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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Looking for RV nuggets

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I follow your column each week and find it informative and thought provoking. However, I cannot always figure out the things you suggest. In the past few weeks my interest was piqued with the suggestion of a Medigap Plan F High Deductible plan, and last week the mining claim idea. I had never heard of either. In researching both I find little information. Do they really exist or do you just make this stuff up? --Mrs. Doubtfire in Deadwood

Dear Doubt:
Both these ideas are way too bizarre for even me to make up. Let’s begin with the fact that signing up for Medicare is not for sissies. I stated in that column that insurance companies function profitably by keeping customers and potential customers confused. There is little money in Plan F HD. Many companies do not really sell it, they just use it as bait to get you to bite. Once they have you on the hook (get you to call) they send you to a high-pressure salesperson, stuffed into a cubical, to sell you something you do not want or need. To make things even more complicated, rates and coverage vary by state and even counties.

My suggestion would be to call your state Medicare office and ask them to give you a list of companies that actually say they sell Plan F High Deductible. Your troubles do not stop there. It will be the last thing they try to sell you and the premium will change faster than their lips move. It must be good if they don’t want to sell it to you, so stay at it, be persistent. Hang in there like a bulldog.

After you get all insured, head for the gold fields so you can pay for your new medical coverage. I am no expert on mining claims. I have met a couple people who have done this and they seem to be happy campers. One bought his claim on eBay. If you check eBay you will see sellers with mining claims up for bid. This looks like the expensive way to stake a claim. Doing your own paperwork and finding your own claim would be much cheaper ($200+). Check with a BLM office near you.

From my understanding you need to work the claim, which might mean using a metal detector occasionally. I have also read that it does not give you the right to a private chunk of land. You only own the mining surface rights. Anyone can come out and camp next to you, they just can’t look for your Mother Lode without your permission. Really, that’s not so bad. You might get lonely out there looking for nuggets and want a bit of company.

Remember, if you find gold, don’t tell anyone. If you don’t find gold and want to sell your claim, get a gold tooth and smile broadly at each prospective buyer. This may be a way of finding a cheap place to camp in the desert for the winter, but I think staying on BLM land would be a lot easier, with no paperwork. Remember, the guy that made the most money during the Gold Rush was named Levi, and he sold pants.

--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looking for RV Oz

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been 3/4-time RVing for several years. We feel like we have seen everything that interests us. We like biking, hiking, kayaking and nature watching. Our travels have been mostly National Park/Forest hopping. We are at a point in our lives when we would just like to sit somewhere warm and natural for a few months in the winter. We are turned off by commercial RV parks. The South is full of them. We are not into potluck dinners, line dancing, pickle ball and all the rest. We just want dark, quiet nights, natural surroundings, and interaction with like-minded people. Is there such a place, or are we pipe-dreaming? Maybe finding this place with a quaint nearby town is not being realistic. Any advice on how to be happy with what we can find?
--Looking for Oz in Arizona

Dear Ozzie:
I don’t think that is asking too much. The problem is finding the right fit. I assume you have considered continuing your present mode of travel and just staying at your favorite parks for the full allowable time limit which is usually 14 days. That would only move you a dozen times a winter from one awesome place to another. You could also consider volunteer work in a park you really love. That would give you the opportunity to stay much longer in one spot.

You might consider looking for a home or lot to rent in an area that fits your needs and allows RV parking. If you spend the time and money to become as self-contained as possible you could find a quiet place on BLM land that would allow you to stay much longer. Many sites are near small towns that you might find interesting. I know people that have registered mining claims, just to have privacy and boondock-type surroundings, with room enough to invite friends to stay.

You might consider buying or leasing land with others who are looking for the same camping opportunities you are. Having a small private campground with people you enjoy can be a great opportunity to enjoy the place you love, make a small investment, plan your own parking space, and enjoy the things that interest you. Not very different from a condo, a time-share or investing in a lot in an RV park. It just gives you a bit more control over your surroundings.

While you contemplate what will make you happy, I would just keep doing longer stays in parks you enjoy. After 14 days, you probably need to dump and water-up anyway. Find the primo parks you love, reserve your whole winter in the sites you like the most, and continue to enjoy the lifestyle you always have.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

RV magical mystery tour

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We will begin our great RV adventure in about a year. We are what you would call “wet behind the ears” when it comes to RV traveling. My husband thinks it is going to be this magical mystery tour. I think he might be building himself up for disappointment. I am trying to throttle him a bit. Is this unfair? Should I just let him dream his dreams and let him find out the hard way that it’s not all utopia out there? --Balloon Bursting in Burlington

Dear Bursting:
Don’t rain on his parade. It can be whatever he wants it to be. Everyone will create a different experience, pursue different interests, follow different highways, pick different places to camp and live. You two will have to find your own way.

I like to think of this lifestyle as utopia. If I were to suggest reading material it wouldn’t be a road atlas. I would suggest starting with Steinbeck’s "Travels with Charlie." I read it in high school and found it very helpful. I lived in my truck for a summer traveling across America. I used Steinbeck’s method of washing my clothes. He hung a plastic bucket with a lid from bungee cords. After a hundred miles of sloshing around you stop and put the rinse water in. It works great.

My second suggestion would be one of my favorite writers, William Least Heat-Moon. He will inspire you to look for that which is not obvious as you travel. Start with "Blue Highways," then "Here, There, Elsewhere." If he inspires you then continue with "River-Horse" and "PrairyErth."

There is adventure around every bend in the road if you have the right mindset. Don’t be afraid to explore, meet people, try new things, expand your horizons. We just set crab traps and caught monster fish off the coast of California, and we don’t even like seafood! But now we have stories to tell and memories to tuck away. There may be some trying times. We just drove up a one-lane curvy road to a beautiful National Forest campground. There were a few hairy moments when our motorhome met cars coming down. Sure they think we are nuts, but we are having cocktails tonight in one of the most beautiful places in California. My point is, don’t let anxiety turn you into a main road traveler. The magical mystery tour will be found along the “Blue Highways.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RV gasaholic

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband thinks he is Warren Buffet, but in reality he has a hard time deciding what to take at an “all you can eat” buffet. Since we retired and started living most of the year on the road, he has way too much time on his hands. He is always coming up with cockamamie ideas. Lately it is saving money on gas. Now that gas is low, he wants to invest in a gasoline option. He says that will lock him in at today’s price, so it won’t matter how high the price of gas goes, we will be pegged at this low point of entry. Should I just gas him and lock him in at this point. I am at wits end. I am so sick of hearing this mumbo jumbo. He has no clue exactly how this works. He has never invested in the commodities market. Should I make him go see an adviser? Help me quick.
--Fumed in Fremont

Dear Fumed:
There is a good amount of money made everyday in the commodities market. It all comes from the people that make bad judgments. Your husband has no business being in a risky trade he knows nothing about. It’s very risky for the pros. If he insists on trying to lock in a profit from the low oil prices of this minute, maybe he should consider something less volatile, like a blue chip oil major. Their stocks are down at this point. They often follow the price of oil. There is nothing to guarantee it won’t go lower, or be much higher by the time this publishes in a few days. Unlike a futures contract, you and your husband can hang on to a well-managed, dividend-paying stock. When the price of oil goes back up, they will benefit, the stock will most likely appreciate, you will receive a dividend and if you like, you can subtract any profit from your gas bill. If your stock goes south, at least you won’t be sitting by a pier somewhere, waiting to take delivery of 42,000 gallons of unleaded fuel your husband bought and refuses to sell at a loss. Don’t send him to an adviser. Wall Street is littered with the burnt-out shells of people with advisers. Consider the fact that an adviser or managed fund charging 1.25% annually will cost you $125,000 over 10 years on a $500,000 portfolio @ 8% growth. You can buy a lot of expensive gas with that dough -- and your adviser is! Yes, I guess you should just lock him up.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smoke and mirrors

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I liked your take on Medicare last week, but that is not what makes us nuts. How about taking a shot at cell service. We just started traveling and can’t decide what we should do. We have talked to dozens of other RVer’s and it seems everyone has their own favorite. There are more cell plan offers than Medicare ever thought of, and we are more confused than our foreign speaking GPS. (That’s another story. I won’t go there right now). Please give us some advice, or we might just stop communicating with the world.
--Smoke and Mirrors in Minot

Dear Smoke and Mirrors:
Cell plans are much like insurance. Companies have the same business plan, Confuse and Conquer. It takes as much homework to find a deal that fits your needs and budget, as finding a decent policy. To keep your sanity you need to do a few things regularly. The most important would be to read and understand your bill.

AT$T (that’s not a typo) was just ordered to return to customers north of 100 million dollars for false charges. That money was only returned to people who don’t read their bill. Because the people that do, never let them have it in the first place. Verizon has stopped overcharging me because I would call them every month to get the forty cents or a buck back that they overcharged me. No questions asked, they would just reimburse my account. Do the math--they have 20+ million customers. If they can slip a few million accounting mistakes past them every month it really good for the bottom line. Once I discovered how many people don’t read their bill, I bought Verizon stock. The dividend keeps rising--I wonder why? The point is--read your bill each month.

As for service, you would be better off sticking with the company that has the most coverage. At this time, that would be Verizon. Maybe because they have the most people that don’t read their bill. Now if you are feeling a little confused, wait until you go to a Carrier and talk to their sales tag team. Usually there is a greeter who queues you up to see a sales associate. Then they start convincing you how wonderful their deals are and sell you a device that does everything but wash the dishes for you. It all comes at a steep price. Don’t you wonder why they give you free talk and text now? That used to cost big money. Now it’s all about data. That’s where they nail you. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

You are doing things right so far. Keep talking to people, reading consumer articles and tech news. Things are changing fast. In my humble opinion, I think the best deal going at the time is the Walmart Straight Talk plan. You can buy a smartphone with a Verizon chip, have no contract, and unlimited talk, text and DATA, for $45 a month, plus tax. It’s 3G service and no roaming. No roaming means your phone won’t pick up another carrier's tower if you are out of range of your carrier's tower. We are going on our 3rd month of this service with a Verizon phone and have logged over 4,000 miles from the Midwest to the West Coast. We have only been out of service in some of the most remote areas we backpack in. We have never been throttled on our data, and never have to worry about going over. So good luck, read your bill and don’t talk on your phone when driving.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Planned Seniorhood

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We retired early and took our Social Security at 62. We have been on the road full-time for four years. This year we both have to decide how to take Medicare. It is driving my husband crazy. He says it is more complicated than a corn maze. He has been online studying and stewing about it for two months now and still hasn’t come to a decision. Time is running out to make that decision and I can’t seem to get him to pull the trigger on one plan or another. Should I lock him in the trailer and refuse to let him out until he decides, or is that too harsh? He doesn’t appreciate my input because I haven’t studied it at all and have no idea how to proceed. I look to him to make this decision and I don’t know how to get him to jump.
--Medinuts in Medford

Dear Medinuts:
The way insurance works is simple. Most companies have a very uncomplicated business plan--Confuse and Conquer. Medicare works the same way. Instead of having basic coverage that just kicks in when you reach 65, they have multiple choice plans, with multiple choice plans within the plans. I can see how your husband is totally confused. The problem is, he has to make his choices.

Everyone has a different set of circumstances, so it takes a bit of homework to figure out which combination of options work best for you. It sounds like he has done his due diligence. Here is how I decided. This may not be your solution, but it may give you some guidance as to how to attack the problem. I found a copy of the Medicare guide book and read it a couple times. Then I called a local Medicare facility and asked questions on things I found totally confusing. Once things started to focus more, it was not all that confusing for me.

I am highly suspect of insurance companies. So when my mailbox started filling up with bazillions of offers to buy into a Medicare Advantage Plan I personally became suspicious. When I called about Medigap Plans I was always being routed to the Advantage cubical of sales people. This was another red flag for me. As a full-timer, I decided I did not want a network plan. With Original Medicare I can go anywhere I want that accepts it. I also found that with an Advantage Plan I would have to go see doctors A and B before I could see doctor C. If I want to go to doctor C, I would rather go direct. If you want to go with an Advantage Plan, pick one and get it over with, but read the fine print.

If you don't want to go with an Advantage Plan, and you stick with Original Medicare, here is a starting point for your husband. You get Medicare A, and Medicare B will come out of your Social Security. Easy so far, right? Now you hit Medicare Plan C. It has a whole alphabet full of sub-plans. You will notice that Plan F is the most expensive because it covers 100% of deductibles and co-pays. What many people miss is that Plan F has a high deductible option (HD). It is a very reasonable premium and tops your cost out at just over $2,100. Out of all the alphabet soup deals I studied, this looked like the best deal for the least dollars.

Then we get to Plan D, which stands for DRUGS. By this time you need drugs just to focus and make a decision. If you are in need of regular drugs, you are going to deal with the donut hole for several more years. It won’t matter if you are in an Advantage Plan or Original. Most communities have a Senior Help Center that will sit down with you and give you a step-by-step walk-through plan options. Another thought for Veterans is the VA can be part or all of your plan, if you so choose.

I wouldn’t lock your husband in the trailer unless you are in there with him. This decision will affect you as much as him. You should be studying this labyrinth of lunacy as hard as he is. Together you can help each other make the best decision that will cover your personal situations.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shut out of government campgrounds

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I should probably be writing to my Congressman instead of you, but I’ve decided to write to both. My wife and I have waited for years to be able to travel during the fall when campgrounds in popular areas are less crowded. Now I am discovering that the government camping sites like National Forest and National Park campgrounds are closing in mid-September to early October. Often we can’t get into a park campground because they have only left one loop open. It might as well be the 4th of July, everyone is fighting for a site in a single loop. The weather in areas I am referring to is often mild until late October. I can see the need to cut back on the activities offered during prime time but how hard is it to leave a gate open. I don’t care if they shut the water off, close the bathroom, board up the visitor center, and send the seasonal rangers home. Just leave the campground open so I can find a place to park near the places I love to hike. Am I missing something, asking too much, being unreasonable?
—Fall Guy in Freeport

Dear Fall Guy:
It is probably not a bad idea to write your Congressman. Whatever side of the fence your representative resides on, I am almost sure a vote to increase the Park Service budget is not on the top of the priority list. In their defense I have to say I have noticed the park service monitoring usage and reopening loops, especially on weekends, into the late fall. There is definitely a shift in shoulder season crowds. As more and more seniors retire, shoulder season usage will continue to rise. Many families take advantage of fall weekends to get out and enjoy these same areas. I believe the Park and Forest Service see these same subtle changes and are trying to deal with them and still maintain a balanced budget.

I can think of a lot of things the government could cut to pay for better maintained parks, but don’t get me started. Everyone has their own pet projects and needs. I am just grateful so much public land has been set aside in this spectacular country of ours. You may get a clearer picture of what is happening in the park or parks you are referring to by talking to management there. I would start with an explanation from them before I wrote someone in Washington with six aides pumping out form letters. Other than that, use prime season tactics like showing up early or making reservations where you can.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RV camp scout

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know this sounds like small potatoes, but it is just something that bugs me to death. My wife likes to explore campgrounds we stay in before she finally picks a site. Our typical mode of operation is to drop the toad, she goes in to pick a site, then calls or comes back to get me. The problem is, sometimes she’s gone a month. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it does seem like she is gone a long time. I would rather just drive in and look around, pick a site and be done with it. She needs the door facing a certain direction, the motorhome facing a certain direction, the right sun/shade combination, the right distance from lighting, bathroom and noisy trash containers. Should I be thankful or annoyed. At this time I am mostly annoyed. --Waiting for patience in Pocatello

Dear Pocat:
Sometimes finding utopia takes a few minutes. Part of your problem is you are not keeping your mind busy. While she is gone, do something else. Don’t sit in the driver’s seat impatiently waiting for her to come back. It will only turn minutes into hours. Many people would give their left lug nut to have an onboard camping planner. It also allows her to see if there are any obstacles that might cause your mothership to have any difficulties maneuvering. I can see her point about the trash containers. Especially the bear-proof containers that sound like a car crash every time someone drops the lid.

One thing you may suggest is keeping a log of her favorite sites. In the future you may return and in many cases you can reserve the sites you found the most suitable in the past. Many online reservation systems will show a photo of the site, give you a sun/shade rating, length suggestion and more. These can be helpful before you arrive, even as a walk-in, without a reservation. So relax, go with the flow, clean your windshield while she is gone. It’s just a perception of time you need to manage. In the end you probably get the best site available in every campground where you stay.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

RV snow job

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel a lot during the shoulder season in many parts of the country. We find mostly great weather, less crowds and fewer camping hassles. We do encounter the freak snowstorm on occasion. This can usually be anticipated and prepared for. However, my wife insists on having the slides out every night. She does not like dealing with the smaller kitchen area, or climbing over the bed when they are in. When they are out during a snowfall, I have to deal with frozen, snow-covered slides before we can move on. This often means climbing on the roof of the motorhome to broom off whatever ice and snow has accumulated. Wouldn’t you say she was being unreasonable? —Frosty in Snowmass

Dear Frosty:
It seems to me it would be much easier to deal with the kitchen space limitations than the ice and snow build-up on the slides. Most rigs are designed to be very functional with the slides in. I find it wise to pull them in during many weather events. A strong windstorm can drive you crazy with the slide awnings flapping. If you know the chance of snow is almost certain, it only makes sense to pull them in and eliminate the hassle of dealing with the aftermath. Traveling in snow country during the fall season can be very rewarding with spectacular scenery, fewer crowds, and often cheaper rates.

It is wise to carry a step ladder. A ladder is convenient for maintenance and reaching tall windows for cleaning. It also comes in handy when you need to deal with your slides. There is also a safety issue here which your wife may pay attention too. If you had to move for some type of emergency and your slides were iced up, it would at the least slow your progress or perhaps end up causing damage to the slides. It is something we all deal with. I personally make sure my slides are clean and there is nothing to impede them every time I extend or retract. Depending on the consistency and quantity of snow, a slide is designed to shed it like water. Knowing the cost of slide repair, I prefer to err on the side of caution and clean the snow off before retracting the slide.

The slide awning will be collapsed on the top of the slide and often not retract properly until you remove heavy snow. These issues often come down to common sense. I have left my slides out on many occasions knowing I was going to wait out a snowstorm, warmer weather was forecast, or deciding I would deal with the job of cleaning it off. It comes down to a personal choice, but if you are not comfortable dealing with these conditions, pulling them in is as easy as pushing a button. You might want to explain to your wife the danger of climbing around on a slippery RV roof during or after a snowstorm. —Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Half Lit RV

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Visiting Seattle, Washington, we found the RV camping options wanting. We finally picked the one closest to our daughter’s home and ferry terminal. Like the rest, this one was basically a parking lot with as many RVs jammed into it as possible. To make it resemble a parking lot it even came with dozens of floodlights that lit up the whole area. My husband ended up duct taping black garbage bags over the bedroom windows and vents just to keep the light out during the night. Our rig looked like it had been in an accident. Not only did we pay dearly to stay in this poor excuse for an RV park, but the manager complained about our garbage bag-covered windows and said we would have to remove them. We have just started RVing. Is this what we can expect living this lifestyle? --Half Lit in Ferryland

Dear Half Lit:
Urban RVing, you will find, is often cramped and costly. It’s all about the cost of real estate. You will learn new tricks the more you travel. Let me give you one for the next time you sleep under a floodlight. If your eyelids don’t do the job, go to Walmart and buy an eye mask. It’s kind of fun. You will think you are sleeping with the Lone Ranger. It will save on garbage bags and duct tape. Camping near a big city will often involve noise pollution, light pollution, air pollution and every other kind of pollution you can think of. It’s simple math: multiply numbers-divide resources. If you do not have to be close to family, hospital, or some event, consider staying farther out of town and commuting in. You will find it much quieter the more rural you get.

If you haven’t already discovered online resources, start by reading campground reviews. They will give you a much more accurate description of what to expect than the creative marketing presentation of a campground website. A website can make an asphalt parking lot campground sound like Shangri-La. If you spend some time and effort, you can often find a fellow RVer online who lives in the area and will be more than happy to share some insight on where to stay and where to avoid. Try some of the RV forums to present your questions. Don’t get discouraged. You will find your favorite little safe harbors to drop anchor. You just need to get more experience under your belt and more miles under your land yacht.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RV crap shoot

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Before we retired, my wife was a bean counter for one of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. When it comes to numbers she is a bit fanatic. Now that we are traveling most of the year in our motorhome, she categorizes all of our expenditures and keeps constant track of how much we spend. That is all well and good, but one of these categories drives me nuts. She is always trying to keep camping expense in a profit position. The way she plans on doing this involves casino camping a few times each month. I know as an accountant she should understand odds more than most people, but she loves playing roulette. It is hard for me to argue with her on this point because at this time we are ahead. Applying her roulette winnings to the camping expense column we have an average camping cost of less than two dollars a night so far this year. My point is that it can go the other way at any time. She insists she has a system that will cap our losses. How can I convince her that in the end, the house always wins?
--Chipping away at expenses in Laughlin

Dear Laugh:
Let’s break this down a bit. The house does not always win. There are numerous casinos that offer overnight parking, many with free hookups. Most are more quiet than Walmart, have security, and welcome travelers. It’s a win-win situation as long as you don’t go inside. Another way to look at it is entertainment. If you go inside and set your gambling limit at your camping savings, you break even. You don’t explain your wife’s plan on capping her losses; I assume it is similar to my point of breaking even.

Casinos are popping up everywhere. There are several websites that offer updated information on those that extend the welcome mat to those looking for overnight parking. They each have a different set of rules. Some expect you to come in and sign up for a Player’s Club Card, but most just direct you to an RV parking area. In your wife’s defense, roulette seems to be the best odds of any gaming. If she just plays black and red she would have just less than a 50-50 chance. I don’t think the odds get any better than that; it’s all downhill from there.

I agree with you in the fact that eventually the house always wins, because most people don’t know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, or know when to run. However, I get the impression your wife has her own little system. It sounds like she enjoys playing, enjoys calculating her wins and losses against her camping expenses, and seems to think she will cap her losses if camping gets to be more expensive spinning the wheel than not. I have termed trying to find a campground opening in the reservation system, “Campground Bingo.” This puts a new spin on that term.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your wife’s gambling habit unless she insists on casino camping every night, or gets addicted to wheeling and dealing so much she forgets about her cap system. There is one other downside. When she comes back to the RV she will smell like smoke and it isn’t from a campfire.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

RV cheap tricks

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband thinks he’s a bonafide RV mechanic. He will work on a problem until he’s spent more money than having a qualified RV mechanic do the job. He refuses to have anyone work on our rig until he has exhausted his possible do-it-yourself fixes. He has a one-track mind, so whenever he is on a mission to fix something I’ve lost him completely until it gets solved. He is always online looking for advice, tricks of the trade, and cheap fixes. Wouldn’t it be wiser to just have a mechanic repair our rig? Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run, less hassle and headache?
--Cheap Tricks in Tampa

Dear Tricks:
Some people want to be a rock star and others an RV mechanic. I think your husband is on the right track. Even if it ends up costing him more money to completely solve a problem, he has educated himself for future situations. Online advice is priceless. There is hardly a subject not covered. We all experience the same mechanical problems sooner or later. You will find people online describing your precise issue, how to fix it, and what parts you will need. I find it amazing. Your husband’s laser focus can be looked at in another way. During the time you lose his attention, you could be stuck in a motel, waiting for a service technician to call and tell you they finally figured out your problem. Some of these people have to think about it for as long as your husband and try as many parts and solutions. The only difference is, they have the meter running at about $100 bucks an hour. Many RV problems come down to plug and play electronic boards in current models. You can often find great trouble-shooting help from aftermarket board companies like Dinosaur. Your husband is building experience that will pay off handsomely in the future. You should be happy and encourage him. A lot of women who used to go for handsome are now looking for handy. You had better keep a close eye on him. 
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

RV Cat-astrophe

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been traveling in a 29 ft. travel trailer for a couple years. We said when we first retired this would be our first step into RVing. It was not expensive. We wanted to see what others were doing, get some opinions, and try the lifestyle without making a huge investment. We are now convinced that this is the lifestyle for us. We have also decided that we would prefer a motorhome about the same length as our trailer. We started looking for a lightly used motorhome. Recently we found one that was a steal. It was a divorce situation. The wife ended up with it in the divorce and never wanted the thing to begin with. She is a very motivated seller. It was everything we wanted in a floor plan, price, options and color. The problem is, my husband is allergic to cats. This unit had been occupied by the owners two cats on quite a few occasions. He claims symptoms every time he walks into the unit. We have looked at it three times and each time he has complained. I told him we could have it professionally cleaned, but he says he is not willing to gamble on the fact that cleaning would completely eliminate the problem. It is such a great buy and I think we should take the chance. This has caused a lot of heated debate between us. Am I being unreasonable? Should I drop my campaign to buy this unit and try to make it work for us?
 --Cats in the Cradle in Coeur d’Alene

Dear Cats:
Everyone with allergies will have different levels of severity. It sounds like your husband may be at the top of the scale. It would be a gamble to buy the unit and discover it did not solve the problem. There are several ways to approach the issue. If the seller would work with you and hold the sale, you could spend the money to have it professionally cleaned. That way you would know ahead of time. It would be a win-win situation. The owner would have a professionally cleaned unit whether you purchased it or not. You could buy it outright and work on it yourself. If it is truly a great buy, you could always resell it, perhaps at a profit. It is hard to say what all would need to be done. You may have to replace bedding, furniture, and floor coverings, even after cleaning. I have witnessed people walking into professionally cleaned RVs and immediately asking, “Has this unit had cats living in it?” Unless you are sensitive to the presence of some pets, you would not understand completely. If you can’t work something out that eliminates the reaction your husband is experiencing, this unit is not the great deal you think in your circumstances. Move on and forget it. It will be a great deal for someone without your husband’s condition.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RV camping confrontation

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have retired and live in a small travel trailer. It is just the right size for us. We have been on the road for almost a year and we are loving it. The only problem I have is my wife. She gets annoyed by our camping neighbors way too often. I am a retired State Police Officer, but she thinks I’m still on the job. I admit we do get some real winners parking next to us at times. We were just in Glacier National Park and our neighbor was breaking just about all the rules at one time. It was more than my wife could handle, so I went over and had a talk with him. That did not go well. We were in a no generator zone, no firewood gathering, and a no burn ban was on. This nut case had his generator fired up to run his electric chainsaw. He was cutting down trees so he could feed his enormous campfire. After I talked to him and he told me to buzz off, the campground host showed up. He did listen to the host and stopped his insanity. If I was the sheriff in town, he would have been fined so heavily he would have needed a loan to get home. I don’t want my wife unhappy. I don’t want to be the law east or west of the Pecos, and I do not want to be annoyed. Am I asking too much for the campground administrators to do their job? Isn’t it part of what I pay for in my fees? Things are so lax that people keep pushing the limits of noise, rule breaking and litter. No consequences just embolden them. Do you think it’s my background? Do I need some professional help in letting my past training go?
--Cop off the beaten path

Dear Cop:
It is not just your background. We all deal with this insanity on a regular basis. We watched something similar one night in a Forest Service campground. The host came by, hesitated a moment, and moved along. I heard him say, mostly to himself, “People, ya gotta hate ‘em.” In fairness to the host, it is not his job to police the area either. But it is his job to call in backup. Now with so many camping areas going to a concession status, jurisdiction keeps getting cloudier and law enforcement less available. If you are going to do anything, I would suggest you report to the nearest local management. At that point you have done what you can. Hang up the badge. If you can’t seem to hang up the badge, become a host. Just because it is not the host's job to confront unruly people, it doesn’t mean it can’t be. Every campground should have a chain of command. Someone’s in charge. Things can be done, it’s just not your job as a registered camper. You will not be considered someone of authority, just a complaining neighbor. You will find things get resolved much quicker by going through the proper channels. It is much better for your wife to be a bit frustrated than you in a verbal or physical confrontation with someone who obviously isn’t too squared away to begin with.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

RV Little Big Mansion

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife is dragging her feet when it comes to buying an RV. We have been planning this move into retirement for a number of years. We plan to keep our home, but live in the RV for most months of the year. Her problem seems to be space. She doesn’t want a big RV, but she wants lots of storage, cooking area, bath and bedroom. That is an impossible combination. Please give me some reasoning firepower so we can get past this perception obstacle in our road to retirement.
--Little Big Mansion on Wheels

Dear Little Big Man:
If you have never had an RV it will take some adjustments. I do not know how your wife defines “Big.” Just about every manufacturer has added slideouts to their models. This makes a huge difference in what is being hauled and what is stretched out at the destination. This could help in meeting her standards for size and space. The other things to consider when shopping for a rig would be storage. Being organized in a small space is key to successful living. Having plenty of storage will be a significant help in staying organized. You will find the smaller the unit, the less space is dedicated to storage. Something with basement storage (storage space under the floor) will make a huge difference in what you end up stepping over. (Pun intended) You need to look at as many floor plans as possible, with your list of needs, likes, and dislikes. I can’t guarantee you are going to find a unit that will make your wife happy. She needs to be open-minded about the fact that this is not going to be a 1500 square foot house on wheels. Most people in the retirement stage of life begin to downsize, throw out ballast they have collected over the years, and start sharing family heirlooms with children and family members. My grandfather in his last years told me to tell him what I wanted of his and he would put my name on it. I told him I wanted the safe. I should have been more specific. I did get the safe, but it was empty. Another point that may help your cause is housekeeping. You will both find it much easier to clean and maintain an RV than a home. Once you actually get on the road you will find you have much more time on your hands to explore and do things you truly enjoy. You can always start small and work your way up. Once your wife is comfortable with traveling in a smaller rig, she may find it more realistic to bump up a bit. Looking at units will give you an idea of how just three feet can gain you more elbow room in various living spaces. In most situations you will also spend more time outdoors than you normally would at home.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

RV Shiner

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Your recent letter, about constantly cleaning the RV, struck a chord with me. I am not a neat freak or constant cleaner, but I do like a nice looking rig. I think my problem is, I can’t make a decision. I read way too many RV forums. Lately it has been cleaning related. My wife makes me come home once a year to mow the lawn. When it gets knee high, people start to wonder. She met a local woman who asked her where she lived. When my wife told her, the woman was so relieved. She told my wife she thought two old people died in our house and no one had found them yet. To get to my point, I use this pit stop to do yearly maintenance on our rig. Most campgrounds do not allow RV washing. I want to refinish the exterior, but I am perplexed as to what route to take. The previous owner used Poliglow finish on it and made it look like a million bucks. It was wearing in places so I just stripped the whole rig. It has been a real bear getting that stuff off. I used all the solution from the Poly people, then tried ammonia, and ended up using ZEP floor stripper. It was the only thing I found that would really cut the Poliglow. It would be easy to just re-apply Poliglow, but I hate the thought of having to strip it again in a few years. After reading a weeks worth of RV forum suggestions, I just can’t think straight anymore. It’s like I am being pulled in several different directions at once. I have never been like this. I am usually focused and can make good decisions without second thoughts. Is this a problem many RV owners have, or a rare condition that is only haunting me?
--Poli Perplexed in PA

Dear Poli:
You are not alone. Many RV models are unpainted gelcoat with decals. Most manufacturers do not recommend wax on decals. Trying to wax around them is like painting by number. Some opt to use products like ProtectAll and Aerospace 303. These have a short UV protection life, as they weather off quickly. Poliglow and other remedies like floor polishes do make a rig shine like a new penny, offer some UV protection and can last a long time if applied properly and maintained adequately. I began my working career as a Airstream Shine Boy. As a kid I used Met-All with a carpet affixed to a floor sander to de-oxidize aluminum trailers. I then used flour to absorb it and buff it out. Airstream eventually went to an acrylic clear coat. With my first motorhome, I waxed everything twice a year. The decals went south and nothing would bring them back. In my opinion, most decals are only going to look good for about 5 years no matter what you do, short of polishing once a month with products like 303 or spending big bucks for a full paint job. That would cut way into my backpacking time and budget. You are not alone in your dilemma. Personally, I’m a Poliglow owner. I have had the misfortune of having to strip a few I have bought used. It is no fun. Like all finishes, it wears away eventually. It needs a couple maintenance coats per year. The secret is to do the prep work correctly. It’s not for everyone. But after trying it all, I find it the least time consuming. I didn’t buy an RV to be a slave to it. It sounds like you already schedule time to do yearly maintenance, this might be the way to go. The other methods are equally effective and you actually build up muscle stamina with the constant motions involved in waxing and polishing. You can start looking buff just from buffing. If you read the comment section of this post I bet you will find others with methods you will find as interesting as all those that have you confused from the other RV forums. If one of these do not convince you, I would suggest you write them all on scraps of paper, put them in a scrub bucket, hold the bucket over your head, reach up and pick one out.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is obsessive compulsive when it comes to grooming. I’m not talking about his hair. It’s our motorhome. If it is not shining like a new penny, he is out there scrubbing on it, polishing it, and spraying everything from roof to rubber seals with some magic juice he carries with us. Is this normal behavior? Do all RV owners spend so much time tinkering? He says it is just “pride in ownership.” Let’s hear your two cents worth.
--OCD in B.C.

Dear OCD:
RV and boat owners are in the same club. It’s called the “Scrub Club.” To be a member in good standing you have to spend a good portion of your time maintaining your investment. As long as it does not interfere with other activities you enjoy together, I think it is very normal behavior. You should be happy that you have a partner that enjoys maintaining your rolling abode. Just the habit of going over the rig to clean makes him aware of many other things that might need attention. It also familiarizes him with your unit. If he were at home he would be doing home maintenance. This is your home on wheels and it is exposed to many deteriorating elements as you travel around the country. Just keeping bug juice off the front of a rig can be a full-time job. Leaving dried carcasses there will eventually deteriorate the finish. I am going to assume the magic juice he uses is a product like Aerospace 303 or Armor All. It has to be done often, but it is like putting SP 40 sunblock on your rig. It protects gelcoat, plastics, rubber seals and more. It also keeps the suicidal insects from sticking too badly. It is unwise to wax over decals, so his magic juice protects them and gives everything else a nice shine. The downside is, it needs to be applied often. A busy mind is a happy mind, so unless it is interfering with your schedule, stop fretting about it. Embrace his enthusiasm, it is slowing the depreciation on your investment and keeping your husband happy and healthy doing what he seems to enjoy.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spilling the beans

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife says I am a constant “I told you so” person. I try not to be, but I feel I am entitled to my opinion. The latest is cooking in our motorhome while we are driving down the road. My wife wanted to make baked beans so they would be done when we reached our destination. I said it didn’t sound like a good idea. She insisted. Before the beans had a chance to begin setting up, we hit a long 7% grade. As you can imagine the beans spilled over in the oven, began to burn, and created a horrible baked on mess. That, of course, is when the “I told you so” came rushing out of me. She thinks it was a fluke and insists she will try it again on better roads. Can you explain to her that this is not about being right or wrong, it’s about safety.
--Burnt Beans in Big Bear

Dear Burnt Beans:
I can tell you the National Propane Association would not recommend it. There are many things that can go wrong and burnt beans are the least of them. I will tell you that many people I have known do cook while traveling, but then again some people I know start campfires with gasoline. Our mothers always told us not to play with matches, but most of us ended up with burns on our fingers anyway. Why not try a different approach with your wife. Next time you are at a Flying J, buy a 12volt crock pot. It will sit safely in the sink and slow cook a great meal all day long. Much safer and much cheaper than using propane. When I graduated from high school in ’68 , that summer I lived in a 1964 Suburban and enjoyed backpacking through the West. Back then they would pump your gas and check your oil. I stopped one day and the attendant asked if I would like my oil checked. I said, “Yes, and will you also check the meatloaf and see if it’s done.” He opened the hood and exclaimed, “He does have meatloaf under here!” Probably not the best idea cooking greasy food on a V-6 block, but I was young and foolish. Get a crock pot and play it safe. If you do not take my advice, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RV utopia

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are in the advanced stage of our RV lifestyle. We are not yet ready to give up our gypsy life, but we are ready to find more permanent mooring. We have been all over North America during the last decade. Now we would like to find a few perfect spots to spend the seasons and park for longer periods of time. The problem is we can’t agree on those geographical locations. My wife likes the Southwest, I like the wild parts of Florida. She likes summers in the Midwest, I like the mountains. She likes the fall colors of Vermont, I like Colorado. We are always arguing about where to throw out the anchor. I think we should invest in property in a couple of agreed upon areas, but so far we have not found the perfect paradise for both of us. Can you offer any advice on settling this settlement issue.
--Looking for utopia with little hopia

Dear Looking:
I will try to help with what little information you have provided. Maybe you don’t have as complicated an issue as you think. Perhaps you are not totally committed to settling as you think. If your health is good and you still enjoy travel, maybe you should visit the places on both lists, just stay longer than in the past. Take turns on the seasonal stops. Often you will discover a change in attitude about a place, once you have spent more time, made friends, discovered new interests and understand seasonal weather patterns. You will have a totally different attitude about a location when you have spent a couple months instead of a couple weeks. You may find it harder to settle down for longer periods of time if you have been moving constantly for a decade. Take it slow, grow into this new lifestyle. It will not be all that different. You still live on wheels and can make change by simply unhooking the utilities and hooking the RV. I would not advise investing in property until you have both invested a fair amount of time in an area and agree that this is where you could possibly spread some roots. It is important that you both stay active, so make sure the areas you decide on offer something for both of you to thrive. You will most likely discover there is no such place as utopia, but with a little planning and some trial and error, you might come close. Good luck.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Monday, June 9, 2014

RV gas app

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
You are always suggesting people use gas apps to find the best prices. I find these programs very inaccurate. One of the more popular would be Gas Buddy. I’m parked at a Walmart for the night. Right across the street is a Shell Station. Gas Buddy is telling me that the price of gas there is $3.69 per gallon. The Shell sign says it’s $3.87. Which one do you think I’m going to be asked to pay? Perhaps all this online, high tech, wizardry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Am I doing something wrong, or is the 18 cent difference the fudge factor? My mother always said I asked too many questions. Maybe I’m incurable.
--Skeptic in Schenectady

Dear Skeptic:
You have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s good to maintain a degree of skepticism. My point is that information gathering will help you make better decisions, so keep asking questions and looking for answers. It’s very healthy. Using a tool such as this app might not be as precise as we would like it, but on average it will save you money. The way I use these gas apps is to let it help target the lowest priced gas stations in a geographical area. No matter what the price, that station will often still have the lowest price. The gas price heat map of the entire U.S. will help you identify the cheapest route, illustrate the areas with the highest gas tax, and help you plan your best pit stops. Most of these apps work off data from credit card swipes, and usually keeps them quite current. You should love Google. It’s full of answers. I use Google for my doctor, mechanic, vet, tour guide--the list goes on. I just visited my motorhome manufacturer and they were too busy to have a tech talk to me about my room slides, but Google’s YouTube had a guy standing by who was glad to walk me through the slide adjustment procedure. I also use the many RV forums when I have a mechanical problem I can’t figure out. I read them all because some people will complain if they are "hung with a new rope." Like the gas app, I take a consensus of opinion before I proceed.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RV plumbing problem

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
When my husband talked me into buying an RV and traveling he said the bathroom facilities would be just as comfortable and convenient as our home. It all looked good, but now we often have to put up with a plugged up toilet. I didn’t sign up for this. He keeps telling me he has it figured out. Everything moves along fine for awhile, but then our holding tank seems to get bound up again. Is there an Ex-Lax for RV’s? I am enjoying the lifestyle but this little glitch is turning me off. My husband says I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Am I being unreasonable? I just want to get rid of the mountainous mole hill in the black water tank. Is that asking too much?
--Stink hole in Yellowstone

Dear Stink: Raising a little stink will often bring an issue to a head. If this is the only problem you have with the RV lifestyle, you have had a smooth move. The transition often causes problems that couples cannot find any common ground. In your case I have lots of ideas that should solve your problem. There is a science to getting along with your RV plumbing. Several things to be aware of include using toilet paper that breaks down easily. A simple test is to put a few sheets in a jar and shake it. It should fall apart quickly. Another problem is using too little water, trying to extend the black water capacity. Use plenty of water when flushing and always put a couple bowls full in the tank after dumping. Pouring hot water directly down the bowl opening will help unclog present blockage, but care in how you use the system will assure fewer problems in the future. Some black water tanks are plumbed for rinsing, many companies offer chemicals and tank enzymes, but using the proper method of caring for the waste system will solve the majority of your problems and give you some relief, no pun intended. --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, May 26, 2014

RV park amenities

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I get real irritated when I feel like I’ve been scammed. Lately it’s happened when I spend time at commercial RV campgrounds. I use online website information to make my decision where to stay. Often they list all their amenities with enough creative writing to make the intent vague. Often “Wi-Fi Available” means just that. It’s available for an extra daily charge, or you need to sign up with a local service. We just paid for a month in Florida with the expressed understanding that the pool, hot tub, recreation hall, and wood shop would be available to us through the month of April. Mid-month they started mothballing these facilities for the season. It took a lot of complaining to convince them we had a verbal agreement plus advertising stating what we could expect these amenities to be available to us for the entire month. I’m starting to feel like an old curmudgeon, but if I don’t complain they take advantage. My wife says I should just “go with the flow.” But I always seem to blow. What say you?
--Laid Back Screamin’ in the Sunshine State

Dear Screamin’:
It takes some time to see a pattern, but once you find it, make a simple call and ask the hard questions. Wi-Fi is very important in this day and age. Data is expensive, so park owners may opt to charge extra as they do electricity. Regardless, it should be clearly stated in their list of amenities. You need to perform due diligence when investigating charges before making your parking decisions. As far as getting cranky, it can sometimes become necessary. We just spent a month in a park with absentee management. The volunteers running the place were mathematically challenged. I first had to give them a lesson in prorating a monthly charge, and then in placing the decimal point in kilowatts on the electrical bill. Their math added $40 dollars to my monthly bill and $30 dollars to my electric bill. I was flabbergasted that they were running a park with hundreds of spaces and did not understand how to do sixth grade math. It could be good for the bottom line of the business if customers do not pay attention to their charges. I know they thought I was a jerk, but they probably didn’t like their math teacher in school either. Once you have an understanding on what the actual charges and amenities are you have every right to expect just that. I would suggest you start your questioning with a very understanding attitude. If all else fails sometimes a lively debate will begin to get results.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Happiness is California in the rearview mirror

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband will not spend much time in California. I have family there and I love visiting the Redwoods. We arrived for a visit this spring and our first fill up was $4.99 a gallon. Our first campground was $35.00 a night with electric service so low our surge protector would not allow it to fire up the motorhome. As we left the campground we went to dump and it was $10 extra to dump. My husband refused to pay the additional fee. Later that day we found another dump for $12. He was ready to head for the state line, but I made him settle down. Can you explain to him that California is no different than any other state.
--California Dreamin’ in Lee Vining

Dear Lee:
I’m sure if you continued on, you would have found cheaper gas on the other side of the Sierras. I can’t say that California is like all other states. It’s all about supply and demand. Since there are 20 million+ people living in just the southern half of California, everything is more expensive from taxes to dump stations. Wait until you stop at a California state park - don’t forget Redwoods National Park campgrounds are all state campgrounds. My only advice would be to plan ahead as much as possible. Buy gas before crossing the border, use your RV dump apps to find cheap or free dumpsites. Some California rest stops have free dumps. Use apps that help locate the cheapest gas, campgrounds, and propane. Cost will continue to rise, so your best offense is a good defense. California is not like Vegas. What happens in California does not stay in California. Just remember, in ten years these will look like bargain basement prices. The good ole days are now. Enjoy them while you can.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smokin' down the road

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I’m a recovered “inhaleaholic.” I smoked for thirty years. Now that my wife and I have retired I would like her to quit also. We just bought a new fifth wheel and take delivery by mid-summer. I think it would be great if she would quit before we start using the new rig but she is not open to the idea. She says it is too late to quit, too difficult, and too frustrating to think about. I totally understand, I was there once. Should I give up or keep trying to convince her?
--Butting Heads in Tobacco Row

Dear Butting:
I can think of several good reasons to quit smoking besides your wife’s health. Start with resale of the rig. When I was a kid I worked for the biggest Airstream dealer in the country. In the sixties the interior was a fleck paint coating. When we took in used units it was my job to refurbish, shine the exterior and clean the interior. A trailer owned by a smoker would be the biggest challenge to clean. I would spray the painted surface with a cleaner and the yellow nicotine would melt off. It was so thick you could see a distinct line where I had cleaned. Today most RV’s have more fabric interiors that will hold the nicotine smell forever. If she cannot quit, you may want to work out an agreement where she smokes outside only, or perhaps tries the new vapor Ecigarettes. Unlike Bill Clinton, I “really” never have inhaled, but I can imagine how hard it is to quit any type of nicotine delivery system. In the long run you will save a lot of money giving up this expensive habit that may eventually increase your medical expenses also. If safety, health and cleaning reasons will not help your wife decide to quit, and she doesn’t go for the smoking outside program, you will have a second hand fifth wheel full of second hand smoke. Good luck.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

RV Bookie Joint

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife thinks we are a rolling library. Our travel trailer reminds me of the “I Love Lucy” episode where she sneaks rocks into the trailer without Ricky knowing. I am an avid reader also, but I jettison books I have already finished. I donate them to libraries or thrift stores, or give them to friends. My wife thinks she might want to read them all again and stuffs them in every nook and cranny she can find. I think she is a literary packrat. She thinks this behavior is perfectly normal. Can you help me knock some common sense into her.
--Bookie Joint on Wheels in West Texas

Dear Bookie:
First of all, “we don’t knock.” I would think in this day and age you can both have your way. Have you ever suggested she buy a Kindle or other such device for her reading pleasure? A lot of people say they do not like reading on a screen device, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. You can put hundreds of books on such a device, or add cloud service or memory and keep unlimited numbers. That will solve the storage problem. You can get free or reasonably priced ebooks from Amazon, BookBub, and even borrow from your library. Amazon also has the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library with over 500,000 free Kindle books available. This is a lending process so you will only be able to borrow the book, not keep it. You’ll need to be an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of it. I’m sure there are other sources I’ve never used. You can even share books with friends. You will also find many RV maintenance and campground directories downloadable online and search active. Most RVers find being paperless with banking, taxes, manuals and all other reading materials saves time, helps organize and becomes a great convenience. In your case it is also going to save so much gas when you remove the Smithsonian Institute from your trailer. Buy her a unit as a gift and get her hooked on Nook. It may take a little time, but my guess is she will wean her way off the hard copies pretty darn quick. She doesn’t have to go “cold turkey.” There are still a lot of good book deals at thrift stores. I just bought a great book in New Mexico at a thrift shop. It is the story of Butch Cassidy after his misspent youth. Supposedly he wasn’t killed in Bolivia. Anyway, it was a buck. They were having a special and knocked 40% off. Then they looked at me and gave me the automatic, you don’t even have to ask, 50% Senior Discount. They even had a deeper handicapped discount and I’m blind in one eye. I didn’t go there. I was happy with my thirty cent book. The secret is to get your wife to stop hoarding. If you can get her to take one load of books to Goodwill and she comes home with two loads, she may need more therapy than I am capable of administering.
--Keep Smilin’ Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No way to run an RV railroad

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband just had another episode of management frustration. He retired as a business consultant and cannot seem to let go now that we are traveling full-time. We tried to book a couple weeks in the campground at the Grand Canyon. The site would only let us book 7 consecutive days on the only site we could find available. He called to find out if it was that particular site, or were all sites restricted to 7 days. They did not know. That started it. He thought they should know or be able to find out. They offered no other assistance and told him to call the park. A call to the park only made it worse. Like many corporations, the National Park system doesn’t want to talk to people either. They hook you up to several minutes of voicemail choices and then you reach a dead end with no option to talk to a real person. That only makes him more determined. He Googled for an hour and finally found a news release about a new Assistant Superintendent at the park. He called the media specialist and found she was stationed at the Superintendent’s office in the park. She tried to get rid of him, but he insisted she find an answer for him or connect him to the Superintendent. Finally, he found out that all sites at the Grand Canyon are limited to 7 days because it is such a popular destination. This is just one example of how he won’t let poor communications, poor marketing, poor organization and poor information services slip by without making a fuss. How can I get him to relax and go with the flow.
--Karen at the Canyon

Dear Karen:
Maybe it is not a problem. Perhaps he enjoys the challenge. I like the way he thinks. When I have a problem with a Corp. or a government agency, I always start at the top and work my way down. It’s so easy today to find out the name of the CEO. You never get to talk to the CEO but you always get your answer or problem solved so much faster that way. I agree with him that if some person in a New York city cubical is going to run the park service campgrounds they should have all the answers or have access to them. If his focus on things running properly is upsetting you, then you should create a time when he can work on these extracurricular activities without involving you or giving you a blow-by-blow account of what is happening. Some people would love to have an onboard wagon master that could solve all the problems, get all the answers and work out a route through the hostile territories of business and government. An onslaught of government bureaucracy can be very frustrating. Now the park service is handing over so many management activities to concessioners that it creates more opportunity for buck passing. It can get overwhelming.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RV woman

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am trying to learn everything about our RV just in case my husband keels over one day and I have to get this monster (RV) home. I seldom drive, never dump the holding tanks and never fill with water. Those are the things I have been practicing. The problem is there are always men standing around telling me what I am doing wrong before I even get a chance to figure things out on my own. If I hear “righty tighty, lefty loosey” one more time, I’m going to give someone a “dirty swirly.” Am I being too thin-skinned? I just want some space to make my own mistakes and learn from experience.
--RV woman in Willcox

Dear RV:
Good for you. I think everyone on board should know everything about the ship. If the Captain falls overboard, the First Mate can still get the ship back to port. I’m thinking most people that give advice, whether asked for or not, mean well. You will have to make your own judgment calls on where your advice is coming from and how it’s delivered. But I agree with the learning from experience. These are mostly simple chores but repetitive practice makes perfect. Various dump stations, water facilities and road conditions call for different approaches to the same procedures. It is important to experience them all. Working as a husband/wife team is very important -- especially when backing into a site. Remember, the helpful person that might come over to help back you in has nothing invested. If someone was trying to tell me how to dump my rig, I would just step aside and ask them to show me. The “dirty swirly” sounds like a bad idea. I’m sure you could be charged with some kind of brown collar crime.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RV tax

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are about to spend ten times more on a new motorhome than our first house cost forty years ago. It makes me a little uneasy to spend this kind of money on a vehicle that will be traveling down the road depreciating. It has always been my husband’s dream. It sounds appealing to me so I am throwing caution to the wind and sailing away with him. However, he is trying to penny pinch on taxes using what I would call borderline legal schemes and dishonest practices. He has been looking into setting up a Montana LLC. We live in Ohio. He says it would cost us about twelve hundred dollars and save us thousands. Then he talked to a friend that never renews his license plates. The theory is: pay the fine instead of the tax. I have been very supportive of this new lifestyle but my husband is upset because I won’t go along with the tax cheating. Am I being too closed minded? Are others doing this? Is it legal?
--Honest Abby in Akron

Dear Abby:
Yes, others are doing this. Many are very nervous now because various states have caught on to the practice and are now pursuing these folks for back taxes and penalties. As for the plate renewal I would think that would catch up to you very quickly in this age of computer data. I would assume law enforcement could run your plate for various reasons on the fly in any state and know immediately that you are running on expired plates. If you are heading out on a grand adventure, spending big bucks for a new home on wheels, and looking forward to a relaxing lifestyle, do you really want to be looking over your shoulder all the time wondering if someone is after you? You have to pay to play. My suggestion would be to follow the rules and travel worry free. If, however, you sell your property in Ohio and change your residency to a state with little or no sales tax, you can enjoy that savings without fear of prosecution. Many people who are full-timers use services available in states like South Dakota to establish residency, mail forwarding service, and taxes. Taxes are a necessary evil. I was an accountant in the Marine Corps, so if you want to know where your taxes go, just ask me. If you want to use Military accounting practices to save money, just start at the bottom line with what you want back and work up.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

RV sound waves

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know people have complained about this in the past, but it irks me to no end when I have to listen to another camper’s music. There should be a “No Tolerance” rule. I just spent two days feeling my rig vibrate from a deep bass, rap-crap song, over and over. The host said it was perfectly legal during the hours they were listening. Sound is so invasive. If people want to listen to whatever music turns them on, let them stay home in the privacy of their home. Why should I be exposed to it? Am I just an old curmudgeon getting ornery in my old age? In some campgrounds I wish I had already gone deaf. In this case it wouldn’t have helped - I could feel it!
--Vibrating in Valencia

Dear Vibs:
I don’t think this is an age issue, but it is an age old complaint. You will run into all kinds of people and campground management variations while on the road. I would have to say, the majority have some pretty decent control over what goes on in a campground setting. That being said, when you reach a destination you are looking forward to and find yourself in the vicinity of a boom box, it can be frustrating. I agree that sounds are invasive and need to be controlled. Most campgrounds have set hours for generators and loud noise of any kind. That however does not solve the problem of those seeking some quiet and solitude during daylight hours. Focusing on music I would agree with more volume control. I have witnessed people trying to outblast each other. You are not going to change management attitude often. I always vote with my feet (wheels). I have even asked for a refund in the past to leave early. To some, camping with Bob Seger belting Horizontal Bop is relaxing. If they are within the rules and regulations of the campground, don’t look for the host to give you much satisfaction, relocate and chalk it off as bad timing. You might say you are just skipping the beat.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Locked Out

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am so mad I could spit. My husband said I should write to you and vent. I think I should write to you so that I can warn other campers of this possible circumstance. We were visiting Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona. Like many State Parks around the country, Patagonia has a gate that closes at night. When you register, most parks give you a gate code for entering after hours. At Patagonia Lake the gate was a long way back from the entrance station and the campground loops. It was a sliding gate and very inconspicuous. We never gave it much thought. We had been to other Arizona State Parks with no gates. We met friends from home for dinner in town one night. When we returned to the campground at 11 pm the gate was closed. There was no one around to let us in. We were never told about a curfew. It was in the information we received when we entered the park, but we never read it. I just think it is important enough that park employees should give people a verbal warning that the park gate closes at 10 pm and there is no way in after that time, except to park your vehicle outside the gate and walk all the way into the camping area in the dark. When we finally made it home I needed a stiff drink just to get to sleep. A gate code would be a much better idea, in my opinion. When I made the suggestion in the morning, I was told the park brochure explained all the park rules.
--Locked and Loaded in Lodi

Dear Loaded:
The majority of gated parks do have a code, which makes perfect sense. I have no idea why this park would have a gate without a code. It is close to the border of Mexico and maybe there is a reason I am not aware of. No matter the case, I agree a verbal warning of awareness to every campground guest only makes sense. Some people for various health reasons would not be able to walk that distance. One thing you might try in the future would be several code combinations if there is a key pad. I have done this a couple times in Florida State Parks when I have left my code information back at the motorhome. Not wanting to walk a mile in the dark I tried 911, 411 etc... Most gates have an easy access code for local emergency personnel to access the park. Often they end in 11. Sometimes people do slide in behind paying guests when a gate opens. If the park has had problems in the past it may be the reason for the aggressive gate policy they have set. Because it is so unusual, I would think a verbal explanation to each and every camper should be mandatory. I know you’ll drink to that.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Joining the RV club

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are not yet in the club. We want to be full-time RVer’s but my wife thinks she will be lonely. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy my company, she just doesn’t want to be stuck with me 24/7 without some variety of friends. I have been trying to convince her that we will meet other fellow travelers and locals wherever we wander. Am I just wishful thinking or do most people find sparking friendship on the road a common occurrence?
--Lonely Hearts in Loveland

Dear Lonely:
Trust me, it is not wishful thinking. If you are outgoing at all you will collect so many new, awesome friends, your dance card will be constantly full. You will often run into the same friends over and over as you are traveling in the same geographical areas. You will find not only camaraderie but a sharing of great information on maintenance, gear, camping opportunities, recreational options, the list goes on. In my humble opinion, the very best aspect of this RV lifestyle is the wonderful people you meet along the way, from all over the world. Let me just give you one recent example. I just started hiking the Arizona Trail from the Mexico border fence in Coronado National Monument to Utah. The problem was having my wife drop me off on the border and then worrying about whether she made it back to our motorhome safely. We were parked in a National Forest campground 20 miles north of the border. I thought about trying to hitchhike down. The dirt road south is heavily used, but it’s all border patrol trucks. There were only a few other campers, but we decided to walk around the campground and see if anyone might be going down to the Monument, and if I might catch a ride. The first group we ran into were not only the nicest and friendliest people, they were Arizona Trail members. They were section hiking the first section of the trail. They had a shuttle service from Tucson picking them up in the morning and driving them to the border trailhead, and said I was more than welcome to join them. We had so much in common, and laughed and told life stories. I call this “Trail Magic” when things happen unexpectedly while long distance hiking. You will find this same magic wherever you travel if you are open to it.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

P.S. Have no fear the Shrink is still here for questions and therapy. I have posted a few weeks of questions ahead until I reach Utah. Keep your questions coming. If not shot by a drug hauler, bitten by a rattler, stung by an Africanized bee, kicked by a Grand Canyon mule, poked by a scorpion, or gnawed on by a gila monster, I will answer them as soon as I return.

Note from Editor: You will find social RV clubs, special interest RV clubs, volunteer RV Clubs and many more listed in RV Travel's extensive Directory of RV Clubs, found here.