Case Study

Wind River Dweller Interview – Living in Park Model RV Parks

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Wind River

March 17, 2024

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We recently had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with one of our clients that we built for in 2019. In just three years, Stacey has traveled with her 36’ tiny home “The Vista” from Texas to Colorado, and eventually put down some semi-permanent roots in an RV Resort in Utah. While she owns a home in Iowa, she travels out to her tiny home as much as she can. She lives with freedom and autonomy, and in this interview she shares what she’s learned along the way. Her foremost bit of advice for aspiring tiny home dwellers is “Know where you’re going to park your tiny home!”

Q:

Give us your tiny house dweller backstory.

A:

Tiny homes were never in my sights until my dad actually won the tiny home from the Iowa lottery. It was a scratch ticket game and his name was selected out of 116,000. He was the lucky winner, and I purchased the tiny home credit from him, and then worked with Wind River to supersize and design a tiny home the way I wanted it. I spent a lot of time looking online to try to figure out what I wanted, what I liked and such. I was lucky enough to come visit and participate in the process. I think I visited Wind River four times, and being able to be involved with the build was great. I got to have a lot of input.

Q:

What were some of the ways that you did your research?

A:

Just basically going online and researching tiny home builders to try to find more pictures. Everyone says, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen those on tiny home TV shows.” I had never seen a tiny home show on TV. When we came out to visit, Wind River was building a gooseneck, and that prompted me to go that direction. I really enjoyed drawing up my plans and figuring things out. It was probably overkill. I’m glad that you guys allowed me to do that because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if you guys were just going to build something and say “Here it is.” I didn’t really know how the process worked so I was extremely delighted to be able to participate as much as I could.

Q:

Tell us a little bit about the journey you’ve been on. You’ve moved the tiny home three or four times?

A:

Probably four. Actually you guys got done before we had a place to park it. We had initially put an offer in on a piece of land up in the mountains in Colorado, but it would have cost more than the lot price for us to run electricity and water, so we decided to hold off. Then I started looking for places that we could put it on a long term basis because we don’t have the ability to move it ourselves. So it wasn’t going to be something like jumping from campground to campground. I mean, I have an RV, so if I wanted to do that I could do that. I wanted this to be more of a permanent or semi-permanent place.

Looking around in areas that I might want to be or areas that we were familiar with, I found a resort campground in Utah and we were able to get in there for six months. We had it hauled from you guys in Tennessee and sojourned in Texas until we could get into that resort in Utah. After the resort campground in Utah, I found an up-and-coming RV resort in Colorado. We stayed there for eight months, and then went back to Utah for another five or six months. We finally landed near the Zion River in an RV resort.

Q:

Tell us what you liked about the Utah resort near Zion River where you finally settled. What are some of the highlights?

A:

Location! And not because it’s close to Zion National Park, but it’s near Red Rocks and a beautiful location. The weather is awesome, even though it gets cold and snows a little bit, it wasn’t 3 feet of snow and 30 below like it is in Iowa. I wanted some place I could go year round. Didn’t have to be swimsuit weather all the time, but I didn’t want the frigid Iowa cold. We like the scenery. We’ve gone to Sedona for several years in the winter. And they have the big red rocks there, too.

We knew we liked the Zion area, so I really started trying to find land or someplace to put the home. After being in Zion for so long we felt very confident and safe when we left it there for a month at a time. We liked that, even if we’re not there, there are people that are around that can watch it and I just felt safer. If we would have bought that land out in Colorado, there would have been no one around that would have looked out for it. So it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t go through with that. I started looking at all the RV parks in the St. George and Hurricane area. There’s probably 15 different resorts in that area. It was blind luck, dumb luck, whatever you want to call it that we happened upon our RV resort. I had seen a lot for sale there with an old fifth wheel on it. I knew I didn’t want to buy a lot that had an existing Park Model or RV on it because I didn’t need the shelter and I didn’t want to have to pay to get rid of it, but we pulled in there just to see what it was like and found a for sale sign on the lot I ended up purchasing right away. It was a beautiful lot—beautiful landscaping on the back hill with a terrace. It was the best thing that we’d seen! I knew I wanted this lot. I had no clue how much it cost. I called the realtor’s number and he said it hadn’t even been listed yet and would go on the market the next day. I told him I wanted it and asked him how much it was, and it was extremely reasonable. And there was no trailer or anything on it, just a blank lot. I told the realtor I wanted to put an offer in and he said to call him back in the morning. I called him back first thing and he said he had already received two offers but they weren’t full price, so I said I will pay full price, I’ll give them whatever they want. I want this lot! He put our offer in, and they accepted it! It was just luck. If we hadn’t found it, we probably would have kept flopping back and forth between Zion and Colorado until we actually found something.

Q:

Tell us about your lot, the amenities, etc. You mentioned landscaping and terracing…

A:

Yeah! Behind the home is a retaining wall, and on top of that is a 12 foot wide deck. The steps that go up to it are behind a storage shed on the lot. The person that owned the lot before me actually owned my lot and the one next to me. So they’ve got a really pretty red rock staircase that’s actually on the neighbor’s property but we share it.

Q:

And that allows you to access the patio up there?

A:

Yep. And then the prior owners left some very study old rod-iron chaise lounges and chairs. So I didn’t have to buy that stuff! Score. No other places in the park have something like that. And we’re kind of at the top of the hill. There’s only eighty-five lots in this park so it’s fairly small. There’s an outdoor pool and a hot tub and a community center that has showers and a workout room and laundry if you need it. We don’t need it because we have our own laundry machine in the tiny home, but I can walk 50 yards and have access to all that. I wouldn’t have picked a better lot in the park. We just got lucky.

Q:

What are people saying about the tiny home now that you’re there?

A:

Well they had a Board meeting shortly after we got there. I think that there were some people that weren’t really thrilled. I don’t know why. I had befriended a little old lady there that said someone was commenting about the color and that she just told them to be quiet and be nice! And we’re kind of behind trees here so when you drive in you can’t even really see it.

Q:

But the colors kind of match the wall and other tones surrounding it!

A:

Yeah, with the orange door!

Q:

I mean it kind of goes with the setting, really.

A:

Yeah, you know, there was nothing about colors in the covenants. There was some place in Arizona that we were looking at that wanted us to repaint because it doesn’t fit with the landscape. The day we moved in, we were getting all the hoses hooked up and everything, and this guy came up with his grandson and asked who gave us permission to move in with our tiny home and we said that we read all the covenants and checked all the boxes! Here we are! So many people have stopped by to compliment the home. A lot of people that love it, and I’m sure the ones that may not just don’t say anything.

Q:

What types of homes does everyone else in the resort have?

A:

Park Models. There’s a motor home that is obviously grandfathered in because it’s old. There are a couple of 5th wheels. People also own lots and rent them out. That’s basically it. Most of them are permanent Park Models. There are no mobile homes. And I haven’t seen anyone else come in with a vehicle since I’ve been there, so it’s not like a campground.

Q:

I almost wonder if your home just stands out for being nicer and classy.

A:

Well the things there are pretty nice. I wouldn’t have moved into a dive or anything. You have to be less than 10 years old to move in there, but there’s no stipulation that says once you reach a certain age you have to move out.

Q:

Are there any downsides to living in that park?

A:

I haven’t found them yet. The water pressure is a little low, but besides that, not really. People are really nice and stop to chat.

Q:

Are there community outings?

A:

Well, we haven’t been there long enough, and with COVID, they just opened the pool up in March. But it’s a heated pool so I know you can swim there year round. But I haven’t been involved in anything yet. I do want to start attending Board meetings.

Q:

How was it, for the spectrum of the last couple years, to have the tiny home during the pandemic? Was it nice to have somewhere to go?

A:

Oh yeah. I can quarantine in my tiny house just fine! Depending on whether I drove or not, I could have my dog with me for a little company, but now I fly back and forth because I have a car there permanently now. Before, renting a car for the few weeks I was there would be more expensive than my flight, and just wasn’t economical.

Q:

So when you go out to your tiny home, how long do you usually stay?

A:

It’s usually about three to four weeks at a time.

Q:

Tell us about what a good day looks like at your tiny home.

A:

Working remotely has worked well. A good day is – I’m an hour behind Iowa where my home is, and I can go outside on Iowa’s lunch break and sit in the sun for 15 minutes, get a little sun, go back in, and I’m done at 3:30 Utah time, so I still have time to go do something. When my daughters were out a couple weeks ago, we went hiking all over Zion and Bryce and at a place in Nevada. Snow Canyon is another park that is four or five miles from my house. Now that I know these places that I’ve been with my kids, I will be more adventurous when I get off work, throw on my hiking shoes, and go hike some of these areas.

Q:

What’s it like cooking in a tiny home?

A:

I think that because we didn’t vent the microwave out the back or the stove, there’s not a whole lot of circulation so I don’t do a whole lot of cooking. I mean, I don’t do a lot of cooking at home either.

Q:

We did that because we found a special microwave hood vent thing that only circulates air.Yeah so if you cook something, you’ll smell it for a while.

A:

Learning to cook with a gas stove has been interesting. I’ve cooked a couple things, but I haven’t tried baking in the gas oven yet. It does heat up quite a bit when you use the stove or the oven, so it’s good in the winter but I doubt we’ll cook too much in the summer.

Q:

Having gone through the design process, is there anything looking back that you would have changed or done differently?

A:

Yeah. I think one of the things I would have preferred is having the bathroom door on the side of the wall instead of in the center, so there would be more places for furniture. And I think I would opt for something other than stainless steel for the refrigerator, because I can see the little dents from where I’ve pinged it and it drives me nuts. One tip for someone wanting a bed platform—Make that platform 3-4” smaller than the mattress, because the points of the platform stick out farther than my mattress and I do hit my knee.

Q:

Do you feel like you have enough storage for everything you need in your house?

A:

I think we have enough storage. We do have some totes up in the loft but I don’t like seeing them so I’d like to kinda block that view. But now we have an outdoor shed also. We have the storage stairs, and storage drawers underneath our bed. I think I still have a couple drawers under the bed that aren’t being used.

Q:

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to go tiny?

A:

Well I always send people your way! I’m a member on some tiny home websites and people are always asking what they should do first if they want to go tiny. Something I tell everybody: Know where you’re going to park your tiny home! Don’t start building until you know where you can park it. With all of the regulations, zoning, etc., especially in Arizona, people just freak out when you say “tiny home.” I did have a place that we were going to move to that wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have an RVIA sticker. And again, that was probably for the best now, based on the lot that I found. But, yeah, you have to know where you are going to put it. And there are some people out there that think you can build them so cheap. Yeah, you can go buy a garden shed. But tiny homes are expensive.

Yeah we used to get lots of comments about the price, but I think people are understanding now. Especially with the housing market as it is now.

What made you guys go to the models you’re offering now?

It’s really the challenge for any business when you’re trying to grow. When you’re just getting started and building out your production, you kind of have to be a lot of different things to different people. In order to grow we had to really dial in the scope of what we are doing. We try to take the best of everything that we’ve learned and apply that. And we’ll keep coming out with new models. And we still do the collaboration, it’s just more streamlined. But floor plan alterations would really make each house a prototype, so we’ve streamlined there.

Q:

What’s your favorite part of your tiny home?

A:

Probably the size of it and just never having a lot of housework to do. It’s easy to get it clean. I don’t need a lot of space or stuff. Not having a lot of stuff is a good thing.

We love this last sentiment. As we say around here, “less house, more home!” Stacey exemplifies the tiny home spirit in so many ways. She keeps her eyes open to opportunity. Her resourcefulness and patience helped her find the perfect spot for her home, and her trailblazing attitude shows in her eagerness to give advice to aspiring tiny housers. We think it’s a lot more than luck—Positivity tends to attract possibilities, and we hope Stacey’s story motivates you to find your own path to tiny living!

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