the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
When Bear Creek Lake closes for the season, I pack up Juno and head to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
This is a different kind of camping than staying at a picturesque public park, but it has its advantages. The fairground campground is a parking lot with electric hookups meant to offer utilitarian spots for fair vendors. It is open to the public, though, and one of the more affordable options in the Denver area, at least as far as private parks, that isn't suspect in its location, or management. The state parks are also expensive once you add a daily entrance fee on top of the camping fees, and too remote. The fairground is just down from the train station that Rick uses to commute. He and I tried all the private parks ten years ago, nothing has changed, and I can't recommend any of them with the exception of Dakota Ridge. However, it is too pricey for my budget, and as far as I know, still has the ten year and newer RV policy.
It's an ugly fact of RVing, in some areas and whole parts of the country, that RVs are not welcome in private parks if they are older than ten years of age. It's the RVing version of gated communities.
Often converted school buses (skoolies), tiny houses, and car campers are also not allowed. Public parks may not have vehicle restrictions, but generally will not allow monthly or seasonal stays. In Colorado state parks, for example, the longest one can stay is 14 days within a 45 day period. The parameters are one way to control (and subsequently marginalize) full-time nomads who are not able to travel frequently, or far, because of a physical job or resource requirements, as well as those who subsist lower on the economic scale. Culturally, like many societies, we collectively value what nomads often refer to as 'sticks and bricks' (permanent dwellings), discouraging transient lifestyles.
Annual passes to state parks allow residents to camp more affordably, which, in contrast to the restrictions above, does offer some relief to a lower-income RVer or vehicle-dweller with a local job, if there are enough state parks in an area to support the need to transition from one to another every two weeks. During popular camping seasons, however, it is critical to pay for the term in advance to ensure a spot–sometimes months ahead–which and be difficult or impossible for someone living paycheck to paycheck, or on a fixed income.
At the fairgrounds, for a nightly rate of $30 and a two-week maximum stay, I get electric hookups, access to water and a dump station, close proximity to laundromats and stores, nice areas for dog walking, and hot, clean, private showers–the latter makes it practically paradise, parking lot or not. See my review on RVParky here.
Priorities have changed, I've discovered. I'll take amenities over scenery, especially when it is cold.
When I arrive, the staff I meet are all friendly and helpful. It's a pleasant experience over the next days, so much so I decide to apply for a camp host opening. Unfortunately, they want a three month commitment (because of the investment in training), and that would preclude me making the RTR. I regretfully decline the interview. If I were to do this full-time, it's an experience I believe I'd enjoy. For a recent perspective on 'workamping', as it's referred to–working for free space and hookups, and sometimes wages–check out Nomadland: Survivng America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder.
After calling around, and talking to ten mechanics without luck, I finally find a shop willing to work both on an RV, and one with a carburetor.
The hourly rate is jaw-dropping, and $650-odd dollars later (with a few welcomed and good-natured discounts thrown in) the carburetor has been tweaked, Juno has a new distributor rotor, a new fan clutch, and there's been some wiring cleanup to address two melted fuses. I have mixed feelings after the work is done. I have no reason not to trust the shop, and I like the owner (quite the character), but I'm doubtful a fan clutch is going to solve my problem. Not having enough experience to know what I'm looking at under the hood I'm at any mechanic's mercy at this point. I'm throwing money at difficult problem to diagnose, but feel I have no other choice. One of the posters on the wall is of a Rockabilly band they've helped get on the road, and who has a much better sense of humor about the uncertainty of RV living, so who am I to argue? I plan to test the latest work out by driving out two hours and driving back - something that never happens because I come down with the flu.
In one of those 'oh my gosh' coincidences, a few days later, in a city of over 382,000 people, I meet one of Juno's previous owners in a grocery store parking lot.
She drives up and points to Juno. "I used to own that beast!" she exclaims. I give her the tour and she reminisces. She was the third owner and filled me in on some of the details–critically, I discover, that her vapor lock issues were worse than what we've experienced.
She used to actually be left stranded and unable to turn over the engine again until 'The Beast', as she called Juno (and more fondly than I have as of late), had cooled sufficiently. And, she points out a toggle switch in the dash that runs a second electric fuel pump. It should be pulled forward she tells me. Hmm. I assumed that was for some long gone electronics and after flipping it back and forth a few times initially, had since ignored. I wonder if that's my problem...