Ideas for keeping your full-timing journey smooth and worry-free.
By Janet Groene, F47166
February 2008 FMC magazine
For full-timers, calamities come in many shapes and sizes. We once had a tire blowout that ripped the floor out of our clothes closet and spattered mud over most of our wardrobe. That’s just one illustration of how the full-timing life differs from residing in a house. Following are some thoughts on how to prepare for unforeseen circumstances and keep your full-timing life in forward gear.
The news is filled with food scares: recalls, food-borne illnesses, and warnings galore about harmful sprays used on farm fields. Galley food safety is more important than ever before. The refrigeration rule used to be “life begins at 40,” but now some experts recommend that refrigerators be kept colder than that, perhaps 37 or 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Install a remote probe so you can monitor the temperature without opening the refrigerator door. An audible high-temperature alarm is a plus.
You can’t be too careful when handling raw meat. Use separate cutting boards for meat and other foods. Wipe up meat juice spills with paper towels and discard them, then disinfect the spill area. Discard marinades or boil them for two minutes before serving. Make sure to store meats separately in the refrigerator, so their juices can’t drip onto other foods. Use a thermometer to assure that meat and eggs are thoroughly cooked.
Science has shown that frequent hand-washing, with a soap-up-and-scrub lasting at least 20 seconds, is the first line of defense against contamination. Too, most dishcloths and sponges are loaded with bacteria that thrive in their moist fibers. It’s best to use disposables or to disinfect counter cloths regularly. If you wash dishes by hand, scrub with inexpensive nylon net. It shakes dry with a flick of the wrist. Because it’s put away dry, it doesn’t turn sour and germy as fabrics do.
Tire manufacturers are wary about saying how many years RV tires last, because so much depends on factors other than road wear, such as UV damage. We do know that tread wear is one indicator, while age is another. Tires are a good topic for campfire conversation. Talk with others who have similar motorhomes and who use the same brand tires. Ask them how many years they get out of a set of tires. Remember, though, that individual circumstances vary. Keep tires shaded and inspect the sidewalls and tread often.
Actually, you need two escape plans. One is for abandoning the coach when you need to get yourself and other occupants out safely. The other is a drill for unhooking and driving the coach away when time allows you to evacuate ahead of a brush fire, hurricane, or other threatening situation.
In the first instance, have a plan for escaping the coach in a variety of scenarios (galley fire, engine fire, coach lying on its side or roof). In boating, a “ditch bag” is kept handy to grab just before one abandons ship into the water or a life raft. Saving lives comes first, but when time permits, a similar grab-and-go bag in the RV could contain copies of important documents such as insurance policies, driver’s licenses, phone numbers, and credit cards.
If you need to evacuate the coach from a location, think how you’d handle removing the electric, water, and sewer hookups; connecting the towed vehicle; and retracting the awning(s), slideouts, and leveling jacks for a quick getaway. Consider making an “evac” checklist. Decide what items absolutely must be taken care of before you can safely move the coach and what can be eliminated, sped up, or modified. Do you have a Plan B for dealing with unexpected delays such as a stuck slideout or sticky awning?
The great outdoors is your home now, which means it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on the forecast. While forecasts from professional meteorologists are a must, they are sometimes based on data collected miles away from your location. By adding an electronic weather station to your motorhome, you are adding a safety edge as well as an absorbing hobby. Should you make your north-south trek earlier or later this year? Does it look like rain for the all-day drive you planned tomorrow? How does the weekend look for fishing the lake?
A basic electronic weather station costs $500 or less and provides readings for barometric pressure, temperature, humidity and dew point, wind speed and direction, and the wind chill factor. If you spend $1,000 to $1,200 you can get a system that also reports the UV index, average wind speed and direction, heat index, and rain accumulation reports for set periods ranging from the past 15 minutes to the past 24 periods of rainfall. For an additional $400 you can add a lightning sensor that reports strikes up to 75 miles away. By watching it you can sense what patterns are developing.
As an amateur meteorologist, you also can join a worldwide fraternity of enthusiasts. Go to www.weathermatrix.net, an online weather community that boasts more than 10,000 amateur and professional weather enthusiasts. Or check out the Britain-based Climatological Observers Link (COL) at www.met.rdg.ac.uk/~brugge/col.html to trade information with other weather hobbyists around the world.
In boating and aviation, float plans and flight plans are typically filled out before departure in case something goes wrong and search and rescue is required. We don’t have such things in RVing, so how will anyone know when and where to look if you go missing? The old tip about painting a big ID on your roof is still a good one, but technology provides additional aids. One is the SPOT Satellite Messenger, available from outdoor suppliers such as www.rei.com or Bass Pro Shops. It costs about $170 for the unit, and you’ll also need a yearly subscription costing $100 to $150 depending on optional features. The device tracks your location by GPS, so rescuers or family can always find you. For more information, visit www.findmespot.com.
Frank W. Abagnale, subject of the movie Catch Me If You Can, has written the best book yet on preventing identity theft, Stealing Your Life ($24.95, Broadway Publishing Group). A former crook, he knows dodges the rest of us would never dream of. For example, he never pays by check for merchandise or restaurant meals, because each check reveals your name, address, signature, routing number, and account number. In the wrong hands, one check could provide everything a thief needs to know. Mr. Abagnale also warns about debit cards, which dip directly into your account. He prefers using credit cards, because any fraudulent charges can be disputed.
As a full-time roamer who could need medical treatment anywhere, any time, it’s up to you to keep track of every facet of your medical and dental history: what prescriptions you take, your allergies, whether you’ve gained or lost significant weight lately, the date of your last tetanus shot, and much more.
One simple solution for those who have a chronic health problem is to wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace. To the casual onlooker, many medical problems (Tourette’s syndrome, a diabetic’s low-sugar attack, a multiple sclerosis patient’s stumble, an epileptic seizure) may be mistaken for drunkenness or mental illness. When you need help most, a potential rescuer may be frightened away. Most of us don’t like to blab about our health problems, so a piece of jewelry can say it for you when you’re unable to speak for yourself.
Keeping paper copies of your medical records with you is one choice and the most private. Another is to register with one of the online services such as www.ihealthrecord.org or www.personalmd.com. Your health insurer or your primary caregiver, if you have one, may have such a service or recommend one that is secure and effective. When your records are online, they’re available no matter where you are.
The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths offers 15 important pointers at www.hospitalinfection.org to help you prepare for, get through, and recover from an operation or other hospital stay. The Web site also gives 10 sensible steps for protecting yourself from the deadly MRSA infection no matter where you are.
Helpful advice about healthful living is available at www.everydaychoices.org. It’s especially useful if you’re facing a new challenge such as a rehab or a newly diagnosed illness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also provides helpful advice at www.healthfinder.gov. Dozens of free and low-priced booklets available at www.gpo.gov cover healthful living in general and many illnesses in particular. If you order free booklets online, you save the $2.50 handling fee.