The Maiden Voyage (or, The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men)

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The day had come — our maiden voyage in the camper was upon us. As Rebecca laid out in our last post, it was time to make like a goose and head south for the winter. And we felt SO READY. I’d had the Tahoe checked out and prepped. I’d had the camper worked on, updated, and prepped. Rebecca had food shopped. I’d even built the couch! We were up early, eager to get on the road. We said our goodbyes to our friends, hooked everything up, and started pulling out right on time…

…when I heard someone yelling “Hey, your right brake light on the camper isn’t working!”

Dang.

And that was the start of a four-hour, two-repair-shop delay that included fixing the wiring relay for the brake light, adjusting the camper brakes, and having the Tahoe’s barely-functioning parking brake (which had been rebuilt only 2 months earlier) adjusted and repaired.

BUT, after the fixes were made, we were finally on the road, and feeling confident that everything was working correctly. Now, I haven’t done much towing in the past — I’d only towed the camper about 4 times prior to this, and only for short stretches, so knowing for a fact that everything was working was a big plus for me.

So we head south, and about two calm, steady, happy hours later, the rain started. Woo. However, everything is working, we’re rolling along smoothly, so I just pick a lane and stick with it, avoiding crazy commuters as best as I can.

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Then the real fun starts. My camper brakes, which were newly checked and newly serviced, started shorting out. It was just here and there, so we kept on rolling, but as it got darker, I started losing them for longer and longer periods of time.

Then it REALLY started to rain. Like, deluge-style, Noah-Round-II rain. And the brakes went out entirely, never to return. Now it was a party. I kept it slow, avoided the brake pedal like the plague, and was blessed with wide roads and few fellow travelers, and we made it to our campground (a state park a few miles outside Durham, North Carolina) just after 8:00pm …

… to find that the gates had been closed and locked at 8. “Well, you should have checked online first!” you say? Well, in rare fit of super preparedness, we actually had called ahead, and the park system told us they were trying a new program of leaving the gates open all the time, instead of closing them at 8 like their website said. LIES.

Fortunately two helpful park rangers appeared out of nowhere and directed us to an open campground up the road, and set up in the continuing deluge, and after a quick dinner, turned in.

Welcome to the camping life.

However, rain eventually passes, and the clouds roll away, and the next morning we were greeted by gorgeous views in our lakeside campsite:

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The campsite was one giant puddle, but man was it pretty. I began looking for local repair shops and mobile RV repair companies, since I wasn’t too eager to tow the camper without brakes again, and was relieved to find a shop only a few miles up the road: D&H RV Center in Apex, NC. These guys were AWESOME. They were already slammed busy for the day, but when I explained the problem to them, they promised to squeeze me in. In only about an hour and a half they got us all straightened out, safe and back on the road! We went back to our gorgeous campsite, set back up, and later that night, went out for dinner with my friend and his fiancee, who live in the area. Day saved!

At least, for the moment. We were very excited to finally have all our onboard systems working that we hadn’t used all summer — the stove and oven, the hot water heater, the shower. And everything was working as advertised! It was such a cool feeling to have our six month project home on wheels finally in complete working order.

However — and surely you saw this coming — our problems were not over. The next morning, we got up and began packing up to head to Charleston, SC. I made coffee, took a shower, and enjoyed a beautiful morning with the sun rising over the lake. Rebecca got in the shower, and I decided to go outside and meander a round a bit, but when I did, I heard water running — and it wasn’t coming from inside the camper. I didn’t get a picture of this, but when I got down and looked under the camper, the water from the shower that was supposed to be draining solely into our grey water tank was POURING out of multiple seams in the paneling underneath the camper, starting up by the kitchen, and going all the way back to the drain line for the tanks. Suddenly, my rusted axle and sagging panels made a lot more sense.

Now, I know it sounds like amateur hour — and in some ways it certainly is, as this is our maiden voyage. But when we first brought the camper home, I took it to an RV repair center, and had them run a complete systems check, including pressurizing and checking the water system. According to them, there were no issues. However, a bunch of other things they told us have turned out to be false, so I’m not sure why I was surprised.

Anyway, we turned the water all off, dumped the tanks, and headed to Charleston, and I can honestly say we’ve been in better moods before. On the upside, the brakes and lights were all working, the sun was out, and it was getting warmer every hour we drove south. And at the end of the day, I guess you can’t go looking for adventure, and then cry when every day isn’t beach sunsets and mountaintop views — you gotta take the good with the bad.

And now, here I am, in a KOA in Charleston, enjoying a sea breeze and temperatures in the mid-70’s, with a glass of my uncle’s apple wine that we helped him bottle, watching the sunset over the lake, and wondering what in the world we were thinking when we decided to do this … and being so grateful we did. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Author
I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Virginia, and married a girl from New Hampshire, so I can drive the East Coast in my sleep. I love exploring, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, fast cars, comic books, and generally refusing to act my age. More practically, I love budgeting and financial planning, renovating and updating older homes (and now campers), and learning to make our family as self-sustaining as possible.

4 comments

  1. This is a great post! We can really empathise – just when you think it’s safe to go back in the trailer…. As you say, all part of the charm of this life.

    1. When things like that happen I just try to remind myself … “Roofs on normal houses can leak, too.” It doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try. We’ve always been renters and we’re slowly learning that sometimes it’s nice to just be able to call your landlord and say, “Please fix this” and not have to think about it again.

      But of course … I wouldn’t trade our (no longer) leaky camper for all the landlords in the world! 😉

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