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Living and Traveling in an RV

12 things you should know before hitting the road

6.  "Boondocking": At times, an RV driver just needs to stop for the night in an unplanned location because of exhaustion or bad driving conditions. In such instances, many RV owners "boondock," which is slang for having to stop (dock) in the middle of nowhere (the boonies). RV drivers boondock in highway rest stops, on the sides of roads and in parking lots. (Then they lock the door, run their utilities off generator power and go to sleep.) Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are among the retail establishments that are intentionally welcoming to RVs drivers, who know they can safely park in the well-lighted parking lots for the night, and then pop into the stores after daybreak for breakfast and supplies.

7. Driving skills and licenses: Requirements vary by state and an RV or trailers's size, but motorized RVs come in three class types:

• Class A: These are the biggest RVs (Winnebagos and the like). They range from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds and are about 40 feet long. (A typical car is about 2,000 pounds and 12 feet long.)

• Class B: Although still considered an RV, these vehicles are typically camper or conversion vans. They generally weigh less than 8,000 pounds and top out at 19 feet. Class Bs don't have the amenities of a full-fledged RV but they are easier to drive and usually don't require a special license.

• Class C: Often called "Baby RVs," these are scaled-down versions of the Class A vehicles; they weigh about 10,000 pounds and are 20 to 30 feet in length.

Before setting out on the road for fun or forever, it's smart to take RV-specific driving lessons. Classes can be found through a local RV dealer or at

7. Mail/Internet/cable: Wireless, broadband and satellite technologies have been enormously helpful to RV dwellers, who can now stay in constant contact with the sticks-and-bricks world. E-mailing and Internet-based social networks enable RVers to connect with old friends, as well as the new ones they meet on the road. For postal mail, RV residents either use their permanent home address (if they still have one) or they register with an RV community (the Escapees RV Club is one) that will serve as their official address and collect and forward their mail.

8. Power, water, waste and maintenance: RVs have several batteries, a few of which charge the vehicle for driving while the others power the living quarters. The batteries are recharged when the vehicle is moving or hooked up to power sources at an RV park. For water, an RV has holding tanks for clean water, gray water (i.e., runoff from showers and washing dishes) and bathroom waste. Because these tanks need to be properly managed, an RV owner must be comfortable performing physical labor and getting his or her hands dirty. Also, since road emergencies happen, an RV driver should be able to perform at least basic vehicle maintenance and repairs.

10. Medical care: Since seeing one's own doctor or dentist isn't always possible, most RVers will make an annual or occasional trip to their official hometown to receive routine medical or dental care. For medical situations while on the road, walk-in clinics, emergency rooms and local practitioners need to suffice. As such, it's important that an RVer's health insurance not be limited to in-network providers or require a referral from a primary care physician.

11. Taxes: RVers can't drive away from federal income taxes, but they may be able to avoid paying state and local taxes. Many RVers who have sold their homes or don't have hometown roots select income-tax-free states, such as Texas, Florida, South Dakota or Nevada, for their official addresses.

12. RV resources: The Internet features numerous resources for information about buying, renting and living in RVs. Several organizations, such as Good Sam, provide RV travelers with discount services. The following websites are a good place to start:
•    Recreational Vehicle Industry Association
•    RV
•    RV Consumer Group

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