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