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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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RV crap shoot

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Before we retired, my wife was a bean counter for one of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. When it comes to numbers she is a bit fanatic. Now that we are traveling most of the year in our motorhome, she categorizes all of our expenditures and keeps constant track of how much we spend. That is all well and good, but one of these categories drives me nuts. She is always trying to keep camping expense in a profit position. The way she plans on doing this involves casino camping a few times each month. I know as an accountant she should understand odds more than most people, but she loves playing roulette. It is hard for me to argue with her on this point because at this time we are ahead. Applying her roulette winnings to the camping expense column we have an average camping cost of less than two dollars a night so far this year. My point is that it can go the other way at any time. She insists she has a system that will cap our losses. How can I convince her that in the end, the house always wins?
--Chipping away at expenses in Laughlin

Dear Laugh:
Let’s break this down a bit. The house does not always win. There are numerous casinos that offer overnight parking, many with free hookups. Most are more quiet than Walmart, have security, and welcome travelers. It’s a win-win situation as long as you don’t go inside. Another way to look at it is entertainment. If you go inside and set your gambling limit at your camping savings, you break even. You don’t explain your wife’s plan on capping her losses; I assume it is similar to my point of breaking even.

Casinos are popping up everywhere. There are several websites that offer updated information on those that extend the welcome mat to those looking for overnight parking. They each have a different set of rules. Some expect you to come in and sign up for a Player’s Club Card, but most just direct you to an RV parking area. In your wife’s defense, roulette seems to be the best odds of any gaming. If she just plays black and red she would have just less than a 50-50 chance. I don’t think the odds get any better than that; it’s all downhill from there.

I agree with you in the fact that eventually the house always wins, because most people don’t know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, or know when to run. However, I get the impression your wife has her own little system. It sounds like she enjoys playing, enjoys calculating her wins and losses against her camping expenses, and seems to think she will cap her losses if camping gets to be more expensive spinning the wheel than not. I have termed trying to find a campground opening in the reservation system, “Campground Bingo.” This puts a new spin on that term.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your wife’s gambling habit unless she insists on casino camping every night, or gets addicted to wheeling and dealing so much she forgets about her cap system. There is one other downside. When she comes back to the RV she will smell like smoke and it isn’t from a campfire.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

RV cheap tricks

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband thinks he’s a bonafide RV mechanic. He will work on a problem until he’s spent more money than having a qualified RV mechanic do the job. He refuses to have anyone work on our rig until he has exhausted his possible do-it-yourself fixes. He has a one-track mind, so whenever he is on a mission to fix something I’ve lost him completely until it gets solved. He is always online looking for advice, tricks of the trade, and cheap fixes. Wouldn’t it be wiser to just have a mechanic repair our rig? Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run, less hassle and headache?
--Cheap Tricks in Tampa

Dear Tricks:
Some people want to be a rock star and others an RV mechanic. I think your husband is on the right track. Even if it ends up costing him more money to completely solve a problem, he has educated himself for future situations. Online advice is priceless. There is hardly a subject not covered. We all experience the same mechanical problems sooner or later. You will find people online describing your precise issue, how to fix it, and what parts you will need. I find it amazing. Your husband’s laser focus can be looked at in another way. During the time you lose his attention, you could be stuck in a motel, waiting for a service technician to call and tell you they finally figured out your problem. Some of these people have to think about it for as long as your husband and try as many parts and solutions. The only difference is, they have the meter running at about $100 bucks an hour. Many RV problems come down to plug and play electronic boards in current models. You can often find great trouble-shooting help from aftermarket board companies like Dinosaur. Your husband is building experience that will pay off handsomely in the future. You should be happy and encourage him. A lot of women who used to go for handsome are now looking for handy. You had better keep a close eye on him. 
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink