Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RV Road Less Traveled

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Are we the only ones who always seem to choose the wrong routes? We like to stay off the major highways and see rural America, but we are always in some kind of trouble.

Last month we had to unhook our toad and make a U-turn at a low overpass. Today we spent over two hours along 30 miles of North Dakota road construction that was worse than anything we experienced on the Alcan Highway 30 years ago before it was paved.

We are not sure if the North Dakota Department of Transportation is in charge out here or the “fracking” companies. We had dropped off Hwy. 2 in Stanley, ND, heading for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit, and there was no indication that our route was a virtual nightmare. There were no detour signs, no flag people, inaccurate mileage signs and narrow passage points.

This seems to be a pattern for us. Are we poor navigators, or does everyone deal with situations like this?
--Newbies trying to learn in North Dakota

Dear Newbies:
I applaud your sense of adventure -- keep it up. The alternative is staying on boring, exit-laden, super highways and reading billboards.

There are a few things you can do to alleviate some of your headaches. Many GPS systems have major construction updates and low clearance warnings. You can make a habit of asking locals when you make pit stops to see if you can garner any information about possible surprises ahead of you. Some companies like AAA are well known for travel map information that is very up-to-date.

With all that said, I still go back to using today's technology as your best source of information. Services may be out-of-date, locals may be ill-informed, signs, as you well know, can be deceiving.
As far as who is in charge in the new hot fracking areas, that could fuel a great debate. So much activity and new infrastructure makes some of my old stomping grounds look unrecognizable.

I just asked Dr. Google for North Dakota road conditions. I was directed to the Dept. of Trans. North Dakota site. There I found a state map. On it I found your route lit up like a Christmas Tree. When I clicked on the construction site it warned of “poor road conditions.” If you would have stayed on Hwy. 2 you wouldn’t have a tale to tell. Now you have this great campfire story and it only cost you a bit of slow going and maybe an RV wash.

Chances are you will hit as much construction or more on major travel arteries than you will on the back roads of America. Keep doing what you enjoy and deal with the challenges.

--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V.Shrink

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cat in the RV Hat

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We live in a moderately sized motorhome most of the year. At the present time we have one cat on board. We love this little furball, but he does cause a lot of anxiety. He also causes a lot of arguments.
I seem to be more attached to him than my husband. He enjoys the cat, but doesn’t enjoy the hassles that come with pet ownership. Our biggest problem is playing “Hide and Go Seek.” Every time we pull up anchor and set sail, the little bugger hides. We spend a lot of time trying to find him so I am assured he hasn’t jumped out. This last time he was wedged under the front dash. This drives my husband nuts because I won’t leave until I know my cat is safe.

Is this asking too much? He gets as much companionship from the cat as I do. I would love to hear your take on our situation. --Cat Calling in Calgary

Dear Cal:
Traveling with pets has its pros and cons. It should be decided upfront if the companionship is worth the effort involved in taking proper care of your animal(s). They can crimp your style if you want to be absent for any length of time. They have to be fed, watered, exercised and cleaned up after. These are all responsibilities that are required if you live in an RV or not. It is obvious that you have already discussed these matters and came to some type of decision because you have a cat on board.

I am an expert on “cat search and rescue” missions. I have been on many in campgrounds all over America. Our last cat was self-taught. She learned how to slide the screen open and jump out. Many times we gave up trying to find her. In a sea of RVs she would always find her way home, climb up the ladder to the roof and cry at the vent. We finally had to tape the screens shut.

Hiding is a cat thing. I think you should just allot time to do a thorough cat scan before traveling. Put it on your departure list. It is no different than waiting for the jacks to go up, or insuring the awning is down. Our cat likes to climb in any cupboard or closet we leave open. So checking to make sure the cat is in sight even if you leave for a short hike will assure you never have a cat-astrophe. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Pets can add a lot of joy to your life if you have the right attitude toward them. That means both of you. A little give-and-take will solve a lot of small problems that seem more complicated than they are. Our newest cat has never escaped and seems to have no desire to jump out. When they constantly have that urge, they can be much more challenging.

Hiding in the coach is a much easier problem to deal with. Once you know all the usual places it’s as easy as finding a two-year-old.

Let’s not forget the financial pains of pet medical care. We just spent $328 to find out our cat had the “Big C.” Yup, he was Constipated!

--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

RV tail gunner

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband gets so upset when driving our motorhome all day. He is constantly talking to people that annoy him and it gets on my nerves. Someone is always doing something stupid in his opinion. It doesn’t make traveling pleasant when he is grousing all the time. He does all the driving and I sometimes think I should let him vent, but it gets old after a while. He says some pretty obnoxious things.

Do you think I should sit quietly by while he goes through his ranting or continue to work on administering anger management?
--Annoyed in Annapolis

Dear Annoyed:
There is a big difference between driving all day and riding all day. Nowadays a driver has to be alert and driving defensively every minute. That can lead some people to fatigue and anxiety.

There are so many fellow drivers on their smartphones texting or with their heads up their Apps that if you aren’t paying attention constantly you might be their next contact.

If you can’t put up with your husband’s constant vocalizations, you might want to buy him one of those steering wheel sound simulators. With the pressing of a couple buttons he can fire a burst of machine gun fire, a rocket launcher or short bursts of sniper fire. This would let him vent his anger without loud, R-rated outbursts. Although this may drive you more crazy!

Part of compatible traveling includes understanding your traveling partner’s needs, wants, dislikes and idiosyncrasies. Working together to meet in the middle of any issue will take you a long way into the realm of Happy Camperdom.

Keep working on his anger management, be a supportive co-pilot and eventually he will mellow, knowing it bothers you.

I just had another thought. You could work together: He can be the pilot, and you can be the tail gunner.
--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink