In this jampacked 302nd Episode of the RV Podcast:
Here’s a player to the audio version of this RV Podcast episode. You can also listen to the RV Podcast on your favorite podcast app. A full article with links, transcripts, photos, and other resources follows:
Show Notes for Episode #302 July 8, 2020 of The RV Podcast
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
Hi Fellow Travelers and welcome to Episode 302 of the RV Podcast. And we have a lot of ground to cover this week.
So I want to remind you that you can follow a text version of this podcast, with all the links and resources we share, on our shownotes page on our RV Lifestyle Travel Blog at rvlifestyle.com/302.. just go there.rvlifestyle.com/302 and you’ll find a full outline and transcript.
First off, let me welcome back my lifelong traveling companion, the bride of my youth and my cohost.. .Jennifer.
We share the latest…
- Jen is on the mend, though still has to watch talking too much so she doesn’t cough
- We were tested and we do not have COVID-19.
- We learned that doctors are seeing a spike in blood pressure problems they blame on the COVID disruptions – the Three S’s of too much Salt, too much Stress and not enough Sleep.
- We are taking time setting up the new RV
- Travel plans are still up in the air as renewed shutdowns, cancellations and hints of travel restrictions are once again bringing disruption to everyone’s RV Lifestyle
On a positive note, we are very excited to report that we finally have our RV Lifestyle OFFICIAL Pinterest account up and running! For those of you who LOVE Pinterest – please Follow us and Share our posts about the RV Lifestyle. You can find us at https://www.pinterest.com/rvlifestylemike/ AND we are starting to create Pinterest-ready images over on our blog so when you Pin from our site the images are BIG and beautiful. Thank you for supporting a fun way for people to find us and what we have to offer
RV PODCAST NEWS OF THE WEEK
A woman was gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park last week after she got too close to the massive animal while taking its picture. The woman, from California, was tossed 10-15 feet in the air, and when she stood, was attacked again. She was taking the picture near her Bridge Bay Campground campsite, and ended up being flown to a hospital for treatment. The woman was reportedly within 10 feet of the animal, causing it to feel threatened. When a wild bison feels threatened it will snort, paw the ground, bob its head, lift its tail. Rangers recommend visitors stay at least 25 feet away.
California RV Show the latest big show to cancel because of COVID-19
The California RV Show is the latest casualty of COVID-19 cancelations, with organizers announcing several days ago that the show, which typically runs in early October, is off. The California RV Show is one of our favorites, attracting about 45,000 visitors. Click here to see our review of last year's show and why it is so important to the industry and consumers..
Woman taking pictures at Grand Canyon slips, falls to her death
An Arizona woman fell to her death at the Grand Canyon last weekend. The woman, 59, was off trail, when she slipped and fell 100 feet while taking pictures. The woman was near Mather Point.
Three people hospitalized with severe injuries after their campfire exploded
Three people were hospitalized with severe burns, including a 7-year-old, after their campfire exploded last Saturday night in Ontario, Canada. Apparently a propane cylinder was buried in their campfire pit, and it exploded when a campfire was set, causing severe injuries to those around it. The three were camping near the town of Perth.
Most campgrounds throughout country now open, but restrictions remain
Only New Mexico and New Hampshire state park campgrounds have either restricted access to campsites or kept the facilities closed to out of state residents, according to Campendium. But, that does not mean things are normal. Several states, such as Maine or New Mexico (click here) require those from out of state to quarantine for 14 days when crossing the border. Also in New Mexico, it is the law that everyone must wear a mask outside in a public space and it is a law that apparently is being enforced in state parks. Also in the news, Big Bend National Park is closed again because of the virus, and more changes happen daily. Again, we can't stress it enough, camping is not normal this year. While studies have shown being outside camping is one of the safest things you can do, each state is setting its own rules and procedures. As always, before heading out, check ahead by clicking here.
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RV PODCAST QUESTION OF THE WEEK
This came in from a reader who wanted some suggestions about what to do when he picks up his new RV soon:
Hi Mike and Jennifer: do you have a list of questions or a checklist when one goes to take delivery of a new RV? We will be picking up our new one in a couple of weeks. Thanks.
That’s a great question and one that has never come up like that in the form of a list. We have offered some suggestions about what to do during the walk-though – that’s what dealers call it when they take you through the RV just before you drive off – but never in detail
So let’s cover what we think are the key items to ask about and get demonstrated on the lot.
So our first suggestion is for you.
The night before the inspection, go to the manufacturer’s website or the dealer’s inventory post on your unit and read everything you can. Jot down anything you are not clear of.
Next, it’s important to know just who is giving you the walk-through. Is it the salesperson who sold it to you, or just whoever was free on the lot that day.
Often, we’re sorry to say, once they get your signature on the bottom line the salesperson moves on and some dealers have “walk-though guys,” who are at best generalists who know a little about all RVs or worse, somebody who may nothing about your RV model but was drafted for the job because they didn’t have anything to do when you showed up.
You want to know are they RVers themselves? How familiar are they with your particular model? Don’t let them tell you they all work alike. They don’t. Yours is unique.
If you are not comfortable with the person you get, stop the walk-through and say you will complete the purchase when you get someone who has more expertise on your model.
Dealers will hate me for saying this. You, though, will thank me in the long run. That’s what counts.
The third of advice we have is, assuming you half a knowledgeable “walk-through” guy, get out your cell phone and video record it. Have them show you, not just tell you. After they do it, you do it. Get it all on video. Take notes, too. Don’t worry about it taking a long time. Make sure you know.
The video will come in very handy down the line as you get to know your new RV.
Lastly, here are the key areas we think you need to have explained and demonstrated. There may be more. But these will give you the basic background to get out there and use that RV.
Many of these questions will be detailed in the thick manuals and instructions that come with the RV. Review them when you can and frequently go back to anything that is confusing. But go over these questions, too, at the walk-through.
Ready? Here they are:
- Hot water heater – How does it turn on? What controls does it have? How should they be set? How long does it take hot water to come out?
- Where do you fill the fresh water tank?
- Where and how do you drain the fresh water tank?
- Where and how do you attach city water?
- Is there a water filter in the RV? How often should it be changed?
- How do you winterize the plumbing system?
- How do you dewinterize the plumbing system?
- How do you drain the black water tanks? Get the hose out and make sure you undertsnad
- How do you drain the gray water tanks?
- Can you fill the fresh water tank from a jug? How so?
- How do you sanitize the water – black and grey – tanks?
- What should you use in the toilet to control odors?
- How do you plug into shore power?
- When on shore power, how should the battery switches and inverter be set?
- How do you start the generator?
- Is there an auto start feature when the house batteries get low? How does it work?
- How often do you have to “exercise” the generator?
- How do you check oil level in the generator and what maintenance does it require?
- Do you have a slide? How does it work…does the emergency brake have to be set, does it have to be level?
- What if the slide sticks open?
- Is there a lock to keep the slide from opening while driving?
- How do you maintain the slide?
- What kind of refrigerator do you have and what powers it – shore power, LP, generator, engine fuel? Does it automatically switch to whatever power is there> How does it work? How level does it have to be?
- How does your air conditioner work?
- If you have a microwave/convection oven, how is the convection oven different than the microwave?
- If you have automatic levelers, what do you do if one of them refuses to retract?
- Do you have surge protection for your RV’s electrical system to protect it from bad shore power at the pedestal?
- How does the bed work – Is it a sofa that makes into a bed, or a Murphy bed? If so have it demonstrated?
- Where are the fuses located? The breakers?
- How does the heater work?
- How do the rooftop fans work?
- How does the awning work? What happens if it sticks open?
- How does the TV work? Using the antenna? Hooking up to cable? Is there prewiring for a satellite system?
- Does your RV have an automatic sliding step? How and where do you lubricate it? How often? Where is the switch that allows it to stay out when you’re camped?
- Finally, what do you do if you have a problem on the road? Most manufacturers have free road service. Make sure you have the number and know what is covered and what isn’t.
Whew! That’s a lot of questions.
But they are all questions you need to have answered to understand and properly operate your new RV. And it’s at the final walk-through that you can best start to see and learn the answers.
Do you have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing on the RV Podcast?. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990. If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.
This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at https://rvlifestyle.com/lithium
RV PODCAST INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
Our RV Podcast interview this week is with Don Brady, a vice president of RVTollPass.com, a company that sells RVers a transponder for their windshield that covers 97% of toll roads in the U.S.
This gadget has a lot of appeal:
- Tolls captured electronically are typically lower than the cash or video toll price, saving money.
- Many toll roads use this type of technology to charge tolls at highway speeds, saving time and eliminating need to navigate those narrow lanes at toll booths.
- RV Toll Pass customers no longer need to fish for money to pay toll collectors or throw money into coin counter baskets.
- Eliminates the need for multiple toll transponders and accounts for use at separate toll authorities and regions.
- Designed for semi-permanent mounting to vehicle's interior windshield.
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Mike Wendland: All right. In this part of our RV podcast, the interview of the week, we're going to talk about one of the things that really irritates a lot of us. And that is when we're driving state to state in our RVs, all of these different toll systems that we have to go through, and stop, and it's just a very confusing. And if you're like me, you've probably said, can't we just get one pass for all of them? Well, the answer now is yes, and we are going to talk with Don Brady. Don is a vice president of business development for an organization known as RV Toll Pass. And Don, welcome to the program. Glad to have you on.
Don: Thanks a lot. I'm happy to be here.
Mike Wendland: Well, let's start with what does RV Toll Pass do? What's it designed to do? And tell us why this is a good addition for an RV?
Don: Well, in a nutshell, RV Toll Pass is an ideal product for the RV community, that includes people driving motor homes, as well as using travel trailers. It uses a technology that was developed by our company, by TransCore, which is our parent company, who's a major player in the toll industry. We provide about 60% of the tolling hardware, infrastructure and traffic management systems.
But the national pass transponder was designed to work with any of the five different toll authorities across the country. So you can have one product, as you had mentioned, that would allow seamless use. And this has been approved by all of those.
So, what RV Toll Pass do? Well, it allows the RV-er to travel outside of their local area into other tolling regions, using one transponder and having only one bill. So instead of having to sign up for individual accounts and other areas where they intend to use tolls, this is all consolidated into one bill. So it's convenient. It adds to safety because there's no confusion about having to go through the cash lanes. You just use the electronic bypass lanes. It's cost effective because the electronic lanes are typically maybe 50% less expensive than if you go through and actually pay a toll at a toll booth. So, the idea of a single transponder single account just seemed to be a natural for the RV market.
Mike Wendland: Now, where does it work? There are so many different toll roads across the US. Does this work on all of them, most of them, a few of them? Help us get a handle, how [crosstalk 00:02:52] this is.
Don: Well, people can go to our website, Rvtollpass.com, and there's a very detailed description, including an image of the states that actually do tolling. Not every state does tolling. And there are consolidated tolling operations. E-ZPass has 39 different agencies in it throughout the Northeast and into the Midwest.
So, what we say and it's spelled out in detail, is the RV Toll Pass will work on 95 to 98% of all total roads in the US. Now, there's some oddball ones. There's some in Louisiana that go down and serve the oil industry. And there's some other small, private toll roads that are managed by small concerns or families even, where you have to stop and pay. But basically, if you're going on a major toll road of the US or you're traveling cross country and want to use the toll roads, it'll work on literally every major toll road in the US.
Mike Wendland: So this is a one of those little rectangular shaped transponders, I think they call it, that mounts on the windshield. And usually it's a faster lane. You don't have to really stop on those electronic toll roads, that you can go right through those lanes. It reads them, some kind of a radio frequency that reads the transponder, and you don't have to stop, which is really a good thing.
And who bills you then for it? Because you're going to rack up a bunch of these charges on these roads. Do you get a monthly bill? Do you put a bunch of money in your account and then when it gets low, do you add more? Walk us through that part of it.
Don: Of course, that's a really good question. So, our company, TransCore, designed and built the actual hardware. The device you described, it's about the size of a deck of cards. It just uses a hook and loop and attaches to your windshield. That device is read in the electronic bypass lanes, the open road, tolling lanes. So you just go right through, it's read, and your account is billed automatically. And it's billed based on an axle count, that's done automatically at the tolling lane. So if you have a trailer for instance, and you've dropped the trailer off at the trailer park, and you're driving around and using your toll roads, you'll only get built for the two axles on your tow vehicle, until you put this on.
Now, the administrative side is handled by a organization called Bestpass out of Albany, New York. And BestPass's primary business is providing tolling support services to the trucking industry across the country. So we partner with them and they use a lot of our hardware. We partnered with them to manage this whole account. So when you buy an RV toll pass, you actually registered through Bestpass, okay. You go to their website, you set up your account.
It's set up very similar to any other toll account that you might set up individually with an agency. There's a $50 deposit. You put your credit card on file, and you also put your license plate on file. And then they manage the entire process. They're the one stop shop for the entire process.
Why do you put your license plate on file? There are some tolling authorities, for instance in Washington State and in Colorado, where they use a video billing system, where they take an image of your license plate and bill that way. Typically that's more expensive because it requires extra processing if you're a foreign user. But Bestpass has agreements with all of them, so preferable rates are allowed there in addition to of course where you're using the transponder and just go through a normal tolling process.
Mike Wendland: So you put some money in an account, and as you go through the tolls it draws from that account. And then when it's low, you're notified and you… I have an E-ZPass so I'm familiar with that. Then you just put some more in.
Don: It works the same way. You have your credit card on file, so as you accrue tolls, Bestpass keeps track of all those and manages those. Like I said, if your account draws down below your credit card limit, there's a $50 deposit that they can use to draw on. But typically it just works with your credit card. And it works just like an E-ZPass. It's the same type of setup in terms of how you're billed. Once a month you get a statement that shows all your tolling activity.
Now there is an additional charge. You have to buy the transponder.
Mike Wendland: Right. That's just what I was getting at next is… Okay.
Don: The cost for the system is pretty straightforward. The transponder is $94.95. And you can go to our website and there's a link on there to WESCO distributors who handle it. We're also going to be up on Amazon probably in the next couple weeks. So you purchase the transponder, you get it, and then the instructions are there for you to go ahead and register the Bestpass. There is a monthly fee, administrative fee if you use RV Toll Pass. It's $14.99, and that allows for the consolidation, the building and all of that. But it's only in months where you incur toll-. So we designed this specifically for the RV community, where people don't typically travel out of area year round. They maybe go on a vacation for a couple of months, or they may be snowbirds where they're out for half a year, maybe more. So you only get billed the 14.99 in months where you actually incurred totals. So that's a big feature of the product that has been designed specifically for the RV community.
Mike Wendland: All right, let me go through the pricing and make sure I understand it. First thing, we put 50 bucks in to an account that they'll take for the actual tolls that we accrue as we go through.
Mike Wendland: I pay just under a hundred bucks to get this transponder.
Don: That's right.
All right, so now we're up to 150. And then 14.99 a month for every month that it is used. So if you used a toll booth once, say you're just going through Illinois and you ride a interstate that's got a toll, and you pay the toll plus the 14.99. But if you go to five or six other roads that same month, you don't pay any more than that 14.99. And if I don't go anywhere in a toll road, I don't pay that 14.99.
Mike Wendland: That's correct. That's correct. So, the process is you buy the transponder, then you go ahead and register, and then you use it. And it's important to remember, you have an E-ZPass; for driving locally you already have an E-ZPass transponder and that's what you would use. You wouldn't want to pay the 14.99, unless you were going to leave the E-ZPass area and travel into other regions, down the East Coast, Florida, Texas, California, Washington, whatever. So it's designed for out of area use. It's not designed for local use. I mean, you could use it locally, but why pay the extra 14.99?
Sure. And I suppose there's the chance if you had two transponders up there that you could get double billed, maybe, but-
Don: No, that's correct. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about [inaudible 00:10:30].
Mike Wendland: Well, can you turn off one of them?
Mike Wendland: So say I'm going to go out west, and there's no E-ZPass out where I'm going, but there are lots of toll roads. And I don't want to take my E-ZPass out of there. What do I do then?
Don: Well, what you do when, you buy your RV Toll Pass it comes in a little silver bag that doesn't allow for the electrons to escape or for it to be read. So if you have an E-ZPass, you remove your E-ZPass, put it in that bag, and put it in your glove box, and you replace your E-ZPass on the windshield with your RV Toll Pass. So you take care of the double billing possibilities by using only the RV Toll Pass when you go on the road and you're going and traveling multiple agencies outside of your particular tolling area. It might be SunPass, it might be down in Houston, it could be any of those.
Now there are two types of tags, so we have to keep this in mind. There's an E-ZPass tag, which is a hard case transponder. But down South, many of the tags are a sticker tag and they're permanently attached to your windshield. So when you get your RV Toll Pass package, it comes with a little metal tag shield. It's a little aluminum plate that has instructions on it. It says, “If you are going to use your RV Toll Pass and you're going to install it on your vehicle, then you have to put this plate over the existing sticker tag so that you don't get double billed.” And that's in the instructions. So, that's how we overcome that. Either you can remove a hard case tag, put it in the glove box and use your RV Toll Pass and when you're done and traveling you just replace your E-ZPass up there and you put the RV Toll Pass back in your glove box, or you put the tag shield over a sicker tag which you can't take off, and then you just install your RV Toll Pass, and there's no double bill then..
Mike Wendland: Good. Well, that makes sense. And that's pretty simple. What about people in Canada? There's a lot of toll roads in Canada. Can they use this there?
Don: That's a very good question. There are only a few toll roads. The major toll road of course is the 4070 electronic toll road in Toronto.
Mike Wendland: Yeah. I've been burned there. That's an expensive one. Yeah.
Don: And here's the problem. By law in Canada if you have a vehicle over 5,000 kilograms, which is, what, 12,500 pounds, you have to have a special transponder in that vehicle. And it's orange in color, and it's mounted down in the lower left part of the windshield. This is by law. Therefore RV Toll Pass technically will work in Canada, it could work in Canada, but legally it's impossible because almost every RV is going to be over 12,500 pounds. So, sadly, doesn't work in Canada. However, if you live in Canada and you're going to travel to the US you could use RV Toll Pass in the US and register it. But as far as operating inside of Canada, no, it doesn't work. And I don't know what the future is for that since it's a legal issue, not a technical issue. Maybe be some resolution, but we don't see it in the near term.
Mike Wendland: All right. This makes great sense for everybody who is traveling across the country through large regions. RV Toll Pass is the solution. And we will put a link in the show notes for this episode, but for those who want to go to it right as they're listening to this, RVtollpass.com. And I'm looking forward to trying this out. I get so frustrated having to stop all the time. So, it'll be nice.
Don: And as an aside, it pretty much pays for itself in one trip by using the electronic tolling lanes rather than the cash lanes. And last but not least, in this age of COVID-19, you don't have to worry about having dirty cash in your hands or having interaction with a toll booth agent. You can just go right by safely and maintain that social distancing. So it has a lot of advantages that are quantitative and nonquantitative. And convenience is I think probably the watchword all the way around [inaudible 00:14:50].
Mike Wendland: Don Brady has been our guest. Rvtollpass.com is what we've been talking about. Don, thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Don: Thanks a lot, Mike. Enjoyed it.
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
OFF THE BEATEN PATH RV PODCAST REPORT – HARVEST HOST TALES
BY TOM & PATTI BURKETT
We rarely spend our camping nights in private campgrounds, and few enough of them in public campgrounds, though we’ve been in some that we truly enjoy. The reasons we choose not to vary, but usually boil down to cost. We frequent national parks and national forests, where our superannuated status gets us a discount, and often on public lands for which there is no charge at all.
One of the reasons developed campgrounds are expensive is that they have infrastructure to maintain—electric and water lines, shower buildings, waste systems. Since we need these only occasionally, we’re loathe to pay for them when we don’t. Some outstanding natural feature will get us to pony up—a beach, a hot spring, great trails, or (in the heat of summer ) a pool. Otherwise we drift to something more rustic.
Over the past few years, we’ve really come to appreciate the offerings of Harvest Hosts. Many of these are in beautiful settings, and though the expectation is that you will buy things at the property, it seems quite reasonable to spend some money on wine or produce or a nice pair of alpaca socks and get a free place to park in the bargain.
Often, too, we end up getting an inside look at the workings of one of these agricultural operations that’s as interesting as going to bingo night in the resort campground club house, maybe more so.
We pulled into one such place on a recent trip through South Carolina. The family has been hosting Harvest Host campers for several years at their farm in the coastal hills. When we arrived, we were puzzled to find the parking area nothing more than a big dirt circle in the middle of the pine woods, occupied by a fifth wheel camper and a 40 foot shipping container.
We tucked our van up close to a tree with a tree house and went to sleep. In the morning we were woken by a rooster crowing just outside our window. I slipped on my shoes and stepped out. It was a bit more developed than had seemed the night before. Along one edge of the clearing was a garden, and a wide road, lined with wire fenced pens, led off into the woods.
It turns out Marissa and her husband had recently sold their previous place and brought their devoted forest-raised meat customers along to a new location where they were carving a new and larger farm out of the pine woods.
Marissa pointed out the hog pens along the road and lamented the fact that since the chickens were currently roosting in the woods, she had no eggs to offer us. “It’s damned hard work,” she said, balancing a child on one hip and trying to avoid both the dog and the baby goat bouncing around her feet, “but we like it, and we like a challenge.”
We bought some delicious peppered bacon and some pork chops for less than we would have spent to stay in the private campground down the road. And Tom got his picture taken with the goat.
Father south, on the outskirts of Jacksonville, we spent a couple of nights at an impressive organic garden enterprise. The gardens sell to local restaurants and at farm markets, so there wasn’t any real shop at which to do our purchasing, at least in the season we were there.
We stopped at the aquaponics greenhouse and had a great tour from the volunteer working there. He explained the evolution of their system, which they now had tuned to an acceptable output.
At one end was a large round tank full of tilapia. Looking inside it was clear that they were not only healthy and very active but also good sized, ready for a planned harvest the following weekend. Waste from the fish was directed to the hydroponics beds, where the water was made clean and recycled to the fish habitat. Could we buy some of the greens, we asked.
“Oh, sure, what would you like? How about some of this romaine, and here’s some cos, and microgreens that we grow for a restaurant in Jax, and why don’t you have some of these—they’re new. Tell us what you think.” Soon enough we had a grocery sack full of goodies.
Leaving on the second day we met Tim, the founder. He told us about the current gardens and orchard, and the plans to add more gardens and another orchard on adjacent land.
When he retired from a desk job in IT, he swore to spend the rest of his life outdoors, and set about developing a farm that could feed a thousand people a day, organically. He’s well on his way. We’ve had great experiences at campgrounds, and met interesting people there, but for our money, if you want a unique overnight experience, you won’t beat the people you meet at Harvest Host locations.
We’ve been to farms, wineries, fish shacks, burger joints, microbreweries, rafting operations, orchards, and maple sugaring houses, and not a one of these Harvest Host locations has disappointed. And the best thing? There are lots of them out here off the beaten path.