Be Prepared for the Inconvenience of Rain and Overnight RV Stops.
RV Travel Can Get Dangerous
When you hit the road, either driving a motorhome or towing a camper trailer, you must operate at a higher level of awareness, and caution than you might when just driving a car.
As an RV owner, you must be prepared for a number of different situations that will arise; which require you to recognize what is happening and then take the appropriate actions to avoid potential problems.
Read on, because some things that occur which only you will experience are entertaining after the fact, but some can be quite dangerous.
Driving a Motorhome safely on an Interstate Highway
We had been driving South for about six hours, the last two were on I-95 South.
We were heading for a campground called The Oaks at Point South where we had reservations for the night. This is a convenient campground for me because it is halfway between my home in Ruskin Florida and where most of my family lives, in Lynchburg Virginia.
It is also convenient because it is an Encore/Thousand Trails campground and I am a member, so I get to stay there free.
Normally, at my age, i don’t drive much longer than four to five hours a day in my motorhome, even under good traffic and weather conditions; but decent campgrounds are sparse along this stretch of I-75.
I've been using "The Oaks" for many years, so i set my trip up for us to drive a little longer than I really wanted to and stop there for the night.
Our plan was for us to get a good overnights rest before we continued on the next morning to our home in Florida.
Why do I plan for my RV trips to be so short? Honestly, in my opinion it’s just too hard to maintain a high level of concentration and properly control a big RV on state and interstate highways, for such a long period of time, anymore.
OK, I know that professional truck drives are allowed to drive for longer periods (up to eight hour a day?), but I won’t go into how safely these giant machines are on our highways, at least not here.
I’ll just say that if you drive on interstate highways very much, in any kind of vehicle, you are going to see Big Rig truckers who are driving dangerously more often than you might think.
So, it makes you wonder just how safe it is being around them.
A Planned Overnight Layover
Anyway, I had preplanned my trip to include a layover at a campground that is roughly at my trips halfway point and I was only about an hours drive away.
As I mentioned, I have used this campground several times a year for over a decade or more and even though it is small, it is easy to get in and out of. mostly because all of the sites were Pull-Throughs.
Also, all of the sites have 50-Amp service and full hookups. They have cable TV, the bathrooms are always clean (even if a little dated).
All of these things make it a great campground for anyone who needs a place to stop overnight for a rest before continuing their travels either North or South on I-95.
I regularly recommend this campground to other RVers, just for these reasons.
As I said, this is an old campground that is well maintained and cleaned often.but again, like so many Thousand Trails campgrounds it could use some major upgrades that would make it an even more desirable campground for stays longer than just an overnight layover.
Water standing in the campsite
A Summer Storm and the Road quickly became dangerous.
When coming from Virginia, I eventually pop out onto I-95 at Florence South Carolina and from there I know that I have only one more stretch of around 150-miles or so, before I get to my planned layover at my favorite campground in South Carolina.
I had intentionally delayed my departure from Virginia until a weekday. I like many of my fellow Rv travelers tend to do this hoping that the traffic is more likely to be lighter than iw usually is on weekend days.
Up to this point, my drive had been a leisurely one; the weather outside was Sunny, the temperatures were in the seventies and there were almost on winds.
These three weather condition are what can make for a much safer, or much more dangerous trip when driving an RV on any busy road, because;
- A Sunny Day - Clear skies means great visibility down the road and any problems that pop up can be seen further down the road allowing for the RV driver to have a longer reaction time.
- A Mild Temperature - Operating your motorhome or tow vehicle means the RV owner can relax a little because they will probably not have equipment function problems due to extreme outside temperatures.
- Low Winds - Driving an Rv or towing a trailer means that you have a very large box where cross winds can literally blow you off of the road or at least sideways several feet at any time.
Then I looked at the sky ahead and it was black from left to right, as far as I could see.
Preparing for Dangerous Road Conditions ahead
There was a storm ahead, and experience told my wife and I that we only had a few minutes to prepare for it.
Because we are motorhome owners, we knew we had to get a few things done so we would get through this ugly storm that was just ahead of us, and they were,
- Put Loose Items away. - If you are towing a camper trailer then you have already done this before you pulled out so, you will typically just junker down and head into the storm. On the other hand in a motorhome, with our kitchen just behind our seats, we will often have made a pot of coffee, or even had a couple of cups of snacks lying around for us to eat as we drove. All of these need to be put away.
- Tie down larger items. In our motorhome, we always tie down things with bungee straps that might normally be loose in a campground, so we replace the straps on any cabinets we have opened, the straps on the Coffee pot, and any other appliance we may have used while driving.
- Close windows and Vents, Many drivers of tow vehicles will open a window or two and usually the roof vents whenever possible to help keep the internal temperature of their trailer cooler. But a rain storm can force them to pull off of the road, if possible, and close these windows and vents to avoid water damage in their trailer. We, being motorhome people, will walk back and check our windows and vents and close any that might be open, thus more easily avoiding any water damage from a storm.
- Prepare to be delayed. Regardless of what you;re driving, you should be prepared for your trip to be delayed and possible traffic delays of an hour or more. When I see a storm, my eyes immediately go to my fuel gauge, and my mind calculates how many hours of drive time I can count on.
- Get Off of the Road if you have to - You just don't want to be that RV sitting and blocking a lane of the highway or even sitting on a shoulder with an empty fuel tank because you were not prepared.
It's always better to sit in a Rest Stop or even an empty parking lot, just off of the highway, than to sit on the highway and watch your fuel gauge drop down past empty,.
And honestly, after you have made your decisions and prepared these things for the upcoming storm, you just need to strap in and clear your head for the crazy things that can affect your upcoming storm adventure.
The Crazy Drivers on Interstates
Well, it only took my driving the first fifty miles on I-95 to realize that I had not planned well. For some reason, I-95 was loaded with traffic, and many of the drivers had gone into what I call the “suicidal driving” mode.
I know you have seen them. I assume they have rarely driven on interstate highways, except maybe on holidays or vacations. For some unfathomable reason, they see all of the lanes slow down and they are forced to sit for a minute or so before they go forward just a few feet, they start to panic.
And, yes, the new digital warning signs over the interstate highways are a great thing for travelers, but for these people that don’t travel often, when they see the words "congestion"or "wreck" their insanity tends to increase and they start taking bigger chances in their attempts to make up for lost time.
Me? I do what experience has taught me.
I get into the right lane and I accept the upcoming delays as a way of life for RV travelers, and I creep along with the truck drivers, who tend to be doing the same.
Meanwhile, these, what I can now call “crazies" are hopping from the right lane to the left, and then back and then back, constantly hoping to get into the fastest lane of traffic.
They may not realize it, but they are taking chances and attempting to commitwhat I call “traffic suicide”.
So, I watch and smile to myself and I even make little personal bets with myself, as a form of entertainment, about which of the ‘suicidal rabbits” I will see sitting on the side of the highway later with a bent fender or a cop writing them a ticket, as I slowly drive by them.
I do occasionally wonde though; Did they learn their lesson about driving so dangerously.
The experienced RV driver
Me? I do what experience has taught me. I get into the right lane and I accept the upcoming delays as a way of life for RV travelers.
When the Storm Ends but the Traffic is Barely Moving
So, we had been driving in the heavy rains and winds for about an hour when suddenly, within five minutes, the storm had moved on and we were still sitting in traffic, but the skies were clear.
After another half an hour of this stop and go traffic, it was obvious to my wife and I that there were very likely a few wrecks up ahead, causing this. And, our experience also told us that there was absolutely nothing we could do about it until the cops and wreckers had cleared the road ahead.
My wife and I thought about it for a moment and then she went back and poured me a tall glass of diet Soda, and for herself, she came back with a small cold glass of Chardonnay.
I was a little jealous of my wifes glass of wine, but I was driving, so we continued to creep along, looking for those flashing blue, yellow and white lights that indicated wer were at the site of whatever had blocked the traffic.
Eventually, we did pass a few cops sitting on the shoulder of the road and doing their paperwork, along with a wrecker tying down a snub-nosed sports car on its bed.
Immediately, as we passed the wrecker the traffic sped up and after a mile or so, we were all driving at the speed limit. We ran through a couple of short squalls that started and ended within a half mile stretch, just big enough to wet the road.
Water at our Camper entrance
We pulled into our Campground, but Surprise!
As we pulled off of the highway onto exit 33, i checked my watch and i saw that my normal 2-1/2 hour drive on I-95 to my campground, had actually turned into 4-1/2 hours by the time we got off of the road.
And the Rain had also hit here.
I did mention the rain, didn't I? (Sic)
It was obvious that for this whole time we were on the road, with us driving through one deluge, of blowing rain after another; our campground had been punished with the same weather problems.
Although we were several hours late, arriving we finally pulled into the campground and I expected to pull in and find the campground office closed due to our arrival time, but there was one clerk there waiting for us late arrivals.
I mentioned the time and she told me that “the Boss” had told her to stay over for a couple of hours because there were several campers with reservations,like myself, who had not showed up yet.
Smiling, I asked her; OK, what site do I go to?” She smiled back and said; “Sir, pull in wherever you want that’s open.
I thought a moment and responded with; “Why? I’ve been stopping here for years, and you always assign sites to campers with reservations.”
Then, she handed me my paperwork, smiled at me again and responded with; “All of our sites have standing water in them, so it’s up to you which one you want to stay in.”
Hearing that gave me an uneasy feeling, but both my wife and I were so tired, I didn’t argue and we pulled into the first street we came to.
She was right, there were several incehs of standing water ove the whole campground. A slow sloppy drive through standing water told us that there were no "good" sites and ended up driving up and down several other streets before we found one that looked like it had the least about of standing water.
Rather than continue with descriptions of the water in the campsites and in the streets themselves, I have attached some pictures of the site itself and the adjacent street.
Again, we were so tired, we just (very carefully) hooked up to AC power and cable TV. With everything working, we spend an uneasy night of blowing rains beating on our roof and the sounds of creaking trees being shook by the winds.
Even the Campground Streets were Full of Water
PVC Trench Coat for RAIN
A not so bad ending for a bad trip.
The campground's cable Tv only had 18 local channels working, but we warmed up some food for our Dinner and sipped on a couple of glasses of wine before we hit the bed for the night.
The good thing was; When we finally got up and crawled out of our bed, had our breakfast and prepared to pull out, most of the water had soaked into the ground, and it was easier (and safer) for us to unhook and get going.
The bad thing was, the dirt and gravel streets were rough and even though the overall standing water levels were lower, there were numerous large potholes..
Will I use the campground again? Well probably, because it's just so convenient along that part of the North-South Corridor to and from Florida that we are almost forced to stay there.
by Don Bobbitt, All Rights Reserved
The water at my hitch to my Toad was deep too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.