Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Greta Garbo Loves to Boondock

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I don't mind boondocking. We spend several months a year on the road and camp a majority of the time without hookups. My husband will camp anywhere, but I do not care to camp in remote areas by ourselves. My husband says I am being silly. Recently we camped in Big Bend with a backcountry permit. We found several sites that we could drive our rig without doing any damage. The permit was only ten dollars for two weeks of camping. I admit it was beautiful, no noise or light pollution, and we love natural settings and hiking. However, I felt we were too isolated at the end of a dead-end road. Am I being silly? Should I develop an attitude like my ex-Marine husband and throw caution to the wind? I love the places he finds to legally park, but some of them keep me from feeling comfortable.
--Apprehensive in American Outback

Dear App:
Caution is good, but safety has no guarantees. Many boondocking sites come with the disadvantage of not offering the margin of camping security that you expect from regular campgrounds. Most are not monitored on a regular basis by authorities and you are basically on your own. All campers have to make their own calls on these situations. You should do what makes you comfortable, but don't make yourself paranoid by reading too many newspapers. Rural America is not as dangerous as you might imagine. Many RVer's find safety in numbers and hook up with other campers to share boondocking sites. Quartzsite and BLM lands all over the west find groups circling the wagons together. Some groups form to stake a mining claim for no other reason than camping on it. The sites you mention in Big Bend are just large parking areas off unimproved roads that would accommodate several rigs. It doesn't hurt to "drive softly, but carry a big stick." If you constantly camp alone in primitive areas you should consider some form of protection. I'm not suggesting you mount a .50 caliber on the roof of your rig. Although it might be intimidating, it's way too heavy and will put a dent in your fuel budget. I recommend something more subtle. If you do not like guns, carry some bear spray. Twenty years ago this might have been more of a problem. I find as we move into this new age of, "The Boomers are Coming," there are few boondocking sites that are not already crowded when arriving. In my RV Shrink practice I am dealing more and more with the Greta Garbo syndrome. People are constantly occupying my couch and groaning, "I want to be alone."
Find your comfort zone, compromise with your husband and enjoy the places that make you happy. There are thousands of natural campgrounds that offer peace, quiet and a shade more security than some of the boondock sites. Often the more familiar you become with an isolated site, the more comfortable you are occupying it.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Squirrelly Neighbors

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband found a great deal on a new travel trailer. It was exactly what we wanted. It was from the previous model year and had been parked for over a year on the dealers lot. We took delivery and immediately left for a host job we had in Yellowstone National Park. Our first week as campground hosts kept us very busy. To make things even more hectic, I could not sleep at night. We had squirrels in the walls of our new trailer. At first we thought it was a small problem we could deal with and trapped a couple. Soon I knew we were infested with them. They had a year in the dealers lot to take over this unit and dig in. After contacting the dealer and complaining, I could tell he thought we were overreacting. It was so bad I finally told my husband I was not going to live in a rat infested RV. I insisted we cut our host job short, drive back to Wisconsin, demand a new trailer and start fresh. My husband was not keen on the idea, but finally capitulated to keep peace in the family. We did get a new trailer once the dealer discovered the extent of the damage these furballs had caused. That helped smooth feelings over with my husband who was still a bit upset with me. We drove four thousand miles round trip to solve this little dilemma. Now, however, my husband is always nervous when I point out any little problem with the rig. I am trying to convince him that I am not that paranoid. I just want our home on wheels to be clean, safe and comfortable. Any suggestions on how I should have handled the squirrelly neighbor situation any other way.
--Nuts in New RV

Dear Nuts:
I think you made the right decision. I know it must have been a tough one, being so far away and just beginning your RV adventure. It is always wise to take a few shake down cruises with a new rig. It helps to solve all evident problems before you get on the road and have to find repair services in unfamiliar territory. Gnawty little rodents can be a huge problem and a safety issue. They create havoc by chewing wiring insulation causing electrical nightmares. Like the dealer, you will have to take this into account whenever your rig is in storage. There are many methods. You can use electronic devices, regular traps, tea bags or poison. I prefer to use bucket traps. Five gallon paint buckets filled with non-toxic, RV anti-freeze. Across the top I stretch a wire, string two soup cans duct taped together on the wire, and smear with peanut butter. If I do have visitors they go for the peanut butter and roll into the bucket. This method continues to work during the whole storage period. If you do not deal with this problem you will develop a lot of aggravation, extra work and maybe even marital problems when you pull your rig out of storage and hit the road. As for other problems with other systems, you just have to deal with them. It's not a perfect world. You will always have small problems to solve on your rig as you make it your home. It's part of the adventure. Enjoy the journey.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stoned in Quartzsite

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife has rocks in the head. No, I am not being derogatory. I mean she has rocks everywhere including those I found in the bathroom this morning under the sink. We are headed for Quartzsite this week and I see more rocks in my future. Then we go to all the rock and gem shows in Arizona. After that we go to Rockhound State Park in New Mexico. After that we go to the Stillwell Ranch outside of Big Bend. I will truly be a rock star by then. It wouldn't be so bad if she made something out of them and sold it. At least that would make up for some of the bad mileage I'm getting. Should I put a weight limit on what she can load into the motorhome or just keep my quarry quarreling attitude to myself. I want to get along but I am between a rock and a hard spot over the safety issue and gas mileage.
--Bedrock in Benson

Dear Ben:
I have attached an old "I Love Lucy" episode to help you through this crisis.
"I Love Lucy Rock Hauling Method"
Sit down with your wife and watch this clip. It will show you how a situation like yours can eventually have a happy ending. Remember, in John Lennon's words, "Love is the Answer."
Depending on how much your wife really collects, safety can be an issue. The important thing is to keep those stones rolling. Otherwise you are going to have a moss problem. Everyone needs a hobby and rockhounding seems to be a very popular one. You may want to encourage your wife to look for really heavy rocks. No, seriously, get her a gold pan. If you can convince her is it quality and not quantity, you won't have to worry about the price of gas. Plus, you can stake a gold claim on BLM land and camp for free all winter while your wife looks for gold. You can turn this into a win, win situation. There are many ways to solve rocky relationships. Leave no stone unturned.
I hope this can take some weight off your shoulders.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sunshine on my cheesehead makes me happy

Dear R.V. Shrink:
We bought a new fifth wheel this fall when I retired, with plans to spend the winter in a warmer part of the country. I think my wife is getting cold feet (no pun intended). We live in Wisconsin. It has been a mild November and early December, with little snow. However, it is colder than a well-diggers lunchbox and I am ready for that warmer clime. My wife keeps dragging her feet. First it was, "We'll leave after Thanksgiving." Then it was, "We'll leave after Christmas." Now she has fallen in love with the month of January's winter wonderland. Her argument is that January and February are cold months even in the Southland. She thinks we should not leave until we are assured of warm temps in March. I am fit to be tied. Please give me some debate maneuvers that will help hoist anchor before spring sets in again. --Frostbitten in Fond Du Lac

Dear Frostbitten:
Okay, let's put on our cheesehead hats and work on this problem. First, your wife is right about January and February being the coldest months in the South during a normal year. The difference is you won't need your snowblower, the days usually climb to high sunny temps and the closer you get to the sun the less your gooseneck's heater is going to kick on.

I will admit I have had my water and septic freeze for a few hours as far south as Rio Grande campground in Big Bend. But by noon I was birding in my shirt sleeves. In Wisconsin you will still be hauling wood to the stove at noon. I think you both need to head south, if that was your original intent, and feel the difference yourself. You can't gauge North American weather by staring at a laptop AccuWeather map. If you don't believe me, compare it against the weather outside your door vs. what is on your computer screen. They will never match.

Often, recently retired RVers have a hard time adjusting to this new found freedom. It is not a good idea to force an agenda or time schedule on your maiden voyage, but you need to discover the reality of this type of travel, and the only way to do that is to get some experience under your belts. You did not give me an indication of your compass reading. You will find the further you go south in Florida and Texas the warmer your average temps are going to be. In the West it is all about elevation. I can only think of about a million beautiful places in the sunbelt that will allow you outside every winter day to hike, fish, chase birds and bike without your woolies making you itch all over. So, if it's not family holiday commitments that are keeping you in Fond Du Lac, and you both agree that RVing is something you want to try, there is no time like the present. Your wife has had many years to discover Wisconsin Januarys. It's time to experience and experiment with new and exciting climates all over the southern tier states.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Power to the RV People

Dear R.V. Shrink:
We dry camp or boon-dock all the time. My husband bought a cheap generator from some mail order catalog that makes more noise than a pack of Harley hogs. I suggested we order a solar panel and get rid of the generator. He bought a small 15 watt solar panel and said we would try it. I told him that seemed too small. I talked to a couple that had a larger 80 watt and they said it kept their battery charged if they were very careful with their usage. I hate the noise our generator makes, it annoys other campers and doesn't even seem to charge very efficiently. Should I just buy one and prove it too him or wait for both of us to go deaf listening to this stupid gas guzzling generator?
--Say What in Wasilla

Dear Say What:
I'm hearin' ya. 15 watts is like spitting into the ocean. I wouldn't wait. If you have a internet connection, there are some very informative articles on how to figure your power usage and what size solar panel you would need. If you are just using that noise maker to charge the battery, you can't get much more inefficient. You can work from both sides of the equation. Whittle your power usage and suck enough sunshine to store what you need. I think 80 watts of quiet, free solar power would be a good start. If that doesn't work you can add on. In the meantime, you may want to add a gas light, small Wave catalytic heater and efficient 12 volt bulbs to your existing lights. If you can limit your coach heater fan from coming on with a small catalytic heater you will save a lot of battery power. A gas light will give you heat and light. Your husband will eventually see the light, but it may be dimming if he continues to experiment with that small panel. I don't know what he paid for that generator, but solar costs are dropping all the time. You can buy a nice 80 watt on Amazon for less than five hundred bucks. They are so easy to install even a Shrink can do it.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flat Tired and Blind

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We tow a Saturn behind our Class C motorhome. I think we should have some type of alarm system or indicator to warn us if a tire goes flat on the Saturn. While driving I can't see or feel the car. It only weighs 2400 lbs. I know my husband can't see it either, but he refuses to look into a system that will give us some warning if a tire goes flat. He says they cost too much and that he would be able to tell if we had a problem. I don't agree and I don't want to find out the hard way. Can you tell me how to pound some sense into him?
Flat Out Nervous in New Orleans

Dear Flat Out:
There are systems that work on tire pressure sensors. A lot of rigs come standard now with backup cameras for visual monitoring. Many people still do not have any way of monitoring their towed vehicle. I agree it is rolling the dice. I can tell you from my wife's experience that your husband will not be able to tell when and if the car has a flat. While I was doing a long hike through the mountains, my wife drove the motorhome ahead a couple hundred miles to meet me. She was crossing 30 miles in Idaho on a well graded gravel road. She was following her sister's van. Near their destination, her sister decided to let my wife take the lead. Once behind our rig she noticed the car looked odd and seemed to be dragging to the right. By the time my wife knew she had a problem, the tire was gone, the aluminum wheel was almost worn away, the strut was bent, and the alignment shot. I can tell you that the cost of all those items would buy you a pretty nice system. When I first started towing a car behind the motorhome, I could hardly tell it was there.
I would tell my daughter, "Go look out the back window and see if we still have a car, I haven't seen it in awhile." Out of sight, out of mind works, but only if you never look.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Harley RV Husband

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband and I recently bought a Class B motorhome van. Our friends all told us it was too small for spending several months a year on the road, but we like small and maneuverable. What I didn't plan is my husband changing his mind about alternative transportation. Now he has decided to haul his motorcycle on a rack. This is where we access storage from the rear doors. He spent a week re-wiring and re-plumbing to gain extra storage space. Our garage looked like an RV assembly line. Yesterday I found his helmet in my already small clothes closet. I told him to take his helmet and stick it up his assembly line. I can't seem to make him listen to my reasoning about leaving the motorcycle home. We discussed the downside of not having a second vehicle while traveling and agreed we would work around it. Now with a very space limited rig we are already fighting over storage turf and we haven't even pulled out of the driveway yet. I am to the point of telling him to take his bike and take a hike. Am I being closed minded? I need some advice fast.
Harley Husband in Hillsboro

Dear Harley:
Now is not the time to mutiny over your bounty. You haven't even set sail yet. You are going to discover a lot more adjustments that have to be debated before this process is over. Yes, it should be a debate. Don't roll over on every issue, but be open minded. You may find that motorcycle a blessing when you need a gallon of milk and don't have to pull up stakes and take your living space to the store with you. Something as simple as going to a ranger walk in a national park or to a movie in town is going to entail moving your living space each time if you do not have an alternative form of transportation. Many people find this not to be a problem, but you need to take a maiden voyage and see if you are one of those people.

Class B RV's are great for those who want to stay small and deal with the inconveniences that accompany them. You are finding that space is already a concern. You will also find that many are designed with electrical systems that constantly require power, small refrigeration space, no gas hot water and the need to turn eating space into sleeping space each evening. You may find some of your fuel savings eaten up with frequent trips to resupply. You will not know your reaction to any of these considerations until you get out and experience a few months on the road.

Many people start small and eventually find the living space that fits them like a glove. That journey is still ahead of you. I am confident that you two will work out all your disagreements and that your true needs will become much clearer after you get a few miles under your belt.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Going "Postal" while RV traveling

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I have been living in our RV for almost two years. We love the lifestyle, adventure, and the fact that we never have to mow the lawn or paint the house. Everything has fallen into place as far as setting up communications, knowing how to find the types of camping facilities we enjoy, managing finances and maintaining our rig.

One problem we didn’t anticipate, that drives my wife nutso, is the inadequate United States Postal Circus. We gave up on trying to work with them on mail forwarding. We have a friend that collects our mail and deposits all of it into a Priority envelope whenever we call and give her a mailing address. We always pick a small rural post office in an area we will be spending some time. Without exaggeration, our Priority traceable package travels more than we do and often does not show up for a couple weeks. I tell my wife we are not on a schedule any longer and we should just plan on the worst case scenario when dealing with the post office. She gets so upset when 2-3 days turns into 2-3 weeks that I’m afraid it is going to cause her health problems. She also runs a small business on the road that relies on the Postal Service. I have put as much as I can online and hope the rest will soon be. Do you have any words of wisdom for her? Anything will help.
--Out of luck and mail in Lubbock

Dear Lubbock:
I am probably not the best person to be dishing out advice on this matter. I have been known to go “Postal” a few times myself over mail service issues. I am picturing your wife looking as wild-eyed as myself, the day 35 bags of my newspaper mailing came up missing several years ago. I called the head of second class postage in the state of Michigan and was told, “We don’t guarantee delivery.” You cannot deal with, or argue with, a monopoly and win. Give it up. Here are the things I suggest your wife spends her energy on other than venting.

1. Put additional effort into moving information from hard copy to digital delivery. 2. If you have lost something valuable, there are two large postal dead mail centers. One is in Georgia, the other is in Minnesota. You can go there and bid on bins of lost mail. You get whatever is in the bin you buy. Maybe you will get lucky and find your own stuff. 3. Use Tyvek envelopes. As much as 10% of mail is damaged by aggressive postal sorting machines. If you do not want your mail to end up in a postal body bag, use strong packaging material. 4. Although more expensive, vote with your dollars. Use a competitor such as FedEx or UPS.

I don’t know what your wife’s on the road business is, but here is an example of one that relies on USPS. Many RVer’s make extra money buying used books and selling them on Amazon. They find the Postal Service’s media mail very slow, but convenient as they can drop books in the mail wherever they travel. Those that are never delivered just have to be considered part of doing business with the USPS and refund those orders. The problem is Amazon has a rating system. If your customer does not receive the book that was ordered and paid for, they do not blame the Postal Service, they blame the seller and issue poor feedback. Mail delivery has become a “lost art,” literally.

Whatever you do, never, and I mean never, let them see you sweat.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Water on the brain

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is a campground plumbing fanatic. Ever since we started full-time RVing, he prides himself on being able to beat any water system that tries to throttle his hooking up. He has six different kinds of water thief connectors, 300 feet of hose on reels, a 50 gallon fresh water tank in the back of our tow truck, and a tackle box full of various brass and copper fittings. Why can’t he just take up photography or something normal. This summer he found the water spigots in Glacier National Park campgrounds to have inside female threads instead of outside male threads. He had nothing that would fit. It is not allowed to connect directly to the spigot, but he just wants to know that he can. We drove a hundred miles until he found a fitting that would connect him to this unique plumbing fixture. It makes me nuts. Should I just ignore this fetish? Is it normal? Should I put my foot down and say, “No more plumbing parts?” Help!
--Driving me plumb crazy in Kalispell

Dear Plumb:
Do not throttle your husband’s creative urge to solve plumbing puzzles. I knew a guy just like that once. He was always climbing under Airstreams and designing ways to improve plumbing systems. He was a spark plug engineer for General Motors, but his true ambition was plumbing. He eventually started a small RV plumbing company called Thedford. I’m not saying your husband will become a porta potty King, but at least you will never be in a campground without a water source. He could have a tackle box full of fishing tackle and be spending a lot more time and money looking for the perfect stream or lake to wet a line. There is nothing abnormal about pursuing plumbing. Some people might think he is a bit of a drip but you should encourage him in any pursuit that seems to make him content. Remember, different strokes for different folks.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My RV husband has a terrible gas problem

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Maybe you can shed some light on my husbands gas problem. He is obsessed with buying the cheapest gas available and twice now our motor home has run out of gas because he thinks it’s going to be cheaper around the next bend. He has three or four websites he is always checking for gas price postings and they are never accurate when we reach the supposedly cheapest stations. It ruins our travel time, preoccupies our leisure time, and in the end doesn’t save us any, or little, money. Please help me get his head screwed back on straight so I can relieve his gas symptoms and move us on to more enjoyable adventures.
--Gas Pressure in Peoria

Dear Gas Pressure:
This is a common symptom among RVer’s. The truth of the matter is that the websites your husband is monitoring are not accurate. They are supposedly based on the latest credit card data collected from each station, but there is lag time and even in this day of instant internet data collection this pricing is old and stale. What it will often show your husband is the cheapest station. As gas fluctuates in price the cheapest station is often still the cheapest station. You can make your husband aware that he is not saving money by letting his tanks go empty. Besides the danger and inconvenience of running out of gas he is also at risk of his fuel pump clogging up. This can be an expensive fix as the pumps are most often in the tank. If life were fair we could all buy gasoline futures at the pump. When we were happy with the price we could buy a thousand gallons at that price just like any other commodity. One way to help elevate his gas pressure would be to invest in some energy stocks. At least when gas prices go up so will these investments. Most pay a hefty dividend. If you buy enough oil stock you can buy your husband a ten-gallon, Texan sized, cowboy hat and he can pretend he’s a Getty trust fund baby while he fills his tank. Playing out this fantasy could solve your problem and put you on track for those more enjoyable adventures you are dreaming about.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 


Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RV Travel Dot Calm

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife wants to work this fall for Amazon.com in a work camper program she has heard about at their Kentucky distribution plant. We are living full-time in our travel trailer and usually are much further south during the months of November and December. We don’t need the money, but she thinks it would be fun to try it. I’ve already put my 30 years in and have no desire to “have fun” working in a semi-cold section of the country for several weeks. I am trying to be open minded about the whole thing, but I’m picturing myself fishing for pompano in November and my wife is picturing herself fishing for Christmas orders in Kentucky. Please help me make it to the Gulf.
--Trying to be Dot Calm in Indiana

Dear Dot:
The definition of retired is not a narrow definition. It can be whatever you make it. Work Camping jobs are springing up everywhere. “The Boomers are coming.” It used to be campground hosting was the only work camp job. That is all changing. There are a lot of companies with their eyes on the Amazon experiment. You can expect to see more companies offering the same temp jobs to this same demographic in the future. Hopefully at that time one of those companies is within the warm vicinity of pampano fishing. That way you can drop your wife off at work on the way to the surf. As for now you two need to work this out. Working for Amazon is not all fun and games. Your wife will find it to be a very demanding schedule. You should encourage her to google a few recent articles about Amazon plant working conditions so that she has a better understanding of what she is signing on for. If after careful consideration you both agree to let her give it a shot you will find that Amazon will offer you several free camping options and a carrot and stick bonus option to entice your wife to stay the full season. So you could leave Kentucky after Christmas with some extra cash. If your wife finds this adventure is not all it’s cracked up to be, you could be pompano fishing before you know it and she has checked distribution center off her bucket list. My last Amazon order of motor home wheel covers arrived looking like chrome cowboy hats. Have your wife check their stacking procedure for me will ya?
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Camping Scammers

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
While traveling north this past spring from Florida, we stopped at a Camping World store in Grand Rapids, MI to buy a few things for the motorhome. While my husband was purchasing a new toilet and plumbing fittings, I signed up to win a brand new truck. While driving just outside Glacier National Park in August, my phone rang. It was a guy telling me I won the truck. I gave the phone to my husband who was given the same impression. As my always suspicious husband drilled the guy with questions, he soon found out we were one of only five people to have a key that might start the truck. If our key didn't start the truck we would be assured of at least two other prizes that ranged from a trip to Disney World, to a flat screen TV. The caller said he was trying to wrap the contest up by the end of August and would like us to come in and try our key as soon as possible. Again, my suspicious husband went online and found out the contest is still ongoing and involves sales people from an RV Park in Michigan trying to sell memberships. I want to call Camping World and ask them if they think so little of their customer base that they will lend us out to dishonest sharks like these. My husband tells me to forget it. He has seen this going on in the RV world for twenty years and says you just have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I still want to give someone a piece of my mind. Let me know what you think.
--No Truck in Traverse City

Dear No Truck:
It can be upsetting. I have seen campground membership and time share plans take a lot of unsuspecting people's good money over the years. The industry has a real black eye and from my perspective not a well regulated transaction. It wouldn't hurt to call Camping World and let them know your experience. It may control what they allow in the future. I know there are company stores and franchised stores, which might make a difference on what they can peddle to the public. I have had nothing but good service from Camping World stores over the years and would be surprised if they were not as upset as you over this matter. You might also want to contact your state raffle licensing board and report the behavior. I was once told I won a cherry pie at a cake walk. Before they explained to me that there was a tie, I had already eaten the pie. The same thing might work with a truck. If you get involved with any high pressure sales, always say, "I'll be back." Every high pressure salesperson knows that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy and no "Be Back."
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Barking up the wrong RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I love dogs. Cats aren't bad either. But lately while camping I find I am having problems dealing with barking dogs. It might be my age. The noise never used to annoy me. Recently I was parked next to a couple who had two little barkers. They were quiet while the couple were in camp, but as soon as they left the dogs would begin to bark and not stop until they returned. Thinking they didn't realize that the dogs barked while they were gone, I mentioned it to them. They jumped right down my throat in defense of their pets and refused to believe that the dogs would bark that much. I just moved on. It is one of the things I like about RV living, I can vote with my wheels. I thought I handled this situation very diplomatically but as it turned out they took my information as an assault. Should I just keep my mouth shut and move on or handle these situations differently?
--Barking up the wrong tree in Tallahassee

Dear Barking:
If you have read enough of my blog, you already know I too have a problem keeping my mouth shut. I know many people feel that the campground host or other authority should be the one to deal with these problems. Oftentimes, that is not an option. Perhaps the manager is not comfortable with a confrontation, there is absentee campground management, or a host of other reasons. (Pun intended). Sometimes it gives the grievance more weight than you feel it needs by involving some official action and you think a friendly conversation could solve the situation more easily. You will find there are different folks with different strokes. You just happened onto combative with a combative attitude to your pet peeve. In most cases, if handled in a polite manner, you would have received an apology. Most times a dog's bark is worse than his owner's bite, but obviously not in your case. Better luck next time. Remember, 99.9% of campground neighbors you deal with will be the total opposite of those you have dealt with in this instance.

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

RV travel awareness

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have had years of trouble-free travel around North America, meeting many wonderful people. However, we recently had a scare that has my wife in a twitter. We were headed for Florida last week on a four lane road when I noticed a car pull up beside me and look over my rig, then drop back behind my toad. It seemed odd, but I didn't mention it to my wife. I kept observing the vehicle in my rear camera, wondering why he didn't pass me. After several miles, my wife noticed a man on the overpass we were approaching. Suddenly she yelled, "He's going to drop something on us." I slowed but it was too late. The guy actually ran to the other side of the overpass and tossed a balloon or bucket of red slime, trying to hit our windshield. He missed and we kept driving. Shortly, the car tailing me zoomed past. After the initial shock wore off, we put two and two together and figured they were partners in crime trying to force us to pull over and possibly rob us. We stopped later in the day and found that the red slime that splattered on the front of the motorhome washed right off. I carry a gun, but if this mixture would have hit my windshield, I would have pulled over immediately and most likely jumped out to see what happened. My gun would have been locked away in the motorhome and I would have been had. I am trying to convince my wife that this is a rare event, that we will be more on guard, but not to let it ruin our travel pleasure. She continues to dwell on what could have happened. Any advice on how to get over this potential dramatic event.
--Shaken but not taken in Tennessee

Dear Shaken:
It happens. Not just while RVing, but anywhere. You can run but you cannot hide. It is wise to stay vigilant while traveling. Rest Areas are one of the most important places to be on your toes, but not the only place. Many of our beautiful National Parks have their own jails. To get into Yellowstone National Park's jail you need a reservation on the 4th of July. Moving from a tow vehicle to an RV is another time to stay alert. I wouldn't be in a hurry to forget this episode. In fact, you should tell your story to as many people as you can. I hope you reported it to state or local police. If you are right, and these people were trying to stop you, they are likely to try again. You will never be prepared for every scenario that some low-life can think up to take advantage of trusting people. Paying attention to what is going on around you while stopped or driving can nip a lot of trouble in the bud. Seeing that car slide in behind you caught your attention. Awareness is your first line of defense. I'm sure in time your wife will reconcile her feelings about this scare, remembering all the wonderful moments, events and people that greatly outweigh this one.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crashing at Walmart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know many people stay overnight in Walmart parking lots. We are rather new at this RVing and it makes my husband nervous to spend a night in Walmart or any parking area. It's not crime or security issues with him, it's runaway shopping carts. We spent a truckload of money on our new home on wheels and have witnessed two incidents where the wind has blown shopping carts into parked vehicles. He is so afraid that a rolling food rocket is going to slam into our rig he won't consider parking in a large lot with the motorhome, even to shop. It would be a huge savings for us to park in these areas when we are making time and need a safe place to drop anchor for the night. Can you shed some light on food cart phobia. Is it widespread or just something my husband is suffering from?
--Not crashing at Walmart in Wilmington


Dear Not Crashing:
Your husband has every reason to be concerned. Runaway carts are not uncommon. I think most people have noticed this potential problem. I am sure it is covered by your insurance. Do not look to Walmart for damages. They are not responsible. My suggestion is to help your husband understand that scat happens everywhere on the trail. You can run but you cannot hide. Waiting for an accident to happen is not going to make him a happy camper. When you park in a large retail parking lot with your rig or any other vehicle, be vigilant. Scout out the most sensible area to park. If you see loose cannons, secure them in the cart corral. Most stores have people rounding up carts continuously, but they can't be on top of them all. If you start adding up the savings for all your short overnight stays in legal parking space it would most likely pay to repair what damage a cart would cause. I don't have any hard data but I am guessing the odds of a cart collision are equal to actually winning money in a casino. Remember, free casino lot parking is only free if you do not go inside. But look on the bright side, no shopping carts.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RV You Haul

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have a weight problem. My husband says my embroidery machine is too heavy to carry with us in the 5th wheel. I was fine with that until he bought a small air compressor to haul around with us. His argument was that we needed it to check our tire pressure and add air when necessary. The thing weighs more than my embroidery machine. I told him every gas station in America has an air hose. For those that cost a quarter I would gladly pay with the money I make using my embroidery machine. I love the RV lifestyle as much as my husband, but if I can't do what I enjoy, I'll stay home and embroider and he can go blow air up his tires. Can you find us some common ground?
--Tired and under pressure in Peoria


Dear Tired:
You should not have a blowout in your relationship over cargo space. You should both be able to find equipment that fits the bill of lading for an RV. With today's technology I have seen both items in a smaller size and capable of doing what you both want to do. I agree with your argument. Most stations do have available air. Often it is not convenient to reach, but often a long air hose will reach all around even a large rig. I can see having a small compressor would make it convenient to check your tires anywhere. If I were you I would compromise and take both. If, after several months, one gets little use--lose it! I think that is good advise for any items you haul. It is a matter of learning what to carry and what to leave behind. Everything should be an option. With so much storage space available in newer rigs people have a tendency to haul equipment they will never use. It takes some sorting out. Be open minded and you will soon lose more weight than you ever imagined.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, September 8, 2011

RV fuel problem

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have a problem with trust. I trust my wife, I trust my dog, but I can't bring myself to trust gas station attendants that don't trust me first. I know I should be setting an example for them, but it makes me nervous. Let me explain. I pull the motorhome up to a gas pump in small town America. I get out and the first thing I am greeted with is a sign that says, "Prepay before you pump." I don't use credit cards, so I have to go into the cashier and hand he or she a hundred dollar bill. Nine times out of ten I don't get a receipt unless I ask. When I ask they look at me like I'm a pain in the keester' or that I don't trust them, which I don't. But remember, first they think I am going to fill my motorhome with gas and make a run for it. Am I being unreasonable? Should I chill out, or at least act cool about the whole thing? Should I be optimistic that I won't get ripped off? Should I have more faith in my fellow human beings even if they have pierced lips and a tattoo that says, "KILL"on the fingers of the hand that takes my money?
--Kill Bill in Cody


Dear Bill:
If you have a motorhome, you are surely going to kill most or all of that bill if you fill up today. I know it doesn't seem right or good business to not get a receipt when you hand the clerk a C note. Most large chains automatically give you a receipt to bring back for change, if there is any. You have every right to ask for and receive a receipt if you want to hassle with that. Most people would gamble on the fact that they are going to use most of it in the form of gas. That way if you ever do have a problem with retrieving your change, most of the bill went for the fill. I understand you do not use credit, but you might want to consider a debit card. It works the same way, saves you a trip in to meet the clerk and leaves you a track record of where you've been and what you spent. If you continue with the cash dash, do whatever makes you happy. You should not take a guilt trip every time you ask for a receipt before you pump. It is, in fact, the right way to do business and maybe you are teaching management a valuable lesson in customer relations.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Campground Host Post

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:

We have been traveling for several years and notice so many parks using more and more volunteers. I don't think the state and national park system could function without them anymore. I am having a problem with information breakdown as the corps of volunteers grow. I tell my husband they are dropping their standards with their dropping budgets. Young and old alike are in positions that require a knowledge of the areas we visit, rules and regulations and safety issues. Many do not seem to grasp the skills to fulfill their responsibilities. My husband thinks I am being too critical. We had to walk six extra miles on a recent backpacking trip because a volunteer in the backcountry office failed to mention a road closing. My feet were talking to me so I think I have the right to let my mouth speak to him. I volunteered not to make a scene. I didn't want to embarrass my husband, but I feel silence could get the next backpackers in trouble. Please give me some advice on how to adjust my voice control button.
--Blisters at Bowman Lake

Dear Blisters:
Think of the less informed volunteers as the "Farm Team." You always need to be developing new talent and that is what the park system is doing. Many new National Park Rangers start as volunteers. Everyone starts out "green" as a volunteer at some point. In your life I am sure you have been the "newbie/greenhorn/wet-behind-the-ears/new-kid-on-the-block/first-timer." It's not always pretty but eventually you become a pro. There are exceptions. The Detroit Lions come to mind. In most cases, volunteers in training are fast learners, efficient, responsible and motivated. Let's face it, they are not in it for the money. I applaud all volunteers and appreciate the fact that without them the budget strapped park system would be a shambles. So whenever you get upset with a volunteer, think like a musket loader. I mean, don't go off half-cocked, keep your powder dry, stand straight as a ramrod, don't be a flash in the pan, and remember the volunteer can't learn everything, lock, stock and barrel, the first day.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RV Alarmed Couple

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I found last week’s session very interesting. We too find generators annoying and always opt for generator free campground loops when available. Our unit has a generator but we find it annoying even when we have to run it. We would never consider running it around other campers who are enjoying a quiet camping outing. My concern is yet another new sound annoyance we have started noticing lately. Car alarms. I think many newer model cars come standard with car alarms. Campers with unfamiliar rentals or new vehicles get into them at all hours of the night and you hear loud honking until they finally figure out what button to push. By that time they have already pushed all my husband’s buttons. He tells them all what he thinks. The problem is, I’m the only one that can hear him. I tell him it solves nothing and upsets me. Should I just let him vent and ignore it or work on this issue until he goes deaf?
Horny in Havre, MT

Dear Horny:
I’m all ears. It is annoying and a growing problem. The ironic thing is, car alarms are so common, we are now programmed to think, “What an idiot,” instead of “Oh, someone is breaking into a car.” It is noise pollution pure and simple. I don’t think your husband is going to go out at dark-thirty in the morning and catch the offender. Besides, this person already feels like a jerk. If it’s a real Yosemite “break-in” he could be eaten by a bear. If he isn’t already deaf I am going to assume he wasn’t at Woodstock, so get him some ear plugs. You could also start taking him to Bob Dylan concerts. I did, and I lost a good share of the hearing I had left. Plus, as a side note, Bob can’t remember how his songs go anymore. Time will heal everything. Just be patient and appreciate the fact that there are actually a few people who have read their owner’s manual.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

RV sound check

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We were recently camping in Yellowstone in one of our favorite, usually quiet campgrounds. Unfortunately, we ended up next to a lovely couple with a very noisy generator. I don’t think it even had a muffler. During the summer season it is combat camping and moving was not an option. We were lucky to get the spot we had. Our real dilemma was that we liked these people very much and could not bring ourselves to complain about the noise. They seemed to be having a problem keeping their batteries charged. My husband hinted around that we have solar panels but they seemed happy with the old generator in the back of their pickup. Should we have just come right out with our grievance or suffer in silence as we did?
--Double Digit Decibel in Dubois

Dear Double Digit:
First a few thoughts that might help you avoid the problem in the future. Most campgrounds do allow generators but most now offer loops that are generator free. Also generator users should be following the quiet hour rules. Many campgrounds now post hours that generators can be operated. If you have neighbors that are not following these guidelines you have every right to voice your protest to the individual or campground host. When you end up stuck in a situation like you experienced in Yellowstone and you have nice neighbors that are following generator use rules, you might consider a hike or ranger program during the hours they are charging. When forming a relationship with noisy campground neighbors, absence makes the heart grow fonder. This scenario is becoming less of an issue as the newest generation of generators are whisper quiet, solar panels continue to drop in price and more RV manufacturers are beginning to offer panels on new model rigs. A noisy generator does not annoy many boomer campers. They lost their hearing years ago at Woodstock. "Wish you could have been there."
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, August 4, 2011

RV on the level

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We had a mini disaster while traveling recently in our older motorhome. My husband is always saying we need automatic levelers. Presently we use plastic levelers we drive up on. We were at a nice city park in Montana for the night and up on levelers on the passenger side only. I was boiling coffee on the stove and told my husband to let me know when he was coming off the leveling blocks so I could hold the coffee pot. Less than a minute later he rolled off without a word. The wooden stove cover fell, knocking the boiling coffee to the new tile floor. As we were busy wiping up hot coffee, we didn’t notice the wooden stove cover on fire. We threw the whole thing out the door and opened all the windows and vents. I blame it on my husband’s CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff), he blames it on levelers. So what’s your opinion, do we need to spend two grand on levelers or a brain transplant?
--Decaffeinated in Denver

Dear Decaffeinated:
I would hold off on the brain transplant. We’ve all been there. I recently talked about a check list, but not everything can be guaranteed with a list. Your husband might have been busy doing other things and listening but not hearing. Many new rigs come with levelers, and they are a great convenience. Adding them can be pricey so everyone has be make their own decision on value. Plastic levelers are less convenient but work very adequately. If this type of communication glitch happens often, you need more than an easy system to level your rig. If it was an isolated incident I would chalk it up (no pun intended) to experience and buy a new stove top cover that latches to the wall. Don’t be too hard on your husband, the next time things go to pot it might be your fault and you won’t want him flipping his lid.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Older than dirt RV, or just old dirt

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have a perfectly functioning Class C motorhome that we have traveled in for 14 years. Over that time we have babied the engine, outfitted it with solar, new appliances, new upholstery, new flooring, extra batteries and many more conveniences. We know the rig and can fix most things on our own. It fits like a glove. Yet, my husband wants to sell it and get something new because the decals are faded. I’m afraid I may be next as I’m fading a bit myself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our rig and I am stubbornly refusing to agree to a new rig, a new payment, new brake-in period and new learning curve. Am I being selfish? Please give me some advice.
Old Fashioned in Oklahoma


Dear Old:
There is lots of information I do not have that would make the answer I give you vary. Your finances, how much you use the Class C, how many miles on it and the body condition other than the decals. So let me approach it from this angle. I am going to assume it is in great shape and your point is why spend money on something new just because your husband is bored with what you have and finds it unsightly. First, he may find the newer designs more convenient. Your rig probably has exposed sewer connections and no basement storage for example. Maybe it isn’t just the decals. There will come a point that updating is no longer cost effective. He may be thinking you are at that point. So many amenity choices are also personal choices. If, however it is simply faded decals, I can save you some money. For about $70 you can buy a product called PoliGlow that will make your rig shine like new. It is easier than waxing and when you are finished it will have a showroom shine. You will need to do this every year or so, but it’s very simple. It’s a two part kit. First part entails scrubbing streaks and marks off and then putting several coats of PoliGlow on with a chamois as if you were varnishing. Good luck with your new rig or your new look. I like both end results as long as both of you are happy campers.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The RV Check List

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just tore the TV antenna off our rig. My husband blamed me immediately. I read the manual that came with our fifth-wheel and it doesn’t say anywhere, “Wife is supposed to crank TV antenna down before leaving campground.” I could have reminded him that he was the last one to watch TV, but I didn’t. I could have told him it was his job to check the exterior of the rig, but I didn’t. I could have told him we should share the responsibility and choke it up as a learning experience, but I didn’t. You couldn’t print what I did tell him but let’s just say it was loud and long. I know that is not how I should have handled the situation but it sure felt good at the time. What would you suggest?
Winegard Whining in Winnipeg

Dear Winnie:
You were both wrong. He should not have blamed you and you should not have doused him with a verbal flamethrower. Did it solve anything? I like your “could have” about calling it a learning experience. Arguing is such a waste of time and energy. You should also work on avoiding conflict by avoiding little disasters.

What you two need is “The Check List.” I talk about this all the time because it solves so may problems before they ever occur. It is not only important to make a list but to check it religiously before even starting the engine. Lists can be long, short or even compartmentalized. On this list you put important reminders like: Is the antenna down? Is the cat in, or still on his leash? Is the refrigerator locked? Is the tow vehicle hooked up correctly? Are the cupboards secure? Does the engine have plenty of oil? Are the vents down? Have we unhooked the power and water lines? What is the fuel level? Are the bikes secure? Are the tires inflated properly? Have I hugged my spouse today?

These small reminders will keep you in the habit of taking a few minutes before blast off and making sure all systems are GO. You might even consider an abbreviated list for short gas and rest stops.

When you replace the antenna, get the new design that never needs cranking up. The less cranking, will make you both less cranky.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My RV husband in a fix

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We bought a used motorhome recently and now live in it full-time. We love the lifestyle but it is causing my husband a lot of frustration. We are in the middle of this new learning curve and we find it very exciting. The problem arises when we have questions and get dozens of different answers. We recently had to replace the toilet. At the same time we tore the carpet out of the bathroom, put in a new sub floor and tiled. My husband was told by several RV parts dealers that there was no such thing as a closet flange extension to compensate for the raised floor. He was at wits end, and ready to pull the new floor up, when we walked into a parts store and found several of various lengths. This seems to be the norm as we maneuver through our shake down cruise. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can calm my husband’s nerves until we become more expert at this land yachting?
--Newbies in Nebraska

Dear Newbies:
I understand completely. First let me say, “Never, and I mean never, take NO for an answer.” When you have rig questions, repair questions, travel destination questions, campground questions, and yes, even Shrink questions, always get a second opinion. It can be very frustrating when repair people tell you something you find out later is just not true. Diagnostic fees at RV shops can run as much as $100 and hour. I have been tempted to start an on the road diagnostic business myself. I think I would be as good as many so called experts I have dealt with. I would charge people a hundred bucks to look at their problem and say, “Yep, she’s broken!”
Seriously, you can start researching many questions on Google, talk to other RVer’s, sales and service people, even manufacturer’s tech support. Again, never take the first answer you get. Information is often clouded by what the company is selling, or brands carried. Sometimes a service tech doesn’t want to sound uninformed and will give you a line of BS that will throw your train of thought right off the track. Think of your many small problems as lessons you need to learn on your way to RV utopia. It’s all part of the adventure. Before long you will be giving others tips on how to avoid the land mines you have already disarmed.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, July 7, 2011

RV Festivities

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We were camped last summer in Deadwood, South Dakota in a commercial campground. The second day the manager gave us a hospital band ID to wear on our wrist. He said it was going to get very busy and we would need this ID band to leave and enter the campground. He said it was the Sturgis motorcycle rally. We had no idea what to expect. By nightfall the campground was packed to capacity and the partying went on all night long. One woman came over to our site and asked for ice. I thought she was wearing a skimpy halter top but soon discovered she was topless with a tattooed halter top. We left the next morning but my wife thought we deserved a refund. It still bugs her. Should I have demanded my money back or just moved on?
--Harvey in Hog Heaven

Dear Harv:
I think it was worth a night’s fee just to have the story to tell about the woman with the tattoo. You are always going to run into the unexpected while traveling. It is part of the adventure. You will often stumble onto festivals you didn’t know existed. Sturgis is the Mother of all motorcycle rallies. The Black Hills are alive with rally goers and most campgrounds are filled to capacity with people “letting their hair down.” There are so many boomer bikers now (with no hair to let down) so the rally gets bigger each season. I would suggest you go with the flow and move on if you can’t fit in. The campground owners had no idea you weren’t there for the festivities. They probably could have rented your space ten times over. It sounds like they are trying to manage the crowds as best they can with the ID bands. You pay your fees and take your chances. Odds are in your favor that most of the time you are going to get exactly what you are looking for. I’m just curious, how long did it take to figure out it wasn’t a halter top?
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, June 30, 2011

RV Banking at Walmart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband and I are having financial problems. We have plenty of money, we just can’t agree on how to manage it while traveling nine months of the year. We have one credit union account from our hometown, but every time we use the ATM it costs us $3+ dollars. I want to open an account with a major bank that we can find most anywhere but my husband will not change. We have had our credit union account for thirty years and he is used to it. I’m banking on you to give me some advice that might persuade him to move to another financial institution.
Bonnie in Clyde, OK

Dear Bonnie:
You have the easiest financial problems that exist. Maybe I can help you meet your goals and keep both you and your husband happy. I would suggest you use your credit union debit card for most purchases and Walmart for your ATM. You will find more Walmart stores than you will any major bank. When you check out just get cash back using your debit card and keep a few hundred on hand. There are no fees and it is as simple as hitting a single key at the check out register. If you do a little research you will find a treasure trove of offers from retailers that can save you money, but the Walmart cash back program is the best ATM I can think of. Oh, did I mention free camping and a Red Box?
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RV stargazing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We bought all the hardware for satellite TV, and all the promises a young salesclerk lavished on us on how easy it is to be connected anywhere. I think my husband spends more time aiming our dish than watching TV. He has pointers and compasses like you would find on a NASA rocket but often no reception. Luckily we are on a month to month, no contract basis with the service provider. I want to trash the whole mess and start finding our entertainment some other way. My husband is addicted to Nightly News and does not want to give up the dish. He is afraid he might miss some disaster around the world. I think we can do without blow by blow coverage of the latest disasters. Your opinion would be welcome, as he reads your column every week.
--Receptive to Ideas in Idaho

Dear Receptive:
Traveling in a modern RV means you do not have to give up things you enjoy. As the tech revolution rapidly evolves, things change everyday in equipment and service. Dish services are not foolproof but if you look around the campground you will find many people willing to put up with a little frustration to connect to their favorite channels. You might consider watching the news on a computer. A good strong cell connection is necessary. As companies build out their fourth generation networks over the next few years, that choice is going to gain a lot of momentum. All reasonably priced systems have glitches at this time. You have to decide whether you have the patience for them or not. I am not sure what you mean by, “Start finding our entertainment some other way.” That could be a whole other column. I would say, let your husband enjoy his news. Satellite aiming may turn him into a stargazer - both movie and planetary.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

RV support team

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Now that we have a perfectly comfortable home on wheels, my husband has decided he wants to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide Trail. I am to be his support team, traveling along and camping nearby. He says he will come off the trail every 2 to 10 days as we move north through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. I want him to check this off his bucket list, but I’m just not comfortable camping in remote areas by myself. He says I will be fine, but he doesn’t have the same fears that I have. How should I handle this so that I can be a good support team spouse and still feel comfortable as I move through some rather remote areas of the Rockies.
--Reluctant Loner in Laramie

Dear Reluctant:
You have come to the right head doctor for this answer. First, you have every right to feel your own fears and your husband should lend an understanding ear to those feelings. He is lucky that you are willing to support him, and not refusing to travel along at all. The way most long distance trail hikers work out the support system is through the postal service. They reach a town stop and have a package waiting for them with food and gear they will need for the next leg. In your case you will be that system. You do not need to wait out in the boondocks. Along the CDT there are beautiful small towns with safe and friendly campgrounds. You can enjoy the town atmosphere, libraries, movies, restaurants and people, while you wait for your husband to arrive.
It will be a great adventure for both of you. My wife and I did the same thing in 1999. We wrote a book together and you can read it online for free (Click Here) or buy it on Amazon. If you are like my wife. She enjoyed my absence so much she had me keep walking all the way to Jasper, Alberta. She just said to me the other day, “There are things about you I love so much that you never do anymore.” I said, “Like what?” She said, “Like being gone!”
You will find that taking a hike can strengthen not only legs, but relationships.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RV part time/full time relationships

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I retired two years ago and began traveling in a new RV. It was something we had dreamed of for years. We both love history and hiking. This lifestyle is perfect for discovering and enjoying both. The only confusion we have is our relationship has changed. We seem to argue more now than we ever did during our forty years of marriage. It’s insignificant little squabbles, but they seem abnormally frequent. I always thought we agreed on almost everything but I am finding that not to be the case. Do you think it has anything to do with our new lifestyle. 
--Confused on the Loose in Louisiana
Dear Confused:
It’s really quite simple. You used to be part-timers and now you are full-timers. I’m not talking about your RV lifestyle, I’m talking about your marriage. During your working life, one or both of you worked. That meant you didn’t spend most of your waking hours together. When you were together you had a lot of catching up to do and no time for insignificant problems. You had to fry all the big fish and move on. Now you are full-timers. Living in a small space together 24/7 with all kinds of time to discover each other all over again. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It takes some work. It takes some understanding. It takes some compromise. After two years you must be making some progress. Many people find they can’t make those adjustments and stop traveling or find ways to pare down the togetherness and cultivate alone time. Separate hobbies like photography, crafts and sports can accomplish this. Volunteer work and part-time jobs can also help. You sound like you have a wonderful relationship so maybe you both need to accept that you are the same people you have always been and stop letting the insignificant differences you are discovering annoy you.  
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

RV Prayer Chain

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We pull a 31 ft. Airstream and our truck broke down in the Badlands. My husband was out staring at the engine when an old guy showed up in a small diesel pickup. He looked like an old prospector. He asked us what was wrong. My husband told him the engine was knocking. He told us to start the engine. I was so relieved when he sounded like he was a mechanic. When we fired it up he said, “Yup, she’s knockin’.” After that surprise the man offered to tow us back to Wall, South Dakota. We dropped the trailer and an hour later we made it back to a local garage. The mechanic there said we probably had a bent rod. While my husband was talking to the mechanic I discovered the old timer was a traveling Baptist minister. He had us hold hands and said a prayer over our engine. My husband came back and poured what he called, “Mechanic in a Can,” into the crankcase. We started the engine and it purred like a tomcat in a creamery. I believe in the power of prayer, but my husband insists it was the additive he put in. Now he makes a joke of it by saying, “If you believe so much in the power of prayer, why didn’t you ask for a new paint job too?” This has become a real issue with us. I can’t seem to let it go? Any advice?
--Up Against the Wall in South Dakota

Dear Up:
Don’t let this get you down. My best advice would be to follow your heart and pray about it. It’s an amazing story and I don’t think “Mechanic in a Can” works those kind of miracles. The other thing you can learn from this experience is that you can’t always tell a book by its cover. Help comes in many mysterious ways, from those you would least expect to be your savior. Anyone who is on the road any length of time, will have similar experiences and meet some wonderful individuals who are willing to put themselves out just to lend a hand. These are all the stories you never see in the media. I’m sure your husband, at a deeper level, is questioning this experience. Prayer chain or timing chain that is the question.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RV campground two-cents worth

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband and I recently stayed at a national forest campground in Washington that cost $14.00 per night. Since we have the Senior Pass, our fee was $7.00. I only wanted to pay half of that because the trash barrels were overflowing, we could smell the pit toilet from the furthest campsite, there were beer bottles and party trash at every site, and little maintenance had been done in a long while. My husband insisted I pay our full share. I feel like this is rewarding them for doing a lousy job. It happened to be May 21 and my husband told me I didn’t want to chance doing something wrong on the last day. I told him I would rather pay $6.98 and give the campground people my two cents worth when I met them at the big campfire.
--Slow Burn in Bellingham

Dear Slow:
You could be dealing with a Government contracted concessioner who is not honoring the custodial contract, or it could be worse, you could be dealing with the Government. If that campground closes down, or goes up in price 30%, you will know it is Government run. Their new business model is, “Less service, for more money.” They say this will solve our deficit problems. Already Florida, Arizona and California are shutting down parks. California is always way ahead of the curve. They stopped maintenance and cut staff long ago. I don’t know what the Governor was thinking, but I know what he was thinking with. I think you were right in paying your full discounted fee. Try to look at it as an entire system of some of the greatest camping in the world. I think you will admit that you have paid the reduced fee at many campgrounds that were spectacular, clean and well managed in the National Forest System. It is no different from going to a nice, poorly managed hotel that forgot to leave a chocolate on your pillow. The cleaning staff ate it - you know it, and I know it. Move on, you have bigger fish to fry before October 21. Yes, that is the rain check date for the next last day. Keep your nose clean until then, even in campgrounds with odorous outhouses.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, May 19, 2011

RV Lack of Communication

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I could be so happy on the road if only my husband could get the sports channel. We started traveling about six months a year in our fifth-wheel and we both love the freedom of the road. However, my husband does not want to give up his ESPN. We are trying to solve this dilemma without going broke. We see every other camper with various satellite dishes and have researched the many offers. It is so confusing, my husband has become frustrated and says it hurts just to think about dealing with these providers. He calls and ends up with someone halfway around the world in a cubical with poor English skills, and with his hearing problem cannot figure out what the heck they are saying. Both Dish Network and DirectTV told him he can’t take the dish on the road with him. We know that can’t be true. How should he handle these calls so he can end up with ESPN without having to have ESP to understand them?
--Poor Reception in Reno

Dear Poor:
You have to be very careful when dealing with Corporate America today. TV, cell phone, or any other service. They are all run on the business model of confuse, divide and conquer. You have to hold your nose, read the fine print, swallow hard and understand the scam that comes with dealing with the media and communications gatekeepers.

One method that always works to alleviate the language barrier is to fight fire with fire. When you are talking to a person that is impossible to understand, you must also be impossible to understand. Speak very fast pig Latin in a low stutter. I guarantee you will get passed off to someone who speaks perfect English in under thirty seconds. Before you make any rash decisions, go out and meet some of your TV watching neighbors in the campground. They have made all the mistakes for you and will be more than happy to tell you what hoops not to jump through. The RV grapevine is a wonderful place to pick the fruit of knowledge. Your husband will get his ESPN. It will take a little effort, but the most important thing is, “Never let them see you sweat.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Friday, May 6, 2011

RV Buying Dilemma

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are on the verge of becoming RV owners. The biggest roadblock turns out we cannot agree on which type of RV to buy. I want a 5th wheel and she wants a motorhome. I tell her we get a lot more living space in a 5th wheel for half the money. She wants to be able to get up and move around while I drive. How do others work this out and agree on a rig that makes everyone happy? Please let me hear from you soon as I have a tight wad of money burning a whole in my pants pocket.
--Anxious in Austin

Dear Tight Wad:
Keep it in your pants until you have sorted out all the options. It’s a buyer’s market and you can find a great deal on whatever you decide. There are many ways to look at how a rig will serve you and what is important to you and your wife. Size matters. Some folks like a small living space that is easy to drive and park, and others want the Queen Mary on wheels. You should consider fuel. Not mpg on the rig only, but total travel mpg. Example: Your 5th wheel might cost more in fuel over a long period of travel compared to a motorhome pulling a small high mileage tow vehicle. Most people put on many more miles sightseeing than when actually pulling a rig.

Be sure to ballpark total trip mileage if a fuel budget is a concern. Another factor would be gas or diesel. Manufacturers are beginning to produce shorter diesel pusher motorhomes (Ex: Allegro Breeze) and class C Sprinter body rigs (Ex: Winnebago View). A diesel truck is going to cost you more at point of purchase, but save you fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. If everyone who joined the RV family could try before they buy, I guarantee most would make a different choice than what they end up with. I would suggest you and your wife visit a few local parks and talk to people with various rigs. You will find most RVers approachable and more than willing to share their thoughts and considerations on buying an RV. You will also find a wide variety of camping options from pop-ups to slide-outs.

Another important factor often overlooked by first time buyers is an efficient floor plan. When buying a rig, looks are only skin deep. Make every square foot of living space count. Let’s not forget the ever popular “Toy Haulers.” Yes, RVs in America need a garage. Some people with a lot of toys find this a must. There is comfort in knowing your Harley Hog is sleeping right next to you in an adjacent room. Before you know it you and your wife will be on the same page -- totally confused. The point is, there is no perfect rig. You need to find the most comfortable, affordable options that make the two of you the most happy before you unroll that wad.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT805

Thursday, April 28, 2011

R.V. Shrink Qualifications

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I want to ask you a question, but I feel I should know if you are a qualified RV shrink before I trust your advice. I have read many of your columns and it seems to contain good common sense. Lately, I have seen comments from readers accusing you of being a quack. That makes me a little nervous. If you could give me a little background information to assure me, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you in advance.
Doubting Thomas, Tacoma, WA

Dear Thomas:
I graduated from USMC at the top of my class. It is also known as the “School of Hard Knocks.” I received a tremendous amount of on-the-job training. It is a very specialized program that is literally drilled into you. I could not have graduated without the skills I would need to go out into the field and help others.

As for my RV background, it started late in my life. It wasn’t until I was six that my parents and grandparents bought an Airstream travel trailer. When I was seven I found a guy under the back-end of our trailer, lying on his back, studying our septic system. My dad asked him what he was doing. He said, “I think I can make a better dump valve than this.” We were in a Michigan State park. The guy’s name was Frank Sargent. He was an engineer with AC Spark Plug. He later started a small company called Thedford. He was from Thedford County Michigan. (Just a little history lesson.)

Also Wally Byam taught my brother how to open a locked trailer door without a key. A wrecked trailer came into the factory one day and it was locked. Wally gave the knob a rabbit punch from underneath and it opened right up. My brother picked right up on that. In fact, he knocked several knobs off our trailer before my dad broke him of the habit. As a teenager I worked all through high school for the largest Airstream dealer in the country, Warner Trailer Sales in Pontiac, MI. Many of our customers were GM engineers developing Wide Track Pontiacs and other gear that would advance the RV industry. I used to polish Ed Bowen’s Airstream once a year. You might recognize that name if you have a Atwood Bowen water heater. He and his son also developed Fort Wilderness for Disney. (Another history lesson.)

One of the most important lessons I learned from hanging around the trailer sales was this: Don’t wait until your 65 to retire.

I started right away. I bought the 1964 GMC Suburban that we used to haul trailers up from the Jackson Center, Ohio factory. My dad and I made it into a camper. I didn’t even wait for my high school graduation ceremony. I lit out for a summer of camping and backpacking all the way to the West coast and home through Canada. That didn’t quite cure me. I got married when I was 24 and told my wife we should travel for a year. We bought an Avion and didn’t come back for a decade. Since that time we have had an Airstream and now a motor home. I have seen many changes in the RV industry, both from a camping and equipment viewpoint. I also spent 22 years publishing “The Dick E. Bird News,” mostly baloney, with a few facts. Included was a “Dear Dick E. Bird” column. They used to call me a quack then too.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Friday, April 8, 2011

RV campground critiquing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I love the RV lifestyle. We hope to visit every National Park in the country and all the other interesting points along the way. Although we stay in many wonderful state and national park campgrounds, my wife has developed an annoying hobby of critiquing each site we occupy. She can always find fault with a site no matter how perfect I think it might be. Recently, she could hear the hand drier sound from a nearby restroom. She said it sounded like a pressure washer outside the motorhome every time someone dried their hands. She grades them by size, how close the neighbors are, what kind of view they have, shade, sun, road noise, management attitude, cleanliness, price, the list goes on. It drives me nuts. There is no such thing as perfect. I tell her you have to take the good with the bad and ugly. Can you help me with her attitude adjustment.
--Judgement Day in Daytona

Dear Judge:
Before you cure your wife of her little idiosyncrasy, could you send me her list. I know several people that would love to have it. I think your wife is just more open than the rest of us in this department. We are all looking for the perfect site. I know many people who have learned to work the new reservation system to their advantage. They continually update their campground directories with personal information of what they consider the best site locations in each park they visit. This enables them to reserve that site well in advance if they know they are going to travel that way again. Most people keep this information pretty close to the vest. As competition heats up for campsites around the country, knowledge is King. The same goes for finding and recording great little county, city and local parks that are often overlooked when passing through an area. You can find a lot of information online at sites like freecampgrounds.com, but you have to do more homework to really find the gems. It’s called experience. As long as your wife isn’t carping about every site you park in, I would encourage her critiquing. If you wanted to share that info online or around the campfire, you will find many people interested and eager to hear your input.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RV804

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Peace, Love and RV Tranquility

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I’m in my late 50‘s and met a wonderful old hippie who has great social security. We have so much in common and have decided we’d like to be traveling companions. The problem is she is a vegetarian minimalist and I am a meat and potatoes abstract. She wants to buy a small trailer that looks like a fiberglass egg. I want an old 35 ft. school bus. Can you explain to her that people do not live full-time in such a small space. I have tried to explain to her that we need the kind of room that a big bus offers. She insists that it is doable and I cannot reason with her. Please send help.
--About to be Crammed in Camden

Dear Crammed:
I am a bit suspect of your motives. Are you hooking up with this woman for companionship or a social security check and Golden Age campground passport? You haven’t enlightened me on what you have in common but it is obviously not camping style. There are several small trailer brands that fit the fiberglass egg description. One of the more popular is the Casita. It is small and practical and people do full-time RV in them. They make travel fuel efficient, have very functional floor plans and utilize every square inch of space to the maximum. An old school bus on the other hand would be far from fuel efficient and most likely more expensive to turn into a comfortable RV. I would have to agree with your companion between the two choices you have offered. It will be a close relationship, and I am talking quarters not compassion. Much of the storage available when hauling a trailer this size will be in the tow vehicle. You might want to pack light in the beginning so that you will have less to carry if she ends up dropping you off along the highway. You must face the fact that this idea will always be in the back of her head. Think about it. Without you she doubles the size of her trailer living space and most likely has twice as much money.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT803

Monday, March 28, 2011

Campground Quiet Time "NOT"

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been RVing for a long time but recently we had an event that was a new experience for us. I thought we had seen it all, but I was wrong. We were in Silver River State Park in Florida and about ten o’clock at night a group showed up to claim the site next to us. They were camping in a horse trailer with a loud diesel truck as a tow vehicle. Without exaggeration it took them over an hour to back it into a wide, straight site, with little to hit except bushes. For awhile I thought it must be the Candid Camera crew trying to get a stir out of us. It was all I could do to keep my husband from going out and parking it for them. They were yelling, “Whoa, stop, hold it, go forward, back to the left, you’re crooked” and before they were done a few other choice words. I thought it was humorous after awhile but my husband could hardly stand it. I told him it was all part of the camping experience and that on occasion we would have to deal with stupid people who are clueless when it comes to common sense and quiet manners. He thinks he needs to give classes to those who haven’t figured it out on their own yet. I think that can be dangerous in this day and age. Can you throw in your two cents.
--Coiled Spring in Silver Springs


Dear Coiled:
You have to think of those occasions as experiences. You now have a great story to tell around the campfire when you are with fellow campers. Trust me, you have yet to see it all. If you let every inconsiderate camper annoy you to the point of distraction you will take years off your camping life. Campground life is not a utopian existence, but in my opinion it is close. You will experience a good, even wonderful outcome 95% of the time. You can improve those odds as you travel more and learn which camping areas offer less chance of having a close neighbor. Just be thankful you don’t own real estate next to people like the ones you experienced at Silver River. You can always move to another campsite when things become unmanageable. Some folks have no clue how to back up a rig, but a quiet campground in the dark is no time to learn. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, you never know what they might have been through before they made it to your quiet little oasis that night. Patience is a virtue.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT802

Friday, March 18, 2011

RV Mother-in-Law Apartment

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have had a large motorhome for many years. I always thought that after I retired, my wife and I would travel several months during the year. Now that I have retired and have all my ducks in a row, my wife refuses to go because her 83 year old mother would be left alone. My mother-in-law is healthy and active but my wife is afraid she would feel abandoned if we were gone that long. Can you give me some suggestions on how to convince my wife we need to have a life too? I love my mother-in-law but I don’t want to miss traveling in our golden years because she might need us occasionally. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Mommy-in-Law’s Boy in Bowling Green

Dear Mommy’s Boy:
If you really love your mother-in-law, take her along. There is a large percentage of boomers who have parents to care for. I think that is an honorable responsibility in most cases. If you have a large motorhome and everyone gets along, why not travel with mom if she is willing. It’s like a mother-in-law apartment on wheels. I have seen this work out wonderfully in many traveling relationships. It sometimes takes awhile to work out all the scheduling bugs between a couple and a parent all living in a small space, but it is very feasible. With cell phones, email and even Skype, on today’s portable computers, it is easy to stay in touch with loved ones while traveling. Those devices do not replace spending quality time with an aging parent. Another plus could be having a live in referee. I know one couple, both with Type A personalities, that seem to argue all the time. Once her mother joined them on the road it mellowed them both out, added a third voice to the conversation, and they often used her for the tie breaking vote involving important decisions. This third wheel relationship is not going to work for everyone. Don’t make any rash moves until you consider all the negatives that could positively drive you to drink. Good Luck
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT801

Friday, March 11, 2011

RV Mobile Connection Conflicts

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are finding we rely more and more on our computer internet connection while traveling. We use it for directions, campground reservations, fuel prices, weather forecasting, hiking info, banking, emailing and the list goes on. The problem recently is we both want to be on at the same time. She says I look over her shoulder like a hawk waiting to snag a field mouse. I think we should have set hours that each of us claim as our time to surf the net. She says that is too restrictive. What would you suggest? I’m tired of feeling guilty about using this great resource when she also wants to be on line. Thanks in Advance.
--Webel Rouser in Washington State

Dear Webel:
How much is it worth for you to solve your problem? All you need is a wireless router to plug your Air Card into and you and your wife can both be on at the same time if you have two devices that will access the internet. I get many questions about computer sharing so let me give you some examples of what others do to solve the problem. If you only have one laptop you will need a second device. You might consider a smaller notebook, used laptop, IPAD, IPOD, IPHONE or any number of choices available. If you have a cell phone service provider, they will be offering a data package. With Verizon, for example, you pay about $60/mo. for 5G of data. They also offer a WiFi device for sharing the connection. If you already have an air card you can buy a wireless router that the card plugs into from companies like Cradlepoint. Remember, when you are both on at the same time you will be eating up data at twice the rate. I don’t want you to solve one argument just to create another over your next cellular bill. Another frustration RVer’s experience is weak connections. You can solve some of that with a product like Wilson Electronic signal booster kits. They do help. All this technology costs money, but it will pay for itself quickly if you find cheaper camping, fuel and better directions. It’s all part of fine tuning your RV travel lifestyle. Many changes are just over the horizon and a computer and internet connection are becoming more important every year. So stop fighting over the computer and work together at beefing up your online capabilities.
The only problem with all this easy access connectivity is your relatives always know where to find you.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Friday, March 4, 2011

RV Road Rage

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have an ongoing problem with road rage. He sits right next to me in the motorhome and swears a blue streak at the outside world as we drive down the road. If we are in rural areas he seems like a perfectly normal, compassionate human being. When we get into heavy traffic congestion, construction zones or have to turn around because of a missed turn, he goes nutso! I think he needs a course in anger management, but he tells me he is working on a home remedy to “just say no” to spells of frustration and the rage that follows. Can you help us? Is this a normal RV symptom? I see rigs much larger than our Class “C” with a “toad.” I can’t hear into the cockpit of those rigs. Maybe everyone is raging on down the road. Let me know what you think and what I should do to combat my husband’s road hostilities.
--Blue Streak in Biloxi

Dear B S:
I think this is more common than many people like to admit. You don’t hear this often in campground conversation, but you can bet it is more common than people let you believe. Many drivers are capable but not comfortable towing a large rig. I know a retired tour bus driver that spent his career driving 40 ft. Tour buses into New York City and Boston but couldn’t get used to pulling a 30 ft. Fifth wheel. I met another woman who couldn’t stand to listen to her husband swear and talk to other drivers that irritated him. She bought him a sound device that made various weapon sounds. He would use his machine gun or rocket launcher sounds to vent his frustrations. It is no different from trying to kick a smoking habit. You have to want to quit and work hard at keeping your wits about you. Another thought would be to have your husband pull off to the side of the road immediately and do some deep breathing, yoga relaxation poses and make various mediative sounds to connect his RV spirit to the primordial OM sounds resonating throughout the universe. Relaxing and building mental capacity for patience is the key. Rage can ruin a trip, cause unhealthy stress, become a safety issue and ruin a traveling relationship. You may want to do some of the driving when you see your husband going off the deep end. That will be his signal that he is going too far. It may help him put his actions into perspective and mellow him out a bit.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT800

Saturday, February 26, 2011

RV Shakedown Cruise

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife gets irritated with me every time we start out on a trip. We recently headed south with our Class “C” motorhome and the morning we left it was below zero. Everything was frozen. I lost my two front hub caps somewhere along the highway the first morning. My starting battery was being ornery. When we hit warm weather and I could add water, the hot water heater wouldn’t kick on. After an hour I found the problem to be the reset button. Now I am sitting on the Florida surf and my air conditioning, that I just spent $500 dollars repairing, isn’t working. It seems like every time we leave there are several problems to solve. I make sure all systems are go before I store the rig, but it never fails to challenge me the first few days on the road. My wife thinks it’s just me. She says, “It’s Murphy’s Law, and Murphy is shadowing you all the time.” Don’t other people have these same problems? Is it me? Am I just not cut out for the RV lifestyle? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
--Murph the Surf in Sarasota


Dear Murph:
Don’t sweat it buddy. The first few days out with your rig is called the “Shakedown Cruise.” Everybody has your same problems. Often a rig that sits, develops more problems than one that is in constant operation. You should think of your problems as educational experience. Remember, “Adversity builds character.” Every time you work through a problem, it becomes one more notch on your maintenance gun. Next time you will know exactly what is wrong or be able to help someone else figure it out. My guess is that you have snap on wheel covers. Don’t replace them. You can buy bolt on covers for less money and not have to worry about losing them every time some tire jockey works on your rig and doesn’t replace them properly. Add valve extensions at the same time if you haven’t already. Checking tire pressure often will save you money in the long run. I am going to guess that when you left home you were doing big miles every day trying to reach warmer weather. Long days of driving can be stressful, especially when things are not all functioning properly. The right mental attitude is everything. Begin a trip realizing that you are going to have some mechanical challenges. It’s all part of the adventure.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Loading the RV in Winter

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I’m getting the cold shoulder from my wife. She doesn’t like the winter weather we have here in Minnesota and always wants to pack the motorhome and head south in November. I’m an avid ice fisherman and I can’t do that in Arizona, so I prefer to leave around the middle of February and enjoy the spring desert. The big problem always arises when we start to load our RV in February. She refuses to help. She told me this morning while I was taking a load out to the motorhome, “If we left in November we wouldn’t have five feet of snow to deal with.” It didn’t help that we were having another blizzard. I know she still loves me. She tied a rope around my waist. That way, if I got lost in the blizzard, it would be easier for her to find me--in the spring. Do you think I’m inconsiderate Doc? Should I leave for Arizona in November and just read about ice fishing in Outdoor Life? I thought leaving in February was a happy medium, but obviously my wife thinks different. Please help me handle this difficult situation.
--Ice Hole in Bemidji

Dear Ice Hole:
I wouldn’t call late February a happy medium. That’s almost spring in Minnesota. Most snowbirds are thinking about heading home by then. In Quartzsite they have started rolling up the sidewalks. It may not help your loading task, but you could get your fishing in earlier than that and head out the middle of January. That would be more of a compromise. If the weather keeps turning the way it’s been these past couple of years, you should be able to ice fish in Arizona soon. Until then I would leave a bit earlier and have the motorhome pre-loaded as much as possible. Look for sales and outfit the motorhome with items that stay in the rig. That way, when you get ready to pull anchor, you throw in some last minute items and you’re “back on the road again.” Think like a firefighter. Another option, if financially feasible, would be to leave in November and fly home for the holidays and fit in some ice fishing at that time. You and your wife need to work out a plan that meets both your needs. I think late February puts you on thin ice.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Saturday, February 12, 2011

RV Stale Mate

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We sold our house six years ago, bought a Class A motorhome and hit the road. We have had a wonderful journey. We have been all over North America. Having that experience under our belt I think we are a bit spoiled. Things seem to be changing. It is harder to get into campgrounds, the price is skyrocketing on gas and camping. The government keeps trying to take away the few camping benefits we have and it just doesn’t seem as enjoyable as I originally remember it. I want to buy some property in the Southwest and spend the winters in one spot and my husband wants to keep moving all the time. My plan would still give us all summer to head for cooler climes and even spring and fall for places we love in the southern tier states. This has been an ongoing debate for over a year now and we are still moving every 7 to 10 days. Can you shed some light on how I should approach this dilemma?
--Stale Mate in Big Bend

Dear Stale:
It happens. Life is like that. Remember when you were a kid and everything was a new adventure? Living life takes the polish off many new and exciting experiences. That’s a good thing. You need to spice up your life again. Shake things up. If you have done all the things you dreamed of in North America, why not park the rig next winter and rent one in Australia or New Zealand. North America has not cornered the RV market. You might want to try RVing Europe in the summer.

I think buying a piece of dirt in a warm climate is a great idea and a good investment. Many people find a little piece of paradise, build the camping site they always dreamed of and even a storage building for storing the RV while they are off on other adventures. You can also add a few sites for friends. I don’t have to tell you that you make wonderful friends while roaming. It’s great to have a place you can all gather on occasion. So I don’t see a problem here unless your husband won’t bend at all. I think you can both have what you want, build some equity in a piece of real estate and see more of this glorious planet we live on. If foreign travel is not your thing, I think you are offering your spouse a workable option. He gets to travel a majority of the year and you get your nesting time in one spot during the winter. Life is a compromise. I think if you two have survived in a motorhome for six years you have the right stuff. I am confident you will make the needed adjustments to continue your wonderful journey. --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

##RVT799