A Lesson in Driving

If you are thinking about purchasing your first RV or recently purchased your new rig and consider yourself a novice at driving this 30,000 pound vehicle, RV driving classes may be helpful.  Not only is important to be able to drive this enormous vehicle, but equally important is the ability to understand all of the mechanical systems and buttons.

During these RV driving courses, you will learn everything from how to park and reverse into RV spots to how inspect the vehicle from the outside.  Turning sounds easy but we all know that turning in a RV is much different than turning in a passenger vehicle.  However, if you are schooled in using reference points on your vehicle to make tight turns, it will make it much easier for you.  Most of the information given is one of those things where you must physically do it to learn it and simply not see a video or read up about it.  You’ll even learn how to use your mirrors properly.  You will also learn about the air brake systems including how they work and how to check them to ensure there are no leaks.

With Canadian authorities seeing this as being of such importance as to require an endorsement to a driver’s license, and our own Department of Transportation mandating these tests each and every day for commercial truckers, we think it’s essential that all RVers with air brake systems learn how they work, and how to perform the required tests to ensure they’re in good operating condition.[Source RVersOnline]

In addition, you can learn how to safely pass other vehicles and how to determine a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.  These classes can even teach you the exact moment to switch to a lower gear when going downhill as well as determining grades of hills and driving through steep mountains .

I suggest you find a RV driving lesson in a city near you. But by all means, get out and enjoy your RV, but familiarize or re-familiarize yourself with your RV before hitting the road!

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How to Get Your Mail while RVing

So you’ve made the decision to become a full-time RVer, congratulation! But ever wonder how you get your mail while you’re traveling the open road?

Receiving Mail

RVers have all their mail go to one address. Some RVers use a friend or relative. Most use a mail forwarding service. Escapees, Family Motor Coaching Association (FMCA), and Good Sam Club RV clubs all have mail forwarding services. There are also some mail forwarding companies that specialize in RVers such as Alternative Resources in South Dakota. There are others. Many RVers choose as their domicile a state that has no state income taxes and so mail forwarding services spring up to meet the demand. Escapees is located in Texas and Good Sam in Florida, two other no-state-income-tax states in addition to South Dakota.

So your mail goes to your mail forwarding service (or relative’s) and then you contact them periodically by telephone or email to let them know when and where to send out your mail. An RV park where you’ll be on a certain date may accept mail for guests. You can have it sent in care of general delivery to a post office in a town where you’ll be in several days. Or you could have it sent to a friend or relative’s in that town. If you are in an area for an extended time – for a visit or if you are volunteering or working there – you might even get a post office box while you are there to receive your forwarded mail.When you contact the company or your friend for your mail, they bundle it into one package and mail (or send it via common carrier like UPS, if you request) it to the address you give them. If all goes well, in a couple of days, you have that batch of mail.

Mail forwarding services charge a yearly fee plus postage for their service. A friend or relative may do it expecting only the postage, but if you get mail frequently, it could be an imposition. Or, sometimes a relative won’t feel the urgency to mail your package out, tying you up for a few days.

Hints:

• Make sure the post office you select accepts general delivery mail. If there is more than one location in a city,
only one will accept general delivery mail.

•       Use the USPS zip code finder to find the
proper zip-four code and post office. Use “General Delivery” as the address.

•        Plan ahead so your mail has time to reach you. If you have it sent to the location where you are, you could be there a week waiting for your mail.

•         If you have it sent to an RV park, verify that they will accept mail. Some will not.

•         It’s not a bad idea to alert the post office that you will be receiving general delivery mail. They are supposed to hold general delivery mail for 30 days but one time in Quartzsite, they sent it back in just a few days because they didn’t recognize the name and I wasn’t coming. A busy area like Quartzsite in the winter may not need to hold general delivery mail that long either.

•        Most mail forwarding services will trash junk mail if requested, saving you from having to discard it yourself and also postage. This could mean no catalogs- probably a good thing!

Of course the use of email is nice, but where is the postman going to deliver that new travel book you just bought online? 🙂

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Test Your Carbon Monoxide Tester!

This late fall and early winter is hunting season and is the time of the year when nearly half of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths occur.  However, many of these deaths could be prevented with the use of a properly installed carbon monoxide tester in your RV or camper.  Most of us have a carbon monoxide detector in our homes which would warn us if this gas leaked into our house, but we don’t think about its dangers out in the woods when in our campers.  It is cold out now, and so most hunters will run the heaters in their RV.  If you happen to not have proper ventilation, the odorless and colorless gas can leak into the RV and kill in minutes as it reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain.

Now, this blog is not meant to scare you; but instead educate you.  Most new RVs do come with a carbon monoxide tester, but if you have an older travel trailer, fifth-wheel or RV without a detector, you should install a battery operated detector on the wall.  Smoke detectors are usually placed on the roof because smoke rises.  In the same token, propane detectors are mounted near the floor as propane is heavier than air and sinks.  Carbon Monoxide detectors should be placed about 5 feet from the floor.  Regardless whether it comes stock, or you installed it yourself, don’t’ ignore this detector as it could save your life.   Make sure you have a quality detector as lower end detectors often go off inadvertently and you may begin to ignore them which is exactly what you don’t want to do.   If you have a headache, feel dizzy, or get nauseated, or faint, you may have CO poisoning.  If you are concerned you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, go straight to the hospital.  Also, remember to test the detector every 30 days and realize that these detectors only have about a 5 year life span and need to be replaced once they’ve reached this life expectancy.

Also, don’t run generators all night while you are sleeping as fumes can come back in your camper through an open window.  In addition, don’t leave the stove on while you are sleeping to keep you warm and always have your fuel burning appliances checked out each season before heading out.    Lastly, remember that if your detector didn’t come stock, and you are using a tester which plugs into an outlet, it will only work when you have power.

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Geocaching Fun!

Geocaching. It’s definitely catching on. This would be a great adventure to do with your fellow RV or camping buddies. You can plan out a weekend trip with geocaching destinations.

So what is geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) you ask? It’s basically a world wide game of high-tech treasure hunting using a GPS and the web. It’s tons of fun. Basically a geocacher places a geocache (a container hidden anywhere, that includes, at minimum, a logbook for a geocacher to sign) anywhere they’d like then pinpoint its location using a GPS then sharing the GPS coordinates online for others to search out.

There easiest way to get started is to join GeoCaching.com. There you’ll also find tons of information on this super fun, GPS, online game of hide and seek! This is a great family activity as kids will love the thrill of finding a treasure just as much as the adults.

Here an introduction to geocaching video:
Load up your RV or travel trailer and make it a geocaching weekend! Leave me a comment on your experience!

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State of Charge

Testing your batteries state of charge will be the only way to know if it’s in full working order or not. Don’t guess, especially if it’s been in storage as it has most likely to have lost power. There are three ways to test your battery:

1. Use the monitor panel in your RV- Using the panel is least accurate way to test, but it will give you a general reading if that’s all you’re after. Make sure you’re not plugged in and turn on a few lights to put a small load on the battery.

2. Measure the voltage with a voltmeter – You’ll use a Voltmeter if your batteries are sealed.  From FMCA:

Set the meter on DC voltage and connect the red lead to the positive terminal and the black lead to the negative terminal. A 12-volt battery that is charged should read 12.5 to 12.7 volts. Readings less than 12.5 indicate the battery state of charge is less than 80 percent and the battery needs to be charged. A 6-volt battery that is charged should read 6.25 to 6.37 volts. Readings below 6.25 indicate the battery state of charge is less than 80 percent and the battery needs to be charged.

3. Test the gravity with a hydrometer –  this is the most accurate way to test the battery, but more effort and time is neeed. Per FMCA:

You can purchase a hydrometer at an auto parts store for about $10. The electrolyte is a solution of acid and water, so you need to wear safety glasses and gloves and avoid any contact with your skin. Remove the vent caps and check the electrolyte levels. There has to be enough in the cells for the hydrometer to pick up a sample. If you have to add any water, you’ll have to charge the battery and let it sit for 12 hours before testing. Fill and drain the hydrometer at least twice in each cell before taking a sample. Take the reading and record it, and then drain it back into the cell. Test all of the cells and replace the vent caps. Specific gravity readings for a charged battery should read between 1.235 and 1.277. Specific gravity readings below 1.235 indicate the battery state of charge is less than 80 percent and the battery needs to be charged.  If there is a .050 or more difference in the specific gravity reading between the highest and lowest cell, you have a weak or dead cell in the battery.Note: If your hydrometer does not compensate for temperature you must correct the readings to 80 degrees F. Add .004 for every 10 degrees above 80 degrees F and subtract .004 for every 10 degrees below 80 degrees F.

Make sure you test your battery before you head out. You don’t want to be stranded with a dead battery.

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Top 5 New York RV Parks

We’ve been traveling the road and came up with five top RV parks to put on your list for next years RVing trip. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Liberty Harbor Marina – this is the closest park that you’ll get to the city. With views to Elllis Island and the Statue of Liberty it’s a perfect site.  They have 50 site with full restrooms with hot showers as well as daily bus tours to NYC and much more.

2.  Rustic Barn Campground – located in Corinth this property borders the Adirondack Park. This is spot is a great place to just relax or there are great places to go hiking and biking.  Or head down to Saratoga Springs for some shopping!

3.  Pleasant Lake RV Park – located just outside of Syaracuse in Pennellville this RV park has 112 sites and has a private beach on Pleseant Beach for guests. They also have fun activities such as horse shoe sites, volleyball, fishing and more. This is a great destination for a fun filled family get-a-way.

4.  Forest Lake Campground – located in Leatherstocking county among the rolling hills and farmlands this RV destination is more for when you want to relax and enjoy a weekend of bird watching, fishing and hiking.

5. Niagara Falls North KOA – located in Youngstown, this RV site has lots to offer! Hop on the tour bus to Niagara Falls or cross over the border to check out Canada. When you’re back at camp there’s a basketball court, playground, WiFi, a rec room and tons more.

Those are our top five New York RV destinations for now. What’s your favorite?

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Fall to Winter Bird Watching – New York

You may think that all birds migrate south for the winter, but that’s not entirely true. In fact, many bird enthusiasts in New York think that fall and winter is the best time for bird watching.  From juncos, titmice, chickadees, wild turkey’s, white-throated sparrows, owls and many species of ducks, these birds and many others migrate to New York to spend their winter. There is plenty to look at and appreciate.

Here are a few suggested places to go:

1. NYC – the New York Botanical Gardens  & Central Park

2. Rochester – Lake Ontario has great waterfowl and gulls

3.  Queens – Jamaica Bay Refuge

4. Brooklyn – Prospect Park

5.  Sheepshead Bay – walk the shore

Where’s your favorite place to take the RV, motorhome for travel trailer for a little bird watching?

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Snowbird Destination: Arizona

Just like birds migrate to the south for the winter to avoid the harsh coldness of the northern states, so to do Snowbirds.   States like Arizona are known for their intense heat in the summer, but the winter climate is about as perfect as it can get.   Arizona and Florida are likely the most popular states for a snowbird destination.  We’re going to focus on Arizona.  The reason for Arizona’s draw to Snowbirds is simple:  They have great weather in the winter and tons of activities senior enjoy during their stay there.   Also, it is an opportunity for these seniors to be in a “community” of their peers.

Mesa, Prescott, and Yuma seem to be the most popular RV destination cities for Snowbirds in Arizona.  The reason for this is the weather and access to activities seniors enjoy.  These activities include shopping, museums, galleries, casinos, vineyards, bird watching, national monuments, and of course golf.  These cities also provide remarkable scenery, rich culture and complete serenity.

Advice from the pros when picking a winter location:

Reserve NOW. All the good parks will fill up early. So if you’re planning on going somewhere for sure for January and February, be sure and have your reservations early. Snowbirds tend to go back to the same places year after year; and they’ll make their reservations at the end of the last season.

If you’re new to snowbirding, pick your first park where you have a friend. That will help get you up and running.

Before you settle in on one special park, try out as many different places as you can, first. Otherwise you risk missing some places you might enjoy better. Write to the Chambers of Commerce in the areas ou target — you’ll get LOTS of information – RVers Online

Many of the parks offer seasonal rates where you can rent a spot for the entire winter season so start looking now and let me know where you’re headed!

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Electric Brakes and Travel Trailers

If you have a trailer, or are in the market for one, and want to know more about brakes and towing, this blog is for you.  I have done a previous blog on sway bars which are key, but the fact of the matter is that stopping your trailer is as important as pulling it.  Obviously, a proper electric brake can help with this.

All that an electric brake does is provide power to the bakes of your trailer when you hit on the brakes in your vehicle which is towing the trailer.  The first thing to decide is if you want a proportional brake control or a time delayed  brake control.   There are many resources out there which explain the differences between the two so you can figure out which model fits you best.

Once you have figured out if you want a proportional or time delayed brake control, the next step is to properly install it.  The E-how website has a nice summary of installation instructions.

1.       Obtain a electric trailer brake kit. A good kit will contain the backing plate with all the goods assembled. You will also need a matching brake drum to match you trailer spindles and the backing plate.

2.       Remove the existing trailer hub.

3.       Bolt the backing plate to the trailer axle. Note that the direction of rotation is important.  Be sure the backing plates are mounted on the proper sides of the trailer.

4.       Connect the magnets to a wire and run them to the tongue of the trailer. Most brake manufacturers recommend that you use a separate ground wire and not use the trailer frame e for a ground.

5.       Make a connection to allow the trailer brakes to be connected to the trailer brake controller. The standard wire color is blue. Many trucks will already have a blue wire run in the wiring harness for you.

6.       Install the brake drum and set the spindle nut the the specified torque. Be sure to grease the new bearings with the proper grease. The hub with brakes will run much hotter than your old hubs did so use high temp grease.

7.       Test the system by pressing the emergency button on the brake controller. The trailer brakes should activate immediately. If it all works OK, follow the trailer brake controller adjustment procedure to set the correct power and delay for your trailer and loads.

8.       Enjoy your new stopping capacity.

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Bear Safety

Many folks think of bears as vicious creatures capable of inflicting injury or sometimes even death on humans.  However, the truth is that bears would prefer to stay away from people and keep to themselves.  Why then the occasional run-in with these animals?  Sometimes it is due to a surprise encounter in the woods, but more times than not, bears are actually encountered in camp grounds.

Why are bears venturing into our campgrounds?  The one thing a bear enjoys just about as much as his dreams during his long winter slumber is a full tummy in the summer (the time when most of us go out camping) and fall when they are stocking up before hibernation.  The search for an easy snack is one major reason why bears are coming in close contact with humans.  Think about it; if you were a bear would you rather work hard to find your own dinner in the woods or stroll into a campground for an easy feast?

Therefore, there are few suggestions which are recommended to keep bears away.   These rules are not rocket science by any means, but too often campers to do not adhere to them.  Click here for some great bear tips.  Some of them include the rules mentioned below.

When camping, you should:

  • Don’t have your travel trailer or RV too close to your cooking area or where food will be stored.
  • Throw your trash away.  Don’t leave trash tied up and lying around your campground.  If your campground has bear proof trash bins put in there.  If you don’t have access to bear proof trash bins, put it in bear proof containers which can be found at many sporting goods stores.
  • Don’t leave food out on a table outside:  When not cooking, keep all food in bear resistant containers or hang in trees.  Do the same for pet and livestock food.  For hanging specifications and other rules check out the website mentioned above.

Be safe and enjoy your next camping outing.

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