This blog is titled Adventures in Rving. It could have easily been called Mistakes we have made as RVers. Ask any RV owner and they will readily admit to making their share of mistakes along the road. It’s going to happen. Either as a new or seasoned RV owner things will happen and you will make mistakes. After two years of full time RV living, we have certainly had occasion to make our share of mistakes.
Fortunately, the mistakes we have made have not resulted in serious issues with our RV. But if not caught soon some mistakes can lead to serious safety problems or could leave you stranded. So, here are some of our adventures and lessons learned, along with stories we have heard from other RVers.
Pay Attention to Your RVs Height
After owning our RV for less then one week we had our first collision with an overhead power line. Picking up our brand-new RV from the dealer we spent the next few days loading everything into the RV. It was now time for our first trip where we would be driving halfway across the country. Everyone said their goodbyes and loaded up. Pulling out of the drive I saw a low power line, but surely there would be plenty of room to get under it. After all, it was not a problem when we brought the RV home. Going under the power line I heard something unusual, but everything seemed fine. Moments later my wife, who was driving our other vehicle behind me, called and said something fell off the RV. Stopping in the middle of the road I got out, walked to the back of the RV and saw the TV antenna lying in the middle of the road. We hadn’t even owned the RV for one week and already had our first RV adventure.
So, know the height of your RV and pay attention to those low hanging power lines, tree branches and bridges. Just because your RV fit under a power line one time doesn’t mean it will fit the second time. Some Rvers put a little sign with the height of their RV on the dashboard of their vehicle when they are driving. When coming to a bridge with low clearance this reminds them how tall their RV is.
Get Some Practice Driving Your RV on Short Trips First
Okay I did not follow this tip. When looking at large fifth wheels we were not able to really appreciate how big “big” was. It wasn’t until we were taking delivery of our new fifth wheel and hitching up to our truck for the first time that I realized how big “big” was. After the initial shock I thought about navigating through city traffic and onto the interstate where I would have to drive for almost one hundred miles with a cross wind to get the trailer home. After a brief stop, we would be driving a very long distance. Those first trips towing a forty-three-foot fifth wheel were very stressful and exhausting. Learning to drive the fifth wheel, taking corners, and backing up have been some lessons we have learned along the way. But if you have time and can find a place go to, like an empty parking lot, practice turning and backing your RV. It will boost your confidence in your ability to drive your RV.
Your RV Can and Will Catch on Fire
It happened after owning our RV for less than six months. The power converter started shooting out sparks and flames for what seemed like forever, though it was probably only a matter of seconds. The entire fifth wheel had the burned electrical smell and the incident pretty much scared everyone. While this was not a mistake it certainly was an adventure. It was only through the protection of the Lord that the entire fifth wheel did not burn up. I was afraid we might have sustained some serious damage and had no idea if the RV was safe. With some help of a great dealer we were able to determine that the problem was the power converter. They assisted us with running a battery charger directly to the batteries, so we could still charge the batteries and use all the 12-volt appliances until a new power converter could be installed.
Since replacing our power converter and we have not had any other problems. However, I probably should have paid attention to signs that things might not be right. Before the power converter burned up, we were having little power surges and low voltage issues. Had I investigated further would I have found the issue with the power converter? I don’t know. But pay attention to little things that are not normal and learn to investigate. Additionally, this was a good learning experience for our family about fire safety in the RV. We bought another fire extinguisher and let the kids practice deploying the fire extinguisher. We wanted them to know what to do if another fire happened. We also made an emergency evacuation plan for the family, just in case something was to happen.
Have a Spotter and Good Communication
Driving or backing up an RV in a confined space can quickly lead to trouble. Add in water faucets, picnic tables and power poles you have some pretty tight quarters to try and maneuver an RV around. If you spend any time in a campground you are going to see someone getting into a hurry trying to maneuver into a camp site. You will never regret having a spotter to help maneuver into and around tight spots.
Having a spotter will aid you especially when backing up, as you can’t see everything, and it is harder to accurately judge distance. Sure, back up cameras help. But being able to have someone watching multiple angles provides another level of safety. However, every spotter needs to remember if the driver can’t see you in the mirror, they can’t see your signals. Work together as a team and don’t get into a hurry.
If the Camp Site Does Not Look Right, Move On
On a trip through Georgia we were tired and decided to stop for the night. Looking ahead we found a campground and called for a reservation. Arriving after dark we were greeted by the campground host who promptly lead us to a site and quickly left. My wife and I were left to unhook and level our fifth wheel. However, the site was on a hill and nowhere near level. We didn’t know enough to ask for another site. Therefore, we proceeded to unhitch the fifth wheel and level the trailer. Because of the angle between the truck and fifth wheel we struggled to unhitch. After unhitching we were not able to get the trailer level, no matter what we tried. It appeared as if the fifth wheel could topple over and tumble into the lake below. Struggling with this for over an hour in the dark was frustrating, especially when all we wanted to do was go to bed. We finally ended up hitching the truck back up and just going to bed.
We have since that night we have made it a policy to make sure we get out and both my wife and I agree that we can fit into the camp site before unhitching. So far though we have not had any problems.
Have a Pre-Trip Routine and Keep It
Having an RV can certainly lead to spontaneity when you see something along the way you would like to stop and explore. Perhaps you find an area you would like to spend a few extra days at. Having an RV gives you the freedom to do so. However, there are a few areas where you need to have a routine and make sure you follow your routine all the time.
One area we have worked at establishing a routine is in our pre-trip departure. Our Pre-trip routine begins even a few days before leaving on a trip. We start making sure things like our tires are in good shape and have plenty of air. Additionally, we will start looking at our route to see if there might be road construction along the way. We also start monitoring weather along the route and at our destination. There has been one occasion when I did not follow my own plan and discovered a flat tire that had to be replaced before we could leave. This caused lead to a delay in our leaving and caused our trip to start with some stress.
Recently it was cold and windy while we were hooking up the fifth wheel and truck. I got in a hurry and missed a couple of steps in my routine. When I discovered the missed steps, I had to go back and fix them. Not a big deal, but it would have taken less time if I had slowed down and made sure I followed the routine.
There was a video On YouTube that clearly illustrated the importance of having a routine and following it. Someone had bought a new fifth wheel and was hitching it up to move to a new camp site in the same campground. They also had a new hitch which they had never used before. So, having a new hitch and new fifth wheel they hitched up and failed to do safety checks to make sure they were safely hitched up. As they started to pull out of the campsite the fifth wheel came unhitched and dropped down onto the bed of the truck. Failure to follow a routine, especially when hitching up a new trailer and hitch could have caused major damage to their truck and fifth wheel. I also wonder if the rush to film resulted in some short cuts they would not have normally taken. I don’t know. However, videos like this point out the dangers of not sticking to a routine and making sure you don’t get rushed.
Know Your Travel Pace and Don’t Push It
On our last trip we wanted to make a certain point the first day. Leaving early, we traveled approximately thirteen hours. By the time we stopped for the night we were tired and ready to quit. I briefly entertained the idea of taking a little break and pushing on through the night to reach our destination. I quickly realized this could be a bad decision as we were tired, and it was nighttime. There are several schools of thought regarding how long or how far to travel in one day.
One rule I have heard of is the 330 rule. I first heard this from the RV Lifestyle Podcast. When traveling they make sure they find a place to stop when they have traveled 330 miles or when it is 3:30 p.m. Traveling though Tennessee recently during a rainy day I knew I was done and did not want to drive through Knoxville, Tennessee during a rainy rush hour. So, we found a campground and stopped by 3:30 p.m. While we did not intentionally set out to follow this rule, I can say we stopped early enough to feel rested and ready to continue the next morning.
Another rule I heard of recently was the 2-2-2 rule. Less Junk, More Journey talked about this rule in a video. They explained you don’t drive more than 200 miles, get to your destination by 2p.m, and stay at least two nights.
Regardless of what rules you go by one thing should be understood. If you are feeling tired or exhausted pull over, take a break or stop. No destination or schedule is worth having an accident over.
So, there you have it. Some of our adventures over the two years of living full time in our fifth wheel. No doubt we will have other adventures along the journey. Let us know what adventures you have had during your RV travels. Thanks for reading.