Friday, July 13, 2018

Driving for Independence:Where to Go in Your RV

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Drive for Independence;
Cities to Visit, Cities to Avoid
in Your RV Travels

 What’s to love about your RV lifestyle? I love having everything with me and visiting  different places without having to pack and unpack. I Iike having my own bathroom,  a familiar bed with my own pillow, and healthful food supplies so I don’t have to stop at a roadside restaurant to get a meal or use the public restroom. 

 Is driving your RV one of the pleasures of travel or simply the price you pay for getting there?  Driving could be easier with these tips. 

 Here, according to WalletHub are the best and worst cities for driving in the United States. To determine the best and works, WalletHub looked at gas prices, traffic congestion and availability of auto repair shops. Here are the findings:

Top Ten Best Cities for Driving
Raleigh NC
Corpus Christi TX
Orlando FL
Greensboro NC
Plano TX
Winston-Salem NC
Durham NC
El Paso TX
Jacksonville FL
Tampa FL

Top Ten Worst Cities for Driving
Detroit MI (worst  in a list of 100)
San Francisco CA
Oakland CA
Philadelphia PA
Seattle WA
Boston MA
New York NY
Newark NJ
Los Angles CA
Chicago IL

Additional Factoids for Drivers from WalletHub

*     Greensboro, North Carolina, residents spend the fewest annual hours in traffic congestion per auto commuter. It’s four hours per year compared to Los Angeles, where drivers spend an average 102 hours, or 4 1/4 days of their lives, in traffic.

*     Gilbert, Arizona, has the fewest car thefts (per 1,000 residents), 0.49. Oakland, California, has the most car thefts at 16.23.

*     Oklahoma City has the lowest average gas price, $2.58 per gallon. San Francisco is highest at $3.85 per gallon.

*     Riverside, California, has the lowest average parking rate, $1.43 per two hours. Don’t even consider going into Manhattan. Parking, if you can find it at all for your RV or toad, involves a major investment. 

 Do you travel in your RV because you enjoy big-city shopping, museums, nightlife, and pizzazz? Some campgrounds offer a free shuttle into town or to nearby attractions. Others are on public transportation routes. 

Serious Savings with  CityPass

     Many of the best sightseeing cities in the U.S. and Canada offer CityPass booklets of impressive discounts such as 30% off a three-day pass to Disneyland, 51% off admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay,  free admission to the Seattle Space Needle  or 42% off admission to the Statue of Liberty. 

Depending on the city, CityPass costs $89-$126 (adult) so do the math to see what you’ll save.  Unlike free tourist booklets that offer, say, a 15% discount on an early bird meal or a free coffee with breakfast, these are major, meaningful, real savings.

To see if CityPass is available  for your next trip go to

Janet Groene is the author of Living Aboard Your RV, 4th Edition. It's based on the ten years she and her late husband lived full-time on the go, making a living along the way. She begins with choosing and furnishing the rig and ends with easing out of full-timing as they became avid part-timer RV-ers in the same RV.

Friday, July 6, 2018

RV Travel Ways to Protect Your Valuables

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You CAN take it with you. The problem is how to protect it from thieves, burglars and pickpockets. 

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CYA: Cover Your Assets
copyright janet groene, all rights reserved

     Credit cards, computers and PayPal are lifesavers to the woman on the go, but when the Internet is down or the bank is closed, cash is still king.  

     How can you stash it safely? A book from Prima Publishing offers creative advice.  It is Hiding Your Money: Everything You Need to Know About Keeping Your Money and Valuables Safe from Predators and Greedy Creditors.  See it at 

The only "little black dress" you'll ever need also comes in colors and lots of sizes. It has SEVEN pockets, beautifully hidden and some closed with Velcro or a zipper. See it at

     These suggestions from the  book listed above are simply offered as food for thought. No endorsement by Janet Groene is implied.

 * If you have a hollow shower rod, it’s a good place to hide cash or documents, says the author.

 * The book reveals that  Western Union must report to the Treasury department transfers of more than $750 and banks must report transfers of more than $10,000. If you want to wire more than $750 and less than $10,000 without a report being filed, use a full-service bank.

 * In cold weather, the lining of your coat may be a good place to secrete cash, as long as it is not an expensive coat that is itself a target for thieves. “Don’t let it out of your sight for minute,” advises author Jeremy Schneider.

 * You might hide flat items behind pictures or mirrors (which in an RV are screwed to a wall at two or more points. Jg) . The author would go as far as hollowing out the wall if more room is needed. He also suggests hiding things inside a chair cushion. Or, fasten a package to the back of a drawer. 

 * Fender wells make good hiding places he says,  but make sure the hiding place is well attached for rough roads and protected against mud and wetness. Can you remove some of the padding in the sun visor, and stash cash there? 

 * Rare coins are small and easy to hide yet can be worth a great deal of money. One of Schneider’s friends always has two South African Krugerrands on hand for emergencies. You might also have a gold piece made into jewelry and wear it always. An ounce of gold is worth about  $1200 at today’s prices. (But it’s not easy to use at your neighborhood supermarket. Jg)

 My advice? Keep at least some of your valuables in a fireproof safe in a hidden location and bolted securely to the RV frame.  Find your own secret hiding places and keep mum. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t write a book about them. 

 Almost every product you have in your pantry or medicine cabinet, from soup cans to deodorant,  is sold as a fake safe. They easy for thieves to grab and most are easily recognize as phony.  However, here are a few items I found clever enough for the RV woman to consider.

Hair brush safe

Hanging garment safe

Real clock opens as a safe

Solo women at home and on the go will love this new book, 150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes. I use my toaster oven constantly. It preheats much faster than the propane oven and it is so light and easy to carry from home to car or RV. In the campground it’s used inside or out.

Friday, June 29, 2018

RV, Motorhome Buyer Beware

blog copyright janet groene, all rights reserved. To donate $5 per year in support of this work send via PayPal to janetgroene at

 Each issue of Solo Woman RV  will be sent to your Kindle automatically from Amazon by subscription. Free trial.

 Water spots on your RV? Now there’s a portable water softener! Simply hook the water hose to one side of this 10 X 18-inch cylinder and the other side to the hose that will deliver the water you want to soften. It’s easily stowed in the RV or at home.

Browsing for your Next RV? Avoid These
Buyer Pitfalls

copyright janet groene 

     By now you’ve owned enough cars, computers, campers and can openers to know that complexity breeds breakdowns.

     The more bells and whistles, the more potential for trouble . Fancy conveniences also require more energy in camp and on the highway.

 Rule One in choosing an RV is the same KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) maxim most of us live by.  A frustrated follower sent me a list of everything that went wrong on a new motorhome. He picked it up at the factory, hit the road and during the first three months amassed a squawk list that covered three, single-spaced pages!

     Instead of traveling and RV-ing, he was cooling his heels in waiting rooms at maintenance facilities. Although most things were covered by warranty, every failure meant another trip to a fix-it shop, another day NOT enjoying the RV life. 

      Almost everything in an RV has more than one way to fail.  For example, an automatic entry step can fail electrically, hydraulically or mechanically. A three-way refrigerator can stop because of a failure in the  refrigerator itself, the 12V system, 110V current or propane supply. If the TV doesn't work the trouble could be in  the TV, electrical system or the antenna/satellite. Solar? It's great until the sun doesn't shine or you camp under shade trees.
 Only you can decide which conveniences are worth it  for you. 

 Additional Buying Tips

* When a big investment is on the line it pays to have an attorney go over the financing agreement and the warranties. 

* Whether the RV is new or used, insist on getting all the written warranties, operator manuals and instruction books for every system including the engine, flush toilet,  individual appliances. It’s also good to get instructions for care of flooring, counter-top materials, upholstery and other materials.  Mis-use can void a warranty. 

* I’m constantly hearing from hustlers who have a book or product to promote. They use the RV or camping hashtag to get our attention. They may be experts in, say, insurance or cuisine but they don’t really know the unique needs of RV-ers. Know who writes what you read. 

Dreaming of going on the road full-time? Do it now, work as needed and,  if you have kids, there's home schooling. Book covers the lifestyle from making the decision, getting in, staying in and getting out when the time comes.

An RV Shopper’s Dictionary

 Here are some items to think about.

 Awning.  Sometimes built in but often added in the aftermarket, an awning shades one side of the RV to form an outdoor seating area. If it’s also fitted with screen walls, it creates an extra room. It’s a nice addition if you are parked a lot. To stay lean, however, it’s better to avoid the weight and wind drag.  

 Basement refers to storage under the living area of an RV, accessible from the outside. Even the smallest units have at least some basement space.  Use this area for tools, buckets and brooms, off-season clothing storage and sports and equipment.  Some items, such as the generator and propane tanks, must be isolated from the living area.
 Bus conversion. A luxury bus, custom converted to an RV, is the Taj Mahal of RV-dom. On the other hand, a ratty old bus converted to an RV may not be allowed at nice campgrounds. 

 Curb weight refers to the weight of the unit with full tanks but not people and personal gear. 

 Departure angle. The distance from the rear axle to the rear bumper will determine how steep an incline the RV can climb before the rear bumper (or some piece of the undercarriage) drags on the ground. Beware of RV’s with extra-long overhangs. 

 GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, the most-ignored term in the RV universe. If you’re towing a trailer you need to know its total weight including full tanks and all your gear, so you’ll know what kind of vehicle is needed to tow it safely. Keep in mind total weight after filling every cupboard, closet and storage bin . Your chassis, transmission, brakes and tires have to handle it all at highway speeds.  Weigh the fully loaded  unit at a truck stop.
    Hitch. If you will tow a travel trailer it’s important that the tow vehicle, trailer hitch and RV make a good match. Your mechanic will tell you how much tow can be handled by your engine, transmission and brakes. A hitch expert will bolt or weld on the best hitch for both the tow vehicle and the RV.
    Leveling jacks. Sometimes portable, sometimes built-in, jacks are needed to level the RV. Even the smallest deviation causes eggs to roll off kitchen counters and keeps water from draining from the shower pan.
    Slides, slide-outs or bump-outs are room extensions that are deployed once you’re parked in a campground. They look great in the showroom but are subject to leaks and electrical and mechanical problems. They’re great for RV-ers who spend weeks at a time without moving but can be a nuisance if you’re traveling lean mean. You may soon weary of extending slides just for a one-night stop or a lunch break  Too, extended slides are a dead giveaway to the zoning police if you’re boondocking in a friend’s yard or shopping mall.
  If  you need a quick overnight in a truck stop, there may not be room in your parking slot to extend a slide and you’re stuck inside the accordion. Before buying, see the RV with slides closed. Ask yourself if you can live with it either way.
     Toad is a slang term for a small car towed behind a motorhome. Others call it the dinghy. Some are towed “four wheels down”, some “two wheels down” with front wheels on a small trailer.
     Umbilicals. When you get to a campground you’ll hook up to electricity, water, sewer and perhaps cable television.
    Wide Body.  Standard RV width is 96 inches/ While “wide bodies” may go to as much as 102 inches/259.1cm, you’ll have enough to handle on two-lane country roads with a standard width RV.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Surprise Discounts for RV Women

Blog copyright janet groene, all rights reserved. Thank for your donation of $5 a year in support of this work. Use your PayPal account to janetgroene at

Driving For Discounts 

 This isn’t about a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. It’s about big savings on travel, camping and RV life as you approach the age of 55. 

 Want to pay less for food, restaurants, admissions, fuel, perhaps even repairs and service? Incredibly, most people don’t even know about the huge harvest of senior savings out there, let alone how to harness them. Here’s how: 

 * Know that discounts aren’t automatic just because you have a touch of silver in your hair. In fact, most clerks are so afraid of insulting customers by offering  a senior discount it is never volunteered. You have to ask for it.

 * Understand the deal. Discounts kick in anywhere from 50 (for AARP) to as old as 70 (some businesses).   

 * Read the fine print. You may have to request the discount when you order the meal or  reserve the campsite. You may need a membership card or proof of age or state residence. Many places give a senior discount only on certain days, such as Tuesdays or the first Wednesday of the month. Some give the discount only on full-priced purchases; sale merchandise isn’t discounted.
 * Stay alert. Read signs, posters, ads. Some discounts are almost a secret. When you find a good one make notes about who, what, when and how.

 * Even if you don’t agree with their politics, it may pay to join AARP solely for discounts. Members get discounts starting at age 50 and their spouses get discounts regardless of age. 

 * Join senior “clubs” and loyalty programs. No meetings, just a free card. Some places punch your card each time you dine. Then you get a freebie when the card is full. Beall’s Outlet stores in the Southeast issue a free card that gets seniors 55 and over a discount every Monday. After you’ve spent $200 on Monday or other days, you get a $5 gift certificate. 

 * As you travel, keep an eye peeled for regional discounts. State parks, for example, may give a discount to seniors who are state residents. Free local publication found along the highway  often have coupons for senior deals. 

 * Do a Google search for Senior+Discount+Name of a City or State.

 * Most states offer a senior discount on state park admission, fishing and hunting license, and sometimes on camping. You may have to buy an annual pass to get the discount, which may be available only to residents of that state. Ask as you go.

 * Discounts are at the option of individual franchise owners. The Superburgers discount you got in California may not be honored at the airport Superburgers or in Florida Superburgers.

 * Phone ahead. That way you’ll know the rules when you arrive.

 * When buying admissions tickets, note senior discount policies, which are usually posted at the ticket window. Be clear in requesting, say, “One senior, one adult” or “Two seniors.”

 * When dealing with services that give an estimate (carpet cleaning, repairs) get the estimate in writing before asking about a senior discount.

 * Don’t expect to double-dip discounts. Usually you can’t ask for a senior discount after presenting a coupon for, say, a BOGO meal. Often, coupons found in newspapers are a better deal than a senior discount of 10-15%. Never stop searching, comparing, questioning. 

 * Do your part. Patronize businesses that give discounts and thank them. Tip the server on the full price of the meal, not the discounted price.

 Lastly, if the policy isn’t what you expected, retreat quietly. No law requires businesses to give a senior discount. 

See Janet’s easy recipes for the camper, kitchen or potluck at

Janet also develops recipes using pantry back-up foods in emergencies or for convenience.. See

Friday, June 8, 2018

Loves Her Motorhome, Loves Her Horses

blog copyright janet groene, all rights reserved. Thank you for donating $5 a year to support these weekly issues. Send via PayPal to janetgroene at

Businesswoman Has RV,  
Has Horse, Will Travel
copyright Janet Groene

     When GiGi Stetler isn’t riding on four wheels she’s riding on four hooves. An accomplished rider, she’s headed in her RV for Saratoga Springs, New York for a summer of equestrian events including competing in hunter and jumper events. 

     Her story is a perfect blend of business success, equestrian successes and salvaging a personal life born in tragedy and abuse. RV's play a major part in her happy endings.  

Today she is CEO of 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 book UNSTOPPABLE: Surviving is Just the Beginning, Second Edition.

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 its turn-around when she was hired for $500 a week at an RV dealership. Within two weeks she was promoted to manager. She is still there. Her RV Sales of Broward in Davie,  Florida, and the related group RV Planet offer a full menu of RV sales, service, consignments, rentals, repairs, a membership club and emergency housing. 

Years of ups and downs led to today’s triumphs. In her early years at the RV dealership she was once  $11 million in debt. She was pronounced financially dead. Once again she came back.  “With a recession underway, RV’s were a tough sell,” she reports, but her caring customer service kept her customers coming back. 

     Transforming the business into a service-focused operation, she “fixed toilets and made homes level and did whatever it took to get customers 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.

Says Gigi, “I invented myself. That is my invention. When RV’s stopped selling I quickly went to plans B, C, D and 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 books are 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 and, more importantly,  to show other women and just as many men that when life happens to you, happen right back," said Stetler.

Her own RV is a 45-foot diesel motohome with four slides and four flat screen TVs.  At most of the equestrian events where she competes, she camps right on the show grounds, enjoying  all the comforts of home.

To see Gigi’s success formula firsthand, visit her dealership, RV Sales of Broward at 3030 Burris Road,  Davie, Florida, (888) 587-3337. 

Order her book, UNSTOPPABLE, Surviving is Just the Beginning, Second Edition at

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