Friday, August 11, 2017

RV Normal or RV Nuts

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m bored out of my gourd. I have been looking forward to traveling full-time in our RV for a dozen years. Now that I have retired, my wife and I have been on the road for just less than a year and I am a bit disillusioned. We both have many interests, love to travel, get along fine in a confined space, enjoy life and the many friendly people we meet. So, what’s wrong with me? Why do I feel I’m missing something? I’m always thinking I should be doing more. If you could get my head screwed on straight I would be forever grateful.
Lost in Paradise, MI

Dear Lost:
As Bob Dylan said, “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.” Many people go through an adjustment period just as you have described. Going from a structured lifestyle to “free as a breeze” can sometimes knock the wind out of you. You need to give it some time and find your comfort zone. These exact conditions have created a new job description for thousands of people. Both volunteer and paid positions in many parks around the country are now filled by people like yourself that can’t seem to stop doing something that feels like work. Companies like Amazon have started “workamper” programs. They need seasonal help in their distribution centers and they fill positions with RVer’s who want a work fix and some extra money. There are positions like this all over the country with various industries.

The National Park Service could not operate today without the many volunteers who join the ranks in return for free camping in some of the most incredible places on the planet. I just had a guy on the couch recently who bought a metal detector and went looking for gold. He thought that was going to cure his need to define his existence. He was back a month later. He traded in his metal detector for a digital camera to shoot wildlife. Last time I saw him he was happy as a lark, migrating north to Alaska. The point is, keep searching for what makes you a happy camper. You have a lot going for you already, you just need to fine tune your compass setting.

Always remember, if you don’t think you’re normal, you’re nuts! --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

RV Road Rage

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have an ongoing problem with road rage. He sits right next to me in the motorhome and swears a blue streak at the outside world as we drive down the road. If we are in rural areas he seems like a perfectly normal, compassionate human being. When we get into heavy traffic congestion, construction zones or have to turn around because of a missed turn, he goes nutso! I think he needs a course in anger management, but he tells me he is working on a home remedy to “just say no” to spells of frustration and the rage that follows. Can you help us? Is this a normal RV symptom? I see rigs much larger than our Class “C” with a “toad.” I can’t hear into the cockpit of those rigs. Maybe everyone is raging on down the road. Let me know what you think and what I should do to combat my husband’s road hostilities.
--Blue Streak in Biloxi

Dear B S:
I think this is more common than many people like to admit. You don’t hear this often in campground conversation, but you can bet it is more common than people let you believe. Many drivers are capable but not comfortable towing a large rig. I know a retired tour bus driver that spent his career driving 40 ft. Tour buses into New York City and Boston but couldn’t get used to pulling a 30 ft. Fifth wheel. I met another woman who couldn’t stand to listen to her husband swear and talk to other drivers that irritated him. She bought him a sound device that made various weapon sounds. He would use his machine gun or rocket launcher sounds to vent his frustrations. It is no different from trying to kick a smoking habit. You have to want to quit and work hard at keeping your wits about you. Another thought would be to have your husband pull off to the side of the road immediately and do some deep breathing, yoga relaxation poses and make various mediative sounds to connect his RV spirit to the primordial OM sounds resonating throughout the universe. Relaxing and building mental capacity for patience is the key. Rage can ruin a trip, cause unhealthy stress, become a safety issue and ruin a traveling relationship. You may want to do some of the driving when you see your husband going off the deep end. That will be his signal that he is going too far. It may help him put his actions into perspective and mellow him out a bit.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RV site rights

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We love birding all over the country. The RV lifestyle has made it possible for our life list to grow substantially. We move into an area and we don't leave until we've found every species we came looking for. I'm not as obsessed as my husband. He doesn't know when to quit. Last week he was looking for an Elegant Trogan at Patagonia State Park in Arizona. He could hear it over in a secluded site at the end of a cul de sac. He went sneaking through the bushes and surprised a lady out sunning herself. She screamed and he bolted. I had to go over and try to explain what actually happened. She was not a happy camper. 
I don't think my husband understands yet that another camper's site should be respected. Don't you think paying for a camping site is similar to a short-term lease?
--Embarrassed in Arizona

Dear Embarrassed:
I am no lawyer, but personally I do agree that when I pay for a space it does come with some rights. Semi-privacy should be one. It doesn't always work out that way. Often you are encroached upon by music, lights, generators, partying, and even trespass. 
We should all think about how we would want to be treated and act accordingly. Many campgrounds are designed with sites that are sardined together so tight it is impossible to be a perfect neighbor. This is just part of the lifestyle and you have to roll with the punches. 
I do have to say, your story reminds me of a poem.
--Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

The Anatomy of a Birder
I heard it in the hedgerow, in the neighbor's yard;
A bird I'd never heard before, I listened very hard.
I crouched so low and crept so soft, I traumatized the cat;
He too, had heard this lovely bird, and knew where it was at.
I used the cat and all his skill to point me on my way;
Then with assumed seniority, convinced him not to stay.
Again, I moved toward the sound, whittling the gap;
Peering through the hedgerow, the sound my only map.
But then a silence filtered in, no longer any sound; 
A stillness overtook me, as I sat and glanced around.
Then movement through the tangled leaves, slight but just enough;
And eye contact in shocked surprise, with my neighbor in the buff.
I can't explain, the bird had flown, the cat only assisted;
And now I can't enjoy my birds, my neighbors think I'm twisted.
-Dick E. Bird


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RV Lady in Waiting

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I was laid off from my auto parts manufacturing job a few years ago and decided to take an early retirement. My husband was still working but we figured we would both retire soon and try the RV lifestyle. He keeps dragging his feet. I should have gotten another job but the industry is still pretty slow. How do other people handle this situation? One retires and the other can't seem to make the move. We have already bought a fifth-wheel that we use on weekends and holidays. He loves it, but is so used to working it scares him to think of giving it up.
--Lady in waiting in Waterton

Dear Lady:
That is a dilemma. Instead of getting another job, you could get another husband. Just kidding. Most people have one foot out the door long before they can retire, while others find it very hard to pull the trigger. You didn't mention your ages. Maybe you are not close to the average retirement age and your husband is worried about your financial future. 

Some people do make the move prematurely, without enough planning, and regret it later. I think it is a very personal choice that each couple has to make between themselves. You should sit down and discuss your future and come to some understanding. Find out what it will take to motivate your husband to retire. If it looks like it might be a couple more years, you might then be able to be at ease with it, find another job, or at least be able to plan your course until he is ready. 
I feel for you in the job market. I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan and know a lot of people that lost good jobs during the Great Recession, and those jobs never came back. I wrote a song about it. I have linked it here.   UAW RAG
--Keep', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

RV let it go

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have decided to spend our second winter on the road in Florida. We spent our first winter in Arizona and froze to death. We thought Arizona was like Hawaii but found out that is not the case. Now we are cold in Northern Florida and I want to go to Mexico next year. My husband refuses to take our RV into Mexico, so where the heck can I go for the winter and be warm? I might just as well stay home next to the wood stove. --Cast member from the movie "Frozen"

Dear Frozen:
If you don't want to go to Mexico and keep heading south until you find warm weather, do it in Florida. It's a very long state with lots of micro climes. The farther you head south the better your chances of finding warmer weather.

You are right, the desert gives up its warmth at night and you will experience many more cold nights and mornings in the West. The days are typically warm and sunny, but you have your windows opened at night much less than if you were in a climate like Southern Florida.

How about meeting halfway? Try Brownsville, Texas.

You may not find the utopia of weather in the south during the first couple months of the year, but it still beats chopping firewood. You could be like the cast member Elsa and just, "Let it go." --Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

RV pack rats

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife thinks I should be an exterminator. We have a fifth-wheel and she is always hearing noises. She says she hears mice scurrying around, gnawing and thumping, and our cat is always on point. I never hear anything. Then she started seeing other people in the campground putting lights under and around their rigs at night. The guy next door puts the hood up on his pickup every night with a light in the engine compartment. I think he is just proud of his truck, but my wife said he does it to keep pack rats out. Do I have to light up the world every night to keep vermin from moving in with us? If rodents are so fearful of lights why would they want to come in anyway? --Mickey Mouse ideas in Mesa

Dear Mickey:
Some say that the rat light idea is all based on urban legend. From personal experience I can say I did have a pack rat nest in my motorhome engine compartment before lights and, so far, none after. Like you, I noticed the lights around rigs in Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona and thought it might be people wanting to show off their vehicles at night.

You don't have to go overboard and light up the whole campground. I just put a short string of LED lights under my engine and wired them to my battery with a switch. Many people use rope lights and just lay them on the ground. I park my toad facing the front of the motorhome to share the illumination and hope for the best.

If your wife thinks she hears evidence of a silent invasion you would be wise to start a trapline and see if you snag anything. Better safe than sorry.

Those little furballs can do a lot of damage in a short span of time. Stay on top of it. --Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

RVing the Borderlands

Dr. RV Shrink:
This is our first year living in our RV. We are not looking for the next RV resort with a pickleball team; we prefer the wide-open spaces. The problem is one you have talked about before: border safety. We have never camped down near the border on boondock BLM land because of all the stories we've heard about problems with illegals. We keep talking about going but then back out. Are we overreacting? Should we just try it? --Gun-shy in Glendale

Dear Gun-shy:
First, stop reading the paper and cancel your satellite contract. Life comes with no guarantees, so I suggest you ease into situations you find uncomfortable. If boondocking and hiking in the desert is something that sounds appealing but makes you nervous, here's a plan that should work for you.

Spend a week basking in the sun in Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. It is only a mile from the border. It has hikes and scenic drives that come so close to the border you can wave at our neighbors to the south.

Go on a few ranger-led hikes and drives. You will learn a lot about the desert and most likely start to feel comfortable about your new surroundings. Don't let the fact that the visitor center is named after a young ranger that was killed by drug cartel members scare you from enjoying the park and its surroundings.

Once you immerse yourself in the park doing ranger activities, then drive north to Why, Arizona. There you will find three commercial campgrounds and 1,100 acres of free BLM camping. This area will let you ease into the boondocking lifestyle. It's kind of like breaking in a new pair of boots. It won't take long and you will feel comfortable with your surroundings. You will enjoy some of Arizona's warmest weather and view fantastic desert sunsets and sunrises. You will wake up every morning to a chorus of coyotes with often a bass section of burros.

Drive down to the BLM and look around. You may feel comfortable once you notice there are dozens of others scattered around the property. Talk to them or hike with them. You might even have to drink with them. The woman that acts as the host has her own band and will assure you there are few problems you need to be concerned with. There is more border patrol personnel stationed there than cactus in the desert.

Try it, you'll like it. --Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Greta Garbo at Quartzsite

Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife wants to go to Quartzsite, Arizona, for the big gathering that takes place in January. It looks like way too many people for me. I hate crowds. We started RVing to get away from the maddening crowd. She is insisting we go. Am I being unreasonable? Should I keep dragging my feet or give in and deal with it?

I want our travels to include the things she wants to do, but this is really something that does not appeal to me. --Garboish in Glendale

Dear Garboish:
Even Greta had to deal with crowds on occasion. I know where you are coming from, I felt the same way before I finally gave in and joined the circus. I can tell you I was pleasantly surprised. Go over and find a group to camp with. Circle the wagons and enjoy some of the activities. If you park in the right place you won't have to drive much and fight traffic. We parked a few miles out and I rode my bike to town everyday.

It did turn out to be an expensive decision. I went to several seminars on RV remodeling projects. I spent the summer redoing our motorhome flooring, pulling out our dinette bench, and relocating the television. So, my advice would be to stay away from seminars if you want the summer off.

The whole experience was successful for one common RV Lifestyle reason. We met a ton of wonderful people, good friends and new friends. Admittedly, there might have been some alcohol involved, but that is optional.

Put your Greta Garbo personality in the closet for a week and try it. I only agreed to a couple days and ended up staying nearly two weeks. Had a blast. --Keep Smilin', Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink