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Tech Topics - August 2016

by Paul and Kerri Elders

Now that the summertime travel season’s in full swing, let’s take a quick look at some tips to help you happily share the roadway with commercial trucks.  We’ll also give you some easy advice for keeping pesky mold and mildew at bay and a heads-up about respecting the value of mountainside “Runaway Truck Ramps.”

Runaway Ramps Aren’t RV Rest Stops:  When traveling through the most mountainous regions of the US and Canada, you’ll see a peculiar site called a “Runaway Truck Ramp.”  These cutaway areas are usually clearly marked with large bright warning signs and are on the downgrade side of a mountainous roadway.  Usually designed with a soft surface, these cutouts generally run uphill and then terminate in a barrier that’s designed to absorb the shock of a low-speed collision.  Runaway Ramps are designed as a last-ditch safety escape route for trucks and other heavy vehicles whose brakes have overheated or failed.

NEVER, ever, under ANY circumstances, park your RV at the entrance to a Runaway Ramp!  Not even for a five minute bathroom break or for a quick cup of coffee.  Runaway Ramps are the last line of defense for runaway trucks, providing a safety escape route for drivers in trouble.  Commercial trucks are usually carrying heavy loads that greatly increase the vehicle’s momentum downhill and place extra stress on their braking systems.  A Runaway Ramp is the only safe way out of a very dangerous situation for these truckers.  The last thing a runaway truck driver needs is to have his one and only escape route blocked by an RVer who has decided to take a quick coffee or sandwich break or thinks he’s found the perfect place to park overnight.  Don’t take up someone’s safety space; keep Runaway Ramps clear and open for those who really need them!

Defeating Mold and Mildew:  Occasionally, in our travels, we pick up some decidedly unwelcome guests.  Two of these are mold and mildew.  When just the right temperature, moisture, and airborne mold spores combine, mildew happens.  Warm, damp, dimly lit areas with poor air circulation are ideal habitats for mildew growth.  Fortunately, you can do a lot to defeat mold and mildew formation just by keeping your RV clean, dry, and well-ventilated.  Load your RV thoughtfully, keeping a simple principle in mind:  maintain proper air circulation.  It’s actually easier than it sounds.

Keep storage areas clean and dry, and avoid overstuffing compartments, closets, and drawers.  Never stow soiled articles of clothing; dampness and soiling provide a perfect breeding ground for the development of mildew that can then spread within your storage area.  Keep dirty laundry in a well-ventilated place and wash damp soiled clothing as soon as possible.

Commercial products (like Conchrobium) are available that can help you treat a mold or mildew issue, but isn’t it easier to take small steps that prevent the problem in the first place?  Just prevent leaks, wipe up spills, and remember to aerate and ventilate, especially when storing your RV in a humid climate. Muggy, shady areas are more mold and mildew friendly than sun-exposed areas.  Like Grandma always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Big Rig Courtesy is a Two-Way Street: Generally speaking, American long-haul truck drivers are well-seasoned professionals and the vast majority of them exercise a surprising degree of courtesy on the roadways.  The more miles you drive, the more you’ll learn to appreciate how much help truckers can be to their fellow long-haul travelers (especially RVers).  Some truckers blink their headlights at you when it’s safe to pull in front of them after passing.  Return this courtesy by briefly blinking your courtesy lights or your headlights—it’s trucker shorthand for “thanks, buddy.”

Avoid driving along in a trucker’s “blind spot.” If you can’t see the driver in his side mirror, it means you’re driving in his blind spot.  And if you can’t see him, he can’t see YOU.  If you drive along beside him for a substantial time, he may not realize that you’re still there, tooling along beside him.  And that can mean trouble for both of you if a compact car pulls onto the highway at 15 MPH, right in front of him.

Always work to maintain a “safety bubble” around your RV, and extend the same courtesy to the big rigs around you. Don’t crowd them or tailgate.  Commercial trucks are usually carrying a lot of weight and they need even more stopping distance than you do, so don’t pass them and then slow down.  If you need to pass a big rig, what do you do?  Either pass him and then work to keep your speed up once you’re ahead of him, or just slow down a bit and stay well behind him.  Another important tip: never pass anyone on the right side, most especially an 18-wheeler.  If you need to get around a trucker, pass on the left.

Common sense is your “seventh sense;” use it wisely on the highway of life. Happy trails!

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