Camping at Ky. KOA is Growing in Popularity

August 26, 2013 by · Comments Off on Camping at Ky. KOA is Growing in Popularity 

“The economy is driving people to camping or to RVing, because you can RV anywhere for about 500 bucks a month,” said Corey Huetter, who is staying at the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) campground in Bowling Green, Ky.

The campground manager told WBKO-TV, Bowling Green,  she’s got a lot more reservations this year than last.

“Friday I’ve got about 45 reservations already coming in. Plus, we can have a lot of walk-ins too. And then Saturday, we’ve got about 30 coming in for Saturday for the holiday weekend,” said Rhonda Lawrimore.

That’s proof of a TripAdvisor survey that reported 33% of Americans plan to travel this Labor Day — 6% more than last year — and 63% of them are driving.

Lawrimore said she thinks it’s because gas prices are lower this year.

She also said more people are choosing RV and campground life over hotels.

“I think they like the outdoors. Plus, they can go in and out better than being at other places,” she said.

One Nebraska man said he’s traveled all over the country in an RV for five years for his business, and overall, RVs are easy to get around in.

“It depends what part of the country, it’s much harder to go through mountains and up hills, but it’s relatively flat down here so it’s not too bad,” said Huetter.

He said it’s easy to stop at places like Walmart if you need a rest while on the road.

He said he enjoys the atmosphere the most.

“It’s kind of like boating. Have you ever boated before? You pull up on the sandbar and within five minutes you’re best buddies with the guy next to you. And RVing is pretty much the same way.”

And he’s had “neighbors” from all around the world.

“It’s real safe. I’ve never had one thing stolen, and I never lock anything up.”

Lawrimore said that no matter where visitors are from, everyone loves Kentucky, and the Corvette Museum and area events are probably why they’re choosing Bowling Green for their Labor Day.


Survey: Fuel Costs Not Major Factor Anymore

April 29, 2013 by · Comments Off on Survey: Fuel Costs Not Major Factor Anymore 

RV owners will be on the road in a big way this spring and summer to enjoy time outdoors with family and friends, according to a new survey.

The latest Campfire Canvass survey of RV owners, conducted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), reveals that 71% of RV owners intend to use their RVs more this spring/summer than they did last year, and 21% say they’ll use theirs the same amount. Just 5% said they’ll use their RV less, the RVIA reported in its RVIA Today Express.

The survey of 378 RV owners was conducted by RVIA and Cvent from March 29 through April 22 and has a margin of error of 4.7%.

The top reasons for using their RVs more include enjoying outdoor activities (78%), taking more mini-vacations (72%), spending quality time with family (62%), and escaping the stress and pressure of daily life (51%).

In a significant change from last year’s survey, just 34% (down from 58%) said fuel prices will affect their RV travel plans. Those who say their plans will be affected still plan to travel in their RVs, but will adjust their plans by traveling to destinations closer to home (80%), driving fewer miles in their RV (63%) and staying longer at one location (59%).

According to the survey, 73% think now is a good time to buy an RV because RVing is the best way to travel comfortably and conveniently (64%), and great deals now available (58%). Top benefits of RV travel include spending more time enjoying outdoor activities (80%), flexibility (76%), seeing natural sites and attractions (75%), the ability to bring pets (60%), and being on the open road (56%).

The research found that traveling with pets remains popular with RV owners. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said they travel with pets. Of those, 94% bring a dog and 10% bring a cat.


7 Good Reasons to Hit the Road in an RV

March 14, 2013 by · Comments Off on 7 Good Reasons to Hit the Road in an RV 

Gas might not be cheap, but that shouldn’t keep you off the road come vacation time.

As reported by, that was just one of the things the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) Director Bill Sheffer had to say when we called him up, just a few days before the Perani and Event Center’s RV show kicks off. Our question: In today’s economy, with gas prices what they are, is there really any point in buying an RV.

The short version: Yes, said Sheffer.

Below is the longer version, seven reasons from Sheffer you might want to rethink that plane ticket.

1. Gas prices shouldn’t deter you.

Yes, he was being serious.

“When you start to run the numbers,” he said, it might add up driving a vehicle that only gets 10 miles to the gallon isn’t actually as expensive as it sounds when you start to add up what an alternative choice involves: plane tickets, hotel room, restaurant food, and car rentals among them.

“A family of four can go easier on their pocketbook (in an RV) rather than getting on a plane and going to a resort,” he said.

2. You can camp at your favorite resort destinations.

“There’s lots of campgrounds around Disney World. Now, it’s going to be a little bit longer … but if you’ve got the time and the option to do that with a family, it makes for a pretty special trip,” Sheffer said.

3. More people are doing it.

Sheffer said RV sales have grown 16 percent over the last year.

“I’m even surprised by that,” he said.

4. RVs might be more more affordable than you think.

There will be 90 RVs at this year’s show, and you can essentially pay whatever you like. Sheffer said the prices range from about $7,000 to $90,000, adding that you can get a nice RV paying about $200 a month.

5. If you’re still worried about gas, you don’t have to drive very far.

If Disney World isn’t in the cards, or even if driving out of state isn’t an option, Sheffer said there are a lot of campgrounds throughout Michigan — even mid-Michigan — that are worth checking out.

“We don’t drive our RV to work every day so it’s not like it’s a big fuel buster because we only use these for vacations,” he said. “You can travel really quite close to home and still travel with your RV.”

6. You’re taking your home with you.

If you’re creeped out by wondering who slept on the hotel room bed last, that’s not a problem in an RV. And the sandwich you’ve been thinking about is never far away.

“When you lay your head on your pillow, it’s your pillow,” Sheffer said. “You have your own stuff, you take what you want. When you ant a snack or a sandwich you don’t have to worry about what restaurant you’re going to.”

7. Make it a group activity.

Sheffer said it’s common for families to hit the road together, often renting campground spaces next to each other.

“Being outdoors is something special,” he said. “When you can get together around a campfire, that’s special.”

And sure, he admitted, you can travel together in hotels, too. But the campground experience is different.

“When’s the last time you went to the person in the hotel room next door and said, ‘hey you want to come over for a s’more?’” Sheffer said.

The RV show takes place this year from March 14-17. Hours are weekdays from 2-9 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Go to the event website for more information.



Florida RV SuperShow: Smaller RVs Rule Market

January 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Florida RV SuperShow: Smaller RVs Rule Market 

When it comes to recreational vehicles, small is in big demand.

“Everybody is downsizing,” said Dave Kelly, spokesman for the 28th annual Florida RV SuperShow. “People want lighter, more maneuverable RVs.”

The time of the monster motorhome has not gone the way of the dinosaur, but the recession has reversed the trend of bigger is better, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“The market was once 60% motorhome and 40% travel trailer,” Kelly said. “But now that is reversed. They are selling 80 travel trailers for every 20 motorhomes.”

The downturn in the economy hit the RV industry hard. But according to a 2011 survey by the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the number of RV-owning households has grown to a new peak of 8.9 million, up from 7.9 million in 2005.

The Florida RV SuperShow, at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa through Sunday, features hundreds of recreational vehicles of all varieties and price ranges. You will still find rows of million-dollar motorhomes, but the hot buys this year are $20,000 or less.

“You can’t beat a Winnebago,” said Melissa Farrior, an RV consultant from Camping World in Bartow. “It is a household name and the quality is just outstanding.”

The bright yellow “Minnie Winnie” weighs less than 3,500 pounds. When I first stepped inside the 20-footer, I thought it would have a sticker price of $40,000 or more, but it was less than half that, starting at $17,000. Equipped with maple cabinets, a kitchen and bathroom, I joked that I could put a satellite dish on top and never go in the office again. The travel trailer, also available in white and fluorescent green, could be towed easily by my 10-year-old sport-utility vehicle.

“Part of the appeal of these new, lightweight travel trailers is that you don’t have to go out and buy a new vehicle to get it to where you want to go,” Kelly said. “They can be pulled by any truck or SUV.”

While partial to the Winnebago, the new Rockwood Hardside, a cross between a travel trailer and a tent camper, also caught my eye. The Rockwood reminded me of the popup trailer that my dad used to park on the side our house.

But unlike that old camper, the Hardside expands into an A-frame with a solid roof and walls, which undoubtedly makes it more durable. The canvas on our old camper was always getting holes poked in it by tree branches, errant arrows and the occasional stray tomahawk. The Rockwood looks like it might even be able to handle my kids, both of whom are notorious tent rippers. The cost: $12,000.

However, if I win the lottery before Sunday, I am going to spend a good chuck of my loot on something better suited to my nomadic lifestyle: an adventure vehicle. The Bengal TX, a camper mounted on the bed of a 2013 Chevrolet 3500 HD Silverado, can go anywhere, anytime, for no reason at all.

“We really don’t like to call it an RV,” said Joe Joyner, a salesman with Tiger Adventure Vehicles in West Columbia, S.C. “That name implies that you are going to park it on the blacktop. This vehicle can go off-road.”

Tiger’s line starts at $100,000 and runs up to $150,000. But remember, you get a pickup truck as part of the package. If you don’t like Chevy, then mount your camper on a Ford or a Dodge Ram.

“People are not sitting around waiting to see what happens with the economy,” Kelly said. “They want to recreate. If that means making do with a smaller, more affordable camper, then that is exactly what they are going to do.”



RVers Plan More Travel This Fall and Winter

November 7, 2012 by · Comments Off on RVers Plan More Travel This Fall and Winter 

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA’s) biannual Campfire Canvass, 36% of RV owners plan to travel more this fall and winter than last year, 38% plan to travel the same amount and just 9% plan to travel less often, according to a news release.

Top reasons for taking more RV trips include enjoying outdoor activity (76%), escaping stress and pressure (67%), and spending more time with family (51%). Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they plan to take more mini-vacations (2-4 days).

“RVing is the best way to see our great country, spend time outdoors, and reconnect with family and friends,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “No other travel option offers consumers the freedom, flexibility and value that RVs do.”

Along with getting outdoors, escaping stress and spending time with family, another primary reason why millions of owners will be traveling and enjoying the RV lifestyle this fall/winter is because they appreciate the value that RV travel delivers. Nearly 90% said that RVing is an affordable way to travel. Three-quarters said they save at least 25% when traveling in their RV compared to other types of travel, while 34% save 35-50%. This echoes a 2011 study by PKF, an international travel and tourism consulting company, which found that RVing is 23% to 59% less expensive than other types of vacations for a family of four.

In addition to saving on rising hotel costs and airfares, RV owners also avoid the expense of eating most meals in restaurants as other forms of travel require. According to the RVIA survey, 92% of RV owners said they eat at least two meals a day onboard their RVs.

Despite these uncertain economic times, 47% said that they’re considering another RV purchase, with 79% of those respondents citing the availability of “great deals” in today’s RV market. More than 57% will attend RV retail shows this fall and winter.

Of those not considering another RV purchase within the next two years, 85% said it’s because they’re happy with their current RV.

Owners surveyed will use their RVs in a variety of ways during the fall/winter travel season:

  • 73% of the respondents said that they plan to sightsee.
  • 64% visit state parks and 57% national parks.
  • 53% plan to visit friends/family.
  • 50% will attend festivals or fairs.

The survey also reveals that owners are physically active on their RV trips. For example, 54% said they enjoy hiking, 48% fishing/hunting, 31% biking and 14% canoeing and kayaking. Approximately 14% of RVers plan to tailgate at football games this fall — 53% will tailgate college games and 39% NFL.

Results also show that holiday travel remains popular with RV owners. Among the respondents, 48% said they plan to travel in their RVs over the Thanksgiving weekend and 25% over the Christmas/Hanukkah season.

Empty nester couples are planning to hit the road in a big way, as well. Nearly 80% said they’re planning to travel with schools back in session. With children in the classroom, empty nesters enjoy smaller crowds (64%), more peace and quiet (59%) and lower cost because of off-season discounts (52%).


RVIA: RVing is a Hot Topic in Summer Media

July 25, 2012 by · Comments Off on RVIA: RVing is a Hot Topic in Summer Media 

The public relations team at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is working with media nationwide to generate news stories delivering the message that RVing is a fun and affordable way for families to have a great outdoors experience.

RV-related reports have appeared in national and local media, and RVIA has been laying the groundwork for future stories that will appear in high-profile outlets in the months ahead, the association reported in a news release.

Some of the highlights from the summer months:

  • National Public Radio aired a story about a reporter’s eight-day trek through Oregon and California in a rented RV.
  • ABC World News Tonight broadcast a story about how RVing is becoming more popular with American families. RVIA worked extensively with producers on the story.
  • The Associated Press published a story about how RVers adapt to fluctuating gas prices. The report includes information from RVIA’s vacation cost comparison study, as well as a mention of new fuel-efficient motorhomes now on the market.
  • Financial Times reported on the RV industry’s continued growth in shipments despite a sluggish economy and jittery consumer confidence.
  • An story from a Today show contributor told how Americans love RVs for the “much-needed, uninterrupted family time.”

In addition to these stories in national outlets, RV stories have appeared in dozens of local media markets. For a more comprehensive look at RV media coverage, please visit RVIA’s online newsroom at

FMCA Adds ‘On-the-Road’ Reporter to Website

July 17, 2012 by · Comments Off on FMCA Adds ‘On-the-Road’ Reporter to Website 

Mike Wendland and wife Jennifer cradle there beloved Norwegian elkhound, Tai.

It’s estimated that every day 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age. According to a press release, that time is fast approaching for Mike Wendland.

Although Wendland has traveled extensively during a three-decade career in broadcast and print journalism, he recently decided that it was time to shift gears. Like many others, he opted to enjoy his journeys in a motorhome.

Wendland currently is traveling in a 22-foot Class B Roadtrek motorhome as a member of Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) motorhome owners club. He has combined his affection for motorhome travel with his skills as a journalist and technology buff to become FMCA’s new on-the-road reporter. His explorations are depicted in the “Open Mike” series of videos and blogs that recently debuted on

“So many times, I remember looking down from 30,000 feet on some flight and longing to be down there, to experience the mountains and valleys and plains and coastlines,” he said. “I wanted to really be there, not just stand there and use the scenery as a backdrop to a standup before heading to the airport and another story somewhere else.”

Traveling with his wife, Jennifer, and Tai, their 65-pound Norwegian elkhound, the first “Open Mike” video posts focused on a visit to FMCA’s member-only campground in Cincinnati, Ohio; a trip around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and a stop in Grand Marais; installing LED lights in a motorhome; a look at the Superbag sleep system for RV beds; and a dramatic windstorm Mike experienced during a fuel stop in Findlay, Ohio. visitors can look forward to the couple’s first true trip out West in August, where they will experience the Badlands of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park, among other iconic sites, as well as cozy campgrounds and out-of-the-way discoveries.

Upon their return to the Midwest, they’ll stop at FMCA’s 87th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, which runs Aug. 27-30.

To follow the journey of FMCA’s new on-the-road RV reporter, visit


Gas Goes Up, Gas Goes Down — RVers Adapt

June 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gas Goes Up, Gas Goes Down — RVers Adapt 

RVers adapt to fuel price changes

Average U.S. gas prices rose above $3.90 this spring, though they had dropped in most places by the start of June to $3.61 a gallon.

But whether they’re up or down doesn’t make a huge difference for those driving RVs, like Bill Battle’s Winnebago Itasca Suncruiser that averages about 7 mpg, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Battle and his wife plan to drive their 38-foot motorhome (towing their Jeep) about 1,400 miles round-trip from their home in southeastern Michigan to Forest City, Iowa, for the Winnebago Grand National Rally this summer. It will likely cost them between $700 and $800 in gas, depending on pump prices, plus another $750 for food, campground fees and other expenses. The rest of the year they expect to stay closer to home, driving less than 600 miles per trip.

Even if gas were to go as high as $5 or $6 — though that seems unlikely given the direction prices are headed at this point in the season — Battle, a 68-year-old retiree, said they wouldn’t stay home. “We’ll still go, but we’ll do shorter trips,” he said. On the other hand, a steep drop might inspire more travel: “If fuel prices were $2.50 a gallon we probably would have made a second big trip to the Western U.S.”

A recent survey shows others have arrived at the same conclusion. Of nearly 425 RV owners interviewed in March by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), 60 percent said fuel prices were affecting their plans, and that they would adjust by driving less and traveling to destinations closer to home.

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which represents about 500 campgrounds, has been marketing to the “camping closer to home” crowd, and reservations for this summer are up about 4 percent over 2011, said spokesman Mike Gast, in Billings, Mont.

There are about 9 million RV owners in the United States, and sales of new RVs are expected to increase 5 percent this year, said RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom, in Reston, Va.

About 90 percent of the units sold are towable trailers, as opposed to motorhomes. Broom said that has less to do with high gas prices, and more to do with the purchase price.

The average price of a big Class A motorhome, which looks like a bus, is about $176,000, while a small travel trailer averages $20,900 and a folding tent trailer $9,400, Broom said.

In fact, manufactures have been conscious of rising gas prices for the past few years, making campers smaller, more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient. A new 32-foot Class A motorhome, for instance, might get up to 15 mpg, Broom said.

The industry commissioned a study on the cost of RV travel last summer, and PKF Consulting found that the average weeklong two-person vacation using a Type A motorhome, staying in campgrounds and cooking all meals, would cost about $4,285, when factoring in the RV purchase price, maintenance and gas.

The cost for two people flying economy to their destination, renting an intermediate car, staying at a standard motel or a hotel like Days Inn, and eating in restaurants for the week would cost $2,735. Only with first-class plane tickets, premium SUV rentals, dining out and the most expensive hotels — like the Ritz Carton or Four Seasons — did it become more costly than Class A motorhome camping, averaging $5,360 per week, the study found.

On the other hand, pulling a travel-trailer with a light truck and staying and eating at campgrounds would cost about $1,845 for the week, it found. Savings or not, Battle likes his 5-year-old Winnebago Class A motorhome and has no interest in flying. He reels off a list of reasons why camping is better: no airports to deal with, no security lines, room for more luggage and golf clubs, a fridge and freezer he can stock, no bedbug worries and the company of Buddy, his chocolate lab.

“One day we can be in a quaint village touring wineries and the next we can be in a RV park on the shore of one of the Great Lakes,” Battle explained.

In order to watch the pennies, Battle said he uses an interactive AAA site to map his route and check the prices at gas stations along the way. He and his wife will often barbecue instead of eating out, and they’ve been known to overnight in a casino parking lot.

“You know what you have to spend and you make your plans ahead of time,” he said. “We love the convenience of the motorhome.”



Survey: Higher Fuel Prices Won’t Deter RVers’ Travel Plans

February 15, 2012 by · Comments Off on Survey: Higher Fuel Prices Won’t Deter RVers’ Travel Plans 

Kidd RV Resort Consulting, an integrated marketing firm specializing in the RV industry, has interpreted the results of its five-question survey to analyze the relationship between gas prices and RVers’ travel behaviors from the summer of 2011 to the winter of 2012.

The results of Kidd RV’s ongoing quarterly industry surveys are valuable for the consulting firm in order to understand RVers’ lifestyles and to better serve their clients- specifically RV resorts, according to a news release.

The Tallahassee, Fla.-based consulting firm uncovered several insightful differences between fuel survey results from 2011 to 2012. Respondents of the 2011 survey indicated that if fuel prices continued to increase, more than 70 percent of RVers would change their travel plans or behaviors. The percentage of respondents who would change their travel behaviors dropped to 27 percent in 2012, an indication that more RVers are adhering to their travel plans despite fuel prices. This fluctuation is potentially due to the 16 percent fuel price decrease that occurred from the summer through December, combined with an improving economy.

Based on survey results, RVers are more committed to paying higher fuel prices and traveling in 2012 as compared to 2011. In 2012, the majority of RVers responded that they would travel until fuel prices reached $8/gallon, while only 7.4 percent of RVers would pay $8/gallon in 2011.

Survey suggests that the nation's RVers won't be held captive by rising fuel prices this season.

In addition, 55 percent of participants are planning on traveling more than they did in 2011, 36 percent planning to travel the same as in 2011 and only 9 percent traveling less than they did last year. These results are indicative of RVers’ willingness to travel further and spend more money on fuel in 2012 as compared to in 2011.

“Understanding how RVers are affected by industry trends, obstacles and new technologies aids Kidd RV for the purpose of creating more focused marketing objectives and maximizing positive results for our clients,” says Jerry Kidd, president of Kidd RV Resort Consulting. “It is crucial for us to be in tune with RVers’ lifestyles in order to better understand the market and ways to make traveling more convenient for our target audience. Through our research on fuel costs and travel behaviors, we have gained insight about how far RVers are willing to travel to their destinations this year, and how much they are willing to pay along the way.”

For detailed charts of RVers’ responses to fuel prices and traveling, please visit:

RV Campgrounds Roll Out On-site Dining

August 31, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

beefeaters200Jim King and his traveling companion, both of Daytona Beach, Fla., were hot, tired and grubby from a long day of sightseeing in and around St. Louis, Mo. When they returned to their 40-foot motorhome at Sundermeier RV Park in St. Charles, Mo., they didn’t feel like fixing dinner, nor did they feel like cleaning up to go out to eat.

So dinner came to them.

We just had hamburgers and fries, but the restaurant delivered as quickly as if we were sitting right there, and they came right to our site,” said King, 66.

King and his friend could just as easily have had prime rib, a New York strip steak or award-winning clam chowder delivered right to their site from Beef Eaters, the campground restaurant, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Forget the weenies on a stick, toasted marshmallows and s’mores that are staples of outdoor getaways. Campgrounds are going gourmet.

“Parks are finding operating a restaurant on-site is indeed a convenience for guests as much or more than a grocery store,” said Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

The organization represents 3,800 privately owned campgrounds in the United States, and roughly 130 have a full-service restaurant on-site. Profaizer believes this is a trend that has gained momentum in the last two or three years.

Beef Eaters was added to the offerings at Sundermeier RV Park in 1999, one of the earliest campgrounds in the association’s membership to operate a restaurant. The decision to open Beef Eaters was primarily as a resource for the RVers, according to manager Joe Zieger. The restaurant soon earned a reputation for great steaks throughout St. Charles and the St. Louis area. Today, only about 20% of Beef Eaters’ business comes from within the RV park.

Such statistics are no surprise to Jack and Susan Evans, owners of the Palms RV Park in Dickinson, Texas, on Interstate 45 about halfway between Houston and Galveston. Guests at the 64-site park, many of whom are long-term campers working at area plants, often ask about dining options in the area, especially for breakfast.

“There just isn’t much around here,” said Jack Evans, who is friends with Harold Backe, father of Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe. The idea of opening a sports-themed restaurant at the park formed while the friends were in Chicago watching Brandon pitch at Wrigley Field.

Construction is under way on Backe’s Bullpen, which should be open in time for the World Series in late October. Boasting a sports theme and a number of autographed baseball items, the restaurant will seat about 80 people inside and about that many more on outdoor patios.

“I had an acre of land that needed something on it, so it just makes sense,” said Evans, who is also adding 10 more cabins to the park.

“We know we can’t rely entirely on the customer base of the campground, but it’s a great location for all of us,” said the elder Backe, who expects his son to be beside him in the off-season, flipping burgers and waiting tables.

It isn’t just privately owned RV parks that recognize the customer-service value of having on-site dining at a campground. Of 52 parks operated by the state of Arkansas, five have on-site, full-service restaurants.

“In general, breakfast is the most popular meal for people staying in the parks,” said Arkansas parks spokesman Joe Jacobs. “It’s just a convenience for campers, but it’s also a convenience for day-use guests for lunch and dinner.”

Just across the state line in southwest Missouri, Roaring River State Park near Cassville built a lodge and dining area in 1998, in part to serve campers but also to encourage locals to get out and explore the park. Roaring River is known as a great trout-fishing river, so that’s the specialty on the menu. As a special service to those who catch and clean their own trout, the kitchen staff will cook it to their specifications for dinner.

But for those who still prefer to prepare their own meals, Mary Arlington at High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kan., provides fresh ingredients for free. While looking for new ways to make guests feel at home, Arlington added a pick-it-yourself organic garden this season. Campers are told about the garden upon check-in.

“The most common response we get from our guests is, ‘Is this for real?’ ” said Arlington, who has operated this campground at the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 83 in western Kansas for eight years.

The 2,100-square-foot garden offers tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, beans, beets, radishes, cantaloupe, squash and more. Although there’s no charge to guests, a donation box is often stuffed with $5 and $10 bills along with thank-you notes. One guest gave Arlington a gift in appreciation for the fresh produce. Another guest made vegetable soup and shared with others.

“We’re already planning on a bigger garden next year,” she said. “Our only problem has been the rabbits, but it’s also fun for guests to watch them frolicking in the garden.”

Arlington enjoys watching parents and grandparents with children in the garden, teaching them how to pick, what is ripe and telling stories from their gardening experiences.

In addition to free produce, High Plains Camping offers free coffee and tea in the office each morning, featuring local roasts.

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