Friday, January 1, 2016

Van Horn Texas to Casa Grande Arizona in Three Steps, and Side Steps...

If you missed the last post, we again wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year on this first day of 2016. We had plans on cleaning out and organizing the vans today, in preparation for a trip to storage tomorrow, but the Weather Channel also said it was going to be calm this morning, when I could obviously tell by the wind whistling across our roof vents that it was anything but calm! The sun is out, but it is breezy and dusty out here, so I decided to work on the next post instead.

Van Horn to Benson

The trip from Van Horn, Texas was a pleasant sunny day, and we had a nice drive through some beautiful country to our target for the day, which was the Escapees resort at Benson. We had been past it several times before, as our Western Horizon resort at St. David is just south of it, but we had never been "in" the Escapees resort before. It's a little bit back off the road, through what looks like other property, but was easy to get into.

The office is right there at the entrance, on the right-hand side, so the over-all layout of the property seems to be good. All streets are very wide, compared to most RV parks. In the office is a brand new computerized layout of the park showing all sites, with different colors for the different types. But that is where the positives ended.

First, they acted like they had a problem with where to put our unique combination and types of vehicles, and had to get three different people involved in the process. It was finally decided to put us at the far end of the main road, on blacktop, where there is an open parking area with only one hookup on the first space. Still there was concern over whether our vehicles would fit.

When we got to it, and pulled in, not only was the space long enough for both sets of vehicles end to end, but there was space to park another set of vehicles side by side! The space was literally huge, with spaces painted on the black asphalt like a commercial parking lot (we were fine with that), and yet the office staff acted like they had no idea what size the space was, other than what was shown on that TV screen behind the desk!

The other problem came when trying to tell us that there was a fenced dog run at the end of that road. The map clearly shows it (sort of) and shows it "before" you get to the storage area. When we tried to find it, the obvious conclusion was that it had been converted to an open unfenced community park area earlier in this same year, complete with a commemorative plaque over the entrance sidewalk, and yet the office staff had no clue and were obviously giving people bad information!

As a former luxury apartment manager and also manager of a huge 866-acre RV resort myself, I would have had this office staff taking mandatory walks around the grounds at least once a week, and even giving them personal tours if that's what it took for them to get the layout in their heads and know what they were talking about to prospective visitors! There is absolutely no excuse for the lack of knowledge that we witnessed at this resort!

When I ran the places I ran, I got out and walked the grounds every day, with a work order pack in my hand, and was writing down repair tasks for the staff to do! Within the first three months of running a 384-unit luxury apartment complex, with another 47 condominiums, I could tell you what color carpet, what color countertops and what color appliances were in each unit, and what type of unit each was by name!

That's the way work gets done efficiently, as well as keeps prospective residents happy by knowing what you are talking about and getting the job done on time!

Potential customers never see the paperwork that most managers have to do behind closed doors in their offices, and couldn't care less about it. What they care about is how they are treated at the front desk when they arrive! Although paperwork is important, managers need to quit hiding away in their offices and get out and KNOW the grounds they are managing! THAT is what makes the difference to the customers!

The other thing that I found aggravating and disconcerting was the fact that the counter gal was more concerned with reading us all the rules than they were about making us feel welcome by telling us about the activities going on that very night, and inviting us to them! Granted, she was very polite, but we could tell she was new and nervous, and also ill-trained.

We have been in MANY luxury resorts all across the country, and I have NEVER had so many rules forced down my throat upon arrival to a resort! They even made sure to tell us that our sewer hose is not to lay on the ground! As odd as that is, I told them we don't have a "sewer hose", but simply a sink with a garden hose outlet, to which they asked if we could possibly put a board under it! What? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and since the hose was on pavement anyway, what difference could it possibly make?

I understand the gravity drain of sewer hoses, and why many people use supports under them (which have to be much higher than a board!). After all, we've only been RVing for nearly 35 years! But a garden hose is not a sewer hose, and can easily be drained the same way any other hose is picking it up from the vehicle end and letting it drain into the sewer. It's not rocket science! And just for the record, we also have the special fitting to hook our garden hose to, which seals it into a larger 3 or 4 inch sewer opening!

But between all the rules and regulations force-fed to us, and not one mention of activities we might enjoy, we could see that this park and management has a lot to learn about the hospitality end of things. If they were running a business that depended on profit, rather than a membership resort, they would run it in the ground with their attitude! We have no desire to ever return there unless we hear of a change in management and rules! We'd rather go down the road a couple more miles to the Western Horizons St. David resort, where we always enjoyed it a whole lot more! And if that one ever goes under, we'll find another one in the area!

Being there only for the night, we only took a quick walk around to see what the place was like, and although it seems very nice, we had no desire to partake of any event going on that night. We kept to ourselves and moved on the next morning.

Benson to Deming

Our next stop on the other side of the sprawl of El Paso was a much better experience. I hate driving through large cities, especially when pulling a trailer and having another vehicle and trailer following behind. And we seemed to hit it at the height of afternoon rush hour, which certainly didn't help any. But despite heavy construction on the east side, the traffic moved at a reasonably steady pace, and we made good time getting through it.

We arrived at the Deming Escapees resort well before sundown, and were treated the exact opposite of the haughty attitude of Benson. They lady at the check-in counter made sure we knew about the social gathering coming up, and also the meal that was planned for a little later in the evening, before she even finalized our paperwork. We were able to choose our own site after getting recommendations, and found the sites very open and large, on a gravel area.

We actually prefer these large open sites to all the nicely groomed and curbed sites that are fit so closely together that large rigs have a hard time maneuvering. The facilities at Deming were nice, the people were very welcoming and friendly, and we came away with two new couples as friends that I'm sure we will see down the road, and actually have already, at our next stop.

The resort at Deming was as close to our former home resort in Michigan as we have ever seen. The clubhouse is always open (except at night, and even then, members and visitors have a code to punch into a push button lock to get into the restrooms and showers), the coffee pot is always on, the tables are always set up, and the activity room is a "living room" away from your RV, which is the way it should be. Most of us don't have a lot of room to socialize with people in our own rigs, and having a "living room" where all can gather to do whatever they wish to do just makes a resort feel more like home, as it should be.

The room was plenty large enough that different groups could gather for their own activities without interfering with others. There was a TV in one corner, with comfortable chairs, and there was a game and puzzle corner.

Sharon loves puzzles and couldn't help but to continue with one that someone else had started, and I have to say, it was one of the most difficult I have ever seen.

The celestial puzzle at Deming Escapees RV Resort.
As you can see in the photo above, this puzzle was mostly a plain black border, and the writing on it anywhere was so small you almost needed a magnifying glass to see it. Very challenging! And no, we didn't finish it while we were there.

Deming to Casa Grande 

From Deming, we were headed into yet another large city, only because there is literally no way to get around these southern metropolises. We had to get through Tucson, but fortunately, didn't hit it at rush hour, so it wasn't too bad. Our next goal was to get to the Escapees resort at Casa Grande. This was a home resort for one of the couples we had made friends with in Deming, but again, it didn't feel like "home" to us.

The sites are so small and packed together there, that fitting anything but a normal RV of moderate size in, is almost impossible. We could have taken a dry site along the south side, but we wanted at least electric for our refrigerator and for heat. Because of many sites being leased, they have storage sheds on them, and the RV space is only big enough for one lane. Some allow for an extra vehicle, provided it is short, but few have two whole lanes available.

The gal in the office was nice in trying to accommodate our special needs, but had to get the grounds man involved to search out a site. After one failed try, he finally found us one where we could get both vehicles in with no problem at all. Even with a storage shed, there was plenty of length, with a concrete pad between the parking spaces. Again, a case of staff not really knowing the length of the sites or being able to judge the length of the vehicles when seeing them with their own eyes!

But again, this resort has way too many rules to suit us. First was a concern with a set-back off the curb of five feet. I can understand that for permanently parked units and leased sites, but let's get real...we only planned to be there for one what's the difference? I read later in the rules of the resort online that they don't want any rigs with porta-potties, and although I appreciate them bending the rules for us, again...what's the difference? Every site has a sewer connection, so what's the difference how the "stuff" gets into it? It's silly rules like this, created by people who have no idea what real "camping" is, that is a turn-off for those who CHOOSE to travel in smaller, more practical RV's, of whatever type they may be!

We weren't actually told, but saw an activity sheet while registering, that there was an ice cream social and a chili supper that afternoon and evening, and we had to inquire about it, but were only given mediocre instructions as to what to bring, and whether there was a fee or not. It's as though some of these people think that just because you carry a member card, that you are supposed to know all these things. Every resort is different, and new visitors should be informed of the policies!

Other downsides to resorts... and the side-step...

We found that some of the people there were somewhat friendly, but a little "stand-offish". We spoke with some across the table at the chili supper, but one incident really revealed the attitude. A lady came and sat across from us, obviously a regular (possibly a leaseholder) at the resort. She pried us on a few basic questions, which we answered honestly, and then handed her a card, with our blog address on it, and a photo of our rig, the same photo that is on our blog. As soon as she saw the picture of our traveling vehicle on the card, we could sense her attitude change. She obviously expected us to be in what she considers a normal RV, but when she realized it was a converted cargo trailer, she handed the card back to me and excused herself! How friggin' rude and obvious can you be?

She never bothered to dig further to get to know us, to realize or understand that we used to drive a new Lincoln Mark VII LSC, own several thousand dollars (close to $25,000, actually) worth of memberships far more exclusive and valuable than Escapees, that we have owned several other RV's including a 40-foot Class A, had custom-built the largest, best-built and most expensive park model in our high end resort in Mesa, and retired from jobs far more prestigious and important than her small mind could ever comprehend!

No, she made an immediate judgement based on our "current" traveling mode without ever trying to know us more fully. Well, sorry lady, but that's YOUR loss...not ours! We don't want anything to do with you, or with narrow-minded materialistic people like you!

I have to relate a story that brings these kinds of attitudes to light. In Livingston, we had the extreme pleasure to meet (in the laundromat, of all places) a very unique lady that we would not have gotten to know if we had chosen to stick our noses in the air like the jerk at Casa Grande. All you have to do is Google "Carol Kiwi Donovan" to see who I am talking about. You will find all kinds of information on her!

Here was a 70-ish-year-old lady who had traveled not only from New Zealand, but had traveled all over the herself! She does her USA traveling in an older '88 (I think) high-top Chevy camper van that she bought used and keeps in immaculate condition, usually takes dry sites when she can get them, lives without heat or air conditioning, even in the harshest of weather, and has no trouble boondocking in other remote areas all by herself. She has a FAR more interesting and valuable life than some of these resort dwellers who attempt to call themselves RVers just because they live in a fancy motorhome or fifth-wheel and stick their noses in the air at anyone who doesn't conform to "their" idea of a suitable neighbor!

I may be a member of several different resorts and systems, but this is why I say I will never settle down in one like the ones with the negatives we have run into on this short trip! Too many are run like a homeowner's association, with some of the stupidest rules I have ever seen, simply to try to recreate a residential atmosphere full of the same kind of rules that many RVers have tried to get away from by going to an RV lifestyle! And to what purpose? If you want those kind of structured rules to exclude people that you don't think aren't good enough for you, then why aren't you in a fancy house in one of those structured communities that chokes the individual spirit out of people? People like that are no better off than the people they try to exclude, and in many ways, worse!

Personally, I think long term leases in any kind of campground or resort should be outlawed! When people start to think of anything as their own to do with what they will, even if they don't own it, they suddenly think they can start imposing their will on everyone else! That goes against everything that RVing is supposed to represent! From our experience in managing a membership resort, even members who don't own or have any kind of say in the rules that the corporate office imposes, can be a PIA, thinking that they have a right to dictate to management! They DON'T!

These people with their nose stuck in the air need to face reality. I don't care what kind of RV you have or what its value is, you are still living in a metal, wood, or fiberglass box on wheels that depreciates every year you own it (because of what NADA tells us), whether you take excellent care of it or not! So how friggin' smart does that make you? A wise person would invest in something that increases in value, or at the very least will lose the very LEAST in value over time! So if you think you are somehow smarter than others... or better than others... well... you just shot yourself in the foot before you opened your mouth, rolled your eyes or shrugged your shoulder!

The truly intelligent, smart and wise people are the ones who have used their brains to figure that out, and have chosen not only a lifestyle of less worthless spending on useless "stuff", but have chosen vehicles that follow that same philosophy, whether it be a home-built conversion, a simple van, or at least a smaller, more efficient RV that allows them to work less, travel more, and put their excess money to better use!

And isn't that exactly what all the car campers, van dwellers, cargo trailer camper builders, bus conversion enthusiasts, and others are striving to do? Just because you see someone living simply doesn't mean they are "down and out". It just means that they have made a decision to live within their means, use their own ingenuity, quit going into debt and stop spending good money on useless crap that they are only going to sell in next years yard sale for pennies on the dollar! Rather than continue a life of constant work to keep up with other people's expectations of them, they have decided to live for themselves, to get out of high-priced homes of whatever type, stupid rules that serve no logical purpose, and start living a life of experiences, rather than material possessions! And good for them!

And the vehicles and RVs that cost less to buy (or build) also have much less of a depreciation rate on them, because they weren't bought new! And the home-built conversions aren't governed by the industry standard NADA book values, so they can be sold for whatever the owner can get out of them, and it's usually close to what they have in it! That's a lot of money saved that can be used for traveling and entrance fees to create memories... not to buy useless junk with!

In our own little group here in the middle of the desert, we have all types of vehicles, from Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels to people camping in cars. There may be a few that live frugally because they have to, but some might fool you.

One (and maybe others that I don't know about yet) runs an internationally acclaimed web site and blog, and makes far more than it takes to live this way. We have a former news correspondent and anchor for a major television network. We have a former Sheriff's deputy. We have a retired executive assistant for a VP of a multi-billion-dollar world-wide pharmaceuticals company, and we have someone who has built and worked on machines that helped put the space shuttles in orbit as well as keep commercial planes and helicopters in the air! And that's only the ones I have gotten to know out here. In other places, I know one is a retired school teacher who nearly makes more from her blog than she ever did at working or retirement! Another is a well-known founder of a radio station and publishing business! Others are computer or communications specialists in varying forms, most of them making a very good living at traveling full-time. Some take work-camping jobs of various kinds and make as much money as some do living in their "sticks and bricks" houses.

There are ALL kinds of people out here, with varying degrees of education, each for their own reasons, and for those snobs that look down upon them because they don't travel in the kind of RV that "they" think they should travel in, doesn't mean they are any less of a person than the person judging them! In fact, in many ways, they are better, and more honest than some of those "judges" will ever be, not only with themselves, but with others!

The people out here already know who they are, and have learned to deal with life on their terms. They are honest with themselves! And of all the people out here in the desert with strangers, no one feels a need to lock their doors because there's no one out here who would even think of stealing from someone else. If they were caught, they would have a very unpleasant escort out of here! That's more than we can say about even some of the RV resorts in the city. I don't care how fancy you think you have it, even city resorts have break-ins and thefts!

I have driven eight brand new vehicles in my work days. Every one of them was to prove to others that I was as good as they were, for status more than anything else. And every one of them forced me to work harder and longer at jobs I didn't even like in order to pay for them!

A vehicle is to get you from one place to another...period! I've learned to not care how old they are, as long as they are in good mechanical condition, and visually appealing to me alone! I couldn't care less what others think about it... they aren't the ones who are working to pay for it or its replacement when the time comes.

I can understand for those who aren't mechanically inclined, that they want a newer, more dependable vehicle, and if they can afford it, then I think that's great. But I grew up on a farm, and doing our own repairs on nearly everything was a standard policy. We did everything right down to rebuilding engines, so I know exactly how a vehicle works, and what to do when it doesn't. Even if I don't do my own repairs anymore, I know whether someone is trying to shaft me on services or whether they are doing it right. So driving an older vehicle that has few problems is still a lot less expensive than making payments on a new one! Been there, done that, don't need to do it again for my own benefit! I'd rather spend the savings on travel!

If we make a trade for something better in the not too distant future, it will be because it's what WE want, not what the neighbor wants to see in our driveway! And if we ever run into a resort that refuses to let us in, we'll just mark it off our list of future prospects to stay at, and let the public know what kind of treatment we got.

Besides, through our nearly 35 years of RVing, we know what works for the way we want to travel, and another huge luxury motorcoach is definitely NOT in our future! It sucks the life and finances out of anyone who owns one, because it limits where they can go with it! I'm a bit of a rebel. I hate limits! If I want to stay in a luxury resort, I should be able to... especially if I am a paid member of that resort! But I also want to be able to boondock for extended times if I choose to.

However, I have to do my part in choosing a vehicle that will fit in "most" parking places, and the upper limit (from my own experience) seems to be about 32 feet. That's as large as I ever want to go with any future RV we buy.

So anyway, that got off onto a bit of a rant, but it needed to be said, if only because I felt a need to say it. If it offends anyone, then I may at least get a comment out of you...or not. You don't have to agree with me. It seems the only time people speak up is when a topic becomes controversial, and if nothing else, I say it like I see it.

In the next post, we will "attempt" to leave Casa Grande and venture on to our current location, and let you know more about what we have discovered about this lifestyle, our converted trailer, and much more. And yes, we will try to get better at taking photos. Thanks for reading.    


kaBLOOnie boonster said...

Your disappointment with "fellow RVers" is coming through, loud and clear.

You might be more relaxed and have more fun if you just give up on the Escapees organization, or at least their parks. I was offended by one of their rule-nazis once, and immediately dropped out of that organization. The people in those parks should be called the "Yoostabees" rather than the Escapees.

For your own peace of mind, just accept the fact that the average RV park resident is a nice, clean, indoors-ey, timid, rule-following bourgeoisie who sees an RV as a suburban McMansion on wheels. Back in their little suburb, their moral self-worth was tied to whose lawn had the fewest dandelions. Even one un-picked-up leaf in autumn, blowing across somebody's lawn, was proof that they were a dirty sort of person.

They have no interest in the outdoors or in a more genuine camping experience. Just accept it. Don't be angry or disappointed anymore.

John Abert said...

Thank you for your input. It sounds like you have had similar experiences. New Years Day was not going well on other fronts, and it came across in my writing. In one sense, I probably shouldn't have posted that day, but on the other hand, all these blogs that have nothing but positive posts are not being true to themselvrs, or to their readers. A full-time travel life is full of ups and downs, just like any normal life in a house. Being on the go everyday, inserting yourself into strange surroundings with people you don'the know, can present good situations as well as bad, and I intend to present both sides, and the reasons they came up. I will leave it up to the reader to decide for themselves how they want to perceive it.

The same will be true for the vehicles themselves. There are serious disadvantages to going with a smaller vehicle, as well as any that are considered "out of the norm" by these people mentioned above. To some, that may not matter, but to others, being turned away because of the size or type of vehicle you own, can be a problem. People need to know and understand the prejudices against such things, to help them avoid similar situations.

So far, I have only received one unsubscribe notice, and that'she fine. I can only assume that it must have been one of those types of people mentioned above. The fact that it is only one out of many speaks for itself. Obviously, the majority either agree, or at least understand and want to continue to learn. This lifestyle and the type of vehicles we presently have are not for everyone, and we know that. Whether it is not for them, whether they don'the like my tone, or whatever the reason, they are free to leave at any time. As I said in this morning'so Facebook post, I have learned that I can'tell please everybody all the time, and some can never be pleased. So be it.