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Assateague Island Dreaming

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Ron’s Lance truck camper on Assateague Island National Seashore

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Ron and friend fishing

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Ron’s citation winning Drum Fish

Ron Humphress is the man behind the Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally this April 19th, 20th, and 21st in Stanford, VA. Ron’s done a heck of a job organizing the rally and really deserves to be recognized for contributing a lot to the truck camping community. Thank you Ron!

Ron’s other truck camping interest is spending every possible weekend fishing and truck camping at Assateague Island National Seashore. After our interview I found myself wanting to join him and his friends on Assateague Island in a big way.

TCM: Tell us about the Mid Atlantic Truck Camper Rally that you’re organizing.

Ron: In the Fall of 2005 I started to see a lot on RV.net about how we need to do a camper rally but nobody would take the initiative. So I set a place and a date and who ever showed up showed up. We pretty much sold the campground out with about 45 to 50 truck campers. This year we have 72 confirmed so far.

TCM: Which dealerships are coming to the rally?

Ron: Outdoor Express, Delaware Camping Center, and St. Michaels RV are coming. The dealerships are bringing Lance, Palomino, Arctic Fox, Travel Lite, and Bigfoot truck campers.

TCM: What does the rally cost?

Ron: The cost is whatever the cost of a site is – $25 to $40 a night. You have to call to reserve a site just like any other campground. Sherri at Tall Pines is handling the reservations. You can reach her at 757-824-0777.

TCM: Who benefits from the rally?

Ron: I’m covering the cost of advertising and fuel. Anything above and beyond those costs is going to charity. Last year we donated about $800 to the March of Dimes. Most of that money came from a 50/50 raffle.

TCM: What’s available from the raffle this year?

Ron: Many companies have donated stuff for the raffle including Lance, Arctic Fox, camp stores, and dealerships. I love pulling tickets and seeing people getting stuff. I love giving. Last year we had two stainless steel Lance grills. They weigh a ton but they’re awesome – all stainless steel. This year we have airbag controllers, Torklift tie down sets, hats, shirts, jackets, and camping supplies. I’m hoping that everyone is going to win something.

TCM: You’re also very involved in the truck camping at Assateague Island National Seashore. How did truck camping on Assateague get started?

Ron: The truck camping on Assateague Island started with fisherman who fished all night. Back in the day, guys had truck caps with cots in the back. That’s grown into truck campers. For many it’s more about recreation than fishing now – relaxing with family on the beach and then in the bull pen area at night.

TCM: When did you get involved with Assateague?

Ron: I’ve been going to Assateague Island since I was born. I remember surf fishing at Assateague with my grandfather thirty years ago.

TCM: When can you be on the beach and when do you have to be in the bull pen?

Ron: The rule is that you can’t sleep on the beach. To be on the beach you have to be active. You can have a campfire with a friend or whatever but you have to be awake and active. And to stay overnight in the bull pen you have to be in a camper that’s self contained.

TCM: How does someone new to Assateague Island learn the rules?

Ron: The rules are on the web. Basically, you have to have four-wheel drive, no duallies, and have shovels and tow ropes. You can’t stay in the bull pen past 9:00 pm if you’re not self-contained. There are a lot of rules.

TCM: Why the rule about no duallies?

Ron: I don’t know why or for what reason it’s a rule but they’re never going to change it. Some people put a single rear wheel on their rear duallies with a 10” rim.

TCM: What about using Ricksons and 19.5 tires?

Ron: Skip Bosley, a full timer and truck camper, ran his truck with Ricksons with no air and got stuck on the beach. So Ricksons don’t work. The sand is just way too loose on Assateague.

TCM: Do all these rules bother you?

Ron: We love the rules because we don’t want a lot of people in there just partying. But don’t get me wrong, we party in the bull pen!

TCM: Do the National Park Rangers bother you?

Ron: You’ll see a Ranger a couple times a night. Sometimes they hassle you but they’re just doing their job. Usually they’ll say that we’re being too loud.

TCM: Do you see a lot of the same people every weekend?

Ron: Usually you will see the same people. Pretty much every weekend you’ll see 75 to 100 truck campers in the bull pen grouped by friends and families. We’re there three out of four weekends a month. It’s like leaving the world behind. There’s hardly any cell phone reception. And you don’t have to leave that island for anything. It’s a big party and family atmosphere. You don’t have to worry about your kids wondering off. It’s so laid back.

TCM: What does it cost to camp on Assateague?

Ron: The annual pass for getting on the island is $20 a year. Then the Over-Sand Vehicle Permit is $75 a year. So for $95 a year I have a campsite for a whole year.

TCM: So I take it you’re into fishing.

Ron: I was actually awarded fisherman of the year. I fished all year up and down the east coast. I fished every weekend for seven weekends in a row. I got three citations.

TCM: Citations?

Ron: They’re good citations – an award printed on really nice with your name on it and a picture. You get a citation for Drum Fish over 45 pounds and Rock Fish over 40 pounds.

TCM: Where’s your wife while you’re doing all this fishing?

Ron: She’s there where I’m fishing. We’re always there with the truck camper. You can park right there on the ocean.

TCM: What kinds of fish do you catch on Assateague?

Ron: Depending on the time of year, everything from seven-foot sharks down to Spot – a little bay fish about the size of your hand. You also catch Hard Head, Stripers, Red Drum, Trout, Flounder, Blue Fish. I now carry a 14-foot kayak on the roof of my camper. We hook a bay fish and paddle out about 300 yards and then paddle back. We usually catch a pretty big shark doing that.

TCM: Why would you want to catch big sharks?

Ron: Because it’s fun (laughs). And we take a lot of pictures. It’s all catch and release. I only keep the Rock Fish because they’re so good to eat.

TCM: So which is more important to you, fishing or truck camping?

Ron: I’m a fisherman first and a truck camper second. Truck campers are close second.

TCM: Since there’s no electric hook-ups in the bull pen or on the beach, do many of the truck campers use solar power?

Ron: Not as many as you would think. Many are older truck campers that don’t have solar. We mostly use generators. I use a Honda 2000 that runs everything.

TCM: Don’t all those generators get loud and annoying?

Ron: I think the quiet time is after 9:30 pm. People generally don’t run their generators after 10:00 pm.

TCM: Are there dump stations on Assateague?

Ron: There are two dump stations on the island. That’s what the license fees help to pay for.

TCM: Do you need a fishing or beach license?

Ron: No, you don’t need a fishing or beach license. All you need is that permit that sticks on your bumper for $75 a year.

TCM: What else do you like to do on Assateague?

Ron: There are access roads to the bay where we’ll go clamming if the bugs are okay. People also go kayaking, swimming, and surfing.

TCM: Do the ladies get into the fishing action?

Ron: Yes. There are a ton of great female anglers. I’m the chairman for a large fish tournament and several of the teams are all female teams. Of course the women also sun bathe and play volleyball and horseshoes.

TCM: Are there only truck campers on Assateague Island?

Ron: It’s 95% truck campers. There are only about three regulars that have motor homes.

TCM: It sounds like you all are over weight with heavy truck campers on single rear wheel trucks.

Ron: You’ve got to think of it this way – most people live five to twenty-five miles off the island. Their truck camper isn’t going to see 55 mph all weekend. The road to Assateague is only 45 mph. If I went the speed limit from my house my truck camper wouldn’t see 50 mph. I will guarantee that 50% of the truck campers at Assateague never come off the truck. Mine doesn’t except when the truck needs maintenance.

TCM: Tell us about your truck and camper.

Ron: My truck is a 2004 Ford F350 Crew Cab Lariat. It’s a V10 gas – that thing’s a horse! My truck camper is a 2005 Lance 881. We have a deck on the back and cooler racks on the front.

TCM: Why did you choose the Lance 881?

Ron: I wanted the biggest camper that I could get on a short-bed truck. The Lance has met my expectations and then some. Having a full-wall slide is just amazing.

TCM: Tell us about the AMSA.

Ron: AMSA stands for Assateague Mobile Sports-fisherman Association. Our web site is www.keepersofthebeach.com. We have an open line of communication with the National Park Service on the rules and issues that effect us. If the Park Service thought about shutting us down or changing their prices we have the numbers to say that’s not fair. But we haven’t had any problems with the Park Service.

TCM: Why would the National Park Service want to shut you down?

Ron: They’re concerned about the nesting habits of animals on Assateague. The birds that were endangered are now off the endangered species list and making a comeback – with our support. And they shut down certain parts of the island for nesting pairs. For us it’s all about beach preservation for recreation. One of the other beach associations has the slogan, “Preserve Don’t Prohibit”. I joined AMSA because I wanted to make sure my son has somewhere to go when he’s my age.

TCM: What was the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on Assateague Island?

Ron: Catching my first Red Drum. We had three lines go down at one time. Cotton Collins and Frank Aello were there – all Lance owners and Outdoor Express customers. Cotton and Frank took off to catch the fish we started with. I came back running and my wife had a poll bent in two. We were fighting fish for 45 minutes of pure hectic.

TCM: Assateague Island sounds amazing. But I bet there are some drawbacks.

Ron: The bad part of Assateague Island can be the heat and the bugs. There’s also no electric or water. You take on what you take on and you take off what you take off. When it really gets dog hot we’ll go to a campground.

TCM: Before we end our interview, please tell us how you got into truck camping.

Ron: I was an avid golfer going two to three times a week. Then I found out that my wife was pregnant. I decided it wasn’t fair to spend five hours on a golf course when she’s home with a baby. That’s when I got into truck camping. My boy, Jarett, was on that beach maybe eight weeks after he was born. He grew up walking in the sand. This year I gave him the option of going to the beach or campgrounds. He wants more campgrounds because they have playgrounds. So I think we’ll be going to more campgrounds this year.

 

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