A Weekend of Motorhome Pain
We had a fun but very painful weekend with our RV - which we bought to make it easy to camp! We love camping and RVing and our goal has been to eliminate the pain associated with camping since shortly after we got married.
We began camping out of the back of 1967 Mustang with a small two person pup tent, a double sleeping bag, and a little cooler - just about all the Mustang's trunk would hold. It wasn't real comfortable but it got us outside and enjoying the mountains, hiking, the beautiful lakes, nature, the beaches, and everything that California has to offer outdoor enthusiasts. It didn't take long before it got a little too painful - thanks to rain, wind, hard rocky ground, no hot food, no chairs, sand in the sleeping bags, worries about bears, etc. And when our first daughter arrived, we knew we had to upgrade our approach to camping.
So we bought a 1974 red utility van and I immediately built a double bed in the back that also folded up into a couch. Coupled with a crib we were in heaven - room for chairs, a camp stove, bigger coolers, and more gear plus no set-up or worry about bad weather. When the second daughter came along I built two small folding bunk beds into one side of the van. Worked great but the diapers, baby toys, food and gear started taking up more and more room. When we got into racing Hobie Cats several weekends a month, we needed a baby sitter to join us while the wife and I raced the hobie cat. For a while everything worked great, but the babysitter wanted to bring a friend and together they both had three suit cases and they got a little frustrated with sleeping on the floor with four other people in a tiny red van! That did it - we needed a motorhome! The goal was to continue our camping lifestyle but we needed to eliminate some new pain and problems associated with camping in our little red van.
We were in absolute heaven the first time we took our new 21 foot Class C 1976 American Clipper camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Wow, what an upgrade - a bathroom with a shower, refrigerator, stove, oven, double bed above the cab, table that made into a bed, and two bunk beds for our girls, plus lots of cabinet space and plenty of power to tow the sailboat and all our gear. We loved it and we were gone most weekends plus extended trips up and down the California, Oregon, and Washington coast.
But when we moved to Texas in 1980 and suffered through 100 days of 100 plus temperatures we quickly discovered that we needed a motorhome with an air conditioner and a little more room would be nice. So we upgraded to a 23 foot Class C 1985 Coachman - nice, and it eliminated some of the pain and lasted six years. But now the girls were getting older and insisted that they had to bring a couple friends on each of the camping trips plus the Coachman was having mechanical problems and it was a challenge carrying all of our gear, sleeping 6 people, and towing a ski boat!
Which meant we had to get a new RV (our first Class A - a Damon Daybreak) with a slide out (the latest and greatest) - loved the slide out and the extra room but what a piece of junk we bought - it's low price should have been my first clue! Lots of problems and much more pain than it was worth.
The pain disappeared when we bought a 2001 36 foot Discovery motorhome with two slide outs, tons of outside storage, a well appointed interior, two air conditioners, microwave, open, stove, TV, lots of outside storage space (which we quickly filled), and lots more. We were pain free and in heaven again and gone somewhere most weekends.
The Discovery lasted 10 years with lots of fond memories with friends and family but the problems and pain started slowly creeping back into our weekends. As avid RVers we would go to the RV shows each year and check out the latest models and all the new features and, of course, we fell in love with and subsequently purchased a 42 foot Discovery 380 horsepower diesel pusher with 3 slides, lots of outside and inside storage, three TVs (one is outside and all of them are seldom used), navigation, DVD, double door residential refrigerator with an ice maker, automated leveling jacks, sleep number beds, washer and dryer, electric awning, and lots more. We also bought a Jeep Wrangler as a tow vehicle. Absolutely no pain and it had plenty of power to tow the jeep and lots of gear!
Well, all of that is a build up to the pain we had this weekend with the motorhome. It started at the two day Texas Music Reunion Festival (a fantastic festival, read our review to learn more) held in Glen Rose. After getting the motorhome set up (which takes time but isn't that painful - set the jacks, put out the slides, crank up the TV antenna, grab the chairs out of the storage compartment, pull out the electrical cords, and put out the awning) we popped a beer and started playing some dominos. We had a beautiful site right on the edge of the Brazos River. An hour later, one of the Festival staff members said we needed to move 15 feet closer to the generator to get electricity. We cheerfully buttoned everything up, moved the chairs, and went through the process again of setting up. Somewhat painful but worth the use of the generator!
The forecast was for rain on Saturday afternoon and Sunday and I didn't sleep a wink Thursday or Friday worrying about trying to get up the steep dirt rutted road to get back to a paved road to get to Inks Lake to meet up with family and friends on Sunday - they were tent camping and expecting the motor home for it's bathroom, refrigerator, chairs, grill, AC, beds, and other conveniences. Our motorhome weighs 33,000 pounds and tends to get stuck easily which requires a huge tow truck, a farm tractor, or a couple days waiting for it to dry out before we can leave. In fact over the last year we've been stuck in the mud at three different music festivals including Larry Joe Taylor's Rhymes & Vines festival the week before this music festival - everyone else got out with no problem except for us!
Rather than go another night without sleeping and worrying about getting stuck we decided to move to an RV park about 15 minutes away. Which meant going through the pain of packing up, driving to the RV park, and again setting up the RV. Then heading back to the festival for the music and back to the RV park after the music ended at midnight! But I slept well and was glad we made the decision to move as I heard the rain pounding on the roof. Early the next morning, we buttoned up the RV, attached the Jeep, and headed to Inks Lake State Park. I was a tad mad when a couple of our friends called to say they had no problem getting their RV up the hill and out of the festival grounds.
When we got to Inks Lake, someone was still in our site so I backed up into another site to get out of the road and heard a huge "crunch!" I ran the motor home into a concrete post, cracked the rear quarter panel, bent the ladder, and punched a hole in the radiator! Now that's pain and $11,000 worth of damage! And stupid! As soon as the other campers were out of our site, we moved in and went through the set up process again!
It drizzled on and off all weekend which meant that the tent campers and 7 kids needed to continually go in and out of the camper for the bathroom, refrigerator, and to get out of the rain. Which also meant we spent a lot of time cleaning the mud off the floor, picking up and rearranging stuff, using the oven, microwave, and grill. And that night the motor home was jam packed when it was time for bed - my daughter and her husband on the pull out couch, our granddaughter and her friend on the table that makes into a bed, other kid (I'm not sure who he belonged to) on the love seat, and our grandson on the floor on an air mattress. Hardly room to move! Good thing the fire alarm didn't go off or it would have been a crazy stampede.
Because the radiator was leaking we had to call a tow truck on Monday to tow us to a shop in Austin. They said they wouldn't arrive until around 3 or so - we relaxed, had lunch, and waited. At 2 they called and said they would arrive in 45 minutes! We scrambled to unpack everything from the RV (clothes, refrigerator, food, beer, etc.) and load it into the jeep, put the jacks up, awning in, unplug the water and electric, put the antenna down, and put the chairs and stuff away to get ready to be towed. I also needed to put water in the radiator so I could drive to the dump station and then back to the campsite to wait for the tow truck.
The only good thing about this experience so far was that we had a great site overlooking Inks Lake. Three hours later I called and found out that the tow truck blew a tire and they wouldn't be able to pick us up until Tuesday around 1. Which meant we were going to spend another night and we had to go through the set up process again (slides out, jacks down, water and electricity plugged in) and get all the food and other stuff out of the Jeep and back into the refrigerator and our clothes back in the camper.
Tuesday morning I called and they confirmed they would be here at 1, so we unloaded the RV, put everything back in the Jeep, put the slides in, jacks up and unplugged. At 3 I called and was told they would be here in another hour but when I called again at 5 they said the tow truck is still in the shop and won't make it until 10 Wednesday morning. You know the routine - everything out of the Jeep and into the RV, etc. Only to have to do it again the next morning!
Lo and behold on Wednesday around noon, they called and asked what site we were in and showed up 10 minutes later. So for the last time that weekend we unpacked the RV and loaded everything in the Jeep, put the jacks up, the slides in, put the antenna down and the awning in, unhooked the water and electric and sat waiting for the tow truck. We had called a place in Round Rock to verify they could repair the radiator and when they said yes we had it towed there for $1600. Only to find out the next morning they couldn't do it and we had to have it towed to Buda for another $1500! Four weeks later and $17,000 in damages, and when they were doing an inspection they said I needed two new tires at $860 each. Anybody looking for a new RV to buy?
We love RVing but after all of that expense, time lost, and setting up and breaking down the RV 10 times in 5 days, I was considering going back to tent camping! Instead, when we picked the RV up we headed to Galveston for a few days to relax - and everything went fine!