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

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ruth the RV Ranger

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife Ruth and I are both retired and started living half the year in our travel trailer in the warmer climates of the U.S. My wife has always been very active and loves our travels, but she found herself bored after a couple of years of sight-seeing. We are not commercial park types. We like natural settings in the varied parklands of America. Ruth started volunteering during the winter and now wants to start a new career with the Interior Department. She found a backcountry ranger position and wants to pursue it this summer. I am arguing against it. We still have a home to maintain, we have plenty of income and now I see myself spending my summers waiting for her to get off work. She volleys back that we will be living in a National Park. Am I wrong in not wanting to get tied down to one location for several months a year while Ruth pursues her new occupation and I stay home alone?
--Ranger Ruth’s Spouse in Ruidoso

Dear Lone Ranger:
Let me begin with the fact that you are not the Lone Ranger. Many people who retire and begin a traveling lifestyle as you did, find a new passion along the way. Many times that takes the form of a job. It is often not a financial necessity. Your question does not surprise me. The National Park System, and now many state and local parks, cannot survive without the ever growing army of volunteers. These volunteer jobs often network into full-time paying positions. The flexibility of retired and semiretired RVer’s is a perfect match for the park service. It sounds like you two have different ideas on how to divide your time between home and travel, work and play. This is something you will have to work out in your own personal relationship. After a good healthy debate, one of you must yield to the other’s wishes. I would suggest you give it a shot for a year. If you enjoy the natural areas, perhaps you will find plenty to do once you settle into a given park and have ample time to explore it. Your wife may find a big difference between a flexible volunteer job and a time-consuming, often stressful, full-time ranger position. If you don’t let her give it a try she will always wonder. Life is an adventure. You may discover this new arrangement suits you and expands your retirement horizon. You might compromise with agreeing to try it for a season or two and then reevaluating the decision. Don’t be ruthless or you’ll be Ruth-less.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink