Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Richmond N/Americamps KOA, Ashland, Virginia

Our first night on our trip this August was spent at the Richmond N/Americamps KOA located in Ashland Virginia. The odd name is because Americamps is - was - a campground chain that ran a number of campgrounds. From what I have found out, they seem to go for the "campground/resort" idea of campgrounds. Some of these - perhaps all - became KOA campgrounds - recently. For those who do not know KOA - "Kampgrounds of America" - they are one of the largest chains of campgrounds. This was our first KOA campground. From what I read about this campground, it had been completely renovated in the past year or two - when it became a KOA.

Ashland is, as the name of this campground states, north of Richmond. It is actually northeast of Richmond off I-95. We stopped here because it is a convenient stopping point coming south from New York with approximately a seven hour drive (with good traffic - ha, ha). This is a good stopping point if you are interested in seeing Richmond, Petersburg, or various historic sights related to this area. Patrick Henry grew up not too far from here and there are a number of historic sights related to him in this area. There is also a large amusement park named Kings Dominion just north of Ashland.

To get to this campground you exit off I-95 and the exit is just south of where the campground is located. You come across I-95 if you are driving south and then drive along side of I-95 to the road that the campground is located on - or if coming from the south - just drive along side of I-95. The campground is down a small road that curves around through an industrial area, though it is also a wooded area. The campground is on the left off of this road. Actually, everything is on the left as to the right of this road is I-95. Given the direction that we were driving this surprised me - but the road curved around. The campground is easy to get into and once you exit I-95 and get on the road the goes around (or along) it is easy to find Airport Road which the campground is located on. In the dark we had no problem finding the entrance to the campground.

We arrived at the campground in the middle of the night. Through the entrance there is a building on the left that is the office. There was a "late check in" area on the porch and our site number and a map of the campground had been left there for us. It is common when you arrive at a campground after hours that your site and a map will be left for you posted outside somewhere near the office door. We got our site number and started to follow the map which in the dark was a little confusing. Once past the main entrance, the paved road stopped and then the roads were mixed paved and gravel. There was some lighting in the campground and we were not driving totally in the dark. As we approached where the space should be located, Meryl got out with a flashlight and walked ahead looking for the site number.

We had reserved a back-in, full service site that included water, electricity, sewer, and cable. Wifi is available at all sites. This site cost less than a pull through site with the same full services. There are also sites with just water and electricity and these cost the least. I am not going to say what the sites cost because prices change from year to year and season to season at most campgrounds. The sites are gravel.

Meryl guided me in and I backed the Roadtrek into the space. The space was not very long, and I am not sure how a much longer RV would fit in one of the spaces that we were in. There were long pull through spaces across from us with plenty of room. We were also not far from the space next to us - and we could see into the pop-up tent camper that was there - enough so that Meryl waved to the man inside who waved back. The space we were in was NOT level. I moved the Roadtrek as much as I could around the space looking for a level or almost level spot. I finally gave up and got as level as I could - which means, one side was slightly up and the back was higher than the front. Better to sleep with your head above your feet - so that was where we stayed. We could have gone out with the plastic "lego" type leveling blocks and put them under the tires but I think it would have taken blocks on the back and one side to get us level. This is all done trial and error and we were just too tired - though Meryl offered to place the blocks under the wheels. It was good enough for one night.

We checked the power at the electric box, both for polarity and voltage, and it was good. We hooked up the electric cord from the Roadtrek through our power/surge protector box, connected the cable, and we went inside. I checked the TV signal and it was good. The cable channel selection was actually pretty good, but the numbers that came up on the screen after the scan, did not match the numbers for the same channels that were listed on the back of the campground map. The wifi signal was very poor.

Since it was not raining - as we had anticipated based on our seeing lightening in the distance in this direction while we were coming down to here - we decided we would go outside and explore the campground. We took a flashlight and headed out.

The campground was not empty. There were a good number of RVs, trailers, and tents in the campground. Scattered around there were people sitting outside their rigs, some with campfires. Some waved. Some did not. Some did not respond when we waved. That seems to be the way it is everywhere we have been. We walked along the road through the campground and were heading to where the restrooms/showers/laundry building was on the map. There are actually two such buildings. One is at the front near the office and the other is off to the back. We were heading to the back.

It was clear when we saw the building that it was recently re-done. It looked new and the facilities inside were recently new. We were looking at them late at night and for having gone through the day with use, they were very clean. The facilities get an A.

We walked back to the Roadtrek and spent the night watching TV with ongoing frustration trying to figure out what channel we had on until something would come up and identify it in the broadcast, trying to get email to come in with the poor wifi and then going to bed.

This campground is very close to I-95. We did not hear any traffic inside our Roadtrek during the night. The Roadtrek is built on a van with road noise soundproofing so we do not hear much outside when we are inside the Roadtrek. If someone is here in a thin walled trailer or RV, it is possible that you will hear the traffic on I-95. When we got up the next morning and went outside I could see the cars and trucks driving on I-95 through the trees from our site.

That morning when we went outside we found a printed note on the Roadtrek and there was also a note on the pop-up trailer next to us. The note said that the campground was having chemicals put down on the grass everywhere in the campground between x am and y am and it was hazardous to walk on the grass for an hour after that time period. How nice! We had to unhook from the electric box and be on our way. We planned this as an early departure day because we had sightseeing to do along the way to our next stop. Annoyed, I leaned over the grass - luckily I could reach and grabbed the plug from the box and pulled the cable wire (we use push on connectors to make hooking and unhooking the cable easier). I got both away without stepping on the grass.

Exiting the campground from your space involves driving in a loop around most of the campground. On our way out, we stopped at the office, paid for our night's stay, and we were ready to go. The office is large and has a store inside with souvenirs, snacks, and camping supplies. There is sales tax on campground sites in Virginia (there isn't in Pennsylvania). There is a 10% discount with an AARP or a AAA card. It was easy to get back on I-95 in either direction.

Across from the office there is a small swimming pool. It is on the side of the entrance parking lot across from the building with the office. There is no shade for the pool so if you are taking your kids swimming, where sun block.

We come down to this area often. We were looking for a campground that would enable us to visit the sights here and this was the best of what I found when I was researching what is available in this area. My only real complaint here was the sight being as off as it was. When we got out the next morning in the daylight I looked at the other back in sites around us and they all looked off to my eye. There was an obvious slope to the side and also a slope down from the back to the front. The wifi signal could have been better too - and while it is available to all in the campground you are paying for this in the price - and we were not too far from the building with the office where at least one wifi transmitter must be located. The positives were the location (despite being so near to I-95), the campground was clean, the facilities - rest rooms, showers, laundry room etc, were relatively new, there were no children running around unattended, there was plenty of shade, the campground was pretty easy to get around in (in the daylight) and once you know where you are going, the cable selection was good, and it was not overpriced.

Would we stay here again? When I asked this question of Meryl she said, yes we would. My first reaction was no, we wouldn't. She said that other than the space not being level everything was nice. OK - remember, I once said, "Meryl is always right" If we do come back, I would ask when I make the reservation that we be put in a site that is level.

A short while after we returned home from the trip, I received an email with a survey from this KOA. This is standard to KOA campgrounds, as we received the same email survey for another KOA that we stayed at on this trip. I answered the questions honestly and made a point to comment in detail about the site not being level. I received an email response from the campground that apologized for our inconvenience and offered us a 15% discount on our next stay at that campground. A follow up letter was mailed to us about a week later that stated that if we present the letter on our next stay we will receive the promised 15% discount - and that they are trying hard to improve and make everything good about their campground. This was very nice of them and I appreciate this effort. When we need to stop in this area again, I will stay here again, and we shall see if another site is any better. I will, of course, let you all know.

Here are some photos that I took of the campground -

Photo of a full site - you can see how it slopes down to the right.

Water, Electric/Cable Connections and Sewer dump hole.

Pull through sites - is it my eye, or is that space sloped to the left?
Looks like the space to the left is a lot more level...

Road through the campground.

View toward the front of the campground. That is a little ravine behind us.


  1. I didn't realize the van was built to block road noise. Interesting!

    1. The 190 is built into the original Chevy van body. Some Roadtreks are cut down to the frame and built up new. With the 190 you have whatever sound damping that Chevy has in the van - and even while driving you don't hear a lot of road noise - just as most of the cars now are built to be quiet inside. This works to the advantage in the 190 when you are camping someplace noisy. I am guessing that the guy next to me in the pop up tent trailer and anyone there in a thin walled trailer could hear the traffic on I95. We didn't - at least not that it was noticeable. Now, we have heard low fighting jets roaring overhead from inside when we were near a naval base and we have heard trains going past the campground from a few miles away, though not so loud that it was disturbing - not at this campground - another.

  2. As a former park ranger that studied park construction in forestry school, my question would be: How level do you need a site to be? Considering the expense and environmental damage from extensive dirt removal to attain perfect level sites, maybe they made these sites level enough while retaining the slope and drainage appropriate to the terrain. When you camp at COE or USFS sites, you'll find even more unlevel sites, but they are made with regard to their terrain and drainage. Lego blocks or careful site selection allows for finding a site a site to accomodate a Roadtrek easily. When I arrive after dark, I' m taking whatever presents itself and hope to find better in the morning if I' m staying longer, otherwise I move along and am thankful I had a safe place to sleep overnight. Thanks for your blog. I'm enjoying reading about the part of the country I love to explore. Originally from Alleghany County. You need to visit there. Douthat State Park, Lake Moomaw and Gathwright Dam, Hot Springs and Humpback Bridge. Beautiful in late October. David H 03C190P

    1. When a commercial campground states clearly in their promotional materials and website that they have level sites, my expectation is that the site is on or very close to level. This is one of the things that you are paying for at these campgrounds and fees for one night stays are well over $25 a night- at some campgrounds over $60 a night. Some campgrounds pave the sites and this makes for a much more consistently level site that last, rather than replacing gravel on an regular basis which does not remain level. Campgrounds like KOAs want to see seen as premium resorts and a level pad is not an unreasonable expectation - when it has been advertised as such.

    2. One other thing to note that in campgrounds such as this - you are assigned a site and have no choice in the matter. You get what you are given and in most cases are given no alternative if the site is not suitable.