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February 22, 2020
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With Chuck Woodbury
I never have room in one issue to delve adequately into my thoughts about the evolution of RVing, and the many challenges you and I face today as RVers. But I had a lot of time last week. So I wrote like a crazy man. This is the first installment of a series that will continue every weekend until I have said everything I want to say.
The RV industry and you
For nearly 20 years I have written an essay in this space almost every week. For 15 years before that I wrote them for my quarterly “on the road newspaper” Out West and for newspapers worldwide via syndication by The New York Times.
I traveled by RV all those years, but until RVtravel.com came along in the late 1990s, I didn’t write much about RVing other than an occasional mention that I traveled in a motorhome. The late Charles Kuralt, CBS TV’s beloved on-the-road correspondent, did the same. He called his motorhome a “bus.” You see, back then travel with an RV was not cool, just the opposite. A recreational vehicle was “Grandma and Grandpa’s Playhouse.” My 30-something baby boomer friends wanted nothing to do with one; backpacking was the thing. RVing was for old people. I was an oddball, out there hanging out with people my parent’s age. The most popular RV bumper sticker of the day was “We’re Spending Our Children’s Inheritance.”
I got to know these older folks well. I was “the kid,” and was treated like a son. I enjoyed a lot of free dinners from senior citizens who felt sorry for me being alone. And then one day I woke up and time had passed and I was no longer the youngster, but the same age as those “grannies and grandpas” of yesteryear. You want to know something? Today’s older RVers are indistinguishable from those of 30 years ago, only the equipment has changed.
ONE BIG DIFFERENCE TODAY is that RVing is suddenly very trendy. Millennials are standing in line to buy one. Most buy cheap ones that will fall apart in five to ten years, if not sooner. Truth be told, some of those entry-level RVs are seriously defective right off the sales lot but need significant work that can take weeks or months. The RV industry announced just this week that the average repair at an RV dealership takes 21 days. That’s just the average.
The overall dependability of new RVs has never been worse. In a reader poll we conducted in 2017, 22 percent of our readers rated the workmanship on their RVs as poor or terrible. That’s one out of five. If that same percentage held true for manufacturers of cars, TVs, bicycles or furniture, the companies would go bust.
Today’s buyers, with stars in their eyes, get suckered by high pressure salespeople into financing their RVs for 15 or 20 years. Camping World has perfected the art of selling long-term loans. “Oh, we can afford $400 a month,” the would-be buyers say. They forget about taxes, insurance, registrations, maintenance, storage fees (53% of RVtravel readers pay to store their RV) and replacement parts (like new tires at least every seven years). Meanwhile RV industry flacks send out an annual news release citing statistics that “prove” that travel by RV is the cheapest way to take a vacation. That, my RVtravel friend, is a bald-faced lie! I took a class in college titled “Lying with Statistics,” where I learned you can make a case for anything by twisting the data.
Consider this: You buy a new RV, finance it, and use it a month a year, which is typical with Millennials and others who are still working (many, if not most, will use it even less). The rest of the time the RV sits, often at the mercy of the elements. All the while the owner makes monthly payments and pays other RV-related expenses.
Under those circumstances, get out your calculator and figure out the annual cost of owning the RV, and then apply that to the one month you used it. How much did that one month really cost you? Don’t forget to figure the RV’s depreciation of $500-$1,000 a month (conservative, ballpark figure that is often much higher).
Now compare that to taking a car trip, camping in a tent with an occasional motel stay, and otherwise being frugal. When you return home, your trip expenses are finished. I don’t think many people finance a tent for 15 years. Compare an RV vacation with renting an Airbnb cottage at the ocean. When you return home, no more payments until you take your next trip.
I suggest that if you travel three months or more a year with an RV and compare the cost to staying in hotels, the RV could be the less expensive way to take a “vacation” (and, of course, a whole lot more convenient and comfortable). But for the industry to boast that RV travel is the “least expensive way to take a vacation” is a joke. Sad to say, the advertising-dependent RV industry media prints this nonsense because it’s free copy and it makes their advertisers happy. Who cares about facts?
CONTINUED TOMORROW IN OUR SUNDAY EDITION: Is this just doom and gloom on my part? And after that … If the RV industry were a sports team, it would never win a game.
My Roadside Journal
(about whatever is on my mind, not necessarily RV-related)
- The “Charlie Bit Me” boys 10 years later.
See and hear the boys now. Learn how much money their family made from their hugely popular YouTube video. A million dollars? Heck, a lot more than that!
- Travel News Alert.
- The joy of camping next to a neighbor’s electric palm tree.
Stories in tomorrow’s newsletter
• Part Two of editor’s essay “The RV industry and you”
• Two-year-old dies after falling into septic tank in RV park in Aransas Pass, Texas.
• You can buy Bret Michaels’ tricked-out RV and get free tickets to a show and meet-and-greet as a bonus!
• Jayco claims the Number 1 selling travel trailer is the Jay Flight – for the 15th year in a row.
PLUS: Campground updates • Latest fuel prices • Upcoming RV shows • Latest RV recalls • Free and bargain camping locations • Reader survey • and much more …
Spotted in Lake Havasu City. Quite a setup, huh?
Last week’s featured stories in RV Daily Tips
• Easy generator carrying for your travel trailer
• Does your RV have a “cool” roof? Color matters
• RV shopping? Some trends to be aware of
• Camping versus RVing: What’s the difference?
• Texting in traffic – Coping with a distracted driver
RV makers putting heat on buyers who don’t read their warranty
A lemon law attorney reports that RV manufacturers are filing motions against its customers for not reading their factory warranty at the time of sale. Some are voiding warranties of buyers who live in their RVs full time or use them for commercial purposes. Learn more.
What to do if your propane tank gets overfilled
By Heidi Bodette
Loving the RV Life
Has your RV propane tank ever been overfilled? Well, it happened to us in January. Here’s what we learned so you can help ensure it doesn’t happen to you. Read more.
Milestone reached for Harvest Hosts
We’re happy to announce that our hard-working friends at Harvest Hosts have reached a major milestone. On February 20, the company added its 1,000th host to its fast-growing list of unique free camping locations across the U.S. and Canada, including wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, museums, etc. Read more.
Readers reveal their favorite RV mods or add-ons, Part 2
A few weeks ago we asked you about some of your favorite things you’ve done to modify your RV. We got dozens of emails and comments, so now we’re back with Part 2. These are great!
What question can you never answer “yes” to? (Answer in tomorrow’s Sunday News newsletter.)
Last year at this time, these were the most popular articles
• Couple confesses their RV buying mistakes. This video will make you mad
• Ever wish a road you traveled had a sign like this?
• You kidding? Deer reading deer crossing signs? (This is funny!)
• RV is toast, flames refuse to die
• Fire danger avoided in RV with questionable wiring
For every 100 nights in your RV, how often do you have a wood campfire?
Please let us know. After you click your response, you’ll see how others have responded. Feel free to leave a comment. We’ll post the final results in next week’s newsletter. CLICK HERE.
Readers tell us (What we learned about you last week)
We analyze what we learned about you and fellow RVers from our reader polls and your comments.
A sad day for snowbird capital Quartzsite
When you’re a kid, and your eyes are big and wide, taking it all in, there are some things that just won’t ever change. One of them is Grampa. Bigger than life, full of fun, and a good lap to cuddle on – there’s nobody like Grampa. Life without Grampa would just be unimaginable. And for a kid, Grampa will always be there. Until something happens – and Grampa, bless him, isn’t there. Now, that “something” looks to be happening in Quartzsite, Arizona. Read more in this quasi-obituary from Russ and Tiña De Maris.
Reader asks: What to do with nosy busybodies in RV parks?
Long-time RVer and RVtravel.com reader, and frequent commenter, Jeffrey Torsrud sent this to us, and we couldn’t help but chuckle. Ah, the pains of RVers. We do know those people, Jeffrey, and we know exactly what you’re talking about. Read Jeffrey’s complaint. Do you have any suggestions?
DO YOU POST VIDEOS ABOUT RVing on YOUTUBE OR FACEBOOK? If so, embed them at the RV Videos group on Facebook. Spread your fame.
Full-timer explains “Why I miss a home base”
By Ingrid Hubbard
The life of a nomad can appear glamorous. All you have to do is spend a little time on social media and the stunning images will have you longing to live a life of full-time travel. Yet those beautiful photographs don’t usually tell the whole story. I know I’m guilty of sharing predominantly the upside to RV living. Let’s face it, most people prefer to hear and see the positives of those living the nomadic life and ignore many of the realities. Continue reading.
How one RVer figured out how to never do laundry again
By Rick Cain
Most RVers do laundry. But not me. I don’t have to deal with laundry at all. Let me tell you why. Boredom and me have never been a good combo. Once my brain starts to wander it comes up with all kinds of fun stuff. Including this brilliant strategy. Guys, if you want to get out of laundry duties, pay attention. [Gals, you don’t want to miss this either!]
Another crazy RV paint job. Wow!
Last week we posted a photo of an RV which we thought had the coolest paint job of any RV we’d ever seen. But this one might be just as neat… The pictures were sent in by readers Doug and Linda (from Ohio) with the comment, “Here is a motorhome and toad with a matching paint job that we spotted last September in a KOA campground in Wells, Maine. …” Check them out.
Popular articles from last week
• KOA to open new park: RVs not welcome.
• Court rules in favor of owner of defective Newmar motorhome.
• Will your RV be banned from your neighborhood?
• The truth about Butt Wipes and RV holding tanks.
• Reader abandons plan to buy another RV.
• Is 11 a.m. too early a checkout time? (Poll with more than 100 comments)
• The award for the RV with the coolest paint job EVER goes to…
• Fifth wheel burns to the ground in 20 minutes. Totally destroyed!
• RVelectricity: Can reversed polarity alone cause hot-skin voltage?
• Building an RV park: See the envisioned campground – plus more updates.
• RV Tire Safety: Heat, high speed and the “magic” in ST tires.
• Good Sam gets a finger in the RV storage pie – and you may have helped.
We recently asked you: Do you have a favorite campground or RV park? We published the results here, creating a guide for you of your fellow RVers’ favorite spots. We update this weekly, so please continue to tell us your favorite campground or RV park by commenting on this post.
New parks added this week in: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
Our Facebook and RVillage Groups: RV Horror Stories • RV Advice • RV Electricity • RV Parks with Storm Shelters • RV Buying Advice • Northwest RV Camping • Southwest RV Camping • Free Campgrounds • NEW Budget RV Travel • NEWER RV Videos plus Texas RV Camping and Florida RV camping.
Where to complain about bad RVs, dealers, service, RV parks. This is an ever-expanding list of resources where you can report, share or discuss your problems with RV manufacturers or dealers.
Best Club for RVers: Escapees. Click here to learn more or join. Endorsed by RVtravel.com.
The RV Show USA
Listen each Wednesday evening on Facebook or YouTube for the live taping of America’s only syndicated radio program about RVing.
The RV Death Spiral
Read the eight-part series of editorials by Greg Gerber that the RV industry never wanted written. Download the PDF.
Motorhomes on Fire
This is not pretty – dozens of videos of RVs burning up. But the point is to help viewers understand that RVs burn fast, and they need to practice good fire-prevention habits and practice an escape plan … just in case.
What does financing an RV for 20 years REALLY mean?
In case you missed this article the first time around, here it is again. Important! Click here.
Save bandwidth while watching YouTube videos
How to watch YouTube videos using very little bandwidth.
Stuck with a lemon RV? Contact Ron Burdge, America’s premier RV lemon law attorney.
Ask the RV Shrink
Obnoxious “party animals” ruin state park stay
Dear RV Shrink:
We just spent a miserable night at Lost Dutchman State Park near Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a beautiful park, but obviously not well managed. It was a Saturday night. A party was raging in the site next to us. A family with young children and drunk adults screaming profanities at the top of their voices. You could hear them all over the park, but we were unfortunately right next door. … There is absolutely no way management could not have heard this band of obnoxious neighbors. Read the rest of the question and the RV Shrink’s advice.
Ask the RV Doctor
RV levelers raising tires off the ground – occupants queasy!
Our motorhome has Power Gear brand levelers. The front two float side to side on the same hydraulic circuit while the rear two jacks are independent. The coach seems to ride high on certain grades with the front wheels often off the ground. When this happens the coach rocks enough to trigger motion sickness…. —Dean G. Read the rest of the question(s) and Gary’s response.
Did the campground industry association save RV park owners millions of dollars by nixing electrical upgrade?
I received dozens of emails about the ARVC announcement last week concerning the NEC rolling back the 2020 required GFCI protection on 30- and 50-amp pedestal outlets as was originally planned. According to the news report this was due to ARVC fighting off the NEC’s attempt to saddle campgrounds with millions of dollars spent in retrofitting all pedestals with GFCI breakers. So how and why did this happen, and is it a safety thing or just a way to save money? Read Mike’s interesting report.
This week’s J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session:
Combination voltage and 3-light tester. Mike recommends a new product that functions both as a 3-light tester and a plug-in digital voltage tester.
Sign up for Mike’s popular and informative RV Electricity group on Facebook.
RV Tire Safety
Why inflate your tires to their max when parking for a long time?
Roger had a question about what inflation to run when parking your RV or other vehicle for a long time, and explains interply shear on a parked RV. Learn all about it here.
RV Short Stop
Curious low-cost RV short stops in Yuma
The Camel Farm is an unpretentious, highly enjoyable discovery tucked away in agricultural land south of Yuma, Arizona. … In addition to camels, there are more than 25 species to see (many you can pet), including zeedonks (zebra-donkey mix), donkeys, baby goats, water buffalo, an ostrich or two. … Also check out The Peanut Patch and the giant Yuma Swap Meet. Read more.
Do you subscribe to our RV Daily Tips Newsletter?
Every Monday through Friday you get a short, informational email from us delivered straight to your inbox. Inside each issue you’ll find: quick RV tips, popular articles, reader polls, RV thoughts, helpful resources, a website of the day, RV clubs and organizations, trivia, jokes and more! If you don’t like it, you can easily unsubscribe, but we doubt you’ll want to. Read the latest issue here and then sign up here.
RV Fire Safety
Prevent spontaneous combustion of charcoal or dirty rags
Spontaneous combustion can occur in damp charcoal. Buy charcoal fresh, keep it dry, and store it in a covered metal container. Rags soiled with auto wax or cleaners that contain petroleum products or other oil-based cleaning materials can also spontaneously combust if disposed of in a combustible container. Put dirty cleaning rags in a metal container with a lid.
My husband and I have been RVing for 22 years. We went full-time two years ago. We are currently staying in a dumpy RV park because it’s February in Tucson and regular parks are full. Yes, it’s cheap, but residents appear to be poverty-stricken. There are mental health sufferers and homeless in and out all hours of the day or night. As a retired law enforcement officer I also suspect dealing. One resident was actually evicted but the process is lengthy and he’s still here. We will be able to move to a proper RV park at the end of the month. —Dennis G.
Unfortunately, there are too many similar parks these days. It’s a problem for recreational vehicle enthusiasts – those who use their RVs for traveling, not living on the cheap year round. —Chuck
This newsletter has lamented for years that just taking off and finding a campground is getting harder or in some cases impossible. It is sad that you can’t just wander the country and see what you find. These days you just have to make a reservation and plan your trip. But that brings another problem.
What if you make a reservation and think everything is fine and then you get a call that says someone wants your site for three months and your deposit is being returned. This has happened to me and is happening to more people I talk to. My current neighbors are here now only because they thought they had a reservation for a month at another place. But they got a call that said someone wanted their site for three months, so “sorry.” The response from the campground was that the RVers were offered another site but turned it down. That’s a lie!
I would bet these are not isolated incidents. Both mentioned here happened at corporate parks – Zelman and Encore, respectively. It might be a good topic for the newsletter and start some lively and informative discussions. —Dave Gobel
We appreciate your letters. Send to email@example.com
Museum of the Week
Other states might portray this as a car museum, but not Historic Auto Attractions. Inside this 36,000-square-foot museum, you’ll find everything from historic automobiles, Old West-style stagecoaches, and the world’s largest collection of presidential and world leaders’ limousines. You’ll also see famous cars from movies (such as the Batmobile, the car from “Back to the Future,” and more!), Elvis Presley’s personal car, and John Dillinger’s getaway car. Park yourself at the museum website and plan your visit. (*Note: They reopen for the season in May, so take the back roads there for now.)
During the Civil War, the U.S. military helped bring dental care to Americans. Soldiers needed to bite the thick paper wrapping off bullets as well as eat the dry military rations. The military thus required they have six teeth so they could chew. Source: National Geographic
Bumper sticker of the week
“I’m lost but making good time.”
Have you seen a funny bumper sticker? Send it to diane(at)RVtravel.com
Joke of the Week
Ever wonder …
• Why they sterilize the needle for a lethal injection?
• Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
• Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?
• Why are they called apartments when they’re all stuck together?
“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” —Walter Lippmann
Did you miss last week’s RV Travel?
RV Travel staff
CONTACT US at editor@RVtravel.com
Editor and Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern. Senior editors: Russ and Tiña De Maris, Emily Woodbury. Contributing writers: Mike Sokol, Bob Difley, Richard Mallery, Gary Bunzer, Roger Marble, Janet Groene, Julianne Crane, Chris Guld, Machelle James, J.M. Montigel and Andrew Robinson. Circulation director: Jessica Sarvis. Financial affairs director: Gail Meyring. IT wrangler: Kim Christiansen.
Honorary Correspondents: Loyal readers who regularly email us leads about news stories and other information and resources that aid our own news-gathering efforts.
• Mike Sherman • George Bliss • Tom and Lois Speirs • Alan Warren • Steve Barnes + others who we will add later.
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Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we occasionally get something wrong. We’re just human! So don’t go spending $10,000 on something we said was good simply because we said so, or fixing something according to what we suggested (check with your own technician first). Maybe we made a mistake. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com or this newsletter.
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