Sunday, September 27, 2009

Want to be a campground host?

On a recent trip to a Vermont state park, we happened to meet the couple who are the “hosts” for the summer. And in doing so, stumbled on a nationwide opportunity for Airstreamers (and other RV types) who want to trade free camping for service.

The retired Vermont couple we met had tired of Vermont winters and transitioned a few years ago to full-time RV’ers. They initially went to Florida for the winter months but got tired of the crowds and hubbub and now winter in Georgia and love it. The started being hosts about four years ago and show up about Memorial Day and leave after Labor Day. They are on duty about four days a week and love it.

I was intrigued by the program and doing some searching, soon came to find that their are countless programs and positions out there -- and that many people come back year after year. Hosts, often retired couples, help manage a campground for the summer camping season in exchange for a free site for their RV or travel trailer. Most public campgrounds have special host sites which often (but not always!) have full hookups, even when the campground they are managing is primitive.

Camp host jobs vary greatly from campground to campground, but almost all require taking fees from campers, cleaning bathrooms, and light grounds maintenance (such as raking fire puts, blowing leaves, etc.) Hosts with maintenance skills are always in demand.

Here’s a job description from one public campground:
Campground hosts will serve as a "live-in" host during April through October for a four (4) week period.
The host will be responsible for (but not limited to) the following tasks:
• Explaining (not enforcing) Campground Rules
• Campground Foot Patrols
• Litter Clean-up
• Bath House Clean-up Three (3) Days a Week to Include: hose down floors, sweep, toilet and sink cleaning, wash mirrors
• Various Light Maintenance Repairs
• Stocking Supplies in Bath Houses as Needed
• Prepping Campsites After Campers Check-out
• Removing Debris From Fire Rings
• Restoring Power to Electrical Sites (switching the breaker back on)
• Night Watchperson During Busy Nights
You can find out much more about hosting at (America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal), Workamper News (Helping RVers Explore America - 1 Job at a Time), state agencies such as these in California or Alaska, or the book Camp Hosting USA.

Mary and I are not ready to leave our Vermont home to volunteer at a campground but see it as an interesting option for retired people who enjoy camping and helping others enjoy it. Check it out -- and thank hosts that you meet for their service.

top photo from camphostcouple website lower photo from Fairfax County website

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It Takes A Village To Get Our Airstream Ready

Belly pan, tires, tail light, inspection -- it’s been a steady stream of maintenance items the last two weeks. I lucked out and got a piece of aluminum from my neighbor that trimmed up to patch the belly pan and thanks to good advice from my brother, I was able to drill and rivet the large 8’ x 4’ piece in place and it looks great.
I had ordered new tires since the old ones were from 2003 and even though they looked ok, had baked in the Florida sun for several winters.

I’m using the two 2”x 6” approach to hoisting a wheel and removing the adjacent one -- rather than mess with a jack. My local service station is mounting the wheels as I bring them in.

Last Friday, I went downtown early with the trailer and got the VIN number verified by the Department of Motor Vehicles. (This is a requirement for vehicles/trailers purchased out of state.) This morning, I again snaked my way through Montpelier and got the rig inspected.

A couple of tires to go and we should be in good shape for the road.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pop Goes The Rivets

The belly pan on my Airstream is sagging and needs work. It's something that I can do but I've never done any riveting. So I ordered some wide-flange rivets and a rivet tool from our local company, Vintage Trailer Supply.

Today, I drove over and picked up the order and met the owner, Steve Hingtgen. He gave me a drill bit and some pointers; it's great to have him and his parts company here in town.

Crawling under a trailer, banging and drilling out old rivets, and then putting a new rivet in place is slow dirty work. I soon realized that I'd need some washers since the old rivets had opened some larger holes in the belly pan. I got about 20 new rivets placed and will do the rest in the next few days.

Of course, when you are up close and personal with your trailer's underside, you spot other stuff. A couple of brackets holding water lines need attention; one of the tires has a couple of cracks. I'll get this project done and add those to the list. Need to get this baby ready for our winter trip.

Friday, September 4, 2009


With a new battery hooked up and ready to go, we hooked up the Airstream and headed out to Stillwater campground on Lake Groton. It’s a Vermont state park with no hook-ups (like all Vermont state parks) so we are “boondocking” for the first time. And right now, we have 115 amp-hour battery and no supplemental systems like solar or a generator so it’s “watch the amps” time.

This is the last week that state campgrounds operate in Vermont and with school now in session, there are just a handful of campers here. We like it that way -- and it is one of the benefits of being semi-retired -- we can go mid-week and late in the season.

The site we reserved (#53) is nice -- level and relatively secluded -- and just a few hundred yards from the nice beach. The back-in process was the best so far -- perhaps I’m getting better with experience. After setting up, I walked the dog, checking out the other sites, and took a short bracing swim in the September water.

In addition to no hookups, there's no cell phone coverage (or 3G for the iPhone) and no wifi anywhere near. So it's the first time we've been "unplugged" for a long while and it's quite nice. We know we can drive about seven miles and pick up a cellphone signal (one short stretch on Route 2 where people pull off to call.) Instead of telemarketers calling all evening (in spite of Do Not Call), we hear loons and cicadas.

We've needed the gas furnace in the morning to take the chill off -- it's been in the 40's overnight -- and the gas-run appliances are running fine. I decided to use some fresh Vermont blueberries for muffins, trying out the gas oven for the first time. I used a Bisquick recipe off the web that was very simple but the muffins, while tasting great, were flat as pancakes. I blamed it on the oven setting until later, Mary checked the box and found that it said "Best if used by October, 2004. Guess I should have preflighted our pantry ingredients a little better.

We got the awning out for the first time yesterday and it looks in great shape. I've used the Springer system to exercise the Vizsla and Mary and I took a short bike ride on the old Montpelier-Wells River Rail Trail yesterday. The weather is spectacular and the forecast is good. Email and blogs can wait, it's time to get outside and enjoy this beautiful setting. I'd recommend it for your travel plans next season. Reserve well ahead -- these parks fill up fast during the summer.

Above are some shots I took yesterday morning with the iPhone on an easy morning walk with the dog. It's neat to watch the fog burn off on these pretty September mornings. Safe traveling.

P.S. We made it 3 days with no battery problems. I suggest sites 53, 63, 41, or 14 if you're planning to make reservations for next season. Here's a map of the park layout.