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Traveling With the Elks

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks has a nationwide network of lodges with RV accommodations.

Most RV owners are adventuresome by nature and know that the true value in traveling is the journey and not necessarily the destination. However, we also understand the need for proper planning and preparation before hitting the open road to parts unknown.

One way to enhance your RVing enjoyment and extend your travel budget is to become a member of the Elks Lodge. The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks has an impressive nationwide network of more than 2,000 neighborhood lodges with nearly 1 million members. The Elks’ history of community service dates back more than 140 years, which is about 30 years longer than the creation of the first manufactured RVs. The Elks is a charitable foundation that has a history of providing tens of millions of dollars annually in educational scholarships to our country’s youth and are great supporters of our nation’s veterans.

You may be asking yourself, “How does this benefit me and my family as we travel the highways and byways of America?” Well, within this impressive community based network of Elks lodges, many offer convenient, short-term and affordable RV accommodations. Almost all provide inexpensive dining and entertainment and all provide a welcoming, friendly and helpful environment willing to assist and advise you during your visit to their cities.

The Elks’ RV accommodations are easily located by visiting www.elks.org. Click on Lodge Locater’s Advanced Search Option, then click on the Local Lodge’s RV Facilities link. You can also purchase the printed Elkdom Travel Guides I, II & III and the Elks RV Guide. This four-booklet series is broken down into geographical regions. The guides run about $12 each and can be a tax deduction as the profits go to assist various Elks charities. The RV opportunities vary from lodge to lodge and are fully detailed in the above two resources.

As full-time RVers, my wife, Cheryl, and I have found the Elks’ network of lodges to be one of the friendliest, most affordable and convenient RV accommodations available. The lodges are usually located close to the center of town, and its members and staff have a wealth of local knowledge – they can guide you to attractions and venues that you may have never found on your own. Elks members are also members of the local business community and their knowledge and associations with other local businesses can help them direct you to reputable establishments.

When we retired and began our life on the road, we researched our options and decided to join the Elks. Since then, we have traveled extensively and use the Elks’ RV accommodations frequently (we alternate between Elks, military campgrounds, and public and private RV parks). With all things considered, if an Elks camping facility is available near our next destination, we will usually choose the Elks.

Santa Maria Elks Lodge RV park has spacious sites

Santa Maria Elks Lodge RV park has spacious sites.

A stay in a big city campground could cost up to $50 a night, but the same stay at an Elks facility could cost as little as $5 and no more than $20. Therefore, you could camp, eat and drink for just the cost of lodging at a traditional park. The Elks accommodations range from dry-camping in parking lots for a $5 donation to mini campgrounds located on lodge property or at an off-site Elks’ campground that may be on a lake or other scenic location for a $15 to $20 donation.

As Elks lodges are not fully functioning RV establishments they do not charge fees, but rather accept donations for RV accommodations. Most lodges host activities such as bingo, specialty dinners, barbecues, chili cookoffs, dances and more. Many lodges also have their own RV clubs that host monthly campouts.

Some of our favorite Elks lodges from our travels are West Covina, Santa Maria and Chula Vista in California; the Boulder City Elks in Nevada and St. Augustine, Florida, just to name a few.

The West Covina, California, lodge is located in Los Angeles County and provides the most affordable RV opportunity within a 50-75 mile radius. This lodge offers 14 RV sites with water and electric and a dump station on the lodge’s property. It also has two active RV clubs, The Roamin’ Elks and the Goodtimers.

The Santa Maria Elks host an annual Rodeo and BBQ.

The Santa Maria Elks host an annual Rodeo and BBQ.

In Santa Maria, California, the Elks Lodge has 37 RV sites. Thirteen sites have full hookups, 13 sites have water and electric, and the rest are dry camping sites with a dump station. The lodge is famous for its Santa Maria style barbecue and annual rodeo. We have enjoyed many an outstanding meal and fellowship at this lodge and use it as a base for exploring the Central California area from Santa Barbara to Morro Bay.

The presentation of colors at Santa Maria Elks Lodge Rodeo and fundraiser.

The presentation of colors at Santa Maria Elks Lodge Rodeo and fundraiser.

In Southern California, the Chula Vista Elks is conveniently located in San Diego County and is the most affordable RV accommodations for miles around. The lodge sits atop a small hill and is a great place to relax while visiting San Diego. It offers 27 full hookup sites with cable TV, and high-speed Wi-Fi. Due to the relatively small space between sites, the facility has a covered pavilion that is fully outfitted with a big screen TV, tables and chairs, a gas grill and a fire pit complete with free firewood. This is a very active and friendly lodge with lots of special events. If you can pull yourself away from this hilltop oasis, you will find great entertainment and dining opportunities from the nearby beaches and marinas to the quant towns of Imperial Beach, Coronado and Sunnyside.

One of the campsites at the Boulder City Elks Lodge.

One of the campsites at the Boulder City Elks Lodge.

The Nevada Boulder City Elks’ motto is “Friendliest Lodge by a Dam Site!” You see, Boulder City is the home of Hoover Dam and now the new and impressive Hoover Dam bypass, The Mike O’ Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, both are a must-see. The Boulder City Elks offer a mini campground environment, complete with 15 full hookup sites. Should you want to treat yourself to an outstanding breakfast while in town, try the World Famous Coffee Cup Diner in quaint old town Boulder City.

Inside the World Famous Coffee Cup Cafe.

Inside the World Famous Coffee Cup Café.

For East Coast travelers, the Saint Augustine, Florida, Elks Lodge is proud to host travelers who want to explore the “Nation’s Oldest City,” nearby beaches and many other local attractions. It has nine water and electric sites with a dump station close by. We particularly enjoyed the open-air tiki bar and outdoor barbecues.

So how do you join the Elks and take advantage of all these great opportunities? First you need an Elks member to sponsor you. If you have a friend or family member that is an Elk, they can be your sponsors and get you started. If you do not have an association with an Elk, you can go to the Elks National website and submit a request online that will be forwarded to the nearest lodge, which will contact you. You can also go online and lookup the closest Elks lodge to where you live or work and give them a call and they will assist you in the membership process.

Horse-drawn carriage in front of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Horse-drawn carriage in front of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

In brief, both men and women can become Elks; it is a three-phase process that can take a couple of months to complete. There is a one-time fee of about $50, and then there are annual membership dues that vary from lodge to lodge, but should range between $75-$100. Once you have become a member, you can be as active a volunteer as you wish, or you can simple enjoy the benefits and services and support the Elks programs through your dues, donations and monies spent at the lodges.

We hope we have sufficiently illustrated what a great organization the Elks is and how its RV accommodations can benefit and serve you and your family at home or on the road. We encourage you to consider not only the Elks in your RVing future, but also other outstanding civic organizations that offer similar benefits. We look forward to seeing you on the open road somewhere across our great, beautiful nation.

For More Information

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks | 773-755-4700 | www.elks.org

Elkdom Travel Guides I, II & III | 916-484-1021

Elks RV Guide (covers the 22 Northeastern states) | 251-971-2782

Hoover Dam | 866-730-9097 | www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam

World Famous Coffee Cup Cafe | 702-294-0517 | www.worldfamouscoffeecup.com


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