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RV Podcast Episode 206: See your campsite before you reserve it

| Updated Aug 22, 2018

Ever booked a campsite that sounded great when you read the description only to be very disappointed once you arrive? This week…coming up in our RV Interview of the Week, we’ll learn about a free service that lets you see photos and videos of campgrounds and even individual sites. Also this week, we answer a bunch of your RV-related questions, offer up some RV Tips and share some traveling technology tools to make your RV Lifestyle a little more fun and efficient.


Show Notes for Episode #206 August 22, 2018 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast


RV Podcast Episode 206: See your campsite before you reserve it 1


We’re still down on Okaloosa Island on the Florida panhandle’s Emerald Coast. We’ll be here another couple weeks, doing weekend tailgating trips to Georgia to watch our grandson, Matthew play high school football.


Yup. School has been in session down south since early August. I don’t know how the kids play when the temperatures are in the 90’s and the humidity nearly matches.


We have Bo with us. He stayed in the RV with the AC on last week while we attended Matthew’s first game. But they take football very seriously down here and whenever one of the teams scored a touchdown they fired off a canon… a canon!…. and they also launched fireworks at the beginning and end of the game. Bo is not a huge fan of fireworks or canon blasts!


Nor does he like the heat and humidity. We take him out every morning and night for exercise. But even at 7 am, the temperature is in the mid-eighties. Same right after sunset. We visit dog parks in Fort Walton Beach and Destin FL but really have to watch him because with his Norwegian Elkhound double coat, he can overheat very easily. Most if the days he stays in our condo, soaking up the AC.


Speaking of Bo and the heat and relying on AC, I’m anxiously awaiting a new pet safety temperature monitoring system that I’ll be installing in the RV this week. We have tried list of different systems over the years. But none are quite as reliable or a rugged as I would like. The new one is the most pricey one yet but I’ve come to the conclusion that you get what you pay for and when it comes to a pet safety in an RV bargain prices seldom bring satisfactory results.

Those who subscribe to our RV Newsletter got a heads up about this system in an email over the weekend but for everyone else, I’ll show more in a video I’m planning for sometime next week.

RV Podcast Episode 206: See your campsite before you reserve it 2JENNIFER

There’s a lot of continuing talk down here about the red tide. It has devasted Gulf of Mexico beaches in south Florida all summer and shows no signs of easing off. Several have asked us if the red tide is affecting the beaches up here in the Florida panhandle. It is not. There is no indication that it is moving north at all. There is a lot of sea grass or seaweed in the water up here this week but those are seasonal in nature and usually don’t last long. The red tide further south is horrendous. It’s been going on for 10 months now.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee said the red tide outbreak continues to occur on both coastal and inshore sites from Manatee to Collier counties, over 130 miles of coastline.


The outbreaks have caused respiratory and other health problems in humans. It has also caused the massive kill off of marine wildlife. Over 100 tons of dead animals have washed on up beaches in the last few months, including 12 dolphins in the span of just one week. The current red tide began in October 2017 but has intensified in the last few months. Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in seven Florida counties, clearing the way for additional funding to assist with red tide cleanup.

Here‘s the RV News of the Week:


Glacier National Park evacuates areas as wildfires spread
Fires again dominated the outdoors news last week, this time attention on Glacier National Park. The several small lightning fires that we told you about in last week's newsletter spread into roaring infernos this week. The Lake McDonald Lodge closed early for the 2018 season as evacuation orders were issued for parts of the park, including Lake McDonald Valley where Avalanche and Sprague Campgrounds are located. (Click here or here.) One the more terrifying videos to emerge was of a father and son, driving thru the flames trying to escape. (click here). Numerous new wildfires also happened in central Oregon Friday after a storm went through causing as many as 46 wildfires. To read more click here.

Fire almost out, Yosemite National Park's air improves, more roads expected to open
Meanwhile officials reported the Yosemite fire is 90 percent contained as of the weekend, with Highway 41 expected to open soon. Air quality around Yosemite that had reached hazardous levels is also improving. To read more click here.

Have you seen this RV? If so, police want to know
A RV dealer in St. George, Utah, is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of whomever stole a $118,000 rig out of its lot earlier this month. Nielson RV's surveillance cameras caught several suspicious people on its lot near the 2018 Ford Leprechaun Model 260 shortly before the camper was stolen, and turned the footage over to police. To see pictures of the vehicle, in case you've seen it out there, or to learn more click here.

Researchers warn new tick blamed for spread of deadly Rocky Mountain spotted fever 
The spread of ticks and the deadly diseases they carry continued to make headlines last week as a study released in Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases warned a new species of tick is causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever to ravage parts of Mexico and all indications are it will spread to the U.S. Already some cases are being reported in Arizona. What makes this particularly troublesome is this type of tick is more likely to bite humans than others and this disease is causing deaths. To read a story on it click here. To watch to a recent interview we had on the RVPodcast with a top CDC expert about mosquitoes and ticks click here. To learn more about tick prevention from previous reports click here.

Trump administration opposed turning Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore into national park

A movement by Indiana's Republican and Democratic senators to turn the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore into the country's 61st national park met a formidable obstacle last week when a Trump administration representative told a Senate subcommittee it was against it. The representative said the 15,000 acre park on Lake Michigan did not meet the “size or amenity standards” associated with national parks. Proponents say they will continue to move forward. To read more, click here or here.

This part of the program is brought to you by AllStays Pro, the best tool for RVers looking for places to camp; Harvest Hosts, a unique membership service that allows members to stay free overnight in wineries, farms and attractions across North America; and Overnight RV Parking, a subscription service that provides details for over 12,000 free or nearly free RV overnight parking locations. All three services offer greatly discounted rates to listeners of this podcast


When Mike and I were at Glacier National Park back in the beginning of summer at a Roadtrek gathering, many of us were in and out of one another's rigs, sharing those little things that make camping that much better.

Well, one of the those little things is the Handi Hanger Trash bag holder. What is that you ask? It is a simple solution to having a trash bin. Recently I had a moment to look it up, and thought I would share what I learned with you.

The Handi Hanger Trash bag holder is a plastic contraption that hangs on the inside of a cupboard door. The hanger holds those plastic grocery bags that seemingly every grocery store gives you and turns them into something useful, a trash bag!

Using it is very simple. You simply attach the two arms to the inside cupboard with sticky tape or a screw. Then you take your plastic grocery bag and hang it over each arm. When you close the cupboard door you will not see your trash.  It is that simple.

I like this idea for several reasons. First, it provides a simple way to keep your trash out of sight and off the floor. Freeing up valuable floor space in a class B campervan RV – or really any kind of RV – is important, I think everyone can agree. Also it provides a useful purpose for those free plastic grocery bags. And, because your trash bag is now relatively small, it will encourage you to remove your trash from your rig regularly, eliminating odor.

I found the Handi Hanger Trash Bag Holder on Amazon for less than $10.

Be sure to send me your tips and suggestions for the RV lifestyle. You can use the “Leave Voicemail” link at Just click it and then use the built-in microphone on your computer or mobile devise to record a message to me. You can do it over as many times as you want, until you are satisfied. And then you just click a button and it comes right to my email inbox.

I love hearing from you!

Jennifer's tip of the week is brought to you by RadPower Bikes ,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping. To see our Rad Power Bikes in action, just click here.


Questions we answered this week:

  • A listener installed a brand new water pump on his RV. It works but the pump never shuts off.

There’s a lot you didn’t say. Such as does water come out the faucet when the pump is on? But either the pump is not doing its job or you have an air leak on the inlet side or you don’t have enough water in the fresh water tanks.

There are some other things to check. Is there debris in the water filter? It’s a new pump so that’s highly unlikely but check the filter just in case something got in there during the installation process or when you connected it to the water supply.

Make sure the hose clamps on the suction side of the pump are tight. Make sure there’s no kink in any of the hoses. Are all your valve handles turned properly?

  • A listener has a 1990 RV and has been told she needs her AC replaced or Freon added. She wonders if that’s true

Most RV air conditioners are not designed to be opened and repaired, and if a repair is possible it is often very costly.

It is an unwritten rule most RV Tech's go by to replace any roof AC over 10 years old with major problems. Replacing a bad compressor is just not cost effective on an older unit, and if a unit has lost its charge then it has a leak and is not cost effective to repair that either. So save some money in the long run and replace instead of repairing your old AC.

Unlike air conditioners used to cool a house, an RV air conditioner is very different in the way it cools. Nearly all RV air conditioners out there work on the same basic principle as a refrigerator. RV air conditioners also differ from ones found to cool a house in the fact that it is hermetically sealed (Closed System). Because the AC is hermetically sealed you can see why you cannot get your Freon checked or replaced.

  • A listener is looking for the frame for a 1998 Roadtrek RV.

I don’t believe these were factory installed. But call Roadtrek Motorhomes directly at 888-ROADTREK

  • A couple wants to rent out their townhome and live in an RV but where can they park it?

We do our best to answer.

This part of the podcast is sponsored by Steinbring Motorcoach, Roadtrek’s newest dealer and a third generation family business in Minnesota’s beautiful Chain of Lakes region built on quality motorhomes and excellent pricing and service.


Ever booked a campsite that sounded great when you read the description only to be very disappointed once you arrive? Listen up,  because in the interview of the week for this episode, we will introduce you to a terrific and totally free website that can greatly lessen the problem.

Our guest is Mark Koep, the founder and CEO of, a free website that lets you find and tour RV parks across the country and see photos and videos of the sites before you book.

Here’s a video of the interview:

Here’s a full transcript of the interview:

Mike Wendland:           Mark Koep joins us right now, and Mark, you are destroying a myth that you can't find good camping near Yellowstone. Tell us where you are right now?

Mark Koep:                  We're actually in a town called Ashton, Idaho. Folks don't know where it's at, it's about 50 miles from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It's located on US 20 in the state of Idaho, and we're staying in the park paying $30 a night. Place is deserted, full hookups, beautiful location. Right in town.

Mike Wendland:           Before we even get into what an awesome site you have with, right away, you are helping to destroy a myth that you can't find a place to camp. I admit, there are times on this podcast and on YouTube where I've been very critical that it seems like all the “good” campgrounds are filled, and you're helping me understand that that's not necessarily true. We just might be looking in the wrong place.

Mark Koep:                  Yeah, it's actually a … it's a complex issue and it goes into … actually there's a perfect example. Recently there was a news story about Ashton's future. He got married, and he and his wife decided to do their honeymoon in an RV trip, and it's going viral. It's all over the place. And they talked about how bad of an experience they had, and the reality is that their bad experience is because of a lack of information. And it's because they're going to the main places that everybody goes to. Google, Instagram, the news sources to find to camp. The reality is, while those are good for information, they're not good for campgrounds and RV parks. They don't show you what's around, and so like Yellowstone's a really good example. A lot of folks, in their mind they think, if I want to go to Yellowstone in July and August, there's nowhere to camp. It all booked up and I should just not go.

And that's actually a false presumption, because the reality is, there's hundreds of campgrounds in and around Yellowstone that provide different options, so Yellowstone is a really good example, because the park is so big, if you want to go to Yellowstone, you may not drive in 100, 150 miles just to see Old Faithful anyway, so why not stay somewhere else where you don't necessarily need to stay inside the park, you can stay outside the park, or whatever, but the point being is that if you have the right information at your fingertips, you'll go there. It goes to this underlying problem that we are trying to address for the industry. It's summed up by one word, and that one word is uncertainty. People are uncertain about what they're about to get into, and so they go to sources that they trust or that they think they trust or think they know.

We're trying to short circuit that and show people what places look like, so they may not be able to know about it, but we have video, we have pictures, we have 360 tours that allows them to physically see a campground or RV park and be able to know, hey, that's perfect for us. We'll stay there.

Mike Wendland:           I can't tell you how many times we have been on the road, and it's 6:00, 7:00 at night. I want to stop in the next hour, and I whip out my all stays app, or whatever app I'm using, and I see a bunch of places out there, and some of them have reviews, but how many times I've gone to a spot, and it's just terrible. Not what we wanted, and I could have saved so much time. I spent a couple hours before we did this interview, looking at your site, and why don't you walk everybody through a little bit. Tell them what is all about, how it works for the Rver who is traveling about. Before you do that, this is all free, right? You don't have to pay anything to be on your site.

Mark Koep:                  Right. Yeah, I'll back up to the reason why we started campgroundviews, and it started nine years ago. My wife and I bought an RV, and started traveling, and we used sites like Google and RV park reviews, and whatnot to find places and we kept showing up at all these parks, and it was, like you show up at the 10-star park, and it may have been 10 stars for the person who wrote the review, but it definitely wasn't 10 stars for us. Right next door was a nicer park for a cheaper rate, and they didn't exist on RV park reviews. I kept saying, “My god, this is insane. How come in the modern age we don't have this information?”

Finally, after enough of those experiences, we said, “That's it, we're going to start something and we're going to show people what parks look like, and so that was how the idea came to be. Since that time, we've built it up, when you start a directory, a local directory, our entire database is hand built. We went city by city, state by state, found the information, found the parks, wrote descriptions about them, found their decals and put it in. It's actually our proprietary data that we found in these parks. We're constantly adding new ones, we're constantly updating it, so it's an ongoing battle. It starts with that underlying information, but then the next thing that we added and we're now at almost 30,000 photographs of campgrounds and RV parks across the US/.

And these aren't pictures of people barbecuing or whatnot, they're pictures of the sites, the roads, the area, what do the amenities look like? They're not exciting pictures, but if they're looking to go camping, they're very important, because now you know what the place looks like. On top of that, we started adding videos. We have over 3,000 of them now, and they're regular videos that just show … they're pans of the campground amenities, the roads, all the stuff that as a camper Rver you want to see before you make a decision to go there. Can my RV fit there? Will there be a satellite signal? Are the trees encroaching on the site? What do the neighbors look like? All those type of questions answered with those videos. And then fast forward to about two years ago, the technology of 360 video came out and we immediately jumped on that and we've now produced over 300 360 videos. These are like Google street views, but for campgrounds and RV parks.

We now have every single major western national parks. Every national park west of the Mississippi River. We have all those campgrounds on 360 video.  In addition to that, we also work with a lot of private parks, and we have their parks with 360 videos, because the reality is, as a camper, as an Rver, or even as a park operator, your ability to show and see a place is the difference between somebody going there and somebody not going there.

Mike Wendland:           How then, do you make your money on this? If you're giving this away, there's some cost to getting all this video and website, you must have some kind of a deal then, with the campgrounds themselves. How do you find yourself funded?

Mark Koep:                  The website itself gets … right now our staffs, we're getting about 200,000 people a month coming in the website and using it, and organically using it. Much like a Good Sam or whatnot, we sell advertising on there, because parks want to be first, so they can feature their park and come to the top of the listing, or they put banner advertising. There's a fine line we walk, so we want to be a very good information source, and we don't want to sell out at the same time, right? Because want to provide really good information, we don't want to bias it. So for their advertising, we provide those advertising options.

The second part that we provide, is we provide marketing services to the campgrounds. You've traveled around enough to know that the vast majority of campgrounds have terrible websites, terrible information, bad pictures, all that stuff that you're going to look for as a traveler, they don't have it. So we help those parks get that right … gas, and so we have a park, it's Natural Springs Resort is in New Paris, Ohio, right off the interstate, in the middle of nowhere. You would never know about it unless you're actually looking for it. They have this natural spring lake, and they allow scuba diving. Absolutely beautiful location, so what we did is we built their website. We produced some videos for them, did the 360 videos and all that type of stuff. And what ended up happening, the right guests are now able to find them and come into their park.

The first three months of this year their online reservations went up by 244%. So what we do is we help these parks reach the right guests. Because if you have the right guest, if you're the right guest for a park, and you end up at that right park, you're going to go back, you're going to have a good time, you leave good reviews, all that type of stuff, all that happy stuff ends up …

Mike Wendland:           Back to this whole idea of campgrounds. We never make reservations, ever. Unless … I don't want to say ever, there's always a chance we will have to do that. But how easy is it, to pretty much always find something within a reasonable distance of where you want to end the night? With your app?

Mark Koep:                  We're the same way. We actually … our RV, I'm actually in an RV, 44 feet long. It's a fifth wheel, 44 foot fifth wheel. We hate making reservations and we don't generally make reservations. I know you travel in a much smaller unit, so you have that advantage where you can fit into almost any site. So the answer is, it's actually relatively easy to find a campground, and Yellowstone's a perfect example. We made the reservation for this park we're at, to day before we arrived here. I simply searched west Yellowstone, found the parks I was interested in staying. One of the big gaps is finding availability, so you have to call them obviously, hey you guys have a site or whatnot, and then just work down that list of places you wanted to stay, and then, on this one, like I said, we're paying $30 a night for it. If you go into west Yellowstone, it's $65, $70 a night, so all of a sudden, math starts making sense.

We're in this area for two weeks, 14 days at $60 versus $30, we're saving some money on staying here, and what we found is if you're familiar with Yellowstone and Grand Teton, this Ashton is located along on the outlet of a road called Grassy Valley Road, and that road comes in from the Rockefeller Parkway, which is between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National. Right where Flagg Ranch is, if you're familiar with the area, and it's a dirt road, it's about 20 miles long and goes through this actually beautiful area. And it pops out right here at this campground. So we actually have a back way to get into both parks if we want to go that route. It's a little bit longer of a drive, you're not doing 50, but you're going through an amazing area. We saw deer and moose out there last time we drove it.

Basically, the point being that if you're looking to go … and it goes back to that article I wrote for RV Business. One of the biggest problems in the industry is there's this assumption that because so many RVs are being sold, which is true, RV sales are absolutely blown up, there's this assumption that we're going to run out of places to camp. And it's just an assumption that's flat out wrong. It's a wrong assumption. There are plenty of places to camp. The problem will be is if you absolutely need to stay at this one park on this date, and it can't be any other choice, then you're going to run into issues, and so I talked to some folks, they're complaining about places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City. These big locations, where real estate's so expensive, all the RV parks have been sold and turned into condo complexes, yeah, you're not going to be able to stay in downtown LA. But, if you want to stay in LA, there's actually about 35 parks within a 30-mile drive of LA there are out away from the city, nice locations, and you can find them if look for them.

Mike Wendland:           I think that there's another through, another issue.  And that is the condition of many, many of those parks. I have often said, not meaning it facetiously at all, that they are more ghetto-ish than they are nature-ish. There's really bad parks out there that need a lot of work. The wi-fi doesn't work, the sewage system doesn't work, the bathrooms are in horrible, horrible condition. And a lot of them have been used by transients, and long-term workers, and haven't been maintained. That's the biggest issue I have found out there, and why I think your side is so good, is you can quickly weed out the ones that you don't want to be seen in at all, and find one that meets the criteria you want.

Mark Koep:                  Yeah, that's true, and one other thing. If the place is a dump, we'll actually say it's a dump on our listing, and we get some pushback from that, and especially like my sales representatives, when they're calling these parks, oh we can't say that. And I'm like, “Well, don't call them, because I'm not going to sell advertising to that park. It's a dump, I don't think people should go there, and so we'll specifically say if there's a place that's scary. One of the things on that issue of these parks that are run down, one of the things about the industry is because it's become so popular, there's actually a lot of money coming in from the industry. A lot of folks are buying up these rundown RV parks and fixing them up. We've seen that a lot, especially around major cities or major destinations where there's new investors coming in. We've definitely seen this around the major cities where these parks that used to be a lot of long-term tenants and they're really run down, are been bought by investment groups or investors, and they're starting to put money into those parks.

And so … yeah, there's some that are dumps, and we'll directly tell you that, and we'll actually show it to you, but there's also a lot of parks that maybe five years ago were dumps, but if you give them a second look, there's a new owner whose cleaning it up and fixing it up. I'll throw that out there as an idea for you.

Mike Wendland:           I hope so, because I think it's a major issue and I hear a lot from readers who are very disillusioned with it. They bought all the imagery that the industry says, and then they have found the reality sometimes is not what it matches. I think that's why boondocking's become so popular, and you know that it is going to get better because there's this money to be made, and that's good. Well, is the website, Mark Koep has been our guest, and Mark, fight that big fight for us out there, and I think this is … I encourage our readers to go and try it. Well put some images of how the website works for our YouTube version of this video, and we'll get you back again. I think you've got a great idea and it's so nice to be able to see those sites.

Mark Koep:                  I appreciate it. Let me add, it's a pleasure to be able to speak to you. I appreciate what you're doing to get the word out there, so thank you for having me.

The interview of the week is brought to you by, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country


By Andy Choi

Verizon Wireless

Camping is on the rise in the U.S. – and the trend is expected to continue. Millennials now account for 38 percent of the 75 million active camper households in the U.S, according to the national camping report by Kampgrounds of America.

Whether you’re a millennial traveling with a group of friends or a boomer taking extended family, Verizon has some recommendations to make end-of-summer camping trip a success

You can set up your secure perimeter in the wild and monitor your outdoor surroundings with the Arlo Go security cam. No Wi-Fi? No problem. Arlo Go is truly mobile, thanks to the Verizon 4G LTE network and a rechargeable battery. This camera allows you to put it anywhere you want to monitor. Its IP65-rated weatherproof, to stand up to rain and dust. The Arlo Go can also see with night vision illuminating sights up to 25 feet away.

You’re always gonna want a little extra juice out there, and Belkin’s Road Rockstar charger gets the job done. Power up four devices at once while you’re driving. In addition, the mophie charge force powerstation supplies smartphones with an extra 48 hours of power.

And finally, the RV Parky app is a comprehensive collection of RV parks, campgrounds, rest areas, gas stations, and stores. Read up on where you’ll be visiting, view pictures, and get directions to where you are headed to next. You can also find RV friendly stores, rest areas, welcome centers, best fuel stops and low-bridge warnings along your route.

So whether your route takes you to the campsite across town, or the one across the country, make sure you pack a healthy supply of camp-related tech. With this week’s traveling technology tip, I’m Andy Choi with Verizon.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Verizon, which operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide.


The Real RV Show – Sacramento
Cal Expo     Sacramento, CA
Hershey – America's Largest RV Show
Giant Center    Hershey, PA
Great American RV Show Colorado Springs
Norris Penrose Event Center
Colorado Springs, CO


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Mike Wendland

Published on 2018-08-22

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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