Story by Trina Hargis. This is the story of our families first and only RV vacation. The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent.
Our First and Only RV Vacation
Saturday, June 13th, 2009
My Dad, Roger, brought his 2006 Islander RV to our house with their Saturn SUV in tow. It was to be our new home for the summer.
Our Family, my husband Chris and our children, William 13, Audrey 10, Luke 13 months, and me, Trina excitedly packed our clothes, food, and personal belongings. We were ready for an adventure of a lifetime exploring the western states of America. It was to be our first RV vacation. We became familiar with the RV set up and could hardly wait to leave the next morning.
Dad gave Chris a crash course in RV driving. He told him not to worry, have fun, be safe, and that he trusted us to take good care of his RV.
Before going to bed, Chris discovered the turn signals and brake lights weren’t working. Kevin, the mechanic at Chris’s shop, came by the house to look at the hookup and fix the lights. The kids and I went to bed. We had an early wake-up.
While the rest of us slept, Chris and Kevin worked until 2 am but finally got the turn signals and brake lights working. Yay! We could now travel safely and were ready for our RV vacation!
Sunday, June 14th (Flag Day)
The family left our neighborhood at 11:30 am destination South Dakota! We made it 11 miles to Brownsburg. The first order of business, lunch at Applebee’s. I noticed the air conditioner wasn’t cooling too well. So, Chris drove to a KOA in Rockville, IL. That bill was only $52.00
Monday, June 15th
The next stop was at Thompson’s repair ($200.00) and were on the road by 4:00 pm. Next stop, Neola, Iowa. Our crew arrived at 8:25 pm and stayed the night at Arrowhead ($12.00). It rained all night.
Tuesday, June 16th
It was on to Camping World for more repairs to the RV. Rhonda, my stepmom, had called ahead to find a place that had the part and could work on it. We lost a day’s travel in the waiting room of the service center. We left at 5:15 after spending $2,058.49 on a new inverter. An inverter converts 12-volt DC power from your RV batteries to 120-volt AC. Without it, almost nothing inside the RV would operate.
We drove to Family-E-Fun campground ($22.00). Our 13-month-old son, projectile vomited his last bite of sweet potatoes and applesauce. I blamed it on motion sickness. We arrived at 10:15 pm. When all settled in and had cleaned up the projectile vomit (you wouldn’t think a 13-month-old could cause so much damage), we looked at our next destination.
Our 13-month-old had a fever. Only two days into our RV vacation, and we have our first sick family member. Thankfully, I had packed a mini drugstore. The RV was headed west.
Wednesday, June 17th
We arrived at Crooked Creek Resort in Hill City, South Dakota, one thousand ninety-eight miles from home. As the RV progressed west, we ventured from campgrounds to Walmart parking lots for a night’s stay. It was free, other RVers usually joined us, and it was convenient for groceries and essentials.
Friday, June 19th
Next was Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. We arrived at our reserved campsite and settled in. The first order of business was to unhook the Saturn and park the RV on the pad. We pulled over and parked just beyond the check-in station and got out of the RV. Chris unhooked the Saturn as the kids, and I watched it roll backward. He forgot it was in neutral. He didn’t put it in park. Chris ran to grab the front bumper while yelling for William to jump in and put his foot on the brake. Whew, it was quite a show. Little did we know this would be the least of our mishaps on our RV vacation.
So, we settled in, set up camp, and made dinner. The kids got to stretch their legs and play at the camp playground. Later we all laughed at the great car get-a-way. As we got ready to shower and go to bed, Audrey opened the shower door and discovered poop standing in the drain. She gagged. The putrid odor spread throughout the RV. We all gagged.
We asked the office for a tank pump but we were out of luck. The office closed at 6:00. Desperate, Chris offered $100 for an emergency pump. At 10:00 pm, we became the main attraction at the park as all our neighbors watched us receive the emergency poop pump. After a good night’s sleep, with the windows open, we were up for an outdoor breakfast and our next RV vacation adventure.
Chris and I were securing the grill and supplies in the storage bin when we noticed one of the hubcaps was missing. Fantastic! Add another $190 to our bill. Had we encountered a hubcap bandit, or had it come loose rolling down the road!? I thought surely; we’d be done with bloopers for a while. I was wrong.
We drove to the nearest gas station to refuel and wash the day’s bugs from the windshield. William and Audrey enjoyed doing this because they got to stand on a ladder and use a long-handled squeegee as their little brother watched from inside. All was going well when Chris called out, “Who has the gas cap?” No way. Is he serious? Is he joking? Nope, not a joke. Today’s first RV vacation adventure—find a replacement gas cap.
Coming out of the hills after leaving Mt. Rushmore, Chris asked, “Does anyone smell something burning?” we all agree. Yes, something is burning. The smell is alarming. William is told to grab the fire extinguisher. Chris pulls to the side of the road. We discover we’ve burnt up the brakes because we didn’t properly use what we now know as the “Jake Brakes.” After another call home to my dad, a retired truck driver, he says, “I never thought to tell you how to use the Jake Brakes, oops.” Sigh.
Closing Up Camp
After another night of solid rain, we got up the next morning, closed up camp, packed our outside gear, and secured the stuff inside for another day of travel. The team had gotten pretty good at locking things down so they don’t roll off tables and such. Trying to be helpful, I pushed the button to roll in the bump-out, so all would be ready when Chris was done outside. As we rolled the area rug, making room for the bump-out to “slide” in, I heard a terrible metallic tearing sound.
I looked outside and then at the floor to assess the damage when I noticed the wood trim has ripped off the wall in the kitchen and the bump-out. I couldn’t keep moving it because it was stuck on the captain’s chair. What have I done? As I quickly reversed the room to slide back out, I tore the chair’s metal brackets and bolts from the floor. What was once a comfortable leather chair accidentally had been ripped into becoming a rocking chair.
Just then, Chris opened the door and said, “DIDN’T YOU SEE ME!?” Shocked about my accident and confused by his question, I see him standing there soaking wet. His hat, clothes, and face look like a water hose has been turned on him. I thought, “What? How is he all wet?” Chris says, “I was standing right there when you rolled the room in. ALL THE RAINWATER DUMPED ON TOP OF ME!”
Apparently, our closing up communication still needed improvement. I could ask, “All clear, captain?” I was sure we’d get better (my fingers were crossed).
Chris pulled the RV into the rest stop because looking out the side mirror I could see black residue all over the Saturn. The hood, windshield, and front of the car were covered in black oil.
Chris inspected the engine compartment to see what the problem was. He was lying on his stomach, covered with a mixture of sweat and motor oil. The 89-degree heat and heat from the engine were brutal. As he crawled out, he burnt his leg on the exhaust. He jerked his leg, and broke the bolt to the bracket that held the Saturn to the RV.
An Answered Prayer
I said maybe God would send someone to help us. I caught an expression of doubt on Chris’s face. Just then, I heard the rumble of an RV pulling in beside us. The driver got out of the car and walked directly to Chris, “Looks like you folks could use some help.” Amazingly this retired surgeon had the tools and a spare bolt to match the broken one. I looked to the heavens and whispered, “Thank you.”
Back on the Highway, our sights were set on our next destination. Chris asked for a drink to cool down. I unbuckled, walked back to the fridge, opened the door, and out falls a can! It busted as the top hit the floor, spewing sticky diet coke in a four-foot radius all over the furniture, floor, carpet, and cabinets. Everyone scurried to clean it up.
Pro tip: When opening the fridge in a moving RV, do so very slowly. Very, very, slowly.
As the evening set in, a fever set in Audrey, all the nearest immediate healthcare facilities were full, so I looked for a hospital. She had a virus. We contacted our family doctor back home to get a prescription filled. Her fever lasted two days. It was our second sick family member.
Tuesday, June 23rd
Yellowstone, here we come! I got pretty good at calling ahead for overnight campsites as we traveled. I had confirmed our next stopover on the phone.
We finally arrived! Chris parked just short of the check-in station. I got out and walked up to the gate to get our reservation confirmed. I was told the park was full. What? This can’t be! I looked at the attendant pleadingly and said,” Ma’am, my husband is going to kill me if I walk back and tell him we have nowhere to stay tonight.” I begged her for “anything.” After waiting patiently for what seemed like ages but was only a few minutes, she found us a makeshift spot. I thanked her repeatedly, turned, and walked back with the good news.
We had the smallest slab of concrete in the park. Our 38-foot RV barely fit, and the Saturn was in the road. By the time we set up, it was almost 8 pm. YIKES! I had been told explicitly, “NO GENERATORS AFTER 9!” We hurriedly made dinner, cleaned up, and settled in for the night. Our family mission, get a good night’s sleep in the hot summer temperatures without our generator. Good luck.
After exploring Yellowstone, we were hot and thirsty and decided to visit the gift shop and snack area. Ahh! The air conditioning was such a relief. I noticed popsicles and Ice cream bars in a cooler and decided on a fudge pop. While the rest of the family was exploring the gift shop, I took the first bite of my fudgesicle. Except, it wasn’t a full bite. It stuck to my bottom lip. Well, this is embarrassing; a fudge pop was stuck to my lip.
No one I knew was in sight. I thought about going back to the clerk to buy water, but I couldn’t with this chocolate torture device stuck to my lower lip. I thought I was okay because it would eventually melt. It didn’t melt, so I pulled at it, and now I’m missing skin off my lower lip.
Later, Chris and William hiked a mountain. About 100 yards from the top, a storm rolled in. On the map, it said to find the trailhead, look for cans. They looked and looked for aluminum cans to no avail. Finally, they met someone on the trail. His name was Marty, and he explained cans were rocks stacked atop each other. They instantly made a new friend in Marty and hiked the trail together. Marty said there was a lot of iron in the rocks, and if lightning struck, it could kill you! The trip down was much faster than up. By the time they reached the bottom, William was suffering from altitude sickness. Chris and William both got nose bleeds.
July 2nd – 4th
Snowy Peaks RV Park, Bueno Vista, Colorado, is about to be the site of the biggest and most devastating of all our accidents making the others look small in comparison.
We were checking into the RV park. An older gentleman who worked there guided us into our designated spot when Chris heard a loud noise on what appeared to be the top of the RV. Chris opened the sliding window and asked the man, “Is everything okay?” The man motioned Chris to keep backing up. As Chris backed up, the noise continued. A branch was cutting the fiberglass edge of the roof, opening it like it was a can of corn. Chris asked again, “Are you sure everything is okay?” The man reassured him it was, so Chris continued to our spot. Chris got out and climbed the ladder to the top of the roof and saw the damage. Sigh. It would definitely be our last RV family vacation. Ever.
I’d like to add that I called home to apologize to dad for all of the accidents & mishaps. He was very understanding.
You see, I had to work up the courage to call because my dad kept everything perfect when I was growing up. Clean, neat, and as close to brand new as possible. He was a bit of a neat freak when I was a child.
Surprisingly he said, “As long as you are all okay that’s all the matters.” It was a big relief.