We were sitting in the shade outside our trailer, just finishing lunch, when a brand new RV pulled up. The driver stopped, climbed out, and walked over to us.
“I’m thinking of camping here a few days,” he says. “I see the sign says it’s ten bucks a night. Is anybody coming around to collect the money?”
So this stranger was asking us if we thought he could get away without paying to stay in the campground.
This particular campground is managed by the US Forest Service. It’s at 7,200 feet elevation near a mountain pass, just off a main highway in central Nevada. It has running water, flush toilets, firepits, and new-ish picnic tables. The campsites have enough distance and trees between them that each feels private. The road from the highway is paved to the entrance and well-maintained dirt inside the campground.
As I write this, a Forest Service truck has just arrived and a uniformed employee is cleaning the restrooms.
If this campground were in California it would cost at least $30 a night. And we would have needed to reserve a site months in advance. We rolled in spontaneously yesterday afternoon and had our choice of campsites. We’ve been here a little over 24 hours and plan to stay a couple more nights.
Last night, about half the campsites were full. Most folks started rolling in about four o’clock in the afternoon and most were gone before we finished our coffee this morning. Right now, at 3:30, only one other site is occupied.
I see the sign says it’s ten bucks a night.—Person who wants to cheat and steal
Is anybody coming around to collect the money?
So I was more than a little taken aback when this stranger in his brand-new, six-figure RV asked us if we thought he could get away without paying the ten-dollar-a-night camping fee.
“They are collecting the money,” I replied, though the employee who came to clean the bathrooms this afternoon is the only official presence we’ve seen since we got here.
And we watched the guy who only follows the rules when he thinks he might get caught drive away.
So, he wanted a free handout from the government.
Basically. And it was clear he didn’t think anything of asking. No shame whatsoever.
One of the things we’ve talked about often since is that there is a free BLM campground just a little east of where we were. And the last time we were there, the trash cans were overflowing, the tables and shade shelters falling apart, and the pit toilets unusable for filth and neglect. Had I more presence of mind I would have suggested he go there if he wanted free camping in his shiny new RV.