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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RV Normal or RV Nuts

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m bored out of my gourd. I have been looking forward to traveling full-time in our RV for a dozen years. Now that I have retired, my wife and I have been on the road for just less than a year and I am a bit disillusioned. We both have many interests, love to travel, get along fine in a confined space, enjoy life and the many friendly people we meet. So, what’s wrong with me? Why do I feel I’m missing something? I’m always thinking I should be doing more. If you could get my head screwed on straight I would be forever grateful.
Lost in Paradise, MI

Dear Lost:
As Bob Dylan said, “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.” Many people go through an adjustment period just as you have described. Going from a structured lifestyle to “free as a breeze” can sometimes knock the wind out of you. You need to give it some time and find your comfort zone. These exact conditions have created a new job description for thousands of people. Both volunteer and paid positions in many parks around the country are now filled by people like yourself that can’t seem to stop doing something that feels like work. Companies like Amazon have started “workamper” programs. They need seasonal help in their distribution centers and they fill positions with RVer’s who want a work fix and some extra money. There are positions like this all over the country with various industries.

The National Park Service could not operate today without the many volunteers who join the ranks in return for free camping in some of the most incredible places on the planet. I just had a guy on the couch recently who bought a metal detector and went looking for gold. He thought that was going to cure his need to define his existence. He was back a month later. He traded in his metal detector for a digital camera to shoot wildlife. Last time I saw him he was happy as a lark, migrating north to Alaska. The point is, keep searching for what makes you a happy camper. You have a lot going for you already, you just need to fine tune your compass setting.

Always remember, if you don’t think you’re normal, you’re nuts!

--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