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by Ron
What's in Those Numbers?

Most of us are in agreement that campground directories are great. In our motorhome we always had the Trailer Life Campground Directory close to the driver's seat. Woodall's Campground Directory is very similar and they are both the size of big city telephone directories. We supplemented our big directory with several others and together we had a lot of information at our finger tips. We had directories for Corps of Engineer campgrounds, Cost to Coast membership parks, fairgrounds that have camping sites, Elks Club camping sites (primarily in the west), and loads of state publications that list their state parks. We also had a National Park publication that had information on camping facilities within the park. We were really prepared. All of the above are excellent publications and you may have others to add to the list. We considered them as tools and referred to them often. Sometimes we even called on the cell phone when we were a few miles out to inquire about availability and directions.

In our fourteen years as full-timers we learned to use them only as a guide and found that they are not always correct. Full-timers and other experienced RVers will be quick to point out that some of the ratings and information are subject to human interpretation. This is particularly true when seeking information on a public park. It seems that much of the information is outdated and we can only assume that the public park is not visited regularly by those who do the ratings. My theory is that since the public parks don't buy ads, they don't get checked out often. Site length and width is often wrong which may detour some RVers from using them. We had very little trouble fitting our 40 foot motorhome into some national parks where the directory referred to 30 foot maximum length. On our recent trip across Iowa it was easy to fit into all of the municipal parks and most listed 30 foot maximums. Take the time to check them out, especially if you pull off the road early and have time to move down the road if they don't work out. 

The rating system can also be frustrating. Trailer Life uses a three digit rating system that rates park completeness, rest rooms/showers, and atmosphere. Of course human judgment and perception get involved. We recently stayed at a park that was rated 9-9-9 (very high) but you couldn't drink the water due to a high level of sulfa and there wasn't a level site in the park. Maybe that is why it was for sale. In New Mexico we stayed at one of the best parks we have ever stayed at. Everything was immaculate with wonderful hookups and level sites separated by plant barriers for screening. The laundry room was large, spotless and completely modern. It had a large beautifully furnished lounge and large patio next to the breakfast room where a delicious free breakfast buffet was available every morning. The patio was next to the large hot tub and a free newspaper was available for each site. We asked the manager why they were only given ratings in the 7 range instead of 9 or 10. We found out it was because they did not have a pool or a store. Give me a break.

As you travel you will also find many small parks not listed either because they don't want to be or they may be new. Check them out. They might be a bargain and the location could be a plus for your travels. The directories are helpful because they let us know where the campgrounds are, give directions so we can get to them and give us information about the park, but beyond that take the ratings with a grain of salt. 

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