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Matt

Friday, 27 September 2019 14:12

Preventing Top RV Accident Causes

If you look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s leading causes of RV accidents, most are avoidable.

Some have to do with driver error while operating a motorhome or towing a trailer or fifth wheel, and some with human error before heading out on the road.

Here are some safety tips that could help eliminate these causes.

Don’t Drive When You’re Tired

It’s so simple it seems almost silly to even list it, but overly tired drivers are a leading cause of RV accidents, according to a 2012 study by the agency.

To avoid adding to that toll, do some really simple things:

  • Get enough sleep. Simple, right?
  • Plan your trip realistically. Trying to meet unrealistic distance or time expectations may make you weary.
  • Be honest about how tired driving makes you, and the effects on you from the number of hours you’re on the road, traffic conditions, wind and weather, dealing with mechanical troubles, or the stress from not being able to find a dump station or fresh water.
  • If you’re a couple, make sure both can drive in shifts.
  • Nap if you’re tired, then get back on the road, or just stop early for the night.

Load Your Rig Properly

Carrying more than your rig’s payload capacity can cause an imbalance. Overweight trailers and improperly loaded trailers are both among leading RV accident causes.

Have your rig weighed on a scale that shows the weight on each wheel. That way, even if you’re not overweight, you can at least distribute the weight evenly. If you’re consistently overweight, do a cleanout. Make three piles: leave at home, discard and donate. Then reload your RV with fewer things and better weight distribution.

Leave enough time to dump tanks so they’re empty when you travel. Traveling with 100 gallons of fresh water and waste adds more than 800 pounds. That may approach half your maximum recommended payload on a modestly sized RV.

Use a Weight Distribution Hitch and Anti-Sway Bar

Rollovers stemming from an RV’s higher center of gravity are another leading accident trigger. Many drivers don’t account for the different weight characteristics of an RV, especially travel trailers. They are either unaccustomed to the top-heavy RV or unprepared to deal with the behavior it exhibits at speed and in crosswinds.

Use a weight-distribution hitch and anti-sway bar. The hitch shifts weight toward the front axle of a tow vehicle. The anti-sway bar discourages the back-and-forth motion that is a notorious prelude to a trailer’s overturning.

Also helpful is a brake controller with an instrument panel-mounted controller that lets you apply the trailer brakes only if you feel or see sway coming on.

Eliminate Blind Spots

Failing to see vehicles overtaking you through blind spots is another top accident cause, according to FMCSA. Install an aftermarket system if your motorhome lacks blind spot monitoring. You can also install one on your trailer or fifth wheel, with a backup camera that doubles as a rear view mirror.

If you’re towing a trailer with a truck that lacks towing mirrors, add them. You can do it inexpensively with oversized clip-on mirrors that attach without tools to your truck’s smaller mirrors. The clip-on mirrors extend far enough from the truck body to give you a clear view of approaching vehicles.

Slow Down

Speeding is another major cause of RV accidents with a simple solution: Drive slower, especially in foul weather, strong winds, and heavy traffic, and on poor road surfaces. High winds, another frequent accident generator, affect an RV more the faster you drive. Sometimes the best way to prevent speeding is to plan your trip well, leaving enough time to reach destinations without having to hurry.

Failing to stop in time, also a major cause of RV crashes, is closely related. Keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of you and travel at a speed that’s appropriate for the gap between you and that vehicle. Remember: A motorhome or RV-towing pickup needs a longer distance to stop safely than a smaller vehicle you may drive daily.

Check Your Hitch, Then Check Again

Runaway trailers also make the list.

Make sure your hitch is seated properly on the ball before locking it up. Cross your safety chains. And make sure the tether that triggers the trailer brakes in a breakaway is not too long—typically no more than 16 to 20 inches. Longer cables delay application of trailer brakes if the hitch becomes disconnected. Check to make sure every latch, pin, lever and chain is properly in place and tightened.

Never Too Late To Learn

If you change RVs, especially if you move up to a Class A or a much longer trailer or fifth wheel, consider taking a driver instruction course, even if you had taken one years earlier. Bigger size changes many factors, including weight, turning radius, handling and stopping distance. You also will benefit from instruction in the many new technologies in today’s RVs.

Mistakes by senior drivers are among the leading causes of RV accidents, the motor carrier association says. If you’re an older RVer, your experience is invaluable, but think about taking a refresher RV driving course.

Photo Credits: flickr.com/JoonasTikkanen

Friday, 27 September 2019 14:00

Portable RV Generators Are a Hot Item!

It may seem sacrilegious to some RVers not to have an onboard, integrated generator, but there are several reasons portable RV generator sales are up:

  • Many new RVs that are smaller, lighter and cheaper simply don’t have a built-in generator.
  • Portable generators are becoming more feature-filled, powerful, efficient, reliable and durable.
  • Many portable generators are surprisingly quiet, even without being inside a compartment on the RV, because they have their own sound insulation.
  • Portables are cheaper.
  • Built-in inverters make portables good not only for recharging battery banks, but also for running such things as air-conditioners and computers.
  • RVers who prefer boondocking—dispersed camping away from RV parks, without hookups—or do a fair amount of it are relying more on solar arrays to keep their house batteries charged, so a portable suffices as a supplemental power source.
  • Some portables have dual-fuel capability, running on gasoline or propane.

RV-Ready

More generators are billed as RV-ready, but what does that mean? As with so many things in the RV universe, there’s no legal definition of the term “RV ready,” so shop carefully.

Some makers say a generator is RV ready if it has a TT-30 twist-type outlet like the one you would find on an RV park’s 30-amp shore-power hookup. It lets you more easily feed your RV’s electrical system directly from the generator, but you can also do it with a quality adaptor. The problem is that many of these generators are really just contractor-grade tube-framed AC units that are noisy and inefficient.

Think about what makes a generator attractive for your campsite: quiet operation, low weight, a decent run time on one tank of gasoline, the capability to generate DC current, and a built-in inverter. A quiet generator is really one that has a decibel level in the 50s at 23 feet. Remember: It’s not just about your ears, but also about those of your neighbors.

Briefcase-style generators, with a handle on top and sound insulation surrounding the engine and alternator, are the quietest. These inverter-equipped models produce direct current—DC power—and use the inverter to turn it into 110v of alternating current, or AC, which is what you get from shore power.

Two more features are useful. The first is electric start. These generators have an internal battery to turn a starter motor. There’s a pull cord for backup. The second is a sensor that shuts the generator down if the oil level is low. This feature could save your generator if you’re lax about checking the oil regularly.

How Much Power?

In general, the higher the power rating, the more expensive the generator is, at least within a single brand. Some brands carry a premium and may cost more for a unit that generates lower output than for a competing brand that produces higher output. Honda and Yamaha, both having reputations for quality, clean power, low noise and durability, are likely to cost more than competitors for equal power ratings—and they’ll sell at list price or close to it.

If you’re running an air conditioner, or lots of power-sucking devices simultaneously, such as a hairdryer, computer and a coffee maker, you may want to go with 3,000 watts or more. A 2,000-watt generator should suffice to run a small air-conditioner, but not multiple devices with it.

A top-of-the-line 2,000-watt generator, such as the Honda EU2200i, costs a bit over $1,000. Some inverter-equipped competitors cost $300 to $400 less. Check the reviews online. 

A 3,000-watt Honda gasoline-powered inverter generator, the EU3000i, costs about $2,100. You can pick up a 3,000-watt Champion for about $860. You have to decide if a premium brand is worth the price.

Almost all generators have an economy mode to save fuel. Read or watch reviews to determine if the wattage of a generator can run what you want in economy mode. On many models, the generator switches automatically from economy mode to full power when it senses a heavy load, then back down to economy when the load lightens.

Dual-Fuel Generators

A dual-fuel generator, which runs on gasoline or propane, has its advantages. For one thing, if you run it on propane, you don’t have to carry gasoline in a jerrycan—not the safest proposition. Yes, you’ll have to get propane more often, but trading in a tank of propane or having one filled can be a lot neater and easier than having to get and transport gasoline. Generators fired by propane also tend to run a bit quieter, which you may prefer.

The downside of propane: It’s less efficient. You’ll get fewer hours of operation out of a gallon of propane than out of a gallon of gasoline, although propane is at least a bit cheaper. If you think the noise level and convenience of propane refills are worth the tradeoff, a dual-fuel unit may be for you. You can hook a propane line directly from your RV tanks to a dual-fuel generator, or you can carry an extra propane tank—in your pickup truck bed, if you tow—to handle the generator.

Prices on dual-fuel generators, all other things being equal, are less than 20 percent higher. For example, a 3,400-watt sound-insulated Champion RV generator that uses only gasoline costs around $860. A dual-fuel version with the same wattage is less than $1,100.

Monday, 09 September 2019 17:28

Rodent Problems in Your Motorhome?

Rats! Something is chewing the wiring on RVs, tow vehicles and dinghies!

Yes, rats, quite literally—or more likely mice, and maybe squirrels, rabbits or groundhogs.

The wire-chewing problem appears to have reached epidemic proportions. Ask any insurance agent and you’ll hear that claims for chewed wiring are rising. Online reports of damage are widespread. One woman complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that when she turned on her car’s air conditioner, mouse fragments rattled around the box fan and flew everywhere through the vents, including all over her. One Toyota Tundra owner has sued Toyota over repeat episodes of rodent damage to under-hood components.

Comprehensive insurance usually covers the damage, but owners are left covering deductibles that can reach $1,000 or more, depending on the policy, and they lose the use of their vehicles until repairs are completed.

A Matter of Taste

Rodent damage is nothing new, of course. Mice have always found a way to squeeze through the tiniest opening—or chew their way through anything but stainless steel—to reach any food not placed in a sealed container.

But that was all kinds of food. What has made rodent tastes go from eclectic to electric? Why have vehicles become all-you-can-eat buffets for rodents?

They’re attracted by the new coatings on automotive wiring. Once protected by a rubber-based product, and then by petroleum-based plastics, the wires are now increasingly encased in a more environmentally friendly soy-based sheathing.

And rodents love it. To them, it’s food. Automotive wiring manufacturers might as well have posted blinking neon signs in driveways and campsites that say “Mouse Diner This Exit.”

What Can You Do?

Short of poison, it is possible to keep rodents from wiring, but it’s not always easy.

Avoid resorting to poison. It can work, but it presents dangers to people and pets. The rodent doesn’t die where it eats the poison, but instead where it is when the poison takes effect. That could be inside a wall or air duct, where the odor can linger for weeks. In ductwork, it will not only smell, but also can spread the poison through air conditioning and heating.

If a pet eats a poisoned rodent—lying in a corner of your coach or on the ground outside—the pet is poisoned, too.

It’s a better practice to keep rodents away from the wiring.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Have metal screening installed around wiring under the hood of vehicles, and over vent openings. Screen is cheap, but the labor to install it may run into hundreds of dollars.
  • Wrap wires with an electrical tape that repels rodents. Honda 4019-2317 electrical tape is infused with capsaicin, a hot spice that will convince a mouse to dine elsewhere. You can install it yourself when the engine is turned off and cool.
  • Spray wires with a rodent repellent, such as Rodent Defense or Natural Armor Vehicle and Engine Protection. They don’t kill rodents, just ward them off.
  • Mouse Free is a spray applied to the underside of any vehicle with a compressed air sprayer before and after winter storage. It contains natural oils, including peppermint, which rodents hate. It’s not cheap, costing a bit over $100 for a gallon and sprayer. Refills are around $35.
  • To catch mice, set snap traps around tires when your RV, tow vehicle and dinghy are parked. You’ll need three traps per wheel—one in front, one in back and one on top. That means 12 to 18 for a tow vehicle or motorhome, six to 12 for a travel trailer and 6 more for your dinghy.
  • Plug any holes in your RV, preferably with steel wool, which mice can’t chew.
Thursday, 29 August 2019 11:08

Handling Motorhome Tire Blowouts

If you’re an RV owner who experiences a tire blowout at highway speed, it probably scared you about as much as anything in your life. Even experienced drivers fear the sudden loss of pressure in a tire because of the vehicle control it takes away.

It is possible, however, to control a vehicle when a tire blows—even at speed—if you know what to do. Ironically, doing what you think is right is not always the answer.

How Do Blowouts Occur?

Blowouts aren’t nearly as common today as years ago when tires had tubes. In those days, once the inner tube was breached, pressure loss was immediate and critical—often deadly.

Tubeless tires blow out less often, but it still happens. So do garden-variety flat tires, which remain hazardous, especially on highways with high speed limits and heavy traffic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire-related problems, including flats and blowouts, caused 738 fatal accidents in 2017, the latest statistic available.

Blowouts occur because of sudden tire failure, sometimes from factors that build up over time. That can be over months, hours or, unfortunately, minutes. Resulting problems can be ply separations, tread disintegration, sidewall fatigue, failure of the bladder (which holds air in the tire), or leaks in the valve or valve stem.  

When a Tire Blows at Speed

The best thing to do when a tire fails while you’re driving an RV is counterintuitive. It’s all about physics—about real science, not gut feelings. Don’t hit the brakes or immediately slow down, reactions that many people believe are best. Instead, press the accelerator to maintain or, if possible, increase speed.

A flat tire will slow your RV, but with somewhat erratic control as it exerts a force to whatever side has the flat. So, for example, if a right tire blows—either front or rear—you’ll feel a pull to the right. You’ll sense a rear-tire failure in your seat; you’ll feel a front-tire failure in a stammering message from your steering wheel.

A study done by leading tire maker Michelin for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association with a lesson placed on video shows that accelerating allows the forward force of the RV to better overcome the sideways force. You’ll have to make a lot of steering corrections to maintain control—you’ll really wrestle with the wheel. Once you reach a safe place to pull over, signal and gradually slow and steer to the side of the road. There, you can change the tire yourself or call for a service truck.

How To Avoid Blowouts

It’s best to avoid blowouts in the first place. The leading causes of blowouts are overloads and under inflation. Don’t overload your RV. Don’t underinflate your tires—or overinflate, either.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll never experience a blowout, but doing these things will help to avoid one:

  • Buy quality tires. Search online for reviews of any tire brand and model you’re considering. Make sure it’s a real review, not just praise trumped up by a tire dealer trying to make a sale. Also check the NHTSA for recalls and complaints.
  • Look at ply ratings. Most tires have two or three sidewall plies, but those for heavier vehicles and trailers have higher ply ratings indicating more sidewall strength. Load Range B is merely two plies and impractical for trailers, tow vehicles or motorhomes. Load Range C is a 4-ply rating and still often inadequate for the stresses of heavy loads. Better are Load Range D (6 ply-rating), E (8-ply rating) or F (10-ply rating).
  • Make sure your tires are rated for proper load. Consult a standard load table. Check your load per axle on a truck scale. Evenly distribute weight as much as possible. And remember: Full tanks add hundreds of pounds to your load.
  • Check your tire pressure before a trip—and every morning.
  • Inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Remember that driving in high altitudes may require extra air, since pressure in the tire will drop as you climb.
  • Maintain your tires. Rotate them at least annually, or every six months. Maintain proper pressure. Make sure tires are balanced.
  • When you’re parked, use covers to shield tires from degradation caused by the sun’s UV rays, especially in the Sun Belt.

Take your time, particularly if you’re not overly experienced at driving or towing an RV. If you’re going a little slower when a tire blows—55 or 60 mph instead of 75—reacting to it will be easier. And keep a longer distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, which gives you an opportunity to accelerate in the event of a blowout.

Photo Credits: Flickr.com

Thursday, 22 August 2019 10:58

New Locks Are Key to RV Security

CH751.

Ring a bell? It’s probably stamped on the key to the storage compartments on your RV. It’s probably also stamped on the key to the storage compartments on the RV next to yours, and on the key to the RV next to that one.

That’s right: Those CH751 locks aren’t so much for security as they are for keeping all your stuff from spilling out as you bounce down a highway or a trail that would pop a door open without the locks.

The good part is that if you lose your CH751 key, you can always buy another online or at an RV center. The bad part is that anyone else can buy one, too.

Here’s more bad news: RV entry door locks aren’t much better. The upper lock labeled “M” uses a master key—a universal key that anyone can get. The lower lock, which is a deadbolt, uses a different key, but it’s also identical to the deadbolt locks on many other RVs.

In other words, as a security measure, most standard RV locks are worthless.

Where To Get Secure Locks

You can tell yourself that the RV community is pretty honest—and that’s true—but replacing a cam lock on a storage compartment isn’t hard, and neither is replacing a door latch. Doing both will keep out the people you don’t want in your camper when you’re not around. That’s an especially good idea if you have valuables in your RV—more likely perhaps for full-timers than for vacationers, although these days, who doesn’t have expensive phones, tablets, computers and other electronics onboard?

Go online to find locks that are keyed alike to replace CH751 locks. Be careful when buying sets of cam locks. Some manufacturers promise one-key practicality, but they don’t tell you that everyone else buying the locks has the same key code. If keys aren’t unique or don’t have one of several key codes available, look elsewhere.

Shoprvlocks.com offers cam locks for as little as $11.95 each, and a 5 percent discount if you order five to nine locks. Possible key codes are 200—one heck of a lot better than a universal code. The locks offer a choice of diameters and lengths, as well as cam length and bend options. You can step up to a tubular cam lock for $15.99, with 10,000 key codes possible, or what the seller calls a pickproof magnetic cam lock, with 1,500 possible magnetic codes, for $23.99 each.

Etrailer.com sells Global entry door latchs with matching keys. It can match the key to the entry door with the key to storage cam locks—if they are all placed in the same order. Global’s locks use 91 different key codes. Cam locks are about $11 each. Entry locks require buying a new entry latch with matching key codes. Entry latches are about $35.

A costlier but more convenient alternative is an entry door latch with keyless entry. The latches from rvlock.com are good examples. Choose your own combination for the touch pad, or add a fob and open remotely—convenient when your hands are full with supplies, dishes from cooking out or a child. A key opens both the latch and deadbolt should the battery-powered combination pad fail. The company also offers locks for storage and luggage compartments, and a central control for all locks. Prices range from about $200 to $260 for entry door latches.

Lock Replacement Is Simple

Cam locks are secured on the inside of the door with either a U-shaped clip that is forced over the lock’s barrel, or with a hexagonal nut that threads over it. Both are easy to remove with the door open.

Check out this video to see how the locks are removed and replaced. You need no special skills and no special tools. And you absolutely don’t need an expensive locksmith. Figure on a hammer, flat-blade screwdriver, pliers and adjustable wrench—all items that you probably have in your toolbox.

Entry door locks come off easily by removing interior screws. Installation is simply a matter of reversing the process. Make sure you buy a latch assembly that fits your motorhome or trailer, since sizes and styles vary.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019 10:51

Hauling a Motorcycle with Your RV

Motorcycles are a valid local transportation alternative to four-down towing.

Dinghy towing is becoming more popular but also more difficult in one respect: Many models that could be towed four-down years earlier are no longer eligible because of changes in equipment, often a switch to continuously variable transmissions or different transfer cases.

Motorcycles can be towed behind or mounted to motorhomes, and they can be tucked into toy hauler trailers. Although they can’t be towed behind or mounted to the rear of a travel trailer, they can be mounted to the tow vehicle in some cases or secured in the bed of a pickup.

A motorcycle can get you into town for supplies if you equip it with cargo accessories. It can easily transport you, and probably a companion, to a movie or restaurant. And if it’s a dirt bike, it can also take you exploring while you’re boondocking, at least where motorcycles are allowed. And of course it will deliver better mileage than most cars or SUVs. The disadvantage is that bikes aren’t the best choice for foul-weather travel or, for some folks, long distances.

Helmet laws vary by state, so make sure that as you travel, you know where a helmet is required.

Motorcycle Hitch Mounts

A hitch mount works fine on a motorhome. Think of it as a giant bicycle rack. It fits into the female receiver tube on the back of the motorhome.

It can also fit onto the hitch of a tow vehicle. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Great. I can mount a motorcycle carrier to the tow vehicle hitch, but then I can’t pull a trailer.” Some motorcycle carriers, such as the Versa Haul Sport, have trailer hitches of their own that extend off the back of the motorcycle carrier. The hitch on the VH Sport can tow trailers up to 3,000 pounds.

Motorcycle hitch mounts tilt or have a ramp to allow the bike to be placed on the rack. Make sure you like the arrangement on the hitch you buy.

Not all motorcycle hitch mounts are alike. Some things to consider:

  • Capacity. Some carriers can support bikes weighing up to 800 pounds, others less. Know your bike’s weight and the carrier’s capacity.
  • Tire width accommodation. Not all motorcycle hitch mounts can accommodate wide tires on sportier bikes.
  • Materials. Some carriers are steel; some are aluminum, which weighs less and doesn’t rust.
  • Hitch compatibility. Know which class hitch is on your vehicle and whether its receiver tube accepts the male connector on the carrier.
  • Trailer compatibility. If you want to tow a trailer and carry a bike on a hitch mount, make sure the bike hitch can accommodate a trailer as well, and know the maximum trailer weight allowed.

Another type of trailer hitch mount is a carrier rack, which places the front motorcycle wheel off the ground and lets the rear tire roll on the road. These carrier racks will attach to motorhome hitches for considerable savings compared to mounts that have both wheels off the ground. Most manual-transmission bikes can be towed this way, but check your owner’s manual.

Bedtime

If you use a pickup to tow a trailer, you can often secure a bike—or two—in the bed of the pickup. That’s easiest with an 8-foot bed, but a 6-foot bed will often suffice. You’ll need strong ratchet straps that you can attach to cargo hooks in the bed, and wheel chocks.

If you lack the necessary tie-downs, there are brackets that attach permanently to your bed and can help, such as the Bed Buddy brace. You’ll also need a ramp that you buy or make. Follow these instructions on securing motorcycles in a pickup bed.

One caution: Make sure the tongue weight of your loaded trailer, plus the weight of passengers and your bikes, does not exceed the maximum payload of your truck.

Motorcycle Trailers

Motorcycle trailers, depending on the model, will accommodate one or two motorcycles behind a motorhome. Uncovered doubles typically cost $2,000 to $3,000, and singles, $1,000 to $2,000. They provide the support your bike will need to be towed securely.

For an enclosed cargo trailer that accommodates two bikes, figure on about $3,500 or more. Enclosed trailers, although higher priced, protect your bikes from weather and grime, and provide security.

And if you’re not ready to buy a trailer? You can rent one, giving you a chance to try out towing a bike.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Jeffrey M. Dean

You know if you’re a “dog person” or not. So do dogs, usually. They’re often as interested in having you pet them as you are in doing it.

But it’s one thing to know a dog you like a lot, another to have a dog in your stationary home full-time, and still quite another to hit the road with Rover—full-time or even for just a few weeks at a time.

Is traveling with a dog a bad thing? Far from it—especially if you’re otherwise traveling alone. More than 60 percent of RVers take a dog along, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Dogs are great company, and they’re loyal, loving creatures. And they definitely increase your security. But don’t fool yourself: Dogs are a big responsibility for any RVer.

Before you go RVing with a dog, answer some questions.

If you haven’t had a dog:

  1. Do you like dogs enough to have one with you 24/7? To feed it, pet it, groom it?
  2. Can you afford a dog? Even on the road, dogs need vet examinations, shots, maybe routine medicine, and healthy food, not table scraps. It’s not unusual for a dog to cost $100 a month or more. Over its lifetime, Money magazine reported, a dog will cost about $14,500 to almost $16,000. That would pay for a lot of RV repairs.
  3. Are you willing to train your dog or have it trained? An unruly dog can be a legal and social liability.
  4. Can you tolerate the messiness of a dog—the fur it sheds, the unpleasant odor of a dog in need of a bath (ah, thank goodness for the otdoor shower!), the slobber, and the teething (and chewing) that a puppy goes through?
  5. Are you willing to exercise a dog daily? Many dogs need exercise more than once a day. Are you willing to play with it? You may have to take extra time on fueling and provision stops to walk the dog—although the walk will do you good, too.
  6. Are you willing to make the effort to find dog-friendly RV parks, some of which charge an extra fee for dogs?
  7. Are you willing to kennel your dog or pay for and allow a dog sitter into your RV if you plan to travel without your pet—say, to visit friends or go tent camping for several days? (You can install a keypad security system that accepts a temporary visitor password.)

If You Already Have an RV:

  1. Do the RV parks you’re accustomed to using allow dogs and have facilities for dog play?
  2. Is your RV accessible to dogs? Could a small dog get up the steps? Could a big dog fit comfortably through the doorways?
  3. If your RV is a trailer, are you willing to have your dog ride with you in your tow vehicle, properly restrained? After all, dogs are as unsafe in a moving trailer and a moving vehicle as a person would be.
  4. Do you have means to keep your RV cool if you’re not there? You must have or add a rain-hooded exhaust fan with a thermostat and opening windows to maintain the temperature at or below 76 degrees.
  5. Does your RV have room for your dog to be comfortable under all conditions, even if you can’t open the slide-outs when you’re parked overnight? RVing with a dog may require you to compromise on the size of dog you buy.
  6. If you don’t allow a dog to use furniture, is there enough floor space for him to rest comfortably on a dog bed or blanket and for you not to think he’s in the way? Does it have room for water and food bowls?

One Last Question

  1. Are you willing to take and give unconditional love? Dogs give it. You should return the favor.

Photo Credits: Andre Boeni (flickr.com)

Now, there really was no excuse for Lucille Ball and the Italian grape stomper to get into a fight in the grape vat on “I Love Lucy.” But, hey, stuff happens—especially with Lucy.

In Northern Georgia, starting in late summer and continuing into the fall, you can get in on the act, all while enjoying your RV at Crossing Creeks RV Resort and Spa. Crossing Creeks is a Blairsville neighbor of one grape stomp, 45 minutes from another and about an hour from two more. If you don’t get out there and enjoy the grape harvest and the grape-crush ritual, as Ricky Ricardo would have said, “You got some ’splainin’ to do.”

Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest

This year’s event, on Saturday, Aug. 24, is the 10th annual Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest. About 5,000 people turn out to hear local bands, sample the vineyards’ wine, dine on fare from select food trucks, and, of course, stomp grapes.  

The grape crushing at Yonah Mountain adds a personal touch: Owners Bob and Jane Miller serenade grape stompers with their own accordion and guitar music at 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, and 6:30 p.m. Live music is performed from 11 a.m., alternating every half-hour between the Atlanta Pipe Band and the Atlanta Pro Drumline.

Yonah Mountain Vineyards is near Cleveland, Georgia, about an hour’s drive from Crossing Creeks.

  • Event: Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest
  • Location: 1717 Hwy 255 S, Cleveland, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019
  • Times: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Admission: Free, age 16 and under; $25, age 17 and older without wine tasting; $40, includes souvenir glass, tasting of four 3-oz. wine samples (age 21 and older); $35, Yonah Wine Club members. Tickets at the gate.

Paradise Hills Grape Stomp Fest

Just an 8-mile drive from Crossing Creeks, outside Blairsville, is the 6th annual Grape Stomp Fest at Paradise Hills Winery Resort. Paradise Hills not only celebrates the harvest and crush, but also goes all-in on Lucy lore. Every year, a contest matches costumed Lucy imitators against one another. The “I Love Lucy Look Alike Contest” runs twice during the day, at 2 and 4 p.m. Best costume wins wine.

There’s much more to the day than the crush. Live music plays all day. Available for purchase are crafts (including a kids’ corner), wine, craft beer and local barbeque.

  • Event: Paradise Hills Grape Stomp Fest
  • Location: 366 Paradise Road, Blairsville, GA 30512
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
  • Times: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Entry times: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. or 3-6 p.m.
  • Admission: Tickets: $15, under age 21, includes one non-alcoholic drink; $25, age 21 and over, includes souvenir glass and tasting, or one wine or craft beer.

Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival

How much do you know about wine? Trivia is part of the entertainment at the Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival in Dahlonega. The 2019 crush is on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The winery is about a 45-minute drive from Crossing Creeks.

Attendees will have the opportunity to observe or participate in the crush, and to hear discussions of winemaking at the crush pad. Live bluegrass and folk music will play throughout the event. A Kaya trivia contest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. places the names of players who answer all questions correctly into a drawing. The prize: a Kaya wine tasting for two.  

A raffle benefits the Georgia Veterans Day Association. The drawing is at 3:30 p.m.

Food and beverages are available for purchase. Admission without wine tasting is free, although non-ticket holders must pay $5 for parking.

  • Event: Kaya Vineyard & Winery Spirit of Harvest Festival
  • Location: 5400 Town Creek Road, Dahlonega, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
  • Time: 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Free without tasting, but $5 for parking; tickets: $25, includes a souvenir glass, 5 tasting tickets, grape stomping, presentation on harvest season. 

Stonewall Creek Harvest Stomp

Will you always remember that first crush? Well, maybe as long as your souvenir T-shirt from the Harvest Stomp at the Stonewall Creek Vineyards does. The festival near Tiger, Georgia, comes with a twist: After you stomp grapes, you can deliver red footprints on a T-shirt and take it home.  This year’s stomp is Saturday, Sept. 28, from noon until 5 p.m.

Live music plays throughout the day, and barbeque is available for purchase. If you don’t want to buy food, bring your own picnic lunch. Paid admission includes not only the tee, but also a wine goblet, a tasting of four wines and a wine cocktail. Reservations are recommended to ensure that you get a T-shirt.

Stonewall Creek is just over an hour’s drive from Crossing Creeks, on a scenic route that takes you past Lake Hiawassee on U.S. 76.

  • Event: Stonewall Creek Harvest Stomp
  • Location: 323 Standing Deer Lane, Tiger, GA
  • Date: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019
  • Times: Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Tickets: $35, adults, includes goblet, tee shirt, four wine tastings, wine cocktail; $10, children. To reserve T-shirt: www.eventbrite.com or phone 706-212-0584.
Friday, 26 July 2019 19:54

Finding The Internet While On The Road

Being connected is how we live. We go online to get directions, do our banking, shop, share with friends, keep tabs on family, play games, access music, and watch TV or movies.  It’s also been reported that teens need Internet access just to breathe, although evidence is merely anecdotal.

Setting up Internet connections in an RV is different from what’s needed in a stationary home.

You probably look for campsites that have Internet access. You’re OK if the campsites are hardwired, although speeds may be slow. If they’re not wired, and you must rely on the camp’s WiFi, you’ll probably be tempted to take a less desirable campsite to ensure a strong signal, but the feed may be slow anyway.

The only other way to find free access on the road is at libraries and some businesses with free WiFi, typically fast food joints and businesses with waiting rooms. That may help you keep tabs on your email, but it’s not an especially secure way to pay bills.

Much better is having your own data coming in or at least being able to enhance the camp’s signal.

What You Needrv signal booster

You spend a lot of time outside the RV while camping, so the signal needs to be strong not just inside your RV, but also nearby. Here are the things you’ll need to reliably access the Internet from your RV and campsite:

  • A data source for connecting to the Internet.
  • An antenna.
  • Signal extender.
  • Some way for devices to link to the signal.
  • Power cable for the antenna.
  • Router and Ethernet cable if you want to connect a device physically.

Choosing a Data Plan

On the road, you can get data delivered reliably to your RV only by paying for it. You can tap that data with the proper equipment, but you’ll probably have to increase the maximum data available. Tablets and computers, streaming services and game consoles gobble up data.

If you vacation only a month or three each year, you can buy only as much data as you need the rest of the year and pay for extra data in the months you travel. You will need extra especially if kids are streaming music and movies, watching TV, gaming and chatting. Extra data also is advisable if you work online from your RV or watch a lot of TV.

Beware data plans labeled “unlimited.” Only in our age of steadily decaying consumer protections could something be called unlimited and still incur extra charges for data—but some data plans do just that. Read the fine print.

Antennas, Accessing the Web

An antenna to pull in a signal is often roof-mounted for optimum reception. Omni-directional antennas take different forms, from painted metal to plastic-coated, and sometimes encased in a larger plastic enclosure. Antennas add height, but no more than a hooded fan. Still, you’ll have to avoid damaging an antenna on overpasses or branches. Position an antenna away from other roof-mounted accessories to avoid interference.

Exterior antennas are designed to resist dust and water intrusion from spray, but even enclosures designated IP65 will not resist water jets, so take care when washing. Seal any mounting holes or openings for cables with Dicor or a sealant approved by your RV manufacturer.

Some RV antennas are also a signal extender. They strengthen incoming and outgoing signals. With an extender, you can be farther from a cell tower and still get a usable connection. If you have no data plan, an extender amplifies WiFi signals from RV parks and businesses.

Some tablets and any smartphone can link wirelessly with a password, and many smartphones can also serve as a hotspot, allowing Bluetooth-enabled devices to link through the phone to access the Internet. A separate portable hotspot (often called a jetpack) costs $200 or less. The optimum solution for multiple devices, or if you want an Ethernet connection, is to install a router to distribute the signal from the antenna. Combination signal extender/routers also are available.

Channel Bonding

Channel bonding isn’t necessary, but it can help prevent dropped calls and buffering while streaming. It helps maintain connectivity when you are beyond official coverage zones—ideal for boondocking. Uploading and Skyping also will be stronger.

Bonding combines any channels on which you receive data to produce one stronger signal that’s sent over your own virtual private network (VPN). So, if you have a cell signal, an Ethernet signal and a WiFi signal, or, say, an AT&T and a Verizon signal, plus a WiFi signal from the RV park, bonding will enjoin them on the network side and result in faster throughput. An example is Speedify. It’s available in one-year subscriptions if you’re full time or close to it, or monthly if you only vacation in your RV.

Photo Credits: weboost.com

Monday, 01 July 2019 18:57

Adding a Backup Camera

Older RVs and tow vehicles may lack some of the newest electronic accessories, including one of the more useful innovations, the backup camera. With wireless technology, it’s actually quite easy to add one.

The rear of a travel trailer is a great spot for a backup camera, but it’s a place not likely to have one. A backup camera will make backing into a campsite and just turning around much easier. It also will make highway driving easier because it can serve as a rearview mirror, displaying what’s behind your trailer.

A wireless setup is ideal for the rear of a trailer—the camera and sending unit behind the trailer, and the viewer inside the tow vehicle. You also can get wireless systems that add cameras to the blind spots of trailers or motorhomes. Wireless range may be as high as 70 feet.

Wired cameras for trailers with up to 50 feet of wire are available, but you must decide if you want to do an installation on that scale. Remember, you would have to wire the length of the trailer and the length of the tow vehicle, plus connect at the hitch.

A wired camera is better used on a motorhome or for mounting a camera to work only for a tow vehicle. Wired units generally are cheaper but take more time to install. A camera on the tow vehicle itself will help when driving the truck alone, and maybe during trailer hitching, but it won’t help you see behind the trailer.

Costs Range Widely

You can get a camera for less than $20, but you’ll probably have to supply a monitor, and the image quality will be low, especially in extreme lighting conditions. Kits with both camera and monitor range from about $60 to the mid-$200 area for wired types, and from about $100 to $400 for wireless, with the monitor size and features affecting the price. Wireless systems with extra cameras for blind spots, useful on large motorhomes and trailers, are available for about $500 but can top $900.

Available Features

Mounting Method - Cameras can be mounted by drilling through your vehicle’s or trailer’s body, by using pressure-sensitive tape, or by mounting atop or in place of the license plate frame. 

Display Type - You can buy separate camera and monitor, camera-and-monitor kits, or cameras that beam their signal to your iOS or Android smartphone. Displays typically increase with screen size, 4.3-, 5- or 7-inch. Some displays replace your rearview mirror, with widths between 7 and 10 inches. They work like traditional mirrors when not powered up.

Sensor Type - CMOS sensors provide a lower-quality image, but they’re cheaper. CCD sensors provide good images even in low or bright light, but they cost more.

Reverse Image - The view looks like what you see in your rearview mirror—highly desirable.

Auxiliary Lights - Some cameras get help at night from small lights. Infrareds are best.

Lane Departure Warning - Another feature not available on earlier model vehicles, lane departure alerts you if you stray into another lane.

Recording and Playback - Look for this if you want a record of your driving.

Backup Grid - Lines guide you in backing up straight. Original equipment cameras typically have this feature.

Instant Power - As on new vehicles, the camera goes on as soon as you shift into reverse.

DIY or Installed?

Experienced do-it-yourselfers can probably handle installation, but bigger wired systems may be better left in the hands of a shop. You may balk if your camera requires drilling; make sure it properly seals out water to prevent rust, and use a quality drill bit from a name brand, such as Black & Decker, Dewalt or Milwaukee. You may have to splice into your vehicle’s wiring with some systems, and definitely for automatic power-on, so make sure you’re comfortable with that.  Expect to pay a shop’s normal hourly rates for installation.

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