Incompetence in RVing

When we decided to visit all 59 National Parks in 59 weeks, logistics was a daunting, important concern. We had always stayed in hotels on our travels.  Ultimately, we decided that using an RV was our best option.  We purchased our first one, a 24 foot travel trailer, last December.  When we finally hit the road on March 24th, we were a little confused about RV life to say the least.  We wanted to share a few of our more “interesting” mishaps here along with a brief description of what we are doing along our journey.

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Don & Shelly

Don & Shelly with their dogs Bubba & Lilly!

It’s Still Winterized?

We picked up our new trailer in the dead of Winter–December 31st, 2013.  We immediately hauled it to storage until we were ready to go.  We decided that before we went to our first National Park that we should do some “practice” camping in Branson, MO.  We pulled into the campground, happy and excited to set up.  The RV park was ready to help us with the hook-ups.  First we hooked up the water and turned it on.  Immediately I thought I heard water running.  What?  It’s still winterized. The dealer had winterized the camper and left all faucets in the “on” position. Cold Missouri water ran full blast into the sinks and tub.  Anti-freeze ran freely too.  We had stored quite a bit of our stuff in the tub and a little in the sinks.  It was a mess that we didn’t expect to have to clean up.  Our stress level rose.  We wondered if we had made the right decision.

Honey, There’s No Hot Water

We had apprehensions about using the community showers at RV parks.  Still do at certain places.  We looked for a camper with a shower and ours is so equipped.  In Branson, we fired up the hot water heater.  It seemed to work which made us happy.  It was 27 degrees outside.  Almost immediately, however, the light came on.  We couldn’t fix it.  I told Shelly “honey, there’s no hot water.”  Communal showers for us.  It turned out that the hot water heater was still winterized.  The plug was out of the heater.  Duh! We finally resolved this a week later in Arkansas at Hot Springs National Park.

RV Escape 1

Our first camp in Branson, MO at a place called Acorn Acres.

We Don’t Really Need an Oven

In Mobile, Alabama we decided do a little baking.  The dealer had shown me how to light the oven which required a match.  Easy as pie I thought.  There was nothing easy about this pie.  After a half hour of frustration, the uncooked pie went into the freezer (hey, at least it was working).  No pilot light, no flame.  I told Shelly that we didn’t really need an oven.  Wal-Mart sold pies were the ticket. We were beginning to think that our 2010 Surveyor was a lemon pie instead of a cherry one.  The Hampton Inn was looking pretty good.  Eventually we found a YouTube instructional video on light the oven.  It takes about ten seconds now.

This Road is Not on the Map

We are electronic gadget people.  We purchased a GPS for our truck. We were using it exclusively to get from State-to-State.  We thought it had taken us some unusual ways but it was getting the job done so we stuck with it.  We were covering a lot of ground and the GPS was working okay.  In West Virginia, GPS put us on a narrow, hilly two lane road.  Eventually GPS put us on a rough side street.  I knew immediately that I couldn’t turn around so I stuck with it.  This road eventually turned to a rough dirt path.  Finally it became a one lane dirt road with deep holes.  To the right there was a three hundred foot drop into the river.  To the left, canyon walls.  We had no choice but to go forward and hope that the road didn’t end.  On a brief stop to survey the situation, Shelly advised me that “this road is not on the map”.  Eventually we reached a bridge along the river.  GPS directed us to cross and proceed to the RV Park which was a mile away.  The road had been so rough that it damaged the stairs on our RV which we were unable to fix for two months.  Today, we rely on a paper Rand McNally map.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park during part of Don & Shelley's 'National Park Travels!'

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park during part of Don & Shelly’s ‘National Park Travels!’

Do You Think We Can Get Out of Here?

Our truck has a small gas tank so we have to fill up about every 200 miles.  More than once, I have pushed that limit in order to make time and avoid higher gasoline prices.  A couple of times, I went too far and got down to the last gallon.  As everyone that drives an RV knows, it is not possible to fill up at every gas station.  Many just don’t have enough room.  I learned that lesson in rural Arkansas.  I just had to stop at this small station.  I was down to fumes.  After the fill-up I started to pull out. Problem, two cars were backing out of the convenience store.  While I was attempting to pull out, another car pulled up behind me to fill up.  We couldn’t go forward or in reverse.  Shelly wondered do you think we can get out of here?  After about ten minutes of two feet forward then two feet backwards, I began to think the answer to that question was no.  Right then, two cars at the convenience store left and a new lane opened up.  Good thing, I had already heard a few heated words from other drivers stuck in the traffic jam.  I pulled away from this tiny Arkansas town as quickly as possible.

Today we have pulled the camper over 15,000 miles on some of the busiest roads in the nation.  While visiting 31 of the 59 National Parks, we have stayed at a total of 35 RV parks.  We are not having nearly as many problems as we had at first.  I even have enough confidence to reserve a back-in space!

Overall, we have grown comfortable with RV life and are much happier in our camper than we are at a hotel.  We have met a ton of great people at RV Parks.  It is a great way to see the National Parks.

As of today we have visited 31 National Parks.  Except for the three Parks in the Pacific, we will be using our camper for the balance of our trip.  We are having a blast.  Follow along.  We believe you will too.

– Don & Shelly Hafner
Pryor, OK and Kansas City, MO

email: 59nationalparks@gmail.com
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