Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No way to run an RV railroad

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband just had another episode of management frustration. He retired as a business consultant and cannot seem to let go now that we are traveling full-time. We tried to book a couple weeks in the campground at the Grand Canyon. The reservation.gov site would only let us book 7 consecutive days on the only site we could find available. He called reservation.gov to find out if it was that particular site, or were all sites restricted to 7 days. They did not know. That started it. He thought they should know or be able to find out. They offered no other assistance and told him to call the park. A call to the park only made it worse. Like many corporations, the National Park system doesn’t want to talk to people either. They hook you up to several minutes of voicemail choices and then you reach a dead end with no option to talk to a real person. That only makes him more determined. He Googled for an hour and finally found a news release about a new Assistant Superintendent at the park. He called the media specialist and found she was stationed at the Superintendent’s office in the park. She tried to get rid of him, but he insisted she find an answer for him or connect him to the Superintendent. Finally, he found out that all sites at the Grand Canyon are limited to 7 days because it is such a popular destination. This is just one example of how he won’t let poor communications, poor marketing, poor organization and poor information services slip by without making a fuss. How can I get him to relax and go with the flow.
--Karen at the Canyon

Dear Karen:
Maybe it is not a problem. Perhaps he enjoys the challenge. I like the way he thinks. When I have a problem with a Corp. or a government agency, I always start at the top and work my way down. It’s so easy today to find out the name of the CEO. You never get to talk to the CEO but you always get your answer or problem solved so much faster that way. I agree with him that if some person in a New York city cubical is going to run the park service campgrounds they should have all the answers or have access to them. If his focus on things running properly is upsetting you, then you should create a time when he can work on these extracurricular activities without involving you or giving you a blow-by-blow account of what is happening. Some people would love to have an onboard wagon master that could solve all the problems, get all the answers and work out a route through the hostile territories of business and government. An onslaught of government bureaucracy can be very frustrating. Now the park service is handing over so many management activities to concessioners that it creates more opportunity for buck passing. It can get overwhelming.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RV woman

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am trying to learn everything about our RV just in case my husband keels over one day and I have to get this monster (RV) home. I seldom drive, never dump the holding tanks and never fill with water. Those are the things I have been practicing. The problem is there are always men standing around telling me what I am doing wrong before I even get a chance to figure things out on my own. If I hear “righty tighty, lefty loosey” one more time, I’m going to give someone a “dirty swirly.” Am I being too thin-skinned? I just want some space to make my own mistakes and learn from experience.
--RV woman in Willcox

Dear RV:
Good for you. I think everyone on board should know everything about the ship. If the Captain falls overboard, the First Mate can still get the ship back to port. I’m thinking most people that give advice, whether asked for or not, mean well. You will have to make your own judgment calls on where your advice is coming from and how it’s delivered. But I agree with the learning from experience. These are mostly simple chores but repetitive practice makes perfect. Various dump stations, water facilities and road conditions call for different approaches to the same procedures. It is important to experience them all. Working as a husband/wife team is very important -- especially when backing into a site. Remember, the helpful person that might come over to help back you in has nothing invested. If someone was trying to tell me how to dump my rig, I would just step aside and ask them to show me. The “dirty swirly” sounds like a bad idea. I’m sure you could be charged with some kind of brown collar crime.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RV tax

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are about to spend ten times more on a new motorhome than our first house cost forty years ago. It makes me a little uneasy to spend this kind of money on a vehicle that will be traveling down the road depreciating. It has always been my husband’s dream. It sounds appealing to me so I am throwing caution to the wind and sailing away with him. However, he is trying to penny pinch on taxes using what I would call borderline legal schemes and dishonest practices. He has been looking into setting up a Montana LLC. We live in Ohio. He says it would cost us about twelve hundred dollars and save us thousands. Then he talked to a friend that never renews his license plates. The theory is: pay the fine instead of the tax. I have been very supportive of this new lifestyle but my husband is upset because I won’t go along with the tax cheating. Am I being too closed minded? Are others doing this? Is it legal?
--Honest Abby in Akron

Dear Abby:
Yes, others are doing this. Many are very nervous now because various states have caught on to the practice and are now pursuing these folks for back taxes and penalties. As for the plate renewal I would think that would catch up to you very quickly in this age of computer data. I would assume law enforcement could run your plate for various reasons on the fly in any state and know immediately that you are running on expired plates. If you are heading out on a grand adventure, spending big bucks for a new home on wheels, and looking forward to a relaxing lifestyle, do you really want to be looking over your shoulder all the time wondering if someone is after you? You have to pay to play. My suggestion would be to follow the rules and travel worry free. If, however, you sell your property in Ohio and change your residency to a state with little or no sales tax, you can enjoy that savings without fear of prosecution. Many people who are full-timers use services available in states like South Dakota to establish residency, mail forwarding service, and taxes. Taxes are a necessary evil. I was an accountant in the Marine Corps, so if you want to know where your taxes go, just ask me. If you want to use Military accounting practices to save money, just start at the bottom line with what you want back and work up.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

RV sound waves

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know people have complained about this in the past, but it irks me to no end when I have to listen to another camper’s music. There should be a “No Tolerance” rule. I just spent two days feeling my rig vibrate from a deep bass, rap-crap song, over and over. The host said it was perfectly legal during the hours they were listening. Sound is so invasive. If people want to listen to whatever music turns them on, let them stay home in the privacy of their home. Why should I be exposed to it? Am I just an old curmudgeon getting ornery in my old age? In some campgrounds I wish I had already gone deaf. In this case it wouldn’t have helped - I could feel it!
--Vibrating in Valencia

Dear Vibs:
I don’t think this is an age issue, but it is an age old complaint. You will run into all kinds of people and campground management variations while on the road. I would have to say, the majority have some pretty decent control over what goes on in a campground setting. That being said, when you reach a destination you are looking forward to and find yourself in the vicinity of a boom box, it can be frustrating. I agree that sounds are invasive and need to be controlled. Most campgrounds have set hours for generators and loud noise of any kind. That however does not solve the problem of those seeking some quiet and solitude during daylight hours. Focusing on music I would agree with more volume control. I have witnessed people trying to outblast each other. You are not going to change management attitude often. I always vote with my feet (wheels). I have even asked for a refund in the past to leave early. To some, camping with Bob Seger belting Horizontal Bop is relaxing. If they are within the rules and regulations of the campground, don’t look for the host to give you much satisfaction, relocate and chalk it off as bad timing. You might say you are just skipping the beat.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Locked Out

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am so mad I could spit. My husband said I should write to you and vent. I think I should write to you so that I can warn other campers of this possible circumstance. We were visiting Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona. Like many State Parks around the country, Patagonia has a gate that closes at night. When you register, most parks give you a gate code for entering after hours. At Patagonia Lake the gate was a long way back from the entrance station and the campground loops. It was a sliding gate and very inconspicuous. We never gave it much thought. We had been to other Arizona State Parks with no gates. We met friends from home for dinner in town one night. When we returned to the campground at 11 pm the gate was closed. There was no one around to let us in. We were never told about a curfew. It was in the information we received when we entered the park, but we never read it. I just think it is important enough that park employees should give people a verbal warning that the park gate closes at 10 pm and there is no way in after that time, except to park your vehicle outside the gate and walk all the way into the camping area in the dark. When we finally made it home I needed a stiff drink just to get to sleep. A gate code would be a much better idea, in my opinion. When I made the suggestion in the morning, I was told the park brochure explained all the park rules.
--Locked and Loaded in Lodi

Dear Loaded:
The majority of gated parks do have a code, which makes perfect sense. I have no idea why this park would have a gate without a code. It is close to the border of Mexico and maybe there is a reason I am not aware of. No matter the case, I agree a verbal warning of awareness to every campground guest only makes sense. Some people for various health reasons would not be able to walk that distance. One thing you might try in the future would be several code combinations if there is a key pad. I have done this a couple times in Florida State Parks when I have left my code information back at the motorhome. Not wanting to walk a mile in the dark I tried 911, 411 etc... Most gates have an easy access code for local emergency personnel to access the park. Often they end in 11. Sometimes people do slide in behind paying guests when a gate opens. If the park has had problems in the past it may be the reason for the aggressive gate policy they have set. Because it is so unusual, I would think a verbal explanation to each and every camper should be mandatory. I know you’ll drink to that.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink