Hail Can Be a Killer Especially For Your RV

There are four things that absolutely kill all recreational vehicles: water damage, neglect, accidents, and severe hail

If you are a careful owner that follows preventive maintenance guidelines and takes measures to reduce humidity in your rig you are well on the way to maintaining your RV in good condition.

That will eliminate water damage and neglect as possible destroyers. But there’s not much you can do about the forces of nature when they strike.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most forms of weather are not a problem while in your RV. People inside who aren’t touching anything conductive are safe. Lightning can damage wiring and electronics and even burn a small hole in the skin, but that is repairable. (So if you are in your RV and lightning is crashing down around you, stay put. You’re already in a good shelter.)

Heavy winds are likewise not usually a problem when situated in an RV park. If you are exceptionally concerned retract the slides.

But hail can be a killer. Hail can dimple the surface, rip holes in the skin, and destroy slide toppers.

Camping in Rapid City Campground and RV Park, Rapid City, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a baseball dropped from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Now imagine that baseball reaching speeds of 120 mph as it falls to the ground—and imagine you’re under it!

Fortunately, most hail is small—usually less than 2 inches in diameter. The largest hailstone (nearly the size of a volleyball!) fell on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, South Dakota, and had a diameter of 8.0 inches, a circumference of 18.62 inches, and weighed just under 2 pounds.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail is a frequent occurrence through the nation’s heartland during spring and summer, especially the Plains states and Prairie provinces but it happen anywhere there’s a thunderstorm. The presence of large hail indicates very strong updrafts and downdrafts within the thunderstorm.

While most weather watchers had their eyes trained on the Gulf Coast, a severe thunderstorm swept through the Black Hills region in South Dakota, devastating much of the area’s campgrounds and leaving millions of dollars in damaged RVs and structures.

Camping in Arrow Campground, Wall, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hart Ranch Resort south of Rapid City was one of the parks hit hardest by the Monday, August 27, 2021 storm. Hail the size of baseballs destroyed vehicle windows and bodies as well as almost every RV skylight and vent. RV roofs also sustained significant damage. The storm hit suddenly just after 7 p.m. Many RVs at the park sustained interior damage when water poured through broken vents.

The storm also ravaged the Mount Rushmore KOA Resort, just six miles from the Mount Rushmore National Monument. Managers there reported most RVs and other vehicles sustained severe damage as did many of the roofed structures on the campground. About 90 percent of the roofs on their structures need to be replaced and about 80 percent of the vehicles on the park had broken windows. Most of the RVs parked sustained damage. Most of the roof vents on units were taken out.

RVs parked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way of avoiding hail damage other than keeping your RV parked undercover. Since that doesn’t work on the road or in an RV park, a few other strategies will help to reduce your risk.

Check the weather report along your route during the summer when thunderstorms are more likely. A good weather app on your phone or tablet that shows color radar will help you spot thunderstorm activity as it happens.

Tornado warnings are a major red flag since tornadoes are spawned from the same severe thunderstorms that produce hail. Consider altering your route to avoid the highest risk areas or delay departure to the following day.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get off the road before the thunderstorm hits. There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many lightning deaths and injuries. 

When lightning and hail start happening it’s usually too late to look for shelter. Driving into hail at highway speeds will result in the hail smashing on the RV even harder, which increases the chance of permanent surface damage.

On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onawa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail can exceed the size of softballs and fall at speeds of over 100 mph, seriously injuring or killing anyone in its path. Even small hail driven by the wind can cause severe injuries.

DO NOT park under large trees or power lines, since these are easily felled by straight-line winds, which would be even worse. DO NOT stop in the middle of a lane under an overpass.

Camping at Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the time hail damage is strictly cosmetic. This brings up the issue of whether to fix it or live with it. Talk to your trusted RV dealer and/or manufacturer before making your decision. There are no shortcuts to a good repair, so be wary of anyone who offers to fix it cheaply.

You may eventually encounter some hail, but it likely won’t be large enough to result in permanent damage. Don’t let a minor risk overshadow your travels—you’ll be fine and your RV probably will be too.

Worth Pondering…

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

The Top 5 Considerations when Trading in or Selling Your RV

Tips on how to get maximum value when upgrading to a newer RV

Whether you own a teardrop camper trailer or a diesel-powered motorhome, RVing provides you the freedom to roam where and when you want before planting your stakes at a rustic campground or scenic resort—not some seedy inn or cookie-cutter hotel located miles from the action of the outdoors.

Every year, thousands of RVers trade up to a new recreational vehicle with more room and newer, more advanced amenities. There comes a time when every RV owner, whether they’ve had their coach for two years or 20, decides it’s time to upgrade.

Moving from the old to the new © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to recent innovations, RVs have become much more user-friendly and advanced than they used to be. Residential-quality kitchen appliances, assisted steering, LED TVs, ultra-maneuverable chassis, and automatic generators all represent available technology that might be missing from your current motorhome, trailer, or fifth wheel. These innovations have dramatically improved engine efficiency, energy usage, in-dashboard navigation, and storage capacity. When you see these advances, you may feel enticed to trade in your RV for an upgraded model, or maybe switch to a different class.

New motorhome at a dealership © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Should you find yourself on the cusp of becoming a “full-timer,” you may discover that your weekender RV isn’t up to the task of acting as your primary residence. Features and comforts you never thought about become necessary to living comfortably on a full-time basis. If this sounds like your situation, a larger, more residential arrangement is the answer.

For you, that time may be now. It can be tough to know where to begin—and how to go about—the RV trade-in process.

Side by side, the old and the new © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whatever your reason for trading up, this guide can assist you in navigating the most important aspects of trading in your current unit. You can save yourself some cash when you apply a generous trade value credit to your new, upgraded purchase. We’ve outlined five things to keep in mind as you prepare your RV for trade-in to ensure you receive the maximum value credit.

A bucket of household cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease can transform your RV’s appearance from “worn down” to “like-new” in less than a day’s time. A coach that sparkles and shines both inside and out can have a significant positive impact on its trade-in or resale value.

Washington the exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exterior Condition

Start by washing your RV’s exterior and addressing any cosmetic damage the best you can. If your paint appears dull, consider waxing it or paying someone to detail it for you. I prefer Meguiar’s product line.

Check the roof for signs of damage, rust, or mold, especially around vents and in and around any awnings or cloth-like materials. The same goes for windows which can collect moisture, mold, and rust from precipitation. Be sure to clean the windows inside and out.

Check the tires, fill them to their recommended pressure and, if necessary, rotate them. Examine them for excessive wear and replace them if necessary. In most cases, RV tires age out before they wear out.

Other items often overlooked? Windshield wipers, side mirrors, and doorsteps are all apt to show signs of wear and tear, mold, or rust.

Prep the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interior Condition

Some simple repairs may be in order for the interior of your RV. You’ll want to check to see if any of the cabinet or door hinges are loose and make sure all of the power outlets are functioning. If you’ve experienced issues with any of your appliances, consider having an electrician check the wiring. In some cases, reupholstering can also increase the trade-in value.

All appliances should be clean and in proper operating condition. Gather any owner’s guides or instruction manuals.

Check all systems © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Engine, Batteries & Maintenance

Making sure your travel vehicle is in good working order and sound mechanical condition are the two most important aspects when it comes to receiving maximum value for your trade or sale.

Take the RV in for maintenance and scheduled service and be sure to get an idea of the condition of your engine and battery. Ask the technicians working on your RV to keep an eye out for ways to increase the value of the RV.

Check interior for general impression © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Style and Cleanliness

Ensure your RV interior makes a first great impression: vacuum, wipe down surfaces, dust, clean out cabinets, and shampoo upholstery or carpets if necessary. Consider what future buyers’ impression of the cabin will be. Does it have an odd or stale odor or dated or out-of-place styling?

Everything in working order © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gather All Paperwork

Ensure all important documents and paperwork is available, including the deed, transferable warranty, mileage and year, service and maintenance records, purchase receipts (tires, wiper blades, batteries, aftermarket items, etc.), documented changes that you’ve made to the RV over time, and any other documents you’ve accrued during the ownership of the RV.

Other key documents include your RV owner’s manual; paperwork or instruction booklets associated with appliances, electronics, and aftermarket items; and current registration.

Worth Pondering…

Far too late to understand many of the missed goals in life:

Joy, beauty of nature, health, travel, and culture,

Therefore, man is, time-wise!

High time is it! Travel, travel!

—Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

Yes, You Can De-winterize your RV: Here is How

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the ice has thawed—do you know what that means? It’s time to de-winterize your RV!

The snow and ice have melted, temperatures are rising, and the sun is making its way out of hibernation—it’s finally spring! And, you’ve probably itching to take your recreational vehicle out for quite some time now. But before you get too excited, you’ll need to de-winterize your RV properly for warmer weather.

Winter is over? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While you could take your recreational vehicle to a service center, many choose to de-winterize the RV on their own. It’s not too difficult, but if you don’t follow the proper protocol you could end up discovering winter damages halfway through your first trip. Not ideal, to say the least.

So, without further ado, here’s some advice for a seamless de-winterizing process!

No more winter? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A quick note: Make sure you stay with your RV throughout the entire de-winterizing process. It will likely take the better part of a day but if you leave in the middle of the task you might come back to an unintended swimming pool in your beloved RV.

Charge Your Batteries

When de-winterizing your RV, you’ll want to check your batteries for any wear and tear, including cracks that may have developed from frozen water. Batteries lose power in cold weather so it’s likely they’ll need to be charged and reconnected to your RV.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Propane Power

Next step, propane power!

To start, make sure everything is turned off when testing the propane system. Then, open the valve about ¼ of an inch and check for any propane leaks by smelling the inside of the RV or by putting a soapy sponge by the connectors to see if any air bubbles appear. Assuming that you don’t find a leak, test your gas appliances and let them run for a few minutes. (It may take several minutes or more for the gas to work its way through the lines). If things shut off, try turning them back on—there may be air pockets in the line that just need to be pushed out.

Once inside the RV, also check for any water damage (this doesn’t have to do with propane but its good practice regardless). Inspect all vents and the areas surrounding the AC unit which tend to receive the most water damage. Finally, look inside cabinets and closed spaces—there may be some unwanted critters that snuck their way into your RV.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flush the Water System

The most important step to de-winterizing your RV is prepping the water system for use. When it comes to winterizing your RV, you probably followed one of two methods: using an air compressor to get all the water out of the vehicle or adding non-toxic antifreeze to your tank to ensure no water turned to ice over the cold winter months.

If you went the air compressor route, you won’t have to deal with draining antifreeze and can move along to prepping the water heater. If you did add antifreeze, you’ll have to make sure it’s out of your drains and into your holding tanks before you sanitize the system.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the anti-freezers, connect your water hose to a fresh potable water supply and fill your tank. Then, run water through every faucet, both hot and cold. You’ll also want to test toilets, showers, the refrigerator’s ice machine, and dishwasher during this time. Once the color from the antifreeze is gone and you have clear water, you can turn off the water supply drain pressure from the system using low point drains. At this point, you can install all filters back into the system that you removed during the winterization process.

If your coach is equipped with a water heater, you’ll need to install a drain plug, open the water heater valves, and close the by-pass valve on the water heater. This ensures that your antifreeze doesn’t get into your hot water tank. Turn on the fresh water supply, open the hot water faucet until the water heater is filled, turn on your faucet, and wait until the water flows through without any air.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, We Sanitize!

Next, sanitize the RV water system by using a household bleach-water mixture (roughly a quarter-cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds) and flushing it through your water system.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First, make sure all drains are closed (for obvious reasons). Next, fill the tank with the sanitizing mixture, turn on the pump, run it through the hot and cold faucets, close the faucets, and let it sit for at least three hours. Drain the bleach mixture, refill your fresh water tank with potable water, and flush out the system to get rid of any remaining bleach (no one wants to drink bleach water).

Finally, check your holding tank levels and dump excess waste if necessary at a suitable waste disposal site.

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

Check Your Tires

During the harsh winter months, your tires may have taken a beating. Check for any cracks or irregular bumps, and use a tire pressure gauge to measure the psi. (Check your user’s manual for recommended psi or utilize your RV’s tire-pressure monitoring system).

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

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