Trial Run #3 – There Is A Learning Curve
Every activity worth doing has a learning curve.
Welcome back to our journey toward retirement and the pondering of living full-time in a 36′ RV fifth wheel. To read from the beginning, please go to my post RV Minimalist Wannabe.
We just arrived home from a week’s vacation at Davis Mountains State Park. This was the first time pulling the long, long trailer and it was a dual-purpose journey. We needed a vacation plus we wanted a trial run that actually left our front yard (read Trial Run #1 and Trial Run #2 to understand the humor in this). We tackled a large learning curve and returned home safely with rig and sanity intact.
So Much To Learn
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13).
Is there a learning curve with RVs? You better believe it!
Wikipedia’s definition of a learning curve is an “increase of learning with experience.”∗
I liked this one better from Collins English Dictionary: “A learning curve is a process where people develop a skill by learning from their mistakes.”∗∗
Knowing we had a lot to learn, we decided not to get frustrated by our mistakes, but to utilize them as a fast-track to knowledge and experience. I found this also helps prevent crying or throwing things.
When we talk about living or vacationing in an RV, there’s so much to remember. Driving forward, backing up, turning corners, and the important braking system must all be mastered to avoid damage. Setting up at an RV site includes hooking up electricity, water, and sewer hoses. You need to level your home, put out slides, and unstow everything you put up. When it’s time to leave, you must do everything in reverse in order to get the RV ready to travel again. To the novice, this may sound easy-peasy, but there are RV checklists for a reason. I highly recommend them!
Knowing Your Rig
Getting to know your rig’s idiosyncrasies is a must for less-stressful traveling (notice I didn’t say stress-free). First, you must know the length and height of your rig. My husband says ours is like pulling a battleship down the road. Our truck and RV measures 52 feet long. For all you visual people like me, that’s the equivalent of 52 Subway footlongs placed end to end. And speaking of food, our rig is also 13 feet high. Most drive-through clearances average around 9 feet high. You can’t whip into a Dairy Queen and order at the drive-through. Get used to limited choices and walking from the back-40 of every parking lot.
I’ve learned which cabinet doors and drawers fly open, how to store all my kitchen items, and even how long a paper towel roll is after it bounced off the counter and unrolled during travel. It’s also clear that items stored in the front over the truck don’t move an inch, but things in the back like to rock and roll. Every RV will have its own set of particular quirks, but that’s okay! It only takes one trip to figure them out and take steps to correct them.
Lessons From Our Vacation
I kept notes of things to pass along. I will describe them below as they occurred.
- Stow everything and bungee-tie cabinet doors and drawers! We checked inside at our first fuel stop and found a mess. Don’t leave paper towel holders on counter. Secure the Sound Bar underneath the TV. Tie off the dining table so the end doesn’t slide out and the extra leaf fall out. Don’t assume anything heavy won’t grow legs and move.
- Always check your site’s utilities before doing anything. After we unhooked and leveled our RV, I immediately got everything inside set up for our stay. Then we discovered the park’s electrical outlet didn’t work. We called the park staff, who said it was too late to fix, and asked us to move to another site. Not a pleasant start, but we took it in stride and counted it as a learning tool for all further stays.
- Determine to find the bright side in setbacks. We moved to another site and had a much better view of the lake.
- Keep a supply of 7-Up and crackers. Exhausted from driving and setting up the first time, Marshall didn’t get the RV level at the 2nd site. After a couple of hours of walking crooked, he became nauseous from his equilibrium going haywire. I had nothing to settle his stomach except prayer and Alka-Seltzer. He made it through the night, but didn’t get much rest.
- Reverse your sleep position. Being unlevel, the foot of our bed was higher, so we slept with our heads at the foot of the bed and the most amazing thing happened. I loved it! I’m a bit claustrophobic and sleeping with my head tucked into the bedroom slide bothered me. Reversing positions left our heads free and I slept so much better. I also discovered it was easier to make the bed. No more squeezing into the narrow slide-out trying to straighten the covers. Just grab both corners and pull over the pillows at the foot of the bed (which is now the head) and the covers stay tucked in against the slide walls.
- For a quick overnight stay midway to a final destination, bring soup or chili prepared ahead of time to heat up for dinner. This leaves more time for rest and relaxation with easy clean-up.
- Unless you thrive on chaos, avoid Cracker Barrels for Sunday lunch. Not a good idea since every other RVer and local churchgoer had the same idea. Way too busy and chaotic.
- Learn who the best navigator is. Who knew I couldn’t navigate?? Trying to find a Cracker Barrel on our 2nd day, I got us lost in downtown Midland, Texas. Marshall said in a slightly frustrated voice, “Just find me a main road leading back to the interstate.” He’s so sweet! So I found a wider line on Google maps that went in the right direction. Who knew they were doing road construction on it?? Thanks to Marshall’s driving skills, we maneuvered through a very narrow lane and left all the orange barrels and cones in standing order, but the stress levels went sky high.
- Clamp your sewer hose connections and don’t leave the valve until you know the hose doesn’t leak or disconnect. Previously we had purchased a 2nd hose at the local hardware store in order to reach the site’s drain. We neglected to buy clamps, so Marshall pushed them together as tight as he could. After opening the drain valve, the remaining black water (that’s code for disgusting toilet water) came rushing through the hose. Then disaster struck. The hose disconnected and a fountain of liquid waste and poop came spraying out. He ran back to the RV and closed the valve, but you wouldn’t believe how much escaped in only a few seconds. We had to scoop up the poop, water down the RV site, and quickly make our own escape before the park staff came by. We’re still waiting for a bill to come in the mail charging us an offensive odor fee.
- Finally, walk around the RV before leaving, then do it again! We left the park and drove straight to a truck stop for fuel. I came back from the restroom to discover the outside door to the slide-out buttons wide open with Marshall’s keys hanging out of it. Checklist, checklist, checklist!
In A Heartbeat!!
Now that we’ve exposed our waste water for the world to see, the question might arise, “Would we do it again?” In…a…heartbeat! It might take my husband a bit more time to fully appreciate the experience, but I absolutely loved it. I loved having my own place without worrying about who slept in the bed last or wondering if you shined a black light around the room, what might show up. I don’t have to fret about leaving behind phone charges or bathrobes because the room goes with us. Our spirits were refreshed in the midst of God’s creation and at our age, it’s good to do things that keep your mind sharp. RVing definitely does that.
Will there be more mistakes? I figure the learning curve will continue, but together we’ll overcome it and learn to laugh even when standing in poop water!
They say we learn from our mistakes. That’s why I’m making as many as possible.
I’ll soon be a genius.
Until next time,
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∗“Learning Curve.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve.
∗∗COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers