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Clear skies in the forecast for tomorrow's long haul...

A few days ago we got up in the dark AM hours to hit the road… 8 hours later… we found ourselves setting up at another RV park.

Unfortunately, a thunderstorm was rumbling in the distance and we had to set up as quickly as we could before the rain came pouring down.

Imagine our surprise on the following day when we realized our 50 amp electrical cord was damaged… but closer inspection revealed this wasn’t our electric cord! This cord appears to have been clamped at one time as well as being extremely faded on the RV plug (female) end.

Now at the previous campground we took the truck and did some all-day sight-seeing one day. The day before (at this same campground), a man came around to our site to install an electric meter at the pole. Our first thought was perhaps the maintenance man removed our cord and somehow damaged it. But again, at closer inspection we realized it wasn’t ours at all.

Even if the maintenance man somehow damaged the cord and tried to fix it with a clamp, then removed the clamp… the impression dug so deep into the cord and the fading of the plug at the RV (female) end could not have happened overnight.

Although at this point it didn’t matter, we needed to have a safe electrical cord. Of course, when you need a RV part, there are no dealers around! Fortunately we found a mobile home repair supplier with a selection of RV parts about 50 minutes away. They did not have a replacement cord, but had a new 50 amp (male) plug for us to fix this one. It will have to make do until we can get to a RV dealer or supplier and replace the entire cord.

We have heard crazy stories and experienced equally crazy things during our RVing years, but this… well, we are still amp’d up over this.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Fortunately the forecast is for clear skies… ūüėČ

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A growing number of RVers have discovered some of the most reasonable camping in the country can be found at casino locations. Even if you are not a gambler or crazy about all-you-can-eat buffets, you should give it a try!

Our first experience at casino camping was actually staying at a¬†KOA¬†right beside¬†the casino. Although it was within¬†walking distance, a shuttle from the campground was available at any time. At check-in we not only received discounted buffet coupons, but also casino free play! (If you are not familiar with this, “free play” is what some casinos give new players to get started. It is actually “money” on a players card you are given to play free. Many casinos offer this with amounts ranging from $5 to over $20. You never know… $5¬†and the right¬†game¬†may win you a new RV! ūüėČ ) And after we went into the casino, we were rewarded with free gifts (mugs and shirts) for just signing up! As you walked through the casino there were¬†self-serve drink stations where you could get sodas, teas, coffee, ICEEs¬†and flavored waters for free!¬† And if the ICEEs didn’t lure you in, the free popcorn did! ūüėČ

Of course, this was a KOA campground beside the casino and all the amenities – Full hook-ups, WiFi, Cable TV, Big Rig Friendly concrete pad pull-thru site, etc… were available. Yet it made us realize that not only where casino campgrounds a great place to overnight, but also get a cheap meal, souvenirs and be secure.¬†¬†

Casino campground in California

The larger and modern casinos which offer their own RV parks are normally¬†designed for Big Rigs as the goal of the casino is to keep you there. They don’t want you to have to unhook, so sites are long and wide and usually the pad is concrete and level. And since most casinos are in remote areas, they know you don’t want to feel too isolated and often offer Cable or Sat TV in addition to high-speed WiFi. Overnight rates that would often run into $60-70 at other campgrounds may be as little as $20 at a casino campground! In fact, we have stayed at some that were less than $20 and received¬†additional nights of camping free! There was one we even stayed at for 10 days (all the amenities, plus a pool and tennis court) and it cost under $100. Although casino campgrounds do have limits to the length of stay allowed.

Smaller casinos (especially those in the Western US) may not have a RV park, but might offer an area for RVers¬†to¬†camp away from other casino patrons. We have seen¬†areas simply fenced off that have water and electric and allow RVers to stay overnight free or for a few dollars. The only concern we have in this type of situation is how often the casino’s security patrols the area. We had¬†visited one in Arizona with this type of camping area and it did not interest us at this particular location. However, most are patrolled regularly and some even have a guard-house nearby the designated camping area.

Some casinos don’t have a RV park or area for camping, yet allow overnight parking. If you aren’t sure if they allow overnight parking, you should contact the casino first. Even if you’ve purchased a casino camping directory or visited a casino camping website, you should verify it with the casino as policies can change at any time and special rules may apply.

Casino campground in Louisiana

If you find yourself overnighting¬†in a casino parking lot, you should follow the rules of overnight parking. And, you should be especially considerate of where you park at a casino. Don’t take too many spaces, yet make sure you allow a proper distance between you and your RV neighbor. If there are no other RVs there when you arrive, remember you are setting the standard!

If the casino has special instructions for overnighting (such as providing your license/vehicle information or obtaining a window tag ) make sure you tend to that right away. They may also have additional information about how long you can stay and they may also have their own policy/rules regarding blacktop boondocking.

Some casinos may not allow overnighting¬†(especially those which offer RV parks). If they don’t allow it and you just want to patronize the casino for a few hours, contact security or customer service and let them know you are in the facility and are not planing to¬†boondock.

Camping by a casino in Nevada... where are we? Oh yeah, way back there! ūüėČ

¬†Even if you are not planing on gambling, there are other ways to patronize casinos. Many offer not only buffets, but also cafe, speciality and formal dining restaurants. Some of the best pizza we’ve gotten has been¬†from casino eateries! ūüėČ A growing number of casinos offer special performances¬†and ¬†shows¬†(sometimes tickets are reduced or free for folks staying with them) , spa and hair salons, gift shops, gas stations and convenience stores.

And some have set up reward systems so that if you sign up for a free players card, you earn points for free items or discounts. In California, several of the casinos we stopped at had discounted fuel for those with players cards! And if you had earned points on it from playing, shopping or eating at the casino, you got more of a discount.

So the next time you see a casino, you may want to consider giving casino camping a try. You never know, they may have a buffet, free tee-shirt or discounted fuel just waiting for you. ūüėČ

It’s late at night… you’ve been driving all day… traffic was bad… you had trouble finding the campground… you set-up outside as much as you can… you enter your RV and try to finish settling in for the night… But then the smell hits you. Yep! You’ve stepped in some doggy doo and carried it in on your shoes!

Sound familiar? No? Then how about when you get ready to step into your tow vehicle  to explore the area and find a pile of poo in your path? Or have an oddly-wet tire? Oh, and did I mention you are several sites away from the dog walk? Sound more familiar to you now?

There is something about camping with dogs that makes some dog owners, in my opinion, Crappy Campers. They completely disregard the rules and regulations of not only the campground, but sometimes also county and state laws (usually regarding leashes).

Don’t get me wrong, I love animals and certainly don’t blame them for their owner’s directions (or lack of them). Many campgrounds have posted rules and often supply a sheet or handout to pet owners. Common rules include leashes and lengths (usually six feet), designated dog areas, waste disposal, constant or frequent barking or dogs being left unattended (caged or tethered outside without someone present).

We have stayed (and worked) at campgrounds that even make the owner sign-off that they will comply with the rules or be asked to leave without refund. One campground we were at even listed each rule and made the owner check-off each one to show that it was read and understood before they signed it. In addition, they were charged $5 per pet, per night. And to make it really hit-home, they received a carbon-copy showing that they acknowledged the rules!

Many campgrounds are going dog-friendly, yet have strict rules to keep it safe for people and other pets. Unfortunately people abuse the rules. It not only shows lack of consideration for other people and dog owners, but also their own pets. A park we stayed in California was prone to bears, ¬†mountain lions and other bigger animals (even Big Foot tales at that one!) ¬†and at registration you had to give your pet’s name and breed/color information in event they were spotted being carried off!

And, unfortunately, those that do not follow the rules may also find their dog stolen, attacked by another dog or animal, run over or possibly dead.

So please, don’t be a Crappy Camper this summer. If you love your pet you will follow the rules and quite possible prevent me from having poo on my shoes! ūüėČ

UPDATED: I no sooner click “post” on this when I see a woman with a little dog leaving a “deposit” on our campsite… Good grief! ūüė¶

¬†If you are a RVer who doesn’t have the storage space or site space for a large flag pole, you may want to consider a garden-size or beaded flag kit.

 I made this beaded flag (left) four years ago and it has been a great  for RV parks where site space is limited. It takes a little patience to make a large flag, but well worth the effort.

Most hardwares, garden centers and hobby shops have a section for garden-size or holiday flags. They require little storage space.

NOTE: If you make a beaded flag, I suggest buying the pony beads in bulk. A great site with beading instructions can be found at Craft Designs 4 You .

rig in brf pull-thru

At least one campground in our directory truly is "Big Rig Friendly"

Have you pulled into a campground advertised as ‚ÄúBig Rig Friendly‚ÄĚ only to arrive and see a maze of overgrown trees and sharp turns? Or perhaps you were lured in by the promises of ‚ÄúFree WiFi‚Ä̂Ķ until you found out that the wireless service only extended to two campsites ‚Äď both of which were already occupied by permanent residents?

Normally we gumble to other RVers and put a big X across their listing in our campground directories so that we know to avoid that campground next trip. Yet the last year of travel has left us with two directories filled with big X’s and seriously questioning the standards campground directories have.

One of the campgrounds we recently stopped at in Biloxi, MS was advertised as ‚ÄúBig Rig Friendly‚ÄĚ with pull-thru sites. After passing the campground twice (they had 2 sets of directions in both directories and naturally both were wrong ‚Äď as well as the omission that the campground entrance was wedged in-between two businesses along a busy highway). Once we did find our way, we were rather taken back by the appearance. This ‚Äúcampground‚ÄĚ appeared to be a mobile home park with no RVs or RV spaces in sight. Although it was difficult to be sure as there were so many large trees that it blocked the sun and our headlights came on! After driving around half of the park, trying to avoid trees and keep low-lying limbs from damaging our roof, we found the office only to be ‚Äúgreeted‚ÄĚ by a woman who told us within five minutes of conversation that she hated working there. Then after she escorted us to their Big Rig pull-thru, we had to tell her no. The site was on a grade and not even close to being level. We figured it would take all our blocking (and more) to even keep the door open. ¬†Not to mention the two trees that would have prevented our slides from coming out!

¬†Another one we stopped at in Marianna, FL sounded peaceful and a good place to stay for a day or two. That was until we pulled up to the office ‚ÄúStop‚ÄĚ sign and an extremely rude woman came out saying who had to move off the road (it was a two-way road and there was no parking anywhere in sight) so that her residents could get out. We weren‚Äôt in anyone‚Äôs way and there was no one coming at the time. Then while we were trying to figure out how to leave, a car headed out on this two-way road and she flagged them down and they stopped beside us. We figured a way to turn around and leave, but now she had this vehicle blocking our path to turn around.¬† After they left she returned her attention to us and had the nerve to ask us what we wanted! Somewhat reluctantly we asked if they had any big rig sites (as advertised) for the night. She said there was and pointed to a wooded area. We couldn‚Äôt see any RVs in the area and asked if we could see the site first as we are long and have 4 slides, one of which is a double-room. She said, and I quote her directly, ‚ÄúOh, you can‚Äôt take that thing back there.‚ÄĚ When I questioned if we couldn‚Äôt get our rig back there to look that must mean we wouldn‚Äôt fit in the first place, she ignored me and started off on how people with 45‚Äô rigs towing boats and cargo trailers had been back there. So we just started up the truck again and left her standing there. It‚Äôs folks like that we encourage more of us to overnight at truck stops and Walmart parking lots!

¬†Campgrounds may have ‚ÄúBig Rig‚ÄĚ sites, but that does not make navigating the campground ‚ÄúBig Rig Friendly‚ÄĚ. Dodging trees and low-lying limbs and turning corners on narrow streets (especially with obstacles like little street lamps, fixed trash bins and concrete curbing) is not ‚ÄúBig Rig Friendly‚ÄĚ ‚Äď it‚Äôs a nightmare. Especially if you have been on the road all day and eager to set up and rest!

There needs to be some national standard in campground directories. The days of rating a campground on how clean its shower house is just aren‚Äôt enough for modern RVers. We need someone to set some guidelines for these campgrounds, especially those who are using terms such as ‚ÄúBig Rig Friendly‚ÄĚ and the promise of WiFi so loosely.

Until then, we will continue X-ing our way through the country and warning other RVers of those campgrounds.

 Despite the poor economic conditions and many uncertain of the times ahead, the outdoor hospitality business (RV parks, resorts and campgrounds) are staying filled this summer.

Many folks have re-discovered the fun in camping, while others are exploring their “own backyard” – just travelling a few hours away from home.

With limited vacation time or funds, many Campers have figured how to make the most of both. Many are either taking one day off a week and taking their scheduled days off  Рsuch as the weekend Рto make a nice 3-4 day camping trip each month or every two weeks. This not only breaks up the summer, but stretches out the vacation time all summer.

Multiple stays at the same campground doesn’t have to be boring. Take advantage of local sites and attractions and make a series of day-trips. Driving an hour or so from your campground can be like a mini-vacation in itself!

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a wonderful day-trip!

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a wonderful day-trip!

If you stay at the same campground or RV resort, you may find yourself eligible for a “repeat” or “multiple stay” discount. Some campgrounds offer 10% or more off on their regular Campers. And many campgrounds offer discounts for extended stays that could save you hundreds of dollars!

If you have family and friends that enjoy camping, see if the campground offers group discounts and family camping areas. If they have family or group areas (for multiple families), you may find it cheaper to divide the cost among the families than to each rent a campsite individually.

If you have children, finding family campgrounds or RV parks that offer activities will benefit both you and your children. Parks such as Jellystone offer many free activities – from wagon rides and movies to crafts and dances. Low-cost activities such as bingo, mini-golf, water slides and ceramics are available at most family-friendly parks.

Make the most of your summer vacation, despite limited time and funds. Go camping… again and again! ūüôā

King Kong in VA

Never know what you'll see on a day-trip!

With rising costs and the economy in a slump, many folks have been  inquiring about becoming Full-Time RVers. It makes a great deal of sense not having to worry about a large mortgage and all the extras burdens that come with maintaining a house.

And this slump also has Full-Timers and Seasonal RVers who normally do not work (because of pension, social security or savings) looking for positions that pay and/or provide a free site space to help stretch their income.

Workamping can be any type of job and any type of position – paid or volunteer. You do not have to travel around to workamp and it does not¬†have to be an outdoor hospitality job. Yet most prefer an outdoor hospitality (i.e. campgrounds, RV parks, RV resorts, etc…) positions because they usually provide a minimum of a free site (with hookups).

Although most of these types of jobs require no or limited experience, there are are many that do (especially computer skills if working in an office). Applications and resumes¬†for campgrounds and RV parks are generally submitted online or by standard mail. Employers usually arrange for phone interviews for those who they feel are qualified. When a decision has been made and both parties agree, often an agreement or contract is made. This covers what the workamper receives (full hookups, Cable TV, etc…), commitment dates, job or position details and any other pertinent information. A signed agreement protects both parties as it assures the workampers that a job will be there when they arrive and the employers will feel confident knowing they have help during the commitment period.

Having worked with other campground workampers and being around them as a campground/RV resort guest, I know that workamping in an outdoor hospitality setting is not for everyone. 

If you are looking for a position in a campground or related venue, then you must realize that you may be called to work at different areas or positions during your commitment period. If someone is sick or does not show up, the public restrooms still need cleaned and the garbage still needs picked it up. When you work at a campground you must be a team player.

Unfortunately, we have arrived at many jobs, only to find our coworkers either padded their resume or puffed themselves up at the interview and would not or could not handle the positions they were given. If you do not want to clean restrooms,¬†if you cannot lift propane tanks, if you cannot operate a computer, etc…¬†then do not apply for a position that may require it! You may think “Oh, I got the job. They won’t care what I can’t or won’t do when I get there.” Well, you are wrong! It is not only frustrating for the employer to find you have limitations or¬†falsified your abilities, but it is a generally a nightmare for your fellow workampers. Be honest!

One of the main problems I have encountered with workampers is the refusal to work the office and / or a computer. A RV park we worked at had a very basic computer program. If you could send an email, you could take reservations. Very basic, very simple. We had one workamper that was deathly afraid of it and had nightmares about it. Her husband said she was having anxiety attacks over it and that after a few days they decided to leave. It turned out that her husband was fine on the computer and she took over his duties (housekeeping and maintenance), while he did hers (office and store). Ironically, she had put on her resume that she was computer savy and had office experience!  So if you do not like computers or are uncomfortable handling money, tell the potential employer you prefer not to work these areas. And if you can work a computer but are very slow, explain that to the employer. I spoke to one employer who said she had one woman who took 45 minutes to check in a Camper! She said she did it correctly, but the speed of the transaction was just not acceptable. The office is a crucial position in a campground and employers need workampers who are comfortable in this area.

We worked with one set who thought they were above working period. They said they knew how to do everything (yet really did not know anything) and quite openly did not want to do anything. They just wanted to sit in their motorhome all day. This meant work not getting done during an already busy camping season. This added more work to the rest of us and finally seeing how this was dragging us all down, they were fired (and given very short notice to leave the property).

Although the campground office may close at 8 PM, that does not mean that things will stop happening! An emergency may occur or other problems after hours. You have to remember that not only are you temporarily employed there, you and your coworkers also live there. If there is an emergency going on, do not hide in your RV and say “I’m off the clock”. It is unfair to the others who work there. You need to be flexible and help keep things run smoothly.

We were working as Camp Hosts and were managing a RV park for 72 hour shifts. We would work the standard office hours and be on-call after hours. If there was an emergency or a serious situation going on, we would come to the aid of our fellow Hosts and they would come to ours. Again, you are not only coworkers, you are neighbors!

Another thing to keep in mind is that you must deal with the public. You may think working as maintenance or housekeeping are jobs were you can “hide” from the public and not have direct contact such as¬†the ¬†campground store or office, but that is not the case. Chances are you will have just as much, if not more contact with the camp guests and visitors.

If you are not a people person then you should give careful consideration to an outdoor hospitality job. It is probably not for you!  And believe me, some people should not be dealing with the public. I worked with one man who insulted a first-time guest at check-in. The workamper told him he thought his Class A was recalled and that he should have bought a better one! How he got through that without a broken nose is still beyond me!

For those that do enjoy working with the public, there are many options. Age restricted or 55+ parks or resorts are great for those who enjoy interacting with older folks. These parks often offer classes and schedule activities. If you enjoy being around families, especially those with young children, consider a family campground or RV park. These campgrounds usually have regularly childrens’ activities and family events. Some¬†RV parks and resorts¬†are more inclined to nightly visitors, while others are more for extended stays. If you like to get to know folks, consider applying at one with seasonal¬†or annual residents.¬†

 If you are interested in workamping at an outdoor hospitality venue, you should consider whether or not you can be a team player, flexible, honest about your abilities and limitations and deal with the public. If you cannot deal with any one of these things, then working a campground may not be for you.

NOTE: This prompted me to outline the pros and cons of workamping. So look for that being posted soon.

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

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