- Wed, Aug 1, 2007
Hot Summer Greetings from Nappanee….
Well, here we are, wrapping up another summer of fun in the Hoosier state. Another International Rally has come and gone, and from what all the guys here in the shop said, it sounds like it was a resounding success. Good food, good friends, good fellowship, and the grandeur of this wonderful country… that's what the RV lifestyle is all about.
As with pretty much all the other lifestyles out there, the RV lifestyle has its own unique set of circumstances and problems that can arise… and they usually do when you least expect it. Most of these situations are matters of oversight, or being in too much of a hurry. They are all correctable, though, and with them come another of life's little lessons. The secret is to learn the lesson from them, bury them like ancient history (so your fellow RVers never find out), then make a conscious effort not to let history repeat itself. Most people refer to this as "The School of Hard Knocks", and it seemed like almost every time I turned the key to my 1978 Kountry Aire Class C, school was in session. Here are a few of my favorite lessons learned that I gladly (though somewhat embarrassingly) pass on to you in hopes YOU won't repeat them….
My unit was equipped with a good old A&E 1000 series awning that had more food and friendship passed under it than Kellogg's has Cornflakes. There were lots of good memories made under that awning, and we loved it immensely. One weekend we were camping comfortably at a local campground where the kids loved the fishing pond, and as usual, the awning was out. The last evening there we were enjoying the great outdoors when it began to rain. We retired to the inside for an evening of playing cards and watching movies, and being the conscientious RVer that I was, I retracted the awning to prevent water from pooling and damaging the fabric and roller tube. We had a great time inside playing cards and watching movies, and the next morning it was still raining, so we had a great breakfast and decided to head on home after cleaning up a bit. We disconnected the shore power and city water, secured the interior items for transit, and hit the road for the short 10 mile drive home. All was well for the first few miles, but a sudden "BANG", followed by some dragging sounds brought our short commute to a sudden and ugly halt. One glance in the door side rear view mirror revealed the problem… the awning decided to deploy in transit. Then I realized… when I retracted the awning to save it from the rain, I assumed we would be opening it up again the next morning, so I never engaged the locks. LESSON LEARNED: Awning locks are there for a reason… USE THEM… and don't forget to check EVERYTHING before leaving the campsite!
Our first trip out in that Class C was quite an adventure… and not necessarily the sort of adventure you long for when traveling in an RV. It was quite a learning process, but a fun one to start off, so the trip wasn't a total disaster. We met a wonderful couple in the camp site adjacent to ours, and hit it off really well with them. They were obviously experienced campers, so we set about asking questions to see what gems of RV wisdom we could glean from them that weekend. While my wife was learning the secret to grilling corn on the cob in the husk, I made note of an interesting addition our neighbor had made to the rear of his unit. On the rear bumper, he had attached a large piece of PVC pipe to store his sewer hose in. Since this was our first outing in this rig, we had a brand new, still in the bag sewer hose, but I had not really given any thought to storing it. When I examined my "tube" style rear bumper (usually used to store the hose), I found it was rusted enough on the bottom that I thought it might actually catch and tear the hose as I inserted it, so I decided first chance I got, I would sneak away to the nearest hardware store for my very own PVC pipe. An hour later I had four feet of 4" PVC pipe tie-strapped to the rear bumper of my rig. Look at me; I'm an experienced RV owner! The next day we were getting ready to leave, so I dumped the tanks, cleaned the hose thoroughly, and stored it in its handy storage spot. We bid our new friends a fond farewell, and hit the road toward home. When we got home, we found the remnants of the end of the hose still clinging desperately to the end of the PVC tube. Apparently when you compress a spring (or sewer hose), it wants to un-compress itself… and it did exactly that. Hmmm… guess I forgot to cap the tube so it would stay in place. LESSON LEARNED: Make sure the sewer hose is safely and SECURELY tucked into place! Oh yeah… shore power cords and water hoses can extend in transit, too, if not properly stored!
One last lesson I will pass on from my own personal school of hard knocks deals with winterization. When I bought my unit, it was still very 1978 inside, right down to the orange shag carpet. There's nothing wrong with orange shag carpet… everything has it's time and place, you know? But my wife preferred the interior of the Dutch Star Diesel Pusher we had seen just before this purchase, so I set about the project of updating our interior to be as close to that Dutch Star as I could. New cabinet faces, new toilet, new cabinet doors and drawer front, new carpet, new paneling, new linoleum… you get the picture. We were quite proud of the final result. It still screamed 1978 on the outside, but inside it was like you stepped into a time machine to 2001. Despite the occasional little problem we experienced, we were very happy with being RV owners at the close of that first camping season. When October came, and the leaves started to run, I knew it was time to put it away for the winter, so I gathered my bottles of RV antifreeze and went to work winterizing our fine unit. Drain all the water… bypass the water heater… pump antifreeze into the sinks and shower… pour some down the drains for extra protection and to make sure the tanks have some in them… looks good to me. I put it away at the back of our lot for a long winter's rest, confident that comes spring it would be ready for another year of camping adventure.
Spring came, and with it our urge to take the kids camping, so I brought the motorhome up to the house and started de-winterizing it. I flushed all the RV antifreeze out, we packed it up and headed out. When we got to the campground, we set it up like normal, and started enjoying our weekend away. My oldest son (11 at that time) went to the bathroom, and upon finishing announced to me through the door that the toilet would not flush. The ball valve would open, but there was no water flowing. Realizing I had not turned the water valve on the back of the toilet back on since I winterized the unit, I instructed him to do so… which was followed by a grunt and yell… then he stepped out of the bathroom wet, with water following him out onto the kitchen linoleum. What the heck? I investigated and found my problem… the flush valve on the toilet was leaking. It had frozen and cracked. During my winterization, I had cut the water off to the toilet, and poured RV antifreeze down the drain, but had left that cup full of water in the line between the cut off valve and the flush valve. That little bit of water froze, expanded, and pretty well destroyed the flush valve and water line. Oops… LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you get rid of every drop of water in the unit… even the smallest amount of water in an RV can freeze and do damage!
As a guy, admitting my mistakes isn't my favorite thing to do, but honestly, looking back on them now I can laugh some, and I definitely learned some lessons from those days and that great old Class C. Camping is indeed an adventure, and those episodes weren't enough to deter me from wanting to do it more. I just have to remember to be thorough, pay more attention, and always have a tool box and duct tape handy!
Here's hoping your Summer RV travels are the GOOD kind of adventurous! See you here next month!