PROBLEMS - Things We've Encountered Along the Way
A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 2nd NOMADiversary! AKA - celebrating two years of being full-time RVers. We decided as we looked down memory lane, we wanted to share our favorite products & places and talk about a few of our problems & plans. Today is the third of the four P's - PROBLEMS.
So, after doing two years of this full-time RV living thing we’ve certainly shared with you many beautiful places, memorable experiences, interesting people and life-long memories. We have also been transparent and talked about the not-so-great things we’ve experienced in our new life. It isn’t always rainbows and unicorns! We would like to take a couple of minutes and summarize some of our not-so-great moments on the road. The times when we may not have been smiling so much. The times when we may have been looking at each other with the word regret on the tip of our tongues. Yes, as in real life, these moments occur but they are normally brief and have not dominated too many days of our last two years. So here we go, the ugly of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Ok, let’s start with the big one, changing our home after a couple of months on the road. Following months of research, in April 2016 we took delivery of the “new to us” 2005 DRV Mobile Suites 38RL3, better known as “Calvan”. It had several upgrades that we were looking for, and had several additional upgrades, repairs, and improvements that we were hoping to make. After living in Calvan for two months, and agonizing over the decision, we decided that we could purchase a new fifth wheel for less than our planned expenditures on him. All of this led us to purchasing a 2016 Heartland Landmark 365 Charleston, better known as "Charlie". Although financially in the short term, with the upgrades we had already completed, it would be a loss, we decided in the long term we would benefit. The decision process, the lost money in upgrades, the physical move from old to new trailer, were all problems, but the end result of our home being Charlie is something we have not regretted in two years and counting.
I’ve gone ahead and combined mechanical problems for our Honda Pilot and The Big Tow’er, which may not be fair to the Pilot. The Pilot has given us problems more than once, but the dollar signs always seem to be bigger when the Big Tow’er is involved. One time after a bike trail ride in Bainbridge, PA a bolt sheered off and caused the serpentine belt to fail, pretty much leaving us dead in the water. After a ride on a flatbed, an awesome local repair shop in Maytown, PA and a little bit of luck the Pilot was all better again. Another time driving into Florida, in HOT weather, the air conditioner failed, resulting in a repair bill from Palm Harbor Honda. And an emergency repair at a Honda dealer in Hilliard, OH also comes to mind. However, his big brother, The Big Tow’er, has caused us way more headaches than that. The trail of repair bills stretch from Florida to the Maine, with several in between. We always tell ourselves that the Big Tow’er is 18 years old and has 750,000 miles on him, but that doesn’t make us feel any better when we are paying the repair bills. For the first couple of repairs I would tell Betsy that when you replace something on a truck like ours you only need to do it once due to the heavy duty nature of the truck. Well, that hasn’t really held true as we’ve had a couple of items replaced / repaired more than once. Yes, including an engine exhaust manifold that, after paying twice to repair it, to this day still leaks! Thanks for playing along Betsy. Luv ya! The good news is that we have never been stuck along the road with our whole rig. For that we are thankful and we are still happy with our choices of keeping our 2008 Honda Pilot and purchasing our 2000 Volvo 610.
For any of you truck enthusiasts, here are some links to a few of our truck repair posts.
Spoiler alert: I am not referring to the size of Betsy and I, but rather to our rig. When the Big Tow’er and Charlie are hooked up, they are quite big. At a little over 65 feet long and about 40,000 lbs, we have learned that not all RV sites were made to accommodate us. I must say with some advanced planning, looking at campgrounds in Google maps and driving through the campground in the Pilot before bringing the entire rig through have mostly kept us out of any precarious situations. Yes, I said mostly!
During one of our visits to the Columbus, OH area to visit with Betsy’s family we made reservations to stay at Berkshire Lake Campground in Galena, OH. We had a difficult time finding an available site for our stay right after the July 4th Holiday and felt fortunate to find a site here, which is about 40 minutes from Betsy’s parents in Waldo, OH. Well, our luck seemed to have run out when we arrived, checked in and made our way to our site, #15. It seemed harmless enough as we looked it over, although the road was not very wide, the site was not very big and all of the other sites were full. I mention this last fact since it is never a good thing when you are the main attraction for all of the other people already set up. Ok, I may not be a retired truck driver with mad back-up skills, but I wouldn’t say I’m a bad backer-upper! Well, that day I was bad. Or the conditions were bad. Or it was a full moon. Or something! Throw in the fact that they recently had some rain in the area and all of the ingredients were present for me making a major rut along our site and causing quite the spectacle for all of our onlookers. We were quite happy when Calvan was in the site, the truck was unhitched, we sat down inside, took a deep breath and headed out to dinner with Betsy’s parents.
Ever since we had slithered into our site at Spanish Main RV Park on January 17, 2017, I was concerned about how in the world we were going to get out of the site. While it appeared to be a decent sized site, the look seemed deceiving to me. The water connection was super close to our tires on one side and an elevated patio was in just the right spot to clip our jacks or tires on the other side. We had gotten into the back-in site by pulling thru from the rear instead upon our arrival, but the location of a tree kept us from being able to go back out the same way. After several attempts we realized it was going to be as challenging as I had envisioned throughout our stay. We drew quite the crowd as we went back and forth repeatedly trying to wiggle our way out. We quickly jumped at the chance when one of our camping neighbors offered to hook up our trailer to his dually to get us out of the site. The turning radius of his truck was much better than that of the Big Tow’er. We hitched, unhitched, re-hitched, unhitched, and finally re-hitched to the Big Tow’er one last time to continue our trek South. We disproved the old law that what fits going in must fit going out. No harm, no foul.
Read more about these site problems in these posts below...
Since neither Betsy nor I are of retirement age (Although I am proudly old enough to be an AARP member!) this one was a concern for us from the beginning. We had heard the warnings from others who had come before us. Most people associate staying in an RV at campgrounds with a vacation mindset. We were certainly part of that mindset when we were still living in Limerick, both working full-time jobs, and staying in our travel trailer for weekend trips or week long vacations. Well, that all changed in May 2016 when our RV became our home. So for the first six months or so we did kinda cut ourselves some slack and lived kinda like we were on vacation. Not so much spending crazy amounts of money on sightseeing things, but more just the fact that we didn’t work for the first six months. I guess you could say we were kinda leisurely traveling. Then you could almost feel a change when we started to realize that this was now our life. We got a couple of workamping jobs under our belts to keep our bank accounts happy, and it really felt like life. We still get to visit new places, see cool new stuff, and meet interesting people, but that is now part of working at new places and just plain living life.
So speaking of bank accounts and money, let’s talk about the next topic. While we are certainly happy with the freedom we gained when we sold our house and got rid of most of our possessions, we also gave up my salary from Verizon and the income from Betsy’s business. We were well aware that we had to take the good with the bad. So while we certainly eliminated many expenses from our life, we also eliminated the income side as well. What this has done has made us ultra aware of our expenditures on a monthly, weekly, even a daily basis, while encouraging us to find that next cool workamping gig and trying multiple “side hustles” to earn a little extra moolah. It requires some extra effort and some extra thought, but we wouldn’t give it up for the freedom it provides us for anything. We try to be transparent with our workamping income as you can see in our workamping wrap-ups we post. We do track each and every dollar earned and spent in a handy dandy Excel spreadsheet. If you are interested in seeing our method, drop us a comment below.
We’ve talked a lot on our blog, and even in this post about how happy we are with our purchase of Charlie, our 2016 Heartland Landmark 365. He has provided us with a comfortable place to call home for the past two years from Florida to Maine to Texas. But as anyone who has owned an RV, or anyone who has known someone who owns an RV already knows these things are never perfect. No matter how much they tell you they are made for living in, or how they will last a long time, it’s just not the case. Our two problems with Charlie are recent and we are still in the process of resolving them.
First, Charlie came with a set of theater recliners and a sleeper sofa in the living room that always look adequate in the showroom or at your favorite RV show. Well, they certainly don’t stand up to daily use as well as your typical home furniture. At this point both our recliners and our sofa are almost too uncomfortable to sit in. The seat cushions have separated and it feels like you are sitting on a couple of rolled up towels. Even though Charlie is still under warranty we were told that this is considered normal wear and tear. Well, alrighty then. Guess we’ll add a new line to the budget sheet to save some money to replace them with real furniture.
Second, we are currently investigating what appears to be some sort of leak in our gray water tank and fresh water tank. For those of you not familiar, neither of those tanks have anything to do with the disposal of fluids from the toilet! Neither of these are major problems, but both are things that I’ll need to locate and complete whatever repair is necessary. Ok, I shouldn’t say only I. Betsy was right there with me the other day, laying on our backs under our rig, looking up at the bottom of Charlie trying to find the best place to cut the bottom to take a peek. WE’LL figure it out. We don’t mind a challenge and can solve almost any problem as a team!