Imagine living in an 8-foot by 44-foot space. Since 2019, David Matthews and Eddie Vandermark, better known online as the “Full-Time Gays” have called an RV their home as they traverse the country in search of LGBTQ campgrounds.
“Big Blanche,” as they call the RV, isn’t lacking in any of the modern conveniences of a traditional home, however. It has a queen size bed, full bathroom with walk-in shower, kitchen, separate living room and washer/dryer.
The two have amassed over 2,700 subscribers on YouTube, and joined the trend of online content creators, or influencers, with the added benefit of seeing beautiful places across the country. Online video blogs and influencers have soared over the past few years, especially as COVID-19 increased our time spent online.
Another similar gay RV’ing couple, “Tyler and Todd” have over 188,000 subscribers. The two lived in a $7,000 RV for over a year before recently building a Geodesic Dome in the woods of Nova Scotia with the goal of living entirely debt free.
For David and Eddie, they have been big travelers for as long as they can remember. David had visited his 49th state by the time he was 27 years old, and Eddie got there a few years before he turned 40. They visited Alaska, the 50th state for both, in 2020. In case you are wondering, just driving through a state doesn’t qualify – they had to stay overnight.
During their first summer traveling around in an RV, they traveled to visit their families and stopped at gay campgrounds along the way. The first stop – Wildwoods Hideaway in Eutaw, Alabama is a male-only clothing optional campground located about 90 miles southwest of Birmingham.
During this first trip, they purchased a go-pro camera and, with their drone, they were ready to launch their new venture. Bill Williams and Juan Alvarado of the former StayWithFamily.com international gay campground directory, were the inspiration, and according to Matthews, seeded the idea for the video blog.
That first video posted in September 2020 has currently had over 5,700 views. After the initial popularity, the two got more ambitious and planned longer trips with the goal of visiting more gay campgrounds. Their 2021 summer tour included stops at 15 additional sites, and they have now reviewed and rated gay campgrounds across the country.
How the ratings work
Matthews starts the reviews with some initial planning and navigation. “There are many campgrounds that are not designed for rigs our size or they don’t have a safe way to get to them,” he says. “Big Blanche” is a 2018 North Point fifth wheel RV. It measures 43.5 foot long and 13 foot 5.5 inches tall, with a raised real living space that allows for three full pass-through storage bays. When parked, it has five slides and is designed to sleep up to four.
Another key question for Matthews is about the strength of the Verizon cell signal a campground location, allowing the couple to stay connected for work. They both have full-time jobs. Remote work has allowed for a lot of possibilities for people looking to escape the traditional living environments and tour the country. The couple say that a few campgrounds had unreliable WiFi or limited cell service though, like Starlite Trailer Lodge in North Carolina or Timberfell Lodge and Campground in Tennessee. All of these factors play a part in planning their tours.
Finally, camping for the Full-Time Gays requires a 50-amp site with sewer access. “We can use 30 amp, but can only run one AC,” says Matthews. “That’d be tough in the deep south in the middle of summer.”
The top five LGBTQ campgrounds, according to Matthews and Vandermark:
- SIRenity Farms in Sullivan, Mo. is an all-male, clothing optional campground on 32 lush, wooded acres. The property features a large lake, pool, two hot tubs, shower house, cabins and sites for RVs or tent camping. Don’t have an RV? The campground also has four RVs that you can rent. Nearby attractions include the Riverside Wildlife Center, the Jesse James Wax Museum, Missouri’s Canoehenge, Cathedral Cave and Meramec State Park. For more information, visit sirenityfarmscampground.com.
- Grizzly Pines in Navasota, Texas is just a short drive from Houston and with year-round outdoor weather, it is a popular spot. It opened in 2015, replacing the Rockin R Campground, and has two tent areas with electrical service, cabins and RVs. Like many gay campgrounds, Grizzly Pines offers day passes for $15. For more information, visit grizzplypines.com.
- Camp Mars in Venus, Fla. offers over 40 acres of some of Florida’s most beautiful forest, natural streams and grassy fields. Fondly referred to as “Sonoma South,” this area of Florida is home to three wineries and nearby Lake Placid (Florida) has local distilleries and craft breweries. The campground includes tent and RV sites in addition to a variety of rentals including cabins, larger cottages and even yurts. For more information, visit campmars.com.
- The Hideaway in Collins, Ga. is located in the Magnolia Midlands, approximately 65 miles west of Savannah. It is predominately an all-male campground but does have select weekends that are open to any gender. Grounds include a pool and spa area, café, a 4,000 square foot entertainment space with dance floor and includes RV or tent sites and cabins for rent. With six freshwater lakes, the area provides plenty of opportunities for fishing and trails wind through the tree-covered grounds. For more information, visit royshideaway.com.
- Vermont Freedom in Greensboro Bend, Vt. is open from the beginning of May through the end of October. Just south of the Canadian border, the campground hosts several weekend events including “Illumination Weekend” every August. Guests are encouraged to decorate their campsites and festivities include a fire and toga/kilt party. Both tent and RV sites are available. For more information, visit vermontfreedomcampground.com.
Finding a home in North Carolina
Matthews and Vandermark recently parked their RV and established a permanent home in Lexington, N.C. The couple have been together for 18 years and are adjusting to not being on the road most of the year. “The RV is at the end of our 800-foot-long driveway,” says Vandermark. They plan to sell “Big Blanche” soon, along with “Big Daddy,” the Ford F350 that pulls it, in the next couple of months. Then, they hope to buy a smaller size motorhome and start traveling again, although not “full-time” any longer.
There are still a couple gay campgrounds they have yet to visit, including The River’s Edge in Dewey Rose, Ga. and the popular Sawmill Camping Resort in Dade City, Fla. They also have five more videos to post from last year’s trip.
While missing the social interaction of gay camping, they were also starting to miss having some privacy. Notoriety brought with it a lot of added attention, and the two found that they were always “on” with the need for more time to just be David and Eddie, not the “Full-Time Gays.”
Matthews has been focused on finishing his master’s degree which he did in April, and Vandermark’s mother moved into the house next door. After graduation, they headed to Chicago for the inaugural Golden Con, a Golden Girls fan convention. Matthews launched the infamous Facebook campaign that got Betty White to host “Saturday Night Live” in 2010.
They were attracted to the area of North Carolina and have hopes of building their own gay campground in the next five years. With Lexington’s proximity to Charlotte, Raleigh and the Triad the two believe it is a great area for the endeavor. The moderate climate was also appealing. They plan to buy some additional land and possibly bring on other investors.
With their ambition, it looks like the Carolinas will be home to a new gay campground soon – perhaps with a Golden Girls weekend and plenty of friends they’ve met along the way.