This is part two of life lessons learned from RV experiences.
Protect your covers
The first cover I temporarily lost was the one with outside vents for the fridge. Filling up at a gas station before heading out west to camp with friends, I decided to adjust the somewhat rusty key pull type latch that held the 2 foot by 2 foot metal door to the camper van. I turned out of the parking lot, a bit of a bumpy ride, onto a busy street. Now, I am in the camping spirit! A loud clunk sound and catch out of the corner of my eye, something that looks like a refrigerator cover from a camper van, flying out to my left onto the boulevard. I get to the lights to turn left and I actually debate whether I want to go back and get the cover (based on my embarrassment). I do turn back and park, running on to the boulevard in Friday night rush-hour traffic to get the cover. I managed to get the rusty key to latch the cover on again.
However, at some point, on another trip, I must have brushed up against the same rusty key pull type latch and it loosened. When I stopped miles later, I had a gaping hole into the workings of the refrigerator instead of the nicely two-toned metal cover that was there a while ago. Thankfully, RV City could order me another one and installed it, also replacing the rusty key that clearly could be tricky to use. So far, the cover is holding.
The second problematic cover was the plate at the back of the van that sits on the bumper and covers up the controls to the propane tank. I thought – having learned from the fridge incident – each time about securing that plate. Then there came the time when the propane controls were being check out. Involved in deep discussion, I ended up first walking away from the back of the van then driving away. Twenty minutes later, a stop for something else and I realize that the metal propane cover plate I left on the back bumper is gone. Thankfully, my brother-in-law has made some replacement covers out of rigid plastic that works as well. Even better, he cut out more than one because I’ve already lost the first one!
Lessons learned: (again) Pay attention. Do a walk around. Check doors, covers and locks – even those you don’t think you opened.
Rocks are not your friends
Following a great extra long weekend of camping, a fellow camper van friend and I were ready to pull out of our shared spot. It was raining and I was a bit too eager to get on the way. As I started to pull forward out of the site, I heard the sounds of scraping metal and crumpling trim. I got out and there was a rock about 3 feet high camouflaged by the tall grass nudged up to the camper van.
White paint flecked the rock. Meanwhile, the bunched up side trim behind the front passenger wheel looked as bad as the twisted running board. The prognosis was two side panels needed replacement. The good folks at RV City helped with an interim solution so I could get in and out of the main camper van door for another month or so of camping. A $8K autobody repair started the winter season. Today, the camper van looks as good as new!
Lessons learned: Check tall grass first if you are going to drive into it.
An awning is not a rain thing
Awnings cause me angst. It seems awnings should be equally proficient at protecting the area nearest the RV against rainfall as providing shade. However, I have absolutely proven to myself that an awning is for sun protection while a tarp is for rain coverage. How did I learn this?
It was day three of a solo camping trip at Pembina River Provincial campground. Beautiful weather, and the day before, my niece-in-law brought out my two adorable great nephews to spend the day paddling in the shallow water and collecting rocks. On this third day, weather still wonderful, I had cycled the paved path along the secondary highway between Rocky Rapids and Drayton Valley.
Back at the site, it was clear some unsettled weather was coming. Checking the weather forecast, there were warnings about up to 75 mm of rain. Hmmm, what to do so I can be outside tomorrow? Having an awning, I decided that by rolling it out, I could retain a bit of dry space for the next two days and still enjoy the campsite. Making sure all was secure, I settled inside for the night.
At about 7:30 am next morning, the rain downpour was well underway. Cozy inside my van, I was trying to decide if I wanted to nap some more before making coffee. A loud crack helped me decide. I could see outside that the one side of the awning was now almost to the ground. The awning arm had cracked in half under the weight of the water on top. By the time I jimmied around with the awning to make it stay rolled up, I was ready to leave as the campsite was rapidly filling with water.
Between the original damage and me trying to wrangle the awning back up, I am currently waiting to hear from RV City about being able to replace, rather than repair, the awning.
Lesson learned: An awning is not a tarp.
Locking is good except when you lose the ability to unlock
Cycling when I get to a camping site is always a favorite activity. It doesn’t have to have any purpose, just wheeling around to see how others have setup their temporary home is fun to do.
To be ready, I have a bike rack on the back of the camper van. To add security, I have a locking pin. Well, I had one. After the first trip, every key looked as if it should open the lock but did not. I kept expecting the real key to show up eventually. It has not even now.
I started this season having the folks at RV City cut the old locking pin off. With a new one installed, the keys are in a few locations and with a few people so that the bike rack can be as portable as intended.
Lesson learned: If you are going to lock, have more than one key and label every one.
Life lessons – we get them everywhere. If yours come from RV road trips, then you’ve learned them at the best possible time. You are on vacation, you are relaxed and time doesn’t really matter. The experience is what counts.