Get Your Rig Ready for Spring Camping

It’s spring and with the traveling season right around the corner now is the perfect time to clear out the cobwebs and tidy up your RV

Spring is right around the corner and your RV is calling. The beginning of camping season is the perfect time to assess the condition of each distinct part of your motorhome or trailer. So go ahead, break your RV out of storage.

Let the sunshine in © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Let it Breathe

The first step is to open all of the windows and doors and let the fresh air take out any stale smells after being cooped up over the winter. It’s also a great idea to position the RV in a sunny spot and open up all of the blinds to let the sunshine in to help clean the air inside.

Shake it down and air it out © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Shake Things Out

Take all of the pillowcases, cushions, and sofa covers out and give them a good shake outside and either put them through the laundry or leave them in the sun to get rid of the stale smells that may be clinging to them.

Time for a visual inspection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Basic Inspection & Safety Checks

One of the first things to do is make sure your RV is roadworthy is to inspect the major systems: power, propane, and tires. Do this early to allow time to schedule any necessary maintenance before it’s time to embark on your first trip. Check the battery fluid levels, adding distilled water as needed. Check the tires for proper inflation. Conduct a visual inspection of each tire for cracks along the sidewall and tread depth. Take time to inspect your fire safety systems. Make sure the carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, LP detector, and fire extinguishers are all in working order. Replace batteries, as required.

A clean exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Exterior Inspection & Wash

Walk around your RV and carefully climb up on the roof to inspect the exterior windows, doors, roof vents, and any other seams. If you find any cracks in the caulking or missing sealant, remove the old sealant and replace it.

Finally, give your RV a thorough washing using a gentle soap solution. Baby shampoo works well. Don’t forget the awnings. They are exposed to all weather conditions and rarely see sunlight on their underside making them prone to mildew especially during a long, damp winter.

Use a lamb’s wool pad or soft brush and the soap solution to clean. Be sure to rinse well and leave them out a few hours to fully dry before retracting.

Dust it down © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Dust, Dust, Dust!

With a damp cloth, dust down every surface in your RV and remember to open up all of the vent covers where possible and remove the dust from inside so you can enjoy clean air when traveling. Give a good dusting behind and around all of your appliances too.

Give the interior a good clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Clean the Cabinets, Drawers & Shelves

Give the interior a good thorough cleaning. Drain your dehumidifiers (or replace any disposables). Be sure to check inside the cabinets and under the sinks for any signs of pests or rodents.

With a warm and damp wash cloth, give all of the cabinets, drawers, and shelves a good cleaning to remove any crumbs, dirt, and grime that may have accumulated. If there are any stains, try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with water to make a thick paste and gently apply to the stained area before wiping off.

With a clean cloth, give your fridge and freezer a thorough cleaning at this stage as well.

Now is a good time to go through all of your supplies and restock the camper with the essentials.

Windows clean again © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Window Time

Systematically go through the RV washing every window, and then do the same washing the outside of each window so that you have the best views when you go out on the next adventure.

Check to ensure all things work © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Check That Things Work

You should ensure that all of your air conditioning filters are clean, and while there check that each aircon vent is working. If it has been a while since the last time the RV was used, then take a few minutes to go through and ensure that each appliance inside still works and give them a good clean while you’re at it.

All clean and ready to travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Vacuum and Mop

With all of the surfaces and appliances clean, move onto the floors and give them a thorough vacuum along with the sofas if necessary. Once everything has been picked up, get the mop out and make the floors sparkle.

With an RV that has been aired out and cleaned top to bottom, you can rest knowing that everything is ready and waiting for the next adventure that lies just around the corner!

Now, hit the road already

10. All Systems Go!

Taking the time to run these checks and performing any necessary maintenance will go a long way towards making your camping season a success. Now all you need to do is pick a location and head out for an epic spring vacation.

Worth Pondering…

Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. Time for RVing and camping bliss!

Getting Your RV Ready for Summer Travel

It’s finally time to pull the RV out from the garage or bring it home from winter storage

With the snow melted and the campgrounds opening, it’s tempting to jump in and head off right away. But prior to setting out, RV owners need to perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure that their weekend getaway goes smoothly.

RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exterior Inspection

The first thing to do is a visual inspection of your RV exterior. Check to see if any damage was sustained over winter, looking especially for evidence of water leaks. In particular, focus on the roof and caulking around windows, vents, air-conditioning unit, and doors. Look for cracks, holes, stains, separations, and leaks. Also, check for nests and evidence of chewing activity.

Roll out the awning and inspect it for tears. Check the fluid levels and top them up as necessary. Inspect hoses for any tears or holes, and valves for leaks.

Ensure your RV and tow vehicle/toad have had all required maintenance.

Wash the exterior in the shade with a mild soap remembering to clean the tires.

Not the way to care for tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tire Check

Check the age of the tires—RV tires usually age out before they wear out.

Check that all tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency. Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure and blowouts.

Clean the tires and rims and inspect them for evidence of any splits or cracks in the sidewalls or between the treads. Treat these seriously and get them repaired before you head out for your first camping trip. Don’t forget to check that your lug nuts are tightened.

If you have a travel or fifth wheel trailer you may need to pack wheel bearings.

RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Battery Check

Check your RVs batteries and top off cells with distilled water. Be sure to replace multiple battery banks together. If your batteries need to be cleaned, make sure they are disconnected and use a hot water and baking soda mixture to clean them. Wear safety glasses and latex gloves.

Connecting to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Propane Tank Check

Check your propane tank, as seals can dry out over the winter. First, make sure you have everything turned off, you aren’t around any smoking flames or sparks, and your propane leak detector is turned on. Open the valves on your tank and smell for leaks. Check the valves and regulators by using a soapy water mix. If you find any leaks, have a professional inspect and repair them.

RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Generator Test

Test your generator, if you have one. Use the prime feature until your indicator light turns on for the fuel pump, run it for 20 seconds, and the generator should start more quickly. You will have to crank it until it starts otherwise, as there will likely be a lack of fuel in the lines. Let the starter rest to cool after 15 seconds of cranking. Don’t forget to check the oil and air filter.

RV utilities © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flushing Water Lines

Remove the antifreeze from your water lines. Make sure the water heater bypass valve is in the normal position and all of your taps are closed. Turn on the cold water tap that’s closest to the water pump, and run water until it’s clear. Do this for each cold water tap, toilet, and shower.

Then repeat for the hot water taps, toilet, and shower. Open up the bypass to allow water to fill the tanks. Use a city water connection and turn on the cold and hot water faucets and run to let air escape until the water flows steadily. Inspect all faucets and pipes for leaks, as well as the water heater, drain plug, and valves. Switch the fresh water pump on; if it comes on 20 to 30 minutes later, this indicates a pressure drop or leak. If it doesn’t come on, you’re good to go.

RV interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interior Inspection

Clean the interior of the RV and do another visual inspection. Vacuum the carpet, and clean the floors and other surfaces as necessary. Be sure to air it out. Check to ensure your appliances are working.

Test smoke alarms and CO and LP gas detectors, and replace the batteries as necessary. Check fire extinguishers, and refill first aid kit and emergency kits as needed.

RV interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, you can repack your RV and stock up on all your necessities.

Worth Pondering…

A bad day cleaning the RVing—is better than a good day—working.

7 Driving Tips You Should Know

Tips for staying safe and alert while driving

Taking a road trip seems like an obvious choice in terms of the safest way to travel during the coronavirus pandemic. But spending hours—or days—driving can be mentally taxing. And accidents on the road are a very real concern. In fact, nearly 2 million people are injured in auto accidents each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving caused 91,000 accidents in 2017 and nodding off while driving can happen more easily than you may think when you’re on the road for long periods of time.

Driving a motorhome south of Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s why we need to find strategies to stay alert and safe when driving. Follow these safety tips to arrive safely at your destination. Here’s what you should know.

Driving a motorhome in Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Plan your itinerary

Mapping out the specifics of your road trip is the best way to eliminate stress and even avoid hazards when driving. Too many people simply plug their destination into a Navigation System without any idea about when and where they want to make pit stops. There’s nothing wrong with using GPS to give you an idea. The best way to prepare is by figuring out how long it will take you to get from point A to point B. Then, look for recreation areas, rest rooms, and fuel stops along the way. Even though planning ahead is a great idea, you shouldn’t feel unnecessarily restricted by your itinerary. It doesn’t mean that you’re deadlocked into that.

Driving a motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Eat, sleep, and hydrate well

It’s important to be well-rested before you get behind the wheel. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night (research shows that people feel their best after getting that much rest).

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat a good meal before starting your drive. Some prefer a protein-heavy breakfast to help feel more satisfied and alert. Keeping prepared food in a cooler is particularly helpful for people who don’t want to stop and eat at restaurants. Of course, you’ll want to find somewhere safe to enjoy your snacks and meals—like a rest area or truck stop—since eating while driving is a distraction.

Drink plenty of water throughout the trip, which yes, means more bathroom breaks. But stopping more often is better than experiencing headaches or dizziness associated with dehydration which can happen when you skimp on water.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Stop often

You might try to drive to your destination with minimal pit stops. Resist the temptation. It’s important to stop every two to three hours to stretch, use the bathroom, and do a walkabout. I try to stop about every 100-120 miles. Moving and getting my circulation going helps me stay alert during long drives. And of course, stop if you’re tired. Avoid pulling over onto the shoulder and look for a rest area or off ramp instead.

Driving in Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Scan your surroundings

Constantly check your surroundings to know what is ahead. Scanning your surroundings (keeping your eyes moving) includes keeping a safe distance around your vehicle. To avoid last minute moves, scan the road 10–15 seconds ahead of your vehicle so you can see hazards early. When another driver makes a mistake, you need time to react. Give yourself this time by keeping a “space cushion” on all sides of your vehicle. This space cushion will give you room to brake or maneuver if you need the space. While keeping an eye on the road up ahead, look for animals on the side of the road, monitor your gauges, and scan the mirrors.

There are some roads to avoid in a large RV; Mokee Dugway in southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Get to know road signs

Understanding road signage is one of the best ways to boost your confidence about highway driving. If you train your eye to read the signs and know what the signs mean, then you can drive down the roads confidently. For example, construction signs have an orange background and will always trump other signage. Yellow signs are cautionary. You can check out the U.S. Department of Transportation for more information about road symbols and signs.

Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Make your vehicle road-trip-ready

Taking the time for preventative maintenance will pay big dividends down the road. Recreational vehicles require all the standard maintenance of your car plus a whole lot more (if you had your RV for more than a few months then you may have learned this the hard way). After all, an RV is more than just a vehicle. It is a home on wheels with a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. Inflate tires to recommended specifications and check them often. Inspect for any imperfections before travel.

Driving Mike O’Callighan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Make room for trucks

You may have felt that twinge in your gut when driving near or past large semi trucks and rightfully so, because it can be scary—those trucks are huuuuuge! It’s important to allow plenty of following room when driving behind these massive machines. Give them space. Large trucks need extra room to slow down and come to a complete stop as well as to make a turn. Don’t ride next to semis—they can’t see you. Their blind spots are humongous. You need to leave enough space so that you can see both of the truck’s side mirrors. And while you may be anxious to get in front of a slow-moving vehicle, never cut in front of large trucks. A truck traveling at highway speeds in regular conditions needs a distance of roughly two football fields to stop safely

Welcome to Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

Maintain Your RV: What You Absolutely Need To Know To Avoid Disasters on the Road

The better you maintain your recreational vehicle the fewer problems you are likely to have which in turn means more money in your pocket

If you travel in a motorhome, get regular oil changes and tune-ups. If you have a trailer or fifth wheel, keep the hitch in good operating condition.

For all RVs, check the tires, the roof, the window seals, and the appliances on a regular basis or before you take any trip.

Monitor board for fresh water, grey and black water, and propane tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV toilet paper 101

Keep your RV’s pipes clean.

Of all the toilet tissue varieties available, which type is best for use in RVs? Your safest bet is to forgo quilted, scented, double-ply or dyed versions in favor of white, unscented, single-ply toilet paper.

Monitor board for black water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Single-ply paper disintegrates faster than two-ply, three-ply, or quilted tissue in your holding tank, thereby helping to avoid clogged dump valves and fouled sensors that produce faulty tank-level readings. As for dyed, bleached, or scented tissue, the chemicals used in these products can destroy the bacteria that break down solids in septic tanks.

Electric, water, sewer, and cable TV hookups © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can purchase toilet paper that is labeled “green” or made specifically for RVs, though other readily available options are equally suitable.

To test your toilet paper for RV use, place a couple of sheets in a covered jar of water and shake. If the paper disintegrates quickly, it’s OK to use in your RV.

Water and sewer tanks and outlets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Electrical Safety – Safely Plugging Your RV into Power

Voltage can be set into motion by pushing current through a path of least voltage “Pressure”. In some cases this can be your body. In short, if you touch something charged with 100 volts with one wet hand and then touch something else charged with zero volts with the other wet hand, then the 100 volts will be set into motion through the conduit—in this case, you.

Secure sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, not to get all scary here, there are some basic safety measures to take when plugging your RV into the campground pedestal. If the pedestal is operating correctly, then there should be no problem, but just in case, think about how you could avoid potential voltage pressure from being released.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First step is to make sure the circuit breaker on the pedestal is turned off. With only one hand, and standing on dry ground, flip the breaker off. Now, with one hand, and never standing or kneeling on wet surfaces, plug your power into the pedestal. (Example: you wouldn’t want to be plugging the power in with one hand and bracing your other hand on the pedestal. Remember, that could potentially complete a circuit if the pedestal was charged for some reason).

Once you plug power in then test a few items in your RV. If you find yourself getting shocked by touching things in the RV, then shut the power off and let the campground attendant know what is going on.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Electrical Safety – Protecting Your RV Electrical System

Running power to a recreational vehicle without some kind of electrical management system is simply asking for trouble. If you do not have one of these devices in place then you are playing a risky game with your RV. We have too much invested in our RVs not to protect it from the perils that can come along with electricity.

Dump Station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous choices in the marketplace but we believe the Progressive Electric Management Systems are the best on the market. These units continuously monitor the power supply coming into your RV and if it detects a variance outside of the tolerances then it will shut the power down. Without the device, a power spike or even low voltage from old worn out park pedestals can do damage to your electrical system.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All energy management systems and surge protectors manufactured by Progressive Industries are covered by a lifetime warranty.

When you plug your RV into power, the Progressive unit runs a series of tests on the pedestal power to ensure that it is safe. Once it finishes evaluating the power, then, and only then, will it release the power to the RV. If the Progressive unit detects a power problem, then it will display an error code explaining what the issue is.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once power is released to the RV, then the unit continues to monitor the power for spikes or low voltage situations that could damage the sensitive components in your RV.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

Best Preparations for an RV Road Trip

When preparing for an RV road trip there are important things to do before hitting the open road

When it comes to planning an affordable vacation or a weekend retreat, there’s nothing that compares to an RV road trip. Whether you’re an experienced camper, simple novice, or admitted first-timer, the basic preparations are similar. This process can be simplified by dividing your trip planning into these three phases:

  • Pre-trip (what is required prior to the trip?)
  • On the Road (what is needed while traveling?)
  • Final Destination (you’ve arrived—now what?)

Regardless of your destination, it all starts with the RV.

Visually check the RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pre-trip

Prior to setting out, RV owners need to perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure their RV trip goes smoothly. Regardless if you’re an RV owner or renter, your RV requires a full safety inspection prior to travel.

Check the water and sewer systems for any potential issues © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first thing to do is a visual inspection of your RV exterior. Check to see if any damage was sustained over time, looking especially for evidence of water leaks. In particular, focus on the roof and caulking around windows, vents, air-conditioning unit, and doors. Look for cracks, holes, stains, separations, and leaks. Also, check for nests and evidence of chewing activity.

Check to ensure sewer hose and connection are in good working condition © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roll out the awning and inspect it for tears. Check the fluid levels and top them up as necessary. Inspect hoses for any tears or holes, and valves for leaks.

If you’re renting, your vehicle should be prepared by the rental company beforehand, but still, it never hurts to be aware of what general safety issues to look out for.

Rest areas and roadside attractions make great stops along your route © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once your RV is ready for travel, now comes the fun part: planning your trip! Three important things to consider when organizing an RV trip: Where are we going? How long are we going? What do we do once we get there?

By asking these questions, you’ll need to consider what clothes, gear, and supplies you’ll need to pack for your trip. Maybe it’s taking extra coats and hiking gear for the mountains? Perhaps packing some additional food and water for a lengthy stay? What activities are available where you’re staying and what else might they require?

Wall Drug makes a great stop when traveling across South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s ideal to map out your trip in advance and check for stopping points along the way, in case you need to take breaks for rest, fuel, food, etc. The more you plan ahead, the better you’re prepared for any potential issues or needs that may arise.

Driving Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the Road

Now your RV is packed and ready for travel. What concerns are there once you are out on the highway? Hopefully, you’ve tackled most potential concerns with some proper pre-trip logistics, but there are always things you simply can’t prepare for. Be aware of the height restriction of your RV. Watch out for clearance signs when approaching underpasses and tunnels.

Beware of height restrictions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Destination

Information on national and state parks, campsites, and weather conditions can go a long way for helping you to make the most of your adventure. By doing a little research in advance, you can prepare for most situations and elements.

Worth Pondering…

Make your choice, adventurous stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder ’til it drives you mad,
What would have followed, if you had.

— C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew

Top 10 RV Travel Tips of All Time

Here are some tips to consider before you pile into the RV and head out

I have read hundreds of tips and hacks for traveling and have tried many of them. Some are game changers and others sound great in theory but are more trouble than they are worth. Here is a list of our favorite tried and true tips that make RV travel a breeze.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Be flexible. It is a given that something won’t go as planned. Embrace that in advance and the little annoyances won’t be a big deal.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Don’t rely on GPS. Think maps are outdated? You won’t feel that way when you lose service or you find yourself on an old forestry road in the middle of nowhere.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. USB charger. Don’t let your gadgets die on you. Modern USB connections aren’t just faster than their predecessors—they consume less power, too.

Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. With moist cool weather our first instinct is to keep those windows and vents tightly closed. Today’s RV doors and windows do a great job sealing everything up but with that come ventilation issues. To reduce condensation keep one or two windows or vents slightly cracked and make sure to use your hood vent fan when cooking. Keep a small, portable dehumidifier in the bathroom, kitchen, and in an outside bin.

Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Don’t let your RV adventure start before you reach your destination. Make sure your RV maintenance checklist is complete and all major components are in working order before you depart. If you do end up with deviations from your plans make the best of it and enjoy wherever life takes you.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Bring Tools and Spare Parts. Pack a well-stocked tool kit that should include screw drivers, sockets, claw hammer, pliers, utility knife, tape measure, cordless drill, and adjustable and combination wrenches. Also add in the things that your RV might need like extra fuses, LCD lights, batteries, jumper cables, nuts, bolts, and connectors.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center in Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. First Aid Kit. Like a tool box, a first aid kit is a must for road trippers. This way you’ll have essential first-aid supplies to help treat most common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, and strains. Your first aid kit should include antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, antiseptic cleansing wipes, gauze dressing pads in varied sizes, tape roll, tweezers, adhesive bandages in varied sizes, scissors, disposable vinyl gloves, and Red Cross Emergency First Aid Guide.

Covered bridge, Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. When you see flashing lights, “Move Over”

FLASHING LIGHTS? GIVE ‘EM SPACE! MOVE OVER!

We hope “Move Over” rings familiar. If not, let’s refresh your memory: “Move Over” is a law in most states (and Canadian provinces) that requires motorists to move over one lane—or slow down if it is not safe to change lanes—when approaching any vehicle with flashing lights pulled to the side of a road or highway.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That includes first responder vehicles such as tow trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, and police cruisers, as well as utility trucks and even passenger vehicles that have emergency flashers blinking. Lives can be saved when vehicles “Move Over.”

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tragically, tow truck operators being struck and killed is not uncommon as being a first responder to vehicle crashes and disabled motorists is dangerous work. Nationally, one tow truck operator is killed every six days. On average, about 23 highway workers and one law enforcement officer are killed every month and five fire fighters are killed every year in the United States.

Remember, when you see flashing lights on, give ’em space and “Move Over.” 

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Install and maintain a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide and propane (LP gas) detector.

Special 12v smoke alarms, designed specifically for RVs, are available from RV dealers. Test monthly and replace batteries annually. Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in your RV near the sleeping area. Test monthly and replace batteries annually. Install and maintain a propane (LP gas) leak alarm at floor level in your RV, no more than six inches above the floor. Test monthly and replace batteries annually.

Ajo Scenic Loop Drive, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Camera. This one is obvious, but don’t leave home without it. How else are you going to document your visit to the world’s only corn palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota?

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Sewer Tank Woes

Avoid RV black water tank problems

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Maintaining and emptying your septic system on a regular basis is an unglamorous—but necessary—part of any RV adventure. And without proper maintenance and care of this system, things can get pretty ugly.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the final epistle is written on the trials and tribulations of the RV Lifestyle—the Weekend Warriors, Snowbirds, and Full Timers—the subject of many conversations will focus on the woes of sewer tanks. Learning how to dump them is your first lesson and how to keep them from smelling is the second.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After graduating from your own personal version of RV Sewer Tanks 101, you may also require schooling in the finer details of how to unclog them, when you treat them badly.

It usually isn’t that big of a deal when you notice the sewer tanks filling up, especially when you personally don’t have to dump the tanks—its hubby’s job, yippee, you say! And it wouldn’t have been a big deal that day, since as usual we were camping in a park with full hook-ups, which mean an onsite sewer connection.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So on a typical day, when the tanks fills up, I—as in hubby, that’s me—just goes outside and dump the tanks, first the gray water, then the black as in sewer. That worked well for over 20 years.

That day, of course, life wasn’t so simple. As the lights on the tank monitor turned from green to amber then quickly to red, I knew that there was a problem.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s the problem?

At that moment I wasn’t aware that I had inadvertently left the black water valve open less than 12 hours earlier.

On that occasion I had dumped the black tank, closed the valve, and drained the gray as usual. After closing the gray water tank I attached a water hose to the black tank flush, opened the black and turned on the water. Flush complete, water turned off, and hose stowed.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I recall a conversation with an RVer who related a story about her husband who had a great idea. An idea so wonderful she said that he actually called it brilliant. An idea that he requested a pat on the back for. An idea he was sure you could only get from a real RVer, someone who knew what they were doing.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never mind that this particular genius of an idea went against what all the manufacturers recommended and what all the experts advised. This had come from a fellow RVer, a man who lived in his camper. A man he met for literally two minutes while camping in some off-beat location in the mountains of east Kentucky.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You guessed it folks—he left the tanks open. And, not just the grey tank but both of them! And now the black tank monitor indicated full while it was almost empty!

She could see from the expression on his face and the glazed look of his eyes, he was about to start tinkering and she knew right then, this would be her entertainment for the next hour or two.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After jolting out the door, she could hear him fumbling around in the storage bins looking for tools and who knows what else. She heard the water turn on and what sounded like a tote being filled. He was filling two five-gallon water tanks at the spigot.

She knew this was probably a big deal, but couldn’t help but relish in the fact that she had been right and that this was totally his fault.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next hour, he ran in and out of the camper tugging the heavy water tanks back and forth from bathroom to spigot. He checked the tanks then continued with his plan. She could hear him fiddling with the valve outside, cursing up a storm, while trying not to attract attention from the neighbors.

Worth Pondering…

Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

—Anon

Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.

RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:

  • Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
  • Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
  • Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
  • Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks

Winterize Your Home

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Pack the RV

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:

  • Clothing for all types of weather
  • Toiletries
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
  • Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
  • Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
  • Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:

  • Passports and other travel documents
  • Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Smart phone and internet service
  • Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

Keys to Avoiding RV Accidents

A key to avoiding RV accidents is a basic understanding of the most common ones and how best to avoid them

Driving an RV is like driving a small house around the country—down highways, through back roads, and up and over mountain passes. And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it becomes increasingly important that RVers have a basic understanding of common RV accidents and how best to avoid them.

Driving safely on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you hit the road, ensure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

Most of the common RV accidents can be avoided by preventive maintenance and proactive attentiveness.

Driving safely on Newfound Gap Road in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the hazards are numerous, taking simple steps to avoid them is much easier than finding yourself facing the consequences of an RV accident or mishap. Knowing the most common mistakes and having the knowledge to prevent them will keep RV drivers safe and their trip enjoyable. Accidents such as lack of clearance can cost more than just the expense of the RV repair—such disasters can harm the traveling family as well.

The Low Hanging Tree Branch

Use special care when driving to your camping site in an RV park with overhanging trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the problems with certain campground owners is that they can be sloppy about trimming tree branches that hang over their roads. They make the mistaken assumption that people who buy travel units know enough to look up as they drive through RV parks, but many do not. The problem is that many recreational vehicles these days sit high, so when you put that kind of height together with an overhanging branch, you’ve got the recipe for problems.

Use extra care when driving in or backing out of a camping sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One newbie learned this the hard way. She was pulling out of a campground and, although she was trying to be careful, she forgot to look up. Even though she was driving slowly, her roof hit a heavy tree branch, and she was unable to stop in time to keep it from doing major damage.

Know your clearance height and don’t take unnecessary risks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The branch actually curled the front portion of her fifth wheel roof back a few feet, and this also loosened and misplaced the area that was a few feet behind it. It was an expensive way to learn an important lesson.

Know Your Height

Know your height, width, and total combined weight © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your height and always look up when you are driving in areas where overhangs of any kind are present. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving. Hitting bridges, low hanging trees, and overhangs or misjudging the amount of clearance beneath an overpass or inside a tunnel can put an immediate stopper on your road trip.

Use extreme care and caution on backroads. Pictured above Moke Dugway as it drops into Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In order to keep your RV in one piece and avoid getting hung up—literally— consider the following guidelines:

  • Pay close attention to posted clearance measurements
  • Know the height of your RV and place a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact height (remember to include A/C)
“We’ll probably fit” doesn’t cut it! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’ll probably fit” does not cut it—don’t take the risk

Also be aware that the typical width of an RV is 8.5 feet and the typical highway lane is 10 feet in width. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

Learn From This Story

Lessons like these are hard ones, but people can avoid having to learn them if they take an RV Driving Course that is taught by a certified instructor prior to taking their coaches out on the road.

Use extreme care when approaching a bridge or tunnel with low clearance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to protect yourself from having the kind of accidents you’ve learned about in this article, my best advice is to learn to drive an RV before taking it out on the highway, maintain it well, pay attention to what you’re doing when you travel, and always be aware of what the drivers around you are doing. Be proactive!

Drive safely! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

Prep Your RV for Summer Travel

The weather is getting warmer and summer will soon be here

Now is the time to start planning your summer travels. But prior to booking a campsite, owners of recreational vehicles should perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure that their road trip goes smoothly. Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems.

It is a much better to take care of any problems while at home rather than having to deal with costly repairs while on the road. Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping.

Plug it in and turn it on © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plug it In – Turn it On

After taking the RV out of winter storage, plug it in to shore power, turn on the LP gas, and connect to city water to ensure that all electric and propane appliances function normally and there is no evidence of water leaks. Also run the air conditioning units and furnace, turn on the refrigerator and freezer, start the water heater, and power up the generator and run with a full load.

Connect to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check and Double Check

Top off the fluid levels in your batteries, check all hoses and belts for cracking, and all fluid levels on a motorized RV. Also check the converter and/or inverter for proper voltage. Check the headlights and turn signals. Take a look at all your hitch and towing equipment. Check fire extinguishers, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and propane sensor.

Turn on the refrigerator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kick the Tires

Check the age of the tires—RV tires usually age out before they wear out.

Hook up the sewer and flush the tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check that all tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency. Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure and blowout.

Or drive to the nearest dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer you may need to pack wheel bearings.

Clean the tires and rims and inspect them for evidence of any splits or cracks in the sidewalls and weatherization damage.

Not the way to care for tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jack it Up

Regardless of your RV type, check the jacks and leveling systems, the awnings, crank and run the generator and service if required.

Open awnings and check for frayed or ripped material. Remove stains and mildew with special awning cleaner and allow awning to dry before rolling back up. Check hardware for functionality and replace as needed.

Keep the RV clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep it Clean

Regular cleaning of a recreational vehicle is essential for its maintenance and to ensure the longevity of your RV especially after a long winter in storage. Cleaning starts with your RV roof, because whatever lands on your roof eventually ends up everywhere else on the RV. Always exercise extreme care when working on the roof of an RV, especially when wet.

Cleaning starts with the RV roof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When inspecting the roof look for tears or holes. Beware of small slices that can allow water intrusion. Get any holes or slices repaired immediately.

Look for peeling, cracking, or openings in the sealants and if found should be cleaned, dried, and resealed.

Cleaning includes the side mirrors…oops, a late snow fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next clean the front of the RV including side mirrors, the side walls, and back using a quality RV wash such as McGuire’s. The safest and easiest way to reach the upper part of the RV is with an extension pole system.

Pay special attention to the seams where the wall joints, storage bay doors, marker lights, and appliance outlets are found. Remove dirt, bugs, tar, and other road residue from the surface of your RV.

Finally, it’s time to wax the beast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect the side walls and around windows and doors for cracks or voids in the seams and seals. Scrape and reseal any affected areas with the appropriate sealant.

After a general clean with the soap and water it’s time to wax the beast with a quality product such as McGuire’s Wash and Wax.

Worth Pondering…

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

—Ben Stein