Travel News

The RV Chronicles: At Home in RV Culture

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA San Francisco, CA

RedwoodsAfter the debacle at the previous campground, we were tossing things into the RV and packing our bags before our new friends the Gagliardis even finished telling us the name of our new home for the next few days – Casini Ranch.

Turns out Casini Ranch had plenty of openings due to the time of year we were visiting (thank you, Peter, for the advice on shoulder-season travel!) and so we made the trek there the next morning.

When we arrived at Casini, everyone’s spirits soared. This was what we’d envisioned!

Towering redwood forests surrounding us, a charming general store on site, a pond complete with its own gaggle of merry geese and ducks preening and squawking for a handout of food (you can buy bags of birdseed for 25 cents each in the store), horse back riding, kayak and paddle boat rentals and the best thing of all – a real river front campsite!

This is the fifth, and last, 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. And the fourth was Everything the Web & Brochure Promised?

A warning to all you cell phone junkies out there: At Casini, you’ll get great views of the river, and you’re sure to see loads of stars in the sky at night and get lots of clean, fresh air, but if you’re hoping to catch a cell phone signal floating around – beware – there is no reception at the ranch. Between our neighbors and ourselves we had four different cell phone providers and not one got reception anywhere within the compound.

If you need Wi-Fi, the Ranch does provide free connection, but you have to trek up to their general store and plunk down on one of the benches outside to get reception. The connection worked fine as long as I was up by the store. Our campsite however, was a good ten-minute walk from there and it was a pain to have to lug my laptop the few times that I did.

I actually found Wi-Fi reception to be a problem in all the places we stayed during our trip. Everyone had it, except for the state park, but they either had poor to no reception within the campgrounds, even though it was one of the first things plugged on the brochures and Web sites.

In regard to Casini, other than no Wi-Fi or cell phone service (which might be a blessing to some), the place was idyllic. Our new camp was situated directly in front of the river with open beach stretching off in each direction, boat rentals just around the bend and more wonderful RVers as our new neighbors!

Dennis, our neighbor on the left, greeted us even before we’d backed into our spot. We pulled up and he jumped right in and helped to direct Mark into our site and filled us in on how the weather had been and told us where all the good places to fish were. And this even before we’d been there half an hour!

Kayaking Russian River We spent the rest of the day kayaking, playing in the river, exploring the ranch and trying to decide if we should take the hayride that afternoon or the next.

Later that afternoon Michael and Christy Gagliardi arrived and pulled in next to us and promptly invited us to dinner – which we happily accepted. As our second day wound down and we started up the barbecue and sat around the campfire chatting with our new friends, I thought how great this place was, and even more than that, of how fortunate we were to have had the pleasure of meeting such wonderful people.

We stayed at Casini for the duration of our trip, trekking up the river, exploring the campground and relaxing. And though the Sonoma area we were in is dotted with wineries all around, the one negative we found with the RV was that almost none of the vineyards had designated RV parking and the one that did – Korbel – was in actuality a bus loading/unloading zone.

Zipping in and out of wineries isn’t really an option in 31-feet of vehicle, so Korbel was our one and only vintner’s stop. So after three days at Casini we packed up, said goodbye to our new friends and began making the trip home on Friday afternoon.

This time we avoided the city streets of San Francisco – hello Route 880! And we had absolutely no scares whatsoever in squeezing through narrow toll openings.

Before we made it back home though, we spent one more night at an RV campground in Pismo Beach, California. I was curious to see if the “RV Culture” would continue.

Turns out, this was a great place to test my theory.

The campground was literally row upon row of hundreds of concrete campsites right on top of the other set up neighborhood style, with streets between all the spots. And on the night we arrived each and every spot was filled with every manner and size imaginable of recreational vehicles.

There were people riding bikes, kids and dogs everywhere, cars cruising – yes cruising – the “neighborhood” . . . probably lost – the place was gigantic, and people generally enjoying the balmy beach weather.

For first time drivers like us, this scenario was a bit daunting, trying to negotiate our RV in reverse into the narrow spot and avoid camp chairs, kids, dogs, other RVs, cars, trucks and just about anything else you could imagine being in our way. Mark and I looked at each other and he literally just stopped right in the middle of our street trying to psych himself into backing into our “camp-driveway,” as I dubbed it.

But just before Mark decided that the middle of the street would be just as acceptable a spot to camp for the night as the one that looked near impossible to get into, once again one of our RV neighbors jumped to the rescue. This time Joe from Los Angeles stepped in for a very weary and more than a bit freaked-out me and helped steer Mark right into our spot, lickety-split.

As we settled in for the night and said hello to our companions on either side of us – to the right, a lovely older couple out to see the country in a very new (first time out they’d told us) and gorgeous fifth wheel trailer – and to the left, Joe and his family in their oldie-but-goodie pop up trailer, I found RV Culture to be alive and well.

Campfire ParkJoe handed Mark a beer when he hopped out of the RV to calm his nerves, Joe said, and his wife even gave us some marshmallows to roast over our campfire!

Mark and I wondered again that evening if we had just been lucky or if this was par for the course within the RV community?

I had asked a few of our neighbors at Casini, as well as Michael and Christy, if most of the people they’d met who had RVs were as charitable and welcoming as they were? Aside from their guffaws at our compliments, I found their answers to be a resounding “Yes!”

I didn’t ask the question of Joe and his family, but simply observed the campground that evening and the next as Mark, our daughter Noelle, and I took a walk around the place. Most people greeted each other warmly, a few stopped to chat with their neighbors, and generally everyone was friendly.

Now, you might think this is simply a vacation mentality atmosphere. Normally I would agree with you, except that I’ve been on too many vacations and run across too many people where that simply wasn’t the case. Sure, it could have been that we lucked out and met nothing but great people … but I choose to think that we discovered a hidden society out there that the rest of us non-RVers don’t get to see very often.

RV CultureThe RV Culture. I can tell you with confidence that it’s something I’d like to see more of.

The next morning the family packed up and headed home. Our trip had been an all out success. It had been filled with laughter – some of it out of sheer terror, most of it in pleasure. And it was flavored from the very start with laughable memories and treasured experiences and had been highlighted by the thoughtfulness of new friends and the generosity of people within the RV community.

I’d like to thank you for sharing in our vacation memories with us. It has been such fun sharing our trip with you.

And if you’re wondering if we’d ever rent a Fleetwood motor home again? The answer is – you bet!

That is, if we don’t go out and get an RV of our very own first!

If you’re inspired to take a trip in a motor home and want to know what the costs really are, here’s the bottom line prices for renting one:

Loretta RV travelMotor Home
For a C Class motor home, the cost for seven days rental would be right around $1,400. Daily rental fee for the motor home itself is $134, mileage is $.29 for any travel under 500 miles and $.32 for over, $29.50 a day for insurance through the rental agency.

RV Parks
The private RV parks all ran about the same in fees – right around $34 for two people for full hook-ups, plus an additional $12 for every extra adult you have onboard. Children under 8 at Casini were free. Kids 8 to 17 were an extra $3 a day. Pets at all the places we stayed were an extra $1 a day, per animal.

Well, for us gas ran about $2.89 a gallon and with a 55-gallon tank that got about 10 miles to the gallon – each time we filled the tank it cost approximately $160.

Bottom Line
The real cost to rent a motor home for a week for a family of four including pets, traveling about 1,000 miles roundtrip, is right around $2,700.

By Loretta Copeland for

Read the other entries from the RV Chronicles Series:

Previously By Loretta Copeland on