When we RV camp – especially when we are backing up our travel trailer – we need direct reliable communication. Smartphones don’t always cut it. That’s why we use “walkie-talkies” (two-way radios) like the Midland LTX600VP3 (http://goo.gl/vLRiJu). We carry a pair in our truck glovebox and use them daily.
Walkie-talkies simply work better than smartphones in certain situations. There’s no dialing, no connecting, no signals dropping, no accidentally hanging up. You just mash a button and talk. Bingo! No delays, no fiddling with a Bluetooth or headset. Just talk and go.
The Midland LTX600VP3 walkie-talkies are especially handy because they also include NOAA weather alert. So you are getting 2-in-1 functionality with these two-way radios. Our dedicated weather radio is a Midland unit. I would rather own the LTX600VP3 to cover both needs.
Walkie-talkies work in rural and urban areas and you can take ‘em places your cell services won’t go. For us, this means Canada – there are no roaming fees with walkie-talkies. In fact, there are no fees of any kind!
Walkie-talkies – don’t go RV camping without ‘em.
Lately on our Facebook page (http://Facebook.com/LongLongHoneymoon) we’ve been talking about RV storage space. We love our 25-foot Airstream Classic travel trailer. It’s comfortable, cozy, and has been a wonderful home on wheels to us in a variety of adventures. But one thing it’s not… is spacious. We don’t have a lot of storage space.
Forget about measuring storage space in terms of square feet. We need to talk about square inches. Maybe even millimeters (if you can stomach the metric system). Every little bit matters.
What’s the secret to making the most of the space on hand? This is a pressing topic for most RV travelers, especially those who go on extended long term trips.
First of all, it’s important to only pack items that you need and/or will really use. This is harder than it sounds. In fact, this is one topic that has (gasp!) created some husband/wife relationship friction in our RV travels. We’ve made some memorable mistakes in the packing department. I dare not go into too much detail here, else our website may be renamed Short Short Marriage.
Suffice to say that we’ve both been guilty of bringing items on our trips that ended up being unnecessary. Some large, some small. Even after years of taking our Airstream on long term journeys, we still make mistakes.
The problem is that it’s hard to determine exactly what is necessary until you get out there. Every trip takes on a life of its own. Sometimes we do a lot of biking; sometimes the bikes go unused. Sometimes I use certain camera gadgets and tripods; on other trips, they spend most of their time stuffed under the bed. If you’re camping at a local park, it’s not a big deal. If you’re camping 2000 miles from home, it can be a pain.
The “use it or lose it” analysis must apply to every item on board, from food, to clothing, to electronics, to toiletries. Don’t really need and/or intend to use it? You probably should leave it at home. At the very least, you don’t need to bring many duplicates of items. It’s all too easy to overpack.
The problem of overpacking is not simply one of added weight (more weight on board the RV is bad), but also added clutter. Once you exhaust the available storage space, items end up lying on the couch, stuffed behind the couch, scattered on the and floor, and wherever else they may find a home. It makes for a less pleasant living environment.
What about closet space? We have two closets, and they range in size from small to smaller. It stands to reason that we can’t pack too much inside those closets. We can either bring less stuff, or bring smaller stuff. If we find a way to gain any space advantage in the packing process, we celebrate.
Case-in-point: we now have our Airstream closets stocked with ultra thin “no slip” velvet clothes hangers. These fall into the “bring smaller stuff” category.
At first glance, it may seem a little silly to worry about the size of clothes hangers. But we are talking about an RV here, and every millimeter matters. The thin flat hangers are a nice upgrade over the usual thick round plastic hangers that are now in fashion.
These hangers serve two purposes. First of all, they are indeed ultra thin – like 1/5 of an inch thin. So you can stack 40 or 50 of them together into a small space. It’s a modest but significant improvement.
Second, these hangers are “no slip” because they’re covered in some sort of grippy pseudo velvet. This is a wonderful feature for an RV, because clothes typically get bounced and jostled when the RV is traveling down the highway. If hangers are not “no slip,” inevitably some of the clothes slip off the hanger and onto the floor. It’s a bummer when all of your clean clothes are lying amidst your shoes at the bottom of your closet.
There’s no magic solution to the RV storage space quandary. It’s an ongoing battle against weight and clutter that we all must fight. If you can find a product like “ultra thin no slip clothes hangers” that gives you a space advantage, it makes sense to utilize it.
Now, if only they made ultra thin bicycles and barbecue grills…
The following post tells the story of how my family and I got into RVing. I tell this story in the hope you also might care to share what, or who, first got you into RVing.
As for me, my extended family have been RVers for years, and growing up I always envied the tales of their camping trips. Little did I know that the RVing bug had bit me way back then, but it turned out to be an infection itching at me for many, many years before I was able to apply the ointment. It only took about 10 or so years of me whining like a hungry dog every time we passed an RV dealership before my wife finally uttered those three wonderful words … “Oh, all right.”
The first of my family to start us all down the RVing road were my grandparents, Art and Curley Brighton. That’s them in the picture, with two of my uncles sticking their heads out the window of the 1971 25-foot Superior. I love that photo, especially how proud my grandpa looks holding a bucket of KFC!
My grandparents were prolific RVers; they traveled from Alaska to the Panama Canal and all parts in between during their five decades of travel in their various motor homes. Actually, they first started by car-camping, sleeping in the back of their ridiculously huge Town & Country station wagon. Their first motor home was the brand new Superior. They enjoyed that big green motor home for over a dozen years until they bought a new 35-foot Holiday Rambler in 1984. Then in 1987 they bought a 33-foot Foretravel, and finally a 1989 33-foot Foretravel Grand Villa motor home only three years after that. They traveled quite a bit, especially after they both retired from teaching. Often they hooked up with the FMCA-sponsored rallies for months at a time, and later they would say those rallies were among their best RVing memories.
My grandparents have since passed on, but they passed on their love of RVing to several of their eight children and 28 grandchildren (31 great-grandchildren and counting!). My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen have a 42-foot Monaco Dynasty motor home, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Diane have a 2004 Nomad North Trail fifth wheel, my parents have a 25-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon just bought a 2001 24-foot Trail Lite fifth wheel and my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy have a 2003 27-foot Rockwood travel trailer.
My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen were full-timers for a few years and had previously owned a 40-foot Monaco Windsor and a Southwind before that, but my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy hold the record for number of campers owned: They bought the last Foretravel motor home from my grandparents, and their other travel trailers were a 1998 Dutchmen, 1978 28-foot Yellowstone, 1976 25-foot Golden Nugget and a 1984 19-foot Sportsman.
I also have a few cousins who are RVers; Matt and Tracy own a 2005 21-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, and Jill and Bob were proud owners of a pop-up camper until it was completely destroyed when they were rear-ended a few years back (crumpled like a pile of kindling wood, they said).
Us? We’re the proud owners of a new-to-us 2000 Trail Lite Bantam 23-foot hybrid we bought in 2007. It sleeps all five of us, has tons of storage and has withstood many of my modifications. Plus, it’s paid for!
What do we love about RVing? Probably for many of the same reasons that you and other RVers love about it! Before our RV, we tent-camped a few times, always cursing the trek to the vault toilet in the middle of the night and the cold hard ground every morning. Not so with the RV! We’re off the ground, sleep in (mostly) comfortable beds and the bathroom – like everything else we decide to bring – goes where we go.
I like to think of our camper as a cottage-on-wheels. We can take our cottage most anywhere, and although we have a few favorite campgrounds we always seem to return to, we enjoy discovering new campgrounds in distant locations and all the area has to offer. My favorite thing about camping is sitting around the campfire, a s’more in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, and doing nothing more than relaxing and laughing with family and friends.
So there you have it. My story is not that unusual from other RVers, but it is my story and one I enjoy adding to each and every time we go camping.
Now it’s your turn. How did you get started into RVing?
From the personal blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on RV.net, so there’s a couple of dozen posts on my companion blog you might want to take a look at. Most are travel-related, including a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of eight homes and Wintertime events in Chicago. A few RV-specific posts include a comprehensive list of North American RV shows now through April (complete with links), the planned expansion of Detroit-based General RV dealership and my take on RV Buddies’ recent poll results of what features people want in an RV.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one — and certainly the best in the last few years.
I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap. (You can also read my individual reports from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five. All but Day Five includes a video.)
The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16 percent over the previous year.
“Show attendance was up 20 percent over the 2009 numbers,” Sheffer said. “Dealers and exhibitors reported positive sales numbers and responses from those in attendance, and several $200,000 units were even sold during the show. Many dealers reported meeting and/or exceeding sales goals for the duration of the show.”
Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Michigan to take a look around.
And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.
“We generally come to all these shows,” said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan, who was at the show with his wife, Karen. “We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens.”
“You know, when you’re camping, you spend all your time outside anyways,” Karen added. “So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense.”
Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.
Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motor home behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Naturally, I found the Yates inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.
A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Michigan. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite #1809S travel trailer, and they’ll be back to the February show to make the purchase.
As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.
Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:
• Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floor plans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.
• Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.
• Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.
• Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.
• Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan White’s travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.
The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motor home. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.
The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver’s side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach. Click here for my video tour of the slide-within-a-slide.
All in all, the Fall RV Show was a lot of fun – but I would expect nothing less. I was able to get to the show four of its five days. I enjoyed exploring all the RVs and talking to the people enjoying those RVs. And now the countdown is on for the Spring RV shows!
From the personal blog: I’ve been posting a lot of information lately about travel destinations and specials they’re having, including Ohio’s Brilliant Fall Colors and Halloween Fun at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
Two RV shows in the next few weeks will be an interesting study on whether we can truly believe the recent reports that the RV industry is on the rebound.
A Lug_Nut pet peeve. When travelling with many RV’s, 5th wheels, large class A’s and towing combinations, finding a place to stop can be challenging on many roadways. In that regard interstate highways offer the best places, the rest stop. These pull offs provide ample maneuvering space and large parking spaces for both trucks and RV’s. Additionally you can always find a little grass, designated the “Pet Walking Area” for Fido to stretch and take a potty break.
Want to stop for lunch at a restaurant? Cracker Barrel offers RV parking at their many locations throughout the country and they are usually located within sight of the interstate highways. RV parking can be found at the rear of the restaurant. For large class A coaches towing, some of these may not be long enough. So you may have to take a look first. On some routes this chain is very abundant, for example my wife and I counter 49 Cracker Barrel locations off I75 from the Ohio/Michigan border to Fort Myers Florida.
At both rest stops and Cracker Barrels, over night parking may be allowed depending on the location. Check for signage, ask the manager or inquire with the security staff if you are considering staying over night. This, of course, is the same courtesy you would use to stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
Most rest stops have separate parking for autos and trucks/RV’s. Some have three sections, autos, trucks and RV’s. The later offers the RV owner a truck free area. This creates a somewhat safer environment for children, adults and pets to exit and enter their vehicle as it is far less busy.
So, whether you need a comfort break or a lunch stop, we have these great places to safely stop with your oversizedvehicle or vehicle combination. Well, we do providing there is space left. Many times these over lengthparking spots are filled with autos and small vehicles that are thoughtlessly parked because they may be perceived to be closer to the restrooms. I have seen motor homes and travel trailers forced to move on or park on the grass shoulder towards the exit. This is due to these cars filling the only parking spots capable of holding such a vehicle. In every instance I have witnessed this, the car parking has numerous spaces available.
Likewise, the RV parking spaces at many Cracker Barrels also seem to attract these same jug heads that insist on parking their little car in these spots. About a year ago I arrived at the visitor center in the Everglades. They have several rows of auto spaces and one large RV row that would accommodate about nine rigs. I pulled in with my 45’ coach towing an extended SUV. The RV section was pretty well full, including a small car blocking the last two available spaces. The auto area was not even half filled yet this person decided to take up at least one RV space. With my vehicle combination hanging out onto the main drive-in area I approached the owner.
“Could you move your car so that I can pull in” I asked.
“When I finish eating” the slightly over weight woman that was dressed and looked like an over zealous boy scout, said in a curt manner.
By now there were cars backing up in the driveway that my tow was partially blocking. I would have to circle around the parking area and exit if I could not pull in within the next minute or so.
“I’ve kind of got the traffic stopped now, could you please move forward so I can clear the driveway? I asked, still very courteously while motioning to my towed SUV that was straddling the main inbound drive.
“Well, you shouldn’t have such a big vehicle, and it’s bad for the environment.” She exclaimed, as if it was my fault.
Finally, the woman slowly made her way back to her car. What seemed like ten minutes passed as she settled into the driver seat and stalled around adjusting the mirror, placing her lunch bag within the car and buckling her seat belt. Then she moved the car and parked in an appropriate vehicle space “Hmmmm………..For that you need to adjust the mirror and fasten your seat belt” I thought to myself. I guess I just came face to face with a Red-Neck tree hugger.
Why are these people so un-thoughtful for others or for their circumstances? Why do people not understand where they should park or not park? This isn’t rocket science here we are dealing with. Also, what’s with the attitude? Fortunately this poor attitude is not reflected on the roadway.
Well, that’s one of my pet peeves of finding a parking place with an RV while travelling. What about you? What’s your pet peeve while on the road?
Just Some Quiet Venting – Lug_Nut - Peter Mercer
Okay, fellows, this is for your eyes only. If your beautiful bride spots this we’re both in big trouble. These helpful hints are guaranteed to make things easier as you travel down the highway of life with the girl of your dreams. Strict adherence to these “guy rules” can add years of enjoyment to your leisure time, while ignoring them could make the rest of your days one long journey through a traffic jam in a construction zone.
‘Tis said that the journey is the destination. But what does that mean? Since we tend to travel in heavy doses, our own “destination” extends beyond the campground. I’m referring to life on the road.
At LongLongHoneymoon.com, we consider all aspects of the RV experience.
Take, for example, the timeless question, “Do you have enough space?”
A psychological transition happens a few days into a major road trip. We not only shift gears; we shift lifestyles. Our minds quickly redefine what constitutes “normal.”
It’s a reasonable query, and by now the answer is obvious. The reality is that people don’t need a lot of space to be happy and satisfied; we need to be comfortable. And the two of us are quite comfortable, together, occupying our RV.
A friend of mine recently analogized our RV trips to an ocean cruise. At first glance this seems odd, but there’s some substance to this analogy. Heck, Airstream once made a travel trailer dubbed the Land Yacht. So, do you have “enough space” on a cruise ship? Of course: you have what you need.
Sometimes the more pertinent question is along these lines: “Do you have enough gas?”
Sadly, sometimes the answer to this question is no.
For more timeless questions (and more gas) check out our website: LongLongHoneymoon.com.
Extended warranties — to buy or not to buy? That is the question. Read more
I have written many times about the dangers of bad weather when on the road in your RV, but as the pictures with this blog show, you can get into trouble even when parked in a campground.
A tornado tore through the NACO Natchez Trace campground near Hohenwald, Tennessee a few days ago, destroying several RVs and other vehicles, and causing some minor injuries.