Overnight RV Parking and Reciprocal Use Programs

Join for a year for less than one night at a campground!

Join for a year for less than one night at a campground!

Many of you have probably thought that Hurricane Isaac blew me away, but no, I’m all safe and sound here! The fall of the year has always been a busy time, with last minute tasks before winter and social time away from the heat of the summer.

Besides getting trees and shrubs trimmed, flowerbeds cleaned out and mowed down, and having to wash this incescent mildew off everything that doesn’t move (siding, storage shed, and even my poor Dakota, which gets very little use these days), we have been in social mode, with hosting visits from several different people.


Back to reciprocal use programs!

Over Labor Day, we had a visit from a reader (and his wife) who now live in our state, having just moved here from the northeast last July. He had been to our Village as a kid, remembering it from before the lakes were filled in back in the late 50’s. He had not seen it since, and we spent the day giving them the grand tour.

Unfortunately, we still had a long way to go on our own tasks here at home, and so did not invite them home for a visit at that time, so the plan is to have them back again before winter.

Then we had another couple come from North Carolina as visitors from the Yahoo Group: Driveways-N-Backyards, which is a free reciprocal use group who share their parking facilities for passing travelers with RV’s. Since we are already members of the BoondockersWelcome.com site, another reciprocal use program, it was logical to make use of this new group.

In a couple more weeks, my wife will be heading up north to visit her sister for a few days, and then her sister and a cousin will return here for a few more days right before Halloween. Sometimes  “the girls” just need alone time… if you know what I mean. And so do us guys, even if one of us is a dog (no disrespect intended).

Then we will have another visit, and then it’s Thanksgiving time! And then Christmas! Oh, joy!

Make your guests, as well as your hosts feel welcome!

We have been using normal RV resorts in reciprocal use for nearly 27 years, through Coast to Coast and other membership resort chains, but those are commercial operations that are in business for that purpose and you pretty much know what you are getting. With private offerings at people’s homes, the information on where you are going to park isn’t normally on the web for all to see. Both sides, the homeowner and the RV’er, have to be willing to share information and ask questions in order to know what each other needs or has to offer. BoondockersWelcome.com has a form on their site, so that information will be uniform throughout the site. You can even add pictures. But not every group is that advanced.

In the case of our first BoondockersWelcome guests, they were in contact with us before they started their trip, and then called to give us a couple of hours notice before they got here. I took the time to let them know what facilities were available (WI-FI, electric, and water) and even took pictures of our street and driveway, and emailed them to our visitors ahead of time, so they could be sure of what to expect when they got here, and know whether their travel trailer could make the turns to back in, And I made sure that the lawn was mowed, and no limbs would be hanging out to scratch their vehicles.

They arrived mid-afternoon, which gave them plenty of time to get situated, and then we all went out to eat. They were exhausted from last minute preparations at home, and the trip to get here. Ours was their first “real” “multi-day” stop other than quick overnight stays at campgrounds, so we left them alone for the next day, to have a chance to rest and regroup many of their belongings which had been hurriedly stored. The next morning they met with an outfitter at Riverside Resort and rafted down the Spring River from Mammoth Spring to the resort again. Longer trips were offered, clear down to Hardy if they had the time, but that would have taken all day. Before they went rafting they stopped by just long enough to bring us a home-canned pint of preserves… blackberry and pineapple! Yum! Gifts of food always make a great “thank you” gift for your hosts!

When they returned, they whipped up a delicious rice and pork dish, we provided a salad, and we had a wonderful meal and visit on our covered rear deck until late in the evening.

They left us on Friday morning, with the offer to stay at their place if we get to North Carolina, and we offered the use of our parking again on their return trip if they need it. In our visits, we discovered we had many things in common, either currently or from the past. Both were very nice people, and a pleasure to be around, so we look forward to another encounter, wherever it may be.

Come on down! (as Rod Roddy used to say on “The Price is Right!”)

Although we have had no other inquiries yet from BoondockersWelcome.com, the offer remains. Our weather stays mild here throughout the winter, and the time is soon coming for snowbirds to be headed south, so if anyone needs a place to overnight, or even stay for a few days and look around our area, please let us know. We have many things to see and do in the area, even into winter. It may be a little too cool for meals on the rear deck, but we also have a place for a fire ring in the west yard. We only get a light snow here about three times a winter, and usually less than 4-inches, if that. The coldest it normally gets is about ten degrees, and even then, only rarely, and usually around the third week of January. Typically, days are in the upper 30’s or 40’s, and nightimes down to around 20, with a decent amount of sunshine. (Sorry, no “moonshine”. It’s a dry county!)  Seriously, we do have many cloudless nights and the harvest moon is looking great!

RV length limitations in effect!

Unfortunately, we currently can only accommodate up to about a twenty-foot trailer and it’s towing vehicle (backed in, slightly uphill), or a driveable RV up to about 26 feet long. Slides are OK. Width or height is not a problem, but the streets and our own driveway limit anything longer than that. The parking is next to the garage, so nothing will be in our way, or the visitor’s way. Don’t worry about neighbors. We have woods on four sides of us.

Save some money so you can travel more!

With the economy the way it is, fuel prices going constantly higher, and campground fees always on the increase, it is in our best interests as RV’ers, to help each other in our travels however we can. By getting involved in these free and low cost reciprocal use programs it helps everyone to keep costs down so we can travel more often and farther.

Membership parks and resorts are great, but they are expensive, and aren’t always near what we want to see. At other times, we may not be near one when it starts to get dark, and may have to find some other solution. Boondocking is great if you live somewhere out west, near all the BLM land, but in the eastern half of the country free overnight parking spaces are few and far between, unless you want to settle for Walmart. And let’s face it, some RV’s are not what you could consider “stealth” enough to hide out in some apartment or hospital parking lot. It doesn’t hurt to have another alternative, and free private parking offered by homeowners and other RV’ers can be the answer.

Some travelers would just as soon avoid the crowds and the tourist traps, and this is another way of doing that. Whether you just want a safe place to park for a quick overnight nap, or would like to stay a few days to see what’s in the area, the more options you have the better it will be for you. As with anywhere else, some hosts will be in or close to cites, while others may be on rural farms. As long as you do your research a little ahead of time, and keep communication open and honest, you can find a parking spot to suit you at no cost or very little cost.

The Driveways-N-Backyards Yahoo Group is fairly new, but hopefully it’s membership will grow. In comparison, the BoondockersWelcome.com site, as of this morning, showed 588 members. That’s as many, or more, than many of the largest membership resort chains! On the home page of their site is a map pin-pointing where all the members are located, so please… take a look at it and save yourself some money by making use of it.  If you have a place available where someone could “legally” park an RV for a day or two (enough time to look around the area) then please join the group and share. Whether in a classroom or on the road, sharing benefits everyone.

Tell us of your experiences with either staying with a host or offering a space for someone else. Use the comment form below. That’s the best way to share.

Update: 10/13/12 – It was brought to our attention that the BoondockersWelcome.com site is no longer free. However, the fee for reciprocal use is less than for those only wanting to use other people’s facilities (i. e., they no longer own real estate), and either way, it is still a great bargain. Many campgrounds charge more for one night than this costs for a year!