Thanks for reading my column in the Woodall's newsletter! This column thrives on questions from readers, so if you have a general RVing question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will answer them in my column. Happy trails!
We would welcome information on the best route to travel from Ontario west across the USA. We drive a 33-ft. class-A Fleetwood Southwind and would start our travels in late September 2012, as part of our celebrations of our golden wedding anniversary. We are interested in seeing the countryside and avoiding large cities as far as possible. We are more interested in the more northern routes, as we would like to travel the Pacific route south, eventually heading inland to Texas to visit family. We would appreciate your guidance to help us in completing the trip of a lifetime. Thank you in anticipation, Victor and Margaret
Hi, Victor and Margaret,
I'm sure you don't want someone to plan your trip for you, as it would then be their trip rather than yours. What I will do is suggest some resources for you to plan your own trip and make it unique. First, pick up a good printed USA atlas, like the Rand McNally Road Atlas. Using that atlas, get an idea of which states you are likely to pass through on your way west to Oregon or Washington. Then, use the Internet to access each state's travel and tourism site. Just use Google, and search for the state's name and the word "tourism" (example: Wyoming tourism). Every state offers a printed tourist guide that will tell you about everything to see and do in their state, and most states will mail you a copy for free. You can also download a copy right from the state's tourism website. Once you have all of those guides in hand, sit down and start identifying the attractions and special locations in each state that interest you. You may find that there are a lot more things to see than you thought, so narrowing down that list to manageable size will take some time. Once you have some idea of an itinerary, you can finalize a route to follow. When I was full-timing, my method was to always stop at each state's welcome center and pick up a tourist guide and also printed information on anything that looked interesting. I would then read through all of that material over the next couple of days, pick out things to see and do, and then start making some plans on where to go next. I never planned more than a few days ahead and stayed flexible, so if something neat popped up along the way, I could take advantage of it without worries about a tight schedule and needing to be someplace by a certain date. You may not have that degree of flexibility in your travel plans, but when you plan your trip, do plan in some slack time. That way, you can feel free to stay some extra days in a spot you really love, or be able to detour to see something unique along the way, without "messing up" your trip schedule. Enjoy your trip, take lots of pictures, and consider writing a daily journal, so you can look back in a year or two and relive the journey.
Does the Rand GPS have all of the campgrounds in the country such as Good Sam, AAA, Passport, and others? Thank you for your answers. I am interested in the GPS. Bob
I have been doing some testing of the Rand McNally RV GPS, and it does have a very complete listing of RV parks, campgrounds, state and national parks, and other RV-specific points of interest (POIs). It does not list Passport parks as being affiliated with Passport, but it does list the parks by name, so you can use your Passport directory to get the park name, and then the GPS will most likely be able to route you to it. Any GPS is only as good as its databases, and I have been impressed with the completeness of the Rand RV GPS RV park listings. I also like the fact that you can search for POIs that are "near my RV" or "near a city center.” Points of interest include RV parks listings and all other kinds of businesses and tourist attractions. Plus, as you travel, the GPS displays icons for rest areas, Walmarts, and other selectable POIs in real time, right on the map display. GPS technology has gotten quite sophisticated, and I really can't imagine traveling without one anymore.
We do not currently have a CO detector in our T.T. Are there specific ones for trailers rather than the ones for home use, or would a house unit work? I saw a combination unit for propane/CO. Is this a better alternative? How often should propane and CO detectors be replaced? Thank you, Dave
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are a must-have safety item for any RV. Newer RVs with engines or generators are required to have a CO detector installed by the manufacturer, but if your RV doesn't have one, you should purchase one right away and install it according to the instructions that came with the unit. The RV environment is full of CO sources, and every year hundreds of people die, or are hospitalized, due to exposure to dangerous levels of CO. While a residential CO detector will work in an RV, you are better off purchasing a detector that is certified for use in an RV. I prefer a detector that has an LCD readout of the current CO level. That way, I can identify continuously occurring low levels of CO that may not trigger an alarm. Sources of CO include RV propane cooktops, ovens, and unvented heaters, and any internal combustion engine. Charcoal and wood fires also produce CO. I am surprised to hear that there is a combination propane/CO alarm, as the density of propane is greater than air, so it sinks to the floor. CO is slightly less dense than air, so it tends to rise. If you mount a combination detector near the floor for propane, it will not be in a good position to sense CO. I would personally avoid such a product. Most propane and CO detectors do have a lifespan of 5-10 years, and most have a self-diagnostic function that will indicate when the detector is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced. If I have a 10-year-old detector or smoke alarm, I replace it based on the "better safe than sorry" rule. Always test detectors and alarms before each trip starts and at least once a month while traveling. Replace batteries (if battery-powered) yearly. Here's an example of an RV-rated CO alarm with digital display: http://www.atwoodmobile.com/gas-alarms/carbon-monoxide-gas-alarms.asp
In April I purchased a new 2012 Coleman 32' fifth-wheel from Camping World in El Paso, TX. The tires were inflated with nitrogen, and during the orientation I was told the inflation pressure was 60lbs., instead of the 65lbs. on the RV tire placard, to allow for heat expansion. My question is, can I bring the tire pressure up to the recommended 65lbs. with compressed air without causing a tire problem? The present tire pressure is 57lbs. (so much for nitrogen-filled tires not losing pressure). I am rather jumpy about tires and tire pressures as I have had problems with two past trailers, overloading, blow outs, and even losing a complete tire and wheel assembly because of a bearing problem. Thank you for your help. Ronald
OK, first off, the tires should always be inflated to the desired pressure when "cold,” otherwise known as current ambient temperature, before any driving is done. Best time to check them is in the morning before you drive. You should not "allow for expansion" when setting pressure. The pressure increase while operating is factored in by the tire manufacturer when the tire is designed. If you want to run your tires at 65 psi, then that's what you inflate them to when cold. All tires have a maximum inflation pressure stamped on the sidewall. You should not exceed that pressure when adding air to a cold tire, but you may safely inflate the tire all the way up to the max pressure on the sidewall. However, that may be more pressure than is needed, based on the actual load on the tire. All of the major tire manufacturers offer tire load/inflation charts, which tell you what the proper inflation pressure is for a given load (weight) for your specific tire. If you have your RV weighed at a scale where you receive individual wheel weights, you can use this information to properly set your tire pressure. To get more information on RV weighing, load/inflation charts, and for free access to some great tire and RV weight safety videos, check out the Escapees SmartWeigh website at www.escapees.com/smartweigh. RV weighing with individual wheel scales is offered at RV rallies around the country by SmartWeigh and other RV weighing firms. Get your RV weighed, set your tire pressures to the correct values for the weight you are carrying, and you'll have fewer tire "adventures"! By the way, while nitrogen may make sense for some tire applications, it is something the average RVer can do without. Besides, plain old air is 78 percent nitrogen, and it will work just fine in your tires.
Here are a couple of emails I received from readers. Thanks for sharing, folks!
I’m an old-timer in the car business and, while I generally agree with you in leaning toward the gas engine for a tow vehicle, there is one major advantage that the newer diesels have that you didn’t mention. There’s an old rule of thumb that says that you’ll lose approximately 5% of your horsepower on a naturally aspirated engine for every 1,000 feet in altitude that you’re operating in. It doesn’t mean much unless you’re getting above 5,000 feet, and it gets real important if you’re going above 7,000 or 8,000 feet. Almost all diesels are turbocharged and will develop rated horsepower up to 10,000 feet. I live in Colorado and spend most of my RVing time in the mountains. I’ve got a Duramax diesel, and it’s really important to us in this area. A good example was during the days that Ford and GM built diesels without turbochargers. When ambulance operators went up the hill into the Eisenhower Tunnel, they would be running about 30 MPH and laying out a naval smokescreen behind. Sure didn’t need the red lights and sirens at that point. This may not apply to everyone, but I thought it would be worthwhile to point it out.
We now have a 40-foot Dutch Star motor home but previously had a one-ton Dodge diesel pickup with such a cover made by Northwoods, a fiberglass company in Spokane, WA, who also made canoes, hot tubs, and many other fiberglass-type products. We purchased this unit at an RV show at the King Dome, the year they demolished the King Dome, I believe. (That tells you how long ago it was.) It had both a hard and soft cover for the “hitch hole area” and a “soft turtleneck-style collar” for the fifth-wheel hitch pinbox when towing. This made it completely weatherproof. It had the requisite pneumatic cylinders to assist in lifting and supporting it from hinges at the front position. It had a solid sheet metal tailgate also. It had two gigantic lids hinged to the center, accessing the cargo area ahead of the hitch in the pickup box, including when towing. I purchased an optional large fiberglass cargo box for the pickup box, which fit under these two lids and also a large sliding drawer for the rear of the pickup box, which was on very heavy duty drawer glides and allowed access to stored items in the rear of the pickup box. My only regret was that I could not keep and transfer it from my 1998 Dodge to my new 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 when I bought it as they had changed the box configuration too drastically. I do not know where or how to contact this company now, but they were RVers and made a wonderful product based upon their own needs and used their products. If you publish this, they or someone who knows them may see it and contact you to let you know about current availability or updated info. If I had a fifth-wheel and this product was available, I'd buy it in an instant. If not, I'd try to get one made; it was that great!!
Lew Carol Menke, Tucson, AZ, & Meridian, ID
Camping World, Good Will Ambassadors
** How about it, readers? ** Anyone know if these Northwoods folks are still in business? Any contact information? Send it to me and I'll pass it along to Lew and Carol and publish it in my column. See you next month!
Mark Nemeth has been involved with all things RV for more than ten years, including almost 5 years on the road as a fulltimer. Nowadays, Mark is parked for a while and works on staff for the Escapees RV club as technical advisor, consumer affairs director, and instructor in the Escapees RVer's Boot Camp program.
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Some content previously printed in Escapees magazine, published by the Escapees RV Club. All material provided by Mark Nemeth, Escapees Magazine Technical Advisor and Boot Camp Instructor. For more information about the Escapees RV Club, please visit www.escapees.com or call 888–757–2582.
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