Two weeks have passed since our first long retirement journey in our Fifth Wheel RV (I’m talking 4,213 miles long.) That passage of time allows me to put the trek into a little perspective. Every journey has its ups and downs, ins and outs, pleasures and responsibilities. I could probably write a whole book about the experiences we had during this trip, but the following will attempt to put it into a nutshell. Perspective lets me dwell on the positive; so I’m calling it…
Our first trip in our used 2005 Fifth Wheel was a “shake-down” overnight trip to our friends’ farm just an hour north of here. Unfortunately, when we drove over a steep hill to cruise down into their driveway, the back corner of the extended bed on the Ford F350 diesel truck that pulls the RV struck the underside of the Fifth Wheel overhang, put a hole in it, and broke the lens cover on an RV light. Also, the water heater wouldn’t work that weekend. Fortunately, we found out what was wrong with the heater, were able to buy a new lens cover, and filled the hole with Plexiglas patch the following week. Added benefits were that we realized that we can’t pull the camper over steep hills and had time to stock and clean the unit while it was in our driveway.
Our second trip was to the Missouri wine country. We took our cats and stayed at a KOA campground near Columbia. Unfortunately, it rained much of the weekend, and the cats did not enjoy the bouncy ride. In fact, Moose, the big cat, got caught between the day and night shades and broke the string. Fortunately, we were able to cozily sit in our RV and watch a DVD on TV during the rainstorm with our kitties curled up beside us. Our “Ultimate RVer” friends told us later that those shade strings break often, and we got a kit that fixed the Moose-broken shade and will fix more in the future. Also, we learned that a two-hour trip turns into a four-hour trip when we stop every half hour to check the cats and the inside of the camper. Good to know when planning a 4,213 mile trip!
Well, now we were ready and proud to show off our new vacation home-on-wheels to friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, when our RVer friends Mark and Neida, came by for a visit on their way east, we displayed our RV Pride and Joy. Since we had a little wine before our big show-off session, we weren’t entirely careful to check everything before we pulled the slides back in. Oops! One slide caught a shelf that we forgot to retract and pulled the kitchen cabinets away from the side wall. Fortunately, my handyman husband was able to put it all back together the next day. He also got rid of the offending shelf so that we wouldn’t make that mistake again!
Then it became time for the BIG trip. Unfortunately, our Moose cat caused an hour delay in the timeline the first day when he snuck under the sink while I was cleaning up some dish soap that had spilled. We searched, afraid that he had somehow managed to escape out the door. Fortunately, we finally found him inside a door under the stove and learned that the whole underneath part of the kitchen cabinets are connected?! The second day, unfortunately, the door latch lost a screw and a drawer in the bedroom kept coming open and even flew out across the room while we were traveling. Fortunately, my husband brought his tool chest and was able to fix both fasteners, albeit temporarily, while we traveled.
Our visit in Wisconsin was very enjoyable, especially when we were there for the announcement that my son’s first child is on the way. We parked in my son’s in-laws’ driveway and used their electric and water hook-ups. We stayed in the RV each night with the cats. Unfortunately, the kitchen stove lighter stopped working, and the gas detector alarm woke us up several times and had to be repeatedly reset even though there was no evidence of a gas leak. Fortunately, I could light the stove manually, and we found the fuse and disabled the annoying and obviously malfunctioning gas alarm until we can get it fixed.
While in Green Bay we participated in a 10 K walk for charity with my son and daughter-in-law, and unfortunately my husband’s bad knee started to swell. Fortunately, the rest of the trip provided plenty of time riding in the truck so the knee could heal.
Unfortunately, construction work on the roads on which we traveled through Canada caused the RV to rattle around so much that chairs and tables, drawers and doors, dishes and books, and especially our cats became disoriented. More latches and knobs failed. Finally, our cold water tank fell upon the axle of the RV. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous, the RV Parks were nice, the cats recovered quickly when we stayed two days near Montreal, and there was an RV service center next to our camp when we discovered the broken tank brackets. They were able to get the RV in and shore up the tank the next morning.
Unfortunately, when we got to Waterford, Maine we pulled into a campground that was full of trees and hills. We tried to get into position to back into our spot by driving over a steep hill! Again the truck broke the RV light, and the scissor stabilizer jacks on the back of the RV bent as they were dragged through the dirt. So much for the previous steep hill avoidance lesson. Fortunately, we found an RV parts store on our way out of that hill country and bought a new set of stabilizers and a new light lens.
Also, the kitties got a respite from all that shaking as we settled at a camp nearby for three nights while we visited with friends at their summer cottage in the beautiful lake region of southwestern Maine.
Our next stop was Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor on Mt.Desert Island, Maine. It is a beautiful area, and the weather was fantastically warm, sunny, and perfect for sightseeing and hiking. Even the commercial areas that surround the park are old and quaint, and we had delicious fresh fish and seafood that my taste palate will remember forever. Unfortunately, the RV Park there was terribly expensive (East Coast, near a National Park—duh!) And it was there that my husband discovered the reason one of our slides wouldn’t slide all the way in and was clunky sliding out—the awning that covered it was, for some reason, positioned on the inside of the slide rather than on the outside. Fortunately, the RV Park was so close to everything on the island that we really had time to explore it thoroughly the next day without incurring much added gas expense. Then, at the campground, three nice fellow campers helped us try to fix the awning. Unfortunately, we ended up cutting the awning off and throwing it away. But, fortunately, we found out that we don’t really have to have the awning; it’s just there to keep leaves and acorns from collecting on the slide top. A new awning will be costly. We may just get used to sweeping the leaves off before pulling the slide in.
Unfortunately, it was on the five-day trip home across the Midwest that we found out about more of the %*blinking#& bad boo boos on the underside of the RV. After pulling the camper for a full day through pouring rain, guess what, we found a wet spot on the carpet inside when we stopped for the night.
“Hmmm,” we said, “Did water from the cats’ bowl run over to the carpet?”
Let’s see, I think that was the night that the handle on the bathroom door fell apart, too, from so much battering around. We dabbed the water with a towel and bungee corded the door closed for the trip. The next night, after another full day of rain, the carpet that was under the dining room slide was soaked. Well, not only that, but there was insulation hanging from the bottom of the RV…a loose panel below was letting rain water in and insulation out!
All of our towels were wet from trying to dry the carpet—both the carpet and the towels started stinking from sour mildew. When we finally had an evening dry enough for my husband to get under the RV to investigate, he found panels with screws missing, a bent axle that had caused the tires to wear on one side, and two broken shocks. At one RV Park, after a day of rain when we were just sure we wouldn’t find any more breakage, I found a window that had been broken out from the inside! Apparently, one of the easy chairs had been thrown against the window as the RV bounced around on the terrible I-70 corridor in Indiana (that state certainly hasn’t used its highway funds for the Interstate.)
Fortunately, I found a laundry where I washed the offending odor out of the towels, I used baking soda to alleviate some of the smell in the carpet, the broken window took on an abstract stained glass look when we taped it back together using blue plastic in place of the missing pieces, and it didn’t rain much during our last two days on the road. Very fortunately, I have a husband who doesn’t mind (much) laying on his back under an RV to replace screws in under panels so our RV could make it home and to the shop to be fixed.
One might well wonder whether we’ll be taking another long trip with the RV soon. The answer is yes. We take off in a few days (after our RV gets out of the shop) for a three-week trip to the West Coast. Fortunately, we considered the East Coast trip a warm-up and learning experience and enjoyed our trip enough to try again. Stay tuned…