Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Belting my RV husband

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just started traveling in a Class A motorhome. I am so glad my husband talked me into bumping up from our Class C. I have this gigantic windshield of the world in front of me, as America unfolds before my eyes. We sit up so much higher and with the large side windows it almost seems we are in a fishbowl looking out.
My only complaint is I have to always nag my husband to wear his seatbelt. I am constantly telling him, “Click It, or Ticket.” He thinks he is at home in his La-Z-Boy. How can I impress on him that wearing his belt is not only a good idea, but a safety measure that everyone should follow?
--Tightening my belt in Anza-Borrego

Dear Anza:
It’s simple. Refuse to ride with him. He is not only endangering himself, but you and every other motorist you come across.
Just because you are one of the bigger vehicles on the road does not make you immune to catastrophe. Have him Google Images “motorhome accidents.” Maybe the shock value will help convince him. If things go “south” one day, it will happen in a flash. He especially should be belted in because he is manning the helm.
He will be in a much better position to control the motorhome if he is still in his seat, not up on the dash with his face pushed up against the windshield. Even without another vehicle involved, simply going off the shoulder can be a disaster if you are not belted in and do not study your driving options ahead of time.
Know what to do, and not to do, when you drop off the shoulder, blow a tire, or encounter a moose. The first and most important advantage in all these scenarios is having your seat belt on.
 So simply change your vocabulary to, “ Click it, or Stick it.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RV lifestyle voodoo economics

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just stayed for one night at a Louisiana State Park. We went in without a reservation. Dry camping was $14 per night. When I looked at my credit card receipt I noticed I was charge $20. My receipt said the $6 was a reservation fee. When I questioned it I was told everyone is charged $6 the first night to pay for the Reserve America system they use for keeping track of their state campgrounds. I have never heard of this before. There is nothing on their park websites that explains this in advance. The park attendant never explained it when I paid, and she was even a bit huffy when I questioned it.

Have you ever heard of this before? Am I the only one that thinks this is a bit strange? My wife says, “Get over it!” Should I?
 --Nailed in New Orleans

Dear Nailed:
Your wife is right, get over it. Does it make sense? Not really. I questioned it as much as you did the first time I experienced it. To be honest I took it a few steps further. I was so curious I called the Louisiana State Park office and asked for more of an explanation. I was told they have tried running their own software and found it much more expensive than paying Reserve America six bucks for every paid camper night in their parks annually.

What they couldn’t tell me is what that number is. They have 22 State Parks and everyone pays, reservation or not. What I found most unusual was that they had no reference to this charge on their website or their Fees and Facilities Guide. When I questioned this, I was told I just missed it. I asked to be directed to where it is on their site. What I found was a reservation fee for six bucks. It states nowhere that everyone is charged this fee. Strange but true.

That said, Louisiana is priced fairly and competitively when compared to other states. Every state seems to have a different management vision. Texas, for example, charges 7 bucks per person per night for an entrance fee on top of camping. If you do not have an annual pass, you pay this fee every night. A couple would have to stay in Texas State Parks at least five times a year to break even on the annual pass. If you are just passing through it is often not the most economical camping. Other states tax campground fees, which add up quickly.

Louisiana does recognize seniors with half-priced camping. This is good for not only Louisiana residents, but any state that honors the senior passport the same as Louisiana. Unfortunately, that is only Arkansas, Delaware and Maryland. It takes some time to become familiar with all the various state and federal campground fees, rules and regulations. To the mix you can now add concessioners. They seem to be taking control of public lands.

I still have a hard time grasping the voodoo economics of public tax dollars subsidizing corporate managed state, federal and national park campgrounds, run by volunteers. In Louisiana it seems state government can’t manage a website and the Federal Government is finding it harder all the time to manage a simple campground.

A government bean counter recently figured out that the legacy costs of Smokey the Bear could be enormous, because bears are now living much longer. If Smokey retires and refuses to take a buyout his pension costs could become a fiscal anchor on the Forest Service. Smokey the Bear could soon be put on the endangered species list, replaced by a volunteer in a Yogi suit.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

RV sail

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife is mad, I'm sad, the dog is glad. Let me explain. We had the dog tied to the awning support. My wife walked several sites over to talk to another couple.

It was a breezy morning and the awning was making some noise, but nothing too serious. Before my wife left she said we should roll it up, but I pooh-poohed the idea saying, "It's fine!"

Well, we must have had a microburst of wind, because we heard the dog yelp, metal crinkle, plastic crack and neighbors screaming. In the blink of an eye, the awning blew over the motorhome. It snapped the dog leash, broke the TV antenna, cracked two ceiling vent covers, and trashed a thousand dollar awning.

 The dog was traumatized. He looked at me like, "I swear I didn't do a thing. I was just lying here sleeping!" I was conveying the same thing to my wife, but she wasn't buying it. I have been getting the hot tongue and cold shoulder ever since.

 Is it my fault? Shouldn't these things be engineered to take a wind blast? Should I have to roll it up every time I think there might be a wind event? My wife says we shouldn't even replace it. I think it comes in handy on occasion. Will this scare me for life? Will I always be gun-shy about deploying my awning?

Please tell me there is therapy for a guy and his dog who were just trying to enjoy an afternoon siesta.
--Bob and Goober in "The Doghouse"

Dear Bob and Goober:
Bad things happen to good people and dogs. You have to let it go, move on, and learn from your experiences. You have learned some valuable lessons in this one event. First, always listen to your wife. Second, never second-guess an RV awning. Third, get a sturdier leash and a heavier dog.

Seriously, you cannot fight Mother Nature. Physics teaches us just how powerful wind in a sail can be. Your RV awning is basically a horizontal sail. You can tie them down, stake them down, even hold them down, but the right wind will still rip them apart.

Everyone has their own threshold of caution. I personally would not go to the store for an hour without putting the awning up. I have seen too many of them destroyed by just what you describe. The roll-up procedure takes about two minutes on a manual awning and thirty seconds on the new automatic models.

No matter how careful you are, a micro-burst like you experienced can catch anyone off-guard. Your insurance should replace it. Maybe you can upgrade to the newest awning technology while you are at it. That way you, your wife and Goober can be trained on the newest awning operations. It helps when the chain of command can reach the lowest rank. With a new automatic awning you should be able to blame it on Goober next time.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink