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Our First “Snowbird” Adventure
Part 2: RV Pre-Trip Lessons Learned

Here are some areas to look at when performing an RV pre-trip

Our First “Snowbird” Adventure Part 2: RV Pre-Trip Lessons Learned

By Micheal Whelan

If you are an old hand at the RV game and an active “weekender” you already own and use the RV that is right for you. If you new to the society of RV enthusiasts or have been away from it for a few years as we were here are a few items that may be of help.

RV familiarization. Know your RV. Make a few shake down cruises and over-nighters before you begin the long haul. You should:

  • Be comfortable in driving, parking, turning and backing your rig. We came across many “newbies” that had little familiarity with the handling and parking characteristics of their RV. The results were often a bit embarrassing and a couple of times damaging. One couple blocked the camp road for a half hour trying to back into a nearly straight in parking location.
  • Know and maintain your RV’s systems. The RV is the ultimate combination of your house and your car. While sharing many similarities they are more complicated and do operate differently. Pay close attention to gas appliances (heating, cooking, refrigeration and hot water heater). Poor maintenance at the minimum can cause a furnace to fail when you need it most. The extreme of poor maintenance can be fatal. 
  • Know how cold your RV is designed to operate in. There is nothing worse than frozen lines due to an unexpected night time freeze. 
  • Maintain your batteries, both coach and chassis (they are two different systems). If you have a questionable battery replace it before you leave. As I mentioned earlier all of ours were new yet one of the “new” coach batteries developed a bad cell a month into our trip. Fortunately the local NAPA store was close by. They back their products and it was replaced with no questions. We only suffered from the lack of house lights for a couple of hours one morning.

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Mike and Diane Celebrating Valentines Day in CampMike and Diane Celebrating Valentines Day in Camp
  • Tires. Again I say tires. These are more important than engine, transmission or any of the other coach systems. Make sure they are in good condition (no weather checking and good tread), are properly and equally (left to right) inflated and properly aligned. If there is one item in the drive train that can make a good trip go bad it is a blow out in heavy traffic at highway speed. Tires, check them, maintain them and pay close attention to their condition. We choose to put a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) on the coach. The $350 spent more than protected us from two valve stem failures and one puncture over the last twelve months. 
  • Know the weather. The route we chose was based on the long range weather forecasts. Our Plan A was to follow the windshield south to Mississippi and hang a right toward Texas. The long range forecast told me this was not the best idea. Our Plan B took us due south then veer left for a warm and somewhat calmer southeast trip. Even then our mobile emergency weather radio (if you don’t have one get one) alerted us in time to allow us to attend not one but two tornado parties at the campground storm shelter. This advanced alert even allowed us to bring our morning cup of coffee with us to savor as the storm passed over.
  • Don’t over pack. Pack what you need. Include a few items that you think you need but don’t go insane. Those extra items represent weight. Weight is not a friend of the often overloaded RV. Weight affects fuel economy, handling and tire wear. Pack for a balanced load and do not overload. If you feel you can not do without your set of master mechanic tools then plan on traveling with no water to compensate for the additional weight of those precious tools. Have your coach weighed once loaded to make sure the chassis, tires and brakes can handle the load.
  • While on the subject, unnecessary weight affects fuel economy and the coaches ability to stop. We choose to travel with a partial tank of fresh water (water is 8 pounds per gallon) and empty black and grey water tanks. Some travel with less than full fuel tanks to save weight. For us, we prefer to have the ability to go the distance so we run with full fuel.
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From Our Travels: Great Blue HeronFrom Our Travels: Great Blue Heron
  • Pack heavy items (your master mechanic tool box) over the axles of the RV. Make sure to pack an equal weight over the axle on the opposite side. A well balanced RV is a happy RV.

About The Author

Mike and Diane WhelanMike and Diane Whelan

Micheal “Mike” Whelan is a retired wild land firefighter. He and his wife Diane recently retired with one goal of traveling and learning the true history of North America. By the true history he means the culture, the people, who their people were and why they live where they do and how they live. Mike retired from the emergency services in 1995 first working as a consultant and in 2001 starting a software business. The first product was scheduled to be released on September 10. When the attack came on September 11th the old product was shelved and immediately scaled to service the new requirements of the emergency responders. The intended local business went national the following year.

Necessity caused extensive travel across the U.S. and parts of Canada, always working and never having time to visit and get to know the people. The business was sold in 2015. Mike and Diane decided to get their affairs in order and begin visiting all of the places as a tourist often times becoming emerged in the local culture. They are part timers of snow birders having no desire to sell everything and hit the road. Now retired and no longer “working” from their RV on the road their adventure is just beginning.

The travel adventure includes extended two or three month travels as well as short one or two week trips in their 2003 Winnebago Adventurer. On long trips the take their “toad” (a 2014 Jeep Wrangler). Mike and Diane are photographers and explorers. Much of Mikes photo time is nature photography, Diane captures people, the unusual, often seen but seldom observed. They live in Traverse City, Michigan (a tourist capital in its own right) and use their motor home to visit their children and grand child. Blog site is http://michealwhelan.wix.com/whelans-on-the-road

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