It’s May and RV’s are cruising the highways in search of adventure, nature, and camps with pull-through spaces and on-site laundry facilities. Some of the events described below are real; some are fictional (but entirely possible). I’ll let you guess which are which.
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on RV-ing called House on Wheels.
The seller handed us two huge rings of keys and a tattered briefcase. “All the papers are in here,” she said. “Wish I could help you more, but my husband – God rest his soul – always took care of things when we traveled.” With that, we became the proud but clueless parents of a bouncing baby motorhome. We figured we would learn as we go, and before we’d traveled a hundred yards, we learned that low-hanging branches can wreak havoc on a rooftop air conditioner. At the gas station, we discovered that filling up the tank takes twenty minutes, fifty-five gallons, and a 9-1-1 call when you see the total and suffer a heart attack. Heck, by the time we got home, we were practically experts. So we reserved a campsite and started packing. Though no lock was left unturned, half the keys remained a mystery. Important-looking items like batteries, lumber, hoses, and thick electrical cords hogged every outside compartment, so I stashed the lawn chairs and Dog Chow in the mini-shower, certain the water heater’s generous
six-gallon capacity would deter anyone from actually using it. I added the bare essentials—the coffee pot, a package of RV-safe toilet paper (engineered to begin dissolving the second you touch it), and a can of bug spray—and off we went.
Lessons continued on the road… Thou shalt not reverse without a spotter; it is the number one cause of RV accidents. (Reversing with a spotter is, incidentally, number two.) Be aware that mirrors, bike racks, and roof vents stick out a foot farther than they appear to. Avoid toll roads, where “highway robbery” takes on new meaning. If you do not know what a switch is for, never flip it while you are in motion; some do harmless things like disable the carbon monoxide detector while others extend the patio awning and initiate lift-off. That said, a solid roadside assistance plan is worth every penny and tow truck guys are great; they winch you out of impossibly stupid jams and never say, “Holy Moses! How did that happen?”
On site, seasoned campers are quick to take newbies under their wing. One grizzled guru watched as we backed up and pulled forward seven-teen times into our assigned space, then introduced himself. “Keep her on the blacktop,” he warned, “or you’ll wear a rut in your lawn.” The following day, a plaid-clad neighbor sprinted over and yanked a bottle of lighter fluid from my hands. “Whoa!” he hollered, “What are your leveling boards doing in your fire ring?” Aha! No wonder we kept rolling out of bed! “Stash your dirty laundry in the oven,” offered a third. “It’s pet-proof and holds exactly a load. Who in the hell bakes on a camping trip, anyway?” I did some quick mental addition… including those three little gems, I’d collected enough pearls of wisdom to earn my RV merit badge. Secret handshake, I thought excitedly, here I come.
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