Whether it's dry camping in the wilderness or enjoying the comforts of a full-hookup RV park on the shores of Oregon's spectacular coast, all RV enthusiasts agree — it's all about the joys of camping.
For some hardy souls, camping means pitching a tent, snuggling in sleeping bags and cooking on a Coleman stove or a grill balanced on a fire ring. For the rest of us — some of whom may have left those days behind — we freely admit to enjoying a soft bed, a plug-in coffeemaker and a hot shower in the morning.
Valley of the Rogue State Park
North of Medford off I-5, exit 45B near Gold Hill. The park offers full hookups or electric-only, tent sites and yurts. Open year round, with reduced rates in winter. Roomy spaces, miles of shaded trails and access to the Rogue River. See www.oregonstateparks.org.
Beachfront RV Park
Port of Brookings Harbor, full hookups, cable TV, Internet and the best view ever. It's an easy walk to the pier for fishing or crabbing, or just step out your door for an afternoon of beachcombing. See www.port-brookings-harbor.org.
Joseph H. Stewart State Recreational Area
Situated on Lost Creek Reservoir with electrical/water hookup sites, tent camping and picnic areas. Hiking trails, fishing, water activities and boat rentals, or bring your own boat and water skis. www.oregonstateparks.org
Oceanside RV Park
This is one of several good places to park an RV for a few nights along the Cape Arago Highway as you explore the areas around Charleston and Coos Bay (www.oceansidervpark.net). Other good places nearby are Sunset Bay State Park (www.oregonstateparks.org/park_100.php) and, especially if you like crabbing, the Charleston Marina, which is a short walk from the crabbing docks (www.charlestonmarina.com).
RV Park of Portland
Set in a beautiful, wooded area along the Tualatin River and open year-round. Spacious, paved RV sites in a grassy area with full hookups and cable TV. Located just south of the city. See www.rvparkofportland.com.
"The best part is traveling with all the comforts of home: your own bed, your own shower, and being able to cook whatever you want to eat," says Sheila Frampton of Junction City, Ore., who comes from a family of RV enthusiasts, including four siblings who all have motor homes and fifth wheels. She and husband Clayton just returned from a two-month trip to Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.
"Even then I wasn't ready to come home," she insists.
Loading up the RV doesn't necessarily mean spending your children's inheritance in this beautiful state of ours. Most of us cringe as we watch fuel prices climb, but the pleasure of RV camping can be had without driving for days. For those of us lucky enough to live in Oregon, "here" can be just as enjoyable as "there."
"One of our favorite places to stay is right here at Valley of the Rogue State Park," says Medford resident Shane Williams, owner of a 36-foot diesel-pusher motor home. "It's as good as camping anywhere else, but without spending a lot for fuel. We can walk the trails or fish the river. In the summer they have entertainment. The kids think this is the best way to spend summer vacation."
RV stories are plentiful, and it seems most everyone has several to share. Some are amusing, and some can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Like the time we were leaving an RV park in Coalinga, Calif., and as we made the last turn toward the exit, our tow vehicle came off and slid into the back of our motor home. One of the pins in the hitch had broken and allowed the truck to detach. We were fortunate it happened when it did, and not on the freeway. After some repair at a local machine shop, we were on our way again that morning.
Our all-time favorite camping story occurred a couple of years ago. We pulled into a rest area early one morning, and near the restrooms stood a woman in pajamas, hair curlers (no, really), holding her toothbrush. Tears were streaming down her face. I asked her what was wrong, and after a gulp and a sniff, she told me that her husband had been driving their pickup camper and had pulled in for a break. She had been asleep in the bunk and awoke when her husband got out, so she decided to take a potty break while she had the chance. When she returned to where the truck was parked, her husband was gone. Obviously he didn't realize she wasn't still sleeping and had left without her. We were able to reach him on his cellphone and he came back to get her "… but there was a lesson in there — somewhere.
With fuel prices being what they are, the uninitiated might think people who own RVs are regretting their purchase. But those of us who love waking up in the quiet beauty of the forest and walking down to the river at first light with our fly rods will always find a way to get the RV out of the driveway.
"We've sold quite a few units just in the last couple of days," says Ron Havice, sales associate at a recent RV show held by Triple A RV Center in Medford. "People who love camping are still buying motor homes, fifth wheels and trailers."
We bought our first motor home three years ago after taking a morning bicycle ride from Medford to the RV show in Central Point. With retirement in the near future, we had been dreaming of having a motor home and had spent hours browsing at every local RV show. We saw many that could fit our dreams, but most were way out of line with our budget. I am the tightwad in the family, and while my husband had stars in his eyes, mine rolled back from the big dollar signs. I dampened many of his RV fantasies when the numbers hit the calculator.
Figuring this would be another one of our "just-looking" outings, we were shown one last motor home.
"This one just got traded in on a newer one," said the salesman. "It's in really great shape."
I must admit that even after the hundreds of motor homes we had looked at, this was love at first sight. It had everything we were looking for — and it was an older, good-quality coach, which we had decided would provide the best bang for the buck for our first purchase.
We opened doors, drawers and cupboards, and the next thing you know, we'd bought our first motor home.
We have never regretted our decision. We have traveled all over the Western states. Some of the trips were planned, and some were pure "let's-go-to-Idaho-today" impulse. The distance doesn't matter. It's what you see out your window in the morning that counts.