RV Owners Tough It Out
For Bill Loveland, enjoying a beautiful Sunday at Aces High RV Park in East Lyme, Conn., the joy of RV living far outweighs the price of gas – for now.
”When diesel hits $10 a gallon, I'll have to do some thinking, though,” he said. “Maybe at that point I'll have seen enough of the country I wanted to see.”
Loveland, a former manufacturing-company owner who lives in Durham, Conn., has been staying at various recreational vehicle parks around the country since his retirement, though this year he isn't wandering as far as he oversees the construction of a new home. He likes staying a while – a month or two at a time – to soak in the flavor of an area and enjoy a little peace and quiet, according to The Day, New London.
”All the people are friendly,” Loveland said. “This is the way to go.”
Other RV owners seem to agree. Several area campgrounds reported they were nearly booked up for weekends during the summer season, and they said the demand is coming mostly from Connecticut travelers.
”We're just getting booked up more quickly this year than last year,” said Tasha Woodworth, supervisor of the Odeta Campground in Bozrah.
Allen Beavers, executive director of the Connecticut Campground Owners Association in West Hartford, said campgrounds and RV parks had a great Memorial Day weekend, and he expects a good season overall.
Beavers said travelers from Canada should descend on the area, attracted by relatively low rates thanks to the declining value of the American dollar.
”You get a lot for your dollar in camping, and you can take the whole family,” Beavers said.
Beavers and several local campground officials noted that families are staying longer in one place and not hopping around New England as they might have in the past.
”Instead of a two- or three-day weekend they're taking four-day weekends,” Beavers said. “We're seeing a lot more of that.”
Some officials said, however, that it's more unusual this year than in the past to see travelers staying two to three weeks at a time. And the RV travelers seem to be staying closer to home, campground owners and managers said.
”Reservations are a little down throughout the industry,” said Kathy Warner, manager of the Aces High RV Park. “People are more apt to book last minute … they're nervous with fuel skyrocketing.”
Location Helps Parks
But Connecticut's central location between population centers in New York and Boston, campground officials said, should help the state's campground business when compared to out-of-the-way spots in Maine and New Hampshire.
”I really feel that $4 gasoline is here to stay, but to me it's probably an opportunity for this area,” said Buck Bieber, president of Strawberry Park Resort Campground in Preston. “This area has a lot of … things to do, but you only have to drive five to 10 minutes to be in a real country setting in any direction.”
Strawberry Park caters to the bigger RVs, and charges about $500 a week in the peak season while offering a wide range of facilities and activities. Other campgrounds with fewer amenities for RVers can cost much less, and state campgrounds charge as little as $11 a night for tenters.
But while tenting may be a cheap family vacation, it hardly matches the hominess of a luxury RV, and those who have already invested in the behemoths, which get 7 to 8 miles per gallon, are not giving them up quickly.
”People with big RVs are not going to be letting them sit in the driveway,” said Pat Quinn, who, with his wife Ann, owns Aces High RV Park.
Unless it's in the driveway at Aces High, where 50-year-old Don Grant, who recently downsized from a home in Cromwell, currently has his RV. Grant pays taxes on the RV, but not on the land, and he finds the living much more affordable.
Grant, who currently rents a spot monthly at Aces High, has enjoyed his stay so much that he may join a growing trend in campgrounds and RV parks: the seasonal camper who reserves a spot a year at a time.
Many of these campers leave their RVs behind and drive back and forth to enjoy their vacations at a favored spot.
”We recently started to call it home,” Grant said. “We hadn't called a place home in a long time.”