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