Monday, November 23, 2015

The RV Lifestyle "cookin' with gas"

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife is a bit paranoid about a coach fire. She recently saw a YouTube video of a motorhome just like ours go up in flames on a California expressway. She seems to think ours is going to blow at any minute now.

All of a sudden, propane is evil. I can’t seem to convince her that this fuel source has been used safely in RVs for decades. I want to make her comfortable with our new lifestyle. How do I get her over this latest hurdle?
--Classical Gas in Garland

Dear Gasman:
I would fight fire with fire (pun intended). It is easy to find additional YouTube videos that demonstrate how safe and efficient propane is.

I am sure your rig has a built in propane detector. If for some reason it does not, you need to install one.

Living in any home, fire safety should be a priority. I am shocked at how many RV owners do not realize they have escape latches on some windows, let alone how to operate them.

A detector is only effective if it is charged and operating properly. A fire extinguisher will only help if you know where it is, how to operate it, and has a charge.

Take your wife through a “Fire Drill.” It may sound like something you do with school kids, but it should be an annual event with all home owners.

Know where your shutoffs are located, what steps you will take and what order you will take them. The first thing most people do is panic. A drill is to hardwire, in your brain, the procedure you should follow. By running through a drill occasionally it will help in a real emergency to act quickly and correctly once the initial shock of an event strikes.

Show your wife you are on top of all these precautionary measures. Involving her should help ease her mind.
--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hold on to your RV drawers

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband gets upset every time our drawer under the stove flies open.

The problem is weight. I love to cook with my iron skillets. I carry three in that drawer which is a very convenient place for them. Often we will make a sharp curve and the drawer comes all the way out and falls off the slides. My husband grumbles all the time he is putting it back on and saying we should store the skillets in some other space.

I do all the cooking. I don’t tell him where to store his tools, so why should I have to be told where to store mine?

Am I being unreasonable?
 --Slip Slidin’ Away in Salerno Beach

Dear Slip:
Nothing to squabble about. Tell your husband to go out to where he keeps his tools and fetch them. Run down to the hardware and buy a childproof drawer latch and have him install it. You might want two evenly spaced depending on the weight of those iron skillets.

Usually Velcro or a second latch would be enough to hold an aggravating drawer closed, but it sounds like you are doing some heavy-duty cooking.

These little problems that pop up as you fine-tune your rig are not for arguing, they are for solving to your individual tastes. Treat them as a challenge and figure out a solution by talking to others, searching online, or just putting your thinking cap on.

Between now and the time you find a childproof latch, hold on to your drawers every time you round a corner.
--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thelma and Louise RV Adventure

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
They say, “change is good”, but I am not so sure. We have been enjoying the National Parks and Forests our whole life. We now see so much poor management, price gouging and over-use, and we feel the parks are being severely depreciated. Slowly the parks are being whittled away and divvied up to the highest bidder in the public sector.

We just tried to have breakfast at a concession-run cafe in Death Valley. The two women that ran the place were Thelma and Louise and seemed like they were ready to drive off a cliff at any moment. We wanted to order a basic breakfast but they were out of bacon. By the time we figured out what little they had left and decided to leave, we were already seven dollars into two cups of coffee. Then we could not get Thelma or Louise to bring us a bill, so we eventually went to the cash register to pay. At that point both women showed up to inform us we had to wait at our table for the bill. We dropped a five and two ones and walked out.

I am not writing this to complain about this breakfast experience. I am using it as a reference to the direction federal land management has taken. Thelma and Louise are just cogs in the concessioner wheel. We see a pattern of park campgrounds being taken over by private companies who then start doubling fees, charging for amenities that were once included, and delivering poor service.

Isn’t this just another tax on top of the taxes we already pay to have the government run our Park System? Am I the only curmudgeon traveling around grousing about this degradation?

Should I just jump in the backseat with Thelma and Louise and go joy riding?
--Fuming in Furnace Creek

Dear Fuming:
I wish I could help you by waving a magic wand and solving the world’s problems, but that is not going to happen. Your cure is to deal with today’s challenges.

Thelma and Louise are small potato problems. (Were they out of hash-browns too?)

I have always said, “It’s simple math - multiply numbers, divide resources.” We now have 7 billion people on the planet and will move quickly to 8-9 during this next generation. That’s a lot of people to manage.

That’s the big picture. Narrowing it down to your observations, I agree with everything you say. I have been camping in our parks and forests since the fifties. Management has evolved in lock-step with society. It has gone from Ozzie and Harriet to The Simpsons.

The reasons for doling out management to concessioners, good or bad, is one of economics. Using part-time seasonal, volunteers and concessioners, these agencies cut their legacy costs and benefits, and along with that some erosion of dedication in a flux of public and private employees flowing in and out of the management of our National Treasures.

This all puts our resources in jeopardy. I just spent a few days hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Nevada through the Granite Chief Wilderness. I was almost run over twice by mountain bikers who are banned from riding in Wilderness Areas. This was during hunting season, which should indicate a need for more management in the area, but I never saw a ranger. Obviously, the mountain bikers are also aware of this lack of supervision.

Multiply this attitude exponentially and you begin to see the problems we face in protecting precious resources.

Many people today want less government. As it turns out we can’t afford government and government can’t afford us.

--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

RV oil change

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is not a trusting person. He likes to do his own work on our motorhome when he can.

When we are on the road for months at a time he would rather do his own oil changes but the parks we stay in will not allow it. We always have to find a facility that will accommodate our big rig. The little quicky places are designed for smaller vehicles.

I tire of him grousing about the cost of the oil change and his worrying over what else the place might have done while under our rig. He checked after the last job and found the drain plug loose.

Does everyone go through this misery or just he and I?
--Lube Brooding in Bristol

Dear Lube:
It is often a problem finding a place to work on your rig while traveling. Many of the parks that have a maintenance area only allow resident owners to use it for liability reasons.

An oil change should be a fairly easy and straightforward job. I would think many parks would have an out-of-the-way place for you to do such a quick procedure as long as you were careful to catch your drained oil and dispose of it properly.

I have never found it a problem, and I change mine every three thousand miles. I always put a tarp down as insurance against any accidental spills, and most auto specialty stores will take your used oil.

If you use a service facility, you should give them specific instructions on what you want done and check the drain plug and filter when the job is finished. Many facilities offer a plethora of services accompanying the oil change that you may not want them fooling with. Be specific.

If a park does not allow this procedure it may be they have had issues in the past with people leaving a mess. It is no different from businesses offering free parking lot overnight stays. One bad apple can spoil the barrel. We have seen where people have dumped their gray water in Walmart parking lots. It would only take one person to create a mini-oil spill to turn a park owner or manager sour on trying to work with those who want to do a little precautionary maintenance.
--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink