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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RV camp scout

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know this sounds like small potatoes, but it is just something that bugs me to death. My wife likes to explore campgrounds we stay in before she finally picks a site. Our typical mode of operation is to drop the toad, she goes in to pick a site, then calls or comes back to get me. The problem is, sometimes she’s gone a month. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it does seem like she is gone a long time. I would rather just drive in and look around, pick a site and be done with it. She needs the door facing a certain direction, the motorhome facing a certain direction, the right sun/shade combination, the right distance from lighting, bathroom and noisy trash containers. Should I be thankful or annoyed. At this time I am mostly annoyed. --Waiting for patience in Pocatello

Dear Pocat:
Sometimes finding utopia takes a few minutes. Part of your problem is you are not keeping your mind busy. While she is gone, do something else. Don’t sit in the driver’s seat impatiently waiting for her to come back. It will only turn minutes into hours. Many people would give their left lug nut to have an onboard camping planner. It also allows her to see if there are any obstacles that might cause your mothership to have any difficulties maneuvering. I can see her point about the trash containers. Especially the bear-proof containers that sound like a car crash every time someone drops the lid.

One thing you may suggest is keeping a log of her favorite sites. In the future you may return and in many cases you can reserve the sites you found the most suitable in the past. Many online reservation systems will show a photo of the site, give you a sun/shade rating, length suggestion and more. These can be helpful before you arrive, even as a walk-in, without a reservation. So relax, go with the flow, clean your windshield while she is gone. It’s just a perception of time you need to manage. In the end you probably get the best site available in every campground where you stay.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

RV snow job

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel a lot during the shoulder season in many parts of the country. We find mostly great weather, less crowds and fewer camping hassles. We do encounter the freak snowstorm on occasion. This can usually be anticipated and prepared for. However, my wife insists on having the slides out every night. She does not like dealing with the smaller kitchen area, or climbing over the bed when they are in. When they are out during a snowfall, I have to deal with frozen, snow-covered slides before we can move on. This often means climbing on the roof of the motorhome to broom off whatever ice and snow has accumulated. Wouldn’t you say she was being unreasonable? —Frosty in Snowmass

Dear Frosty:
It seems to me it would be much easier to deal with the kitchen space limitations than the ice and snow build-up on the slides. Most rigs are designed to be very functional with the slides in. I find it wise to pull them in during many weather events. A strong windstorm can drive you crazy with the slide awnings flapping. If you know the chance of snow is almost certain, it only makes sense to pull them in and eliminate the hassle of dealing with the aftermath. Traveling in snow country during the fall season can be very rewarding with spectacular scenery, fewer crowds, and often cheaper rates.

It is wise to carry a step ladder. A ladder is convenient for maintenance and reaching tall windows for cleaning. It also comes in handy when you need to deal with your slides. There is also a safety issue here which your wife may pay attention too. If you had to move for some type of emergency and your slides were iced up, it would at the least slow your progress or perhaps end up causing damage to the slides. It is something we all deal with. I personally make sure my slides are clean and there is nothing to impede them every time I extend or retract. Depending on the consistency and quantity of snow, a slide is designed to shed it like water. Knowing the cost of slide repair, I prefer to err on the side of caution and clean the snow off before retracting the slide.

The slide awning will be collapsed on the top of the slide and often not retract properly until you remove heavy snow. These issues often come down to common sense. I have left my slides out on many occasions knowing I was going to wait out a snowstorm, warmer weather was forecast, or deciding I would deal with the job of cleaning it off. It comes down to a personal choice, but if you are not comfortable dealing with these conditions, pulling them in is as easy as pushing a button. You might want to explain to your wife the danger of climbing around on a slippery RV roof during or after a snowstorm. —Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Half Lit RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Visiting Seattle, Washington, we found the RV camping options wanting. We finally picked the one closest to our daughter’s home and ferry terminal. Like the rest, this one was basically a parking lot with as many RVs jammed into it as possible. To make it resemble a parking lot it even came with dozens of floodlights that lit up the whole area. My husband ended up duct taping black garbage bags over the bedroom windows and vents just to keep the light out during the night. Our rig looked like it had been in an accident. Not only did we pay dearly to stay in this poor excuse for an RV park, but the manager complained about our garbage bag-covered windows and said we would have to remove them. We have just started RVing. Is this what we can expect living this lifestyle? --Half Lit in Ferryland

Dear Half Lit:
Urban RVing, you will find, is often cramped and costly. It’s all about the cost of real estate. You will learn new tricks the more you travel. Let me give you one for the next time you sleep under a floodlight. If your eyelids don’t do the job, go to Walmart and buy an eye mask. It’s kind of fun. You will think you are sleeping with the Lone Ranger. It will save on garbage bags and duct tape. Camping near a big city will often involve noise pollution, light pollution, air pollution and every other kind of pollution you can think of. It’s simple math: multiply numbers-divide resources. If you do not have to be close to family, hospital, or some event, consider staying farther out of town and commuting in. You will find it much quieter the more rural you get.

If you haven’t already discovered online resources, start by reading campground reviews. They will give you a much more accurate description of what to expect than the creative marketing presentation of a campground website. A website can make an asphalt parking lot campground sound like Shangri-La. If you spend some time and effort, you can often find a fellow RVer online who lives in the area and will be more than happy to share some insight on where to stay and where to avoid. Try some of the RV forums to present your questions. Don’t get discouraged. You will find your favorite little safe harbors to drop anchor. You just need to get more experience under your belt and more miles under your land yacht.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

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