The Not-So-Glamorous Part About RV Life

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Looks like a dream come true, right? A little home on wheels with all of the conveniences of home, parked somewhere beautiful (this is actually right next to a path that leads to a beautiful lake), somewhere new to camp every night, exploring towns and cities I’ve only seen on a map before… well, it is, but, there’s a not-so-glamorous part to it, too.

I mentioned in my previous post that Fiona the RV was having battery issues. We needed to be jump started two days in a row, and we knew something else was wrong too. Prior to the times that the battery failed, we also had issues with starting the car when the battery was fully charged. Several times, the car would start for about 10 seconds, then shut off. Multiple attempts to start the engine was something we almost began to expect every time that we were ready to move on to the next spot.

We had already made an appointment in the next decent-sized town, and just needed to make it there in one piece. Backtrack to last post’s efforts to get to Calgary without taking any breaks in fear of the RV shutting off again. We made it about 2 AM, parked right outside the business, and slept a few hours to be ready for our 8AM appointment at Big Dog Performance auto repair shop.

The next morning, we had our tired Fiona serviced. She needed to have her fuel filter and fuel pump replaced. We were told the fuel pump was working poorly and therefore, working overtime to keep up, and that might be causing the battery drain. This is also why the car’s been shutting down after 10 seconds; sometimes the fuel pump wouldn’t kick in at all and the car would cycle through the fuel in the lines before shutting off due to no added fuel supply. The mechanics also notified us that there’s a kink in one of the wires going to the battery that doesn’t seem to be an issue now but that we should keep an eye on it. We paid a reasonable price for the service, drove away happy, parked the car on a residential street around the corner from downtown, and went to walk around town and find a place to get big celebratory meal.

Three hours later, we walked back to the RV and tried to start her up and take her to a temporary home for the night . No response. Not the typical dead battery sound, no attempts at cranking, just nothing at all. The auto shop was closed by now; it was a Friday and they didn’t open until Monday. We didn’t want to bother the residents, but what else was there to do? We were parked outside their home. Hesitantly, we knocked on a door and were greeted by a family that didn’t speak English. They ran to get a friendly, English-speaking neighbor two houses down, and he tried to jump start us.

The battery charge meter didn’t appear to be affected at all after a half hour of charging, and the friendly neighbor suggested that our battery might be entirely disconnected. We took apart the doghouse (the carpeted section between the two front seats can be unscrewed and removed to take a look at the motor, etc.), he climbed in the RV and hung upside down until he discovered a loose battery wire that needed to be tightened. The wonderfully kind stranger (his name is Kevin, and though I don’t expect him to ever come across this blog post, thank you, Kevin, once again and for all of eternity!) screwed it on tightly while his children milled about and explored the RV.

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Fiona was happy once again and roared to life. We drove off to the next town: Moosejaw.

Sorry for all of the boring car talk, but RV life isn’t always fun and games. I felt obligated to share that with anyone who might be considering a road trip in their own RV someday soon–may you come across a Kevin when you need him!

Has that been our only issue thus far? Well, I’m glad you asked! Because…no. Not at all. We also have a generator that doesn’t turn on, and we have so far not camped with any hookups. As a result, we have been solely dependent on our house batteries for nearly everything–running the water pump, lights, fans, etc.– which we use sparingly throughout the day and let them charge up via solar in the morning. This usually lasts us about 3 days if parked the entire time. Afterwards, the house batteries (these are separate from the main batteries, in case you’re unfamiliar with how it works) will not charge up fully via solar, especially with the lack of sunshine we’ve been having due to either smoke or rain. The incessant beeping letting us know that the batteries are running low will drive the most patient person insane, so off we go on a long drive to the next town to charge everything back up. Come to think of it, we might be needing new house batteries; they seem to be draining quicker than is normal lately.

In addition, we have a water heater that’s probably never been cleaned, and after I watched a video of all of the gross build up in one of those things, I can’t imagine using it until it’s clean. I bought a wand that’ll help get rid of some of the build up, but we don’t have the wrench necessary to get the drain unscrewed. Once we unscrew the drain, we’ll need to buy a new anode rod and install one of those (to prevent corrosion of the water tank), use a wand to flush out the inside, and then–and I’ve watched a million videos but still haven’t figured out how to do this myself–somehow attach a hose that can pump vinegar from a bottle and into the tank and let that soak off the rest of the gunk in there.

I’ve given up thinking I can do it myself, so I called around multiple RV repair shops to ask how much it would cost to do a thorough cleaning of the water heater. 5/5 of them did not call me back. So, we’ve been taking quick, cold showers, or running off to use campground showers when they are available (I once rented an Airbnb just for a hot shower when were in a big city with no coin-operated campground showers; I was that desperate!).

And besides that? We have some dashboard bulbs not working, while other lights that shouldn’t be lighting up are (“check engine soon,” for example). Plus, a closet that won’t stay closed because its clasp broke (we need to barricade it with the laundry hamper so that it doesn’t swing back and forth), a kitchen drawer that no longer stays locked while driving, and another kitchen drawer that gets stuck and won’t open when I need to get food out of it. Am I done? Nope. We also have a headboard that had some screws rip through and now won’t stay in place, same thing with the fold down part of the floor that covers the steps, oh, and our step–that thing has been driving us absolutely berserk. It jams and makes a sound like its trying to open or close or do something when its not supposed to do anything and drains out house batteries pretty quickly when that starts happening…so we probably don’t need new house batteries but just need the step fixed.

Am I at least getting close to being done? Um. Not really. The hood on our fan keeps detaching and requires us to climb up onto the roof to attach it again, the car air conditioner no longer cools, the fridge has been freezing everything on the top shelf, the vent for the fridge has a wooden panel in front of it that keeps falling off, the wooden floors have a few loose planks that we’ve superglued a couple of times, and—wait, let me take a break for a moment.

Okay, let me proceed. Our rear view camera sometimes does not work (but we think we figured out that it’s due to a wire that detaches from behind the TV; the issue is that the TV is mounted into a box the same size as the TV and the entire thing has to be disassembled in order to reach the wires in the back), we think one or more of our speakers may have blown, there’s a leak that lets the rain in somewhere right above the dashboard, and a good amount of water damage on the ceiling in the living room and kitchen area that we know was there before but we think it might be growing.

And second to last and the least aesthetically pleasing; the other day, a panel that we didn’t even notice before on the outside of the RV (it looked like it was just part of the body) flew off and got lost somewhere, leaving the back end of our fridge exposed to the elements.

Last but not least, our door handle sometimes jams and stays in the open position when it should close. It sometimes requires several violent slams and door-handle-jiggles to engage and properly shut the door. Once, we started driving and the door opened because of this issue. I ran to close it, slammed it once, and it bounced open; I then grabbed it and slammed again while simultaneously trying to hold on to the door jamb so as not to fly out onto the street. Turns out, the door jamb is exactly where the inside the door goes when the door is closed…and my finger happened to be there. I thought I severed it for a second (it hurt that much, and yes, I cried, which is why my nose is red in the photo, haha), but luckily just lost a little chunk of skin and have a dark red bruise under the nail now and for the next however-many-months it takes for it to grow out.

But let my complaints not dissuade you from your own adventures. I love my little home on wheels so much. It’s taken me on so many adventures, handled itself well on all kinds of rough and beat up roads, and overall, has fared well for a 1996 vehicle that hasn’t had much done to it in the past 20+ years.

So, let me recount the positives. None of the issues we’ve had have been serious. And we’ve always found help when we needed it. We haven’t been stranded in the middle of nowhere somewhere with no cell service or  human in sight. We have what feels like an endless supply of water (every time we go to dump our black and grey water tanks, we still have about half of our fresh water left), and it flows wonderfully from our shower and kitchen/bathroom sinks. We also have what feels like an endless supply of propane and have needed to refill it only once in the past 3 months (and this is with daily cooking and a fridge and water heater that operates on propane!). We have heat in the RV when its cold. We can open windows/turn on fans when it’s hot.

And again–and most importantly–we have a home on wheels! And it functions! It drove us all from Idaho, to Oregon, to Washington, to Canada, and now almost all across Canada. It drives well, powers up hills without huffing and puffing too much, fits in two parking spots easily due to its somewhat compact length, and it keeps us safe and comfortable every night.

Speaking of comfort, the RV really does have all of the comforts of home: a full-size kitchen with all the appliances, two tables, two seats in the front and two chairs in the kitchen (we removed an extra two chairs and two recliners that it came with but which we didn’t need), a bed, a couch that unfolds into a bed, a toilet, so much storage space (and so cleverly disguised! the bottom of the couch pops out and you can put whatever you want inside it), and I can go on and on, but this is getting to be the longest blog post in all of history, I’m sorry. You can also just see photos of the interior here.

All I want to say is this. Traveling in an RV can be luxurious, compared to for example when I was sleeping in the back of my Subaru after I moved to Big Sur (if you know Big Sur, there are no apartments or condos, just $2000 a night vacation homes and hotel rooms, so staying in my car at a campground was my only option), or when my boyfriend and I lived in Central Oregon and explored Eastern, Western, Southern, and Northern Oregon during the weekends in his Ford Econoline van. Having everything with me, and with so much room, really is “glamping” (glamorous + camping). But things go wrong. Things break or get lost. And it can be frustrating, expensive, and can take away from your vacation when you have to shop for parts or take your home to the repair shop and live at a coffee shop for the next 10 hours while greasy men in muddy boots traipse through your home putting band-aids on issues that may need immediate replacement.

But this doesn’t happen all the time. Homes have plumbing issues, flood, lose power, need bulbs replaced. Appliances fail, require new fans, new wires. Cars need tune-ups, old parts switched for new parts, routine cleanings. And an RV is all of the above. A home, (multiple) appliance(s), and a car. Understanding that soothes any irritation I may have while dealing with a minor problem. Or, I may just be an optimist who chooses not to let little obstacles get the best of me. I just know that having a great time while traveling is impossible if I grumble all the time.

If you decide to go on an extensive road trip in an RV (or maybe if you already are on one!), may you not only come across a Kevin (or a Big Dog Performance) during the occasional setback that threaten your peace of mind, bank account, or both, but also–and most importantly–a positive attitude. It’ll come in handy, I promise.

 

 

About elinatravels

I’m Elina Oliferovskiy, a Russian-born 27-year-old restless soul who’s never really found a place to dig her roots in deep ever since I moved to the United States in 1998. I move every year or two, backpack for months at a time, and occasionally live and travel in a motorhome--and I (usually) love every minute of my (somewhat) nomadic lifestyle. Feel free to follow along on my journey by reading my blog!
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5 Responses to The Not-So-Glamorous Part About RV Life

  1. Robert Coover says:

    My wife and I are both retired. I keep telling her that I would like to get a motor home. My neighbor said the best thing is to keep one well maintained. You sound like you keep a positive attitude but I don’t think I’ll let my wife read this post. 🙂

    Like

    • elinatravels says:

      Haha! Why not though? I think it’s important to know that things break, especially if you have an only RV like ours, but even if it’s brand-spanking-new, things go wrong, and it’s good to prepare for that and handle it well.

      And yes, the well-maintained part is important, and ours hadn’t been (it mostly just sat there for 20 years)….so under the circumstances, it’s fairing pretty well!

      Good luck with your travels!

      Like

  2. Mike Hendrix says:

    One word of advice…..sell that RV As Soon As Possible….We owned a Trek one time…..there is NO fixing them…they were poorly designed….even when it is properly fixed….it will fail within months….Literally everything is poorly designed….. Get out of that thing as quick as possible….you may not be able to recover what money you already have in it —– get rid of it anyway…..There is NO WAY anyone could give me a TREK…..I would not take possession of one under any circumstances……the thing will develop multiple expensive problems just sitting there…..Get a good brand like Winnebago, or Dutch Star or Allegro (anything built by Tiffin)…..

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    • elinatravels says:

      We are on a budget and cannot afford a decent Winnebago, etc. and the Trek was within our budget limits. We love our Trek and don’t want to get rid of it. It mostly stood there for the past 20 years and has had little work–of course it’ll have some problems. But otherwise, it’s doing well, for its age and lack of use. Plus, the Treks are somewhat of a collectible since they are no longer being made, and we’ve found that many value them still (especially because it’s not made of fiberglass like most RV are nowadays; plus people love the Majick Bed). We know we will have no issue selling it when we’re ready to part with it. We’ve seen RVs like ours go for double what we paid for it. We’ll get our money back and then some, don’t you worry. 🙂

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    • elinatravels says:

      PS: if anyone gives you a Trek and you don’t want it, pass it on over to us, please. 😀

      Like

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