Home Of The Brain Trust
Brevard, North Carolina
|Slide Rock Where Some Of The Rangers Must Have Bumped Their Head|
Last night I sat in my backyard and enjoyed a perfect August evening. The weather in Ohio has been unseasonably cool and very pleasant. The kids were in bed. A new school year was underway with all of the time commitments and responsibilities that my family must adjust to. I was simply taking a brief moment to absorb my surroundings. It can be difficult for me to slow down and calm my mind with such a busy schedule. The cicadas and the tree frogs were composing a rather loud symphony of sound. A few fireflies were pulsing in the thick stand of trees on the north side of my property.
I settled into my lounge chair and scanned the sky for comet dust entering the Earth's atmosphere at 130,000 miles per hour. The Perseid meteor shower is something I usually enjoy while camping in my Airstream. Since school now begins in early August, I am forced to view the show from home. Sometimes you must unplug and just enjoy the environment around you wherever you are. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I watched the Swift-Tuttle Comet debris streak across the sky. What a great way to steal a moment of serenity at home after a long day at the office.
My mind turned to travel and all of the positive experiences we have had over the years. Then another thought crept into my mind. I began to think about that one negative camping experience we had this season. Isn't it funny how one bad experience can supersede so many positive ones? I probably should have just let those negative thoughts go in a flash like that last meteor across the sky. I should have just enjoyed the peace and beauty that surrounded once I took the time to find it. However, I concluded that sharing a negative experience might be enlightening or at least entertaining to someone.
It is a rare moment when I make the effort to write a negative post. I like to think of myself as patient and polite but both of those attributes have a limit. I reached that limit on a recent trip to the Davidson River Campground in North Carolina. I have never dealt with more incompetent and clueless staffers at a campground. I do not have a problem with those that are unsophisticated or mentally challenged. I am well versed in dealing with that. What I truly despise are individuals that apply rules without understanding the reasoning behind them. Boy did my family get a big dose of that.
I planned a trip to Davidson River Campground to celebrate my father's 75th birthday. My brother and sister were joining me to camp for two nights at this forest service campground that came highly recommended. I really wanted to love this mountain biking and fly fishing mecca. This was our experience with the campground staff.
I worked late on a Friday night in July and drove six hours with my family to overnight at the Wal-Mart in Brevard, North Carolina. We woke up early and drove to the campground around 8:00 AM to check and see if our site was available. I reserved a group site and I thought perhaps it could have been unoccupied the night before. My first contact was with a ranger or volunteer named Mr. Bass. We got along famously with our fishy names and all. He told me that the site was still occupied but that I could call him throughout the morning for a status check. I felt that was above and beyond the call of duty. If nothing else, the check out time was at 1:00. I thanked him and we drove off to explore the trails at nearby Dupont Forest State Park. Periodically, I would phone Mr. Bass and he kept checking and telling me that the site was still occupied. Finally, at about 12:00, Mr. Bass informed me that an electric site had come open. I told him we would come over after lunch to see if it would work for us. I was concerned about switching sites since we had such a large party.
We arrived at the campground sometime before 1:00 and I parked beyond the entrance gate and went up to inquire about the availability of my reserved site and also see if I could take a look at the electric site that had become available. This time I was not dealing with Mr. Bass. I was dealing with a polite women in her sixties who was probably a volunteer ranger. This is where it started to go off the rails. First, the ranger told me that my site was not available. Fine. I asked about the electric site Mr. Bass mentioned. She replied that there were a few sites available. I asked if there was an electric site that could accommodate our large party. She checked and said that it would not accommodate 11 people. Then I asked if I could see where the electric site was on the map to determine if it was close enough to add a second site. She then informed me that sites can only be booked online. I told her that reserving a second site was not a problem because I happen to have a smartphone on me. She then told me that online reservations had to made three days in advance. Wow. This conversation was not going well. It is important to note that I have been very polite throughout this entire conversation.
|Just behind this sign was the scene of the crime|
I made a comment about how it is strange that a U.S. Forest Service campground would not take walk-ins without a reservation. That would mean that they are just leaving money on the table and not meeting the demand. She just shrugged. Apparently, it would be impossible for me to book a second site even it was available. Well I decided to let that one go and asked if I could go see the campsite I had reserved. She told me I could go on foot but I could not drive my vehicle into the campground. No problemo muchacha.
My son Ethan and I proceeded to walk to our reserved loop and to my surprise and amusement our campsite was empty and clean. We jogged back to the guard station and I informed her that my site was unoccupied. At this point, traffic was backing up and she was getting a bit flustered. There were two other rangers working with her at the time. She had already completed all of my paperwork including parking passes for my brother and sister as well as day passes for my father. She told me we could check in momentarily but had to attend to the new arrivals. I waited patiently while she checked in the next camper in line.
|Yep. That is our site and it looks pretty empty|
After she began to check in the third arrival since I had returned, I reminded her that I was waiting. She told me someone had to go check the site. I had a picture of it on my smartphone but apparently they had to follow policy so one of the other clowns jumped in a golf cart to check it out. He returned and gave the all clear. I then told the ranger that we were ready to go. She told me I would have to wait in my car.
It was at that moment of time when someone like me who is polite to a fault lost his cool. I reminded her that I have already checked in and that she has already filled out my paperwork. I also told her that my campsite was unoccupied. Then I asked her what event I should wait for in my truck since it is parked past the guard station entrance. Should I just wait until someone gets me? Should I let you check in people all day who have arrived after me? What has to happen for me to get to my site? She just stared at me frozen. That was it for me. I told her I don't know how I am supposed to politely respond to someone who clearly does not understand what was going on. There was a crowd of amused onlookers but my intent was not to embarrass her or myself but to simply check in. She told me I would have to talk with her supervisor. I told her that might be the best option at this point.
Her supervisor was just another guy standing there who in all fairness seemed like his synapses were firing at a normal rate. I explained the situation to him and he was very apologetic. He asked me if she knew that others were arriving. I replied by saying I have no idea what she knows but I have my doubts. I told her about the others and the fact that my brother would be arriving late a night. She made parking passes for them so I should assume she knows about the other members of my party. I also listed the number of people and cars on the online reservation. The supervisor just smiled and shrugged. After completing my check-in he provided me with a survey. I looked at him with a stare that must have conveyed "are you serious?" I informed him that it would be best if I just tossed the survey in the garbage for fear of being put on a terror watch list for criticizing an employee/volunteer at a federal campground. He told me to be nice and sent me on my way with a smile.
The campground was lovely but our negative dealings with the staff had just begun. My brother worked Saturday and drove down from Centerville, Ohio. He was set to arrive late at night. I spoke to my brother around 10:00 PM when he was an hour away. My dad left for his hotel short after the call and the guard station was still manned. I went to bed and woke up at around 3AM. I looked out the rear window of my Airstream and saw no sign of my brother. I managed to call him although the signal was very weak and he informed me that they turned him away at the gate around 11:30. There was a guard there but they would not let him in. He tried to call me but my phone never rang. It took him another hour to find a hotel. I was livid and upset that I fell asleep and they did not let him in. Unbelievable.
I wish that was the end of my problems at this campground. We stayed Sunday night as well and like most campgrounds, the place cleared out Sunday afternoon. Since we had four cars when my dad hung with us, my brother-in-law parked at the empty campsite across from us. The rangers came around in their golf cart in the afternoon and he asked them if he needed to move his car. They told him that would not be necessary since the site was unoccupied. We all went out to dinner at the Sierra Nevada brewery and arrived back at the campground a few hours later. Just as we arrived, two rangers came darting over to us in the golf cart demanding to know who parked in that spot. My brother-in-law calmly explained that he was told he could park there. At this point, we were in the wrong so the obvious solution would be for him to simply move his car. Instead, the rangers wanted to rub his face in it. They questioned whether anyone told him he could park there. They also asked him if he had read the two notes that were left on his car. Incidentally, both were placed on his car while we were at dinner.
My fear was that we had prevented someone from being able to reserve a spot even though I was told by an idiot ranger/volunteer that they do not allow walk-ins. That was not the case and no one else was slated to arrive. At this point, I unloaded on the staff at Davidson River Campground for the second time in as many days and I was not at all nice. I told them that the bottom line is that the car needs to be moved and we will do so posthaste. I don't think they understood that word. I also told them that I have never seen a more screwed up staff in my six years of Airstream camping. I used a different and decidedly stronger word and that ignited the situation a bit. My sister stepped in to try to calm things down. I told them that they should just leave and that their sister was probably keeping a bed warm for them. That one went over their heads as well. That wasn't nice or mature. However, neither was the treatment of my family by the Davidson River Campground staff. As lovely as the area is, I will not return to that campground. I don't think they will miss me. As the French say, Adios Muchacha! Or something like that.
Peace and Love,