Sunday, September 6, 2020

RV Etiquette for CoVid Campers

A lot of people are rushing out to buy RVs.  These newbies aren't hard to spot, by their behavior.

There are a lot of unwritten rules about RVing.  Actually there are written rules.  When you check into an RV park or State Park or Corps of Engineers campground, they give you a set of rules, but often people ignore these, as being applicable to "other people".  At a Corps of Engineers park, they actually gave us an except from The Code of Federal Regulations as to the rules for Army Corps Parks.  They weren't messing around!  Someone wants to play campground lawyer with them, they've got another thought coming!

But in recent months, RV sales have skyrocketed, as so-called "CoVid Campers" are getting into the game.  Locked out of Cruise ships, Disney World, the airlines and so forth, many have decided, en masse to get into camping - or boating - with predictable results.  I suspect in the coming months, you may see a lot of nearly new RVs for sale, as many folks who bought them in a rush this spring will wonder what the fuss was all about, and realize they don't really like camping.  It isn't for everyone and it isn't a continuous Disney orgasm.   You have to do laundry and wash the camper and dump your poop.  There is a lot of non-glamorous to it.

For all you newbie CoVid campers (and even a few of the seasoned ones) there are some things to consider in terms of "RV Etiquette".   And yes, we all fail at times and break the rules.  The difference, I think is in realizing when you made a mistake and vowing not to do it again, versus just not giving a shit how your actions impact others.  After all, What Would A Redneck Do?

Anyway, here is a short list of some RV Etiquette do's and don'ts - mostly don'ts!

1.  Arrival time:   Plan your trip so you arrive in the afternoon, or early evening at the latest.  It is rude to show up at a campground at 10PM or later and expect to be admitted, and then noisily set up your camper on your site, waking up the entire campground in the process.

I recounted before how some young "dudes" on the Blue Ridge Parkway, arrived at midnight in a minivan, leaving their headlights on, shining into someone's tent (which silhouetted the occupants who were making love at the time!).  They then proceeded to start a car-door slamming contest, going from their tent to the car, again and again, to "get things" and giving the car door a good slam every time.

It is just rude to show up so late, so don't do it.  If you want to get a "head start" on a weekend of camping, then take the afternoon off.  Sadly, many CoVid Campers delay and dawdle, waiting to the day of departure to pack, and arrive at the campground in the dark, pissing off everyone else, and making it harder on themselves to set up.


2.  Site Courtesy:   One of the big no-no's is to walk through someone else's site without their permission. It may seem like a trivial thing, but when are camping, it's really annoying to see a stranger walk right up to your camper and go through your campsite as a shortcut to the restroom or a hiking trail.

Most adults realize this, but of course kids have their own ideas, and often walk right through other people's campsites without thinking about it.  Sometimes kids will even ride their bicycles through other people's sites. One time in Vermont, we pulled into a site which apparently the kids had been using as a BMX course. They didn't seem to think the presence of our camper would alter their plans any, and they came zooming through our campsite several times before their parents finally put a stop to it.

It may be tempting to take a shortcut through someone else's site, but just don't do it. And in that regard, in some places the sites are very close together. Some people seem to have no trouble with pitching their tent or parking their RV at the very edge of their site, or even infringing on the neighbor's site. I'm not sure why they do this, other than some people just like to take more than their allotted share, and see if somebody else is willing to do anything about it.  Pushy people.

Again, it's just plain rude.


3.  Lighting:   People come out to the country to camp and see the stars and enjoy peace and quiet.  They didn't come to see your Klieg lighting.   Sadly, Coleman still makes their "lanterns" (and indeed, that is their Trademark logo).  Don't buy one.  They produce a high level of light that just blinds everyone and destroys their night vision.  You don't so much see more with a lantern like this, but less.  Just leave those on the shelf.  You'll notice that only the worst sort of dullards use those lanterns.

Similarly, those "headlights" which attach to your forehead with a strap and are sold at REI are really annoying.   A group of 20-somethings wearing these looks like a disco, as the lights flash in every direction they look in.  Half the time, you are blinding your fellow camper, if you look them in the eye.  It doesn't help you to see, it just makes your eyes adjust to a brighter light level.  Once you turn them off, you are blind for at least ten minutes.

When we went to Alaska two years ago, we bought one of those 50,000 candlepower handheld rechargeable spotlights, figuring we would need it to illuminate the dark in the Great White North - or perhaps scare away a bear. It never came out of its carrying case.  Funny thing that, in the land of the midnight sun.  There are just a few times when you really need that kind of illumination, other than perhaps changing a spare tire by the side of the road on a rainy night.  Just say "no" to spotlights, headlights, or even flashlights.

Most RVs come with outdoor lights, but unfortunately they are very bright. RV dealers sell yellow tinted lenses for a dollar or two which can easily be snapped in place. The yellow light is less likely to attract bugs and provides a more pleasing ambient lighting effect.

Unfortunately, many newer RVs have LED strip lighting, which is very effective in lighting things up, but it usually is a cold-white, nearly blue type of light. And there's something about the AC effect of LED lighting that seems to attract mosquitoes even more. We installed one of these light strips on our camper and it is capable of displaying dozens of colors and patterns, but we find we hardly ever use it, because even in the yellow range it seems to attract a lot of bugs.

Similarly, outdoor lighting displays can be a lot of fun, and we have one which shines laser lights up into the trees. The first time Mark saw one, he thought it was a great gathering of fireflies. Only later we realized it was this small laser power device. These things are a lot of fun, but use them reasonably. Other people didn't come to the country to see your light show, but maybe the Stars instead.

Besides, most campgrounds have a lot of lighting - such as halogen lights near restrooms and the like.  If you let your eyes adjust, you can see a lot.  Last night, I went out to pee, and it was a full moon.   It was bright as day (to me, anyway) but I saw one of those dorks with a "headlight" on his head, coming back from the restroom, shining the light into every tent and every camper, as he swiveled his head.   If he just turned the damn thing off, he could have seen perfectly fine.

Your night vision is better than you may think.  We manage to navigate by means of firelight or a candle or two.  Even an old-style "Dietz" kerosene lamp can provide a gentle, yellow light (and sometimes even that is too much).   Explore lower-lighting level options, it helps keep your night vision intact, and annoys your fellow campers a lot less.

Or just sit in the dark and marvel at all the stars you never see in the light-saturated city.


4.  Kids!    Kids love to go camping, it seems, and parents love to go camping with their kids, as they can just let the kids free range and do their own thing, while the parents sit at the camper and sip cocktails.

For some reason, parents who would never let their children play in their front yard unsupervised will let their kids roam all over a campground by themselves. If you're worried about stranger danger in your own neighborhood, I'm not sure today public campground is much safer. But then again most campgrounds limit who can have access to the site, and your kids are probably pretty safe.

And most people are pretty responsible in terms of driving slowly and carefully to avoid running over children on bikes, skateboards, electric scooters and whatnot. But some other folks seem to think the campground roadways are the Indianapolis race track. You should warn your kids to look out for cars because cars might not always look out for them.

We were at one campground and a young girl darted out in front of our truck on her bicycle. She said to her companion, "it's okay they have to stop for us."  And although she's probably correct, it's no guarantee that cars will stop.  It's a bad idea to teach your children that they have the right of way over Motor Vehicles.  Actually, this is a bad idea for adults as well - but so many march out into traffic, convinced traffic laws will stop a 20-ton dump truck in its tracks.


5.  Pets:  Children aren't the only thing that's off the leash on a in a campground. Most people love to bring their pets with them, which is one of the advantages of camping or RVing. You don't have to put your pets into boarding because the hotel won't accommodate them.

Like everything else, some people ruin it for the rest of us.  People let their dogs roam freely without a leash or put them on the extraordinarily long leashes where they lunch out at passing pedestrians or bicyclists.

And of course, some dogs are just plain vicious, while others will bark at anything including a falling leaf.  Other dogs will just bark incessantly for no reason, particularly if their owners leave them at the campsite for hours of the time.

And yes, the campgrounds have rules about these things.


6.  Generators:  Most campgrounds have electrical hookups, but many State Parks have what they call rustic camping, with no electric, water, or sewer hookups. Some folks bring a generator with them to provide themselves with electricity, although it's not clear why.

Most modern campers are self-contained, meaning they can run off an internal battery for days at a time. The refrigerator and hot water heater run off propane, which can last days or even weeks.

However, many people decide they want to bring all the cComforts of home with them and power than with a generator. They want to run their Keurig coffee maker, or their Instapot, or watch their wall screen TV, or microwave a burrito, and start the generator for that purpose.

Generators, unfortunately, are kind of expensive – at least the good kind are.  Dad sees the price of a new Honda generator and balks at the cost. He thinks he finds a solution - the local Tractor Supply Lumberteria Wholesale Club has an inexpensive generator for half the price!

Unfortunately, these low-cost generators are little more than a lawn mower engine attached to an alternator and placed in a steel frame with a gas tank. They do work, but they're noisy as all get-out. And the reason for this is they have to run it a constant RPM to generate 60 hertz sine wave AC electrical power.   If the RPM of the engine changes significantly, the frequency of the AC power would change as well.

So, these types of generators are always running at wide open throttle and are as noisy as all get out. The fact that they use cheap lawn mower engines as their main motive power amplifies this effect.

More expensive inverter-type generator such as the Honda line use a solid state inverter system to generate 60 hertz power at any RPM of the engine. Thus, if the power demand is low, the engine can throttle down to a very quiet mode of operation and not annoy the neighbors. Moreover, these types of generators are engineered to be quiet, where is the lawn mower type have no sound deadening materials whatsoever.

Campgrounds that don't provide electrical power have generator hours, generally from 9 to 11 in the morning at 4 to 7 at night. Running your generator outside those hours is considered bad form. But it is just as bad as to start your generator every day at exactly 9 a.m. and shut it off at exactly 11, even if you don't need the power.

Some argue they need to run their generator constantly because they need to charge their battery. Usually this means their battery is dead and needs to be replaced. But rather than go down and spend $99 on a new deep cycle battery at Walmart, they prefer to run their generator constantly.  Straight men and batteries - what's the deal with that?

Many campgrounds are clamping down on this, and will ask you to shut your generator off if it is too loud, even if it is during generator hours. Thus, the El Cheapo generator from the Wholesale Club is really a short-sighted purchase, as you may not be able to use it. Not only that, it will probably annoy you and your whole family as well.

In that regard, you should be considerate of your neighbors when running any kind of generator, even a quiet one. If you are parked next to a young couple in a tent, it's really rude to park your generator next to their tent and run it at all hours. They didn't come to the country to hear your generator but to hear the sounds of nature.

We have a generator, but very rarely use it. It's a Honda eu2000i which is very quiet and I've enclosed it in a sound deadening enclosure to make it even quieter. Maybe once every two or three days we'll run it if our battery seems a little low or I need to charge my laptop battery.  But just because we can run it during generator hours doesn't mean we do.

And if our neighbors are in a tent, we don't run a generator at all, unless they're gone for the day.


7.  Quiet Hours:  Quiet hours are one of the few things that are rarely breached in most campgrounds. You would think with all these people hanging out with children, alcohol, and generators, the noise would be unbearable.  Kids pretty much fall asleep around 9PM and most people put out their campfires not much later. In all the years of camping, violation of quiet hours  has rarely occured.

Of course, there are exceptions. As noted above, late arrivals, particularly after 10 or 11 at night, with their headlights blaring and car door slamming are one of the few violations. And of course, sometimes people have one drink too many around the campfire and start talking loudly. But for the most part, people seem to obey this rule without question.

Last night, a neighbor was up playing his guitar and singing off-key.  Oddly enough, it wasn't annoying, as live music - even performed badly - sounds a lot better than the best recorded song.  His guitar playing was soothing.  His singing voice was worse than mine - and that's saying a lot.


8.  Facebook People:  We were on a hike in Canada once, and there was a beautiful overlook near a waterfall.  There was a small platform with room for two or three people and folks were lined up waiting to see the view. The problem was a young couple was standing there with their selfie stick taking photo after photo of themselves with the waterfall in the background, trying to find the perfect photo for their Facebook page. Ugh.

We finally just barged right in and stood between them and their selfie stick until they got the message and left.  We ran into a similar thing with a young family and wanted to get the perfect picture of their children standing before pristine lake. Unfortunately they were doing this at the boat launching ramp and we were trying to launch our kayak. She just needed to take 20 or 30 more pictures so she would have one to choose from for Facebook. To her, apparently, camping out was all about getting the perfect pictures to make other people jealous on Facebook.

I don't know what to say about that other than that is just rude and selfish. And moreover, trying to make people jealous of your life on Facebook is just stupid.  facebook is stupid.

* * *

Of course, all of this is just basic common sense. And in fact, most of these things are set forth in the campground rules which accompany the brochure you get when you check in.

And for the most part, most people seem to follow these rules, and the campground manager very rarely has to go around and enforce them.  Funny thing - most people are decent human beings.  It is the tiny percentage of jerks that screw it up for the rest of us, or the rest of us, the tiny percentage of time we are jerks.

With a lot of new people taking to the road in RVs, you're seeing some folks who are not familiar with basic RV etiquette, however.

 A family with a brand new trailer pulls in next to us in the whole group is screaming and hollering at Dad giving him contrary instructions on how to back it up.   Junior decides to remove the fire bricks from the camp fireplace to jack up the trailer with. Meanwhile, his brother is cutting through adjacent campsites which are occupied.

It was no major annoyance, and eventually the family realized they were the loudest people in the campground and quieted down.  Social pressure is often the best way to enforce the rules.

Perhaps it takes time for people to unwind from the city life and realize that you don't have to shout at the top of your lungs to be heard  or shine bright lights in order to be seen.

But all that being said, I would say 99% of the people we run into are very well behaved. They seem to have an innate respect for their fellow human beings. It's funny, but nobody sets out to be an asshole, or least most people don't.

Well, except maybe the people in the penis boats, jet skis, monster trucks.  Hey, I made "featured snippets" again!

Image result for living stingy culture of belligerence
The Culture of Belligerence is everywhere with us today - and it was not always this way. Today, it is the norm to be tatooe'd like a criminal, to be pierced like a circus side-show freak, to dress as though you just left an armed robbery, and to project an image of toughness, meanness, and criminality.Feb 16, 2011
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