• Training Day June 1, 2017

    What: RV Driving School
    Where to Buy: RV School
    Price: Varies, depending on type ($695 for the one we took)

    Between the two of us we have *censored for ridiculously high count* years of driving experience. It’s second-nature to the both of us. In thinking about driving a 45 foot motorhome (plus tow!), we first watched youtube videos, talked through the logistics of driving a motorhome, discussed how this would be different than driving a car or SUV, et cetera. But like many others, we tend to learn by doing.

    Knowing that we were driving something that was hundreds of thousands of dollars (a bit different than the Jeep, we’ll admit), we knew that we weren’t going to depend on youtube. We researched RV Training and determined that we wanted to get training before we took a major trip, so looked at Pennsylvania.

    Our first roadtrip stop (in NC)

    We researched via Google and Facebook and found RV School. They have multiple locations because they aren’t a brick-and-mortar “school”. They have trainers throughout the nation who may live in the location (considered to be “permanent locations”, or be visiting for an extended period of time (“seasonal”) or just a couple weeks (“temporary”). The instructors determine their own schedule and you work out the timing of the training with the instructor. That said, payment is to RV School and RV School stands behind their instructors.

    We took a Combination/2 person lesson. It’s a 2 day 6 hour intensive training. There’s also an option for a single/1 person course with the option of a “ride along” companion, but we both wanted ownership of the driving in some way.

    We contacted the instructor, Ray Casselberry, to work out the date and place. Ray was a lifetime truck driver who was retired, and we felt he was fully capable of helping us drive the bus. He recommended we travel an hour to South Central Pennsylvania (Carlisle). So with Kim, Chris and the dogs in tow, on Chris’ birthday, his gift was driving our brand new RV (happy birthday to you!).

    The training itself was intense and thorough. Did it cover every scenario? No, how could it, but it started at an RV park Ray had a relationship with (and known to have some tighter turns so we maneuvered with an instructor right there for the first time) and the area had everything – steep hills (up and down, as what goes up must come down!), small town roads, traffic circles, highways (entering and exiting) and large shopping centers (to practice backing up). It also allowed the dogs practice to travel in the rig, and helped us identify some snags in our current doggie containment system (our dogs, it turns out, were used to the car and being RIGHT NEXT to us).

    Kim driving with Ray as the passenger on some PA side road.

    To say we learned a lot is an understatement. The training was invaluable. One thing our instructor immediately corrected was our speed. When we both got to the wheel the instruction was “slow down”. As we had more practice, he said it less and less. We also came across some spine-tingling “omygah!” moments which he talked us through (getting onto a packed highway, for example). We learned the “stupid face” (Ray’s phrase) which is the face you give if a car decides to be jerkish and blocks you from safely making your turn. We learned to be more patient than you have driving a car or a SUV. It’s so simple, but it reiterated safety first.

    Other than the perk of being more confident with our driving, another perk is insurance – completion did lower our rates than if we hadn’t taken the course.

    Would Recommend: Yes. We do often think back to lessons taught during those two days and it was worth every single penny.

  • Life on Holiday May 30, 2017

    If you are new to RVing, or have a history of staying in a couple of places over the year and don’t typically travel, you may kind of know to book early-ish for remembrance and holiday weekends (typically Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are the trifecta of camping craziness). You may know this. However, no one can properly prepare you for how ridiculously prepared you need to be if you have your eyes on an area, particularly if that area involves the words “State” and “Park” in it.

    Let’s back this fun bus up: how crazy are we talking? We’ll use Colorado as an example. According to our hosts at Cherry Creek, Colorado allows you to book up to six months from the date. Colorado citizens go into the most popular state park websites and book every single weekend from opening weekend until closing weekend. Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are gobbled up immediately. This leaves little room for tourists outside of the state to come in for a couple of weeks straight (usually there’s a 14 day max) and have one solid visit.

    This also leaves very little room for the spirit of exploration or winging it, particularly if you have a very large rig and can’t just pull off anywhere. You shouldn’t plan on Walmart, Cabela’s or similar because guess what? Everyone else who neglected to make timely reservations are likely to do the same thing. That said, we did see the same fifth wheel – with slides out – in a pull-off rest area for the entire Memorial Day weekend. So it can be done.

    We were new to RVing last year and left our winter residence in Florida in late April. We knew we had to go to Tiffin to get work done and worked our way to Red Bay, AL. We got there right before Memorial Day. This made predicting exactly where we’d be during Memorial Day to be very difficult, so we didn’t book anything and we didn’t exactly want to spend the holiday in Red Bay (we know people love it here, but we had spent almost two weeks there and were DONE). We ended up in a tiny park in Georgia which was lucky, but there were reasons why that park was available. It was fine for the two days we were there but there were serious issues that could have potentially damaged our coach. We were lucky, and one of the factors we think about is our animals’ comfort. So we definitely had that.

    At least the view wasn’t bad

    So what did we learn? Book early and book often. When you have an itinerary that’s relatively open, discuss where you may be and choose 2 or 3 locations. Then, as long as the cancellation policy exists where you can cancel x amount of time, book in those 2 or 3 places. They could be close-ish to each other or on different coasts. What you have to lose is money. You will lose approximately $10 per reservation as a service fee for many parks (state parks and KOA included). You must be meticulous to cancel in the right amount of time (parks vary from two weeks to 48 hours before check in time/date) or you’ll be charged either one day’s fee or for the entire time (the latter is rare). If you don’t want to pay cancellation fees, the risk is you don’t have a nice place to stay for the holiday. The risk if you do book is that you’ll forget to cancel. So you need to weigh risk versus reward.

    With that in mind, you can ask yourself questions to narrow things down for yourself. What coast will you be on? North or South? Any particular state or states?

    This year, we knew that we would want to be in Colorado so for us it was easier. That said, we neglected to log into the Colorado State Park system for a particular park in time to book Memorial Day (missed it by 2 days – 2 days!). Alas, everything was GONE for that weekend, even sites with no hookups (“primitive”). We were able to book Independence Day at a Georgia state park last year in February, so not as cut-throat but still not ideal if you are a wanderer. If you have minimal needs for the weekend (hookups, namely) or are a smaller rig, you’ll find it to be much easier. If you’re a planner, perhaps you live for this. If you have a large rig and aren’t a planner, it is definitely more difficult.

    May the odds be ever in your favor.

  • Cabinet Battle May 23, 2017

    A few things we learned when moving into the RV: 1) never underestimate the power of heated floors 2) your manufacturer, most likely, had one of more workers who cut corners in some way 3) the decor is seemingly naturally, shall we say, dated. It’s a bit too ready for prime time.

    We will never regret our decision to get heated floors. We found the corners that were cut by living in the rig full-time very quickly. The decor is a work in progress.

    As soon as we moved in, we hated the door pulls and knobs. They were not to our taste. We like something a bit more streamlined. And for a year, we hated the pulls and knobs. And for a year, we said we’d change them.

    Dulled by a year of use.

    Finally we had enough, prompted by the installation of our new desk that needed pulls and knobs. We went to Home Depot and bought the farm in the style we wanted. We were limited by the spacing for the pulls (3.25″, or was it 3.75″? We forget).

    We also realized that with the shape of the new knobs, whoever did the installation of the original knobs paid no concern with them being level (see #2 above). Something we’d have to live with as we weren’t going to drill new holes for this, and still an improvement over the old knobs.

    Left – new; Right – old

    Top – New; Bottom – Old

    This is a relatively cheap improvement to do and one we’d recommend doing sooner rather than later. So how much is it? Without doing much research, we opted to get the pulls at Home Depot (the style is “Liberty” brushed nickel). They also have these available at Amazon. Each package of 10 pulls is $23 and change (buy in bulk if you can as each pull sold separately is $4, so a $17 savings per 10). The knobs are $20 for a 10 pack. Now be aware that there are more knobs and pulls in the rig than you can initially imagine. You can buy them here and here.

    You can save some bucks by buying online, but we had our minds set, gosh darnit. So for peace of mind we bypassed the savings.