Thursday, December 30, 2010

Laundry on the Road

Dear Joe and Vicki: We're getting ready to retire and the idea of RV travel is very appealing. This may sound silly, but how often and where do RVers do their laundry while on the road?

Vicki: That's a valid question. You're not the first to ask. Would you believe, we've talked to people who minimize their laundry by taking their old, ready to throw away clothes with them on a trip. After they wear them, the clothes get tossed in the trash!

Here's what the rest of us do:

Take enough clothes for about seven to ten days. If you're going to be gone less than a week, you won't have to worry about doing laundry at all. For longer trips, you can plan on doing laundry about once a week.

A large, mesh laundry bag works well in an RV. Unless you're lucky enough to have a built-in clothes hamper, the dirty clothes bag can be stored in the shower or tub. When the bag gets full, you know it's time to do the laundry!

Just so you know, some of the larger RVs offer a built-in washer and dryer as optional equipment.

Laundromats are everywhere, even in the smallest towns. Some laundromats even have showers. Many commercial laundromats will do your laundry for you. There is a charge, but it just might be worth it to you. Drop off the clothes, go sightseeing, pick up the clean, folded clothes and you're on your way.

Most commercial RV parks have coin operated washers and dryers. Campground laundry rooms are not only convenient, they're great places to exchange travel information with other RVers.

If you're planning to use the laundry room in an RV park, check out the facilities before registering. You can go on to another campground if the facilities, equipment and cleanliness are inadequate.

Here are some tips for making laundry day easy while traveling:

Become a fanatic about saving quarters. You'll need all you can get. Black, plastic, 35mm film canisters (if you can find them) make excellent containers for quarters. Each canister will hold $7.00 worth.

Always have your own supply of laundry products. Don't depend on the vending machines selling soap, etc. in laundry rooms. Sure as anything, just when you're trying to do laundry late in the evening or if you're in a hurry, the vending machine won't work.

Buy small or medium size containers of laundry supplies. Those large economy-size boxes and jugs are difficult to store and awkward to carry.

Use a detergent that works in cold water. Hot water may not be available.

Always check the inside of washers and dryers before using them. You never know what someone might have left in there.

It's always a good idea to clean the dryer's lint filter before using it. That will make a big difference in the time required for drying.

If you will be ironing clothes while traveling, you'll be happy to know that many of the
RV parks have started putting ironing boards in laundry rooms and they may even loan you an iron. You'll probably want to carry your own iron just in case.

Joe: Personally, I'm in favor of the throwaway clothes idea!

Joe and Vicki are the authors of a number of how-to RV books and e-books

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Joe Peterson

My friend, Joe Peterson, died a couple days ago. Joe and his wife Kay founded the Escapees Club many years ago. Joe was an electrician at that time. He and Kay were living full time in a trailer as they followed the construction jobs around the country. They started the Escapees Club simply as a way for full-timers to exchange information and help each other survive this wonderful lifestyle. The club has grown to tens of thousands of members. And every one of them will tell you they were Joe’s friend. And they were. Everyone loved Joe and he loved them. He was that kind of a man.

Vicki and I first met Joe and Kay about 15 years ago when we first started presenting RV lifestyle seminars at RV shows, rallies and educational events. They would do seminars on full-timing; we would do seminars on choosing an RV, places to go, and things to see and do.

Joe and Kay, knowing that we were just starting out, were very generous with their advice. Kay would usually wait until we asked. Joe would simply jump in and tell us what we should do. A great deal of our success in the seminar and writing business is due to their guidance and advice.

We loved to watch their seminars. They took turns speaking. Kay was a serious public speaker. It showed in her carefully prepared presentations. Joe just liked to talk to people. Kay would tell stories with a moral; usually one that encouraged folks to make their dreams come true (and many did). Joe liked to tell funny stories and jokes… simply to get a laugh (and he always did). Kay delivered her message seemingly without referring to notes. Joe always had a small stack of 3-by-5 cards that he would pull from his shirt pocket and read from. Later, I came to the conclusion the cards were not because he couldn’t remember his lines but to keep him on message instead of getting distracted and telling funny stories and jokes (no doubt Kay’s idea). It wasn’t always successful. Sometimes Joe just couldn’t help himself.

The four of us always made a point of getting together for at least one dinner while we were at a speaking event. We would go into a restaurant and before we had settled into our chairs Joe would start telling his jokes and funny stories. It wasn’t just his jokes, some were pretty corny, but his delivery that kept me laughing. The more I laughed the more jokes he would tell. Kay and Vicki would just sit there and roll their eyes while tears rolled from mine. No telling how many times Kay had heard those same stories. But we could tell she secretly enjoyed the pleasure he derived from telling them.

The last time we had dinner together was in a restaurant in Livingston, Texas. Joe was a devout Texan (as only Texans can be). Joe had just turned eighty and his memory wasn’t as good as it had been. I wondered if he would remember all his jokes. Wouldn’t you know? He pulled a stack of 3-by-5 cards out of his shirt pocket and said “If I told you this one before, don’t stop me…”

Joe's poorly funtioning heart failed him during surgery for a leaking aneurism. His daughter, Cathie Carr, wrote: "Just so you know, his blue eyes sparked bright with his kiss goodbye, and as he was wheeled off to surgery he was telling the surgeons a joke."

I can just see Joe arriving at the Pearly Gates. When St Peter asks him where he is from; Joe will pull a stack of 3-by5 cards from his shirt pocket and say “My daddy told me to never ask a man where he is from. If he is from Texas, he’ll tell you. If he isn’t… well, you don’t want to embarrass him.”

We’ll miss you, Joe.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

A Learning Rig

Joe: "Is full-timing as good as it sounds?" We get a lot of inquiries from gonna-be RVers about full-timing. These folks are dreaming about retiring, selling their home, buying an RV, and hitting the road. But as the time for action gets close they begin having second thoughts. They are not sure they want to give up their conventional dwellings and leave their friends and family.

There are thousands of full-time RVers. Most of them will tell you it is the best decision they ever made for themselves. Of course, we do not hear from the folks who are not happy with their decision.

Vicki and I thought we would have evolved into being full-timers by now. That was our original game plan. But we have an emotional connection to our house. Most of our kids and grandkids live in our home town. Our big house becomes the family gathering place during the holidays. Vicki has closets full of clothes and I have a garage full of junk.

We came to the conclusion that, while we thoroughly enjoy traveling in an RV, we prefer living in a house. So we decided to do both. We are extended RV travelers. We go out on the road for two to three months at a time, return to our house for a couple of months and then go out on the road again. We spend seven to eight months of the year traveling around the country in our motorhome but it always feels good to get back home. Life is good.

Vicki: If you are among those considering full-timing but you have no previous RVing experience, you might consider buying an inexpensive, used, "learning" RV. Buy it now, before you sell your house. This will give you and your spouse the opportunity to learn more about RVs, RVing and the various RVing lifestyles.

You could start with weekend camping trips. Then gradually extend the duration of time you spend on the road until you feel you are ready to make the plunge into full-timing.

The learning rig will give you the opportunity to learn how to RV. How to equip, pack drive, back, level, use hookups, camp self-contained, live, and travel in an RV. You will also discover what type and size RV best complements your interests; what features, accessories and capacities you need. It will give you the opportunity to experience extended time on the road and decide if full-timing is really what you want to do.

While you are traveling and camping in your learning RV, you can find out how others use their rigs. Make a point of exploring the different types of overnight facilities available. Camp self-contained in primitive government campgrounds; with full hookups in a commercial RV park; and with the amenities of luxury RV resorts. Talk with full-timers, snowbirds, extended travelers and other RVers. Ask them what they like best about their RVing lifestyle. Ask what they like best about their RVs and what they would do different the next time. Listen to their observations and heed their advice.

Along the way, be sure to tap into the wealth of information available from reading RVing books, visiting RV dealerships, and attending RV shows and rallies.

When you are ready to buy the "right" RV, the difference between the purchase price of your learning rig and its trade-in allowance will be the cost of your "education". But it will be money well spent.

Your learning experience will help you make an informed decision. You will be able to choose the RVing lifestyle that makes you happy, and to select an RV that will take you where you want to go and let you do the things you want to do.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Stocking Stuffers

Dear Joe and Vicki: Do you have any suggestions for RV- related holiday "stocking stuffers"? My husband and I use the holidays as an opportunity to buy the things we ordinarily would not spend the money on.

Joe: You didn't say what price range you had in mind but here are some practical, useful items under the $50.00 mark that we think most RVers would appreciate. Just about all of them can be found in RV accessory stores like Camping World.

Digital Tire-Pressure Gauge - The air pressure in your tires should be checked before taking your RV out of storage and every few days while traveling. Since the tires should be cold when checking their pressure, I check our tires in the morning before getting on the road. I prefer a digital air-pressure gauge. It seems more accurate. There is one with a backlit display that makes it easy to see the pressure reading.

Voltage Meter – In the best of worlds an RV park or campground's electric hookup would provide 115 volts. We feel good when we see a consistent 110 volts. Most experts advise that an appliance's electric motor (like in an air conditioner or washing machine) should not be operated on less than 103 to 105 volts of power. Below that point the motor is straining to do the job and can either cause a breaker to open or, worse yet, damage the motor. A voltage meter plugged into the RV's electrical outlet allows you to keep tabs on the voltage available to your rig.

Bubble Levels – We have two bubble levels mounted inside the driving compartment of our motorhome; one on the dash, and the other on the wall next to the driver's seat. They are calibrated (with little lines) so I can determine how level the RV is front-to-rear and side-to-side. Watching the levels as I enter a campsite helps me locate the most level spot. The levels also tell me when my levelers have finished the job of leveling the RV. When we had a trailer I had the same type of levels attached on the outside of the trailer's front wall and to the side of the trailer tongue. The one on the wall helped me level side-to-side; the one on the tongue, front-to-rear.

Compass – "Turn north at the first intersection" That's what the directions to the campground say. Trouble is… you don't know which way is north. A compass can help solve the problem. If nothing else, it gives you something to blame (other than your co-pilot) for getting you lost.

Hitch Lock - It just makes sense to replace the heavy pin that secures your hitch to the hitch receiver with one of these key-operated locks. Doing so will discourage anyone from borrowing, and then forgetting to return, your hitch (or worse yet, your trailer).

Ball-type Bungee Cords – These are handy and easy to use for securing coiled hoses and electrical cords.

Vicki: My wish-list leans towards things like a clothes washer/dryer. But here are some neat stocking stuffers:

Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer – Outside temperatures can affect the efficiency of an RV's refrigerator and freezer operation. Sometimes, depending upon outside temperatures, it is necessary to adjust the refrigerator's temperature selector up or down. Two refrigerator thermometers, one located inside the refrigerator compartment and the other inside the freezer, can help you keep your food within the correct temperature range. They even make one that sounds an alarm when the temperature exceeds your settings.

Icicles Ice Tray - Instead of making ice cubes, this tray makes ice sticks that will fit into water or pop bottles. Pretty ingenious.

Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer - This device lets us know at a glance the temperatures both inside and outside of our RV. We have one that also lets us see what the highest and lowest temperatures of the day have been (inside and outside).

Weather Alert Radio – When the weather looks ominous a weather alert radio will provide up-to-the-minute weather reports. National Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast weather reports 24 hours a day. The messages are repeated every five minutes and updated every two hours. The NWR usually requires a special radio to pick up its broadcasts. These radios, available at electronic stores such as Radio Shack, are typically battery operated or AC powered with a battery backup. Most NWR radios are also equipped with an alarm that sounds when a severe weather alert is issued. We especially appreciate ours when we are in tornado country.

Hand-held Radio Set – We have a hand-held CB radio that I use to communicate with Joe when we are backing our RV. We have seen other RVers using small hand-held "Walkie-Talkies" to do the same thing. Mostly, though, I see couples using their radios to find each other in the Wal-Mart Super Centers.

Wheeltopper - One of those things that converts a motorhome's steering wheel into a table top. Folks add an attractive tablecloth, a lamp and some family pictures to create an attractive piece of furniture.

Mesh Laundry Hamper – I like the one that has three sections. It gives me the option of separating the dirty clothes. It is also just the right size to fit in our shower. That's where we keep our laundry. The hamper is easily moved (I just ask Joe) to a place next to our bed when we want to take a shower. (Okay, you can't stuff it into a stocking. But you can stuff a stocking into it.)

Happy Holidays!

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bugs, Dirt and RVs

Dear Joe and Vicki: Nobody told me about the millions of suicidal bugs that would attack the front of my RV. Do you have any tips for dealing with this nuisance? And how do RVers wash their motorhomes and trailers when they are on the road for long periods of time? The campgrounds I have stayed in have rules against washing RVs in the campsites.

Joe: At the end of each driving day I use a boat brush on a telescoping handle and half a bucket of plain cold water to wipe (notice, I didn't say wash) the bug remains off the windshield and front wall of our motorhome. The carcasses seem to come off easier when they are removed on the day of impact.

Most campgrounds, citing environmental regulations, drainage concerns, or water shortages, prohibit washing RVs in their campgrounds. There are some, however, that do allow their patrons to wash their rigs, either in individual campsites or a "wash rack" area. A few even provide a vacuum cleaner. We make a note of these RV parks and return to them whenever we are in the area.

Sometimes, the operators of the campgrounds that prohibit washing of RVs may be able to direct you to a local do-it-yourself car wash that can accommodate an RV. Wouldn't it be nice if they included that information with the printed rule prohibiting washing of rigs in their campground. Occasionally, you'll see these car washes advertised in the campground's site map.

Vicki: Before taking our RV to one of these car washes we use our car to check it out. We want to be sure our rig can maneuver into and out of the wash bay. The RV usually gets washed the next morning after we check out of the campground and before we resume our travels. It's not unusual for us to end up paying for two car washes in order to completely wash our motorhome.

Speaking of the campground site maps … we have seen ads in them by professional RV wash crews who will come to your campsite. Typically, they use a high-pressure water hose that does a long-lasting job. Interestingly, some of the campgrounds that prohibit their patrons from washing RVs in their campsites will allow a professional wash crew to do the job. Go figure. The wash crews have charged us between $1.00 and $1.50 a foot and, so far, have always done an excellent job.

Commercial truck washes can be found along the interstates, frequently in the neighborhood of a truck stop (or travel plaza as they are now called). Most, if not all, will wash RVs. We make a habit of asking before getting into line. Typically, they use high pressure hoses along with mops, brushes and detergents. We've paid anywhere from $1.00 to $1.75 per foot to have a commercial truck wash do our motorhome.

Joe is a tightwad. He prefers to wash our motorhome himself (he lets me help). But, every now and then he treats himself and lets the professionals do the job.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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