Anyone who has camped post-Covid can attest to the need for more campsites and campgrounds. And there seems to be a niche for those of us who do multi-day hauls to new locations. Current options for single night stays on the road include Harvest Hosts, store parking lots, and rest areas which are free/donation-based, but often have drawbacks. Harvest Hosts locations can be far off the beaten path and frequently require arrival during business hours, as early as 5pm. Some parking lots can feel unsafe. And busier locations may mean a gamble for any available space. All of these options become difficult on hot nights, forcing campers to run a generator all night or sleep with open windows in locations with lots of traffic. Some RVers sleep in truck stops, but many prefer to leave those spots for those who do long hauls for a living and need these locations to keep safe and legal while driving. And I have heard some RVers say they haven’t felt welcome in truck stops – not an issue I want to explore as a single female camper..
For a many years I have used KOAs, especially the “Journey” locations, as safe consistent stops with hookups. But many of these locations, even if right off the highway, are dark and difficult to navigate at night. Reservations have to be made before the campground closes, usually 5pm. And lately, I have found the fees for these sites to often be nearly $70 per night. I never begrudge campgrounds trying to make a living. More power to them if they can get those prices! But it is more than I like to pay when I am spending less than 12 hours in the site.
In my opinion, there is a demand for clean, safe places for RVers to stop for a single night for a reasonable fee. I am starting to see more of these options available and Love’s RV is definitely leading the charge right now. Currently, nearly 30 locations offer a few RV spots with full hook-ups, available for online reservation or check-in. Most are only 4 to 6 back-in sites, eliminating motorized coaches with toads. But my first experience seems to be a whole new iteration of this concept. The Loves’s RV stop in Cordele, Georgia is an interesting hybrid of a truck stop and KOA. This park is across an access road from the gas station. Forty two sites are available in a mix of pull-throughs and back-ins. All sites are full hook-up and wifi is widely available. Cost is $40 to $45 though I have heard others paid much more (dynamic pricing?). Sites are close together, but the back-in sites feature a campfire ring and picnic table behind the site.
The park goes way beyond overnight parking with some of the amenities offered. Immaculate bathrooms, showers, and laundry were available at the check-in building, separate from the facilities used by truckers and with a separate access code. Many gas stations seem to be putting in dog parks and the campground offers separate gated dog areas as well. A communal fire pit, pickleball court, and splash pad are also available. Within a short walk to the gas station was a pet-wash station and a Bojangles restaurant.
I arrived a little after nine in the evening. I attempted to use the kiosk for check-in but received an error message after entering all the information. I highly recommend checking in via the website as the kiosk requires manual entry of all information including credit card numbers and seems to be prone to glitches. At least when reserving via phone, my name, address, and credit card information auto-populates.
Once the reservation was made, I received an email with the gate code, shower code, and wifi password. There was also a hotlink for checking in. Supposedly, the check-in process is what activates the electric hook-ups. Check-out time was surprisingly early at noon. I promptly received a check-out email at that time. I did not note whether electricity was turned off at that time, but it would not surprise me. It seemed to be a pretty efficient operation.
The Loves RV Stop was a very safe and clean experience. Walking the dog late at night after arriving is one of my least favorite parts of towing, but I felt great about letting Blue explore. The area was gated to vehicles although anyone could walk in via a pedestrian path. I liked that the park was well-lit when coming in late, but it was very bright for sleeping. And even though I was not in the same lot as the truckers, I did hear them come and go all night. I would say the location was very loud for a campground, but fine for an off-highway stop.
I also experienced a glitch when I tried to get a campsite via the kiosk. I got to the end of the process and received an error message. I then booked via cell phone. It worked fine until the next morning when I received noticed I had been charged for both nights! I brought this to the attention of the person at the entrance station during business hours and they were able to make the correction. But again, I would strongly suggest using a phone to book instead of the kiosk.
- Full hook-ups and wifi (though I only used electric)
- Easy entry from highway
- Both back-in and pull-through sites were very easy in and out
- Felt very safe
- Could hear truck stop and train noise all night
- Noon check-out time
- Price was high for what I needed
I was mostly happy with my stay. As someone who often works during the day and drives in the evening, I do wish there was an option for a later check-out. I don’t think many people roll into the gas station for an overnight before 5pm. I also think the price is a little high. The way I travel, I would rarely need the water or sewer hookup (a fill/dump station would be fine). In my ideal world, $20-$30 for a level, easy back-in site with electric would be perfect.
I am also curious about the target market for pickleball, splash pads, and even fire rings in such a campground. I wonder if Loves might ever compete with KOA in the space of weekend family vacations or if there is a demand from folks who like to unwind after a day of driving. Either way, I do think it is an interesting dance between Loves and the current RV camping demand and I will be checking out other similar stops.