My boss, Peter Greenberg, has written about being a savvy traveler time and time again in his many books.
He’s spoken to crowds about it for years and warned people – yes, even his staff – to watch for those “reel-you-in” schemes on vacation destinations.
So, I knew places like this were out there. We have all the research on it at work. I’d even done my homework too, and thought I was prepared. So I can confidently say it never crossed my mind that I’d be adding yet another flyer to the project box labeled “not what the brochure promised” upon my return.
But the first thing I did when I got to the office was to dutifully slide my pamphlet into that box. Although this could have turned out to be a bad thing, it was actually the opposite.
Thanks to the misleading information on a brochure, my family and I met some wonderful folks who took us under their wings and helped to shape what turned out to be the one of the best vacations we’ve had in years.
This is the fourth in a series of articles by first-time RVer Loretta Copeland. You can read the first one, RV Chronicles: First-Time RVers Hit the Road, here. The second one in the series, How Campgrounds and Oversized RVs Come Together, is here. The third part is San Francisco Meets an Oversized Vehicle.
I have to say I was bouncing around excitedly in my seat by the time we pulled up to our campground that first evening in Sonoma.
Our home for the next few days, according to Riverbend Resort’s brochure and Web site, touted a recent remodel, upgraded campsites for larger RVs, full hook-ups including satellite TV, free Wi-Fi for those email-obsessed individuals such as myself, river front views, a fishing/canoe dock, and of course, it promoted a family-friendly environment.
We were all looking forward to it very much. The place sounded amazing and the Web site looked great.
Okay, so technically they didn’t lie about anything. Let’s say it’s more like they put a new coat of paint over an old, peeling fence. Looks nice from a distance, but once you’re up close – oh boy.
The resort had been recently remodeled … the remodel consisting of a new-ish, small play area for kids and the addition of five oversized RV spots that were situated off in the corner, set apart from the rest of the trailer park.
Did I forget to mention that part? You know, the part about it being a live-in trailer park?
I’m guessing this constituted the “family-friendly environment.” That’s correct folks, our beautiful, relaxing, resplendent campground from the brochure was in fact not a campground at all, but a residential trailer park that was filled with old trailers, rusted trucks, a broken-down school bus, and a sprinkling of ancient motor homes that looked to have been there for a long, long, long time.
Funny how those were not featured on the brochure or Web site.
They didn’t lie about the river front views either. Not at all. As a matter of fact the Russian River flowed right alongside the “campground.” What they neglected to mention was that the permanent residents of the park occupied those coveted river front spots.
Did we have a view of the river you might be wondering? We sure did. It only required walking up to the edge of our barbed wire fenced camp to crane our necks around a few trees and the blocked off and broken down remains of the fishing/boating dock to see it.
Scratch the “dangling of the feet off the dock while fishing on the lazy river” dream.
If you’re trying to figure out why we even slowed down in the parking lot, let alone decided to stay the night at all, I’ll give you two great reasons: Michael and Christy Gagliano.
We were ready to leave, turning the motor home around as a matter of fact, when we spied one of the “visitors” to the campsite standing outside his shiny, super-sleek bus-style 43-foot motor home. I turned to my husband Mark and our friend Erin and said, “If this guy is staying here, how bad could it be?”
So, we decided to get the scoop from him, because Mark had started twitching and was almost positive he heard the “Deuling Banjos” song playing in the background as soon as he got out of the motor home to have a look around … Turns out our RV neighbor, Michael had had the same impression of the place upon their arrival. But since they were scheduled to stay there only one more night, they resolved to tough it out.
Michael and Christy were up in Sonoma celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary and they too had been lured to the “resort” by the Web site. They were spending one more night at the park, and after a short conversation with them telling us it was in fact safe; we decided to stay as well while we came up with a game plan for the next few days.
The Gaglianos were our first real exposure to what I’ve deemed “RV culture.” These people were so warm and welcoming that it made me stop and gape at them for a few minutes wondering at their genuine sincerity and kindness. Turns out they were the first of many RV folks we met on our trip who were just as friendly and willing to lend a hand at a moments notice.
As soon as we had backed into our spot, on the other side of the Gaglianos, they invited us over – cocktails for the adults and chocolate cake with milk for my 5-year-old daughter – and made us feel right at home.
We laughed with them and spent the next few hours regaling them with my driving lesson escapade and our San Francisco debacle and they in turn charmed us completely as well.
Christy told me how she had done so much research for their anniversary trip and had put in so many hours calling around to different campgrounds and RV parks in the Sonoma valley area that she had been sure she’d found the best of the best out there. She and her husband were just as shocked when they arrived at the trailer park the night before – as we had been. Not being daunted though, they made the best of it and salvaged their trip.
As a matter of fact, Michael and Christy single-handedly saved our trip as well!
Thanks to the Gaglianos, we found a campsite that was exactly what we were looking for. Our new friends were scheduled to head on over the next day to a place they’d stumbled across in Duncans Mills, which is a scenic 30-minute ride from the trailer park, following the Russian River the entire way. Michael and Christy, fearing the worst after arriving at our campground, decided to rent a car to take a first-hand look at some of the other RV parks and campgrounds that had availability, to see if there was anything better out there.
Fortunately they found one and turned us onto it, insisting we’d love it and that we must go with them!
Bye, bye barbed-wire fences and adios broken-down docks!
Next time – The real deal and the culmination of a great road trip.
By Loretta Copeland for PeterGreenberg.com
Make sure you have a place to stay when RVing- check out Beat the Rush- Reserve Popular Campsites Online.
For more tips on RV vacations, visit Life is a Highway When You’re Rolling in an RV.
Read the other entries from the RV Chronicles Series:
- Part 1: First-Time RVers Hit the Road
- Part 2: How Campgrounds and Oversized RVs Come Together
- Part 3: When San Francisco Meets an Oversized Vehicle
- Part 4: Everything the Brochure and Web Promised?
- Part 5: At Home in RV Culture
Previously By Loretta Copeland on PeterGreenberg.com: