Park It Here

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RV Park in Clear Lake, Iowa. No extra charge for Sunday services.

Like a turtle, I drive across the country within the shell of my abode. At the end of the day, I have to hunker down somewhere in my camper/van. I have yet to hang out with other RVs in a Wal-Mart parking lot. That’s called dry camping — relying on your vehicle for power and water. My vehicle has the capacity, but I lack the audacity. I prefer snuggling up with other rigs in the tight quarters of an RV park just so I can plug into that lifeline that RVers call “shore power.”

I’ve paid anywhere from zero to $49 for an overnight stay. The latter sounds like a lot, but RVers in those big fancy rigs expect a lot in addition to basic water, power and sewer: wi-fi, a full spectrum of TV channels, swimming pool, game room, miniature golf, laundry, etc. Some parks won’t accept rigs older than 10 years. Mine is a 1996 Dodge — usually the oldest and smallest outfit in the park. I’ve never been turned away, because—explained one park employee—I stay only one night.

At the high end are the KOAs—the Holiday Inn Express for RVs. You always know what to expect at a KOA. There’ve been a few long days of driving when I’ve been darned glad to land at a KOA. More often, I look forward to a certain element of surprise that independent parks offer. Why else bother to travel?

I rely quite a bit on the RV community, which reviews parks at various sites online. The reviews often tell as much about the reviewer as the park. I’m amused by RVers who want easy access to the park but in the next sentence complain about freeway noise. If I end up near a freeway, I just close my eyes at night and pretend the roar of vehicles is the pounding of surf on an ocean beach.

One of my favorite places this trip was an old park with new owners in Waco, Nebraska. It’s a mom and pop operation—a couple in their 30s or so. They bought the place, said the dad, “because the location was right, the price was right and it was so terrible I wouldn’t let my own family stay here.” They’re well along in fixing it up. They assigned me a spot where I drank in the view of pond and neighboring golf course while sitting in one of several old-fashioned, wooden porch swings that the owner and his dad made.

The most iconoclastic find was Oakwood RV Park in Clear Lake, Iowa, where amenities included a country church, built in 1890 and still active. I wasn’t there on a Sunday, but the park brochure informed me services are held at 9 a.m. Park brochures list various rules, usually about quiet hours and keeping dogs on leash. This one added, “Please don’t feed the chickens.”

Last night I pulled into my favorite park of all. After 5,063 miles, it’s good to be home.

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