RVing is a wonderful lifestyle, whether you’re a fulltimer, a snowbird, or a weekend warrior. But like anything we do, it takes a little bit of knowledge and some experience before you get it right. I think any RVer who has been doing this for very long and is totally honest will admit to making a mistake or two along the way.
We’ve all pulled some dumb stunt, like forgetting to unplug the electrical cord when we drove away from RV site.
Or trying to take a shortcut across a flooded field.
Or my personal favorite, the quiet Sunday afternoon in Bremerton, Washington, when I prove that you can drive an MCI bus conversion up a hill so steep that the front wheels and the back bumper are on the pavement, but your drive wheels are up in the air.
Unfortunately, it’s not just new RVers who make mistakes. We expect that out of them, don’t we? But I’m reminded of something I was told on three different occasions, when I was learning to drive, when I was learning to ride a motorcycle, and when I was taking flying lessons. In all three cases, people with a lot more experience than I had told me that it’s not the new driver, or the new rider, or the new pilot who is the most dangerous. No, the most dangerous driver or rider or pilot is someone who’s got a little bit of experience and thinks he (or she) knows it all and gets complacent.
When we first start out with some new activity we’re overly cautious. Then, after a while, we get more comfortable at it and we think we’ve got it made. We forget, or ignore, those important basic lessons we were taught early on. That’s when we can really get into trouble!
Here are some things that I’ve known RVers to do, seen happen, and yes, done myself, that came back to bite me in the butt. There are others, I’m sure, but these are some that come to mind right now.
Not securing small objects. Yeah, it can be a hassle when moving day comes and you have to stow away everything inside the RV. Who has time for that? You’d better have time! You will probably drive tens of thousands of miles and never have an accident or have to make a panic stop. Or it could happen a mile from your campsite. When you do, what do you think is going to happen to that coffeepot, microwave oven, laptop computer, or whatever else you have sitting on the counter on one of those nonskid rubber mats? Yes, it might stay right where you put it. If you’re lucky. Or it may become a dangerous missile that can hit you or somebody else inside your rig in the back of the head and kill them.
Dumping too soon. Nobody likes dumping their black tank, but when you have to go, you have to go, which also means that you can put it off to the last minute, but eventually you’re going to have to dump your holding tanks. The flip side of the coin is the guy who dumps too soon, for whatever reason. Usually it’s because he’s getting ready to hit the road and doesn’t want to travel with the extra weight of a partially full black tank, or else because he’s going to park the rig for a while and doesn’t want that stuff sitting in there. Either way, dumping too soon can lead to big problems. While the liquid flows out easily, sometimes the solids drop to the bottom of the tank and stay there, and eventually they create what is known as the cone of death in the RV world. Trust me, you never, ever want to have the cone of death! Never dump your black tank unless it is at least 3/4 full. If you must dump before then, hold the pedal down your toilet and just keep putting water into the tank until you reach the safe level.
Not carrying water. “Water weighs too damn much to carry around! It will kill my fuel mileage!” I hear this all the time, and while there’s some truth to it, I would still rather sacrifice a half mile per gallon in fuel economy to have the water I need on board, when I need it. We never know when bad weather, a roadblock caused by a traffic accident, or a mechanical issue may take us off the road and find us stuck someplace overnight, or even for a couple of nights while we wait for repairs. Having at least a half tank of water with us so we can get by for a day or two, or three, can make the difference between being in an uncomfortable situation or just being in an inconvenient one.
Leaving awnings out. I can’t tell you how many times we have been in an RV park when a sudden storm comes along or the wind picks up and this is the result. Folks, if you don’t secure your awning by either rolling it up or staking it down, and then you leave your RV, this could happen to you! We’ve also known people with awnings that have wind sensors that are supposed to roll them up automatically had them fail, resulting in expensive damage.
Not spraying the water bib with bleach. More than once I’ve seen a campground neighbor stick his sewer hose directly under the fresh water bib and turn it on to wash the hose out. Yuck! Even more yuck is when the next person pulls into that site and hooks his fresh water hose onto that same water bib. We keep a spray bottle of bleach solution in our water bay and I never connect my water hose until I turn on the water bib and let it run for a few seconds to clear it, and then spray it down well.
Getting distracted when hooking up or unhooking. We love people, and we really enjoy meeting new friends and seeing our old friends. But I hate it when somebody walks up and wants to start a conversation when I’m hooking up at a new campsite, or unhooking and preparing to leave. When that happens I usually stop what I’m doing and tell them I’ll be happy to chat as soon as I finish. But you can bet the first time one of us forgets that, it comes back to bite us on the butt, as it did when we were leaving the Escapees Jojoba Hills campground in California a while back. The result was forgetting to put the pin in on one side of our Blue Ox tow bar, and when I pulled forward a couple of feet and stopped for a safety check, the Explorer came forward and now has this nasty hole in the front fiberglass, where the tow bar arm hit it.
Pilots are taught to use a checklist every time they go flying, and RVers should, too. My buddy Greg White recommends a free Android app called RV Checklist. It comes with a number of pre-made RV-related checklists, including an RV Departure checklist, an RV Arrival and Setup checklist, and a Camping Preparation checklist. It won’t keep you from doing something dumb like driving over a flooded field, or forgetting to unplug your power cord when you pull out of your campsite, but if you follow a good checklist, it can save you from getting butt bitten 9 times out of 10.
Congratulations Nancy Scigliano, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of my buddy George Wier’s excellent small town mystery, Murder In Elysium. We had 108 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live.