Wednesday, April 1, 2015

RV Dirty Swirly

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just started RVing this winter. We are in our fourth month. RV life is now shifting from the imagined to the realistic state. It is not as placid as I had imagined, but still very enjoyable.

We are still learning about where we like to explore, the need for reservations in some areas, what types of parks we like, and the days we like to move or sit. Everything is falling into place and we are beginning to feel like we are now part of the lifestyle and not still in boot camp.

I have to say, one of my first real shocks was a situation you brushed on a couple weeks ago. We were sitting out under our awning having breakfast. It was a beautiful warm morning. The birds were singing, sun was rising, and you could almost hear the flowers growing. Just through the palmetto hedge we could see the neighbor packing up for departure. All of a sudden our tranquil morning turned into a nightmare of stink. Even knowing we were sitting there, the guy dumped his sewer without so much as a by-your-leave.

I almost gagged before I got inside our rig. I know dealing with waste holding tanks is a necessity, but isn't there some code of conduct that should go along with the procedure?
--Smelly Nelly in Naples

Dear Nelly:
I would agree that if the person saw you sitting out and did not give you some warning, that was rude. I believe you will find this is a rare case the more you travel. There is no question you will end up dealing with individuals with all kinds of idiosyncrasies. The RV lifestyle is no different than life in general. You will run into those people that just don't think their blackwater stinks.

They say, "Timing is everything." I think you will find that most people will be a bit more stealth when they do the "dirty swirly" in close quarters.

Let's give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume he is newer at this than you are. Perhaps he didn't realize he was going to release a toxic cloud of stink into your site.

Continue to enjoy your travels. I can guarantee you will find nine friendly and courteous camping site neighbors for every annoying one you encounter.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

RV campsite property rights

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We were parking over night at a casino in Las Vegas with a group of friends. We were all headed across the parking area where other RVs were parked when a man came out of his trailer and said we were trespassing on his property. At first we thought he was kidding, but as it turned out he was very serious. Obviously, in his mind, this patch of the casino parking lot was his property and we were trespassing.

On our way back he came out to talk to us as if the first confrontation never took place. This frightened me, but everyone else just laughed it off. I was a bit nervous the rest of the night. Do you think I am being silly?

This is not normal behavior and I think living for a short period just feet from someone with a Jekyll and Hyde personality is a bit disconcerting.
--Nervous Nelly in Nevada

Dear Nelly:
There is nothing wrong with being cautious in all traveling situations. It is not uncommon to run into people with issues, especially in free camping areas. There are many people living on the fringe, many in RVs, that suffer from psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and various addictions.

I think in most cases the right approach would be courtesy, compassion and caution. Everyone has their own threshold for patience and comfort levels in these types of encounters. If you find you are not comfortable then don’t encourage conversation, keep interactions at a minimum, or simply move on.
To paraphrase John Bradford, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." That said, you still have to determine for yourself what is provocation and what is annoyance. If you feel threatened, move on.

During a normal year on the road, camping in all types of areas, remote and urban, we have encountered a situation similar to this just a few times. Seldom are we forced to share a site with another camper, but recently at a Corps of Engineers park in Florida we could only book a combined site. As it turned out, we shared this site with a guy living in his van.

I went over, shook his hand and introduced myself as his new neighbor. He seemed as normal as me, which should have been my first clue. Soon we noticed he was talking loud to someone in a very angry voice. At first we thought he must have an ear-bud phone and he was arguing on the phone with someone. Soon we realized he was talking to himself about us. He was very polite when we talked to him, but the voice in his head was not happy sharing a site with us.

As it turned out the voice won and he moved on, but first he knocked on our door and asked if we needed anything at the store. He was going into town shopping and would be glad to pick up whatever we needed. When I told him we were all set, he started rattling off items he thought we might need...steaks, beer... I’m not sure if he or the voice wanted our money. Then he never returned.

When I talk about caution, it is not only these types of situations you have to be concerned with. RVing or not, there are people out there that want to scam you and I’m not just talking about your cell provider and your insurance company. This winter at a Yuma, AZ casino, Rvers were scammed in a “Three Card Monte” game set up by men in the free parking area. Your odds are bad enough if you go inside, why play in the parking lot!

Ninety percent of the time, free casino parking is only free if you “DON’T” go inside. If you do, you had better read the Wizard of Odds, so you know which of the sucker games are going to drain your pockets the most efficiently. Let common sense be your guide and you should be just fine.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RV listing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is a real gadget guy. He is always reinventing the wheel when it comes to our trailer.
Before our last trip he direct-wired a small inverter to our coach batteries with heavy wire. It has been great for charging our computers, phones and cameras. The inverter sits in a small basket on the dinette seat.

We came home one day and our trailer was full of smoke. I had left some note pads and coupons in the basket and the inverter was hot enough to ignite them. Why it didn’t burn the whole place down, I don’t know.

I think we should remove the whole thing, but my husband said it was a fluke and that the system is perfectly safe as long as we keep things clear of it. For peace of mind shouldn’t we just scrap the whole thing? Is it worth the worry? I don’t want to be unreasonable, but this could have been a real disaster.
--Giving up smoking in Sedona

Dear Sedona:
If wired properly the inverter should be as safe as any other electrical system in your trailer. I would lose the basket and mount it so that you won’t pile anything on top of it.

One thing you should consider is a “LIST.” I have talked about lists before. Many people have a checklist for departure -- making sure everything is unhooked, turned off and put away properly. Another checklist can be used when leaving your rig for the day, or a few hours. Check things like stove burners, electrical items, Wi-Fi, water, awning, even making sure the cat is in sight. It’s easy to forget things and some can become damaging and even disastrous. Many lessons come from experiences. “What does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

We always turn the water off outside when leaving for the day. We learned this the wet way. Our daughter’s loom, stored in the shower, fell against the cold water knob. We left for the day and fortunately the park owner turned the water off when she saw it pouring from beneath the motorhome. Everything was a soggy mess, but it could have been worse. What if the toilet malfunctioned? There would have to be a sequel to the Robin Williams RV movie.

Since we started a daily departure checklist we have found the cat shut in the closet, the burner left on low from morning breakfast, Wi-Fi hotspot left on, vents opened, and awning up.

Making a list and checking it twice will ease your mind and save you from dealing with many issues. 
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink