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