Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Never a Dull Moment - Part 1

There is a superstition that if one starts out the day saying that it will be delightful and carefree, this almost assuredly guarantees just the opposite. Well, I was looking forward to our October trip to be just that - delightful and carefree. Silly me! We had to cancel a two day trip in September because we had not made reservations at a campground in advance. For the past two years we have been waiting to a day or two before planned trips to call to make reservations. This seemed to have been working - no risk of paying a canceled reservation fee - as much as a night's stay at some campgrounds - when at the last minute the weather would be terrible or unexpected things at home demanded our presence. I had not even thought twice about not doing the same for this trip at the end of September. We were going to a Quilt/Fiber Sales Show near Philadelphia and then planned to spend the next day at Green Dragon Farmer's Market in Lancaster the next day and home at night on the next day. A nice three day business/pleasure trip.  Well, there were no campsites to be had in any campground that we called - even a few that I would not normally consider staying at. The Roadtrek had been packed the day before - the bed was made - all was inside - our clothes and necessities for three days. And it did not happen. We did go to the Quilt Show - by car and home in one day the next day. So as that trip did not happen I was really looking forward to this October trip!

I made the reservations for the October trip right after this all happened in September. We were going to stay in a different campground in Lancaster County - not the one we have been staying in for the past four years. A coming article will be a review of the "new to us" campground. Why we were not going back to Old Mill Stream Campground is a tale in itself. Old Mill Stream raised its rates two years ago and there were signs that things would be changing. All of 2014, things were somewhat as usual - though they no longer accepted charge cards when making reservation by phone and required a check be mailed to hold a reservation. The couple who have run the campground for years and years were not always around. This was not a good sign. They were made this an exceptional campground - beyond a good campground. Our first trip there in 2015 in May, these people were nowhere to be found. Things were becoming more "corporate". This campground had been owned privately and then by the Hershey corporation (along with the children's amusement park next door - that this campground has been a part of). Just after we started coming it seems that a European corporation bought out the amusement park and the campground - but there has been no evidence of that until now. When we arrived for five days for July Fourth this year - there was a great deal of change in customer relations and particularly in the revision of the campground entrance - and not for the good. Let's start with the entrance - and exit. It was being changed so that anyone coming into the amusement park and also the campground had to enter a single lane entrance that split off into three lanes going into three parking booths. The right hand booth and lane was for RVs going into the campground - but this did not mean that cars going in to park for the amusement park did not get into that lane as well. Busy amusement park - lots of people with small children coming in (this amusement park is focused on young children) - and big RVs trying to get in to get into their space. One would think that at 2;00 pm when the campground starts check-in that this would not be much of a problem - but it is. To make it even more exciting the entrance lane at the corner of busy Route 30 is alongside the exit lane and cars pull into the entrance lane to exit - while you and your RV is out in the road trying to get in. We saw this happening that Fourth of July week. We discovered that week, that to exit the campground you now followed a sign that led your RV into the parking lot for the amusement park - and as you tried to make your way though the narrow aisle - narrow even for a Class B - you came upon moms and dads walking their toddlers by the hand through the lane - oblivious to the RV behind them. We saw a few close calls. By our trip there in August, the parking lot changes were complete and the situation getting in or out was even worse. Now, also in July and August we discovered that the last row of the campground - which just happened to be where our preferred for four years site was (next to the bathhouse) - was located right where the "overflow" parking on the grass for the amusement park starts. We woke up one morning to some odd sounds and looked out the window to see cars being parked behind us. (Just what you want for security in a campground - people who don't belong in the campground getting in and out of their cars all day - and into the evening, right behind your RV.)

OK - that is just the getting in and getting out. The people working in the campground and in the office were different. In July, there was one woman who we recognized from before. I spoke with her about the changes that we were seeing and her answer was that the corporation decided it all and no one asked them for any opinion or consultation in planning. It was very evident that the corporate people were taking over. This campground always books solid for Fourth of July weekend and it has always been policy that a reservation cannot be made more than one year to the day in advance. We were told when we first came there that if we wanted to come for Fourth of July weekend we had to make the reservations a year in advance and we have been doing that - every year, despite our not making advanced reservations for other trips. When we checked in I told the woman behind the counter that we wanted to make next year's reservations right then starting on that same date. It has been custom here to give whoever is in a site regularly, preference for that site when making that year in advance reservation. We asked for the same site for next Fourth of July week. The woman at the desk is flipping through papers and calendars and says - "OK I can make the reservation for you - BUT not for that site. It is taken." What?!? We were polite - we exclaimed our disbelief - how could this be? It has always been policy to not make a reservation for a site until one year to the day - and we walked in to the office at exactly 2:00 pm at the very start of check in for this day. When was the site reserved - "several days ago". What?!? "Sorry, it is now first come first serve." Oh yeah?!?  We made the reservation (which can be canceled with no penalty) at our second preferred site. We knew that our favorite campground was not going to be a favorite any longer. We had to find another campground that we would like. The problems were mounting up. The final straw was in August - we went back just for convenience. We had the site for four days and decided that we wanted to stay another night. We got another night but in a different space which was understandable and fine. The morning that we were going to move. We were getting dressed inside the Roadtrek at 10 am and there was a bang on the Roadtrek door. I looked out the window past the closed curtain and there was a man outside. He looked like he belonged to the campground - there are lots of men in tee shirts working now in the campground from the amusement park. Official checkout time at the campground is 11:00 am. It used to be 1:30 pm. It was an hour before that. I open the door and he says we are supposed to be out of the site! I tell him that checkout is an hour away. There is a trailer in the entrance road. Remember - check in is at 2:00 pm - it is 10 am. He gives me a look. I told him that we were moving to another site and when we were finished doing what we were doing we would be moving over there. He went off in a huff. What the heck is going on here?!?

So in August on a rainy afternoon we headed over to a campground that I had seen good reviews for and that is owned by one of the large local companies that has hotels, restaurants, and bake shops and all are family owned and run. It gets great reviews. My hesitation with it in the past was that it has a traffic gate that requires a key to open. Never having been in a campground with a gate - and our usual schedule of arriving late at night on some trips and getting in past office closing. We had to know what the story with that gate and our late arrivals would be. We parked the Roadtrek outside the office and went inside. There was an Amish woman at the desk. Interesting - and nice. We explained that we were just in for information - that we were regular visitors to the area but were in need of a new campground - mentioning some of the problems without saying any name - and she smiled knowingly. The gate key card would be no problem. As long as they know that you are coming with a reservation, they will leave the card and the site number for you outside the locked office. Wonderful! We tried to walk around to look at the campground but it was pouring. From what we could see it looked nice. The next trip we would try it - which was supposed to be the September trip, and I have already said what happened with that. The October trip would be our trial stay.

Wow! All of this and we have not even gotten to the start of the October trip yet. Maybe it is best that we end here and make this Part 1 and the article that I set down to write this afternoon will be Part 2. Sometimes when you think, let me tell you this before I tell you that - well, it can take some time, but we try to keep the path interesting and entertaining as we go meandering along.

So - end of Part 1. Part 2 in two weeks...


  1. Thank you for your comments on this rv park. Good to know.

  2. It is not the same w/o Jim and Diane Brenneman, we started camping there when the
    Quilt Show was at the Host Resort across the street. We stoppedd there with the big rig on our way back from Assategue in June asked about Jim and Diane was told "they went on to better things", really?

  3. Kind of makes Walmart and their sister parking lots look good.