Ever since I began camping in my own camper van, I’ve found that my learning opportunities have multiplied. Sure, as a tenter, I stuffed a wet tent in my vehicle trunk to dry out at home. There were a few nights when I was a bit anxious the tent might collapse in a strong storm. Then there were the wild imaginings that wild animals were circling because I had forgotten a lip balm in my pocket and did not want to get out in the dark to put it in the vehicle.
With the switch to driving and sleeping in my own accommodations, I learn a lot from how I interact with my camper van. Life lessons, really, is what I keep experiencing.
In this article, some valuable life lessons for me thanks to my camper van.
Out witted by storage drawers
This happened a lot when I first started out and occasionally shows up now and then when not paying attention. My camper van has 5 or 6 pull out drawers of various sizes on the outside. Great idea for tucking away items I don’t really want inside like the power cord, pre-cut kindling and propane for camping stove.
Initially, I thought the only way I needed to secure each drawer was by pushing in a little center knob so it was flat with the handle. Imagine my surprise when glancing out my side windows travelling down Highway 2 North, that all drawers were now wide open. A helpful someone suggested I try locking the center knob to fold fast. That did the trick for the most part. Now and then, a single drawer would be open when I made my first stop. Someone wiser suggested I use my body too. Push against each side of the drawer to hear the click, signalling the drawer secured to the van wall.
Lessons learned: Pay attention to the details. Sometimes the answer is “click, click, push, lock, check.” Walk around to check every drawer – even those I don’t think I opened.
Every hose springs a leak at some time
A visit to a sani-station was new to me with the arrival of my camper van. I love, love, love the toilet and having water available from inside taps. I had not really thought out that I would be the one who would have to empty the same tanks I was filling. Over time, I got better at this task. I learned to line up the van closer to the tank opening – the first time. A new bucket became a very good friend for a final rinse of water to ensure the lines were as clear as possible. I could manipulate the vacuum hose-like hose back into the small spot where it waited to be used again even got easier.
Then, on a hot day, leaving a campground where the stay had been wonderful, I pulled up to confidently complete the black water and grey water dumping. Hmmm, something not quite right. The usual flow of material was not happening I persisted, adding more pressure. Suddenly, the soft and thin vinyl hose could not take the pressure anymore and there was a hot mess shooting out at high pressure. Into the camper van I jumped, grabbing towels to wrap the injured hose. I managed to finish a good watering of the hot asphalt before the next campers arrived to do what they needed to do.
Lessons learned: A RV service shop will clean, repair and replace pretty much anything. If you are the junior RV tech – you always get clean up.
Unplug the power cord first
Then, there was the incident of snapping the power cord from the power cord plug. I was camped in beautiful Kananaskis Country, among tall pines, nice wide spaces, still with the chill of late spring.
I’d backed up the camper van already and plugged in. Then I realized that I was too close to a tree to open one of the outside storage compartments I needed. Easy fix, right? Hop in and start backing up the van. However, with more attention, I would have remembered I was plugged in. There was about 2 feet of slack in the cord — backing up 5 feet was not going to work. Well, I tell you. There was a loud popping noise along with bright sparks and all appliances stopped working. I could see the problem when I got out of the driver’s seat. The end of the cord in the utility box was still there but the other end was on the ground with only wires showing. The inside plug was still securely fashioned to the van.
A drive about an hour each way to the outskirts of Calgary to an RV dealership and I had a new power cord. Backing up again into the site, this time giving enough room for drawer to open, and I hop out with new cord in hand to hook up. It is then that I realized I had not paid attention. I had bought an extension cord instead of the required camper van cord. Talk about roughing it that night! I had to read in my cushioned bed, topped with memory foam, with a flashlight. I was worried there might not be enough battery power to run the overhead reading light.
Up early the next day, driving myself back to the same RV dealership to return the wrong cord and buy the correct one. Unfortunately, the cord I had separated from the plug was a special order, taking a few days to arrive from Ontario. With plans to depart further south the next day, buying new would not work. The fellow in the Parts area saved the day by repairing the plug I already had in about five minutes.
Lesson learned: Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention! I’m driving a RV now.
There is always a way to keep things cool
I was on a family trip in a much larger RV for a wedding. I bunked in with my sister and her family to make the trip from Edmonton to southern Ontario in July. The plan was to travel through the United States with pre-booked campsites to ensure we did not feel panicked to find a place for the night.
Shopping was a certainty. Even though many U.S. products are available in Canada, we like the experience of walking up and down aisles, touching product, looking for something we have not seen before at a great price. Our motto when it comes to the Canadian versus U.S. dollar is “Once you start using the U.S. money, don’t think about the exchange rate.”
As the RV filled up with products to enjoy, we moved canned drinks from the fridge shelves onto the door. At any time of day or night, there were numerous chilled beverage options available just by opening the door. About five days into the two week trip, imagine our surprise when the door fell out and onto the kitchen floor. A lot of cans and bottles rolled everywhere with food from shelves following along.
At that point, collectively we realized we might have overloaded the fridge door. The hinges could not take the weight and gave up. As so often happens, it was duct tape to the rescue. Each morning, after breakfast, one of the last pre-trip activities was to tape the fridge door securely to the fridge. During the day, there would be eagerly anticipated openings of the fridge door to get out cooled foods. Then the door went back up and taped on until the next time the only person who could lift the door was up for the task.
Yes, we still had cold drinks – we just bought a cooler and kept drinks on ice.
Lesson learned: A fridge door hinge is a fragile thing.
More lessons learned? You bet…check in again for part two of What your RV can teach you about life.