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
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
Yes, the nights are chilly here in the desert SW, and we have found that our propane Blue Flame heater and solar panels are our best investments as far as comfort goes. At least there is no snow here, beautiful sunsets and lots of good people.
A great WEB Site for planning your travel around the weather is:
The Bad news is. Florida has been having several record breaking Temperatures in the last week or so.
We have been full-timers since July of 2009. We winter in central Florida (Clermont area). The weather is perfect. We do get some cool nights, but normally no more than a hand full. Summers we head North. Last year we did Alaska. Actually we volunteer at a retirement home for missionaries that served in Africa. Look into becoming members of the SOWERs organization.
I have found keeping a weather radio with me while traveling helps me to "dance" around potentially stormy areas.
We ran into the same problem leaving Texas for Arizona last year, there was a terrible ice storm in west Texas. The best thing to do is to find a campground with electricity and just hunker down for a few days. Life is an adventure, enjoy these moments because within a few months it will be a funny story to share with other RVers. Always carry a good wool blanket and water. Best of luck to you!
Planning for weather and traffic along your proposed route is key. I do it every year heading south and again in spring, heading north. Just google 'weather (city name along your routhe), about every 100 or so miles along the route. I do Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati, Lexington, Jellico, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Valdosta, Jacksonville. Do the same for your destination. Get at least the ten day forecast, then you won't have any unpleasant surprises and can decide where to light and whether to get hookups.
Dicey weather? Wait a day or two, or try an alternate route. Weather tends to be in bands, you might be able to slip north or south or east or west to avoid the worst weather. Knowing the weather prediction for the day you plan to drive your route really is key.
Be careful about telling a new rver to go to a truck wash to spiff up the muddy rv. Many do it yourself truck washes have such high pressure sprayers that you can easily strip the vinyl decals right off the rv.
The addition of a catalytic heater such as an Olympian Wave or even portable "Cat" heater like the Mr Heater Buddy will eliminate the drain on the batteries, as it uses no power. Also, be very careful to select a competent solar installer in Quartszite, as there are many scam solar sellers down there. Ask other RVers for suggestions.
We travel every winter to leave the deep snow at home and get to a second "summer" in the desert southwest. Prime importance is staying in low elevation routes. Nights will freeze up your water hose if you are several thousand feet elevation, even in Arizona. Hence the popular destinations of Yuma, Borrego Springs and along the west coast highways keep you temperate.
It doesn't matter where in the southern part of the country you go to winter, you need to check with the National Weather Service for average climate conditions and if you're a first timeer as you seem to be, don't start by boondocking, find a pleasant winter RV park until you're familiar with long-term RV living. Activities, electricity, water & sewer make the stay so much nicer. Fellow RVers can offer much advice and prepare you for future winters. Why be miserable?
I once heard a saying, People head south looking for a great climate,but just find the weather. I believe that person was Mark Twain.
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