Be warned: this is one of those embarrassing and confessional blogs. I tend to do things the hard way, a lifelong and inexplicable pattern. And, for some reason, when it comes to RV travel, Mike participates in this frustrating activity. The current trip is a stunning example of how “some people” never learn.
When we bought the second fifth wheel in 2009, I was still working at a demanding job and had little interest in taking care of another thing, much less a trailer. We didn’t use it much and I can barely remember it. There was a fifth wheel before—a Bounder, I think—that I can’t remember at all. Each time Mike decided to sell an RV I was thrilled. Each time he decided we should buy another one, I was resigned. Fast forward to 2016 when we drove our truck to Michigan to buy our third fifth wheel, a 29 foot Cougar, with (let’s be honest) some appealing features. We arrived in Muskegon in what felt like winter to us. It was March and the wind off the nearby lake was brutal. Everyone, and that includes my brother, my best friend, and the people at Lakeshore RV, advised us to spend a couple of days nearby getting used to the new trailer. That way we would have support for any problems and local experts to answer questions. Did we listen? No.
Mike wanted to “get going” and to be honest, I was ready to leave Muskegon’s unreasonable weather. We “got going” in the worst windstorm since the 1890’s, and, in Ohio, hit a post that nearly took off the left side of the fifth wheel, which I had insured at 8:00 that morning. (See “Neither Wind nor Snow” for a recounting of that disaster. It’s funny now, really.)
It’s hard to believe that two people with three degrees and ten credentials between them did not apply the hard earned knowledge of 2016 when they bought a Class B motor home in August. Once again, multiple people recommended a trial run—a couple of days at a local campground, near home, where we could learn the unique features of the “Bee” and work out any issues. Even after our friend Bob pointed out problems with the tank valves and we had the necessary repairs done, even after that we didn’t try out the Bee before leaving.
So… it serves us slow learners right that the inevitable problems occurred when we were on the road, without resources, much less expert advice. (At this point the expert advice might’ve been something like “ Don’t buy any more RVs.”) I should interject here, that I’m actually excited about the Bee. By the third fifth wheel and post retirement I had started to embrace the advantages of self-contained travel. I grew quite fond of the 3rd fifth wheel, not fond enough to give it a name but fond enough to live in it for three months in 2019 when Mike had a stem cell transplant. Still, Mike and I decided that pulling a fifth wheel was a young(er) traveler’s game and we passed on the last Cougar to Mike’s son Brian. What excites me most about the Bee is that I can drive it. So in an emergency I could rush Mike or Fiona to the hospital even if our Honda Fit tow car was still hitched to the Bee. Speaking of the Fit, known to us as the Bit, it drives exactly like my old Honda Civic, purchased circa 1978.
The first disaster came on the second night, near Spokane, Washington. It would’ve happened the first night but we dry camped at a rest area in Oregon. Of course we arrived late and tired at the Northern Quest RV resort—a gorgeous campground. The next day we planned an early start and a long drive to Glacier National Park—our first long stay. So a problem with the Bee wasn’t really in our schedule.
I usually wake up first and make coffee. Since the journey from the “bedroom” to the “kitchen” is about two steps, it wasn’t long before I realized the rug was soaked. Remember, we’re in the Bee and I’m not a plumber and we have a dog, so I immediately freaked out that this was some sort of black water malfunction or a lot of dog pee. In (loud) dulcet tones I informed Mike of the problem. Further investigation revealed the liquid was water and the source seemed to be under the refrigerator. We used up our extra towels to sop up the water, threw them in the shower, and got on the road. At the West Glacier RV Park, Mike removed the grill under the fridge, tightened up some fittings and—voila!—problem solved.
Two days later I looked in the shower where I stored my “advanced” toiletries in a small, canvas duffle bag. It was floating in about five inches of water. No idea how long that had been going on but the the water, from whatever source, had also soaked the bathroom rug, part of the comforter, and encroached on the “dining room” another two steps away from the kitchen.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t these people take showers? Doesn’t Erin use moisturizer daily? Yes and no. We took lovely hot showers in the campground bath house, and, no, I don’t apply all of the potions every day.
Clearly this problem was bigger than the fittings under the fridge, where, oddly, there was no water. Since it was the weekend and since La Mesa RV doesn’t answer their phones anyway, we were unable to ask for advice. Mike had been online reading tips and watching YouTube videos and something made him check the capacity of our grey water tank. Much, much smaller than in any of our fifth wheels. Draining the tank also drained the water from the showers floor and another round of sacrificial towels, rags and rugs took care of the rest of the water. Okay, we were set!
I think it was the next day that Mike discovered the leak around the base of the toilet where you really don’t want a leak. Four days post toilet leak we have determined that it’s the seal and that it’s intermittent and not leaking anything bad. We will live with this 3rd leak until we get to Maryland and my brother Mike, an experienced camper who can actually fix stuff. Hopefully he’ll teach Mike how to replace the seal.
The water siege continued when I left a large water bottle on the bed with an apparently loose lid. Luckily it was hot in Billings, Montana. I hung the soaked bedding all round the Bee, mainly over the seats and steering wheel, but also off every hook and corner. I made the bed with the spare sheets and the dog blankets. The next day everything had dried and I remade the bed.
Wouldn’t this be a good place to stop the catalog of catastrophes? Yes, it would and no, I cannot. A couple of days ago in Billings where I did three huge loads of laundry, I purchased a hand vacuum. Prior to that I had been sweeping the ubiquitous gravel with a telescopic broom that’s a pain in the ass to use. Target had many choices, but I carefully chose a basic, not great, hand vacuum, suitable for lazy college students. I know college students were its target consumer group because it had cute sayings on the box like “pick up your clothes first” and “only picks up small items, not underwear or beer spills.” Okay those weren’t exactly what it said but in a motor home this size you learn to break down and dispose of boxes immediately. As weak as the electrical pull of the hand vac was, it managed to shut down much of the Bee’s electrical system when we were camping at the KOA in Rapid City, South Dakota. We had lights but no way to charge devices, use the toaster oven, the foundation of cooking, or run the microwave, the second string of cooking. I had already, several RVs ago, discovered that using the coffee pot or the toaster oven with the plug in heater caused a fuse box breach. However, this time, throwing the switches didn’t restore power.
There ensued then a sadly typical series of errors with Mike and me playing the leading roles in a situation comedy. One of us decided that a fuse needed to be replaced so the other one immediately pulled out the first fuse. Two attempts to put a new fuse into a tiny, deep and dark space resulted in two fuses forever lost in the abyss. Then one of us decided to pull out the big silver things next to the fuses to make it possible to replace the fuse that was perfectly fine in the first place. Surprisingly that worked. It did not restore electricity, however, so part two of the comedy involved a thorough search for the GFI plug both inside and outside the Bee. We still had cellular so Mike googled the problem and we were repeatedly assured that the GFI plug would be near the refrigerator or in the bathroom. It isn’t. We gave up and went to bed, knowing that there would be no coffee or portable heat in the morning. Mike, ever hopeful, decided to boil water on the stovetop to make pour over coffee when he noticed the microwave light was on. Yes the problem had magically fixed itself when we went to bed and stopped messing with the system. We still don’t know where the GFI switch is and I don’t even know what GFI stands for.
This morning we are at the Flying Goose RV Park on the shores of Lake Imogene resting under the alders and elms of Fairmont, Minnesota. It’s nice here, beautiful and quiet. There is only imaginary internet access so who knows when this will get posted or where we will be. If we’ve suffered enough, maybe the Bee will behave.