After reading a couple of Newbie Horror stories, I thought I would share, just to help put things in perspective.
I do not come from a camping family. My wife's family on the other hand, loves camping, in particular, in remote Montana State Parks. For years after we were married, they tried to convince me to make the journey, using such enticements as "The mosquitos in Montana can bite you through your JEANS!" Interestingly enough, this approach did not encourage me to want to make the journey.
Finally, around 1998-99, I gave in. We packed all of our tent gear into my 97' Mustang GT and headed out from Sacramento. The first night we stayed in Reno. The second day, near Wells, we lost the right rear tire. Towed into Wells, the guy at the one shop looked at us and said, "If you had an OLD Mustang or a truck, I could help you, but for this tire, you're going to have to drive to Twin Falls".
With a 55 mph max Donut on, we headed out for Twin Falls. The drive took something like 4 hours and was white knuckle. In Twin Falls, the guy at Les Schwab was great. Stayed at the shop until midnight getting us set up. As we left, he warned us, "watch out for the deer out by Craters of the Moon".
Sure enough, every 30 yards, another pair of glowing eyes or two stared at us from the side of the road. I had been excited that we would be able to make up some time with the tire replaced. With all the deer, we averaged slower speeds than on the way up with the donut on. We arrived at Idaho Falls around 2:30 PM, checked in, and fell asleep.
The next morning, the wife had planned a stop in Wyoming on our itenerary. But that had assumed us arriving at Idaho Falls far earlier and getting a good night's sleep and an early start. We had none of these things, so during a hot debate, I scratched the trip to Wyoming, compromisinig on seeing the Teetons from the Idaho side.
Finally meeting up with the In-Laws in Montana, we pulled out our gear and set up camp. Once I was done, my father-in-law threw me a camp shovel. "What is this for," I said. "Digging a trench around your tent," he responded.
"I'm not expecting any invasions, I don't need a moat," I responded. "It will rain, mildew your tent, and ruin it," he shot back. I looked up at the sparkling blue summer sky blazing above us, then back at him. "It'll rain at least once this week," he snapped back at me, before I had said a word. Trying to appease him, I began to dig a trench through the rocky, sandy, root infested soil where I had set up my tent. About 15 minutes later, I had a trench about a quarter of an inch deep around almost 2/3rds of the tent. Good enough for me... "That won't do anything", my father-in-law offered. "It is a cheap tent, I'll buy a new one," was my last word on the matter.
From there, things went downhill. After a long day on a float trip, my cousin-in-law offered to let me use his shower. In his father's Lincoln Navigator on the way home, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to the shower. My father-in-law said, "What shower?" I told him that I was going to use the Cousin-in-law's shower. My father-in-law informed me that it wasn't HIS shower, it was his FATHER'S shower, and I couldn't. Cousin-in-law is 18, has his own wing on this cabin, I figured his offer was good enough. Later, the Cousin-in-Law told me that Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law had already been up to shower at the cabin three times before we had arrived at camp.
Later, at the general store, I asked for a pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights. The guy behind the counter looked up and down his stock of smokes for about 5 minutes, then turned to me, "We ain't got those". "How about Marlboro Lights, then," I asked. He grabbed a pack, handed them across to me and said, "picking up smokes for the wife, huh"? I responded, "No". After an uncomfortable silence, he looked back up at me, "So, you must be from California, huh"?
I left that trip vowing never to return to Montana again.
Cut foreward to April 2005. My wife has been itching to get an RV. Her logic is that we used to camp quite a bit but that we quit because with the addition of a child, set-up is a nightmare. With an RV, everything will be packed and ready to go, making weekend trips a feasible reality. I go along, and we pick up a 1977 C Class 22' for $2500.
We have several adventures in it, and everything seems ok. It needs a lot of interior work, so we put our heart and soul into a remodel. New curtains, new seat covers, tear out the orange shag carpet and replace it with high quality vinyl tiles from Home Depot in a granite green. We find a roof leak on one trip, so I replace all three vent-domes and put on a new EPMD liquid roof. We don't like the 4 year old back in the coach on the road, so we find a wrecked
Dodge and pull a seat and have it mounted behind the engine shroud in the cabin with belts. Add extended valves for the dualie wheels, replace the gray and black water knife valves, add a propane leak detector. It is looking real sharp.
At some point, my Mother-in-Law mentions, "You know, you should come to Montana with us this year, now that you have your own RV". It wasn't so much what she said, but how she said it, and in a moment of weakness and compassion, I agreed. It seemed like July was so far away at the time.
Several mostly uneventful and enjoyable trips later, I find we are facing the 4th of July weekend, and it is time to leave for Montana. I've even done some mechanical work, including a compression check (1 cyl. is dead), oil change, new wires, cap and rotor.
With the 7 Cyl. Dodge engine, I think I've still got a 5.7liter engine... but I have my reservations about trying the trip. I kind of approach the subject several times and each time I get a chilling, "You're just trying to bail on my family" response from the wife. The night before we are to leave, I can't get to bed, tossing and turning until 2 in the morning. We wake up 3 hours later to leave. I make a last attempt, "I'm too tired to drive to Elko, let's sleep in and leave later", which gets shot down. We start the engine, and the idle is wrong. We've experienced this before, and
usually if we wait, it goes away. My buddy the mechanic thinks it is a problem with the spark wires acting as heat sinks, lying across the block. But I just *started* the engine though. We drive down, gas up, and the problem is still going on after I take 20 minutes to fill the tank. I mention this, get a glare, and throw my hands up in the air.
Off to Nevada we head.
And we made it... to Nevada. Over the Sierras, early July, heavy traffic. The Dodge was a trooper. Past Reno we pull into a gas station and meet up with the in-laws and take on the sister-in-law and her best friend. The RV isn't holding idle, though, and unless I keep the gas down, it is dying. Riding real rough, and starting to make some really odd noises. I mention that we should stop. Wife glares at me... We head out again. I see a spike in the temp and turn on the heater. We drive for about an hour with the cabin temp at 100 degrees plus.... but the engine seems pretty cool. The temp at the floor heater is SO hot I have to take off my sandals and put on shoes. Near Lovelock, I feel what I can only describe as a small child kicking on the inside of the engine shroud. People are moving around the cabin at this very moment, so when I ask, "Did anyone else feel that," the universal response is, "feel what".
Hmnnn. I press the gas... and a couple of miles down the road, there is the kick again. "That? Did anyone feel that?" They all look at me, puzzled, "feel what"? But, although we're not on a steep grade at all, and I am pushing the gas to the floor, we're losing speed. Fortunately, there is an offramp ahead of us. I pull off, into the single gas station, and into a space. "I think this trip is done," I say. The wife glares. "You're just being a pessimist, we'll let it rest for awhile, have lunch, and then see". With a wry smile I say, "Ok, let's have lunch".
The Dodge never moved more than around the parking lot on her own power again.
After lunch, when we try and fail to restart the Jamboree, we call Good Sam's, which I had wisely subscribed to *right* before this trip. Service in Canada or Mexico, no problem for Good Sam's. Service in the middle of Nevada on 4th of July Weekend, are you KIDDING US?!? After about 45 minutes, they call back, "Nearest tow operator is in Fallon, they won't take payment from us, you have to pay by credit card, send us the reciept, and we'll reimburse
you". Nothing else we can do. "It'll be about 3 hours before they can get out there." My wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, her best friend, and my daughter all pile into their F-150, and they head back to Reno to get a rental car. My father-in-law and I sit in the RV and wait. I pop a beer, one for dad, and we turn on a movie on the DVD player and wait. About a 8 beers between us later, it occurs to me to check the oil. I had filled the oil before we left, I knew I was about a quart low then. I am now TWO quarts low. It never occured to me that I might burn two quarts crossing the Sierras. So, I top it off, and the engine starts, and I actually drive the rig around the parking lot. It dies, and I coast right back into the spot I was parked. It never really started again after that.
At about 12 beers betwen us, the tow arrives. We get towed from Lovelock to Fallon. My recollection about this part of the trip is a little unclear. We stayed at the Bonanza RV park and Casino. The RV Park part of it is a parking lot with full hookups, with stink-bugs having a war across the expanse of it. We check in, and my father-in-law offers to buy me a drink at the bar. He orders a cocktail, I order a beer as he walks off. I call out to him, but he is wandering off, probably a little bit buzzed himself. I turn to the bartender, "Did he tip you", I ask. "No, and he still owes me $4", the bartender responds. Tip and drink cost me $6. Heh.
That night, at about 1:30, there is a knock on the door. I open the door and this guy is outside it. Short, but big as a bear, wearing a tank top, highwater slacks, bald, but his body is covered with bushy white hair. I'm a little hung over and half asleep.
"I just pulled in, and I know this guy, he drives a rig that looks just like this one... he is a musician, and, hey, are you him"... this guy spits out in one breath.
I look like a hung-over, middle-aged, middle class suburban white guy in his underwear... not a musician. I don't know quite what to say.
So this guy, he repeats it. "So, yeah, I haven't seen him for awhile, but I saw this rig, and it looks just like his, and I'm thinking to myself, it must be him... are you him?!?"
I kinda scratch my belly and realizing this guy isn't going to leave, say, "Let me put my pants on, I'll be right out".
Once I get out, the guy offers that I should hide the drive line (which they removed to tow the RV) because someone will steal it.
"A '79 Dodge Jamboree drive line," I ask, in awe...
"Around here, they'll steal anything that isn't tied down".
He then offers that he knows a guy, local dodge guru, who can fix my problem, get me on the road, he'll gladly hook us up. My wife, in Reno, getting the rental car, was overhead talking about the problem, and recieved a number for a Sun Valley Dodge Guru who is the brother of a passing good samaritan. We had been expecting the Sun Valley guru that evening, but never heard back from him. "Sure, hook us up, we'll talk to anyone who can fix our problem", I respond to "The Bear".
The next day we meet The Bear's friend. This guy is also short and bald, but buffed, ripped. But not in a Gold's Gym sort of way. In a Time in the Yard sort of way. Covered in tattoos, with a under-the-chin beard. But he seems nice enough. He offers to work up a quote on a pulled engine.
The 4th comes, and we go to the Fallon Parade, which is flat-beds pulled by pickups with Teenagers from the Rodeo chucking candy into the crowd. My 4 year old watches for about 5 minutes, says, "Bored... wanna go", and that was the end of that. We did run into the guy who towed us, and he knew the Prison Yard guy and said we could trust him. This, unfortunately, really reinforced the idea that we were in a town were everyone knew each other and we were really at the mercy of the fates. We took our kid to the local public pool and to some local playgrounds, and she thought it was the best vacation ever. Returned to the RV, and the swamp cooler had broken. Which was the end of that. We packed all of our stuff into the rental SUV and drove to the Holiday Inn express. As we're walking in, I see a sign, "No stirrups in the lobby", and I think to myself, "What a cute joke". No joke. My wife is talking to the receptionist, who is complaining about the cowboys and how even with three signs, they still walk through the lobby in their stirrups and damage the nice wood floor. Nice room, another pool. My kid is in heavan. Could this trip GET any better?!? Oh. During the room orientation, the receptionist mentions they have wireless Internet, but the business center PC is down. Later on I offer to have a look at it, and after a little troubleshooting, I open the case and find that the memory has been stolen from the machine. Low end RAM from a low end eMachines PC. I guess The Bear was right, they will steal anything that isn't chained down in Fallon. On the plus side, this technical support effort won me the hearts of the Holiday Inn staff.
Prison Yard Guy calls. $2500 is the cheapest he can do it.
We chew on this and head out to dinner then to catch the fireworks show. Sun Valley guy calls. Says he is coming down tonight for sure. He was supposed to be down the 2nd, and the 3rd. We say we'll leave the key in the RV, door open, and catch the show, meet up with him afterwards. After the show, he still hasn't arrived. I take the keys, lock up, and leave. About 1:30 (this is a magic time in Nevada), I get a call. He has arrived. I get dressed to head down and meet with the unknown. I consider taking my gun, but figure that could only make things worse. So, I drive back down, and the RV is wide open, the engine shroud is off, and two guys are working on the engine. I introduce myself, ask how they got in, "Driver's side was unlocked". I don't think car locks are a problem for these guys. Anyhow, they turn over the engine. The Bear, who has co-opted our hookup for his 80s Jamboree, comes tearing out of his RV, not happy about the rattling death-gasps of my 360 at 1:45 in the morning. Sun Valley guy calms him down, then they decide to tow my rig, behind their 70s era Dodge 360 superduty van... by a chain, to the Holidy Inn parking lot. We do that. I give them the keys. They say it might be a simple fix, the plugs may be the wrong size and the pistons have crushed the gap. If that doesn't work, they're going to tow it back to Sun Valley to see what they can do. I give him the keys, and go back up to go to bed.
Next morning, the RV is gone, I've got a message on my phone. It is Prison Yard Guy. Evidently, Sun Valley Guy (and his friend, Toothless Tweaker Dude), had towed the RV and left it in front of Prison Yard Guy's house while they went to walmart to buy new plugs. Prison Yard guy comes out, "What do you guys think you're doing?" Sun Valley Guy says, "Fixing our RV". Prison Yard Guy responds, "I know the people who own that RV and you ain't them"... and a little debate insues. Sun Valley guy decides it is time to hook the RV to the van and get out of Dodge... er, Fallon. Prison Yard Guy calls me to see what is going on. I decide it is time for us to get out of Dodge, er, Fallon, as well.
We drive along Highway 50, hoping to see our RV... perhaps burnt out to the frame on the side of the road, in the best case, but don't see a trace of it. I realize that I forgot to bolt the top of the swamp cooler back down after working on it, so we look for that, too. Not to be found. There isn't a trace that the RV has been through.
We get to Reno, drive to Sun Valley, and find that the RV or Sun Valley Guy have not yet arrived back. We leave our number, and decide to drive back home. Well, I decide to. My wife wants to stay. "We have a responsibility to take care of this". What?!? So, we have a little discussion about the difference taking care of this in Sacramento or in Reno. I win. As we're heading back up 80, my wife adds, "I just thought we could stay at Circus Circus and make this something fun, get some good out of the trip". Well... why didn't you say so? But we're already on our way. We (I) decide to just go home and call it a disaster. I see a road sign, "Road work, expect delays", but see no traffic. So we keep on. About 65 miles from Reno (which is, interestingly enough, just about HALF WAY home), we hit the traffic. This is at the top of 80, where there are no services. My daughter wakes up from her nap, "Hafta go potty", she says. It takes us an HOUR to go from one off ramp to the next, and we can see a line of cars 5 miles long stretching up over the next ridge. We get to the offramp, look for any kind of services at all, they're all closed or long gone. Daughter won't go potty in the woods. So, I find myself headed back East on 80, headed towards Reno. I think smoke was literally coming out of my ears.
At this point, I was actually getting scared. It was starting to feel like I was in a horror movie, where you go into some region you can never escape from. I was thinking I might have to sacrafice myself to Nevada in order to get my kid and wife safely home to California. My wife booked us into a casino downtown... more swimming! "You guys are the BEST PARENTS EVER!" Then Circus Circus... "This trip RRRRRROCKS, Mom... Dad... I love you guys!" Spent about 80 bucks winning $20 worth of stuffed animals.
The next morning, as we're checking out, we get a call. Sun Valley guy has finally made it back with the RV. We go down to the place and meet him. Replacement pull engine, $2100. We mull it over. The inside of the RV is a wreck. Cigarette butts, spilled soda... Sun Valley guy offers they had to sleep (I didn't think these guys slept very much... you know, three days awake, one day asleep, that kind of thing), and stopped in Mustang. As we're talking about the repairs and mulling it over, my wife goes, "What is that"? and points to something silver on the floor. An ear-ring... a silver bunny with a white pearl for a tummy. Sun Valley guy goes, "Oh, that might be mine..." then gets a sheepish, deer-in-the-headlights look. Oh... yeah, MUSTANG... you "slept over" in Mustang... rrrrrriiiiiight.... *sigh*....
So, Sun Valley guy does offer if we don't want to do the repair, he'll buy the RV off of us, as he can fix it for himself pretty reasonably.
Now, in Sun Valley Guy's defense, he had us over a barrel, he could have said, "I'll take it off your hands for you for free". We asked $1000, he agreed. First payment as down. $100. He gave us the $100, then asked us for $70 to pay for his buddy, "Toothless Tweaker's", expenses on the tow home. So we got $30 cash in hand on the deal. And that is all we've seen from it so far. Which I consider a small victory in this whole mess. And who knows, I haven't really tried to get a hold of Sun Valley guy, so, maybe there is still hope we'll see some more, if not all of what he "owes" us.
So, now it is Wednesday July 6th. We've lost our RV, towing was $500+ out of pocket, the rental is still up in the air, but will be $500+ if we drop it in California, much less if we drop it in Reno (interestingly enough, it was an Explorer with California plates, meaning someone from California had used it to get back to Nevada and paid a penalty to leave it there... Hertz, We'll Get You Coming and Going), plus rooms, meals, and general expenses. Nevada is a black hole of a state that sucks you in and will not release you until it has emptied your bank account of all of it's funds, money that will disappear into underground biker gang methamphetamine culture never to be seen in the legitimate economy again. That is the conclusion I have come to. I think we could have gone to Europe or on a nice cruise for what this trip to Nevada cost us. So, we head home, only to wake up early the next morning and drive BACK to Reno, the wife and kid following in the BMW, to drop off the SUV for $360 there. Then a drive back 50, through Tahoe to finally arrive safely home in Sacramento.
The SUV led us to finally get off the fence and buy a brand new full sized pickup truck and a travel trailer. It was just so nice and roomy and able to be stuffed full of all of our gear from the RV. I loved the GPS, so I picked up a GPS unit for my PDA. The truck has an aux input for my MP3 player, if we have a problem with the vehicle, it is under warranty, if we have a problem with the trailer, we can leave it behind and keep going (either home or onward), and when we get into camp, we have a vehicle for trips to the store or excursions.
But see, you already feel better about YOUR horrible camping story, right? The next time you and your significant other are sitting on the side of the road in the heat at each other's throats, think about this story, it could be worse, and we survived. Even worse, we came back for more. [emoticon]
(This story is copyright (c) 2005 Donovan M. Colbert, no reproduction without permission of the author).
An Unfortunate Series of Purchases, Part #2
The Colbert Orphans Buy a Travel Trailer
After responding recently to another, "I'm thinking about buying a TT, any suggestions", thread on this forum, I decided to write chapter 2 of our misadventures as RV-Newbies, and kill two birds with one stone. So here we go.
After escaping the sand-trap of Nevada, as we drove back over the Sierra ranges in our rented Ford Explorer, my wife and I discussed our options going forward. In addition to the dismal failure of our attempt to vacation with the in-laws in Montana, my wife had also booked a family trip including the in-laws 3 weeks thereafter in Yosemite.
As an auto-mechanic in Sun Valley Nevada had recently purchased our '76 Jamboree from us for $30, I realized that going forward with this next trip meant packing up a VW Jetta Wagon or a BMW 328i Salon with all of our camping/tent gear, our child, my electronics, our generator, and heading for Yosemite. OR, we could find a replacement RV in 3 weeks time.
I turned to my wife, as we drove along the scenic apline views, "I'm *never* tent camping again".
"What do you mean... we've got a trip to Yosemite in 3 weeks".
"Exactly. I'm not going if we're camping in a tent."
So we discussed our options. Another used C or A class, or a trailer.
I started doing handy-man jobs around the house several years ago, never having had an interest in these kind of projects when I was younger. I always found myself at Home Depot, frustrated, trying to figure out how I was going to get some HUGE piece of material home in one of our TINY little cars, and often thinking about buying a truck.
But, I just don't see myself as a Truck Driving Kinda Guy. I'm a BMW kinda guy, I'm a Porsche kinda guy. I'm the kinda guy that Truck Driving Kinda Guys see as fussy, aloof, incompetent in things manly and masculine in nature. I don't dig ditches, I don't have calluses on my hands (except for from typing on my PC), and I have trouble starting a camp-fire. I don't fish, I don't like watching sports, and I don't enjoy playing most sports, either. So I had been on the fence about buying a truck, which symbolized a lot of things completely opposite of the personal image I have in my head of myself. I would probably describe myself as a "Metrosexual Yuppie" (Truck Driving Guys generally have a different phrase in mind for me, although it includes at least ONE of the words in my self-description).
Likewise, while I could get my mind around the concept of a A or C-Class RV, I had difficulty with the idea of a travel trailer, which seemed more like a Mobile Home to me. Here it is important to note, my wife's family comes from Arkansas, they rellocated to Bakersfield during the Dustbowl, her grandparents lived most of our marriage in a double-wide on the outskirts of town. Growing up, her family lived in a trailer in a Christian Commune in Iowa for a period of time. She was too young to remember, but she knows about it. Trailers are in her blood. She had always leaned toward a trailer, but the fact that we didn't have a good TV pushed us to a C-Class on our initial purchase.
Her parents were also Hippies, so she has often talked about a Double Decker English Bus conversion. I felt pretty fortunate when we bought the C-Class, as things could have been worse. I've had visions of me pulling into a campground in the brightly colored schoolbus from The Partridge Family. "C'mon get HAPPY!"
So, with the untimely demise of the C-Class, driving in this plush, newer Explorer, enjoying all the comforts and features and capacity of it, I finally got off the fence. I didn't want a SUV or the limitations that they have with their focus on being People-Movers for large families that double as cargo carriers. I knew I wanted a cargo-carrier that DOUBLED as a people mover. The new breed of Seating For Six Crew Cab, short bed full-sized truck. An F-150,
just like the in-laws had driven successfully to Montana in. I got in touch with the Macho, Beer Swillin', Country Music Listenin', able-to-start-a-fire-with-a-piece-of-ice-and-some-wet-grass-(during a tornado) MANLY MAN inside of me and he said, "I want a truck"! So I listened.
And I'm not MUCH of a Manly Man... actually, this voice in my head was more of a squeak (but a real DEEP squeak), but I know *real* Manly Men drive Fords... or Chevys, or Dodges. Not Tundras. Coming from a Ford family, and having noted that the Mustang GT Convertible was the best truck I had ever owned, I decided I wanted a Ford F-150.
As I've mentioned, I've been out of work, for awhile. I used to have TWO BMWs. the 328i, and a very clean 1990 325i Convertible that I kept in our back garage for weekends. When I worked, I drove the 328i as a daily driver, enjoying the speed and handling and comfort in my long daily commute. The 325i was perfect for taking out on twisty roads on the weekend, dropping the top, and letting my stress from the busy week in Corporate IT disolve on the hairpin turns behind me. As a stay-at-home father and full time student, the 325i lay forgotten, covered in dust, with a dead battery and a very low tire in the back garage, and the 328i was driven a couple of times a week, usually to my school, which is about 2 miles away from me. I had sold the 325i to finance the C-Class (not Benz. Dodge). Now I offered, "I do not use the 328i enough for it to be practical, why don't we sell the 328i, buy a full sized truck, and get a travel trailer". To put this into perspective, this would be something like the Pope saying,
"Ah, you know, the Protestants are right... let's get rid of all of this gold and drop the Saints and Mary and move away from that focus on the suffering of Christ thing".
Something like George Bush Jr. saying,
"Saddam wasn't ALL bad, and you know, Clinton is actually a fun guy to have a beer with, too... he has some good ideas."
I heard the words coming out of my mouth, but they seemed very far away, like I was hearing them from under water.
Interestingly enough, the way it worked out, it made more financial sense to get rid of my wife's Jetta (YEAH!) But my wife was very interested in the Nissan Titan. Nissan? Titan?!? Are you kidding me? But she kept on me, and I read reviews, and consumer reports, and talked with mechanics and friends who are far more automotive saavy than I. And I slowly found myself coming to the realization, the Nissan was at *least* as good as the Ford F-150 I had my heart
set on. The cincher was that Nissan would deal and negotiate and work with us on the Jetta for trade-in and offer us a fair price for it. Ford, #1 for 27 years, all of the local dealers were very confident that if we didn't buy their truck, someone else would, soon. So we ended up with a Titan. My Macho, Manly Inner Voice said to me, "You made the right choice", but with a Japanese accent, instead of a country drawl, this time.
Now keep in mind, we made this purchase with 3 weeks between the time we got back to California and our trip to Yosemite. We *also* needed to get the hitch delivered and installed *and* buy a trailer during that period, if we were going to go to Yosemite. I had thrown my wife a bone during the negotiations for the truck. "If we get a truck, I'll go tent camping this ONE time in Yosemite," I had said to her. But she knew I didn't want to, and she didn't really want to, either.
So now, at the peak of Trailer/RV season, we went looking for a trailer. And we researched, and checked multiple dealers, and drove around Sacramento in triple digit weather looking at all the dealers. I shopped online, I read the forums, I read the Nissan site like the bible. I tried to find out everything I could. I found that we had negotiated a Class III hitch for the Nissan, and I really probably needed a class IV hitch. We renegotiated, and got the class IV hitch for the difference in parts and labor. A disaster averted. I was feeling very sure of myself. We would not make the same mistakes again.
Why would we, when there were so many all NEW mistakes we could experience?
Time was running out. Yosemite was looming. We started looking in the local paper, and found a smorgasboard of private party trailers in our price range. Why wouldn't we? Our price range was $2000 to $12,000 at the outside. We drove down to Lodi and looked at a 20' with slide that was going to go for betweem 9.5 and 10k. Then we drove up to Auburn, and looked at a private party '22 foot for $8500. All on a day when tempertures were above 100. The '22 was
a 1997 Thor Tahoe. It had a floorplan we liked. Dinette in the front, a scissor bed couch, bed in the back corner, bathroom next to it. There were some odd things. The flooring was replaced with tiles, cheap tiles, from Home Depot. They were put down badly, in retrospect, quickly. The woman who was selling it to us claimed she didn't like the carpet. Having done just this in our C-Class for exactly this reason, this seemed reasonable enough to us. It was
also missing a step at the door. I looked under and saw wood and screws which looked solid enough. I didn't realize at the time, not having looked under many trailers, that this was a repair where the original floor had rotted out.
Otherwise, the oak cabinetry with mirrored panels, the nice, residential style blue furniture, the stereo, AC, full
fridge, microwave, everything was shiny and new and sparkly, especially in comparisson to the interior of our 1977
Dodge Jamboree. We offered $6500, were told she would talk it over with her husband, and left.
That evening we received a call, they would do it. But we had also made an offer on the trailer in Lodi, and were waiting from a response from the dealer. The dealer did not call us back for an hour and a half, rejecting our offer. We called back the private party. There was someone else coming to look at it. They would call and stop him, and we would head up to close the deal. Then they called back. They had missed the guy. If he came, and didn't buy,
or offered less, they would sell to us. We would know the next morning.
As an aside, I still did not have the hitch installed on my truck, at this point.
The next afternoon we received a call. The other party wasn't interested, it was ours if we wanted it. We jumped.
While reading up online, I had noticed something troubling. Our dealer had told us the Titan was the same truck through all three trim levels, and that the only difference was non-mechanical trim. Remember, we're not truck people. Now, I do know enough to have researched the different gear ratios, and I did know, internally that this made a difference on torque, and thus towing capacity. But I was willing to buy that otherwise the vehicles were identical. I had researced option packages, and I knew we couldn't get the Big Tow package as a factory option, but the big-tow package isn't things like improved springs or reinforced frame... it is a tow hitch, tranny temp gauge and a bigger battery. He had told my wife (who did this whole purchase, much to the amusement of the Nissan staff), "there is even a Tow Button that changes the shifting". Nissan plays a game with their differential where the gear ratio of WHATEVER is "like" a 4 speed automatic with a DIFFERENT differential. I thought (lied to myself) that maybe this tow button somehow adjusted the gear ratio even further, achieving the magic 9500 pounds. But I had seen on the online specs that the 9500 pound limit applied to ONE trim in one specific configuration. Worse, while the base towing on the two improved trim levels were 7400 and 7200 lbs respectively, on the BASE trim it was 6500, the same as a loaded Nissan Frontier. I casually mentioned this to my wife. She disagreed. I busted out the owners manual, took her to the website, and she became concerned. Very concerned. We had purchased the 22 (and almost a 26'), based on the idea that we had 9500 pounds of towing capacity. Now we were very uncertain of this.
At this point, all hell broke loose. A call to the dealer the next day confirmed that 6500 lbs was the official maximum towing capacity, although the salesman admitted that he had said they were identical trucks. Our dealer was very good about accomodating us on this, offering many solutions. I became very acctive in the RV.Net forum trying to find out the real deal, which led mostly to more confusion and uncertainity and panic as different and diverse
opinions on what ANY Titan is capable of pulling weighed in. I did get a lot of good information. Unfortunately, my conclusion was that I needed to get the trailer, get the REAL weight ratings on it, get the truck, do the same, weigh them, work up the worksheet, and figure it out. I already had bought the truck, already had bought the trailer. Without a hitch, and with only $4000 down on the trailer, it wasn't in my posession yet. Multiple calls to the dealer and to the private party and a lot of discussion, some of it heated, later, we decided we were probably OK and that we liked the monthly payment as well as the truck we had already. So we took a deep breath and stepped off the edge.
That very day, we were trying to come up with the additional $2000 we owed. Now, we had financed the trailer on credit-card checks. Like most Californians, we live a debt financed lifestyle. Before you folks living within your means in some SANE state judge, you try living someplace where a fixer-upper starter home can fetch $500,000 or more. If I had the option of a 2 story with full finished basement on 3.5 acres for $350,000 or less, I could pay cash for my cars *and* toys. Anyhow, we had a plan... we just needed the quick cash on the credit until we could pay ourselves back. But we had maxed out my card on the $4500 we paid down. Now, I remembered I had another card that I had never activated, but my wife insisted I only had this one. I had asked my dear sister if I could borrow the $2000 from her temporarily, and she had agreed. This morning, I decided to check on my balance, to see if the $2000 had become available. I was told I had $4500 available. What a relief.
Until I realized that was the amount we had put down on this card for the trailer.
A quick call to my wife, and we realized that the checks had not cleared. We called the private party, paniced that our checks had bounced on them. They said, "Nope, everything went through fine". Then we realized what had happened.
We had written a check for $4500 to the private party on our PERSONAL account. Which had cleared. We then wrote a check to ourselves on the Credit Card for the amount... which had been returned because the Creditor made a mistake and thought we only had $4200 available, not the $4500 we were told was available.
Did you follow that? Well... it was the creditor's fault. But fixing it was a complete nightmare. Our bank was upset, and would only take cash to clear our account. Of course, we couldn't GET cash, we could only write a credit check, which they would not take (for obvious reasons). Looking through paperwork, trying to find out what the problem was exactly, where things had gone wrong, while trying to figure out how to fix this problem *and* come up with the additional $2000 we owed on the trailer, I stumbled across a card, still in the envelope, with the "Call to Activate" sticker still on it. Yes, the LOST OTHER CARD I knew I had. I called, checked the balance, 0. Woohoo! Give a child a loaded gun! I went to another bank, took a cash advance, took the cash to our bank, squared away our account, and had $2000 to spare.
Did I mention that I'm out of work? And a stay-at-home dad? So, my 4 year old daughter was dragged along with me while I tried to sort this all out. My wife has the MBA in business. She handles all of the financial details. I fixed this problem, though... Footprints in the Sand, or something like that... I can't even figure out exactly what I did, but, everything worked out. *Crossing my fingers*. Our creditor picked up all the penalties and fines for all the returned checks. It was still, a very stressful 24 hour period. Our bank wasn't very nice to us about the whole deal, but I guess their perspective is, if we weren't playing these kind of games, we wouldn't be having these kinds of problems. I guess that is reasonable enough.
So, the private-party came down, towed the trailer and we took delivery of it. This is the evening three days before our trip to Yosemite.
The hitch was installed the next day. They attached the reciever, and sent me back a box of bolts and brackets that was the reciever, telling me, "Have an RV place attach this when you pick up your trailer from them".
That won't work. After futile searching, even seeking help from U-Haul, I finally ended up in Sears buying $130 of Torque Wrench and Sockets. The next day, a mad dash to a trailer shop to get the Prodigy installed. Followed by a trip out to Nissan to get them to recheck the torque.
Eventually, we missed our first night's departure. I couldn't get the hitch torqued right in time, time ran out on us, and I didn't want to make my maiden voyage, to above the Yosemite valley, having never towed before, at night, with an uncertain rig behind me. I agreed to hook up the next day, drive to the RV dealer in Lodi on our way to Yosemite, have them check it out, and go from there. We were still unsure of the weights, as well. Confident that they were roughly within our range, but not positive. So the next morning, we headed out. My Wife's ever present sister decided to come along with us, adding an additional 115/120 pounds to my calculations I had not accounted for.
And, for once, things went pretty well. I mean, as well as they can go on a California highway where traffic averages 75 MPH and you're in the break-in period and supposed to stay under 50 MPH while towing for the first 500 miles. We got to Lodi, they looked at our hitch and pointed out a couple of mistakes and said, "You'll be fine to Yosemite, don't turn back... enjoy your weekend, come back on Monday and we'll get you fixed up... or just do the fix yourself, all you did wrong was..." I didn't put enough washers behind the head to keep it level. I fixed that myself. Even finally got all the torques where they needed to be.
Upon arriving in Yosemite, my Father-in-Law greeted us with, "There are 40 Mexicans in the camp across from us who have been singing Marriachi songs all morning long". Remember, his ideal of camping is remote wilderness in Montana, not wall to wall people in Yosemite. Especially not "possibly illegal immigrants" singing in Spanish 20 yards away from him. I was actually kind of excited I might get to practice my Spanish.
Later we get caught in a traffic jam in the Valley near the Yosemite Village market. Evidently it was busy enough that they had traffic control officers out. Someone got out of line, and the traffic controller called the rangers, who responded in force. Rather than dragging the offender out into the meadow and beating him senseless, they pepper sprayed him right in the intersection, then finished up their paperwork there, bringing traffic to a complete standstill for over 45 minutes. We turned around, parked and walked through the pathways to Camp Curry. My Father-in-law commented that Camp Curry looked like a Shanty Town Ghetto. I kinda looked up at the sheer granite walls that loomed around us on all sides and thought, "You're missing the forest for the trees, pop"... but you know, to each thier own. On the way back, a Helicopter came roaring through the valley (A kid had gone over Vernal falls) and a full squad of emergency vehicles had blocked us in our spaces. They did let us out, but my Father-in-Law vowed he would never return to Yosemite again. I guess we're even. I'm not going to Montana ever
again, he isn't going to Yosemite. Maybe we can find some common ground in Oregon somewhere. It *was* as if the fates were conspiring against him even being able to give Yosemite a chance. I can relate to that kind of experience.
I bought a 6 pack of Yosemite Pale Ale in the village, and we headed back to camp.
Interestingly enough, it was this 6 pack that sent me so frequently to the bathroom that I noticed how soft the corner of the floor was around the toilet. Fortunately, it helped me not to care. Additionally, that was what this trip was really about, testing it out and finding out what needed to be fixed. I didn't have real high expectations from the trip as a vacation or weekend.
The frustrating thing about this is, I asked the guy we bought it from, "any frame damage, dry rot, anything I should know about"? And he had said, "not that I know of". Even after I had handed him the check, I asked again, trying to make it clear that it was a done deal in my mind, I just wanted to know what to expect, what I might have to work on. At the time, I *knew* there had been floor damage, but thought he might just not have known. The problem is, when they put down this new tile, they HAD to have known about the damage in the bathroom. You couldn't put the tile down without feeling the damage. They knew. I can't understand why people are this way when trying to get rid of their problems. I guess I'm just too honest. I'll tell you up front if I know the problem is there. I'll try and inform you of what problems of mine you are buying from me. I did the same with the guy with the Class-C, and it was the same thing. He knew there were roof problems, and knew the engine wasn't what he was saying it was (a rebuild with 30k miles on it, which it wasn't). I can't prove anything with the C-Class guy, but with the trailer guy, the intentional misrepresentation can be illustrated, which is *fraud*, and I gave the guy a chance to come clean. I'm not going to litigate, although I could. I had seen under the coach, and knew something was up with the floor, and I think the price was right for the repairs that it needs. I just wish he had been straight with me. I'm 2:2 right now in assuming the best of human nature and encountering the worst. That isn't true. The guy who sold me the 325i was completely up-front about it. It had 170,000 miles on it, and was a champ. Drove it for three years, sold it at 191,000 miles and got what I paid for it. Before that and the Mustang, I had a Miata with 80,000 miles on it when I bought it, and THAT was a champ, too. And the guys at Nissan, they were honest about their mistake, and willing to make it right. And this one isn't an insurmountable challenge. I can rip up the floor and fix the damage in the bathroom, and will. Probably after I fall through it one evening while standing over the toilet with 5 or 6 beers in my blood-stream, but hopefully, before then. I've now got the hitch set up right, I've been to a weigh station and know that I'm well within all my specs on weight, and I've towed up and down some steep grades and feel confident about having 5000 pounds behind me. I've gotten myself into some tight parking lots along the way, and gotten myself
out, including a gas station I should have passed by and a McDonalds that looked perfect until I got in and realized the inlet was the outlet, too. McDonalds caught three other trailers and an A class while I was there, too, so I didn't feel alone. We all had the same slightly concerned look on our faces, too, I noticed. It was something like the look a person gets when they've ate something that isn't agreeing with them, and there isn't a bathroom in sight.
I still haven't told you folks how we ripped our awning from the side of the trailer. That'll be Book #3, The Colbert Orphans Visit the Coast.
And I bet you guys thought after the first story, I couldn't possibly have anything more to share...
One final note: I just want to add, anyone from Fallon, Nevada, or anyone who lives in a trailer or double-wide, or worse yet, anyone who lives in Fallon *in* a Double-wide, please don't take my good natured jabs seriously or personally. The problem with sarcastic humor is that often it closely resembles someone's life, and that person may not enjoy the experience of having their life poked fun at. Fallon is actually a lovely town in many ways, the people were all very kind and friendly, and it absolutely had a small-town warmth to it that is sorely lacking, even *in* the small towns in my neck of the woods. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with living in a Doublewide, not only did my grandparents-in-law, but so does my aunt. Maybe someday I'll also tell the story about a friend doing the Eddie Murphy Routine about not being able to have any icecream "because you are on the welfare and your Daddy is an alcoholic" and my telling over-reaction to the skit, not being aware at the time that it was an Eddie Murphy routine. Man was *that* embarassing. [emoticon]
(This work is copyright (c) 2005 Donovan M. Colbert, no reproduction without permission)
Chapter III, The Colbert Orphans Find Wood Rot In Their Bathroom...
Just wanted to share with everyone how the floor repair is coming along.
I've got the framing and the subfloor down and it is far more secure and solid than the original repair it replaces. In tearing it up, I found that I really didn't *need* to do this, the damage was extensive but dispersed, not localized. I was never in danger of going through the floor like it felt, but there was a lot of spread out *very* bad dry rot. I will need to re-weigh my rig once I am done, as the repairs I've done were a little overkill and might have added some marginal weight to my trailer.
A few lessons here...
I paid $2000 less than the NADA bluebook for this trailer... my repairs have totaled around $1000 so far. At this point, it is an economic win for me. Keep in mind, even if I had paid the high retail for this trailer, repairs are inevitable on something like a 1997 trailer. So, overall, I'm pretty happy.
With that said, the person who sold this to me knew the problems. They were dishonest and trying to get rid of what they saw as a lemon. They had gotten the quotes, I'm sure, and saw $1500+ to repair the axles and brakes and as much as $3500 to repair the floor damage... which means that by listing at $8500 and settling for $6500, they *still* walked away smiling with the idea that they had sold me a trailer that needed $5000 in repairs for $3000 more than it was actually worth (less the cost of those repairs). The lesson here is, be careful. These people seemed honest, pleasant, friendly, and they made outright *lies* to us. They even played with my 4 year old daughter, knowing that they were sending us away to camp in a trailer that was on several levels, unsafe. "We pulled up the carpet and put down tile because we hate keeping carpet clean", they said to us. This was a lie. If you pulled up the carpet to put down tile, you couldn't avoind realizing there was *severe* water damage to the bathroom area. They put down tile to try and hide the water damage. I'm very disappointed in the integrity of the seller we purchased this TT from. This is my second bad experience purchasing an RV. I think being an RV owner is the key concept here. They probably had sizable investments in their purchases that they saw depreciate to virtual worthlessness within a less than 10 year period. They panicked, and they were willing to do whatever it took to recoup their losses. RVs and Boats breed this kind of desperation, I think. I've seen too many stories of brand new RVs or trailer with damage that made them virtually worthless on this forum. So I don't even blame them... I can see why they did the dishonerable thing that they did.
The third lesson, and perhaps the most important, is that trailers (and RVs in general) are relatively *easy* to work on. I've now put on a rubber EPMD roof and repaired the framing and subflooring on two different RVs, jobs that would cost at least $1500 done professionally. Additionally, I tend to believe that the jobs I did were likely superior to professional solutions. I have no preconceptions on how to repair a job, and have thought outside of the box and sought the opinions of others who also thought outside of the box in implementing solutions to these challenges. I want to stress, I am *not* a handyman. I've made a workbench area for my PCs, and I've done this work on the RVs... but I'm not a carpenter, I'm not a Home DIY kinda guy. I'm afraid of power tools, plumbing, electricity and I don't understand fractions very well. What I *like* about RVs is that turning off the water pressure isn't an issue, neither is making sure your power main is disabled. You still have to deal with the power tools, though. (I *am* unemployed, and having more time than money seems to give me a little more incentive to find solutions to these challenges. During this floor repair, I have occasionally feared that a police officer was going to knock on my trailer door, having driven by late at night and deciding that I fit the profile for a methamphetamine addict, wide-eyed and tearing my trailer apart at 10:30 in the evening).
But believe me, even without fears of water or electrical mains, the plumbing, framing, and electrical in an RV are simple things in comparisson to those in your house. Most of your plumbing fixtures attach with joints that are literally *finger* tightened. Your framing is probably 2x2 joints with plywood. If you are a *wannabe* DIY home improvement kind of guy, there is no better low risk way to get involved than to pick up an inexpensive trailer or RV and find out what you are capable of. You'll build your confidence. If you tear apart your $5000-15,000 trailer or RV and find you *can't* fix it yourself, that is sure better than tearing apart your $200,000+ residential HOME to find out you've bitten off more than you can chew. The risk is minimal, relatively speaking, and the odds are you'll find the repair is EASIER, too.
Now I'm *not* suggesting that you take on the frame repair of your $250,000 A Class diesel pusher. If you've got more money than time (and I've been *there*, too, and honestly, I enjoyed THAT much more than this)... then pay someone who knows what they're doing to fix your rig. You've got someone to stand behind their work, and that is *priceless*. If you fix your own rig and you screw up, you've got no-one to take to court but yourself. But if your risk is minimal, and you're facing a total loss otherwise, and the idea of paying for the repair isn't economically reasonable, then why NOT try and do it yourself, at the very least? What have you got to lose, in this scenario?
The third lesson is, get the right tools for the job. I bought myself a table saw for this particular project. Even if I only use it for this, even for a *nice* table saw at $299-$499 at Home Depot, I'm money ahead with materials and the tools compared to having a shop do the repair for me. I found a bargain basement $89 "protable" table saw (with stand) at Home Depot that did the trick... and if it sits for the rest of my life, I'm ok with that. Parts cost all of $150... and my time was free. At the low end, a shop would have billed me $1500 for this repair, so, figure I'm about $1250 ahead. I'll *probably* use the table saw for other projects in the future, too, increasing that dollar amount that I am ahead on this project. Having the right tools means the job turned out better, was easier, was faster, and will last longer. That is the difference between a shop and your home. *THEY* have all the right tools. If you do too, there is no reason why your repair won't turn out as good, if not better, than what they would do.
And fourth, and finally, use *every* resource available to you. This means the Web/Internet, and friends, family and associates who *are* experienced in this kind of thing. My neighbor has been indespensible in helping me with both of these projects, putting on the new roof and reframing the bathroom floor. Don't try to take it on all yourself. In this latest example, my neighbor came up with a much better and much more stable solution that what I had in mind, and I am completely confident that his suggestions will make for a repair that will last far longer and be far more suitable. In the case of the roof repair, the Internet and desperation were my allies. I knew I couldn't afford or justify having a shop repair the RV, so I sought out alternatives online... and I searched, and searched, and searched. Google is your friend. Be creative in your searches... and find multiple solutions. After a week of research, I had decided that an EPMD liquid rubber roof was the most viable, cost effective solution, and it *was*. By the time I was done, I had a roof on a 1976 C class that looked like the roof on a brand new $250,000k A class for about $450 and my time and effort. Again, my neighbor was indepensible in giving me tips and advice that made the process much more pain free and successful. But the point is, search, and enlist all of your resources, and you'll get the job done... right.
I want to add, just so that you don't think that I'm totally taking advantage of my neighbor, I've been doing all of his PC networking troubleshooting absolutely free (although he has ASKED me if he could pay) for several years now. My consultation labor rate is $125/hr corporate/business, $75 for private parties. The work I have done for him so far has been mixed, but I believe at the average $85/hr shop rate for RV repair, the *two* days he has spent with me on RVs exceeds the value of *all* of the PC consultation I have done for him. The lesson here is... you have skills or talents that are valuable to other people. Be generous with them. Watch "The Godfather", and learn a life lesson on granting favors to others, and realizing that there may come a day, and that this day may never come, when you need a favor back. When you find yourself needing that favor returned, do not be shy, ask for it, and expect it. This is how great friendships and partnerships are formed.
So that sums it up, I suppose this wasn't as entertaining as Chapters I or II (and there are still a lot of adventures between chapters II and this that I have NOT told you. I may still wrangle a book deal out of this yet,) but I think this chapter may contain the most valuable lessons on the RV lifestyle I've felt compelled to relate, yet. This is an expensive, frustrating, and time consuming hobby, but the rewards are worth it, and you certainly don't need to be rich to get in on the fun.
It is strange that nearly 20 years have passed since I wrote that.
We still have misadventures in RVs all the time - but the misadventures of the somewhat affluent usually end with writing a check and getting the problem fixed.
Has anyone told you that you have a talent for story telling? This was definitely worth the time I spent reading it!
Pretty sure it was a combination of being an avid Stephen King fan and reading Pagan's stuff that got me to start writing. I'm glad you enjoyed it. We're talking to a guy right now about this. Keep your fingers crossed that this is my BIG big break. :)
Thu Apr 01 2021 15:33:37 MST from "Jerry Moore" <email@example.com>
Has anyone told you that you have a talent for story telling? This was definitely worth the time I spent reading it!
A good story, well told. I still feel like I've been cheated out of Book #3, The Colbert Orphans Visit the Coast.
Heh. The table saw sat forever after this repair. I gave it to a guy in Ohio when I moved to Arizona. :D