Many of my best childhood memories came courtesy of RVs and campgrounds. My dad was a high school teacher, so family vacations were of the two-month variety. Often we’d drive the length of the country to his hometown, Seattle. Yellowstone, St Louis’ Gateway Arch, the Alamo, a state park on the beach in the middle of Los Angeles, about a dozen ballparks that have since been knocked down in favor of new ballparks – my boyhood summers were filled with more scenes of America than a truck commercial.
The motorhome also got used for weekends and shorter getaways. One popular destination during my childhood was River Ranch. My memories of the Polk County camp resort were clear. It was a rustic sort of place with a Saturday-night rodeo and inland boating opportunities. There was a country store and, in general, the sort of old Florida fun you might legitimately describe as “down-home.”
What there wasn’t, was luxury teepees.
One thing I learned while writing this month’s feature story on camping and RVing is that those pastimes have changed since I was a Little League pitcher. River Ranch, for example, is now Westgate River Ranch. It’s still got the Saturday-night rodeo and other rustic fun like trail rides and fishing. Now though, it’s also got “luxe teepees” and “glamping tents.” There’s even something called a “Luxe Conestoga Wagon,” which is a lot like the wagons they had on the Oregon Trail, except instead of freezing to death on a mountain pass you get a flat-screen TV.
All across the RV and camping industry, you see these changes. Some traditional campgrounds still exist, but many have been replaced by “camp resorts.” If your memories of camping are of sleeping on the ground at a place with a small swimming pool for entertainment, you might be surprised to check out what’s happening now. But the great thing is, it’s still a pastime with entry points for everybody. You can spend as much money as you want on a luxury RV – or you can rent a tent site in one of the super-fancy camp resorts.
I’m now a dad, and I enjoy travel with my daughter. I’m not a teacher with a couple months off in the summer; if I take her to Seattle, it will take about six hours in a vehicle that was built there. But she’s never been to River Ranch, so that’s one we might have to try.
Maybe we’ll even live the pioneer life in a Conestoga wagon. I call dibs on the “personal glamping concierge.”