2015 RV Lessons Learned

by | Dec 31, 2015

Joan and I have had a great 2015 RV travel season and looking forward to our 2016 season. Our first travels were limited to the southeast from Florida to Tennessee with every stop providing both new adventures along with learning experiences. You can view our travels with reviews of RV parks and sites along the way and look forward to substantial additions starting early January. Our 2015 travels were a mix of weekly ventures completing the year with a 3 month fall trek. Keeping our travels close to home base allowed us to venture out, then return to make the additions and subtractions to our livings space and determine what we needed to make our travels fun without losing the conveniences of our “stick and bricks” home. Below is a short list of 2015 RV travel lessons we learned.

330 Rule

i love rv lifeI can’t claim the 330 Rule as my invention, but heard a fellow camper mention during a trip we made from Orlando to Nashville. Making this trip in two days with a pull through heavy congested Atlanta left me wore out for a couple of days. The first mistake was making the first leg of the trip from Orlando wanting to be north of metro Atlanta to miss the Monday morning rush hour. 501 miles later we drag into the campground as the sun settled, ate a quick meal and called it a night. Up the next morning for another 250 miles to our Nashville campground. As the southern saying goes, “the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” I’ll not try that again.

The 330 Rule is a simple formula – don’t travel more the 330 miles a day or stop at 3:30PM whichever comes first. Pulling a 35 foot, 16,000 pound 5th wheel while watching out for the drivers who have little respect for others on the road can be taxing. Pulling into a rest stop after 3 hours of travel for a 10 minute stretch with a walk around the RV can be very therapeutic. We’ve adopted the 330 Rule and although it’s not hard and fast, as we approach the days limit we’re looking for a stop. Bottom line, RV travel should be fun and relaxing. Working yourself into a frenzy to get from point A to B, only to turnaround a few days later to repeat the process again takes all the joy out of the trip along with tiring all aboard. It’s that “stop and smell the roses” adage. Slow down. Enjoy the trip. You’ll enjoy the time in the campground without a dread of the return trip.

Wi-Fi, amps and antennas

I work on the road. As a web developer with the Internet demands for graphic and video increasing, quality, high-speed bandwidth is essential. As most of us know, high-speed Internet and camping is one of this century’s greatest oxymorons. Time is money. A client isn’t going to pay you extra hours just because you chose to live an RV lifestyle. Equally challenging is the simple desire to check your favorite web or social media site, or plan your next stop, any type of Internet usage in the evening only to find everyone else in the campground has the same idea and response is at a complete crawl if you can get online at all.

mifi2I had to find a solution. Satellite Internet was a strong preference, but finding a mobile solution resulted in options that were extremely expensive to start up and current, mobile high-speed solutions are spotty once you head west of the Mississippi. That left us with one alternative, cellular. Our choice was the Verizon network and a Jetpack. Along with the Jetpack, we purchased a Wilson Sleek cellular signal booster and a window mount antenna.

Results have been much better than expected. The Jetpack supports multiple devices at the same time including iPads, laptops and my work PC. Bandwidth with the signal booster has been equal to or in some cases better than our high-speed cable Internet at home. We also caught one of those short lived, wireless bandwidth deals paying $70 for unlimited data. The may seem excessive for most, but uploading large video and graphic files can quickly eat though your monthly budget. One tip with cellular Wi-Fi – if you don’t have an unlimited plan, video viewing is your enemy. Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube can burn though your budget in a day or two. We’ve found a Redbox rental to be the best solution for those evening movie nights.

Wet Sliders

No, this isn’t the latest craze at the burger joint on the corner. This is what happens when you must get on the road and you retract that rain soaked room expansion to make the checkout time. I didn’t consider this to be a big deal, until we returned home from 10 days of rain and left the doors closed for weeks only to open the door to load for out next trip with the smell. Yes, the dreaded wet RV sour smell. With the wet slider walls, we introduced a substantial amount of moisture into the camper with no place to escape. Fortunately we didn’t find mold or mildew, but this isn’t a practice I want to repeat.

The fix is simple. Before you reel in the slider, take a window squeegee and pull the moisture off the side of the slider walls. If you’re in a downpour, give it a few minutes to catch a break. Getting the big droplets off the walls will eliminate most of the moisture problem once the sliders have been returned for the trip. Some moisture will still be introduced into the RV. Purchase an inexpensive Dri-Z-Air Pot for less than $10 and the refills. We placed one in the living area and a second in the bedroom. These things are amazing requiring no batteries or wall plug-in and they just work, removing excess moisture from the RV. Very small investment to make sure your camper stays dry and is ready for the next trip.

RV Furniture – Less is More

Old RV FurnitureWhen we bought our 5th wheel, the inside was fitted to resemble a small, upscale apartment. Two dinning area chairs, two matching foldout chair in a closet, two recliners and an L shaped couch for three with a side and middle recliner. At purchase we thought this was perfect, not so much once we started spending weeks in 400 square feet.

We bought the RV to have maximum space for two. We’re empty nesters with a couple of grandkids and quickly discovered the blow-up mattress, while functional, was not the best solution for a week of travel for four. We ran into this again during our trip to the North Georgia mountains and had a couple spend a weekend for the fall leave change. The mattress filled the living floor space and had to be blown up before bedtime and deflated in the morning. What a pain! This big, bulky thing along with the bedding, well it was just inconvenient.

New RV FurnitureThe fix took a little investigation and some patience, but we replaced the oversize L shaped sofa with an apartment size sleep sofa. Note to anyone considering such a modification. Our camper entry door was 29 inches and we had to find a sofa that would fit sideways through the opening. Second space reduction was to remove the fixed chairs from the dining table. The fold out chairs work fine and if we entertain, we find it more practical to enjoy the picnic table outdoors or going to a local eatery down the road.

The change is substantial. New sofa, less chairs and adding a small 38 inch ottoman for leg comfort and additional storage has made a huge impact in our living space. Plus, the occasional grandkid bonding trip is much simpler to accommodate.

Hoses, cables and adapters

While less may be more for furniture, I don’t think there’s such a thing as having a box of miscellaneous adapters, hoses or cables. Our RV has a 50 amp electrical hook-up and we enjoy all the conveniences this offers – residential refrigerator, two air conditioners, microwave, the coffee make and Joan’s 1500 watt hair dryer. Going to a State or Federal campground you quickly find that 50 amps is a luxury and a solution is needed to adapt to a 30 amp hook up. The plugs are different, but fortunately there are solutions.

For 50 to 30 amps conversions we use a pigtail adapter. Works great, but remember, you’ve reduced you power capacity by 70%. You can still enjoy many of the conveniences of your RV, just not at the same time. If you have the luxury of two 30 amp connections for shore power your can achieve similar power needs as you would with a single 50 amp connection. Using a two 30 amp to 50 amp Y-adapter fixes this problem. Be aware, that some campgrounds frown on the use of these adapters and you may want to ask first before using. The last item is a 15 amp to 50 amp adapter. These can also be found in 15 to 30 amps as well. This is one of those “better than nothing” solutions where an overnight stay is needed and the only connection available a standard wall plug. This will allow you to charge the camper batteries, run the lights, watch a little TV, and even make a cup of coffee before you leave the next morning. Just don’t be power greedy. If you’re not sure how much power you’ll consume, turn one device off before you use the next.

Roadside Assistance

Think this is an unnecessary expense? Not so! I can’t image hitting the road without a trusted RV roadside service. Not all are the same. There are several developed specifically for RV travelers. Consider these first. They are reasonably priced and they have experience working with travelers with trailers, 5th wheels and motorized RVs. You don’t want to be on the side of the road with a blown tire and not having the equipment to raise thousands of pounds. You can damage your RV, bend axles, or worse harm yourself or others. Leave this to the professionals. They have the equipment to correctly repair you RV and get you back on the road. If you require a tow, they have experience with large rigs to minimize further damage. I hope this is something you’ll never need in your travels. But, if you do, this will be one of the smallest expenses to ensure you have a safe trip if the unforeseen road hazard occurs.

Laser Thermometer

No, this isn’t something you need to check an ailing Star Wars character. These thermometers allow you to check you RV wheel hubs and tires when you’re on a long pull. These devices can run from the $30 range to hundreds. I have a Etekcity Lasergrip 630 Dual Laser Thermometer and found it to be accurate for my needs. When you pull over for fuel or at a rest stop, take a minute with the laser thermometer to check the temperature of you RV wheel hubs and the surface of your tires. All should be within a couple of degrees in comparison. If you are having a pending trouble, the temperature will spike indicating a wheel bearing or possible tire separation problem. Speaking with a fellow RV’er recently, he told me of a problem where he checked his wheel hub and found it to be over 600 degrees. The repair shop stated he was minutes from having a hub fire which could have resulting in a complete loss in his RV or possible wheel loss from the axle. Minimal investment in dollars and a time to make sure your RV continues to be travel worthy.

Trust Your Travel Partner When Parking

We finished the year with a disappointment. We stayed at one of the nicer campgrounds and at check in they provide an escort to take you to your space. It was a treat to not go searching for the space, but the treat ended quickly. Ms. Joan always guides me into our space and we have developed signals, a rapport and a trust that she will look for items large and small to allow me to park safely. That trust also includes a simple “stop and look” before I make a difficult turn. On this instance the escort was directing me and had me turn into a large tree limb snagging my roof. Heart breaker. Lesson learned…never trust someone to help you park. They don’t have the same investment in your RV and inches can be the difference in a happy camping experience or expensive damage to your RV.

As always, I love RV life. Jerry

RV AccessoriesNot sure about what RV accessories you need as you start RV travel? Check out our RV Accessories page where we have listed a wide range of products from essential items to those “nice to have” RV products to make RV life more enjoyable. Every item listed is being used or has been used by Joan and I as we’ve traveled across the country in our RV.

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