MARCH 2017 • 39
LIVING ON WHEELS • SHEILA SOWDER
RVing for Rookies “A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake will save you a lot of pain. However, if you’re a person who knows it all, then you’ve got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.” — Ron Carpenter Jr.
ne cold evening, my husband Jimmy received a frantic phone call from a medical doctor who had recently bought his first RV and moved into our park. His furnace had stopped working, so could Jimmy come over right away and fix it? Jimmy recommended he turn his stove on, and if it wouldn’t light, he was out of propane. Sure enough, that was the problem. Embarrassing? Yes, but if you’re a rookie RVer, there are going to be many things you don’t know. And don’t tell me you had an hour of instruction at the dealer, or you read the instruction book, or your gramps had an RV and you used to go on vacations. There will still be many things you just don’t know. So I went to my pool of experts here at Rose Valley RV Ranch for advice on what you, a newbie RVer, might not know that could end up biting you in your posterior region. Here’s their list of greatest hints. Spend a little time, save a lot of money and aggravation. Plumbing maintenance is a drag. Plumbing catastrophes are a bigger drag. So just suck it up and do what needs to be done. Leave your grey water (from sinks) tank open and your black water (from toilet) tank closed. If you don’t, you’ll end up with flooded sinks and a toilet clogged so badly you’d better hope there’s a Roto-Rooter nearby. Open that black water tank line once a week and drain it. Then, if the RV doesn’t have an automatic rinsing system, flush it out by spraying water into the toilet with a hose. Flush a bottle of RV toilet
Bill Salley installs a water filter in his fifth-wheel RV at the Fiesta RV Park in Las Cruces to battle the hard water found in the area. He and his wife E.J., from Liberal, Kansas, have been RVing since their marriage in the 1970s. (Photo by Elva K. Österreich)
treatment (available at Walmart) down the toilet after you close the tank. Ick, gross! Yes, but do it anyway. Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk TP. It’s gotta dissolve, people. I mean, totally dissolve. Otherwise, you’re going to have a clogged toilet. You can buy special RV brands from RV suppliers or Walmart, or you can test regular TP by putting one sheet in a glass of water and shaking it. If it totally dissolves, it’s OK to use. Your RV has a fresh water tank for when you’re on the road or dry-camping (camping without hookups). Occasionally drain this tank and refill it, adding a little bleach, and let it sit for a few days. Then (and this is very important) DRAIN the tank and refill with clean water. Once, in our innocent past, we borrowed an RV from a relative who had failed to drain the bleach water. After my shower, I spent the weekend
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wearing a hat because of a ruined hair color job. On the road… Always carry some cash because not all RV parks accept credit cards. Seriously. I wish I had a box of chocolates for every time a frazzled guest declared, “I can’t get on the internet!” NOW HEAR THIS: NEVER ASSUME THE WIFI IS DEPENDABLE AT RV PARKS! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The fact that it’s always promoted as “free” should give you a hint that it’s rarely top-of-the-line. And to give the parks a break, it’s difficult to set up an excellent system in an RV park. A few businesses in the country specialize in this, but they’re expensive, so they’re mostly hired by big, expensive parks. If you must have dependable wifi, buy a hot spot from your cell phone provider. Many RV parks have no cable TV, so if you need that Downton
Abbey fix, make sure you have a good antenna, or buy one of the small portable DISH units if you want cable stations. And don’t even think about streaming Netflix on the park’s wifi system unless you check with management first. Last summer I watched a large dirt devil attack the RV across from ours and sweep its awning up and over the top, bending the metal frame as if it were made of toothpicks. Awesome. Never, ever leave your RV parked with the awnings extended. Invest in a surge protector for your power supply cord. And in a water pressure regulator because the water pressure in many parks will blow out your water lines. I know this will sound too obvious not to be insulting, but always check before pulling your RV out of a site to make sure the antenna and vent flaps are down, compartments doors are secure, and the
steps are retracted. Water, water, everywhere… All my advisors agreed that the most common RVing disaster involves WATER. I’ve already mentioned a couple of hints to avoid water mishaps, but here are some more. If you’re parked where the temperature could go below freezing, winterize religiously. Wrap the outdoor faucet, handle and hose with heat tape, put a bucket over the connectivity. For complete security, unhook the outdoor faucet. Many experienced RVers hang vinyl skirting from the bottom of their RV to shield the hoses. This also doubles as hidden storage room and sometimes shelter for small critters, speaking of which... CRITTERS! They love living in RVs but hate the smell of dryer sheets. So spread those dryer sheets throughout your compartments and cabinets and you won’t have to try to convince yourself that those tiny black pellets aren’t really mouse poop. Our last tip comes from current Rose Valley guest, professional DJ and Karaoke Impresario (and allaround good guy), DJ Iacofano, who not only gave me the idea for this article but also discovered an original way to clean those rooftop air vent screens. Just use an ordinary sticky lint roll. It’s cheap, easy, and works great. I know there are hundreds more RVing tips out there, and if anyone feels like sharing, send me an email. Sheila and husband Jimmy Sowder have lived at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City for five years following four years of wandering the US from Maine to California. She can be contacted at sksowder@aol. com.
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