|The birds are chirping.
The grass is growing. The TV weather forecaster is smiling.
Spring has arrived, and it's time to crank up the lawn
mower. What, you say? You're a road tripper? Well, then,
put that lawn mower back in the shed. The grass will
wait. A road trip is calling. Anne Sponholtz gets you
rolling with some tips for a spring RV road trip.
As a road tripper, I am always looking for
an excuse to hit the road, so when spring rolls around,
I know just how I'll be celebrating - in an RV. There are
thousands of us across America planning that spring road
trip right now. You, too? Whether you're an old hand or
a newbie, there are some things you should do before you
roll that RV down your drive and out into the sweet, springtime
Rent or Own, It Makes Little Difference
If you haven't already gotten hooked on RVing,
you can rent
an RV and try out the lifestyle. The only bad rental
experience I've heard was from friends who discovered in
the night that they had rented some hungry fleas at no extra
charge. Many RVers do travel with their pets - it's one
of the perks of the lifestyle - so be sure to check the
rental company's policy about eliminating such unwanted
Except for arranging for the rental, most of
what it takes to get ready for a road trip is the same for
renters as for owners. A good rental company will check
out your vehicle thoroughly before you leave the lot, but
it pays to go through the following checklist yourself,
too. It's a great way to become familiar with your RV and
it will also build some confidence for the road.
What's Happening Under the Hood?
If you don't live in the Sunshine State, as
I do - or in one of the many other states where RVing is
a year-round activity - you have some extra work to do to
bring your RV out of storage. Most important, you need to
open the hood and peek at the engine. (You need to do this
even if your RV is a motor home that is not kept in winter
storage, or if you use your truck to haul a fifth-wheel
or another vehicle to haul a travel trailer.) Mechanic I
am not, but I can spot split hoses, check the oil level
and read any other dip sticks. If you have any doubts about
how things look, take your vehicle to a mechanic.
You don't want to be driving down the road
and find that your awning is flapping in the breeze (as
Robin Williams did in the hilarious movie "RV",
so make sure it is secure. Check the brake lights, backup
lights, taillights, headlights, porch light and any other
lights. If you have an onboard camera for viewing what is
going on behind the RV, check it out, too. For some reason,
mud daubers enjoy RVing. Check outside cabinets and vents
for these wasps and remove their nests, as they can impair
the workings of some of the systems. Also check the roof
to be sure the vents are closed and the TV antenna is down.
Some RVers travel with the propane gas on to
keep the refrigerator running. There is much
debate about the safety of this practice, but I tend
to side with those who recommend against it, mainly because
I'm a scaredy cat. When traveling long distances in a single
day, we will turn on the gas and refrigerator during stops
for lunch or sightseeing or shopping, and sometimes we will
keep the refrigerator running with the generator. Since
we rarely travel extremely long distances in a single day,
our refrigerator stays cold enough to keep food safe. But
every refrigerator is different, so I think it's wise to
invest in a remote reporting thermometer for your fridge.
Don't forget to check your tires. Be sure to
purchase an air pressure gauge designed to test high-pressure
RV tires. Dual tires can be tricky to inspect, so we get
those tires checked by professionals. While you're having
your tires inspected, check
out this video, which describes how to handle a blowout
on an RV. When my husband and I were coming home from a
road trip the other day, the car in front of us had a blowout.
The driver apparently had no idea what to do in such an
emergency and ended up going into the oncoming lane. Fortunately,
no cars were in that lane, but it could have been a disaster.
Keep those batteries in good shape. Our RV
has a chassis battery and two house batteries. We check
the house batteries for water on a regular basis. Unfortunately,
most house batteries are installed in hard-to-check locations.
My husband and I split up this chore. He is in charge of
unlocking the battery compartment and taking the caps off
the battery, while I stand by armed with flashlight and
distilled water ready to check the levels.
Be sure everything in the cabin is secure and
all cabinets and drawers are properly closed. I can't tell
you how often I've made a left turn on the way out of town
only to hear clang, clatter, crash. Sure enough, I've failed
to latch the pantry. Makes me so mad at myself.
Also check that all appliances and other gadgets
are working. Keep the air conditioner filter clean, and
double-check the smoke, carbon monoxide and gas alarms.
(I "check" our smoke alarm constantly. No matter
how many fans I have running or windows I have opened, the
darn thing goes off whenever I'm cooking.) Keep an eye out
for water leaks - they are an RV's worst enemy. The overflow
hose on our water tank is located under our sofa. It fell
off not long ago, but because we were vigilant, we avoided
what might have been a major repair.
It's what no one wants to talk about, and few
of us RVers really like to deal with. Dumping and maintaining
the holding tank. Yuck! But it is a necessary evil. There
is nothing worse than having a holding tank turn into the
source of odor in your RV. To make sure that does not happen,
before any trip, I always inventory our supply of toilet
paper made especially for RVs, as it breaks down quickly,
and I make sure I have on board plenty of the products designed
to eliminate odors and clogs. On a recent trip, I had a
chance to test Thetford's
newest line of certified-green products, when I used its
Eco-Smart Toss-Ins. We had a good number of guests visiting
our campsite, including youngsters who often make lots of
trips to the head just to watch the RV toilet flush. I was
pleased with the outcome of the new product. It did the
job and the bonus was it gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling
you get when you know you are somehow helping the environment.
Should You Make Reservations?
If anyone tries to tell you RVing is suffering
in this recession, tell them to think again. Just try booking
an RV site in a state park, private park or resort in
Florida the week before or after Easter. It's slim pickins.
Sure, it's always fun to take off in an RV to parts unknown
with no particular plan in mind, but when spring emerges
and the itch to travel hits so many road trippers, it is
probably best to reserve your RV sites well ahead of time.
Of course, there is always the option of boondocking
- for example, staying the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot
- something I've yet to try. But if not knowing where you'll
be at bedtime bothers you, plan ahead. Personally, I think
trip planning is one of the best parts of the adventure.
Having home-cooked meals, at least some of
the time, is one of the biggest advantages to RVing. We
are big breakfast eaters, and dinner is pretty hardy, too,
so our meals take some planning. I make a list of essentials
for each meal, each day, and it is thorough. If I am planning
a meal of hot dogs, for example, my list should include
both the hot dogs and the condiments, because there is nothing
worse than realizing you've forgotten some important ingredient
when you are in the middle of the woods. It's not too bad
forgetting the mustard, but forgetting the hot dogs is not
a good thing. Just ask my family.
I carry all the food and other necessities
on my list to the RV in a laundry basket. It holds tons
of stuff and is easy to carry. I keep it easily accessible
in the house, and when I wash the RV sheets or pick up RV
supplies, that's where they go. Having those items in the
basket eliminates that mad dash around the house trying
to find everything as we head out the door. Since we take
off in our RV at least once a month, I usually keep a suitcase
packed with a swimming suit and a few days' change of clothes.
It's just one more packing chore that is out of the way.
My husband, on the other hand, packs separately for each
When packing everything you think you'll need
- clothes, food, GPS, magazines, CDs, books, movies, computers,
fishing gear or other recreational equipment you may be
taking along - be careful not to overload the RV. (All RVs
have posted weight restrictions; ours is in one of the cabinets).
And remember, the less weight you carry, the better your
Time to Roll
Checklist completed? Then it's time to take
off on your spring RV adventure. Have a blast. Just don't
forget the hot dogs.
April 17, 2009