Garmin Navigation Apps Make the Perfect Gift for the Minnesota RV Owner

Hey Minnesota RVers, we’re only days away from Christmas Eve, and I’m sure some of you out there have not finished all of your Christmas shopping. Or maybe you’re just stuck on gift ideas for your spouse or friend. Well, I have a great idea for you at a great price: The gift of navigation! I know that navigation systems can be a little pricey, but  the good news is you can now buy extremely capable navigation apps for smart phones! Here’s some even better news… Garmin has slashed prices for its apps and traffic services for the year-end holidays!

Last week, Consumer Reports said that Garmin announced price cuts of up to 40 percent for its Navigon navigation software for both iPhones and Google Android-powered smartphones. The holiday promotion will last through January 5 and allows users to download and navigate U.S. maps for $30 instead of $40 (Android) or $50 (iPhone). For both U.S. and Canadian maps, Garmin will charge about $40 for its app on either iOS or Android platforms.

Garmin’s live traffic update service will also be discounted from $20 to $15. This app is great for when Minnesota RVers venture out and have to bravely navigate through large cities.  The StreetPilot app for iPhones also dropped $10 to $50 for U.S. and Canadian maps ($40 for U.S. only) during this promotion. So Minnesota RV owners, if you’re in need of a last minute gift, go check out these different GPS apps. Any owner of a motorhome, travel trailer or fifth wheel will be more than happy to have this service with them while on their RV adventures!

Stay Warm Inside and Outside Your RV During the Minnesota Winter

Though many people choose to winterize their RVs or head south for the winter, I know there are some of you out there who absolutely love RVing during these months. If you’re new to the RV world and you are planning to do some RVing this winter, staying warm will be key to ensuring you have a great time. After all, no one wants to spend their trip bundled up and shivering. For the most part, your RV furnace will do the job. But it’s always good to have a back up plan, like a portable heater, if something goes wrong and the furnace stops working.

Portable heaters have many advantages for RVers. There typically pretty small and can easily be stored away . They are great at quickly and quietly heating up a room in your RV without using too much energy.  Be sure to shut off the room you are heating from the rest of the RV, though, to contain the heat. I like to use a portable heater during the night so I don’t have to burn through the battery- or generator-powered furnace. So before you go to sleep, you can turn off the furnace, close your bedroom door and sleep soundly and warmly. They are also great for those chilly days and nights when you want to sit outside and enjoy nature.

One of my favorite portable heaters is the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy. Don’t be fooled by the name, this little guy is capable of heating up to 200 square feet and has a fold-down handle for compact storage. It also has an automatic low oxygen shutoff system and an accidental tip-over safety shutoff. You can find it for about $100 at Wal-Mart and even cheaper at online stores like Amazon.com.

A word of caution, though… if you plan on using a portable generator, be sure you understand how to use it. For instance, if you plan to use it in the bedroom, be sure to set it somewhere away from anything that can ignite. This includes your bedding, clothing and curtains. As I mentioned before, these little portable heaters give off a lot of heat. I’ve heard of the rubber on people’s shoes even melting from propping their feet up too close to the heater. Try to always keep the heater at least five feet away from yourself. If you close off the rest of the RV, I promise the room you are heating will quickly become toasty with the heater sitting in the far corner. Stay safe and warm out there, Minnesota winter-loving RVers!

Do You Consider Yourself a Good RV Driver, Minnesota?

Photo Courtesy of MobileLifeStyle

If you currently own an RV or you’re thinking about purchasing a new RV in the near future, then it’s probably safe to say that you’ve been driving for several years now. Every driver forms their own driving habits over the years and most consider themselves to be a good driver. But obviously, this isn’t true. Not everyone out there is as good of a driver as they think they are. In fact, more than 33,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents last year — most of which were preventable.

In the motorhome world, we tend to spend more time driving than the average person. Therefore, we of all people should practice safe driving and be considered the best drivers out there. You’d be surprised at how even the smallest things we do behind the wheel of our RV can make a difference. Let’s take a look at some statistics from Consumer Reports and see how we can prevent ourselves from becoming them.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for kids between 3 and 12 years old. By placing all children 12 and under in the back seat, you can reduce injury risk by 64 percent for children under 8 and 31 percent for 9-12 year olds.

Secure you children. Not only will this possibly save their lives in an accident, it will also prevent you from losing control of the vehicle due to the children bouncing all over the car.

Speeding is a factor in about one-third of all fatal crashes, killing nearly 900 Americans every month.

This one is a no-brainer, don’t speed. Sure there’s a window of five to eight mph over the posted speed limit, but the only time you should ever exceed that window is if you are passing someone. This pertains to RV owners mostly because our RV, travel trailer or fifth wheel is much larger than our passenger cars.  (So this pertains to RV owners more than anyone.) As a bonus, not speeding will help with your fuel consumption.

In 2009, over 5,400 people were killed due to distracted driving and 448,000 were injured.

Keep your eyes on the road at all times. Don’t text, email, eat, play with the GPS or anything else that may cause you to become distracted. Taking your eyes off the road for two seconds can result in a deadly crash.

The use of seat belts saved the lives of 13,000 people in 2008.

Buckle up. Seat belt laws are there for a reason, people. Should you happen to be involved in an accident, your seat belt will prevent you from flying through the huge windshield of your RV.

Another way to prevent an accident is preventative maintenance. Be sure to routinely check the tire pressure and tread of your tires, your fluid levels and battery. You should also always use your signals to alert other drivers of your vehicle and what you are planning to do.

As I mentioned before, a high percentage of motor vehicle accidents are preventable. So Minnesota RVers, what will you do to be the best RV driver you can be? Let us know!

Spice Up Your Minnesota RV Kitchen for Halloween!

Halloween is almost here, Minnesota RVers! How are you planning on spending the holiday? If you’re on the road during this time, you should check out the local scene of some nearby towns. Small towns tend to go all out for Halloween, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find some great festivities. You can also decorate your RV and give out candy to trick-or-treaters at the RV park. One thing you can do regardless of how you choose to spend Hallow’s eve is prepare some classic Halloween recipes! Here are two of my favorites for this time of year.

Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls are a great treat for giving away.  The are super simple and easy to make! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • candy thermometer

First place the popcorn in a large bowl and set it aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, corn syrup, butter and salt and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 270 degrees F. Then remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir until it looks evenly coated. Once it’s cooled enough for you to handle, mold the popcorn into your preferred size ball shape and set out on a cooking sheet.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Whether you like them sweet, salty or spicy, roasting pumpkin seeds make a perfect Halloween snack. You can also carve the pumpkin afterward and use it for decoration!

First you’ll need to buy a pumpkin(s) and cut a hole in the top around the trunk and dig out the inside of the pumpkin. Next, rinse the pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. This step is easiest to do right after you’ve gutted the pumpkin so the pulp doesn’t dry.

Next, oil up a baking sheet (you can also use non-stick cooking spray) and spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on the sheet. Sprinkle with your desired spices and bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes or until the seeds toasted. Be sure to check on your seeds about 10 minutes in and stir them around on the baking sheet.

When they’ve finished baking, let them cool and store them in an air-tight container to enjoy for later! Here’s a great video on how to do this for you visual learners out there!

Dear Minnesota RV Drivers, Be Sure to Watch For Deer

Deer are generally an elusive animal, and if you’re lucky, you may get to see in their natural habitat. Most often your best chance of getting a glimpse of this animal is early in the quiet, calm morning near a river or lake or even roaming around your Minnesota campsite. One place you do not expect (or in the least bit desire) to have an encounter with a deer is out on the open road in your RV.

The danger of having an accident involving a deer while driving is mostly unavoidable. Coincidentally, the high risk months (October, November and December) for deer collisions are upon us. These months happen to be the mating and migration season for deer, which only increase a motorist’s chance of having a close encounter with one. As it just so happens, we Minnesota folk fall at the eighth spot in the top 10 list of the most high risk states, with the odds of a deer collision in the next 12 months being 1 in 98. Think you can guess which state has the fewest encounters with deer? Would you be surprised to hear that it’s Hawaii; with the odds being 1 in 6,267? Shocking, I know!

So for those of us at risk, there are some things to do and not to do that can help us avoid a deer/RV collision. The following are precautions given by Consumer Report to take into account, in order to lessen your risk of being another statistic.

  • Slow down. Watch for deer especially around dawn and between the hours of 6-9 p.m. (When they are most active.)
  • Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where deer or other animals would likely travel. And if you travel the same route to and from work every day, you might find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see these animals.
  • Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down, and, at night, when traffic permits, put on your high-beams for greater visibility.
  • Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your own car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Just slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds of surviving an accident are better hitting an animal than another car.
  • Assume they have friends. The phrase “where there’s one, there’s usually more” often holds true. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.
  • Don’t rely on deer whistles. The whims of wild animals are not beholden to this technology.
  • Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 60 percent of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing seat belts.

The good news, however, is that State Farm Insurance reported that deer collisions have been on the decline for the last three years, with the past year’s decline almost twice than that of the two years prior combined. We all need to be careful out there during this time of year, including my fellow Minnesotan RV enthusiasts.

7 Tips For Backing Up and Parking Your New RV

I ran into a friend of mine who purchased his first RV, a 2002 Forest River Georgetown, at the beginning of the summer. I hadn’t seen him since he made the purchase, and I was dying to know how his first few RV trips had gone. Come to find out… he hadn’t taken his new RV out once! I couldn’t believe it! When I asked him why, he was a little bit reluctant to tell me, but I finally got it out of him. He didn’t know how to back-up and park the RV. At first, I was shocked that this had kept him from using his beautiful, new home-away-from-home. But the more I thought about it, I realized that he was probably not alone with this fear.

If you’re a first-time RV owner, getting out on the road can seem a little scary.  After all, RVs drive a lot differently than your average four-door sedan.  Whether it’s a motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer, there are several things you should know about backing up and parking. I found seven excellent and helpful tips from the Fun Times Guide that I shared with him and would now like to share with you.

7 Tips For Parking & Backing Up RVs

#1  Stop right where you are, when you reach the point where you no longer have clear vision of where you want to go. Never attempt to move into tight quarters, if you can’t see all possible hazards.  That is, unless you have someone positioned where they can see the obstructions and they can warn you.  Your assistant must be positioned so they can see both you and the possible dangerous situation

#2  Avoid places that are impossible to get into, or nearly so. Don’t blindly pull into an unfamiliar driveway, dead end street, or parking lot that doesn’t have a second exit.

When you pull into shopping areas, stay out near the perimeter and chose your parking spot so that you can simply pull ahead to leave. Don’t go down the aisles of parked cars — because you’re likely to be making a sharp corner in a confined spot, when you get to the end of the aisle.

 

#3  Learn to rely on your mirrors. An RV isn’t like the family sedan. Looking over your right shoulder and down through the center of your motorhome or tow vehicle to back up won’t work. You have to rely on the image in your side mirrors.

Straight vehicles, without trailers, are pretty easy to back up — because a properly adjusted mirror should give you a view of the side all the way back to the rear bumper. As long as you can see daylight between your RV and the obstruction, you’re good.

 

#4  Set up temporary parking & driving patterns, using safety cones or milk jugs. Head out to a closed supermarket parking lot and set up your cones like a driveway or camping spot. Practice backing into those spots until you can do it without hitting any cones.

 

#5 Practice blind side parking. If your luck is like mine, more often than not you’ll end up backing into a campsite from the blind side with your trailer.

The blind side is the right (passenger) side of your vehicle. It’s known as the blind side because at some point, as you’re turning, your tow vehicle will no longer be in a straight line with your trailer.  You will no longer be able to see what’s happening on at least one side of your RV. This is where an outside helper is essential to keep you posted on your progress.

A trick I’ve used to increase my range of vision when backing around corners is to readjust my side mirrors at a different angle as I start making my turn. Most motorhomes, and many trucks, have electrically adjustable mirrors that you can control with a switch from the driver’s seat. Adjusting the mirrors, as you proceed through the corner, will give you a clear view most of the way.

 

#6  Never rely on rear vision cameras, because they’re pointed down toward the ground behind you and don’t give you a broad enough picture. There are overhead obstacles to be concerned about too.  Low-hanging branches, building overhangs, even sagging power lines can hook your RV. By far the best way to back into a tight spot is to have a person (or even 2) outside watching all the angles. Maneuver with your windows down, and instruct your helper to talk loud enough so you can clearly hear them. A set of inexpensive walkie talkies can be very handy for just this purpose.

 

#7  Use extreme caution when backing a motorhome with a tow vehicle attached. In fact, backing up with a toad (car) on a tow bar more than a foot or so is impossible. Since the steering axle of the car being towed is free to track wherever it wants, as soon as you start backwards it will immediately turn the wheels, causing extreme pressure to be applied to the front end components of your vehicle in tow.

Damage can occur, because you will be skidding the car sideways, with the front wheels turned all the way to the stops. If you need to back up when towing a car, just unhook the car first.  After you’re situated where you can go forward again, re-hook the tow bar. It’s the only safe way to do it.

[The Fun Times Guide]

Something else that can seem tricky at first is backing into a camping spot (especially if the two spots next to you are both occupied). There is a little trick, though, that some of us RV vets use called The Scoop. Once you nail this technique down, you’ll be pulling into camp spots like a pro. Check out this little illustration video showing exactly how it’s done. If you need any help at all with anything RV-related, don’t hesitate to give us a call or swing by.

 

The Boondocking Code of Ethics

For those of you new RV owners who may be unfamiliar with the term, boondocking, also known as dry camping or primitive camping is basically camping without the electic, sewer or water hookups.  There are generally two types of boondocking – blacktop and boonies – and there is a certain code of ethics associated with each one that we should follow. The general rule of thumb is to always leave the place nicer than it was when you got there. Let’s check out some other rules we should follow.

Blacktop boondocking is when you pos up in a parking lot (Wal-Mart, Casinos, etc.). The main appeal of this type of camping is the convenience and budget. Some places have actually passed bans on this type of boondocking. To make sure bans aren’t passed, RV clubs like The Escapees, have come up with their own code of ethics for blacktop boondocking. They have even gone far enough to post a print out of these rules that you can leave on offender’s vehicles.

Blacktop Boondocking Rules

1. DO obtain permission from a qualified individual. This way you’ll never have to worry if you are violating any sort of code or law.

2. DO try and park out of the way. Most of these parking lots are huge, and most likely there are spots way in the back that will be vacant.

3. DON’T use your awnings, chairs, or barbecue grill. These things tend to send the message that you are here to stay.

4. DON’T use slide-outs if at all possible for the same reason as mentioned above.

5. DON’T use your leveling jacks on asphalt.

6. DO try and limit your stay – one night is best, and two is the absolute maximum. We recommend staying two night only if you must.

7. DO purchase gas, food, or supplies as a way of saying “thank you”.

8. DO leave the area cleaner than you found it. This one is sometimes dificult for people to folllow, but think of it this way… you’re only helping blacktoppers reputation climb by cleaning up. Even if it’s after other’s.

9. DO practice safety precautions. This is important in any situation.

You can print out of these rules and then leave them on offender’s vehicles. Everyone should know proper boondocking etiquette.

[The Escapees]

Now let’s switch gears and take a look at the guidelines we should follow for boondocking in the boonies. As you can probably guess from its name, this type of boondocking is done out in the wilderness. A lot of campers do this purely for the wilderness experience and enjoy the peace and quiet they wouldn’t necessisarily have at a slotted campground. The more serious boondockers even modify their vehicles with solar panels and an inverter to charge their batteries so they can freely camp in the beautiful wilderness.

Rules for Boondocking in the Boonies

  • Park in previously used areas. Do not create a new road or parking spot or run over vegetation.
  • Park away from other RVs so each can enjoy the peace and quiet. If you do have a generator you plan to run, park far away from other RVs and limit your use to an hour or so in the morning and another in early evening. Generator noise carries and is not part of the wilderness experience.
  • Respect quiet hours. Do not run generators or play TVs or radios loudly after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. (Some areas may have different quiet hours so check with the agency.)
  • In some areas dumping grey water on the ground is permissible. Always check with the agency first. Dumping black water on the ground is never permitted.
  • Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Dispose of trash in a trash container after you leave.
  • Read and follow the agency’s rules regarding fires, collecting firewood, and quiet hours. Respect time limits, which are typically 14 days.

Boondocking is one of my favorite aspects of owning an RV, but we have to remember to always follow that golden rule in order to continue boondocking for years and years to come. Leave the place nicer than it was before you arrived.

RV ABCs: Fifth Wheels

The hardest thing do when it comes to buying or renting a new RV is determining which RV is right for you. For the last few weeks, Pleasureland RV has been going through the RV alphabet in order to help make that decision a little bit easier. So far, we’ve discussed three classes of motorhomes: Class A, Class B and Class C. Now let’s move on to the towable class of RVs starting with the Fifth Wheel.

Fifth Wheels

Description: Fifth wheels are the most spacious RVs available, but don’t let the size intimidate you, they are delightfully easy to handle. They are towed by pick-up trucks with a special “fifth wheel” hitch and generally have taller ceilings and more slide-out rooms with as many as four in some models.

2012 Dutchmen Infinity 3470RE

Let’s see how CampingEarth.com breaks down the advantages and disadvantages of Fifth Wheels.

As with any type and style of RV, camper, or travel trailer, a 5th wheel has its advantages and disadvantages. Its main advantages are:

  • Easy Towing because of the gooseneck hitch.
  • Spacious and roomy inside. A 5th wheel has lots of room inside. If the weather outside is inclement, there is plenty of room for everyone to be inside enjoying the amenities.
  • 5th wheel can be detached at destination which frees up the towing vehicle for excursions and trips around the area.

The main disadvantages are:

  • A towing vehicle, outfitted with a special package to house the gooseneck hitch is needed. Because most 5th wheels are heavy, the towing vehicle needs to be heavy duty. But, on the bright side, manufacturers have begun to introduce lightweight 5th wheels that can be pulled by smaller trucks.
  • The steps. Some people don’t like the bi-level design of a 5th wheel travel trailer and don’t like having interior steps that lead to either the master bedroom that is typically housed in the area of the trailer that sits over the bed of the towing vehicle (although this area is also sometimes the living room area). If interior steps are a problem, you may want to consider a travel trailer or consider a motorized RV.
  • The cost. Fifth wheel campers are the most expensive of the towable RV’s which can make them too expensive for entry level buyers. If you really have your heart set on a 5th wheel, consider purchasing a used 5th wheel. There are some very good deals available on “previously road tested” 5th wheels.

Ready to make a decision? Come down and check out on this beauties! If you still haven’t found the right RV for you, stick around. Next week, we’ll continue with the towable RV class and talk about travel trailes.

Take Precaution When Working on RV Batteries

The summer months can be hard on your RV’s battery. Overcharging and high temperatures can kill batteries. So frequently check the batteries is extremely important and you may even have to preform some maintenance. This isn’t necessarily difficult, but there are some precautions you should take to avoid spilling or splashing electrolytes or a battery fire or explosion.

Let’s take a look at an excerpt from Gary Bunzer’s book, Woodall’s RV Owner’s Handbook, that details these risks and also provides safety guidelines for how to avoid an RV battery accident.

Risks of Spilling and Splashing Electrolyte

Why it’s Dangerous:

Spilled or splashed electrolytes can cause chemical burns to skin and eyes, destroy your clothing and damage wood, metal, painted surfaces under or around the battery.

How to Reduce Risk:

Protect yourself!

  • Avoid contact between electrolyte and skin, eyes, or clothing.
  • Wear splash-proof safety goggles when working on RV batteries
  • Wear protective clothing such as rubber gloves that extend up the forearms and an apron
  • Rinse off the gloves and apron before removing them

Protect the RV

  • Don’t let battery acid splash on any surface
  • Neutralize spilled or splashed electrolyte with a solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)in water
  • Rinse the spill area with clean water
  • Wipe dry with disposable material (rag or paper towel)
  • Use a small plastic funnel or battery fill bulb when adding water to the cells in order to prevent splashing

Risk of Explosion or Battery Fire

Why it’s Dangerous:

Flooded electrolyte batteries produce highly flammable hydrogen gas as a by-product of recharging. This gives rise to the risk of explosion or fire.

How to Reduce Risk:

  • Provide proper ventilation while working on the battery or in the battery compartment
  • Avoid sparks and open flame (don’t light a smoke!)
  • Always reinstall the cell caps before charging or discharging the battery.

 

If you are planning to do any work on your RV battery or need any help checking the battery, be sure to give us a call or come down and see us.

RV ABCs: Class C Motorhomes

Two weeks ago, we began working our way down the RV alphabet. If you’re in the market to purchase an RV, new or used, or just looking to rent an RV for an upcoming vacation, it’s important to have a general understanding of the various types.

RVs come in all shapes and sizes  and like everything else in life, there are ups and downs to each class of an RV. But I’m willing to bet you’ll have no problem at all finding the one that fits your lifestyle the best. In case you missed them, let’s do a quick recap of the two classes we’ve covered.

Class A Motorhomes. There are the big, square and boxy RVs that are considered the most luxurious due to their top-of-the-line ammenities. However, the biggest draw back to Class A’s is the fuel economy.

Class B Motorhomes. These RVs use a cargo ban as their base and are very easy to store. The biggest draw back to this class? Most likely the lack of a master bedroom. Because they are easier to store than Class A’s means they are significantly smaller. But if you’re looking for weekend get-a-ways or short road trips, then this Class may be just the one for you.

Today, let’s take another step down the RV alphabet and talk about Class C Motorhomes.  Think of Class C’s as a mini-motorhome.  You’ll get the same conveniences of a Class A in a scaled-down version and lower price. Though it’s technically smaller than a Class A, the Class C is equipped with full sleeping, kitchen, dining, and bathroom facilities.

 

Let’s see how The Fun Times Guide breaks down a Class C Motorhome.

Advantages:

  • It is somewhat easier to obtain service and warranty work on the driving portion of the RV than it is with a Class A motorhome. With a brand name cab and drive train, auto dealers can hardly say, “Sorry, it’s not ours.”
  • The smaller overall size can get you into secluded and more enjoyable campgrounds with plenty of beds to sleep the entire family.
  • Your mileage in a Class C motorhome may be a bit better than in a Class A, but not much.

Disadvantages

  • If your RV is one with the over-the-cab bed, it probably has a large window across the front of the RV. These are notorious for leaking water when it rains. I owned a used one and spent a good amount of time repairing water damage and sealing the window.
  • If you’re looking for open square footage, this probably isn’t the best RV for you. At the most, you may have one small slideout.
  • The ones that have a rear bedroom also have a long rear overhang beyond the rear wheels. You’ll get a heck of an excessive tail swing when you go around corners, you’ll be watching in the mirror on every maneuver to make sure you don’t tag someone.

Now that you have a basic knowledge of the three motorhome classes, maybe you’ve found the right fit for you!  If not, stick around. Next week we’ll take a look at fifth wheels! And remember, you can always come down and take a look at some of these beauties yourself! We’re more than happy to help you in your big decision.