I guess this really belongs in the humor section more that any other . . so
I’ve seen a few people post on here about their first RV experiences. Well, this wasn’t my first, but was my first with my family. Back in the dark ages, I had a converted Chevrolet mini bus. Used that many times to get friends to various places during spring breaks and summer vacations in college. But, this trip was an “experience” from the get go. Sooo, just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip . . .
I planned an adventure for the summer between my kids’ junior and senior years in high school. (I’ve got twins.) I rented a Class C 30 footer from a company that no longer does business here. I planned between 3-4K miles on it over two and half week rental. Oklahoma City to the Badlands National Park, to Mount Rushmore, to Yellowstone, to Dinosaur National Monument, to Rocky Mountain National Park, and several minor places in between.
My (now ex) wife drove me to the RV place. I picked up the RV and drove it home to pack. We got home around noon and loaded it up. After a short nap, we left out of Oklahoma City around midnight. I planned the leaving time to avoid some known traffic problems. We had a good time being able to stop and eat in the RV. The kids played games, read, or slept. My wife couldn’t get comfortable, couldn’t sleep in a moving vehicle, couldn’t read (made her car sick), couldn’t look at the map (made her car sick), but soon found a great way to pass her time . . . . She b****ed at me! Oh well, it seemed to calm her down, and after almost twenty years, I’d gotten used to it. In Nebraska, we hit some really strong cross winds! I was driving a good two lane highway, but it was a bit of a challenge keeping in the lanes. Then . . . a LOUD bang, followed by a drastic difference in handling characteristics. I stopped, only blocking half the lane, there just wasn’t much of a shoulder there. I had a GPS (Garmin GPS III+, anyone remember that one?), so fortunately knew exactly where we were. After inspecting the damage, I realized that the outboard driver’s side rear tire had exploded! Not just gone flat, not just some mild blow out, but had literally exploded! There was some rubber still on the wheel, but not much. On top of that, when the tire said goodbye, it took the drain pipes to the black and grey tanks with it. Fortunately, we hadn’t used the tanks yet! Hurrah for small miracles. Then I tried to get a cell phone signal. Remember, we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields of waving grain of some sort, and had not seen another vehicle for over an hour. Well, I was able to get a cell signal, in a small circle just off the front right bumper. A circle about three feet in diameter! If I wandered out of that circle, the call dropped. I was able to contact the rental company and tell them my exact location. They determined that there was a tire shop about twenty miles North of us in a little itty bitty town. The rental company contacted the tire store and they sent a service truck. They determined that they could not replace it on the side of the rode and towed us into town. The tire store people wanted to put a good tire on the RV, but the rental place wouldn’t hear of it. We didn’t need that much of a tire! The tire store employees also said that the tire that exploded was under-rated for the vehicle. They did finally get the RV rental company to pay for the minimum tire that would handle the weight of the RV that they had in stock. I was beginning to get a clue that I used the wrong rental company . . .
The rental company then made arrangements for us to stay at a campground near Mount Rushmore next to an RV repair shop to fix the pipes. We traveled on into the Badlands, but only stayed one night due to the lack of water (We had some fresh water aboard, but no way to use it with both the black and grey tanks open) and wanting to get the RV fixed and on with our vacation. We made our way to the campground the RV rental company had specified. It actually was a pretty good KOA. I drove to the RV repair place so they could look at the damage. They said they’d be able to fix us up with no problems, just bring the RV in the next morning and they’d have it out that afternoon. I took the RV in the next morning and the family took a tour bus to Mount Rushmore. I’m pretty glad I didn’t try to drive that road myself. Had a great time. The RV repair place called and told me it would take an additional day because they needed a fitting that they didn’t have. We were welcome to spend the night in the RV in their parking lot and they’d have us going well before noon. Okay, the parking lot of an RV repair facility was not exactly on my list of vacation destinations, but . . . not much choice. The employees were great. I fixed breakfast for the crew and they finished the work. One of the employees had actually driven back into the largest town to get whatever it was they needed, he just hadn’t gotten back before everyone else wanted to go home for the night. He got stuck with getting us situated for the night in the back of their shop’s lot. Around 10:00 we were back on the road with working black and grey tanks. On to Yellowstone!! It was a fun drive for me and the kids. DW was back to her perpetual state of gloom and doom. I had one of the kids sit in the front passenger seat to navigate until DW decided that she couldn’t sit anywhere in the RV except in that seat without getting car sick. So with a daughter sitting on the floor between us and a son leaning over my seat and all three of us looking at a map and coming up with three different routes to get us where we wanted to go . . . we set out!! We missed Devils Tower due to the RV repair. We also drove into one town that was a ghost town . . . no one anywhere . . . I was thinking Andromeda Strain, the kids were arguing over zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, and DW was convinced that the rapture had occurred and she was now in h**l! Then as we passed out of the town, we passed the rodeo grounds. The entire town’s population must have been there. The stands were packed. We wanted to stop, but DW vetoed the idea, apparently still worried about being stuck in H**l. Just outside of Yellowstone, we ran into our next problem with this wonderful RV. A fuse under the dash blew, preventing my from shifting from park into drive or reverse. A call to the RV rental place and a few hours later, they knew the problem. Apparently this RV was known for this problem. The owner’s manual even had the fuse location circled in red ink to help people find it. The rental company’s solution: just keep replacing the fuse. It kept blowing every time I went from park to drive. A few more calls to the rental company and a tech suggested using larger fuses, like 50 or 75 amps instead of a measly 20 amp fuse . . . I mean what could go wrong . . .
We had a great time touring Yellowstone for a few days (even the DW was thinking we were no longer trapped in purgatory . . . and then . . .
While in one of the geyser parking areas, I started the RV. With a horrible smell, smoke began belching out from under the dash! I yelled at the kids to bail out and they hit the door at a run. DW moved her bulk the fastest I’d ever seen a fat woman move and boy was she screaming! As my wonderful daughter passed the fire extinguisher on the way out, she ripped it of the wall. Both kids stopped running about twenty feet away. As I exited the RV out the side coach door (I was also going for the fire extinguisher), dear daughter yelled and threw it at me. According to the other people in the parking lot it was a wonderful site. An entire family bails out of an RV screaming and running, as I exit, daughter throws a perfect spiral pass with the extinguisher and I caught it, turned, and headed back in. By now, smoke was no longer pouring out, so the extinguisher was not needed. I took a quick look at the smelly, melted dripping goo that was once the insulation on the wiring harness under the dash. I got out and assured the now large group that the RV was not going to burn to the ground and they could stop panicking about getting their RVs away from mine. After a little experimenting (okay, a lot of experimenting), I found I could start and drive the RV if the generator was working and I was holding the emergency transfer switch to provide electrical power to the engine. Ever tried to drive a medium/large RV down twisting, narrow roads while hunched over holding a switch? It ain’t fun! We survived the drive back to our camp site. I once again called the RV rental company. Now that was a fun conversation. Apparently there is an RV repair place inside Yellowstone. The next day, the RV stayed at the repair shop and that night returned to the camp site. We toured using the buses in Yellowstone. That repair facility was limited in what they could do and informed us that there was no way they could repair the electrical mess. There was another repair facility in the town of West Yellowstone. After more fun conversations with the RV rental company, the RV was towed from the East side of Yellowstone to the town of West Yellowstone. For three days, we continued touring Yellowstone using the buses and saw much much more of West Yellowstone then I ever thought I’d see. The repair facility finally gave on estimate on the time to fix (they’d spent the previous time just tearing down the front of the RV to see what needed to be done). They said they should be able to get it repaired in just over a week or so. Oh, Boy . . . more calls to the RV rental place. We ended up abandoning the RV in West Yellowstone and renting a SUV to get us and most of our stuff home. What food was left in the RV, I gave to the repair techs (who had been really good to us the whole time). I left some camping gear behind since we didn’t have room for it. Our vacation continued in the SUV and was fun.
On returning to Oklahoma City, the RV rental company at first balked at any refund and was going to charge me for sending someone to pick it up. A few reminders that we followed every one of their instructions to the letter, and had recordings of the phone conversations, and had been told by them to leave the RV, and that they had rented us an RV with a known electrical problem that could have burned the RV to the ground with my family in it, and then telling them to refer all further communication about this rental through an attorney, and they relented. I was refunded approximately ½ of my rental cost. I could not get them to budge on my expenses on getting back to Oklahoma though.
I made the decision not to get a self-propelled RV and instead get a trailer. I bought a ¾ ton diesel pick up to replace my ½ ton gasser. Life intervened, DW left and the kids and my money went on to college. I retired/switched careers and just now have gotten around to buying the 5th wheel I’ve wanted ever since that adventure. In fact while I was typing this, I got an email that my VIN was now available. So one step closer to living my dream!