Veteran RV industry consumer journalist-blogger Chuck Woodbury is about to turn another page in a storied career launched in 1999 with the publication of Out West, a quarterly newspaper chronicling his on-the-road musings as he explored the American West. In 2001, he started the RVtravel.com website for which he’s best known today among thousands of North American RV enthusiasts, particularly for the often outspoken essays he pens in his weekly newsletters.
Having sold his condo eight months ago in the process of going full-time on the road with companion Gail in his 32-foot Winnebago Adventurer Class A, Woodbury is well underway with a book he’s authoring while continuing to maintain his busy RVtravel.com website.
In dealing with both the pleasures and harsh realities of today’s RV camping scene, Woodbury told RVBUSINESS.com that his book will openly address his concerns about the next phase of the RV lifestyle and whether North America’s public and private parks are in a position to handle a huge incoming wave of retiring Baby Boomers.
“The book is about the RV experience and how it has evolved since I’ve been doing it,” said Woodbury, who was headed across Idaho on his way back to the Seattle area when we caught up with him this week. “How we RV today is very different from how we camped 20 or even 30 years ago. When I was a kid not all RVs had bathrooms so it was necessary to go to a campground that had bathrooms and showers. Today, who needs a campground because you’ve got everything you need in the RV. So campgrounds have changed.”
Woodbury will lean to an extent on his weekly essays on the RV experience of today to tie together a larger work that provides a broad overview of today’s RV camping scene based on the extensive time he’s spent on the road as a full-timer over the past few years. The book, if all goes well, will be available later this year.
“I don’t know yet how the book will end up but I want to explain what RVing has become today,” said Woodbury, who’s currently closing down his physical office in Seattle to consolidate his life on the road. “For instance, when I started off 30 years ago, I never had to make a reservation at a campground. Going wherever you wanted whenever you wanted was a reality back then — be it a national park without a lodge or a state park you could stay in with your camper. Today, as I found out just recently in Zion National Park where everything was booked up for months, you really can’t get close to the park without a reservation.”
In the process, he maintains, the RV experience has become much less spontaneous than it used to be and how with the changes in the RVs of today, people are often not just camping in their RVs anymore, but living in them.
“With every creature comfort that you need in your RV you can live in it instead of camp,” he continued. “We’ve changed along with the camping opportunities. This change in the scene has only come to my attention since I left on this trip seven months ago. It’s become a real hassle to find nice campgrounds. You can stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot or a Cracker Barrel and that’s fine — if you think that’s camping.”
He believes it is harder now to find that spot where the family sits under the stars next to the campfire. When asked about remote camping in the wild or “boondocking” as it’s traditionally been called, however, he harbored a bit more positive view.
“I think the whole boondocking thing is probably easier today,” he said. “There are millions of acres of public lands available. I just came through Utah and we saw people out in the desert without a neighbor within a mile. These opportunities are still available. But if you want to go to the popular national parks, you have to make arrangements. I’m not saying that you can’t do it, I’m just saying that it’s more challenging. The book will put all this in context.”