Friday, August 19, 2016

A Solo RV Woman's Best Friend

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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.  

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Friday, August 12, 2016

One RV Woman's Success Story

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Gigi Stetler's RV Success Story


    Gigi Stetler owns a major RV dealership,  carves out her own path in what is essentially a man’s world and urges other women to “Greet life as a warrior, not a victim.”

 She is a successful businesswoman, a single mother, an accomplished equestrian and the author of an inspiring new edition of her book UNSTOPPABLE: Surviving is Just the Beginning, 2nd Edition.  To see her book, click here.

    Gigi triumphed over unspeakable abuse, rose to prominence in the RV industry and now travels by RV to pursue her favorite pastime. An advanced  rider, she travels nationwide in her RV to appear at horse shows and other events. She also gives motivational speeches. 

    No matter what your business or personal battle, Gigi’s book will inspire you to grab life by the horns and come out a winner.  Her life began to turn around when she was hired by an RV dealership. Within two weeks she was promoted to manager.

    In time she built a powerful business, only to see it knocked down again. With more than $11 million in debt, she was pronounced financially dead. Once again she came back.  RV travel is red hot right now and her caring  service and brilliant business model keeps her customers coming back.

     Transforming the business into a service-focused operation early on, she “fixed toilets and did whatever it took to get them to trust us,” she enthuses. “Then I threw a thank-you party for customers at the dealership and offered a $500 credit for every new customer they brought. People saw we were paying attention to them and started coming in by the truckload." 

    Keeping her customers front and center has always been the secret of her success. Her RV dealership offers sales and dozens of sidelines  such as custom paint job “wraps”, RV rentals and an RV time share program. Says Gigi, “I invented myself. When RV’s stopped selling during the recession I quickly had plan B, C, D,  E.  I tell people to never give up and keep your eye on the goal. People need to know there is always light at the end of the tunnel even though you may need a telescope to see it. To me, success is how quickly you get up and start over.” 

    Her updated book is the story of her life. What does she have to say to other women who want a full life including travel in an RV? “ I wrote my book in part as a way to exorcise the many demons that have plagued me all my life but more importantly to show other women and just as many men that when life happens to you, happen right back," said Stetler.

    To see Gigi’s success formula firsthand, visit her dealership, Planet RV in Davie, Florida.

Friday, August 5, 2016

RV Women are Cookin' With Gas

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Have a Gas, Not a Blast
     Most of today’s RV’s use propane gas to fuel the stove, hot water, furnace and perhaps the fridge. Early RV’s also had gas lights. What do you need to know about this cheap, silent servant?

    It’s clean and convenient, delivering more BTU’s per pound and per dollar than almost any other fuel. Used properly, it’s safe. Abused or neglected,  it’s deadly. It’s also colorless and odorless, which is why the industry adds stinky stuff so you’ll know if there is a leak. Here are some random thoughts on LPG (liquefied propane gas).

    * If you smell propane,  go into action. It could just be a signal that the tank is about to run out but it could also mean a leak or a malfunctioning gas appliance. 

    * Even if the system is trouble free, have it checked once a year by a certified LP technician. Special tools and know-how are required to do the safety check correctly. Refills and repairs must also be done by certified professionals. Tanks must be re-certified every five years. 

    * It’s best to have two tanks so you’ll always have a spare. Gauges are a guide but not bang-on accurate. 

    * You may want tanks in another color, but don’t paint them yourself or you could cover or clog vital components. 

    * Unlike natural gas, propane is heavier than air. It can be trapped in low areas. Have a professional install an LP “sniffer”, a propane alarm that detects the gas. Know what this alarm can and cannot do. (For example, it 
it may trigger a false alarm if batteries get too low. Also, it can’t “see” carbon monoxide. That requires a specific CO Alarm. 

     * Of course you have one or more smoke alarms on board the camper too.  They do not, however,  monitor other hazards such as propane or carbon monoxide.

      * It’s smart to lock all access doors and hatches on the RV but it’s illegal to lock the door to the propane compartment. Don’t re-orient the tanks. Horizontal or vertical, they should stay as installed. 

    * If you see a foggy mist leaking from the tank, stay your distance and get help immediately. Propane under pressure is very cold; the mist could explode or give you instant frost bite. 

    * If you buy an old RV, note manufacture dates of the tanks. They may not be re-fillable under new requirements. Regulations and LP blends  also vary state to state. For camping in very cold weather, get propane from local suppliers. Lower temperatures require a different blend. 

    * It’s only common sense to turn off the propane and all appliances before driving. 

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Plain Talk About RV Stains

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Spot Checks

    As women we’re up to date on treating common stains such as chocolate and lipstick, but RV life introduces such new challenges as campfire soot, rubber skids and all the oily,  greasy goo it takes to keep machinery humming.

    Here are some stain solvers for RV life.Always make sure the treatment is safe for the fabric or surface (enzyme cleaner shouldn’t be used on silk or wool). Also, use the cleaning product according to label safety directions. Some are caustic, poisonous, flammable and/or allergenic. 

    Most cleaners should be used only where there’s good ventilation. Most also  require rinsing with lots of water, which is a problem when you’re camping on limited water rations.  It’s always wise to test in a small area first and wear rubber gloves and eye protection.

    * Engine oil and other greasy automotive stains are often a combination of grease and carbon and perhaps metal particles. They must be both dissolved and flushed out.  Surprisingly, the answer is to add more grease.

    Rub white shortening into grease spots on a washable fabric, such as your favorite jeans. Then launder in hot, soapy water. If the stain remains, rub in more shortening while the fabric is still damp and repeat the hot water wash. 

    * If a garment is stained with soot, mix ½ cup dishwasher detergent in 2 quarts of hot water. (Don’t put your hands in this brew.) Soak the garment overnight. Repeat if necessary, then launder normally. 

    * Oven cleaner can be used on the bottoms of pots that get sooty over the campfire. Rinse thoroughly. 

    * Women have long known about using hair spray on ball point ink, but felt pens and grease pencils are a different story. Ink in colored felt pens used by kids usually comes out in the wash. For indelible ink used in felt pens and  laundry markers, try denatured alcohol, then a wash with mild detergent. Treat grease pencil stains like other grease stains. 

    * If a pot boils dry, scrape out as much of the crud as possible. Then fill the pan with a couple of inches of water and two or three tablespoons of baking soda. Bring to a boil, then let cool. Most of the debris will float loose. Scrape the rest or repeat the baking soda treatment. 

    * If a stain removal calls for paint thinner, spend a little more to use mineral spirits instead. They are more highly refined, work better and stink less. 

    * Besides chlorine bleach, bleaching agents include lemon juice, white vinegar diluted with water one to one, hydrogen peroxide 3 percent used full strength, and ammonia diluted two water to one part ammonia. Never mix ammonia and chlorine. 

    * Unless it’s battery acid or other harmful caustic that requires immediate flushing, blot the stain. Don’t rub it in. With patient pressure and paper towels, or perhaps absorbent baking soda or cornstarch, much of the goo can be wicked up.  Work from the outside in so you don’t spread the spot.  

    * Dish-washing detergent is usually a good grease killer for washable fabrics and surfaces. Let it penetrate at least five minutes. Then rinse, rinse, rinse so no residue is left. Buy a clear liquid. Why add perfumes and dyes to the mix? 

    * RV and marine suppliers sell spray-on cleaners for black streaks that develop on RV siding after a rain.  Try Magic Eraser for small streaks and skids. 

    * Harsh cleaners work fast but may remove color from fabric or  protective wax on painted surfaces, fiberglass or aluminum. Re-wax. 

See Janet Groene’s easy recipes for camping and RV trips at