Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hail to the Chieftain

Dear Dr. R. V. Shrink:
We are heading north after our first winter in Arizona. We imagined everything about our first year of retirement and looked forward to spending it exploring the Southwest. What we didn't imagine was the risk of getting home in the spring. We ran smack into a weather pattern that dropped golf ball size hail on our new rig. It looks like it has been pelted with cue balls.

I thought we were heading home too soon, but my husband was chomping at the bit to get started. What I thought would be a relaxing trip north has turned out to be a nightmare.

Is this a regular occurrence? Is severe spring weather something we should learn to deal with? I am not playing the blame game, but I think we should stay south longer and avoid the transition storms we have dealt with this year. My husband thinks it was just bum luck. Any thoughts?
--Hail Mary in Minnesota

Dear Mary:
Heading north in the spring with flocks of other migrating snowbirds can get dicey. No one seems to be able to predict the weather, but forecast science gets better all the time. It would be wise to invest some time in the weather channel, weather apps, maybe even a weather radio. The more information the better.

You may want to plan a route that skirts geography that is notorious for the worst spring weather outbreaks of tornadoes, hail, wind and flooding.

After a lot of homework, you can still experience bum luck and just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When that happens, find a safe harbor for your land yacht and park it until it looks safe to be out on the road again.

Hail can be very damaging to metal, glass, fiberglas and paint. It is all repairable after negotiating with your insurance company. Following spring home can often be as enjoyable as the whole winter of travel.

Try not to let this experience ruin numerous years of future, trouble-free travel.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

RV water boy

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can lead my wife to water, but I can’t make her drink. We travel in our fifth wheel several months a year. We are usually in the West in the summer and Florida in the winter months. My wife will not drink the water we put in our tanks. I have filters on the inlet, filters at the sink, and pitcher filters strictly for drinking water. She has a hang-up about where we get some of our water, often near dump stations.

In Florida she says it smells like sulfur and tastes like swamp water; out in New Mexico she read about a leaky waste site with groundwater contamination from the Hiroshima bomb. I can’t win. She would keep buying bottled water even if I hooked up to a sparkling glacier.

Don’t you think this borders on paranoia? I don’t think many RVers are dying from drinking water. Please let me hear from you on this issue.
--Water Boy in Boynton

Dear Water Boy:
I would not call this paranoia. Paranoia would be anxiety or fear based on irrationality and delusion. Your wife has some very real concerns. I’m not sure buying bottled water is the answer -- who knows where that came from. Actually, you might not want to bring that point up.

Some Florida water does contain sulfur. It is wise to flush your tanks after spending a winter down there, especially your hot water tank.

As for New Mexico, she has a right to be concerned. The waste from our first bomb experiments is leaking into the Rio Grande. It is also causing some concern near Carlsbad, where some of it was moved and stored.

Most dump stations are signed to show “potable” and “non-potable” water. However, if you do enough traveling you will see people using the wrong hose for the wrong purpose. I have tried to educate many foreign visitors with rented motorhomes as to which hose is for sewer rinse and which is for filling the fresh water tank.

Some people are more susceptible to waterborne disease than others. I have been drinking unfiltered water in the backcountry for fifty years without incident. My wife thinks I am going to die from giardia. So far so good.

I think you should continue taking every precaution that makes your wife feel comfortable. Nothing is going to be foolproof, but good sanitation habits, concern over your water sources, and good old common sense should keep you safe wherever you travel.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

RV stop in the name of love before you "brake" my heart

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I love to stop at thrift shops and antique stores when we travel. The problem is my husband always has some reason not to stop. Usually it is because he doesn’t see adequate parking for our motorhome and tow car, too much traffic, or not enough time to look over the parking situation before we pull in.
I seldom drive so I can’t argue those facts. I am wondering if it is just my husband, or do other RV drivers have the same problem parking spontaneously when they see a place they would like to stop along the way.
I don’t want to miss half of America just because of parking restrictions for our size. This has caused several arguments already. Please give me some advice.
--Denied Access in Arizona

Dear Denied:
There are some trade-offs for having a large, luxurious home on wheels. Many stores, attractions and even fuel stops have limited space for parking or pull-throughs. Depending on your size, spontaneity can often go out the window. You do not want to be indecisive when making a turn into an area you are not familiar with. If you are not sure what you are doing, you can be sure the traffic behind you has no clue.

In your case, my suggestion would be to look for the nearest suitable parking area you can find, drop your tow vehicle from the Mother Ship, and go back to businesses that look too tight to maneuver into blindly.

Many people learn this lesson the hard way. I, like many people, would be guilty as charged. I can recall several times having to unhook the toad and work my way out of a tight situation.

I once had a guy in the Florida Keys yelling at me. He was upset because he had just lost a bet. He had bet his friend fifty dollars that I would never get turned around and out of the parking lot.

Those pulling a 5th wheel or trailer do not have the luxury of unhooking. You can’t always plan ahead. I understand that many interesting stops just appear unannounced. That is one of the great things about RV travel. That said, you still need to be realistic as to your capabilities, skills, options and nerves, when making a split-second decision to sail into uncharted waters.

My wife and I just watched a couple completely destroy a brand new fifth-wheel. They pulled into a narrow, state park campground loop. Instead of stopping and assessing the situation, they panicked. Before we could get to them they tore up both sides of the rig, ripped the ladder off, and dented the storage doors under the front hitch.

You might want to drive more often. It will give you a fresh perspective on how your husband is thinking. It will also give you some confidence and skills you might one day need if something were to happen to him.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

RV work in progress

Dear R.V. Shrink:
We are now living full-time in our motorhome. To convince me this was a good idea my husband argued that we would not have all the house maintenance chores that used to eat up so much of our time. As it turns out, he is still constantly working on our motorhome and tow car. He has just become a slave to a new possession. I'm not sure if we own the motorhome or it owns us.

There always seems to be something he has to tighten up, button down, add, drain or clean. Is this normal? I sometimes think he is obsessed with working on our new home on wheels.
--Worn out from watching in Wenatchee

Dear Wenatchee:
It's called precautionary maintenance. It is a necessary evil whether you own a home, a boat, or an RV. Part of the problem with full-time RV living is not having a convenient place to work on some projects that need to be done. Most parks do not allow mechanical work to be performed on site. Many won't even allow you to wash your rig.

Keeping things lubed, cleaned, tightened and in good working order, will save you time and money in the long run. Everyone has a different skill level when it comes to keeping their RV in tiptop shape. But regardless, these things have to be done sooner or later.

It sounds to me like your husband is on top of things. You should be grateful he is so diligent about it. We have a home base. We make a pit stop once a year and do all the major maintenance that is harder to do on the road with fewer tools and less opportunity to find an allowable space to work on projects. Most precautionary maintenance chores take little time if you stay on top of them.

Your husband probably enjoys this work and has some pride in ownership. Those are great traits.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

RV toxic cloud

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just started RVing this winter. We are in our fourth month. RV life is now shifting from the imagined to the realistic state. It is not as placid as I had imagined, but still very enjoyable.

We are still learning about where we like to explore, the need for reservations in some areas, what types of parks we like, and the days we like to move or sit. Everything is falling into place and we are beginning to feel like we are now part of the lifestyle and not still in boot camp.

I have to say, one of my first real shocks was a situation you brushed on a couple weeks ago. We were sitting out under our awning having breakfast. It was a beautiful warm morning. The birds were singing, sun was rising, and you could almost hear the flowers growing. Just through the palmetto hedge we could see the neighbor packing up for departure. All of a sudden our tranquil morning turned into a nightmare of stink. Even knowing we were sitting there, the guy dumped his sewer without so much as a by-your-leave.

I almost gagged before I got inside our rig. I know dealing with waste holding tanks is a necessity, but isn't there some code of conduct that should go along with the procedure?
--Smelly Nelly in Naples

Dear Nelly:
I would agree that if the person saw you sitting out and did not give you some warning, that was rude. I believe you will find this is a rare case the more you travel. There is no question you will end up dealing with individuals with all kinds of idiosyncrasies. The RV lifestyle is no different than life in general. You will run into those people that just don't think their blackwater stinks.

They say, "Timing is everything." I think you will find that most people will be a bit more stealth when they dump their tanks in close quarters.

Let's give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume he is newer at this than you are. Perhaps he didn't realize he was going to release a toxic cloud of stink into your site.

Continue to enjoy your travels. I can guarantee you will find nine friendly and courteous camping site neighbors for every annoying one you encounter.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink