December 6, 2019 (by Angela)
Now and then good things come in some of the most unexpected ways. Sometimes being willing to say “Yes” and do something new when an opportunity presents itself is the best thing to do.
I’m not exactly sure when John (one of our boys) texted his Dad to let him know that a new campground was opening just down the road from the home he and his family had purchased in Vienna, IL in early 2018, but he did, plus a reminder or two. When Jim finished his long contract in the Northeast this past summer, we made reservations at this new campground, so we could visit with family. In particular, to spend time with John and his family.
One day while chatting with the owners of the new campground, Shawnee Forest Campground, we were surprised to have them ask us if we’d like to come back to Camp Host. Since Jim and I had discussed off and on over our time in the RV whether or not we might like to try Camp Hosting at some point, we promised to think about it. It turned out to be good timing for us as Jim and I had already decided that he needed a break from work after his hospital stay. We looked at our calendar and told the owners, Gary and Andrea Dahmer, the dates we could host at the campground. The Dahmers said the dates worked for them, and that is how we ended up saying “Yes” to an unexpected opportunity.
The Dahmers purchased a closed golf course and transformed it into a lovely campground with full hook-ups (FHU) at every site (FHUs are electric, water, and sewer connections) along with a lovely wooden picnic table and a fire ring. There are two bath houses and a laundry on the property, also. It takes time and money to transform a golf course into a campground. While it’s still a work in progress as they continue to build on what they have already done, they aim for perfection by expanding current operations and making other updates. Additionally, they must repair those things that have been damaged due to use and weather.
If you’re looking for fun when camping, the Dahmers try to plan at least one special event during the busier months of the camping season. We were able to enjoy the Halloween festivities. Open all year long and right off I-24, it’s a great place for those needing an overnight stop. Don’t forget the access to the Shawnee National Forest for hiking, and it’s a good spot to stay for special events and hunting in the area. For certain, you’ll get great customer service, and you’ll never meet any nicer folks that Gary and Andrea (and the rest of their family, including parents, siblings, etc. who assist them now and then).
Gary eased us into the responsibilities of the campground. We started with the simple thing of cleaning and restocking the four toilet/sink/shower combos, two in each bath house. This was a daily chore during the week for us. Then, we began to help folks check in who had already made an online reservation, had spoken with the Dahmers to make a phone reservation, and a few who just drove up. After about two or so weeks, with some training on using the online reservation system, we had the campground phone handed over to us during the week; it was returned to the Dahmers on the weekend.
We began to get into a routine. Jim and I shared the bathroom chores. I dealt more with the phone and reservations, but Jim also assisted as needed. We’d both helped get folks settled into the campground. Jim’s greatest joy was taking the golf cart around the campground in the evening to check on and visit with the guests. He’d also help guests get wood who needed some for the fires. While Jim and I mostly did our chores during the week, on occasion, things would come up, and we’d help part of the weekends, as needed, too. The owners were just as flexible with us if we wanted to go or do things during the week.
Now, roughly a week since we left our Camp Host gig for warmer weather during the winter, Jim and I could not be happier that we agreed to do something new and unexpected. It was a wonderful experience for us. Both of us had fun meeting folks and helping them as required. He and I developed a great relationship with the Dahmers, who went out of their way to be kind to us. Gary, in particular, put up with my Type A personality with a smile and a bit of teasing (and was probably thankful that Jim was the more of a go with the flow type). The biggest compliment they could give us was to ask that we come back to Camp Host again in the Spring. We are happy to do so unless something unforeseen stops us because it’s a blast to have fun working with such nice folks, in a nice place, and to also be near family.