Wednesday, December 26, 2012

RV staging area

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have resisted using the government parks reservation systems because we do not like to be on any kind of schedule. We don't mind not getting in once in awhile, or having to wait a couple days to secure a site. Often we get a space but then have to move several times because we can't find a site open for all the days we would like to stay. This is inconvenient but it still beats making a reservation and being put on a schedule. That said, we find it annoying that the parks do not always have a place for us to park while we wait for our next site to open. We like to hike and can't always be back by the time we are suppose to check out of our site. If our next site is not open by the time we plan to leave in the morning for whatever activity, we need a staging area to park our rig so that we don't have to be put on a schedule, which was our point in the first place. Is that too much to ask? Am I getting crotchety in my old age?
--Musical Chairs in Myakka

Dear Myakka:
It makes sense that such a system should be available too alleviate the logistics problems that parks are now dealing with. However, some areas just do not have the space to create such a spot. Many times you can work a deal out with park personnel and find an open site to move to earlier, but some parks are more strict than others. Yosemite for example will not allow you to move until after noon. That means if your spot is open first thing in the morning you still can't move into it. That system really breaks up the day. The park system is evolving quickly as they come to terms with the growing number of RV owners who are traveling more. It doesn't hurt to become part of the evolutionary process. By being polite and trying to work out something with park officials, will at least highlight the fact that something needs to be done to address this time gap between the time the music is playing and everyone sits down. More parks are dedicating space for overflow camping not only because they see the need but also because it is a money maker for them. Most people would rather stay in a large parking lot with no hookups while they wait for a site, than leave the park and find accommodations elsewhere. So for a reduced fee many parks are offering just that. This is often the area you would be able to use while you are in campsite limbo. Staying in your site late, and making those with reservations wait, is not an option. That just makes you part of the problem and not part of the solution. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Smoking Neighbors

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Could someone share with me the proper protocol when you have neighbors who smoke? I'm allergic to smoke and for some reason, most of the smokers stand outside to smoke...I guess so their RV doesn't smell of smoke. However, it's right outside our windows and the smoke comes in. Consequently, we have to shut our windows to keep the smoke out. I realize that this is MY problem but the only solution I see is for us to move to another site...and hope another smoker doesn't park next to us. This doesn't happen very often but when it does it sets allergies in motion and we are forced to use the AC to keep cool. Thanks for any help you can give.
--Nick O. Tine

Dear Nick:
Chuck passed your email on to me. I just covered another smoking issue in another post a couple weeks ago. That one had to do with service people smoking in RVs they work on. Your question seems to be how to deal with RV neighbors who smoke. One of the greatest advantages of living in an RV is the fact that they have wheels. It doesn’t matter if it's a smoker that is bothering you, a rowdy bunch of party animals, karaoke lovers or barking dogs. You can easily move in many cases. It’s not like you bought a house next to someone with a kid starting a Heavy Metal garage band. Smoking is not all that common anymore. Many people who smoke prefer not to smoke in their rig for resale value reasons. Therefore, they smoke outside under the awning. I just experienced the same thing. We woke up one morning with a couple one site away from our bedroom window, smoking, drinking their morning coffee and watching the Today Show on an outside TV. They were a very nice couple spending a full two weeks in the State Park we were visiting. We never said a thing. We didn’t feel we had any right to complain. They were in their space, quietly doing what they enjoy doing. We simply moved. The smoke wasn’t as bad as the constant hacking. That said, what if you can’t move? There will be times moving is not an option. Maybe you've paid for long term parking, maybe there are no other sites available, or perhaps you are with a group. In that case, especially if you have an allergic reaction to smoke, a polite conversation would be in order explaining about your allergy. You may not get the reaction you are hoping for, but most of the time people are going to be understanding and do the right thing. Unless there is a savings for renting a space for more than one night, I would suggest paying per day for the first couple days until you get a feel for your surroundings. Often you will find that something isn’t right about the park or your space and you will wish to move.
Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nashville Show

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We recently stopped in Nashville to take in a show. We stayed at a nice RV park near the Opryland Hotel. A couple pulled up next to us pulling a 5th wheel. He was short like Little Jimmy Dickens, with a fancy entertainer style, glitzy cowboy hat. They had a thick German accent and fought like cats and dogs the whole time they were unhooking and setting up. My wife and I sat in our rig trying not to laugh too loud. They were not using their quiet voices. They were both expert at how things needed to be done but it was obvious they had taken two different RV 101 courses. The campsite across the street was giving them the stink eye, but we found it very enlightening. My question is, do we try to help in situations like this or just butt out and enjoy the show?
--Foreign Policy Question in Guitartown

Dear Foreign:
Unless you are bilingual you are probably better off to just listen and learn. In some cultures that may be exactly how setting up a 5th wheel is done. It may seem combative to you but to them it is normal conversation. Think of the "Soup Nazi" from the Seinfeld sitcom. He had a unique way of communicating with his customers that seemed to work for him. Two people that love each other very much can often disguise those feelings masterfully while helping each other back up into a tight RV spot. Some will do a quiet burn while others are more vocal. If you see a couple back-in quietly and efficiently--MOVE, they are just not going to be any fun at all. If you hear yelling, something like, "Just tell me what the backs doing!" get the lawn chairs out. When things settle down you might want to invite them over for cocktail hour. You will usually find out they are just nice, normal people who haven't perfected the art of RV parking yet.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New RV/New Orleans

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We recently spent a week in a state park near New Orleans. It was a dump. Very mis-managed and a mosquito infested swamp. It was our first experience with our new RV. My wife always wanted to explore New Orleans and I thought this would be a great way to do it. As it turns out I was wrong. My wife is now turned off with RVing and New Orleans. I probably should have stayed in a commercial park with easier access to the city, but there were two state parks that looked close so I just picked the one, figuring it would be close to things and a short hop into the city. I am now thinking I should have left the RV home and found a hotel. Any suggestions on how to convince my wife that this is not the norm when RVing?
--Camping Voodoo in Vicksburg

Dear Vic:
Sometimes you do need the right combination of charms, herbs and poisons to have a good experience in New Orleans. Bugs can be a problem anywhere, depending on the time of year and location. Poor management is a bit harder to predict. When traveling you have to take the good with the bad. Not every experience is going to be a positive one. You need to roll with the punches. Overall you will find this is a great way to travel. Unfortunately, you struck out your first time at bat. Tell your wife you have to keep swinging and things will improve. Big cities can be challenging. Next time you should use the Internet to explore and review the experiences of others before you shove off. There are so many online sites that offer info now. You can cull reviews of parks, public transportation, restaurants, attractions, locations, and even bugs. You have to take all this information with a grain of salt. Some people will complain if hung with a new rope, but throwing all the opinions into the mix you will see some trends and glean good and bad vibes from others who have ventured out before you. If you google “New Orleans RV trip” you can read all day how others have attacked the city, discovered the best camping, found parking or public transportation, found great eateries, tours, entertainment, history, and good juju. I bet if you read the comments from this post in a few days you will hear some expert advice from Shrink readers on what to do next time. But for now, take your wife somewhere else you have always wanted to visit and do some research before you sail.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Motorhome Mama

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife drives me crazy when we travel in our motorhome. Most women have an iPhone but she is still clinging to our CB radio. It is so old our grandkids say, "Grandma, what's a CB?" I think she just likes talking to truck drivers, but she says she gets good information from them. All I ever hear is nonsense. They think she is another truck driver and I'm chauffeuring her down the road in a rolling palace. She pretends she's hauling a load of ripe bananas. Her handle is Shotgun Mama. I guess that's not as weird as it sounds. She is a mama and she is riding shotgun. She takes on a whole new personality when she has that mic in her hand. She can be a real ham. She talks with what I call a trucker's trademark. It is similar to kids texting today using abbreviated words. Truckers have a language all their own. They all talk with a southern accent whether they're from the south or not, and in a code we could use during the next war to keep the enemy from hacking our codes. How do I get my wife to listen to music while we meander down the road instead of creating airwave relationships with "Slim Pickens", "Doc Holliday" and "Leapin' Larry"? --Road Stage in Reading

Dear Road Stage:
Many people are still using CBs. It is still a great road forum of information. I know that today's GPS will tell you when you are coming on to construction, accidents and the like, but not as accurately as a trucker who just sat through it. For a trucker it breaks the monotony of long days of driving. Perhaps your wife doesn't get enough conversational stimulus from you. It could be she just likes getting out of her shell and enjoys role playing as you roll. The problem seems to be that it is annoying to you. I would think you could work out a program that would give you time for your music airwaves and she for her "Shotgun Mama" show. Some relationships enjoy more role playing than others. You might want to consider creating yourself a handle like, "Rooster," and talking to your wife in trucker lingo while she is on the CB. If none of that works perhaps you can find her a space further back in the motorhome to set up her "ham" radio show. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RV Volunteer

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can’t understand the government volunteer system. The ranks of volunteers for the National Park and National Forest Service seem to be growing rapidly. It sounds like a win-win situation for both seniors looking to volunteer and the government in a budget crisis. I completely understand the theory of supply and demand, but I do not understand rudeness. My husband and I have submitted volunteer applications to several parks offering to do most anything they need. It’s as if the applications go into a black hole. We have come to expect no communications from the Park Service, not even a “Thanks." This attitude will to some degree kill the goose that laid the golden egg if they continue to treat this "manna from heaven" help with such disregard. Am I right or am I just becoming an old curmudgeon? Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think even a form letter letting people know where they stand in the volunteer line would be nothing less than courteous.
 --Out of Line in Laredo

Dear Outy:
I have heard this complaint often lately. I know that places like Glacier National Park have hundreds of volunteer applicants that they cannot place every season. Many sunbelt parks have even more. They have many people who will commit to a longer term service and those who are already networked in from past service. These volunteers usually take precedence over new applicants. I think it is great that state and local governments have this resource of volunteers to draw from, but I agree that they should work on their communications. Most applications are made online and therefore could be efficiently kept informed the same way as to their chances of capturing a volunteer position.  It is a numbers game. Over 10,000 people will reach retirement age every day for the next 20 years. That is why you see all your favorite campgrounds filled, even during the off season and shoulder seasons. This same demographic is swelling the volunteer ranks. My only advice would be, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Get on the phone, find out who is making the decision on positions you are interested in and open some dialog.   My wife and I worked our way around the country for several years in our 20s and 30s. We never got a job by saying, “No.” If we were asked if we had experience doing something, we always said, “Yes.” It was only a little white lie until the first day on the job. I ran a D8 bulldozer in Alaska for about two hours one day before the boss came over and said, “You’ve never run a bulldozer before have you? I said, “I can’t say that anymore!” Since the government facilities are getting avalanched with applicants, you need to be the one to force communication. I know it seems odd to scramble for a volunteer position, but that is exactly what other applicants are doing to snag the positions they are interested in.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Back me up

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are novice RV owners. We bought a large fifth wheel and my husband does all the driving. I do not care to drive it at all. My job is to help him back it into camping sites. Last week I was backing him in when a gentleman from an adjoining site came over and started giving my husband hand signals and kind of taking over my duties. I thought it was rude. He didn’t even ask me if we needed help. It was as if he was dismissing me. I felt rejected and let him park my husband into the fairly easy access site. After it was all over my husband seemed a little ticked. He didn’t say much to the neighbor, but later went ballistic with me. He said he never wanted a stranger to back him in again. It was my job and I should have let the guy know that we didn’t need his help. So we were both upset with the neighbor, but it seems we took it out on each other. Does that make any sense?
--Back me up in Big Bear Lake

Dear Big Bear:
This is not uncommon. It happens all the time. Most people are just trying to be helpful and neighborly and you should have a reaction all rehearsed ahead of time. Let them know in a nice way that you do this all the time and that you do not want any help. If they persist than you can become a bit more firm until they get the message. Helpful neighbors have nothing invested in your rig. If anyone is going to direct it into over-hanging branches, park posts or rocks, it should be you. If your husband felt that strongly, he should have exited the truck, straightened out the situation and continued parking the rig. It can be a little uncomfortable when you know someone is trying to help, but most people will understand if they are told you would rather work together. If they don’t take the hint, ignore them and continue to park your own rig. Let them stand there and flail their arms as long as your husband is only taking signals from you. Not everyone is comfortable backing up an RV and will appreciate all the help they can get even if it is a stranger with nothing invested. It’s all about communication, politeness, and being neighborly in the campground community.  
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mi RV Casa

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have recently been self-diagnosed with mild claustrophobia. We retired five years ago and have been downsizing. My husband calls it “cultivating our detachments.” We had a 2,000 sq. ft. house full of stuff five years ago. We moved into a 40 ft. motorhome which I thought downsized us as far as humanly possible. We really didn’t like driving the monster so we downsized further to a 34 ft. fifth-wheel. My husband could not get used to parking a fifth-wheel so we downsized further to a 27 ft. class C motorhome. I was quite happy with the class C, but my husband, the fanatic, started checking out 17 ft. Casita travel trailers. At first he said he was just curious about them, then we ended up taking a factory tour, and now I live in one. I have to admit I love the little thing, but we had to go through a lot of adjustments in coordinating our sleeping, eating and leisure activities. It has forced us to spend more time out-of-doors, shop more sparingly, downsize our stuff to a minimum and conserve our water usage. My problem is he is now online looking at luggage all the time. I’m thinking he might be headed for a suitcase, and I may be in it. Do you think this is just a stage he is going through or should I be worried?
--Mi Casa Es Su Casa, in Casa Grande

Dear Mi Casa:
I only think you should be worried if he actually buys a suitcase. I see this situation all the time. People new to the RV lifestyle often go big. They have been watching big rigs pass them for years and dreaming about that life on the road. They see all their favorite country stars traveling in them and want to live part of that life vicariously. They go to the big RV shows and find more in a big rig than they have at home, right down to Italian marble floors. It works out for a percentage of people, but many find the expense of maintaining a motorhome with a doorbell that plays 37 different songs a bit more than the budget will allow. So the process begins. They start cruising the campgrounds at night looking at all the eye-candy that others have ended up with. Then the elimination process of what would work better for them kicks in. It sometimes, as in your case, takes more than two moves. I will agree that moving from a 2,000 sq. ft. house to a 17 ft. Casita is a major detachment cultivation operation. I think you have been very tolerant of your husband’s obsession with the downsizing process. But he is not the only one having to live with these decisions. You have to be more forceful with your opinions if you do not desire to live in such a small space. Maybe you do not agree with giving up some of the things you enjoy, or conserving to the degree you must with small holding tanks. If not, you should voice your opinion or you may just find yourself in a suitcase and your husband online looking at small day packs.
--Keep Smilin‘, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RV storage options

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I just bought a brand new fifth wheel. We plan to use it 6 to 8 months of the year, mostly during the winter in a warmer climate than here in Wisconsin. We plan to leave every year just after Christmas. I am trying to convince my wife that we should have a storage building to keep the fifth wheel in while we are not using it. I just hate to see it outside in the elements while it is idle, plus rodents seem to find a way in. She argues that a building will cost more than the fifth wheel and that the RV was built to be an outside vehicle. Am I just being over protective or do a lot of RV owners park their rigs inside, out of the elements and away from the pack rats?
--Green Bay Packer

 Dear Pack Rat :
You have many options. One would be leaving it outside and rodent proofing it. You could buy a cover for it or lease some indoor storage space. If you really want a Boy Toy building, there are cheaper options than a pole or block structure. Canvas buildings are a great option. They are comparatively inexpensive, movable, and come in all shapes, colors and sizes. If rodents are a real problem for you, these structures do need some foundation work. Most of them simply sit on the ground, but can be mounted on a short foundation wall that will help eliminate critter access. Depending how fancy you want to get, they can also be insulated, wired for electricity, heated and cooled. The draw back would be replacing the canvas every several years. The plus side of building a permanent structure would be not just the convenience of having a building for RV storage, shop etc., but also some investment value. Although the cost of a large pole building can give you sticker shock, look back a few years and check pricing. These structures will continue to appreciate in value if built with quality materials and maintained properly. I have had a large canvas storage building for 15 years. I have moved it three times and recovered it twice. Although they snug down tight, wind action eventually wears the material. There is no question that any vehicle stored in out of the weather will last longer and look nicer. If you two can't agree on a building I would concentrate on keeping the tires covered and the skin clean and protected with a good coating.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Camp Disappointment

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just finished a three month RV trip to the Canadian Rockies and down to the Canyonlands. It was incredible scenery and fantastic weather. The only problem turned out to be logistics with our accommodations. We are noticing that even during the fall that campgrounds in popular areas are completely full. Without reservations and sticking to a strict schedule it is almost impossible to stay in some of our favorite National Park campgrounds. It seems that everyone has discovered the late season weather window of fall travel. It makes my wife nervous when she thinks we will not be able to snag a campground site in parks we have always enjoyed. She says we might just as well stay home if we have to stay in commercial parks sardined in with a hundred other rigs in neat little rows. I tell her we should change our travel habits to take advantage of the reservation system where available. This would eliminate all the pressure of finding a site when we arrive. She is resistant to giving up our nomadic, no schedule, travel method. Do you think she is being too inflexible? I would appreciate any input.
 --Out of site in Fargo

 Dear Far Out:
You are experiencing the new norm. This situation seems to be harder on people who have been traveling for years during the fall. It used to be that once the kids went back to school and summer tourist season ended, the parks were uncrowded, and the weather was perfect for fall travelers. That is no longer true. It is simply a matter of demographics. People are still thinking the same way about fall travel, but the numbers have changed. You have heard me say this before, "The boomers are coming." Approximately 10,000 people hit retirement age every day, and will for the next 20 years. I'm not saying they will all buy an RV and hit the road, but the sales numbers in the RV industry seem to indicate the herd is growing rapidly. This will change the way we all travel, like it or not. I believe the Park and National Forest Service are already struggling with this influx of usage. Many mountain parks would begin shutting down campground facilities in the fall as camper numbers declined. Now they are finding the need to leave them open as the numbers are actually up for that time of year. Part of the attraction to travel in an RV is the flexibility of not being on a schedule. You may be able to cling to that lifestyle to some degree, but you need to face the issues and work the system if you want to be successful at RV travel in the digital age. That will mean reservations. Even taking that step will not guarantee the desired results in many areas if you do not plan far enough ahead. It has become so bad that there are people scalping campground sites in popular, national park, reservation campgrounds on EBay and Craigslist. I reported this to the park service a few years ago and they seemed unaware of the practice. Now they have put systems in place that discourage this scam. I have no crystal ball and cannot tell you how the popularity of the RV lifestyle will evolve over the next two decades, but we will continue to see change as the numbers grow. Most of these popular sites offer no hookups, but are still in huge demand because of their locations to natural and historical features. This senior generation is much more active in outdoor recreation. They are attracted to biking trails, paddling waterways, hiking systems, golf courses, fishing, hunting and photography. I think we will see the development of more camping facilities in and around wildlife refuges. It could help solve budget shortfalls and fill a need for those looking for areas of solitude, wildlife activity, and various outdoor activities. So my advice as, it evolves, is to go with the flow. Play campground Bingo on your computer in the various reservation systems, collect information from other campers on where they go and when, and discover little known camping areas off the beaten path. If you're a senior you have to remember you are part of the problem not the solution. So just deal with it.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hard Wired RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I read about other women in your column who seem to have the same problem I do. My husband knows just enough about working on our rig to be dangerous. Recently he was wiring our tow vehicle for lights. First he read RV forums for two days, then he watched a YouTube video, then he bought what he thought he needed. That was followed by two days of swearing, fuming and high blood pressure. He said he wired everything properly but he didn't have a right turn signal. Every time he hit the brakes he blew the fuse to our tow plug. It took him a whole day just to find that fuse. His name is Dick and I call all of his many problems Pre-Dick-aments. That annoys him, but we always have stories to tell after he tackles one of these projects. He finally figured out his problem. The right turn wire was shorted out on a sharp piece of metal. He was told by a fellow camper that he could simply buy a wireless set of lights that attach to the car trunk and not have to deal with all this wiring hassle. He never listens to good advice. How can I reason with him that he is shortening his life by frustrating himself on a regular basis?
--Hard Wired in Astoria

Dear Hard Astoria:
Go a little easy on your husband. I applaud him for his sticktoitiveness. Those wireless lights sound good, but you have to fool with batteries all the time to keep them burning. I agree your husband should chill out a bit and not become so frustrated. He should think of each new project as higher education. The more research he has to do the more he learns about each system on his rig. The guy with the wireless system probably can't find his wire crimper and butt connectors with both hands. Your husband now knows where the tow plug fuse is, what caused it to fail, how everything is wired from the plug to his lights, what diodes he used, and where the wires are run and secured. If he has a future problem he won't need a service technician or a bank loan to have it fixed. You are a lucky women indeed. I would embrace his adventurous mechanical spirit and support him with encouragement and praise when you see him pulling his hair out. I saw a similar situation recently in a New Mexico state park. A guy was trying to fix his motorhome furnace. He had it completely out and seemed very frustrated. He kept yelling, "I need a nurse." At first I didn't know what that meant. Finally I figured it out. Every time he yelled, "I need a nurse," his wife came out of the motorhome with another rum and coke. He finally discovered he needed a new electronic board for his furnace after just a few hours and more than a few rum and cokes. If you want to be a referee instead of a spectator you may need to go to bar tending school.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guerrilla tactics at the campground

Dear R.V. Shrink:
Recently we arrived at a National Park campground and found it completely full. It was a Monday afternoon. This late in the season, just after the weekend, seemed like an odd time for a rather remote campground to be full. I was ready to leave to find another campground, but my wife insisted on further investigation. When she returned from a stroll around the campground she said several sites were "marked" suspiciously. Not one to enjoy any conflict, I suggested we just leave. My wife did not agree. She did another loop around the campground, found a post receipt not properly filled out and backed me into the site. No one ever challenged us, but the chair marking the site went missing in the dark of night.

As our neighbors arrived in the night, we noticed that they seemed to be related. We spent the next few days feeling like we were not welcome. I told my wife it was not worth the hassle to stay. She insists there are rules and if we have to practice combat camping she is more than willing to enlist her guerrilla warfare tactics to grab a piece of ground and defend it. Is this a normal attitude or should I get regular counseling for my wife? --Gun Shy in Grand Forks 

Dear Gun Shy:
Everyone comes with their own built-in computer program. It can be changed through relationship environments, and life experience, but there is still a basic programming that underlies all that is exposed at the surface. Kind of like a personal Windows program being run by an underlying DOS program you were born with. That is just a long way of saying you and your wife are both okay.

You don't like conflict and she embraces it. That sounds like a perfect traveling combination. Marking unpaid sites for friends is a very common practice, but not allowed in most campgrounds. Unlike coats over saved seats at the movie theater, you will find actual rules at the payment kiosk stating that reserving sites is not allowed. Therefore, you are within your rights to occupy an illegally reserved site if you can figure out which sites have been pirated. In your case, you have a spouse who can obviously sniff those sites out and ferret out the squatters. You are a lucky man. I'm going to guess your wife is a Virgo. They are known to turn chaos into complete order.

You have to decide on your own level of comfort. You don't want a real estate deal to go bad to the point of violence. Most of these situations turn out to be a severe case of stink-eye. Like the Cold War years, you want to keep things at the luke warm level so no one starts launching ICBMs (inter campground burnt marshmallows). It is just human nature for good people to go bad when it comes to trying to save a campsite for Aunt Gertrude who drives slower than everyone else. Most of the time these people are peeking out of a nearby rig embarrassed about their act of civil disobedience. Once your wife challenges them, they are going to go immediately to plan B, how to get their chair back after sunset. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrin

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ninety-Six Tears

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband's favorite car for towing behind our motorhome is the Saturn S series. He actually collects them. He tells me since they are not making them anymore he wants to buy several so that he always has one in the batter box warming up. That's fine with me but he just bought one from an old rock star and I think it's a lemon. He won't admit it. The salesman talked more about being the bass player in a 60's band called Question Mark and the Mysterious than he did the car. Now we are replacing something every week. The one big hit the band had was "Ninety-Six Tears." Now I'm shedding 96 tears every time I write a check to another service technician. Don't you think we should just cut our losses and take our lump sum and move on.
--Crying in the Rainforest's of Washington

Dear Crying in the Rain:
I think your husband is very smart to think ahead. The Saturn S series is a great car that seems to run forever. That must be why they stopped making them. The single head cam and double head cam are great choices for towing. They both get great mileage, rack no miles while towing, need nothing done to them to flat tow and weigh under 2,400 lbs. They haven't been produced for over 10 years, so now is the time to start finding low mileage models that meet your inspection. Your husband broke the golden rule of car buying. Never, and I mean never, buy a car from a one-hit-wonder, bass playing band member, turned used car salesman. These vehicles are actually pretty easy to work on, inexpensive, and parts are still very available. Your husband might want to spend more time figuring out and solving his own problems, especially if he is going to have a whole stable of them. You can watch YouTube videos of almost any Saturn repair job. They are reliable tutorials on how to fix the multiple problems you buy from old rock & rollers.
--Keep Smilin',  Dr. R. V. Shrink

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is bigger RV better?

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am trying to talk my husband into trading our big diesel pusher motorhome in for something shorter. When we bought we were thinking bigger was better, but now we are reevaluating. He has hit just about everything in Kansas. The dealer gave us driving lessons and little dots to put on the mirrors. My husband was convinced that if the dots missed the gas pump the motorhome would too. The problem is, while he's watching the dots he knocks the mirrors off on something else. I feel like we do not visit a lot of places because we are afraid we might get stuck in a tight place where we can't turn the motorhome around. He says he will eventually get used to driving it. That may be true, but I'm not sure we will have much motorhome left by the time he gets his driving skills mastered. Please advise.
 --Bump and Grind in Grand Rapids

Dear Bump and Grind:
It sounds like you are stripping it down pretty quickly. Is it getting shorter or just narrower? Everyone seems to find their own comfort level when driving a big rig. I don't think there is any argument that the longer the rig the fewer choices you have getting into tight campgrounds and other destinations. Height is another consideration. It is not just motorhomes. I know a guy that drove 40 ft. tour buses in New York City and Boston for years. He bought a fifth wheel and couldn't park it. He said, "The darn thing bends in the middle." The two of you will have to decide where your comfort level resides. With the popularity of slide outs, in most of today's coaches, you should be able to find a suitable floor plan that offers all the room you need in a shorter rig. It also depends on the type of traveling you plan to do. You are not going to get a 40 ft. coach into many small National Forest campgrounds with small sites and tight roads. Campground trends are growing. Because there are so many larger units on the road, campgrounds are being designed to accommodate them. I also see a trend in manufacturers downsizing the diesel pusher. You can now find nice units under 30 ft. Most dealers will let you test drive the units they sell. You should try a few shorter coaches and see if you feel more comfortable with a unit that does not require a driving plan that entails connecting the dots.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RV Sewer Solution

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
You mentioned a few weeks back that you used some kind of sewer disposal unit that worked like a macerator using water to break down the solids. I am still trying to find the unit you were referring to. I am hosting in a park that offers me hookups but I have to move once a week to dump. If I could pump 50 yards I wouldn't have to move. We end up spending one morning a week putting everything down and away just to drive next door to dump. You could help restore my sanity if you could solve my sanitation situation without the need to move.
--Dirty Swirly in Sweetwater

Dear Dirty:
No problem. It is called the SewerSolution. You can buy them in many places. I think I bought mine on Amazon. It works great. I bought extra hose that hooks into pvc connected to my sewer system. I am moving it over 200 ft. with no problem. I suggest a clear sewer valve extension. I bought two as one did not extend far enough for the unit to clear my slide valve lever. Also the clear fitting lets you monitor the emptying process. I was a little suspect before ordering this unit. Now I can say that it is everything it is advertised to be. I carry it while traveling but have never had a need to use it on the road. With the extra hose I purchased I can reach about 30 ft. I would imagine that large diameter coil hose would work as well as my pvc pipe to extend your reach. It's much cheaper than the grinder type, but it is necessary to have a water connection for this to operate. From the sounds of your situation this would solve your current problem of moving every week and possibly even restore your sanity, depending on how long it's been missing. I can tell you this sure beats hauling a little blue honey wagon around the campground. When you do that, everyone not only knows your business, they know you're hauling it behind you.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Right to Arm Bears

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I travel full-time a bit differently than most people you write about. We have a motorhome and we live most of the year in National Parks. We spend more nights sleeping on the ground than in our rig because we are backpackers. We usually hike a week at a time in some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet. My reason for writing is in reference to a question you had on carrying a weapon while traveling. We are not anti-gun, but now that people can carry weapons in the National Parks it makes me a bit uneasy. Not so much that they will use the weapon on us, but the fact that they may shoot and wound a large animal that we will run into next. I know you are a backpacker and I am wondering about your take on this issue.
--Not packin packer in Pocatello

Dear Pocatpacker:
I don't like it at all. I am not anti-gun but I am definitely anti-gun in the National Park backcountry. Since that legislation was shoe-horned in with the Credit Card bill, I run into many hikers packin a pop gun (45) that they think will stop a grizzly in his tracks. I always stop and say, "You know the rule, right?" They say, "There's no rule." I tell them there is. The rule is you save that last bullet for yourself because the first volley isn't going to stop that bear. I actually get a laugh when I see people who consider themselves light-weight backpackers. They measure every ounce they carry, then add two pounds of guns and ammo. I think if you are that afraid of what might eat you in the backcountry you should just stay in the front country where you may actually need a gun. They taught me about fire-superiority in the Marines. I guess that means I would have to carry a weapon in the backcountry if I was concerned I might run into bad people with good guns. I do not choose to do that. It has become a problem for the Park Service also. Front country rangers are well-trained in law enforcement. Now it is becoming necessary for the Park Service to train backcountry rangers in the same way, as more hikers are carrying weapons. I know this will bring me a lot of comments. Just let me say, I do support the right to arm bears.  I prefer to carry bear spray. I also plan to do something most people do not do after they spend fifty bucks on a can of bear spray. I actually read the instructions. I run into so many people in Glacier National Park every year carrying expensive bear spray and they don't even know how to release the safety. I have only used my bear spray once. I accidentally shot myself in the crotch. Oh man, am I ever glad I didn't have a 45.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, August 30, 2012

RV lingo

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am abbreviation challenged. I really don't know if I can handle this RV lifestyle. Everything seems to be in code. I asked another camper where he likes to camp and he said his favorite place was the BLM. I didn't know what that was so I asked another guy. He said his favorite campgrounds where the COE's. Not one to give up easily, I asked the campground hosts where they liked to camp and they said, "We usually host for the NPS but we also stay at KOA's when we travel." Now I am totally alphabetically bewildered! These convoluted letter combinations are driving me nuts. --SOL in Salem

Dear Out of Luck:
I'm glad they didn't hire you to break Japanese code during WWII. First thing you need to do is ask more questions. People would be glad to define all these abbreviations for you. If you are not comfortable with that, there is always GOOGLE. Many campground and map books are full of abbreviations you have to understand. They will inform you of the amenities that a park may have, what pets are allowed, seasons and types of payments accepted.

You might want to purchase an acronym finder and carry it with you at all times. Don't even think about carrying a cell phone and texting friends. You will never survive that experience. Plus, texting while driving will lead to more abbreviations like MD, DOA and CT scan. LOL. It can all be very complicated, but sometimes you can use it to your advantage. I never went to college but when I fill out employment forms asking for higher education I always put down that I graduated from USMC. It gives some people the impression I graduated from USC or MSU.

So don't sweat the small stuff. It will all come naturally after you have been on the road awhile. You will feel like you have a Ph.D in abbr. Soon you will know right away to use the CAN when you have a BM at the BLM.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Controversy over laundry method

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We've been on the road traveling in our new rig all summer. We love 99% of our travels, but there are a few chores that are inconvenient. My wife and I share the laundry duty. We wish we had a washer/dryer in the fifth wheel. Finding a clean, organized and reasonably priced laundromat with working equipment is not easy. My wife wants to buy one of those small manual units that look like a miniature cement mixer. I have not convinced her that a small unit like that is not the solution to our frustrations. It looks like a toy that might wash a couple pair of underwear at a time. My interest was piqued by the guy who wrote you about his "Travels With Charlie" method of a bungee cord hanging a plastic bucket full of wash in his pickup camper. Both of these ideas sound like a lot of hand twisting to me. Do you have any other suggestions that could eliminate our need for finding a decent laundry every couple weeks?
--Shouting it out in Ouray

 Dear Twist and Shout:
Having your own washer and dryer sounds practical, but most are small units that have you doing loads constantly. Don't beat yourself up about not buying a rig with a laundry room. Although they can be convenient, I think you will be better off if we work on your head a bit. It's all about attitude. Stop thinking about the laundry as a chore. Make it part of the adventure. Make it an opportunity to meet new and interesting people, learn about local activities, and listen to local gossip. As for finding a squared away establishment that is clean, maintained and friendly, NO PROBLEM! There's and App for that. It's not just an Apple commercial. There's an App for everything now. The laundry App is free. It should take you a long way in the process of finding the kind of atmosphere you are looking for. It's not like you have to find one every day. You have plenty of time to search out an excellent spot between loads.

The plus side of the laundry ledger would include tons of magazines to read. While you are waiting for your underwear to dry, you can educate yourself about hundreds of subjects. Popular Science may even have an article about some new "Space Age" material that will soon make washing clothing obsolete. Check the bulletin board for job opportunities, free kittens and puppies, and get rich quick schemes. I use the opportunity to ask locals about the best places to eat, camp, hike, and shop. I'm not suggesting you can't get the same results with small washing appliances but by the time you twist, shout, shake, rattle and roll you will be time and money ahead going to the local watering and suds hole.

If you are just getting started, you might want to check out your computer's App store. There are Apps for finding gas, propane, camping, dump stations and anything else you may need. But be careful and speak plainly when talking to locals. I went into a gas station in Estes Park, CO and asked if they had propane. The girl behind the counter whispered to me, "Cocaine? Come back on Tuesday." You should also check out the RVBOOKSTORE for informative informational material.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink --

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Feeling Full

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are new at all this RV lingo we hear around the campground. We have people tell us all the time that they are FULL-TIMERS. We finally figured out that meant living in their RV year-round. We live in our rig year-round but some of that time is in our driveway at home. We found it so easy to live in our rig we stopped moving back into the house when home. We think of our property as one of the nicest campgrounds we stay in. When I explained this to a campground neighbor, she said, "Well, you're not a full-timer if you still own a home and go back there for a few months every year." Now I'm afraid to open my mouth when the subject comes up about full-timing. Can you define the term more precisely for me?
 --Fully confused in Folsom

Dear Folsom:
Don't feel imprisoned by definitions. If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. I just read that of 8.9 million households in the U.S. that own an RV, half-million of them are full-timers. So I guess that number doesn't include those without a household. But isn't an RV a household? I'm in the same boat (RV) that you are. I live in my rig full-time, but I occasionally make a pit stop back at my place in Michigan - Oleo Acres (the cheaper spread).
Then it gets really complicated when full-timers are working part-time. Data shows that the age of full-timers keeps dropping. More people are tired of the grind and the daily commute and decide a continual commute is better than a once a day commute, so they commute their job. The only hang-up they have is a hammock. Don't get hung-up on words. As Mark Twain once said, "Facts can be stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." You go right ahead and be a full-timer with your head held high. My wife and I always laugh when people new to RVing proudly tell us they sold everything, bought a rig, sold the house and are now FULL-TIMERS. It sounds like a secret club without the secret handshake. In the 70's we sold everything and lived on the road for several years. The definition had not been coined yet. They called us Hippies.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Phone alone

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel most of the year in a motorhome. We have used an Alltel air card stick, hooked to a wireless router, as our Internet connection. Alltel was taken over by Verizon but we were grandfathered into our unlimited data plan for $59.95. We recently received a letter stamped "Action Required" offering us free new equipment, fees waived, and a new data plan for ten dollars less. Now, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. They were trying to get me to bite on saving $9.95 to give up unlimited data for 5g. I called and debated my options. Almost immediately they offered me the new 4G equipment and 20g per month. This I gladly accepted. My wife thinks I should have refused and kept the unlimited plan. I explained to her that they are doing away with the Alltel network and that we would need to do something in the next few months. They already throttle our speed because we use an average of 12g per month, and the new "Hot Spot" equipment is much newer and faster. She is still mad that I didn't discuss the options with her first. Can you help me convince her I did the right thing.
 --Disconnected in Schenectady

 Dear Disco:
I think you need to spend a little while in "time out." You've heard the old saying, "Put yourself in the other man's moccasins." Think how you would feel if your wife changed the plan without consulting with you. Not to throw too many sayings at you, but "Two heads are better than one." I think your on board communications system is a must discuss issue. I do applaud you for not rolling over and taking the first pitch. It was obviously low and outside. When you deal with service providers in this day and age you are "prey." Act accordingly. Verizon says they have 70 million subscribers. I find discrepancies on my bill almost every month. Sometimes for as little as fifty cents, and sometimes for as much as a couple bucks. I call and they immediately reverse the erroneous charges with no argument. I can guarantee you they make multi-millions of dollars every month from the subscribers who don't check their bills or do not want to waste valuable time to save a couple bucks. So think about that while you are getting the hot tongue and cold shoulder. Maybe you two can sit down every month and go over your bill. Decide together what contracts to engage in and create better communications all the way around the RV.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, July 30, 2012

Junk in the trunk

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are green minded individuals and take our recycling responsibilities seriously. Our ideas part company when the recycle starts to pile up and we can't find a bin to dispose of it properly. My wife insists we carry it until we find the proper receptacle and I tell her we don't have the room for large amounts of recycle. It is an ongoing argument. Often we have recycle in the tow car, in the basement storage and even in the roof pod. Help me, please.
 --Junk in the trunk in Tahoe

 Dear Junk:
 Recycling is good. You just need a better program. I know many national, state and local parks offer various degrees of recycling. Often it is only cans and plastic. Cardboard and glass are often not an option. Depending on your travel schedule, I would think you could find a recycling program in most communities, allowing you to jettison your load on a regular basis. If you have your land yacht anchored somewhere for a length of time and there are not facilities to unload recycle, your only option is refuge. Other than spending time compacting your stores to make more room I believe you must eventually loosen your load. Some garbologists actually take everything in one bin and sort at a facility. I think it is commendable that you want to recycle on the road but there are limits to what you can do with RV space. You will begin seeing more recycling opportunities at campground facilities because it is cost effective to break refuse down for many pick-up services. I would sit down with your wife and hash out some reasonable understanding of how much you can carry and where. If you're online, I would almost bet there's an App for finding recycle in areas you visit.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Avoiding the draft

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband and I share the driving time while traveling in our motorhome. We also pull a toad. We have different driving methods and mine seems to annoy my husband. When he's driving, I don't say a word. When I'm driving I am always getting his unwanted advice. He drives fast, I drive slow. It makes him nuts when I pull over and let other vehicles pass. We usually drive the blue highways that are commonly two lane. I don't like to hold people up while I sight see. I do the speed limit and he says I shouldn't worry about those behind me anxious to break the law by wanting to pass. Do you think I am encouraging people to live dangerously? I feel much more relaxed driving when I don't have a parade of vehicles following me, antsy to get around.
 --Pace car driver in Davenport

 Dear Pace:
You are not a traffic cop. You cannot control how the rest of the world around you will drive. If it makes you feel better to pull off in a safe spot and ease congestion behind you, I would consider that a polite gesture. Don't accept your husband's guilt trip for driving defensibly. Letting faster traffic build up behind you will only encourage some to take a chance to rocket by. This will involve you in their gamble to make a successful passage. What you do not want to do is feel pressured to pull off on some poor road surface that could cause you to loose control, damage tires or force you to make a full stop. Slowing while in the occasional passing lane often helps. Pulling over in small towns, historical markers and rest areas, also can help if you find a large following behind you waiting for the green flag. Tell your husband if he can't sit up front, relax and let you drive, he'll have to go to his room. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, July 19, 2012

RV companionship

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have been traveling my whole life. I have picked up some odd habits over the years that drives my traveling companions nuts. I guess that's why I am always ending up with a new one. Women like me but not on a full-time basis. From Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie I learned to do my laundry in a plastic garbage can hanging from bungee cords from the ceiling of my truck camper. At noon I add rinse water and hang out to dry in the late afternoon. I also save time by cooking on my engine block while driving. To ensure safety, I wrap my meatloaf in three layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. My latest traveling companion was a great gal who loved my meatloaf and laundry technique, but she dropped me for a guy with a bigger rig. She would never admit it but I'm thinking it was the fact that she had to shower outside all the time. She started complaining about all the windows covered with decals of all the wonderful places I've been. It's not like you can't see light, plus every window is full of great memories. I try to share everything I know about traveling and the RV lifestyle. I think of myself as kind of a mentor. It's usually when I pull out my blue "honey wagon" on wheels when the relationship starts to fall apart. Do you think it's me or am I just a poor judge of character? I'm working for a few months driving a train in Orlando. I just met a woman who seems wonderful and wants to travel. Should I give it another go? Let me know what you think.
--Wally in Orlando

Dear Wally World:
It takes all kinds to make the world go round. You just have to find someone that marches to the same drum you do. I'm thinking you might make someone a great catch. You cook, you do laundry, you shower on a regular basis, and you have outside interests like decal collecting. I know it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but you might want to consider eliminating the "honey wagon" and adding an indoor shower. You can never compete with a guy with a bigger rig, but you can try to improve what you have. They say there is a good woman behind every man. So keep looking behind you. I would also hang out at the decal display in tourist traps and spark up conversations with women making purchases. There are all kinds of pickup lines for that type of occasion. Life is one big numbers game so keep rolling the dice, eventually you will find the right partner, or die trying.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RV awning issues

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife is always insisting that I roll the awning up when we go sightseeing or shopping for the day. I have camp all set up and would rather keep things covered. We witnessed an incident last year, watching an awning blow up and over a motorhome in an unexpected storm while the occupants were away. I think it was a fluke and not staked down as well as I do. I also have a middle support pole. Could you convince her she is paranoid? I hate rolling it up and down all the time. --Polie Roller in Pocatello 

Dear Pokey:
I am not suggesting you should roll your awning up every time you leave your site, but I think I would err on the side of caution with your wife. An awning is nothing more than a sail on the side of your rig. Mother Nature has a way of getting your attention at the drop of a hat. I, myself, have seen several awnings ripped off. It takes minutes to roll one up when you leave for any amount of time and that same amount of time to drop it back down. If you lose it to a windstorm it will often cost you more than a few hundred dollars in fabric. Usually the hardware is bent and anchor bolts are ripped out, causing damage to your siding. You will also spend much more time dealing with your insurance company and awning installer than the few minutes it takes to roll it up.

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wife thinks RV has "Beverly HIllbillies" look

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I like to kayak. We both have our own kayak which I have been strapping to the roof ladder on the back of the motorhome. My wife says we look like the Beverly Hillbillies with our bikes and boats all roped on. She is constantly complaining but has no suggestions on how else we can carry all our toys. She thinks storage engineering is my department, and I think I have already found the best solution. Should I ignore her subtle jabs about my kayak configurations, change them, sell them or continue to be frustrated? --Up a creek with too many paddles in Paducah 

Dear Up a Creek: 
Hauling toys is a problem for everyone. I am always walking campgrounds and amazed at how people have figured out how to haul boats, Harleys, four wheelers, tow cars, bicycles, golf carts, horses, ladders, and various other individual necessities. I do not know what type of motorhome you have but it sounds like you are dealing with two of the lightest toys on the list. I personally do not care to strap things to my roof ladder, but if it works for you, and done in a safe manner, more power to you.

As for appearance, that is a personal choice you and your wife will have to work out. We use a Sea Eagle inflatable that fits in our basement storage. It tracks very well on rivers. It is a bit more high profile so catches wind when lake paddling. There are also kayak/bike combination racks available that could solve the storage and appearance problem. It places both the kayaks and the bikes in a vertical position, all supported by the motorhome's hitch. Another suggestion would be to carry the kayaks on the tow car if you pull one. If none of these arrangements make your wife happy there may be a toy hauler RV in your future. That way you can take everything in your garage and no one will even notice.

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

Losing your hard drive

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My husband likes to be in charge of navigation. He controls the GPS, reads the maps, plots our course, and likes to drive the Blue Highways of North America. The problem I have is his disorganization. He never remembers to set everything up and have all his route information figured out before we shove off. We get a few miles up the road when he starts asking me for directions. He forgets to set up the GPS, loses his map and takes it all out on me. I know he is just frustrated so I tell him to find a wide spot, pull over and get his head straight. Do you have any suggestions for a disorganized husband and RV pilot? --Lost in Lone Pine

Dear Lost:
I do not know your age, but in the sixties we were told not to trust anyone over thirty. There was a reason for that. Studies show that after 30 a neurological condition develops called CRS (Can't Remember Stuff). It's like a computer virus that starts erasing the memory in your hard drive. Your husband may have a problem keeping his hard drive straight. Let him be the Captain and the Navigator if you have no desire to take either position. It sounds like his only problem is preparation.

Many people develop a checklist that includes important reminders like putting the antenna down, taking things off the counters, and making sure the jacks are up. You can add to this list things like setting up the GPS, placing maps strategically, studying the days route, and figuring fuel stops. It is easy to forget some of these things when you are busy making sure the hatches are all secure before take off. Even if you think you know where you're going, it is a good idea to double check before pulling out. With bigger rigs it is sometimes hard to find a place to turn around. A mistake can also cost you a few bucks if you have to go several miles out of your way because of bad planning, a confused GPS dialog, or maps you can’t put your hands on. Like the Boy Scouts always say, "Be Prepared.”

Keep Smilin’, R.V. Shrink

RV Propane Detector

Dear R.V. Shrink: 
We live six months at a time in a 35 foot fifth wheel. Recently our propane detector started acting weird so my husband just disconnected the wires. He failed to inform me of this repair technique and I was content that it was working properly again. When I finally discovered that it was disconnected I had a fit. I want the safety features all up and running while we are living in our rig. I will put up with the constant false alarms if that's what it takes. It drives him crazy when the buzzer goes off and we cannot find any gas leak. I think they must be very sensitive and we should just deal with it like everyone else. I am not confrontational. How can I convince my husband that they put these systems in for a reason? I want to know when I have gas. --Alarmed and Dangerous in Detroit 

Dear Alarmed:
You need to be a bit more confrontational. Do not accept anything less than a functioning detector. Propane detectors are like milk, they go bad after awhile. This is probably what is happening with yours. The sensor goes bad and it starts giving constant false alarms. It could also be bathroom sprays, refrigerator smells or the dog passing gas. My guess is you need a new detector. It is well worth the sixty clams to replace. Make sure your fire and CO2 detectors are up and running also. Ask your husband if he thinks you should drop your vehicle and health insurance. You can YouTube a couple videos of rigs burning and melting to the frame. That might get his attention. Order a new detector and wire the old one back up. Deal with the false alarms until the new one arrives.

Keep Smilin', R.V. Shrink

Monday, June 11, 2012

RV Family Problems

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I have been traveling for a couple years and have now decided we like this RV lifestyle enough to pull the pin and sell our home. The problem is we have many family heirlooms that we just can't sell. We have been cultivating our detachments for several months, but there are many family items we just can't part with. Is this a common problem? How should we handle the family jewels? --Family Problems in Florida

Dear Family:
These items are called heirlooms for a reason. You give them to your heirs. Now sounds like a great time to do that. Another way to handle it is to pretend you're dead. Now that you're dead, what is going to become of the family heirlooms? That should give you some direction as to where they will end up.

Another more expensive option is storage. For those on the fence in deciding whether full-timing is for them or not, storage seems to be the better choice. You may decide to drop anchor again, buy a house and furnish it. At that time you may miss the family heirlooms. A combination of these ideas would be to let your heirs store them for you for a couple years. You may have a family member that has extra storage room or may want to use some of the items in their home. If you don't have any heirs, turn these items into oral history. Sell them at an auction and tell stories about them for the rest of your life. I know how you feel. It is hard to give up things that have good memories attached to them.

My dad had stuff. My mother always said he would go to the dump with one load and come back with two. When he died he had three generations of stuff. I had a yard sale just so older people would stop by and tell me what some of the items were. Even though we live full time in a motorhome, we still have a small place for stuff. You might consider down-sizing. We have a beautiful natural piece of property, low taxes and one of the best campsites in Michigan. We come back a couple months every year to regroup. I enjoy being able to work on the rig and have all my tools handy. It is surprising how each year things become less valuable to you. It's like throwing out ballast to keep the balloon airborne. Think of this as an opportunity to be creative with your lifestyle. Don't do anything rash. There is always more than one way to skin a cat. Take your time and consider all your options before deciding what is most important to you.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RV travel debate

Dear R.V. Shrink:
Every time I get the urge to do a road trip my wife throws cold water on the idea by asking me how much it will cost in fuel. I tell her it is all relative. With our motorhome the biggest expense is getting there. After we arrive we spend virtually nothing. She tells me about people that travel cheaper with smaller rigs, do not tow a car, or have diesel. I'm tired of defending my position. I really think we are as economical as the next RVer when you compare apples to apples. Can you please give me some backup? --Up Late to Debate in Des Moines 

Dear Des: 
Don't fall for the bait in the debate. I agree, compare assets to assets. I debated with a guy who wanted to compare his traveling in a Prius to my motorhome. When I nailed him down to what he spent on a three month winter trip, I was miles ahead and dollars behind him. When you compare the cost of running an RV at 8 to 10 miles per gallon, you have to look at all the expenses of taking the same trip in some other fashion.

If you decide not to tow a car you can add a mile per gallon, just don't forget to subtract all the miles you accumulate going to the store in the RV for a gallon of milk. I often talk to people who think it is terrible I would spend $1,500 in gas to take a 3,600 mile road trip. But the same people think nothing about giving Amtrak twice that to reach the same destination When I get there I still have my berth, theirs' is heading down the rails.

You can look at this expense a hundred ways. It all boils down to what it's worth to you to travel the RV lifestyle, with your own belongings, in a comfortable setting, being fully self-contained, and staying in areas you could often not enjoy any other way. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for squeezing every penny in the travel budget. Once you and your wife decide on what and where makes you happy, I would ease out of the driveway with a big smile on my face and "Move It on Down the Road."

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RV service with a smile

I have had many questions related to customer service and many of them are from obvious dissatisfied customers. Most have to do with warranty and repair. Often it seems that RV service centers want the rig for several days, keep customers in the dark as to repair progress, break more than they fix and are unclear as to how the charges will be figured. I also get a lot of questions on how to go about purchasing a used RV. I thought I would answer both of these issues with a recent experience we just had with purchasing a used motorhome.

We bought a 2006 Winnebago Sightseer 29R. I first saw it on Ebay and it was actually in my hometown. I was immediately interested. It only had 1,700 miles on it. The owner had used it as his up north cabin, even decorating it with forest scenes and log wallpaper. My first impression of the Ebay pictures was that someone had actually put fake logs in his motorhome. I was out of town when the auction ended and could not email the owner to see if it sold. I did some detective work and after a few weeks found the motorhome still unsold. The owners had moved out of state and a relative was trying to sell it for them. There were two reasons I did not buy it at that point. First, I was now 1,800 miles away in Glacier National Park, and second, I was suspect. It was priced twenty thousand dollars less than anything like it online.

We were in Glacier for two months and when I came home I thought for sure it would be gone at this low price. I called and it was still available. Now I was even more suspect. We drove out and I crawled all over the beast. It had hardly been used. I was worried that mice may have been residing in it and chewed wiring. I was afraid some of the plumbing seals might be dried and cracked from lack of use. I was worried about the roof seal, generator and many other systems that suffer from lack of attention and use. I could find very little wrong with this unit. At forty grand it seemed like a good buy, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. A month later, in September, friends from Florida with the same model were visiting and they wanted to see it. I called and it was still available. We all went out. Took dozens of pictures, looked at all the many options the RV had, again climbed all over it, and again didn't make an offer.

We really liked the Jayco motorhome we had, it was paid for and we had recently put a lot of money into making it exactly the way we wanted it, with everything familiar and in working order. Did we have to get into a new relationship with a different rig?

I THOUGHT WE HAD MADE A GOOD DECISION and forgot about it. In January, my wife said, "Email the guy and see if he sold it so we can forget about it and delete all these pictures off the laptop." I did and received an immediate response from his ex-wife. She never wanted the thing in the first place and ended up with it in the divorce. She said she was a very motivated seller, but she had relocated the motorhome 900 miles away. I made her an offer and she immediately took it. I was confident that the unit had little wrong with it, she was a wonderful person to do business with, and it was right on our way to Arizona/New Mexico anyway. When we picked it up it was full of gas (75 gallons), propane, three new batteries and clean as a whistle. She said her husband might have used the refrigerator for popsicles once.

I immediately took it to a local service center and had it checked out, the fluids changed and the brakes checked. They could find nothing wrong.

I guess the moral of the RV shopping story is to take your time, make no rash, impulse buying decisions, look for a unit that is loaded with options you don't have to buy later, and put an effort into dealing with sellers you feel comfortable with. Also, study enough models to know what you want, then narrow your search so that you can compare apples to apples. Know what to look for as problem areas, such as roof leaks, plumbing seals, appliance functions, engine systems, etc.

Now for "The Rest of the Story," as my old friend Paul Harvey used to say. When I was in high school I worked for Warner Trailer Sales in Pontiac, Michigan, the largest Airstream dealer in the country. If I could find a dealership and repair facility that even came close to the way they treated customers I would think I had died and gone to heaven. Maybe one exists, but I haven't found it yet. Fair, courteous, friendly, reasonable, and just plain squared-away. If you know of such a place, share it with the rest of us.

Although I haven't found a dealer/service center that fits that bill, I did find a manufacturer. With the few things I found wrong with our new Winnebago, we decided to make a pit stop at the factory in Forest City, IA on the way home this spring. I found that the awning had never been used and the material was rotted. I called ahead and was told they were two weeks out for an appointment, but that we could show up and they would fit us in. When we arrived at the customer service counter, we ran into smiling, genuinely friendly people who wanted to help. They set our appointment for the next morning, gave us hookups in a park-like setting next to customer service, offered wifi, coffee, games, reading room, parts store and a great group of other Winnebago owners going through the same process. We felt right at home.

Then there is the town. More friendly people. We could walk uptown by sidewalk, or down along the Winnebago River by bike trail.

The next morning we were assigned a technician who came out and talked to us about the new awning and answered all the other questions I had about the rig. He then drove off with the motorhome for the day. He said he would return with it at 3:30.

We walked into town and went to Sally's restaurant for breakfast. My wife always finds it hard to order steam basted eggs in a restaurant. It always seems to confuse the wait staff. Here, Sally, the owner, came out of the kitchen, sat down with us and said, "Just tell me exactly how you want those eggs and I will make them for you."

I was hoping they needed to work on the motorhome a few days, I loved this place. We took the factory tour with a retired Winnebago employee who was not only knowledgable, but one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. The time we spent in the waiting lobby passed quickly as we met dozens of other Winnebago owners and all had stories to tell.

At 3:30 all of our motorhomes started pulling into the parking lot. Our personal technician met with us and went over the work that had been done. In our case we were finished. Not only had Winnebago replaced the awning, but they found some broken screws along the awning rail that held the one piece roof in place. Even though we were no longer under any warranty, they replaced the awning rails on both sides of the motorhome and re-sealed the entire roof at no extra charge.

IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS STORY I said I was looking for, "Fair, courteous, friendly, reasonable, and just plain squared-away" service. I found that and more in Forest City, Iowa. If I ever need any work done, there is no question where I will be headed.

What did I find wrong with this rig after living in it for three months and going over it with a fine-toothed comb? Besides the rotted awning, I had to wash the pig. It sat outside unattended for a few years and the elements stuck to it like glue. I hand scrubbed it completely, used Poly Ox on the whole thing, then six coats of Poly Glow. It now shines like a new penny. The Fernco rubber plumbing fitting from the black water tank to the slide valve assembly was cracked and leaking. That's an easy fix as long as you are a contortionist. The original dealer did not winterize it properly for the seller, although they did charge him an arm and a leg for the service. I had to replace the water pump screen bulb that was never emptied and tighten a couple hose fittings behind the shower wall. Other than that it drives like a dream, gets better mileage than my old Class "C", has more power, more room with two slides and seems to be built like a brick outhouse.

There are online sites that specialize in rating RV service centers. It's like Amazon comments. Customers describe the experience they've had with these establishments. You just have to read and take a consensus. Some people will complain if they are hung with a new rope, but overall you get a sense of how you are going to be treated when you walk in the door of an establishment that has been rated on these sites.

I'm sure that you can find someone that had an unhappy experience at the Winnebago factory, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I give them a 12.

--Keep Smilin', R.V. Shrink

Monday, May 21, 2012

RV Oily Mess


Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We live in our motorhome full-time and have no home base. My husband likes to change the oil himself and always is very careful to catch it all and not to make a production out of it. Last week a national forest campsite neighbor saw him changing the oil and came over and pitched a fit. He said it was illegal to change oil in the campground and accused us of polluting. My husband was very embarrassed and put things away immediately. I know for a fact it is not illegal. I also know my husband would never think of spilling a drop, and we have to do it somewhere. He has a very efficient system that collects the old oil and we carry it with us until the next town stop and dispose of it responsibly. I think he should have told the nosey neighbor to take a hike, but he doesn't like to rock the boat. He is a little upset that I had a few words with the jerk. We do not run into this type of individual that often, but they are out there waiting to pounce. Should I just turn the other cheek in the future, or bite back?
--The oil sheiks of Wyoming

Dear DIY:
Sometimes people make up laws for what seems out of the ordinary to them. Some people have way too much time on their hands and need to supervise those around them, whether they know them or not. I agree with your husband on a couple counts. I consider oil changes the life-blood of my engine and do not care to hire it out to people I don't know and can't watch. I can see how someone might take offense to having repair or maintenance work being done in a campground while they are there to camp and relax. It is best to pick your time and place where you do not have an audience. If maintenance is necessary, it must be done without spilling fluids on the ground or disposing of parts in campground receptacles. Perhaps in the past this neighbor had seen other, not so responsible RV owners leave a mess. Your husband made the right decision to clean up and shut things down and wait for a better time and place. Your parting shots might have made you feel better, but did nothing but fuel the flames of discontent. It sounds like your bark is worse than your bite, but I would suggest you keep both in the holster.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

RV Bugs

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife is always bugging me. I know you are always suggesting that responsibilities be shared, and I agree, especially when it comes to bugs. For some reason my wife cannot stand having one dead bug on the front of our rig. I get the hot tongue and cold shoulder unless I scrub new carcasses off the front every time we stop. She does a body count even if we stop at a rest area for lunch. She has this fetish about the front of our rig being clean. I despise these kamikazes that purposely dive bomb the front of our rig and immediately turn into cement. I spend way too much time debugging our rig. Can you help me? 
--Exoskeleton Mortician in Motion

Dear Mort:
I think bug removal is not only important, but the perfect shared responsibility. One of you can take the high road, the other the low road. That way you do not have to share the ladder. I would start by not cleaning as often, but that is something you will have to work out with your wife. They say the last thing that goes through a bug's mind when he hits your windshield is his acid. They also leave a lot of bug juice that will eventually ruin the finish on your rig. Cleaning this material off regularly is a great idea. You can also take some preventative measures. There are sprays that adhere to the surface making it easier to remove recent casualties. I often see rigs with vinyl bras or shields that take the bug bullet instead of the RV itself. A window expert told me once that I could use "0000" steel wool (dry) to remove glass bound bugs. I have never risked it, but it might be worth some experimental scrubbing. Another suggestion is to shy away from driving into the night. You will experience a lot more collisions at dusk and in the dark. So pick your half  and put your scrubs on. Working as a team may convince your wife the job should not be a constant chore. 
` --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, May 10, 2012

RV Movement

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have a nice 5th wheel we live in about nine months of the year. It came pretty well loaded with amenities making it convenient for us to camp with or without hookups. I don't want to put all men in the same category but most of them do like gadgets. My husband is no different. I don't mind him buying things we will use a lot or that can make chores more convenient, but I don't think we have to keep up with the Jones'. He saw a guy at the dump station with a grinding pump that allows black water to go through a garden hose. My husband thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He now wants to spend over three hundred dollars so he can grind up stink and put it through a smaller hose. He hasn't been very convincing as to how often we would need this item. We have been RVing for thirty years and we haven't needed one yet. Should I humor him and go along with this foolishness or hold my ground?
 --Black water puree in Pontiac

 Dear Black Water: It sounds like you two discuss what goes into your budget and what does not. If your husband really thinks he needs a macerator pump he will just have to sell you on it. Many new rigs do have them. They are convenient if you have to move black water a distance. Many people use them at home to dump into a home septic system. They are slower when you are at a dump station where a three inch hose is convenient. Most require 12V power or a water source to run. There are many things on your rig that are not absolutely necessary. The two of you will have to decide if this is an investment you think would be beneficial. I would suggest checking Craigslist and Ebay for a unit that someone else has already bought and then decided they didn't need one more thing to haul around. Their investment loss will be your gain, until you decide you really didn't need it either. The water driven system is about a third the price. Just don't hold up the line at the dump station arguing over who gets to go back to the old grind. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Husband gets the RV "stink eye"

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just started a trip that will last two months. My husband is raising a stink and I keep complaining about it, which makes him even more cantankerous than he usually is. We have a 1989 travel trailer. It seems our exposed plumbing outlet for the black water tank is cracked right were it is connected to the tank. It is a slow, steady, smelly drip. Every time my husband tries some new super-duper glue or filler, he tells me it's fixed. Every time I tell him it's leaking again he gets mad and frustrated. I know it's a lousy job and hard to deal with on a trip, but I just can't stand smelling like an outhouse every place we park. Should I just put up with it or keep giving him the stink eye. --Odiferous in Oregon

Dear Odi:
In your husband's defense, these are some of the hardest leaks to deal with and actually fix without having the tank replaced. There are many products that claim to be "stop leak" for ABS plastic, but they do not often work for any length of time. Not letting it drip onto the ground should be your first course of action.

Put some sewer deodorizer into a small bucket and contain it. If you can completely dump and dry the area around the suspected crack, I may have a solution for you, no pun intended. I have used this several times in the past and it seems to work better than anything else I have come up with. Get a small ABS fitting and grind or break it into very small pieces. I use a bench grinder that turns the ABS into thin, semi-melted, ribbon-like pieces.

Gather this material into a small can and add Acetone until it covers all the ABS pieces. Let this set for a couple hours, stirring occasionally. You will end up with ABS paste. By applying this paste to the dry, roughened area around the crack, the solution should meld into the fitting and crack. Let this dry and then add a couple more layers if needed. If nothing else it should last the rest of your trip. Often a new tank is the only remedy, which should be pretty straight forward if the tank is exposed. So work on this together and stop giving your husband the stink eye. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Volunteer Tour of Duty

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I decided we needed to change things up a bit in our travel routine. We decided to try volunteering at the National Parks. I don't really want to be a campground host and find some of the citizen science projects or trail maintenance more appealing. My wife likes to participate in the visitor information services. We find openings at various parks that satisfy both our wants, the problem seems to be time commitment. My wife wouldn't mind staying in one place for six months at a time, I however like to move around a lot more. I think two or three months in one place would be perfect. We have a much harder time securing volunteer jobs because I refuse to drop anchor for half a year. It tends to cause some hard feelings when she finds a position that is appealing and I won't go along with the time commitment. Shouldn't volunteers have more flexibility?
--Vulnerable Volunteer in Virginia

Dear V:
You do have flexibility, it just doesn't sync with each position you apply for. Volunteer services have become a great boon for both the public and private sector. It is especially popular with the RV traveling crowd. What originally started as a work for hookups barter, between campground hosts and camping facilities, is now expanding into hundreds of positions. The popularity of these programs has generated thousands of volunteer applications all over the country. It has also created competition for many popular areas and jobs that appeal to a great number of people. Often an administrator will select an applicant that is willing to do an entire season over one that desires a partial term. The two of you must work out what time commitments you are willing to make and compromise. The more you can offer in terms of skill and flexibility should boost your chances of landing the volunteer jobs that appeal to you. Applying for more than just one position in one area will also increase your chances of securing a job that fits whatever terms you decide work for the two of you. If you can't find the perfect volunteer job, try one that is not as appealing. Life's and adventure. You might stumble into a job you love and have never considered. You will be surprised how many opportunities to do other things are spawned from an original volunteer position.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sizing up your RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are shopping for a new RV. My husband wants a giant bus type motorhome and I would like to see us in something smaller. I don't care if it's a trailer, 5th wheel or motorhome, I just think it will be easier to travel in something less large. He thinks he needs the biggest thing that rolls on tires, I think we might feel more comfortable in something more conservative. Do you have any suggestions on finding a happy medium?
--Bigger not always better in Birmingham

Dear BB:
Size has a lot to do with how much you can afford and how you plan to use your rig. I always suggest talking to people who actually own the types of rigs you are seriously thinking about buying. Go to a campground or RV park and walk around. You will find most people are generous with their experience. You will hear a lot of people with 40+ foot rigs mention it does have some drawbacks as to where you can take them. It's not only your skill as a driver, but also the vegetation and terrain you find yourself navigating. If you plan to visit a lot of Forest Service campgrounds, you will find yourself limited. Many National Park campgrounds have put size limits on RV's. You have many more options today in the space department. Manufacturers are putting slide-outs on everything from mega motorhomes to pop-up campers. If you can't go long, go wide. I had a problem one year with my 27-foot Class C in a Florida State Park. After playing computer, campground bingo, I finally snagged a site reservation. When I arrived the ranger said I would not fit in the site. I assured her I would. She followed us down to the beach and watched as I backed into our compact little piece of heaven. I made it by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. If I had not fit, she would have given me my walking papers. Any length will take planning. Rig size will also determine where you stop for spur of the moment sight-seeing. Recently, driving Hwy. 70 across the top of Wisconsin, my wife and I saw two mature Bald Eagles and their young feeding on a deer carcass. We wanted to stop, but there was not enough shoulder to pull off with a Class A motorhome. We also pull a Saturn which sometimes makes you think twice about historic sites that come to a dead-end. Information is king. The more you know before you plunk down your hard earned money, will help you make the right decision, big or small.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GPS relationships

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I think my husband and I might be the fossils you were talking about last week. We are beginning to do weird things. For example, we have a new GPS with a woman's voice. My husband does not get along with her at all and I do not believe her half the time. We have started to call her Sacajawea and talk to her as if she was a real person. Do you think we are going nuts in our new RV or have you heard of this behavior before?
--Directionally Challenged in Chaco Canyon

Dear DC:
I sometimes wonder, but I am hoping it is normal behavior. Like your husband I have had relationship issues with the female voice on my GPS. I broke up with the first one. She was a Garmin. I bought a TomTom and that relationship is rocky. My wife won't let me call her what I want so I call her a witch, as in (which) way do you want me to go this time! It only makes sense that voice recognition and synthesized voice communication give cold plastic hardware a personality. In most cases the GPS voice tells us exactly what we ask for. A study shows that 80% of those using these units have never read the manual and do not understand many of the basic functions. It's actually a great way to see a lot of country you would normally miss. Besides, if you didn't have her to argue with, you might be arguing with each other. I consider mine a stress reliever. I think when they get a bit more sophisticated they will have a GPS unit that can argue back and really tell us where they would like us to go..
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is RVer being reasonable or a curmudgeon?

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I recently visited Big Bend National Park and discovered I may be a curmudgeon. There are a lot of fossils there, but I didn't want to be one of them. I began to suspect I was getting old and crotchety when I asked a young ranger with a diamond in her nose about a location I wanted to hike to. She pointed to an obvious point on the map as if I was directionally challenged, then kind of raised her eyebrows.

Without saying a word, she was screaming "idiot" with those raised eyebrows reflecting in her nose jewelry. When I pointed out the fact that I had already been to the point on the map and that it wasn't actually the historical location, she again pointed to the map as if I had missed it the first time. It was then I asked for a second opinion. She disappeared into the back office and came back with the suggestion that I buy a book about the historical location I was inquiring about. I explained that I had already read the book and that is what prompted my question. I was trying, with all the patience I could muster, not to be a curmudgeon, but I think I failed.

I know these rangers get all kinds of stupid questions from the visiting public, but once they become shell shocked the Park Service should give them a little R&R. Maybe with some time off they would actually get to know the area they are expected to be doling out accurate information.

This seems to work for the volunteers managing the visitor center desks. They seem to know everything and actually want to talk to people. They must all be a bunch of curmudgeons like me.
--Burnt in Big Bend

Dear Burnt:
You have to put everything in perspective. Maybe this person was having a bad day. Maybe she just had six people before you ask her why there wasn't a escalator to the top of Emory Peak. Maybe she just came off a three day search and rescue that didn't turn out well. Rangers wear many hats. I am not making excuses for those individuals who truly are rude from over exposure to park visitors. They show no professionalism and are obviously in the wrong career field. If you could read the reports of things that go on that are generated every day in the Park Service system, you would appreciate more the task that rangers have to hold it all together to preserve and protect. I agree with you about the volunteers. They have become a integral part of managing our National Parks. There is nothing wrong with being a curmudgeon. It is a vital part of personal evolution. Just be careful you don't get persnickety, that's when you become a fossil.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RV Fuming

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have a gas problem. Unlike most people I don't need Gas-X. I can't get enough gas. My motorhome has a 75 gallon tank. The problem is, most gas pumps will only give me $100 dollars worth of gas before shutting down. I'm throttled at the pump. I took my frustration out on an attendant and she told me it was the card company. I called the card company and they told me it was the merchant. I know the old saying, "The buck stops here," but my buck stops at 100 and I find it very frustrating. My wife tells me to, "Just get over it." I know I shouldn't let minor details bother me so much. I'm retired, have all the time in the world, move slower than I used to, but I can't get my mind wrapped around today's gas prices and the fact I can only buy 25-30 gallons at a time.

There was a time that I supported a wife, two kids, a dog and a mortgage on less than $100.00 a week. Now I can't even fill my gas tank. Help me Doc. I need some couch time.
--Fuming in Flagstaff

Dear Fuming:
It is a bit of a catch-22. The card company won't honor a fraudulent purchase over $100 dollars, so the merchant is only trying to protect himself by making you swipe twice so that no one swipes his gas once. You can go into the station and let them swipe your card. That action is considered like any other large purchase and allows you to put one large dent in your balance with one quick swipe. With your size tank you can consider other fueling strategies. Using online gas pricing information makes it possible to save considerable money by not filling completely until you find a real bargain. Smaller rigs with smaller tanks often have to make a purchase every two or three hundred miles.
Other than that just decide if it is better time management to go inside and have a short visit with the attendant or swipe a couple times at the pump. At today's price that could be three swipes. It is more expensive to go inside if you have a hard time getting past the coffee and donut counter.

Another suggestion is to go to the several online RV forums and study the fuel strategies of others. One important lesson is to keep your foot out of the carburetor. I would also suggest you stop taking your frustration out on the attendants. Like your wife, they are just laughing at you.

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