Wednesday, May 25, 2016

RV tripping

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have just sold our trailer and purchased a motorhome. Our main motivation for this move has always been access. We found the thought of being inside our living quarters when we stopped very appealing. Also, being able to access the kitchen and bathroom while traveling down the road.

On our maiden voyage I fell going from the cockpit to the bathroom when my husband had to touch the brakes a bit. Now, after spending all this money, he says I shouldn't get out of my seat while we are driving. It has caused quite a stir. I think I just needed to learn from the first experience and now I have my sea legs.

Can you shed some light on what other motor coach owners do? Am I the only one who thinks going to the bathroom while we continue to drive is safe?
--Tripping in Telluride

Dear Tripping:
The reality of this situation would be that many people move around in their coach while it is moving. Even on a commercial touring bus people get out of their seats and use the facilities. It would be safer to stay buckled into your seat, but most people do, on occasion, find the need to get up and do something.

The least you can do is communicate. Plan for a smooth, straight stretch of road, take your time, and if the driver thinks he will have to brake, bark out a warning.

You are breaking all the safety rules if you are cooking or baking while driving, yet I know dozens of people that do just that.

One couple told me they put baked beans in the oven an hour before they were to meet friends for a potluck. Minutes later they found themselves on a 8 percent grade and the beans sloshed out of the pan into the hot oven. You can imagine the mess, the smell and the panic.

You have to decide between the two of you what is safe, and where your comfort level begins to crest. You will still enjoy the fact that when you stop, you are in your living space. It is already warm on cold days and cool on hot days. You do not have to ferry your belongings or pets between tow vehicle and living space anymore.

Remember when you had to grab your gear and make a run for the trailer at every pit stop, dealing with wind, rain or worse?

Moving around, cooking, leaving your refrigerator running, are all things that most safety experts would warn against. But, if I had to bet real money on what the majority of people actually do, it would be all of the above.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Monday, May 16, 2016

RV on the level

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know you are not a mechanic, but we have a mechanical and mental problem combined. Our motorhome is only two years old and already we are noticing a repetitive problem with our hydraulic leveling jacks. They take forever to retract right when we are ready to leave camp.

It seems one goes out every season. It doesn't fail completely, it's just slow to respond. We end up having a whole pot of coffee while we wait for a single jack to retract. My husband makes a joke and says we should have the service center put coffee in the hydraulic line. I am more serious about the issue and think it is annoying, expensive and possibly a ripoff.

The service center is now a regular stop every season to have a unit replaced. Is this normal? Is a slow retracting jack a way of RV life? I want to let one go until it actually fails, but my husband insists on having it repaired each time.

Please shed some light on our annual pilgrimage to the land of levelers.
--Tilted in Trenton

Dear Tilted:
I don't want to sound like a medical doctor because we all know I am just a guy pretending to be a shrink, which pretty much makes me a quack. That said, I think your problem could be much like a person that goes to the doctor with a difficult issue to diagnose. The doctor is going to do something while you're there so that you feel satisfied and he gets paid.

If you show up regularly at the leveler repairman shop, they will probably do the same. I have no idea what system you have, but I can tell you from experience that most need constant exercise and maintenance. Same as your body.

We experience the same issue with our system, which is hydraulic with spring assist. If your system is similar I would suggest experimenting a bit. It could save you some time and money.

Make sure your leveler shafts are kept as clean as possible. Dirt and debris can cause enough resistance to slow jack retraction. Another less expensive fix might be new springs. I usually buy a set (2) each year and replace just one at each of the two slowest acting jacks. Springs fatigue with constant stretching.

I have also designed a simple bar I carry to apply pressure to a slow poke jack on a cold morning when I don't have time to drink coffee while it slowly decides to put itself away.

You want to speak softly to your jacks, but carry a big stick.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

RV campgrounds "LNT"

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
One of the comments someone made under last week's column caught my attention.

We have not spent much time in campgrounds during the past thirty years. Now that we have retired, that has all changed. One thing we notice constantly is the disrespect to public property.

We do not remember so much blatant graffiti, vandalism, defacing and littering. It is sad to think that so many people find pleasure in degrading infrastructure for no apparent reason.
--Bewildered in Butte

Dear Bewildered:
Graffiti is nothing new, but I agree we have moved way beyond the obscene bathroom stall scratch art stage.

More parks now use reflective metal in bathrooms because they cannot afford to continually replace mirrors. Try finding your face with a razor while staring into a poorly reflective, graffiti scratched metal plate.

We all suffer because of the actions of a minority of people I can only describe as "puppy minded." They must have the same mental capacity of a puppy that insists on chewing shoes.

As a long-distance hiker I know that this tendency is not exclusive to the front country. I am amazed at how many people spend the time and energy to get into remote country and have so little respect for not only trail and signage work, but the landscape itself.
You will find trailhead kiosk displays scratched beyond recognition, gates crushed, signage broken and trash scattered to the wind.

We can only combat this behavior by being good stewards ourselves and overwhelming this deviate behavior with spontaneous voluntary service. Picking up trash is our main contribution. Most of the abuse you encounter is already beyond repair.

A sad state of affairs, but I assure you there are hundreds of good stewards for every poor one. You just never see the evidence of them because they practice LNT (Leave No Trace).

Depending on the campground host, or the management philosophy, you can find a campsite pristine or trashed. But in many cases a campsite needs some tender loving care after the last tenants have vacated.

When you leave a site, consider how you would like to find it on arrival.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

RV Birder needs perch

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are avid birdwatchers and full-timers. This makes us full-time birdwatchers. Our travel lifestyle puts us into a lot of boondocking/dry camping situations. What we have discovered, especially in the spring, is a lack of opportunities to use public campgrounds in excellent birding areas. Many State and Federal campgrounds are gated off and do not open until mid-May or even June.

These are pit toilet, self-pay sites. Why can't they just open the gate and let us early bloomers in. I hear all the whining about budget restraints, so why not make some early spring revenue and give us access.

I guess I am whining, but doesn't it just make sense to open these areas earlier?
--Fenced out in the Outback

Dear Outed:
I have given this same issue a lot of thought over the past few years. It seems the traditional usage of these facilities is changing rapidly, but the mindset of management has not caught on.

These are not campgrounds that have water pipe issues. There is no need to winterize in the fall and fire back up in the spring.

I first noticed this several years ago coming out of Yellowstone's East entrance. It was fall and the park was still very crowded with RVs. The weather was beautiful, and the need for RV accommodations was definitely still in demand. There were several Forest Service campgrounds between Yellowstone and Cody, Wyo. All were gated up for the season.

As many RVers leave the sunbelt each spring and head north they find the same issue with State and Federal campgrounds as you pointed out. It seems they could and should open as soon as weather permits, which seems to be earlier all the time.

Another option for you would be National Wildlife Refuge camping. Not many have designated camping areas, but some do and would be perfect for your activity.

Using one of several available apps you should find State, Federal, County, City, BLM, Corps of Engineer options near your birding hotspots.

We can only hope that as more people hit the road and have a desire to camp earlier in the spring, and later into the fall, public campground managers will try to accommodate them.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink