Contributed by Bob Nelson
We, Bob and Betsy Nelson, have been RV’ing for over 40 years, and in the past 15 years have owned only Northwood RV Products, specifically the Arctic Fox (four season) because we like to winter camp. In 2005, we joined the Northwood RV Owners Association (NROA) and started attending their Rallies.
These events are held annually at Grande Hot Springs RV Resort (Hot Lake) in La Grande, Oregon, just down the road from Northwood Manufacturing. The park has a nice event building that we use for this week-long gathering. It seats 130 inside, a large tent is attached to one end for additional covered seating, and to accommodate the average of 180 participants. People from all over the US and Canada attend.
Each year the Rally offers a variety of vendors a chance to ‘show their stuff’ and occasionally these are presented by non-professionals such as me, just sharing their knowledge or passion for something. Things like how to repack your trailer bearings, caulking the RV, Solar, geo-cashing, wildlife tours, and sewing circles. This year I decided to share my experience with Boondockers Welcome (BDW).
We have hosted RV’rs for the past 15 years on our property (2 acres), mostly family, friends, and a few people who found out about us from others. Eventually, we put in a pull-through site with 20/30/50 electric hook up. A few of our campers started to refer to our place as Nelson State Park and we adopted the name.
Friends have dubbed Bob and Betsy’s property, “Nelson State Park”
In 2015, we joined Boondockers Welcome with some trepidation. While we had people stay with us in the past, this was going to be a whole new ballgame of strangers to meet and greet. More than 150 RV’s have stayed here since 2015, some through BDW, some family, lots of friends, NROA members, and others…We have had as many as 9 RVs here, but that was a push on electric power and socializing.
The view from Bob and Betsy’s host location
We have never had a bad experience with hosting. Often, we invite them to the back porch, campfire, beverage of choice, and snacks...Sometimes Betsy will offer a light dinner. For hosts, the only requirement is supplying the site - no hookup, no water, no conversation, just a place to park a self-contained RV overnight. We generally take it to a higher level, but that is just us.
I had contacted the BDW admin and told them what I wanted to do; they foolishly said “Go forth and do good” and forwarded me lots of materials. Powerpoint is OK for some stuff, but I like being online and showing the website in real-time. The park had good WiFi, our event had a large screen, a projector, and a laptop, so hooking up was fairly simple. I’ve had no experience with Harvest Hosts, but other rally members had made this suggestion early in the rally planning, so I just moved forward with it.
Back to the rally and my sharing BDW with others. I offered this to the group, thinking 15 to 20 people would show…to my surprise the room filled with more than 80 people! The presentation was promoted as “Camping with BDW / Harvest Hosts/ and other options.”
I was not as prepared as I should have been. No flyers, no hand-outs, no agenda, no nothing. Just me winging it. I essentially pulled up the BDW home page, logged in, and used my user dashboard as a demo. I showed what we list as our host location, what our guests have written about us after a stay, how we can view each guest’s profile beforehand, how guests can search for hosts, and how the whole process works.
I explained that, at this point, we have only been hosting, with being a guest a future activity. There were lots of questions, mostly around being a host and how to avoid inviting the ‘axe’ murderer onto your property. We did a search for other host locations and cities around the country. It was fun trip planning for everyone!
Forty-five minutes later, we moved to the Harvest Hosts topic and explored other camping options such as Walmart and service organizations like the Elks, Escapees, and camping in general…for a total of more than an hour-long discussion.
Would I do this again? Yes, absolutely…Next time, I’d go prepared with some handouts but I’d use pretty much the same format. People liked that we were looking at the website online and in the real world. After the presentation a few drove over to our house to see how we’re set up for visitors.
One concern I had about this presentation was telling people of options other than an RV Park at $45-75 per night vs. free elsewhere. Part of my concern was that the owners of Grande Hot Springs are personal friends, and I did not want to offend them. I made them fully aware of what the presentation was about. They also know we host at our house. But, since we do not offer a dump station, we always suggest guests go to Hot Lake afterward and stay there for a night or two. It’s just 15 miles from our house.
We are not members of other organizations, but I think just about any RV group or event across the country would welcome volunteers who want to give this type of presentation. If there are any other BDW members, like me, who would like to talk to groups, both large and small, I’m more than willing to answer questions. And the folks at Boondockers Welcome can set you up with flyers or other handouts.
We hope that by learning how much fun we have when we host travelers, more RVers may be willing to try it, too. Then we’ll all have even more options for places to stop and enjoy each other’s company on our next trip.
We know many of you are already spreading the word about Boondockers Welcome. If you’re attending a rally or other event and interested in doing a talk or presentation similar to what Bob did, please contact us. We’ll help you any way we can and appreciate you even more (if that’s even possible).