Monday, October 22, 2012

Tips for first-time RV snowbirds

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Looking to become a first-time snowbird? Every year thousands of "newbirds" pluck up their courage, pack their RVs and head out for a warmer climate. A successful (and stress free) trip requires a little "homework" before you leave. Here are some tips on making sure the house you leave behind is ready for your absence.

1. Check your insurance: Every insurance company has its own peculiarities; if you don't meet the policy requirements, you may find yourself having a hard time getting compensation should something happen. Some companies require a visit to the home on a periodic visit while the owners are absent. If that's the case for you, try and recruit a friendly neighbor to come in and check.

2. Freeze-proof: If you're concerned about a plumbing freeze, you'll either need to leave the heat on or prepare the plumbing to be cold without damage. Draw on your experience from the past--when staying home in the winter, have you ever had a frozen pipe? What temperature was your thermostat set for?

The safest minimum to leave the thermo set for is generally thought to be 50 degrees; this should keep mold and mildew at bay, but it will still chew on your utility bill. If you decide to leave the heat off, be sure to drain your water heater, blow all the water out of your lines, and leave RV antifreeze poured in your drain traps. Toilets, too, will require special help. Get as much water out of the tank and bowl as possible, then pour in copious amounts of antifreeze.

3. Other utilities: Got TV cable and Internet service? Call your provider and ask about "vacation hold" policies--you may get a rate break. What about the phone? It may be a good idea to leave the phone on, hooked up to an answering service. That way people with bad intent won't call and find your phone off and think it might be good to rip off your house. Put the trash can out of sight and have the trash pickup service stopped.

4. Security: Invest in two or three electric timers that you can plug lamps and a radio into. Set them for "variable" function so that they'll turn on a lamp off and on at around the same time each day, but not precisely the same time. Stage them in different parts of the house to mimic occupancy--say in the living room from dark until bed time, then on in the bedroom for an hour. Having a radio turned on low can make the bad guys think somebody's home, too. Motion sensor lights on your porch are great for spooking the fearful-at-heart burglar.

Have your mail forwarded to you on the road, or to someone who'll take care of it for you. Never let your mail accumulate at the box; same is true for the newspaper. Having a neighbor or friend stop by every few days to check up on things--and remove the "pizza coupons" from the front door is good, too.

If it snows in your area, hire a responsible snow guy to shovel at least your sidewalk regularly.

Now, pack up the rig and head off.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yuma RV park takes hit, comes up swinging

Early September winds blew in problems for a Yuma, Arizona RV park, but community businesses have pulled together to bring something good from a disaster. On September 9 winds blew so hard through the desert community that 60 power poles fell like dominoes. At the Shangri-La RV Resort out east in Yuma's Foothills neighborhood, the winds were even more merciless.

Owners Jon and Tammy Heidrich must have looked with sad despair. Power lines would have been a "cake walk." The winds tore up landscaping, disturbed plumbing, and other major damage to the mom-and-pop operation. And such timing: September marks the end of the Yuma heat season, and in October begins the trickle of returning snowbirds that turns into a gusher come November.

The Heidrichs knew they needed to get up and running in a hurry. Say the couple, "Our goal is for the residents to come back and not see damage but notice that the park is even better than before." It was a tall order, but in addition to their insurance carrier, the Heidrichs soon had other support folks lined up: Their bank, a horticulturalist, even a personal chef. How will these resources be put to work?

Returning and new guests to Shangri-La will get a special welcome. During the month of November, 2012, guests will find a beautifully landscaped and upgraded park. Plus, they'll be greeted with home-baked cookies and a flower arrangement compliments of the National Bank of Arizona, along with a welcome bag from Yuma Visitors Bureau; a custom Shangri-La RV Resort welcome mat, a Yuma Sun newspaper, and raffle tickets for a chance to win two season passes to the Heritage Festival's series of shows in the Historic Yuma Theatre.

"We want to make lemonade out of the lemons we were dealt and make sure our guests are happy when they arrive," added Tammy Heidrich. "They truly are like family to us and we will always put their needs first."