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