Lesson #1 The Awning – Don’t Rush, Use A Checklist
Well, if Yvon’s quote is true, my adventure started on Day 1, 1/23/15!
I had planned, researched, and packed everything up, it was time to hit the road. It was cold and raining; around 36 degrees all day with more rain in the forecast.
I successfully picked up the tow dolly and topped off the propane in the RV at U-haul and arrived home around 2:00 PM. I hooked up the car and did a test drive, not too bad. Loaded up the ‘last few items’ in the RV for 2.5 hours in the rain, it was getting dark and the last step was to get the Chiweenies, get buckled in and take off, finally. I’m not 20ft over the railroad tracks and I hear a big noise — kablam!
I see my neighbor pulling out in his suburban, he stops, and I’m thinking he saw something and he is going to help me. I get out of my RV to survey the damage and don’t see his truck anymore but to my horror, I realize I didn’t retract the awning I had deployed for cover in the rain and the neighbor’s holly bushes whacked both arms out of place.
The Chiweenies have now freed themselves and are barking, running, jumping like ping-pongs on the tables, chairs, etc. Not sure what to do because I can’t back up with the tow dolly attached, I call my friend Phyllis and we agree I should circle the block back home to park in front of the house. I get out of the RV to describe the damage to her and my other neighbor asks me to move my vehicle – she has someone in a BMW waiting to pull in her driveway that I’m blocking.
I apologize and tell her that I’ve had an accident and I’m trying to assess what’s going on; she doesn’t even realize I’m her neighbor or offer to help; she gives the driver a one minute sign and heads back in the house. I get in and start the RV; the BMW waits for an inch of clearance and shoots in the driveway only later to park in the street.
I then circle the block with the 18 foot mangled awning hanging on the right side, moving through an obstacle course like you would see on the TV show Wipeout…construction vehicles in the road, car to the left, tree limbs overhanging up ahead, cross over the railroad tracks, cars to the right, need to turn right, car on the right corner.
I limp back home and pull in but the left dolly wheel is poking out. I have to try to unhook it so I can safely park both my Mini and the RV. I can’t get the freaking straps off and ask the neighbors for help. We finally free the Mini and move the dolly into the yard. It’s now 7:30 PM – I’m extremely tired, cold, wet, and embarrassed, I head inside. I take a few minutes, shake it off and decide to have the mini Prosecco Amanda got me and cook a Blue Apron meal – brown butter gnocchi and brussels sprouts. After that, I was able to call my friend Penny and have a big laugh about it!
The next day, I had Camping World in Statesville assess the damage, and they determine I can make it to Fort Myers to have the repairs done there. I head out on a beautiful day and get down the highway maybe 10 miles, my friend Amanda who was following me to Greenville calls and tells me the rear awning arm just popped out! I pull off on an exit ramp and have to climb and lean off the ladder holding on with one leg to duct tape it down.
I finally make it to Fort Myers; a front-end alignment and new arms for the awning and she’s as good as new!
Lesson #2 The Tow Dolly – Ask For Help and Shake It Off
I had RV washed and waxed; the residue of the awning, bugs, and grease from the work at Camping World was washed away. The RV was looking good and I was feeling great after taking the RV driving confidence course at Lazy Days in Tampa! I used my RV minders and remembered everything before taking off (aka the awning was in).
I got up to the upper parking area – moved the Mini 1st, then the RV, hooked up the tow dolly, lined up the Mini got out and checked looked good. Went up and forward but could not tell where I was on the dolly landing…then I heard kablam! I couldn’t open the door the trailer wheels had me blocked in. I crawled through the back seat and got out of the Mini to find I had overshot the dolly. Three young guys in a Van got out and asked if I needed help – they had to be 10, 14 and maybe 16. They had been on the road the past 10 months with their Mom and spent time on the Alaskan highway helping others in need change their flat tires. They had a jack and their tool box out quickly.
They assessed lots of options but thought it would be best to remove the trailer wheels, thus lowering the dolly, then they would push while I backed the Mini out over the dolly. Another nice couple loaded their golf cart with leveling blocks and a smaller jack and came over to help. Both jacks were needed in combination. The girls are barking in the back of the RV the windows are open. I almost cried when the boys Mom came over…the boys helped me get it back on the trailer correctly and put the tires straps on and secured her down, they were like a pit crew in the Indy 500!
Shaken up – I took the girls for a walk, regrouped then headed out. I stopped at a Starbucks about 10 miles down the highway as it turns out it was also the exit for the Plant City Strawberry Festival I heard about on the news. I really wanted to go but did not want to have to unload/reload the car again. Uber was not in the area; not sure about cabs either, so I decided to drive into the small town with the RV and see what happened. I got lucky and found a field I could park in – I did have to park b/w a pick-up truck and a sign post but was able to pull out to the right when I left. Recovered a bad situation and did not let it deter me from exploring something new!
Lesson #3 The GPS – She Does Not Always Know Best; There Are Angels Looking Out For Me
Later that afternoon as I’m headed to Clermont FL on 561, I saw an area of Cypress trees and a marsh that I just had to photograph. I got the RV turned around and went back to the bridge, pulled over, and got my shots. The GPS said turn around 1.5 miles down the road through the neighborhood to go back the way I needed to.
As soon as I made the turn off the road I knew it was a mistake. I’m in a small neighborhood marina…there is a cul-de-sac and I think maybe I can make the turn, well there wasn’t enough room and backing up was very tricky. I heard two people yelling whoah, whoah, whoah – you almost jack-knifed the dolly!
A lady is moving around the outside of the RV yelling where’s the door on this thing; she busts open the door and in steps Heather who announces she is a professional truck driver and says let me back her for you, I’ve got this! Well, the dolly swivels so it’s not as easy to back straight up. I don’t feel so bad at my backing inabilities, 20+ turns later Heather has conquered the cul-de-sac and has me pointed in the right direction to get out.
Of all the people in that neighborhood, I was lucky enough to have a truck driver in the cul-de-sac! My nerves were shot, I felt like throwing up and I barely made it to Cracker Barrel where I was overnighting. To top off the afternoon they don’t have RV parking as indicated on the map so I end up relocating to Walmart. My cousin Keith drives me over and we go meet his wife Sally at Texas Roadhouse for dinner and a much-welcomed beer!
Lesson #4 The Sewer Hose – You’re a Smart Girl; You’ll Figure It Out
My boss loved using that quote when someone would ask him a question – he would reply ‘you’re a smart girl/guy you’ll figure it out’. It was both a compliment and a way of short-cutting the answer he would have to provide! It was time to empty the dreaded black tank; the gauge was reading FULL. I had a new Sani-Con maceration system installed but did not have a walk through because Fort Myers Camping World did not have a local dump site.
So I had read about it and watched a few videos and was generally feeling like I was prepared. Out of the gate, I realized there is a design flaw on my RV; the dinette slide out slides right over the compartment where the hook up is located. I had to kneel down on the concrete pad to access the tank hook-up and twist on the Sani-Con system.
I wanted the permanent Sani-Con installation but Camping World said it would not fit in the box so I have the portable one. It barely twists on and fits in the compartment as well. After several minutes struggling to get the connection correct and screwing the bayonet end into the sewer hole, I finally succeed. I pull the black tank handle to open the gate and flip the Sani-Con switch to turn the motor on and it’s working!
All of a sudden there is a burst and there is sewage spewing in the air and running into the grass!!
And up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea (Beverly Hillbillies).
This was NOT that kind of black gold! I shut off the system and closed the valve. I go inspect where the hose disconnected from the bayonet and it appears to be a bad design or loose connection, I reconnect and give it another try. The hose flies off again! I go inside and grab some duct tape to wrap the hose and try it again and once more there is sludge everywhere.
I’m standing there wearing rubber gloves, in flip flops, trying to avoid the areas that were contaminated thinking I’m going to get some awful disease and was about to give up and try the regular sewer hose when I noticed that ‘duh’ there is a cap the size of a nickel on the bottom of the bayonet that I had failed to remove – the black water had nowhere to flow. Once I removed that, the system worked like a charm. I threw my flip flops away, washed my clothes immediately, took a shower; sprayed down everything with Lysol and Clorox; good as new!
A few weeks later I end up throwing out the Sani-Con and going with the old school hose. It had become clogged and was taking way more time than the quick flush through the regular hose.
All sorts of thoughts run through your mind when these events happen. Am I crazy to do this by myself, should I just go home, should I quit? True, things would be easier with a copilot like making calls, texting, trouble-shooting, guiding, driving the tow car in a campground while I drive the RV and double checking the GPS, looking up aerial views of things, etc. I don’t want to put my dreams on hold until I have a copilot, until someday, maybe. I am so, so lucky to have had the right people show up each time I’ve needed help! Don’t give up; these things build courage, be determined, most of all, learn from it and move on, move forward!
If I go back I’m certain of what my future will be if I go forward it is unknown.
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