Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Classifying Campgrounds

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WOW: Classifying Campgrounds

Star and Vino at the Joshua Tree National Park, a nature preserve
RV camping is very much alive in the US. Out of 30 million RVers in almost 9 million households, about 1.3 million are full timers like Bill and me. We all have almost 2,000 campgrounds to choose from. Cost, location, and facilities may be hard to balance. Being members of Thousand Trails, we can stay at any of their campgrounds for three weeks at a time so it is not that hard. But those three weeks should be as enjoyable as possible so there is still a choice to make. I came up with the following system.

3 quadrants: RV Park, country club, RV haven, and nature preserve
 Construct a chart with an x-axis and a y-axis. Let the x-axis stand for the location of the campground from city to country, going from left to right, and let the y-axis represent amenities and activities from basic to special, going from up to down. We can thus subdivide the space into four quadrants. Going counter-clockwise, at the upper left quadrant is the RV Park, lower left quadrant is the Country Club, lower right quadrant is the RV Haven and upper right quadrant is the Nature Preserve.

camping at the Docks' driveway
RV Park
This is an RV campground within or almost within city limits and has basic amenities or activities, often none. An example is The Oaks at Point South which became our jump-off point to Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Savannah for my friend Dittas when she visited us. But the best example of this category is a hotel in Hermosillo, Mexico which allowed RVs to park at their back parking lot. Another great example is the campground which was within walking distance of the French Quarter in New Orleans!

Walmart RV Park
Now Walmart is America’s best known RV Park! It is said that the average “campsite fee” is $45, the amount one spends for one night of stay. So other grocery chains have followed this excellent strategy. Canadian Tire even has dump stations and fresh water. Belonging to the same class are rest areas (a great number is being shut down due to lack of funds), huge truck stops, and even casinos. But the best example is the driveway of the Rosemary (Bill’s sister) and her husband Jack’s home in Pittsburg,

Country Club 
Palm Springs Country Club
Close to a city, this campground also has many amenities and activities! Where we will be next week, Orlando Thousand Trails in Orlando, Florida is of this type. So is Las Vegas Thousand Trails in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are both just a few miles from great tourist spot and have all the musts: amenities like pool and hot tub, fitness center, mini golf, table tennis and billiards, tennis and other outdoor courts and activities like karaoke, dancing, Texas hold ‘em, pot lucks, movie nights with free popcorn, and concerts.

Nature Preserve 
dry camping at the roadside enroute to the Arctic Circle
Far from a city, this campground may not have amenities or activities but there are fantastic views afforded by its special location. A good example is Kirk Creek Campground of the US Forest Service right at the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur! State Parks are the same. The campgrounds within well-known national parks of the National Park Service like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon are perennial favorites but require months in advance to book.
Bill relaxing at our campsite in Green Mountain, an RV haven

RV Haven 

Farther from the city, this type of campground is also well equipped with amenities and activities. At Green Mountain Resort in Lenoir, North Carolina, each campsite has a large deck beside a little stream which makes soothing ‘music’ throughout the day. The park also has a lake for fishing and great hiking trails all around, a tennis court, a 9-hole golf course, a large clubhouse with pool and table tennis tables, and eature great concerts and parties. Because it is near the town of Lenoir, we could also use the community center’s gym and spa.

a nature haven in winter...
The statistics of RVers is up by almost 10 percent from 5 years ago! And although the 2,000 campgrounds may not all be full all year-round (northern ones are busy during summer while southern ones are cramped during winter), given the right time of year, they can be literally buzzing with activity. To maximize enjoyment, we need to choose the campground well. After all, it is our home for the duration of our stay. So I have found this classification system very helpful.

a country club in fall
We like country clubs and RV havens best. But we also take short breaks in nature preserves. M’A can comfortably dry camp only for 4 days max (constraints of fresh, black, and grey water tanks and battery power). On the other hand, RV parks are places we use to rest for a night (or as a jump-off point) as we make our way to our next campground. We usually try to limit RV driving to at most 6 hours a day. Driving longer can become pretty tiring for Bill (and really boring for me)!

We looooove the campground infrastructure in the US but we often wonder how it is in Europe or Australia/New Zealand? Can we RV there as well? Watch for the results of our research!