Written by: Timothy Fitzgerald
5/18/2012 9:45 AM
Dr. Ron Jones has worn more than a few hats in his day. Formerly an Army medic, Senior Professor of Engineering Technology at the University of North Texas, and retired publisher, Jones is now the Dean of How to RV. We chatted with him from his RV in California, which was almost hit by a fellow RVer during the interview. No one was hurt, but true to Jones' form he righted the situation and gave the driver a free lesson. Here's what we learned.
CampingRoadTrip.com: So you began "camping on wheels" in 1962. What type of camping did you do? What was your first set of wheels?
Ron Jones: I got up off the ground and started camping on wheels in 1962 in a Nimrod trailer, which I towed with my 1962 Corvair car. It was basic but fun - and I was not sleeping on the ground. Sandy (wife) and I have been full timing since early in 2003. We meander everywhere across the USA and Canada in our diesel pusher. I stay busy.
How did you get into camping?
Well, we camped in tents for a few years but then made the decision to get off the ground. At that time we didn't have much money so there weren't many options. The trailer was the least expensive way to go. Around that time the Apache was a popular trailer but we went with the Nimrod. We used it two or three years.
Was it a popup?
It was like a popup but one side was on the ground. This left one bed. It was a great unit at the time!
Since then it seems as though you've upgraded a bit since the Nimrod years. What type of RV do you currently have?
I'm currently sitting in it - A Monaco Dynasty, 42 feet, with four slideouts. Times have changed.
How many RVs have you owned?
15 in total.
What's the longest and shortest time you've owned an RV?
Back in the 80's there was an old guy that lived around the corner who had a Champion motor home, maybe 30 feet in length. And I swear this is true, it was the start of summer and he sold it to me for a dollar. I licensed it and that summer used it locally - I would take it to a nearby lake, that sort of thing, and sold it back to him at the end of the summer for a dollar. That was the shortest time I've ever owned an RV.
The longest time I have ever owned one RV is 4 years - the one I'm in now.
Why do you go through them so quickly?
I was never one to put them in long term storage. I would sell one and get another one. It's just not my style to hold onto them for too long.
I read that you like local microbrewed beer. I'm a fan myself. What's your favorite microbrew? Where is your favorite spot to drink one?
I really enjoy hefeweizen (wheat beer) and any of the brown ales. One of the things we stumbled onto and love to do is find the out of the way places to eat - first class to no class restaurants. So we are constantly looking and searching for those. It gives us something to do and focus on. I list our favorites on my website.
Do you have a particular strategy for finding these gems?
We always ask locally. We call the places. I've downloaded the list from the TV show called Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
But what we found was that a fairly large percentage of microbreweries have very good restaurants. And many of these restaurants cook with their beers infused. Prices are usually good, food is usually good, and some of them are very nice.
You and your wife Sandy have written a few books about RVing over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
We have written four books - RVing to Alaska, Fulltiming for New and Used RVing, All the Stuff You Need to Know About RVing, and Wrinkle-Free RV Laundry. They have proven to be excellent sources of information to all RVers. They teach RVers how to save money, and make RVing easier, convenient, efficient, safe, and fun.
We do not promote RV rumors, myths, or fairy tales nor sell gadgets. Our information is thoroughly researched, tested, and verified - you can trust it. The details are in the books.
How long does it take you to write these books?
Once I get focused, have the experience, decide to write, think it will sell, about 3-6 months from page layout to books in hand.
You present seminars on RVing. What do you hope your audience gets out of the seminars?
I want the audience to get "correct information". I also want them to leave with some level of competence they previously did not have. In my seminars and writing, my focus is on the "how to" and for them to understand why that "how to" process is necessary, e.g., why do you dump black before grey; why do you unplug electric before unhooking water, why do you hang your ignition key from the antenna crank, etc.
What is the funniest/most unexpected thing that has ever happened during one of your seminars?
I was presenting my "All About RVing" seminar and one section covers the correct process for emptying your holding tanks. I get pretty animated on this topic as it is easiest, safest, cleanest, and most efficient if you do it "by the book."
A couple was seated in the second row. I was going on about, "Never, ever, ever leave your black tank valve open when just parked at your campsite! Never!" and listed the primary reasons why not.
I rarely take questions during the seminars but always leave ample time at the end. But, this man in the second row was slowly raising his hand - like he really didn't want to raise it but it was kind of creeping up in the air. I stopped and asked if he had a question. He kind of blushed and said, "Do you think I ought to go close mine now?"
On your website you mention that "There is so much misinformation, myths, and rumors floating among RVers that maybe it's my mission to try to correct it." In your mind what is the most widely believed RV myth?
That mixing your own homemade recipe of toilet chemicals will solve all your black tank and odor problems.
There is only so much space in an RV. After spending 8 years full timing how do you manage to keep out of Sandy's hair? Do you often get into trouble with her? Is there a timeout chair?
It's not that different than a starter apartment. We have headphones for the TV and for the computer. We can close a door inside the RV if we need time to ourselves. We work very well together, so it's not really a problem.
I know you have an affinity for Alaska. Why is this?
Alaska is an interesting place. It is, in my opinion, the only state that really supports and encourages RVers. When I was doing my research up there I found that you can legally park your RV overnight in any rest area or turnout that isn't otherwise posted, just as long as you park 4 feet from the white line and you leave room for another vehicle.
And there are plenty of rest stops and turnouts in Alaska - I believe more than any other state. With my own eyes I've seen as many as three turnouts per mile!
What is the biggest mistake that new RVers make? How about RV veteran mistakes?
The greatest mistake new RVers make is that they don't go to the right place to get quality, correct information.
Consider the wannabies - people who haven't owned an RV yet. And the Newbies - people who have just bought their RV's recently.
What I've found is that both of those groups don't know where to find verifiable information because they don't know the search terms to find the information they're looking for. Sure, they can search online but they may never have heard the term boondock, or rally, so they can't search for what they don't know.
If they don't know where to go to find information about how to correctly operate the systems on their respective RV's, how are they going to get good information? Some tell me that the salesman they worked with gave them a walkthrough. But no one can possibly absorb all the information given during a walk through. It's information overload.
How then do wannabie and newbie RVers get good, verifiable information?
By visiting my site (www.aboutrving.com), attending my seminars, and reading my books. Honestly, all of the information I've produced and share is verifiable, how to information.
I approached it from a logical point of view. What we found out over the years and seminars is that over 50% of my book sales and seminar attendees are people who have been RVing for years. They just want to know. They're willing to sit there and listen to me because my information is verifiable and correct.
New RVers need to get the correct information as opposed to just anybody's information. There is so much bad information that just floats around. And people swear by the bad information. So I wanted to get correct information to the people who needed it and allow them to glean it from my website.
Where do you get the verifiable information?
I go to the manufacturers, ask RV techs, technical manuals, and experienced RVers whom I know and trust.
If you could give only one piece of advice to RVers what would it be?
Spend lots of time on www.aboutrving.com and read my books.
One of the things I've suggested to RVers is that if you're going to buy an RV it could be the second most expensive purchase of your life. So if you're going to spend two to three hundred thousand dollars on a motorhome you need to hit a big rally where you can see all of the RVs available on the market and walk through them.
If you can't hit a rally the other option is to hit LazyDays RV Center in Florida. They're the biggest dealer on the planet and you can walk through about a 1,000 motorhomes and see all the different options. If you don't walk through many, many RVs before you make a purchase you're just taking a chance.
Anything you want to add?
The idea for this website was a result of the thousands of questions from what I call "New and Used RVers" and wannabie RVers that purchased our books, attended our seminars, were on forums, and e-mail groups. The good news... we are not selling RV parts, no gadgets, no magic cleaners, no RVs. So, the big question is why would I screw around with a website project like this (it takes a lot of time, effort, and there is a cost to do it)? The answer is that I have loads of RVing information and want to share it with others. That's it.
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