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For the most part, our RV travel days tend to go pretty smoothly. But this 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. Here’s the story, and five lessons we learned from this experience!
And even though it’s a tad embarrassing, by sharing the chain of events, we hope you can get a laugh out of it and learn from our mistakes! This happened when we were still RV newbies (in 2015) but the lessons are just as relevant today!
Lesson #1: Avoid Bad Weather (Like Hurricanes) Whenever You Can
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.)
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. And it could potentially 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 we decided to pack up and head to upstate New York 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. Having the freedom and flexibility to follow good weather and avoid bad weather conditions, as and when we choose.
Lesson #2: Never enter the driveway of a parking lot without knowing your route and exit point
Don’t enter a driveway/parking lot without first knowing what your route and exit is going to be.
Our first mistake was a driving fail. We opted for taking a slightly longer route south. This meant we could drive through Rhode Island and Connecticut on our way. And add them to the state sticker map on the side of our RV. 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 RV for half an hour or so.
It was at this point that Marc broke one of his cardinal rules. He entered the driveway before checking his 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 but were blocking a few parked cars. There we assessed our plan of action.
How we got out of this situation
Because we were 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 it 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 by how fast he did ALL of this. Exactly 15 minutes! Phew!
Here’s our short “Slice of RV Life” video 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 was the first time this happened to us in 16 months of full-timing. then we continued our drive to Thousand Trails Rondout Valley RV Resort and Campground in Accord, New York.
2023 Update: We’re pleased to report that eight years later we still have not made this mistake again.
Lesson #3: Don’t Rely Solely on your GPS! Pay Attention to Road Signs Too
When trip planning, an RV GPS can be a useful tool, but don’t rely on it exclusively. You also need to pay attention to road signs. And it’s often a good idea to call ahead to see if the campground has any specific instructions on suggested roads to take or avoid.
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. An RV-specific GPS can be worth every cent, especially for bigger rigs. We have our coach specifications pre-programmed with height, length, width, etc. Using this data, the GPS can help us avoid narrow roads, low bridges, 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. It would not be our last!
Fortunately, Marc doesn’t solely 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 stopped 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″.
Our RV is 12’6″ tall, and with our RV GPS telling us to “turn left in 4 miles” a mile and a half AFTER the low clearance bridge that lay just 2.5 miles ahead, we knew that would NOT end well.
By this time, it was almost 8 pm, dark rainy, and we were at a standstill in a 4-way intersection with our hazard lights on. Marc jumped out of the RV and began directing cars to go around us while we tried to devise 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!
How did we get out of THIS mess?
I called our campground and left a message on the after-hours/emergency number, hoping they would call me back with some advice. They took almost an hour. Also, 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, head back to Interstate 84, and take exit 19 instead of exit 18). That was an additional 45-minute diversion. But it was our only safe option, and we weren’t willing to take any more chances.
Marc unloaded the MINI yet again, this time right in the middle of the intersection. I jumped in to drive to MINI while Marc did a 3-point turn in the coach with the dolly. Then, we both made our 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. Plus another toll for the MINI. But it was only about $6 – and definitely the least of our concerns!
Lesson #4: Pay Attention to Your Fuel Gauge!
Make sure you always have plenty of gas. Not only in your RV, but also your tow vehicle. Keep it filled enough to drive a reasonable distance, should you need to drive it en route.
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 below 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. We consider this an extra fail because we usually remember to carry at least a half tank of fuel in our MINI.
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 RV keys for the night.
Lesson #5: Have Meals Ready for Travel Days
Always have dinner ready ahead of time on driving days. You never know if you will encounter an unexpected situation or delay. And you don’t want to end up hangry.
By this stage, it was well after 9 p.m., 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 travel 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 never know what delays you might face. That’s why I almost always have something ready to eat upon arrival at our destination. Unfortunately, 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.
At the end of the day, we were safely settled into our campground in New York. We got well away from the Hurricane’s path, which fortunately didn’t end up close to us at all. Unfortunately, the poor folks in South Carolina 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
We’ll wrap up with a summary of the key lessons learned from our day of FAILS:
Summary of 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. Also, check directions with the campground to see if they have any specific instructions on suggested roads to take or avoid.
- 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 🙂