Friday, December 31, 2010

RV parking at Walmart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been using Walmart parking lots for overnight stays while traveling between destinations. We think this is a wonderful opportunity offered by Walmart. We call them our “Pit Stops.” We do our shopping, laundry nearby and rent a movie from Red Box. They always have an out-of-the-way area that is not too noisy or bright. Several times we have noticed other campers not just taking advantage of a good thing, but potentially ruining it for the rest of us. We have seen people with tables and chairs out under their awning, small fenced in dog pens erected, large generators in the parking lot next to the rig running loud and smoky, tents and loud arguments over parking spaces. It takes every tactical maneuver I can muster to keep my husband from turning into a Walmart referee. He wants so badly to go over and give them a piece of his mind. He thinks he is Wyatt Earp. I tell him I didn’t start traveling to put up with non-campground conflict. If it bothers him so much I think we should avoid these overnight stays. Besides, I think it could be dangerous confronting people that obviously have no common sense. He loves your column and I think if he hears some advice from you he may listen. Thanks in advance.
--Up Against the Wall-mart in Earp, CA

Dear Up:
Don’t get down on your husband. Those kind of irresponsible actions can make sane people crazy. I agree, he should not try to be the “Law west of the Walmart.” I also agree that these people do jeopardize the convenience we all enjoy. Walmart has actually been challenged by interests that would like to see them discontinue overnight parking privileges. They refused to stop offering this service. They said it was another customer service they would continue to promote in locations that did not disallow it by city ordinance. One thing you can do, to help compensate for the inconsiderate few who abuse the service, is be a loyal, courteous customer. Let store management know you are shopping and thank them for allowing you to stay. Call ahead and ask permission, even if you know it is allowed. Often they like RV’s to congregate in a certain section of the parking lot. Also, things change and you never know when a new ordinance might restrict overnight parking. These are much better tactics than confrontation with parking lot neighbors. If your husband goes out at all be sure to have him check his guns at the door. If anything, let him walk around the parking lot with a very large, official looking badge and stare, but, make him promise he won’t talk to anyone.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Motorhome Brake Dancing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Maybe you can help solve this constant problem my wife and I have every time we park our rig. It’s a little embarrassing but I know many other people suffer from the same situation. We both drive our motorhome, we both take turns dumping the septic, we both know how to troubleshoot all the appliances. We are a great team. The problem is, she thinks she’s an expert at backing up and parking the rig. She is always telling others that I’m terrible at it. The fact is, I just give better signals than she does. I can get behind the motorhome and maneuver her right into the tightest spots with good hand signals. When I’m driving, I can’t even see her in the mirrors. She is usually in a blind spot behind the rig, flapping her hands and her gums. While she’s back there dancing around I can’t see or hear her. We have discussed this problem a million times, but I still can’t get it though to her where to stand and what signals I need. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
--Brake Dancing in Denver

Dear Brake:
This is a huge problem. I hear this constantly. If you look around the campground as people arrive you will see this scenario played out time and again. Couples seem to get frustrated with each other when trying to work together to park, especially in tight spaces. I suggest patience. Armed with that I suggest a couple props. The first is very important--an oven mitt. Yes, you heard me right. This is most important. If the person behind the rig giving parking signals wears an oven mitt there are certain signals that will not be able to be seen no matter how frustrated that person becomes. This can go a long way toward keeping the peace until the rig finally gets parked. Another piece of equipment that comes in handy is a cheap pair of walkie talkie’s. You can often find them at second hand stores for a few bucks. Another problem I see, in a majority of parking conflict cases, is over politeness. Not between the couple but with blocking traffic. Don’t worry about blocking the road or holding up another camper. We are all in the same boat (land yacht). They don’t mind waiting for you to take your time and get parked properly. Just don’t let them help you. Remember, they don’t have anything invested. Your spouse is going to make sure you don’t impale your rig on some hidden branch, but a bystander may not be as concerned. The next time you park the rig make a conscious effort to hold your tongue. Remember, it’s in a slippery spot. Make a pact, no fighting over parking. Watch others and see just how silly it is, then put yourself in that picture. Your New Year’s Resolution should be, “I’ll watch your back-up, you watch mine.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Friday, December 17, 2010

Down in the RV Dumps

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been on our first shake down cruise with a new class C motorhome. It has been a real eye opening, learning experience. I have always taken my waste disposal for granted. I flush the toilet and it disappears forever. Now I get to see it one more time before it goes off to the big sewage system in the great unknown. My problem is not sanitation. I am questioning dump station manners. In my opinion, so far they stink. My first experience was outside Cody, Wyoming. It was a free dump station near a Veteran’s Memorial Park. The sign clearly stated “No Commercial Dumping.” Halfway through my dumping process a Canadian Tour bus pulled in. The driver backed up to the hole on his side (this was a two-holer) while his tour guide positioned him over the target. I could not imagine they were going to pull the pin without at least hooking up a hose. When I finally figured out that’s exactly what they were going to do, I screamed to my wife, “Jump or swim.” We hopped in the rig and sped off just as they pulled the plug. I was so upset I went a little ballistic. I walked back over to the dump station and told them what I thought about their method and inconsideration as we were standing just a few feet away. This is the most extreme example I can list so far, but I am just starting. My wife says I should roll with the punches and not let these people set me off. Should I suffer in silence when I find myself dumping with dopes, or relieve my stress by giving them a little “crap” so to speak?
--Bob in Blackwater, VA

Dear Bob:
First, I think you made the right decision. Always run first. I think you will find most fellow RV’ers to be very polite when it comes to sharing dumping stations. Most will go the extra mile when it comes to cleaning the area before they leave. Unfortunately, there are always a few bad apples that spoil the barrel. I don’t think losing your temper will make these people act or smell any better. For every dump station user that soils the area you will find nine that leave the area clean and tidy. Seldom will you be up against a tour bus worth of waste. Most RV’ers are using dump stations in a campground setting. I looked your dump station up on the internet. Yes, the internet can even tell you where to take a dump ( You were at a city dump station that was probably there for the convenience of campers like yourself. Even if these jokers you had to deal with had permission, they still should have been more considerate and squared away, hygienically speaking. Losing your temper in the scenario you described is very understandable. In normal conditions, let it go. No pun intended.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Friday, December 10, 2010

RV Insurance--Never Leave Home Without It!

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just bought a new Montana 5th wheel last month and escaped the Michigan Siberian north. We are in a great park in Bradenton Beach, Florida and feel we made the right decision. Having a new rig is exciting but I think my husband worries about it too much. We are well insured but have seen two hit and runs already this month. They are not malicious attacks. These people probably don’t even know they had hit something until they discovered a dent in their rigs. Our neighbor with a 40-foot motorhome, pulling a small pickup truck, pulled out while we were eating breakfast one morning. He took out a small palm tree on our site and just missed our truck. Before he exited the park he went over the curb and scraped a fire hydrant. He never even realized he hit anything.

Two days later the couple across the street with a three axle Airstream wiped out the whole side of their trailer, wrapping it around a telephone pole while turning out of their site too sharply. This morning while out walking we saw another motorhome back into a car while leaving the park. Is this a common occurrence for RVers? I hate to have my husband dwell on this issue all the time. I keep telling him it is just chance that we have witnessed so many collisions in the short time we have been traveling. He is already designing a portable post system to border our campsites as a “first line of defense” as he calls it. Please tell me this is not necessary. I feel like we are spending too much time worrying about this issue instead of enjoying our surroundings. I feel like my husband is getting to the point where he is not comfortable leaving our rig unattended. --Bump and Grind in Bradenton

Dear Bumper:
Don’t worry. Be happy. When you look around the campground at some of the large rigs that now ply the road, you would think this could be a huge problem. If you go on the internet and look for RV accident statistics you will find very little information. The fact is, RVers don’t hurt enough people to warrant their own statistic. I think your above average accident witnessing will decrease as you continue to travel. Look optimistically at your experience so far. It has heightened your personal awareness and will make you more careful in your own towing practice. When someone has a good percentage of their net worth in a new comfortable home on wheels, it makes them ever conscious of their surroundings and driving habits.

Many dealers take new customers through a driving course to demonstrate turning radius, swing ratio and tips on using mirrors effectively. Each driver is unique. This is no different from learning to drive a light truck or van. Each type of RV has a different reaction while maneuvering around tight campgrounds. I have known tour bus drivers who would take a 40 foot tour bus into New York City, but could not get used to parking a 5th wheel. Your husband should hold off on his “Perimeter Pole” design until you have had more time to experience just how safe it is to be surrounded by a whole herd of various sized RV’s. There is a “One Eyed” guy I wrote about a few weeks ago you might want to be aware of. Otherwise, I think you will discover the wonderful world of RV travel is almost utopia like in the safety department. You should encourage your husband to leave your rig unattended for extended lengths of time until his paranoia has sufficiently eased. Enjoy all of your neighbors and never, I mean never, let them see you sweat!
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Friday, December 3, 2010

Campground Reservation Dilemma

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are fairly new at RVing. We didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to secure a campsite when and where we travel. The reality of this time consuming chore never entered our minds during the years we dreamed of roaming around North America in our travel trailer. It has taken The adventure out of our sails. Our utopian plans of throwing out the anchor wherever the wind blew us has turned into the nightmare of securing reservations well in advance and putting ourselves on a schedule. We thought our time clock days were behind us and now find ourselves rat-racing around and keeping a daily planner again. Is this a syndrome that many Rver’s suffer with or will we finally overcome our fear of being site-less and end up in long lines with people that refuse to be sent to the reservation system?
--Dan in Demming

Dear Dan:
It’s a fact of life. A majority of campgrounds have become bookie joints. The future holds more of the same. You can let it corral you or use it to your advantage. It is not a perfect world we have created. The old saying, “If given lemons, make lemonade,” applies here to your feelings. The realities of the road are often much different from the picture ads you have been drooling over for years. That said, it is still a wonderful lifestyle. You have to weigh the difference of planning your trip far in advance and knowing you have secure sites, or winging it and taking your chances. The deck is stacked against you if you decide to wing it. There are actually scalpers who buy up the best sites and seasons in many state and national parks and resell them in bidding auctions on Ebay and Craigslist. In Florida, for example, many state parks have gone completely to reservations. Even if you do find a site during the week, you often have to move out on the weekend because they have been completely booked months in advance. Many National Forest Campgrounds have gone to reservations. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon it won’t be necessary to book ahead at Camp Walmart. The boondocking days are dwindling. It’s a numbers game we call supply and demand. Many places that used to be free are now charging for two reasons -- #1 because they can, and #2 because of overuse. In the present economy you will find many free campgrounds full of unfortunate people who have lost their homes to foreclosure. There have already been attempts to erode the Senior Discount from government campgrounds, and with state budgets in the black water tank you are finding fewer services and less maintained facilities at higher fees. My advice is to stop dwelling on lemons and adjust the sails and make lemonade. There are still many wonderful places to drop anchor. You can arm yourself with more information using campground directories, computer websites, fellow campers and news media to find those gems that few have discovered. Eventually, you will find places appealing enough and you will know when you want to return and for how long. At that point “Book ‘em Danno,” and you will end up loving the reservation system.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink