For the most part, our travel days tend to go pretty smoothly, but last Thursday (October 1) was one of those days that ended up being both a comedy of errors and an adventure in itself ! While we managed to keep a good sense of humor with everything turning out OK in the end, it wasn’t without a few close calls, stressful moments and a couple of hours of wasted time. And yes, even though it’s a tad embarrassing, we thought we’d share the chain of events so you can get a laugh out of it too and learn from our mistakes!
Avoiding the Hurricane
We’d been enjoying our fabulous, wooded campsite in Rochester, MA (Cape Cod area) for just five days when we heard the news that Hurricane Joaquin had been upgraded to a Category 4 storm with the potential to hit the USA East Coast and the New England area where we were parked. When your home is on wheels, you’re naturally more exposed than those living in a stick and brick house, so on Wednesday evening we decided to pack up and head to upstate New York on Thursday (two days ahead of schedule) just to be safe. We’re glad we did – even though the hurricane ended up moving out to sea, it just wasn’t worth taking the risk of staying put. That’s one of the things we love about our mobile lifestyle – the freedom and flexibility to follow good weather and avoid bad weather conditions, as and when we choose.
Driving Fail – breaking one of our cardinal rules!
We opted for taking the slightly longer route south so we could drive through Rhode Island and Connecticut on our way and add them to our state sticker map on the side of our coach. We left around 1pm and got a head start on the weather coming into the Boston area, avoiding rain for most of the drive. All was going pretty smoothly until we decided to pull over for a short break in Connecticut. We exited the interstate and looked for a safe place to park the coach for half an hour or so.
It was at this point that Marc broke one of his cardinal rules.
Never enter the driveway of a parking lot without first being able quickly assess and know your route and exit point.
We pulled into the driveway of a Marriott hotel before realizing there was no place to turn the coach around. Bummer! We parked down the side of the hotel, blocking a few parked cars, while assessing our plan of action. Because we are unable to back up the coach with the MINI behind us, the only way out was to unload the MINI from the tow dolly to turn the coach around. Marc sprung into action and quickly removed the straps and ratchets from the MINI wheels, backed the MINI off the dolly and parked it off to the side. Next, he unhooked the tow dolly and wheeled it over beside the MINI. Then, he did a tight 5 point turn to turn the coach around, hooked the dolly back up again and re-loaded the MINI – all in record time! Marc’s pretty experienced at loading the MINI onto the dolly these days, but I have to say I was impressed how fast he did ALL of this – in exactly 15 minutes! Phew!
Here’s our “Slice of RV Life” video about it (1 min 45 seconds) to show you what’s really involved!
We hit the road again and had a good laugh about it just being part of the adventure – after all, it’s the first time this has ever happened to us in 16 months of full-timing, so not too bad overall – and continued our drive to Thousand Trails Rondout Valley RV Resort and Campground in Accord, New York.
RV GPS Fail
Ever since we had a couple of hair-raising experiences driving the coach on some unfavorable roads in the summer of 2014, we’ve relied on our RV GPS to ensure we arrive safely at our destination. Randy, as we call our Rand McNally GPS, has been worth every cent of our $300 investment as we have our coach specifications pre-programmed with height, length, width etc. Using this data, the GPS is able to help us avoid narrow roads, low bridges and tunnels and any other roads generally not recommended for RVs of our size.
It was almost 5 miles south of our destination that we experienced our first ever RV GPS FAIL.
Fortunately, Marc doesn’t simply rely on the GPS for guidance – being an attentive driver, he also pays attention to the road signs. “Hmmm, there’s a sign there that says there’s a low bridge 3.5 miles ahead and our RV GPS says we need to turn left in 5 miles” Marc said with concern in his voice. We kept driving slowly until we came to a halt at a Stop Sign and another sign that said “2.5 miles Low Bridge Ahead 11 feet”. We considered turning left but saw another sign advising if we did that, we’d be dealing with a clearance of just 10′ 6″.
Meanwhile, our coach is 12’6″ tall and with our RV GPS telling us to “turn left in 4 miles” half a mile AFTER the low clearance bridge that lay just 2.5 miles ahead, we knew that was NOT going to end well.
By this time, it was almost 8pm, dark, rainy and we were at a standstill in a 4-way intersection with our hazard lights on. Marc jumped out of the coach and began directing cars to go around us while we tried to come up with a solution. Fortunately, not being a major road there wasn’t too much traffic – a couple of cars stopped and asked if we needed help, one was a super friendly and helpful MINI driver who confirmed we should definitely NOT proceed ahead!
So I called our campground and left a message on the after hours/emergency number, hoping they would call me back right away with some advice (they took almost an hour). Next, I reached out to our friends Erik and Kala, who we’d met at Moody Beach RV Campground in Wells, Maine a couple of weeks earlier – they were already at Rondout Valley in a 45′ motorhome that’s even taller than ours. Being from the area, Erik knew exactly where we were and texted us the link to an alternate route using Google Maps. Crisis averted! But, this also meant we had to turn around and head back to the Interstate 84 and take exit 19 instead (of exit 18). Although it was an additional 45 minute drive and diversion, it was our only safe option and we weren’t willing to take any other chances.
Marc unloaded the MINI yet again, this time right in the middle of the road/intersection. I jumped in to drive to MINI while Marc did a 3 point turn in the coach and we both made out way back to the Interstate. En route, we also got dinged with a second toll in the coach (we’d already paid one on the way in) and another in the MINI, but it wasn’t too bad – only about $6 – and definitely the least of our concerns!
Driving at night in the rain on a road you don’t know is not the most fun thing for either of us, especially when driving at the higher speeds of an Interstate. With the help of Google Maps and Erik’s new directions we arrived at Rondout Valley Campground 45 minutes later. As we pulled in, I looked down and saw the MINI fuel indicator was right on empty. I knew we were getting low on fuel the night before but in the stress of the situation, I’d completely forgotten to look at the gauge again as I was so focused on the road before me and getting safely to our destination! In the whole comedy of errors that afternoon and evening, I’m just glad I didn’t run out of gas and break down in the MINI on the side of the Interstate. On the bright side, Marc would have been right behind me in the coach.
Upon arrival, the Camp Host, Erik and Kala all came out to meet us and directed us to a good campsite on high ground to avoid potential water issues from the rising creek. It was a nice, large, level site so we got set up fairly quickly and were definitely glad to hang up the coach keys for the night.
NOTE: Following up on our RV GPS Fail, we’ve been looking into this further and it seems most GPS’s experience these kinds of issues from time to time as it’s all based on data and largely, they share the same data source BUT we’re continuing to investigate alternative options to help prevent this kind of situation occuring in the future. We don’t want to be too quick to unfairly place all the blame on our Rand McNally GPS device, so we’ll get back to you and share our findings by updating this post and writing a new post about an improved solution.
Food Fail – breaking yet another cardinal rule!
By this stage, it was well after 9pm and we still hadn’t eaten dinner. Yep, we’d broken yet another one of our cardinal rules – always have a meal prepared ahead of time on driving days! It’s something I learned early on in our travels and every time I do it, I’m so glad I did. Every time I don’t I kick myself.
Even if you think you’ll have time to whip a quick meal up when you arrive, you just never know what delays you might face. That’s why I almost always have something ready to eat upon arrival at our destination – this time I didn’t. Nonetheless, I managed to throw a soup together in less than 15 minutes so it wasn’t too bad, but I was reminded to follow my own rule: ALWAYS keep at least one meal in the fridge or freezer pre-made and ready to eat on drive day.
Now, we’re safely settled into our campground in New York, we got well away from the Hurricane’s path, which fortunately didn’t end up reaching us at all – unlike the poor folks in South Carolina who got badly flooded! We’re looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks among the changing colors of the trees, and some different, less stressful kinds of adventures.
In summary, we’ll leave you with our reminder of the key lessons learned from our day of FAILS:
5 Lessons Learned
- If you know bad weather is on the way, especially dangerous conditions that may pose a risk, pack up and move to a safer location ahead of time (at least we got this part right)
- Don’t enter a driveway/parking lot without first knowing what your route and exit is going to be
- When trip planning, don’t rely entirely on your RV GPS – be sure to also double check directions with the campground to see if they have any specific instructions on suggested roads to take, roads to avoid (we’ll share some other solutions ASAP as we’re currently looking into them)
- Make sure you have enough gas in your tow vehicle to get you a reasonable distance just in case you need to drive it en route
- Always have dinner ready ahead of time on driving days – you just never know if you’re going to encounter an unexpected situation or delay
Stay safe everyone, enjoy the journey and remember, it’s ALL an adventure 🙂