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RVers adopt a wait-and-see attitude

March 22: KOA today released its March monthly report, which was all aglow with upbeat expectations. But today also saw the Fed’s latest hike in interest rates—providing another explanation for why RVers, while clearly interested in hitting the road, are nevertheless refraining from making reservations. It’s not just the weather that can hold storm clouds.

The park-model scam gains steam

March 15: Fish or fowl? As demonstrated by a “glamping” proposal made in southern Colorado, park models can be either, depending on the desired outcome. In this case they’re being promoted as RVs for permitting purposes, but advertised as “adventure cabins” to the eager (but necessarily affluent) campers who can buy them for many hundreds of thousands of dollars —and that’s just for 400 square feet of trailer, mind you, not the land beneath it.

Glamp-zombie invades Joshua Tree

March 11: Lured ever onward by the siren song of rich returns, the bastard zombie known as “glamping” has reeled from one disastrous proposal to another, often without regard for the land it is trampling. Latest case in point? The Flamingo 640 proposal to scrape high desert that’s home to threatened desert tortoises, burrowing owls and Joshua trees in order to create a 75-site “destination resort.”

Danish RVers have US-type problem

March 8: Denmark repeatedly ends up in the top five of the world’s “happiest places,” as reported each March 20 by Gallup, but that doesn’t mean it’s escaped the world’s woes. Now it’s wrestling with a quintessentially American dilemma, precipitated in part by an inadequate supply of affordable housing: should people be allowed to live in recreational vehicles year-round?

Let ’em eat cake: gentrifying trailers

March 5: Scarcely a day goes by without another report of residents in mobile home parks getting smacked with huge rent increases, usually under the pretext that the property manager is simply keeping up with “the market.” But what happens to “the market” when house trailers start selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars—or even ten times that amount?

An early spring comes before the fall

March 2: The weather has become enormously intrusive from one end of the country to the other, for reasons we all know but which many continue to ignore. So even as the International Energy Agency announced today that the world set a new record for carbon dioxide emissions last year, the U.S. Congress is trying to bar retirement funds from looking at the environmental effects of their investments. This will not end well.

Growing identity crisis for RV parks

Feb. 26: A California court has ruled that an RV park is subject to a rent control ordinance ostensibly aimed at mobilehome parks, further blurring the distinction between house trailers and travel trailers—never mind park models and tiny homes. The park manager responded by issuing eviction notices so it can redevelop the property “toward a higher and better use.”

Camping steak: a lot of sizzle, but . . .

Feb. 23: The camping PR machine is kicking into high gear, promising “an exciting outlook for the outdoor hospitality industry.” But real-world RVers seem to be taking more of a wait-and-see attitude, as exemplified by the respondents to KOA’s February report: they’ve made advance reservations for this season at less than half the rate they did a year ago.

What hunters and skiers can teach us

Feb. 21: Recent complaints by hunters and skiers suggest the difficulties—driven by public policy changes and climate change— that await campers trying to enjoy an increasingly diminished great outdoors. Meanwhile, a 2022 survey of the “attractions industry” has found that travelers and tourists of all sorts are measurably less satisfied, which does not bode well for campgrounds.

In a lockstep march to higher prices

Feb. 17: Until recently, the possibility of price-fixing in the highly fragmented campground industry wasn’t a real concern. With upwards of 12,000 campgrounds scattered across the width and breadth of the United States, all but a comparative handful owned by as many individuals, the thought that there could be any meaningful collusion on prices was laughable—until now.

Climate refugees add to camping crush

Feb. 13: The growing prevalence of battered RVs and tents as housing of last resort, crowding city streets, public lands and commercial campgrounds, has been recognized for some time as the inevitable byproduct of soaring rents and gentrifying real estate. But now a growing horde of climate refugees also is becoming an inescapable part of the landscape, driven by extreme weather events that are growing in both number and intensity.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

Feb. 10: KOA is still stumbling in its efforts to get into the glamping game. This week, buffeted by a groundswell of local opposition, it threw in the towel on its plans for building a Terramor Outdoor Resort in Saugerties, New York. But its even more ambitious plans for a double-resort on 990 acres near Yosemite also seem on hold, following last summer’s Oak Fire and more recent torrential rains and flooding.

Good job numbers, but not for RVers

Feb. 4: The employment numbers out Friday have caused great glee and some apprehension, but as far as the campground industry is concerned, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Those new jobs aren’t trickling down to your favorite RV park anytime soon, which means that in most cases you can expect more lousy service and more unkempt facilities as the season wears on.

Now you, too, can buy a campground!

Jan. 31: What do you do when you don’t have enough money to jump into the latest speculative bubble? If your name is Travis John, you try to convince several thousand people to pony up at least $500 apiece to create “a global community of camping enthusiasts by merging blockchain technology with the great outdoors.”

KOA amps up the camping con game

Jan. 25: KOA’s second attempt at diversifying into the high-dollar end of the campground business has run into a buzzsaw of local opposition in Saugerties, New York, which it is resolutely ignoring. But the fight over its plans for a glamping resort raise a broader issue: when do allegedly “temporary” camping accommodations become actual dwellings?

Giddy times at the Tampa supershow

Jan. 20: Near-record attendance at one of the country’s largest RV trade shows underscores the public’s ongoing fascination with camping, but comes with just enough excess to suggest this is one wave that may be about to break. Exhibit A: a 54-foot converted semi-trailer decked out with enough solar panels and water tanks to enable up to a month of boondocking.

RV chickens coming home to roost

Jan. 14: RV parks and campgrounds haven’t been immune to the recent waves of destructive weather, prompting pleas for donations from the industry’s trade association. But even as the damages mount up, ARVC and its members refuse to acknowledge the underlying problem of climate change, much less figure out how best to minimize damages.

We’re not ready for the new normal

Jan. 12: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released a report on 18 U.S. weather disasters in 2022 that each caused at least $ billion in damage, for the third largest such tally on record. But until someone figures out how to make money from dealing with such larger-than-life events, ARVC apparently doesn’t see a problem for its members.

Lions, coyotes and wolves, oh my!

Jan. 8: The so-called WUI problem—for wildlife-urban interface—has received growing attention over the past few years because of the rising incidence of wildfires consuming homes and businesses. But while the focus on been on flora, WUI also includes fauna, with unfortunate wildlife-human interactions also on the upswing.

Part I: ARVC’s misleading name, to whit, it’s not really a ‘national’ org

Jan. 2: The first of a three-part look at how the National Association of RV Parks and Camprounds fails to live up to its name, starting with the observation that only half of the states are affiliated with the organization—and among those that aren’t, the four largest have their own, independent associations.

Part II: ARVC’s name is misleading, because it’s hardly an ‘association’

Jan. 3: While “association” connotes a partnership or fellowship of like-minded people working together for a common purpose, ARVC over the years has devolved into a top-down trade organization increasingly divorced from its members—who, not surprisingly, are slowly declining in numbers.

Part III: RV parks and campgrounds are NOT part of a ‘hospitality industry’

Jan. 4: ARVC’s vision and mission statements both claim its members are part of the “hospitality industry,” lumping itself in with hotels, motels, inns and resorts. But campgrounds and RV parks have far more differences than similarities with such lodging alternatives, making claims of equivalent status as nonsensical as combining trees and horses in one category because they both have limbs.

Too much tinder, not enough water

Dec. 29, 2022: One year after the Marshall fire in Colorado forced 35,000 people to evacuate and destroyed more than a thousand homes, fire experts are coming to believe the entire state is at risk of conflagration. Yet the same climate changes that are turning much of the West into a tinderbox are also drying out its rivers, in a vicious feedback loop that portends even darker days ahead.

First you plan—then ignore the plan

Dec. 23: What happens when a small town’s efforts to plan its future run up against the plans of developers who want to cash in on the RVing craze—and have relatives in local government? Do you really have to ask?

‘Tis better to give than to deceive

Dec. 20: Frank Rolfe, the mobile home parks mogul and “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap’s hagiographer, is now dressing up his predatory instincts by claiming higher prices actually benefit the impoverished classes. His inspiration? Dollar Tree’s decision to increase its prices to $1.25, thereby enabling it to “offer a substantially larger range of items to meet customers’ needs.”

For some RVs, the sky’s the limit

Dec. 14: While some RV owners pooh-pooh the industry’s tentative moves toward electric vehicles, Winnebago Industries reminded attendees at a webinar on the subject that it’s no slouch when it comes to innovation: 50 years ago it introduced “Heli-Campers,”  which converted surplus military helicopters into flying RVs. Maybe it’s just as well that the concept didn’t fly.

More electrifying news for RVers

Dec. 9: RV industry heavyweights like KOA, ARVC and the RV Industry Association are all busy flogging electric vehicles, trying to get campground owners to anticipate the wave by installing EV chargers on their properties. As always, though, the devil is in the details, and there are too many questions with too few answers. The only certainty is that RVers should expect to pay more for campground stays.

In Colorado, camping on private land

Dec. 4: As the American landscape gets overrun by a tidal wave of RVs, overflowing developed campgrounds and soiling boondocking sites with trash and human waste, one possible remedy is being developed in Colorado. Chaffee County has adopted an agritourism-friendly ordinance allowing primitive commercial camping on private land—a surprisingly rare exception to an otherwise general prohibition in most jurisdictions.

Reader responses as a Rorschach test

Dec. 1: Although most people never offer their thoughts on the things they read in blogs like this one, those who do sometime inadvertently say more about themselves than about the subject to which they’re responding. That’s not always a good thing.

Campground sale offers ray of hope

Nov. 29: In a time when RV parks everywhere are being snatched up by developers coveting their real estate, or by investment groups looking to cash in on the latest fad, Maurice’s Campground in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, took a markedly different tack: its 21 acres are being acquired by the town for affordable housing. That means fewer RV sites—but more housing for local employees who have been getting priced out of the market.

Maybe Terramor should be Terrless?

Nov. 26: KOA’s first venture into the glamping segment, under its Terramor nameplate, avoided a lot of issues by converting a former KOA campground—but as it turned out, reboots come with their own problems. So for its next Terramor resort, KOA bought a 77-acre parcel of virgin forest on which it could start from scratch—only to stir up a hornet’s nest of opposition from local residents. It’s not going well.

Mom and pop: pretty much out of it

Nov. 21: Attendees at an ARVC-hosted “Prospective Owners Workshop” were assured by a long-time industry veteran that RV parks and campgrounds remain “a mom-and-pop industry.” But the larger convention belied that assurance at almost every turn, from the declining numbers of family owners in attendance to the $1,000+ cost of a stay at the convention hotel to the skimpy collection of donations for the industry’s disaster relief.

FEMA didn’t get ARVC’s admonition

 Nov. 18: The industry’s split personality over the issue of whether RVs are recreational or residential vehicles was on display again, as an ARVC workshop leader vehemently declared that people “shouldn’t be” living in RVs year-round because they’re not built to housing standards. Less than a week later, the RV Industry Association announced that FEMA was about to issue a “housing proposal request to RV manufacturers.”

Increasingly, it’s about da Benjamins

Nov. 15: Yes, industry leaders proclaimed at ARVC’s national convention last week, the 2022 camping season had been one of the best ever. And yes, a wave of new campers is reinvigorating the industry. And yet. . . .

The new ‘campers’ really aren’t

Nov. 13: Considerably younger, more diverse and more urban than their predecessors, the wave of new campers is reshaping the industry—and not always in a good way.    But what can you expect from a group of whom only 10%, when asked why they camp, answered “to spend time in nature”?

ARVC struggles with park ‘standards’

Nov. 11: You know there’s a problem when people proposing something a) tell you not to get hung up on what it’s called; and b) won’t show you the actual text of what they want. That’s how it was with a push for industry-wide “standards” discussed—but not seen—at the ARVC convention this past week, more than a decade after a similar initiative was roundly rebuffed.

RV meetings will ignore the elephant

Nov. 3: When campground owners descend on Orlando next week for the annual ARVC convention, high on the agenda will be discussions about electric vehicles and what they portend for the industry. But here’s a prediction: while a lot of time will be spent on the importance of RV parks installing fast chargers, little attention will be devoted to the question of how park owners will recoup their “fuel” costs—and none at all to extreme weather, such as Hurricane Ian, which only weeks earlier devastated dozens of Florida campgrounds.

No room for RVs in gentrifying parks

Oct. 31: As RV parks and campgrounds become increasingly part of mainstream culture, they likewise become subject to larger social pressures—including gentrification.  The result: “campgrounds” that have no room for RV or tenters.

You can’t extinguish fires with gasoline

Oct. 26: The first of a two-part look at the growing economic pressures that are putting the squeeze on mobile-home and RV parks, some of which are now being snapped up at per-site prices well into six figures. The turnover signals an end to mom-and-pop operations that had held the line on rent increases, unleashing massive rate increases for those least able to afford them.

Mobile-home Monopoly not a game

Oct. 28: Part two takes a look at the hypocrisy behind promoting mobile-home parks as  “affordable housing” by investors who are making them unaffordable, and the increased pressure that puts on RV parks as housing of last resort.

Van-life mantra: Tune out, drive off

Oct. 23: These days, the LSD-driven mantra of another age to “turn on, tune in, drop out” is being replaced, to a significant degree, by the sound of transmissions shifting into gear to the refrain of “tune out, turn on, drive off.” Many of today’s RVers, it seems, are the new hippies.

IndyStar blasts RV industry big-time

Oct. 21: A blockbuster series in the Indianapolis Star documents the predictable result when a Covid-ravaged workforce in Elkhart, Indiana, is pushed to meet a pandemic-heightened demand for new RVs: an industry riddled with broken bodies, a record number of recalled RVs, and unsurpassed revenues and profit margins for RV manufacturers. The industry’s response?  Nothing to see here!

Can ‘dynamic pricing’ beget cartels?

Oct. 18: The campground industry’s move from rate sheets to “dynamic pricing” has put RVers booking a site at the mercy of mysterious algorithms—but that may be the least of their worries, if reservation software companies take a lesson from apartment leasing agents. By serving hundreds of separate and unaffiliated campgrounds, such systems can aggregate data and set pricing targets across markets that essentially eliminate price competition.

Another survey that misses the mark

Oct. 15: Yet another purported survey of the campground industry, this one backed by Woodall’s Campground Magazine, suffers from the same flaws affecting virtually every such effort: a failure to use open-ended questions, and a sample size too small to support the conclusions drawn about various subgroups of respondents. A notable red flag: the lack of a published confidence level.

Trailer parks a risky refuge for RVs

Oct. 12: A growing U.S. housing crisis is forcing ever more low-income people into RVs as their housing of last resort, but that doesn’t address the problem of where to park those vehicles. Some end up on the streets, and some in RV parks that allow long-term stays. But some find refuge in mobile-home parks, which often accept RVs as well as house trailers; the trick is to find one that isn’t owned by a predatory company like Alden Global Capital.

There’s gold in them thar glampers!

Oct. 6: The intoxicating smell of greenbacks pervaded the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in recent days, as 141 exhibitors at the Glamping Show USA 2022 plied their wares to eager crowds of would-be entrepreneurs. But as with any gold rush, the event attracted its share of grifters, fast-buck operators and other camp followers.

Attention, RVers: it’s brutal out there

Sept. 30: Hurricanes Fiona and Ian tore up billions of dollars in real estate and didn’t spare Florida RV parks, dozens of which were swamped and some of which will never reopen. Yet the same warming climate that brings heavier rains to some parts of the country is baking out all the moisture in others, causing widespread aridification of western states. Perhaps it’s time we reevaluate our relationship with the Great Outdoors?

Buying, selling hotels without walls

Sept. 25: There are lots of reasons to be wary of all the institutional money piling into the campground and RV business, but the most worrisome may be that all too frequently it has no idea what it’s buying. Or as one investor mistakenly summarized it, “If you’ve been a hotel operator, then certainly you can figure out how to run an RV park”—which is nothing less than a surefire prescription for disaster.

Is the bloom off the camping rose?

Sept. 22: As summer transitions into fall, the first hints of a broader cool-down in the camping industry are also discernible. RV wholesale shipments, for one, are just starting to nosedive. And KOA, despite reporting increases in short-term registration revenue, also says occupancy has been down, which means its business has been propped up by higher prices rather than by growing demand.

RVDA pushes back against sales regs

Sept. 18: The Federal Trade Commission would like to prohibit RV dealers—among others—from “making certain misrepresentations in the course of selling, leasing or arranging financing” for their products, which on its surface sounds like a no-brainer. But the industry’s trade-group is pushing back, making the dubious argument that such a rule is unnecessary because RVs are discretionary purchases, “not essential for [buyers’] daily life activities.”

Taking the ‘vehicle’ out of RVs

Sept. 14: With the Federal Trade Commission seeking feedback about a proposed new rule for motor vehicle dealers, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association—its name withstanding—contends that the products its members sell are not really vehicles. Unlike more “standardized” cars and trucks, RVs require special preparation by the seller and therefore should be governed by different rules.

RVing no longer for ‘regular people’?

Sept. 12: Sticker shock is hitting one leisure activity after another, from Napa Valley wine tastings to baseball games to Broadway shows. So perhaps it’s not surprising that RV camping has been swept up in the same leisure-time cost inflation, making it increasingly hard for middle class families to get away for a reasonably priced camping weekend.

Funny numbers should raise red flags

Sept. 8: The campground buying frenzy has started producing some really off-the-wall offerings by owners thinking they’re about to hit the jackpot. Consider, for example, the Florida RV park that is looking for a buyer willing to fork over $9.9 million despite gross 2021 sales of just $820,000. With operating income of barely more than $450,000, that works out to a cap rate of 4.6%—or about half the industry average, against a background of rising interest rates. Wow.

Now you can buy a piece of RV history

Sept. 5: Just in time for Christmas, the British auction house of Bonhams is offering a classic 1914 Ford Model T motor caravan. Modeled on the railroad carriages of the day, the all-wood caravan includes a wood-burning stove, sleeps four and can hit a top speed of 45 mph.

Labor Day cook-out in extremis

Sept. 3: As the American public heads outdoors for what traditionally was a fare-thee-well to summer, summer shows little sign of departing. With a heat dome parked over California and temperatures projected to be 10 to 30 degrees above normal as far east as Wisconsin, more than 40 million people are under extreme heat alerts through the weekend.

Housing crisis buffets RVing public

Aug. 30: A deepening U.S. housing crisis is rippling through the RV and camping industry, as more people are squeezed out of conventional lodging and traditional notions of what it means to be “housed” get upended. The default, for those who can’t afford rent, is to move into an RV, van or tent, some in campgrounds, some on public lands and some on city streets.

‘Resortainment’ infects camping, too

Aug. 27: To the extent that the RV park industry increasingly draws inspiration from its hotel-and-resort big brothers and sisters, we can expect more glitz, higher prices and less of anything that resembles “nature.” One signpost to the future: a Wall Street Journal, article, headlined “Hotel Owners Embrace ‘Resortainment’ to Boost Business,” detailing the latest efforts to “persuade guests to stay longer and spend more.”

‘Ghost Town’ living up to its name

Aug. 24: The Maggie Valley, N.C. melodrama known as “Ghost Town in the Sky” continues to live up to its name, albeit with an ever more bitter story line. The latest developments include the death of its foremost champion, a subsequent land grab by the project’s Svengali, and now a lawsuit seeking to unwind the whole mess.

A dystopian future, if you care to look

Aug. 18: While the U.S. is not in a depression, and arguably not even in recession, its wealth gap is bigger than it’s ever been and the people at the bottom are being priced out of existence in the second-most expensive real estate market in the country. One result: an area under a highway overpass where more than 200 people have been camping for the past seven years in an assortment of RVs, tents, plywood shacks and huts.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Aug. 16: The First Street Foundation released its sixth national risk assessment, this one devoted to hazardous heat, and it doesn’t look good. “Extreme Danger Days,” with temperatures over 125 degrees, will affect approximately 50 counties with 8 million people next year–and 1,023 counties with 107 million residents by 2053. You can figure out for yourself the implications of that for campers and RVers.

‘Apres moi, le deluge,’ RV style

Aug. 11: Although wildland fires typically get more press, the recent spate of epic floods has shouldered them aside in grabbing the top headlines. But that hasn’t deterred a Nebraska developer from pushing ahead with plans to build a 240-site RV park along a three-quarter-mile stretch of the “wet side” of the Platte River—the bank more prone to flooding.

Glampers riot over boxed wine

Aug. 7: Sheriff’s deputies and Maine state police responded in force Friday afternoon to the MIA glampground in Bar Harbor, where approximately three dozen deep-pocketed campers went on a destructive rampage after realizing that their afternoon soirees had been serving boxed wines. Tents were toppled, bed linens were strewn around the grounds and the heated swimming pool was tinged a dark red, with empty wine boxes bobbing on the water.

Nothing beats the great—indoors?

Aug. 3: Waddya gonna do when you get that itch to hit the trail, sleep under the stars, cook over an open fire and embrace the great outdoors–but the great outdoors just isn’t all that welcoming? Why not mosey on over to the Basecamp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe and its “Great Indoors” rooms. Large safari tent: check. Camping chairs and picnic table: check. Electric fake log fire in front of a wall-size photorealistic view of the forest

Roughing it has a new feel these days

July 28: As we reach the midpoint of this year’s camping season, things looking increasingly grim. Despite the unexpected gift of swooning gasoline prices, which broadened the range of possible destinations, most indicators are that camping in 2022 is more crowded, more expensive and more difficult to secure than in the past. Those heading out into the great outdoors may discover they’re “roughing it” in completely unexpected ways.

RV parks on the firing line, literally

July 25: As another fire season sweeps through California forests, it’s not surprising that California’s private insurers have been jacking up their premiums by 20% to 40% a year or more—or not underwriting new policies at all. The California Outdoor Hospitality Association, alas, thinks that’s somehow the state’s responsibility, making the dubious claim that campgrounds and RV parks “are being tasked with expansion.” Really? “Tasked?”

‘Active shooters’ at campgrounds?

July 20: Here’s how much the cultural landscape has shifted: the Campground Owners of New York is promoting a five-page “Active Shooter Policy & Prevention” set of guidelines for its members, who operate private campgrounds and RV parks. The guidelines, alas, are the same kind of wistful thinking that propelled a generation of children in the 50s and 60s to use their school desks as shelter from nuclear weapons.

Manchin, scorpions do what they do

July 16: Senator Joe Manchin arguably is the one person most directly responsible for torpedoing this country’s efforts to combat global warming and the calamitous climate change it is causing. That he would undermine any efforts at breaking our fealty to carbon-based energy sources is only to be expected, given the significant extent to which Manchin’s political and personal fortunes are tied to coal, gas and oil interests. No one playing with a scorpion should be surprised when it stings.

Some say the world will end in fire

July 13: Camping and fire go together like–well, like marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers. Yet fire and RVs don’t play well together, as underscored by the two-alarm fire in Oakland, California, that engulfed cars and RVs in a homeless encampment under Interstate 880, near the Bay Bridge. Simultaneously, a wildfire that officials said almost definitely was the result of “human activity” was threatening the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park. Maybe it’s time to pack up the marshmallows and crackers?

‘Luxury and rustic camping’—really?

July 5: Toby O’Rourke, KOA’s president and CEO, is smart and articulate and has become a leading spokesperson for the camping industry whose statements carry extra heft. So when she declares that she’s “very passionate about the intersection between luxury and rustic camping,” it’s fair to challenge  the statement as dissonant on its face, and to observe that the intersection of “luxury” and “rustic camping” means completely nullifying the meaning of “rustic.” 

Luxury and rustic camping, part 2

July 8: If “the intersection between luxury and rustic camping” doesn’t strike you as absurd, consider the proposal to build a 57-site glamping campground on the Gallatin River in southwest Montana despite vociferous local opposition. The problem? The proposed 16-acre “resort” is being planned for a mile-long spit of land that sits between two channels of the river, all of it either in or surrounded by the floodway. The locals think that’s nuts.

‘Camping’ in a post-Roe era

July 1: “Camping” has long been a muddled term, describing everything from tents pitched on a sidewalk to hikers in the backcountry to pop-up trailers sitting side-by-side with six-figure motor coaches in an RV park. But now we can thank the U.S. Supreme Court for really making a hash of things, prompting a virtual explosion of posts on social media offering to take people “camping,” wink-wink.

Real estate bubbles harm real people

June 28: Two unrelated developments affecting two RV parks, one in New Jersey and one in North Carolina, illustrate two trends on a collision course—and as with most trends involving economic forces, those who get hurt the most are those who have the least. The first is that of low-income people increasingly turning to RVs as a cheaper alternative to trailer courts for their housing needs. The second, alas, is that RV parks are now tracing the same inflationary curve as the trailer courts that preceded them. 

I am not a robot. You should be glad

June 24: Computer programs designed to simulate human communication are becoming ubiquitous among blogs and websites, causing the folks at RVtravel, who publish some of my stuff, to tear their hair out over other RVing sites’ using writing bots to mimic real editorial content. But two completely contradictory responses by the same question by Jasper, one such program, illustrate why it’s so irresistible: it’ll tell you anything you want to hear.

Kicking off your summer reading

June 19: How better to kick off the summer than with a new book about RVing and camping? Yup—this is a commercial, so if you’re tired of being assailed by sales pitches (I know I am!) keep scrolling down to the next post. On the other hand, if you’ve ever thought you might want to own and operate your own RV park and campground . . . well! (drumroll, please): Turning DirtA step-by-step guide for turning dreams of campground ownership into reality, is being released Tuesday, the first day of summer.

Why you can’t get a state park RV site

June 16: Drive into almost any public campground and you’ll see an abundance of empty sites—but try to book one of them and odds are you’ll be told everything’s already reserved. How can that be? According to a state audit in Colorado, the answers include a lack of staff training in reservation software, staff setting aside sites for friends and family, a reluctance to enforce policies and fear of antagonizing campers who show up too late, too soon or who end up on the wrong site.

Chasing ‘epic potential’ of outdoors

June 14: Although commercial property sales are slowing after more than a year of brisk growth, RV parks and campgrounds are still demanding outsized sales prices. What gives? Well, maybe it’s because of new entrants into the market, like Outside Capital, claiming to have a “purpose-built [because what other kind could there be?] hospitality real estate investment platform bringing the outdoor sector’s most compelling projects and strategies to life.” This Lazarus-like exercise will be “capitalizing on long-term, measurable trends favoring experiential and nature-based travel” under the guidance of “an experienced team of hospitality real estate professionals who are passionate about the epic potential of the outdoors.” Wowie-zowie.

RVIA honors the fox in the henhouse

June 10: In honoring Senator Joe Manchin with its “National Legislative Award, the RVIA claimed he “recognizes that investments in outdoor recreation are vital to our economic, emotional and societal well-being.” This is the same man, mind, who single-handedly blocked the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act and its $550 billion in proposed climate spending, much of it to phase out fossil fuels over the next decade.

The ’service’ economy that isn’t

June 7: “Waiting” on people has never been a lot of fun, but even less so when the post-pandemic public overall has been more surly and demanding. So perhaps it’s not surprising that positions in accommodations and food service industries have been exceptionally hard hit, and even more so among  seasonal employers like campgrounds and RV parks—not least because they’re refusing to raise wages.

Poking big money is a risky business

June 4: For some unfathomable reason, people living quiet lives in rural communities often don’t cotton to the idea of having an extra thousand or more transients rolling into the area, their narrow country roads overrun by rumbling motorhomes and diesel-chugging trucks hauling travel trailers and fifth wheels. They show up at public hearings and form impromptu opposition committees and throw as much sand into the gears as they can, and they most certainly can bog things down. But big money often claims big friends, and then the fighting can get downright vicious.

Mother Nature, in your face

June 2: June is officially Great Outdoors Month, “a month to celebrate the outdoors and recognize outdoor recreation’s contributions to the mental, physical and economic health of the United States.” Or that’s how it’s explained in a somewhat tone-deaf promotional release from the RV Industry Association, coming as it is on the heels of multiple mass shootings, the biggest wildfires in New Mexico’s history, skyrocketing fuel and housing costs and other suggestions that the country’s mental, physical and economic health isn’t quite up to snuff.

RV parks as the American dream

May 28: If you were given the opportunity to own and operate an RV park, would you? RVtravel asked its readers just that question—and initially, at least, a thumping 7% of the respondents replied, essentially, “No, hell no!” But then, as the hours slipped away, the tide inexplicably reversed.

The American dream, part 2

May 31: Given the response to RVtravel’s poll about RV park ownership, it’s clear a lot of people either never read Renting Dirt or were unconvinced by my rant. So just for them, I’ve now published Turning Dirt, a methodical introduction to the process of searching for, negotiating the purchase of, and taking over the operation of an existing campground.

Mountain lions to the rescue—not!

May 24: In a series of unusually cynical events, a growing number of western municipalities have been shooting down proposals for affordable cost housing by pretending they’re protecting wildlife. The most extreme—but hardly only—example: the California town of Woodside, where the listed median home price if $5.7 million, which declared itself a mountain lion sanctuary.

More RV stats—with an ironic twist

May 21: Just like an onslaught of gift catalogues in the mail lets you know Christmas is around the corner, a recent burst of studies and surveys about campers and RVers must mean Memorial Day is fast approaching. Among the newest entrants: the “First Ever Campspot Outdoor Almanac!” which, among its other findings, reports “that RV and van campers are “taking 3.8 bathroom breaks outside per day.” 

At last, numbers to confirm crowding

May 18: If you’ve been having a hard time finding a place to park your RV, it’s not your imagination. In what may be the first comprehensive effort to inventory the nation’s supply of campgrounds and camp sites, the RV Industry Association today released a survey in which the number one finding–ta-da!–is that campgrounds during peak season are basically full.

Forbes mangles the RV park story

May 16: Last week, Forbes ran a piece headlined, “Growing Demand Fuels Rising Tide of New, Expanded RV Parks,” which sounded promising only as far as the first sentence. Not only did the magazine fail to substantiate its assertions, but it missed the far bigger story of how the RV park phenomenon is no longer just about “camping,” but about housing of last resort.

We’re all fiddling while Rome burns

May 11: Here it is, another three weeks before we get to Memorial Day, and already fire sirens are wailing all across the west. Yet despite the increasing threat, Colorado’s legislators abandoned their attempt to address the vulnerability of homes built in wildfire-prone areas, leaving it one of eight states in the country without a minimum wildfire mitigation building code—even though its four largest and most destructive fires all occurred within the past two years.

How do tiny homes make any sense?

May 7: Let me state at the outset that I love the idea of tiny homes. In a society still besotted with outsized everything, there is something satisfyingly modest and efficient about these little houses on wheels. They’re cute and snuggly and adorable—and way too expensive and in oh-so-many ways completely impractical.

Sell, sell, sell and cut, cut, cut

May 4: Frank Rolfe, already well-known for his predatory approach to mobile home park investing, has been preaching the same gospel to RV park investors in his RV Park “University” offerings and in regular podcasts and email broadsides. But in his most recent screed he outdoes himself by turning to “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap for inspiration—the same Al Dunlap who ruined several companies with his cutthroat approach to “profitability.”

‘A luxurious state of privation’

April 30: Just in time for the release of KOA’s eighth annual report about the state of camping in North America, historian Phoebe S.K. Young has published a book that explores Americans’ confusion about what constitutes legitimate camping and how it’s different from simple vagrancy or homelessness.  

Should park managers be certified?

April 28: The blurred distinction between mobile home parks and RV parks is growing even more fuzzy in California, where a Senate bill that would require managers of trailer courts to get annual training and certification is in the legislative hopper. Trailer courts–and, almost incidentally, RV parks as well. Or as the bill’s sponsor explains, RV parks “have become de facto mobile home parks,” so why not?

First they came for the homeless . . .

April 23:  The national housing crisis gets only more dire with each passing month—yet the prevailing social response has been to make it ever harder for people to find a place they can call home. The predictable result: more people living on the streets, more rattletrap RVs heading for public lands and growing tension between those who own a home (or can afford rent) and those who don’t.

Dyrt-y facts about camping in 2022

April 20: The Dyrt, a rapidly growing web site and mobile app, is possibly the country’s most comprehensive platform for the camping public—which means, in turn, that The Dyrt’s users may comprise the country’s broadest demographic profile of the camping public. So when The Dyrt’s users have their temperature taken, it pays for other industry participants to take notice.

Ever been to a BYOV event? It’s on!

April 16: Spearheaded by Bob Wells, of Nomadland renown, a group calling itself the Homes on Wheels Alliance (HOWA) is making ten minivans, SUVs, a Class C and a pickup truck more livable by installing floors and solar power systems, insulating walls and ceilings, and building beds and shelving units. The month-long project, relying on volunteer labor and donated supplies, is HOWA’s first Bring Your Own Vehicle event and will be capped by an open-house April 29.

Short snow season a bad fire omen

April 13: While Denver is not representative of the Front Range overall—areas to the west and north would usually get more snow—the city sparse snowfall to date is a worrisome indicator. Less snowfall means less recharge of groundwater, less snowmelt to replenish the Colorado River, and drier vegetation overall, raising brush- and forest-fire risks. Meanwhile, the area’s firefighters are being driven further afield by higher housing costs, increasing their response times.

Brace yourself for the new normal

April 10: The idea of an RVing weekend or vacation as a relaxed, budget-friendly family outing is becoming just another quaint notion, not least because campground employees are rapidly becoming an endangered species. The result? Shorter office and store hours, more emphasis on on-line booking and check-ins, fewer and skimpier organized activities. Buildings may look a little shabbier, the grounds a little more unkempt and housekeeping in cabins and bathrooms somewhat less thorough.

The bogus nature of park models

April 6: A legal squabble in Currituck County, North Carolina, is exposing one of the camping industry’s biggest con jobs: the persistent claim that “park models” are just regular RVs.  Indeed, in just about every significant aspect, park models have more in common with the manufactured housing found in trailer courts than with RVs. They’re just not regulated that way.

Can RVing survive itself?

April 2: If Rvers can be divided into two main categories–full-timers and vacationers/tourists–it’s the second group that risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Vacationing Rvers are swarming the landscape in ever larger numbers, over-running national parks and forests, crowding festivals and tourist attractions and jostling each other for campground sites, often while projecting an oblivious sense of self-entitlement that infuriates all those they encounter.

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