Retirees Extol Park Model Lifestyle

February 29, 2012 by · Comments Off on Retirees Extol Park Model Lifestyle 

Editor’s Note: The following news release and the accompanying  video come from the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association  (RPTIA) and promotes park model living. Click here to watch the video.

Al and Bonnie Parsons have a retirement lifestyle most of us could only dream of.

Every summer, they live in their 35-foot Winnebago motorhome and work as volunteer interpretive rangers in the national parks.

“Last year, we were in Yellowstone, and we were in Yosemite the year before that,” said Bonnie Parsons, 67, a retired physicians assistant. “This summer, we’ll be volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park.”

And when they’re not volunteering in the national parks, the Parsons travel around the country visiting family and friends. They spend the winter at Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, where they own a “park model.”

Relatively unknown to most consumers, “park models” are 400-square-foot factory built cottages, complete with full size bathrooms and kitchen appliances. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts as well as cherry, oak or maple cabinetry.

And because park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles because they sit on a chassis, they can be set up on leased sites in campgrounds and RV resorts in some of the most sought-after destinations in the country, where the cost of real estate is beyond most people’s reach.

Park models are what have enabled Voyager RV Resort and other Sunbelt RV resorts to offer a winter home away from home for a fraction of the cost of a site built home or condo.

Park models average about $40,000 and can be set up on leased or purchased campsites in RV parks and resorts across the country, said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). About a third of the nation’s privately owned parks make spaces available for park model owners, usually for annual lease fees ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 a year, depending on location.

At Voyager RV Resort, used park models often sell for under $20,000, while new units can range from $40,000 to $70,000 or more, depending on the style and amenities.

The Parsons bought a used 1999 Cavco park model last year for $55,000 – a higher amount that reflected the fact that the unit was fully furnished and also included an “Arizona room,” which the Parsons use for entertaining. They also pay Voyager about $4,500 a year to lease their site. The lease fee includes water and sewer service and all park amenities, but electricity is not included.

Even so, that’s well within the Parsons’ budget.

How They Did it

So how did they do it?

First, they sold their house and Al’s financial advisory business in Pennsylvania and used the proceeds to buy their motorhome. They put the rest of their money in the bank and into their investment portfolio.

Downsizing was difficult at first, they said. They had a garage sale and gave several pieces of furniture to their children, but donated most of their possessions to charity. But they still wound up renting a 10- by 10-foot storage unit to store antique furniture, photographs, artwork and a few other possessions that were too sentimental to sell but too cumbersome to take with them on the road.

But if you’re contemplating doing what the Parsons have done, they offer a few words of advice:

  • Make sure both you and your spouse are equally committed to having a successful full-timing lifestyle: “The secret about fulltiming,” Bonnie Parsons said, “is that both people have to be equally enthused.” Conversely, if only one person likes the lifestyle and the other doesn’t, it won’t be enjoyable in the long run.
  • Read up on full-timing before you do it: Many books are available that describe full-time RVing experiences. Bonnie said she read four of them before deciding full-timing was for her.
  • Rent RVs and park models before you buy them: Both motorhomes and park models can be rented. Try them out before deciding which product is best for you.
  • Consider buying a park model if you like to entertain: Bonnie Parsons says the space and durability of park models is essential for snowbirds who like to entertain.

Al Parsons, who is 77, also offered a word of advice to young people.

“Start saving now,” he said, “and aim to retire as young as you can.” People who start saving for retirement in their 20s and 30s can often retire by their mid-50s if they set enough money aside and make good investments. Parsons himself worked as an electrical engineer before starting a venture capital firm, which he sold before becoming a full-time RVer.

For more information on a retirement lifestyle that includes park models, please contact William Garpow at the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association at (770) 251-2672 and visit

Encore Resort Announces March Concert Lineup

February 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on Encore Resort Announces March Concert Lineup 

Encore announced the March musical performance lineup for Voyager RV Resort’s Wednesday and Friday Night Concert Series.

These Three Tenors on Voyager RV Resort's March concert bill.

Tucson, Ariz., residents and RV enthusiasts from across the country can enjoy a wide variety of musical acts at the concert series, according to a news release. All shows will be in the ballroom and begin at 7 p.m.

  • The Friday Night Concert Series begins March 2 with These Three Tenors. Hailing from New York, These Three Tenors have a varied repertoire from operatic and Italian classics to Broadway favorites.
  • The Friday series continues March 16 with Highway Legends. Jeff Dayton and Mike & T Smith use their extensive experience performing on the road with country music legends to bring audiences the best of country, pop and R&B music.
  • The Southwest Surfers kicks off the Wednesday Night Concert Series March 7 playing hit songs from The Beach Boys, including “Surfin’ Safari”, “Barbara Ann” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”
  • Fans of gospel will enjoy How Great Thou Art featuring Robert Shaw March 14. Along with his 12-piece band and a gospel quartet, Shaw keeps Elvis’ spirituality alive by performing inspirational hits, including “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.”
  • Paying tribute to some of the world’s finest music, the 3 International Tenors continue the Wednesday series March 21.
  • The Wednesday Night Concert Series comes to a close March 28 with the musical act, Bernie and Red. The husband-and-wife team brings a fresh and original format using song and humor to entertain audiences.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $18 and can be purchased at the Activities Office at Voyager RV Resort (8701 S. Kolb Road, Tucson).

Tucson’s Voyager RV Resort Opens Farmers Market

April 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on Tucson’s Voyager RV Resort Opens Farmers Market 

The gate at Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, Ariz.

A new weekly farmers market at Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, Ariz., already has a couple dozen vendors, and hopes to attract more.

Every Thursday shoppers can find fresh organic produce, fresh eggs, teas, coffees, salsas, honey, balsamic vinegars, soaps, essential oils and lotions at the market, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Arizona Daily Star reported. The cost to set up to sell ranges between $20 and $25.

Last Thursday’s event at Voyager, 8701 S. Kolb Road, was the third for the new weekly year-round farmers market.

The idea is to attract visitors and entertain residents.

“The reason the resort brought in the market is for their yearly and visiting residents and to promote the (Voyager) Bar & Grill as well as the resort,” said restaurant manager Lisa Wagner.

Ed Dubis is organizing the gatherings.

“The markets are a throwback to the old days, when people personally knew their produce person,” he said. “Everything is more personal and fresher than you will find in the store.”

The market is looking for vendors to provide fresh produce and all-natural, homemade products.

Branson’s Wilson Charms Voyager RV Audience

March 3, 2011 by · Comments Off on Branson’s Wilson Charms Voyager RV Audience 

Veteran Branson, Mo., performer Jennifer Wilson brought her traveling act to the Southwest, making her Tucson debut last week at the Voyager RV Resort, 8701 S. Kolb Road, to a nearly packed house of more than 400 people, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The Jennifer Show features Wilson singing and dancing through Broadway show tunes, Texas swing, bluegrass, pop and gospel as well as playing the straight man to the comedy stylings of her husband, Dan Browning, in his guise as Pete Moss.

“We’re really country,” Wilson said. “But I love variety, that’s what I really like.”

Wilson’s Feb. 23 performance touched the crowd, and one member in particular. Wilson invited Stan Herrmann to the front of the house as a surrogate for a song about asking questions of granddad. Herrmann, who sported lipstick on his cheek after Wilson’s farewell kiss, was a little abashed following his performance.

“I’m not used to standing up in front of a crowd,” he said. “I was just surprised she picked me.”

Campgrounds’ Wellness Centers Pamper the Camper

July 2, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

The labyrinth at Sacred Rocks Reserve, California. This 100-foot replica of the 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth is constructed of brick, wood chips, and stone. The walk is 1,570 feet long. Seven tree stumps ring the center.

Editor’s Note: The following story appears in the current issue of MotorHome Magazine.

After being diagnosed with cancer last summer, Sheri Fraser went through nearly two months of chemotherapy, radiation and proton therapy. After it was over, she couldn’t wait to escape with her husband, Terry, to one of their favorite getaways, The Springs at Borrego RV Resort in Borrego Springs, Calif.

The 90-site luxury desert resort, on the outskirts of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the Southern California desert, includes panoramic views of rugged mountains and hot mineral baths with natural spring water from an on-site well.

What Fraser didn’t expect when she visited the park last winter, however, was its newest amenity: a wellness center led by Anna Morris, a holistic health practitioner and expert in Ayurvedic massage who trained with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Vasant Lad, two of the nation’s premier experts in holistic health medicine. “It was just heaven,” said Fraser, 51. “Anna was one of the best massage therapists I’ve ever been to.”

And she’s not the only massage therapist at the RV resort’s wellness center. Joining her are Amy Baay, a licensed massage practitioner, and Betty Patterson, a licensed acupuncturist who also does herbal medicine and teaches classes in Qigong, an energy building exercise with slow body movements.

“It was just surreal to think that I had all these things available to me while I was camping,” Fraser said.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort isn’t the only park offering these kinds of amenities. Several RV resorts across the country, in fact, are broadening their repertoire of health- and wellness-oriented amenities to soothe body, mind and, in some cases, even the spiritual health and well-being of its guests.

Consider The Great Outdoors RV Nature and Golf Resort in Titusville, Fla., about 30 minutes from Orlando. The 1,625-site park, one of the largest in the Sunbelt, has two fitness centers, three swimming pools and three whirlpool spas as well as classes in Zumba, yoga and Pilates.

“We also have our own beauty salon, acupuncturist and massage therapist,” said Judy Willeke, a director at the resort. She said the resort’s acupuncturist and massage therapist previously had their own offices in the Titusville area, but demand for their services was so strong they found it worthwhile to move their practices on to the resort. One of the park’s residents is also a retired nutritionist, who now performs house calls to help the park’s guests keep in health.

“The 60s are the new 40s,” Willeke said, adding, “RVers want to take better care of themselves and they want to look good.”

Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), which owns RV parks and resorts throughout the Sunbelt, is also seeing increased demand for a greater variety of health and wellness services. Professional massage practitioners work out of the fitness centers at the company’s Arizona properties, including Monte Vista Village Resort in Mesa and Voyager RV Resort in Tucson. ELS also offers wellness seminars and special events at its Arizona and Florida properties throughout the winter season, said Pat Zamora, a company representative.

Doreen Fuller, activities director for Rincon Country RV Resort in Tucson, said her park also complements its pool and spa with classes in low-impact aerobics, tai chi and yoga. And, for the past three years, she said, the resort has invited several doctors and physician’s assistants to provide seminars on a variety of topics, including blood pressure, joint and shoulder pain, arthritis, as well as brain health in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

“Most people are being very careful about their diet and they are taking better care of themselves,” she said.

And it’s not just retired RVers who are taking a greater interest in health and wellness activities.

“It seems like we’re seeing younger people, in their 40s, come out and enjoy a weekend,” said Jolene Wade, managing partner of Fountain of Youth Spa Campground in Niland, Calif. “Some are coming in to pamper themselves. But others are coming because they need limbering up.”

The Fountain of Youth Spa has complemented its hot mineral baths with on-site massage therapists for many years. But Wade sees growing interest in health- and wellness-oriented activities. “There seems to be more demand for bodywork,” she said.

Of course, it’s certainly feasible for people to seek massages and other types of wellness activities at home. But there’s something uniquely special and relaxing about engaging in these kinds of activities while enjoying time away at an RV resort.

Consider the experience of RVers at the Fountain of Youth Spa.

“We have restorative energy with beautiful views, plenty of sunshine, lots of areas to roam and hike,” Wade said. “We also have a walking course within the park. You can stop at different stations and do different exercises. People like to head out into the desert, do the walking course and relax by the pool. And we have the Chocolate Mountains that change colors all day. You can see the Salton Sea in the distance. It’s really a pretty peaceful, rejuvenating experience.”

Sacred Rocks Reserve in Boulevard, Calif., has taken the concept of health and wellness even further by complementing its natural surroundings with a man-made labyrinth, a circular walking path that is said to facilitate contemplation, meditation and spiritual awareness.

“The Christian church adopted the labyrinth for meditation and prayer in A.D. 300, but labyrinths have been found in carved rock much earlier. The oldest one found was about 5,000 years old,” said Sharon Courmousis, who owns the park with her husband, Dimitri.

Sacred Rocks’ labyrinth is a mile long and was patterned using an 800-year-old design from a monk in Chartres, France. “It’s one of the oldest symbols for spiritual connection,” Courmousis said.

Unlike a maze, which tries to trick the participant, a labyrinth facilitates meditation. “What happens when you take the time to walk the path of a labyrinth is that somehow your mind becomes clear and the extraneous thoughts fall away,” Courmousis said. “I’ve seen people who are agitated or nervous, and once they start walking in the path of a labyrinth, they are able to pull themselves in, center themselves and be in a healing environment. And because our labyrinth has only natural noises, since we’re away from the freeway and in a remote location, it’s a very special experience. People go out to walk the labyrinth in the morning and the evening and even at midnight when there’s a blanket of stars.”

Courmousis said she took a personal interest in labyrinths after a cancer diagnosis. “Five years ago, after a breast cancer diagnosis and during chemotherapy and radiation, I walked the labyrinth daily. I feel it helped me in all ways to deal with this shocking situation — emotionally, spiritually and physically,” she said.

Sacred Rocks has frequent orientation sessions to explain to its guests what a labyrinth is and how to use it. “As time goes on,” Courmousis said, “we find more and more people are driving up just to do the labyrinth.”