Wednesday, March 30, 2016

RV yap flap

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel a good share of the year in a very small travel trailer. It forces us to spend a lot of our time outdoors. We love the lifestyle as we both spent years trapped in a cubicle working for Fortune 500 companies. It is like having a backpack with wheels.

The problem I have is keeping track of my husband. He tends to be a yapper. I think if we had a larger RV he might just go inside when he tired of outdoor activities, but instead he now goes in search of other campers to talk with and sometimes annoy.

He says I am imagining the worst and assuming these people are annoyed with his constant social butterfly patterns. Do you think a more spacious rig would anchor him a bit? I sometimes think he is angling for an invite into some of these large, plush rock star buses by pretending he is interested in buying one.

I don't mind him networking with other campers, but do you think his behavior is normal when he constantly seeks out other campers to kibitz with?
--Yap Flap in Flagstaff

Dear Yap Flap:
Unless he is constantly angling for a sleep over, I think his behavior is perfectly normal. Perhaps he was psychologically damaged more than you from being locked up for years in a cubicle. Did he have a window? Was there any contact with co-workers?

I cannot gauge as to whether he is a closet "Big Rig" yearner. I assume he did not equate your very small trailer with his cubicle or he never would have agreed to live in it for months at a time. But he could be in denial. You should discuss it with him.

 I wouldn't take his wandering so personal. A wonderful part of camping is sparking spontaneous conversations with people from all walks of life, with a kaleidoscope of interests. Those conversations spawn all kinds of great ideas, answer puzzling questions, vary your travel path, and develop new friendships.

There is a fine line between sparking up a conversation and annoying people. Most of us can sense when it's time to push on with the dialog or simply push on. If you do not think your husband is picking up on the subtle body language that signals a timeout, then you may want to school him on it. You can save a lot of money by sitting down and discussing these issues. Otherwise you might be rambling around in a rock star bus all alone while your husband is out talking to strangers about tiny trailers. --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where there is (camp)fire, there may not be smoke

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We already carry everything, including the kitchen sink, but now my wife wants me to buy a portable propane fire pit. When did campfires go high tech?

At first I laughed at her, then I discovered she was serious. Whatever happened to "smoke follows beauty?" My old Scoutmaster would turn over in his grave. I have heard of gas around the campfire, but not a camp fired by gas.

How do I talk my wife out of this crazy idea? Please tell me you are not in favor of modernizing this age old camping tradition.
 --Nostalgic in Needles

 Dear Nostalgic:
I am sorry to say, tradition lost me when campfire wood went from free to six bucks a bundle. When I say a bundle, I mean six sticks of wood wrapped in plastic. Usually it is some fast burning variety like cedar. We call that "gopher wood." You throw some on the fire and go fer more.

I think the most lucrative work-camper job you could score would be the campfire wood concession at any Federal or State Park.

Another great place to sit around the propane campfire is the desert where wood is often scarce. They are easy to clean up after, convenient to extinguish, and you can light up at the drop of a hat.

This is not to say you still can't have a traditional campfire whenever you have access to wood, marshmallows, chocolate and Graham Crackers. There is nothing like good hot coals to cook over, but in fire danger areas a propane campfire is much safer to sit around and tell ghost stories, jokes, tall tales, and just plain lie to each other.  --Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, March 14, 2016

RV Oven Lovin'

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I found last week​'​s column​ on preferences in choosing an RV very interesting. We are going through the same decision process ourselves. I think the biggest difference between my partner and I has been our respective chores. I do most of the cooking and my partner does most of the repair and maintenance.

I don't like the cooking options offered to me in many units. My partner says we ​can get used to it, but I don't want to get used to it. I want what ​I'm already​ used to. I am talking about​ going from a conventional oven to​ a convection oven. I refuse to switch.

As my partner has found out the hard way, I would rather fight than switch. Am I being unreasonable? Should I learn new tricks?
--Burning in Bakersfield

Dear Burning:
I hear this complaint a lot. A regular oven has been replaced with a convection oven in many brands and units. If you are going to move into a home on wheels I think you should trick it out the way you want it, or find ​a used one that already is​ the way you want it​.

One drawback that many first-time buyers never consider is the fact that a convection oven only runs on electric. That means having to be hooked up or running a generator every time you need to use the oven.

On the plus side, most people that have switched to a convection oven seem to be very happy with it. If you are buying new I would ask about an option to have the best of both worlds. You might have to give up some drawer space, but it will most likely be a worthwhile trade-off.

Hav​ing​ both a convection oven and a propane oven will also give you more options when making a big meal and wanting everything done at the same time. When dry camping you will not limit your meal options and when paying for utilities you will save on propane costs. It will also allow you to limit your generator usage when dry camping and stil​l continue to​ eat meals that require an oven.

Don't you wish the whole world had such easy problems to solve? Half the world is trying to figure out where to get enough potable water to make it through the day​,​ and our biggest dilemma is convection vs. propane oven options​?​
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

RV buyer be aware

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been looking at RV floor plans for a year. We are soon to retire and cannot seem to agree on size, layout, amenities, or even type.

We are all over the map. We have looked at motorhomes, trailers, fifth wheels in all class sizes. How do people make a buying decision? Is it just us? Can you give us any pointers?
--Perplexed in Pensacola

Dear Perplexed:
Don't feel like the Lone Ranger. Many people take the leap and discover they didn't do enough homework. My recommendations would be to try imagining how you will use your RV.

Will you do much entertaining? If so, what seating arrangements will you have available. Another important consideration is sleeping quarters. Do you want a dedicated bed or can you live with a convertible? Do you want separate beds? How about room on both sides of the bed so you are not climbing over each other when getting up in the night. ​

Is the bathroom roomy enough? Does the kitchen offer convenient working space, and adequate counter top real estate for prep work, dish washing and utensil storage? Where will you relax? If TV is important, at what angle is it placed? Many times it gets stuck wherever the manufacture​r​ can find some leftover space.

 Think about storage. Think about water and waste tank capacity. The smaller the unit the smaller the tanks become. This is only a concern if you plan to spend more time without hookups. The list can go on and on, but you really need to imagine how you will use the RV. Don't let a salesperson talk you into something that absolutely will not work for you.

You have to do your own homework. Most salespeople have never lived the RV lifestyle. They can make anything they have on the lot sound perfect for you if you haven't figured it out for yourself.

You don't need a doorbell that plays 50 songs, but you want function, quality and convenience. Sooner or later you have to pull the trigger and there is no guarantee you will end up with all the right options.

Once you get on the road you may discover your personal RV lifestyle is totally different than you imagined. Many people end up with several units before they find one that is close to their needs and wants.

Let me close with, "talk to other RVers." That is where you will find hundreds of opinions and give you food for thought. Just looking at all the "bling" will not answer the most important question you may not even have yet.​ ​
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RV Campwhereiwannabe

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been living the RV lifestyle for almost two years. We have traveled all over the country visiting all the interesting places we have always wanted to see. I think one of the biggest adjustments we​'ve had to make is planning far enough ahead to be able to find suitable parking accommodations for our rig. We never realized how crowded the RV parks and campgrounds would be when we planned this retirement life.

There have been areas we just had to skip, because we could not find a place to stay. Is this normal or are we just a couple old RVers that need to learn a few new tricks?
--Double Parkered in Arizona

Dear Parker:
I think it depends a lot on how you define, “suitable parking accommodations.” There is no question that the whole RV camping industry has embraced the reservation system. From RV luxury resorts to pit toilet forest service campgrounds you can now make site reservations, and many people do.

This has to be a generalized answer because of the huge range of ways in which RVers like to travel. To stay spontaneous, you still need to move around without booking yourself months in advance. To do this successfully you need to be able to roll with the punches. It actually takes more planning to travel without reservations, at the drop of a hat or the spur of the moment.

Willing to dry camp, take available partial hook-ups, or play campground bingo on your computer as you get closer to a destination is a necessary evil.

We seldom use reservations, and we are seldom blocked out, but often we have to move several times around a campground to stay as long as we wish or find nearby dry camping. Another thing that will make a difference is time and experience. Eventually​, you will discover many places you do not even know exist that fit your bill for accommodations. You just have to spend enough time in an area, talk to other RVer’s, search online, read enough articles, and keep good notes.

We can’t even read our Rand McNally because we have so many notations scribbled all over it. If you are in California and someone tells you about a great spot in Florida, write it down. Chances are you are going to be in that area eventually. That tip could come in handy down the road (pun intended).

Joining a club like the Escapees can help both​ with camping and ​also educationally ​thru their seminars. Learning to master the fine art of popular online​ ​reservation systems can also open some doors.

Always talk to park management when trying to shoehorn into a particular park. They often know of situations that may not show up online immediately.

Think of this as a challenge, not a stumbling block. We have found some of our most rewarding, enjoyable, and beautiful camping spots by being forced to think outside the box.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink