Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23 2009 Post

In This Post:

What's New With Us: Finding Replacement Parts
Itchy Wheels

Article: Meeting Other Campers


Going to Alaska next year? Read the article "Alaska! The Ultimate RV Adventure" and check out our DVD "RVing Alaska: What to Expect, How to Prepare" and our E-book "RVing Alaska, Insights and Observations"


Merry Christmas Everybody! Have A Happy and Healthy New Year!

What's New With Us

Finding replacement parts for older RVs can be a challenge; especially if the RV manufacturer has gone out of business. During our recent trip to New England, for example, it took the better part of a day for a truck repair facility to locate two ride-height control valves for our 1998 motorhome. The original valves were steel, the replacements are plastic but, so far, after 6,000 miles, they are doing the job.

Our motorhome’s cabinet-mounted microwave/convection oven died after ten years service. It was 20 inches wide and 19 inches deep. Finding a replacement microwave/convection oven that was small enough to fit into the cabinet opening and that had a cabinet mounting kit available was a real time-consuming adventure. I finally found one online. I installed it yesterday. It looks and works great.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the roof vent fan in our bathroom stopped working. A screw hole in the plastic cover that holds the motor in place had cracked open and the motor was hanging from a couple of wires. I just knew that a replacement part for a ten year old vent fan would not be available. A new vent fan would cost $200 to $300 plus the bother of removing the old fan and installing a new one. I called the Fantastic Vent technical support department, described my problem and asked if they had a replacement part. The technician could not have been more helpful. “That should not have happened” he said, “I’ll send you a new, improved part that should do the job”. It arrived a few days later. Not only does Fantastic Vent build great products (built in America by American workers) they support their customers and stand behind their products. Check out their website:

We have a bad case of itchy wheels. And we have only been home for seven weeks. After Christmas we will cure the problem by firing up our motorhome and heading into the snow-free areas of Arizona. We will visit friends and generally bum around for a few weeks.

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Meeting Other Campers

Dear Joe and Vicki: We have just bought our first RV and are looking forward to camping in comfort. We enjoy meeting new people but don’t wish to intrude on their privacy. How does one go about meeting other RVers

Joe: I think you will find you have to work at not meeting them. Most RVers and campers are pretty gregarious. To meet RVers, Vicki and I recommend that you take two walks around the campground every day. The first walk should take place after most of the travelers have arrived but well before nightfall. You will be able to look at the various types of rigs that are on the road and inspect the ingenious outside camping gear and gadgets that RVers can come up with.

This walk also provides an opportunity to meet new people. Just observe the body language of the campers who are outside. Some will be sitting way to the rear of their campsite with their backs to the road. These folks are not particularly interested in socializing at the moment. Other campers will be sitting under their awning. They’ll be facing the road, hats on the back of their head and have a drink in their hand. Their dog will be wagging his tail. These folks are ready! A real giveaway is the guy who is sitting so close to the road he has to pull back his feet every time an RV passes by.

A sure fire conversation starter is “Hello.” Works every time. Follow that with an admiring word about their rig, dog or hat and you have just made a new friend. The most common questions in a campground are “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” and “Where have you been?” Nobody cares what you do. It really isn’t all that important.

The second walk of each day should be taken after dark. RVers have a tendency to leave their blinds open for an hour or so after dinner. Now you have the opportunity to see how they have decorated the interior of their rig and to see if they have the good sense to drink your brand of bourbon. Both of these subjects make excellent conversation starters when you see them outside the next day.

Vicki: Many campgrounds and RV parks create opportunities for their guests to socialize. They conduct campfires with singing, story telling and other forms of entertainment. We’ve also seen quilting bees, exercise classes and craft fairs offered at RV parks and campgrounds.

The campground laundry room is one of my favorite places to meet RVers. If you are waiting for your clothes to wash or dry, you might as well start talking to the others who are waiting for their clothes.

This is an excellent way to find out what’s down the road. We have gotten some of our best camping and traveling information from people we’ve met in campground laundry rooms. There is a fifty-fifty chance that the people you are talking with have just come from the direction you are heading. They can tell you about road and traffic conditions, campgrounds, tourist attractions and good places to eat.

Speaking of places to eat. You will discover that a number of campgrounds offer morning coffee, doughnuts, breakfasts, barbecues and dinners right on their grounds. We have observed that many KOA campgrounds are offering their guests the opportunity to buy their morning or evening meal without the bother of leaving the campground. What better place to socialize with fellow campers than over a meal?

Start with “Hello.” You will discover that RVers are the nicest bunch of people in the world.

Enjoy The Journey!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5, 2009 Post

What’s New With Us: We’re Home!

Of Interest: Could This Happen To You?


We’re Home!

Greetings from Huntington Beach, CA We arrived home exactly two months after we left.
In our October 23rd post we were headed for Little Rock where we visited with friends for a few days. Then we took a hard look at the weather predictions to determine whether we would continue west on I-40 and cross the mountains around Flagstaff, Arizona or go around the mountains by heading southwest on I-30, I-20 and I-10. Even though it was only the 28th of October, snow had already fallen in the mountains. So our decision was made for us – take the south-west route. We drove through a heavy rainstorm in east Texas but, other than that, the weather cooperated all the way to Yuma, AZ

On the way, we had brunch with John Holod and Jodie Ginter in Tucson, AZ and dinner with Mike and Terry Church in Benson, AZ. We stayed four days with Joe and Joanne Annuzzio on their lot in Yuma and had lunch with Margie Maxwell while we were there.

It was a welcome 80 to 90 degrees in Yuma. It was also my first opportunity to really check out our new solar system. Until now, we had stayed in campgrounds with electric hookups or had campsites that were covered with trees. We dry-camped in my cousin’s horse pasture for five days while in New Hampshire. It was cold so I was able to measure how many amps our furnace fan consumed and I was able to measure how many amps our various 12-volt lights and appliances drew. But the days were o’cast and rainy so I had to use our generator to recharge the batteries.

And in Yuma (because someone insisted on connecting to electricity and turning on the air conditioner when temps soared above 90 degrees) the best I could do was rely on the inverter to make coffee one morning and watch the solar system recharge the batteries until noon. So far the numbers pretty much match what we had been told to expect.

Our motorhome has been in storage for four weeks now. Prior to installing the solar system I would disconnect the ground cables from the batteries while the RV was in storage. This eliminated the possibility of “phantom loads” discharging the batteries. But I always held my breath when I went to start the engine after the RV had been in storage for more than six weeks.

This time I was relying upon the solar system to keep the batteries charged. I left the cables connected. Yesterday I checked the condition of the batteries. The coach and chassis batteries were all at full charge and there had been no loss of electrolyte.

We’re planning on spending some time in the desert next month. A few days of self-contained camping should give me a pretty good idea of how well our solar system works.

As I said, we have been home for four weeks now. We have caught up on the things that needed tending. We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving Day with our kids and grandkids. We have been home four weeks and we are ready to hit the road again.

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Could This Happen To You?

For years now, Vicki and I have been telling our seminar audiences that we consider the RVing world a relatively low crime neighborhood. And, while we know bad things occasionally happen, we have also said that in 45 years of RVing, we have never known or talked first-hand to anyone who had ever felt personally threatened while traveling or camping in their RV.

Well, now we have heard, first-hand, from someone we know.

Our friends Nick and Terry Russell recently had a nightmare encounter of the worst kind.
Nick and Terry had taken their motorhome to an RV repair facility to have some maintenance and repair work done. Since the work was taking more than one day, Nick and Terry camped overnight in the repair facility’s complimentary camping area. On what would have been their third evening in the campground, they went out for dinner. Upon their return they came upon a burglar exiting their RV. The burglar was holding a gun. There was a physical encounter. Read what happened next in (Scroll down to the December 5, 2009 entry)

Coincidentally we wrote about security concerns in our RV Notebook Post on July 14, 2009.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23, 2009 Post

What's New With Us - On The Road

Greetings from Crossville, Tennessee

We are on our way back to California. Next stop is Little Rock AR to visit friends for a few days. Then we will look at the weather map to decide whether we continue west on I-40 or travel south-west on I-30, I-20 and I-10. We are in no rush to get home but we have observed that, like a horse heading for the barn, we seem to move faster going west.

When we planned our trip to see New England’s fall colors we didn’t realize that one of the colors would be white… as in snow! We enjoyed a scenic and colorful journey through Ohio, New York and Vermont. Our timing couldn’t have been better to see the fall foliage at its peak. The daytime temperatures were warm in the sun and brisk at night. Then we arrived in New Hampshire. It was October 12, ColumbusDay, historically the day the colors peak in that area of the world. And they were spectacular! We meandered along Highway 302, drove the scenic Bear Notch Road and experienced the glorious Kancamagus Highway. Brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and greens appeared to glow in the warm sunshine. Our long journey was rewarded by this one day!

That was October 12th. On October 13th we awoke to a winter wonderland. A totally unexpected fall color… white! A light blanket of snow covered everything. Beautiful but cold. It rained on and off for the next five days and temperatures never exceeded 40 degrees during the day and fell into the 20s at night. According to the newscasters we were experiencing the coldest fall in the last 30 years. Weren’t we lucky.

We spent four of those days dry-camping next to my cousin’s horse pasture while we visited relatives. No electrical hookup meant no electric heater. We relied upon our propane fueled forced-air furnace to keep us warm. It did a great job but the furnace fan was kept busy day and night and drew a fair share of our available battery power. That would have been an opportune time to observe how well our new solar panels would replenish our batteries. But, with overcast skies, the panels had very little sunlight to work with. We were forced to run our generator a couple hours each morning to recharge our batteries. Maybe when we are in Yuma…

For those of you who plan on being leaf-peepers next year… a few things to consider. Campground reservations might be advisable, especially around Columbus Day. Be prepared for huge crowds at attractions like the Norman Rockwell Museum, Shelburne Museum and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. And, of course, those two-lane highways will be lined up with tourists… and, like you, they won't be looking where they are going either. But then, viewing New England’s fall foliage when they are peaking is an experience you will never forget.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 7, 2009 Post

What’s New With Us:
Fall Colors, Gypsy Gathering Rally, No More Seminars, Molly Update.


Fall Foilage. We are on our way to New England to experience the fall colors. This photo was taken near Binghamton in upper New York State. The colors in New England traditionally reach their peak around Columbus Day (October 12). Looks like we are going to arrive just in time.

It’s Over! The Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally is over. And it was a good one. Great location, informative seminars, relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Vicki and I presented two seminars – “Alaska, The Ultimate RV Adventure” and “RV Travel and Camping Tips”. We had great, responsive audiences at both of them.

Nick and Terry Russell know what it takes to put together a successful rally. They have experienced rallies as attendees, vendors and seminar presenters. So now, as rally producers, they understand the expectations, needs and interests of rally participants. Their Western Gypsy Gathering Rally takes place in Yuma, Arizona at the Yuma County Fairgrounds, March 8 – 12, 2010. The weather and temperature is pleasant in Yuma at that time of year and the $110.00 per rig rally fee includes four nights of camping. You can’t go wrong by attending.

It’s Over! Our days of traveling from one event to another and presenting seminars are over. We have been presenting RV lifestyle seminars at RV shows, rallies and educational events since 1989. For years now that has involved making two annual coast-to-coast speaking circuits. It wasn’t unusual for us to drive our motorhome 20,000 miles a year to participate in 15-20 events. We met a lot of wonderful people, made some great friends, and had uncountable adventures. We loved it!

Along the way we discovered a number of places we wanted to explore but our work schedule forced us to move on. We promised ourselves that some day we would return. That day has arrived.

Our future RV travels, instead of taking us from one speaking venue to the next, will focus more on places to go, people to see and things to see and do. We hope to share our RV adventures and observations in our future columns. We’re not ruling out presenting seminars altogether. If the circumstances are right we may find ourselves on an occasional platform. But we are not going to actively pursue any speaking opportunities.

The Inevitable. It seems that every time we take a long trip we end up with our motorhome in a repair shop. Its not a matter of if but when the inevitable will occur. The front suspension on our motorhome experienced a boo-boo. That resulted in both front tires needing replacement in addition to an eight-hour repair job. We lucked out. The folks at Mainline Truck and Trailer in Bedford, Ohio had the facilities and the skills to do the job.

Molly Update. Molly has adapted very well to being an RVing dog. She is quite comfortable whether in the motorhome, a campground or roadside rest area. I, however, am still adjusting to owning an RVing dog. At least to an RVing dog that has a rigid morning routine. No matter what time zone we are in, Molly wakes up at 6:50 am and insists on visiting the powder room. NOW! And since going potty involves my half of the dog, I am the one Molly awakens at 6:52 am. It begins with me feeling her staring at me. Of course I ignore that annoyance. Then Molly proceeds to make a mumbling noise that can only be described as muttering. If or when muttering isn’t successful, I feel a cold nose nuzzle my neck and it isn’t Vicki. That usually does the trick (Molly emits a sharp bark if it doesn’t). I get out of bed, stumble into some clothes and take her into the brisk outside morning air. Molly attends to business, returns to the motorhome, goes into the bedroom, curls up on the floor and goes back to sleep. By now I am wide awake. This dog is going to outlive me. I am doomed to getting up at 7:00 am every morning for the rest of my life!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

What’s New With Us:

Greetings from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We left Huntington Beach, California on Labor Day Monday and zoomed past Los Angeles International Airport at 65 miles per hour about 10:000 am. Sometimes holiday traffic (or lack of it) can be an advantage.

Our RV lifestyle is changing. We plan to spend more time visiting our National Parks and dry-camping in government campgrounds. So on Wednesday we had a two-panel solar system installed on our motorhome by AMsolar in Springfield, Oregon. AMsolar is owned by our good friends Greg and Deborah Holder. Greg is the go-to guy when it comes to installing solar on RVs. He designs, builds, sells and installs solar equipment specifically for the needs of RVers.

I pulled our motorhome into the service bay of their installation facility at 8:30 am. Three technicians went to work and had the entire job finished by 5:00 pm. It was obvious from the get-go these guys knew what they were doing. That knowledge made it easier to watch as they drilled holes in our roof and cabinetry in order to run the wiring and install the monitors. They did a neat, clean job. You can read more about Greg, Deborah and AMsolar on their website.

We came to Couer d’Alene to visit with Margie Maxwell. Margies husband, Gaylord, the founder of Life on Wheels, passed away a year ago. Margie invited Clyde and Peggy Waterman, Chuck and MaryLou Thompson and us to dinner. We sat around and gossiped about all the other Life on Wheels instructors who were not in the room. The next day Margie and Vicki did their best to play all the slot machines at a local casino.

Molly, our trusty RV dog, celebrated her 1st birthday on August 8th. She has adapted very nicely to traveling and living in an RV as well as going potty in roadside rest areas and campgrounds. I have become a bonafide RV dog owner. Right down to always having a plastic bag in my pocket.

From here we will meander east to Ohio where we will attend a wedding and then present seminars at Nick and Terry Russell’s Gypsy Gathering Rally.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 25, 2009

In This Post:

What’s New With Us: Vicki’s Birthday - Our Motorhome

Brief Article: Losing A Wallet

Vicki’s Favorite Recipes: Cucumber Dill Salad


What’s New With Us:

Vicki’s birthday was August 18th. But she managed to stretch the celebration over a full week. One evening our son Pat and his son, Daniel, invited us to their house for a birthday dinner, cake and ice cream. On another night our son Sean and his family took us out to dinner at Don Jose’s and followed it up with cupcakes and ice cream. Then Vicki’s dad took us to a restaurant for a birthday dinner. Add to that all the phone calls, cards and e-mails and Vicki was a happy person.

Our motorhome is almost 12 years old. As some of you know, for the past few years we have been slowly but surely refurbishing and upgrading it. A cabinet has been installed under the dash, sliding shelves installed in the kitchen cabinets, drawers built under the couch, and a head-whacking TV cabinet replaced with a shallower cabinet and a new flat-screen television.

Recently, we took a hard look at the motorhome’s exterior. Twelve years of sunlight had oxidized the cream colored gelcoat into a chalk-white surface. 200,000 miles and a number of attack trees had inflicted more than a few battle scars on the fiberglass skin. A sudden encounter with a roll of carpet on the highway and, later, a box of plumbing materials falling out of a truck, put cracks in the Lexan plastic shield that protected the front of the rig. And, during our most recent trip to Alaska, a piece of a wheel well was damaged when the edge of a rain-soaked road collapsed under the weight of our right-rear tires. Our motorhome looked like it had “been there, done that” and then some.

“How much to repair and paint the whole rig?” we asked. “About $17,000.00, maybe more.” was the reply. We were talking to Ron Campbell, the owner of Orange Coast Auto Body and RV in Fountain Valley, CA. Then Ron suggested an alternative. He would remove the front shield, fill and paint the resulting holes, repair and paint the wheel-well damage, spot-paint where needed, buff the oxidation away and then wax and polish the entire rig. For “only” a few thousand dollars.

We had asked professional detailers in the past if they could remove the oxidation and restore the cream-colored gloss. They said it couldn’t be done. “Leave it for a couple of days and I’ll demonstrate what we can do on the engine access door on the back wall of the motorhome”. We did. He did. We saw. He got the job. A week later the entire motorhome looked like new. The photo shows the new mirror-like surface.

Next project is the installation of a solar system. In a couple of weeks we will go to AMsolar in Springfield, Oregon. Our friends and solar gurus, Greg and Deb Holder, will do the installation. Look for a detailed description in this “Blog” and in a future Highways magazine column.

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Losing A Wallet
by Joe and Vicki Kieva

Do you know what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen? Who would you notify? How would you get along until the contents were replaced?

Take a look at the contents of your wallet. In addition to those cute pictures of your kids and grandkids you'll probably find cash, credit cards, driver’s license, Social Security card, health insurance card, library card, discount cards, membership cards, telephone calling card, and important phone numbers. The contents of your wallet provide you with the information you need to accomplish everyday tasks.

The contents of your wallet can also provide a thief with all the information they need to steal your identity, run up bills in your name and destroy your credit.

You can minimize or even prevent this kind of damage by preparing a list of the contents of your wallet and the phone numbers to call if your wallet is lost or stolen.

First, weed out and update the contents of your wallet. Get rid of those expired cards, old receipts and out-of-date discount coupons. And, think about it, is there any reason for you to carry your Social Security card in your wallet?

Next, place the contents of your wallet on a copying machine and make two copies of each side of your cards and documents. The front of your credit cards provide the account number. The back has an 800 number to report the card lost or stolen. The phone numbers may not be legible on the photocopy, so make a notation of them on the copies with a pen. While you are at it, make a note on the photocopies of the phone numbers you should call to replace each of the other documents (driver's license, membership cards, etc.).

The photocopies should also include the telephone numbers of the three national credit reporting organizations:

Equifax (800) 525-6285
Experian (TRW) (800)
Trans Union (800) 680-7289
and the Social Security Administration's fraud line (800) 269-0271

Put one of the copies in a secure place at home and the other in a safe place in your RV. You don't want the information on the photocopies to get into the wrong hands. Now, if you do lose your wallet, you can quickly cancel its contents, protect your credit, and arrange replacements by referring to the photocopy. You will also have a duplicate of any important papers or lists you carry in your wallet.

If your wallet does get lost or stolen, here's what you want to do:

Notify the credit card companies to cancel your credit cards. This should prevent anyone from using them.

Notify the three national credit reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. That way, any business that checks your credit knows they have to contact you by telephone before they authorize new credit or open new accounts in your name.
Notify the Social Security Administration to prevent identification fraud.

File a police report in the jurisdiction where the wallet was lost or stolen. Not only is it the first step in an investigation, it proves diligence on your part to the credit providers.

By the way, when you cancel the credit cards in your wallet you are also canceling those same credit cards in your spouse’s wallet. Your credit card company will quickly issue you new cards and send them to your home address. That’s fine if you are at home. But, what if you are miles from home on an RVing vacation trip? Will you be able to continue, even temporarily, without your credit cards?

Here's a thought. Most couples have both a MasterCard and a Visa card. Have one spouse carry the MasterCard but not the Visa card, and the other spouse carry the Visa card but not the MasterCard. If you have to cancel the credit cards in one wallet, you can continue to use the still-valid cards in the other wallet. If this is not convenient, or you do not have a travel companion, perhaps you can stash a backup credit card (that neither spouse carries) in your RV.

Hopefully, you won't need that precautionary list. But, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you'll be prepared.

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Vicki's Favorite Recipes

Cucumber with Dill Salad (Quick and Easy)
(From Vicki's book "My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes")

This is a pleasant change from the usual lettuce salad.

2 medium cucumbers, sliced about 1/8" thick
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh dill, snipped
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1. Place cucumber slices in a colander over a plate; sprinkle with salt and toss. Let stand for 15 minutes stirring once. Rinse and drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine the dill, vinegar, sugar and pepper. Add cucumbers and toss to coat.

3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Cucumber slices soaked in salted ice water for 30 minutes will make them extra crisp. After crisping, drain the soak water and rinse the cukes.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 14, 2009 Issue

What’s New With Us: Happy Birthday – Anticipation – Rally Seminars

Article: Personal Security – Guns

Vicki’s Favorite Recipe: Antipasto Salad


What’s New With Us:

Happy Birthday! I hit the big 70 on July 7th. Vicki arranged a great birthday party for me. In attendance were my kids, grandkids, brothers and sister-in-laws and Vicki’s dad. We gorged ourselves on barbecued baby-back-ribs and chicken, Vicki’s infamous potato salad, baked beans and a bunch of different salads. It was washed down with beer, wine and soft drinks. My gifts consisted of Tequila, candy and peanut brittle. After I blew out the candle on the birthday cake, Vicki announced that she wasn’t sure she wanted to sleep with somebody’s 70-year-old grandfather. Okay, no Tequila for her!


Anticipation is a big part of the fun when planning an RV trip. During the past 12 months, due to circumstances beyond our control, we added less than 2,000 miles to our motorhome’s odometer. That is a far cry from the 20,000 to 30,000 annual miles we have traditionally traveled.

But… this September we hit the road again. We could do it sooner but, while July and August inflict heat and humidity upon the rest of the nation, Huntington Beach, California enjoys temps in the mid to upper 70s with soft afternoon seabreezes. We’ll just enjoy the summer here, thank you.

Our fall plans have us leaving home after Labor day. We will go north to Portland Oregon. Turn east for northern Idaho, and then travel along the northern tier of states to New England for the fall colors. Along the way we will make a point of visiting with friends and relatives.


AND… WE ARE GOING TO PRESENT SEMINARS at Nick and Terry Russell’s Gypsy Gathering Rally in Celina Ohio. The rally is being held at the Mercer County Fairgrounds just west of downtown Celina from September 28 through October 2. To read about the rally Click Here . After reading about (and, of course, registering for) the rally, switch to Nick’s Blog. But, I have to warn you, it’s addictive.

We will be presenting our popular seminar, “Alaska, The Ultimate RV Adventure”. This is a “how-to seminar” where we tell you what you can really expect in the way of road conditions, accommodations and services along the Alaska Highway. Vicki does a dynamite job of explaining how to arrange passage on the Alaska Ferry System. Then we tell you how to prepare yourself and your RV for this great adventure. We will also be presenting our “RV Travel and Camping Tips” seminar. We offer tips for dealing with holding tank odors, invading critters, condensation and more. It is a fast-moving, fun seminar. This is our only public appearance this year. Don’t miss it!


Personal Security - Guns

Do you feel safe out there? Do you carry a gun?

Joe: Vicki and I are asked these and similar questions at most of our seminar presentations and in many of the letters we receive.

What these folks are really asking is "Aren't you afraid of becoming crime victims?" and "What can we do to protect our valuables and ourselves?"

Our standard reply is that we feel just as safe in our RV as we do at home. Maybe safer.
I'm not going to tell you that enjoying your RV is without risks. RVers can be victims of crime just like anyone else. But I will tell you that when you are RVing you are in a relatively low-crime neighborhood.

There are a number of logical reasons for this.

The activities and attractions that appeal to RVers are not usually located in high-crime areas.
Most RV parks and campgrounds are located on the outskirts of cities and towns. A bothersome commute for most criminals.

RVers generally park in close proximity to other RVers. There always seems to be at least one person sitting outside who seems interested in everything that's going on around them. Non-campers are pretty easy to spot and, as a result, attract attention to themselves. And you never know when a ranger, camp-host or strolling camper will pass by. These are people who could come to an RVer's aid or act as witnesses. Criminals prefer to avoid the inconvenience involved with getting caught.

It's difficult to establish patterns of movement or occupancy in and around RVs. We come and go unpredictably. It's also not easy to determine who or what may be inside an RV. It could be a lineman for the Rams, a Great Dane or a little, old lady with a big, new gun. Criminals have the same aversion to pain as everyone else.

An RV can be more difficult to break into than a house. (Those of us who have managed to lock ourselves out of an RV can attest to this.) And it certainly can't be done inconspicuously. Again, that getting caught thing.

Finally, RVers are perceived by many as bloodthirsty, gun-loving, rednecks just itching for an opportunity to blow someone's head off. An image I don't agree with but see no point in discouraging.

Essentially, the criminal is an opportunist looking for an easy target, a quick grab and a fast getaway. RVers and their lifestyle generally do not present this kind of opportunity.

So compared to how we feel at home, yes, we do feel very safe while we are traveling and camping in our RV.

Vicki: We are just as cautious when we are RVing as when we are at home. Exterior doors, windows and storage lockers are always locked when not in use. When we had a Class C motorhome we had to make an extra effort to remember to lock the driving compartment’s doors. We also lock our doors while driving.

Hitch locks on trailers are an inexpensive theft deterrent. We don't leave anything outside overnight or while we are absent unless it's secured to the RV, picnic table or a tree by a lock and chain.

Along the same lines, we avoid tempting thieves by not displaying cash, cameras, computers, cellular phones or other possessions.

We keep cash, jewelry and other valuables secured and hidden inside the RV. A dog can be a good theft deterrent, so can a burglar alarm. Some RVers install additional exterior lights.

Over the years, we've met many women traveling alone in their RVs. They are, definitely, among the most creative RVers, especially when it comes to deterrents to would-be intruders.

One evening, after sharing our campfire with a woman traveling alone, we watched as she returned to her rig. Before she went inside, she opened an outside cupboard and pulled out a huge dog dish. Then came a very large collar attached to a hefty chain. She set the dog dish on the ground, attached the chain to her step, turned around and waved goodnight.

Can you imagine the would-be intruder targeting that RV and then seeing all that paraphernalia that obviously belonged to a huge dog? Especially when he realized the dog didn't even have a collar on? And was the dog inside or outside?

Another single woman we met told us she went to a war surplus store and bought a pair of the biggest, most well-worn boots she could find. Before retiring each night she sets the boots outside her door. Would you want to be confronted by the owner of those oversize boots?

Joe: We frequently "boondock" during our travels. Our definition of "boondocking", by the way, is spending one or more nights in our RV at a spot that is not a designated campsite.

Obviously, our personal safety is uppermost in our minds when making the decision to "boondock". Vicki and I have "boondocked" in friends driveways, empty lots, quiet streets, roadside rests, truck stops and the parking lots of stores, churches and police stations. Years ago we "boondocked" to save the cost of a campsite. Now, we "boondock" only when we can't locate a convenient or acceptable campground. It's not unusual, however, to find us "boondocking" in the parking lot of an RV show where we are presenting our seminars.

And, of course, we're always on the lookout for more friends with long driveways.

Vicki: We have three rules about "boondocking". Obey the law. Seek permission. Apply common sense.

We look for a "boondock" site that is well lit and doesn't make us an easy target of opportunity.
We never park alone. Joe and I prefer to park in the company of other RVers. He claims the best spot is between two RVs. One with a bumper sticker that proclaims "Insured by Smith & Wesson" and the other with a bumper sticker boasting membership in the National Rifle Association.

We avoid or leave any place where we are not comfortable about our safety. Even if we can't explain why we feel that way.

Joe: People we don't know frequently ask if we carry a gun in our RV. I'm concerned that if I answer "yes", they may be tempted to steal it and if I answer "no" they will think we are an easy target. So, I politely respond, "If you really want to know, kick in my door and step inside". Everyone then assumes I am a bloodthirsty, gun-loving, redneck just itching for an opportunity to blow someone's head off. An image I don't agree with but see no point in discouraging.

There's a lot of discussion these days about carrying a gun in an RV. I'd like to contribute my observations. The purpose of using a gun for self-protection is to kill someone. Hopefully, the bad guy will back off when he sees you have a gun but, ultimately, you had better be willing to pull the trigger. If you're not prepared to take someone's life, perhaps you should think twice about carrying a gun.

Police officers receive hours and hours of professional training about the use of deadly force. And they occasionally make fatal mistakes. If you do decide to carry a gun, please take a thorough training course in how and when to use it. More importantly, learn when not to use it. After all, I might be parked next door to you some night.

By the way, if you decide to carry a handgun in your RV, be sure to familiarize yourself with the handgun laws of the cities, counties, states and nations you plan on visiting.

Vicki: Generally speaking, the RV world is a low crime neighborhood. Obviously, Joe and I feel quite comfortable out there. Our comfort level comes from knowing that RVers are generally not perceived as a target of opportunity. We also use common sense to avoid becoming crime victims. And then there's this odd perception people have about my husband that he sees no point in discouraging.

Enjoy The Journey!


Recipe (from My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes)

Antipasto Salad (Quick and Easy)

This is one of our favorite summer main-dish salads. Be creative. Use whatever types of meat, cheese and vegetables you like. Gauge the amounts to the number of people you are serving.

When I am making a main-dish salad, I usually start with the lettuce and plan on two big handfuls per person. Then I add the other ingredients in proportion to the lettuce.

Lettuce (We prefer a combination of romaine and iceberg )
Red onion, sliced
Cucumbers, sliced
Bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
Tomato, chopped
Salami (or other cold cuts), cut into julienne strips
Provolone (or other cheese), cut into julienne strips
Marinated mushrooms (from the local deli)
Olives (any kind you like, or a combination)
Artichoke hearts, marinated (from the local deli)
Italian salad dressing

1. Assemble all salad ingredients.
2. Add dressing, toss and serve.

Return to RV Know How


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 16, 2009 Issue

We have just returned from a 17-day bus tour of the British Isles. Originally, we intended to rent a motorhome and explore England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. But for a variety of reasons, one of them being to avoid the stress of learning how to drive on the left side of the road, we decided to book a bus tour. It was an interesting, first-time experience.

We spent some time with Barbara Perry, a travel agent with the Automobile Club. We told her that leg room on both the plane and the bus was very important to us. She suggested business class on our 11-hour non-stop, flights and steered us to a tour company whose 49-passenger buses had their seats configured to give 40 people lots of leg room.

Round trip, business class airfare between London and Los Angeles cost more than the 17-day bus tour but it was worth it. The seats were bigger and more comfortable than economy seats and there was plenty of room to stretch our legs. Other perks like express check-in, express security check and a comfortable waiting lounge made the airport experience more tolerable.

We really lucked out with our fellow tour passengers. Not a stinker in the bunch. Everyone was friendly and considerate. Our group had 40 people. Most were either Australians or Canadians. There was only one other American couple.

The weather really cooperated. We were prepared for cool, wet weather. Instead, we had only three days of drizzle. The rest were sunny and warm.

Highlights of the tour included London, Windsor Castle, medieval York, Edinburgh Castle, the highlands and lakes of Scotland, Dublin, Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle (yes, I kissed the Blarney Stone), the Roman Baths and of course, Stonehenge. Our bus traveled some 2,200 miles.

The good news … I didn’t have to drive; I was just a sight-seeing passenger. The bad news … we couldn’t linger in places where we would have liked to stay longer and we had to linger in a few places that just didn’t appeal to us. But, that’s group travel.

Living out of a suitcase, sleeping in strange beds and eating unusual food, while considered part of the adventure by some, did not particularly appeal to me. I still prefer traveling first class in the comfort and convenience of our RV.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day - 2009

Never Forget

Where Valor Lies


Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 16, 2009 Issue

Our friend, John Ward, passed away May 13th. He died just one day shy of his 80th birthday. John was an RV driving instructor with the RV Driving School for many years. We first got to know him in the year 2000 when he gave Vicki and me driving instructions. After having the privilege of spending two days with John we became John Ward fans and considered ourselves fortunate to be his friend. John had a quiet, easy-going, everything-is-under-control manner that made you feel good to just be in his presence. Here is the article we wrote about our first encounter with John.

RV Driving Lessons

Dear Joe and Vicki: I want to take lessons to learn how to tow our new trailer. My husband feels confident in his ability to handle an RV and thinks that lessons for him would be a waste of money. Do you know anything about the RV driving lessons we see advertised in the magazines?

Joe: Before you fly a plane, you take flying lessons. When you want to go scuba diving, you take diving lessons. We take lessons for skiing, golf and calligraphy. We think nothing of getting professional instruction on any subject in which we wish to become proficient ... except driving an RV.

Somehow, we think that because we have been driving a car or pickup truck for the last
thirty or forty years we are automatically qualified to aim 30,000 pounds (or more) of steel and plastic down the highway at speeds in excess of 65 miles an hour.

I have driven a couple of hundred thousand miles in a variety of RVs over the last 35 years. Learned everything I know through experience. And, except for a couple of encounters with some sneaky campground attack trees, my driving record is accident-free.

So, last month, when my bride announced she was going to take RV driving lessons, I was surprised when she "suggested" that I join her.

Vicki: Joe and I joke about our traditional "blue" jobs and "pink" jobs. Driving the RV, dumping holding tanks and rig maintenance have always been his blue jobs. Meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping have been my pink jobs.

Occasionally, I have driven our RVs. Usually on open stretches of highways and for brief periods of time. Occasionally, Joe has helped with the inside chores (also for brief periods of time).

Both of us admit to being just a little bit intimidated by the other's jobs. "Joe, are you sure the motorhome will fit between those cars?" "Vicki, why can't I put my red tee shirt in with my white socks?"

But I have observed women, tiny women who could hardly see over the steering wheel, confidently maneuvering their large motorhomes and fifth-wheels through narrow streets after taking RV driving lessons. If they could do it, I reasoned, so could I.

Joe reluctantly agreed to join me on the condition he would not also be expected to take cooking lessons.

Joe: We contacted Dick Reed's RV Driving School (1-530-878-0111 or We have become personally acquainted with Dick and his instructors over the last few years. Vicki and I have observed them teaching others to drive. We have also heard the rave reviews of their students.

Dick said Vicki and I would not be unique. Most of his student couples consist of a husband with lots of RV driving experience, and a wife with relatively little time behind the wheel.

Dick assigned John Ward to be our instructor. John has been teaching over-the-road truckers how to drive ever since the teamsters quit using oxen. He has also been an instructor with the RV Driving School for over four years.

John arranged to meet us at a dirt parking lot on the first day of our two-day program. He began by performing a safety check of our motorhome. John explained how, why and when we should conduct the same inspection.

Next came a non-technical description of how a diesel motorhome's air-brake system works, how to operate it and how to conduct an air-brake safety check. I wish someone had shown me this about 50,000 miles ago.

Driver's seat and steering wheel were adjusted for comfort followed by a discussion about mirror adjustment and how to use them. I picked up a number of valuable tips here.

John told me to drive the motorhome in as tight a circle possible. He pointed to the tracks in the dirt made by the rear tires of the motorhome and then to the tracks made by the rear tires of the towed car. Now we knew for certain where our towed vehicle's tires would go when we made a tight turn. We also measured how far to the left and right the rear corners of the rig would swing during a sharp turn. No more knocking over curbside mailboxes.

The remainder of the two days was spent with Vicki and me taking turns learning and practicing turns, backing and maneuvering our motorhome (both with and without the car in tow). We drove on residential streets, county roads, state highways and federal interstates. We drove up and down steep, winding, mountain grades. We encountered roads narrowed by construction projects.

All of our driving was accompanied by John's constant easy-going dialogue of helpful hints, constructive criticism and enthusiastic encouragement. We were constantly benefiting from his considerable knowledge and expertise.

With 35 years of experience under my belt, I considered myself fairly accomplished behind the wheel of an RV. But under John's tutelage I picked up a number of tips and techniques that added to my confidence and competence. I guess it really is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Vicki: By the second day of instruction, I was feeling pretty good about myself. John had shown me how to gauge just the right time to start that tight right turn by picking a reference spot on the inside of the motorhome. A couple of times, he told me to stop right in the middle of the turn to look out the window and see if I was still in the correct lane. I always was. That gave me a lot of confidence and surprised me that the turns didn't have to be wider.

I also learned how to pick a reference spot on the dashboard to use as an "aiming" device to center the RV in the driving lane. Most people have a tendency to drive too far right in the lane; I was no exception.

In addition to making right turns, left turns and backing up, I also made a three-point turn in the middle of a block. Piece of cake! I felt like I was 16 years old again, learning to drive a car.

And then John announced that I would drive through town traffic, travel both directions over a very curvy, two-lane mountain road with a 6% grade, and then get on the freeway. All of this with the car attached!

I went up and down that mountain road with no problem. I learned how to watch the tachometer to determine when to down-shift and how to slow the motorhome with the exhaust brake,

My hands tightened on the steering wheel when I encountered oncoming trucks on the curves of that narrow mountain road. John said their hands probably tightened too. And then there was a stretch of road construction where I had to pull off and drive on the right shoulder. Yes!

Finally, to end our last day, I pulled onto the I-10 freeway during Los Angeles city rush hour. The I-10 is one of our busiest local interstates. I thought I would be really nervous, but I wasn't at all. I found myself calmly making lane changes and not being bothered by aggressive drivers. I had developed the confidence to know that I could do it. And it did not hurt to hear John's calm, low-key voice. I couldn't help thinking, "I must be doing O.K. He doesn't seem worried!"

I can't believe the feeling of exhilaration--the high that I was on -- realizing that I could do this. I can't remember when I've had so much fun. (Sorry, Joe!)

At this point, I have the confidence and basic skills I need to drive our motorhome. Now, it's practice, practice, practice. Driving the RV is no longer going to be exclusively a "blue" job.

Joe: RV driving lessons are not a waste of money. The fee for our two days of instruction was less than the cost of three oil and filter changes on our motorhome. In return, Vicki and I spent two days benefiting from John’s four decades of accumulated professional driving wisdom and experience.

We were also informed by our insurance company that, upon receipt of a copy of the driving school's certificate of completion, they will give us a 5% discount on our motorhome's insurance premium. That discount will eventually repay the cost of our driving lessons.

And, when the government eventually gets around to requiring us to demonstrate our RV driving proficiency in order to get the appropriate drivers license ... we'll be ready.

Vicki: Now, about those cooking lessons ...

We'll miss you, John.

To learn more about John Ward click here

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 12, 2009 Issue

In This Issue:

What's New With Us: RVing California's Central Coast

Article: Stretching Holding Tank Space

Recipe: Easiest Ever Corn on the Cob


What's New With Us:

We have just returned from a 10-day RV trip along the lower portion of the central California coast.

First stop was Jalama Beach Campground . Jalama is a somewhat remote county park north of Santa Barbara. The campground is located on the beach and is the only sign of civilization for miles around. A few of the 98 campsites have electric hookups but most do not have any kind of hookups. There is however, in addition to restrooms and showers, a dump station and a place to fill your water tank. We especially liked the lack of a cellular phone signal; no incoming calls and no having to respond to anyone. And, just to make our sense of isolation complete, we did not use our satellite TV. We were out of touch and loving it!

This was our first dry-camping experience since installing our four 6-volt coach batteries (see March 19 issue). We operated the 12-volt lights, water pump and furnace fan for five days. We also used the inverter to provide power for our electric coffee maker. The batteries were still at 70% capacity at the end of five days (let's see, the batteries cost $500 and, so far, we have gotten five days use out of them, hmmm...).

The tides cooperated while we were there. We enjoyed almost isolated walks along wide, hard-packed stretches of sand in the mornings and late afternoons. Once out of the campground area we turned Molly loose. Happiness is... a dog that can run free on an endless stretch of beach.

Our next stop was the Pismo Sands RV Park in Oceano, just south of Pismo Beach. Designers of RV parks should take a look at the layout of this RV park. Wide streets and long, easy-access, pull-thru sites with full hookups make this an inviting place to stay. We used this park as a base-camp while we toured some of our old haunts in Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Cambria and San Simeon.

Heading south towards home we stayed at oceanfront McGrath State Park for a couple of dry-camping nights. No hookups but nice restrooms and showers plus a dump station and fresh water source. McGrath is just a short distance from the Affinity and Good Sam Club headquarters in Ventura. We used the opportunity to touch base with some of our friends who work there and to have lunch with our editor, John Sullaway, and the lady who runs the show, Sue Bray.

Just an observation here - - Jalama and McGrath, being on the beach, are in high demand during the warmer months , especially during school vacations. We prefer to visit these spots during the "off-season" times of the year.

Our next adventure is our bus tour of the British Isles.


Stretching Holding Tank Space

Dear Joe and Vicki: We enjoy camping self-contained in government campgrounds. Our trailer has a 50 gallon fresh-water tank, 30 gallon black-water tank and a 30 gallon gray-water tank. We’ve developed an easy method for refilling our fresh-water tank and our black-water tank is more than adequate but it doesn’t take long for us fill the gray-water tank. Any suggestions for “stretching” our gray-water capacity would be appreciated.

Joe: Wouldn’t it be great if the RV manufacturers caught on to the fact that we need more gray-water capacity than black-water capacity. Here are a few ideas to minimize the flow of water to your gray water tank:

Keep in mind that anything you can do to conserve water will also conserve holding tank space.

Use the campground’s restroom and shower facilities whenever possible.

If you shower in your RV, take a “navy” shower. Using the control valve on the shower head, turn on the water and use a minimal amount to get yourself wet, turn the water off while you soap, turn the water on just long enough to rinse off.

Shave with a rechargeable, battery-operated shaver rather than using a blade razor and water.

Vicki: Use paper plates to cut down on the number of dishes that need washing. Rather than pre-rinsing the dishes, wipe them off with a paper towel before washing. Wash dishes only once a day.

Frequently, when camping self-contained, I put two plastic dish pans in our double sink to wash dishes. One holds the soapy water, the other the rinse water. When I’m through washing dishes, instead of emptying the dish pans into the sink drain where the water would go into the gray-water tank, I pour them into the toilet where it goes into the black-water tank. This conserves gray-water tank space and adds much needed liquid to the black-water tank.

We’ve seen campers using waste-water collectors called “tote-tanks.” The idea is to collect gray-water in the tote-tank. When the tank is full, rather than moving the RV, you only have to take the tank to the disposal station,. They come in various sizes and even have wheels that make it easier to tote them.

Eventually, you will have to take your RV to a disposal station. That's what we consider "roughing it"

For more tips on RVing check out our book: "RV Travel and Camping Tips"

Recipe: (from Vicki's book: "My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes")

Easiest Ever Corn on the Cob
(Quick and Easy)

I have always cooked corn on the cob the traditional way. Boil the water and add the corn. Then one evening while camping at Yellowstone with our friends, Marilyn and Sandy, Marilyn made this "easiest ever" corn on the cob. Nowadays, this is the only way I cook corn --no pans to wash, absolutely no clean up. And, the best part, the corn is tender and delicious.

1. Husk and wash desired number of ears of corn.

2. Run each ear under water to moisten.

3. Place 2 ears at a time in a plastic bag, tightly closed.

4. Microwave 1 minute per ear on "High".


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Monday, April 6, 2009

April 6, 2009 Issue

In This Issue:

What’s New With Us: Interest in Alaska - Travel Plans - RV Service & Repair

Brief Article: Familiar Places

Vicki’s Favorite Recipe: Oven French Fries

What’s New With Us

Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s the article we wrote in the April issue of Highways magazine about RVing to Alaska, or maybe it’s a combination of both. But, judging by the way orders are pouring in for our Alaska DVDs and the RVing Alaska e-book, there are a lot of folks dreaming and scheming about RVing to Alaska. We definitely think that this trip should be on every RVer’s “bucket list” (things to do before you die).

Speaking of bucket lists; Vicki and I have just signed up for a 17-day bus tour of the British isles. We are not strangers to tour buses. We always try to take a bus tour of the big cities if it is our first visit. Bus tours go to the “must see” tourist spots, provide an introduction to the city and give us an idea of the places we might want to revisit on our own. These tours, however, have never been any longer than a single day and were always in conjunction with our staying in a local RV park.

The British isle tour will be our first guided bus tour. It will have us traveling in airplanes and buses, sleeping in hotels, eating at restaurants, living out of suitcases, and adhering to someone else’s itinerary. All of this with the same people all day, every day. I’m told this is the way civilized people travel.


We live in Huntington Beach, California. We tell people that Huntington Beach is just south of Los Angeles or just north of San Diego; depending upon whether or not we are trying to impress them. Anyway, there are a lot of RVs in this part of the state. I would guess the majority of them are motorhomes. That being the case, you would think it would be easy to find skilled, conscientious RV service technicians and mechanics to work on motorhomes in the Huntington Beach area. That has not been my experience.

Recently, I called Colton Truck Terminal in Colton, California to make what would be my first appointment to have some work done on my motorhome. It was a Tuesday. The helpful, responsive person who answered the phone said I could bring my RV in the next day.

Wednesday morning I was greeted by a service writer who was helpful, knowledgeable and super professional. From the way he spoke, it was obvious he was familiar with the make and model of my motorhome. Wow! At ten years of age and with 200,000 miles on the odometer, I had a long list of things I wanted checked, serviced and adjusted on the chassis and drive train. The service writer, understanding that I intend to add another 200,000 miles, also had a few helpful suggestions.

Friday morning I received a call informing me my motorhome was ready to be picked up. And it was! All the services I had requested were completed. They presented me with an itemized bill that detailed everything that had been done. The charges for labor, parts, fluids and filters were reasonable. The bill also included the observations of the mechanic who had performed the work (he even checked a few things I had not thought of). Wow! And, the interior of the motorhome around the engine compartment was clean. Again, wow!

So, what’s the big deal about my story? I have been to any number of repair facilities across the country and received roughly the same treatment I received from Colton Truck Terminal. The big deal is that Colton Truck Terminal is 60 miles and almost 1-1/2 hours of congested interstate driving from Huntington Beach. And I had to drive that far to find a repair and service facility with the knowledge and capability to handle my motorhome. But, until I find someone closer and better, I’ll take my RV there again.


Article: Familiar Places

Dear Joe and Vicki: Don't you miss the comfort of familiar surroundings when you're away from home?

Joe: Until you asked the question, we thought the reason we traveled was to escape our familiar surroundings. We thoroughly enjoy discovering and exploring new places and getting acquainted with new people. But, now that we think about it, we do find ourselves gravitating to the comfort of familiar surroundings all over the country.

Vicki: The nationwide chains and franchises have allowed the entire United States to become our neighborhood. We know, for example, that the quality and type of facilities in KOAs located all over the North American continent is pretty consistent. We can count on finding fuel islands reserved for RVers at Flying J Travel Plazas along most interstate highways and we know that the nationwide Camping World stores can repair or service our rig.

It's an unusual mall that doesn't have a Sears, Radio Shack and a Hallmark shop. Super markets with names like Kroger, Safeway, Fred Meyer, Wegman's, Harris Teeter, Food Lion and Martins offer me familiar comfort when grocery shopping. And we find Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores just about everywhere we go.

Joe: We go to Kinko's and Staples for office supplies and business services; Home Depot and Ace for hardware items; Napa and Kragen for auto parts.

My favorite neighborhood places have names like McDonald's, Cracker Barrel and Lone Star Steak House. And when I'm in the mood for international cuisine we look for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and International House of Pancakes.

Vicki: So, you see, we are never very far from the comfort of familiar surroundings but we still enjoy discovering roadside produce stands, exploring neighborhood grocery stores and browsing through mom and pop retail shops. They just seem to add to the adventure of being an RVer.

Recipe (From “My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes")

Oven French Fries

These French fries make a great last-minute side dish. I always have the ingredients available in the pantry.

3-4 medium potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 475°.

2. Scrub and vertically slice potatoes into 1/4" to 1/2" strips.

3. In a large bowl, thoroughly coat the potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

4. Spread the potatoes on a nonstick cookie sheet.

5. Bake at 475° for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn potatoes and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until tender and browned.

Makes 2-3 servings.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

March 20, 2009 Issue

About Molly

The gist of today’s e-mails is: “Yes, that’s all very fascinating (the March 19 post) but we were really interested in how Molly has been doing.”

Molly, our 7-month-old, 59 pound Golden Retriever puppy, is doing just fine. She is strong and healthy, almost full grown, and her white coat has developed a light golden hue. We haven’t taught her any cute parlor tricks but she has responded very well to basic obedience and good manners training. Molly understands and obeys the usual come, sit, lie down, stay, and, no commands.

She will also “go potty” and go to her place (bed) when told to. She is still working hard at curbing her puppy exuberance. For instance, she knows better than to jump up on people. But, if she is greeting someone she really loves, she has a rough time restraining herself. And when on a leash it takes her about ten minutes to remember it is a lot more comfortable to walk beside rather than in front of me.

Molly was spayed a couple weeks ago. Her rapid recovery was a lot harder on Vicki and me than it was on her. An identification chip that can be scanned by veterinarians was inserted under her skin while she was under the anesthetic.

Our three recent trips have helped Molly adjust to being an RV dog. Her favorite perch, when we are in a campsite, is the driver’s seat. That’s the only piece of furniture in the world she is allowed on. Our RV neighbors, by the way, appreciate that Molly is NOT a barker.

Today we are on Jerry and Arlyne Ray’s lot in Yuma, AZ. The lot is completely fenced so Jerry and Arlyne’s dog, a Sheltie named Chance, and Molly have the run of the place. Once in a great while they both stop moving at the same time.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19, 2009 Issue

In This Issue

What's New With Us:

Celebrating With Friends

"Due To The Economy"


Celebrating With Friends

Our introduction to RV Notebook carries the disclaimer “updated with whimsical irregularity” but, judging by some of the e-mails and comments we have received, some of you think we are carrying the whimsical part a bit too far.

There’s good news and bad news about our last two months. The good news is … life has not been too exciting. The bad news is … life has not been very exciting. We’ve taken a couple of brief RV trips to Yuma since New Years (see January 6th entry). We stayed at Jerry and Arlyne Ray’s lot on both occasions.

On one trip we celebrated Valentine's Day at Joe and Joanne Annuzzio’s with about eight couples. The men prepared, served and cleaned up after a very nice dinner. Joe organized everything and, recognizing that I am domestically challenged, he assigned me to opening up cans of green beans and watching them cook. Later, I got to help clear the table. Joe gave me an attaboy for my accomplishments.

This past week we have been in Yuma to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This time there were six couples. Unlike the pink jobs in life, eating corned beef and cabbage preceded and followed by a number of bottles of beer presented no challenge for me at all.

In the “Its Always Something” department … we had mechanical issues on both trips. The question is not “if,” but “when”). During our Valentine's Day trip, in the middle of the mountains, half way between San Diego and El Centro, the “Low Coolant” light started to flash. Why is it these things never happen in front of an RV repair facility? Anyway, one of the engine coolant hoses had sprung a leak. Fortunately the leak was near a fitting. There was enough slack in the hose so all I had to do was cut off the section of leaking hose and reattach the hose to the fitting. And I had sufficient spare coolant to replace what had been lost.

The St. Patrick’s Day trip revealed that our nine year old deep cycle batteries were no longer up to the job. That involved researching the pros and cons of replacing the two existing 8-D deep-cycle batteries with two more 8-Ds or switching to four 6-volt golf-cart batteries. To make a long story short I went with four 6-volt Trojan T-105 batteries wired in such a way to create the equivalent of two 12-volt batteries. Joe Annuzzio, electrical wizard, jack-of-all-trades, possessor of every tool imaginable, and, most importantly, a good friend, helped me install and wire the batteries. By the way, lead per ounce is almost as valuable as gold. Those four batteries cost me $505.00.

From here we might go to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We’re told the desert flowers are blooming and it is spectacular. On the other hand local desert temperatures have reached the upper 90’s. As far as I’m concerned, it’s too cold below 50 degrees and too hot above 85 degrees. And our dog Molly, born and bred on the coast of Southern California, appears to agree. We’ll see where “whimsy” takes us next.


Due To The Economy

The nation’s economic woes have devastated the RV industry. Many RV manufacturers and dealers have declared bankruptcy and/or gone out of business. The ripple effect has hurt those who supplied the materials, parts, appliances, furniture and services that go into manufacturing, selling and servicing RVs. Thousands of hard working folks have lost their jobs. The ripple effect has also reached Vicki and me.

As some of you know, Vicki and I have made a business of teaching classes, presenting seminars, writing and selling books and writing magazine articles. Last year we lost two of our sponsors and a couple of RV shows “due to the economy”. A little math revealed that without those shows and sponsors it would make better financial sense to restrict our seminar presentations to RV shows in the west. The good news was that, after making two coast-to-coast speaking circuits every year, we would nowhave time to do more “fun” traveling. And then, wouldn’t you know, our western RV shows informed us they had to cut back on the size of their shows to the point where they could not afford to have us present seminars. Our 2009 seminar calendar was suddenly empty. Adding to the pain is that 85% of our book and DVD sales take place at the end of our seminars. Wow! A double whammy!

Well, we thought, after 15 years of chasing RV shows, rallies and Life on Wheels conferences, maybe it's time to slow down and start practicing what we have been preaching. Besides, we can still write our monthly columns for The Good Sam Club’s “Highways” magazine, Woodall’s regional magazines, and KOA’s “KOA Kompass” internet newsletter.

Or not. Yesterday we received an e-mail from our editor at Woodall’s informing us that, effective with the April edition, the Woodall’s regional titles were being suspended indefinitely. Woodall’s had become another “due to the economy” casualty.

Fortunately, Vicki and I do not “need” the money from our speaking and writing in order to survive. I turn 70 years of age this summer and we were prepared for the time when we would no longer have the income from our RV business. So, for now, we will hunker down and weather the storm. We won’t be chasing any opportunities but, on the other hand, we won’t turn down any that float our way. We got into this business, after all, by falling backward through the door of opportunity.

In the meantime we will keep a kind thought for all those folks whose lives have been shattered “due to the economy”.


Monday, January 5, 2009

January 6, 2009 Issue

In this Issue:

What’s New With Us: Greetings From Yuma

Article: RV Show Season

Vicki's Favorite Recipes: Cheesy Garlic Bread


What's New With Us:

Happy New Year! Greetings From Yuma, AZ.

We drove our motorhome from Huntington Beach, CA to Yuma AZ on Dec. 29th. It’s only about 280 miles but we’ve had itchy wheels since October so it was an exciting journey.

Our good friends, Jerry and Arlyne Ray, are sharing their RV lot and with us. The weather has been super cooperative. Sunny days in the 70’s and brisk evenings in the 40’s.

Other good friends, Joe and Joanne Annuzio, hosted a New Year’s bash for 14 of us in the new house they built on their lot (directly across the street from Jerry and Arlyne). Moving into this house officially removes them from the ranks of full-time RVers. They join a number of our full-time RVing friends who have come in off the road during the last couple of years.

Molly, our 40- pound-plus, 4½- months-old Golden Retriever (we can almost see her grow from day to day), has learned a lot on her maiden RV voyage. In addition to traveling in a motorhome for the first time, she has been exposed and adjusted to potty-breaks at rest areas, noisy trucks and motorhomes, cold nose-to-butt greetings from strange dogs, and warm attention from even stranger humans. She is developing into a great RVing companion.

Jerry and Arlyne used to raise, train and show dogs. Arlyne has spent some time training Molly, and Molly has adopted her as a second mom. Jerry and Arlyne have taken to leaving their motorhome door open during the day so Molly can come in whenever she wants to. She entertains them with her puppy antics every time she visits.

Joe Annuzio took me on a 4-wheeling trip into the local desert and mountains. We, along with five other vehicles, retraced old wagon trails, bounced along dry, rocky creek-beds, and checked out abandoned gold and silver mines. It was a fun day. Vicki stayed in the motorhome. She read, watched movies and enjoyed her “alone” time.

Even more good friends, Gil and Elaine Feis, who own the lot next to Jerry and Arlyne, joined the Rays, Annuzios and us every evening for laughter-filled happy hours that evolved into fun dinners.

Good food, good times, good friends. It was a great start to the new year. Thanks guys, we really needed that.


Reduced prices on all DVDs and e-books!

The two Alaska DVDs have been reduced from $24.95 to $19.95 each. Or you can purchase both Alaska DVDs together for only $30.00. (See the condition of the various roads and highways)

A perfect companion to the Alaska DVDs is the e-book "RVing Alaska: Insights and Observations" for only $9.95 (reduced from $12.95). (Includes a detailed journal of a 44-day Alaskan RV trip that can be used to plan your own journey.)

Looking for a gift for the RV cook? Check out Vicki's "My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes". Good information for the cook and good eating for you.

Now available in paperback: "Full-Time RVer's Homework". Until now the paperback version could only be purchased at the end of our seminar presentations.


RV Show Season

Have you been to an RV show lately? Winter is prime RV show season. RV shows are the dealers' way of going to the customer, displaying their products and, hopefully, making lots of sales.

A real RV show is one that has a half dozen or more RV dealers exhibiting a large variety of RVs in one convenient location. Obviously, the more dealers participating in the show the larger the number of RVs you’ll find on display.

Attending an RV show is a dynamite way to comparison shop for an RV. It gives you the opportunity to check out an assortment of trailers, motorhomes, campers and van conversions. This is where casual lookers can view the new models and investigate the latest innovations. This is also where serious shoppers can zero in on the type, size and price bracket of the RV they want. They can then compare the floorplans, features, quality and prices of similar rigs. And, when they decide to buy, they are likely to discover that special show prices and deals are not uncommon when competing RV dealers are in close proximity to one another.

A big RV show will also include display booths with vendors of RV related products and services. Campgrounds and RV parks hand out literature and discount coupons inviting RVers to spend time in their facilities. Insurance agents offer free RV insurance quotes. Sellers of cleaning and polishing products give away free samples.

The vendor booth area is where you are likely to find sewer hoses, water filters, electric hookup extension cords, roof air conditioners, portable fire pits and every other common and uncommon RV gadget and gizmo. This is where the "pitch" people demonstrate their wares. You can watch them cook a meal, mop floors, peel potatoes, clean jewelry and perform any number of entertaining presentations that will convince you to buy their "must have" products.

Many RVers, content with their present RV, consider the vendor booths the reason to attend an RV show. Clever show producers recognize that, after viewing the vendor area, these RVers frequently move on to the RV displays where a good number of them end up buying a new rig.

RV show producers also recognize the growing popularity of RVs with young families. To draw them in, many shows offer clowns, mimes, magicians, strolling musicians, jugglers, ventriloquists, and other forms of entertainment. RV shows, after all, have to compete with other events for the attention of the consumer.

And, of course, a really great RV show will feature RV seminars by folks like Joe and Vicki Kieva. Our seminars provide tips on choosing, using and enjoying an RV.

Finding an RV show is not difficult. Most occur during the months of January, February and March and again during September and October. The bigger shows will advertise on local radio and television stations. Click here for a list of RV shows around the country.

Many RV shows have their own web sites. It is not unusual for these web sites to have discount coupons you can download, print and present for a reduced admission price.

You will also find their ads in RV magazines and your local newspaper. Pay close attention; the print ads frequently double as discount coupons for admission. See if the ad offers reduced admission prices to seniors or RV club members who are willing to attend the show on weekdays. By the way, we have observed that RV shows are less crowded on weekdays and early in the day on weekends.

Your day at the RV show will be more enjoyable if you take the time to make a few preparations at home. Plan on wearing comfortable, layered clothing so you can adjust to any change in temperatures. At outdoor shows a wide-brimmed hat will protect your head from the sun and sunglasses will cut any glare. And, obviously, comfortable walking shoes are a must.

A tote bag or, better yet, a backpack can be handy for carrying sweaters, snacks, and small purchases. A backpack is especially convenient if you want to carry one or two small bottles of drinking water.

Life will be easier for both kids and parents if you bring a stroller. Even kids who think they are "too big" for a stroller will climb in when they get tired of being on their feet. And, a stroller can carry all those items that would normally have to be carried in a backpack.

Serious RV shoppers should take a notebook and pen. If nothing else, they can make notes on the brochures of the RVs that attract them. A digital camera will make it possible to "revisit" the rigs that have special appeal. We have seen some shoppers using video cameras so they could videotape and verbally describe the RVs that appealed to them.

Many show vendors offer prizes and other incentives to those willing to sign up for them. You can avoid writer's cramp by taking some of your return address labels to the show. Simply stick the labels on the sign-up sheets. You will undoubtedly be rewarded with lots of RV related mail in the near future.

A word of caution about these sign-up sheets. Read the small print carefully before you put your name on them. There are a few scams out there that make it appear you are simply registering for a prize or adding your name to a mailing list when, in fact, you are actually agreeing to have your telephone service switched to another carrier.

Arrive at the RV show early. You will get a parking space close to the entrance; something your feet will appreciate at the end of the day. Getting there early also means you have all day to browse through the show. Some RV shows are so large it takes two or three days to see everything.

Read the show program as soon as you get into the show. They are usually available at the show entrance. Pay particular attention to the schedule of events. There may be demonstrations, entertainment or seminars you want to sit in on. Try to plan your day so your attendance at these presentations doubles as a break and gets you off your feet for a while. Be sure to reward the good behavior of your children by making a point of seeing that magic act.

Study the program's map of the show. Plan your route through the show to include the RVs, vendors and events you especially wish to see. This might also be a good time to pinpoint the locations of the restrooms and food concession stands.

Experienced RV show shoppers make a point of visiting the building, room, tent or area that contains the vendor booths. They know this is where they’ll find all those unique RV products, services and gadgets that add to the enjoyment of RVing.

While you are there, locate a vendor who is giving away plastic carrying bags. Now you have something to hold all that literature you’ll be gathering. You don't have to be too fussy about the literature you pick up. Just put it in the bag, take it home and put the bag next to your television-viewing chair. Now you have something to read during those long TV commercials. With luck you’ll be at a two-bag show.

Take your time. Look at the RVs. Ask questions. Pick up brochures. Make notes. Keep in mind the show producer, dealers and vendors have gone to a great deal of trouble to put the show together. The least you can do is buy an RV.


Vicki's Favorite Recipes:

Cheesy Garlic Bread (From "My RV Kitchen and Favorite Recipes")

We often have this bread along with spaghetti or lasagna. It also makes a delicious appetizer.

1 sourdough baguette, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Preheat broiler or oven to 450°.

2. Stir together the butter, mayonnaise and garlic.
Spread thickly on cut sides of the baguette.

3. Top with cheese. Place under broiler and broil until the top is bubbly.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Tip: It seems that a majority of RVers have had a problem baking brownies, cakes and biscuits in their RV ovens without burning the bottoms. There are a couple of solutions to that problem. Try air-bake pans (they have a layer of air between two sheets of metal). Also try the new silicone baking pans. Not only do the foods not burn on the bottom, they pop right out of the pans without sticking.

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