Saturday Night Live fans will remember Chris Farley’s “I live in a van down by the river” skit. Surely Chris Farley’s character Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker who lived in a van down by the river, must have lived in a place similar to Wilson’s RV Park in Asheville.
It is a study in contrast, from the long term residents to the swinging door of transients. From semi rigs racing down I-240 on one side to canoes racing down the swift French Broad River on the other side, with a public hike and bike path running right through the middle. It was a beehive of communal activity.
The little park only has 24 sites, all with full hook-ups. The remainder of the land is free-form tent camping. The guy who runs Riverside Park also runs the RV Repair shop next door. “Runs” is a loose term. His standard answer when reconfirming reservations in a spiral notebook seems to always be, “You should be okay…”
The two weeks I camped here were full of moments I will treasure, watching the comings and goings of an entertaining, eclectic mix of both tourists and families living full time, my favorite being my 8 year old bike buddy Cheyenne. She wore only pink frilly dresses with a pink bike to match, yet she rode like a mad speed demon, pedaling so fast I couldn’t possibly keep up with her. She thought I was “cool” because I knew how to put air in her bike tires, so consequently, I allowed her to coerce me into buying her a pink tea set to match her pink frilly dresses. (Besides, any 8 year old who can give turn-by-turn directions to the Dollar General Store where said tea set was located deserved it!)
Then there were the transient musicians rolling through for the Celtic festival in the Asheville Outdoor Center next door. Not quirky so much as impossibly cool. Kilt wearing, bagpipe blowing, fiddle playing campground occupants, lending a “Highland fling” atmosphere throughout the entire campground.
But none was “quirkier” than the solo woman parked next to me who stayed holed up in her tiny Class B, while painting giant oil canvases inside. I thought she was just an interesting “artistic nomad” until she told me she had to leave because Russian gypsies had stolen her identity and her rig was bugged in the TV antenna port. I will NEVER look at my ceiling mounted antenna crank in the same light again. NSA is in there, I just know it! Needless to say, it all made for a unique RVing experience.
Hurricane Andrea rolled through during my first few days, making for a fitful night wondering if I was about to put the term “Land Yacht” to test, first hand. My Class A neighbor and I took to “counting stairs” like a game of chicken to see who would move first.
Twelve stairs above water is typical. The river crested at five. Neither of us blinked, though the guy in the less mobile travel trailer down the way did pull up stakes and move across the road to higher ground.
If you are looking for an extremely laid back, killer location minutes from downtown Asheville that epitomizes all that “Keeps Asheville Weird,” this is your place. Come for the river view, stay for the local color, but bring your ear plugs if you’re troubled by a freeway soundtrack.