Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mi RV Casa

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have recently been self-diagnosed with mild claustrophobia. We retired five years ago and have been downsizing. My husband calls it “cultivating our detachments.” We had a 2,000 sq. ft. house full of stuff five years ago. We moved into a 40 ft. motorhome which I thought downsized us as far as humanly possible. We really didn’t like driving the monster so we downsized further to a 34 ft. fifth-wheel. My husband could not get used to parking a fifth-wheel so we downsized further to a 27 ft. class C motorhome. I was quite happy with the class C, but my husband, the fanatic, started checking out 17 ft. Casita travel trailers. At first he said he was just curious about them, then we ended up taking a factory tour, and now I live in one. I have to admit I love the little thing, but we had to go through a lot of adjustments in coordinating our sleeping, eating and leisure activities. It has forced us to spend more time out-of-doors, shop more sparingly, downsize our stuff to a minimum and conserve our water usage. My problem is he is now online looking at luggage all the time. I’m thinking he might be headed for a suitcase, and I may be in it. Do you think this is just a stage he is going through or should I be worried?
--Mi Casa Es Su Casa, in Casa Grande

Dear Mi Casa:
I only think you should be worried if he actually buys a suitcase. I see this situation all the time. People new to the RV lifestyle often go big. They have been watching big rigs pass them for years and dreaming about that life on the road. They see all their favorite country stars traveling in them and want to live part of that life vicariously. They go to the big RV shows and find more in a big rig than they have at home, right down to Italian marble floors. It works out for a percentage of people, but many find the expense of maintaining a motorhome with a doorbell that plays 37 different songs a bit more than the budget will allow. So the process begins. They start cruising the campgrounds at night looking at all the eye-candy that others have ended up with. Then the elimination process of what would work better for them kicks in. It sometimes, as in your case, takes more than two moves. I will agree that moving from a 2,000 sq. ft. house to a 17 ft. Casita is a major detachment cultivation operation. I think you have been very tolerant of your husband’s obsession with the downsizing process. But he is not the only one having to live with these decisions. You have to be more forceful with your opinions if you do not desire to live in such a small space. Maybe you do not agree with giving up some of the things you enjoy, or conserving to the degree you must with small holding tanks. If not, you should voice your opinion or you may just find yourself in a suitcase and your husband online looking at small day packs.
--Keep Smilin‘, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RV storage options

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I just bought a brand new fifth wheel. We plan to use it 6 to 8 months of the year, mostly during the winter in a warmer climate than here in Wisconsin. We plan to leave every year just after Christmas. I am trying to convince my wife that we should have a storage building to keep the fifth wheel in while we are not using it. I just hate to see it outside in the elements while it is idle, plus rodents seem to find a way in. She argues that a building will cost more than the fifth wheel and that the RV was built to be an outside vehicle. Am I just being over protective or do a lot of RV owners park their rigs inside, out of the elements and away from the pack rats?
--Green Bay Packer

 Dear Pack Rat :
You have many options. One would be leaving it outside and rodent proofing it. You could buy a cover for it or lease some indoor storage space. If you really want a Boy Toy building, there are cheaper options than a pole or block structure. Canvas buildings are a great option. They are comparatively inexpensive, movable, and come in all shapes, colors and sizes. If rodents are a real problem for you, these structures do need some foundation work. Most of them simply sit on the ground, but can be mounted on a short foundation wall that will help eliminate critter access. Depending how fancy you want to get, they can also be insulated, wired for electricity, heated and cooled. The draw back would be replacing the canvas every several years. The plus side of building a permanent structure would be not just the convenience of having a building for RV storage, shop etc., but also some investment value. Although the cost of a large pole building can give you sticker shock, look back a few years and check pricing. These structures will continue to appreciate in value if built with quality materials and maintained properly. I have had a large canvas storage building for 15 years. I have moved it three times and recovered it twice. Although they snug down tight, wind action eventually wears the material. There is no question that any vehicle stored in out of the weather will last longer and look nicer. If you two can't agree on a building I would concentrate on keeping the tires covered and the skin clean and protected with a good coating.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Camp Disappointment

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just finished a three month RV trip to the Canadian Rockies and down to the Canyonlands. It was incredible scenery and fantastic weather. The only problem turned out to be logistics with our accommodations. We are noticing that even during the fall that campgrounds in popular areas are completely full. Without reservations and sticking to a strict schedule it is almost impossible to stay in some of our favorite National Park campgrounds. It seems that everyone has discovered the late season weather window of fall travel. It makes my wife nervous when she thinks we will not be able to snag a campground site in parks we have always enjoyed. She says we might just as well stay home if we have to stay in commercial parks sardined in with a hundred other rigs in neat little rows. I tell her we should change our travel habits to take advantage of the reservation system where available. This would eliminate all the pressure of finding a site when we arrive. She is resistant to giving up our nomadic, no schedule, travel method. Do you think she is being too inflexible? I would appreciate any input.
 --Out of site in Fargo

 Dear Far Out:
You are experiencing the new norm. This situation seems to be harder on people who have been traveling for years during the fall. It used to be that once the kids went back to school and summer tourist season ended, the parks were uncrowded, and the weather was perfect for fall travelers. That is no longer true. It is simply a matter of demographics. People are still thinking the same way about fall travel, but the numbers have changed. You have heard me say this before, "The boomers are coming." Approximately 10,000 people hit retirement age every day, and will for the next 20 years. I'm not saying they will all buy an RV and hit the road, but the sales numbers in the RV industry seem to indicate the herd is growing rapidly. This will change the way we all travel, like it or not. I believe the Park and National Forest Service are already struggling with this influx of usage. Many mountain parks would begin shutting down campground facilities in the fall as camper numbers declined. Now they are finding the need to leave them open as the numbers are actually up for that time of year. Part of the attraction to travel in an RV is the flexibility of not being on a schedule. You may be able to cling to that lifestyle to some degree, but you need to face the issues and work the system if you want to be successful at RV travel in the digital age. That will mean reservations. Even taking that step will not guarantee the desired results in many areas if you do not plan far enough ahead. It has become so bad that there are people scalping campground sites in popular, national park, reservation campgrounds on EBay and Craigslist. I reported this to the park service a few years ago and they seemed unaware of the practice. Now they have put systems in place that discourage this scam. I have no crystal ball and cannot tell you how the popularity of the RV lifestyle will evolve over the next two decades, but we will continue to see change as the numbers grow. Most of these popular sites offer no hookups, but are still in huge demand because of their locations to natural and historical features. This senior generation is much more active in outdoor recreation. They are attracted to biking trails, paddling waterways, hiking systems, golf courses, fishing, hunting and photography. I think we will see the development of more camping facilities in and around wildlife refuges. It could help solve budget shortfalls and fill a need for those looking for areas of solitude, wildlife activity, and various outdoor activities. So my advice as, it evolves, is to go with the flow. Play campground Bingo on your computer in the various reservation systems, collect information from other campers on where they go and when, and discover little known camping areas off the beaten path. If you're a senior you have to remember you are part of the problem not the solution. So just deal with it.
 --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hard Wired RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I read about other women in your column who seem to have the same problem I do. My husband knows just enough about working on our rig to be dangerous. Recently he was wiring our tow vehicle for lights. First he read RV forums for two days, then he watched a YouTube video, then he bought what he thought he needed. That was followed by two days of swearing, fuming and high blood pressure. He said he wired everything properly but he didn't have a right turn signal. Every time he hit the brakes he blew the fuse to our tow plug. It took him a whole day just to find that fuse. His name is Dick and I call all of his many problems Pre-Dick-aments. That annoys him, but we always have stories to tell after he tackles one of these projects. He finally figured out his problem. The right turn wire was shorted out on a sharp piece of metal. He was told by a fellow camper that he could simply buy a wireless set of lights that attach to the car trunk and not have to deal with all this wiring hassle. He never listens to good advice. How can I reason with him that he is shortening his life by frustrating himself on a regular basis?
--Hard Wired in Astoria

Dear Hard Astoria:
Go a little easy on your husband. I applaud him for his sticktoitiveness. Those wireless lights sound good, but you have to fool with batteries all the time to keep them burning. I agree your husband should chill out a bit and not become so frustrated. He should think of each new project as higher education. The more research he has to do the more he learns about each system on his rig. The guy with the wireless system probably can't find his wire crimper and butt connectors with both hands. Your husband now knows where the tow plug fuse is, what caused it to fail, how everything is wired from the plug to his lights, what diodes he used, and where the wires are run and secured. If he has a future problem he won't need a service technician or a bank loan to have it fixed. You are a lucky women indeed. I would embrace his adventurous mechanical spirit and support him with encouragement and praise when you see him pulling his hair out. I saw a similar situation recently in a New Mexico state park. A guy was trying to fix his motorhome furnace. He had it completely out and seemed very frustrated. He kept yelling, "I need a nurse." At first I didn't know what that meant. Finally I figured it out. Every time he yelled, "I need a nurse," his wife came out of the motorhome with another rum and coke. He finally discovered he needed a new electronic board for his furnace after just a few hours and more than a few rum and cokes. If you want to be a referee instead of a spectator you may need to go to bar tending school.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guerrilla tactics at the campground

Dear R.V. Shrink:
Recently we arrived at a National Park campground and found it completely full. It was a Monday afternoon. This late in the season, just after the weekend, seemed like an odd time for a rather remote campground to be full. I was ready to leave to find another campground, but my wife insisted on further investigation. When she returned from a stroll around the campground she said several sites were "marked" suspiciously. Not one to enjoy any conflict, I suggested we just leave. My wife did not agree. She did another loop around the campground, found a post receipt not properly filled out and backed me into the site. No one ever challenged us, but the chair marking the site went missing in the dark of night.

As our neighbors arrived in the night, we noticed that they seemed to be related. We spent the next few days feeling like we were not welcome. I told my wife it was not worth the hassle to stay. She insists there are rules and if we have to practice combat camping she is more than willing to enlist her guerrilla warfare tactics to grab a piece of ground and defend it. Is this a normal attitude or should I get regular counseling for my wife? --Gun Shy in Grand Forks 

Dear Gun Shy:
Everyone comes with their own built-in computer program. It can be changed through relationship environments, and life experience, but there is still a basic programming that underlies all that is exposed at the surface. Kind of like a personal Windows program being run by an underlying DOS program you were born with. That is just a long way of saying you and your wife are both okay.

You don't like conflict and she embraces it. That sounds like a perfect traveling combination. Marking unpaid sites for friends is a very common practice, but not allowed in most campgrounds. Unlike coats over saved seats at the movie theater, you will find actual rules at the payment kiosk stating that reserving sites is not allowed. Therefore, you are within your rights to occupy an illegally reserved site if you can figure out which sites have been pirated. In your case, you have a spouse who can obviously sniff those sites out and ferret out the squatters. You are a lucky man. I'm going to guess your wife is a Virgo. They are known to turn chaos into complete order.

You have to decide on your own level of comfort. You don't want a real estate deal to go bad to the point of violence. Most of these situations turn out to be a severe case of stink-eye. Like the Cold War years, you want to keep things at the luke warm level so no one starts launching ICBMs (inter campground burnt marshmallows). It is just human nature for good people to go bad when it comes to trying to save a campsite for Aunt Gertrude who drives slower than everyone else. Most of the time these people are peeking out of a nearby rig embarrassed about their act of civil disobedience. Once your wife challenges them, they are going to go immediately to plan B, how to get their chair back after sunset. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrin