Florida Couple First Campers at New St. Louis RV Park

May 24, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Several hours before St. Peters officially opened 370 Lakeside Park Thursday (May 19), the suburban St. Louis park’s first guests were already resting comfortably in their recreational vehicle on one of the park’s 50 RV pads.

Jim and Sandy Larkin spend six months out of the year living in their RV in Davenport, Fla., which is about 10 miles south of Walt Disney World. They pulled into 370 Lakeside about noon Thursday and became the first people to use the park, Suburban Journals reported. A few hours later Mayor Len Pagano and St. Peters aldermen conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by several dozen guests and signaled the opening of the 300-acre park.

Before Jim Larkin retired, the lifelong Missouri resident had a career that took him all over country. He grew up in Overland and graduated from Normandy High School. Sandy called herself an Air Force brat who has always been used to moving around.

So adopting the RV lifestyle came easy for both.

“I’ve been in contact with (officials) from St. Peters and we’ve been waiting for the park to open,” Sandy said. “We’re excited that the park is open. It’s very convenient. We have a lot of friends and family that live (in St. Charles County).”

The Larkins have traveled throughout the country in their RV for the past six years. Their 40-foot Holiday Rambler Endeavor is powered by a 400 hp Cummins diesel engine and has all the amenities of a standard home.

As a light rain fell outside Thursday, the Larkins and their granddaughter, MacKenzie Holt, relaxed inside the RV. Jim watched golf on the large flat-screen TV anchored to one of the RV’s four sliders, which gives the RV more living space when parked. Sandy was busy using a laptop on the kitchen table, and Holt sat on a couch as one of the Larkins’ dogs, a Wheaten Terrier named Kerri, rested by her side.

The Larkins said they take Kerri and their miniature poodle, Jolia, everywhere.

Holt’s family lives in O’Fallon. The Larkins list their summer address in St. Peters. The couch in the living room opens into a bed, which visitors can use. In the back of the RV is a well-appointed bedroom, which has another mounted flat-screen TV.

Hookups for water, sewage and electricity for the park’s RV pads were up and running the first day. “A lot of parks don’t put hookups in the right place. They got it right here,” Jim said.

Sandy said the thing she likes most about 370 Lakeside is its location. Right off Highway 370 at Harry S. Truman Boulevard and just a few minutes’ drive from Interstate 70, the Larkins hop into their Chevy Traverse they haul behind the RV and visit family and friends, or in Sandy’s case, see a doctor about her shoulder problem.

“The location of the park is perfect for us,” she said. “This park is extremely easy to get to for RVs.”

As many features as the Larkins’ RV has, they said they wouldn’t call it “high end.” They said more expensive RVs can cost $500,000 or more. Their RV can hold 100 gallons of gas and gets about 8 miles per gallon when they haul their Traverse, too. When the car is hooked up to the RV, Jim said the combined weight is 36,000 pounds.

Not all of the Larkins’ travels are across flat land, either. Jim said they’ve taken their RV through the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee and faced some very steep grades.

“You pay very close attention to the grade markers and speed limits when you drive there,” he said.

When they finish their stay at 370 Lakeside, the Larkins intend to travel to Michigan in August, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico in October and will wrap up their year’s travels with a trip to the Grand Canyon before heading back to their winter site in Florida.

With fluctuating gas prices and the recession of the last few years, Jim said he’s noticed a lot of people aren’t traveling as much or as far.

“Some people we know aren’t traveling at all right now,” he said.

It costs $30 per night to park an RV at Lakeside 370, and a six-night stay includes a seventh night for free. Sandy Larkin said she’d like to see the park offer monthly rates.

In addition to the Larkins, other campers had arrived by the time city officials cut the ribbon Thursday. On Saturday, the park was busy with people boating, hiking and biking, and at least a dozen RV sites were occupied.


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