Tuesday, December 31, 2013

RV ice queen

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been traveling with our RV for a few years. We are usually gone from home 7 or 8 months. We live in Upstate New York and I prefer to leave right after color season. Unfortunately, my husband likes to leave right after Santa Claus. Every year we end up white knuckling our way south through some blizzard, ice storm or slushfest. By the time we make it to the sunbelt our rig looks like it was entered into a mud bog race. It never fails we have things break, rust and wear far more than any other travel time. Are we the only people stupid enough to travel in these weather conditions? How can I work out a compromise with my husband to leave earlier?
-- Empire State Ice Queen

Dear Ice:
No, you are not alone. Check any major north/south artery after Christmas and you will find a caravan of RV’s headed for the sunbelt. Family and tradition often keep people in the snowbank until the festivities are over. My advice would be to explore the methods used by others. Depending on budget, many leave early and travel home for the holidays. I know couples that split up for the holidays. One staying north until after New Years Eve. You are correct. Traveling in extreme weather is tough on an RV. Frigid temps often make things break instead of bend, freeze up, expand and burst, brine up and decay. I recommend that owners driving through such conditions make a point to get a thorough washing once out of the quagmire. Spending time or money to have your rig completely winterized in the fall should prevent broken plumbing. Even though I completely blow out my water system, I always use RV anti-freeze as an added insurance. I know people that will make a fall tour ending in a southern clime, find a convenient storage facility and travel back home for a couple months. Another thing I suggest is not putting yourself on a schedule. Using all the weather information available today, pick yourself a weather window and make a break for it. Weather.com has a commuter forecast site that works much like Mapquest. You dial in your route and it will give you a weather synopsis. Here is another tip I learned the hard way. Be very careful which windshield washer fluid you choose. They are not all created equal. The trade name Prestone is almost synonymous with anti-freeze. You would think that a windshield wash would contain an anti-freezing agent. Not always so. Prestone Bug Wash will freeze solid as a rock in cold weather. Not only will you have no windshield wash as you are barreling through the slushfest, it can damage your reservoir, lines and pump. Read the fine print when buying fluids. So I guess the bottom line in the compromise question might be an every-other-year solution. Stay late one year, leave early the next. If you can stand to be separated for a few weeks, split up and enjoy some alone time. Often pets are a problem when trying to work out this holiday travel solution. Sometimes it is easier for you and your family to celebrate Christmas early and make your getaway before you have to break out the blizzard blanket. It is never any fun trying to load an RV when it’s colder than a well diggers lunchbox.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

RV sucker

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I don't have central vac in my motorhome and use an older upright self propelled that I really love but every time I use it I have a ton of dust everywhere. In our enclosed 40' motor home, it doesn't take long to build up. I know that everyone claims to have the best vacuum out there so here's hoping that someone has experience with a smaller, efficient vacuum. I also boondock a lot so I'm wondering if there is one that runs on battery that works on carpet. Thanks y’all.
--Dusty in Denton

Dear Dusty:
I would start out cleaning the machine you have. The bag may be too full, broken, or not attached properly. You might also look into hypoallergenic bags that fit your machine to keep the dust down. Most handheld machines I have used are all bark and no bite and don't work well on carpets. A vacuum is one product you buy that you hope really sucks, and often it doesn’t. If you read the comment section of this column over the next couple of weeks you will likely hear from many readers who have tried machines and are willing to share their experience with you. Another method I find helpful is Amazon comments/reviews. Often Amazon customers have written reviews on products they have bought. These comments are ranked 1-5 stars. I read a few of the lowest and highest rankings to get a consensus. When I think I have narrowed my choice down to one product I read them all. My weapon of choice is a small shop vac. I just get down and dirty with the handheld wand. This would not be the answer for everyone, but it is powerful and allows me to reach into all the small nooks and crannies. Depending on your budget, you could explore the cost of having a central vacuum system added to your coach. It would sure be a lot more fun than buying a new kayak or mountain bike, and probably just as much exercise if you use it enough. Okay folks. Let’s here from you out there on the road. What should Dusty do?
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RV couch potato

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is a couch potato. When we retired and bought our fifth wheel trailer I thought we were headed off to explore the country. I love to walk and I make sure we camp near hiking or biking trails or scenic areas where we can explore on foot. My husband is in good physical shape, but has no interest in hiking in these areas we visit. He just wants to watch his stupid TV. The most exercise he gets is adjusting his satellite dish. He could do that at home. How do I get him off the couch? 
--NASCAR widow in Winslow

Dear Winslow:
Let me start by saying, “There is nothing abnormal about watching TV and acting much the same way on the road as you would at home.” That said, there can be a point of boob tube addiction. If you look forward to hiking and physical activity, it makes it that much more enjoyable. It just doesn’t turn some people on. Those people need to work at it. Your husband may be in that category. I would explain to him the fact that aging will catch up to him very quickly if he doesn’t move a bit more. “Use it or lose it.” I have known many people in my life that retired and did absolutely nothing. Most died from boredom, others from sedentary lifestyle disease. A healthy relationship should include doing things with your partner you may not enjoy as much as they do. That could mean in your case that you learn some NASCAR lingo like “trading paint,” and your husband works his way up to doing a three-mile hike to a scenic overlook. Retirement and RV travel are all about doing the things and exploring the places you have always dreamed about. That can take some teamwork. If he isn’t into all the hiking activity that you are, find a group to join. In most areas you can connect with other birders, ranger walks, historic tours etc. For his own good, do get him to agree to more physical activity. In the long run it will be good for both of you. He doesn’t have to take up jogging. Photography, birding, paddling, hunting, metal detecting and dozens of other interests can get people motivated to get off the couch, out of the rig, and discover there is exercise more enjoyable and exhilarating than channel surfing.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

RV campsite vibrations

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know you have addressed many complaints about campground inconsiderations, but I think I have one that tops most. We were in a campground in the Panhandle of Florida recently. Parked next to us was the longest trailer I have ever seen. It had to be 40 ft. After quiet hours my wife and I went to bed. Notice I didn’t say, “Went to sleep.” At first I thought it might be an earthquake or a tsunami. It wasn’t a sound as much as a vibration. It was much like feeling a kid go by in a low rider with the bass turned all the way up on his sub-woofers tucked in the trunk. It didn’t take long to discover it was the neighbor watching a war movie on his big screen TV. Every time there was an explosion in the movie, which was often, a vibration would ripple through our campsite. We usually do not complain but I think a new campground ruling may have to be enacted, “No vibrations after 10 o’clock.” Maybe they should have a, “No big screen TV” section. We are trying to be open minded, but is this really camping?
--All shook up in the sunny South

Dear Shook up:
It won’t do any good to go plan a shopping spree at Best Buy and arm yourself. Returning fire with 15-inch sub-woofers and a 130,000 watts would give you fire superiority, but it will just lead to sound retaliation and escalation. As for the camping question, not everyone is looking for the same experience. Camping, as once defined, has become very generic. The popularity of the new high-end RV has created an evolution in camping that will continue to morph into things we can’t even imagine yet. If you are not comfortable with discussing the problem with your neighbor and trying to resolve the issue, your only choice is to relocate. In this case, perhaps they don’t realize the effect their entertainment system is having on you. It sounds like they were not actually making much noise, so perhaps they do not realize the reverberation is traveling out to those around them. We camped next to a guy with an electric piano once. He used earphones. There was no sound but we could still feel some of his tunes if he cranked it up too high. We made a joke of it and he was shocked that we even knew he had a piano. We never felt his music again. The next morning you should have asked your neighbor who won the war. That could stop many future battles for other neighbors retiring for the evening.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

RV Wheelin' and Dealin'

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband can be obsessive. Last winter we slightly dented one of our wheel covers while crossing a very narrow, high curbed toll bridge in Texas. My husband was fit to be tied when it happened. The toll collector said it happened all the time. The toll booth and the curb were well scraped. My husband asked the attendant if it was designed to destroy RVs. That incident started six months of trying to find one matching wheel cover. I told him to just buy a whole set and be done with it. He won’t turn it into the insurance company, insists on finding a single replacement, and has spent untold hours online, calling, visiting dealers and RV salvage yards. I’m not sure if he needs your advice or I need it. I would like to hear your two cents worth.
--Wheel’in and Deal’in in Dayton

Dear Wheel’in:
It can be very frustrating. I have been through the same thing. You would think with all the RVs on the road there would be a source for used wheel simulators. I know where your husband is coming from. Going down the road they all look alike. It is not until you need one that you discover the multitude of different styles, sizes, lug configurations and attachment systems. I got the exact part number I needed from a Winnebago dealer, ordered a whole set and it was still wrong. Here is my suggestion. Wheel simulators make a great stocking stuffer. Just make sure you use a big stocking. Don’t tell your husband. Check the actual wheel on your rig. You will find a number stamped into the wheel. (Example: 19.5 x 6.25). You will want a simulator that will fit that measurement. Many manufacturers use Dicor wheel simulators. You can go online and match the wheel size to a Dicor simulator and get the actual product number you need. Even if you buy a different brand they will be able to cross reference that number or sell you the correct simulator with the wheel measurement you found stamped into your wheel. My suggestion would be to replace the wheel cover you damaged and sell the other three on Ebay. The fact that they are so hard to find individually, I actually sold my remaining three for more than I paid for the entire set. Selling the remaining covers will be a great project to keep your husband busy. When he stops looking for a wheel simulator he will have way too much time on his hands. If you decide to let him continue his quest for a single replacement I just caution him to list his specs as to size, lug configuration, style and attachment. There are many RV salvage businesses online who may have what you need but as you have found out, the specs you need are not always that plentiful. You do not specify what type of caps you have. I would suggest buying bolt-on wheel covers if you are going to the cost and trouble of buying a whole set. The snap-on have a tendency to pop off for various reasons. Often the tire or brake repair people do not replace them correctly. If you have snap-on, replace the whole set with bolt-on and then sell the others as Used on Ebay. You will find plenty of buyers because they fall off all the time.
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Great RV Escape

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband wants to change his life. I think it's a mid-life crisis. He is only 49. He says he's burned out. He is talking about an RV and running away to travel for a year or so. That’s okay with me, but there is so much involved in making a decision like this. We have the money. We could actually retire early by changing our lifestyle a bit. He has worked hard his whole life. I hate to deny him this escape plan. How should we proceed? Just take the leap? I would appreciate some advice.
--The Great Escape in Inverness

Dear Escapee:
It all sounds familiar to me. I’ve done this more than once myself. Everyone has varied circumstances. You really need to make all these personal decisions on your own and carefully. That said, I would suggest you not be afraid to explore this move. If you have never experienced the RV lifestyle, I would advise baby steps. Some people are not cut out for it, although it might sound appealing. Take Sam Israel for example. He was the mini-Madoff hedge fund manager that lost 400 million bucks of other people’s money. Talk about a mid-life crisis. He faked a jump off a New York bridge, and scooted away in a new RV. He didn’t last a week before he turned himself in. My point is, don’t sell the farm without trying out this great escape first. Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Another example would be long-distance hikers. I see a lot of people who have spent months preparing to hike a long trail, such as the Appalachian Trail. They read an account in the paper and it sounded appealing. After quitting their job, buying equipment, and planning logistics for months of hiking, I find them on the side of the trail in deep thought. They have hiked about a 100 miles with all their worldly possessions on their back. They look at me and say, “What was I thinking?” The point is, go slow. Take a couple short trips. Most people find out this is a great lifestyle. Even getting away from a high pressure job for awhile can help you think clearer. A job can kill you. I know, I had one once. Life is full of adventures and you only go around one time, so don’t be afraid to try a few things.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RV out to launch

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have been planning my great escape for over 2 years. I will retire next month and plan to leave on my maiden voyage the first of the year. I bought a small Class B van which may prove too small. I am going to take baby steps and decide if buying a larger motor home and hauling a car would suit me better. I just want to get my feet wet before I jump completely in. They say reading and doing are completely different experiences. I am only a little nervous about traveling alone. I have been a widow for almost 5 years. I have done some traveling and camping on my own, but this will be an extended trip. Do single people fare alright in the full-time lifestyle or should I plan on always being the third wheel? I am very outgoing but think it might be hard building long lasting friendships with such a vagabond lifestyle. Thoughts please.
--Out to Launch in Littleton

Dear Launch:
You might be a Fifth Wheel if you go larger and decide on something other than a motor home, but you will never have to worry about being a third wheel. There are numerous ways to meet people with your same lifestyle, but actually you don’t even have to try. Friendships in campgrounds are like spontaneous combustion. We have met some of our best friends on ranger led hikes, birding in campgrounds, around campfires, even breaking down on the road. You will meet people with similar interests while pursuing things that interest you--hiking, paddling, photography, whatever. Another option would be to join a club. Not just a singles club, although there are several of those. Three that come to mind are RVing Women, Loners on Wheels, and Wandering Individuals. I think an important part of social success on the road is being a bit adventuresome, outgoing, friendly and courteous. Single or paired, these are qualities that will help you connect with like-minded people encountered along the way. Another possibility that comes to mind is a dog. Not just for companionship. Last year my wife and I met a wonderful friend while we were trying to catch our freaked out cat. Funny Face jumped out of the motor home and panicked. Janice happened along with her dog Baloo and helped us look for Funny Face. She and Baloo were from Canada and traveling all over North America in a small trailer. We became fast friends and traveled much of the winter together. Janice was very outgoing and I am sure she could make lots of friends without Baloo, but she said more than once that walking Baloo opened up many conversations and connected her with so many friends while traveling. The RV lifestyle will present many challenges to you, but making friends will not be one of them I guarantee.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

RV dog dilemma

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel full-time with our dog. It is often inconvenient, but the joy we get from the companionship offsets the limitations it causes. We met a couple who are campground hosts and they invited us to go out to lunch with them. They insisted on driving because they needed to bring their "service dog" along. When we questioned them about the need for a service dog, they admitted it wasn't actually true. It seems the dog suffers from separation anxiety so they were able to go online and get papers that officially designates the dog as a “certified service dog.” My husband thought it would be a good idea for us to do the same, but I feel it's dishonest. He says it is only a little white lie. What do you think?
--Barking up the wrong tree in Baton Rouge

Dear Barking:
I find it more than dishonest. I find it disgusting. These fake Internet documents erode the credibility of actual service dogs. Many people that truly need a service animal are already suspect. To have a wave of pet owners falsifying the need for an animal will only help destroy an important program that many authentic handicapped people rely on. Life is full of choices. If you travel with an animal it will often mean sacrificing some activities. We have more than once offered to babysit dogs for fellow campers that wanted to take a day hike on trails that did not allow dogs. In fact, dog sitting could be a very lucrative work camper business if someone wanted to pursue it. People leaving barking dogs all day in a rig while they go off is a common complaint. The service dog program is for people, not animals. Don’t let your husband confuse the two. That said, I am going to take another crack at humor. The last time I attempted to attach a bit of humor to a serious subject I got a lot of flack. But this story is just too appropriate to pass up. These two guys were out walking their dogs when one of them suggests they go in a bar and have a drink. The other guy says, “They won’t let us in with our dogs.” His buddy responds, “Oh, no problem, I do this all the time. Just follow my lead.” At that he puts on his sun glasses and heads into the bar. The bartender says, “Hey buddy, you can’t come in here with that dog.” The guy says, “But this is my seeing eye dog.” The bartender says, “A dachshund is your seeing eye dog?” The guy says, “Oh sure. It’s a popular breed now. When you come into an establishment they fit right under your arm out of the way” The bartender says, “Okay, come on in.” After watching all this the other guy walks in. The bartender says, “Hey buddy, you can’t come in here with that dog.” The guy says, “But this is my seeing eye dog.” The bartender says, “A Chihuahua is your seeing eye dog?” The guy musters up as much theatrical shock as he can and says, “THEY GAVE ME A CHIHUAHUA!!!!”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Camping site Comfort Level

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is tighter than a wax doll's eardrum. He will pull off on a wide spot in the road for the night before he will pay a campground fee that exceeds fifteen dollars. I am not comfortable with his questionable campsites and it causes constant arguing. We have been asked to leave these sites several times in the middle of the night. It’s scary, to say the least, dealing with people in the dark. I am always sleeping with one eye open. He tells me I read too many headlines and that we are perfectly safe. Safe or not I feel like we are playing “Russian Roulette” every night we spend in a questionable spot. I am all for boon-docking, but he is obsessed with camping as cheaply as possible no matter the risk I feel, perceived or real. Do you think I am overly cautious? I don’t want to be a “Nervous Nelly” but I don’t want to be reckless to the point of ending up in an uncomfortable situation while trying to save a couple bucks.
--Ole One Eye in Ely

Dear One Eye:
Everyone has their own comfort level and budgetary restraints when it comes to camping in various parts of North America. It sounds like you and your husband are polar opposites when it comes to the boundaries of those levels. The secret of a successful relationship is compromise. Meeting in the middle should be no problem in your circumstance. You should sit down and decide what type of overnight sites are off the table. Perhaps it will be rest areas, undersigned wide spots, closed businesses with large parking lots, or any number of questionable spots that might look inviting but come with no invitation. Secondly, you should accumulate as much information as you can, keep copious notes, invest in reference material, talk with other RVers and become an expert at locating places where you will enjoy camping, feel safe and not break the bank. I am assuming you are talking about staying in questionable sites while traveling from one destination to another. That should not be a problem if you spend some time doing your homework. Your husband should have no problem staying somewhere you feel comfortable if there are enough alternatives. Many companies besides Walmart now offer overnight parking as part of their customer service. There are several computer Apps that easily show numerous camping opportunities. With a wi-fi connection you can find directions, rates, images of the facilities and reviews from other RVers. You can buy campground guide books that specialize in low cost camping that are updated constantly. Keep a calendar or journal of where you have been, places you have heard about from other travelers, places you have read about in travel articles or brochures you have picked up at Welcome Centers. In the SW portion of the US we use these guidebooks

Click here to visit Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking.

Each one of these guides pay for themselves in a one or two night stay. You may find you enjoy this type of research. It can be like collecting coins or stamps but make you a lot more money in savings, safety and piece of mind.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reawakening the RV snoring issue

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Regarding one of last week's comments:
Really, RV Shrink, is that the best you can come up with for this poor woman? She can try ear plugs and/or a white noise machine. For her own snoring, there are Breathe-Right strips, which may even help her own sleep. Have her Google "trouble sleeping next to someone with a CPAP" for ideas. I just did, and the consensus seems to be that white noise (like a fan) or a white noise generator is the most helpful, but there are many other suggestions there. Lastly, if she hasn't already had herself tested for sleep apnea, she should, especially if overweight. Not sure whether her own CPAP would help or hurt the cause, but it might help her sleep more soundly.
--Caring Karen

Dear Karen:
Okay, I guess my feeble attempt at a little humor didn’t go over so well. Maybe enough people just are not familiar with this commercial: Funny Snoring   I didn’t take it too seriously because it makes no sense that sleeping together in a 5th wheel would be any different than sleeping together at home. If he had already been through the process of ending up with a CPAP I would assume they were already up to speed on what options were available for patients with sleep disorders. But I agree, I should have pretended I was an MD, instead of pretending I was a Shrink, and covered the subject in more detail. So now I’m pretending I’m sorry. (Relax, I’m kidding). Remember, laughter is the best medicine. Sleep is very important in maintaining a healthy, stress-free lifestyle, at home or on the road. If you have sleep disorder issues you should seek professional advice. All you’re going to find here is my baloney. In fact, I have been trying to come up with some sound advice. I remember Phyllis Diller always said,
“ Never go to sleep mad. Stay up and fight.” --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sound RV sleeping

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Living in a 5th wheel takes some adjustment. My husband suffers from sleep apnea. He snores like a foghorn. He now uses a breathing machine and it feels like I'm sleeping with Jacques Cousteau. When I complain he says that I also snore. Do you think we should buy a larger two bedroom RV? We have been married for 42 years and never had this problem until we moved into the 5th wheel. My husband doesn’t want to sleep in separate beds or rooms. I'd love to hear some sound (sleeping) advice.
--Not Sleeping in Seattle

Dear Not Sleeping:
It appears you are both sound sleepers. He now has a machine to control his sound. It sounds like you are still snoring, yet he wants to continue sleeping with you. I think you should be able to put up with his mask and apparatus. I think it means a lot that he doesn’t want to have separate sleeping arrangements. Forty-two years with this character -all the moodiness, all the complaining, every night with the snoring, forty-two years of it, and yet he still loves you.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hubby does not like making reservations

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Now that so many camping facilities are on some type of reservation system, I think it is important that we begin making arrangements before we begin a trip. My husband, Dan, does not like making reservations. He thinks it puts us on a schedule and forces us to move whether we are ready to or not. If we don’t make reservations we cannot get into many campgrounds that we enjoy. It’s a “Catch 22” and causes many arguments. How can we solve this dilemma?
--Book 'em, Danno, in Delray Beach

Dear Danno:
It is getting harder every year to schedule a trip, or stay where you want, when you want. I just heard of a software program that some campers are using that works similar to an Ebay Auction software. It will actually monitor a reservation site, snag cancelations and keep them open until the users decide whether they want them or not. I have seen people scalping reservations on Ebay and Craigslist for popular sites. Competition for campsites is heating up as more and more RVer’s hit the road. The process of supply and demand continues to increase camping costs, along with government decisions to farm public campgrounds out to concessioners who find it easier to raise pricing and switch to a reservation system. Many people who have been fighting the urge to reserve a site are now finding it much more convenient to secure a few great places, and put themselves on a schedule. The alternative is to constantly play campground Bingo on the computer or show up and hope for an opening. It is all part of the stress of combat camping. In your case you might want to compromise and do a bit of both. Reserve some of the places you both know you want, and wing it with the rest. Not making reservations also forces you to move constantly from site to site when you do get into a park and often move out during busy weekends that have been entirely booked. I know it’s tough when the fish are biting and you have to move on to your next reservation. Welcome to camping in the 21st century. 
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

RV DIY

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife thinks I should be a mechanic just because I have a travel trailer. Women used to want a guy that was "handsome," now they want a guy that is "handy." Last week the water coming out of the kitchen faucet started slowing down. Each day the stream would shrink a bit more. For days it had us puzzled. I figured it must be a pinched water line somewhere under the sink. I had most of that apart when my wife discovered it was only the strainer at the tap that was clogged. Should I take a course in RV mechanics or should I send my wife who seems to have more aptitude for such things?
--Ralph the Plumber in Potstown

Dear Potstown:
You don’t have to be a mechanical genius to enjoy the open road in an RV. You always hear people say that a boat or RV is just a black hole you pour money into. I have never found that to be true as long as you take care of things on a regular basis. It is called precautionary maintenance. In our new internet connected world you can now go to one of many online RV Forums and find the answer to most any problem and discover how to fix it. Whatever has gone wrong has already happened to someone else who is willing to share the experience online and suggest how you might solve it. You can find Youtube videos on everything from fixing a leaky roof to changing the oil in the genset. It sounds to me like you two make a good team. Often problems turn out to be a simple fix using a bit of common sense. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill, and solicit some advice before you start tearing the walls apart.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Greta Garbo RVing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Call me Greta Garbo, but we don’t like to park three feet from other people when we travel in our RV - "I WANT TO BE ALONE". We just returned from a year on the road and never once stayed in a commercial park for that very reason. What makes me absolutely crazy is closely related to this “RV 2-close-a-phobia” I have. During the shoulder season, when campgrounds are less congested, we find a site that is as far away from others as possible. Last week we were in a National Forest campground and there was not another soul camping. There were 49 sites spread over hundreds of acres of beautiful woods. Another couple showed up in a large motorhome and decided to park in the campsite closest to us. They were not very friendly, had barking dogs, and eventually fired up their generator to watch TV for a couple hours. Am I abnormal? Do I need professional help? I didn’t yell at anyone--this time.
--Greta-like in Grand Marais

Dear Greta:
You are very normal. Some people are paranoid about camping by themselves. They would rather camp next to you even if you were an axe murderer. I’m assuming you are not. It can be very annoying, especially if they are noisy or nosey. Like many other campground issues, sometimes it is easier to pull up stakes and move rather than to sit and stew. A huge part of camping for some people is the solitude. For others it seems to be the camaraderie. In this case it sounds like your neighbors were into neither. I can only remind you that living in an RV has so many more options than living in a home with close neighbors. The greatest option is that set of wheels your RV came standard with. Use them.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RVing the dark side

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
When we started RVing it only took one bad experience to decide I never wanted to drive in the dark again. My husband seemed to agree, but he has a tendency to make time and push the limits of our driving day. Recently we were headed for Anacortes, Washington to a county park. It was getting late, but we were only an hour from our destination. My husband talked me into going all the way, so we arrived in total darkness. The road into the park narrowed to one lane, took a hard left, and went straight up. We had no idea what we were getting into, and there was no turning around. When we reached the top of the hill it was a dark wooded area. Luckily an angel appeared. A camper stepped out of the dark and motioned us into a wide campsite, then disappeared. We never did get to thank him. I don’t know how to cure my husband of pushing the limits of light. He says, “Never again.” But then he forgets our bad experiences and away we go again into the night. What say you?
--Scared of the darkside in Denver

Dear Darkside:
I’m with you. We made the same decision years ago. Rules are meant to break. It is easy to talk yourself into pushing on when you get close to your destination. If you are familiar with your destination it makes some difference, but you can still have problems along the way which compound quickly in the dark. Experience usually makes for better judgement. Most RVers have found out the hard way that driving at night is not the safest method of travel. Our maiden voyage years ago ended in a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. First, the owner of the station had to pull us off the top of an icy mountain in the dark with a wrecker. He told us we would be safe sleeping at the station overnight. His last words before leaving for the night were, “Don’t get out of your trailer during the night, my German Shepard will eat you alive!” We swore we would never drive after daylight again. Yes, we have broken that rule a few times, but usually we regretted it. So cut your husband some slack on having a short memory, we all have a tendency to forget the bad times.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Growing old in an RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been full-timers for over 12 years. We are so old, we know too much. Some of our favorite campgrounds have priced us right out of enjoying them. Our cost of living increases are nowhere near the rising cost of eking out a living. Many National Forest, pit toilet campgrounds have gone to concession run conglomerates. We just left one that charged $19.50. Even with our half-price senior pass this is three times more than when we started traveling in our RV. I think we are going to be priced out of RVing before we get too old to drive. I guess thinking about the “good ole days” is all part of growing old. Everything we do, from pumping gas to buying groceries gives us sticker shock. My husband say’s he is going to start a roving RV diagnostic business. He says they charge $100 just to say, “Yup, she’s broken.” Are we just becoming sour grapes or do you think the cost of RV travel is rising faster than the cost of keeping up.
--Ready for harvest in Havre

Dear Ready:
I like your husband’s business plan. He won’t even need to haul any tools around. I have often said, “The boomers are coming.” Combat Camping is the new norm. Supply and demand drive the cost of camping, but also changing Fed policy. Shrinking government means getting out of multiple businesses. One business the government is getting out of quickly is the camping business. Many state and local forest campgrounds are now run by concessionaires that are starting to pay hosts a salary. That cost is passed on to each camper using the facility. The more pressure applied to state and federal budgets will see more increases in camping fees for less service. In Yellowstone this year I asked the ranger at the entrance booth about a dump station location. She said, “I don’t know about that, it’s not a park service facility, it’s run by a concession.” So, not only do they farm services out, they become a black hole (no pun intended) in the park service information sphere. I don’t think you are quite ready for harvest. I think you just need to roll with the punches. Let your vast travel history and knowledge work for you, not against you. Keep copious notes, learn about changes and how they affect you. Budget campground spending. There are still a lot of great places to camp at a reasonable price.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting pickled in your RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is sick in the head. Nothing too serious. The pickle jar fell out of the cupboard and beaned him good. We stopped for lunch at a rest area in North Dakota after driving through a long construction zone. Things must have been rattled around pretty good. I opened the cupboard door and before I could yell “incoming” he was sprawled on the floor holding his head, practicing vocabulary I rarely hear. Now he thinks we need netting on all of our cupboard openings. We have been on the road for three years and this has never happened before. I don’t want to deal with netting every time I need a can of beans. He is being very insistent that he design some safety measure. Do you think it was the pickles? Will he eventually get over this obsession? The lump on his head has disappeared but I see him staring at the cupboards all the time and his little gears are turning. I know he is going to do something stupid, like build a hockey goal around all of our storage areas. Help me please.
--Pickled in Park Rapids

Dear Pickled:
We’ve all been pickled before. It wears off after a short time. As you know, UFO’s (Unidentified Falling Objects), are not a constant problem. My suggestion would be to work with your husband on this problem so you can control his creative side. Suggest that you rearrange goods so that heavy items, such as pickles, are not stored directly above the dinette. In this cupboard you may want to place paper products like napkins. If he does not buy into this relocation process there are products already on the market that create the very barriers he's trying to design. Some look like hockey goals and others act like cupboard fencing. These devices are not normally needed. Storage of items takes some thought and experimental experience. Noise is another issue RVer’s in motorhomes deal with while rolling down the road. Storing food, dishes and pots and pans takes some organization and planning to keep the decibel level within a reasonable range. Many people find themselves going to lighter weight products like plastic wine glasses and composite plates. Light, unbreakable items do less damage if they happen to fall out of the cupboards. They are also less likely to cause a concussion or long-term engineering programs. If you find a number of divots in the dinette's formica table top, you are probably a candidate for storage rearrangement school.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RV sink stink

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are first time buyers of a new Class A motorhome. On one of our first trips we met up with friends and family for a weekend camping trip. It turned out to be four nights of boon-docking. On the way home we had a horrendous smell in the motorhome. My wife was giving me the stink-eye and I thought it was her. After playing the blame game we finally did some investigation and discovered it was sink stink. We never smelled it while camping, but as soon as we started down the road it was as if someone threw a stink bomb into our new rig. We were conservative with our water use, but I think my wife took too many showers. We are hoping that grey and black water odors are not going to be an ongoing problem for us. Is this something we should stress about or is it just part of the learning curve we are experiencing?
--Smellbound in Springfield

Dear Smellbound: 
Not to worry. You will discover many little idiosyncrasies as you learn to trim the sails. This one is easy. Dump the holding tanks when they get full. Your new home on wheels has been plumbed with sink traps just like your home. Once the tanks fill, the gray water will find its way past the traps and begin to smell. Usually it will back up into the shower stall first. Holding tank deodorizers will help distinguish occasional odors that escape while flushing or dumping. I would suggest you always use black water treatments and occasionally treat your grey water tank also. There are shelves full of stuff and they all work great. After four days of boon-docking you may want to consider personal hygiene products also. It’s not always the sink drain.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, August 15, 2013

RV Comings and Goings

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife is conflicted. We spend 6-9 months a year living and traveling in our RV. Before we leave my wife is always dragging her feet. She is very involved socially at home and hates to leave. Once we are on the road she goes through withdrawals for awhile then slides comfortably into our RV lifestyle. After several months on the road she dreads going back home and getting so involved again. I try to keep her on the road as long as possible, but I never know if she is coming or going. Is this normal behavior? --DiscomBobulated in Duluth

Dear Bob:
It sounds perfectly normal to me. Sometimes when people have the freedom to do whatever they like, they can’t decide what they really want. It’s like a kid in a candy store. As wonderful as RV travel is, the tug of home can be very strong for many reasons. Friends and family, home maintenance, grandkids, social functions, tax preparation, the list of reasons to go back to port varies. It sounds like you have the best of both worlds. You're lucky your wife makes the transition even though it is not as smooth as yours. Some couples do not survive the RV lifestyle because one or both cannot make the transition at all. As romantic as the open road sounds, some people find they are too insecure to enjoy it. Some folks just can’t find happiness in being uprooted, have no sense of adventure or cannot convince themselves to give up their social calendar back home. You two sound like you are adjusting just fine. Keep on truckin’.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, August 8, 2013

RV Soap Opera

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I think you need to schedule campground office hours. We just spent a night in Rocky Mountain National Park next to a couple in a large tent. Their campfire circle was directly out our motorhome bedroom window. They spent a few hours around the campfire discussing their relationship loud enough so that we could not help hearing the whole sordid mess very clearly. It was a warm night so they had to know everyone around them had their RV windows open. I think they needed a confessional more than a couch. Things escalated into yelling. We were not going to pull out and move at midnight, but we were hoping we weren't going to end up in the middle of a domestic violence scene. I tell my husband we should stay in private campgrounds where the management might be on top of this drama before it gets out of hand. He says the parks have law enforcement, but I have never seen them ask a noisy group of people to quiet down. Do you think I am over-reacting to an uncommon event? I do use ear plugs but they don't block out the loud voices or noises. Maybe we have just been in the wrong places at the wrong time in our short stint on the road so far. --Soap Opera in the Rockies

Dear Soap: I think your campfire confession couple is rare indeed. It is not uncommon to find a campsite neighbor that is annoying, but often it is just rude people making too much noise. I have recently commented on the musical types and those with automotive alarm systems. Domestic disputes are less common and could become violent. They are also often alcohol fueled. I would advise staying completely out of those situations. Moving would not be out of the question if the scene started looking ugly. Campground hosts have the ability to contact law enforcement as would private campground management. It is not a perfect world and those things do not always happen in government or private campgrounds. You have to gauge your comfort level and make your own decisions to relocate or stand your ground. I can guarantee that these annoyances will be a small percentage of the campground experiences you will have in your travels. Most campgrounds will be filled with wonderful people, many of which will become lifelong friends.
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RV music lesson

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I like music as much as the next guy, but campground "musicians" drive me nuts. It never fails — there always seems to be someone in camp that thinks everyone wants to hear their music. Recently we were serenaded at Glacier National Park by a young girl who knew three guitar chords and half the words to the song “A Horse With No Name” by the band America. I used to love that song, but it will never have the same memory for me again. She yodeled it about a million times in three days. We were so happy when she finally left, but our solitude was short lived. She was replaced by a guy on his sax who thought he was John Coltrane, Kenny G., and Branford Marsalis all rolled into one. We might have been in the site next to the one reserved for the musically challenged. We decided to move. Unfortunately, today's new boom boxes have speakers that can reach several loops. From our new digs we could hear Pavarotti to the east of us and Bob Seger to the west. It was like hearing Bob Luciano sing “Love to watch her strut” operatic. Please don’t tell me to contact the host or a ranger. They are both within earshot (which could be several miles) and seem to both be deaf. Perhaps they attended too many loud concerts in the sixties. --Musically Annoyed in Apgar

Dear Annoyed:
I can sympathize with you. Fortunately, most of us make the effort to preserve the solitude. I won’t even run my generator during “generator hours” because I know it’s annoying to those around us. However, there are enough people who are oblivious to the fact that not everyone shares their taste in music, inconsiderate enough to disrupt neighboring campsites, and feel they are offering legitimate entertainment while learning to play an instrument in a quiet campground setting. We just sat through a day of listening to a guy with a wooden Native American flute, accompanied by several howling dogs. We moved, but not before complaining to the host. The host's job is one of little authority in most cases. In many cases, they don’t want to be involved even if it is part of their duty. You will notice that talking to the offending party yourself is most often like spitting into the wind. They wouldn’t be annoying you in the first place if they had two brain cells to rub together. It usually comes down to relying on local rangers or law enforcement to make sure rules are obeyed, quiet times are observed, and peaceful coexistence continues within confined campground settings. Your choices are to move or try to work things out through campground management, be it host, ranger or owners. Taking the law into your own hands, trying to out blast the neighbors or becoming the campground referee, will only make things worse. Campground utopia is hard to come by.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, July 25, 2013

RV In-Laws

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been full-timers for about three years. It is a great lifestyle with few problems until my husband's parents show up. They are elderly but still traveling occasionally with their pickup camper. They will often hook up with us and spend a few weeks. I try to be patient and kind, but they are opinionated, selfish and often rude. It changes our whole travel experience. They complain if they have to stay anywhere that costs more than five dollars per night, won’t dump unless it’s free. They would be happy to spend every night in a Walmart parking lot. They also want the cheapest gas and prefer to travel about a hundred miles per day with a long nap about half way. They are always complaining it is too cold, their battery power is too low or there is no flush toilet in the five dollar campgrounds we find. Their favorite pastime is sitting around critiquing other campers who are too loud, too fat, don’t know how to raise their children, don’t know how to drive, or are rich because they have a nicer rig than their own. Am I being selfish? I want to ditch them the day after they show up. --Two too close for comfort in Corvallis

Dear Two Too:
Just because you bought an RV and hit the open road doesn’t mean you have solved all your family relationship problems. As you have found out, “You can run, but you cannot hide.” There are several ways to look at your particular problem. You have to consider that they are your husband's parents. All of us have to deal with in-laws. They may need some extra care at their age. It is wonderful that they can still travel rather independently. They are probably on a small fixed income and need to be extra thrifty when looking for services. I am not making excuses for their behavior, I am just suggesting you give them a lot of behavioral leeway. You may want to pick the one thing that annoys you the most and try discussing it with them. If that improves their behavior you can slowly move on to other issues. If they are embarrassing you it might be your baggage. Most people will see your situation and be understanding of remarks made by your in-laws. These situations can be very frustrating, but you are only making yourself miserable. Take a deep breath, bite your tongue, check your manners, and keep looking for those free dump stations, five dollar campgrounds and cheap gas.
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Walmart Smart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have spent many nights in Walmart parking lots the past several years during our travels. We call them our pit stops. Every couple of weeks we do our shopping, buy a pizza and have a movie night with a Redbox movie. However, my wife Florence is getting a little over protective of our shopping center campsites. We see people camped as though they are living at Walmart. We see people leaving trash behind. Walmart’s hospitality seems to be attracting more homeless people, eking out a living on the parking lot fringes, begging with signs and even setting up tents. It is quite a contrast to see expensive motorhomes parked near shelter tents, both attracted by the same thing, free camping. I think we should all act responsibly, but I don’t think it’s my wife’s job to referee the Walmart camping policy. She hasn’t yet started to lecture people, but she gets very upset when she sees things she doesn’t approve. I get an earful and everyone else just continues to act irresponsible. Is this normal? It always causes an argument if I don’t act as disgusted as she is.
--Going with the “Floe” in Bozeman

Dear Floe:
Many people are observing the same thing as the two of you. Eventually, Walmart will suspend overnight privileges if it becomes more of a problem than it’s worth to management. Most stores that prohibit overnight parking currently are governed by policies forced on them by local ordinance. That does not mean Walmart as a company will not suspend this “customer service” if people abuse this convenience and wear out our welcome. It is not your wife’s responsibility or place to confront people in the parking lot. I would hope she understands the dangers in doing so. Walmart is very capable of managing their property without a traveling neighborhood watch vigilante making rounds for them. I would advise always calling ahead to be sure overnight parking is allowed. Often online or print information is outdated. Also, management will direct you to areas they would like to see you parked. Always let them know how much you appreciate the space and make them aware if you are doing some shopping in their store. If ninety percent of us who use their facilities show some respect, perhaps they will overlook the ten percent that take it for granted. Usually you are parked out on the fringes of the lot. Collect stray shopping carts and park them in the corrals, “Leave No Trace” when you depart, don’t run your generator or put your slides out, don’t use your hydraulic jacks on soft, hot pavement. Maybe even pick up some of the trash around your spot. Just use common sense and hope that the majority of others do the same. Be a spectator, not a referee. If you are going to argue about the shortcomings of others, just remember, never go to bed mad, stay up and fight.  
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Auto alarms in campgrounds drive him crazy

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
It is nice that most campgrounds have "No generator" zones, quiet hours posted, and in most cases a considerate population of campers. However, I am often jolted awake in the morning by that most annoying of all sounds, the automobile alarm system. It is not uncommon for some camper to get up at dark thirty to retrieve something from their car and the blasted horn alarm goes off. Am I the only one that finds this annoying to the point of verbal abuse? Do I need to check my feelings at the threshold of an outburst response to this invasive blaring? I am sure it has no impact on the horny neighbor, but it seems to be an automatic response for me to yell at them. --Honk if you like me in Lakeland

Dear Honked:
Yelling only does one thing. It makes you look like a jerk. I would suggest you be a bit more understanding. The person that may need a Shrink is the engineer that designed that stupid system. First, do you ever think when you hear those horns blaring, “Hey, someone is stealing a car!” No, you always think, “Who was the idiot engineer that decided that was a great option for every new vehicle in the world?” Couldn’t we just have the lights flash quietly? Couldn’t we have the steering wheel quietly lock up? Couldn’t we just have the smart car, call the owner's Smart phone and report a possible abduction? I think we have all experienced an electronic malfunction with this crime fighting system. I tried to disconnect the horn on mine once, but I couldn’t find the stupid thing. I believe it was located under the bumper just so it could not be disconnected.  So instead of yelling at the moon when this happens again, try this: Picture some poor soul out in the dark, in a panic, madly pressing every button on their key fob, trying to make their car shut up. They are already embarrassed enough without you making them feel worse. Have you ever thought about the people camped near you listening to some hyena yelping at the poor devil with the malfunctioning horn?
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hubby wears same clothes every day. Wife not happy

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Now that my husband and I are on the road full-time, I have a hard time getting him to change his clothes. He says we meet so many new and different people, no one notices he has the same clothes on for a week. I don’t mind doing laundry, even though many laundromats we stop at are the pits. We work as a team and can usually knock out our washing and drying duties in a couple hours. I like him to wear work clothes while he is doing his constant maintenance on our rig, but I find him wearing his good clothes for those chores because he doesn’t bother to change. He has dozens of outfits, but he is just not fashion conscious. All his outfits end up turning into work clothes. I think I need to paste a post-it note on his forehead but he would never notice it. I don’t think I am writing you for any advice, I just need to vent a bit. —Dirty Dozen in Denton


Dear Dirty:
If your husband is happy and keeping your rig in constant repair I think you should put it into perspective. You can buy a lot of new clothing for the cost of having your rig repaired at an RV service center. For every hour your husband clocks on the rig, ring up a hundred dollars on the clothing register. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be upset about him ruining his good clothing but don’t make a federal case out of it. Buy him some nice clothes at a second hand shop, hide a couple good outfits so you can take him out in public on occasion, and think of his outfits as disposable work clothing. As for laundromats, I agree. Many are the pits, with little or no management. With many RV needs today, there’s an app for that. There are actually a couple websites that review laundromats so you can see what others have discovered before you commit your quarters to thieving machines that steal your money and deliver no hot water. If you are the type of travelers that stay in commercial RV parks, you will usually find better maintained machines. If you do have a problem you will be able to find management to correct it. The only other thing I can think of to solve your husband's lack of clothing concern would be to get on the RV nudist campground circuit were clothing would be optional. Then you would just have to make sure he showered on a regular basis. Good Luck.

—Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Thursday, June 27, 2013

'Am I too easygoing?' RVer asks

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have to tell you I read your column every week. Mostly for the chuckles, but also to see what people are complaining about. I love your line, “Some people would complain if they were hung with a new rope.” I just wanted to write and tell you how abnormal I am. I’m a full-timer with a small retro Airstream. I go wherever the wind blows. I never seem to have any of the problems the other folks experience. I think maybe they are thinking too hard. If I get neighbors with a yapping dog, I block it out. If someone decides to take a shower at the dump station while I’m waiting, I just read a book until they are done. If I get party animals camped next to me I plug in my earbuds and listen to country music. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. I read that somewhere, because I’m just not that creative. Anyway, keep up the good work. Every Saturday morning I love to read about what I'm missing. —Happy Go Lucky in Lake Louise


Dear Lucky:
You are a breath of fresh air. You remind me of two kids who were total opposites. One a total optimist and the other a total pessimist. Their father asked me if there was anything I could suggest to maybe even them out a bit. It was near Christmas so I told him to buy the pessimist a fancy new bike with all the bells and whistles. Spare no expense and get him all the options. For the optimist, I suggested he fancy wrap up a large box of horse manure. I told him that should even them out just fine. On Christmas morning I happened by their house. There on the sidewalk was the pessimist. I said, “What did Santa bring you?” He said, “I got a stupid ole bike with so much junk on it I can’t even find the pedals.” I turned around and the optimist was running out of the house and jumping off the porch. I asked him the same question. He went screaming around the house, “I got a pony, but I haven’t found him yet.” I think you might be pony boy. Happy travels, as if you need the encouragement.

—Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Friday, June 21, 2013

RV Coach Couch Potato

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are parked next to a guy who loves to watch TV. He thinks he has to run his generator all the time his TV is on. We have a generator but we use it very conservatively. They have their place, but not running continuously. I have tried to explain to this guy that his TV is not drawing much power. He is just clueless. He also runs his generator half the day because his batteries are low. He must spend more gas powering his rig when it's parked than when he’s driving. We’ll be driving in the morning. Can’t take another day of this idle chatter. Just needed to vent. Thanks. --Asphyxiated in Alpine

Dear Asphyxiated:
It can be annoying. It only takes a bit of knowledge and tweaking to better manage power. I still do not understand the popularity of convection ovens in many of the new rigs. That dictates a generator run every time you want to cook something. It sounds like your neighbor might have failing batteries. Another mistake a lot of people make is trying to charge dead batteries by running the generator, allowing the converter to trickle charge the batteries. Much more efficient to power an automotive battery charger with the generator. I have both generator and solar, but if I could only choose one, it would be my 300 watts of solar. Many campgrounds today offer non-generator loops. We always opt for that. Besides running the generator for air conditioning occasionally or a quick microwave nuke, I run it under a load to exercise it when I’m out in the boondocks. This way I won't bother anyone else that might be seeking a bit of solitude. “Use it or lose it” is the theory behind air conditioning and generator precautionary maintenance. There is a reason you are seeing more “quiet hour” signs in campgrounds.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RV decisions, decisions

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have been fixing up an older Class “C” motorhome for several years. My wife and I are both retiring soon. We have talked often of traveling a good portion of the year in this rig I have invested so much time and money. Now that we are closing in on our voyage, my wife is balking. She thinks we should shop for a newer Class “A” with more room and less miles. I can understand the desire for a newer rig, but I think it is crazy to spend money on a new motorhome when we already have one that works perfectly well. Please give us your two cents worth.
--Frugal in Fresno

Dear Frugal:
Both sides of this argument have merit. The advantages of traveling in a rig that is paid for, functional and familiar would be the strong part of your argument. On the other hand a newer rig can mean many amenities that you probably do not enjoy currently. The majority have slides if your current model does not. This can make a big difference in square footage without going longer. Basement storage is a huge plus. Having plumbing enclosed in a cabinet instead of hanging down below the frame is another wonderful feature. Newer rigs are usually better insulated and you may even find better mileage with a newer engine and body design. Ultimately, you and your wife will have to work out the finer points of personal affordability. You may want to start with the motorhome you have. I assume you have used it enough to know what you are looking for in a home on wheels. Perhaps your wife already knows she would not be happy living in the current rig for a longer period of time. I would not rush into a decision. The longer you shop and compare, the better decision you will ultimately make.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

RV glass half full

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
All the headlines lately seem to point to the fact that although the housing industry is still making a slow recovery, the RV industry is smoking hot. I also read often in your column that campgrounds are full and some impossible to get into without a reservation. Is the future of RVing going to be degraded because of its popularity? Is there really “Combat Camping” in my future if I plan to buy an RV and travel?
--Paranoid in Peoria

Dear Paranoid:
Think of the RV lifestyle as a revolution. I have watched it evolve for over 50 years. It is no different than any other supply and demand issue. It is pretty simple math. You multiply numbers and divide resources. However, we are a creative, entrepreneurial bunch. Some people see the glass half empty, while others see it half full. What we are seeing now is the tip of the iceberg. “The boomers are coming, the boomers are coming.” This aging demographic will change much more than the RV business. It is also creating many business opportunities. I believe we will see many creative solutions to the crowded campground situation, how RVs are perceived by local governments (last weeks column), and infrastructure to handle this tsunami of rolling homes. There are still plenty of great RV adventure opportunities without the need to book yourself into a tight schedule. Sometimes you have to think outside the box, roll with the punches, and go with the flow. When you add up all the good, the bad and the ugly of traveling the “Blue Highways," I still tell people it’s, “Sucking the juice out of life.” Try it, you will like it.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RVeeeviction

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just came home from our first winter of RVing in the sunbelt to find that we can no longer legally park our new 5th wheel on our property. I’m so mad I could spit. Before I even unloaded it I was told it could not be parked in my driveway for more than nine days in any 30 day period. I thought this was the land of the free. I think I should fight city hall, but I would most likely just be spitting into the wind. Is this legal?
--RVeeeviction

Dear Evicted:
RV’s are changing the way we live in multiple ways. The same local ordinances that keep you from parking overnight in some Walmart parking lots can keep you from parking long- term on your own property. Local governments are cracking down on people living in their RVs on public streets, storing RVs in their driveways, and letting friends camp for short visits. Some municipalities will only enforce RV parking regulations if you have neighbors complaining. Before buying any over sized vehicle, it would be wise to find out whether you can park it legally on your lot. Your community might have specific vehicle size, screening or lot location requirements for parking. This information should be available from your city clerk, township manager or neighborhood association. Part of any RV purchase decision should include the cost of off property storage if that is going to be necessary. Being able to park it today does not guarantee what regulations might be enacted to prevent it tomorrow. These regulations are not all bad. If you are parking an RV larger than your neighbor's house in your driveway, it may not fit into the neighborhood decor. If your neighbors were long haul truck drivers would you want them to park their 18 wheelers in their driveway while at home? RV parking and/or storing at home should be done with the objective of being a good neighbor and keeping a low profile so as not to call undue attention to your rig. By doing so, you may be preserving the rights of other owners to continue parking at their homes.
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, May 20, 2013

Down in the RV dumps

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are newbies to the RV world. We love the freedom of sailing the open road. We make no long-term plans. We just go where the spirit moves us and the wind blows warm. My wife suffers from “Germaphopia” and is always concerned when we use the dump station. She thinks they are the most unsanitary places on earth. I assure her that I use precautions when dumping and filling with fresh water, but she still has her concerns. Has this ever been a problem for other RV’ers? Is there anything we should be concerned with? I think it is all in her head but I would like to ease her mind.
--Dumpmeister in Delaware

Dear Dumpmeister:
Your wife’s fears are understandable. Many dump stations are used by a percentage of people with no concern for others. Often it is a case of misunderstanding. I just explained to a foreign couple, traveling in a rented motorhome, which water hose was for rinsing the sewer hose and which was for filling the fresh water tank. They had no clue and were confused by the signage. Most dump stations are poorly designed and could have the fresh water supply spaced well away from the sewage area with little expense added in piping. This would also allow those waiting in line to dump to move up while you are filling your water tank. Most are designed with the two separate supplies within a few feet of each other. I would assume that there have been users before you that have contaminated the hose. I am always amazed at how many people use no gloves, can’t seem to get the sewage in the hole, do not rinse the area down after they have made a mess, and use the fresh water hose to rinse their sewer hose. You should take precautions at every dump station and assume the worst. As an example: We stopped just outside Cody, Wyoming at a free dump station near a VFW park. The sign stated, NO COMMERCIAL VEHICLES ALLOWED. Just as I was finishing up, a Canadian tour bus pulled up and the driver and tour guide stepped out. They were speaking French, but it did not take me long to figure out they had no hose and were going to pull the pin and shoot for the hole. I told my wife, as I hurried into the motorhome, “jump or swim.” We pulled away just as they let it fly. I went back over and gave them the “what for” but they just played stupid, which didn’t take much acting practice. Your dump supplies should include rubber gloves, a small container of sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. It only takes a few minutes more to be organized, clean, sanitary and safe. Explain to your wife the procedure you go through and let her have a go at it. Once she understands what you are dealing with and the safeguards you employ, she should feel more relaxed with the whole process.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RV rules are rules

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know you have used the term, “Combat Camping” in past articles. I thought it was a joke when I first started reading your column. I have come to understand the reality of it in some popular areas. My husband is not a lawyer, but he plays one at some of the campgrounds we visit. Recently, we were at Utah’s Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Most sites are reservable. We were able to secure a site that was not reserved. The next morning when my husband went to pay for another day he was told the site was already taken. Knowing a reservation must be made 48 hours in advance he questioned how this could be. The woman in charge tried to explain the situation away, but my husband is not one to be “Slam Dunked” if he knows the rules and they are not being followed. I said we should just leave, but he insisted on talking to the managing ranger. That conversation went no better. We were told it shouldn’t have happened but there was nothing that could be done. We were told we would have to leave the park for the day and return late in the afternoon to try for one of the three overflow sites. If we stayed in the park we would need to pay a six dollar day use fee as we waited for overflow. My husband does not like inconsistent, irresponsible management. He ran a business for many years and insists that things only go smoothly if there are policies and the policies are adhered to. He must have drove that point home because they finally decided to let us pay for another day and stay in our site. I personally don’t understand the whole system. Do you think it is worth fighting for site rights? Moving on would be more my style, but my husband has different ideas.
--Legally Blonde near Bryce

Dear Bryce:
It is unfortunate that you have to “Lawyer Up” just to camp peacefully. I have to agree with your husband. If not for yourself, then for the next campers that come in and get the same unfair treatment. The system is complicated enough without local managers making up their own rules. It is very important to understand the many different reservation systems you have to deal with. They are basically the same, but some are farmed out by the Feds and some are run by the individual states. Many parks are becoming 100% reservation. This disenfranchises completely the many campers that prefer to travel unimpeded by a schedule. Often people charged with managing these systems do not fully understand how they function. You can ask three different people the same question and get three different answers. Do not expect a site just because the online reservation listing shows the symbol “W” (Walk-In). I have been told numerous times by State and Federal campgrounds that “W” does not mean walk-ins are available. You would almost have to do a tour of duty as a campground host to understand all the little nuances of trying to manage the campground “Bingo” game. It is not a perfect system and scat happens sometimes. Wires get crossed. Sometimes you may need to use a little common sense and have a little understanding when things do not go according to plan. That said, if you discover it is simply favoritism or nepotism that is getting you evicted, you should yell foul, throw down the penalty flag, grab your husband and “Lawyer Up.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tow II

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Wow! I always read your column and the comments each week. I can’t remember anything more controversial than last week’s “Tow or not to tow” question. Some of the comments made no sense, but a lively discussion for sure. We are also getting ready to travel with this same rig configuration. We appreciate the feedback. We are still a bit confused but leaning toward pulling a small vehicle behind our new Class C motorhome. My only concern is looking like a train going down the road and constantly worrying about the toad trailing behind me. Am I just being paranoid?
--Terrified of towing in Toledo

Dear Terrified: I was amazed at how strong people can feel about how things should be done. I say, “Different strokes, for different folks.” Here were some of the arguments:
Figuring the cost of toad, hookup, insurance, fuel.

Cheaper to rent a vehicle when needed.

Can’t backup. Inconvenient to unhook.

Can’t fit into small campsites.

Extra fuel costs to tow

Terrified to tow (your concern)

Damage and theft

 Let me try to address all of these questions. Remember, towing is optional. Towing is not a requirement when reading this column.

 If you do not already have a second vehicle, there will be this added expense. But I believe it will be an investment that will pay for itself quickly. I personally buy used Saturn SLs. They weigh 2350 pounds, easily found on Craigslist, and dingy tow with no huge investment besides a tow bar.

If you like to travel to rural areas you will find it very hard to find a rental when you want one. You would be wise to play “What if,” make some calls, and discover what renting will cost you in various regions you plan to visit.

Every vehicle is different for tow setup. With the Saturn SL1 I can backup a few feet if I’m in a tight spot.

Unhooking for any reason takes approximately three minutes tops. If unhooking takes you more than three minutes, you need more practice. It’s like being a fireman. Have your spouse time you until you get into the Three Minute Club. We unhook from the Mother Ship all the time to explore.

I have to go by personal experience. The past year on the road we have only once had to park our vehicle in a space other than our campsite. Our motorhome is a 29 foot Winnebago Sightseerer. We never stay in commercial parks. We fit comfortably into every Forest Service, National Park, COE park we visit. This year the Chiricahua National Monument was the only campground we found challenging. With or without a toad, it is a challenging campground. We were able to park just outside the park entrance.

It does cost approximately a mile per gallon to pull a toad behind. So again I have to go by personal experience. I get from 7.5 to as much as 9 mpg depending on terrain and speed. This year I have so far put 6,000 miles on our motorhome and twice that on the car (32 mpg). When I combine the mileage I am getting 16 mpg overall.

If I had to uproot everyday and drive this motorhome sightseeing, shopping and every other errand that pops up, I would need a Shrink, which means, of course, I would be talking to myself again.

Again everyone is different. I have known people who bought travel trailers, drove them off the dealer lot, turned around and wanted a refund. Not everyone has the same comfort level. You need to find your own. I will tell you that a toad will track directly behind a motorhome. If you miss the gas pump with your motorhome, you will miss it with your toad. You won’t feel it behind you, and unless you have a rearview camera, you won’t see it very often.

Being a long distance hiker I would be personally uncomfortable about leaving my motorhome at remote trailheads. I would also be nervous parking it into tight parking spaces at scenic overlooks etc... A great advantage to traveling in the same vehicle you are living in would be the fact that you can drop anchor wherever you end up. That said, it doesn’t take much more planning to find a comfortable camping area and explore from base camp.

One comment was to purchase a trailer or 5th Wheel which gives you one motorized vehicle to maintain and transportation to boot. Not a bad idea. Again, different strokes for different folks. For years I pulled an Airstream with a Suburban. I would get approx. 11.5 mpg pulling and 15 mpg not pulling. Doing the math using this years mileage, I would be overall at about 13-14 mpg.

Another thing to consider would be a motorcycle, electric bike, thumb or just a really good pair of hiking boots. Whatever floats your boat. Again, take all this thought process into consideration and see how it fits into your personal lifestyle on the road. If you find yourself going out of your way to make friends with people who have a backseat you might want to consider a toad.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

To tow or not to tow, that is the question

Dear RV Shrink:
My husband and I have been reading your column for about a year. We are almost ready to retire and travel. We have decided on a small, Sprinter diesel, Class C motorhome with a couple of slides. The short, expandable unit we ordered seems perfect for travel. The problem is the addition of a tow vehicle. I think we should pull a small car and my husband says It defeats the whole purpose of staying small and agile. He says the Sprinter chassis is small enough and fuel efficient enough to drive 100% of the time. I contemplate the inconvenience to uprooting our home on wheels every time we go sightseeing, shopping or out to diner. My husband continues to argue the economic side of this issue. We enjoy your input, so could you give us some insight on this issue?
--Tow or not to tow in Tucson

Dear Tucson: This is one of those issues where one size does not fit all. Pulling a toad is a personal decision. If you've read this column for a while you probably know my reaction already. On an economic bases it would be cheaper to haul a tow vehicle. It is simple math. Most people will put three times the mileage on their toad as they will on the mother ship. Just in fuel savings, this should make your decision. You can also add accelerated depreciation on your new motorhome as you rack up miles that could be allotted to your toad. The convenience issues are pretty apparent. If your husband is concerned about pulling a second vehicle, he should talk to the many people that do. A towed vehicle tracks effortlessly behind a motorhome, it's quick and simple to unhook, and puts a very small dent in towed mileage. Here is an example of what you will experience once you get on the road. We are currently in Moab, Utah. It is impossible to camp in Arches National Park (a reservation only campground) unless you make a reservation six months in advance. The two campgrounds in Canyonlands are first-come, first-served. It is as much as a 100-mile round-trip into the Canyonlands National Park campground to see if there is a space available. It reminds me of the famous Clint Eastwood quote, “You have to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do you punk?” Most people, like us, end up camping in one of the many BLM campgrounds in the area and taking excursions into the parks. We end up putting over one hundred miles per day on our toad. The viewpoint parking lots are jammed with traffic and tight. Often we can’t even find a parking spot for our small Saturn, let alone a small motorhome. Not everyone travels the same way. If you are constantly on the move, a single vehicle may work out just fine, but consider all the facts before you make a decision. You can always put the decision off until you have a few miles under your belt. A few shake down trips will change your perspective on many aspects of RV travel.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

RV time out

Dear RV Shrink:
Like most couples, my wife and I have occasional disagreements. At home we can go to different parts of the house to calm down, but it's more difficult in our trailer. When we get into a heated argument, she storms off to the bathroom and stays there for an hour or so. She has a little electronic game in there and plays draw poker. I can hear it beeping, which drives me nuts. On a nice day, I just leave the RV and take a walk, but in the winter when it's cold or rainy I have nowhere to go. Do you think this is a good way for her to let off steam? Am I overreacting?
--Jim in Buffalo, New York

Dear Jim:
I guess it depends on the size of your rig. If you travel with a Casita there could be a problem trying to take a time out in your separate corners. In a bigger rig it could be convenient. Everyone needs a little time alone. I’m a long distance backpacker. My wife said to me last year, “There are things I love about you that you never do anymore.” I said, “Like what?” She said, “Like being gone.” Living long term in a small space can challenge the best of relationships. Having your own space can be a bonus many people do not think of when deciding on rig size. Having separate interests can be a good thing. Arguments are nothing uncommon. Everyone handles them differently. If this is your spouse's way of cooling off, get a pair of earphones or plugs and wait it out. A twenty-five pound backpack works pretty well too.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Back off

Dear RV Shrink:
My husband is a terrible driver. He tailgates so close that I am always nervous. He says he's comfortable driving close and gets  perturbed when I tell him to back away. I especially get nervous when he's close to a big truck. He has joked that he's "drafting" off it to get better gas mileage. I don't laugh and tell him he's putting us in serious danger, but he either doesn't respond or gets mad. I know how to drive our motorhome but he will hardly ever let me do it. I love my husband, he's a wonderful man, but I'm scared to death to ride with him. Do you have any idea what I might say to him to get him to back off?
--Susan, Carson City, Nevada

Dear Susan:
If you are convinced your husband's driving is putting you at serious risk, don’t get in the passenger seat. Either drive or refuse to ride. The drafting joke is funny to a point. If he wants to be a NASCAR driver, have him get a sponsor and drive alone at the track. If he wants to save gas have him get his foot out of the carburetor and back-off. Tailgating will only assure that you are the first one to the accident. It’s funny that I received this question today. I just read a blog I have followed for two years about a couple RVing full-time. I was shocked to see a photo of their truck and trailer upside down in the median on an interstate. A trailer in front of them spewed metal wheel parts that they could not avoid. It blew their right rear tire and somehow set their trailer brake. The trailer tipped over first, eventually flipping the truck on its side. It then skidded across the median and ended up facing the opposite direction upside down. It is not just a sudden stop that can get you into trouble when tailgating. Most RVs do not stop on a dime, are not quick to maneuver, and are not designed to do either. Your husband is putting more people in danger than just his wife. I think he needs an attitude adjustment and I think you should be the one to administer it. Good luck.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

RV foreign affairs

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I don’t think you have heard this one before. I read about a lot of women questioning their husband's actions after retiring. Since we've started RVing, my husband is a nut in a good way. Yet sometimes I also wonder if he is going off the deep end. His newest hobby is pretending to be a foreigner. It’s his opinion that foreigners get better treatment at the state and national parks we visit. When things get dicey and we may not be able to get a campsite, he becomes a Frenchman. He can’t speak French he just makes up his own words with a French accent. After babbling on and acting confused, the ranger usually just finds someplace for us to park and we have to be French for a few days or not speak to anyone. This week we are German. I talked to him about his behavior and he did stop for awhile. Then one day my computer went haywire and he called for tech help. He couldn’t understand a word they were saying. He hung up, called back and began to stutter. Now they couldn’t understand him. Immediately they transferred him to an English speaking tech rep who solved our problem. Other than this theatrical flare for getting his way, he’s a funny, friendly guy. I’m just not sure what nationality we are going to be when we pull up to a park gate.
-- RV UN ambassador

Dear Ambassador:
I think I have heard it all and then your email shows up. Now every time I run into a foreigner in a campground I’m going to be suspect. It is getting harder every season to get into popular parks. Maybe your husband is on to something. Perhaps only the dramatically challenged will be left spaceless or in overflow. I have never noticed foreign campers getting preferential treatment. He should be careful because park service employees are often bilingual and he just may get called out one of these times. You aren’t in Nevada are you? I just camped near a couple from Alberta with an Aussie accent. I don’t think that put them any further ahead in the queue for a campsite, but who knows. Since you are partners in verbal disguise, I think you should have a say in what nationality you are going to be at each stay. I think the perfect situation would be to secure a position at a park that needs volunteers for historical reenactment. They would provide you with a site and you could be someone else. Life is full of possibilities. They say you can be whatever you want. I guess your husband is proof of that.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cabin fever on wheels

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I think we are normal but lately I have second thoughts. Since we started traveling all winter in our fifth wheel our social life has changed significantly. We like to camp in remote, quiet areas. The sun disappears early during the winter. I tend to go to bed with the sun and rise with the sun - that sometimes means 10 hours! The problem is my husband wakes up before the sun, gets up, turns the local farm report on, and makes toast under the smoke alarm. When the smoke alarm goes off so do I. After I give him the hot tongue and cold shoulder for a sufficient amount of time, we have our coffee and try to figure out what we are going to do all day. At home we are always busy, but on the road I think we have too much time on our hands. Do others have this problem too? 
--Cabin fever on wheels

Dear Cabin:
Some people find the transition from a sedentary life to one on the road more difficult than others. Like many other situations people write to me about, your answers are probably parked right next to you. Talk to your fellow campers. There are as many lifestyles on the road as off. Some people are more social than others. Some are couch potatoes whether the couch is stationary or rolling. I’m in a beautiful National Forest campground right now. The neighbors I have met so far have varied interests that keep them constantly busy. I even met a couple the other day hauling a two-seater paraglider. That’s a room fan attached to a parachute. They fly all over the place and often boondock at small airstrips. Another guy is a wildlife photographer with a lens that looks like a real cannon. Then there is a lady who walks around with a pick axe all day. She is a rockhound. I asked her if she'd found anything exciting and she started feeling around in her bra looking for a nice agate she had just found. I didn’t ask any more questions. The woman one loop over is a thrift store scouter. She finds bargains and sends them home to her daughter who runs a resale shop.  The point I am trying to make is you need a hobby, part-time job or some interest that will keep you occupied whether you are at home or on the road. I have seen professional people retire, then sit at home watching soap operas all day until they keeled over in their la-Z-boy. As far as going to bed too early, you might consider playing a card game, reading, campfires, watching downloaded movies on your computer, working on genealogy, or anything else you enjoy doing at home. If you can keep your husband awake until 10 pm, maybe the smoke alarm won’t go off until 7 am.  If your home life is more social because you have more friends get out and meet some. The world is full of wonderful, friendly, interesting people. You have some parked near you right now. Take a walk and meet them. Go on a ranger led walk and meet them. Grab your binoculars and pretend you are looking at birds, you will be surprised at how many people will wonder what you’re looking at and start a conversation. We were in Cottonwood campground in Big Bend National Park this winter. Every evening a crowd would gather at dusk to watch a Great Horned owl pair mate. They were like clockwork. As odd as that may sound, we made a lot of great friends watching horny owls. That’s how easy it is to change your lifestyle.    
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

RV wheel simulator frustration

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is tighter than a wax doll's ear canal. I usually don’t mind it, but sometimes he stews about an issue so long that I think it would be better if he just bit the bullet and paid the tune. Recently we passed through a very narrow toll bridge along the Texas coast. As we pulled up to pay the attendant our two bucks, we both noticed that many people had already scraped the toll booth roof. We slowly rolled up to the booth and heard a clanging sound. My husband looked out his window trying to figure out what it was, and the attendant immediately said, “It’s your hubcap scraping the curb on the other side.” It must happen all the time. So for two bucks you not only get to cross this short bridge, you get to destroy an expensive wheel simulator on a abnormally high curb. My husband was not a happy camper and told the guy he should warn people if it is that common an occurrence. Since then he has spent a lot of time looking for a matching hubcap. With all the RVs on the road you would think this item would be common, but obviously not. He refused to pay a dealer two-hundred dollars for a fifty dollar item. By the time he finally finds one he will have spent a thousand dollars in time and gas looking. Should I just let him look or buy him one for his early birthday present? It would be a gift for both of us, as I won’t have to hear about it anymore.
--Dented in Denton

Dear Dented:
I would buy your husband Jeff Yeager’s book, “The Ultimate Cheapskate.” It's a great book. There is nothing wrong with trying to save money. You and your husband should look at this differently. First, it’s a wheel simulator. It could have been the side of your rig on the roof. It could have broken or bent your wheel studs. It could have damaged a tire. It was your lucky day. Your glass is half-full, not half-empty. Second, think of finding a reasonably priced matching simulator as a project, not a problem. It’s not like you can’t drive without it. Eventually, you will find a guy with your exact match. It will be sitting on his shelf collecting dust and he will be more than happy to unload it for a fair price. I have done this more than once. I found a match to mine for $29 bucks. I don’t even need one, but I bought it for insurance. Another thought is just buy a new or used matching set for the front. It is often easier to find a set. Then sell your good one on eBay to some poor soul that is looking for the same one you are. Most dealers do not carry an inventory of caps. They all want to order as needed, charge through the nose, and add shipping cost. Many RV’s us Dicor products which you can buy online. Pacific Dualies and others would also work if you buy a set. There are several things to consider when looking for a set that will work. Make sure you get the right diameter, lug configuration, and correct lug thread on the two attaching decorative lugs. Threads differ between manufacturers and models. As part of the project you can start watching the side of the road for caps as you travel. This could be a whole new “on the road business” for you. Think of the upside possibilities. Just think of all you have learned since crunching your wheel simulator. Many people don’t even know how they come off. You have added so much expertise to your RV background just because the State of Texas has lousy bridge engineers. You are truly blessed.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot and bothered

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been wintering in the Southwest all winter while the blizzards brew and blow at home in the Northeast. I appreciate not having to deal with winter driving and snow blowing the driveway. The problem is I am still paying through the nose to keep the home fires burning. My wife has a ton of plants and she thinks we need to keep the house heated all winter so they all survive. This is our first year and I am trying to convince her to let me winterize the house and shut the heat down while we are gone in the future. Is this normal behavior for snowbirds? I can’t stand the thought of paying high heat bills to keep houseplants happy. Please give me your two cents worth.
--Hot and potted in Payson

Dear Potted:
I know several people that leave the heat on, but I will never understand it. For what you pay in heat bills I bet you could find a plant sitter to keep your wife’s flowery friends warm, watered and even talked to on a regular basis. The other worry is long-term power failure while you are away. Once you figure out how easy it is to winterize most homes you will find it much more relaxing not having to worry about frozen plumbing. The energy savings will be significant, and the peace of mind rewarding. When you return home in the spring your wife’s plants will be so happy to see her they will probably all go blooming nuts.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

RV worry wart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband just had solar panels installed on our motorhome. I am constantly worried they are going to blow off during some of the windstorms we drive through. He keeps telling me to stop thinking about it. He assures me they are fastened securely and that there is no way they will ever blow off. He also said that about our awning, but it came unraveled in a storm one day and we had to pull over and tie it down. I worry so much he calls me “Disastrous Mag.” Don’t you think it is better to worry too much than too little?
--Maggie in Medford

Dear Mag:
I don’t think it is a good idea to go down the road worrying all the time. It would be better to understand all your systems and equipment, do precautionary maintenance, and make sure new installations are done properly. That way you can travel confidently. With that said, “scat happens.” I have friends that lost a solar panel. They said it sounded like a crystal vase hitting the floor and shattering. They didn’t know at first what happened, but discovered their panel was missing. In their case, it was securely fastened to the roof, but the bolts attaching the panel to the roof anchors vibrated out. Awnings also catch a lot of wind. They are designed to lock down, but I always use the inexpensive velcro straps to secure them. When one comes unlocked or fails it is always in weather you would prefer not to work in. I have to say I went through the same anxious period you are experiencing. My system came from AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon. They assured me that attaching the panels with 3M 5200, using no bolts on my fiberglass roof, would keep them secure forever. I was familiar with the product. I had read a memoir called, “On Whale Island.” The author, Daniel Hays, fixed everything on the island with 3M 5200. He said "it will hold two planets together". So far they have both been right. I don’t think about it anymore, but it never hurts to check things out on a regular basis. So turn your worries into checklists and be confident while rolling down the road that everything is going to weather the storms.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Enlightened RVer's

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just spent a night in Marfa, Texas at a commercial campground, which might be stretching the definition. It was pretty sad looking, but we were tired and it was late. I went inside and I was told $12 dollars for no hookups. This place made me think twice about even paying that, but again we were tired. After talking it over with my skeptical wife, we decided to stay. When I went back inside they charged me $24. When I asked for an explanation they said it was $12 dollars per person. I was irritated, but paid. Then we parked out in a tumbleweed field. My wife said we should have just left. She thinks I should have come out and discussed it with her one more time, with the new pricing info. I say someone has to make a decision and that is the one I made. How should we deal with these arrangements in the future? —Seeing the Marfa Light

Dear Enlightened:
Well, you are in Texas and that park just charges per person from the example of their State Park system. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but that is how someone has figured it out. We spend time in Texas every year and seldom stay in their State Parks because of the per person charge, per day. In some parks that is as much as $14 extra per day, for two adults, on top of camping, unless you invest in a $70 annual pass. So depending on how much time you plan on spending in the state, do the math. If you don’t mind road traffic noise, train traffic noise and the bright lights of alien craft landing nearby, you can stay for free at the Marfa Lights roadside viewing area eight miles east of the town of Marfa on Hwy. 67. My suggestion would be that whoever goes in to negotiate a campsite, makes the decisions. I would also add that stopping before dark, and advanced planning of some degree, will lessen the chances of having to make last minute, sometimes expensive, decisions. There is so much information available online for camping sites of all kinds. If you are not online, I suggest you get wired. It will pay for itself every month. Boondocking is the most challenging. We use "RV Boondocking," published by the Frugal Shunpikers.
Click here to visit Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking.
It gives us many options at one source.
 —Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink