HELPFUL TIPS FOR DRIVING A CLASS A MOTORHOME

The call of the open road is a dream of many individuals and families. North America is loaded with beautiful, scenic, historic, and family-friendly destinations that can fill a lifetime of adventure—all made super convenient from the comfort of a Class A motorhome.

But driving a Class A—from the smaller sizes at 26 feet up to the larger ones at 45 feet—are not like driving a car or even a big truck. Add on a towed vehicle and you could potentially be driving something as long as 65 feet!

Not to worry. Like anything else, with a little practice in an open parking lot and a patient travel companion, you can quickly master the technique.

 

  1. The Information is at Your Fingertips

In today’s world of information overload, there is no shortage of books, websites, and videos to get you ready for driving your RV. Prior to your first trip on the road—which I recommend doing close to home to get your feet wet for experience—do a web search for videos about how to handle your RV, how to make turns, how to handle a front tire blowout, how to look for other vehicles around you on the road, and how to handle driving up and down hills and mountains. The tire blowout video is particularly important as this event, although rare, creates a dangerous situation for you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. Several major tire manufacturers provide free, in-depth videos about how to handle and respond to this scenario.

Prior to pulling out of a campsite or hitting the road, make sure all blinds and curtains are drawn back, slides are in and water, electric and sewer hoses are disconnected.

 

  1. Practice Your Skills Before Hitting the Road

After watching those videos, take your RV to a large parking lot like at a mall or empty shopping center. Try all of the techniques you watched, plus skills such as backing up, getting comfortable around objects, and making turns. This may take a couple of times before you feel comfortable and safe trying these with traffic.

 

  1. Prepping for Safe Driving

Although many of us should get into our personal vehicles and do the safety checks that we learned in driver’s education, we more likely just get in and go. That is not, however, the case for a motorhome.

Because of the size of a Class A and the many blind spots that they inherently come with, it is important to do a set of tasks and checks before pulling the RV onto the road.

First, purchase a tire pressure monitoring system for your RV and your towed vehicle, if you have one. These small sensors monitor the tire air pressure in each tire and alert you if the tire air pressure drops below a certain level. Tire problems are inevitable when traveling in an RV and since you cannot see the tires on the RV or your towed vehicle while driving, these sensors may prevent a lot of damage, expense, and injuries.

Second, if traveling with a partner, develop a set of hand signals for safety checks and moving the RV, such as moving from a parking spot, pulling in and out of a campsite or storage, and checking lights. This set of gestures could save your marriage, as directing an RV driver into a campsite is one of the biggest arguments seen at the campground. Possible gestures may include a fist for stopping, thumbs up for brake lights and turn signals, extending your left hand or right hand for moving right or left, and folding your extended arms up for coming straight back. Remember that the driver is looking for your signals in a six-inch-wide mirror as you stand up to 70 feet behind him or her. Be deliberate, be visible, and remember that if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Having a headlamp is a good idea as well for giving directions at night. Walkie-talkies or cell phones can work too to help with this communication.

Although slides should always be in when driving your RV, if you need to adjust the RV slightly in the campsite, be sure to stand wide enough so the driver can see you giving the hand signals for moving back and stopping.

 

Third, clean your side mirrors and rearview camera. Having these accessories free of obstructions will help overcome the challenge of blind spots. You cannot see out the back of your motorhome so your rearview camera is what gives you a second set of eyes behind you. If it is dirty, you will not be able to watch for any potential issues.

Fourth, raise all blinds and pull back all curtains near the driver. This includes the curtain next to the driver seat, the curtain next to the passenger seat, and any blinds on the seats immediately behind the driver and passenger seats. And of course, don’t forget the curtain across the front windshield.

 

  1. Avoid Annoying Backtracking

Know the height and length of your RV to avoid having to backtrack onto a road that can accommodate the dimensions of your RV.

Although most interstates and major highways are tall enough for your motorhome because they have to accommodate semi-trailers that can be as tall as 14 feet, you may encounter lower overpasses, bridges and tunnels as you get on state and county roads closer to your destination. By knowing the height of your RV, you can avoid clipping off AC units, satellite dishes, or even worse, the top of your RV, damages that can lead to expensive repairs.

Some roads, such as a couple in the mountains of Colorado and California with tight switchbacks, limit the length of vehicles. Longer vehicles cannot make these tight turns. Taking these routes will get you stuck and traffic snarled until you can figure out how to maneuver out of the situation. Signs will warn drivers as you approach roads with height and length restrictions. Some travel apps now have filters where you can designate the height and length of your RV so you can avoid issues of road limitations.

 

  1. Give Some Space

Because of the long length of Class A motorhomes, they make wide turns. As you approach a turn, make sure you clear the corner and other vehicles. Practice in open parking lots prior to driving your motorhome on the road to help prepare you and develop the skills.

As you drive on the highway, be aware of your surroundings. Give plenty of room when passing, don’t cut too close in front of other vehicles, be prepared for others cutting close in front of you, and don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Remember that a large RV will take more stopping distance than a smaller car.

Also, be respectful of other drivers. Motorhomes drive much slower—typically an hour slower per four hours of estimated drive times—and may cause a back up of vehicles behind you. Use slow-vehicle pullouts whenever possible and make sure to allow others to pass you by staying in the slow lanes on highways when not passing other vehicles. And have some fun communicating with other drivers by using your courtesy lights—labeled ICC on the panel to the left of the steering wheel—to tell other drivers it is safe to pass and as a thank you when they have let you pass.

 

  1. Climb Those Mountains

My boyfriend and I like traveling in the mountains. We also live in Colorado, a state abundant in towering mountains and high elevation roads and mountain passes. When driving our RV, we have to make sure it is ready with the power it needs to get up the steep inclines and that it will safely make it down the decline on the other side.

When driving uphill, switch to low gear to produce higher RPMs for more engine power.

The technique is the same for going down inclines, but you can also use the engine brakes for additional slowing and control. Avoid riding the brakes, which can cause them to overheat and potentially fail.

A motorhome travels along the Kuskulana Bridge on a cloudy day on the road into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

 

Bonus tip

Make sure the steps out the main door are fully extended before stepping out of the door. This could be a hard fall if the steps are not in place.

For more helpful tips about driving, owning, and traveling in your RV, visit www.gorving.com.

 

Dawn Wilson is a professional photographer and writer specializing in wildlife and outdoor destinations. She is the President of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and has traveled extensively since 2015 using her RV to document North America’s wildlife and wild lands. She lives in Estes Park, Colo. with her boyfriend, Richard, their husky, Kealy, and their two cats, all of whom have traveled in the RV with them. Visit her website at www.DawnWilsonPhotography.com or follow her on Instagram (@dawnwilsonphoto).

VACATIONING ON A BUDGET

Vacations and getaways, long or short, are essential to a balanced life. It somehow recalibrates our sense of being and reminds us that life is not all about work, but that we need time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and that spending quality time with loved ones makes us richer in ways that our jobs are not able to. Growing up my parents never took us on any vacations. They simply could not afford it. That does not mean I did not have a great childhood, I have wonderful memories of my childhood. But when I became a mother and had a family of my own, I wanted to give my children what I did not have growing up. Not just material things, but things like new perspectives and experiences.

 

In 2011 we took our first family trip off the Island of Oahu, aside from our neighboring islands, to California. We went to Disneyland, Legoland, Sea World, Universal Studios, and did little tours around the Los Angeles area. We had a great time and made so many memorable memories. After that year, we began to make vacations an annual family tradition.

 

The following year we went back to California, this time north, and visited family in San Jose. From there we visited Napa Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, Sausalito, and skied/snowboarded for the first time at Lake Tahoe. This was the year we all saw snow for the very first time.

 

The snow had us dreaming for more and in 2014 we decided to go further and went to Washington State and Idaho. There we visited the city of Seattle and all it had to offer, then took our very first road trip and headed to eastern Washington and Idaho where we skied and snowboarded to our heart’s content. We had such an amazing time that I started to think about moving to the states and being just a drive away from so many places. We saw so many RVs and travel trailers on the road on this trip and I was eager to know what this type of travel was all about. We stopped at a Cabela’s in Idaho and walked through a few travel trailers to see what it was like inside. I could not believe how spacious, convenient, and well equipped they were. They are like tiny homes on wheels.

 

When we returned from our trip I found myself researching all about the RVing lifestyle and I was enthralled!  Year after year we had spent so much money on this new family tradition and although I wanted to keep this tradition going, it was hard to do so without breaking the bank or saving for the entire year just to go on this one vacation. And living in Hawaii did not help at all, especially because we had no choice but to fly out. There is no alternative route to get to the other 49 states.

 

The next year, in 2015,  I somehow managed to convince my husband, a true island boy, to uproot our family and move to Washington State. Do not ask me how I did it, but I did, and I’m glad I did. Our first summer living in the states we rented a travel trailer and traveled even further and went to Montana. The summer after that we went to Wyoming’s infamous Yellowstone National Park and Devils Tower and as far as South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore National Monument in a travel trailer.

Aloha Hawaii…until next time. Washington here we come!

 

Taking vacations through the RVing lifestyle has saved us a lot of money compared to flying. With that extra money, we were able to see and do more things. We did not have to pay per seat, per passenger, or per luggage for airfare. Instead, the four of us and all of our luggage all traveled on a tank of gas. We prepared and cooked all of our own meals instead of eating out. For a family of four, eating out three times a day can be very expensive. We were also surprised to find the prices per night to stay at a campground were a lot less than any hotel or motels out there.

 

Staying in a campground is not all that bad either. There are many campgrounds that have resort-style amenities such as a pool, wifi, etc. should you want that. But the best part of what campgrounds have is the direct access to nature right outside your door. As John Muir said, “everybody needs beauty as much as bread, places to play in…where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” Campgrounds are also ideal for places like American’s national parks, where you can find a campground right in the heart of the park. You can find a campground near most major attractions just as you would with other lodging. But imagine having the comforts of your own home every day while you are on vacation and not living out of your suitcase going from one hotel to the next. Everything, from your belongings to your kitchen, your bedroom, and your toys (bikes, kayaks, fishing poles, skis, surfboards, etc.) will be right there along with you and you won’t need to spend money on renting or buying such items to enjoy some recreational fun.

 

For our family, we have made a lot of new memories year-round traveling the RV lifestyle. We not only go on family vacations once a year but rather take small vacations throughout the year because it’s budget-friendly. This vacation lifestyle also offers the opportunity to constantly spend quality time together as a family year-round. We look forward to going to someplace new almost every month. All in all, it makes life a lot more balanced and we are constantly replenished by taking these smaller vacations and we go to work happier because we got to take a break, and not wait a whole year to go somewhere special.

The only exception is that we still fly home to Oahu every year to visit our family and to get our dose of vitamin sea from the warm Pacific Ocean and vitamin D from the hot Hawaiian sunshine. Unfortunately, there is no other alternative to get to Hawaii. However, If I had known about the RVing lifestyle while I lived back home on the islands, I would have opted to rent an RV and vacation that way. The cost of lodging and car rental for the price of one with a small budget for food because I’d prepare all of our meals are just incomparable.

 

 

TOP TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME RV OWNERS

Have you heard that saying “You don’t know what you don’t know”? For a would-be first-time RV buyer, truer words were never spoken. Deciding on what type of RV to buy for your lifestyle, budgeting for the extra expenses, emptying the grey water tank (if you even know what that is!), learning how to back into a campsite space – the list of things RV owners need to know is seemingly endless. While it might appear daunting at first, it’s clearly achievable when you consider the millions of happy new RV owners traveling the roads this year!

 

I’m a new RV owner that jumped into the lifestyle with a wealth of things still to learn. Like everyone else in 2020, I had to figure out new ways of working and traveling. Since globetrotting wasn’t an option, my husband and I bought a small travel trailer and are learning the RV world ropes. Getting advice from fellow first-timers before buying an RV was invaluable, so I’m doing it now for you!

 

Kimberly and Scott Hamilton, who live in Chicago, Illinois, bought a 2019 Winnebago Minnie 2606RL this past May from Airstream & Winnebago of Chicago. Tiffany Bonner bought a 2019 Winnebago Travato 59G, Class B motorhome last year from a dealership close to home. Crystal Tuttle and her husband bought their Wildwood FSX 196BH, 23 feet Travel Trailer this year entirely online at Campers Inn in Kings Mountain, NC.

 

Here’s their best advice for buying an RV for the first time:

 

Name One Thing You Think a First-Time Buyer Should Absolutely Do Before Buying an RV?

“Spend a lot of time in specific Facebook group forums for the type of RV you want to buy,” says Kim Hamilton. “There is an enormous amount of information that will help you navigate the ins and outs of RVs and RV life in general. These forums are worth every minute you spend there. Also, check YouTube. You’ll find reviews, instructional and troubleshooting videos that have saved many owners a lot of time and costly mistakes.”

 

Tiffany Bonner says first-timers should, “Research, Research, Research. Learn as much as you can about the type of RV you want before making that investment. There are so many options to choose from, so it helps to be really knowledgeable about the different RVs on the market before you head to the dealership. The research helped boost my confidence, especially as a woman. When I walked into a dealership, I knew the right questions to ask and I felt like I was taken more seriously when the salespersons noticed I knew more than they did!”

 

“Read and research thoroughly. Know what you are going to tow with and how much weight it is rated for towing (if you are going with a trailer option). Once you know that you can start to streamline your shopping options. How comfortable are you on with parking and maneuvering long trailers/vehicles?” adds Crystal Tuttle. “If you’re not used to it, then you may want to look for shorter options. These two things helped me pare down the ton of possibilities and start really looking at the differences between units. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the selection out there!”

 

Advice for Picking Up Your RV at the Dealership?

“During the walk-through at the dealership, they explained how everything worked, but it’s impossible to remember it all,” says Tiffany. “Videotape your walkthrough, so you have a quick reference tool available when you don’t have Wi-Fi at a campground to research for an answer.”

 

Crystal says, “We are fortunate to live in an area with lots of RV dealers within a two-hour radius. Since we were shopping in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak, we did most of our shopping and discussion online and via text or phone with our sales rep. By the time we actually went to see the unit in person, we were ready to start the purchasing paperwork! All in all, I think we only had to visit the dealer two times, bringing it home on the second visit. Shopping online was a great experience. It allowed us to broaden our search and do most of the research before we settled on a unit that was a perfect fit for us.”

 

What Do You Wish You Had Known Then That You Know Now?

“I wish I knew more about the specifics around the electrical components before I drove it off the dealership parking lot, like the heating system, for example,” says Tiffany. “After I bought my van, I camped in it for a week before returning home. I almost froze the first night because I didn’t quite know how the heating system worked. It was a cold lesson learned.”

 

Kimberly and Scott have a list of things they wish they’d know earlier, including options to stabilize their trailer; how to reduce the rocking motion earlier; the weekly and sometimes midweek ongoing care and maintenance of your grey and black water tanks; avoiding sensor blocks; realizing the limitations of water when not plugged in; being more efficient with the storage space; the time it takes to buy what you need and even knowing what you need!

 

What Sort of Things Did You Buy to Outfit Your RV?

The Hamiltons purchased a new grill, outdoor shades for the awning, bedding, command hooks (for everything), unbreakable dishes, lockbox for keys, extra Chocks, wasp vent covers, hand-held vacuum, tool kit, foldable wagon, camping chairs, an outdoor rug, lots of bug spray, chemicals to treat the tanks, back up propane tank, picnic table covers, hoses for the water hook up. Scour YouTube for videos on packing up your RV and ask fellow RVers what they bring.

 

“We bought things like leveling blocks, chemicals, water pressure regulators and sewage hoses,” says Crystal. “I was aware of them but not how huge the selection or the range of prices. It involved a lot more research to choose the right tools for us. A big tip: If your trailer doesn’t come with a spare tire or mount, get one. It’s just something I should have thought of, but being this is the first time it totally slipped by me. You know to ask for it in a car or truck, but just not with a camper. Lesson learned!” My tip: Check GoRVing.com’s “RV Essentials” checklist!

 

Any Last Words of Advice for a First-Time RV Buyer?

Do your homework! Plan for the unexpected, put a budget together and ask a lot of questions, says Kimberly. “Be kind to your RV neighbors, take advantage of the great outdoors and enjoy!”

 

Tiffany adds, “Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to ask even more questions. Then ask a few more! Knowledge is key. If you’re a single lady out there wanting to purchase an RV: Do it! There’s a ton of us out here traveling solo in motorhomes and trailers. We love it and you will too!”

 

Crystal says, “Make sure you get contact numbers and business cards from those folks if you do buy; more than likely some little question you’d want to ask will pop up once you get your new friend home!”

 

My advice? Go camping first! Rent an RV or a cabin at a campground and ask your neighbors what they like about their motorhome or trailer. You’ll see every kind of RV out there being used, which is a very different experience from the dealership. Lastly, just do it. Don’t let the dream of owning that RV and hitting the road slip by. An incredible new adventure awaits!

 

Kim Foley MacKinnon is a Boston-based food and travel writer. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, AAA Horizons, Forbes Travel Guide, Travel + Leisure, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among others. She has also written and contributed to several guidebooks. Find her at www.escapewithkim.com or @escapewithkim on Twitter and Instagram.

 

10 TIPS FOR COOKING IN AN RV

Figuring out what to cook can be one of the more challenging aspects of traveling in an RV. Operating in a tiny kitchen space, with limited storage, all while living in a state of transit isn’t exactly easy to jump right into. That’s why we’re sharing our top tips to make cooking in your RV feel less stressful and more like a vacation!

 

We run the camp cooking website Fresh Off The Grid and have spent over two years living on the road. During that time, we’ve gathered a lot of experience about the best ways to cook on the road. While we’ve accrued a few cooking “hacks,” we have actually found the most effective way to make your RV cooking easier and more enjoyable is to have a plan ahead of time.

 

So to help in that process, we’ve compiled ten tips for cooking in an RV.

 

1.) Plan Out Your Meals

For shorter trips, map out the number of days and the number of meals you plan on cooking. Having a plan for each meal will help you develop a grocery list and will ensure you’re never caught scrambling.

 

2.) Keep it Simple!

When selecting your meals, stick with simple meals that use cooking methods you’re familiar with. It’s a good idea to cycle through the same breakfast and lunches every couple of days, but it’s nice to have something unique to look forward to for dinner. If you’re looking for some simple camping recipes, here are a few of our favorites:  Easy Camping Meals

3.) Bring a Camp Stove

Cooking inside the RV can be great – especially during inclement weather. But on a warm summer day, at a beautiful campsite, it’s nice to cook outside. Consider buying or renting a portable propane camp stove so you can set up your “kitchen” on any picnic table.

 

 

4.) Print Out / Save Recipes

Don’t rely on cell service wherever you’re camping. Print out or save the recipes locally to your phone, so you can reference them no matter where you are.

5.) Prep Ingredients Ahead Of Time

Before your trip, prep as many of your ingredients ahead of time as possible. Chop veggies, prep your meat for kabobs, build homemade marinades, sauces, and dressings.

6.) Consider a Drinks Cooler

Nearly all RV’s come with a built-in fridge, but it’s worth considering bringing a small portable cooler for drinks. Especially if you’re going to be hanging out outside, having a cold one nearby can be really handy.

 

 

7.) Snacks

Three meals a day is a great starting point, but don’t forget about snacks! Fruits, trail mix, and cheese sticks are great options while on the road. Chips & dip, cured meats, olives (and anything else that would go on a cheese plate!) are great snacks for camp.

8.) Coffee Plan

Make sure you have a solid coffee plan in advance. Are you buying preground beans or your bringing a grinder? For two people, we find the AeroPress to be the best option with the least mess. For larger groups, we prefer a good percolator. Keep in mind that you may not have access to power all the time, so be sure to bring a non-powered coffee maker, even if it’s just as a backup.

 

 

9.) Bring Essential Cooking Equipment

Particularly if you are renting an RV, consider bringing some of your more essential cooking equipment from home. A sharp chef’s knife, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a good coffee system, flat metal skewers. A rental will probably have all the basics, but they will probably be just that: basic.

 

10.) Progressive Cleaning

No matter the size of the RV, counter space is always limited. Don’t let dirty dishes and unwashed cookware pile up. Clean as you go. Not only will this help keep your tiny kitchen space from getting cluttered, but it will also save you from having to put in a Herculean effort at the end of the night.

 

Bonus: If you are looking for a few tried-and-true camping meals, here are a few to get you started!

 

Megan and Michael run the blog, Fresh Off The Grid, your online destination for all things camp cooking. From recipes to instructional guides to gear reviews, their mission is to help you elevate your outdoor experience through food and drink. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight backpacking recipe or quick & fun car camping meal idea, you will find it at Fresh off the Grid.

FOOD IS UNIVERSAL, BUT CULTURE IS DIFFERENT

Hawaii is a melting pot of ethnicities. There is no one particular ethnic group that comprises the majority of the population, meaning everyone in Hawaii is a minority. This lovely mix of ethnic background provides a variety of rich cultural experiences, especially with food. As islanders from Hawaii, we have grown up enjoying dishes from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Some particular only to the islands, and some not. Regardless, it was always the food that brought us all together, to gather, and to fellowship.

When we moved from Oahu to Washington State, we knew one thing was for certain – we would miss the food. Of course, we would miss our family, friends, and the culture, but you see food is a magical thing that can make you feel right at home, even if you are far from home. Since moving, I had to learn how to prepare a lot of our favorite dishes at home, whereas if we lived back home on the islands, we could easily drive up the road and pick it up if we were craving a particular dish. It’s not as easy as that here in Washington. Not only do we enjoy our favorite dishes at home, but we also enjoy them while we are on the road traveling as well.

 

As part of our culture, rice is an important ingredient to a lot of our dishes, and we need to have rice. The majority of the restaurants in Hawaii serve rice.  When we took our first family vacation to the mainland and went to the nearby Denny’s and McDonald’s for breakfast – our kids stared at the menu in confusion wondering where were the meals with rice. It was quite hilarious. We also had to break the news to our daughter that the 7-Eleven’s on the mainland don’t carry spam musubi.

 

Traveling in our travel trailer not only makes us feel right at home with the comforts of home with things such as a bed, a shower, and the like but with good home-cooked meals we love – prepared right there in our kitchen on wheels and stocked with all of the ingredients and spices needed to prepare it. Even the rice. But don’t get us wrong, we do love to try new dishes in places we visit, but after a long day on the mountain skiing, hiking, or exploring, there is nothing better than to end the day with a good home-cooked meal that’s comforting to your soul – but right from your RV – that’s parked right out front or in close proximity to all that adventure.

 

Rice is a staple item in our RV’s pantry. The best thing about rice is that I don’t need electricity to actually cook it, nor do I need an actual rice cooker. Since our RV operates on propane, I can easily cook rice in a simple pot with a lid and some water. Rice in its raw form is also easy to store -just put it in an airtight container just as you would store beans or pasta.

Enjoying pizza bagels in our travel trailer

 

Meal planning is a simple way to stay on budget while traveling. It also helps with making sure you are stocking things you need and avoid bringing extra weight you don’t need. Most of the meals I like to prepare are simple, like a nice piece of ribeye steak (seasoned with black pepper and Hawaiian salt). Some require specialty items from Hawaii, but not all. The key to any island-inspired dish is how you prepare it that makes it unique.

 

One of our favorite island dishes we enjoy on our travels is Poke. Poke is really easy to make and all you need is a block of ahi tuna (I buy it frozen and defrost it by soaking it in a bowl of water when I’m ready to prepare it), quality sesame oil, shoyu (soy sauce) and some green onion as your base. You can add mayo and sriracha to make a simple creamy/spicy version or add some Noh’s Hawaiian Poke Mix. You can serve it pupu-style as is, over rice and make your own poke bowl, over some greens for a tasty salad, or the island way by making it a plate lunch style and serving all of it with your choice of protein. The possibilities are endless.

One island-inspired dish we made while traveling were these katsu-style razor clams – with clams we harvested from the coast of Washington. These clams are so tasty and they go well over a bed of rice sprinkled with furikake seasoning with a side of greens drizzled with our favorite homemade Sam Choy oriental dressing. Yum!

During our travels, we have enjoyed many local dishes that reminded us of home. Although we were far from home experiencing new horizons in a travel trailer, we felt right at home enjoying meals that made heart’s content.