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RV Economics

Many people assume RVing is expensive. It can be, but it can also be very inexpensive. On the high end of the scale you have million dollar motorhomes and extravagant RV resorts complete with butler service and private hot tubs. On the low end of the scale you have very inexpensive trailers that can be towed by the family SUV to a free campsite in the woods not far from home allowing a family to have a weekend of fun for less than the cost of going to the movies for a few hours. Of course there are infinite options between the two examples given above. In other words, RVing is what you make it and in all cases, is more economical than it’s comparable conventional travel counterpart. Even for the luxurious example above, a recent study found that “Trips in type A motorhomes – typically the largest and most luxurious of RVs – were compared to other upscale vacation travel options. The study found that Type A motorhome vacations were 45 percent less expensive than upscale air/hotel vacations.” In addition, “The study, prepared for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association by PKF Consulting USA, a member of an international travel and tourism consulting group, found that RV travel is 23-to-59 percent less expensive than other types of vacations, for a family of four that owns an RV. For an “empty-nester” couple traveling by RV, savings were 11-to-46 percent.

Even after accounting for factors such as RV ownership costs and fuel prices, the study confirms that RV vacations offer greater savings than those taken using a personal car or airline, staying in a hotel, rental house or condominium, and eating in restaurants.

“The study puts numbers to what RV owners have known for years – if you want to save money on travel, go RVing,” said RVIA president Richard Coon. “With the opportunity for frequent getaways to spend quality time outdoors with family and friends, RV ownership is a great value.”

Click here to read the entire study.

Bottom line, RVing is one of the most economical forms of travel. Let’s take a look at some additional economic benefits of owning a RV:

Financing: Current rates and terms are very attractive and affordable for purchasing a RV. For a monthly payment of between one hundred and one hundred fifty dollars per month you can purchase an entry level RV. A family of four using the RV just a couple of weekends a month (4 days) can drive the cost of purchasing a RV well under $10 per person per day! (Example: $128 monthly payment ÷ 4 people ÷ 4 days / month = $8 per month per person) You can’t buy a ticket to the movies or much else these days for $8! If you have an active family, the cost effectiveness of RV ownership compared to conventional lodging is huge. Plus, you are building equity in the RV rather than spending it on a hotel stay which offers no return for your money.

Economical Family Fun!

Economical Family Fun!

Interest Deduction: If your RV contains sleeping, bathroom and kitchen facilities, it meets the IRS definition of a second home. Interest paid on a loan for the purchase of a recreational vehicle is therefore tax deductible as valid home interest on a second home. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes two booklets that contain helpful information regarding tax deductibility of RV loan interest. Copies of “Publication 936-Home Interest Deduction” and “Publication 523 -Selling Your Home” are available online or by calling the IRS at (800) 829-3676. Be sure to consult your tax advisor to make certain you qualify.

Volunteering Deduction: Do you perform volunteer work when you travel? If so, you may be entitled to deduct some of your expenses. When volunteering for a qualified organization, the IRS allows volunteers to claim fuel and lodging expenses. The following generally applies; “Volunteers may deduct certain unreimbursed expenses incurred in connection with their volunteer service from their reported income on Federal income tax returns. Examples of expenses that can be deducted include mileage to the project, gas, lodging (campground fees) and meals while on the project. Information on this subject is available from Internal Revenue Service taxpayer assistance offices”. Be sure to consult your tax advisor to make certain you qualify. Learn more by clicking here.

A great volunteer organization for RVers!

A great volunteer organization for RVers!

Dining: Another great benefit by traveling with a RV is having your own kitchen. One of the biggest expenses while traveling is eating out at restaurants every meal. Not only do you save money by cooking your own meals you will eat healthier too which will save on trips to the doctor later on.

Eco 1

Guest Room: RVs make a great spare bedroom for visiting guests saving the cost of commercial lodging or adding onto your home.

RVs Make a Great Spare Bedroom for Guests!

RVs Make a Great Spare Bedroom for Guests!

Emergency Shelter: RVs provide a warm, safe shelter when your home has been compromised by storm damage, power outages or other natural disasters. This can add up to big savings over the cost of renting a hotel room and eating out until repairs are completed. You can also use the refrigerator in your RV to keep food cold / frozen during extended power outages in your home saving hundreds of dollars in spoiled food.

RVs are Warm and Comfortably When Your Home Isn't

RVs are Warm and Comfortably When Your Home Isn’t

These are just a few of the many economical advantages of owning a RV which may help you decide whether RVing is right for you, but remember you cannot put a price on the family memories you will make while RVing and many of them will be priceless.



Important Features to Maximize Boondocking

In the last entry we looked at what boondocking is and isn’t. If you think boondocking might be for you, the next step is knowing what features are most important to look for when shopping for a RV to be used for boondocking

To follow is a list of features, in order of relative importance, for a typical boondocker.

Water Capacity: The human body cannot survive without water. You will need to consider water for drinking, bathing, dishwashing, etc. Obviously once you have depleted your water supply, you will need to exit the boondocks to resupply or face dehydration and death. Cases of bottled water can meet all of your drinking water needs which leaves the freshwater tank to supply your bathing, dish cleaning, hand washing and toilet flushing needs. When researching RVs look for convenient places to store bottled water and RVs with large freshwater tanks. The larger the tank the longer you can stay out in the boonies. Good boondockers can get by with 3-4 gallons per day per person while still enjoying a navy shower daily.

No Water For Miles, Better Bring Plenty of Your Own

No Water For Miles, Better Bring Plenty of Your Own

Black Water Holding Tank: For those new to RVing, the black water tank collects the sewage from the toilet. Once it is full you have no choice but to exit the boondocks or start going where the bears go. Needless to say, the larger the black tank the longer you can stay camped. With most RVs and typical usage, you will run out of freshwater long before you fill the black tank Note: Dumping of the black tank anywhere on public land is illegal.

Gray Water Tank: The importance of the gray tank size will depend on where you are boondocking. Contrary to popular belief there are many places in the West where it is still legal to dump gray water or at least dishwater. However, there are many more places where you can’t. If you are in an area where you can’t legally dump gray water, when the tank is full it is time to leave the boondocks in search of a dump station. If it is legal to dump dishwater you can extend your stay by doing your dishes in a dishpan and dispose of it per the land agencies instructions.

Propane: When you are boondocking, which by definition (see the last blog entry) means no shore power (120 volts AC electrical hook up) you will be cooling your refrigerator, heating your hot water, cooking and warming your RV with propane. Once your propane tanks are empty, you might as well be tent camping. Note: If your RV can carry 14 gallons of propane or more, unless you are camping in real cold weather, one or more of the above three items will become problematic long before you run out of propane.

Refrigerator: The size of your refrigerator will in part determine how long you can avoid visiting the grocery store. Since there are no grocery stores in the boondocks (see the last entry), when the refrigerator is empty you will need to leave the boondocks to restock it. Yes, you can carry freeze dried food, canned meat and REMs, but you are buying a RV to enjoy boondocking, not live like a mountain man!


Who Would Want to Leave Here to Get Groceries?

Laundry Storage / Clothe Storage: Few people think about where they will store their dirty laundry when purchasing a RV, but if you plan to stay out in the boondocks for weeks on end and like to change into clean clothes and dry yourself off after bathing with a clean towel on a regular basis you will find the pile of laundry grows quite rapidly. Once you run out of laundry storage or clean clothes you will need to leave the boondocks in search of a laundromat or a creek where you can beat your clothes on a rock!

Food storage: Like the refrigerator example, the amount of food you can carry in your RV will determine the length of your stay. Unless you are a hunter and gatherer type you will sooner or later deplete your food supply.

Battery Bank: Since shore power doesn’t exist in the boondocks and a currant bush doesn’t produce the right kind of current, your batteries will be supplying all of your electrical needs. The larger the bank of batteries the less often they will need to be charged. As long as you have enough battery power to survive a day in the boondocks, dead batteries are not likely to drive you from the boondocks as you can easily recharge them via a generator, solar panels or, while very inefficient, the alternator of your tow vehicle or motorhome.

Obviously, depending on your lifestyle and comfort level, there are exceptions to each item listed above, but for someone just starting out boondocking, I believe you will find them pretty accurate for level of importance.

Boondocking? – Yes or No

In my boondocking seminars and many online venues, I find many people are confused about the term “boondocking”. To assist current RVers and potential newbies understand what boondocking is and isn’t I have created the following list of descriptive statements:

You are most likely boondocking if:

– You are camped on a non-improved surface (i.e. not gravel, asphalt or concrete)

– There is not a post in front of your camp space with a number on it

– You can leave your window shades open and walk around in your underwear if you like as there are no people nearby to see in your RV



– You are camped on public land with no improved amenities nearby

– You step out of your RV at night and it’s very dark

– You go hours or days without hearing a man made sound other      than your own

– You decide how and where to park your RV in the “camp space” rather than a space defined by rocks or logs arranged by other humans

Without a Doubt - Boondocking!

Without a Doubt – Boondocking!

– If your campfire ring is made of rocks

– If a ranger asks you to break camp after 14 days

– If you engaged four wheel drive to access your camp

– You can “go” where the bears “go” if you choose to!

– Your pet can go where the bears go



– You are enjoying sunrises and sunsets unspoiled by buildings, other RVs, overhead wires or any other man made object

– You check in and checkout of your “camp space” when you feel like it

– Your dog is allowed free to roam off leash and can safely do so

– You very likely navigated to your campsite using a GPS

– There are no “Quiet Hours”

– There is no limit to the number of vehicles or people allowed in your campsite

– Your generator can be used any time of day/night


You are not boondocking if:

– You look out the window of your RV and see a WalMart sign

– If you are dry camping in a developed campground

– If there are parking stalls painted on the asphalt under your RV

Not Boondocking!

Not Boondocking!

– If you are hooked up to any utilities

– If your campfire ring is steel with a grate on top

– If there are public restrooms within walking distance

– Your pet must be on a leash

Dry Camping in a Campground is not Boondocking

Dry Camping in a Campground is not Boondocking

– If you reserved a camp space in advance

– If there are vapor lights overhead

– If you have to ask the manager of the store if it is okay to spend the night

– If you camp in a highway rest stop

– If you park on a city street

Not Boondocking

Not Boondocking

– If your campsite has a street address

– You are not permitted to run your generator after certain hours

While there can be exceptions in both categories (you may find an old concrete slab to park on in the middle of the boonies), if the majority of the descriptions fit, then you can pretty well figure out if you are boondocking or not.

The thing to remember is that all boondocking is dry camping, but not all dry camping is boondocking. So next time you hear someone tell you they were boondocking at the WalMart, kindly correct them that in reality they were dry camping at WalMart and that WalMarts don’t exist in the boondocks.

To learn more about the basics of boondocking attend my Boondocking 101 Seminar at the 2016 Seattle RV Show. Dates and times of the seminars will be listed on the show website approximately 45 days prior to the show. I hope to see you there!


Self Reliant? Have a plan!

Self reliance is part of the attraction for many who RV. The ability to go where you want, when you want and taking care of your own needs along the way. Self reliant RVers have no problem camping without hookups. Many enjoy the benefits and a bit of pride conquering the challenges that come with surviving off the grid.

However, the perfect RV has yet to be created and things can and do go awry.

Regardless if you are boondocking in a distant desert, dry camping in a remote forest service campground or spending a night in the Walmart parking lot, you need a backup plan when something in the RV fails to function.

Remote campsite? Have a plan!

Remote campsite? Have a plan!

Let’s take a look at some of the more critical areas:

– Water: What if your water pump fails? How will you extract water from your water tank? Install a faucet or petcock on your fresh water tank drain and let gravity do the work. You can use a bucket of water to flush the toilet, heat water on the stove, put water in a basin for washing, etc.

Catch water from your fresh water drain

Catch water from your fresh water drain

– Battery power: If you lose the 12 volt battery supply in most any RV you are done camping. In most cases juice from your batteries is needed to power your furnace, refrigerator circuits, water heater ignition, water pump and overhead lights. Needless to say, if you lose all of these functions you might as well be camping in a tent! However, with a backup plan in place you can continue to utilize your RV until repairs can be made. First order of business is to check any fuses or 12 volt circuit breakers between the batteries and converter. If those check okay, then check for loose terminals at the battery posts. If neither of these work, the batteries are most likely dead and you need to find an alternative 12 volt source. Here are a couple of places where you can tap 12 volts when your RV batteries fail to do so: 1) From the alternator of your motorhome or tow vehicle. If in doubt on how to get power from one to the other internally, use jumper cables from battery to battery just like jumping a car. 2) Many generators are equipped with a 12 volt outlet. Know in advance if yours has this feature and if you have the required cables to use it. 3) Many RVers travel with their off road toys (ATV, motorcycle, etc). Most operate via a 12 volt electrical system and could be used as a poor man’s generator in a pinch.

Check for loose terminals first if you loose 12 volts

Check for loose terminals first if you lose 12 volts

– Heat: If your furnace fails due to running out of propane or component failure, do you have a backup plan for heat?   A small electric heater powered by a generator or better yet, an approved indoor-use catalytic heater can get you through a chilly night when the furnace goes kaput.

If you are properly prepared and have a plan, a self reliant RVer can handle just about any system failure.



Red Rock Canyon

If you RV much across the western United States, your travels will sooner or later lake you through Las Vegas, Nevada. If you are not a fan of the LasVegas Strip, have donated more than your fair share to the casinos or just need a break from the neon (more like LEDs these days) and glitz then head out of town with the RV to Red Rock Canyon for a couple nights of peaceful camping with much to investigate during the day. It’s the best bet in the LasVegas area! Plus, there is no better time to go camping at Red Rocks than the cooler fall months.

Red Rock Pic 1

The Red Rock Canyon area is a few miles west of downtown Las Vegas and offers 197,000 acres of exploration and adventure. The area contains interesting geological formations of intense beauty, most notably in its namesake red rocks. It was the first national conservation area established in Nevada and is visited by more than one million people each year. You can enjoy the area by driving or bicycling the 13-mile scenic loop drive, hike all or part of the 30 miles of hiking trails, or bring your climbing gear and scale one of the many rock faces. There truly is something for everyone to enjoy at Red Rock, making it a sure bet for every member of the family.

Begin at the Visitor Center

The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center is the place to start to get the most out of your stay at the park. The center offers interpretive exhibits and information about recreational opportunities, geology, wildlife, vegetation, cultural history and much more.

Next, drop your RV in the campground                                         The Red Rock Canyon Campground is two miles east of the visitor center. Pick an open space from one of the 71 campsites and self-register for your space within 30 minutes of check in.

Head out on the Scenic Drive with your tow vehicle or dinghy
The scenic drive offers numerous stops for sightseeing and photography.  Hiking trails are accessible from the designated pullouts and parking areas.  The scenic drive is open daily from 6 a.m. until dusk. Parking is limited at most stops. The parking areas are only suitable for Class B and smaller Class C motorhomes, so if you are traveling in something larger, leave it in the campground and tour the park in your tow vehicle or dinghy.

Red Rock Pic 3

Get out and stretch your legs
Studies show that a high percentage of visitors to public lands never leave the vicinity of their vehicle during their visit. Beat the odds and a trip to your cardiologist by including biking, climbing or hiking as part of your visit. Red Rock’s many hiking trails are described in brochures at the visitor center or you can download a map ahead of time at

Red Rock Pic 4

Red Rock trails vary in length and terrain and offer spectacular views of the Las Vegas Valley and surrounding mountains. Climbers should check in at the visitor center for information on rules and routes.

Come away from your next Las Vegas RV trip a winner by including Red Rock Canyon on your itinerary. It is the best bet you will ever make in the state of Nevada.


Driving Directions:
From Las Vegas Boulevard head west on West Charleston Boulevard (State Route 159). An alternate route is coming in from the south via Blue Diamond Road (State Route 160).

Fees: $7 a day or $30 for an annual pass.  Does not include overnight stays in the developed campground. Various federal campground passes are honored. Click here for more information on entrance fees.

Hours: The scenic loop is open every day of the year with times changing slightly according to the season: Click here to view the current schedule.

Visitor Center: The Visitor Center is open every day from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Operating hours will vary on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Please call (702) 515-5350 for operating hours on these holidays.

Additional Camping Information:                                                   The campground roads are gravel. There are no showers, hookups or dump station. Restrooms are pit toilets. Water faucets for drinking water are located throughout the campground. Firewood is for sale by the campground hosts and is available between Sept. 1 and May 31. There is no shade. There are no formal hiking trails in the campground area, but you can hike on miles of old dirt roads that are closed to vehicles. Generators may be operated between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The campground is closed in June, July and August due to extreme heat.

Camping Fees/Limits:
There are 71 individual campsites and five group campsites. Stays are limited to 14 days. Fee is $15 per night with a limit of nine people and two vehicles per campsite.. No reservations are accepted.  For more information visit:

Moses Lake Dunes – Fun In The Sun!

Combining RVs and ORVs (Off Road Vehicles) is sure fired family fun. If you are owners of both and live in the Seattle area then be certain to plan a RV outing to the Moses Lake Sand Dunes. The dunes are only three hours from Seattle via Interstate 90, the camping is free with a Discover Pass and unlike Seattle the area receives more than 300 days of sunshine a year. As a bonus, the area borders on Moses Lake and the Potholes Reservoir for water sports.

Acres Of Sand

Acres Of Sand

Let’s take a look at what you can expect:

You will find endless places to camp without advance reservations. The area is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with possible limit restrictions on major holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Labor Day. Camp midweek and you are likely to have the whole place to yourself.

Camping On A Busy Weekend

Camping On A Busy Weekend

The riding area is approximately 3,000 acres in size consisting of sand dunes and desert scrub with the tallest dune reaching about 60 feet in height. The variety in terrain offers something for every rider in the family.

Something For All Ages Of The Family

Something For All Ages Of The Family

Complete services are available ten minutes from the dunes in the City of Moses Lake. There are ORV dealers, gas stations, restaurants, groceries and for peace of mind, a hospital.

If you tire of playing in the sand, head to either Moses Lake or Potholes Reservoir to enjoy your favorite water sport. The northwest corner of the riding area borders the south end of Moses Lake. The beach, which borders directly on the sand dunes, is sandy and inviting. Since Moses Lake is a very shallow lake, the water warms early in the season for swimming. Also, between July 1 and October 1, an additional area along the west side of the dunes opens for motorized recreation. This area adjoins the Potholes Reservoir and the outlet stream from Moses Lake, adding many more opportunities for water fun. When this area is closed to motorized recreation, a short hike will take you to the water’s edge where you can fish, swim or enjoy strolling along the many water-filled potholes that gave the reservoir its name. The bluegill are always hungry, so be sure to pack your fishing gear so you can head over to one of the two lakes to fish when you need a break from your motorized toys.

Now that you know the benefits of camping and playing in the Moses Lake Sand Dunes you need to be aware that the dunes were created by wind and are constantly being reshaped by the wind. As an RVer be sure you anchor your awning and camp chairs when you are away from camp.

There are a few other rules you need to follow to have a fun and safe experience. These are some of the prohibited activities:

  • Using, possessing or consuming alcohol
  • Burning pallets, tires or any wood with metal fasteners
  • Operating an ORV without a valid ORV permit
  • Operating an ORV without a headlight and taillight between dusk and dawn
  • Operating an ORV without an approved spark arrestor
  • Operating a motorcycle or ATV without an approved helmet
  • Carrying passengers on an ATV or motorcycle
  • Operating any ORV (except a motorcycle) without a flag that is 108 inches from the ground and is orange or red
  • Operating in the restricted habitat areas October 1st – July 1st
  • Click here for current restrictions from the Sheriff’s office.

Getting there:

The official instructions to reach the dunes are to take exit 174 off of I-90 and follow signs south. However, to save your RV from several miles of wash-boarded gravel road, take the easy way. Take exit 179 off of I-90, turn south on Hwy 17, travel south on Hwy 17 to Baseline Road, take a right on Baseline Road, proceed west on Baseline Road to Potato Hill Road and take a left on Potato Hill Road. When the pavement ends and gravel begins, you have reached the ORV area. The best camping is within the first half mile of the gravel road.

Next time you are looking for some fun in the sun, head to the Moses Lake Sand Dunes with your RV and ORVs.

Summer Camping Tips

Summer Camping 1

Summer is a great time to get out in the RV for some fun in the sun. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are experiencing record heat, however don’t let heat keep you from enjoying your RV. Following are several things you can do to keep your RV cool and your summer camping trips more pleasurable.

  1. Cook outside rather than inside whenever possible. You are camping after all, so cook over the campfire or use a portable gas grill. Many newer RVs feature an outdoor kitchen making cooking outdoors more convenient than ever.

    Outside Kitchens Are Popular For Summer Camping

    Outside Kitchens Are Popular For Summer Camping

  2. Use your patio awning and any window awnings to assist in shading the RV from the afternoon sun.

    Position Your Awning To Maximize Afternoon Shade

    Position Your Awning To Maximize Afternoon Shade

  3. Strategically park your RV to take advantage of any available shade. When possible keep your refrigerator vents shaded too. When checking in to a campground ask for a shady site. If you miss out on a shady site, a couple tarps will provide instant cover when the midday heat kicks in.

    Utilize Shade Trees

    Utilize Shade Trees

  4. Cover your skylights. You would be surprised how much heat enters through the skylights especially ones that are un-tinted. A ground tarp is typically heavy enough to stay put over your skylight when the wind blows or use a piece of cardboard weighted down with one of your RV leveling blocks
  5. If keeping your RV cool means operating the air conditioner, make sure it is operating at peak efficiency by keeping the filters clean. In most cases you can wash the filters in warm soapy water, give them a quick rinse and reinstall them after a short drying period.
  6. When operating your air conditioner keep windows covered and doors closed. Close your blinds and curtains during the day to keep the sunshine out of your RV. Open the entry door as seldom as possible – make sure you have everything you need before opening your door and exiting your RV to avoid multiple trips in and out.
  7. To assist with drafting hot air away from the back of your refrigerator allowing it to operate more efficiently (by up to 40%), install a thermostatically controlled vent fan behind your refrigerator or at the top of the refrigerator roof vent.
  8. Those of us that live in the Pacific Northwest and other mountainous states, also have the option of camping at higher elevations to beat the heat. For every 1,000 feet of elevation you gain driving into the mountains, the temperature will decrease by approximately 3.5 degrees.

    Camp In The Mountains

    Camp In The Mountains

Utilize these tips on your next RV trip and enjoy a great summer campout regardless of the heat.

RV Driving Tips For Beginners

The freedom to go where you want, when you want is one of the many advantages of owning a RV. However, before you “captain” your first RV trip by getting behind the wheel, you should learn a few tips to help master driving your new home on wheels. While piloting a RV down the highways and byways of America is a far cry from threading a cruise ship through a canal, it is definitely more involved than driving the family sedan to the corner grocery store.


According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are five key tips to piloting an RV safely:

Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be a great way to travel across the country. However, to be safe you need to know about safe operation and maintenance. RVs are very different from cars and because of their size; they handle more like a large truck. This also means RVs have some real limitations. In order to keep your friends and family safe on your next trip, make sure to read these tips below and enjoy the view.

RVs are large and have many blind spots. Learning to use your mirrors and signals properly can help prevent serious accidents. Your mirrors are very important, but they do not allow you to see everything on the road, so always be aware. In addition, trucks have even larger blind spots, and may not see you so be ready to respond defensively to dangerous situations.

RVs are similar to trucks in that they are heavier than cars and require a longer stopping distance. Pay attention to traffic and to other vehicle’s brake lights. Always keep enough room between your RV and the vehicle in front of you. This will help prevent accidents in case of an emergency braking situation. Driving at a safe speed will also ensure your safety in the event of any sudden stops.

Maintaining proper tire pressure, inspecting tires regularly, avoiding excess loading and driving at a safe speed can help prevent tire problems. Before each trip, make sure you check to see if your tires are properly inflated. Maintaining the correct air pressure and tread depth will ensure their longevity and your safety.

Check You Tire Pressure Before Every Trip

Check You Tire Pressure Before Every Trip

Weight distribution is very important in maintaining the proper center of gravity in a RV. Be sure to secure all heavy items. They can shift during travel and may affect handling, ride quality and braking. Distributing the weight closer to the ground and equal on both sides keeps the center of gravity low and will provide better handling of your RV.

Always wear your seat belt. Make sure all passengers in your RV wear seat belts whenever the vehicle is in motion. In case of an accident or sudden stop, passengers who are not buckled in may be thrown around and seriously injured.

Always Wear Your Seat Belt

Always Wear Your Seat Belt

In addition to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s suggested list of do’s and dont’s when piloting your land yacht, here are a few extra tips that will assure smooth sailing while navigating America’s highways and byways.

In a sedan or SUV you typically don’t have to worry about posted low clearances on bridges, tunnels and buildings. However, when driving your RV, it’s essential to know your rig’s exact height and always be on the lookout for low clearance signs along with other things like low-hanging branches.

Know Your Height!

Know Your Height!

This applies to finding parking and campsites, but most importantly when changing lanes or merging on freeways to avoid side swiping another vehicle.

GET TO KNOW YOUR RV’S HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS                                                       Overcorrecting in a regular motor vehicle typically won’t end badly, but if you do the same while driving your RV you could end up in the ditch, colliding with other vehicles or worse. Learn the handling characteristics of your RV and learn to compensate accordingly.

Know How Your RV Handles And Avoid The Ditch!

Know How Your RV Handles And Avoid The Ditch!

PRACTICE PARKING BEFORE YOUR FIRST VOYAGE                                                                                              One of the few disadvantages about driving a RV is finding adequate parking space when stopping for groceries, roadside attractions, meals, etc. The best way to learn how to park your RV is to practice in an empty parking lot prior to leaving on your first camping trip. Taking the extra time to practice will provide you the confidence to safely and comfortably negotiate a tight parking space when needed.

KNOW HOW TO BACK UP YOUR RV                                         As in the above example, take your RV to an empty parking lot and practice backing into a defined space. Use the parking stall lines to define the space you will back into and/or take some small bright colored cones to represent an obstacle. Backing over a line or cone is much less embarrassing and costly than backing into a tree at the campground with an audience!

Practice Backing Around Cones

Practice Backing Around Cones

Regardless if your choice of RV is a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel or truck camper, utilizing these tips to sail the highways and byways of this country will feel like a day at the beach. Bon voyage!


Dungeness Spit

Those of us that live in Puget Sound enjoy a cornucopia of different climatic regions in which to enjoy the RV lifestyle. Arid and sunny Eastern Wash, the misty and refreshing ocean beaches, the majestic Cascades and Puget Sound itself. There is one other unique region of the state that is often overlooked, but offers active RVers plenty to enjoy; It is the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its many bays, tide pools and spits to explore.

Dungeness Spit is one such place on the strait.

Dungeness Spit Shipwreck

Dungeness Spit Shipwreck

Dungeness Spit northwest of Sequim is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. It is also in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains receiving only about 18 inches of rain a year making it a great RV destination when rain is expected elsewhere in Western Washington.

When planning your visit be aware there are two parts to the area: The Dungeness Recreation Area, which is managed by Clallam County and the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dungeness Recreation Area  

Start by obtaining an RV site in the Dungeness Recreation Area campground operated by Clallam County Parks. You can reserve a space online (LINK) or claim one of the first come, first served sites in the park. Reservations are recommended on holiday weekends. Most of the sites are well-graded, graveled locations that can accommodate the longest of RVs. The sites don’t have hookups, so arrive with your freshwater tank full, holding tanks empty and battery charged. In the park you can hike and picnic along the bluffs on the north side, watch ships navigate the shipping lanes in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and on clear days you will have a view of Mt. Baker and Victoria, British Columbia.

The park offers miles of hiking trails, horse trails, reservable picnic shelters, group camping and a 100-acre upland bird-hunting area. If you include geocaching  as part of your RVing adventures, there are several caches to search for in the park. Plan on enjoying the trails via foot, bicycle or horse. Keep an eye out when on the trails as deer abound in the fields throughout the park and an observant person is sure to spot one or two.

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge  
The 631-acre wildlife refuge includes Dungeness Spit, Graveyard Spit, portions of Dungeness Bay and Dungeness Harbor. Dungeness Spit is five and a half miles long and extremely narrow. The narrowest portion measures only 50 feet wide. On occasion, during stormy high tides, breaches occur. At the far end of the spit is the Dungeness Lighthouse which is a destination for many who visit the refuge.

Most of the wildlife refuge is on the two sand spits, which are characterized by sand and rock cobble beaches surrounded by gooey mudflats and eelgrass beds. If you like to shellfish, limited portions of the Dungeness Spit are open to shellfishing. There are also two tidal ponds, a large one at the junction of the two spits and a lesser one about a half-mile east of Graveyard Spit on the bay side of Dungeness Spit. Graveyard Spit is closed to the public and set aside as a Research Natural Area because of its unique vegetation. On your walk you will know you are getting close by the sound of the hundreds of birds that inhabit the area.

In addition to more than 250 bird species, the Dungeness wildlife refuge provides habitat for other animals too. Over 40 species of land mammals and eight species of marine mammals have been recorded in the refuge. Some of the species are endangered or threatened and the refuge is an essential stop for many birds during migration.

Plan on spending the better part of a day exploring the Dungeness Spit and lighthouse. The trailhead is an easy walk from the campground. You will need to pay an entrance fee of $3 for your family or group of up to four adults.

From the trailhead, the trail meanders through the woods toward the bluffs. When you get to the bluffs, this is where things come into perspective. From an observation area on the bluffs, the spit lies before you, with the lighthouse resembling just a bump on the horizon. Take a moment to absorb what lies in front of you, because you will soon be entering another world.

The trail now starts down toward the spit passing informational displays and benches along the way. Shortly you will step off the trail and onto the spit. If you get an early start from the campground you will very likely find deer walking on or near the base of the spit. If you start late, you will likely find many people already on the spit, but as you head for the lighthouse the crowds will quickly thin out. Soon it will just be you, the sand and the endless driftwood. For the first few miles the scenery seems to be unchanging. Toward the three-mile mark the spit begins to turn south and the bluffs vanish behind you.

Keep going, you’re over half way there! Out here is where you will find the wildlife. Watch for birds, especially eagles, to the south and seals on the north. Also, the lighthouse is now distinguishable at the end of the spit calling you to finish your journey.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

The lighthouse, 4.5 miles from the bluffs and just over five miles from the campground, is a treat in itself. The lighthouse has been continuously staffed since 1994 by volunteers from the New Dungeness Light Station Association. The organization’s members serve one-week tours of duty at their own expense. You can find information about membership at An advantage of volunteering is that you and your week’s worth of supplies are driven to the lighthouse in a stout four-wheel-drive rig.

While at the lighthouse, be sure and climb the 74 steps to the top. From there you will have a bird’s-eye view of the distance you just walked. The lighthouse grounds are well kept, feature picnic tables for the lunch you packed and thankfully a restroom with nearby tap water to refill your water bottles for the return trip.

Next time you are planning a RV trip, remember to consider Dungeness Spit as an alternative to Eastern Washington, the ocean beaches or the mountains. It is closer than you think and unique from those other Washington destinations.

Common Towing Mistakes

Summer is here and the 4th of July is just a few days away which equates to scads of RVers taking to the roads with their home on wheels behind them. If you plan to take to the highways and byways with them, be sure to avoid these common towing mistakes, you will enjoy your RV vacation much more and so will the people driving behind you.

1. Not knowing your tow ratings

Your tow vehicle (the vehicle towing the trailer) can only carry and haul so much weight. Overloading your tow vehicle, trailer, or both can cause all sorts of problems like brake failure, broken suspensions, overheated transmissions, or blown-out tires. None of these things make for happy campers and some can be very dangerous to you and others.

Learn your vehicle’s tow ratings before you attempt to tow anything and make sure your hitch system matches your vehicle’s towing specification. The following figures need to be checked and adhered to. Your tow vehicle’s specifications are generally listed in your owner’s manual and on the door sill of your driver’s door. Your trailer’s unloaded weight (along with its weight ratings) can be found on its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate located on the roadside front corner.

Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR): the weight limit for your vehicle (including the vehicle itself plus passengers, cargo and accessories).

Gross combination weight rating (GCWR): the maximum weight of the tow vehicle plus the loaded trailer, equipment, passengers, fuel and anything else you plan to haul or carry.

Gross axle weight rating (GAWR): the amount of weight a single axle can safely bear. It’s important to know this value for both your tow vehicle and your trailer.

Towing Mistakes 2

GVWR Sticker on Trailers

Towing capacity: the amount of weight your vehicle can pull which includes the trailer, batteries, propane, water and all of your gear.

Tongue weight: the amount of the trailer’s weight that is carried by the trailer hitch. Ideally, this should be 10 to 15 percent of the total trailer weight. Too much tongue weight will make your vehicle’s steering less responsive. Too little and the trailer might sway. Tongue weight can be measured using a bathroom scale via the method described here.

If you’re having trouble estimating the combined weight of your trailer plus cargo, take the loaded trailer to a vehicle scale at a nearby weigh station or truck stop.

2. Not checking the local regulations

A ticket is nobody’s idea of a memorable vacation souvenir, so remember that towing laws and restrictions vary from state to state. While the majority of states require taillights and safety chains on your trailer, many states also require trailer brakes on trailers over a specified weight.

States also differ on their maximum towing speeds, the maximum trailer width, maximum trailer length and the number of vehicles you’re allowed to tow. So be sure to know the laws, not just for your home state, but for any state you might pass through.

3. Forgetting the brakes

The added weight of the trailer gives your vehicle extra momentum, which means it takes longer to reduce your speed and stop. For this reason, many states require trailers over a certain weight (typically around 2,000 lbs) to be equipped with a separate braking system. Trailer brakes not only improve control, but also will stop the trailer if it gets separated from the tow vehicle via a breakaway device. The two most common types of trailer brakes are electric (which are attached to a controller in the tow vehicle) and surge (independent hydraulic brakes that are activated by momentum).

Towing Mistakes 1

Brake Control Mounted in Tow Vehicle

4. Loading your gear improperly

If your trailer is load improperly, it will be difficult to control. Make sure cargo is distributed evenly, with about 60 percent of the total weight forward of the axles (but not too far forward). Secure heavy items to prevent them from shifting and keep the overall center of gravity low. If you experience sway after loading your trailer, try moving some heavy items from the back of the trailer to the front.

Towing Mistakes

Evenly Load and Secure Cargo

5. Forgetting you’re towing a trailer

No matter how strong or agile your tow vehicle is, it will be less responsive once it has a trailer hooked behind it. Since you won’t be able to accelerate, turn, or brake as fast, you’ll want to look further up the road and give yourself extra time and space to change lanes or slow down. It’s also a good idea to do some short practice drives before heading out on your big trip.

6. Not checking tire pressure

If you haven’t taken your trailer out for a while, there’s a good chance the tires need inflating. Driving a fully loaded trailer with underinflated tires is very dangerous as underinflated tires produce more friction, which can lead to hot tires and blowouts. Be sure to check the tire pressure on both your tow vehicle and your trailer before you go. Don’t forget to check the spares too!
Towing Mistakes 3

After taking these simple steps you can safely and confidently load up the family and hit the road to your favorite campsite with your trailer this summer. Enjoy!

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