Is The ‘Road Less Traveled’ Family Friendly?

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So the subject of family friendly campgrounds has come up again in topics of conversation amongst our full-time RVing friends.

To explore this topic, several of us have posted our experiences here – both good and bad – and I’d also like to share my take on the subject for you here today because my theory is that the problem may not lie entirely with the age of your offspring but rather the age of their parent’s yes, YOU! But more on that in a moment as our story unfolds.

To begin with, let me say that by and large, in our travels over the past 3 -1/2 years, we have run into very few locations that were not welcoming to kids. After all, by virtue of the fact that “camping” is a family activity, it only stands to reason that campgrounds are going to have a few little sprites delightfully running around and for the most part as long as a campground isn’t designated as a 55+ community, we’ve found little problems using some basic common sense when scoping out our next spot.

But on the flip side of many great experiences, we have one particular nightmare of a story under our belt as well and this is where it gets interesting…

During the winter of 2009/2010, we settled into what we thought was going to be a phenomenal winter spot at the Palms River Resort in Needles, California. The tropical pool setting was right out our doorstep with 2 hot tubs under palm trees, surrounded by tiki huts & torches, backlit with rotating colored mood lighting. Ahhh, yes, it was as if we had arrived on a Hawaiian island just in time for the holidays.

For the first few weeks we cooked poolside at the two provided Jenn-Air grills every night while the girls played in the pool and game room and we were in heaven… until the snow birds arrived!

One morning we heard talk that new managers had arrived and along with it they had a following of friends that were coming in from the prior campground they managed and the place was about to fill up. Great we thought – the more the merrier… but this was not to be the case.

Instead, we came to discover that the “friends,” were actually about 30 retired couples who had wintered for the past three years or more in a neighboring campground in Parker, AZ.  And unfortunately, these snowbirds were coming from an Adult 55+ community – so the stage was set for disaster from the gate.

As the park began filling up, we continued our routine that we had come to know and love in the first few weeks since we’d been there. Grilling at sunset and hopping in the hot tub to enjoy the rest of the evening.

But one night after dinner, as the girls and I headed to one of the two hot tubs, my youngest daughter was one step into the larger of the two with me standing directly behind her and one of the men in the hot tub looked at her and said in a venomous tone, “No! You need to go over there with your mommy,” as he poked his arm abruptly to the other hot tub.

Of course, this stopped me dead in my tracks and with feelings hurt, Morgan stepped back out and began crying at the abrupt (and rare) rejection she’d just encountered.

For me, I was still a bit stunned and wavering between mommy instincts of protecting my daughter and shock at what I just heard. So all that came out of my mouth was, “Excuuuuuse me????”

And again, the “gentleman” (and I use the term lightly) said directly to me – “YOU need to go over there with those kids. You’re not  welcome in here with us!” (note: it was not THEM, but ME as well! Hmm…)

Ok, now I was just downright p$*#’ed.

I had a child in tears, my blood pressure was rising and Marina was looking for the popcorn to watch the “show” because she knew that mommy was about to go off on someone.

Taking a deep breath and realizing as I glanced around at the glasses of cocktails lining the rim of the hot tub, that there’s no reasoning with people in altered sates – I chose to take the higher road and take my issues up with the management directly – so off we went.

In short, the managers (which I will note that we’d become very close friends with by this point) assured us that it was a misunderstanding, there were no segregated pools or hours, and they’d get to the bottom of it because after all this WAS a family resort.

Well, I’m sad to say that as the next few weeks progressed, things got worse rather than better.

The snowbirds proceeded to snub us (and every other family in the park) at every turn and host potlucks that were announced with signs that had the disclaimer “snowbirds only.” And the managers just kept playing both sides against the middle.

What blew me away was that there was no subtlety whatsoever in this group’s collective behavior.  They exhibited a demeanor that would rival disrespectful school kids on a playground and for a generation who was purportedly raised to respect, honor and cherish those around them – it was a sickening example to say the least.

The breaking point happened one evening when I was coming around a corner in the clubhouse and got body slammed by one of the most vocal of the group who refused to step out of the way as I was carrying a plate of hot food.

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked him square in the eye and said, “What IS your problem!”

And the tone and camber of my voice caused everyone within earshot to stop to hear the answer…

“I’ll tell you what my problem is lady – YOU aren’t entitled to be here! All of us worked long and hard years to earn the right to retire and travel in our motorhomes and YOU aren’t old enough to have paid your dues to live the life that we are living. You need to go get jobs and get outta here!”

Whoa! And there is was… the real sentiment behind this entire debacle that we had come to know as our daily life at this campground.

Jealously, envy, regret… some nasty embedded issues there, but a revelation into the mindset of a generation that time has passed by.

These people didn’t hate kids, they hated themselves.

They hated us – the 40 year old generation – that they perceived as “not paying our dues.

They were miserable in their retirement years because their life had passed them by, and despite their attempts at trying to reclaim it with a bottle of whiskey at their daily 4pm happy hour – they weren’t finding their golden years at the bottom of the bottle.

The notion that families such as ours had found a “better way” was simply stabbing at the heart of the matter and there was no denying that our positive energy was a continual reminder of all that they were trying to escape.

So what’s a momma to do what THAT new found knowledge?

I mean, here we are – smack dab in the middle of where we planned to winter with a group of people that disdained our very existence.

Do we pick up and leave – as we often say is the beauty of our fulltime mobile lifestyle – or do we stand our ground and teach our children that running any time something doesn’t suit us is the way to handle life?

In the end, we chose to stay and in retrospect, I think it was the wrong choice. Not catastrophic, just not the best thing we could have done.

We felt at the time that it sent a better message to our daughters that while not everyone in this world will resonate with what you stand for – standing for what YOU resonate with is the elixir of life.

But at the same time, enduring the ongoing negativity was not necessarily the only way that message could have been learned. After all, we never taught our daughters that the fire pit was hot by holding their hands in to until they got the point.

To this day, I’m saddened that the negative conditioning we endured there that winter has resulted in all of us tensing up when encountering retirees camping nearby – not knowing whether we’ll be shunned or applauded.

And it’s especially frustrating because for the most part – if you know me personally, you know I don’t much care what others think as long as our family mantra remains “to thine own self be true.”

On the other hand, our experience also allows us to share this powerful insight with others that begets the question as to whether the whole “family friendly campground” concept is perhaps more of an issue about a “fulltime friendly” mindset and not really about the kids at all.

I mean, who among us has not at one point or another faced the challenge of people not understanding who we are and why we do what we do? But the greater good that comes out of our own evolution and the development of our children will forever remain to be the guiding light  by which we travel.

And at the end of the day, as the last log on the fire is reduced to its glowing embers, we retreat to our “homes,” content that we are indeed entitled to this glorious gift we’ve been given!

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4 Responses to Is The ‘Road Less Traveled’ Family Friendly?

  • kimberlyNo Gravatar says:

    Love it! So true – we have run into the “you haven’t paid your dues” attitude – but you nailed it on the head when you say these individuals are still unsatisfied with their retirement situation.

  • DawnNo Gravatar says:

    We have totally been there! You defined the true root of the contention. I remember at one park we were at a retired man use to walk his dog down the lane we were parked on always tucking his head and picking up his pace as he passed our slip. By the third day I guess he decided we weren’t going anywhere because he started taking the VERY long, away from us route. But, we have also been able to share RV parks with “snowbirds” who completely embrace our journey and lifestyle adopting us as their own :) You just never know what your gonna get!

  • Margie LundyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, interesting! That wouldn’t make for a fun winter. :( We haven’t had (blatant anyway) negative comments (yet). Mostly positive, some in shock saying they didn’t know you were ALLOWED to do that with kids. :) Thanks for sharing, certainly great insight into the whys of some snowbirds’ negative thoughts.

  • Stephanie PalmerNo Gravatar says:

    Wow! We have just started this journey, and never once thought that we would get that type of attitude. Our very, very first neighbors were absolutely wonderful, inviting us over and showing us their rig and modifications they had made. One statement they said was, “I only wish we had done this when the kids were young.” So, I guess a lot of them feel that way, just how they handle it. We have gotten a few cold shoulders since then, and we were baffled, but thanks to reading this I have perhaps a better understanding. Thank you!

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We went full-time in 2008 in a 37ft Itasca Suncruiser and in April 2010, we upgraded to a 42ft Safari Continental which Greg drives and I now follow behind in an Excursion, towing a 20ft cargo trailer with our ATV & golf cart tucked inside. (More About Us...)
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