The Ups And Downs of Traveling in an RV
Rving can be fun but sometimes frustrating. Here are stories and tips from my years of experience with a 5th wheel, RV, campervan, and other recreational vehicles. It seems like, over the years, we've had all the things go wrong that possibly could on our RV trips.
There was the time that I shut the door with the key inside. We were in a campground, so asked others with the same model of trailer to try their key. None would work for us, so we finally forced the window open and climbed on the picnic table to get inside.
Read on to find out further misadventures we've had in our RV.
Here's Our Travel Trailer at a Rest Area with the Big Trucks
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RV Misadventures - Critters in the Trailer
Getting the trailer out of storage and ready for a trip takes some effort. There's a lot to load like food, clothes and computer gear. To our dismay last summer, when we checked inside, some critter had been in there during the storage time.
At first, I suspected mice from the shredded paper towels, gnawed sponges and the droppings around. Ugh. Then I discovered several acorns tucked away. That didn't seem like mouse behavior, so maybe a squirrel? One acorn was in the silverware drawer. Could a squirrel get in there? More likely it was a chipmunk. Whatever the culprit was, I was appalled. Everything had to be washed, sprayed with Lysol and the drawers and under sink cabinets washed down. What a chore that was and it delayed our loading of the RV for our planned trip.
Oops, Caught 2 Mice
After cleaning up, we placed glue traps under both sinks where they had been. The next morning there was a mouse lying dead on each glue trap. Ugh. Inhumane, some will say, but I find it necessary to keep our interior spaces for humans only. I'm fine with wood mice living in the forest and gathering seeds. I'm not fine with them pooping inside my living space and chewing up my kitchen sponge and tearing up my roll of paper towels to make a nest.
They had added pink insulation into their nest too, so I know they've been inside the walls. Have they chewed on any wiring? We don't know. I still worry about what they might have damaged that we haven't noticed or can't see.
This Time, It Wasn't a Chipmunk
Pet Peeve - Parking in Rest Areas
We all have little things that irritate us. One of my pet peeves relates to people parking in the wrong section of rest areas. This may seem like a minor issue to you, but let me tell you why it aggravates me. We travel at times with our RV. You can't just park those big things everywhere. You need much the same space as a big truck. With just a car, you can pull off at any exit of an interstate highway and zip into a fast food parking lot for a break. An RVer can't do that. They have to look for truck stops or rest areas that have ample maneuvering room for their fifth-wheel, travel trailer or motorhome.
As you first enter a highway rest area, you'll see signs directing cars to one section and truck and trailers to another. When cars ignore the signs and end up in the long parking spaces set aside for trucks and RVs, they deprive those long vehicles of the only spaces they can use.
Don't Be That Thoughtless Driver of a Small Car Depriving an RV of Parking Space.
RV Misadventures - Water Issues
Water Backing up in the Shower
RVs have holding tanks for gray water and black water (kitchen/shower water and water from the toilet). When those tanks fill up, you have to attach your sewer hose to a sewer connection at your RV site and empty them. Fortunately, there's a panel where you can check the status of your tanks so you know when they are filling up. Earlier in the day, we noted the gray water at 2/3 full but decided to wait for the next day to empty it. Late that evening after a long and full day, it was shower time. Oops, after just one shower there was water standing in the bottom of the shower. The tank was full and backed up. It's not fun to fumble around in the dark in your robe, tripping over hoses and power cords while trying to get things connected and open the correct valve.
Water Running Across the Floor
We were 2 nights away from our final destination when this disaster happened. It was late when we pulled into an RV park and got everything hooked up. It was time to fix dinner, watch some news, and take our showers.
Those activities were delayed when we noticed water running in a stream across the floor. Some water valve or piping inside the interior wall of the RV came loose. We shut off the outside water and mopped up all the interior water. That left us unable to use our shower but we could go to the bathhouse.
Fortunately, we travel with several jugs of water that I was able to use for cooking dinner. The next morning, we hit the road early and made one long day's drive to get home instead of the leisurely 2-day trip in the original plans.
Trying to Get Packed
RV Misadventures - Leaving by Noon, or 2 or 3...
Loading the RV always takes longer than I plan. My husband hoped to hit the road by noon. By 11 am, I could see we weren't going to meet that goal. I don't put the food into the RV until the last day since we turn the refrigerator on that day. Before that, I don't know what we will want with our meals inside the house. Then it isn't as simple as just lugging it all out to the RV.
Some containers are too big for the RV shelves, so I need to transfer them into smaller containers. Everything has to be placed in the fridge or the cupboard in a way that it won't tip over as we jostle down the road. That requires packing and repositioning things until all are stable.
Food Shifted Into Odd Containers To Save Space
Almost Saw the Natural Bridge in Virginia
We stopped at an RV park near Natural Bridge, Virginia. The intent was to visit this interesting and historic rock formation. It's notable for George Washington surveying it and Thomas Jefferson owning it.
I checked with the campground office to be sure it wasn't a national landmark that might be closed with the government shut down. They said it was privately owned. I didn't think to ask how much the fee was to see it.
I guess I expected to just drive down the road, pull over in a lay-by, get out and take some photos. Quite naive of me.
Instead, we found a mishmash of surrounding tourist sites including a wax museum, an Indian village and an immensely deep cavern. To get to the Natural Bridge you proceeded through a sizable gift shop and paid $20 per person.
That stopped us in our tracks. Forty dollars for the two of us to spend a short time admiring this wonder and snapping a few photos? Disappointed, we turned around and headed back to our RV.
A Few Notes on the KOA RV Park at the Natural Bridge
It was easy to reach from the highway. The sites were graveled, and ours was almost level. Sites had a picnic table and a fire ring and a few had decks. There was a dog park with agility features.
The first day, the wi-fi was OK, but it was out for 3 hours on the second day. That's an important feature for me. We need to check our email while traveling, pay bills online, and get news.
Unlevel Sites - Ugh
Sometimes We Overnight at a Walmart Parking Lot
How Do You Find a Wal-Mart When You Need One
Sometimes you just need to buy something while traveling or in a strange town and have to search all over for a Wal-Mart. Maybe you're an RVer looking to boondock overnight in Wal-Mart's parking lot or maybe you need a product that you know they carry. Whatever the reason, here's how to find Wal-Mart stores.
I recommend getting a road atlas at Wal-Mart to keep in the car. Be sure it's the one that says, "includes a listing of all Wal-Mart stores."
If you're on the interstate, watch for the gas signs near exits. If the sign shows Murphy Oil, that's Wal-Mart's gas station. There will be a store reasonably close to the exit.
If you use a GPS, search under the Shopping category.
If you have access to the Internet, check the Wal-Mart store locator. It is searchable by city name/state or by zip code.
To find a nearby Wal-Mart store by phone, call 1-800-WAL-MART (1-800-925-6278) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CT) Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CT) Saturday or from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Sunday.
To find a Wal-Mart store in Canada, call 1-800-328-0402 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
For a final resort, ask a local. Everyone in town knows where the Wal-Mart is.
I don't recommend following a Wal-Mart truck. It may be heading back to the distribution center.
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Walmart in New Hampshire
More Mishaps While RVing
- My little sister took a long trip. In one state, they noticed people were really friendly there, with everyone waving wildly at them as they passed. When they stopped for gas, they discovered that one of the bicycles on the back of their RV had slipped partly off the rack and had been dragging on the road.
© 2018 Virginia Allain