Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife thinks I should be a mechanic just because I have a travel trailer. Women used to want a guy that was "handsome," now they want a guy that is "handy." Last week the water coming out of the kitchen faucet started slowing down. Each day the stream would shrink a bit more. For days it had us puzzled. I figured it must be a pinched water line somewhere under the sink. I had most of that apart when my wife discovered it was only the strainer at the tap that was clogged. Should I take a course in RV mechanics or should I send my wife who seems to have more aptitude for such things?
--Ralph the Plumber in Potstown

Dear Potstown:
You don’t have to be a mechanical genius to enjoy the open road in an RV. You always hear people say that a boat or RV is just a black hole you pour money into. I have never found that to be true as long as you take care of things on a regular basis. It is called precautionary maintenance. In our new internet connected world you can now go to one of many online RV Forums and find the answer to most any problem and discover how to fix it. Whatever has gone wrong has already happened to someone else who is willing to share the experience online and suggest how you might solve it. You can find Youtube videos on everything from fixing a leaky roof to changing the oil in the genset. It sounds to me like you two make a good team. Often problems turn out to be a simple fix using a bit of common sense. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill, and solicit some advice before you start tearing the walls apart.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Greta Garbo RVing

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Call me Greta Garbo, but we don’t like to park three feet from other people when we travel in our RV - "I WANT TO BE ALONE". We just returned from a year on the road and never once stayed in a commercial park for that very reason. What makes me absolutely crazy is closely related to this “RV 2-close-a-phobia” I have. During the shoulder season, when campgrounds are less congested, we find a site that is as far away from others as possible. Last week we were in a National Forest campground and there was not another soul camping. There were 49 sites spread over hundreds of acres of beautiful woods. Another couple showed up in a large motorhome and decided to park in the campsite closest to us. They were not very friendly, had barking dogs, and eventually fired up their generator to watch TV for a couple hours. Am I abnormal? Do I need professional help? I didn’t yell at anyone--this time.
--Greta-like in Grand Marais

Dear Greta:
You are very normal. Some people are paranoid about camping by themselves. They would rather camp next to you even if you were an axe murderer. I’m assuming you are not. It can be very annoying, especially if they are noisy or nosey. Like many other campground issues, sometimes it is easier to pull up stakes and move rather than to sit and stew. A huge part of camping for some people is the solitude. For others it seems to be the camaraderie. In this case it sounds like your neighbors were into neither. I can only remind you that living in an RV has so many more options than living in a home with close neighbors. The greatest option is that set of wheels your RV came standard with. Use them.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RVing the dark side

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
When we started RVing it only took one bad experience to decide I never wanted to drive in the dark again. My husband seemed to agree, but he has a tendency to make time and push the limits of our driving day. Recently we were headed for Anacortes, Washington to a county park. It was getting late, but we were only an hour from our destination. My husband talked me into going all the way, so we arrived in total darkness. The road into the park narrowed to one lane, took a hard left, and went straight up. We had no idea what we were getting into, and there was no turning around. When we reached the top of the hill it was a dark wooded area. Luckily an angel appeared. A camper stepped out of the dark and motioned us into a wide campsite, then disappeared. We never did get to thank him. I don’t know how to cure my husband of pushing the limits of light. He says, “Never again.” But then he forgets our bad experiences and away we go again into the night. What say you?
--Scared of the darkside in Denver

Dear Darkside:
I’m with you. We made the same decision years ago. Rules are meant to break. It is easy to talk yourself into pushing on when you get close to your destination. If you are familiar with your destination it makes some difference, but you can still have problems along the way which compound quickly in the dark. Experience usually makes for better judgement. Most RVers have found out the hard way that driving at night is not the safest method of travel. Our maiden voyage years ago ended in a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. First, the owner of the station had to pull us off the top of an icy mountain in the dark with a wrecker. He told us we would be safe sleeping at the station overnight. His last words before leaving for the night were, “Don’t get out of your trailer during the night, my German Shepard will eat you alive!” We swore we would never drive after daylight again. Yes, we have broken that rule a few times, but usually we regretted it. So cut your husband some slack on having a short memory, we all have a tendency to forget the bad times.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Growing old in an RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been full-timers for over 12 years. We are so old, we know too much. Some of our favorite campgrounds have priced us right out of enjoying them. Our cost of living increases are nowhere near the rising cost of eking out a living. Many National Forest, pit toilet campgrounds have gone to concession run conglomerates. We just left one that charged $19.50. Even with our half-price senior pass this is three times more than when we started traveling in our RV. I think we are going to be priced out of RVing before we get too old to drive. I guess thinking about the “good ole days” is all part of growing old. Everything we do, from pumping gas to buying groceries gives us sticker shock. My husband say’s he is going to start a roving RV diagnostic business. He says they charge $100 just to say, “Yup, she’s broken.” Are we just becoming sour grapes or do you think the cost of RV travel is rising faster than the cost of keeping up.
--Ready for harvest in Havre

Dear Ready:
I like your husband’s business plan. He won’t even need to haul any tools around. I have often said, “The boomers are coming.” Combat Camping is the new norm. Supply and demand drive the cost of camping, but also changing Fed policy. Shrinking government means getting out of multiple businesses. One business the government is getting out of quickly is the camping business. Many state and local forest campgrounds are now run by concessionaires that are starting to pay hosts a salary. That cost is passed on to each camper using the facility. The more pressure applied to state and federal budgets will see more increases in camping fees for less service. In Yellowstone this year I asked the ranger at the entrance booth about a dump station location. She said, “I don’t know about that, it’s not a park service facility, it’s run by a concession.” So, not only do they farm services out, they become a black hole (no pun intended) in the park service information sphere. I don’t think you are quite ready for harvest. I think you just need to roll with the punches. Let your vast travel history and knowledge work for you, not against you. Keep copious notes, learn about changes and how they affect you. Budget campground spending. There are still a lot of great places to camp at a reasonable price.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink