Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spilling the beans

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife says I am a constant “I told you so” person. I try not to be, but I feel I am entitled to my opinion. The latest is cooking in our motorhome while we are driving down the road. My wife wanted to make baked beans so they would be done when we reached our destination. I said it didn’t sound like a good idea. She insisted. Before the beans had a chance to begin setting up, we hit a long 7% grade. As you can imagine the beans spilled over in the oven, began to burn, and created a horrible baked on mess. That, of course, is when the “I told you so” came rushing out of me. She thinks it was a fluke and insists she will try it again on better roads. Can you explain to her that this is not about being right or wrong, it’s about safety.
--Burnt Beans in Big Bear

Dear Burnt Beans:
I can tell you the National Propane Association would not recommend it. There are many things that can go wrong and burnt beans are the least of them. I will tell you that many people I have known do cook while traveling, but then again some people I know start campfires with gasoline. Our mothers always told us not to play with matches, but most of us ended up with burns on our fingers anyway. Why not try a different approach with your wife. Next time you are at a Flying J, buy a 12volt crock pot. It will sit safely in the sink and slow cook a great meal all day long. Much safer and much cheaper than using propane. When I graduated from high school in ’68 , that summer I lived in a 1964 Suburban and enjoyed backpacking through the West. Back then they would pump your gas and check your oil. I stopped one day and the attendant asked if I would like my oil checked. I said, “Yes, and will you also check the meatloaf and see if it’s done.” He opened the hood and exclaimed, “He does have meatloaf under here!” Probably not the best idea cooking greasy food on a V-6 block, but I was young and foolish. Get a crock pot and play it safe. If you do not take my advice, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RV utopia

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are in the advanced stage of our RV lifestyle. We are not yet ready to give up our gypsy life, but we are ready to find more permanent mooring. We have been all over North America during the last decade. Now we would like to find a few perfect spots to spend the seasons and park for longer periods of time. The problem is we can’t agree on those geographical locations. My wife likes the Southwest, I like the wild parts of Florida. She likes summers in the Midwest, I like the mountains. She likes the fall colors of Vermont, I like Colorado. We are always arguing about where to throw out the anchor. I think we should invest in property in a couple of agreed upon areas, but so far we have not found the perfect paradise for both of us. Can you offer any advice on settling this settlement issue.
--Looking for utopia with little hopia

Dear Looking:
I will try to help with what little information you have provided. Maybe you don’t have as complicated an issue as you think. Perhaps you are not totally committed to settling as you think. If your health is good and you still enjoy travel, maybe you should visit the places on both lists, just stay longer than in the past. Take turns on the seasonal stops. Often you will discover a change in attitude about a place, once you have spent more time, made friends, discovered new interests and understand seasonal weather patterns. You will have a totally different attitude about a location when you have spent a couple months instead of a couple weeks. You may find it harder to settle down for longer periods of time if you have been moving constantly for a decade. Take it slow, grow into this new lifestyle. It will not be all that different. You still live on wheels and can make change by simply unhooking the utilities and hooking the RV. I would not advise investing in property until you have both invested a fair amount of time in an area and agree that this is where you could possibly spread some roots. It is important that you both stay active, so make sure the areas you decide on offer something for both of you to thrive. You will most likely discover there is no such place as utopia, but with a little planning and some trial and error, you might come close. Good luck.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, June 9, 2014

RV gas app

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
You are always suggesting people use gas apps to find the best prices. I find these programs very inaccurate. One of the more popular would be Gas Buddy. I’m parked at a Walmart for the night. Right across the street is a Shell Station. Gas Buddy is telling me that the price of gas there is $3.69 per gallon. The Shell sign says it’s $3.87. Which one do you think I’m going to be asked to pay? Perhaps all this online, high tech, wizardry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Am I doing something wrong, or is the 18 cent difference the fudge factor? My mother always said I asked too many questions. Maybe I’m incurable.
--Skeptic in Schenectady

Dear Skeptic:
You have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s good to maintain a degree of skepticism. My point is that information gathering will help you make better decisions, so keep asking questions and looking for answers. It’s very healthy. Using a tool such as this app might not be as precise as we would like it, but on average it will save you money. The way I use these gas apps is to let it help target the lowest priced gas stations in a geographical area. No matter what the price, that station will often still have the lowest price. The gas price heat map of the entire U.S. will help you identify the cheapest route, illustrate the areas with the highest gas tax, and help you plan your best pit stops. Most of these apps work off data from credit card swipes, and usually keeps them quite current. You should love Google. It’s full of answers. I use Google for my doctor, mechanic, vet, tour guide--the list goes on. I just visited my motorhome manufacturer and they were too busy to have a tech talk to me about my room slides, but Google’s YouTube had a guy standing by who was glad to walk me through the slide adjustment procedure. I also use the many RV forums when I have a mechanical problem I can’t figure out. I read them all because some people will complain if they are "hung with a new rope." Like the gas app, I take a consensus of opinion before I proceed.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RV plumbing problem

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
When my husband talked me into buying an RV and traveling he said the bathroom facilities would be just as comfortable and convenient as our home. It all looked good, but now we often have to put up with a plugged up toilet. I didn’t sign up for this. He keeps telling me he has it figured out. Everything moves along fine for awhile, but then our holding tank seems to get bound up again. Is there an Ex-Lax for RV’s? I am enjoying the lifestyle but this little glitch is turning me off. My husband says I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Am I being unreasonable? I just want to get rid of the mountainous mole hill in the black water tank. Is that asking too much?
--Stink hole in Yellowstone

Dear Stink: Raising a little stink will often bring an issue to a head. If this is the only problem you have with the RV lifestyle, you have had a smooth move. The transition often causes problems that couples cannot find any common ground. In your case I have lots of ideas that should solve your problem. There is a science to getting along with your RV plumbing. Several things to be aware of include using toilet paper that breaks down easily. A simple test is to put a few sheets in a jar and shake it. It should fall apart quickly. Another problem is using too little water, trying to extend the black water capacity. Use plenty of water when flushing and always put a couple bowls full in the tank after dumping. Pouring hot water directly down the bowl opening will help unclog present blockage, but care in how you use the system will assure fewer problems in the future. Some black water tanks are plumbed for rinsing, many companies offer chemicals and tank enzymes, but using the proper method of caring for the waste system will solve the majority of your problems and give you some relief, no pun intended. --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink