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Finding Gas, Keeping Your Sanity

August 25, 1996|MICHAEL REGAN | HARTFORD COURANT

The first bit of hands-on information you get about your RV is that you can't rent one out where you want to go, where the air is clean and the roads are open.

No, to rent an RV, you've got to go where you want to get away from, where the commuters are crazed, the streets are one way and you'd be lucky to get a bicycle through that lane up ahead, never mind this enormous tank you've just driven off the lot with three kids unwinding from a long plane ride and their mother who wonders if you would mind turning across three lanes of traffic to the supermarket.

And you'd do it too, because they sell beer there, if it weren't for the lunatic in the Geo who would rather have you squash him flat than let you pull ahead of him. . . .

Relax. Once you make it out of town and get a few miles under your wheels, you'll feel like a pro. For all their size, RVs aren't that difficult to drive. You're up high enough to see over the cars ahead of you, and the handling is better than you'd expect. Besides, in most vacation areas the locals learn to give a wide berth to tourists in their rented land yachts.

A few tips for an easier trip:

* Inspect the RV thoroughly before leaving the lot. An agent should go over the appliances and systems with you--stove, refrigerator, air-conditioning, and heater, generator, water and waste--but that's not all. Small problems can be major annoyances on a long trip. Make sure cabinet latches work, check curtains and shades and look for sharp edges that might scrape an arm or leg.

* Be prepared for minor repairs on the road. Think of all the things that come loose around the house. Now imagine your house is on wheels, bouncing over several hundred miles of road a day. Even a well-maintained RV may need a knob tightened or a bracket screwed back in now and then. A good multipurpose tool kit--pliers, wire cutter, screwdrivers, knife and saw blades--is invaluable. (No tool kit was supplied with this RV.)

* Never pass a gas station. They tell you these monsters get 10 to 12 miles per gallon; it's 7 or 8, from our experience.

* Save your receipts. You should get reimbursed for just about everything that goes into the RV except gasoline. We had to buy a longer sewer hose at one campground, a lightbulb at another, a washer for the water hose at a third. It all came off the rental bill.

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