I went to a New Year’s Eve party this year that had a wonderful side effect. I met people I’d not known before and I took note of their cheerful and exuberant description of the vibrant community they are all part of — the Cranberry Adult RV Park (http://cranberryrvpark.com).
This past weekend I decided to visit and see what was going on over there. I arrived in the middle of a downpour and found retired policeman, past Cranberry park resident, and RV troubleshooter, Sue Mann, crawling around on the floor of Shirley Fisher’s rig. “There’s some problem with a white wire somewhere,” was how Sue put it.
Soon current park resident Rick Burn, part of the ad hoc repair team, wandered in and was promptly scolded by Shirley for not wiping his feet; then park manager Terry Lockhart arrived with poodles Millie and Gretchen, both in hooded raincoats (the dogs, not Terry who was about to get totally drenched). There commenced a rollicking round-robin of storytelling and laughter about who had met whom when, how the park community operates (Terry rules with velvet gloves), and the pros and cons of RV living.
The park itself is an orderly and quiet oasis tucked into mid-Peninsula on Cranberry Road. When I first drove up I was impressed with the calm, tidiness, and well-manicured feel of the place. I had often passed the Cranberry Adult RV Park sign, took note of the “Adult” adjective (age 40-plus), and thought to myself — “harumpf, they don’t allow kids?!” But getting an insiders’ view of how and why this community operates the way it does has given me a sense of admiration both for Terry and her management style.
As she says, “I want the people here to feel safe and to have a sense of dignity about where they live.” The range of folks who call the park home runs the demographic gamut: a nurse who also helps with park maintenance; a fish and wildlife manager; fishermen; retirees and full-time workers; married couples and single women; a few elders; and a slew of “summer people” who reserve the short-term spaces. Terry, who was a car rental manager before arriving at the park 16 years ago, has created a system that keeps everything running like clockwork — and when I say “everything” I mean 35 trailer spaces of differing sizes and hook-ups (50 and 30 amps); the park’s septic system; a slew of storage garages; a laundry room; fish cleaning station; community recreation hall and kitchen (where they recently celebrated a Valentine’s Day buffet of ‘red’ food); restrooms and showers; a tool room; and a two-bedroom rental apartment.
Terry admits, “It’s a huge job, but when I had a medical problem a couple months ago, everyone pitched in to keep this all working.” Truly, it takes a village.
Being a member myself of the Baby Boomer generation, I’ve begun mulling over the possibilities for what aging and life in my next chapter might look like. How long do I want to keep my larger-than-I-probably-need home? Do I want to be in a sunnier place for part of the year? Shouldn’t I begin getting rid of what I have tucked away in storage units — some stuff I haven’t looked at in years? The life-style changes people my age are making have even graced the pages of this newspaper as some folks let go entirely of stationary stick-built homes and opt for tiny houses or homes on wheels.
One of these people is Shirley. “I was a California resident, though I’d worked a couple years in Astoria at Bridgewater Bistro because at the time my son lived in Portland. As my folks got older they wanted me to move to Arizona with them. But I said, no, no — how ‘bout you move in with me in California? So that’s what we did.” Shirley rented a three-bedroom home in Morro Bay, California and her folks joined her there in December 2016. Unfortunately, she lost her dad in June 2017 and then her mom that September.
After her folks died, Shirley received a small inheritance and started thinking about the changes she wanted to make. “Rents in California kept going up. I said to myself, ‘I can’t continue to work 50 hours a week, and I’d like to own my own home — how am I going to make this work?’ I knew I needed to change my lifestyle. First I thought about a tiny house, but then I decided I liked the idea of being able to pull my home myself. Since I’m not a pick-up kinda gal, I thought motorhome!” When she and Astoria friend Vicki Reece found her a 38 by 11 foot rig with three pullouts, Shirley jumped for it.
“In California, I was a caregiver but the work is sporadic, and you have to move your motorhome every six months, and the park fees were $700. Now $700 may not sound like much but when you’re in between jobs it’s scary.” At a mutual friend’s suggestion, Shirley called Terry at Cranberry RV Park and they liked each other immediately. “I loved the Pacific Northwest when I was up here, so I got on the Cranberry waiting list — the short one! — and one day Terry called and said she had an opening September 1st. All the puzzle pieces just fell into place because at the same time Vicki decided to drive down for a visit. So I said yes to Terry and to Vicki I said, ‘I’m going to follow you home!’”
Shirley admits she’s new to the RV-life. In fact, she told me that the first time the previous owner of her rig (she bought it on Craig’s List) handed her the keys and put her in the driver’s seat, she said, “Where’s the gas pedal?” Thank goodness she’s got friends like Sue, Rick, Terry and others in the park who know the intricacies of keeping RV’s running and repaired. Now she wouldn’t change a thing. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
“I moved here not knowing anything about this type of living,” Shirley continues, “but it was the only way I could own my own home. I don’t believe in coincidence — I think I moved here just to meet the people. My social life has totally changed. I’ve got new best friends, a great job at Ocean Beach Hospital, and I know all my neighbors. I’m alone and I’m single, but I don’t feel alone and I’ve felt that way from day one at Cranberry. This place is homey, inviting, and welcoming. It was meant to be.”