Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Private vs Public

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been traveling for almost nine months. We bought a fifth-wheel, a new truck and all the toys. We plan to travel for several years and look for some special place to spend winters, once we have seen all the sights. The problem is campground choice. I like to stay in commercial campgrounds with all the amenities and my husband likes to rough it in remote scenic campgrounds. He told me, “If I wanted to spend my retirement sardined into a shoebox campsite I would have bought a mobile home.” He complains that we are so close to neighbors he can hear them talking, smell them smoking, and listen to their TV programs. I don’t think it’s that bad. I get bored sitting out in the woods, desert, and ocean by ourselves. Are we normal? Does everyone have this problem?
--Unhappy Campers in Coos Bay

Dear Unhappy:
As with most disagreements, it takes compromise. If only everyone had your small problem to deal with. I’m sure you have favorite campgrounds you both have enjoyed. Start with those. Look for commercial parks with bigger lots. Often you have to pay a premium for more open space, but perhaps it’s worth it to buffer yourselves from talk, smoke and TV. As for being bored in remote public campgrounds, work on that problem. It’s surprising how many people dive into this RV lifestyle without giving any thought as to what comes next. Is travel your only hobby? If you are bored you may need to explore interests that you can take on the road. Join activities and meet fellow travelers. Play cards, explore bike trails, swim, dance and go out for dinner and a movie. Living on the road should not be much different than the life you lived before shoving off. It just encompasses new places, new friends, new experiences. Your choice of campsites are a personal matter involving cost, locations, hookups, and so much more. There is no shortage of places to camp, park or even put down semi-permanent roots. I think if you work together to choose camping options, your husband will find parks he can live with, and you will find rural settings that keep your interest.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

RV road race

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just bought a travel trailer. My husband and I have always wanted to travel around the United States. I was always thinking to do this it would only take a couple months. I had no idea he was thinking a whole year. I can’t imagine being away from home for an entire year. Do you think he is exaggerating? It has been a constant argument since we discovered our individual concepts of the time it would take to see the country in our new abode on the road. Please help us sort this out.
--Sixty Day Tripper in Delaware

Dear Sixty:
I think you are both way off the mark. So far it has taken me sixty years. Everyone has a different slant on the definition of “seeing the country.” Two months will possibly just whet your appetite. It will be a snapshot, not a full-length movie. If you want to jump on the super slab and see the whole country at 70 m.p.h. you can probably do the miles in a couple months. If you want to travel the Blue Highways, stop and smell the roses, it may take years. My suggestion would be to pick a section of the country you would both like to explore and not try to paint on such a broad canvas. Exploring the country is like eating an elephant, “one bite at a time.” Even sectioning off a piece of the geography will not solve your time dilemma. You will have to decide what you want to explore--the big cities, parks, natural areas, museums, historical sites, eateries, rural communities, or a combination of these and more. If you have the luxury of not setting a time limit, just begin at the beginning and let the trip unfold before you. My wife and I decided to travel for a year when we were 25--we didn’t come back for a decade. The journey will be what you make it. Setting limits and boundaries can hamper the experience of letting the trip take you, instead of you taking the trip.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, August 11, 2014

Feeling the RV heat

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have a forced air furnace in our motorhome. It works fine. My husband thinks we need to add a catalytic heater. He claims the forced air furnace fan drains our batteries too fast. I don’t want another gas appliance in our small space, it doesn’t look that safe, and I doubt it will make much difference in battery drain. He is insisting we need it. I need some help in convincing him this is not a rational idea. Please help me.
--Feeling the Heat in Helena

Dear Helena:
It is a rational idea. Your husband is right about the battery drain. The catalytic heater would be cheaper to operate, give constant heat, and create zero battery drain. Cons: it would produce more condensation, necessitate some added ventilation, and add a substantial investment to buy and plumb into your motorhome. You have gas equipment in your rig now, but perhaps you are not comfortable with this addition. If that is the case, you can add solar instead. A small solar investment will replace the battery drain from the furnace fan. When comparing prices between the two, don’t forget to add the cost of plumbing the gas into the motorhome. You will spend as much on brass fittings and copper lines as you will on the heater itself. I wish I would have bought brass fittings instead of stock for my retirement. I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. Brass is the new gold. If installed properly and used properly, one of the auxiliary heaters is a fine addition to any RV. We personally use all three, solar, catalytic and forced air and enjoy the freedom of not worrying about keeping a healthy battery charge. Your husband is on the right track. I have often seen people leaving campgrounds early because of dead batteries. They have to drive or use a generator to power a battery charger. This often happens when there is a cold spell and the furnace is working overtime. A small investment in solar will pay for itself over time. Calculate how often you find yourself paying for an electric site so you can charge your battery bank. If you like to dry camp a lot, your payoff will occur much quicker. Heaters like Big Buddy and Wave are radiant heat. They transfer heat to surrounding objects, which in turn release heat into the space you occupy. It is a very comfortable heat, but does entail finding a space that will be safe, convenient and aesthetically pleasing. Good luck. Discuss this with your husband and maybe you will warm up to the idea of an added heat source.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RV labor force

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are entering the intersection of agreement and disagreement. We are both moving at full speed ahead and I fear a catastrophic collision is imminent. She wants to agree to a host position in Arizona this winter that works out to a full-time position at a volunteers wage. I agree we need to reduce our living expenses, but to work full-time for half the cost of full hookups works out to about a dollar an hour. I think the owners are taking advantage of the supply of retired RV owners willing to work for rent. My wife says she gets bored and needs to work. The problem is the job offer is for a couple. That involves me working the same amount of hours. My wife refuses to comprehend that we are actually bartering 320 hours of work for a $300 savings in rent. How do I explain to her my unwillingness to work for slave wages without the conversation turning into a shouting match.
--Labor Dispute in Douglas

Dear Doug:
I think you are wise to look for a compromise before you both reach the intersection at the same moment. It is pretty simple math. It is also supply and demand, an economic model of price determination in the market. You can’t blame the park owner for making the best business decision for himself. If he can find people willing to work those hours for that compensation, he is going to take advantage of that. One of the elements that has evolved from the thousands of boomers retiring and traveling has been “volunteerism.” That has evolved into “work camping.” Both the public and private sector have embraced the idea of part-time workers who live full or part-time in an RV. The number of people looking for these types of positions continues to grow as more and more people take to the RV lifestyle. The two of you will have to work out a compromise. That usually involves both parties getting some of what it demands. Have you discussed looking for a park that offers better bartering terms? Have you considered one or both of you looking for a better paying position nearby this park? You could then stay busy, pay full price for your rent, and come out ahead financially. A great part of the RV lifestyle is portability. Take your skills and desires and transfer them to another geographic location that may offer better compensation and still give you the climate you are seeking for the winter. Along with the fact that supply is beginning to erode away demand in this labor market, new opportunities are being created constantly. Corporate America is beginning to appreciate the possibilities of utilizing seniors enjoying the RV lifestyle in filling gaps in the workforce. Amazon is the perfect example with a seasonal need for holiday workers. The Oil and Gas industry has found a great fit using RV owners to monitor production site gates. You can find great natural camping, bartering with state and federal parks and wildlife refuges for various part-time hours, in trade for full-hookups. Like any other position in the workforce, sometimes it takes time and patience to end up with what you ultimately desire. Try a few jobs, build a network of friends, gather information, discover the little nuances of how the system works and focus on the positions you want. It is often easier for a couple to find a work camper job than a single applicant, but there are thousands of singles doing exactly the same thing. If you can afford to be choosy, take your time, start early, apply for multiple positions and take the one that appeals to both of you. Closing your eyes to the conflict, with your feet in the carburetor, moving headlong into the intersection, will only result in casualties. Don’t be crash dummies. Practice “safe service” when scouting for a work camping billet.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink