We are happy to announce on our rv blog that we are finally planning to head home to Montana – woot! But before we depart, we must update you on the highlights of our stay at the Prairie Pines Campground in Rantoul, Illinois. We arrived here on May 1, expecting to stay 3 weeks and then take off. Our plans changed when we realized, however, that being on the road over Memorial Day weekend was probably not a great idea and we’d struggle finding places to stay, so we decided to stay here through the 28th, given we’d paid for the whole month anyway. We had to get a lot of prep work done on our truck and 5th wheel anyway before embarking on the 1,851 mile drive – plus we got in a few extra visits with Cheyenne, so it worked out for the best.
This rv park sure isn’t Montana, but to be honest it has been very pleasant and extremely quiet. The rates aren’t too bad, the sites are huge and it isn’t congested at all (picks up a little on weekends but still the majority of sites were still empty). Our neurotic dog is what we gauge an rv park by – she doesn’t like other dogs and was able to lay outside almost all day, every day with no other people or dogs in sight. That was awesome…four paws up, in our book, if you also have a neurotic dog who can’t be outside in cramped rv parks.
But our time here wasn’t boring – we had two experiences we just HAVE to share, priceless experiences for full time rv blogs like this – which occurred at this very campground. Here they are, for your reading pleasure…(we hope):
The Excel Club
We understand the whole concept of pride of ownership, and nothing in this post is meant to insult anyone for being proud of something – as opposed to being proud of someone. Heck, we have to be somewhat guilty of the pleasure ourselves, since we give our vehicles, rvs, pets and guitars names and humanize/personalize them to death. Making them have personalities and characters just like people lets us feel emotions about them, among which pride is certainly one. So we get it when owners of campers like vintage Airstreams get together, or communities of like-minded folks like nu-rvers gather for community fun. But we witnessed a different side of the phenomenon here at our current camp site.
It started one Friday when a gigantic 5th wheel and an equally massive late-model truck pulled into a space across the street from us. The maker’s banner was proudly painted across the front of the camper, and it said “Excel.”. Hmm, we thought, that’s one we haven’t noticed before, and we’ve seen plenty of rigs in our travels. It was big, shiny, and had 3 slides, making our little Jayco look like a pipsqueak. As the owners set up, we noticed that they placed a white plastic sphere set up on a short tripod outside the unit, and we joked about it being the remote control pod for the fancy camper (we later discovered that these are the latest satellite receivers, of course). Other bells and whistles included a computerized leveling system and a camera to help with lining up and hitching, and we could just feel the pride being exuded.
That evening another Excel pulled into the space beside the first one, the another, then 2 at once, and we realized that something strange was occurring. Either the white domes were homing devices and the Excels were gathering for some unknown, possibly unsavory purpose, or it was one of those typically American deals – the club. There are Airstream clubs, Volkswagen and Corvette clubs, and god knows what else to keep owners amused, but we had never heard of Excel rvs, let alone an owner’s club. But a quick search on the net revealed our ignorance, and brought us up to speed about all of our new neighbors..
It seems that the Excel brand of rv is a luxury product, and the manufacturer makes sure that anyone looking into one of their units knows it. They have the latest features in design for safety and comfort, and all the luxuries that a high-end home could possibly provide. And the makers encourage get-togethers of Excel owners so that they can share their pride and show off their purchases to each other. Each state has a club, and each one has at least one yearly camp-out. We were witnessing the Illinois Spring Camp-out for Excel campers.
Not only did this involve about 20 5th wheels and the trucks that pull them, but they commandeered the central covered pavilion and wrapped it in tarps to keep out the chilly breezes. There they had meals together, and discussed the latest news in the kingdom of Excel, and probably had secret meetings late at night when we were sleeping. Just kidding, naturally – they all seemed to be friendly enough, judging from the little interaction we had with any of them. And the gathering was over on Sunday, and we watched the Excels scatter to the four winds just as quickly as they had flocked to the rv park a couple of days earlier.
No doubt the sense of pride in ownership they all felt was expanded and strengthened by their socializing, and there may be nothing wrong with that. But we must admit to being a little suspicious about a club that you simply buy your way into, even if it is the American way of doing things. Remember Groucho Marx ,who famously said that he would not want to join any club that would have him as a member. A club based on owning a particular item seems like a club we probably wouldn’t join either. What if someday you decide to buy a Fleetwood Prowler instead? Guess you’re kicked out of the club.
We have not had the pleasure (or is it the pain?) of being in a crowded RV park in our few years’ experience as full time Rvers. This is partly by design (we avoid cramped campgrounds at holidays especially), and partly by accident – there are times when you just need a place to hook up to power and get the AC going, no matter what, but we’ve been lucky in those cases. When we decided that it would be better to wait out the Memorial Day weekend and hit the road the day after, the host said it was fine to stay, but the place would be full. It was a friendly warning, but we had no idea how it was going to turn out. We would have rather slept on a park bench in Chicago than experience this next story…
The first camper arrived on Thursday, and he set up right next to us. Now, the sites here are very spacious, so it could have been much worse, but we were used to our privacy, quiet, and solitude. So it came as a blow when the guy said that he would have to apologize in advance, because more of his family was coming and they would be walking around us and through our site regularly. He was absolutely correct, honest, and accurate. Apparently, his whole family (maybe 5 or 6 adult children and other relatives) had pop-up campers, and they started coming in on Friday. Each one of these arrivals had at least 2 children and a dog – one of them had 3 dogs. In a very short time we found ourselves surrounded by happy campers with their small children and yapping dogs running around everywhere. And that was just on our side of the street. The entire campground was soon filled with giant motorhomes, gigantic 5th wheels, and tiny pop-ups, not to mention people and their children, smoke from many campfires, and dogs – lots of them.
Note: Don’t be fooled by the photos that follow. Beginning Thursday evening, there was only one glorious hour when the entire clan left…not one left behind! We seized the opportunity to snap some photos to show where we sat. It looks calm and quiet…and it was, for one hour. Photos show we are perfectly centered between the gigantic family.
Campground dogs are a big problem for us, and one reason we stay away if possible from crowded situations. Hannah, our adopted mutt, apparently had an unhappy childhood and feels threatened by other dogs. The simple sight of one across the campground can send her into a snarling, twisting, barking fit, and when they are out there, the only thing to do is to keep her inside where she can’t see anything. Her hearing is going, so the barking isn’t an issue for her. Of course, it kind of bothers us, as does the smoke. Anyway, we had to tell the patriarch of the large family about our dilemma so that with his help, we could sneak Hannah out twice a day. He got all the dogs to go inside for 10 minutes, thus giving our dog time to go outside and do her thing. And to think that just a couple of days ago, we basically had the place to ourselves.
Even though it was a cold, rainy weekend, they never stopped. Honest, minimum of 20 people right outside of our 5th wheel around the clock – barking, screaming, horseshoe clanking in the rain, beanbag tosses…and more toddlers than adults…more DOGS than adults…It is one thing for an rv park to be full, where you are side by side with independent couples. But the first person who pulled in next to us…they were the PARENTS…the home base where the entire family congregated. They never were in their long line of pop-ups – nope, they put up awnings and gazebos and all activity was outside of our window. The worst camping experience we’ve ever had.
Though some began arriving Thursday, by Saturday morning the entire extended family was here…one pop up after the other for 36 hours kept coming. Since it was raining on Saturday, we stayed in all day anyway…including sequestered Hannah. Again…frigid temps and downpours didn’t send one of them inside…they just got louder to hear themselves over the wind and the rain. But then early evening rolled around and that is when it reached an all time low. We were lying in bed watching a DVD and heard a familiar sound coming from the site next door – sports on television. Peeking out of our windows, we saw that they had set up a tv under their awning, and some really good, LOUD speakers, all the better to enjoy a fricking hockey game. While the women and children were out in the yard playing, the men gathered around the tv with the sound up really loud, drinking beer and cheering for their team. Of course, one disadvantage to a 5th wheel is that the bedroom is right in front, which just so happened to be directly across from the big game. While we tried to watch a dvd and relax, the blaring from the tv and the periodic roaring from the spectators right outside our window made us feel trapped. The family actually had hockey chants they would belt out sometimes. Fortunately, it began to rain hard and the wind picked up, so we only had to put up with this for a couple of hours. Our little computer speakers couldn’t compete, though.
Sunday morning we purposely woke up at 5:45am to beat the chaos. We took Hannah on a walk while the rv park was generally quiet. However, by 6:15am they were all waking up, dogs out and barking. As I type this, there are a minimum of 30 people within view. But tomorrow is MONDAY which means they will be LEAVING!!! Hooray! We actually have company coming – our old drummer in our band One Less Karen and his wife are coming to BBQ with us. Now THERE’S an idea…we can set up the band and play music until 3am!
So we are looking forward to packing up and getting back on the road again. Maybe the big noisy weekend was a good way to end our stay here after all. We might have become attached to the prairies peace and quiet, but clearly it was a temporary illusion, and we now can pull out without looking back. We also know, for certain, that we don’t ever again want to spend a holiday weekend in a crowded rv park ever, ever again. TV and hockey games? Honest…why not just bring the damn sofa and recliner, too?
Will be taking pics and posting about our journey…so do stay tuned to this cheap rv living blog!
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