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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

RV stalking

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have met a lot of wonderful people in our travels. We seem to keep track of each other on social media and meet up over the years whenever our paths cross. It's been great up until now.

Recently, one couple decided they wanted to travel with us exclusively. They never asked if we would mind, they just started stalking us in an RV way. At first they would ask where we were headed and just show up, now they are wanting our itinerary and suggesting we share meals together.

My husband doesn't want to confront the situation. He finds it awkward. I am insisting we break it off with them, and get back to our own life on the road.

How should we handle this?
--Uncomfortable in Atlanta

Dear Uncomfortable:
Traveling together has many dimensions. Many people find it compatible, but it has to be mutual. It sounds like your dilemma is not.

Your situation was born out of a desire by just one of the parties wanting to hook up, without so much as a discussion about the ground rules. You need to confront them with your feelings about the arrangements they have developed without your consent. You may lose them as friends, but eventually that is going to happen anyway if you struggle through this until you can't take it anymore. It would be better to be up front with your feelings and hope they understand.

One of the funniest parts of Bill Bryson's book, "A Walk in the Woods," was about this very situation, only on foot. An obnoxious woman who talked with confidence to hide her insecurities hooked up with Bryson, and his hiking partner Katz, uninvited. They tried everything to ditch her without hurting her feelings. Finally, they decided to walk really fast, get a few miles ahead of her, then jump off the trail at the next town, and hope she would pass them. Then they felt bad and guilty, and worried about her. They find out later from other hikers she has been bad mouthing them as fat, lazy old guys. Then they felt bad they felt guilty.

So don't try to ditch these people by telling them you're going one way, and go the opposite. You will feel guilty and they will bad mouth you.

Have an adult conversation, and explain you are not comfortable traveling with them all the time. Tell them you need more alone time to do your own thing.

If they take it badly that is their hangup, not yours.
--Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

RV Jump or Swim

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are considering buying a Class C motorhome and doing some traveling. We have no clue on what to expect, what we might need, or how to go about making a buying decision. My wife says we just need to go ahead and take action. I am more cautious. She says I study things to death, but I just don't want to spend a pile of money and find out two weeks into our trip we bought the wrong darn thing.

Can you give us any advice? It's turning into an argument every time we go RV shopping.
--Studious in Standish

Dear Studious:
There is nothing wrong with figuring out all your options before pulling the trigger. Everyone will have different needs, fears, and confusion when trying to decide what will fit their needs in this RV lifestyle. I think one great way to try it out would be to rent a motorhome for a week or more and visit a popular area of great camping. Since I am sitting in Capitol Reef National Park writing this, Utah comes to mind. The state of Utah has done a bang-up job of promoting itself. Capitol Reef (along with all the other National Parks in Utah) visitation is up twofold in the past five years. A huge fleet of rental motorhomes reside just down the road in Vegas. People from all over the world fly into Las Vegas, rent a motorhome and head for Utah.

I suggest this busy area because it gives you the opportunity to experience campground bingo at the same time you are trying to figure out what rig would work best for you. You will learn how hard it is to explore these areas without a smaller tow vehicle (toad), how hard it is to snag a campsite without a reservation, and many other situations that exist, and at this point you have no clue.

I think my biggest caution in using a rental unit would be sanitation. I would ask the rental company what their policy is on sanitizing units on their return. If not convinced it's proper, I would do my own freshwater tank sanitizing. I find it very common at campground dump stations to see people, with no idea how things work, filling tanks with non-potable water, doing their dishes right at the dump station, not rinsing any equipment they use, and using the same water hose to rinse the sewer hose and fill.

In Yellowstone I pulled up behind a Chinese delegation that seemed to be having a jolly time laughing and trying to figure out the dump technique. I tried to help, but seemed to be confusing them more than helping. All five of them kept signaling to me that they had it under control. I sat for fifteen minutes and watched them do every crazy thing I have ever witnessed in the past and then some. I sure wouldn't want to be the next rental customer on that rig.

Other than that, I think a rental week could open your eyes to many questions you may not even have at this point, and answer many you do.
--Keep Smilin', Richard E. Mallery a.k.a Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

RV site size

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are in Yellowstone National Park and we are finding our RV is too big to camp in some of the campgrounds. We tried to make a reservation today at Madison Campground and they tell us we will only fit into a 40 foot plus site, but there are none available. They combined our total rig length (motorhome and toad) and say we cannot fit in a 30 foot site.

We purposely bought a 30 ft. motorhome so we could camp in smaller primitive campgrounds, but obviously we planned wrong. It really makes me mad. This time we have to travel so much further to see the sights because we do not meet campground size requirements.

What do most people find a good length that offers them the best choices of sites?
--Mad in Madison

Dear Mad:
The good news is you bought a perfect size. Even if you are pulling a toad, you should fit in most campgrounds just fine. I can say that for a fact because we have been doing it for years. Your only problem is buying into the BS (Buffalo Scat) that you are hearing on the other end of the phone when you try to make a reservation with a concession run campground.

Unfortunately our government is not capable of running their own campgrounds and have found it more convenient to farm them all out to people who turn them into more of a KOA business plan. First thing they do is double the price, then they farm out their reservations to a company full of cubicles in New York, manned by people who have never camped in their whole life.

So, you do not need a new rig, you need an attitude adjustment. When you are on the phone you need to have a bit more chutzpah. It helps to have some experience under your belt, but until then stop telling them you have a toad. At thirty feet you will fit their requirements and when you arrive you will find ample parking for your toad.

Let's use Madison as an example. I am very familiar with that campground. When you call for a reservation you will be given the exact information you describe. You will be told you cannot park your toad somewhere else if you do not fit, you have to combine your total length to fit a site, and if you don't fit you can't stay.

You will also notice you are not issued a particular site. When you arrive they are going to give you what they find convenient.

On our last visit we booked a 40 ft site, only size available. When we arrived we asked if we could get a couple more days. We were given a 30 ft site.  We found that all the sites are about the same length, pull thru's and side by sides. If you can't fit your toad in next to your rig you are told to park it outside the loop where there is plenty of parking. After walking all the loops and looking at all the RV sites, I found few sites I wouldn't fit into.
So here are your choices. Fudge the truth or buy a shorter rig. My Irish grandmother always said, "A little white lie was always better than a big fight."

If you arrive and find you truly do not fit you will have to move on, instead of moving on before you know if you fit.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in campground reservation systems. It takes some time before you will understand many of the nuances and learn how to weigh fact and fiction.
--Keep Smilin', Richard E. Mallery a.k.a Dr. R.V. Shrink