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WHAT IS INVOLVED TO BE A FULLTIMER - Part Two?

 

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      With so much info about this fantastic fulltime lifestyle we decided to present this story in two parts. Although it is written about the Fulltiming lifestyle, many of the tips and hints apply to part timers too plus all facets of RV Travel.  This portion includes a variety of tips designed for all RVers enjoying extended time away from a convenient home base.

 

REMEMBER PETS ARE FULLTIMERS TOO.

 

       Most parks insist pets are always tied on a 6-foot leash and that they are never left alone outside. On a safety point their leash should be non-metal. RVers expect a park to provide efficient power connections but occasionally you may plug into an improperly wired connection. If the connection has an open ground and the dog is attached to the RV with a metal leash, the dog could complete the circuit. Your pet may not continue with you in your travels.  I heard about this possible electrical problem several years ago at a seminar addressing RV park hydro. That seminarist buried his prized dog shortly before his presentation – his dog’s demise was totally due to the parks improper wiring error and the dog’s metal chain...

     On another front, most RV trips take place during the summer. Super warm days are the norm. As a result we found a unique way to keep our dog(s) cool.  As we move from park to park I don’t completely trust hydro will be totally reliable – especially when the campground is full and everyone has their A/C on. Experience over time has taught us to plan on the cautious side of things.  On the days we must leave our baby behind, she stays in her cage and we direct two to three 9” portable fans towards her plus we turn on two  overhead Fantastic Vents (power fans – fantasticvent.com) to bring outside air into the coach.  These accessories operate off battery power. Since our coach is equipped with an inverter we’re comfortable our fans will continue operating even if the park hydro does not. Power outage doesn’t happen often but occasionally it can. On a hot day our baby would suffocate in a closed up unit if she had no fans directed on her when or if the A/C went out.

      RVers travelling with outside cats who like to roam soon discover that they too must be being secured.  Another option some cat owners use is they add a Kat Kabana (www.katkabana.com).  This is a unique special cage that attaches to RV windows.  Independent cats can move from out to in on a whim plus the enclosure is high off the ground so the kitty is away from wild animals.  Reference to a cat’s potty situation, many RVers simply install a litter box access in the bed frame or a bottom drawer – it not only adds convenience, it’s functional and out of the way.  

     During our travels 1-3 dogs have been part of our family – in 26 years we have yet to run into any hassles. Occasionally a park charged a refundable pet fee that was returned at check-out if our site was clean upon departure – only once have we paid a small fee for having more than 2-dogs.  On the other hand at one seasonal park in Texas that had a one pet policy – our winter stay with 2-pets was approved after we talked with the manager. Many parks even provide a unique off leash “Pet Park”.  When we come across a state park or a selective private park with a no-pet policy, we simply do not go there – thankfully these parks are few in number. Most restrictions are generally spelled out in detail on-line or in Campground Directories.  In a word, because we’re Fulltimers, our pets are too – they must travel with us!  

 

     Occasionally large breeds or those with a reputation of being attack dogs may not be allowed.  In that case I’d suggest you call the park to ask about their policy. Whenever crossing the border; you’ll need an updated Rabies shot (Cdn shots are good for 3-years if the record is dated – otherwise the pet is only protected for one year). Some agents may ask for a current Vet health exam (or proof of last Vet visit) – this is not a common request but it does happen once in a while. Ensure all pet Rx are clearly marked. Ask your Vet about flea/tick control plus heart worm treatment.  We travel with flea control from Ontario but at times we have visited a local Vet for advice on how to treat fleas and ticks in a specific area. Late in the evening several years ago, our old dog fell into a Fire Ant nest– they bite and she was crying in agony.  So I gave her a warm shower followed by a generous layer of Cocoa Butter cream.  That night she slept like a baby.  Although Vet care is usually close at hand, at times we pet owners must be creative in our treatment. Ask Park office for contact to local Vet if required. I now cook for our four legged kid - this eliminates extensively searching for a specific type of dog food. Note:  if you’re planning to transport pet food across the border, keep it in the original bag.  Depending on the latest disease outbreak, periodically some pet foods may be confiscated. Ask your Vet to suggest an alternate brand just in case the brand you’re using in Canada is unavailable in the USA.  

 

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     One safety tip from a recent Pet Travel seminar at an RV rally is to add your “Phone Number” plus the words “I’m Lost” to pet collars – either sewn or painted. Of course many pet owners also insert identity chips to protect their pets – especially if your baby is active and may run away. On the rare occasion we must leave our dog(s) in a boarding kennel, we shop for a comfortable pet resort style facility - preferably not in a pet hospital with sick pets.  Of course we check the kennel out in detail for appearance, cleanliness and staff expertise before agreeing to board them.  Although travelling with pets is not for everyone, many of us feel they do add to the wonders of fulltime adventures.  It’s nice to know that since we began travelling in the mid 80’s, problems we have encountered have been minimal.

 

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

 

      Every RVer who leaves Canada on a trip should alert company(ies) of the credit cards you plan to use that you will be out of country.  RVers who don’t do this may find their card will show up ‘declined’ when you least expect it. Thankfully a simple call will release it.  But you may not be aware of this situation till you go to pay for gas/fuel etc.  The banks think your card has possibly been stolen so they block it as a precaution. This doesn’t happen every year but enough that it can be embarrassing.

      John and I no longer carry a winter supply of cash or travellers cheques with us either. ATM Fees can add up fast so instead we take cash-back using our Debit cards at stores such as Wal*Mart etc – the same as we do at home. This provides us access to sufficient cash for day to day purchases – amount allowed is generally $100. from a chequing account (savings is not an option on USA store payment machines).  Most bank cards work this way – although a few may charge a transaction fee.  We have used BofM for the past 8-years – no fee and no hassle. Thanks to on-line banking and/or telephone banking it is easy to move cash between accounts. Bank staff may not even be aware that their particular cards work in USA stores – best source of info is to ask other Snowbirds. When you go through the checkout for the first time, ask if you can do a ‘test’. Most cards will work in the majority of USA grocery/department type stores.

     A number of Canadian banks now offer US$ credit cards which are valuable for shopping in the USA but these cards do not have a US Zip code.  If you establish a USA mail forwarding address from one of the main RV Clubs it is easy to apply for a USA Credit card such as Discover. Only drawback is while you are in Canada drom BMO I must make payments by mail or courier service because ‘routing numbers’ on their US$ cheques have a different amount of numbers than US checks, so paying by phone or on-line is not possible. Some Cdn banks do partner with branches in the USA,  

      RVers reap many valuable benefits by obtaining various RV club Cards – some are free, others come with club membership. In Canada your Explorer RV Card offers a variety of discounts but if you show it at USA campgrounds that offer 10% discount to certain clubs, frequently these parks will also give you the reduced rate because you belong to Canada’s National RV Club. Encourage the park to sign up as a member park by calling the club office.  Their listing would be free if they offer 10% to club members. 10% is not a huge savings but it offsets the taxes we pay.  American RV Clubs such as FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) or Good Sam or Escapees offer a similar network of parks where members reap the 10% discounts. Plus all these RV Clubs offer superior RV related Emergency Road Service with unlimited mileage, unlimited calls and two tow trucks if required. Inexpensive fulltime insurance offered by Wayfarer Insurance is a Home Owners style policy. I don’t know about you but knowing we travellers are protected for the style of coverage we enjoyed in our previous homes gives us mega peace of mind.

      In part one of this story I discussed the pluses that Flying J provides.  But carrying a truck chain cards such as the Flying J’s ‘Frequent Fueler Advantage card’ or one from Truckstops of America (TA) or  Irving’s in the east plus more trucking chains offer additional advantages.  Flying J not only provides safe free overnight parking away from trucks; a superior restaurant (many stops that is now Denny’s); parts/convenient store – card holders also reap the benefit of discounts on gas; fuel and propane and ½ price dumping. Their RV lanes include dump stations along with fresh water to fill tanks. WiFi is usually available for a fee from Fly J and many times it is free at Denny’s.

      Whenever RVers spend the night in a free camping spot such as Wal*Mart or truck stops etc. it is wise to keep the tow vehicle Key Fob and your cell phone beside your bed. In the event of any strange noises around your unit simply hit the horn button to sound an alarm and call 911 if required.  FYI this next International call for help works better in a motorhome or tow vehicle – it consists of 3 beeps of the horn followed by a pause. Turn all lights on. Repeat this procedure over and over until someone comes.  Since an RV that is parked in a parking lot is available to anyone moving around the units – before departure check the security of all tow connections.  This practise ensures no one was fiddling with things while you were sleeping.  FYI it is not safe to overnight at highway rest areas especially if you are the only unit parked there.  Generally they are not a secure overnight parking spot. Although most rest areas on major highways such as Canada’s Trans Canada or Oasis stopping spots on toll roads or major truck stops are safe options.  Because some trucks keep their compressors running – to ensure they have a good sleep, a few RVers wear earplugs to bed.

      Another security tip is to make up a small “In Case of Emergency Notifications” form.  We carry blank forms in my wallet  with our name. RV Park and dates we are in that park plus a phone number to call in an emergency. When we change destinations I fill in the blanks and store it with our drivers license. This way if one member is away from the RV and has an accident at least rescue people have some idea where the RV, travel partner, pets etc. are parked.  These small forms should include your names, RV parking spot, location (but not site number), dates you will be there, emergency contact name, phone number and pet names.  It is a good idea to list Rx meds on the back of form.

     For long range planning purposes, all Fulltimers should have a rough plan  of where to roost if a family situation or health problems prevents them from heading south in the winter.  Yes it is possible to winter in an RV but it is not always the most comfortable lifestyle.  We spent one entire winter in our motorhome and part of two additional winters when my first book was published.  Promoting it at Canadian RV Shows made a lot of sense but not every day in an RV over the winter was a fantastic experience.  However it did give me great material for story telling (see winter story).  When John picked up a super-bug at a Florida hospital a few years ago – we had to come home for a month while he cooperated.  Since we have no actual home or kids to stay with near our doctor, we negotiated a monthly rate of $1000. to rent a pet friendly ground floor bed sitting room in a hotel with a mini kitchen.  It was not our most exciting place to spend Christmas, but it was an option to bringing our coach home.  Especially since there were no campgrounds open in the winter near our doctor.  Remaining a bit flexible during your travels adds to the wonders of this lifestyle.  

 

     Carrying grocery store loyalty cards from large chain stores also saves mega cash. This is just one more way to extend travel dollars. Using coupons from local papers, periodicals and the Internet or email also helps to save on your weekly grocery store supplies.

 

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       Exercise is a favourite activity for RVers. Many RVers carry bikes either on the back of their RV or their motorhome toads or in the trucks of towables. Bike Racks are easy to install. At the majority of snowbird parks ‘bike club members’ join together bi-weekly for extensive interesting excursions that frequently include lunch or breakfast outings.  Parks are generally large enough that biking within the park is also a good source of exercise.  Plus most locations include swimming pools, water aerobics and games such as water volleyball etc. Of course visiting natural wonders to enjoy a long hike or a walk on a beach will enhance your getaway. Dance classes and morning workout programs add to the mix. When the sun is shining and temps are warm it is easier to get outside and ‘play’, snowbird parks generally include a very busy active activity schedule inside and out to ensure no one need be bored.

      Fulltimers stop in a wide variety of campgrounds as they explore North America.  It comes in handy to know how to check for power problems before hooking up. Every RVer should test the power readings on the pedestal of every new campground with a ‘Ground Monitor’. These are compact small 3 prong testers in either a triangle or rectangle shape. Lights indicate ‘OK’ or ‘Open Ground’ or ‘Reverse Polarity’.  Another necessity is a Volt-A-Check indicator (volt meter) that plugs into a socket within easy view inside your unit. These are available in basic analogue or more advanced digital models – of course digital are higher cost but they may be more valuable. They will advise how much power you are using when an appliance is operating. Voltage should not drop lower than 103 or higher than 130 volts.  These are especially valuable when you are in a full park on a hot day when everyone has A/C turned on – because power in those situations may be limited.  Ground monitors are available from hardware stores and/or RV supply store – Volt-A-Check device are more commonly found in RV supply stores.

       How to control water pressure is another ongoing problem.  RVers getting away for an occasional trip can fill their tanks and use water from home that they trust but Fulltimers must rely on source at each RV Park. Fresh drinking water is a concern for those of us who move from place to place.  However due the large selection of filters available it is not really a huge problem.  Many RVers attach one or two filters at their unit end of the water hose so all water coming in is fresh and tasty.  Our motorhome is equipped with an under-the-sink filter that ensures our drinking water is always good. Those who prefer to drink from their fresh water holding tank can add a cap or two of  good tasting fresh water additives available from RV stores. Bleach will work to sanitize but may leave an offensive taste to their water.

 

      Frequently water pressure is either very high or erratically ranges from low to high. Simply by adding a water regulator at the ‘tap’ end of the hose, your water pressure stays at a constant 45 PSI’s.  Some water regulators include a gauge but they are not required reference to function.  Stores such as Wal*mart sell these regulators.  High water pressure can do big damage to RV plumbing - it’s wise to use a regulator.

      Dealing with RV Fridges is one more concern.  Unless your RV is equipped with one of the new super large refrigerators finding enough room to stow food may be limited.  We find it easier to shop for smaller orders twice a week. Part time RVers can pack prepared and frozen meals to accommodate while they are away however Fulltimers must buy fresh and cook as needed.  If your fridge is a 3-way mode, temps will stay constant while you are driving when set on battery mode. But if it is only a 2-way mode, do not despair. Temps will stay constant for up to 8 hours if it is turned off. John and I turn our propane off during travels for safety which means our fridge is also turned off during each driving day. If it is hot the day before we drive, we simply turn it up one more degree. Just for info we’ve never lost any fridge contents either.

       While stationary bringing out the BBQ helps with space and meal preparation but if you are on the move a lot that may not work.  We carry and routinely use a fairly large electric frying pan plus a crock pot. If there is no place to easily stow these appliances under the main cupboard, consider moving them to an outside storage pod.  Fulltimers can still entertain and prepare gourmet meals but generally in the majority of RV’s there is only room for one person in the kitchen at a time.  We switch meal prep duties in our rolling home.  I prepare for entertaining times and John looks after day to day dinners – he also washes dishes each day too.  Breakfast and lunch we each look after our own meals.  This system works for us but your lives may have different concerns. Experiment with various scenarios and before long yours too will work out.  When we have more than two guests, we serve meals either outside or by buffet style eating on our laps. Our coach has no slide but it has a spacious configuration, however it only sleeps 2 and feeds 8 for a short visit.

       Adding an inverter to your unit is a big comfort plus in all RV’s, but in a motorhome it means we have electric power driving down the road.  On hot days we turn several 9” portable fans on and direct them at us and our dog Bratt. This point would not be such a must in a towable vehicle but if you plan to overnight in a spot without hook-ups having access to electric power is a plus. No, you cannot run the A/C or the Micro off an inverter, but you can operate fans, small appliances, TV etc. without the need for a generator or solar panels.  Most of us could survive for a day before our batteries would need charging.

      Carrying extra hoses and electric cords plus adapters to cover any connection situation adds another plus.  Not all parks offer convenient hook-ups and if you do any boondocking an extra water hose may make it possible to fill your tanks without moving.  Even if there is a hose near a general park tap, you have no idea as to what it was last used for.  You don’t want to fill your fresh water tank if someone used it to rinse their tanks.

      Joining RV Chapters and attending large International Rallies are most beneficial to learn the ins and outs of Fulltiming.  The more contact you have with other RVers, the more info you will glean from your visits.  Large periodic regional and annual gatherings include a variety of educational seminars that help educate all RVers. Explorer RV Club is Canada’s only country wide association, but clubs such as FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) and Good Sam plus Escapees are the largest such organizations headquartered in the USA – these three also have numerous chapters based in Canada. Joining clubs, reading their magazines and attending rallies is without a doubt the best source of information to understand the principals of this fantastic lifestyle. Of course info on the Internet is also very informative.

      Internet Contact Options change almost by the day.  Mega choices from Internet sticks (if you can put your service on winter vacation), to Hughes-net satellite systems, to tethered cell phones plus so much more are available. The most comprehensive website available for all things concerning networks issues is GeeksOnTour.com  Jim and Chris are experts reference every technical issue. Since upgrades change so frequently it’s too difficult to keep on top of things.  These two Geeks offer the latest in technology. You can join their Computer Education program at $39. Annual Membership, but the site also includes abundant Free content.

 

       Canada offers two main forms of Satellite TV that RVers can use if they want Canadian programming – either Express Vu or Shaw (Star Choice) dishes.  Shaw is the best for RVers because they provide tech support as far south as Belize.  Reception is good in all places if you have a clear view to the satellite.  Roof mount systems are available from some install locations, but that version is costly. Most of us use the easy to set up tri-pod system. Express Vu will NOT knowingly provide service in the USA – customers will be cut off if Express Vu is aware the Dish is being used south of the border.  In the extreme south USA, Express Vu customers will also loose between 20-30 channels. As we moved north, the channels returned.  It has something to do with the footprint of the dish so that it will provide programming to northern Alberta. There is a convenient roof mount dish available in either manual or automatic style for the Express Vu Dish.

IN CLOSING

      Our family and friends who don’t enjoy the RV lifestyle continuously ask if we get bored. Bored?  Not likely – it is usually difficult trying to fit busy schedules into a 24‑hour day.  We spend most of our time moving around and exploring new and exciting destinations.  Main winter hot spots include – Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and Mexico plus many spots in between.  Climate is especially pleasant during fringe seasons of October to November and March to April plus tourist traffic is light. Spring and fall we explore points en route to our extended destination. Sights in the vast and beautiful country of Canada beckon each summer. 

       Now that the US$ is close to par, Canadians receive a benefit of campgrounds and major attractions at reasonable rates. Although the busy full functioned snowbird parks are our usual choice of a winter getaway but, several years, we and many of our RV friends changed destinations every one or two weeks. Some evenings, groups joined together for impromptu music fests or a tail gate pizza party. As well, park’s plan activities such as dances, potlucks and special dinners that extended our social times. Although an extensive array of park activities keep snowbirds happy, each resort differs from the next. Generally it's absolutely impossible to participate in everything.

      There are so many things RVers like to do in retirement, but just plain socializing with others and not being confined to a schedule is the most important benefit of RV living. And, it's certainly not boring.

       RVers moving from park to park can enjoy long forgotten hobbies or take the time to learn a special craft. Each area they visit caters to different interests so, whatever your wants, there will be something perfect for you. The most common complaint we hear from full and part-time retirees is, "I don't know how I ever found the time to work eight hours every day." Life is so full when everything you do is enjoyable.

      Keeping busy doing what you wish to do is why RVing seniors remain so young. There are people in their 80s still roaming and calling all of North America their home. However, by that time, many RVers trade their home‑on‑wheels for Retirement Phase 2 in a home on some kind of a foundation, but they still continue to enjoy life at local festivities without travelling to new horizons.

      In previous articles I covered budgeting, border crossings, RV travel to the US, mail forwarding, becoming a staycationer, calling home especially with my Verizon cell phone, packing tips, medical requirements and residency.  Many of  these columns that add to the overall Fulltime lifestyle experience are highlighted on my Articles Page and on my Advice and How To Pages. Whether you get away for the full year, the winter or for a few months please travel safe. Remember, occasionally we all go through less than perfect times, but overall the good days well overpower any negative ones.  Have a safe trip wherever it takes you.

 

 

 

GENERAL SITE CONTENTS:  

RV WebLinks  Updated May 2014: Meet Your Hosts;   Getting Started;  Articles;   Destinations-(Canada, Mexico, USA);     

Many Recent Updates - Advice and How To;  Book Nook; 

(As of Oct 10) RV Shows;   Travel to Canada:  Travel to USA; (Oct 10);  

  Q&A;   Contact UsSite ContentsGallery Picasa Web Albums

 

 

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