For those who think that the full-time RV lifestyle is a perpetual vacation living in the lap of luxury, let’s just say, that’s a big fat lie! There are challenges you better be ready for. If you don’t believe me, you’ll want to read about the day we almost quit RVing after driving our own highway to hell.
As full-time RVers who are living the dream, I can attest that we have days, while very few, when we have been super close to wanting to quit RVing. Like everything else, there are days where we just want to throw in the towel and call it a day.
What a most folks don’t know is that full-time RVing isn’t about traveling around in a stylish motorhome or camper to amazing places with a bottomless bank account. We, like them, have good days and bad days. And then we have really awful days that make us want to quit RVing all together. Then, are we really living the dream?
Amidst our amazing experiences of living on the road, we also experience unexpected breakdowns, drained contingency funds, illness, marital hiccups and ending up on roads that we have no business being on.
While we consider ourselves truly blessed to live the envious life of nomadic fortune, we still go through unforeseen trials and setbacks. But what do we do when we face those unexpected challenges of full-time RV life on the road? We have a choice. We can either laugh or cry.
Well, as Tom Hank’s character says in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!”, crying isn’t an option when it comes to living the dream as a full-time RVer.
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The Day We Almost Quit RV Life!
Back in the summer of 2018, we had one hell of a day that we’ll be talking about around campfires for a long time. It was that incredibly bad day that really did suck the LIFE out of living the dream!
As bad as it may have seemed to us when it happened, we feel our story needs to be told. Not to scare others into not pursuing their own “living the dream” RV lifestyle but to show that RV life is just that; LIFE. A different way of living. We still have a home…but on wheels.
Before I go on, let this not lead you into thinking this is a common occurrence of the full-time RV lifestyle nor indicative of daily RV travel. This is just how one day out of thousands can surely feel like a punch in the gut. But, we learn to pick ourselves up and dust each other off, smile at each other and thank the good Lord that we are afforded such incredible lifestyle.
A great day to get underway!
One early June morning, we started our getting-underway routine before departing our previous night Harvest Host destination in Tennessee. We call it ‘getting underway’ because that’s what sailors call getting ready to leave the pier to sail away.
Anyway, Dan takes care of all of our RV’s engineering and everything outside. My role in getting underway is to stow everything inside of our fifth wheel. Plus, I have the collateral duty of calming and getting our kitties settled in their cat carriers.
We were in our groove and things were going well. After four years of full-time RVing (remember, we started full-timing in 2014), we’ve got our packing in, hitching up and hauling out down pat. This leg of our trip was 300 miles. We were to stay overnight at another Harvest Host destination in North Carolina which we were ecstatic about; a bourbon distillery. Having lived in Kentucky for 7 years, this was something we were really looking forward to.
However, shortly after getting on the road, our day turned to total CRAP!
The beatings will continue until the morale improves!
The I-40 east-bound highway’s road surface was absolutely appalling. Our truck, our fifth wheel, two adorable kitties and ourselves took the beating of our lifetime on this major highway. Yeah, it was that bad.
As we kept driving, I kept telling Dan that I was afraid to open the door to our fifth wheel once we’d get to our destination. I had visions of our cabinets crashing to the floor and everything inside trashed.
I seriously prayed that our home on wheels would be a home no more. But Dan kept driving, swerving to dodge pot holes, running over the wake-up rumble strips, and those bridge expansion joints jarred our teeth making for some words that would not make Grandma proud. For the meek, this may have the say for them to quit RVing. But for us, ah heck! Let’s keep going! What do we have to lose except for our home, right?
We HIT something!
While we were driving on that Godforsaken interstate highway to hell, we were also amidst heavy truck traffic. But then, one of those big rig trucks directly in front of us blew a tire. It literally exploded sending rubber shrapnel onto our truck, over our truck, under our truck and then into our fifth wheel’s front end.
Not having room to avoid the biggest tire piece, our dually’s right side tires ran over it sending it right into the lower front right section of our fifth wheel. That tire also left a nasty, black rubber skid mark all along the entire side of our fifth wheel for all to see.
Since we had nowhere to go, we had to just drive through it and continue on. Thank God our TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) wasn’t going haywire which meant, our own tires came out unscathed.
Who turned UP the heat?
After our extremely nerve-racking 300 mile drive on hell’s highway, we finally arrived at a Harvest Host bourbon distillery in Tennessee. Let me tell you, we were more than ready to enjoy that bourbon tasting (or bottle?). Since Dan just recently installed our solar panels and lithium batteries and our RV being self-contained, we thought we were good to go.
However, it was 95 freaking degrees with a heat index of 105. To run our fifth wheel’s air conditioners, we’d need to run our portable generators which a lot of Harvest Hosts prefer us not to. But also, it kind of ruins the vibe anyways parking on a quiet field in the middle of God’s country.
Now, this was no Texas dry heat that we endured before. This heat index was full blown (pardon my saltiness) balls hot with dripping humidity. Graphic words I know, but there’s no better way to describe that we were literally sweating buckets just getting our fifth wheel unhooked from our truck and set up. But, it’s okay, because once Dan gets those generators hooked up, we’ll be cool as cucumbers, right? Ha! Was God was pushing the envelope for us to quit RVing yet?
Broken Air Conditioner!
When Dan paralleled both generators to power our an air conditioner, it wouldn’t energize. It was broken, or so we thought.
Dan found one of the air conditioning system wires shook loose from its’ connection point. Apparently, it happened from driving on that highway to hell. So, Dan got his toolbox out, wiped his brows and fixed it. He was now dripping with sweat and full of words that would make even a Sailor look like a Saint.
But hey, a little RV first aid tape and we’d be good as new, right? Wrong again!
Kitty in Distress
While Dan was playing combat medic to our fifth wheel, I was inside getting things put back together after being shaken to oblivion. I let our kitties out of their cat carriers when I noticed Krissie, older Maine Coon, showing signs of severe heat stress. She was panting heavily like a dog who just ran a mile. She then became lethargic and collapsed (but still breathing and panting).
You can imagine how scared I was. If this wasn’t going to send her to Rainbow Bridge, the stress would throw her back into her full blown diabetic state. She just recently went into diabetic remission just a few months earlier.
So, quick thinking, I pulled out a large ice pack out of our freezer, put it on the sofa, threw a dish towel on it and layed her down on top of it. Of course, Krissie didn’t even need coaxing. She knew I was trying to help her.
After cooling her down for about 20 minutes and praying immensely, Krissie came out of heat exhaustion. I made her drink some water and eat a little wet cat food to give her some energy. She miraculously rallied and acted like her old self again.
We decided at that moment that we had to hook back up and relocate to a campground that has electrical hookups.
Holiday for some, routine for others
That’s a phrase we used to say in the Coast Guard. Actually, it’s ‘Holiday Routine’ which is regarded as a gentle and more relaxed work schedule. However, for those worker bee operational types like ourselves, we’d call it, ‘holiday for some, routine for others’. But I digress and back to our story.
Now, of course, just when you think we’re going to be alright, we were faced with another challenge to this Godforsaken day. All of this snowballed at 4:00 pm on the Friday on Father’s Day weekend. I must have call every campground within 50 miles but to no avail, there were none available. We, pulling our big 42′ honking fifth wheel with one cat nearly dying on us while the other is screaming nonstop in high pitched meows had NOWHERE TO GO.
We started questioning ourselves, “do we go back and try the Harvest Host in hell fire’s kitchen or do we keep moving forward in hopes of finding a shady lot to at least park for the night? Or, do we just walk away from it all and just quit RVing?
After countless phone calls, we found a Corps of Engineers campground about 100 miles away that had a last minute cancellation. We asked the Camp Host if he could hold it for us; telling him of our dramatic crap sandwich. He said that it’s against policy to hold this walk-in campsite, however, he’d ‘do what he needed to do’.
We took that as a cue to get our butts in gear. But, it meant dredging another 100 miles and worrying about how Krissie was going to fair.
Hooking back up in a matter of minutes, we headed down the road. We blasted the truck’s air conditioner funneling every bit of cold air to the back seat to keep our Krissie and Kandi comfortable (and alive!). Dan put the pedal to the metal.
Another “Road to HELL”
We were now driving on some back road in the Smoky Mountains. Wait. Did I just say ‘back road’ pulling an 18,000 pound 42′ fifth wheel? That’s where our RV GPS kept telling us to go.
If any of you have driven on the back roads of Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, you’d know that the roads are very narrow and with substantial grade. And, they have no shoulders, no guardrails, and are very curvy.
And if that wasn’t enough to add insult to our scenic drive, there were low tree limbs daring to sheer off our air conditioners off of our fifth wheel’s roof! At this point, I was ready to quit RVing. I had reached the end of my rope. Dan, on the other hand, was cursing like Lieutenant Dan was up in the crow’s nest of that shrimp boat in the storm in the movie Forest Gump.
He was literally white-knuckled and choking the steering wheel while I was reluctantly navigating. Because, dare he even LOOK at the GPS for a split second would have spelled disaster for all of us. And for sure, someone would have posted the aftermath 8×10 glossies on Facebook captioning it ‘look at these dumbasses’.
The drive was so harrowing. We honestly didn’t think we were going to make it. I truly mean that. We’ve been scared before but nothing like this. Those 25′-30′ swells in the North Atlantic had nothing on this living-the-dream-my-ass experience!
Those damn cats!
We could tell that Krissie was feeling much better because she joined Kandi in their loud cat serenade in the back seat; meowing, crying, yelling, screaming louder…AND LOUDER. Then, if it couldn’t get any worse, they puked in their cat carriers; BOTH of them! And if you can imagine the stench of cat puke only a foot way from us…UGH! But, there was no place to pull over to help get them out of their mess. Not only did up our stress meters ten more notches making us feel all the more queasy but now, they’re stepping in it.
Laughing (because that’s how I handle stressful situations), I ask Dan, “where the hell is that bourbon NOW?” I got no answer from him or even a glare. I knew he was burnt toast too. At this point, he was at the point of question, ‘is this the day we quit RVing?‘
A 3 hour tour
After our our 100 mile highway to hell tour of Tennessee’s backroads, we finally arrived at the Corps of Engineers campground. We looked like to sorry looking sweat-drenched castaways as if we’d been on the Minnow through that perilous 3-hour tour in the storm.
Once we finally arrived, we were met at the gate by the Camp Host whom we spoke with on the phone. He showed us our site number and said, “we’ll take care of payment and get you kids checked in after you get set up”.
He did ponder a second and questioned why it took us so long. We told him about that road. He asked “why didn’t you take the highway?”
“WHAT HIGHWAY??” Dan blurted.
Needless to say, our GPS lied to us even though we had it programmed to our RV’s height, weight and all that other stuff.
Anyway, we drove through the campground to get to our campsite. On a good note, our site was, quite literally, a ‘site for sore eyes’. It was absolutely beautiful! It backed up to a beautiful river view with a canopy of trees to shade our already sweltering RV.
BUT (you knew that was coming), here we are; dog tired and stressed to the max, blood pressure off the charts, extremely hangry with two pissed off cats laying in puke in their carriers screaming at us. You somehow know we’re not quite to the end of this story, right?
Everyone along with their three cousins decides to walk their dogs right straight past to our site. And do you think they just kept on walking? Oh no! They just gotta watch because that’s what all inebriated campers do when a big rig rolls in past dinnertime on a Friday evening.
While trying to back our bohemouth fifth wheel into our site, now we suddenly have an audience of about 50 people with their dogs watching us shoehorn our wounded fifth wheel and distraught family into our site. C’mon people, could you at least bring us a beer? (or ten?)
All we can do now is laugh!
Once we get our fifth wheel backed in, campsite set up, wipe the puke off our cats and gently tell them they get to live another day, we look at each other with WTF expressions. You know, like we did the minute after saying I do on our wedding day?! (humor us!)
Dan goes to get checked in and I finally get a moment to sit down to log onto my computer to catch up on some emails.
Are…you…freaking…kidding me!!? There is ZERO cell or WiFi signal here. We’re remote. I mean TRULY remote. We can’t even call Dan’s mom to let her know we made it that we’re even alive. I just sat there looking at the computer screen and Dan walked in looking at me on the verge of tears.
Maybe this was a sign from God. This was our queue that we’re done with RV life. We felt SO defeated that day. Were we going to quit RVing?
So, what are two road-torn warriors to do? Dan went right straight to our liquor locker and broke out our unbroken bottle of Kentucky’s best! We surely earned it and then some.
Once the bourbon kicked in, we started laughing hysterically with tears rolling down our cheeks reminiscing of our day. We were dirty, sweaty, kitties grooming their puke-matted fur but we are celebrating the fact that we survived our most miserable day of RVing.
But here we are now, telling our story about the day we almost quit RVing. Why? Because we want everyone who may be contemplating the RV lifestyle of ‘living the dream’, to know that there WILL be days like these. There will be moments when you may want to quit RVing like we did. But you won’t because. You just drive on…because.
Our ‘Ounce of Prevention’ before you decide to quit RVing;
- Accept that it’s not a matter of IF its going to happen but WHEN its going to happen.
- Stay calm…Always! You can scream later. And drink later too.
- Semper Gumby means always flexible. Be that.
- Be PRO-active and not RE-active. It doesn’t help to get angry or upset at things you can’t control.
- Don’t always trust your RV GPS. Get a trucker atlas.
- If you have a big rig RV and you don’t see truck route signs, alter course and go find them. Those are your roads. They are your friends.
- On travel days, check on your pets often. Read their signs. Domestic cats aren’t supposed to pant like dogs and throw up in their cat carriers in unison.
- Sternly pay attention to the weather. Global warming IS happening even in the Great Smoky Mountains! This is proof!
- Always keep your sense of humor no matter how bad it hurts. And whomever is your God, pray…A LOT!
- Keep well stocked in bourbon or your favorite flavors in your RV. They are the medicine to cure what ails ya on days you feel like you’re going to quit RVing. It will help change your attitude.
- Don’t give up the ship! If you do, it means you’ve failed! Failure is not an option!