June 27, 2019
Welcome to another edition of RV Travel’s Daily Tips newsletter. Here you’ll find helpful RV-related and small-space living tips from the pros, travel advice, a handy website of the day, our favorite RVing-related products and, of course, a good laugh. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate your readership.
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Tight spots and big rigs
By Jim Twamley
My very first time out with our new 5th wheel we decided to stop at a Subway sandwich shop. Believing the parking lot was accessible behind the store, I pulled in. It turned out to be a boxed-in parking arrangement and I was stuck. Mrs. Professor had to get out and guide me as I painfully and slowly backed out of the lot. I had to retrace my route backing onto a busy road in order to extract myself. We went down the road and found another sandwich shop with more suitable parking.
Even experienced RVers can sometimes find themselves in this kind of predicament. The best thing you can do is remain calm, take your time and extract your rig safely. Ask for help if necessary, and always keep safety in mind. If you’re driving a motorhome with a toad you may need to unhook. Be careful and don’t allow anxious drivers to prod you into doing something unsafe.
The best strategy is avoiding the sticky situation before you get into it. Slow down and look before you pull into a parking lot. The first thing I look for is entryway road clearance. If there are gouges in the crown of the road and a low drainage combined with a steep driveway, I pass it by. The next thing I look for is if there is plenty of space to allow my rig safe passage.
MORE QUICK TIPS
Air conditioner protection
When the temperature gets hot, some boondockers fire up their generator to run the AC system. Make sure you get your money’s worth from that expensive generator fuel (and noise). If the fins on the outside of the air conditioner unit are bent, they’re not efficiently pumping that hot air off. Straighten the fins out with a small screwdriver or get a fin comb from an air conditioner repair shop.
Smoke [detector] gets in your ears
We recently posted a suggestion on how to deal with a smoke detector that alerts when you’re fixin’ up some vittles. Reader “jmurri” sends their own thought: “The smoke detector was mounted three feet from the stove on both trailers that I have owned making noise when cooking. My solution was to purchase a First Alert detector that twists off the base that is mounted on the ceiling. Before cooking, I remove the alarm and place it on the dining table. When we clean the table after dinner it goes back up.”
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WEBSITE OF THE DAY
This website about camping at casinos will help save you lots of money (unless you spend that saved money in the casino!). You’ll find tons of information here with pages and pages of casinos with free overnight parking. Keep it bookmarked!
Check out the long list of great RVing-related websites from RVtravel.com.
The coolest Duck Tape Ever!
This makes every other roll of Duck Tape totally boring! This is so unbelievably wonderful — the tape is adorned with images of retro travel trailers! So quit using plain ol’ boring Duck Tape. A roll of this will cost you less than 6 bucks! Learn more or order.
LEAVE HERE WITH A LAUGH
OMG! These dog muzzles look like human faces and we can’t stop cringing…and laughing! Take a look at these hilarious photos here and then find these creepy muzzles on Amazon here.
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There’s been mention of school bus drivers and big rigs. If I could change one thing is this RV piloting thing, no make that two things. I’d create a licensing category for anyone running over 20 feet in length, and a mandatory requirement, making you fully able to drive with your mirrors, which you must do to drive 95% of all RV’s, and which I believe probably only 5% of all RV owner/operators have discernable mastery of. Herein lies the problems most folks have with driving RV’s. Why driver training and licensing of RV operators is not mandatory has always puzzled me. In Alberta Canada you have to have a special category license to ride a 51cc Honda scooter, but drive the 30 foot Sunseeker with the same license issued to drive the Civic Honda. Doesn’t seem right does it. Of course you’ll disagree if you’re one who never learned to drive with your mirrors and risks it all on the highways and by-ways.
Using the mirrors is only a small part of the battle.
I installed a rear-view camera system, and can’t even imagine RVing without it.
While enroute, I can see who’s behind me, and when I’m past vehicles to change lanes.
When backing into a site, I can see where obstacles are, and where my wife is – so I don’t back over her [grin!]
We also use a pair of walkie-talkies so we don’t have to shout at each other. 🙂
Oh that reminds me of testy situation we will never forget!! Towing a tag along 36 footer, we got off the highway to get LPG at a RV dealer, apparently open, just parallel to the interstate. All looked good passing it on the exit ramp. An easy right hand turn into a one lane somewhat steep driveway about 300 feet long brought us to a nice parking lot WITH A SKINNY CHAIN BLOCKING IT OFF!! How nice!! I backed oh so carefully up hill, a steep drop off just to the right, while my wife provided cover and direction as we backed out onto a busy four lane. NEVER doing that again!!! Good team work, test of deodorant and butt clinching!
One of the first times we got stuck was in a situation that I was not going to let anyone catch me in!!! Tried to pull around the back of a Camping World location that had closed for the evening before we got there. Ended up stuck with the toad jammed sideways in the drive behind the store. Discovered that the tow bar latches were jammed and would not release. I decided that I was NOT going to be discovered in that kind of a fix when employees at a RV store came back in the morning. It took a while, and some trick moves, but we did get the toad detached and the entire rig out of there! Just glad that no one was watching! Or listening to some of the conversation that went on! However, a bit of the landscaping was the worst of the whole incident.
I am a school bus driver and I could not wait to see an article on someone getting stuck because they did not scout out the area first. Sorry to hear of your predicament but when you start out being a driver? You are taught one thing. Know your size. 14 years and if I can get it in there and out? I will eat there. Otherwise, big lots is for me. I really wish people who do RVs really were bus drivers before hand. I have been cut off by big rigs and class C. Otherwise trucks drivers do respect the big yellow bus. I hope you had a good laugh over this because it is live and learn moment. Another thing? Know your height. Happy trails.
Highest respect for school bus drivers! Being able to handle the bus safely, while being distracted by whatever is going on inside the bus- And it can be anything from laughing and hollering to screams of terror. Driving a smaller Class A, school buses are a good indicator for me, especially the bigger ones. if the school bus can get through, then I know that I can, because many of them are bigger than my rig is. And always watch for the lights and signs on the bus that indicates they are going to stop.
Must be running out of poll questions.
Be careful or I’ll rerun my hot-dog Ketchup or Mustard poll.
When traveling we routinely stop at large super markets for lunch. The food in the market deli is usually good and far less costly than a restaurant. Also the parking lot is nearly always roomy and easy to get in/out of. And we can do a little needed shopping while we are there.
Getting stuck in a place we can’t get out of happens to the most experienced of us. Last year while trying to find a campsite recommended near Hood River Oregon, we took a turn off the freeway, and the minute I headed up the steep narrow grade I suspected I was in trouble. I was for sure when I rounded a corner a mile up there and missed the turn into the campsite, marked only by a small faded sign on a post. We ended up in an unoccupied hay storage yard with no place to turn the rig around. Yes I had to unhook the toad to get out of my tight spot. Back home this spring while visiting an A&W to chat it up with a bunch of my crony friends, a guy pulling a giant of a fifth wheel with a giant Ford 3/4 ton. didn’t realize when we went to circle the hotel next to the A&W, that he would run into an archway in front of the hotel, which neither the Ford nor the 5th would go under. Boy was this guy in deep. I tried to help this poor fellow out of his predicament, but he was so disturbed by it all, I was no help to him and I left, before he really blew his cork. He got out someway, but I’ll never know how he did it. His wild hand waving wife wasn’t helping the situation either. When Jim Twamley says “keep calm” he absolutely nails the best advice of all – something never easy when we goof up and the world seems to be watching and judging.
Drove 12 miles on a bumpy dirt road to get to a state park. Just as we reached the entrance there was a sign that said “maximum trailer length 20 feet”. We were 25 feet. Tow vehicle was 23 feet alone! Nowhere to turn around, and no one in the park (end of the year) so we just motored on in. Kinda narrow and windy but the issue was small and impossible to back into sites. At the very end was the “Group Area”, which we pulled into. Stayed there four nights! Didn’t see a soul the whole time. Our current trailer is almost 30 feet so we haven’t been back. Too bad, because it turned out to be a nice park. The “Group Area” turned out to be our turnaround.
The navigator needs to open google maps in Sattelite view to see what the place looks like from a birds eye view. You can see the closest parking area if that business doesn’t have the room. Standard caveat applies. Google isn’t perfect and the sattelite image could be old.
As the “navigator in chief” on trips, I’ve learned to use the satellite view on Google maps to get a good idea of what parking lots and gas stations look like. This way we have avoided driving into a few potentially sticky, tight spaces, and know in advance if we will likely need to unhook the toad at a gas station.
That said, we once accidentally missed the actual turn into a parking lot and ended up in the very tight lot of a drive through bank, which was very scary! I walked around the building to determine whether or not we could drive the rig through and out the other side, which we were able to do once the toad was unhooked. Fortunately other customers in the lot were patient, probably got a good laugh at our expense!!
Re: extracting a rig from tight places…we were looking for the turn into a truck stop, it was a busy & confusing roadway, and I accidentally turned into a driveway leading to a car wash instead! Yikes! Fortunately, the building was scaled for taller vehicles and, when I explained my predicament, they just opened the entry & exit doors and I drove right on through. Another coach wasn’t so lucky – he tried backing out into that busy roadway, didn’t take his time or have spotters, and crunched the R front corner of his motorhome into a huge rock guarding the entry of the driveway. Embarrassment for me — $$$ of damage for him! Cautionary tale for all of us.
Have followed the signs that point you to the campground only to find at the end of the road there is a closed gate….Wish there was a way to forewarn.
On the survey it depends on the type of soap. If it is a liquid soap then no I never wet my hands first. The soap is already wet so what is the point?
Being in healthcare, the proper way to wash hands is actually to wet first, wash, including back of hands and wrist, turning off the faucet with a paper towel to not contaminate yourself.
Pulled into a Pilot station in Texas, went to go around the station to get a better line on the pumps. Pulled around to the side, discovered that there was no path around the station. Had to disconnect the toad, and back out carefully. Parking area was loaded with concrete parking blocks. Auuugh!
we will normally have lunch either at a highway rest stop orv after fueling at a truck stop. on the rare occasion when we stop for a meal at a restaurant we’ll park in a shopping center and walk over. i can proudly and truthfully say that in 33-yrs of RVing we’ve only been in a situation that required us to unhook the toad in order to extricate ourselves from a tight spot. once in a city park parking lot and another while attempting a U-turn on a deserted country road.
We unhook our toad in a supermarket parking lot or such well out of the way of others when we near an unknown destination at the end of our travel day. We’ve learned plenty from seeing others get themselves in binds like some folks mention here, which sometimes necessitates them unhooking in that tight spot, holding up others who have already unhooked or who don’t have to. Also if we’re travelling a short distance that day the lady will drive our Chevy HHR (which gets near 40 mpg) to our new destination rather than hooking up, saves time, costs very little extra and has often put us near the front of the line of those who need to unhook the toad. We’ve been RV’ing since 1968, and we’re still learning by observation and conversation.
On the tight spots article, there are some good points for sure. Unfortunately, many areas do not have a warning sign. Case in point; while looking for a short cut, we traveled our 40 foot coach and a 24 foot trailer down this two lane road only more than 2 miles down and there is a sign saying bridge out. Needless to say, we had to back up the more than 2 miles out. Thanks to my wife’s ability to back me with great signals, we were finally on our way. Not a good start to a long day!
Been there, done that. It’s ain’t fun!
I had this happen at Kickapoo State rec area in Illinois. My GPS routed me out a different entrance to the park that had been closed with a bridge out. I did not need to back out for 2 miles but it was a fair distance.
If you are leaving east out of that park ignore the GPS and use the west entrance.
That’s when I play Frisbee with my GPS.