Traveling around in a van has a lot of similarities with sailing. One of them is settling into an anchorage/campground for the evening - or a few days. Often, we end up parking in somewhat close proximity to other sailboats/campers/RVs, and it's nice when everyone is at least a little considerate of the others parked nearby. We've found, however, that whether it be an anchorage or a campground, there are at least a few who have no clue about proper etiquette. I wrote a book on anchoring a few years ago (which, BTW, has sold well over 60 copies I'm proud to announce) in which I devoted a chapter to anchoring etiquette and what not to do. Since writing it, I certainly haven't become any less of a curmudgeon, and I think it only right that I devote a little space to the annoyances of camping. So here are our ten top pet peeves of camping:
Vault toilets. For the most part, I don't mind vault toilets. The newer ones are well designed, and are very much like a composting toilet with very little odor. The key to this is that the toilet lid should be kept closed and the entry door kept shut. When doing so, the flies are minimal and the odor is vented out the big stack at the rear of the toilet pit. It seems, however, that no matter how much signage is posted explaining this simple concept, many people insist that it's better to leave the seat up and the door open, resulting in a stinky, fly-ridden toilet. We've even encountered camp hosts that went to great trouble to defeat the self-closing doors so as to allow as many flies as possible into the toilets.
Men who don't lift the seat. Originally, I was going to combine this with number one above (pun intended), but now I think men who are too lazy or too prissy to lift the seat before pissing deserve their own special recognition. This isn't just in campgrounds, of course, it's pretty much any public restroom. If ever there was a justification for surveillance cameras in a men's room, this would be it. "Attention security.. The cretin in stall number three is pissing on the seat". It's especially irksome in a gender-less restroom, when women have to wipe the previous male's pee off the seat.
Water spigots. In many campgrounds, the water spigots are strategically placed around the campground and are meant to be used for filling containers. Some campers think of them as the place to take care of their personal hygiene, wash their dishes and clean their fish, despite however many signs there might be discouraging this. Marcie's personal pet peeve is people who brush their teeth at the faucets, and who have no qualms about spitting and rinsing right there.
4. Campfires. Despite all the signs encouraging campers to douse their fires before leaving them, and the many wildfires that have been caused by careless campers and their campfires, (including one that is burning in western Utah as I write this) we still see a lot of campers that don't bother putting theirs out. We even saw one group pile the last of their firewood onto the fire as they were heading back home. I guess it's preferable to leave a roaring campfire than donate a little firewood to the next camper.
5. Loud radios. Doesn't matter whether it's the local sports team or your own preference in music, believe it or not, not everyone within a 1000 feet of you wants to listen to it with you.
6. Generators. Many people on boats, as well as a lot of campers, need to run a generator to recharge their batteries. I get that. Most yachties realize that running a generator is annoying to others, and either run it mid-morning when it is least annoying, or anchor further away. Campers, especially those in big RVs, seem oblivious to the noise and have no qualms about firing up their generators right at dinnertime, just as we're sitting down to enjoy a quiet evening next to our campfire. Nothing better than grilled chicken and salad under the stars with eau de diesel wafting through the campsite and having to shout to hold a conversation. Fortunately, most campgrounds have quiet hours from 10pm to 8am - otherwise I have no doubts that we'd get to listen to those generators all night long.
7. Dogs. First, let me say that I like dogs. I've had several, and I was quite attached to them all. I like to think that our dogs were well behaved, however, while other peoples' dogs (like other peoples' kids) weren't always so, for which I blame the parents. A few examples: A. The camper next to us who allowed his two large pit bulls to wander freely throughout the campground. As we backed into our spot and Marcie got out of Blue, they actually started barking at her. We did befriend them, whereupon they spent the next several hours begging for food and only left our campsite to bound over and bark at the next new arrivals. Finally, just about dark, their owner called them home and presumably fed them.
B. The dog left inside the RV all day which barked non-stop all the while his family was gone.
C. The little dog tied to a tree next to an RV across from us that barked incessantly whenever anyone walked by, which was pretty much all the time. The poor dog's owner was sitting nearby and either couldn't hear the barking or couldn't care less about it. D., E. ... Z. You get the point.
8. People who give their kids whistles. Enough said.
9. People who leave their campground littered with trash. It's not as if they even have to pack it out... often, the trash can is less than 100 feet away. And while we're on the subject, the people who carry their trash to the dumpster, but leave it on top or alongside it. In bear country I can understand this - the dumpsters often have latching devices to keep the bears from opening them, and I suspect that the devices may be be too complicated for many of these campers to figure out.
10. Reservation system. Most U.S. parks and forests, as well as a lot of state parks have gone to a reservation system. All charge a fee for the service which, just as when buying a ticket to anything these days, can be quite pricey. I fully understand why the reservation systems are used. If you can only go camping on the weekend and have to drive 200 miles on a Friday evening to get to your favorite campground, it's nice to know that a campsite will be available. Likewise, if you are planning a vacation trip to Yellowstone in August, being able to reserve your campsite well in advance is important and justified. If it weren't for the reservation system, most of the primo campgrounds would be perpetually occupied with full time, geriatric RVers, and most vacationers and weekenders wouldn't get to enjoy them. I also understand why a booking fee is necessary. Most of the reservation systems are provided or licensed by third party companies that have to make a profit, and it only makes sense for the customer to pay for the service. Many campgrounds do keep a few 'first come first serve' sites available, but many times, there are only a small percentage of sites allocated this way, and they are usually the less desirable sites.
However, just because I understand the rationale for the program doesn't mean I have to like it. For those of us who travel a few months at a time and like to keep a flexible schedule, the reservation system doesn't work well. When we checked on Yosemite, it was totally booked a full six months out. We were told at Yellowstone, which does have a reasonable percentage of sites that aren't reservable, that we'd have to be at the entrance gate by 8AM to have any chance of getting one of them. We've pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that the big national parks will be drive-thru's for us, and we shouldn't even consider arriving at any popular campground on a weekend. On the other hand, we have usually been able to find small, out of the way campgrounds that have had vacancies.
Unfortunately, while it may make me feel a little better, writing my list of pet peeves in blog form will do very little to remedy any of them. But, as we were hiking along a gravel road a few days ago and a very well fed couple in a big pickup roared past us, waving as they covered us in dust, I thought of just what I needed. I should get a gun - of the potato variety. If I had a potato gun, I could just fire off a gooey potato glob at the windows of the inconsiderate yahoos. If they noticed and stopped, I'd have a word with them, explaining the basics of common courtesy.
Then Marcie reminded me that in this part of the country, it's best to assume that most everyone else is going to be better armed than a potato gun. To paraphrase an old saying, it's not wise to go to a gunfight armed with a knife - or potato gun. Guess I'll just stick to my curmudgeonly blogs.