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What is the hardest/toughest RV situation you've survived?


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I shared this question in the Xscapers and Escapees Facebook groups, and doing the same here in case I missed anyone, so I hope this is OK. 

I'm writing an article for the next issue of Escapees Magazine. I would like to know how more experienced SKPs have dealt with tough times on the road. I'm also talking to newbies in Xscapers, because I'd like to see what, if any, coping differences exist between the two sets of travelers.
 
If you want to be featured, please share as many details as you'd like. Thanks so much!
 
(The photo is from our 2018 Alaska trip, when we broke a leaf spring in Destruction Bay. Our most challenging situation to date!)

062918w_trailertow-2100.jpg

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The most challenging situation happens before you hit the road . 

It's deciding which RV will fit / suit you best and then trying to find that RV . 

Once that's behind you , anything else is merely happenstance and taken into stride as part of the deal . ;)

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I pulled off onto the shoulder towing a 5th wheel. What looked like a normal dirt shoulder was mud! I sank to my axles and thought the RV would fall over. I barely had cell service to call road service, but within 10 minutes some Mexicans showed up in pickup trucks. They chained me up and by some miracle were able to get me out. Not a fun day, but we survived. No more pulling off onto unknown ground.

Edited by hemsteadc
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I haven't had any really bad situations in 30 odd years of RVing (knock on wood!) but I do have some experience with broken leaf springs.  Around 2000 I took a shortcut on a graded dirt road and at the end I noticed the trailer was sitting lower than normal.  I'd broken all 4 leaf springs on the trailer, all snapped on the trailing side of the axles.  The intact front half of the springs were acting as a trailing arm suspension with the broken end of each spring resting on the trailer's chassis keeping the axles roughly in place.  Nothing was rubbing so I was able to carefully go another 50 miles where I was able to stay in an RV park until the replacement springs arrived.

When I was 16 my first car snapped one of the rear leaf springs.  I used a length of 2x4 and four U-clamps to tie the two pieces of the spring back together.  Also worked, getting me 25 miles to and from my after school job in a neighboring town until the new spring arrived.

Edited by Lou Schneider
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2012  S.M.A.R.T. Alaska caravan; the spring alignment bolt broke on one side of our 40' 5er and the U-bolts came loose. This allowed the axle to slide to the rear approx. 8" just before we overnighted at Tok. I got in a hurry and forgot my pre-trip walk around inspection.

About 15 miles towards Chicken I noticed a tire smoking and pulled into an abandoned driveway. We spent 3 nights there in the wilderness after driving back to Tok and Willards repair shop. The owner followed us to out 5er, where he assessed the situation and made a list of parts required. He returned to his shop and ordered parts to be flown from Seattle. The third day he repaired our 5er axle and brakes.

It was kind of unsettling opening the door to see moose and bear tracks around the 5er every morning.

We drove top of the world highway (mud road, happy I had 4WD) by ourselves without further incidents.

Edited by Ray,IN
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WOW! These are some amazing stories you guys, thank you so much for sharing.

So as far as when these things happened to you, what did you say to yourself to get through it? What went through your mind? How did you keep from having a total mental meltdown when it was happening?

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This may be long, but believe me, it's the Readers Digest version:

Last winter, we were on our way to Big Bend, TX.  When we pulled into Broke Pump RV in Del Rio, our truck wouldn't re-start.  Called a mobile guy who found a loose battery cable to the starter.  All good.  Next morning, we're trying to hook up to leave and the truck won't go in gear. (2001 Volvo w/Eaton auto-shift).  Called around, no mechanics could come out.  While sitting in the cab wondering what to do, we heard a couple of clunks in the area of the tranny.  Sure enough, it had decided to work.  

So, we finished hitching up and headed across US90 towards Alpine.  About half way there, we had some pretty strong side winds.  Strong enough to blow out one of the sleeper windows.  Called the nearest dealer (Odessa, TX) and got one ordered to be put in in two weeks.  Pulled into Study Butte that evening and got settled.

Next morning I called around and found a truck mechanic who would come out and adjust our clutch, as I thought it might be causing the tranny to refuse to go in gear.  He came a couple days later, confirmed the clutch brake was greasy, cleaned and adjusted it.  Truck refused to go in any gear.

Next day a winter storm hit.  You may have heard about it.  Everything was shut down.  Well, almost.  We booked a jeep tour to a ghost town and mercury mine.  On returning, my wife discovered she'd lost her phone.  Having Grandma loose her phone is not a trivial matter.  

So, with no wi-fi and poor cell service, I'm trying to diagnose a tranny and she's trying to get her phone replaced.  Family was telling us to just go to Starbucks or McDonalds and use their wi-fi.  Uhhh, it's 80 mile away, and the road is closed due to ice........

So, we spent a most enjoyable three weeks there, making new friends at happy hour(s), riding our motorcycles after the thaw, and just waiting until the roads and businesses up north thawed out.

Wife finally got a new phone shipped to her, only to be contacted that evening by a maintenance guy who'd found hers in the mud out at the ghost town.

Finally, we found some loose ground wires, snugged them up, and the truck behaved itself.  Pulled out the next morning and made it to Midland to visit friends and get the window installed.  As they were backing the truck out of the shop, the tranny issue came back.  At least we were in a good place this time.  We unloaded the car and spent a week in Midland waiting for parts.

We've had issues all over this great land, and have made a lot of friends because of it.  A trip without adversity is just a tour.....

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13 hours ago, LiveWorkDream said:

WOW! These are some amazing stories you guys, thank you so much for sharing.

So as far as when these things happened to you, what did you say to yourself to get through it? What went through your mind? How did you keep from having a total mental meltdown when it was happening?

None of that wimpy stuff . 

Just take a deep breath , relax and handle it . ;)

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The thing that people need to remember when going fulltime is that anything that can happen at home will also take place while traveling, plus the issues that can happen to the RV and vehicles. All too often people think of fulltime living as an extended vacation but you can't leave your problems behind when home is your RV. Your personal and family baggage travels with you. 

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As i thought about this topic i wondered if the worst, was the time i spent a week in a motel in Wilcox AZ with my wife and 2 dogs while the turbocharger on my MH was replaced.

Or was it the time i spent 5 days in Liberal KS waiting for parts for my broken Moryde IS suspension.  The rv park there was really nice but the worst part was when the police came to put us on evacuation alert due to the wild grass fire quickly aproaching. The silver lining of that cloud was if the fire did sweep through i would not have had to fix the suspension!

But i do think the worst time was when i fell out backwards from the top step of the rv during a quick pit stop on a travel day.  I laid in the rain for about 20 min while i waited for the ambulance because i could not move on my own.  At the hospital they x-rayed me and found 2 broken ribs.  With the great drugs they gave me i was  able to drive the rig 30 mi to an rv park in York Nebraska where i spent a week until i was able to drive with only a handfull of Tylenol!  Once home i had a ct scan where they found in addition to the ribs, i had also broken two bones on my spine! You know, they say "stuff happens for a reason" but i am wondering what that reason is!!!

 

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OK let me just say that SKPs are tough as nails! I love these stories, just sorry they happened to y'all. It really puts things in perspective for new and experienced RVers alike, full-time or part-time. Everyone here has encountered so many challenges but finds a way to overcome and keep on rollin' along. AWESOME!

Thank you so much for sharing. I'd like to feature some in the article, just need to decide which ones as there are many great stories and not enough space. We could do an entire issue on this topic alone! 

 

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2 hours ago, Kirk W said:

The thing that people need to remember when going fulltime is that anything that can happen at home will also take place while traveling, plus the issues that can happen to the RV and vehicles. All too often people think of fulltime living as an extended vacation but you can't leave your problems behind when home is your RV. Your personal and family baggage travels with you. 

YES YES YES! Mind if this goes into the story? 

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6 hours ago, LiveWorkDream said:

Mind if this goes into the story? 

Not at all. You can even quote me if you wish. It is something that I have been telling people for more than 20 years now. In our nearly 12 years on the road, we had a daughter-in-law hit by a car while giving first aid at a n auto accident resulting in time in the ICU, my mother passed away, a son's wedding, another son in combat, the birth of several grandchildren, and all of the other things that families experience. 

Sent you a PM.

Edited by Kirk W
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Kirk makes a good point.  I thought I was a light-weight and lucky - I’ve never had to deal with much more than the usual maintenance issues and a couple of flat tires.

But Kirk’s point about having to deal with life problems hit home - I’m solo and was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.  I was getting ready to leave Las Vegas when I got the news and had to decide where I was going to go for treatment (not there), where I was going to stay, how I was going to be able to manage those times when I couldn’t drive myself (like to surgery).  

I was lucky that a couple I’m friends with (and fellow RVers) offered to take care of me when I couldn’t.  I found a cancer center for treatment, then found a park reasonably close that had 2 sites available and moved in right away, my friends coming down a couple of weeks later.  They stayed for 6 weeks, being my caregivers until my sister could come and take over.

It all worked out, but was so different than what I had thought I would do if I had some sort of medical emergency.  I’m very grateful for all of my friends, without whom I would not have been able to manage.

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Our adventure started as we left Atlanta, GA while towing our 40 foot 5er..  A truck in front of us dropped two 5-gallon buckets on the freeway.  I slowed down as people were dodging the things.  I did not have one in my lane and started to speed back up and a clown clipped a bucket and it rolled over to my lane and I could not miss it.  It hit with a whack and immediately lost oil pressure smoke billowed out from the front of the truck.  I was 3 lanes from the right shoulder and naturally, no one will let you over and I could not shut down in the middle of the road.  Took about 1/4 mile to get to the shoulder and with luck, the trucker had pulled over right in front of us.  I raised the hood and no oil on the dip stick.  Looked under the truck and the oil filter was smashed and sprayed oil all over the hot engine.  Cops gave him a ticket for failing to secure his load.

Took 3 hours to get a wrecked to tow the rig to a campground and the truck to a shop.  They put on a new oil filter, refilled it with oil, and started the truck (only had 22,200 miles on it).  Told his insurance company, I was not settling until I had put 3,000 miles on it and had two clean oil analysis.  We stayed in Atlanta area two more days and put a few miles on the truck.

We went to near Knoxville, TN and ran around the Smokies for a week.  We left there headed to Ashville, NC and about 20 miles east on Knoxville, the engine started ticking and got louder.  By the time I hit the shoulder, it was rattling and running rough.  Waited two hours for a tow truck and dropped the trailer at a ratty RV park with a pull-through and the truck to a Ford dealer.  While the driver put the drive shaft back in the truck, the shop manager senet a mechanic out to check the truck.  It started but was rough and it was pronounced dead.

Back to the trucker's insurance and after some arguing and Ford telling the warranty on the truck was voided if it has anything other than a Ford engine and all that was available was a new crate engine.  Two weeks later an engine was in the shop.  One week later the truck was completed.  A total of 3 weeks off the road.  The insurance company paid for the engine ($23,800), a rental car for 3 weeks and a campsite for 3 weeks.  We stayed in Knoxville a few more days and put some miles on the new engine and finally headed on to Nashville and Memphis for a rerouted trip.  

The truck now has 104,000 miles and doing fine.  People ask me why I was not upset about the ordeal.  Other than rearranging out trip, it cost us nothing, and we had a nice NEW rental car to run around the Smokies during peak color season, and I was retired and did not really have to be in any particular place. 

When you get lemons, make lemonade.

Ken

 

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Since we've full-timed for 16 years it can't all go smoothly!  We've had our share of mishaps.

We were due to ranch sit on a 10,000 acre ranch in Oregon.  We pulled into the gate and the owner met us and showed us where to park.  We backed into the spot and immediately the left rear of our 40' motorhome broke through the septic tank.  The owner forgot it was there from a previous mobile home in that spot.  We and the owner took two days of building a 'road' within the break so that we would be able to drive out.  Luckily, on a ranch of that size, the owner had every kind of tool and supplies needed.  Railroad ties were used.  The first attempt didn't work and we broke through again.  The second build worked!  In the meantime, we had to sleep on a huge slant and we were worried about our refrigerator because it was way off level. It was OK in the end. We had a side radiator but luckily just the outside frame was dented.  Nothing was torn off the underside.  We laughed a lot afterwards!  The ranch gig was awesome!  We watched the cowboys move the cattle and horses around and we were free to explore the huge acreage with our Jeep.

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I think that for any article of this type, it is important to emphasize the recovery side of each story. For us, the 11+ years on the road were some of the very best in our lives and my worst experience was my wife's health problems, which I had not mentioned because the recovery was to leave the fulltime lifestyle. I don't know if such is appropriate to the article being researched, but I do believe that some type of exit plan is an important part of a successful fulltime experience. Reading this thread brought to mind the recent loss to covid-19 of a member of these forums whose wife returned with a few posts letting us know of his passing. They were in their winter location when he was stricken and I often wonder how she is doing now? I do think that their story has an important lesson that all of us should consider. Every life experience has an ending, even if we choose not to think about it.

Edited by Kirk W
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2 hours ago, Kirk W said:

Reading this thread brought to mind the recent loss to covid-19 of a member of these forums whose wife returned with a few posts letting us know of his passing. They were in their winter location when he was stricken and I often wonder how she is doing now? I do think that their story has an important lesson that all of us should consider. Every life experience has an ending, even if we choose not to think about it.

Another subject for a different article: what do spouses do when their partner passes away?  I’m active on a different RV forum and know people who have gone through it. All of the people went different ways - from the wife who sold their rig right away to the wife that drove their rig back to their home 1500 miles away from where her DH passed away and continued camping on her own.

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Life is full of risks. Sitting at home staring at the fire is one of those risks.

OK not exactly an RV story but an 'on the road' story.

We've traveled to the USA many times since 1982. I estimate we've crossed the Pacific around 60 times. We spent most of 1995 to 2018 traveling in the USA. 2 motorhomes and later a pickup staying at hotels. Never any real issues. Sure minor car and motorhome issues but that can happen driving to the supermarket. In 2018 I had promised a client in Nth Carolina a delivery. But for some reason for the very first time something was telling me not to fly to the USA. But I ignored that feeling and we flew to the USA. On arrival I never felt very well. But after a 16 hour flight who feels well? 3 days after arrival we had to meet our friends Pam and Kirk in east Texas. I had to cancel the first meeting and made it the next day because of pain I was experiencing. Listen to your body!! Well 3-4 days later we got to Nth Carolina and did the delivery. I was feeling very off. So we found a clinic. I was afraid of DVT from the flying. 2 doctors at the clinic examined me and said nothing to worry about. "Highly unlikely in a high risk patient" were their words. So we headed towards Lexington. Long story short. I ended up in ER. I was given a 40% chance of not making it through the night. Acute multiple pulmonary embolism. I had quite a few rough days in hospital. Back to hospital 3 more times before I was allowed to leave Lexington. QANTAS gave me the all clear to fly home.

OK so what am I on about? You see things happen. It's a part of life. You can't live your life wrapped in cotton wool. Manage the risk. But live life like there is no tomorrow. If you sit at home scared of the 'what ifs' then what's the point? Common sense is key. But remember the cemeteries are full of folks with dreams but no memories.

PS. Every chance I have I like to thank the folks at St Joseph hospital in Lexington. They saved my life. They never knew me. They never asked for a credit card. We were foreigners in trouble and they did everything possible to saved my life. They offered a bed for my wife in my room just so she could be with me. I was wheel out in a wheel chair and I'm now here to tell the story. And as luck would have it they handed me an account. WOW, how much. But again luck/god was on my side. I had used our credit card to book the flight over. That came with insurance. At the end of the day the insurance company and St Joseph came to an agreement. Cost me $00.00.

I'm still unwell because of consequences and side affects. But we purchased a new camper back in Australia and we hit the road every chance we get.

Thanks for reading.

bruce

Edited by bruce t
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Kirk and Bruce make some very valid points.

Back in March, while on the way home from our trip described above, we talked about selling the whole rig while the market is hot, waiting until things settle down, and buying back in, hopefully upgrading for even money.  But the reality is, we're in the prime of our traveling years.  Under 70, healthy, recently retired.  Why waste a couple years in the hope of making a few dollars on the rig?  Instead, we sold the truck and I'm nearly finished outfitting the replacement.  Yes, I bought at the peak.....

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Off hand I don't remember the year but we had 1976 Prowler Travel and a 1984 Dodge window van. We were coming back to our home in Penna. about 1 AM Monday morning from a NASCAR race at Rockingham, NC. on Sunday. My wife was driving, we about a 1000' before the Potomac River in West Virginia on I-81. The Potomac is the state line between Maryland and West Virginia. She had just passed a semi that just happened to be owned by the Rockingham track owner and was still in the passing lane with a slight left hand curve. I was laying on the bench seat just behind the captains chairs, our daughter was on the next seat back along with our dog. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. As i reached between the dog box cover and her seat to hit the brake controller we rolled, did not know we rolled until I found our heads on the roof. All of us crawled out onto the grassy medium, but we were now pointed south as we had been traveling north. The semi driver was the first on the scene and checked us out and helped. Shortly the first state trooper on the scene and he checked to see that we were OK, but he also said that he really couldn't help because he was a Maryland state trooper and the WVA trooper would be there shortly. The van was upside down, the Prowler was right side up, but it looked like a bomb went off inside. After things got settled down, the MD. trooper approached me and very quietly said "if you are in the market for a new trailer see me at a RV dealership" in Hagerstown, MD where he worked part time.  That Monday night we went to the salvage yard where they stored it to get some personal stuff. The propane tanks were still in the rack, so I asked them if I could take them. The operator said "take anything you want". For kicks I pulled out our 12 inch AC/DC TV. Later I that week I plugged it in and both voltages worked, now that sucker had to be like a basketball moving around the trailer. Fortunately no one was hurt, just stiff and sore for several days. What we think happened, WVA had just poured new concrete lanes on the northbound side but had not yet built the shoulder up level to the concrete. Since she was still in the passing lane after passing the semi, the tandem wheels dropped down on the shoulder and she over corrected trying to get it back on the concrete. The Prowler of course was totaled. The Dodge van had a new roof and passenger side door replaced, some body work and repaint. At the time the local Ford dealer had a state of the art body shop and that is where insurance took it. Stopped by and said "I will need that January 30 to go to Daytona" Would check every once in a while and it didn't move. So at years end I stopped in again. The wreck happened the last weekend in October. So they finally called it was ready. Our daughter took me out to pick it up. Fortunately she had hung around cars for years. We get home, she says "check the right rear wheel, it wiggles. So I checked the lug tightness first. Nope, they were ok. So then set-up the high tech jack stands and mason cord. Yep, it was wiggling. Pulled that wheel off and put the spare on, wiggle still there. Removed the wheel, re-adjusted  the stands and cord. Sure enough, the axle was kinked. Went out to the body shop first thing the next morning and quizzed them. Didn't believe me as they repeated what I did the night before. Next day, we are heading to Daytona. Claimed they couldn't get an axle shaft. I went to a local salvage yard, picked one up, thru it and the floor jack in the back of the van and off we went. Absolutely no problems the whole trip. Finally sold the the old girl with 332,000 on the clock, she was a tough old gal.  

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On a cross country trip, coming back from California......Within three days....I had a trailer bearing go bad and wipe out the entire axle. Fortunately it happed right outside a trailer fabrication/manufacturing facility. They had me back on the road in a couple hours. Next morning a universal joint was making noise. Pulled into an independent repair shop and back on the road within a couple hours. Next morning the new U-Joint failed. They installed the wrong one. While trying to get to the shoulder of the road, a piece of retread truck tire skin hit my  radiator fan and destroyed it!. Had to be flatbedded 50 miles to another independent repair facility.  The very next morning while stopping for fuel, the front of my trailer was covered with transmission fluid! The brand new BD Diesel transmission I had recently installed had sprung a leak!........Drove home, checking fluid often and had it fixed once at home.........

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