Do you remember the movie Deliverance? When you have just hooked up in a campground for a relaxing night’s rest, it’s not the movie you want to bring to mind. But I couldn’t help it.
“Squeal like a pig! Squeal like a pig!”
The line coursed through my brain with a sound from the campsite next door. Yes, a squeal, followed by a string of expletives. And that was just the beginning.
Peeking out from closed shutters, we saw tribal chaos—a boisterous group of bare-chested males, a firearm shared between them. That it turned out to be a pellet gun availed only faint comfort. They were shooting at a target in the water. Between them and the target was a blond-haired child in diapers, clearly a reveler’s progeny, playing at water’s edge. This meant the pellets were zipping over her head. Or, she was the target.
I’ll never know what was causing this ugly scene except most assuredly a malted beverage.
Few things are worse than plopping down into a situation like this after plunking down money toward a relaxed and quiet stay.
The saving grace turned out to be that when the sun went away, so did the loud people next door. Until they left, or collapsed in a drunken haze, we debated our options—to contact the proprietors, who had gone home, or to address the matter personally and request some quiet. The latter notion was quickly quelled by the thought of a mixture of firearms and firewater.
These desperate moments represented the rusty, corroded bottom of an otherwise satisfactory Texas trip, one with many highlights. It took us all the way from Northern Colorado to the Gulf Coast.
Anybody who embraces the RV park route experiences things he or she would want all parks to emulate, and things he or she would not want to face again in this life.
Highlight: The singular pleasure of a stay at the Corral Drive-in/RV park at Guymon, Oklahoma, a friendly place with a classic ‘60s-style snack bar that cranks out pizzas and sno-cones with gusto. Its only problem on movie nights is those who wait too long to get in line with their orders. Our night there it was packed for a double feature. Those who stayed through The Avengers and Hunger Games abided by management’s request that they respect the RVers who had earlier called it a night.
Highlight: The Alamosa, Colorado, KOA campground. It had the whole package of family activities, including a pancake breakfast on weekends. RV parks often are havens for isolation. This was the opposite, and interaction was kind.
Highlight: The Forest Oaks RV Park in Austin, Texas. Perfect in every way—from a swimming pool and hot tub open all night to a lighted mini-pavilion with a grill ever at the ready for all patrons, as long as they cleaned up. Rather than require customers to make the “trash receptacle death march” that some do with their accumulated waste, the park had a trash pickup every morning. Proprietors obviously respected clientele. That respect was returned. We will return.
Highlight: Jamaica Beach RV Park near Galveston—the gulf in walking distance, a heated swimming pool and hot tub every bit as beckoning, as well as friendly management.
Approaching the end of a long trip, we had a pleasant surprise at the Amarillo KOA campground with exceptionally kind office personnel, a nice pool and a super gift shop.
The Alamosa, Amarillo and Forest Oaks RV parks were among the few that supplied disposal bags for doggy waste. Proprietors cannot expect visitors to have these things on their persons every time nature calls Fido. At one RV park the manager came charging out to accost us when one of our dogs did the “doo.” I had every intention of cleaning up, but I also hadn’t the means at the moment and had to trot back to the RV to get the plastic sack I needed. Had he provided the bags, he’d have had little need to charge out like Teddy Roosevelt. Note to park operators: Provide the means of easy doggy hygiene, and most people will abide.
Honestly, RV customers don’t expect much when they pull in. They’re tired. They’re ready for some peace and a place to put out a tablecloth.
To that end, it is clear that one of the problems with some RV parks is people who are a little bit too “at home.” They can be loud. They tend toward clutter. We saw a couple of RV parks that had separate sections for long-term tenants and short-term tenants. We are certain that would have spared us our Deliverance moment, as the cussing, spitting, shooting party next to us clearly was there on a long-term or by-the-week basis.
As little as RV park customers demand, sometimes they hook up in a place that has a third-world, “Somalia in springtime” feel. You almost expect to see militia in hand-me-down camo patrolling, passing out leaflets, demanding a ransom or whatever’s in the cooler.
On the other hand, provide RV travelers with clean showers and soap dispensers, and they’re as happy as if they’re entered the Magic Kingdom. Simple ways to keep the customers satisfied? Now hear this:
Problems with disruption: It should be the RV park keeper’s oath that, “Should anyone disturb you with language, unruliness or more, call immediately, and we’ll be on the scene.” When we encountered such a disturbance, we were at a complete loss as to what to do.
Problems with wet feet: We were in one RV park that had a sign in the showers advising bathers to “keep the floor dry.” Good luck with that. Water goes where water will. This means that it’s hard to keep one’s feet dry after bathing. Having elevated rubberized mats to keep one’s feet above the moisture is much appreciated.
When concrete is a treat: RV park owners may not realize how appreciative someone like me is to find a concrete base on which to park the vehicle. Otherwise I’ll be placing myself down in dirt (fire ants or mud) to get things hooked up. It is a pleasure to have something firmer than terra firma under one’s hindquarters.
Merciful pool hours: A lot of families like ours make their RV park selections based on the availability of a pool. Then they arrive and find they have 15 minutes to use it, no exceptions. It hardly makes sense to shut down the pool before the sun has gone down. And it’s a real bummer if the family has anticipated it for miles and miles.
Cable TV, don’t leave us: I hope it’s not true that more and more RV parks are opting against cable TV, with satellite dishes becoming more ubiquitous. No, we don’t go on the road to watch TV, but having news, weather and sports on the tube really can enhance matters. And it’s more likely the RV park will get our business.
Recycling: Having convenient and well-marked recycling receptacles leaves a good impression on visitors and less of a bad impression on the planet.
Nothing serves like a smile: On our trip we ran the gamut of hospitality, from none at all to “feel the love.” For sure, this matters. Those who greeted us with blank stares and harsh edicts won’t be getting our money again. Those who exhibited friendliness will see us again. The attitude is contagious on travelers, and helps make for an overall better experience. Yes, sometimes a smile is all it takes.
John Young is a self-syndicated columnist living in Fort Collins, Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.