Dear RV Shrink:
We live in Upstate New York and have been heading south for the winter with our RV for a few years. We are usually gone from home 7 or 8 months. I prefer to leave right after color season but my husband likes to leave right after Christmas. Every year we end up white-knuckling our way south through a blizzard, ice storm or slush-fest.
By the time we make it to the Sun Belt our rig looks like it was in a mud bog race. It never fails that things break, rust and wear far more than any other travel time. Are we the only people stupid enough to travel in these weather conditions? How can I work out a compromise with my husband to leave earlier? —Ice Queen in the Empire State
Dear Ice Queen:
No, you are not alone. Check any major north/south artery after Christmas and you will find a caravan of RVs headed for the Sun Belt. Family and tradition often keep people in the snowbank until the festivities are over.
My advice would be to explore the methods used by others. Depending on budget, many leave early and travel home for the holidays. I know couples that split up for the holidays – one staying north until after New Year’s Eve. I know people that will make a fall tour ending in a southern clime, find a convenient storage facility and travel back home for a couple months.
You are correct. Traveling in extreme weather is tough on an RV. Frigid temps often make things break instead of bend; freeze up, expand and burst; brine up and decay. I recommend that owners driving through such conditions make a point to get a thorough washing once out of the quagmire. Spending time or money to have your rig completely winterized in the fall should prevent broken plumbing. Even though I completely blow out my water system, I always use RV anti-freeze as an added insurance.
Another thing I suggest is not putting yourself on a schedule. Using all the weather information available today, pick yourself a weather window and make a break for it. AccuWeather.com has a commuter forecast site that works much like MapQuest. You dial in your route and it will give you a weather synopsis.
Here is another tip I learned the hard way. Be very careful which windshield washer fluid you choose. They are not all created equal. The trade name Prestone is almost synonymous with anti-freeze. You would think that a windshield wash would contain an anti-freezing agent. Not always so. Prestone Bug Wash will freeze solid as a rock in cold weather. Not only will you have no windshield wash as you are barreling through the slush-fest, it can damage your reservoir, lines and pump. Read the fine print when buying fluids.
So I guess the bottom line in the compromise question might be an every-other-year solution. Stay late one year, leave early the next. If you can stand to be separated for a few weeks, split up and enjoy some alone time. Often pets are a problem when trying to work out this holiday travel solution. Sometimes it is easier for you and your family to celebrate Christmas early and make your getaway before you have to break out the blizzard blanket. It is never any fun trying to load an RV when it’s colder than a well digger’s lunchbox. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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