Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cold Weather Camping

Happy Holidays!

We haven't gone anywhere in our motorhome since last September. As a result we have not experienced anything worth writing about. But that will change very soon. After the Holidays we will be heading out of town and into the Arizona desert country.

In the meantime here is a column we wrote about cold weather campng:

Dear Joe and Vicki: We are fairly new to RVing. Our experience has been limited to fair weather trips to the California coast and mountains. We would like to drive our RV from California to Virginia about mid-January but are a little apprehensive about driving conditions should the roads turn icy. Your thoughts on this and any cold-weather RVing tips would be appreciated.

Joe: In the past, our January/February speaking circuit at RV shows has taken us (and our motorhome) from Tampa, Florida to Atlantic City, New Jersey, You might say we have some experience with cold weather driving and camping. We do our best to avoid driving in snow and we absolutely refuse to drive on icy roads. We have been known to spend an extra night or two in a campground waiting for driving conditions to improve. That’s one of the advantages of having your “house” with you.

Prepare you rig as you would for any long trip. Check the condition of your tires and their air pressure. Be sure your engine coolant has the appropriate mix of anti-freeze. Fill your windshield-washer reservoir and check your windshield wipers. Engines demand more electrical starting power during cold weather so check the battery’s electrolyte level, clean the terminals, and coat them with petroleum jelly. If you begin your trip with new engine oil and filters you shouldn’t have to change them again before you return home.

You will want a set of tire chains if you intend to drive on snow or ice. Practice putting them on at home while it is warm and dry. Motorhome owners should consider the damage a broken tire chain could inflict upon the fiberglass body of their rig. It might be better to avoid roads where chains may be required.

Your RV's built-in space heating system should be adequate for keeping the interior of your coach warm. Remember, though, that a forced air furnace, in addition to consuming propane, will draw up to seven amps of electricity while operating. This could represent a considerable drain on the coach battery if electric hookups are not available. Obviously, an electric hookup each night will prevent your furnace fan from draining your coach batteries. It will also allow you to operate the engine block heater if you have a diesel engine. Many RVers who do a lot of self-contained camping use catalytic heaters. Catalytic heaters combine propane and oxygen over a platinum-impregnated pad. The chemical reaction releases energy in the form of radiated heat. It requires no electricity and utilizes propane more efficiently than a forced-air heater. Most catalytic heaters are not vented to the outside. They consume oxygen from inside the RV and should only be operated when open windows and vents can provide adequate ventilation.

Vicki: Once we are hooked up to electricity, it is our habit to warm the interior of our coach with our propane furnace and then switch to a portable electric heater. The electric heater maintains a comfortable temperature and minimizes the time the furnace has to operate. If you intend to do this be sure the RV’s electrical hookup cord and any extension cord to the heater have a sufficient amperage rating to withstand the wattage of the heater. Divide the heater’s maximum wattage by 120 (volts) to determine the minimum rating of the electrical cord. A 1,500 watt heater, for example, would require an electrical cord with a minimum rating of 12.5 amps (1500 watts divided by 120 volts equals 12.5 amps).

I’m going to assume your RV’s plumbing, fresh-water tank and holding tanks are located in enclosed, heated compartments. As long as your furnace runs periodically, you shouldn’t have any problem with frozen plumbing.

We have installed two drop cords in our plumbing bay. One is near the water pump and sewer outlet. The other is on the opposite side of the compartment near the water heater. Each drop cord has a 40-watt light bulb. The heat from the bulbs keep the interior of the compartment warm when our furnace is not operating.

Remember to disconnect, drain and store your water and sewer hoses when temperatures approach the freezing level. Rather than deal with stiff or frozen hoses we prefer not to hook them up when there is any chance of temperatures dropping below 40 degrees. We only connect our hoses long enough to fill our water tank and empty our holding tanks. The rest of the time they remain in the storage cabinet.

Windows can be insulated against the cold with heavy drapes or curtains. You can also create an insulating, dead air space inside the windows by covering them with clear, heavy vinyl. Some RVers have been known to cut sheets of Styrofoam or foam-filled poster-board to fit the interior of some of their windows as insulation.

Condensation occurs inside an RV when the warm, moist interior air of the RV comes in contact with the cool surfaces of the windows and walls. We exchange humid interior air with dry outside air by opening a window about a quarter of an inch at each end of our RV and operating the roof-vent exhaust fan in the kitchen at a very slow speed.

Joe has a pair of warm, water-proof, boots he slips on when the ground around our campsite is wet or muddy (and it usually is at that time of year).

I take along a few old throw rugs. They provide insulation on tile floors and protect the carpeting against tracked in dirt and moisture. When a throw rug gets dirty enough, I just toss it in the trash and replace it with another.

Try to camp in a spot that is open to the heat of the sun and, if possible, protected from the wind. You can minimize cold drafts by facing the RV into or away from the prevailing wind. Keep in mind that snow accumulating on overhanging branches may eventually drop off in heavy clumps or perhaps bring down the brittle branches. And don't let snow block the refrigerator roof vent.

We enjoy our winter travels. Traffic is lighter. Campgrounds are not crowded. The air is clean and brisk. Winter RVing is a little different but certainly not difficult. With a little experience you’ll soon find yourself enjoying your cold weather journeys.

One of our most memorable travel days was spent driving across the gently rolling farmlands of Kentucky on Interstate 64. A light snowfall persisted most of the day. Traffic was almost non-existent. The snow melted on the highway and, at the same time, laid a soft white blanket over the sleeping countryside. We stopped several times, turned off the engine, and stepped outside, just to experience the stillness. Not something we could have done on a Southern California interstate.

Learn more about RVs and RVing by reading our how-to e-books.

Our Alaska DVDs can still be ordered online. Most of our customers take advantage of the two DVDs for $35.00 special.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We’re Home!

In fact, we’ve been home for six weeks now. As usual, we hit the ground running. Unloading the motorhome, opening the house, reviving the lawn and a dozen other little but time-consuming chores have kept us busy. And, we took care of our Mexican food cravings at our favorite local cantina.

It was a great trip - 4 ½ months and 12,250 miles. We returned to the places we didn’t have time to visit on previous journeys, we spent time with friends and relatives all over the country. We particularly enjoyed the week we spent in Washington, DC with our grandkids.

Future destinations include our annual trips to Yuma to celebrate New Year’s Eve and St. Patricks Day with our RVing friends and, when most of the snow has melted, the National Parks in the Bryce-Zion area. Also Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canada.

People have asked us if we miss presenting seminars at RV shows and rallies. Actually, the only thing we miss is socializing with all our friends (vendors, seminar presenters, clowns, sales people, etc.) who also worked at the shows and rallies. Most of them were also RVers and we usually parked our rigs in the same area. It was fun pulling into a campground or show parking lot and seeing familiar RVs. There would be hugs and laughter and lots of catching up to do over adult beverages. We really did enjoy presenting seminars, but we do not miss the behind-the-scenes time and effort it took to be in the seminar business.

We’re not entirely out of the business though. We have a monthly column, "Life on the Road", in Motorhome magazine and we have another book in the works. And, our Alaska DVDs and “how-to” RVing e-books are available on our website.

Speaking about our e-books… if you haven’t already… check them out. They are full of practical, useful information about buying, operating and enjoying an RV. And don’t overlook our Alaska DVDs. “RVing Alaska” shows you what to expect and how to prepare for an Alaska journey. “Alaska: RV adventure of a Lifetime” shows you all the favorite visitor destinations. There is a special price if you purchase both DVDs.

More Later

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Emergency ID Card

From the ebook "RVing Tips, Tricks & Techniques"

Create an emergency notification card to carry in your wallet. Have it identify two or more people who can be notified in case of an emergency. Be sure they are at different addresses and telephone numbers (one of them might not be available). Try to make sure these people know how to reach you when you are camping so they can notify you in an emergency. Furnish them an itinerary if you can (even if its just a rough idea).

Your emergency notification card should also include the name of your traveling companion and the telephone number of his/her cellular phone. He/she might be sitting in your RV wondering why you have not returned.

Your emergency notification card should list any health problems, medications or allergies that paramedics and doctors should know about.

It is not a bad idea to have your telephone calling card number on your emergency notification card (but not identifying it as such). It might be convenient when you are under stress and want to place a call.

Some RVers carry a second emergency notification card that identifies their RV and the campground where they are staying. The card might even indicate if there are pets in the rig that need to be cared for.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Homeward Bound

After leaving the Maritimes we spent a few days in New England visiting some of Joe’s many cousins. Then we traveled to Binghamton, NY (another cousin) and Hudson, Ohio. (you’ve got it- another cousin – this time one of Vicki’s) and then on to Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin to visit our good friends, Bob and Cheryl Marx. We also stopped in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and had lunch with our dear friend Margie Maxwell. Next stop will be the Sacramento, CA area to visit another of Vicki’s cousins and our daughter, grand daughter and great grand son.
Obviously, we are headed west. We have run out of cousins (well, until we get to Southern California). Our daily travel mileage increases the closer we get to home. While our usual daily average is usually 250 to 300 miles, lately it has been 300 to 350. Our final travel day will cover the 400 miles from Sacramento to Huntington Beach, CA. We liken it to the horse headed for the barn. We have really enjoyed this trip. We hate to see it coming to an end. But we are looking forward to seeing our family, friends and familiar places. Our first evening home will be spent in our favorite local Mexican restaurant, eating our favorite Mexican dishes. It will be good to be home. The experience of 48 years of RVing, however, tells us that wanderlust will strike in about six weeks and we will find ourselves on the road again.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Keeping Cool

There is no need to tell you that this has been a very hot summer. I thought this column we wrote for an RV magazine in 2007 might be timely.

Dear Joe and Vicki: We purchased a 33 foot fifth-wheel trailer with three slides last June. It is equipped with 30-amp service and one 15,000 BTU air-conditioner. During a week of 100 degree weather we could not cool the trailer to a comfortable level. The manufacturers of both the trailer and air-conditioning unit said everything was within specifications and there was nothing they could do. Any assistance you can give us would be appreciated.

Joe: I’m sure the RV and air-conditioner manufacturing experts have determined that a 15,000 BTU air-conditioning unit is adequate for your 33-foot trailer with all three of its slides extended. As one who has been there, though, I can understand how your air-conditioning unit might be fighting a losing battle to maintain a comfortable interior temperature when the outside temperature is 100 degrees and your RV is in full sunlight.

Understand that RV air-conditioners are designed to reduce the air temperature by 20 degrees. That means your air conditioner is working okay if the air on the outlet side is 20 degrees cooler than the air on the inlet side. Your air conditioner is doing about as good as can be expected when the outside air temperature is 100 degrees and the interior temperature of your RV is 80 degrees.

I’m sure you have already discovered that the interior of your rig can become an oven when it is parked in full sunlight on a hot day. So shading as much of the RV for as long as possible should be a prime objective when selecting a place to camp.

Obviously, a campground with lots of trees and grass is going to be cooler than an RV park that resembles an asphalt parking lot. If you are really lucky, you will find a tree-shaded campsite. Try to avoid parking on or next to a hot surface. A grassy campsite will radiate less ground heat than a paved site. A concrete patio outside your entry door is nice but it will reflect the heat of the sun against the wall of your RV.

If you can’t find a shady campsite, try to locate one that points the front of your RV towards the south or east (south-east would be perfect). Your large street-side wall will then be on the naturally shady side of your RV during the hotter times of the day, your patio awning can shade the curb-side wall, and one end of the RV will be shaded at least part of the day. By the way, you can increase the shade of your patio awning by adding mesh patio shades that hang from your patio awning.

Vicki: Keep the sun from shining on or through your windows and skylights. Install window awnings and use them. Close the window blinds on the sunny side of the RV. Better yet, place Solar window covers or reflective foil on the interior of windows and motorhome windshields exposed to the sun. Poster board, cut so its dimensions are just a little larger than the skylight, can be stuffed into the skylight opening to block the sun.

Give your air-conditioner a head start. Turn it on early in the day and let it pre-cool the interior of the RV.

Keep the cool air inside and the hot air outside. Close all the windows and doors. Minimize the number of times the entry door is opened.

Use a fan to circulate the cool air. Direct the fan so it blows air from under the air-conditioner towards the area you want cooled the most.

Decrease the air-space the air-conditioner has to cool. Shut the bedroom door and close its air-conditioning vents. If you do close the bedroom door, be sure to open a bedroom window on the shady side of the RV so the bedroom doesn’t get much warmer than the outside temperature.

Avoid cooking with the stove top and oven. Use the microwave (but not the convection) oven. Use the outside grill. Use electric cooking appliances outside. Better yet, and my favorite, eat dinner in an air-conditioned restaurant.

When all else fails… hitch up and move to a cooler climate.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Maritime Report

Greetings from Massachusetts. We are on the going-home side of our RV trip. After Myrtle Beach we spent Memorial day weekend with our friends, Loren and Nancy Benedict and Tom and Margie Hildebrandt in North Carolina. Loren and Nancy have a lakeside home with a long driveway that easily accommodated our motorhome. While we were there they entertained us with their water toys.

Next on the agenda was Washington, DC. Our three teenage grandkids flew in from California and we spent five days touring our nation’s capitol. We visited the monuments and memorials, explored the Smithsonian museums and observed the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns.

After the grandkids flew home we headed for New England. The most direct route from Washington, DC to New England is straight up Interstate 95. It also takes the traveler through the traffic laden coastal cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Years ago we discovered the benefits of taking the parallel route I-81 instead. It may add a few miles to the journey but it has less traffic, better scenery and more campgrounds than I-95. A number of east-west interstates between I-64 in the south and I-84 in the north connect I-95 to I-81.

We enjoyed a quiet 4th of July parked next to a pasture on my cousin’s horse property in New Hampshire. Then a leisurely drive along the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine took us to the town of Calais where we crossed the border into New Brunswick, Canada. This is where the Bay of Fundy’s extraordinary high and low tides take place. Our travels through Canada’s Maritime Provinces took us across the 8-mile long bridge to Prince Edward Island. The bridge is free going into PEI but cost us close to $60.00 when we left. A ferry is also available and it too is free to the island but costs to leave. Vicki says the PEI mussels are the best she has ever tasted.

Nova Scotia was next on the agenda. We crossed the brief causeway to Cape Breton Island, drove the Cabot Trail in our toad (wouldn’t recommend driving an RV), and we visited Louisbourg on the east coast.

Then we followed the coast highways around the south half of Nova Scotia. Along the way we lingered in the charming towns of Annapolis Royal and Peggy’s Cove. Vicki did her best to eat seafood just about every day we were in the Maritimes. She even found seafood markets that would sell a live lobster for $7.99 or would cook it to order for $8.99. She chose the more expensive cooked lobster.

It only took two leisurely days to drive from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Banger, Maine where we visited with another of my many cousins. After visiting even more cousins in Massachusetts we will head west through upper New York State and into Ohio.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joe and Vicki Update

We are on the road again! So far we have encountered extreme heat and wildfires in Texas, tornadoes in Arkansas, thunder and lightning storms in Missouri, and evacuation from a flooded campground in Arkansas. Along the way I replaced the kitchen faucet, a mobile RV tech replaced the washer/dryer and an RV dealer worked on the dash air conditioner. We took in some shows in Branson, MO and Pigeon Forge (Dollywood), Tennessee. Both towns, by the way, were remarkably uncrowded.

The highlight of our trip so far has been the 444 mile drive we took from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN on the Natchez, Trace Parkway. 444 miles of nicely paved, two-lane highway through very scenic woods, meadows and farmland. The 50-mile-per-hour speed limit is strictly enforced, commercial traffic is prohibited, there are no stop signs or signal lights and the traffic is very light. And, there are three free campgrounds spaced along the way. Every RVer should experience this drive.

We have also really enjoyed visiting with RVing friends along the way.

Today we are in Myrtle Beach, SC. Coincidentally, thousands of motorcycle riders are also in Myrtle Beach. It is Bike Week. Lots of noise, bandannas, beards and tattoos. Ocean Lakes RV Park has set aside a parking area for motorcycles just inside the entrance to their RV Park. Motorcycles are not allowed in the campsite area. So the motorcycle campers park their bikes and then ride other transportation into the campground. Kinda like the cowboys checking their guns before entering town. By the way, they are all good neighbors. We have not seen any sign of rowdiness in the campground.

From here we will head north. Memorial Day with friends, Washington, DC with grandkids, 4th of July in New England with relatives and then the Maritime Provinces with Canadians. We’ll keep you posted.

Our seminar business is not what it used to be. The recession hit the RV industry hard and our seminars were easy to eliminate from the promotional budgets. We have adjusted by retiring from the seminar business.

Our book business has also changed. Since 90% of our book sales occurred at the end of our seminars we have allowed our paperback books to go out of print. All of our books, however were recently revised, updated and converted to e-books. They can be ordered on our website.

Our DVDs can still be ordered online. Most of our DVD customers take advantage of the two DVDs for $35.00 special.

Our monthly column RV Insight that has appeared in the Good Sam Club’s Highways magazine for the past 15 years has been canceled. The final column appeared in the May issue.
On the other hand we just submitted the first of our Life on the Road monthly columns to Motorhome magazine. Look for it in the September issue.

Finally, we are reverting back to the “whimsical irregularity” of this blog. Check in with us periodically to see what we are up to.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Going Places

Dear Joe and Vicki: My husband and I have been weekend RVers for a long time, but now we've sold our house and are getting ready to head out as fulltimers. We're really excited about seeing the United States, but don't know quite where to start. Any suggestions?

Joe: As fulltimers, you have one huge advantage. You don't have to rush. And, you don't have to see everything at once. You can stay wherever you want for as long as you want.

Our first trip around the United States and Canada was in 1974. We wanted to pack as much as possible into the trip. So, before leaving, we sat down at the kitchen table with our children and spread maps of the U. S. and Canada in front of us. We went around the table and gave everyone an opportunity to tell us what places they wanted to see. As those places were called out, we circled them on the map. When we were finished with that step, we drew travel routes from one circle to another. As it turned out, we visited all of our "must see" places plus many others. In the process we also developed a new list of places to see next trip.

You could start by asking each state’s department of tourism to send you literature about the visitor highlights of their state. Your mailbox will overflow with information.

Read the articles in the travel sections of your magazines and newspaper. Start a file folder for each state. Eventually, you'll have to expand to individual file folders for cities, government parks and other attractions. We know one couple that has so many file folders of future places to go and things to see and do, that they have relegated the entire area under their RV's queen-size bed to the storage of their “places to go, things to see” files.

You may discover, as we have, that the Automobile Club’s maps and tour books are invaluable. We especially appreciate the way the tour books provide a state-by-state listing and description of all the neat places to go and things to see and do.

Vicki: Once you get on the road, make a habit of stopping at each state's welcome center. They will be located in a rest area just after you cross the border into that state. Wander among the racks of brochures that have been placed there for the tourists. Ask the attendant for a copy of the state map.

Keep in mind that one of the best places to get information is in the campground laundry rooms. Talk to the people you meet there. Chances are someone in that laundry room has just come from the place you are headed toward. Ask them about road conditions, find out their recommendations for restaurants, campgrounds and interesting attractions. We've gotten some of our best information by talking to people in campground laundry rooms.

Most of the full-time RVers that we've talked to have told us that when they first started traveling, they dashed around from one place to another, trying to see everything. After one or two trips around the country, they realized they had only begun their explorations. They discovered they were constantly finding out about new places to see. There were also many places they wanted to revisit, settle in, and spend a month or two.

By the way, don’t be surprised if you find a particular location that you return to year after year. You may find a place that has a particularly appealing RV park. Perhaps in an area that has medical, shopping and recreational opportunities that fit your comfort level.

We're willing to bet that once you get out on the road, you'll find that you have so many places you want to go and things you want to see and do that you'll wonder how you're ever going to fit them all into a lifetime.

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

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Friday, April 1, 2011

How to match a tow vehicle and trailer

Dear Joe and Vicki: How do I go about choosing a tow vehicle to pull a travel trailer? Should I choose the tow vehicle first and then find a trailer it can tow? Or should I first select the trailer and then find a tow vehicle that can pull it? How do I determine whether the tow vehicle will be able to handle the trailer?  

Joe: Ideally, you will identify (but not purchase) the trailer that best suits your RVing interests and needs. Then, locate (but not purchase) the tow vehicle that best handle the size and weight of that trailer. Finally, research to determine the type of hitch you will need. In the best of all worlds, the tow vehicle will also satisfy your everyday transportation needs both while you are on the road towing your trailer, and in between RV trips as a transportation vehicle. In the real world, don’t be surprised if you have to make a number of compromises. Once these objectives are met, all you have to do is figure out how to pay for them.

Vicki: Here are a few guidelines for choosing a tow vehicle: Decide whether an SUV, van or pickup truck will best suit both your personal and towing needs. Visit the dealership selling that vehicle and obtain a copy of the manufacturer’s trailering guide and towing recommendations. Since the towing recommendations will be expressed in weight, do your homework and ascertain the following: The tow vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). That’s the maximum weight, including passengers, fuel, cargo (including the trailer's tongue weight), and the weight of the tow vehicle itself, that the tow vehicle can safely carry down the road. The trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). That’s the maximum weight, including full water and propane tanks, optional equipment, cargo, accessories and the weight of the trailer itself, that the trailer can safely carry down the road. The tow vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). That’s the maximum total weight of the fully loaded tow vehicle and fully loaded trailer that the tow vehicle may safely handle. It’s not out of line to assume you will load your tow vehicle to its GVWR and pull a trailer also loaded to its GVWR. If the combined weight of the two vehicles exceeds the tow vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating you need to lighten the load or get a tow vehicle with a higher Gross Combined Weight Rating. Here’s another way of looking at it. Place the fully loaded tow vehicle and fully loaded trailer on a scale. The total weight of both vehicles should not exceed the tow vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating.  

Joe: Not enough can be said about the importance of staying well within the manufacturer’s weight limitations. Personally, I’d feel better knowing my tow vehicle was rated to handle 10% more weight than I was towing. Choose and equip your tow vehicle so it is more than adequate to do the job. Most manufacturers offer an optional towing package. It costs less to order the package than to add the equipment after you take delivery. When it comes to choosing between adequate power and fuel economy, I would take the power. I’ve never seen an RVer drive to the top of a long, steep grade, get out and curse his rig for having too much power. Before you buy your RV package be sure the manufacturers of the tow vehicle, trailer and hitch all agree you have a towing combination that is made for each other. Do your homework, pay attention to the manufacturer’s written recommendations and be sure the tow vehicle you choose will take you where you want to go and let you do the things you want to do.

Joe and Vicki are the authors of a number of how-to RV books and e-books. Return to RV Know How

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grocery Shopping Tips

Dear Joe and Vicki: What can we do to reduce food costs on the road? My husband and I plan to spend several months traveling in our motorhome. We're always looking for ways to save money. At home I know where the less expensive grocery stores are located and I can control the amount of money I spend on food. Any tips would be appreciated.

Joe: When it comes to food shopping, my job is to push the shopping cart and carry in the groceries.

Vicki: Not only do we try to keep our food costs down, we are also aware of the differences in the foods that are available in various parts of the country. There are grocery items available at our home in Southern California that we know we won't be able to find in other places. We stock up on those items to take with us.

We always start out with several cans of Yuban coffee, for example. It's not available in every part of the country. And, because we especially like Mexican food, we always begin with our freezer full of our favorite chorizo. Enough to last throughout the trip.

As we travel, we try to make the most of the foods native to each section of the country. They usually cost less than in other areas. We look forward to the pork in Arkansas, citrus fruits in Florida, seafood along the coastal areas, peaches and pecans in Georgia and South Carolina. We love the roadside stands that sell fresh corn, tomatoes and other vegetables. Many work on the honor system, with just a sign telling the price of each item and a coffee can for purchasers to drop money into.

As you travel, you will also become familiar with the different chain supermarkets in the various parts of the country. I look for Shaw's in New England, Wegman's in the northeast, Kroger's in the mid-atlantic, Harris Teeter in the south, Publix in Florida, Meijer in the mid-west, Safeway in the west, Vons in Southern California, Fred Meyers in the northwest and, of course, Wal-Mart Supercenters all over the country.

We also have an assortment of supermarket-chain discount cards that provide additional savings. You name a supermarket with a discount card and I'll bet their card is in our RV.

I'm also a coupon clipper, whether at home or on the road. If I spot a store that doubles the value of coupons, I check it out. Every Sunday we buy a local newspaper. The grocery coupons more than pay for the newspaper. In addition, by glancing at the grocery ads for each store, we can get a feel for their prices. As a bonus, the newspaper provides us with a TV listing for the week. Not bad for the price of a Sunday newspaper!

Plan on spending more time grocery shopping on the road than you do at home. Brand names vary from one part of the country to another. It may take a while to figure out which to buy. Also, there doesn't seem to be a really consistent floor plan for supermarkets. We usually have to go up and down every single aisle to find what we’re looking for.

Joe: And, once in a while, when Vicki isn't looking, I toss a bag of cookies into the grocery cart.

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

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Full-timing strategies

Joe: Lately, we have been hearing from a lot of folks who are talking about selling their homes, storing their most precious possessions and getting rid of everything else. Why? Because they are going to become full-time RVers. They want to visit old friends, explore new places and spend their winters where the snow doesn't fall.

In most cases, we applaud those folks for taking action to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, a number of these dreamers have no RVing experience. They have not spent so much as one night in an RV. Or, their only RVing experience has been weekends at the lake and an occasional one or two week vacation.

Too many of these folks have made their decision based upon an article they have read, a website they have viewed or a conversation with someone they met. They have not had the experience of living in a confined area with the same person day after day. They don't know if they will be comfortable driving a large motor vehicle along a busy highway (and they are all busy).

They are making the decision to completely change their lifestyle based upon what they think full-time RVing is all about rather than what they actually know about it. There seems to be this notion that once the "Sold" sign appears in their front yard their life is going to be carefree and without problems or responsibilities.

They think that becoming a full-time RVer is the same as going on an extended vacation.

Now, don't misunderstand. A lot of folks with no RVing experience have retired or quit their jobs and successfully joined the ranks of those who live and travel full time in their RVs. Some have even written entertaining and educational books based upon their experiences.

We have not seen many books, however, by those whose dreams were shattered because they bought the wrong RV. Nor have we seen any books by the folks who sold their house, furniture and possessions only to discover they were not cut out to be RVers.

Vicki: First, understand that when you become a full-time RVer, you are not going on vacation. You are changing your lifestyle. You are not just dipping your toe in to test the water. You are immersing yourself. You want to do some serious thinking. We would like to suggest that you develop three full-timing strategies; an entry strategy, a lifestyle strategy, and an exit strategy.

Your entry strategy is essentially preparation for making the transition from your present lifestyle to a full-time RVing lifestyle. This is where you find answers to the question “How will we fulltime?” A home address will have to be identified. Financial plans formulated. Details worked out about banking, bill paying and mail forwarding. Decisions will have to be made about what stuff to get rid of and what to do with the things you keep. It will take time to research the questions. It will take time to implement the answers. And, most importantly, it will take time to test them.

Joe: Your entry strategy should include spending as much time as possible in your RV before making the move to full-timing. Longer trips will help you evaluate your present RV’s suitability for full-timing. Is it small and agile enough to take you where you want to go? Is it big enough to carry all your worldly possessions and to provide the creature comforts you require? Is it durable enough to handle the wear and tear of full-time living and long-distance travel? You might discover that your present RV, while it may be great for weekends and vacations, is not going to satisfy your full-timing needs.

Longer trips can be used to research and test your arrangements for banking, bill paying, internet service, cell phone service, obtaining medical care, getting prescriptions refilled, and receiving mail.

Trips of longer duration will also help determine if you and your spouse are ready for the togetherness of the full-time lifestyle.

Vicki: Your lifestyle strategy should identify what you will do as a full-time RVer. Where will you go? What will you do? We have observed that most full-time RVers begin as serious travelers. The first couple of years they move quickly from place to place, never staying in one location for any length of time. Their mindset is still like vacationers. Destination, mileage and time oriented rather than simply enjoying the journey. Once they have criss-crossed the country a couple of times, however, they begin to slow down and spend more time in the places that appeal to them. This is usually the time when they re-evaluate their lifestyle. Some will continue to travel, although at a more leisurely pace. Many will look for a home base, perhaps a campground, where they can settle in for two or three months at a time between journeys. A few will find a comfortable RV park and take up permanent residence. And others will return to a more conventional dwelling. Your lifestyle strategy should be flexible. Recognize and allow for the fact that your interests and circumstances can, and probably will, change as you go down the road.

Joe: Your lifestyle strategy can be anything you want. That’s one of the joys of full-timing. As Vicki mentioned, most new full-timers take advantage of their open-ended calendar by traveling. They go to all the places their previous time-constrained lives prevented them from visiting. Some travel with a purpose. They have places to go, things to do, and people to see. Others travel aimlessly, just to sightsee. A number of full-time RVers use their travels to locate the perfect retirement community. Many full-timers, after a couple of carefree years, return to the work world. Some start on-the-road businesses. Others find temporary or part time jobs. A good number become volunteers. Whatever they do, they seem to choose an activity that satisfies their need to be useful or productive, yet allows them to remain in their RV. Be careful here. You may end up back where you started.

A lifestyle strategy should be flexible. It is just a starting point. Your lifestyle will change as you observe and experience what the open road has to offer. You will evolve as you go down the road.

Vicki: Your exit strategy is simply a plan or arrangement that permits you to make the change from full-time RVing to a more conventional lifestyle.

We are acquainted with a number of full-timers who have come in off the road. Some became full-timers with the intention of returning to a more conventional lifestyle when they reached a certain point in life. Most of these folks developed both their entry and exit strategies knowing that, at some time, they would leave the full-time lifestyle.

Other full-timers, over the course of a number of years, have slowly evolved from leisurely travelers, to occasional travelers, to living year-round in an RV park, to moving into a conventional dwelling. And there were others who suddenly found themselves in a position where their personal circumstances forced them to leave the full-time lifestyle altogether. Obviously, the transition was a lot smoother for those who were psychologically and financially prepared for the move.

Your exit strategy simply takes into consideration that you might not spend the rest of your life living in an RV. Our observation is that those who are the most content are the ones who had some kind of exit strategy. Your exit strategy doesn’t have to be rigid. But it should provide you with options.

Vicki: All of our full-timing friends love their lifestyle. They love the sense of self-reliance, the people they meet, and their sense of freedom. You can join them. Do your homework, research, talk to other full-timers. Develop your entry, lifestyle and exit strategies. And take time to enjoy the journey!


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

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rally Camping

Dear Joe and Vicki: We are thinking about signing up for what will be our first rally. What can we expect in the way of camping facilities?

Joe: Depending upon their location, rallies can offer a variety of utility hookup connections. Some will offer full hookups with electric, water and sewer. Most, however, will provide only partial hookups; meaning an electrical and possibly a water hookup. And others will only provide dry camping. It is a good idea to read the rally literature carefully so you know exactly what to expect. No matter what you sign up for or what you expect, however, it is a good idea to show up at a rally prepared for dry camping.

Dry, or self-contained, camping means living in your RV without the benefit of being connected to a campground’s electric, water and sewer facilities. Here are a few tips to make dry-camping at rallies a little easier.

If you have a generator. Ask to be parked in a generator area. You may be given your choice of camping in an area that permits unlimited (24 hour) generator usage or one with limited generator usage (7:00 AM to 10:00 PM for example). Be prepared for the noise and exhaust fumes of your neighbors’ generators.

Operate your generator only when you actually need to. Most of your electrical needs can be supplied by your battery(s) and they should automatically recharge while the generator is running.

Schedule your generator operating time to cover the usage of your high-amperage appliances. Running your generator from 7:00 am to 10:00 am for example might cover operation of the furnace, microwave oven, electric coffee pot, toaster, hair dryer and the water pump for showers. Your batteries will also be recharging during this time.

Check and service your generator before leaving home. You want your generator to be in good operating condition.

If you do not have a generator (or you choose to camp in a non-generator area). You will be relying upon your coach battery(s). Obviously, two coach batteries will last longer than one.

Conserve battery power by limiting your electrical usage. A single 12-volt ceiling light bulb draws about 1.5 amps per hour; a color TV (and inverter) about 12 amps; the furnace fan and the water pump 7.5 amps each while operating. Obviously, the less amp-hours you consume, the longer your battery will last. So turn off unnecessary lights and keep 12-volt appliance operation to a minimum.

Check and service your battery(s) before leaving home.

Vicki: Arrive with your water tank full! Dry campng means you will not have a water hookup so you will have to rely on the capacity of your RV’s fresh-water tank. Depending upon the duration of the rally and the capacity of your water tank you might even consider arriving with a few containers full of drinking water. The two-gallon containers of drinking water you buy at the supermarket work well here.

Conserve water by using the campground’s restroom and showers.

Wash dishes only once a day. Instead of pre-rinsing, use paper towels to wipe leftover food from the dishes. Use paper plates to reduce the number of dishes that have to be washed.

Do not let the water run while showering. At the shower head, turn on the water to get wet, turn off the water while you soap, turn on the water to rinse off. Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth or while washing.

Use a pan or kettle to capture the water you run while waiting for warm water to arrive at the faucet. The captured water can be used for other washing purposes.

Shave with a battery operated razor.

Eat out more often. Remember to use the restaurant’s restroom before leaving.

Large rallies might have “water wagons” circulating through the campgrounds. They will fill your water tank or container for a fee.

Arrive with your holding tanks empty! You will not have a sewer hookup so you will have to rely upon the capacity of your RV’s holding tanks.

Conserving water will automatically conserve holding-tank space. One method of conserving space in the gray-water tank is to wash dishes in plastic dishpans and then dump the dirty dishwater into the black-water holding tank by pouring it into the toilet.

Large rallies might have “honeywagons” circulating through the campgrounds. They will empty your holding tank(s) for a fee. Most rally locations will have a dump station. Ask for its location.

Take a practice dry-camping trip. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it can be.

Remember, arrive with your propane and water tanks full and your holding tanks empty!

Note: Occasionally a rally will only have 15 or 20-amp electrical hookups. You will need a 15-amp male to 30-amp female adapter in order to connect your 30-amp power cord to the 15-amp outlet. Keep in mind that you will have to keep your RV’s total amperage draw to 15 amps or less. It is a good idea to switch both your refrigerator and water heater to propane operation before connecting your rig to a 15-amp outlet. An RV’s absorption refrigerator can draw in the neighborhood of 5 amps of power and the water heater 12 or more amps while operating on a 120-volt electrical connection..


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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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Keep or Not to Keep

Dear joe and Vicki: My motorhome is 5 years old. Things are beginning to wear out and need replacement. We are wondering whether we should keep and refurbish our present motorhome or buy a new one. What do you think?

Joe: Either way, it looks like you are getting ready to spend some money. And, whether you buy a new motorhome or refurbish the one you have, in five more years you are probably going to be faced with the same decision again.

Five years of age seems to be a mid-life crisis point for RVs, especially motorhomes. Outside, the paint is beginning to oxidize. The windshield probably has a few battle scars. The roof needs to be re-caulked (for the second time). Shock absorbers and brake linings need to be checked. Belts, hoses and windshield wiper blades are due for replacement. Tires, no matter their tread wear, are reaching the end of their safe lifespan. The engine and transmission may not be performing as smartly as when they were new.

Inside, the carpet, upholstery and window coverings are beginning to fade and show some wear. Fabrics and color schemes are woefully out-of-fashion. Outdated appliances have reached the point where, if they stop working, the repairman will probably suggest replacement instead of repair. The entertainment center (if you have one) has a television screen that is smaller than you like, does not have a DVD player, and has speakers that seem archaic.

And, if your RV is five or more years of age, you may only have one slide-out room or perhaps no slides at all! Good grief! You own a dinosaur!

Chances are your RV's loan balance is less than, or about equal to, its market value. Or maybe you are one of the lucky RV owners whose payments are just right – nothing per month. That means you have some equity in your present RV that could be applied to the purchase of a new one. And let's face it, a five year old RV is easier to sell or trade than one that is ten years old. Maybe now is a good time to trade.

Vicki: Before you do, however, consider what you will be doing with your present or new RV for the next five years. Do you anticipate any personal or career changes that would affect your RVing lifestyle? A new job or promotion might curtail the amount of time available for RVing. In that case, it might not make good financial sense to buy a new RV only to have it sit in storage. Perhaps it might be better to postpone that new purchase and, for the time being, make do with your present RV.

On the other hand, if you will be retiring soon, perhaps you will have even more time available for RVing. Buying a new RV prior to retiring can be a good decision. You can choose one that will better complement your extended travels. You will also have the opportunity to take it on a few shakedown trips and get familiar with it before you embark on those extended cross-country journeys.

One of the most popular reasons for getting a new RV is a change of RV lifestyle. Going from weekend and two-week camping trips to extended travel, snowbirding, or fulltiming frequently calls for a change in the type and/or size of RV.

However, if you are going to continue to use your RV as you have in the past, there are some other considerations. By now you have made a lot of personal changes and adjustments to your RV. Closets, drawers and cabinets have been arranged to hold all your "stuff". Pictures, pillows and decorations have been added to reflect your personal taste. You have decided where to keep the trash basket, laundry hamper and vacuum cleaner. You are familiar with your RV's idiosyncrasies and comfortable with its operation. Do you really want to get rid of this rig? If you did replace it, would you want the new RV to be radically different? If your present rig will satisfy your RVing interests and needs for the next five years or so, if you can incorporate the changes and upgrades you'd like into your RV, maybe you should hold onto it.

Joe: Look at the financial considerations. Before you refurbish your current RV, make a list of the things you would like to change. Take your list to the appropriate craftsmen and get an estimate of what the total project will cost. Then, determine your RV's actual market value – what you could reasonably and realistically expect to receive if you sold it today. You don't want to invest more into your RV than it is worth.

Look at the price of new RVs that are equivalent to your present rig. Chances are you will pay at least half again as much for a new RV as you did for your present RV five years ago. Not only will the purchase price be higher, but so will the sales tax. And, of course, the annual insurance premiums, and vehicle registration fees of the new RV will be higher than what you are paying now.

The money you spend refurbishing your RV may not add appreciably to its market value
but it will certainly be less than the cost of a new rig.

Vicki: Your choices seem to be to a.) keep your RV and spend the minimum necessary to bring it to satisfactory condition, b.) keep your RV and invest what it takes to renovate and update it to your satisfaction, or c.) buy a new RV that will better satisfy your interests and needs.

If you are unhappy with your present RV, if it does not satisfy your RVing lifestyle, if you want a different type, size, style or floorplan, then buy that new RV. But if you like your present RV and it can be refurbished to satisfy your RVing interests and needs, it might make better sense to keep it.

And, if you do keep it, there's always the chance that a silver-tongued salesman will weave his magic, and cause you to fall in love with a 42-foot, quadruple slide, Whizbang motorhome and set you up with a payment schedule that will last the rest of your natural life.

Either way, in five years you will be making this same decision again.

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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Going to Alaska? Check out the blog entries of our Alaska trip in 2007.
Then click on RVing Alaska, Insights and observations.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinghy Protection

Dear Joe and Vicki: Do you use a cover over the front of your car to keep dirt and gravel from damaging it while towing? Have you ever used those shields that ride in front of the car?

Joe: When we first began towing a car we bought one of those fiberglass shields and a padded, vinyl windshield cover. We never experienced any damage to the windshield or front of the car while using them. After a few years, though, I did notice rub marks wearing into the paint above the windshield. Apparently this was caused by the cover moving slightly while we traveled down the road. There were also occasions when I noticed little pieces of road tar stuck on the top of the hood. They brushed off quite easily, however.

There was the question of what to do with the shield once we arrived at our destination. I usually stowed it under the motorhome and hoped the wind wouldn't blow it away. There was also the fear that I would forget the shield was under the motorhome and I would run over it. It wasn’t long before I felt that putting the shield and windshield cover on and off was a lot of bother.

After we installed some large mud flaps behind the rear wheels of the motorhome, we stopped using the fiberglass shield. Later we stopped using the vinyl windshield cover. After ten years and over 100,000 towing miles we never experienced any damage to the front of that car.

A few years ago, we purchased a new car for towing. We don't use a windshield cover nor do we use a shield. The only protection for our towed car are the large mud flaps behind our motorhome's rear tires and a solid, heavy mud flap the width of the rear bumper that almost touches the ground.

So far, we have towed that car over 20,000 miles and not experienced any damage.

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

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expert Opinions

Dear Joe and Vicki: You could make life a lot easier for me if you would just tell me what kind of RV you and the other "RV experts" have and how they are equipped.

Joe: OK! But I don't think the answer will make life easier for you.

A few years ago, during one of the University of Idaho's "Life On Wheels" Conferences, Vicki and I were among 12 "RV Experts" who participated as panel members in an RV Lifestyle forum.

Among the panel participants were: a single, full-timing woman; a single full-timing man; two full-timing couples; a couple who had full-timed for many years but were now extended travelers and two couples (including Vicki and I) who traveled extensively in their RVs but were not full-timers.

For the sake of discussion we'll say there were three extended travelers and four full-timers; a total of seven RVs.

Two extended travelers and the full-timing woman had Class A motorhomes. Each towed a small car.

The extended travelers who used to be full-timers had a Class C motorhome. They did not tow a transportation vehicle.

The full-timing man and one full-timing couple had fifth-wheel trailers with one or more slide-out rooms. One towed with a medium duty tow vehicle; the other towed with a pickup truck.

The remaining full-timing couple had a fifth-wheel without a slide-out room. They also towed with a pickup truck.

One of the Class A motorhomes and all of the fifth-wheel tow vehicles were powered by diesel engines.

Vicki: All the full-timing RVers and one extended traveler had their rigs equipped with solar panels and inverters. The two remaining extended travelers did not see any need for them.

Interestingly, the extended travelers without the solar panels prefered boondocking and government campgrounds while one full-timing couple with solar panels favored commercial campgrounds with full hookups.

Two full-timers belonged to membership campground organizations. The remainder did not.

Preferences in overnight accommodations depended upon each RVers interests, needs and budget at the moment. None of us stayed exclusively in any one type of campground.

Only one extended traveler and one full-timing couple traveled with a pet.

Only one full-timing and one extended traveler had a washer/dryer in their RV. One full-timer claimed she washed her clothes on a rock!

As the panel continued to answer questions posed by the audience it was obvious that we all had equally diverse opinions and preferences when it came to the various aspects of choosing, using and enjoying our RVs.

One thing we all agreed on though. We love the feeling of independence and the sense of freedom we get from traveling and living in an RV

Joe: So you see, whatever type of RV you choose, however you equip it, wherever or however you camp, you'll be doing exactly what the “RV experts” do.

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

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Buying a Larger RV

Dear Joe and Vicki: "We are considering trading in our 24 foot motorhome on one in the 30 - 32 foot range. We particularly enjoy camping in government campgrounds. Will we encounter any size problems with the larger rig?"

Joe: Our previous motorhome was 32 feet long. We found that most major national, state and county campgrounds could readily accommodate RVs up to 32 feet. Obviously, the higher into the mountains or the deeper into the forest, the fewer campgrounds and campsites we could fit into.

Our present motorhome is 36 feet long. During the last couple of years we have stayed in a number of national and state campgrounds. While there were sites large enough to accommodate the larger RVs, there were even more sites that would accommodate a 32 foot or smaller RV.

Vicki: Think about the types of government campgrounds you are attracted to. The height and width of the 32 footer will probably be no more of a consideration than your current motorhome. The length, however, may limit the number of campsites that you can fit into. The length may also affect your ability to navigate the narrow roads and sharp turns of some older, more remote campgrounds.

Use your campground directories to look up the kind of government campgrounds you plan to frequent. See if they have any size limitations that would preclude the size RV you are considering.

You may find, as we did, that a 32-foot RV 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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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alaska: Solo or Caravan

Dear Joe and Vicki: We intend to take our RV to Alaska this summer. The only question in our mind is whether we should travel solo or join an RV caravan. What do you suggest?

Joe: Thousands of RVers travel to Alaska on their own and do just fine. You will too! Do your homework. Research and plan your trip carefully (two DVDs and an e-book about what to expect and how to prepare for an RV journey to Alaska are available on our website .

Most importantly, allow plenty of time (six to eight weeks) to see and do all that interests you.

Our first RV trip to Alaska was accomplished on our own. We spent more than a year researching, planning and preparing for what we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The trip lasted three months. We took the Alaska Highway one direction and the ferry system the other. Guided by books, maps, brochures, and the advice of folks who had gone before us, we thought we had seen everything Alaska had to offer. We had a great time.

Then we signed on as “tailgunners” with an Alaskan caravan. The typical RV caravan staff consists of a wagonmaster couple and an assistant wagonmaster couple. The wagonmaster team is responsible for keeping the caravan running smoothly. The assistant wagonmaster couple, sometimes known as "tailgunners," travel behind the last RV so they are available to assist any caravan members who experience problems along the way.

The Alaskan caravan followed the same route, went to the same places, and took the same tours we did on our solo trip… plus a whole lot more! And they did it a lot more efficiently. That’s their business.

Vicki: A caravan company selects the route, puts together the itinerary, makes campground reservations and arranges interesting tours. You'll travel with the knowledge that nothing will be missed along the way. You'll also enjoy the camaraderie of fellow caravan participants and the sense of security that comes from traveling with a group.

Keep in mind, though, that group travel involves compromise, group participation and adherence to travel schedules. If you're independent-minded, accustomed to solo travel and prefer to avoid itineraries, you might want to seriously consider whether you'd be happy in a caravan.

A typical caravan day begins with a briefing by the caravan staff. They will tell you about the road conditions, scenic attractions and points of interest you can expect during the coming day's journey. A travel day, by the way, will rarely exceed 200 to 300 miles.

As the caravan progresses, you can expect to experience planned events such as river rafting, fishing trips, tours and barbecues.

When you arrive at each day’s destination you will be guided into your reserved campsite. But the day won’t be over yet. Evening activities will probably include restaurant meals, salmon bakes, pot-lucks and professional entertainment.

Some Alaska caravans either include or will make arrangements for you to load your RV onto a giant ferry, occupy a stateroom and cruise the Inside Passage on your return trip to the US/Canadian border. We happen to think that this should be a part of everyone's Alaska experience.

To learn more about RV caravans, contact the commercial caravan companies. You'll find them advertised in RV publications. Ask what you can expect to receive for your money. Compare what each company offers on similar caravans.

Once you've experienced the benefits of professional preparation, experienced guides and adventurous companions, you may find yourself joining the ranks of those for whom caravanning has become an addictive form of travel.

Either way, solo or caravan, you are in for a great adventure. Go for it!

Joe and Vicki will be presenting their seminar “Alaska, The Ultimate RV Adventure” at the Gypsy Gathering Rally in Yuma, Arizona on March 8, 2011. The rally will have a number of seminars relating to Alaska.

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, January 6, 2011

Be Prepared

Joe: Thunp! Whoooshh! It was the unmistakable sound of air making a rapid escape from a tire. My heart sank. Vicki shot me a look that said "I can't believe you did that".

It really wasn't my fault. We were on our way out of a campground. I was maneuvering through a tight right turn. Suddenly, without warning, a cleverly concealed small decorative wall attacked and tore open my right, rear outside tire.

Vicki: The good news was that we were prepared. Our preparation was developed from experience. Experience is the best teacher. It gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Our learning experience occurred two years ago. We had a blow-out. As usual, Murphy's Law prevailed… blown inside dual tire, 35 miles from the nearest town, Saturday of Easter weekend, no spare tire. At that time, we had no spare tire because our motorhome did not come equipped with one. The RV dealer had patiently explained that the reasons for no spare tire were: 1) "Those tires never blow out." 2) "The lug nuts are so tight you would need a 10-foot long wrench to loosen them." 3) "The tire and wheel weigh 200 pounds and the manufacturer doesn't want the liability of you getting hurt while handling one." and 4) "The roadside service truck will bring a new tire and mount it." Silly me, I thought it was because the RV manufacturer wanted to avoid the expense of a spare tire.

Anyway, because that blowout occurred on Easter weekend and our tire size (10 R 22.5) was not readily available, it took the roadside service folks about 3 hours to locate a used tire that would, hopefully, get us home. And, they had to make a 30-mile round trip to get it (we could have gotten a new tire if we had been willing to wait until Tuesday).

The used tire got us home where we replaced all of the tires. But, learning from experience, we kept one of the old tires as a spare. That was part of our preparation … carry a spare tire.

Joe: Our experience-based plan for dealing with our present tire mishap was to 1.) Locate a replacement tire. 2.) Call roadside service and ask them to pick up the replacement tire. 3.) Have roadside service mount the new tire on the motorhome. The 7-year old spare would be used only if we could not locate a replacement tire.

Did I mention that this latest blowout occurred in a campground in El Centro, California? El Centro is located in the middle of the desert, 100 miles east San Diego, 100 miles south of Palm Springs, 60 miles west of Yuma, Arizona and 7 miles north of the Mexican border. These things never seem to happen in a convenient location. A few telephone calls revealed that El Centro did not have a replacement tire in stock. We would have to use the spare and obtain a new tire somewhere down the road.

While we were waiting for roadside service to arrive we located a replacement tire at a tire shop in Chandler, Arizona. Chandler is just south of Phoenix. It would put 275 miles on our 7-year old spare tire but added only 70 miles to our overall journey.

The next morning, in Chandler, I successfully wiggled our 36-foot motorhome through a narrow alley and into a tire service area that was obviously not intended for a motorhome. This feat redeemed me, in Vicki's eyes, as a reasonably competent RV driver. She was beginning to have doubts after the wall versus tire incident. Two hours later we had two new tires on the front wheels, four matched 2-year old tires on the rear, a 2-year old spare tire in a side compartment, and a much lighter wallet. The incident had used the equivalent of a full day's travel time.

Vicki: The moral of this story is to be prepared. Be prepared by carrying a cellular telephone; it is invaluable in an emergency. Be prepared by having a spare tire; don't count on a replacement tire being available at a moment's notice. Be prepared by subscribing to an RV roadside assistance plan. One that will respond anywhere in the United States and Canada and, if unable to solve the problem on the side of the road , one that will tow your RV (no matter the distance) to a facility that can effect the repair. Be prepared by having the telephone numbers of the manufacturer of your vehicles, their chassis, engines, transmissions, and tires. Most manufacturers can direct you to the facilities that can service their products.

Joe: And, don't forget your credit card.

To read more about RVs, RVers and RVing go to Joe and Vicki's website.

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