Everyone likes to post pics of beautiful vistas, cultured insights, and classic renovations for the world to see. In fact, jump on Instagram or Facebook and you’ll see how awesome RV life could be. It will bring your family closer, save you money, and allow you to travel while staying in the comfort of your own home. It really is a beautiful proposition. But, there is also a dark side of RVing.
The Dark Side of RVing
Putting aside all the fantastical posts we are inundated with on social media, there are still some realities that need to be addressed when it comes to full-time RVing.
If you are rolling with a travel trailer, fifth-wheel, pop-up, or truck camper, then your trusty steed will always be at risk of having some sort of issue. This isn’t to say you should expect the worst, but that you should be somewhat conscious of what happens when your only vehicle (and means to pull your home) experiences trouble.
I think I can speak from experience now that we are hopefully at the tail-end of such an ordeal.
Day 1: Beastie, our F350 and only vehicle, threw a belt and sprang a fluid leak on a Thursday. I diagnosed it as the water pump, bought the part, and called a mobile mechanic to fix it on a Saturday.
Day 3: Not only could the mobile guy not get the fan clutch off, but he also cracked the radiator in the process. The lesson here is go with a business that is actually insured/bonded/whatever . . . lesson learned.
Day 5: The following Monday, we had Beastie towed (thank you Coach Net) to a highly recommended shop. Now we know to do this in the first place.
Day 7: After a couple days and a few hundred dollars, we finally had the means to get out of Florida.
Day 9: Rolling out on a Friday morning, Beastie experienced a bit of overheating. We addressed the immediate problem and dropped anchor only 40 miles from where we left.
Day 10: Drove Beastie to another shop to have the coolant system pressure tested. The coolant reservoir had a leak when under pressure, which I also noted when it overheated. Got it replaced.
*This can also relate to those rolling in a motorhome (class a, b, or c) without a toad. When it doesn’t work . . . you are stuck.
Tire Blowout . . . On the RV
First off, this was five miles from the campsite we re-routed too after the truck overheated on Day 9 above.
This experience wasn’t as traumatic as I had expected it to be. We heard/felt the tire on the RV go, things seemed a bit rough, and we navigated ourselves over to the side of the road. Nothing catastrophic happened, but it still wasn’t the most pleasant experience.
We called our roadside program . . . again (just a week after we first used it) and had the tire changed out. Normally, I wouldn’t rely on someone else to change my tire, but I neglected to include a 4-way lug wrench in the toolbox.
Guess who’s now the proud owner of a new 4-way lug wrench? This guy!
Typically, when a tire goes out on an RV and the tread starts flapping around, the thin aluminum and plastic skirting gets abused.
So, on top of finding a new tire and getting it mounted, we’ll be navigating the bodywork aspect of RV ownership.
This is one of those areas that seems to get a lot of press in the RV community. Jokes abound that couples should back into sites as a form of pre-marital counseling, and that most arguments in an RV aggregate around GPS and navigation.
I can say that these two points of contention will provide the lion-share of disagreements while RVing (at least in our experience). It’s not that we’re poor communicators, just that navigation and backing into a site produces more stress than other day-to-day activities. We also have two different ways we approach directions. (Should note here that the wife is always right…hehehe).
So, is communication a dark side of RVing? I don’t think so. Rather, it is an area that has shined a rather bright light on the fact that Tricia and I need to have a game plan in place when it comes to what we BOTH expect, and how it needs to be communicated to the other.
I’m not a marriage and family therapist (and don’t play one on the interwebs), but I’ve quickly realized that we both have to be very intentional about our communication during these times, which makes the experience as stress-free as possible.
A friendly hint: When you wife looks at you and says, “We need to figure this communication thing out, because I’m starting to get ticked!”. It’s time to evaluate how you go about relaying information to one another.
Communication is just like everything else, the more you practice it, the better you get. So yeah, RVing can cause stress from your communication lack of communication, but it can also allow you to grow in that area . . . which I’m sure will bring benefits all around.
If you haven’t guessed, the above vehicle issues have thrown a wrench in in our traveling plans. We were supposed to be in Georgia several days ago, that got pushed back a week, then pushed again.
The reality is that when full-time RVing, you need to keep a flexible schedule. More importantly, you’ll need to keep/develop a flexible mindset.
Day-to-day life still goes on, as do typical relasonabilities. We regroup and get that stuff done, so when we do arrive in GA we can enjoy knowing the normal stuff is taken care of.
RVing isn’t all rainbows
So yeah, those are the biggies we have dealt with and are dealing with.
Sure, we haven’t suffered a catastrophic accident on the highway, an all-consuming vehicle fire, or a roll off a mountain . . . but I would guess what we are experiencing is closer to what others experience as the dark side of RVing.
The Semi-Dark Side of RVing
These are a few things we’ve also been dealing with along the way. Nothing drastic, needing immediate attention, but still not the most desirable aspects of RVing.
Black Tank Aroma
If you’ve ever spent any time in an RV, you know what I’m talking about.
I’ve found that if you are within 200 yards of someone dumping their tanks, then you’ll catch a whiff of it in the air. Maybe I’ll build up an immunity to the smell or else those olfactory nerves will wither, either way, things get stinky at times.
Within the RV, if you leave your foot on the flush pedal too long, some of those funky black tank gasses will eek into the rig. When using the vent in the bathroom, use it after the toilet is flushed with the lid is down. Otherwise, that convection current will suction those previously mentioned gasses up and out real quick (ask me how I know).
We have two black tanks, and sometimes I don’t like to hook them both up right away. I’ll just move the hose from one to the other when I don’t feel like using the Y-adaptor.
When I went to dump the secondary black tank the other day . . . well, it was nasty. THE VALVE WAS WIDE OPEN! I mean, what the crap!?! Seriously!
While I removed the cap to connect the hose, there was plenty there to greet me and give me incentive to hurry. Ever see the movie RV….it wasn’t that bad but you get the idea.
Upon arriving at our current site, I did a quick look-see and saw that same valve was open again. Also, super grateful I drained and flushed all the tanks before rolling to this site.
Turns out that when we run the slide out (the slide directly above the valve) part of the skirting is catching the handle and pulling it open for us.
This truly is a mystery. The other day I noticed we were accumulating water again in the underbelly of the rig. This time I just cut a couple relief holes at the low points to let it drain. There are currently other things that need my immediate attention.
Our First RV Fail
We have bikes, and needed a bike rack. After some research, we settled on one designed/approved for RV use (Yes, that’s a thing. You need a bike rack that is warrantied to handle the stress of being mounted on the back of an RV).
It showed up in the mail when we were stationary for a few weeks. When we were ready to roll out . . . I was amazed to see our RV didn’t have a 2” receiver, it didn’t have any rear hitch receiver at all. I thought for sure we had one, but then it dawned on me that that was from the first RV we had a deposit on. Oops!
We tossed the bikes into the rig, and regrouped at our next stop.
The Not-so Dark Side of RVing
I’m not going to list all the amazing things we like about RVing (but there’s probably a post on that coming soon). Instead this section is going to showcase what we have learned, and how God has blessed us during the struggles above.
We’ve Found Our Tribe
If everything went as planned, then we wouldn’t have met an awesome group of folks . . . some members of the Nomadic Homeschoolers.
It started with a random encounter while I was measuring a bike rack near the clubhouse (you know, to build something more permanent for the bikes). They had a ladder rack that they no longer needed, and wanted to give it away.
From there things exploded when we began talking life, family, and God. There were five families right there (in sites directly across from us in a park that has over 800 sites) that were all part of this group we had never heard of. We were immediately welcomed into the fold, like we had belonged there all along.
Within that extended week we had the opportunity to break bread, share stories, encourage one another, laugh together, and make connections with some awesome people.
I can honestly say that this would have never happened if we hadn’t dealt with some of that dark side stuff above.
Kindness of Strangers
This still falls under the guise of finding community with other RVers. But, we were inundated with offers to give us rides while our truck was out of commission.
Anytime that someone nearby went to the store, they would come by to check in on us. They wanted to see if we needed anything, or wanted to go with them. We probably turned down a dozen offers to be driven to Walmart.
This doesn’t just speak highly for fellow RVers, but it showcases the decency of individuals that we now share a common thread with.
Random Act of Generosity
When I finally took someone up on their offer to drive me to pick up our truck, I was blessed with what I still don’t quite know how to fathom.
During the drive, conversation ran the gamut, but turned to guns (just hear me out). He is retired Air Force and DoD, and I have some previous law enforcement experience. He asked if I belonged to any clubs that offer continuous training . . . which I don’t.
Later that evening he offered to connect me with a training facility he is a member of, and asked for my contact information.
The following morning, he told me that he was one of the original members. As such, he gifted me a lifetime membership.
I know this is random, but I’ve always wanted to take an immersive firearms training course (outside of the agency I was with). Now I have access to over 50 courses I can attend . . . any time . . . for life . . . at no cost.
The intention of this post isn’t to deter you from RVing. In fact, it is to show you that stuff happens, and life moves on. And if you’re ready to throw in the towel, feel free to reach out so we can talk you off the ledge.
I also don’t want you to think that buying an RV and living in it will be your ticket to peace, joy and longevity. This is a lifestyle choice that comes with its own set of potential drawbacks
Sure, we’re dealing with some issues. But, it is through those issues that we were able to see so much fruit in other areas. So yeah, sometimes there is a dark side to RVing . . . but that can be said for life in general. It is our perceptions that shape our experiences.
We’ve rolled with what life has dealt us so far, and continue to grow and be better for it.
In case you’re wondering, others smarter and more seasoned than us have expressed similar thoughts: