Tuesday, December 29, 2015

El RV Nino

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I was very interested in last week​'​s column about the cold weather issue. We are new to the RV lifestyle. We left Wisconsin just before Christmas and headed for Arizona. I wanted to head straight south for Florida, but my husband convinced me that Florida was expected to experience below normal temps this winter with El Nino patterns.

We barely made it alive through Texas and Oklahoma. When we reached New Mexico we hit a white out. We are now in Arizona licking our wounds and trying to stay warm. Our new trailer looks like a snow cone made with mud. My husband can't even unhook because the hitch is so caked with crud.

Is this what we can look forward to every year?

We are also having issues with trying to stay warm with no hookups. Our batteries keep giving out because we are running the furnace constantly. Tell me things are going to improve.

I wish I was home in Wisconsin basking in the warmth of our fireplace. 
--Disillusioned in Douglas

Dear Disillusioned:
It can only get better from here. It sounds like you started your adventure with a real white knuckle ride through some of the worse weather experienced along your route in decades.

Like the movie, "The Perfect Storm," you never know what you might have to encounter headed for warm temps during the winter season and even headed home in the spring. I have covered this subject many times and there is no simple answer. Trying to schedule a departure date is never easy.

Not only does weather come into play but also emotions. People anticipate leaving, have everything packed and often decide to ​go for it and take their chances. I would prefer doing a lot of forecast models and giving myself the best odds I could hope for when planning a departure.

​It​ sounds like you are about as far south as you can get without heading into Mexico. I think you will find the days warming, but the nights still a bit cool. The desert tends to give up its heat quickly when the sun drops.

That brings me to your next concern. Everyone goes through this experience when the temps drop and stay down for awhile. You have several choices. Find electrical hookups in a park so that you can run your furnace fan without killing your batteries. You could invest in a generator, but that will involve dealing with fuel costs and noise. Another option would be investing in solar if you have the room for panels and battery storage. It really depends on what type of RVing you are interested in.

If you plan to spend your winter with full hookups, you probably have everything you need. If you want to spend time off the grid you will need to add a power source. Constantly draining your batteries will eventually ruin them.

If you read enough of my past columns you will discover I lean more toward the solar solution. I find it ​quiet, low maintenance, efficient, and cost effective.

Only time will tell if you picked the right destination this winter, but if you decide Florida looks warmer, choose your weather window wisely and head in that direction. The southern route across can be very interesting and enjoyable if Mother Nature cooperates.

Go to a truck wash bay and get all spruced up. You will feel much better when ​your new trailer is sparkling again.

If you are able to watch the news you should feel blessed to have come through as well as you have. Enjoy your winter and new lifestyle. You will begin meeting a lot of wonderful people on the same journey you are on. Most are more than happy to share their experience and knowledge with you.

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

RV Polar Express

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I think we are suffering from "RV fever." I am not talking about the strain that makes people want to go out and buy a new rig. I'm talking about the strain that more resembles "cabin fever."

We decided to spend more time in northern Arizona this winter. We tired of the desert cactus and wanted more pine. Now I am pining for cactus but my husband wants to stick it out here in the Siberian region of Arizona.

He spent a lot of time and money insulating our water and sewer lines, increasing our propane capacity and adding skirting insulation. That all works very efficiently, but now we spend more time inside our rig than out. We might just as well stay at home in Minnesota sitting on top of the wood stove.

How can I convince him this is a failed experiment and we must abort the mission.
--Polarized in Payson

Dear Polar:
With the recent crazy weather flip flops it is hard to plan a pleasant destination. In the West it is all about elevation. You can research historic temperature data but it will only give you averages.

It also depends on what you enjoy doing and what temperatures you feel comfortable spending time outdoors.

You can run, but you cannot hide. We just experienced a snowstorm while visiting the Biosphere 2 north of Tucson, Arizona. The eight people that spent 2 years in that controlled environment experienced the same thing you are going through now. According to the tour guide they ended up in two separate tribes that were not communicating with each other.

You two need to start communicating again. A better plan might be to roam a bit with the seasons. The nice thing about living on wheels is the opportunity to relocate when your best laid plans do not pan out.

Northern Arizona is a wonderful place to explore and spend time. I would suggest spending fall and spring in the north and finding a place you both can agree on when the temps drop. If you find the north country is experiencing above average winter temps, you could be there in a matter of days, even hours.

One of the wonderful things about the RV lifestyle is flexibility. Use it to your advantage. Don't get stuck in a frozen rut.

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

RV Home on the Range

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband wants to sell everything, buy a motorhome and drive all the way across the country to a big gathering he read about in a place called "Quartzsite." I think he has lost his marbles.

He's too old for a mid-life crisis, and too young for me to convince him he is delusional.

What can I do to dampen his wanderlust spirit enough to save our house from going on the block?
--Heading for Homeless in Hyannis

Dear Hyannis:
Selling the house before you actually give the RV lifestyle a try can sometimes work out and sometimes be a disaster.

You seem like you are not on the same page about this great adventure. That being the case, I would put off placing the house on the sales block and putting together this adventure on a trial basis.

 Taking a block of time and testing whether the RV lifestyle is right for you will make things much easier in the long run no matter what your decision is.

I come from a long line of irrational exuberance. That's me with my family in the above picture when my dad decided we should take our 1957 Airstream and go all the way across the country to the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.

I can tell you from a lifetime of experiences that this move can lead to a travel addiction. Whether you dive in or tiptoe, most people find there is a strong undertow that often will drag you in and you will find it hard to escape the pull of the experience.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, December 7, 2015

RV food fright

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have just started our travel adventure with a new travel trailer. We have a fairly good sized refrigerator. An adequate amount of pantry space, and a few bins we can use for food storage. The problem is we do not like buying in quantity at the big discount shopping stores. We have always bought at our local food co-op where we find good, fresh, quality food.

Can we just kiss goodbye the idea of finding this on the road? Are we going to have to change our eating habits to align ourselves more with the diet constraints of the big box stores?

This may sound like a small problem, but we enjoy preparing good healthy meals and do not want to give up fresh organic fruits and vegetables. —Food Fright in Fredericksburg

Dear Fred:
Part of the adventure is that things will be different. You will have to adjust to the conditions you discover as you move along. It will also depend where you plan to spend your time. It makes sense that the bigger the population density of an area the more choices of everything, including food you will find.

That is not always the case, so using the internet will allow you to explore more rural areas for the type of stores you prefer. There seems to be a trend and demand by consumers for more healthy choices in food. I see much more in the way of organics even in the big box stores.

Health food stores are not as rare, even in rural areas, as you may think. It just takes a bit more effort to seek them out. Another option we use is to buy freeze dried veggies and fruits in #10 cans. At first you get sticker shock when you scan the price, but you have to do some math and compare the volume to fresh. As a long distance backpacker I am very familiar with several brands. Once rehydrated these products taste fresh and delicious.

Another thing to look for, and ask about, are farmers markets. They are popular gathering places all over the country with all kinds of fresh, locally grown food choices.

Soon you will be able to order online from anywhere and expect Amazon to drone it in to your campsite within the hour! Talk about fresh.

With a little homework I don’t think finding good healthy food is as troublesome as it first appears.

The world is full of fruits and nuts. In your travels you will run into a wide variety. —Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink 

The coolest RV products and accessories for RVers at Amazon.com. Click here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RV big chill

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is always a half bubble off plumb, or at least he thinks he is. He is a bit of a fanatic about our fifth-wheel being level. He thinks if it is the least bit off level our refrigerator will stop working.

I don’t see other people that concerned with being perfectly level. Will you explain to me how I can persuade him to relax and still chill? —Cold Hearted in Henderson

Dear Cold Hearted:
Manufacturers use a more vertical design for evaporator positioning in today’s cooling units. This makes it easier for evaporator coils, inside the cooling unit, to permit gravity flow of liquid ammonia through the system.

Give the poor guy a break. If nothing else, his efforts will keep your refrigerator efficient and running optimally.

Leveling is not the only important part of efficiency, but it is important. Being a half bubble off should not hurt a newer unit. That said, front to back and side to side leveling still remains a concern.

If you run the fridge tilted for any length of time you can and will damage the cooling unit. Running off-level will cause the unit to stop circulating.

I can tell you from experience that pulling a unit and having it replaced or recharged is expensive and a hassle.

In the good old days you could take the unit out and roll it, cross your fingers and sometimes get it cooling again.

It’s easier to do a job right, than to explain why you didn’t, or pay for the mistake. So what’s the problem. Let him be fussy, let him be precise, let him be perfectly level.

If he is still a half bubble off plumb after all that, well, that would be another question and a different answer.
Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink 

The coolest RV products and accessories for RVers at Amazon.com. Click here.