Yes Virginia, There is NO Free Lunch

Electric cars have arrived, and they’ve brought with them a social dilemma. American roads are maintained largely—and quite poorly—through the gas tax, a user fee that owners of electric vehicles (EVs)—with no need to stop at the pump—will avoid.

Juicing up the EV! (Photo credit: inhabitat.com)

If you don’t buy gas, you don’t have to pay the gas tax, right? That’s a big extra bonus for owners of EVs. Unfortunately, they’re also checking out of improving the very highways that they’ll be driving in their rides of the future.

Infrastructurist Eric Jaffe summarizes the issue. The idea has been floated that EV owners should pay a nominal fee—but, not a tax, mind you—to maintain the nation’s battered asphalt. But he goes on to argue that the real problem isn’t with EV owners checking out of their civic duty, but rather with the gas tax itself.

He reminds us that the gas tax has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.

Individual states can add to this figure, but the tax’s general failure to keep up with the cost of road maintenance creates situations like the one in Washington, whose drivers pay one of the highest combined (state-federal) gas tax rates in the country, at nearly 56 cents a gallon.

Currently the White House is toying with the idea of a pay-per-mile system, which wouldn’t be as hard to implement as it may sound. How would the government know how far you drove?

The Congressional Budget Office says that electronic equipment, possibly GPS-based but not necessarily, would record the number of miles you drove, then add up a bill that you’d pay, perhaps at your electric vehicle charging station.

Photo credit: watthead.org

This is NOT going to be popular with EV drivers. Since electric cars are expensive, buying one requires that you make a leap of faith. People worry about battery life, range, charger availability, and a number of other intangibles. It’s delicate right now, and throwing in a previously unknown tax could upset the balance.

Another way of looking at it: After the government gives me a tax break to buy the EV, they tax me for driving it?

The auto companies don’t like the idea of EV taxes either and make the case in a similar way.

Shad Balch of General Motors (which makes the Chevrolet Volt) recently stated: “There will be a time and place when electric vehicles should pay their fair share for road maintenance and those associated costs. But we’re not there yet. Right now, we need to create a market that incentivizes people to buy these cars.”

Paul Scott, vice president of Plug In America (and a Nissan Leaf salesman) says, “We at Plug In America think it’s inappropriate to tax EVs at this early stage of development.”

Scott did add that he favors some kind of “weight/mile” tax down the road, after electric vehicles proliferate.

Photo credit: allwelike.com

And people who worry about the long arm of Big Brother won’t be happy, either. As Mark G., a poster on The Car Connection, put it, “Besides the possible privacy issues, it would require an entirely new infrastructure and cost a fortune to put in place. It would end up being technology based, which means that is will be easy to manipulate or cheat. Plus, it will no doubt open up plenty of loopholes to avoid being taxed. I can only guess that they will use this as a scary alternative to justify raising the gas taxes.”

In the end, EV drivers will pay some kind of tax, and they’ll continue to get tax breaks, too.

Writing at CBS’ BNET, Matt DeBord muses that most EV buyers could easily pay Washington state’s $100 fee, or other such levies applied as part of taking delivery of the car.

“The cost could be rolled into a car’s purchase price, and it would become basically invisible,” he said.

That’s true, but a one-time fee is one thing and an ongoing pay-as-you-drive tax is something else again. With that, you’re going to get a big argument—nearly as big a one as you’d get if you proposed raising the 18.4 cents a gallon road tax.

If you haven’t heard, new taxes are off the American agenda.

Worth Pondering…
Thinking is one thing no one has ever been able to tax.

—Charles Kettering

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Great Outdoors Month

Are you planning a camping trip next month?

June is National Great Outdoors Month, which is a wonderful time to enjoy fun outdoor activities with family and friends.

Presidential recognition of Great Outdoors Week was begun in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. Since 2004, Presidential proclamation of Great Outdoors Month has come annually, celebrating a variety of important events and actions that occur during the month.

The 2011 Presidential Proclamation states in part:

“America’s vast and varied outdoor spaces are a source of great national pride, and we have long strived to protect them for future generations. Our lands and waters provide countless opportunities for exploration, recreation, and reflection, whether in solitude or with family and friends. During Great Outdoors Month, we renew our enduring commitment to protect our natural landscapes, to enjoy them, and to promote active lifestyles for ourselves and our children.”

Great Outdoors Month highlights the benefits of active fun outdoors and our magnificent shared resources of forests, parks, refuges, and other public lands and waters. Media attention to the proclamation triggers actions by millions of households and prompts public discussion of important issues linked to outdoor recreation, including volunteerism, health, and outdoor ethics.

Additionally, the majority of governors issue proclamations declaring June as Great Outdoors Month in their states, and many take further actions ranging from Governor’s Outdoor Conferences to hosting campouts for local kids on their state capitol grounds.

Many campgrounds across the country are offering discounts to encourage people to spend time outside and appreciate the outdoors during 8th annual National Great Outdoors Month in June.

Get outdoors next month and enjoy America's parks. Pictured above Enchanted Rock Natural Area, Texas Hill Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We think National Great Outdoors Month is a perfect opportunity for America’s campground industry to encourage everyone to get outdoors, explore nature, and have fun with their friends and families,” said Paul Bambei, President and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

The Denver-based association represents more than 3,300 private campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts, which it promotes through the GoCampingAmerica.com website.

All participating campgrounds are private campgrounds associated with GoCampingAmerica.com. The 20 percent discount will be valid for the first three weeks of June.

In addition to discounts on camping, GoCampingAmerica.com provides e-coupons that consumers can use to obtain discounts at Camping World stores, on Coleman gear, and RV rentals at El Monte RV (7-night minimum required).

“We encourage campers to use GoCampingAmerica.com to locate the parks of interest to them and to call ahead to book their reservations,” Bambei said.

Although participating campgrounds are not located within national parks, many sit on the doorsteps of parks or in nearby towns. A few examples:

  • West Yellowstone outside Yellowstone National Park
  • Columbia, Montana, near Glacier National Park
  • Cherokee and Bryson City, North Carolina, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Three Rivers, California, outside Sequoia National Park

Details

GoCampingAmerica.com

GoCampingAmerica.com is the largest searchable database of privately owned and operated campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts in the U.S., which offer family activities as well as rental accommodations ranging from safari tents and teepees to cabins, park model cottages, yurts, and RVs.

GoCampingAmerica.com promotions

American Recreation Coalition (ARC)

The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of everyone’s right to health and happiness through recreation.

Worth Pondering…
To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.

—Helen Keller

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Should EVs Pay to Play?

Don’t you just love it when a prediction comes true?

Getting juiced up! (Photo credit: inhabitat.com)

Over three months ago a writer for Politics and Cars mused that if special electric meters are installed specifically for the purpose of charging an electric vehicle (EV), someone in government would figure out how to tax that electricity in the same way gasoline is taxed.

Gasoline taxes are supposed to go for repairs and improvement of roads. The gas tax is simply a user tax. You use the roads. You pay for them.

That’s only fair. Right?

However, if EVs use the roads without paying for their use, that is unfair.

The issue is contentious because gasoline taxes generate $45 billion annually to pay for highway repairs.

Let’s say you live in California, and purchased a Nissan Leaf. The car’s $32,000 bottom line would have taken a huge bite out of your budget, but the feds rewarded you with a $7,500 tax credit and the state kicked in a $5,000 cash payout. At $20,000, the Leaf is now affordable, and the three cents a mile operating costs are good news, too.

But now they want to hit you with a new tax?

The rest of us say it’s not fair that we pay a premium of 18.4 cents per gallon (24.4 cents for diesel) to maintain the nation’s roads, help to eradicate potholes, and keep overpasses from falling down while EV drivers pay nothing.

Nissan Leaf. (Photo credit: nissanusa.com)

That’s harsh, you think, being a crusader for clean air. After all, you’re saving the planet by decreasing your carbon footprint.

That, in a nutshell, is the debate over whether or not to reform the gas tax as the automobile electrifies.

One way to ensure that EVs pay their fair share is to create an entirely new system that’s not based on what you drive to get there but on how far you drive (pay-per-mile).

I’ll report more on this new pay-per-mile system in my next post.

John Voelcker, senior editor at High Gear Media, explains it this way: “My basic take is that I’m sympathetic to the desire of EV owners not to be taxed, but right now, there’s no mechanism by which EVs are contributing to highway funds. And because people aren’t driving as much, we face a phenomenal shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.”

Voelcker’s research indicates that U.S. gasoline consumption peaked in 2006, when we used 374 million gallons every day. High fuel prices are also cutting into driving, and thus reducing gasoline tax payouts that pay for road repairs.

The charging plug on the Smart EV prototype. (Photo credit: Daimler)

America’s fuel tax burden isn’t that much of a burden when compared with other countries. The 18.4 cents is phenomenally lower than the very high taxes Europeans pay—as much as half of the $8 or more they pay per gallon. Fuel tax in Canada is also considerably higher than in the United States.

A little known fact is that the fuel tax is only about 35 percent of subsidies to the U.S. road and highway system. The rest is vehicle taxes (20 percent), tolls (less than 5 percent), general fund appropriations (15 percent), borrowing (10 percent), property taxes (5 percent), and miscellaneous taxes and fees (10 percent).

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, only 53 percent of the state’s roads are in “good” condition, while the others range from “poor” to “mediocre” to “fair.”  Apparently the United States has no such thing as a “great” road.

It’s not just the federal government, either. States can and will tax electric vehicles, too, and they’ll already finding creative ways to do it. Washington State is considering the nation’s first fee on EVs to help cover wear and tear on the state’s roads.

The Washington State bill would apply a $100 surcharge for EVs during the licensing process, and it’s already passed the state Senate and is awaiting action in the state House. Washington’s 37.5-cents-per-gallon fuel tax costs the average driver about $200 a year, transportation officials say. That’s equivalent to driving roughly 12,000 miles in a vehicle that gets 23 mpg.

Meanwhile, Oregon legislators are working on a bill that would charge drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles up to 1.43 cents for each mile they drive, beginning with cars from the 2014 model year. It would cost about $172 per year for a car driven 12,000 miles—about the same as the gas tax paid for a vehicle that gets 21 mpg.

Pardon me, but aren’t these two states that really like EVs because they’re environmentally friendly.

I’m amazed, though, that California didn’t think of it first!

Worth Pondering…
Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:

If it moves, tax it.

If it keeps moving, regulate it.

And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

—Ronald Reagan

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You Can Avoid an RV Disaster

Despite high fuel prices, more Americans are hitting the roads this Memorial Day Weekend.

A recreational vehicle sits crashed into a garage in Gaston, North Carolina. Firefighters were dispatched to the incident that sent one man to Gaston Memorial Hospital with non life threatening injuries. (Credit: Gaston Gazette)

AAA estimates 34.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles this weekend. That is about 100,000 more than last year, even though gas costs more.

Whether you are a rookie or a veteran when it comes to the pleasures of traveling in a recreational vehicle, a review of the basics can help to keep you on the road to safety.

Realize your size. Many road mishaps occur because of an RV’s additional size and weight. For instance, operators accidentally drive under an overpass without enough clearance because they forget about the additional height. Know your RV’s height (remember to include the AC unit), width, and length and have them posted in the cockpit clearly visible to the driver.

Also know the clearances of the bridges, underpasses, and tunnels along your route, especially on back roads. A road atlas specifically for RVers or semi drivers can help.

Having your recreational vehicle road-ready and smart planning often helps the RVer to avoid a disaster as the following four incidents illustrate.

RV trapped in mall parking lot

Santa Maria, California: On May 7 (2011), a driver found out the hard way that it’s important to know the height of your recreational vehicle and pay attention to the clearance signs in parking lots. A mini Toyota camper truck wedged itself in the south parking structure of the Santa Maria Mall on the 400 block of Town Center East.
Officers and firefighters had to flatten the tires of the camper to get it out. A nearby repair shop then had to put new tires on the RV.

There is a sign that states how much clearance the structure has, but the camper was too big. No damage was done to the parking structure.

Man hospitalized after driving RV into garage

(Credit: Gaston Gazette)

Gaston, North Carolina: A Gastonia man was hospitalized after apparently driving an RV through the garage of his home on Friday night (May 6).

A firefighter at Gastonia Fire Department station four on Armstrong Park Road said they were dispatched around 8:15 p.m. to 615 Rosemary, the home of Russell Miller.

A nursing supervisor at Gaston Memorial Hospital said at 5 p.m. Saturday that Miller was in very stable condition.

The tan-colored Allegro RV remained half in and half out the carport area of the single-story brick home on Saturday evening. The roof of the RV appeared gutted as it apparently crashed into the roof of the home. The RV roof appeared to be intact but the interior of the driver’s side of the vehicle was totally encompassed by wood, glass, and debris.

On February 17, a similar situation occurred just down the block from Miller’s home. An 87-year-old man and his wife were pulling into their carport at 330 Rosemary Lane when the driver hit the gas instead of the brake in his Toyota Avalon.

It is unclear if Miller hit the gas instead of the brake in the RV.

Exhaust ignites wood on RV’s tow rack

As you drive the highways and byways this summer, remember to drive safely--the life you save may be your own. Pictured above driving in the fog in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sun City, Arizona: A family renting a motorhome escaped disaster after exhaust from the motorhome ignited wood the family had secured to a tow rack behind the unit. The renters had inserted a carrying rack into the hitch receiver in back of the rental unit and secured a supply of firewood to be used later. The vehicle’s exhaust came out the back of the unit directly beneath the wood. The wood caught fire.

Not being able to see the fire, they drove for at least 35 miles with a fire spewing hot ash behind them. They eventually stopped and quickly put out the fire with no damage to the unit. But, they did manage to start three brush fires which had to be put out by the local fire departments.

That’s one of the reasons why manufacturers discourage use of hitch racks. If anything with gasoline, like a generator, would have been stored there, it could have been a disaster.

The dealer noted that a quick fix to prevent problems like this from happening would involve installing an extension device on the exhaust pipe with a turn down that would direct the hot air toward the ground, rather than straight out onto anything being towed close to the vehicle.

Woman falls from moving RV

Indio, California: A woman landed on her head when she fell out of a moving motorhome in Indio. The woman fell around 10:45 a.m. as her husband was making a left turn from Jefferson Street to Highway 111, said Ben Guitron of the Indio Police Department. The woman was trying to secure the door of the RV so her dog would not fall out, but lost her balance during the turn and fell.

The woman was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment. Officers initially had a hard time understanding the woman because she had reverted to speaking German, which was her first language, instead of English, according to Guitron.

Shouldn’t the door have been secured BEFORE takeoff?

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…
One needs only two tools in life: WD40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.

—G. Weilacher

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Preparing Your RV for a Summer Road Trip

The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season, with many families either hitting the road or planning to do so within the following summer months.

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off those lazy, hazy days of summer. Drive carefully and arrive safely at your destination. Pictured above is Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Byway, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. It’s a travel tradition that’s steeped in history but re-made fresh every summer by families across the country.

In 2011, it’s time to refresh that tradition once again.

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

In 2010, AAA responded to 9.3 million motorists who found themselves stranded on the side of the road, with more than half a million of those breakdowns taking place during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Before you hit the road, check to make sure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

LP Gas Safety

“The most important things to consider are your tires, brakes, and propane,” Peter Bowring says. “Number one—check your propane every year.”

The Red Seal accredited technician says that he finds a startlingly high number of nightmare repair jobs on RV propane systems, reported the Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Star-Phoenix. “I have a picture of a time when a guy tried to fix the propane himself—there’s nothing left of his trailer! They’re super safe trailers but when you start mucking with them and using handyman fixes it becomes a safety issue.”

If you use propane properly and do some basic safety checks prior to use, then you and your family should have a safe and worry free trip. (Credit: iStock)

“If you use propane properly and do some basic safety checks prior to use, then you and your family should have a safe and worry free trip,” stated Eric Skehor, provincial gas safety manager for the BC Safety Authority, in a recent news release.

Fortunately, explosions due to propane leaks and carbon monoxide poisonings are rare, but they are still a risk worth thinking about before hitting the road in your RV.

“The propane system in an RV must be well-maintained and properly used, just like everything else in your vehicle,” says Skehor.

Propane smells like rotten eggs. If you think you smell propane in your RV:

  • Get everyone out of the RV immediately
  • Don’t smoke, light matches, operate electrical switches, use either cell or telephones, or create any other source of ignition
  • Turn your gas off at the main cylinder, if safe to do so and you know how
  • Call the area fire department emergency number or 911

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is colorless, odorless, and potentially deadly. Here are some safety reminders to prevent CO poisoning:

  • When using a propane stove or oven, open a vent or window and turn on the range hood fan to let out any possible carbon monoxide and never use stove burners or the RV oven for space heating
  • Never use portable propane camping equipment inside your RV (e.g. camp stoves, barbecues, lanterns, catalytic, or radiant heaters)

Have everyone leave the RV and get medical attention if an individual shows physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning like: headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, impaired judgment, lack of physical coordination.

A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks and monuments, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions. Pictured above is Ocmulee National Monument, near Macon, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not to travel with the refrigerator operating on propane. Many RVers see no danger in running the refrigerator on propane while on the road. They say they have traveled for years without problems. Generally it is legal to travel while using propane, but keep in mind that it is illegal to have any open flames while near a service station fuel pump. And some tunnels and bridges may have restrictions too.

Other RVers claim that traveling with the propane on is a disaster waiting to happen. In an accident a broken propane line could trigger an explosion, a fire, or both. They feel that the only safe way to travel is with the propane tank valves closed!

When traveling, we turn the propane OFF at the tank.

Brakes

The brakes are just as important as the propane. “Check to see if they’re worn and take the trailer into a shop at least every few years to have your brakes checked,” Peter Bowring advises. “When the trailer brakes aren’t working it affects the safety of your whole family and if you get pulled over you’ll be fined.

Tire Safety

Inspect the tires. Check for cracks, worn treads, and correct tire pressure.

“Make sure your tires are in good shape before you leave for a vacation and take the trailer into a shop to have it serviced if you’re not sure what you’re doing.” Bowring always checks that tires are within their expiration date and that they are the proper type and size for the trailer. He advises that car tires should never be used on an RV.

You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 per cent by simply keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, according to Fueleconomy.gov. Underinflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 per cent for every pound-per-square-inch drop in pressure of all four tires. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the proper level of inflation (not the tire itself, which shows the maximum tire inflation pressure), and be sure to check the tire pressure when the tires are cold, as internal pressure increases when the car has been on the road for a while and the tires heat up.

Before your first weekend getaway, it’s a good idea to open up your RV, flush out the antifreeze, run out the awnings, and make sure the appliances and detectors are working. Throughout the season, do a complete walk around each time you take your RV on the road. Check the brakes, lights, and air pressure in the tires.

Note: Dangerous fire conditions around the state of New Mexico have closed some forest areas and campgrounds that have not seen such restrictions in several years. And bans on campfires and smoking are in effect all over the state.

The entire Lincoln National Forest has been closed by fire or fire danger, as have the Manzano and Gallinas mountains in the Cibola National Forest and some campgrounds in the Gila National Forest.

Open fires and fireworks are banned at El Malpais and El Morro National Monument.

Fire officials warn people to be vigilant if they decide to recreate outside over the long weekend.

A 25,000 acre Tire Fire which is currently burning between Clovis and Portales was caused by a tire blowout.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, and thanks again for visiting!

Worth Pondering…
Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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California to Close 70 State Parks

California will close a fourth of its parks to save $33 million over the next two years as leaders of the most-populous state work to close a $15.4 billion budget deficit.

Popular with snowbirds and other campers, birders, and boaters, Salton Sea State Recreation Area is one of the 70 state parks that California plans to close. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an announcement last week California’s Department of Parks and Recreation said it would close 70 of 278 sites from the redwoods of the northern coast to the deserts of the southeast. The Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento, no longer a residence, also will be shut.

Although the state plans to close 70 of its 278 parks, the department said those parks account for about 8 percent of statewide attendance and 6 percent of revenue.

“We regret closing any park,” said Ruth Coleman, state parks director, “but with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”

The closings were mandated by a bill that Governor Jerry Brown signed in March as part of a series of budget cuts that amounted to $12.5 billion. The measures reduced the state’s budget deficit from $26.6 billion.

The bill cuts $11 million from the parks budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1, and $22 million the next fiscal year. That trims the system’s 2012-13 budget from the state general fund to $99 million—a 40 percent reduction since four years ago.

While some of the same parks survived the threat of closure in 2009, John Laird, the state’s resources secretary, who oversees the parks and recreation department, said he doesn’t foresee a repeat of their reprieve. State lawmakers will finalize the proposed closures later this year.

The very popular Anza-Borrego Desert State Park south of the Coachella Valley will remain open. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I’m thinking (the closures) are very likely to happen,” Laird said. “There really is no option at this point, but to close the parks.”

In May 2009, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed shuttering three-quarters of state parks as a way to solve a $24 billion budget deficit. Lawmakers refused.

Instead, Schwarzenegger met the budget cuts by reducing maintenance, stopping purchases of new vehicles, laying off workers, and reducing hours and days of operation at many parks.

As the state’s budget woes continued, the idea of closing parks to reduce spending resurfaced in Sacramento.

In deciding which parks to close, parks officials said they wanted to preserve the most significant natural and cultural resources, maintain public access as much as practicable, and keep the closed parks in a condition good enough to be used by potential partners.

The department hopes to partner with cities, counties, or nonprofit organizations to keep open some of the parks slated for closure, Coleman said in a statement.

Parks officials looked at many factors, including how easily the parks could be closed off to public access and the net savings of closing.

“The key criteria were attendance and revenue,” Laird said.

The parks system hopes to minimize layoffs, possibly shifting some of the roughly 200 workers who would be affected by the closures into vacant positions within the department, said Tony Perez, the state’s deputy director for park operations. There are almost 2,300 full-time positions in the state parks and about 500 of them are open.

Even if a park is on the closure list it should be open through summer, Laird said. The closures likely will start in September and should be done by July 2012.

Desert Parks

The Salton Sea State Recreation Area is set to close this summer.

The Salton Sea recreation area stretches for 14 miles along the sea’s northeastern shore and includes campgrounds, picnic areas, trails, and boat ramps. The park had already closed two of its six campgrounds and a portion of a third camping area to save money.

The recreation area drew more than 87,000 visitors in 2010, the lowest attendance of the region’s six state parks.

AT THE END OF THE DAY will partnerships save California State Parks? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors pay an entrance fee at a main gate. They can hook up their recreational vehicle for $30 a night, camp at a tent site for $20 a night, or spend a day fishing and hiking for $5.

The Salton Sea Visitor Center run by Sea and Desert that displays artifacts and information about the lake is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the summer.

The Picacho State Recreation Area in eastern Imperial County, near Yuma, Arizona, is also slated to close.

Desert parks expected to remain open include:

  • Indio Hills Palms Park
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park south of the Coachella Valley
  • Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, located near Anza-Borrego
  • Heber Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area southeast of El Centro.

Happy RVng, and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

Worth Pondering…
The nation behaves well when it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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30 Tips to Cut Your RV Travel Expenses

The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season, with many families either hitting the road or planning to do so within the following summer months.

Try local wineries for wine tasting and tours. Pictured avbove Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are 30 tips that will help you save money while still enjoying all the fun, freedom, and flexibility that RVing has to offer:

  1. Buy a local newspaper when checking into a campground or RV park and check it for coupons, bargains, and savings before going out to shop for groceries.
  2. Don’t buy all of your groceries at supermarkets. Buy food and other necessities at thrift bakeries, discount stores, dollar stores, church and charity bazaars, flea markets, roadside fruit and veggie stands, canning plants, and u-pick orchards.
  3. Shop at a local farmer’s market and chat with the folks selling the fruits and veggies. Pick up something “new to you” and ask them how to prepare it—then go back to your RV and try it.
  4. When in a campground connect to “shore power” and use THEIR electricity, not YOUR propane, to heat your water and run your refrigerator. Water heaters in particular consume considerable amounts of propane.
  5. If you’re staying in a metered park and paying for the electricity, you can determine which energy source is most economical—paying for the electricity or using your propane. Multiply the kilowatt rate being charged by 20 and compare that to the price of a gallon of propane.
  6. When eating out, look for 2-for-1 coupons and early bird specials.
  7. Eat out at lunch instead of dinner.
  8. Attend festivals, fairs, and parades. Pictured above is a guord festival near Moab, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

    Eat in. Cook your family favorites in the convenience of an RV and avoid the higher costs of eating out. Better yet, cook over your campfire!

  9. Check the local paper for free community events including concerts in the park, lectures, plays, etc.
  10. Attend festivals, fairs, and parades. Tourism offices and RV magazines offer calendars of events.
  11. Visit the public library and check out a few movies, make some popcorn, set up the TV outside the RV and have a date night or family gathering under the stars.
  12. Take free tours of state capitol buildings.
  13. Visit churches, cathedrals, and architectural sites.
  14. Visit museums on their free days—most have at least one a month.
  15. Take a factory tour—sometimes they’ll include bonus samples.
  16. Try local wineries for wine tasting and tours.
  17. Check out cheese factories, breweries, and farms that offer tasting tours.
  18. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon at a local park relaxing, eating, talking, reading, exploring, daydreaming…did I mention relaxing?
  19. Window shop a fancy part of town. End the afternoon with a cup of coffee, tea, or other refreshing beverage in said “fancy part of town.”
  20. Follow the trails of the pioneer settlers as traveled the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to the Pacific Oregon.
  21. Discover the history and charm of America’s historic routes such as the Ohio and Erie Canalway in Ohio; Historic National Road in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia; and Historic Route 66 in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
  22. Explore Americas Scenic Byways such as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in Oregon, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, and Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
  23. Check out the travel section of local bookstores for guidebooks on historical, cultural, and scenic travels.
  24. Visit the birthplace and memorial libraries of presidents. Pictured above is John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

    Visit the birthplace and memorial libraries of presidents such as the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts and George Herbert Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

  25. Visit the birthplace and homes of other famous people such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.
  26. Take up bird watching.
  27. Explore the public parks and gardens around the continent such as the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Stanley Park in Vancouver.
  28. Explore the beauty of the outdoors by taking a walk along a river or lake or hiking into the wilderness.
  29. Take advantage of regional bargains. Each area of the country has bargains you can take advantage of as you RV.
  30. Take a walk in nature—breathe deep, walk softly, and observe your surroundings.

Unless you have written savings goals, it is often tempting to spend money on purchases that give immediate gratification instead of long term rewards. Being skilled at managing money often requires goal setting as well as long term planning and saving.

If you have additional thoughts, we would love to hear them. Please do share!! Send them in an email to vogelontheroad@gmail.com, and I’ll see that they appear in a future post.

Worth Pondering…

If you can, you will quickly find that the greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending. Being a smart shopper is the first step to getting rich.

—Mark Cuban

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Is Your RV Ready for the Road?

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. And it’s a standby in literature and movies—from John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley to Smokey and the Bandit.

It's a great time of year for a road trip to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. Pictured above is Spider Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Times have certainly changed since Steinbeck and his dog Charley made their way across the country 51 years ago.

But one thing hasn’t changed: A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks and monuments, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions.

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any spring or summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

Prevention is Key

Preventive maintenance is designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction, or failure of a component or system. Don’t confuse this with regularly scheduled maintenance.

Inspect all the roof and window seals of your RV and reseal any that are showing signs of damage or aging.

Check awnings for damage, mildew, and insects.

Examine the hitch system for wear, loose bolts, and cracks.

Don't let this happen to you? Is your RV ready for the road? (Credit: engadget.com)

Check for cracks in hoses and fan belts and replace if necessary.

Check all lights. Make sure headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are all functioning properly.

Preventative maintenance applies to the RV interior as well as the exterior. Stains become more difficult to remove when vinyl or leather is allowed to become dry.

Scheduled Maintenance

Scheduled or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage, or hours.

Note: It is absolutely essential that you read your owner’s manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Adhere to the service schedule outlined in the manual.

Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

Safety Alarms

Check Smoke, LPG, and Carbon Monoxide alarms for proper operation and replace batteries as needed.

Battery care

Check the water level in your batteries monthly. Remove the vent caps and look inside the fill wells. Check the electrolyte levels. The minimum level required for charging the battery is at the top of the plates. When you add water, use only distilled water and fill the cell to 1/8 inch below the fill well. Also remove any corrosion on the connections with a wire brush and baking soda/water solution.

Wiper blades

Looking for a great spring or summer getaway? Think Galveston, Texas! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean monthly using rubbing alcohol.

When the rubber meets the road

Tire manufacturers stress that there are four main considerations concerning tire care:

  • Proper air pressure should be maintained
  • Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems, increased tire wear, and even sudden tire failure
  • And don’t just check the pressure at the start of the season, but every time you are heading out
  • Age of the tires; RV tires usually age out before they wear out; tires should be inspected annually, especially after the first five to six years, regardless of the mileage

Emergency Road Service

Even with the best preparation, issues can still arise with your RV, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a roadside assistance plan.

Like any insurance plan, Emergency Road Service is an investment that you hope you’ll never need. But if you spend much time on the road, sooner or later you’ll have a breakdown.

Excellent plans are available from the Good Sam Club, AAA, and CoachNet.

Coach-Net is a technical and emergency roadside assistance program that, among other services, will tow your vehicle to the nearest service center.

Your plan should provide coverage for emergency gas/fuel, lockout service, tire changes, and jump-starts. These services should be available no matter where you travel in the United States or Canada.

Think about your needs and ensure that your emergency assistance plan will meet them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my plan cover all vehicles that we normally travel with: motorhome, toad, trailer?
  • Does my plan include a lodging allowance if we aren’t able to stay in our RV?
  • Am I covered in the U.S. and Canada?
  • Does my plan have an upper limit? A deductible?
  • What hoops do I have to jump through to get reimbursed if I have to pay cash for service?
  • Shop around. Match your plan to your needs and your budget—and you’ll drive with peace of mind this spring and summer.
  • See you down the road and Happy and Safe RVing!

Worth Pondering…
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan

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Are You Ready for the Road?

Memorial Day weekend kicks off those lazy, hazy days of summer.

State and national parks are great spots for family camping. Pictured above is campground at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The long weekend is perfect for a camping getaway to enjoy biking, boating, fishing, golfing, hiking, paddling, photography, or bird watching.

More than 30 million people nationwide will travel more than 50 miles during Memorial Day weekend, defined as the period from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30 says AAA, an increase of 0.2 percent.

“In 2010, Memorial Day travel experienced a gain of more than 14 percent,” AAA-Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai told the Washington Post. “Many travelers have told us they’ll compensate for higher fuel costs by cutting back in other areas of spending.”

They’ll pay more too, with gas running just a bit less than $4.00 per gallon, compared to $2.85 this time last year reports TulsaWorld. But while the high price of gas does not appear to be stopping road trip plans, travelers are looking at expenses carefully, saving where they can.

Colonial Williamsburg is a popular vacation spot. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we think of what we need for a road trip, a common list unfolds. Food, beverages, ice, snacks, paper products, lawn chairs, and maps are all normal items we might bring along.

We’ll fill up the RV with fuel and head out on the highway to get away, even if just for the Memorial Day road trip weekend.

This year, some of those items will cost a bit more, some a bit less, and there are some new things we might want to consider bringing along.

What else to pack?

Make a list and check it twice. Using a checklist is an excellent way to make sure you have everything you need.

Useful items include:

  • Bungee cords, Velcro, tape (Duct, Gorilla, electrical, masking, Teflon)
  • Well-stocked first-aid kit including bandages, gauze, pain remedies, cold and flu medicine, allergy medication, antiseptic, and any prescription medications your family requires
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Electrical adapters, extension cord (30 amp, 10-gauge), polarity tester, digital voltmeter
  • RV water hoses (DO NOT use a garden hose) and fittings, water pressure regulator
  • Sewer hoses, toilet chemical, work gloves, disposable plastic sewer gloves
  • Flashlights, extra bulbs, fuses, and batteries (a variety of sizes for your onboard gadgets)
  • Tool box with basic tools (store on curb side) that can be used for minor vehicle repairs and get you out of a jam, e.g., screwdrivers, hammer, adjustable wrenches, pliers, baling wire, tape measure, rags.
  • Emergency items such as road flares/warning reflectors, tarp, emergency blankets
  • Fully charged cell phone and charger
  • WD-40, silicone spray, distilled water, jumper cables, heavy-duty tire pressure gauge, fold-down shovel, stepladder
  • Weather radio
  • Bottled water (individual and larger containers)
  • Navigation devices (atlases, maps, GPS, or laptop with navigation program)
  • Cooking utensils, pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, can opener, coffee maker, potholders, ziploc bags, aluminum foil, wax paper, saran wrap
  • Clean-up materials (soaps, scrubbers, rags, trash bags, dish drainer)
  • Paper products (towels, plates, toilet and facial tissue)
  • Digital camera, memory cards, rechargeable batteries, lenses, filters, tripod, camera bag, computer; plus related battery chargers
  • Binoculars
Vermont is a popular summer and autumn vacation spot. Pictured above state capitol in Montpelier.

Now you’re ready to pack away the hotdogs and marshmallows.

Have a great holiday weekend camping in your RV.

Worth Pondering…
“Where are we going, man?”

“I don’t know, but we gotta go.”

—Jack Kerouac, in On the Road

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On the road again with Newmar

It’s that time of year again. The 2011 GoNewmar Road Show is set to begin in ten days.

Four members of Newmar’s management team are “hitting the road” again this year—Newmar’s owner Mahlon Miller, Chairman and CEO Richard Parks, President Matthew Miller, and V.P. of Sales and Marketing John Sammut (accompanied by their spouses).

Covering 4,500 miles through 14 eastern states in 20 days, the traveling motorhomes of Newmar hit the road on May 31 for another road show tour.

Four motor coaches from Newmar’s 2012 Class A diesel line will be visiting 12 dealers in nine states and one of Newmar’s largest suppliers, Freightliner.

This year’s Road Show features the 2012 Ventana LE Diesel Pusher, 2012 Ventana Diesel Pusher, 2012 Dutch Star Diesel Pusher, and 2012 Mountain Aire Diesel Pusher.

(Credit: Newmar Corp)

As part of the GoNewmar Road Show, the corporate executives will also spend five days at the Newmar Kountry Klub International Rally in Essex Junction, Vermont in their motorhomes, where they will RV alongside several hundred owners of Newmar recreational vehicles.

This year’s “Go Newmar” Road Show is being sponsored by Freightliner Customer Chassis Corporation in Gaffney, South Carolina.  The four Newmar motorhomes being driven by the traveling team are built exclusively on Freightliner chassis with Comfort Drive Steering.

You’re invited to stop by, tour the coaches, and meet the Newmar Road Show team.

See you on the road!

The 2011 GoNewmar Road Show Schedule

Date                Destination

5/31/11           Mt. Comfort RV, 5935 W 225 North, Greenfield, IN 46140

6/1/11              Buddy Gregg, 11730 Snyder Rd., Knoxville, TN 37932

6/2/11              Tom Johnson CC, 1885 US 70 West, Marion, NC 28752

(Credit: Newmar Corp)

6/2/11              Adventure RV, 198 Bob Ledford Drive, Greer, SC 29651

6/2/11              Freightliner CC, 552 Hyatt St., Gaffney, SC 29341

6/3/11              Freightliner CC, 552 Hyatt St., Gaffney, SC 29341

6/3/11              Terry Labonte RV, 1401 Bridford Parkway, Greensboro, NC 27407

6/4/11              Campground, Myrtle Beach, SC

6/5/11              Campground, Myrtle Beach, SC

6/6/11              Dick Gore RV World, 14590 Duval Place, Jacksonville, FL 32218

6/6/11              Campground, Orlando, FL

6/7/11              Independence RV, 12705 W. Colonial Drive, Winter Garden, FL 34787

6/7/11              Campground, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

6/8/11              North Trail RV, 4300 Ravenswood Rd., Dania Beach, FL 33312

6/8/11              Campground, Savannah, GA

6/9/11              Campground, Gettysburg, PA

6/10/11            Beckley’s RV, 11109 Angleberger Rd., Thurmont, MD

(Credit: Newmar Corp)

6/10/11            Tom Schaeffer RV, 1236 Pottsville Pike, Shoemakersville, PA 19555

6/10/11            Campground, Kutztown, PA

6/11/11            Dave’s RV, 2 Industrial Plaza Drive, Danbury, CT

6/11/11            Campground, Dorset, VT

6/12/11            Champlain Valley Expo, Essex Jct., VT

6/13/11            Newmar Kountry Klub International Rally, Essex Jct., VT

6/14/11            Newmar Kountry Klub International Rally, Essex Jct., VT

6/15/11            Newmar Kountry Klub International Rally, Essex Jct., VT

6/16/11            Newmar Kountry Klub International Rally, Essex Jct., VT

6/17/11            Campground, Dorset, VT

6/18/11            Wilkins RV, 7520 State Route 415, Bath, NY 14810

6/18/11            Campground TBA

Details

Newmar Corp

Go Newmar

Newmar Blog

Newmar Kountry Klub

Worth Pondering…
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

—Aristotle

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