By Kali Williams – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
The traffic is picking up on Pahrump’s highways and local businesses are experiencing an uptick in sales and service requests. It’s that time of year and the influx of snowbirds has begun.
The term “snowbird” characterizes the people who travel from the Northeast, Midwest, and sometimes even Canada, to warmer locations to escape the traditionally colder northern climates.
Traffic isn’t the only thing affected by these annual travelers. A lot of local businesses depend on them for success. For many RV parks, January is their busiest and most profitable month.
During the first few weeks of October, recreational parks start to advertise special deals to get the attention of incoming snowbirds, which can include anything from lower rates to exclusive promotions and amenities. Most larger parks include full water, sewer and electrical hook ups, cable, laundry facilities, showers, 24-hour security and pool and spa access; all the things necessary for a life on the road.
Though the lifestyle may seem comfortable and even luxurious at times, people may wonder how snowbirds and full-time RVers pay bills, get mail and take care of personal communications.
The age of technology certainly is handy for paying their bills online or on mobile phones, and those who don’t, use mail services offered by the parks and resorts.
The life of a full-time RVer is anything but dull. Parks can also offer a social life for their guests to keep them active and entertained. Facilities host dances, card tournaments, game nights, wine tastings and live shows depending on the park. More modern RV parks like Treasures RV offer things like bowling, a gym, a convention center and golf. Lakeside RV Park and Casino, retains an “old west charm,” and offers activities such as kayaking, paddle boats and fishing.
Tom and Doris Shaffer have been full-time RVers since 2000, deciding to opt for RV life because it lowered their cost of living with almost all, if not more benefits than having a permanent residence. They came to Pahrump through a club.
Many full-time RVers are members of campground clubs like Good Sam, Escapees, RVUSA or others. Pahrump’s Preferred RV was listed as having great rates on the Shaffer’s membership card and they immediately reserved a spot, sight unseen. They were not disappointed.
The Shaffers said in years past, they moved from place to place sightseeing and going to different events. They were part of the Death Valley 49ers and attended the popular Quartzsite, Ariz. RV Rally held at the end of January. Their traveling is now limited to short trips, which normally doesn’t involve taking their rig, and the couple considers themselves permanent residents who happen to live in an RV.
Along with many of their acquaintances, the Shaffers are retired and have become extremely involved with the community. As volunteers, they are involved with Kiwanis as well as Quilts 4 Cancer and various children’s benefits. Others are also associated with the Senior Center or choose to be involved with smaller community groups. Doris Shaffer said, “We like to give back to the community.”
Although the Shaffers had a basic idea of where they were headed when they made their journey to Pahrump, Evelyn and Bill Chapek were thinking, “What’s a Pahrump?” In 1988, the couple came to Las Vegas from Wyoming looking for a motorhome. The couple decided on a purchase, but were wary about driving a new rig a long distance right away. At the dealership, the Chapeks asked if there was a nearby town where they could stay a month or so to test the unit for glitches or problems. The company suggested Pahrump and they have been coming back almost every year since then.
The Chapeks like to come in late October and stay through April. The winters here are mild and enjoyable for them. A few other perks the couple enjoys are watching the high school athletic events and what they consider the “wonderful health care they have experienced here.” Evelyn Chapek has been suffering from a few health issues lately and said she appreciates the quality care she has received. “To us, Pahrump has a lot to offer,” she said. She is back on her feet but they, like the Shaffers, don’t travel as frequently anymore taking the summer months to visit family.
Although most local RV residents are retired, some full-time RVers travel and work. For those who do, there are always the old-fashioned applications to local businesses. For people who make a lifestyle of picking a location, finding work and then traveling, there is a website specifically designed to help snowbirds find seasonal work. Workamper.com lists contact information, helps workers build resumes, and has a link for employers to find a greater number of highly-qualified applicants staying in their area.
In addition to these helpful services the site also features a forum designed to let RV residents from different parts of the nation keep in touch and discuss things like buying RVs, the life of solo campers, do-it-yourself tips, and interests and hobbies.
While some snowbirds come to Pahrump looking for jobs and places to spend their money, others come employed and ready to boost their business right from the comfort of their own RV with telecommuter jobs working over the Internet. Most parks and resorts offer free Internet connections for guests, and travelers often find working online to be a simple and more reliable source of income.
There is a life after home ownership and as the Chapeks say, “It’s a different life, but it’s a good life.”