Most of us on the trail team prefer to camp as part of our travels… Part of the joy of this aspect of travelling includes visiting new campgrounds and finding cool spots we can share with others.
On our trip to Moab and FJ Summit this year, our first night of driving ended with us in Strasburg Colorado. We knew this was going to be a stopping point ahead of time and had made reservations. It’s about 14 hours from home and a great distance to stop driving at.
Strasburg is a little town with tons of cheap hotels along I-70. Really nothing to write home about (or blog about!). When we came into town we could see that the KOA was disturbingly close to the highway… Not just any highway, one of the busiest interstates in the country! Had it been earlier, we might have tried to skip out of this place based solely on our first impression of location and noise.
We decided not to make a fuss… It was 8PM and we just needed a place to sleep! As we have seen before at other KOA’s, the front desk clerks will leave you check-in paperwork at the front door if they are already closed for the night. We grabbed our packets to see where we were camping. Ugh… This campground had put us on opposite sides of the park. Not their problem, as we had made different reservations… But it was a bit of drag as they were way apart, not even close.
Just as we were talking about where to go, a man came up in a golf cart wearing the classic yellow KOA polo shirt. He introduced himself as Scott. He and his Mom own this KOA and he started running down the amenities. He told the kids about the pancake breakfast his mom makes in the morning. I think the kids were drooling for pancakes right then.
Scott figured out really fast that we were together as two trucks and offered instantly to let us use the group camping area so we could be close that night. That was awesome. We were thrilled. We bedded down and other than a few loud motorcycles that sounded like they were doing 200MPH on the nearby highway it was a peaceful night.
The next morning we were tearing down the tents and getting cleaned up super early. Scott saw me and asked if we were coming to breakfast. Even though it was before normal serving time, he said we could get our breakfast now. Awesome. We loaded up. 4 or 5 bucks a head for a full plate of food, juice and a coffee. It was just what the doctor ordered!
The next couple of days camping were spent in primitive spots along the Colorado River in Moab. Amenities were only what you provide for yourself. To say we were a bit “funky” after a few days out in the wild would be a massive understatement!
Our next campsite was a KOA in Colorado. I will refrain from mentioning the location for reasons you will see later.
We checked in around and found a tidy little campground in the middle of town. The front desk clerk was terse and did not tell us about much at the campground except to say some downtown restaurants were good. She also was not accommodating when we asked about possibly tearing down our tents around 1PM after trail run the next morning. No biggie, we thought we would ask. We were directed to our campsite on the edge of the campground.
After we were started putting our tents down… A staff member of the KOA came up on a 4Wheeler. He then proceeded to unspool a hose off the back of the machine and start spraying the grass around us. Herbicide? Pesticide? Who knows. I am not freak about this stuff, but I had to say something.
“Hey, can you hold off on that?” I asked.
“It says it’s safe in 30 minutes” was his reply.
“I’d feel better if you held off while we are camped here” I said.
He then reeled up the hose and took off. He had a look of “whatever” on his face as he drove away.
A few minutes later one of my kids came up to me and asked how to get into the bathrooms. You need a code to get into the door? Oh, I remember a sheet of paper being attached to our checkin materials. Sure enough, there were passwords for the bathrooms.
The wifi was as locked down as the bathrooms. Everyone who had a device that wanted to use it had to have a separate user ID and password. Once on, the WiFi was worse than dial-up. It was better just to share my hotspot on my phone with the kids than use theirs.
That night, I swear a helicopter took off next door to the campground. It was amazing how loud it was. Other than that and some kind of domestic dispute in the middle of the night, we slept well and got up to a beautiful day for trail riding. We packed up camp and started loading up the trucks. We never thought about breakfast at the KOA as the clerk did not recommend anything when we checked in.
We hit the trails that day and headed off to more days of travel until we got back home.
The moral is obvious. People make all the difference.
Scott and his Mom did everything to make sure we were settled and taken care of. Their facility was not the best location, but they make more out of what they have by being hospitable and friendly. I would stay at this KOA again strictly on the experience I received even with their location shortcomings.
The second location we stopped at may have been caught on a bad day. Regardless, there was no impression left on us that we should ever go back to that campground. The real question for the second KOA staff: Could they overcome my negative experience if they had a staff like stop number one? I would say yes.
Now, this is one person’s experience. If you take that by all the customers who check in and out everyday… The value is unlimited. Building relationships is the value-add that is not figured into the price. Some of those customers will become an advocate for your business.
What’s that worth?