The Finances of Living in a Truck Camper – September 2007
A New Avenue of Our Full Timing Adventure
Volunteering 3 days a week and Sasha working full-time
September – moving to a new spot – at the campground at Prince William Forest Park – Sasha’s new work schedule – where he now goes to work in a library – and I can go too – So we do a lot of reading, watching movies, and being part of the campground life.
Being A Campground Host vs a Visitor Center Host
One of the big changes was that I am now a Campground Host, which is different from being the Visitor Center Host. As Visitor Center Host, I volunteered at the Visitor Center, doing the same type of job as those that were paid, from opening and closing the center, to everything in between. I really enjoyed the people that came by to get information and learn about the park. The big part about the visitor center is that people have to seek it out, because it is not at the entrance of the park, and you can get to the scenic loop and most of the park without going past the visitor center. So there is a different type of person coming to the VC.
Campground People, Sometimes
But at the campground, you get all types of people, some that are fair and honest, and some that are not. Labor Day weekend was my first experience as a campground host – what a weekend to start!
Campground Host Position
Let me just tell you a little bit about the campground and the park so that you can understand how it works, because most people (especially my family!) do not know.
When you come into the park, there is an entrance station where Park Rangers work (during the weekends) and you pay a five dollar “park usage fee” which is good for a week. Of course we get people that only want to pay a dollar as they are going to be here for a day – but that is not how it works. Or they can pay $20 for an Annual Park pass for Prince William Forest Park, or $80 for the Annual America the Beautiful for all National Parks and Federal Lands.
Those that are Seniors only pay once $10 for the Senior Pass and Handicapped people can get an Access Pass for free. The Senior and Access pass people can get their campground for Half-price and everyone that gets one of these cards just has to show the pass and not have to pay the “park usage fee”. Of course Seniors and Access people have the best deals, I actually had some Seniors come to the visitor center on their Birthdays so that they could get their passes – that was so much fun!
Once they have paid, then they can go to the visitor center or (most) take a left onto the Scenic Drive Loop, that takes them to most of the hiking trails and the campgrounds.
Different Ways to Camp
We have many different ways to camp here at the park:
- there is an RV campground which is run by a Vendor – No park rangers or volunteers hosts are there;
- five cabin camps: four of them you rent the entire camp of anywhere from 10 to 30 cabins and they have separate entrances, fees and a different department that deals with them, however, one of the cabin camps does do individual cabins, but again, the cabin camp hosts are there for that;
- Backcountry Camping – where you get a permit and hike into your camping area – no open fires, no pets, no bathrooms, but also no fees;
- Group Camping – where groups of 25 to 40 people can go in a particular spot and camp, we have 6 of those camp sites and they fill up most fall and spring weekends;
- and then the regular campground – at which I am the host.
NPS Campground, No Hook-ups
The campground does not have any hook-ups – meaning no electricity, water (at the sites) or sewer so for RVers, it is dry camping. $15 a night is pretty cheap for camping, as Virginia State Parks are at least $15 and then you have to pay TAX! and Most are more than $15.
Shenandoah National Park has quite a few campgrounds (they are the closest National Park from us) are $15 to $20 a night for no hook-ups too. The closest non-state or federal campground for mixed use (meaning RVers and tent camping) is Bull Run Campground which is $25 per night and again no hookups.
The reason I am talking about this is because of campers stating that the price is high when as a matter of fact, it is not. You buy two fancy smancy coffees for that much. – But more on that later.
The Campground’s Setting
The campground has 100 wooded sites with a fire pit and room for two tents and two cars (if needed). The rules state a maximum of six people on the site (it is a family campground after all), maximum of two cars and maximum of two tents. Most of the camp sites have a square area showing where your tent can go. They do this so that there was less impact on the site. Most often than not, the campground is not full.
Only fabulous weather, holiday weekend, and other forces that be can make the campground full. Well, Labor Day weekend had all of the forces that be, but it did not fill up – we had about 70 campers though, and that was quite full. And with three loops: A, B, and C, it took a little while to go around to all of the sites.
Moved to the Host Site
When we moved into the Campground Host site, we decided not to take the camper off of the truck. We wanted to be a little higher up to get the rays of the internet card and the cell phones, and also as a stabilizer for the camper – there are more things on the ground to help keep the camper steady.
We put the trailer in the parking lot near our camper, but slightly out of the way, so that others could park in the parking lot. We have a big space out in the open; hopefully I will get a picture up soon, we have to get a new camera. The kiosk is right in front of us where the campers self-pay…even though there are directions, they still ask a few questions on how they are supposed to do the registering.
What Do We Get For Laura’s Volunteering
So for being campground hosts, we get full hook-ups, a radio with charger, and use of an ATV – a Kawasaki Mule. However, the mule was not working, which makes going around to the campsites a little harder, I either have to go around on foot, or with my car. I also have to clean out the fire rings, but can’t do that with the car, there is no way I am going to put a dirty shovel, can of water and other stuff in the trunk.
Clearing Out Fire Rings
And the Law Enforcement (LE) Park Ranger that is in charge of the campground, went on vacation for 3 weeks out to Colorado (lucky him!) So I did not clean out the fire pits for most of that time. However, around September 14th, we got 70s – cool and not buggy; we also have a little cart, so I took the shovel and cleared out the first loop’s 40+ fire rings. I just check to make sure the fire is out, then shovel the coals out and place in the back of the campsite. When you go to some of these campsites, you see where the coals have been placed, and there are little trees or large plants growing. Obviously, the coals are nourishing the plants.
What I Do As A Campground Host
I go around two or three times a day – three on the weekends and two during the week. Mornings are to see who came in the night before, afternoons are to make sure the people left that were here for one night, and evenings are to make sure that people paid and they are settled in. I have a little system: in the evening, I go around and check to see that people have paid, then mark their slips with different colored pens and write down their license plates on the campground sheets. In the morning, I go around and check in the people that came in the night before, do the license plate thing and the colored pen, and take down slips of the people that have left. In the afternoon, I am supposed to get the last of the slips of the people that have left and clean out the fire rings, but as the Mule is still not working (September 23rd), that is not going to happen.
The expenses this month, low but high. Why? Moving out of House into camper and getting to know the area.
Expenses for September 2007
- Food, Food and Household: $321.33
- Food, Out to Eat: $194.02
- Food, Farmer’s Market: $39.00
- Food, Provisions: $0.00
- Household, Propane: $35.00
- Household, Property Taxes: $605.67
- Household, Services: $11.25
- Transportation, Car Gas: $133.31
- Transportation, Insurance: $596.14
- Communication, Postage: $7.50
- Health, Insurance: $134.00
- Recreation, Fun Stuff: $62.60
- Recreation, Books/CDs: $25.05
- Recreation, Stuff: $7.95
- StT Work: Domain: $5.99
- StT Work: Client Services: $44.00
Total Expenses = $2,222.60
Explanation of Expenses
Nice month but a little bit more expensive than last month, why would that be? It seems like each month is a little more expensive than the previous one. So why is it?
Anyway check it out below.
Food: Spent a bit on food, but not crazy as last month. But still, lots of fruit and veggies, and pasta.
Out to eat: This month there were more times that we went out to eat, usually with family and quite a few time for lunch. Even though the lunch price was small, it still adds up. But we went to a farmer’s market and got some tomatoes and peaches. Looks like we ate quite a few. When the peaches are good, they can be really really good.
The dreaded property taxes. In Virginia, you have property tax and personal property tax. Property tax is twice a year. So even though we did not have a “property” any more, it was from the first 6 months of the year. And we will have to pay personal property tax in October.
Propane: We had to fill up as the truck camper did not have an electrical switch for heating the hot water. So we were heating it with our propane. And they (NPS) usually do not give propane when you are a volunteer, you have to obtain it yourself.
Services: So our services now are that we have to go to a laundromat, so anywhere from a week to two weeks.
We had to pay for gas of my car and diesel for the truck. So Sasha was using the car more for driving back and forth to work which was now bunch more miles. Sasha was filling up the car every couple of days. Gas was now at $2.52 for the low and went up to $2.62. It was going down during this month! Diesel, we did not fill up this month.
Insurance came due this month as well, so that was for the car and the truck.
Was for my phone, my cell phone that I used now mostly for personal stuff. For some reason, I did not have to pay this month, we’ll have to figure that one out, maybe next month will give us some clues. But we had a bit of postage. Things going somewhere, where, I do not know.
I pay for my health insurance, as a small business owner I do not have a group plan and it is cheaper to do it as my own health insurance than go on Sasha’s plan. I also do not see the club membership, maybe we put it on hold for the month.
The fun stuff was we went to a concert, do not know which one, and got some cigars. I am putting it down in fun stuff. I don’t really smoke them, but Sasha likes a good smoke every now and again. But pretty rare.
I got an online book, a game to be played on the computer and a newspaper. Have to have some fun when the internet is slow and can not always read all the time. Although, if you look to the right, you can see all of the books we were reading. September and October were big months for reading.
Nice that my expenses have gone way down for the business, with the Client services and the StT domain as the only expenses.
Check out October 2007 – The mule is finally working, and we have a new camera – yeah, pictures!