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

##RVT823

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

##RVT822

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