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 Poolside at Valle Del Oro

This is a reprint from the 1994-95 issue of Movin' On.  Please keep in mind that the prices quoted are old. In 2000 the annual rate was a little over $3,000. Also there are other changes like a bigger fitness room and a huge computer room with 16 new PCs.

Valle Del Oro RV Resort is an exceptional park in both appearance and activities. The Superstition Mountains are the backdrop for the palm and citrus tree lined streets in this "adults only" park. One partner must be at least 55 years old. But there's no retiring here. At least no one is just sitting in a rocking chair. There is so much to do one could almost use a social secretary. 

The park boasts a 9600 square foot ballroom, two large swimming pools, two jacuzzis, two saunas, four lighted tennis courts, eight lighted horseshoe pits, 16 lighted shuffleboard courts with bleachers, a 16 table billiard room, a fully equipped exercise room, a library complete with each morning's Wall Street Journal and current magazines, three large, spotless laundries, sewing room, dozens of meeting rooms, and miles of streets. Ron and Barb walk four miles each morning by going up and down the streets. Without traveling over any street twice, they figured they only cover about two thirds of the park. 

Mesa which is located about 20 miles due east of Phoenix is a great gathering place for "snowbirds." The Mesa Tribune recently reported that 175,000 winter residents flood the valley each winter. Some 80,000 occupy the East Valley's 42 RV parks while another 50,000 to 70,000 reside in the region's apartments, condominiums and private homes. 

Valle Del Oro RV Resort is the largest in the valley with 1,800 sites. When Ron and Barb arrived early in October, the park was nearly empty, but every day a few more check in. The "season" is from November through the end of April with February being the busiest. 

Carole Stainbrook, assistant manager of the resort said that many wait until after Thanksgiving to head south and another bunch wait until after Christmas. "In January every radio station announces that it's 'Wagons West' as far as the eye can see." She added that they check in about 80-100 each day during January. 

"There's something special about this park," said Barb. "The people seem extra friendly; we thought Outdoor Resorts in South Padre Island, Texas, was great, but this is even better." Barb and Ron both agree that arriving before the big crowd allows one to get acquainted easier. They attended one of the first euchre (a popular card game) nights of the season. There were only four tables (16 people) playing so it was easy to meet everyone. By February there will be 18 tables or more every euchre night and the same goes for all the games. 

Cindy Knowlton, activities director for the park said that there are 165 activities per week (20-25 each week day and 10-12 on weekends) and arranging all of them is a challenge. She said, "I get the ideas from people in the park, say okay, then figure out how to do it." For example some were taking Spanish lessons outside of the park and suggested that maybe the park could offer them. Now Spanish is one of the 42 classes offered. 

The list of classes offered is endless. Some of the more common ones are Ceramics, Bridge, chairweaving, China Painting, Lapidary, Lost Wax Casting, No Sew Quilting, Stained Glass, Silversmithing, Rubber Stamp Design, Pottery, Oil Painting, Photography, Watercolor, Woodcarving, Wood Shop, Zipper Art, and Tole Painting. 

Silversmithing class where "students" create lovely jewelry.

Some of the more unusual classes offered are Fun Psychology, Creative Writing, Life Story Writing, Creative Bead Making, Kachina Doll Making, Teddy Bears, Fabric Painting, Genealogy, Hardanger Embroidery, Right Brain Drawing, Spectral Art, Southwest Indian Carving and Ukrainian Eggs. 

Then there are the dance and exercise classes—clogg- ing, round, square, ballroom and line dancing, Aquacise and dancercise are also very popular.  Many of the instructors come from outside of the park while the remaining are residents. Some classes are so popular that folks sign up for them one year in advance. 

A small part of the old  computer lab

The list of activities is just as long if not longer. There are clubs for everything from cards to skiing. Yes, skiing. The snow covered mountains aren't far away. Golf is the most popular activity with about 850 participating and billiards runs a close second with over 800.If you want to join a hiking or biking club, play games, play bingo or whatever, it is here. 

The Country Store is a big event each Thursday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. As many as 165 vendors from in and out of the park, sell new handcrafted and commercial mer- chandise to the more than 5,000 who come to the Country Store each week from all over the valley. Cindy said that in January and February they come by the bus loads. "This is the most popular one in the area." Along with the merchandise, food is sold. Prepared by volunteers in the park, the fare starts out with coffee and donuts and finishes with a yummy lunch like steak sandwiches, home-made soup, pie and ice cream. 

Food and eating are a part of the fun in the park and volunteers do the cooking and serving. Proceeds go to the activities fund. Monday-Wednesday, the snack bar by the pool serves lunches and other snacks. Every Friday tacco salads and "primo burgers" are served in the Fiesta Room. There is an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast every Saturday morning which includes sausage, orange juice and coffee. Add to that the monthly chicken  dinner, steak fry, pizza party and weekly pot luck; no one goes hungry. 

The volunteers in the park do more than just take care of the eats. One thousand residents donate an average of 3-5 hours a week helping out in classes, the leisure office, welcome office and other activities. Cindy said that some work as much as 4-5 hours a day and feels that that is what makes the park so special and friendly---people take ownership in the park when they volunteer. She added that there is no way they could have so many offerings if it wasn't for the volunteer staff. About 50 volunteer coordinators help decide what to offer each year. 

But that is not the end of the offerings. Sunday and Wednesday are movie nights. These movies are shown in the building built just for this purpose. The theater building boasts a very large screen. Every Tuesday there is a blood pressure clinic. Dances are on Saturday evenings with a different band each week. There's a jam session on Tuesday afternoons and a well attended Sunday Chapel held in the ballroom. Complete with large choir, volunteer resident, retired ministers take turns doing the nondenominational service. 

                                         Billards                                                  Shuffleboard

And that is still not all. There are special events like the up-coming one scheduled from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Sat- urday, November 19. The American Diabetic Association is sponsoring a diabetic clinic. Another big special event will be the Health Fair later in the season and in January there will be an Arthritis Update. Cindy said that this was very popular last year. Ron and Barb took advantage of another special on October 18 when flu shots were offered to Valle Del Oro residents. 

Of course special occasions mean special treats like the Halloween dance on October 31 (complete with prizes for costumes). Coming up is Veterans Day when Charlie's Angels---a USO show---will entertain poolside in the afternoon. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve will mean extra events too. 

Doris Patheal, assistant activities director is also a resident here and stays all year long. When asked what it is like in the summer she said, "Hot." But she went on to say that it was nice. Only about 100 folks stay year round so the activities are few. But they get together for pool parties complete with musical entertainment until it is too hot to be outside. When the temperature hits 110 or higher they continue with the parties, but move to the air conditioned Fiesta Room. When asked what the hardest part of the job is, Doris said, "Finding classroom space." 

Three tour agencies work out of the park and can be found in the mornings by the post office (there is a real post office in the park). Tours to Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada, are inexpensive and leave often. Also a regular trip is offered to the nearby Indian casino for bingo and such. 

Every day at 2 p.m. the water volleyball teams are at it in one pool while the sun bathers are around the other. One can see bikers and hikers in the park at all hours of the day. "No wonder these folks stay so young and healthy looking," said Barb. "They are active and in good weather with good friends. It's a wonderful life." 

One of the things that impressed the Hofmeisters early on is the woodshop. Ken Damon, the coordinator listed the equipment in the shop. "Two 10" table saws, two 14" band saws, three scroll saws, one lathe, two drill presses, one plainer, two router tables, one thickness sander and lots of hand tools and such." Instructors teach anyone who is interested how to safely operate the equipment. 

The park is not cheap, but not expensive when you consider the ammenities. The wide sites easily hold the largest RV and many choose to put a park model on the site. A park model is a small mobile home---usually 35 feet in length and 8 to 12 feet wide. These are further enlarged with the addition of a patio or Arizona room. In walking around the park, one can see all the variations available including older trailers which have been skirted in and are left here year round. Of course, one must rent on an annual basis to put a more permanent unit on the site. 

The 1994-95 rates are: Daily—$26, weekly $135, monthly $390, three month season $1170, five month season $1930, and annual $2230.* The monthly through annual rates do not include electricity. No reservation is needed when coming early or late as the Hofmeisters did, but during the prime time reservations are a must. They are completely booked up for February 1995. Many have even reserved their spot for the 1995-96 season because the Super Bowl will be in Phoenix that year. Starting next year, they will only take reservations for  three months or longer---nothing shorter. 

Ron said, "It is amazing how many full-timers are here. They are in what I call 'Stage ll' of their full-timing lifestyle. They don't own a home, but travel little---going from one place in the summer to this park in the winter. It is a very good life when you think about it and again nothing is forever. They can change directions anytime. That is what full-timing is all about." 

Barb said that she likes the idea of always finding a new paradise. "There are hundreds of these places and finding them keeps life exciting and new for me.  It's always an adventure." 

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