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January 11, 2020
Non-Members (advertising supported) edition
With Chuck Woodbury
Needles, California, is past its prime. The population is 4,900 but the town doesn’t even have a major grocery store. Stores on Broadway, the main street, are boarded up. The population is down about 10 percent from its peak 20 years ago. The town looks unhealthy.
Gail and I are staying in Needles for a few more days. We have a nice campsite that butts right up to the desert, where we walk our little terrier, Archie. He loves his walks, where on average he “waters” a plant about once a minute until his supply runs dry. I keep him away from cactus. I want to say, “Little fellow, if you lift your leg too close to that prickly plant your peeing apparatus may get an unpleasant surprise.”
I like it here. It’s peaceful — the park and the area itself. I like that I can take a walk on Route 66 or over to the Colorado River. The sunsets are spectacular.
Needles is a railroad town, founded in 1883 during the construction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The railway station’s Harvey House was considered the crown jewel of the entire Fred Harvey chain. Needles is still a railroad town, but with only a fraction of its former railroad employees. If you do not know about Harvey Houses and the Harvey Girls, I suggest you read up: It’s an interesting story. The book The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West is excellent.
City leaders are concerned about the worsening economy. They have worked to attract a new industry — pot: Inside closed up storefronts and other seemingly vacant buildings, marijuana growers are at work. The town’s abundant water and low electricity rates make it a perfect place to grow their now-legal crops. City leaders hope pot growers will help create about 300 new jobs.
If the name of town sounds familiar it may be because of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, where the Joad family and other “Dust Bowl” migrants crossed the Colorado River into California on Route 66, headed to central California, where they believed they would find abundant work (which seldom happened). To fully understand this time in American history, read Steinbeck’s book.
You may know Needles if you recently traveled east-west on Interstate 40 where you got ripped off at a local gas station. Today, a gallon of regular unleaded goes for about $4.50. Drive a mile into Arizona on U.S. 95 and you can buy the same thing for $2 a gallon less.
You may know Needles as the hottest place in the nation many summer days. It’s located in the Mojave Desert. The average high temperature is 106 degrees in the summer. The temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees an average of 168 days a year. On June 20, 2017, the temperature reached a sizzling 125 degrees.
Needles holds another weather record: On August 13, 2012, a thunderstorm dropped rain measured at 115 degrees, a record for the hottest rain in world history. The air temperature was 118 degrees. Since the humidity was only 11 percent, the rain evaporated so that only a trace of precipitation was recorded.
OR YOU MAY KNOW NEEDLES as the home of Spike, the cartoon brother of Snoopy of Peanuts fame. The two resemble each other but Spike wears a hat and has whiskers.
Spike is evident throughout town. Let your dog run free in Spike’s Desert Dog Park (less than a mile off I-40). Or see him at the local Subway shop, where his six-foot statue is right inside the front door. It was supposed to be displayed outside the Chamber of Commerce Office, but local politics got nasty and that didn’t work out.
Keep your eyes open for Spike murals around town.
Peanuts creator Charles Schulz lived in Needles briefly as a child, so that helps explains Spike’s choice of a home. The town museum, 50 yards from the train station, displays two original Spike cartoon panels that Schulz donated in 1996. Schulz wrote: “I don’t know how long Spike will remain in the desert, but I do know very much that he enjoys his trips into Needles.”
There are plenty of RV parks in the area as well as a huge expanse of desert lands where you can boondock for free for up to two weeks (then move to another location).
Laughlin, Nevada, is a 45-minute drive away, where hundreds of RVers squat overnight for free in casino parking lots. Or drive south for about an hour to Lake Havasu City and walk across London Bridge (the real thing imported brick by brick from England).
P.S. As I am finishing up this newsletter Friday evening, my Progressive Surge Guard Protector has turned off power to my motorhome three times as a safety measure in the last half hour. It shows that power in the park is only 109 volts, which is too low for some electronics to operate safely. I highly recommend you always use a surge protector. The ones that cost less than $100 are okay, but not good enough. This is the one I use. Surge Guard makes an excellent 30-amp device.
Speaking of electricity, here’s another reminder that our RV electrical columnist Mike Sokol will be speaking at the Boston RV & Camping Expo January 24-26. This is a rare opportunity to see the nation’s premier authority on RV electricity in person for the price of a show admission. Be sure to sign up for Mike’s monthly newsletter.
And … Don’t miss tomorrow’s newsletter. Russ De Maris will have a report about a new self-service RV park that may represent the campground of the future.
Plus: two weeks ago we asked RVtravel.com readers what brand of truck they use for RVing? Wow — more than 6,200 of you responded! And what truck do those truck owners use most? Is it Chevy, Ford, Dodge or GMC? You’ll need to click here for the answer.
My Roadside Journal
(about whatever is on my mind, not necessarily RV-related)
Stories in tomorrow’s newsletter
Top Story: First-of-its-kind self-service RV park. A wave of the future?
•Popular NFL quarterback heads off on cross-country RV trip, looking for tips about what to see.
• Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, plans to complete the closure of 27 former Gander Mountain outdoor retail stores by the end of January.
• Problems with Goodyear Marathon tires on your fifth-wheel trailer? There may be a class action lawsuit filed.
PLUS: Campground updates • Latest fuel prices • Upcoming RV shows • Latest RV recalls • Free and bargain camping locations • Reader survey • and much more …
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Last week’s featured stories in RV Daily Tips
• It’s important to know your campground location.
• Boondocking solar lights for indoors at night.
• Do your fridge door gaskets need replacing?
• Keep small bathroom items in place.
• Easy and economical fire starters.
No RVs at this new campground, just “glampers” at $149 to $514 a night
Again, here’s a new campground where you and I are not invited, unless we want to leave our RVs somewhere else. At this “glamping” camping resort no RV is invited, just an investment on your part from between $149 and $514 a night. Read more.
See wild burros, gunfights and a historic stretch of Route 66
From editor Chuck Woodbury: “Do this: Drive the 22 miles or so from Oatman, Arizona, on old Route 66 east toward Kingman. It’s beautiful and has character. Drive east in late afternoon to experience the jagged Black Mountains bathed in the rich glow of the afternoon sunlight. It’s stunning. Get out of your vehicle whenever you wish for a photo; there’s little traffic.” Read more about Chuck and Gail’s interesting trip, including a 15-second video of a burro sticking its head in the car and trying to eat the windshield wiper control.
Video: How to measure your RV before buying a cover
Many RVers store their RVs outdoors for part of the year. Exposure to the elements, of course, can speed up the RV’s aging process. This two-minute video from the folks at RVCoverSupply.com provides a quick overview of how to measure an RV to get a good fit for a cover. If you’re in the market for a cover for your RV, watching this will be of help.
Video: Historic Airstream – Too bad most RVs aren’t built this way
From SouthwestCoaches.com on YouTube (via Bob Difley) is this interesting vintage documentary video, filmed about 55 years ago, showing the production of an Airstream trailer. (No rushing during production back in those days.) A bikini-clad female to demonstrate the insulation in the Airstream? And a very interesting “test drive” towards the end of the video. If you are interested in Airstream or its roots, this is a must-view video.
Last year at this time, these were the most popular articles:
• Is a traditional or convection oven best in an RV? (84 comments at last count)
• Good Sam Club, going…going…
• Stymied RVers can’t find water leaks to fix them
• Safe water made simple
• Preserving your RV’s tires when parking long-term
How would you describe yourself politically?
Please let us know. After you click your response, you’ll see how others have responded. CLICK HERE.
What we learned about you last week
How easy is it for you to admit when you’re wrong? How often do you eat dessert with your evening meal? Have you made any campground reservations past June 2020 yet? Are you a hugger? How often do you go bowling? Compare your RV’s quality to the houses in The Three Little Pigs. Does one or more of your pets sleep in bed with you at night? All this and more, right here.
Okay to RV with chickens?
Here’s the question from a would-be RVer: “I’m going to retire in five years. My question is: l want to travel around the country with one or two chickens. Are there ordinances or laws about crossing state lines with poultry?” Read more including some advice from other RVers.
The most stolen vehicles of the year (and the states they’re stolen in)
Just because you own a car (or RV) doesn’t mean you always get to keep it. Thieves want it, too, and every 46 seconds they steal a motor vehicle from somewhere in the USA. BTW, half of all car thefts are due to owner error. Here are lists of the most stolen (and least stolen) vehicles in the U.S., and where they’re stolen. There’s also a nifty gadget that can track a stolen vehicle. Sounds like a smart investment.
My rude, noisy neighbor. Good riddance!
Editor Chuck Woodbury hops on his soapbox to tell you about a rude neighbor in his campground. Why are some people so disrespectful of others? Are they just ignorant? Or did their mothers not teach them good manners? Read his thoughts.
Another nomination for “longest RV”
We received this photo from reader John Blake. He wrote: “… Last summer we took our first 4-week-long trip. One night we stayed in Concordia, Kansas, and there was a midget car race happening. There were some very long RVs there for the race. This one was in a Walmart lot overnight, because it wouldn’t fit in the RV park. I paced it off at 90’, and there were about 6 others between 55′ and 80’. I was impressed.” Check it out.
Bet you’ve never seen an Airstream like this
So is this a trailer or a motorhome? Or both? Reader George Hills sent us the photo. He said the RV is for sale in England for about $32,000. He explained that the base unit is a 31-foot Airstream Excello travel trailer. Instead of towing it, a previous owner mounted it to the bed of a 16-ton Mercedes 1617 truck. Check it out.
New Escapees initiative guides RVers on public lands use
Camping on public lands is a privilege, not a right. With the help and support of its advocates, the Escapees RV Club has created a list of best practices to ensure these lands remain beautiful treasures. Read more.
How to fit a dog backpack
About half of RVtravel.com readers bring along one or more dogs on their trips. And for many of those readers a big part of RVing is hiking in all the wonderful places they visit. But who loves a hike even more than a human? A dog! Here, courtesy of Arizona State Parks, is a guide to how to fit a dog backpack.
Popular articles from last week
• RVing headed into a confusing place.
• RV and RV-related recalls for December 2019.
• You can kiss the Kissmobiles goodbye.
• RV Electricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): What’s that burned wiring smell?
• Really? This fifth wheel setup is bizarre and dangerous.
• The “wildest” RV we’ve ever “spotted”!
• Campground Chatter with Janet Groene, January 4, 2020.
• RV Doctor: Short-term solution to prevent holding tanks from freezing.
• Building an RV Park: Happy New Year! – It started out a little rough for us.
• We did the one thing we never thought we’d do…
• RVtravel.com’s Top 30 posts from 2019.
• RVelectricity: Can I charge a battery at 80 amps from a 20-amp outlet?
• What we learned about you last week (December 28 – January 3).
• RV Shrink: Divvy up RV chores; Don’t bite each other’s heads off.
Amazing device prevents RV or vehicle theft!
The $50 you’ll spend on this PrimeTracking portable GPS for your car or RV is priceless if it were to ever get stolen. This amazing little device live-tracks your vehicle’s every move. If it’s been stolen, press a button and the police will immediately be alerted to start following it. Track the location on your phone through the app anywhere in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. You need one of these. Learn more or order here.
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 plus Texas RV Camping and Florida RV camping. And please join our group on RVillage (like Facebook except just for RVers).
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.
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.
This little tool does so much!
This multifunctional tool is seven in one! This heavy-duty pen tool features a handy tablet or smartphone stylus, a sturdy screwdriver, a bubble level, a universal inch/cm ruler and a handy Phillips screwdriver flathead bit, and it’s only the size of a pen! Perfect for any weekend project, and it even makes a great gift. Learn more or order.
Ask the RV Shrink
I feel like I’m being booked into jail when checking into a campground!
Dear RV Shrink:
Is it just me, or are the lists of campground rules getting longer and more complicated? Sometimes I think I should have a lawyer before I agree to a camping reservation. Most items on the lists are just common sense issues that shouldn’t need pointing out. I feel like I’m guilty until proven innocent every time I pull into a campground….
Read the rest of the question and the RV Shrink’s advice. (Do you agree with him? Let us know in the comments below the post.)
Ask the RV Doctor
RV water heater and fridge pilot light problems
I am having a problem with the pilot light on the hot water tank on my old motorhome. I can light the pilot light, but when I turn the dial to the ON position, it takes a moment for the ignition. When the propane gas finally reaches the pilot light area, the combustion is so strong that it blows out the pilot light and the main heating flame too. This unit also has a refrigerator that I can run on AC, DC or propane. …
Don’t take a break on your brakes!
Every RVer needs one of these!
Wonder what it would be like to have your brakes go out while you’re going down a long, steep grade? You might find out if your brake fluid is moisture-contaminated. Water in brake fluid boils and can wipe out your braking ability! Buy yourself a brake-fluid tester for less than $10 that warns you if there’s too much water in your fluid. Simply dip the tester into your rig’s brake fluid, and you’ll be able to see where you stand. Learn more or order.
Troubleshooting short circuits – Part 1 of 3: The basics
From Mike Sokol: I’ve received multiple requests for articles and videos on how to diagnose and repair “shorts” – which I’ve been putting off. The reason for my delay is that short circuit diagnostics is not a simple thing. To do it with any amount of safety and certainty you first need to understand what short circuits are, how they occur, and their various flavors. That’s why I’m presenting this as a 3-part series. In Part 1 I’ll explain the basics of complete circuit paths. Learn more.
This week’s J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session:
What’s that burned wiring smell? A reader noticed some heat and smell from the panel when running the A/C for long periods. He wonders if a loose neutral terminal screw for the main feed could cause the heat buildup.
RV Tire Safety
“I never hit a pothole” – so why did the tire fail?
The title for this post is a direct quote made by many people who have suffered some tire failure. If you think about this claim for a moment and then think about the road conditions we all see in our day-to-day driving experience one has to wonder just where these people are driving. Read more.
Camco vent insulator keeps you warm…and cool!
Is your RV too hot in the summer? Too cold in the winter? Camco’s vent insulator and skylight cover features a thick layer of foam which helps stop heat transfer, keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Installation is easy. The insulator is designed to fit standard 14″x14″ RV vents. Learn more or order here.
RV Short Stop
Intimate, little-known museum of sculptor Elisabet Ney in Austin
The Elisabet Ney Museum was the home and studio of the trail-blazing German-born portrait sculptor between 1892 and 1907. Today, the museum houses the artwork and personal belongings of Ney. It includes more than 50 of the 100 statues, busts and medallions she is known to have created. Today, the studio is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being a local and state landmark, among other distinctions. Read more.
RV Fire Safety
Have any wiring in your coach performed by a licensed electrician, and use common sense operating any electrical appliances, especially high amperage ones like electric space heaters and griddles. Check all 120-volt connectors for tightness and lack of corrosion at least once a season. Most coach fires are caused by a high-resistance connection overheating due to corrosion or a loose screw from road vibration.
It’s tax time again – Getting prepared
It’s getting to be Tax Time again for another year and so this week Neil Seidler, CPA, talks about getting ready for completing and filing your income tax returns. Spending a little time up front to have things in order will save you time, and money, in the long run. And he gives tips to keep your documents in order during 2020. Learn more.
This space-saving drying rack is a must-have
We feel silly about how excited we are over this retractable drying rack but it’s soooo handy for the RV! This wall-mounted laundry rack can hold up to 27 lbs. of clothes (and comes in two sizes) and folds flat up against the wall when you’re not using it. You’ll definitely want to learn more about this space-saving rack here.
Museum of the Week
Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum
Las Vegas, NV
For fans of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, you won’t want to miss this. Just off the strip in Las Vegas, Zak Bagans, host of Ghost Adventures, has his own museum, housing the scariest collection of stuff in America. Visitors venture down long, creepy, winding hallways and secret passages into more than 30 rooms that rival scenes from Hollywood horror films, setting the stage for frightening facts about each paranormal piece, such as the Dybbuk Box (known as the world’s most haunted object.) We’ll let you discover the rest for yourself. Next time you’re in Las Vegas, plan a visit.
Lightweight, waterproof, foldable backpack perfect for RVers
Ultra-light, ultra-durable, and ultra-handy for RV trips, this backpack is perfect for small-space living. Pack folds into a tiny sandwich-sized pouch, perfect for storage or for use on airplane trips. Many pockets, including two water bottle slots, make this waterproof pack great for hiking, camping or day-trips. Learn more and view all of the colors here.
One million plastic beverage bottles are bought every minute around the world. —From National Geographic
Bumper sticker of the week
If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat? (Please don’t sic PETA on us. It’s just a joke. —Diane)
Have you seen a funny bumper sticker? Send it to diane(at)RVtravel.com
Joke of the Week
True story (we think): An assignment in a creative writing class at Slippery Rock University required students to write a concise essay containing the following elements: religion, royalty, sex and mystery. The winning essay: “My God,” said the Queen. “I am pregnant! I wonder who did it?”
“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” —Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Did you miss last week’s RV Travel Newsletter?
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. Advertising 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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