appreciate intelligent comments to what I write, even those that believe I am wrong or off-base, which I surely am at times. But people who are basically clueless and spout their ignorance — too often in mean-spirited ways —I have no respect for them. I’m pretty sure some of them will show up to comment below.

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Nick

Hi Chuck: Just thought I’d Chime in too. Really enjoy all your comments, keep on writing your articles. The people before me have said it all. I just wanted you to know I’m one more. Thanks.

Teri

I stay at KOAs more often than I thought I would. As a female solo RVer traveling between jobs, they are usually predictable in quality – and as you mentioned, mom and pop operations.
Some keep the resident trailers in the back and overnighters up front.

I had an issue in West TX where my a/c went out, the local RV tech coukdnt fix it and the owners let me stay overnight in an air conditioned basic camping cabin (no bath/kitchen).

I have a small RV and usually request a corner site to avoid problems with neighboring RVs.

Everything has a trade off as you found out when you acquirred a bigger RV

I have only worked at one campground in my 6 years full-timing. South Padre Island KOA, they had some really long pull thrus, close together, with the sewer/picnic table issue. I suggested to the campers to stagger the RV with the neighbor to avoid this and because the sites were long, it worked for many of them.

I enjoy reading your newsletter and blog and am glad you are exposing these issues, but I must say that you are putting too much of your personal feelings into some articles and they almost sound like whining or regret for getting a bigger RV.

Happy Travels and keep reporting, hopefully you can find the good in this RV life.

dennis

Hi Chuck, liked the article, I wouldn’t loose much sleep over the “my way or the highway comments”, as I see it it’s jus a sign of the times, and this bad behavior emulates more of the big problem, no respect for other peoples opinion, entitlement issues abound in this country, and us old geezers are not done yet, and we control more wealth and power in this country than many other generations, “we earned it!”, as for big corporations, our age group calls them out when we feel the need to let them know about our dissatisfaction, we are a driving force for big change in this country, always have been always will be, so instead of whining and complaining, maybe the people doing the majority of it should look in the mirror, quit acting like the big corporations and start acting like a responsible , non-entitled, caring human being, “put yourself in someone else’s shoes , before you open your pie hole.”

Rory Roberts

I’m probably jumping the gun, by a week. But Re: your article on small vs large, there are some things I agree with and others I disagree with. To be honest, it was your decision to start “squatting” for a month at a time. I know FT RV’ers, who travel in 42′ and 45′ rigs and very seldom stay in a RV park or resort more then a week before moving on to new adventures, sights, and a new area to explore. I myself have done some wild boondocking, but after a couple of days, I’m ready to move on. My human batteries are recharged and I’m ready for new challenges. Lastly, Walmart and other stores who allow overnight parking, usually have well lit, security patrolled parking lots, and although I know there may be some areas that evoke concerns, most don’t. I never did understand being concerned about overnighting in a parking lot vs being out in the wild with no cell signal and no secondary means of transportation. Maybe you can do an article and be more detailed about those concerns, I could be missing something…

John Daynes

Chuck – you are one of the very few writers that I can honestly say that I respect! I’ve got to give you HUGE kudos for your patience toward the idiotic, stupid, and uninformed comments made by people who are clearly unable to tell which end of the toilet paper to use first! I’ve been an avid reader of RV Travel for two plus years, and I still completely enjoy it! I’m an avid boondocker, but I try to follow your example of giving each person their space to do what their heart desires with their RV. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Summrbrz

I just started reading the newsletter, last month, and I think you are great! I understood what you were saying (don’t understand why others didn’t) and I agree with you, but even if I didn’t, I still respect your right to write!
#keepgoingChuck!

Michael

America continues to become homogenized. Go to an IHOP anywhere in the country and you get the same experience. Go to a Kohl’s department store (you pick the place). It’s the same as any other Kohl’s. The list goes on (Office Depot, Home Depot, Best Buy). National chains bring consistency (and tedium). They also tend to drive smaller stores out of business.

KOA attempts to do the same thing, with much looser standards than any other franchisers. As a full-time RVer who has been doing this for many years, my opinion of KOA is also one of consistency. While KOA parks vary from good to bad, just like other, non-franchised parks, there is always one-thing that sets them apart. Experience has taught me that they are almost always more expensive than others. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Other times you don’t. YMMV.

Carol Ann Boteler

Chuck, you do a fine job. Please don’t let the negatives get to you. There are far more friendliest out here. Your article had something to say, which I agree with, and you said it well. I’m sorry for those who misunderstood you — seems there are always people who are determined to misunderstand. Keep up the good work. I like to read your opinions whether I agree with them or not. So keep ’em coming. Thanks. (I’ll send a check when I can. )

James I

Chuck, I have been reading your newsletter for a long time. And in the past I ordered quite a few things from your bookstore. I wish you still had it.
Your writing is first rate and thought provoking. I totally agree with your assessment of RV parks and the poor quality of the RV’s made today. Keep up the good fight.

Seann

“KOA is the largest chain of commercial campgrounds in the world and should be setting the bar high for other RV park operators.”

It is too bad that KOA has become slave to the almighty dollar and now taking anyone that wants to fly KOA banner in as a park.

RetSgt53

Chuck, I agree with your article and your follow-up. I have stayed at KOA’s and Yogi Bear Parks with the same problem with the sewer hookup. Maybe, the parks have not caught up to the growing number of campers and I suspect they made more sites to attract more campers. Thereby, making the sites smaller and less attractive. If you stay one or two nights that might not be a problem for some, but I do not return to those campgrounds. Camping is a lifetime experience and great memories are always a good thing. Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your articles. I am planning our next “great get away”.

Karen Carter

Too bad the KOA rep. was as tone deaf as the United Airlines CEO. Amazing the larger these groups or corporations get the quicker they seem to forget who they serve and who created their success (their customers)….
Too bad. Chuck keep up the good fight and shine a light on these issues. It is appreciated. We RVers need a voice.

Rory M Roberts

Chuck, I wanted to Thank you, but the 52 others before me have said it all. Everything you said in your article was thought provoking and true. I’m not anti-KOA but until corporate does something to clean up the dumps, I will not stay at any KOA. Keep up the good work and ignore the rude haters. Anonymity has given them a voice, although a very rude one. Upon meeting some of these rude idiots, they would not be able to look you in the eyes. Once again thank you and keep that keyboard hot!!!

Ralph

Keep up the good work Chuck. I agree with you and support you. That’s why I have sent in contributions these last two years.

Total Eclipse Camping

If anyone is looking for a spot for your RV during the total solar eclipse this August, check this place out in Oregon! http://www.totaleclipsecamping.com
The world will go dark for over 2 minutes, where will you be?

Bill

Been camping since I was a youngster and Rv’ing since 1975, so have seen it all and have used every type of camping apparatus….your commentary is spot on and the main reason I read, and financially support, your writings. Keep fighting the good fight so my grandchildren can enjoy this pastime and truly see America!

Ronald

Hey Chuck,stop the presses!! I just googled cranky fat cat rv owner,and geuss what? your picture appeared! Just joking pal,hope I made you smile,John’Duke”Wayne would be proud of a straight shooter,happy camping pilgrim.

Glen & Bette Horsmann - livin the good life...finally... life

Chuck, I’m a parrot to all those, listed above, who applaud your writing, and deeply appreciate your efforts to improve RV’ing for everybody. And as you know our World of camping and Rv leisure time has changed, tremendously!

So keep on clucking, and crowing, about the principles that most of us live by; one of which is “The Golden Rule”, in its positive form!

And keep up your writing…for the sake of us all!

Larry

Chuck,

I look forward to your essays every week and appreciate your efforts in trying to make the RV life better for everyone. Keep up the great work and keep the narrative going.

My wife and I are preparing now for our first cross-country adventure and will be staying in all types of parks: state, national, and private including KOA and Good Sam. I’ll be writing a blog as we go (elandemsadventure.blogspot.com) if you are interested in following our experiences.

Lynn Hudgens

It isn’t you Chuck. We seem to live in a day & time when civility has “gone out the window,.” From road rage to bad behavior in large retail chain stores, courtesy and being polite are not practiced.. It is the same -minded folks that are rude in all venues.

Stick to your game plan of improving the RV industry. Sewer problems don’t apply to just campsites….sometimes they apply to the humans in them. (their mouths especially). Hopefully the rest of us can set an example that will have a good impact.