By Chuck Woodbury
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.