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Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Santa even visits Leprechauns! 😉

Merry Christmas and Safe Travels from the Three Modern Nomads

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

If you have been in a campground, especially during a flag-holiday, you have probably seen those rotating PVC-pipe flag poles. We have seen some really creative ones. People have taken the basic pattern and added a section for a name plaque or solar lights (great in parks with no street lights so your flag is lit in the evening) or have painted the pipe either black or silver.

Usually you can find at least one person in a campground who makes them. If you want to make one yourself, there are free instructions online.

You can find everything you need to complete one at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. A good quality U.S. flag will cost you $20 – $30. Less expensive ones may fade or fray, so keep that in mind when you purchase one.

When placing your flag pole at your site, be mindful of your neighbors and the landscapers. We have seen folks place their flag pole a little too close to their neighbor’s site and when their neighbors opened their car-door they emerge into a tangled flag! Also try not to place the flag in a lawn mowers path. In addition, remember to remove your flag pole during rain and wind storms.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Pythian Castle

If you have ever seen “Haunted Collector” on the SyFy Channel, then you probably recognize Pythian Castle. This historic landmark is located in Springfield (MO) and can be toured. They offer historic and haunted tours.

This unusual structure was built by the Knight of Pythias in 1913 as an orphanage and senior home. In the 1940s, the government took over the property for injured WWII vets. A lot of “souls” have visited this landmark.

If you find yourself near Springfield and want to stop for a tour – be advised that Pythian Castle is located near the downtown area and streets are narrow for wide-turning RVs. Although there is ample parking at the castle, you would be better off just taking a tow vehicle.

For information on tours and times, visit their website at: http://www.pythiancastle.com

rig in brf pull-thru

At least one campground in our directory truly is "Big Rig Friendly"

Have you pulled into a campground advertised as “Big Rig Friendly” only to arrive and see a maze of overgrown trees and sharp turns? Or perhaps you were lured in by the promises of “Free WiFi”… until you found out that the wireless service only extended to two campsites – both of which were already occupied by permanent residents?

Normally we gumble to other RVers and put a big X across their listing in our campground directories so that we know to avoid that campground next trip. Yet the last year of travel has left us with two directories filled with big X’s and seriously questioning the standards campground directories have.

One of the campgrounds we recently stopped at in Biloxi, MS was advertised as “Big Rig Friendly” with pull-thru sites. After passing the campground twice (they had 2 sets of directions in both directories and naturally both were wrong – as well as the omission that the campground entrance was wedged in-between two businesses along a busy highway). Once we did find our way, we were rather taken back by the appearance. This “campground” appeared to be a mobile home park with no RVs or RV spaces in sight. Although it was difficult to be sure as there were so many large trees that it blocked the sun and our headlights came on! After driving around half of the park, trying to avoid trees and keep low-lying limbs from damaging our roof, we found the office only to be “greeted” by a woman who told us within five minutes of conversation that she hated working there. Then after she escorted us to their Big Rig pull-thru, we had to tell her no. The site was on a grade and not even close to being level. We figured it would take all our blocking (and more) to even keep the door open.  Not to mention the two trees that would have prevented our slides from coming out!

 Another one we stopped at in Marianna, FL sounded peaceful and a good place to stay for a day or two. That was until we pulled up to the office “Stop” sign and an extremely rude woman came out saying who had to move off the road (it was a two-way road and there was no parking anywhere in sight) so that her residents could get out. We weren’t in anyone’s way and there was no one coming at the time. Then while we were trying to figure out how to leave, a car headed out on this two-way road and she flagged them down and they stopped beside us. We figured a way to turn around and leave, but now she had this vehicle blocking our path to turn around.  After they left she returned her attention to us and had the nerve to ask us what we wanted! Somewhat reluctantly we asked if they had any big rig sites (as advertised) for the night. She said there was and pointed to a wooded area. We couldn’t see any RVs in the area and asked if we could see the site first as we are long and have 4 slides, one of which is a double-room. She said, and I quote her directly, “Oh, you can’t take that thing back there.” When I questioned if we couldn’t get our rig back there to look that must mean we wouldn’t fit in the first place, she ignored me and started off on how people with 45’ rigs towing boats and cargo trailers had been back there. So we just started up the truck again and left her standing there. It’s folks like that we encourage more of us to overnight at truck stops and Walmart parking lots!

 Campgrounds may have “Big Rig” sites, but that does not make navigating the campground “Big Rig Friendly”. Dodging trees and low-lying limbs and turning corners on narrow streets (especially with obstacles like little street lamps, fixed trash bins and concrete curbing) is not “Big Rig Friendly” – it’s a nightmare. Especially if you have been on the road all day and eager to set up and rest!

There needs to be some national standard in campground directories. The days of rating a campground on how clean its shower house is just aren’t enough for modern RVers. We need someone to set some guidelines for these campgrounds, especially those who are using terms such as “Big Rig Friendly” and the promise of WiFi so loosely.

Until then, we will continue X-ing our way through the country and warning other RVers of those campgrounds.

If you have been in a campground, especially during a flag-holiday, you have probably seen those rotating PVC-pipe flag poles. Lately we have been seeing some really creative ones. People have taken the basic pattern and added a section for a name plaque or solar lights (great in parks with no street lights so your flag is lit in the evening) or have painted the pipe either black or silver.

Usually you can find at least one person in a campground who makes them. If not, here is a link with directions: http://www.missouriscenicrivers.com/PVCflagpoleplans.html

You can find everything you need to complete one at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. A good quality U.S. flag will cost you $20 – $30. Less expensive ones may fade or fray, so keep that in mind when you purchase one.

When placing your flag pole at your site, be mindful of your neighbors and the landscapers. We have seen folks place their flag pole a little too close to their neighbor’s site and when their neighbors opened their car-door they emerge into a tangled flag! Also try not to place the flag in a lawn mowers path. In addition, we remove our flag pole during rain and wind storms.

NOTE: If you have designed your own and would like to email me a photo to post here, I would be happy to include it along with your name and information. 🙂

For those smart enough not to cancel their reservation along the Florida Gulf this summer – they were in for a treat. Most of the summer saw warm temps, sunny days and plenty to do without a lot of crowds!

One of the things we enjoyed doing the last several weeks is visit some of the “forgotten” lighthouses along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Within an 80-mile stretch off of Highway 98, you can visit four spectacular lighthouses. Starting westward at Port St. Joe, there is Cape San Blas lighthouse. There is a fee if you would like to climb it.

After returning to Highway 98 and heading eastward, you are in for a treat on your journey to Cape St. George lighthouse on St. George Island. This lighthouse is visible from the bridge and has a wonderful park and keeper’s cottage. There is also a fee to climb this lighthouse.

Heading eastward on Highway 98 once again (okay, maybe after we had ice cream cones across the street from the Cape St. George lighthouse), we found ourselves enjoying the view so much we actually drove by the Crooked River lighthouse just west of Carrabelle. So make sure you pay attention to the historic signs and banners as you approach Carrabelle. This lighthouse has a cute little museum and a wonderful gift shop. There is a fee to climb it, however you can only climb it on certain days.

After Crooked River lighthouse, continue eastward to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse is actually inside the refuge and the main road actually dead-ends at the lighthouse. There is day-use fee for admission through the refuge. You can only climb the lighthouse during special events. However, there is an observation deck which gives you an amazing view of the area and great photos ops (like the photo I took above).

If planning to visit all these amazing lighthouses in one day, I recommend you leave early in the morning so you have ample time to visit the lighthouse gift shops and museums. If you intend to climb, wear sturdy walking shoes or sneakers. Most lighthouses have strict policies regarding open-toed shoes and sandals.

This is Florida and even folks in the best shape will find themselves breathless on a lighthouse climb. Take your time and if anyone in your party is not climbing, give them your purse or backpack to help lighten your load. Stopping at windows (especially open ones), can give you a nice rest stop. Just be mindful of the rules regarding right-of-way for stairwell traffic.

If you are staying west of Port. St. Joe, don’t forget that all these lighthouses are in the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no parking at any of these locations to handle a RV. You could take a smaller motorhome to St. Marks and Cape St. George, however, you may find parking and turn-around space limited during busy times.

Detailed information and driving directions to these lighthouses can be found at a great website called Lighthouse Friends. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/

In all our years Full-Timing, I don’t think we’ve ever had to pack and re-pack as much as we’ve had to this winter. For instance, the last few days it has went from air-condition to furnace conditions – and oh yeah – throw in two days of sleet!

And just when you don’t think you need that winter jacket and place it under the bed storage area and dig out those souvenir tee-shirts again… well, Mother Nature pulls a fast-one. For those who live in a RV – you know how it is with the clothing storage situation!

So our winter in Texas has proven to keep us busy watching the Weather channel! 😉

Yet somehow I have managed to get all my camp reviews typed and photos organized and ready to post. I’ll be doing that soon… Updating some links and adding a few suggested by RVers. If you have some you’d like to share, feel free to comment here or email me with them.

And to those who have emailed or messaged me at RV groups – yes, I’m still alive! A little chilly now and then, but still going! 😉

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

 The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

 

 Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;

 Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

 Strong and content, I travel the open road…

 

— Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

 

 
A few photos of our last 1,500 mile journey from Virginia to Texas.  Road photos are a great  reminder that it is about the journey and not the destination. (Although bit of a rough one if you drive 1-10!) 😉

Well, it seems like only yesterday we pulled the rig into our winter home site… oh yes, it was only yesterday! 🙂

After a very very busy summer and a rather exciting haul to Texas, I find myself falling behind in everything from silly forwards clogging the inbox to posting here. I apologize to those who emailed me with “Where are you?” and “Did you give up RVing?” emails. It’s just been a rather busy year. Quite frankly, I’m surprised we are already headed for December and 2010!

So I promise to post more in the weeks ahead. After all, you need to know about our crazy search for RV tires, our disappointment in Camping World (the one in Roanoke), tropical storm Ida and all the latest campground news!

I also will try to get caught up on campground reviews and posting photos. And for those who wanted more “inside” information on workamping – I’ll be sure to post more pieces regarding the lifestyle.

Meanwhile, I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday! 🙂

Every day there is a mention in the news about the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu). It has spread throughout the entire US and the number of cases is on the rise. Apparently the virus can linger on surfaces for five to seven days.

The past few weeks I’ve been seeing people allowing their children to run in-and-out of public restrooms bare-footed, snotty-nosed children touching everything in sight, adults sneezing into their hands and then open doors and a handful of unsanitary scenes.

Campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are not immune to the spread of disease. Here are some things you can do to protect your family from disease while staying at your favorite campgrounds.

First of all, don’t go camping if you or a family member is sick. Sleeping on the ground in a tent will not make them feel better. Or crowding them in a RV with others will only put the entire family at risk for sickness.

Use hand sanitizer!  Make sure you have a small bottle for each person. The best kind to have is the ones that require no water. Each time a family member handles public items (door knobs, trash can lids…), make sure he or she wipes their hands with sanitizer or a wipe.

Use facial tissue! When you are finished, make sure you put it in the trash. Don’t leave it lay on counters or throw it on the floor. Make sure it goes into the trash receptacle.  If it is your trash receptacle – remember to empty it regularly and spray the receptacle with Lysol or clean it with some disinfectant.

If you are a RVer try not to rely on public restrooms.  Some RVers don’t like using their own bathroom because of the size, the extra work required in dumping the tank or they don’t want to pay for sewer hook-ups. If this is the case, then make sure you are wearing shoes (surprisingly, most public restroom floors are not sanitary) and have your own handi-wipes in your purse, pocket or shower bag and use them. Do not rely on the campground’s restrooms to have filled soap containers or even hot water. I am surprised when I do come across a fully-stocked restroom these days.

And if you are using a campground’s restroom and shower facilities, don’t harass the folks cleaning it! If the building is closed for cleaning, ask them where other facilities are located. You wouldn’t believe what workampers and housekeepers put up with. Some Campers get rather rude when the restrooms are closed for cleaning. Yes, it may be a temporary inconvenience, but a person cleaning them is a good thing!

Another thing to watch the sanitation practices in the campground’s café, snack bar or restaurant. If your cashier seems sickly or is propped up on the counter picking their nose… If you see the cook walk out of the restroom wearing his or her apron…. Well, you’re better off eating in your camper or throwing some burgers on the grill. Keep your eyes posted for potential problems. And if you can, call them out on it. Alert the campground manager that you saw the cook going into the restroom wearing an apron or the cashier pick his nose and handle food, etc… It could save someone’s life!

Teach your children to use sanitizer, handi-wipes and facial tissue. Make sure they understand how important it is to prevent the spread of germs – especially in areas like restrooms, playgrounds, water parks and arcades.

A few days ago I was in a public restroom and a small child came up to me stating the sinks didn’t work. I had to show the little one that they weren’t “smart” sinks, they didn’t know we were there wanting to wash our hands. We often forget that children have learned to wave their hands and water or paper towels suddenly appear. They don’t know that not all public restrooms have “smart” technology. So make sure you accompany your children into the restroom to help them wash up properly.

These are just a few ways to protect your family while camping.  With reports increasing on those who will become infected (and die) from the H1N1 virus, we all have to use a little more common sense to stop the spread.

Campgrounds are fun and germ-y!

Campgrounds are fun and germ-y!

 Despite the poor economic conditions and many uncertain of the times ahead, the outdoor hospitality business (RV parks, resorts and campgrounds) are staying filled this summer.

Many folks have re-discovered the fun in camping, while others are exploring their “own backyard” – just travelling a few hours away from home.

With limited vacation time or funds, many Campers have figured how to make the most of both. Many are either taking one day off a week and taking their scheduled days off  – such as the weekend – to make a nice 3-4 day camping trip each month or every two weeks. This not only breaks up the summer, but stretches out the vacation time all summer.

Multiple stays at the same campground doesn’t have to be boring. Take advantage of local sites and attractions and make a series of day-trips. Driving an hour or so from your campground can be like a mini-vacation in itself!

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a wonderful day-trip!

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a wonderful day-trip!

If you stay at the same campground or RV resort, you may find yourself eligible for a “repeat” or “multiple stay” discount. Some campgrounds offer 10% or more off on their regular Campers. And many campgrounds offer discounts for extended stays that could save you hundreds of dollars!

If you have family and friends that enjoy camping, see if the campground offers group discounts and family camping areas. If they have family or group areas (for multiple families), you may find it cheaper to divide the cost among the families than to each rent a campsite individually.

If you have children, finding family campgrounds or RV parks that offer activities will benefit both you and your children. Parks such as Jellystone offer many free activities – from wagon rides and movies to crafts and dances. Low-cost activities such as bingo, mini-golf, water slides and ceramics are available at most family-friendly parks.

Make the most of your summer vacation, despite limited time and funds. Go camping… again and again! 🙂

King Kong in VA

Never know what you'll see on a day-trip!

I received a rather amusing email from a Full-Timing friend who has been workamping for several years. Her main grip was “everyone wants to be a vagabond now!”

Lately everywhere you turn there is an article popping up either online, in the print newspaper or even on the TV news, regarding living the RV or caretaker life. The reporters interview a few of us “houseless” folks and then manage to piece a story together on how their faithful readers or viewers can just give up everything and “live free” too.

These pieces promise that you too can be a vagabond. Honestly, I’ve been finding it rather amusing! 😉

One article I read said that there was no need to buy a new RV because they depreciate like cars. Okay, that is true… but did she mention that most campgrounds and RV resorts require newer models? Most places want workampers who have models no older than 8 to 10 years. I have heard of places even saying six years or newer. So before you rush out and buy that 1980s Trek motorhome that the guy “down the road” has for sale in his mother-in-law’s barn, you better do your homework on what types of workamping jobs you hope to get and what most employers require.

Another article I read said that this lifestyle was only for retirees.  Hmm… I’m not retired (or even close to it for another 30+ years!) and several of our Full-Timing and/or workamping friends are either too young to retiree or still have families of their own (who live the lifestyle with them). There is a growing number of younger folks and families who live this way and get along quite nicely. So don’t rule it out Full-Timing or workamping if you are younger than 65.

This same piece mentioned that the jobs were rather easy and required no effort. Well… I would love to drag this writer to a campground or RV resort and put them to work for a day. Yes, it takes no skill to handle 100+ check-ins on a Friday night during the summer or on a holiday. (Insert me rolling my eyes here!) Or how about cleaning several bathouses a day and operating a Kiavac machine. No skill? No effort? Okay, well then how about mowing several acres of lawn around a hundred RVs in 90 degree temps? No sweat! Yes, there are some easier jobs out there, but in outdoor hospitality – anything goes! So even a light Camp Host position may find you having to haul firewood, clean restrooms or help evacuate the campground during an emergency.

I could go on and on, as there have been so many “be a vagabond” stories lately. With recent economic changes and many people struggling to keep their home or in need of a new career, these articles and news casts offer hope and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it can and it does for many, but before you make that leap you should do some research and speak to those who have (or are on) that road!

Everyone may want to be a vagabond, but not just anyone can be a vagabond and be happy with it.

FoamHenge

No, it’s not Stonehenge… it’s Foamhenge. Just a few miles off I-81 in Natural Bridge, Virginia you’ll do a double take when you drive by this foam replica. You just never know what you’re going to see from your RV! 🙂

Foamhenge

It’s a beautiful Sunday in Texas and we thought we would sit outside in our lawn chairs and read. A few of our fellow Full-Timers came over and started up a conversation that went from books to favorite flavors of ICEEs. Just a relaxing Sunday…so we thought.

We had been talking a few minutes when a woman walked up to the group and said, “How long are you folks staying?” We all replied a few more weeks. The woman said mumbled something about it must be nice to be on vacation that long, when one of the group members explained we were Full-Timers.

Now, imagine our surprise when she said, “Oh, well you’re trash from where I come from.” Then she walked away with disgust.

We were absolutely shocked. We all watched her walk away. No one said a thing. In fact, the only thing you could hear at the time was our jaws dropping.

Personally I thought that it was a joke. I looked around for cameras – surely someone was filming a hidden-camera show and we were the next skit? No, no cameras. The woman was for real.

She knew nothing about any of us, yet she blatantly called us trash. No, excuse me, she said we were trash.

I’m not a confrontational person, but this was rather upsetting to me that someone would make such a bold judgment and not even allow a response. I was curious and decided to see where this woman was from.

I saw her several sites down by a fifth-wheel – she was sitting on a lawn chair and drinking a can of soda. I never said anything to her but glanced at the pickup truck beside the rig and saw it had Texas license plates and several Austin stickers on the tailgate.

The group was still gathered near our site and several other Full-Timers had emerged to listen to the tale of the hit-and-run trash-talker.

I mentioned what I saw and one person said, “Oh, well, if they’re from Austin, that explains it.”

Well, I don’t quite understand what that means and find myself not really caring. I mean, why should I fall into the stereotype trap as this trash-talker?

As a Full-Timer I feel that we are a benefit to society. We bring money to local communities. From buying local produce and eating at local restaurants to visiting local attractions and attending local events – Full-timers are adding revenue to each area they visit.

They also help promote communities – they either tell other travelers or share their photos and stories online about the areas attractions and help increase tourism.

When staying in an area for an extended stay, many Full-Timers contribute to the community by volunteering their time or donating money or goods to local charities. I personally have over 350 hours of volunteer time – from the State of Florida to the State of Washington.

We are big on community. People in stick-houses go years (or decades) without knowing their neighbors. Full-Timers know their neighbors, be it for a day, a week or a year. We are there for our neighbors – we don’t ask for anything out of it. It’s just something we do to help our fellow RVers.

Full-Timers may not have stick-houses, but we do pay taxes. From Federal taxes to local sales taxes to toll road fees, we are paying our share to help keep the country running.

You will find that most Full-Timers are in support of parks and environmental-related causes. We help maintain our national and state parks by purchasing annual park passes and volunteering at them.  We contribute to eco-charities and causes and encourage others to do the same. Many of us pay fees or buy permits to hike, camp or fish areas – with the money going back into preserving these areas.

We have much smaller carbon footprints than those in stick-homes. Yes, we may put more mileage on, but we also take better care of our vehicles. Most Full-Timers are aware of their vehicles needs and constantly make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Those of us who need trucks to tow our fifth-wheels and travel trailers have newer diesels that run on bio-fuels. Those who have tow vehicles (“toads”) for their motorhomes or motorcoaches have hybrids or vehicles with a better gas mileage than standard vehicles.

Full-Timers live by the code – recycle, reduce, reuse. We recycle everything we can because if we can’t recycle it back into society it’s trash. We don’t like trash! Rarely will you see a Full-Timer with more than a tiny bag of trash. Reducing is automatic for us. Needless packaging and extra “stuff” is just a waste of space and energy to us. And we reuse like you wouldn’t believe! If we can’t reuse it ourselves, we’ll find a good home for it (often sharing it with other RVers or passing it on to a local charity).

Chevy Silverado

Chevy Silverado

We also buy American-made RVs and vehicles. Drive through any campground and you’ll see the overwhelming majority of fifth-wheels and travel trailers are being towed by GMCs, Chevys and Ford trucks. Toads vary, but favorites include Saturns, Jeeps and hybrids. We take great pride in our rigs and you can usually spot a Full-Timer by the blinding glare of polish on their RV. (Currently ours has 3 coats!)

And then there are those Full-Timers who rebuild or renovate RVs. These conversions are the ultimate in recycling, reducing and reusing! These folks use their know-how to take an older RV or bus and convert into something amazing. They buy local products and use local services to achieve their custom dream.

This is just a few of the many ways Full-Timers benefit American society. You can talk-trash me, but I really don’t care. I’m proud to be a Full-Time RVer!

Most Full-Timers are friendly folks and will assist their camping neighbors anyway they can. Sometimes it is something simple, like helping them back-in their rig or helping them put up a stubborn awning. Yet sometimes it can be more involved.

The other day we found ourselves in an all-day situation. The neighbors were frantic – their black water (sewage) tank was full to the neck of their toilet despite having their tank open and directly connected to the sewer.

Their motor home is new and our first thought was a similar problem we had with our new fifth-wheel. A piece of circular plastic from the tank (we assume from where they drilled one of the openings) was wedged at the opening of the tank that releases into the sewer hose. Several attempts at auto-flush and a couple reverse-flushes managed to clear out the plastic piece. We actually retrieved the plastic piece and sent it to Forest River to let them know about the problem we had, in hopes they would check tanks for this prior to installation.

RV sewer hoseIf only that would have been the problem…

Now our neighbors are not only newbie Full-Timers, but also newbies to the world of RVs. We found they had no extra hosing and no other tank accessories that are pretty crucial for Full-Timers. We loaned them all we could and tried all the tricks we know.

Water pressure at this particular campground is a bit low, making flushing your tanks a pain. You have to really let the water run to keep your sewer hose clean of waste.

I’ll spare you all the crappy details, but after several hours the tank was finally emptied. What filled up their black water tank? They were flushing those thick hand wipes down the toilet!

Now we realize that people flush things down the toilet they shouldn’t, but when you have a RV, you really shouldn’t flush anything that is not biodegradable. In fact, you should use RV toilet paper or a thinner toilet paper that will break down. If you aren’t sure if your favorite brand is okay, grab a piece and place it in a bowl of water. See if it breaks down after a little while. If it doesn’t, then it will lay in your tank if you don’t use enough water to flush it out.

The RV neighbors also didn’t know they needed to treat their tanks and didn’t even know they had an auto-flush system. Needless to say, they were flushed (sorry, can’t help myself!) with embarrassment and are going to dig out their owner’s manual to educate themselves on their RV.

So if you are new RVer, you should take the time to find out about your rig. You don’t want to be caught with a full tank! 😉

I have been noticing  a number of RVer forums and billboards with flaming posts about digital conversion. Some folks are even saying that it will not bother RVers because all campgrounds have Cable TV (this is not true) or that RV TVs are already equipped for this (again, not necessarily true). This is an issue for everyone who has older TVs and those without additional services, such as Cable or Satellite, and does indeed effect many RVers.

What is Digital TV?

Digital TV involves advanced broadcasting technology that will allow broadcasting stations to offer better sound and picture quality, as well as multicasting ability. Multicasting means the bit stream can be split offering more than one channel. That’s a mouthful, but basically it means a broadcaster can offer more channels.

I have an older TV that I refuse to part with (it has a built in DVD player that I love) and I had to purchase a digital converter box as most of the campgrounds we stay at are not located in areas with Cable TV. I currently pick up a San Antonio channel on box channel 5.1. Multicasting has allowed the broadcasters to turn 5.2 into a local weather channel. Another example is I get a local religious channel on 23.1. The following channel 23.2 is a religious children’s channel. After that, channel 23.3 and 23.4 are religious movie and educational channels. Instead of one channel “23”, I get four channels from this broadcaster. The same with the Spanish channels (one for news, one for Soaps, one for movies). Now this is on our regular RV TV antenna, plus my digital converter box. This is not Cable TV! Right now I get twenty-six channels on my TV with the digital converter box. Before I hooked up the digital converter box, I only received four local (analog) channels at this campground!

There are a few different types of Digital TV, but the most common is Standard, Enhanced and High Definition (HDTV). My converter box is just a SDTV (Standard). It’s not the best quality of the bunch, but quite honestly, I can’t tell the difference between my SDTV and our HDTV!

More information on this can be found at http://www.dtv.gov/index.html.

Digital Converter Box and Antennas

For RVers with newer TVs, you don’t have to do anything. Your TV should be ready for digital. Dig out your owner’s manual or flip through your TV menu and see what options you have. Some TVs are simple, some may involve some reading. Our living room TV (that came with the fifth-wheel) is a flat-screen HDTVand is rather intimidating. It has us digging out the manual just to autoscan channels!

If you are like me and dragged your old TV into your RV, then you will need a converter box. This is no different than hooking up a VCR and if you follow the steps in the manual, you should be watching Digital TV in a matter of minutes.

I was amazed at the features my little Magnavox converter has! I now am able to display a TV guide, digital closed caption and a handful of other great options. Since the digital transition is still taking place, some channels are not operating at full strength, so I do have to autoscan for channels every few days. I’ve picked up a couple more since I hooked up the converter. And as you would  every time you move to another campground, you will have to run autoscan to pick up local channels.

Most converters are running $40 to $70. I recently saw a pallet full at Wal-Mart for $29. There is a TV Converter Box Coupon Program, but they have run out of coupons. There is a waiting list and with the delay in the switch to DTV, you may have a chance to obtain one. (Go to https://www.dtv2009.gov/ for more information on this coupon program). Even if you do obtain a $40 coupon, you must use it within ninety days of receiving it and you must pay all taxes on the box. I bought mine in California and with local and state taxes it was  almost $9 (out-of-pocket) for a $40 converter box with the $40 coupon.

You need a converter box for each TV. So if you have two TVs in your RV and both of them are not DTV-ready, you will need two boxes. If you get involved with the coupon program, you are allowed two coupons ($40 for each) and that can help reduce the cost.

If most of the campgrounds you stay at do have Cable TV or SATV, then you may not want to worry about. You can still hookup your TV to a VCR, DVD player or use it for gaming. If you have reliable internet access, you can watch most of your favorite shows online. Several sites, like Hulu ( www.hulu.com ) post TV shows several days after the show’s original airdate. Some networks, like Fox, post them the next day on their own website. I often watch TV (and movies) online and prefer the lack or reduced frequency of commercials!

RV antennas are not the greatest, but again, if you stay at campgrounds outside major areas, you should still be able to pick up major networks. We have been touring Eastern Texas the past three months and have been fortunate to be near larger cities (San Antonio, Austin and Houston) and haven’t had problems picking up digital signals. I still get channels without the converter on, but boy, the picture is so much prettier on digital! Now snow or lines with the digital converter box. I can see Judge Judy as plain as day! 😉

If you are a RVer and have an older TV or are not staying at a campground with Cable TV or SATV, then you will be without TV reception after the digital transition takes place. Hooking up a digital converter box only takes a few minutes and will transform your snowy analog channels into clear digital ones.

 

Once you start looking at recreational vehicles you will feel overwhelmed. There are way too many choices out there! And the prices are just as varied as the RVs.

If you are going to become a Full-Time RVer and give up the stick-house, then price may not be a concern. But if you owe a great deal on your home or rent, you may not have the money to put into your new home-on-wheels. Payments on used RVs are much lower than newer ones.

Used recreational vehicles are good starters. Most RVers live by the “trading up” rule – always hoping to upgrade to something bigger and better in a few years. Although, with recent fuel increases and more people (even us homeless nomads!) trying to downsize, many RVers are discussing downsizing their Big Rigs for something smaller – even truck campers and pop-ups!

With a used RV, you can get quite a discount, especially on a really nice Class A or motorcoach. The only problem with this is, you’ll have a great investment, yet some campgrounds are really starting to buckle down on the rig-age. By that I mean, many “RV resorts” consider rigs 10-15 years old “old”. They want modern rigs, not quite frankly, those funky-looking 60s trailers. Nothing wrong with older rigs, many (esp. GMCs!) are in really great condition and most have been rebuilt and remodeled by their current owners. It is just that certain parks want to maintain that “new” image. Another thing to consider is that parks that do not mention this in their Park Rules, may still have a “we have to right to refuse any guest” policy. A quick look out the window toward your older RV may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up.

Discrimination? Well, I say the same thing when we pass a 55+ Park! If they are private campgrounds or parks they are allowed to have their own rules – even silly ones. If they don’t want older RVs and you have one, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway, right? It would just be a miserably place to live as the people are hung-up about age!

But don’t let an older used RV discourage you. The majority of campgrounds don’t care what age your RV is. Age isn’t always a factor though. Many campgrounds will not allow “homemade” campers. Now you’re scratching your head at this… ever see a school-bus turned into a camper? They don’t want stuff like that. Some of those homemade campers are really neat, but under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to be camped by one either as too much can go wrong. I would feel safer with a camper that had been under inspection at a factory and manufactured by people who knew what they were doing. A homemade camper make look great – but I don’t know that the thing won’t catch on fire or blow up! So you can’t blame campgrounds for not wanting homemades or “conversions” as they are sometimes called. So keep this in mind when you are shopping for a used RV.

Another thing to keep in mind is the overall structure. If it is a private seller – why are they selling? Has there been damage? Was it in an accident? How has it been stored? Like stick-houses, moisture and mildew can be nightmares in a RV. Find out what the reasons for selling are. Are there blemishes or blistering in the outside finish? Any noticeable dents or scratches? Don’t be afraid to climb the ladder rack and look at the roof. Roof damage is not something you want! Check the flooring in all the outside compartments. Has the thing been flooded? You joke – but if you’ve ever had a water pipe break in a camper (I did!) and have it flood (3 inches!), you’ll understand that your carpeting is slowly rotting away even if you got it dried-out quickly!

And don’t be afraid to drive a RV dealer nuts with questions as well! Make them earn their commission and seek out the answers you want. Also let them know that you aren’t afraid to open cabinets or compartments. Shop around as this is a “home” purchase!

Another thing to ask is how far has the camper traveled? Does it have a lot of mileage (if a motorhome)? If it has had engine repair, who work on it? When? What was the problem? Do they have paperwork on it? If you don’t know anything about engines and you are looking at a motorhome, motorcoach or van – definitely seek out your trusted mechanic or a friend who knows about these things. When your home is on wheels and it is the main “wheels”, if it requires repairs in a shop – you have to live in a hotel or some other accommodations while it is being fixed! So if it starts up and a puff of smoke comes out – don’t reach for your wallet just yet! Repair bills on larger motorhomes can be major wallet drainers. And don’t forget the tires, brakes and other essentials.

The refrigerator is another major expense. If not properly stored a closed refrigerator can smell for decades! So check it and if dealing with a private seller, ask to come back when the refrigerator and freezer is plugged in. You can usually tell by the shelving and drawers whether it has had much use. Same with the stove, oven and microwave. Many recreational campers (1-2 weeks a year) never use their camper oven. It’s a shame really as there is nothing better than a little turkey or even a birthday cake from a camper oven! You’ll be able to see signs of use. The microwave will undoubtedly be the most used item. If it is a combo oven/microwave, make sure this works as they can be expensive to replace.

Look around every faucet, vent and “hole” (where pipes and wires come through) for signs of water or other damage. Sometimes you can see repair work you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t look for the signs.

Hot water heaters can be fixed, but can set you back some money, especially if you are on the road when you realize it doesn’t work. Make sure they demonstrate everything for you. If they won’t – find another dealer or seller.

The air-condition unit and furnace are other costly repair items. Again, make sure these things work. If they can’t demonstrate the furnace (or stove/oven) because they have no propane – then tell them you’ll come back when they get some!

If the camper has an awning, make sure you see it pulled down. Notice if it is difficult putting up or down and if there is too much slack when they put it up. Also note if there are any holes in it as new awnings generally run $1000 and up.

Where is the fuse box? Is it easy to get to our do you have to crawl in a closet? What about the holding tanks? Do the tank sensors work? If the camper has been in storage and there is sewer odor… well, I guess I don’t need to tell you about that!

Older RVs, especially ones in storage, may not have the newer propane valves… stations won’t service older tanks! New tanks range from $40 on up depending on the size. So see if the propane tanks meet current standards. Most RVs have two propane tanks. If there is only one, question that!

I am not trying to stop you from buying a used RV, I just want you to be aware that you’ll rarely find one that was “only driven on Sundays by a sweet old grandma”. Some RVs get a lot of wear and are wore out well before you come along. If this is going to be your home, even for a short-while, don’t cheat yourself with never-ending repair bills or part replacements.

If you are dealing with a private seller and you don’t have the proper tow equipment for a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will have to figure how much extra you will end up paying elsewhere. Fifth-wheels and travel trailers require special hitches and brake controllers and in the case of trailers, sway bars. If the private seller doesn’t have these to include in the deal, that’s more money out of your pocket. And you will have to have the fifth-wheel hitch installed by a professional – as well as the brake controller, unless your pickup truck has a built-in tow-package.

If you purchase used through a RV dealer, they will often throw in the hitches (and even brake controller) free just to get a sale. If not, at least try to get a discount or package deal out of them on these items.

If you are a non-smoker and looking at a smokers (or just plain smelly) RV, there are ways to take care of that, but it will cost you unless you do all the work yourself. But it is possible to get that new-camper-smell again.

Notice the coloring of the seat cushions, carpet and drapes. Has the camper been opened up to the sun? Is there discoloration? Is the fabric on the stages of rotting? Are the seat cushions so wore they will need re-upholstered? Cause if you plan to leave in it full-time, you will have to have it replaced or purchase some sort of covering for it.

Dealers who offer warranties on used RVs are ones you should keep in mind. Things go wrong with RVs – new and used. As I have mentioned before – no matter what a dealer tells you – they are not made to live in year-round. So be prepared to have some issue – whether it be blowing out a fuse cause you didn’t understand the whole 30-amp speech the dealer gave you or your TV antenna crank breaks in your hand. Something will happen – just like it does in a stick-house.

A used RV can be a good thing, especially for the money involved. But be aware that cheap is not always a good thing. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is!

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

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