People often ask us, of all the places we have been, what area have we enjoyed the most. This area has to be close to the top of the list. Sutherlin, OR is a small town of about 7,000 and Roseburg, which is only 10 miles away, has a little over 20,000. Roseburg has everything we need including Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Joanne's and every other chain you can name. Even more importantly, it has a major VA medical center.
The weather in the area is as ideal as any place we have been and there is so much beauty around us to see. There are many lakes and rivers nearby, the beautiful Oregon coast is only 60 miles away, there are countless miles of scenic and well maintained roads for motorcycle riding, and the weather is temperate year round. Even the annual rainfall is less here than in other, wetter parts of Oregon to the north.
We have often mentioned that we belong to the Escapees RV Club. They are headquarted in Livingston, Texas and cater to full time RV'ers. The club was started by a couple who were full timers themselves. They saw a need for an organization to provide services to people like themselves. One of the club's services we use is their mail forwarding service, but we also take advantage of some of the other benefits as well. They own and operate eight RV parks across the southern half of the US. These RV parks are always nice and very reasonably priced for members. We have stayed in many of them.
During the early years of the club they also started several RV Park Co-ops. These were RV parks where the lots were "sold" to individuals. They were chartered much like condominiums in that the park is owned by the lot owners. Each park has a board of directors and makes their own rules to operate the park. The original idea behind the co-ops was to provide an opportunity for a "home base" for RV'ers who would stay on their lot for a few months at a time, and put their lot in a rental pool for use by other Escapee members when they were off travelling somewhere else.
It is these rental pool lots that we have stayed in when we have visited in places like The Ranch near Carlsbad, NM, the Jojoba Hills park near Temecula, CA, Park Sierra near Fresno, CA and here at Timber Valley in Sutherlin. The lot owners are off travelling somewhere and we stay on their lots at a very reasonable price.
There are 11 co-op parks in the Escapees system. They are located from Florida to Washington state. Each park has a buy in fee and an annual maintenance fee. The buy in fees range from $2,700 to over $30,000 depending on the cost to purchase the land and develop the park. Most of the parks are $10,000 or less. The annual maintenance fees also range from a few hundred to as much as $3500 in one park, with most being in the $1200 or less range. (Actually, Jojoba Hills near Temecula, where we stayed early this year, is the most expensive one. Its buy in and maintenance is easily twice as expensive as any of the others and skews the averages.)
When owners put their lots in the rental pool, they receive a portion of the rental income as an offset against their annual maintenance. Each park has its own formula, but owners who don't spend much time in their site often have a large portion of their annual maintenance cost paid for.
The most unique aspect of the Escapees co-op system is that you must sell your lot for what you paid for it, plus any assessments for infrastructure. Some parks have also added a small inflation adjustment over the years. Regardless, this approach keeps the cost very low. It also explains why there is a waiting list for almost every co-op. Some parks have waiting lists of over 10 years. The waiting list here at Sutherlin is 2 to 4 years.
Owning a lot in a park like this makes good economic sense. You are essentially guaranteed your purchase price back when you decide to give up your lot, and the living expenses while using the lot are very low. People who live here year round, and there are quite a few who do, pay only their annual maintenance fee, electricity and propane. That rarely exceeds $250 per month. There are not many places you can live that inexpensively. Since this park does not add an inflation figure you do lose some value if inflation is high, but even with that the net cost is remarkably low.
If you haven't figured out by now, we have put our name on the waiting list here in Sutherlin. While we would not want to spend the entire year here, it is a wonderful place to spend some of it. As time goes on we find we like to stay put for longer periods of time. Spending our winters in Arizona near family is something we both enjoy, and spending holidays with our kids is also important to us. And, as I said, there are still many places around the country that we want to visit. How long we actually will stay in Sutherlin in the future is unknown, especially since it will still be a while before we get our lot. Much can change in the meantime.
We've talked at length about where, when and if we might want to eventually settle down. At this point we have no plans to do so. When it happens, we think it will be near one of our kids, but we don't want to live where either of them lives right now. We enjoy being able to spend a month or so with them at times, but North Texas is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and has tornadoes in the spring. Chattanooga is also too hot, cold and humid much of the year. When health issues force us to make a change, we will deal with it. But in the meantime, we plan to continue our vagabonding ways.
Here is a link to the park's web site: Timber Valley