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Campground living can be rather exciting, but occasionally we run into the Campers from Hell. Usually this is during the “beer-drinking holidays” or on weekends. We try to remind ourselves that these folks are just temporary neighbors and that either they will move on or that we will.
What makes a Camper from Hell? Usually anything that involves breaking the campground rules (especially the standard “do not disturb your neighbors” rule that most campgrounds have) or intentionally disruptive behavior.
First impressions are not always accurate. I have seen campers that looked like they were rolled over in a tornado or retrieved from the junk yard drive into the campground; and, I assumed they were going to be party people only for them to be some of the nicest (and quietest) Camping neighbors we’ve ever had. Then again, I’ve seen quaint families in quarter-million dollar motor coaches pull in, only for the campground management have to call the law to have them removed after they started a knife fight!
Most campgrounds have strict quiet hours. Since campsites are in close proximity, it is only fair that loud music or campfire conversation be reduced during evening hours. However, some folks – those Campers from Hell, just don’t care if their neighbors get any sleep. We have been in situations where these folks have left their outdoor speakers on (while they remained inside), started shouting contests over their own loud music, played loud (and sometimes offensive music) for hours and sat drunk around the campfire screaming (or howling like wolves in one case!) until the wee hours of the morning.
Another type of Camper from Hell is the irresponsible dog owner. They either abandon their dog (outside or inside) for hours on end and force the dog to bark for attention or they allow their dog to continually bark (without discipline). Many campgrounds now have weight limits on dogs or breed-restrictions, yet some may allow larger dogs or dogs which have been stereotyped as aggressive. I like animals and won’t get into the whole “aggressive breed” debate – but I do feel some dogs (because of their humans lack of understanding obedience training) that should not be allowed in campgrounds. And this can be any breed. I was attacked by a small poodle in campground! Some dogs are just not good campground dogs – there are too many people, too many noises, other dogs, etc… for them to deal with if they aren’t trained and their human companions are irresponsible.
Another type of Camper from Hellis the Slammer. These are the folks who are constantly slamming things – doors, windows, cupboards, storage compartments, younameit! RVs are insulated, but in such close quarters, noises like that carry. Especially in the middle of the night.
Recently another one on my list has been those odd-hour cell phone users. I have woken up to the sound of “Can you hear me now?” – only to look out my bedroom window to see a shadow of a manic trying to get better cell reception at 3 AM. Apparently these folks don’t realize the rest of the campground doesn’t want to hear their conversation, especially so early in the morning. Definitely qualifies for my list of Campers from Hell.
I have nothing against folks who drink, but if you drink to the point you are howling at the moon – you are a Camper from Hell. These folks are usually weekenders looking for a good time. Although I don’t understand why they waste money 40 bucks a night at a campground when they can get drunk in their own backyard for free.
Fortunately we know that these Campers from Hell will be moving on (or we will). If you are in campground, please remember to obey the campground rules and be a good neighbor. If not, you may end up in one of my books someday!
NOTE: Incase you are wondering about the Campers with the homemade BBQ grill welded to their bumper (photo) … yes, they were Campers from Hell. Not because of the grill, but because they had no regard for the neighbors and played loud music at all hours.
It is rather interesting for us to sit down and watch the Weather Channel on TV these days. This has been a winter of rather odd and extreme weather.
Last winter we stayed on the North Olympic Peninsula (WA). This season it appears that Mother Nature is giving the state of Washington a little bit of everything she has to offer! We have been shaking our heads in disbelief wondering what we would be doing now if we were there this winter.
Wintering in a RV is not as miserable as it may sound to most folks. We have met a number of Campers who enjoy RVing in the wintertime. If you are prepared for the weather, it is definitely a rewarding experience.
Most books on RVing discuss winterizing your rig and RV websites offer suggestions on everything from tank wrapping to banking heat.
The main thing to remember about winter camping is that you have to be self-sufficient. You can’t rely on electricity if a snow or ice storm brings down trees or utility lines. And you can’t rely on driving to get propane when your tanks run out because the roads may be snowy, ice or blocked with downed trees. Campgrounds are often located outside main power grid zones and when the electricity goes out, they are usually the last locations to get the power back on.
When you winter camp, you must plan on relying on yourself in the event of an emergency. In a sense, you have to prepare to boondock, even if you are in a 5-star RV resort!
The problem we have found with fellow RVers who attempt to winter camp is they don’t understand about maintaining their heat. Most RVs don’t have curtains (or “real” curtains that function as stick-house curtains do). Although our fifth-wheel has thermopane windows, day/night shades (these are blinds that most newer RVs have – they are great, but no substitute for insulation) and partial RV curtains, we could still feel cool air around our windows. So we had custom-made curtains (with black-out) made for each window area. This helps hold in the heat in winter (and the air-condition in summer).
We also have skylights, which can be a source of heat-loss. We purchased insulated covers (that velcro on) from a camper dealer. During the day when the sun is out (and hopefully temps are warmer) we remove the covers. In the late afternoon when temps usually begin dropping, we place the covers on again.
We layer our clothing during winter. It keeps you insulated and you aren’t kicking up your propane furnace every ten minutes!
In cold weather we run a small electric ceramic heater on low during the day. We reverse the switch on our ceiling fan to force heat throughout our fifth-wheel. Do not leave a ceramic heater unattended! And when you purchase one, make sure it has a switch to control the temperature and will automatically turn off it tilted or flipped over. Ceramic heaters are rather inexpensive (less than a tank of propane!) and are great ways to bank your heat during the day.
In the evening we keep the ceramic heater on (still the low setting) but turn the temperature up just a little higher. We turn our propane furnace on, yet keep it at a lower setting, knowing the ceramic heater will keep us nice and toasty when the temps drop below freezing.
The use of a ceramic heater helps us save propane in case of a power outage. Although we do carry extra propane with us, as we have a propane generator, it is foolish to waste it in winter conditions. We have went several days without power in the winter and the nearest propane company (that was able to pump propane with the weather) was over twenty miles away. A rather long drive in icy conditions!
Wintering in a RV is a great experience if you are prepared for it. There are a number of books and places on the internet where you can read about winter camping. Just remember that being self-sufficient is the most important thing for a winter Camper!
Here are a few of the most memorable campground office conversations I have had. Obviously it’s not verbatim, but you get the idea of how the conversation went.
- “Before you run my credit card, I need to pay the bill. Can you wait a week before you run it, but go ahead and make the reservation now?”
- “I don’t have a credit card.” “Do you have a checking account that we can use to hold the reservation?” “No, but I have a Visa. Will that work?”
- “Please don’t send me a reservation confirmation letter. I don’t want my husband to know about it.” ( I didn’t ask for her to elaborate!)
- “I don’t want to make a reservation, but if my wife calls, can you tell her you’re full that weekend? I want to stay home and watch the game.”
FRIDAY NIGHT CHECK-IN
- “What time does the gate close?” “Midnight tonight.” ”My beer-drinking buddies won’t be out of the bar until 2. Can they crawl under the gate?”
- “If we left the dog at home, would we have had to pay for the dog now?”
- “Do you have a groceries in your store? We didn’t bring any food.”
- “What’s the latest we can check-out Sunday without you calling the cops?”
- “Quiet hour? You’re kidding, right?”
- “If it rains tonight, can we get our money back?”
- “Who do I pay for the coin-operated showers?”
- “This campground is clean for being in the woods.”
- “Do the rustic cabins have maid service?”
- “My campfire won’t start. Do you have any old motor oil?”
- “I left my shampoo in the shower and now it’s gone. Can you tell whoever took it to stick it back in the first shower building when they realize it’s not their shampoo?”
- “You said there is a free ice cream social, but you didn’t say how much it was.”
- “If I get attacked by a bear, can I shoot it?” “Sir, you can’t have firearms in here and if you do, I have to report you to the sheriff.” “Oh, I don’t have a gun, I was just wondering what to do if a bear attacked me.” “Here’s a brochure on how to avoid bears.” “You serious? You do have bears?” “Yes, sir.” “What kind of campground has wild animals?”
- “Can I cancel my mother-in-law’s reservation?”
- “My son didn’t pack his shoes. Is there anyone camped here with children with size 5 feet?”
- “You have too many squirrels.” “Probably because we have so many nuts.” (Yes, I said that with a straight face!)
- “I don’t know about this dog policy. How can I pick up pee?”
- “If I get a tent site and have visitor’s with a motorhome, can they just pay the extra vehicle fee?”
I received numerous emails regarding “Campground Living: Better than Reality TV” ( http://hscooper.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/campground-living/ ) and will definately be posting more crazy, zany and just plain odd things we have seen at campgrounds throughout the years.
Yet some of the “best” experiences have actually come from working at campgrounds. If you think living in a campground is better than reality TV, then let me tell you, campground working is better than a talk show!
The field of outdoor hospitality (sounds fancy, huh?) includes working in campgrounds, parks, resorts and marinas. There are numerous areas to work – from office work to housekeeping to maintenance.
We have worked (workamped) at camgrounds and boating resorts. We have done everything from be Camp Hosts to work every area of the resort. Each experience has added another funny story to share.
The majority of memorable moments that I have had come from working the office. The great thing about the office is you get to interact with the guests more. It also takes a seasoned person to work the front desk or main check-in of a busy campground or resort. Some guests are just not happy Campers and it can be emotionally draining.
I am pretty seasoned in hospitality and can just glance at Campers coming in and know how their trip has been up until the moment they stepped through the door. I can tell if a husband and wife haven’t spoken to each other for several hundred miles, if they had their RV or tow vehicle break down en route, if they don’t get along with their children / grandchildren who tagged along, if they are really frugal Campers, if they are newbies (new to camping) or if they are Full-Time RVers.
I could tell you how I can identify these Campesr from within a few moments of contact – that alone is worth a few laughs – but like a magician, I can’t reveal all my secrets!
One of my favorites is the frugal Campers. They are what I call Counter-Slappers. They are the ones who come into the office, scrutinize the surroundings and then ask you how much it is to spend the night. After you tell them, they slap the counter and loudly proclaim, “I’ve been to every campground in this country and I have never paid that much to spend the night!” If it’s not the nightly rate, they grumble about something else – extra person fee, Cable fee, dog fee, you-name-it… Counter-Slappers find any reason to make a fool of themselves. If these folks appeared on a talk show, they would be the ones throwing chairs or flashing the audience.
It wasn’t until I worked at a RV park in the state of Washington that I had to add a sub-category, which I call extremeCounter-Slappers. These are the Campers (or Day Users in the case of two ECSs I encountered) who slap the counter and then pronounce that everything is a conspiracy or some sort of personal plot against them. These are the talk show type that make you shake your head and say, “Where did they dig this guy up?”
One of my favorite types is the new Camper. There are three types of Newbies: Questioner, Know-it-All and the Helpless. These are the folks you would roll your eyes at if you saw them on a talk show.
The Questioner obviously questions everything. My favorite has been the woman who asked, “Does full-hookups mean we get full-hookups?” I like this type - they create some humorous table-conservation that evening!
Now the Know-it-All really tests my patience. These are new Campers who have either spoken to someone who told them things about camping or they read a book or magazine article about camping and are suddenly experts. Like the man who told me that no hookups (it was a dry camp) was okay for him and his new 40 ft. motorhome. He was adamant he didn’t need hookups. I gave in and registered him. Twenty minutes later he came back and said, “You said you had no hookups, but where is the electricity and sewer?”
Although they can be tiring and needy, you have to love the Helpless Newbies! My personal favorite was the woman who came up and told me “My toliet stinks!” I asked her if they had dumped their black water tank (sewer holding tank) and she told me they didn’t need to dump “any black water”, just get rid of their toliet smell.
But these are just a few Campers you encounter working in the office. There are other types and you encounter several more types working outside in the campground! Some can be rather annoying, but again, it makes for great story-telling when it’s all over. Who needs talk shows when you work in a campground?!
Many of the campgrounds we visit do not have fire rings or allow fires in the RV section. A few have special areas designated for fires, but usually only on certain evenings.
We enjoy cooking outside and sometimes the little grill just cannot replace the experience of cooking on a open fire. One of our family favorites is making Hobo Pies.
Normally to make a Hobo Pie, you need to have a Hobo Pie Iron. They are rather reasonable in price and can be found anywhere that sells camping supplies, from Cabela’s to Target. The “iron” consists of two identical pieces that “sandwich” together and then is placed over the campfire.
Since we are usually not able to make Hobo Pies over a campfire, we use a traditional sandwich maker. There are several inexpensive ones on the market and occasionally you can even find one on sale for under $15.
The best type of sandwich maker for Hobo Pies is one that has room for two sandwich’s and divides the sandwich in half (four sandwich halves).
To make a Hobo Pie you take two slices of bread and butter them. You then place the butter-side down on the bottom of the sandwich maker. You then place your “fixings” on top of the bread. When you are finished, you place the second piece of bread over it with the butter-side on top. You then clasp your sandwich maker shut and wait for the light to indicate your Hobo Pie is ready.
The main thing to remember is that Hobo Pies are sealed and the contents will be very hot. If you put something that can boil (like filling or meat sauce) it may splatter and burn you. So be cautious when eating a hot Hobo Pie.
You should also be careful not to overfill your pie as it may cause the bread to break. If it breaks in the sandwich maker you will not only have a mess to clean, but the smell of burnt food in your camper.
There are many different things you can use for Hobo Pies. My personal favorite is the simple peanut butter and jelly pie; however, I like to either put marshmallows or spread marshmallow fluff on mine. I know people who add banana slices to theirs. Or forgo the jelly and just have peanut butter, banana and marshmallows.
Fruit fillings also make wonderful Hobo Pies, especially apple, cherry and blueberry. You can then take the pies and roll them in sugar for an added treat! Be wary of using pudding fillings though, as they are extremely hot and very messy.
Hobo Pies also make great meals. A favorite is making a pizza pie with cheese, pizza sauce and toppings. Quick and easy sandwich pies can be made with simple canned chicken, ham or turkey meats.
Pretty much anything you can think of can be made into a Hobo Pie!
Another thing that I have learned is that flour tortillas make great substitutes for bread. The only difference is that you need to cut them square (and leave them large to create a seal). These are especially great if you are having pizza or taco Hobo Pies. The only thing with tortillas is that you may have to leave them in a little while longer if you like them a nice golden color.
Sometimes we have Hobo Pie parties and gather a variety of ingredients. Everyone makes their own creation from the buffet of cheeses, meats and fillings.
So do not fret if you cannot have a campfire at your campground. Find yourself an inexpensive sandwich maker and make Hobo Pies anytime!
Most folks who invest time and money in a RV take pride in it. They are serious about RVing and read about proper RV set-up. They follow campground rules and they are considerate to their fellow Campers.
Yet occasionally you find folks in a campground who don’t have a clue what they are doing and it shows!
If you look at the photo above, you should notice several things this RVer didn’t do correctly. The biggest mistake is use rocks to stabilize the fifth-wheel’s front landing gear instead of proper leveling blocks.
The next mistake is backing-in crocked to the site pad and even parking one landing gear on it. In most campgrounds, the site pad is for living area (picnic table, lawn chairs) and not for parking your RV. It is common courtesy not to park your rig (or tow vehicle) on the site pad.
The next obvious mistake is having his sewer hose lying on the ground. Many campgrounds require some sort of sewer hose support and sewer doughnut. Although is not noted as a requirement at this particular Texas campground, this fifth-wheel owner’s sewer hose can’t properly drain “up” into the ground sewer connect without using a great deal of water while flushing.
It is common mistakes such as this that require campgrounds to maintain strict rules and raise rates (to pay fines they receive for Campers who don’t comply).
If you are new to the world of RVing, then you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the proper tools and equipment as well as learn the rules and regulations.
Even if you are a regular or seasoned RVer, you may not be using the proper equipment (or using it correctly). There are many books, magazines and online sites where you can get more information. Visit your local RV dealership store or camp supply store and talk to an associate. If they don’t know, they will help you find someone who does.
Some RV extras (such as leveling blocks) do cost additional money. Yet many items can be substituted. Instead of paying a great deal for leveling blocks, use wooden boards. Often you will find your substitutions work better and last longer. In our case, we use wooden boards that have been cut down to fit our tires and jacks. We have sanded and painted the boards black and they are less noticeable than those brightly colored leveling blocks sold at Camping World and other supply stores. Talk to your fellow RVers and get suggestions for RV extras.
Some campgrounds require that you sign a sheet upon arrival that lists their rules and regulations. If you break any of them, they have the right to ask you to leave, often without a refund. A few of these are extremely detailed – from asking you to pick up after your dog to not washing your rig.
We recently overnighted at a campground in Arizona where we had to sign a form in triplicate that stated we would use a sewer support and doughnut before we were even allowed to register. The owner was tired of getting fined and decided this was the step needed to convey the message to Campers. Another park stated that pickup trucks (even as your tow vehicle) where not allowed in the park after unhooking and had to remain in the visitor parking area. That one was a bit extreme for us and we did not stay there!
Whether you are new to RVing or a seasoned Full-Timer, it is good to keep up on the proper RV tools and equipment. And no matter where you are, take the time to learn the rules and regulations. By being considerate of your fellow Camper – you’ll help to make everyone a Happy Camper!
Just like the folks with stick-houses, we RVers have dug out our Christmas holiday decorations and have begun converting our home-on-wheels to mobile winter wonderlands.
When my family first became Full-Timers we went crazy with the outdoor Christmas lights (we even won a campground decorating contest in Florida one year!), but since we have been travelling 20,000 miles a year, we decided that we would rather have food in our cabinets than a small herd of lighted reindeer.
Yet we have Full-Timing friends who rent small storage sheds at their seasonal RV parks just to store their decorations! One set of friends had their little storage shed literally blown apart during a Florida hurricane. They were in Canada for the summer and we went to retrieve as much of their property we could. I remember their poor plastic Santa being stuck up in a pine tree!
So no matter how much we downsize and simplify, we just cannot shake the holiday hold of decorating. (Including the woman a few campsites down from us ~ she has a flamingo dressed in a Santa costume!)
Most campgrounds are very festive places to spend the holidays. Those in areas with a large concentration of snowbirds (Florida, Texas, Arizona) often have many activities going on. Some activities include: decorating contests, caroling, candle and tree lighting’s, potluck dinners, gift exchanges, ornament and decoration craft classes, local charity sponsorship, toy and food drives and bus or day trips to see light displays, holiday performances, theme parks or shopping centers.
The majority of our Full-Timing friends in Florida have family visit them from out-of-state. They either pitch a tent or bring their own RV (or rental) or rent a cabin or villa inside the RV resort. Children of all ages can be found (and trying their very best to be good!) at campgrounds during the holidays.
We have always enjoyed the carolling. Not many places these days have folks go door-to-door (or in our case, campsite-to-campsite) to sing holiday songs to their friends and neighbors.
Potlucks and holiday dinners and dances are formed. Most are free, but occasionally some campgrounds charge small fees to help pay for meat or musical entertainment. Many we have been to the last few years just go by “Pass the Hat” and folks throw in a few dollars to help pay for the costs of the event.
RVers also remember those in need. Many seasonal campgrounds host toy or food drives or have their own campground clubs volunteer for local charities. We may not all have much ourselves, but we know that we have more than most.
Some campgrounds have a special service for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. There are several RV resorts with their own non-denominational weekly services. We have attended services like these and although the surroundings aren’t as elaborate as churches, they still host a reminder for the reason for the season.
Although Seasonal and Full-Time RVers come from all walks of life, we remember one thing – we are neighbors. We come together and wish each other a season of happiness and goodwill (and, of course, with an exchange of cards, candies or cookie plates).
Did I mention the cookies? Oh, yes! Our little camper ranges and ovens are fully functional and that won’t stop us from whipping up dozens of candies and cookies to friends and neighbors.
Overall campgrounds can be a fun and festive place to spend the holidays as we are all united in the spirit of the season.
After I explain that I am a Full-Time RVer and what that means, the second round of questioning usually involves how boring it must be to live in a campground.
Honestly, I am surprised that Hollywood hasn’t picked up on the idea of a campground as a site for a reality TV show. I’ve seen more action, drama and comedy from our RV kitchen window than Hollywood can dish out!
I think one of the most amazing things I ever witnessed at a campground goes back to when I was a teenager. My family had a Coachmen motorhome at the time and we were vacationing (not Full-Timers yet!) at a campground on Lake Okeechobee (Florida). Our campsite was on the canal and we had our own boat dock. I was fishing from the dock while my parents were soaking up the Florida sun in their lawn chairs when we heard shouting coming from the boat ramp area. A friend of ours who was camped a few sites down ran over and told us that we didn’t want to miss the excitement. Curious, we headed down to the boat ramp area only to see a new boat (still attached to the trailer) and pickup truck slowly sink in the canal. The young man had “borrowed” his father’s new pickup and boat to go fishing. The ramp was slippery (I remember how scary it was for us to back our boat down with the motorhome) and he didn’t bother to engage the parking brake. The poor boat, still strapped to the trailer, didn’t have a chance! To this day I get a chuckle at the memory of that young man shaking his head saying, “I’m so grounded.”
One of the funniest things was to see a RV sink. Not just any RV – an American Eagle Motor Coach! It was actually my first year as a Full-Timer (and I was living alone in a RV resort in South Florida). I was preparing dinner and heard a commotion outside. I saw the motor coach backing into the empty site on the opposite corner. Immediately after backing into the site, the rear tires of the RV sank into the soft sand. His wife was yelling at him to pull forward, unfortunately, this buried it even deeper. By the time he got out of the motor coach, half of the back section was buried in sand. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather and offer help. The man started shoveling, trying to dig out the tires, while others found items to try to drive up on. After digging out the tires, the man started up the RV and tried to drive forward. Of course, this made it worse and once again, he was digging not only sand, but the boards that got broken during the attempt. When he made the second attempt, he took a tow chain that a fellow Camper offered and he had his wife get in their tow vehicle (which had been dropped prior to the backing) and start it up. She began backing their vehicle while he drove forward in the RV. Needless to say, the language was rather colorful after that attempt! Another Camper offered to use his 3/4 ton Chevy truck to pull the RV forwarded and that did work. Once he had the motor coach back in the street, he ordered his wife to walk every campsite first. It was hilarious watching her walk nearby available sites, stomping the ground madly, as if that would prove the ground wouldn’t sink their RV. Unfortunately during all this, I didn’t think about getting it on video. I’m pretty sure that would have gotten me $10,000 quite easily!
One day while living at a Florida RV resort we saw a brand-new motorhome drive by. We could hear Campers already going over to see if the new arrivals needed assistance and we continued eating. Suddenly we heard the motorhome backing up and then a load crash. We bolted from the picnic table only to see a group gather around the back end of the motorhome. The man hit a palm tree and the RV “bounced” forward. While a crowd gathered around to help, they really didn’t – as they were too busy talking to the man’s wife commenting on how beautiful their new motorhome was! No one was even watching him back-up! Fortunately the palm tree was spared.
I could literally write a book (or a soap opera) on campground living, but the one thing I never, ever thought I would witness in a campground is a funeral. Not only that, but one right outside our living room! We were staying in Washington at the time and our campground was on the edge of a historic cemetery. The very first site of the campground actually overlooked the cemetery. We were camped two sites away from it, but joked that we had “dead quite” neighbors. As it turned out, during our last week there, a member of one of the local tribes passed away and was buried in the cemetery. They held his funeral party on the first campsite. Since it was a chilly day, they even started a campfire. (That’s our rig in the photo above.)
From seeing pot-bellied pigs in tutus (with their own tents I might add) to watching a man wrestle a wayward gator, I would never consider living in a campground boring!