How to Park an RV

f684jftyjty

You’ve finally made it to the campground. But before you can run off to the lake or go for a hike, the first order of the day is to park and level your RV so that your refrigerator will operate properly and you don’t find yourself in bed at night with your feet higher than your head.

Never assume your site will be flat or level. That would make parking an RV too easy. Due to the nature of camping, chances are higher that your site will be rutted, gouged and somewhat uneven.

But don’t fret. You can still get your RV into your spot, and leveled so it operates properly, with a few easy steps. Here’s how:

How to Park an RV

With many campsites designed to accommodate smaller vehicles, easing your 30-foot long fifth-wheeler or even longer motorhome into some spots can be a challenge.

How to Level an RV

There are several reasons to make sure your RV is level, including proper refrigerator operation and safe slide out extension (if you have them). You’ll also want to stabilize your rig so that it doesn’t sway when you move about inside or in windy conditions.

Many luxury motorhomes and trailers come equipped with exotic self-leveling systems, with hydraulic or electric rams that extend at the touch of a button and level the coach automatically. For rigs without this nicety, leveling blocks or ramps and a small bubble level are required.

Leveling blocks or ramps don’t have to be expensive. They can be as simple as a stack of 2×10-inch boards. Or, you can step up to interlocking RV leveling blocks. Made of high-strength plastic, these blocks are touted as being able to bear the weight of even the largest motorhomes and trailers.

1) With your RV positioned in the site where you want it, place the bubble level on the floor to determine if the unit is level both front-to back and side-to-side. If you have slide outs, extend them now to see which way your trailer or motorhome leans. Then retract them for safety.

2) Next, mark some lines in the dirt in front or back of the tires on the side that needs to be leveled.

3) Now pull your rig forward (or back it up) so that the tires are clear of the lines. Place your boards or blocks in position. If you determine that you’ll need several layers of boards or blocks to get your rig level, build them in a ramp configuration.

Don’t try to force your RV to climb up more than 2 inches at a time.

4) Move your motorhome or trailer up onto the levelers, making sure to keep the tire footprint completely on the boards or blocks. Don’t let your tires overhang any edge as this can cause damage.

5) Now check the bubble level again and adjust the height of the boards or blocks as needed so that your rig is level side-to-side. When all looks good, place wheel chocks in front or behind the tires (depending which way the site slopes) to keep the trailer from moving. You can then disconnect your trailer from your tow vehicle and use the trailer’s hitch jack (or a fifth-wheel’s “landing gear”) to fine-tune the front-to-rear level.

For motorhomes, put the transmission in “park” and set the parking brake.

How to Stabilize Your RV

Now that your RV is level, you’ll want to stabilize it so it doesn’t rock back and forth when you walk around inside. You should use stabilizing jacks to accomplish this.

Note: These should never be used to level a rig, as they weren’t designed for that purpose.

Stabilizing jacks come in several configurations. The most common is the scissor jack, which is usually bolted or welded to the trailer’s frame at the front and rear.

Pop-up tent trailers are frequently equipped with a drop-down style jack, which, as the name implies, drops down from the frame.

To use the stabilizing jacks after you’ve leveled the RV:

1. Lower the jacks following the manufacturer’s instructions. To save time and give the foot of each jack a larger base, slide a couple of short 2×4- or 2×6-inch boards beneath each foot. This is especially helpful if the ground is loose or sandy.

2. Once the jack foot is in contact with the ground, give the crank a few extra turns to provide the trailer a secure footing. Check the bubble level to make sure your RV remains level. Do this for all four corners.

And that’s how to park and level an RV! Your RV is now safely in the campsite and ready to enjoy. When you get ready to leave just reverse these steps, remembering to raise the jacks to their travel position, and collect and store your leveling boards or blocks.

How To Start a Campfire

img5

When you hear the word “camping,” a swirl of pleasant images immediately comes to mind. But perhaps the most iconic is the welcoming campfire.

More than just to ward off the chilly night, a campfire is a place where family and friends gather to lounge and chat, roast marshmallows, or simply stare into the glowing coals and let the mind wander.

But before you can reach such nirvana, you should know how to start a campfire. And really, it’s not that hard…

STEP 1: Gather Your Tools

There’s a bit more to building a great campfire than simply placing a few logs in a heap and tossing on a match. Here’s what you’ll need:

Tinder—the smallest and easiest burning materials used to get a campfire started.

Kindling—the next step up in size. Usually twigs or small branches between 1/8 inch and 1/2 inch in diameter.

Firewood—the crown of an inviting campfire. Firewood can vary anywhere from 1 inch to 5 inches in diameter. It can be whole logs, or split down from larger pieces. It’s important that your firewood is completely dry in order to start easily and stay lit.

Important Note: Don’t break branches off trees for firewood. If everyone did this there wouldn’t be any forests left. Some forest management agencies permit you to pick up fallen limbs but ask first.

Matches or a lighter—how else are you going to get your campfire started? Common stick matches are fine, although gas lighters used for starting BBQ grills are gaining in popularity.

STEP 2: Build the Fire

Before you can start a campfire, you have to build it first.

If your site has a fire ring, you’ll probably have to push the ash and charcoal from previous fires to the outer edge of the ring to give you enough room for the new fire. For ashes that are stone cold, consider shoveling them into a plastic trash bag for proper disposal later.

If you have to create your own fire pit, clear away any dead grass or vegetation for 8 to 10 feet around. You want bare dirt. Then dig down into the cleared soil several inches and set the loose dirt off to one side for use in case of emergency. You can mound the dirt around the sides of the pit to act as a firewall, or place large rocks around the edge of the pit to insulate the fire.

Next, at the center of the fire ring, lay a bed of tinder perhaps a foot in diameter. (Remember, tinder is the really light, quick burning material.)

1. The Teepee Fire: This style is good for cooking. First, arrange your kindling in teepee fashion over your tinder. Then build a larger teepee of firewood over the kindling. When lit, the flames will rise up through the kindling and into the larger wood.

2. The Lean-to Fire: This style is also good for cooking. Start by sticking a long piece of kindling into the ground above your tinder at about a 30-degree angle, with the other end of the stick pointing into the wind. Then lean smaller pieces of kindling against both sides of the longer piece to build a tent. As the kindling catches fire add more, followed by your firewood.

3. The Cross Fire: This is ideal for a long-lasting fire. Start by laying your kindling over the tinder bed in a crisscross fashion, followed by your logs or firewood.

4. The Log Cabin Fire: Another long-lasting fire. Begin by creating a kindling teepee over your tinder, then lay two logs on either side of the cone. Place two more logs on top of these to form a square. Then build up using smaller and shorter pieces of firewood until you’ve formed a cabin. Top off the cabin with some of your lightest kindling.

STEP 3: Light the Fire

Now it’s time to enjoy the results of your labor. Remember to keep children and pets safely away, then light your tinder. For best results light the tinder from several sides. Don’t squirt charcoal lighter fluid into a fire; flames could travel up the stream and burn you. And NEVER use gasoline!

Once your campfire is established, feed it with additional wood as needed, taking care not to build the flames too high. Be sure to keep your fire extinguishing tools nearby, and never leave a fire unattended, even for a moment.

Putting Out Your Fire

Once the evening is over, it’s your responsibility to put your campfire out completely so give yourself plenty of time to do the job right.

Start by sprinkling—not pouring—water onto the flames or coals. Don’t flood the fire ring or pit as you or the next camper will want to use it later.

As you sprinkle, stir the embers with a stick or shovel to ensure that all the coals get wet. Once the steam has subsided and you no longer hear any hissing sounds you’re just about done.

Before you head off to bed or pack up to leave, place the back of your hand just above the wet ashes. Don’t touch them as they could still be hot. Don’t feel any heat? Then the fire is out. If it still feels warm add more water and stir until the fire bed is cold.

With the proper fire ring or pit, the right tinder, kindling and firewood, plus selecting the style of campfire that best meets your preferences, you and your family can safely enjoy an evening under the stars while making s’mores.

Don’t Forget: Safety First

Safety is the most important factor when learning how to start a campfire—especially if you have kiddie campers. A 2011 study revealed that a person is injured by fire every 30 minutes, so stay alert as dancing flames have a magnetic quality that draws people close.

 

10 Alternatives to the Classic Hot Dog

hot dogs

When someone says “barbecue” you think of the classic meal: A hotdog, a bun, a zig of mustard and a zag of ketchup. Maybe a few onions and relish on top, depending on your preferences.

While the classic hot dog is a campsite staple, it’s not your only option. A few unconventional toppings are all you need to create a whole new meal, or you can choose a different kind of dog altogether. Chew on these ideas before you shop for your next camping trip.

Chili Dog

Pair a traditional hot dog with vegetarian or beef chili for a delicious twist on the classic preparation. What’s better, you can make the chili at the campsite in your Dutch oven and eat the leftovers for another meal.

Chicken Sausage

Throw out the hot dog altogether and nosh on chicken sausage instead. Applegate Farms makes a variety of gourmet flavors like organic chicken and apple sausage, organic andouille sausage and organic fire roasted red pepper sausage.

Chicken Dog

Chicken hot dogs are leaner than all-beef or beef and poultry mix dogs, making them lower in fat and often sodium, as well. Pair your chicken dog with a whole-wheat bun for a healthy hot dog dinner.

Turkey Sausage

If you want to ditch the hot dog altogether, swap it out for a turkey sausage. Cook it over the fire for the smoky, charred flavor that makes campfire cooking so delicious and unique.

Corndog

This childhood favorite is a great hot dog alternative, but don’t buy the frozen version. Instead, make your own right at the campsite.

Vegan Dog

Many shy away from vegan and vegetarian dogs because of their unappetizing and processed ingredients. However, if you choose not to eat meat, but still want to have a dog around the campfire. While some of their ingredients are less than ideal, they pride themselves on using mostly all-natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar and paprika.

Uncured All Beef

An uncured, all-beef hot dog varies in taste and health benefits. An uncured dog has no nitrates, which come from the salts used in a traditional curing process.

Seafood Roll

If you don’t want a hot dog or sausage at all, choose a different protein. With fresh fish and veggies you can still fill a hot dog bun, without having to skip out all together.

Pizza Dog

Ditch the ketchup, mustard and onions for marinara, cheese and pepperoni when you opt for a pizza dog. Make sure to roast your dog on a stick so you still get the campfire flavor that’s so delicious.

Bacon Dog

While this isn’t the healthiest alternative, it’s certainly different from the traditional option. Remember, this hot dog variation will need to be cooked in a pan over the fire so the bacon stays wrapped.

 

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS OF VEHICLE ENGINE DAMAGE

2iqmh5k

It’s not always easy to recognize when your vehicle is suffering from engine damage as symptoms can be overlooked and seen as “normal.” While not all sounds and smells may threaten the life of your engine, there are some obvious warning signs that require a vehicle inspection right away.

Early diagnosis of engine damage can most likely be treated, but it is important to be aware of potentially damaging symptoms and have the vehicle inspected if something doesn’t seem right. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs as soon as possible, you could be saving yourself from the cost and hassle of breaking down along the road.

One of the signs of engine trouble is an illuminated check engine light. This light indicates that a vehicle system, such as the ignition, fuel injection or emission control, is not operating properly, even if the vehicle appears to be running normally. Ignoring the check engine light can negatively impact your fuel economy or cause damage resulting in more costly repairs.

Many motorists are familiar with the noises their vehicles make on a daily basis. However, any noise that is new, different or suspicious may indicate a problem, including a high-pitched squeal, grinding or thumping. Sounds under the hood, such as hissing, can also indicate that your vehicle is in need of attention.

Although all vehicles burn fossil fuels that create undesired emissions, these odors should remain outside of it. Unusual smells that could signal engine damage include: burnt rubber, hot oil, gasoline, sweet smell of syrup, burning carpet and rotten eggs. When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it.

Another symptom of engine damage is excessive amounts of smoke or steam. Although some smoke is normal, excessive amounts of dark smoke in particular indicates that oil is leaking into the combustion chamber and is being burned along with the gasoline.

Basic Tire Maintenance for Every Driver

awefaw6e8f4

The tires are the only thing between the vehicle and the road. When they are properly inflated and in good condition, the handling, stability and safety of the vehicle will be maximized. Conversely, when the tires are under inflated, worn out or damaged, all of the safety systems on the vehicle cannot overcome the loss of control that comes with a blow-out or hydroplaning situation. Air pressure in a tire is like oil in an engine; when it is low, the resulting internal damage is unseen until it is too late. Tires naturally lose 1-2 psi per month, so ongoing neglect will eventually result in a tire that cannot support the weight of the vehicle and the occupants. When this happens, the resulting blow-out can result in the loss of control and an accident.

It’s also important to rotate the tires on the vehicle every 5-7,000 miles. Today’s front-wheel-drive vehicles cause the steer tires to wear at a much faster rate than the tires on the rear axle. By periodically rotating the front tires to the back and the back tires to the front, motorists can achieve even treadwear on all four tires and increase the mileage and performance. Failing to rotate the tires often results in the front tires wearing out faster while the rear tires develop irregular treadwear patterns that cause vibrations. The same can be said for alignments. When the vehicle is not properly aligned, the tires will wear out faster which leads to increased operating costs.

Finally, drivers should perform a visual inspection of their tires on a regular basis, especially after hitting a pothole, curb or any type of road debris. Bulges, cuts and other visible damage weaken the internal components of the tire, which can lead to a blow-out. Regular visual inspections will often identify any potential problems before they result in an accident. It’s also a good idea to have the tires inspected by a professional before any long road trips to ensure there are no obvious out-of-service conditions that must be addressed.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling

Computer crime concept.

Tips for avoiding scams and theft while traveling are a staple of the travel writing genre; pretty much every guidebook or travel website dedicates some space to the subject. 

But in the 21st century, you are as much at risk of having your identity stolen — or more accurately your financial and digital identity — as you are of getting “mugged,” which almost sounds quaint these days (though I do not intend in any way to underplay the misery and danger of actually getting mugged).

Identity theft is a growing problem worldwide — especially for travelers, who are very vulnerable, forced as they are to use unsecured Internet connections, carry extensive personal documentation with them at all times, and share their credit cards with merchants about whom they know nothing and whom they’ll never see again.

Modern technology hasn’t made it any easier for honest folks to avoid identity theft, either; witness the practice of websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, which often keep you logged in to the site, even after you close your browser or turn off your computer. Someone getting unfettered access to your closest friends on Facebook could definitely shake out some very “helpful” information before you knew it.

As time and technology advance, this problem is only going to affect more travelers.

Here are tips to avoid identity theft while traveling:

“Unpack” Critical Documents Before Travel

If you carry some essential documents with you when you are not traveling — the average wallet or purse might include a Social Security card, bank statements, medical documents, checkbook and the like — remove them before you leave home. Essentially, when it comes to documentation, you want to “unpack” before traveling.

Be Very Careful About Shared and Insecure Internet Connections

This is one thing that I have found very difficult to do – when traveling, it is hard to find connections other than public ones at hotels, cafes, airports, you name it. To see the warning “this connection is unsecured and others may see your information” is almost a staple of the travel experience. The risk applies to anything you type into your keyboard while connected, such as email passwords and website logins.

Use Only Bank ATM’s

A recent trend among identity thieves has been to install card readers in an ATM by which they can access your card number and PIN. This happens most often at non-bank, “generic” ATM’s (in hotels, convenience stores, etc.), which have less oversight and are therefore more vulnerable than bank-run and hosted ATM’s. Stick with the ones at banks; these can still be compromised, but tend to be targeted by thieves much less often.

Change Passwords and PIN’s

You may want to change your passwords after a trip; identity thieves are thought to be very patient criminals, and often wait until you are less likely to pay attention after a few weeks at home.

How to Escape While Staying Connected

travel digital detox

Leave the laptop behind, dump the mobile device and otherwise abandon anything that could be called “always on” — so goes a frequent recommendation to stressed vacationers. The thinking is that if it’s too easy to stay in touch via phone and email with work, social obligations and the daily grind, you’ll never really get away from it all.

Sounds like sound advice — except that I’m not sure I agree. I have found that sacrificing a little bit of free time to staying connected while traveling typically makes exit and re-entry — when the most draining work of travel and vacationing takes place — go much more smoothly. In the end, checking in a few times during your vacation is a small price to pay to avoid returning home to a chaotic swarm of neglected responsibilities.

Some folks wouldn’t take a walk without all their devices, while others can’t wait to jettison everything and get off the communication grid. When my own five-year-old cell phone suffered some water damage,

Laptop, cell phone, tablet — take ’em along, leave ’em home, take your pick? Let’s say most of us have three primary email addresses (work, home, alternate) and matching triple voice mails (work, home, cell). That’s a lot of stuff to check while you’re trying to unwind; a couple of hours can pass in a blink by the time you have gotten through them all.

Less to Do Before and After Your Trip
As mentioned above, I believe the most compelling reason to stay connected on the road is to reduce the strain of both leaving and returning. As comfortable as home can be, few things can diminish the glow of a good trip quite as quickly as arriving home to find that two weeks of the detritus of modern life has been accumulating in your absence and that it’ll take days to clear it out.

I would say that the only thing worse than a pile of junk mail in a plastic USPS box and fading newspapers on your stoop is a “mail box is full” message on your voicemail and a couple dozen screens worth of email on your first login when you get home.

And it’s not just when you get home. Leaving notes for dog walkers, putting your house in order and letting everyone who might want your attention know that you will be away is almost always more trouble than checking email for a few minutes in a hotel room every day. While traveling, if you can dispatch tasks and information with short, concise emails written in a few seconds during your trip, there is a lot less accumulated clutter when you return, and less to do before you leave.

Fewer Surprises
The only thing worse than returning from a trip to an inbox full of nuisance emails is finding out too late that a major problem has come up. Keeping in touch with work and personal email semi-regularly is the best way to keep on top of big events. It also gives you…

Increased Control
Trying to fix big problems from a hotel is not a fun place to find yourself. If you have a speedy laptop stocked with all your likely contacts, you’ll be well positioned to deal with anything that goes wrong.

Lowered Expectations
An “away” or “vacation” auto response message followed up with an email with a footer that reads “sent from my cell phone” lets you get away with murder in terms of brevity and specificity — folks are just grateful to get a reply so they can keep working on or stop worrying about whatever it is for which they needed your attention.