By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Many new RVers are deathly afraid of doing something dumb, particularly in front of more experienced RVers. The first time backing the trailer into an RV site is perhaps the most terrifying of all experiences for a new RVer.
We’re here to tell you that even “seasoned” RVers can do some completely off-the-wall things, and those experiences add to the rich tapestry of the RV lifestyle. Ladies and Gentlemen, we present to you, the “Tale of Taking the New RV Home.”
We recently decided that our truck camper, much as we love its ability to practically go anywhere, was no longer suitable for us. Getting in and out of that cab-over bed was just too hard on arthritic joints. We still need a smaller rig for research, so a fifth wheel small enough to fit the bill would likely have similar issues for a bed.
A travel trailer was finally located that fit the bill, about a two-and-a-half hour pull from our winter stomping grounds. The first trip up was to evaluate the unit, and make sure it was what we needed — and it was. We bought it on the first visit, and the owners had to get their possessions out of the unit, so we made arrangements to come back later in the week.
While we wanted to use our truck for the tow home, friends wanted to come, too, so we ended up using their crew cab truck to accommodate everyone. Strike One! Your story wheel-man was pressed into using a truck he was not familiar with.
We called the morning of the big pull, only to find the sellers were busy with appointments most of the day, and they wanted to be present when we left with the rig. This pushed the pick-up time way into the afternoon — not a happy situation — but we worked with it. Later in the day they decided it would be OK to get pick up the rig with them gone, and we agreed. Strike Two! It’s best if the sellers are present at delivery time, and here’s why:
When we arrived on site to pick up the trailer, the seller had accidentally forgotten to disconnect the water hose from the trailer — and it was “live.” The hose bib supplying the water was on the other side of a tall, chain link fence, complete with a locked gate. Our friend, bless his heart, offered to “toss me over the fence,” but if getting in a camper bed is tough, imagine the repercussions of that one! A quick call to the seller’s cell phone revealed he was hours away. We crimped the water hose, and with a few wraps of duct tape, fashioned a sort-of “shut off valve.” Thank heavens, we at least remembered to bring the duct tape! Never leave home without it!
Next, the seller had promised to include a stabilizer hitch. Woops, it was with the seller, in his pickup truck. Fortunately we had brought a hitch with us, or we’d really have been stuck. In a couple of weeks, we’ll meet the seller as he travels through our area and get the missing hitch.
With the bugs worked out and the sunset rapidly approaching, we hooked up safety chains (with the aid of a wire tie — they need repairs, something we failed to notice on the initial inspection), plugged in the TEC (trailer electrical connector), raised the electric tongue jack, and were about ready to pull out, when a cooler voice said, “Better check the running lights!”
Sure enough, the running lights were AWOL. Since all of the lights, including stop, turn, and “markers” were out, it wasn’t just a matter of a simple fuse. Your technical writing friend here thought of a ground wire issue, but didn’t have the appropriate stuff to approach a repair. Since there was but one large town to run through on the return trip, and then miles of open desert (dotted with a few tiny burgs) we decided to “make a run for it,” without running lights.
We got through the big town before the sun blinked out, then decided we’d best re-chart our course, in order to stay off the interstate — surely we’d become a 26-foot “cop caller” if we ventured out on the high-speed run, and besides, running less than freeway speed without taillights is a sure-fire way to create one of the biggest collisions we’d never want to see.
Off we went, across country. Sure enough, long after darkness fell, we saw, coming our way, flashing blue and white lights. A sheriff’s patrol unit had pulled over someone on the other side of the road. “Best pull over!” advised my navigating buddy. “If he sees you without lights, he’ll come get you next!” A glance at the GPS showed our next turn off was six miles down the road. Was it the “Bonnie and Clyde” in your wheel man that caused him to hit the accelerator and blast (OK, at less than speed limit) past the stopped patrol cruiser? We may never know.
Our “alternative route” to avoid the interstate cost us dearly in both time and fuel economy. Out of our way, over the river, through the woods, and finally, back down into the sleepy little town we call our winter base. Without backup lights, without daylight, and only a flashlight and a couple of guiding voices, we managed to jackknife the trailer into our driveway — leaving one full street lane blocked. But, the disconnect will only take a couple of minutes, right?
Wrong! In our continuing comedy of errors, the tongue jack, which had worked without a fuss on picking up the trailer, simply chattered at us with wicked sounds, failing to even push a millimeter down toward the ground. Soon we had the whole troupe, scurrying like so many Laurel and Hardies, fetching bottle jacks, cinder blocks, and chunks of wood, so we could free the truck of the trailer. In the middle of this activity, your intrepid “RV technical specialist” (?) slid under the truck to release the safety chains. While there, a little light bulb in his head lit up. Pulling the TEC from the plug on the truck, he turned it over 180 degrees and plugged it back in the mating surface.
A chorus of, “Hey! All the running lights just came on! What’s going on?” immediately broke out. Your resident technical specialist no longer needed a flashlight to see. He had plenty of glowing red light coming from his cheeks. You can rest assured that he’ll never hear the end of that one.
No, we still haven’t resolved the failed tongue jack issue. But lessons aplenty to be “re-learned.” Give yourself plenty of time, especially when working with a new rig or a new towing vehicle. This last was certainly the third strike in this ball game — and I hope it will be the LAST time it’s ever repeated. But, probably not.
photo: Alex E. Proimos on flickr.com