A Lot To Learn

 Posted by at 4:56 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 252010

I always enjoy talking to new RVers or wannabes about the fulltime lifestyle, and hopefully, I can help them avoid some of the mistakes we made as greenhorns by sharing our experiences with them. But sometimes I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, and I want to ask them “Do you want me to tell you what I know, or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?”

A couple of weeks ago, at a fuel island, I had a conversation with the fellow next to us, who was driving a fancy new diesel pusher. He told me that he and his wife have been fulltiming for several months now, and that they are about to throw in the towel because it’s just too expensive. “How can anybody afford to pay $1,000 to $1,500 a month on campgrounds and still put fuel in the tank?” he asked me.

I told him that I don’t know anybody who spends even half that much on campgrounds, and he asked me how we do it. I told him about all of the ways we save money on camping fees, from free campgrounds, to discount programs like Passport America, camping at Elks and Moose lodges, fairgrounds camping, and boondocking.

“My wife would never do any of that,” he said. “We joined Passport America, but we pulled into one campground and she said “No way” and we drove right back out. We have never boondocked, she wouldn’t stand for it. We only stay at four star rated RV parks, because she doesn’t like the looks of the people at other places. It’s costing us a fortune, but what else can we do?”

I felt like telling him that his wife needed a lesson in reality, but I knew it wouldn’t matter. It was obvious that she wanted nothing to do with the RV lifestyle, and that she fully intended to have a miserable time of it until she finally made him miserable enough to give in and go do whatever she wanted to do instead.

This can be a very affordable lifestyle, if one takes the time to learn about the many ways you can keep camping costs low. But, one has to be willing to settle for less than upscale RV “resorts” (and there are a lot of excellent campgrounds that don’t get a four star rating), and flexibility is also a major asset to have. But some people, like this lady, just will not be happy living the gypsy lifestyle, and that’s fine too. It leaves more opportunities for the rest of us.

I also had an interesting conversation with a couple while I was doing some genealogy research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City a while back, but I really had to bite my tongue to keep from bursting their bubble. They noticed my Gypsy Journal t-shirt, struck up a conversation, and told me they had just purchased a new diesel pusher, and would be taking delivery in three days.

I congratulated them, and the husband told me that they looked at a lot of RVs, both new and used, and decided to go with a new motorhome because, while they don’t plan to become fulltime RVers, they will be traveling six to eight months a year. “We just don’t want to mess with repairs and stuff,” he told me. “With a new motorhome, all we’ll have to do is turn the key and go the day we pick it up, and not have to worry about anything being broken.”

I told him that he might want to be prepared to spend some time going back to the dealer once they take delivery, because every new RV that hits the street seems to need a certain amount of time to get the bugs worked out of it. I told him that many experienced RVers seem to feel that once you buy a new rig, it takes at least six months just to get all of the stuff fixed that should have been handled before it left the factory.

“No way,” he told me, “That’s why we bought a new diesel pusher. With the money we’re spending, I guarantee you that it will be ready to roll the day we take delivery.”

What could I do, except nod, wish them well, and also secretly wish I that could be a fly on the wall of that new motorhome about a month or two down the road, to see how their thinking would have changed.

Thought For The Day – A father is a guy who has snapshots in his wallet where his money used to be.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  15 Responses to “A Lot To Learn”

  1. Last winter on the way to Tucson we stopped at the Passport America campground in Bowie, AZ. As we were pulling in a class C came off the Interstate just in front of us, they pulled into the campground, looked around, turned around and went right back onto the highway.

    We spent the night for $10 or $12. Granted, it did not look like much, a bit run down, but the host and the people camped there were really friendly, hook-ups were fine and the WiFi was very good. Quiet too, except for the UP main line a half mile away, but most campgrounds come with a train included don’t they?

    You can’t tell a book by it’s cover!

  2. I like your thought for the day, however, it ought to continue and say, “but, the pictures are worth a hundred times what the money was!!!”

  3. Another good post as usual. As 1-year full-timers, we love the freedom we have but the RV parks leave a lot to be desired. That has been our biggest disappointment. We definitely didn’t realize how expensive a lot of parks can be. However, we are learning to balance the budget by some of the methods you have mentioned. We have found that some of the lower priced places have electrical problems, untrimmed trees that scratch the paint, mud when it rains, unkempt sites, questionable residents, etc. I prefer a night at Walmart over places like that. When we want or need to stay in a nice RV park that is expensive, we just balance that out by a few Walmart stops along the way, a fairgrounds, or a nice city park. And, a big thank you…we spent the night at the Archway thanks to your recent post – it’s a ‘must see’ when crossing I-80.

  4. We have found that it is difficult to inform people about our RV usage. I mean,it seems that no matter what the RV topic, people seem to be set in their ways about it. Now I try to just listen to what they say and reply back with just questions. Like, “Don’t you think there are security guards at Wall-Mart?” or “How much money do you think we save at Passport America parks that we can use for other things?” When I put them in the answering mode rather than me, the topic usually gets to the point very quickly. I think people feel they know more when they have you answering the questions or explaining why you do something the way you do. Let them answer!

  5. We’ve had two new RVs — a fifth wheel and a small motorhome. We’ve never taken either one of them back to the dealership. Sure, there were minor problems with both, but it was easier, and cheaper when you figure in the fuel costs, for me to fix the problems myself since the dealerships were over an hour’s drive a way. The most difficult problem was a design issue where the fresh water overflow line in the motorhome was plumbed in such a way that it set up a siphon and we always ended up losing 1/3 to 2/3 of the water. I finally got that one fixed and, for the first time since we bought the camper, the full light stayed lit after filling and the tank is still full 75 miles down the road.

    We’ve visited the I80 arch in 2007, but I didn’t know about being able to stop there overnight. We wouldn’t have this trip, anyhow. Just an hour or so down the road, we camped for free for two nights — in my dad’s driveway.

  6. …and there are always individuals excited to learn new things and about new possibilities (they are good listeners and question askers, think and apply stuff useful to them) and then there are those individuals that already “know everything” they need to know. They make up there minds once don’t realize the reality of making changes once additional information is discovered.

  7. Nick, don’t forget the COE parks! I rarely use Passport parks as I find the COE parks much cheaper. I also try to use state parks when we can, of which most are quite reasonable. Never “resort” parks as you pay thru the nose. I average $15 a night for the most part, but often less. We are currently in beautiful Montana staying at our cousins’ 20 acre spread with 30 amp and full hookup overlooking meadows and mountains. Boy are we lucky and this will really helps my campground budget.

  8. Some people just know it all and won’t listen. Unfortunately they haven’t discovered you can learn from others by listening and watching them. And yes, the first example is of the woman who doesn’t want to be on the road. She will hound him until they stop RVing. He is going to take a bath on the RV when he tries to sell. Same with example number two. We all know RVs require maintenance and the new ones always have a punch list of things to get fixed. He will probably think he has a lemon, will get disgusted and get out of RVing. Another bath in the making.

    While home base for us is in a 5 star RV resort (10 10 10 Trailer Life), we stay at a variety of places all over the country on our travels. My favorites are the Mom and Pop RV parks and city parks. Fairgrounds are a close second (neat stuff goes on there like horses being worked out, weekend events). While they aren’t 5 star in amenities, they usually are 5 star in people friendliness. And what do you really need for amenities? We like a nice level solid site with good electric. Water and sewer are nice but not necessary. We like friendly owners and other RVers. And a nice view is preferred. However if it’s just for one night the view is optional. After all when you close the curtains who knows what is outside.

    So I think some folks look for too much in a campground/fairgrounds/overnight stay. Do you really need a concrete pad, a sauna/hot tub, swimming pool, fishing pond, game room, horseshoes, etc? Do you really use them? Or do you come in, hook up, just relax, cook dinner, maybe take the dog for a walk. So what more do you need than a nice site? We have found many great places. Peter especially likes to use the RV reviews on the internet when trying to find a new place to stay. And we have found many nice places using Passport America. We just went through the Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia this spring staying primarily at Passport America parks. Great deals and some interesting parks. To us all these different places to stay are part of the adventure of RVing. Some adventures are good, some so so and some just strange. But again it’s all part of the adventure. We just like the difference you get every time you move to another camping spot. Perhaps that’s part of some people’s problems, they don’t look at different camping spots as a game and fun adventure. We have some great stories and memories. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

  9. I can’t count the number of times I have posted a reply to someone’s posting of “I’m thinking of buying a new “fill in the blank”, I always post BUY A USED “fill in the blank”. I also find it astounding that people buy a huge whatever, hit the road and hate it. How much time did they spend on forums or rv shows or camping at all?? Do they not talk to each other before they hit the road, did they both want to do it? We hit the road without much planning, we had just hit a wall with our stressful jobs. We thought we could travel for a year after selling the house, not thinking of how much $$ that would cost. Real life intervened and our daughter announced she was having triplets 3 months before we sold the house. Those kids saved us from our stupidity. After closing on the house we traveled for a few weeks, then headed to So Calif to help out for 9 mos. We found our first workamping job a few miles from her house. That was 4 years ago, while we workamp most of the year we get to travel about 3 months a year. It’s a great life but we didn’t go to the finest restaurants, the country club or shop at Saks 5th Ave in our stix & brix life. We love a good bargain and have found great city parks, county parks & state parks, Cabela’s, Passport America and just one night at Wal Mart in our 4 years. I don’t feel deprived, we’ve seen some great sights and want to see many more. My glass is half full and I wish that was true for everyone.

  10. This post (and the accompanying comments) is wonderful. We’re 1 year away from retirement, and have still not settled on exactly what we’re going to do. We do know, however, that our 3-year old travel trailer will do us just fine – as much as I envy those with big 5th wheels and motor homes. (A retired teacher and Air Force NCO don’t make a lot!) We’ve also realized that staying in the nicer parks will be a luxury – and I have no problem boondocking once in a while in order to save money. As long as we can get to where my husband can fish, it won’t matter what kind of campground we’re in. I appreciate the positive info on Passport America – we’ll definitely look into it.

  11. Bravo!!!!….what’s that old saying ‘can’t fix stupid’.

    Marie and the famous Chief check out my blog

  12. Nick, we don’t need any more “RV Snobs” out there so it will be good when she hounds that poor husband to go home! Wish he could find himself a nicer wife, he would probably love RVing. I’m like you, I love sharing our knowledge of this fabulous lifestyle but some folks already know it all and we might be wasting our breath. But there are some great newbies out there that really appreciate the help. They make it fun to share!

  13. We have pulled into some Passport CGs (and other parks) where the “residents” looked “different” from us and lived in some pretty run down looking RV’s. We have never pulled our of those places and have found, for the most part, these different looking residents were warm, friendly and exceedingly helpful for everything from local information to helping with maintenance issues. I’ll never forget the Passport park we arrived at in Kiln, Mississippi in the spring of 2007. The place really looked run down and people there were living pretty close to the bone. Many of the residents were Katrina survivors down on their luck due to destroyed work places, homes and other issues. We were told that the storm surge had flooded the entire campground. The CG manager gave us there best available site and we visited with some of the nicest people we have met anywere. These places are all part of the wonderful RV experience. By the way, some of the most unfriendly people we have ever met RVing were in the most expensive CGs we ever stayed in.

  14. Sounds like you hit two couples lacking a touch of reality in just one month. The first woman seems determined to get the coach sold and the second is clearly going to get a rude awakening.

    We left GNR and are camped in a very nice Passport America Campground in Waco, Nebraska with 50 Amps, pool, nice level sites and view of countryside for $15. Life is good.

  15. “My wife would never do any of that,” he said.

    I always tell people like that they need a new wife.

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