Friday, September 23, 2016

RV Life Under Tow

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Sometimes the RV is towed by a car, SUV or truck. Sometimes the RV tows a car, boat or trailer. Either way, towing has its special rules

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                              Tow, Tow, Tow Your RV

    BoatUS is a wise and worthy organization for boat owners. If you have a boat of any size, joining the group is a smart way to network, get discounts and learn more about boating. We mention them here because the advice they give for towing a boat trailer may also apply to RV travelers who tow a travel trailer or have a motorhome that tows a car.

    1. Check your hitch setup. Make certain the ball is secure to the mount and that pins holding the mount to the receiver have locking pins.

    2. Chains should cross. If the trailer comes loose, it will fall into the X made by the chains.

    3. It’s a good idea, says Boat US, to replace S-hooks, which can break under load,  with screw-type pin shackles, which are stronger and more reliable. 

Some additional tips on towing:

    * The debate in towing a car behind a motorhome is whether to trailer the car or tow it two wheels down or four wheels down. All three systems have advantages and disadvantages in  terms of wear and tear on the vehicle, cost and drive-ability.  

    * To make sure you don’t go head first into situations you can’t get out of, learn to back up with a tow.  Find a big, empty parking lot and enlist the help of someone.  Stick with it until you have the hang of steering, braking and  interpreting what you see in the mirrors and/or rear-view  television. Shouting in the campground makes you look like a rube and it probably can’t be heard anyway

    * Know the exact height of both vehicles in feet and inches. One might fit through the tunnel or drive-through but the other may not. Don't forget the rooftop air and any pods you've added to the roof.

    * Learn to estimate distances between your vehicles and others on the road so you'll be alert when you are passing or being passed. A big, boxy trailer can be buffeted by wind, putting stress on the tow car.

     * Get acquainted with overhangs. For example, your trailer might scrape when going up or down a steep angle. 

    * Safe towing begins with the right hitch in the right places on the right vehicles. Get advice from your hitch specialist, tow vehicle specialist and an expert on the vehicle that will be towed. 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Money Saving Tips for RV Women

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RV Travel Dollar Stretchers

    Here are some wrinkles and dodges I’ve discovered along the way to save money on RV travels.

    * Did you buy annual membership in any museum? (It’s often cheaper than paying admission more than three times.) As you travel, show your card and ask at every museum you visit whether it honors other memberships. Many do.  Most museums have a free day or evening once a month. They are a good way to meet and mingle with locals. 

    * Think “travel” when you purchase other memberships too. Some fitness and gym chains allow guest privileges at all their sites, sometimes free and sometimes at a discount. 

    * Call sightseeing attractions ahead  to ask about admissions policies. Some parks lower admission after a certain hour; some also allow you to bring a cooler with your own drinks or picnic. This money-saving information may not be on the website. 

    * Always have enough food in the RV pantry to last at least three days. If you never need it, give it to a food bank and restock with fresh. Roads close. Delays happen. And sometimes you simply like a place so much, you want to stay longer than you’d planned. Food is the ultimate insurance.

    * Even if you don’t sew, make up a sewing kit with spare buttons, thread and assorted notions. Iron-on tapes make easy patches; fusing tapes let you repair a hem with an iron. Many campground laundries provide an ironing board and iron. I find it worthwhile to carry a travel iron.  I just use a folded towel on any flat surface to do touch-ups and “mending”. This small, inexpensive craft  iron is designed for hobbyists but it also does all the wardrobe touch-ups I need.

    * I carry a compact, inexpensive,  single-burner electric hot plate.  It can be used indoors and out. When I’m plugged in at a campground, it saves propane and it’s also handy to use outdoors as an extra burner when grilling. 

    * An inexpensive night light plugged into any electric outlet in the RV lets me know at a glance when power goes out. Be sure to get a stay-on type, not one with a sensor that turns it off at dawn. I also like to have at least one of these rechargeable emergency lights. It fits in any 110V outlet, recharges when power is off and comes on when power goes off. 

       * Are you forever leaving an expensive bar of soap behind in the campground shower? Try this. Before leaving for the shower, dampen a wash cloth, put in a sandwich bag and add a a generous squirt of body wash. It will provide enough suds for the entire shower and the wash cloth comes home in the same plastic bag. 

      * When shutting down the rooftop or engine air conditioner, turn off the compressor and let the blower run several more minutes to dry out the works.  Once mildew takes hold in the unit, it’s difficult to dislodge. If campground electrical power is interrupted, turn off the compressor immediately. Its starting load is substantial and the unit could be damaged by weak or intermittent power. When electrical flow settles down, wait a few minutes before starting the compressor. 

    * Empty the black water tank as soon as possible after a hard drive. When solids are still in suspension, you get a cleaner, more complete discharge. Ditto oil changes. More contaminants are flushed away if oil is hot. 

    * Follow your driver’s manual’s instructions for a radiator flush. It saves money when you do it yourself and it’s a job that almost anyone can do. 

Looking for the ultimate gift for the camper, man cave, patio or a loved one who is deployed in a hot spot overseas?  A portable icemaker can be used anywhere there’s a 110V outlet. Tent campers can make ice at the campsite and fill the ice chest as needed. 

Save water, fuel, time, space, hassle. See shortcut camping recipes at 

Friday, September 9, 2016

RV Travelers Go Walk-About

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Go walk-about before each start to check that all is well around the exterior of the camper. 

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Observe tires. If one of a dual  or tandem set goes flat or throws a tread, it could drag and catch fire before you realize there is a problem. 

The Walk-About Checklist
    Have you ever noticed that long-haul truck drivers and airline pilots walk completely around their vehicles before every start-up? I learned the value of this walk-about, thanks to fellow-drivers.

    I was in a small town, just past the railroad tracks, when folks behind me started honking and waving.  It was broad daylight and this seemed like a safe place to stop and pull over. So I did and was glad. They were trying to tell me that I’d lost a hub cap crossing the rough tracks. I should have noticed earlier that it was loose. 

    The walk-about is simply a stroll around the entire RV before moving.  If nothing else, it’s a time to psych myself for the on ramp after I have stopped to shop, sightsee or have a meal.  For some drivers it’s also time for a deep breath, short prayer or brief meditation. Here are things you might observe. 

    * Doors all closed and nothing sticking out?  (My friend ruined a good cashmere sweater when a door closed on a sleeve that hung out for miles in rain and slop.) 

    * All other doors closed and latched? (A common problem is to lose the sewer hose. If  it’s stored in the bumper and the hatch isn’t latched, the hose ends up on the side of the road.) 

    * Are straps and other restraints secure on things like bicycles or lawn chairs that are attached to the exterior? 

    * Step and awning in?

    * Slide fully retracted and secured? 

    * Tires look good? (Don’t forget inner tires in duals.) 

    * Look up. Are antennas and the satellite dish safely stowed?

    * Look ahead. Is your rear overhang going to clear when you hit that steep driveway? 

    * Windshield need cleaning? Rear-viewing camera clear? 

    * Brake light lenses clean and bright? (When RV-ing Alaska I had to clean the mud off all lenses every time I stopped.) 

    * Leaving a campsite, is anything left behind? 

     I think in terms of a single vehicle, my Class C, but additional checks are needed if you have a car or trailer in tow. 

    An unthinkable tragedy happened when a camper driver took off, forgetting that his dog was tied to the vehicle.  Get in the walk-about habit.  Someday you'll be glad you did.
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Friday, September 2, 2016

Travel Puzzles for the RV Woman

blog copyright janet groene. This blog has had more than 116,000 views. To ask about rates to place an ad or sponsor a post, email

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Are you thinking of making an RV your home and travel your lifestyle? I was happily homeless for ten years, making a living along the way. My book covers it all.

Travel Lessons
    Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.”
    Is this you, a woman in motion who loves to discover? Who dares to be a stranger? Who  moves out of her comfort zone into the unknown? Who is curious and always eager to learn? 

    It was Sunday and I was in a southern supermarket, stocking up the RV for a week on the go. When he spotted a bottle of wine in my basket, a kindly clerk told me discreetly that local laws didn’t permit alcohol purchases on Sunday. I slunk back to the wine aisle and replaced the bottle. 

    We travelers make honest mistakes when we are in new places, but that keeps us humble, nimble and alert. Here are some things I learned along the way and sometimes the hard way.

      * It’s easy to get complacent when you use the same, familiar ATM each time. As a traveler, however, you find many differences even within the same network. One learns to observe more carefully when approaching the ATM,  using the machine, and leaving again.

    * Travelers may be surprised to find that their favorite laundry soap doesn’t work right, or their favorite shampoo leaves hair in a mess. In campgrounds, water hardness varies greatly.  I have a water filter until the galley sink for cooking and drinking water, and another water filter  on the shower head.

    * Of all the traffic laws that bedevil travelers, the most confusing is Right Turn on Red. It varies not just state to state but city to city.  Usually you can turn right on red after making a complete stop to check for traffic. Then things get blurry. What is a “complete” stop? What do they mean by a round red light plus a red arrow? A red light with a green arrow?  It’s important to read signs as well as signals. 

    * Two other laws that can confuse travelers are  (1) firearms laws according to each state or city and (2)  restraints and booster seats for children . It takes an entire book to cover firearms laws but you need it if you plan to have any on board.

Restraint requirements for children may be different for RV’s than for cars.  If you have children on board, check state by state.

    * An ample pantry is the best travel insurance. y newest book is about supermarket foods that keep on the shelf, don’t cost a fortune, and provide familiar meals even during emergencies. No matter how small your camper, it’s your lifeboat.  Devote some space to stow-able ingredients, at least enough to make an extra meal or two. For guidelines and recipes, order my
Survival Food Handbook

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hooking Up, RV Style

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do. Not!
    Breaking camp is no longer a backbreaking chore. Neither is hooking up an RV these days. Connecting to campground water, electric and sewer is a snap thanks to smart new gear that is safer too. 

What’s New in Electric Hookups

We have lost power when someone tripped over the power cord. We have broken fingernails trying to unhook. We have had brown-outs because an extension cord was too thin or too long.

Enough, already! 

     No more twisting, yanking, electric shocks, lost power or constant fear of a snafu in the RV’s electrical power. SmartPlug is a big investment but it’s  the only system you’ll need to assure safe, easy and reliable 30- or 50-amp electrical hookup in any campground. For years we RV-ers have chased around pigtails, cords, adapters and extensions. No more.

    The secret to this new system  is to make a small, simple change  on the RV side. Here’s how it works. A unique sleeve design with dual, stainless steel locking levers  bears the cord tension, not the electrical pins. 

    Traditional connectors rely on pushing in and twisting. Even with a locking ring, cords can be pried loose and internal parts damaged if someone accidentally trips on the cord. SmartPlug utilizes a robust, overbuilt connector and inlet for maximum durability and safety. And because of its unique shape and triple weatherproof seals, it's easy to position the plug, even in a dark campsite.

    The new inlet does require simple installation to a standard RV inlet. It’s a DIY job for the handy woman and an inexpensive call for a professional. Unscrew four screws, connect the wires to the new inlet and reinstall in the same cut-out. For RVers who want to reuse an existing cable, 30A Retro-fit Connectors are available.

See the 50-camp SmartPlug system here.

See the 30-camp SmartPlug system here. 

What’s New in Water Hookups

    A cheap garden hose delivers warm, bad-tasting water that is probably full of lead and other contaminants. There’s no substitute for a lead-free, white (to keep it cooler), drinking water hose hook-up for the RV. Now there’s also a new drinking water-safe,  kink-free hose that is so much easier to handle.

    It’s easy and wise to add an inexpensive, lead-free pressure regulator. One blast of high-pressure water coming into the RV can blow out a seal or otherwise damage your plumbing. In your travels you’ll be using a variety of well water, city water and delivery systems, depending on the campground. This little pressure regulator protects you against surges. Just screw it to the hose. 

    Sound good? Let’s hook up soon.
See Janet’s easy recipes for RV travel at

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Solo RV Woman's Best Friend

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Women travel safer with a hidden IP.  Don't broadcoast your personal ID and location. Details here.

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A seat belt for the pet is essential for its safety and yours. 

Pet Projects
    For many women, the most important RV travel companion is a dog that also serves as her burglar alarm, fire alarm and body guard. If you love your pet,  living on the go is a heavy responsibility. The dog or cat must be kept safe on the highway,  in the campground and when it’s alone  in the RV. 

     It needs food, water, exercise and shots. In the campground it must play by the rules,  and must also protected against natural hazards such as snakes, poisonous plants, bugs,  wild animals and other pets that may have broken loose. (I once had a scare when a campground  neighbor’s dog got free and almost got at Gypsy through the RV’s screen door.)  

    For both you and your pet there are new challenges each time you move on. Even though the RV itself becomes a familiar home to the pooch, every stop opens the door on different scenes, sights and sights. It must be confusing to the pet, and a little scary. 

    Gypsy loves to be outdoors when I’m outside the RV reading, working around the campsite, tending a campfire, cooking, sunning,  visiting. So I was delighted to learn about Lisa Illman, a “kitten smitten” cat lover who invented the Kritter Kondo line of folding outdoor enclosures for pets. They come in many sizes and colors and they fold to stow in packages weighing only 21 to 33 pounds. Various configurations are available and accessories include sunshades to cover all or part of the top of the enclosure.  

    Sizes are best for smaller pets, who can rest or play inside for hours.  The largest Kondo is no substitute for exercise for my 55-pound Gypsy, and she could also chew through the soft enclosure quickly if she chose to.  However, the Kondo is a roomy place for her to stretch out for a nap in a screened enclosure when we’re outside together. 

    Gypsy looks at her metal crate as a safe haven, not a cage,  but it’s too heavy for travel. It stays home.  The Kritter Kondo is light for me to carry and handle. It’s a snap to put up and stow in its own carrying case,  and an excellent value that should last for years. 

    Two other products go everywhere with us.  Gypsy immediately took to drinking out of this stainless steel water carrier when we are on a hike. I also keep this spill-proof water bowl filled for her in the RV at all times. 

    For her safety and mine, I also put her in a doggie seat belt underway. She hates it at first but soon settles down and snoozes. We stop often, at least every 60 to 90 minutes, which is also good for me as well as her.  

See Janet Groene’s RV-ready recipes new each week at Camp and RV Cook.
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