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Texas RVers Respond to Rising Fuel Costs by Camping Close to Home

During the week, Roy Rector works as a cyberspace detective.

But on weekends, Rector escapes the stresses of the workweek by cooking up gourmet meals in quiet, picturesque campgrounds just outside of town, while his wife, an elementary school principal, crochets.

"It's hard to unwind at home when you're staring at so many things that have to be done," said Rector, 52, adding, "You don't stop and unwind."

And while rising fuel costs make it more expensive to travel long distances with their 34-foot fifth wheel, the Rectors find they can still have peaceful getaways by staying in private campgrounds close to home.

"We spent 69 days in our fifth wheel last year," Rector said, adding that many of those days were spent at campgrounds that were less than an hour's drive from home.

It's a phenomenon that's taking place throughout Texas, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners. "As fuel costs rise, RVers are camping it closer to home," Schaeffer said, adding that travelers are increasingly visiting to find out where private campgrounds and RV resorts are located.

"You don't have to drive all day to get someplace where you can have a good time and unwind," Schaeffer said. "There are literally hundreds of high quality campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas, and many of these parks are in scenic locations near the major cities. Many have lakes and access to hiking trails. Quite a few of them also offer cabins or park models for people who would like to camp but don't have an RV."

Camping close to home is a strategy that makes sense to Larry and Carol Gray of Fort Worth. When they want to get away from it all, they simply load up their 30-foot fifth wheel and take a 25-minute drive to the Vineyards Campground in neighboring Grapevine.

"It's a great campground," said Larry Gray, 48, a construction worker from North Richland Hills. "You get out of the city and camp by the lake. Sometimes we stay there all week."

And best of all, Gray said, the Vineyards Campground is close enough that the Grays can enjoy frequent getaways with their two children and extended family without having to worry about spending a lot of money on fuel.

"That's one of the reasons we go there," Gray said. "We like the fact that the Vineyards is close to home."

Stewart Perlow, a construction worker from Katy, Texas, near Houston, drives a little further -- about 90 minutes -- to reach his favorite park, Caney Creek RV Park. But he said Caney Creek is a beautiful place to go fishing, and it's a lot easier to reserve a site there than at a popular state or national park, which typically book up weeks or months in advance. Caney Creek also has a RV storage facility across the street from the campground, so Perlow can leave his travel trailer there and avoid having to tow it back and forth from home.

Randy and Jan Borg of San Antonio also like to camp close to home. Last year, in fact, they leased a campsite for their 36-foot fifth wheel at Parkview Riverside RV Park in Concan, which is a 90-minute drive from their home.

"The park is located along one of the most beautiful rivers in Texas," said Randy Borg, 52, adding that the park often offers a slightly discounted rate for campers who lease their campsites. "We also save a little on fuel costs because we don't have to tow it every time we want to use it," he said.

So while it's a given that fuel prices will continue to escalate, Perlow, the Rectors, the Grays, the Borgs and other Texas RV enthusiasts say they will continue to camp.

"So what if diesel is going up?" asked Rector. With proper planning, he said, RVers can still have affordable getaways as often as they want.

"We go to Cottonwood Creek RV Park a lot," Rector said. "It's nestled back in the oaks and cedars in the Hill Country, and they have really big level sites. There's no playground. No music. No hustle. I call it going nowhere and doing nothing. It's quiet."

And the park, located in Dripping Springs, is affordable, too. Rector said he recently spent two nights at Cottonwood Creek and spent less than $100, including the campground fees and their cost of fuel. "For less than $100," he said, "we had a weekend away from home."

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