Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RV Border Patrol

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
After reading your post about the birder woman wanting to go into remote areas all the time, I knew I had to write. My husband is very similar. He does not want to take the RV on poorly graded roads or even the car. He does, however, enjoy camping in wild places. I too do not care for crowds or commercial RV parks. We both enjoy hiking, paddling and photography. Natural areas suit both of us. What I am not comfortable with are border areas in the Southwest. We recently spent some time at Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. I protested a bit, but he convinced me that it was almost an armed camp with border patrol thicker than flies on the ground and in the air. The argument made sense, but we were parked alone in this vast grassland. When we stopped at the Visitor Center we met the volunteer hosts. I asked them where they camped. They where camped in a razor wire trimmed, chain linked fence compound near the headquarters. That should have been my first clue. We didn't have any problem, but I'm anxious all the time when we are in these areas. Is this just my hangup? Should I be more open-minded to exploring border areas?
--Anxious Annie in Arivaca

Dear Anxious:
I wouldn't suggest you do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Everyone has their own threshold when it comes to feeling secure while traveling. Many RVer's find special, remote sites that appeal to them for the very reasons you fear. Not to suggest there are no dangers in the area you are describing, but a few things should be considered. The first thing that comes to mind is the native population. Although sparse, many people live and work in that part of Arizona. You probably do not want to know everything that goes on in the area, but in most cases it would not involve visitors to the refuge. You can't spend ten minutes along refuge roads without seeing Border Patrol and state and local police presence. Using common sense in where you travel and camp along the border will help ensure a safe experience. Traveling in numbers will also alleviate some of your apprehension. Remember that most of the pioneers traveled as a group and circled the wagons at night. The upside of the experience in this remote section of Arizona will be the wildlife and dark skies. It is a very unique grasslands area and you can expect to see pronghorn, burrowing owls, and masked bobwhite. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

RV one butt kitchen

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are first-time RVers. We sold our home in Tucson and just started traveling this winter in a 30 ft. motorhome. It gives new meaning to the term, “One Butt Kitchen.” I enjoy cooking, but this miniscule space seems to crimp my style. The counter area and refrigerator/freezer are downsized enough to make normal cooking and storage a constant challenge. There is a definite order to getting things done with the least amount of difficulty! I am learning to approach meals in stages. So far I have said a few naughty words. My husband says I just have to adjust. Am I being unreasonable in comparing this closet cooking to the space I am accustomed?
--Super-downsized in Deming

Dear Down:
Learning to cope in an RV takes some adjustment. I would recommend starting out with some advice from W.C. Fields, “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” This should mellow you out a bit. On a more serious note, add some counter space. This is easily accomplished with a fold down counter extension, available at any RV store. If your stove doesn’t already come with a cover, they can be purchased at Camping World or improvise with an upside down cookie sheet for added counter space. Refrigerator and freezer space often calls for shopping more often, but you will become accustomed to stocking the most important items in the space you have. The same applies to dry goods storage. Many RVer’s have come up with collections of simpler meals that mimic what they have been used to cooking. You may try exploring downsized cooking utensils as well. Have you considered more outdoor cooking? There are a wide array of outdoor cooking appliances that will give you more options when weather permits. Much of your frustration is becoming familiar with your new space and developing a new routine. Speaking of a new routine, you might want to consider some advise from author Elizabeth Gilbert. She says, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen...sitting in a comfortable chair, with her feet up, drinking a glass of wine and watching her husband cook dinner.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

RV tow truck

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I need your help. We bought a 34 ft. motorhome and my wife thinks we are on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She is an avid bird watcher and is building her life list as we travel. We are now in the desert southwest and she has me driving down roads that I don’t think are designed for a big motorhome. We don’t know where half of them will lead. Often I have to unhook the tow car just so we can turn around. How can I convince her this is not a smart thing to do? I don’t like conflict and it always turns into an argument, especially if there is a Mangrove Penguin to be found.
--Tow Truck Bound in Buckeye

Dear Towhee:
Sounds like a great adventure to me. However, I agree, you could get into trouble if you are not careful where you drive. I have several suggestions that might help and arguing is not one of them.

First, download a free Google Earth App. The pictures are often a few years old, but unless you are studying a new road, it should be represented. Do a fly-over with Google Earth and see where the road leads. It will show you terrain, turn-arounds, road conditions and much more.

Another suggestion is to detach from the “Mothership” and go scout it out with your tow vehicle. It sounds like you should invest in a jeep, if you haven’t already. In the region of the country you are now exploring, there are multitudes of semi-backcountry camping sites that will accommodate a large RV. They happen to be in some of the best birding areas. Let me give you a suggestion. I am going to assume you are in Buckeye, Arizona. Go northwest a bit to Alamo Lake State Park. It has great birding with desert and riparian areas. Camp at the park for a night and explore all the BLM camping options around the park and the lake.

Using both techniques I suggested above, you should be able to find a perfect site to bird, explore and hike, all inclusive with your free camping. The park offers sites with hookups or no hookups starting at fifteen bucks and they come with world-class sunrises and sunsets. You can also buy detailed maps of the areas you are exploring, but there is so much free information online, I would suggest you put it to use. Hiking across Arizona last spring I downloaded free topo maps of the whole state onto my GPS. These resources will not only tell you where you are, but also tell you where to go -- before your wife does.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tired of RV pressure

Dear R.V. Shrink:
My husband is constantly worried about our tire pressure. I get so tired of hearing the latest news about tire conditions as we are traveling down the road through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

It is all my fault. I bought him a tire monitoring system for his birthday. I thought it might prevent him from using his pressure gauge on all of our tires every day. Should I just keep quiet and let him enjoy his tire pressure fixation? It seems the monitor is never perfectly tuned to the tires and he now worries more than before I bought it for him. --Tired of Pressure in St. Pete

Dear Tired:
I think it was great that you bought your husband a tire monitor. It can benefit both of you in a safety manner. They are especially useful if you are towing a car behind a motorhome. I have seen motorhomes hauling tow cars with a flat tire and the driver having no clue his vehicle is disintegrating behind him.

Tire monitors can be frustrating. Most problems turn out to involve low batteries. The monitor has batteries, the sensors have batteries, and the relays have batteries. They all have to be in good charge for the hardware to communicate with each other. They allow you to set the pressure and temperature threshold for each individual tire, which can often alert you to a pending tire failure. They also have alarm tones to alert you to abrupt changes in same. If you bought your husband a decent system, the monitor should be doing all the work for him.

Have him read his manual over carefully and see if he is understanding all the functions the system offers. Monitoring tire pressure and making sure it is always correct will save you money, time and expense in the long run.

I would discuss your disgust with the constant tire dialog. Your husband may not realize you are disinterested in his pressure points. Since you bought him this new tool, he may just be making the point that he is using it.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

RV Christmas Decor

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
It’s almost Christmas and I want a tree and lights just like the old days. I thought a wreath on the front of the motorhome would also be fun. The problem is my husband thinks it’s crazy. Just because we live in a 29 foot motorhome shouldn’t cancel Christmas. I’m not looking for the twin pine that sits at Rockefeller Plaza, I just want a little Christmas tree and a few lights. Is that asking too much?
--Bah Humbug in Hermosa Beach

 Dear Bah:
When I was a kid, my dad would buy those pattern kits of wooden choir boys, and nativity scene. He would spend the Fall in his wood shop, cutting and painting. In December he would stake it all out in the front yard and wire it for lights and sound. He had speakers wired directly to his Hammond Organ so he could fill his scene with his favorite Christmas music. I think this might be what you should suggest to your husband. By the time you negotiate your way back to a simple tree, he will probably be more than happy to go out and buy one himself. Today you can buy a fake tree that is already trimmed in lights. They come in all sizes and store easily. You can even find 12 Volt LED lights if you are a boondocker. There is no shortage of Christmas spirit in RV campgrounds. If you don’t want to carry a lot of seasonal decor, just park next to someone who does. Last week I saw a couple with a 5th wheel lit up like a casino. They even had a blow up Santa on the roof climbing in a chimney. Don’t forget to hang a stocking for your husband with a lump of coal in it.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink