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Orange Tree in the RV park

A WEEK IN AN RV – trying to answer the question; is an RV in our future?
By Jerrold VanNocker

It’s February and here we are sitting in the street drinking Gin and Tonic. Well it is not quite a street. At least not a public street, cause we are sitting here blocking the traffic in an RV Park; we are having a block party!

No, Allison and I haven’t bought an RV; we did not rent one either, we are guests of my brother and sister-in-law. For one week, or until we wear out our welcome, we get to take a peek at what life is like at an RV retirement community located in Arizona.


Here is what we learned during the time we spent with my brother and sister-in-law:

1. There are RV Parks and then there are RV Parks. Driving around Arizona and much of the desert West, you see a lot of barren sandy lots with RV’s parked on them.  Search some more and you can find an RV Park like the one my brother stays at for a few months each winter.  This RV Park not only provides you with resort style amenities but each lots has an Orange tree, which provides fresh fruit come harvest season.  With over 2000 residents, this place is the epicenter of retiree talent. No matter what you are interested in there are classes and clubs galore, and it seems that almost every night some type of entertainment is provided.

RV Park with a number of Park Models, RV's are mingled amoung the Park Models

We saw some amazing ceramic work being done and talk about top-notch quilters; just amazing stuff. Of course there are the lapidary groups, some making fine jewelry, others cutting slabs of petrified wood to turn them into beautiful clock faces.  Woodworkers also have a large presence, from cabinetmakers to wood turners. Then there are the dances, complete with live band; don’t dance. there is a class for that too.  The amenities for the more physically inclined are also extensive; tennis courts, pools, exercise rooms, gyms and even a ballpark.  The list of options for those that want to stay active seems to go on forever.  But it is not just the RV Park’s resort qualities that bring back people year after year, no the real reason people return here is to commune with all the friends they have made.
Some visitors

2. Plan for guests - My brother has, what I would consider, a rather large motor home  with two slide outs. (Slide outs help expand the square footage of an RV when parked but must be retracted before driving the unit down the road.). This RV is a very nice unit for two people: private bedroom with a king size bed, a decent size bathroom and a living space with a sofa that folds flat for a second bed.  It is on the sofa bed where the guests sleep. Did I mention we are the guests; here for a week, at that!

I was worried about sleeping on the sofa bed. It seemed a little tight and I worried particularly that Allison would toss and turn all-night. Come evening my brother brought out a surprise for us, a plastic tube contraption that made an extension for the end of the sofa bed. The extension effectively turned the sofa into a Queen, maybe even King, size bed. The next morning both Allison and I were pleased to report we had a good nights rest.

In talking to my brother and other residents of the park, I soon realized most of them host friends and relatives a lot during the winter months.  My brother and sister-in-law had already hosted visitors prior to our arrival and their next set of guests would be arriving shortly after we were to leave.

3. Maybe a Park Model is more in line to what we want.  Intermixed among the RV vehicles and trailers are units called Park Models.  Park Models are like small house trailers.  While they can be moved, they are meant to stay at one location. Mobile trailers require storage tanks, special batteries and a few other things so they can be used when there is no electrical or sewage hookups. Without storage tanks the Park Models gain a little more usable space from their square footage. The really cool thing about Park Models is that you can add “Arizona” rooms to them. Arizona rooms add a lot of functional living space to the Park Models. These rooms can be simple screened enclosures or solid walled living spaces.

This is what a Park Model looks like with the Arizona room

The Park Model we visited has a spacious living area, which easily converted into private guest quarters; complete with its own private bathroom. We really liked these Park Models. My brother really needs to get one of these park models with an Arizona “guest” room. Just think, we could stay a lot longer then a week if he had one of these nice Arizona “guest” rooms.

Spending a week in this Retirement Park left us complimenting our RV future. As we drove home we debated the pros and cons of living in an RV versa a Park model and whether Retirement communities were for us. Allison sees herself living in a Park Model more than in an RV, particularly the smallish RV’s I would consider. One issue with Park Models/trailers is you own the trailer but not the lot the trailer sits on; should the park sell out to developers you could relocate the trailer/Park Model but your Arizona room might not be moveable. Even though we loved the Retirement Park, I think it will be a number of years before we embrace this life style. We arrived home more knowledgeable about our RV living options but no more decided in our direction.

So what is the next step?  Should we rent a small camping RV this summer? Visit some travel parks and ask RV’ers how they are enjoying the lifestyle? Maybe we should track down some of those full time RV’ers who work and travel on the road?  I guess you and I will both find out in the next issue.

A Special Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for letting us stay with them in their RV and being such kind and gracious hosts!

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Lake Tahoe photographs provided by the "Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority."
Wolverine photograph provided by the National Park Service