More locals are camping at Dan Nicholas

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 1, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — Some might picture an “RV getaway” as a romantic or adventurous trek across the country — as in, load up the camper (or that sleek silver Airstream travel trailer), hit the highway and find a new place to stop every night.
But these days, many of the campers who drive or pull their rigs into the campground at Dan Nicholas Park aren’t warriors of the open road.
They’re North Carolinians, some from only a few miles away, enjoying a “staycation” or a break from the ordinary.
“A lot of folks like the serenity in this area,” said Pete Viselli, campground staff member at Dan Nicholas Park.
Along with cabins and traditional tent campsites, there are 12 “pull-thru” spots for recreational vehicles and tow-behind campers.
With all the comforts of home — air conditioning, running water and nearby bath houses — families can enjoy the woods for a reasonable price, Viselli said.
On a walk-through of the campground last Saturday, he pointed out the relatively low number of out-of-state tags on the vehicles.
Dan Nicholas Park draws a large number of out-of-state visitors, Viselli said.
But many North Carolinians are camping close to home.
“Gas prices have a lot to do with it,” Viselli said.
So does proximity to home. Take Barbara and John Bradley of Concord, for example.
“We first started coming here (to Dan Nicholas) in March of ’08,” Barbara said.
Though temperatures were in the upper 90s outside, the Bradleys’ 37-foot Everest RV was cool as could be.
While the couple sat in their seats, their granddaughter Kaitlyn, 5, played with stuffed animals on the carpet of their miniature living room.
The Bradleys’ RV is spacious, complete with a flat-screen TV, an electric fireplace and a kitchenette.
“We love camping,” Barbara said. “It doesn’t matter where we go.”
But they said they like Dan Nicholas Park because there are many activities to be done.
Kaitlyn has been taking swimming lessons, and she also enjoys the park’s splash pad.
Since the campground is just about 30 miles from home, Barbara said it’s nothing to pick up their granddaughter and hit the road.
They spoke highly of the campground and park staff. “Everybody treats us real well,” John said.
Their only complaint: the trees sometimes make it difficult to navigate their vehicle into the space.
Still, they’re hooked on Dan Nicholas Park.
Though Barbara said they plan to travel to Michigan, where they’re originally from, later this year, they have already camped at Dan Nicholas Park 12 times this year alone.
At the campground, everybody’s welcome.
Top-of-the-line RVs sit side-by-side with more modest campers and travel trailers.
Richard Kendrick, now living in Danville, Va., brought his RV down to meet up with friends from Rockwell and Salisbury.
He said he’s owned his 1994 Fleetwood Bounder RV for six years.
“I tent-camped before that, but tents don’t have A/C,” Kendrick said.
Not only is camping cheaper than staying in a hotel, he said, but it’s more relaxing.
And Dan Nicholas Park is inviting, he said. “It’s clean, it’s quiet, and that’s the main thing,” he said, sitting outside in the shade of nearby trees and the awning that folds out from the side of the trailer.
The park is also drawing guests from farther away.
Shannon Goodman of Statesville is one of the founding members of the Iredell County Camping Club.
With the logo on the side of his camper, he sits in a high-backed folding chair under the awning.
He’s got utensils out on the table next to him, ready for grilling. His son, Justin, 4, plays nearby.
He’s a volunteer firefighter at Trinity Fire Department in Statesville. When he gets time off, he said, he tries to enjoy his camper as much as possible.
And that often involves going to campgrounds.
“We go out about five times a year,” Goodman said. “We may go to Boone’s KOA. We try to go to Myrtle Beach at least once a year.”
This was the Goodman family’s first trip to Dan Nicholas.
“I found this place through some guys who came here in May,” he said.
“This place offers a lot of things for kids to do.”
Justin, it turned out, had been playing and seeing the sights all morning.
“We’re just here for a little break from the heat,” Shannon said.
For Goodman, the joy of having a camper is comfort.
“When I leave my house, my clothes are already packed,” he said. “It’s my bed, my sheets, my shower.”
And, at $24 a night for non-Rowan residents, Dan Nicholas Park is a steal compared to other campgrounds, Goodman said.
“When we go to the beach, it’s $65 a night,” he said.
But that’s still much than a hotel room, especially for longer stays, Goodman said.
Viselli said most of the reports he gets from RV campers are positive.
There has been some feedback from visitors unhappy about shortened park hours due to budget cuts, Viselli said, but he declined to comment further.
The biggest complaint, if you can call it that, Viselli said, is the fact there’s no internet access.
“What do you want? It’s camping,” he said.
For those who love the open road, but still love having some of the comforts of home, campgrounds like Dan Nicholas Park’s offer a wide range of attractions for the budget-conscious adventurer.
“I’ve camped since I was probably about four years old,” Goodman said.
“This ain’t for everybody. But there’s all sorts of stuff to do,” he said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.