Greetings from the Grand Canyon State. That's Arizona, in case you were wondering.
No, we're not snowbirding (feathering our nest) in the warm, sunny Southwest for the winter. We're on a short visit to see family, but when in Rome ...
So, we've been checking our accommodations for winter dwellers, pondering the feasibility of making this a regular winter escape. I think I'm starting to see a hierarchy in the home-away-from-home accommodations.
First, you have your RV accommodations, either parks or resorts. The best I can make out, parks in this case refers to parking - a place where you can put your rig alongside of others, either short or long term.
Amenities in parks, beyond basic water and electric hookup, will vary and may or may not include "full hookup" (a polite way of saying sanitary sewer hookup is available). They generally have a clubhouse, though it's not a guarantee. Most have an onsite laundromat.
Recreation opportunities include activities such as horseshoes, shuffleboard and bocce ball. You may be able to find a friendly card game with an open chair.
The holy grail of RV parks is a swimming pool, even better if it's open year-round. They don't understand Wisconsinites and the hardiness one develops swimming in frigid lakes.
Resorts are a bit classier. Full hookup is a given, as are a pool and recreational facilities. There is sometimes even a fitness center. You know you've hit the jackpot if there's a hot tub.
Resorts take their activities seriously. The have daily scheduled events, like crafting, painting classes and games like mahjong and canasta. They often organize tournaments for the resort's provided activities. Scheduled bus trips to area attractions are common.
Resorts sometimes have entertainment. Live music usually means the local, good ol' boys band performing in the clubhouse.
When the sign says "RV Resort Community," you've ventured into the Taj Mahal of retirement RVing. In fact, you can forget the RV altogether if you'd like. These places abound with park model units - basically a tiny manufactured home.
The rest of an RV resort community is usually filled with long-term stay or permanently parked motorhomes and fifth wheels. These rigs are not meant for traveling. They are driven or towed once, from the dealership to the resort.
I like to call them the "Transformers;" once they put out their five slides plus screened-in canopy, I swear they're bigger than the park models. They might be bigger than my house. I know they cost more.
Some resort communities have a lot of green space inside their gates - sometimes the green space is actually a small golf course. Their pools are Olympic-sized and are often sheltered inside a building, or at least by a pavilion. When not enclosed pools are a landscaped oasis, surrounded by palms and other tropical plants, cushioned deck chairs and umbrellas.
Some of the distinctions between RV parks and resorts is semantics. Parks have potlucks; resorts have community dinners. Parks have a clubhouse; resorts have community centers. Parks have dog runs; resorts have, ironically, parks inside the park.
A step above the average RV parks and resorts, are the fully fledged snow bird retirement villages. There are no trailers for sale or rent in these places - it's all permanent dwelling, from park models, to full-sized manufactured homes, to brick-and-mortar houses.
Gated and walled in, these retirement havens have their hierarchy, too. While you might see the same name distinction of park or resort in these communities, it seems to have more significance in these upscale enclaves.
I've not quite cracked the code of subtext regarding "55 and over," "age-restricted," "senior" or "active adult" communities. Obviously, all of these mean that while pets are most likely allowed; children are most definitely not. But, there are other, more subtle understandings, I think.
"Senior" is a bit ambiguous, as is "age-restricted," whereas "55 and over" is specific as to age restrictions.
I think "senior" is largely outdated marketing. Today's baby boomers are not old, thank you! They generally don't like being designated as a senior.
"Age-restricted" gives some wiggle room; you'll probably make the cut at 50 as long as you don't have children in tow. "Active adults" are a different ball game (maybe literally). Judging from the amenities in their communities active adults are (or plan to be) physically active. Their resorts usually have tennis courts, walking and biking paths, and other options for a fitness lifestyle.
In our drive-throughs, it appears the golf carts in active communities are more often being used on the course, and not as transportation around the community.
I'm still trying to figure out where we might fit in. All I know is that I need a place where the neighbors won't be shocked when I go out in my bathrobe every morning to confine Gypsy Cat in her catio.
Judith Liebaert writes for Positively Superior and the Duluthian. She is the author of "Sins Of The Fathers," a crime novel set in Superior and inspired by a true cold case. Find her online at judithliebaert.com.