Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Training Wheels - Part 1

Yeah, but some of us wanderers are really lost!

Every fall my family camps at the Fishermen's Memorial State Park at Point Judith, Rhode Island. This year I decided to join them. At first the plan was to stay in a motel close by. As most of you now know, my retirement dream is to buy an RV and travel the US, so my motel plan quickly morphed into renting an RV and camping with them. As luck would have it, I managed to snag the space next to them.  This would be the first time I've ever stayed in an RV, except for when I was a young teen and camped with a friend's family in their camper. And I've certainly never driven one.

Let the adventure begin!

Day 1 - A cancelled connecting flight in Philadelphia to Hartford, CT spelled disaster, but I was lucky enough to get on the next flight as a standby. Still it put me several hours behind schedule. I got to the Cruise America rental place just outside Hartford, went through the thorough orientation, and hit the road.

Teaching Moment #1:  I didn't like driving the big Class C RV. It was hulking and rattled liked nobody's business. It drove fine and after about 15 minutes I was comfortable with driving with the side mirrors. I was 95% sure I wanted a Class B van when I bought an RV. Now I was 100% sure.

I was using my phone's GPS for guidance for the 2 hr drive to the campsite and things were going well until my phone alerted me to a low battery. Can't be! I was plugged into the RV's 12 volt outlet on the dash! A quick check showed me there was no juice charging my phone. YIKES! All I could hope for was it lasting for the duration of the trip.  It didn't. Nor were there any other 12 volt or USB outlets in this basic coach.

About 40 minutes in my phone died and I was left with no driving instructions. I stopped at a convenience store and asked to buy a map. They didn't sell maps. Nor did they sell battery packs for cell phones, although they did carry a very large assortment of chargers and earbuds. Nor did the attendant have any clue how to get to Point Judith.  The second store was about the same.

I wandered around, stopping now and then to ask people for directions. I found two men at another store who gave me some general directions and I wrote them down. By now it was getting dark. I was back on track until I tried to read more of the instructions and realized the cab overhead light was also not working. I couldn't read a word of my directions. I pulled off the road and into a McDonalds to look for a spot to charge my dead phone (something I should have done sooner, stupid me!) and let the family know I wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere, since by now it had been several hours since I'd left the RV place. Alas, there were no public outlets in the Mickey D's I visited.  Then an idea hit me.

Teaching Moment #2:  RVs are self contained. They have generators that provide electricity! Duh! Parked in the back of Mickey D's, I fired up the generator to recharge my phone and call the family. However, I was asked to move along after it was only 10% charged.

Okay, but now we're cooking.  Following the GPS I got really close to my destination but then ran out of juice again.  I pulled over into the parking lot of a closed business and hit the generator again for a several minutes. This time I had enough to get me to the RV park. YAY!

The RV park check-in was closed for the night, but I knew my space number. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. This RV park is a warren of sections and winding roads. After 15 minutes of wandering, I stopped and asked some folks sitting around a campfire where my spot might be. They graciously said they would walk on over there with flashlights and lead the way, but first I had to circle around again because I was on a one way road.

Okay, getting closer. As I wound my way around to get on the right road a man with a flashlight flagged me down. When I stopped he asked, "We've been watching you go around and around. Are you lost?"

Teaching Moment #3: RV people are super nice, kind and helpful. I already knew this, but now I had living proof.

After thanking that man, I headed around and met up with the man who was guiding me to my site. We found it with no trouble and he guided me in as my sister-in-law Marlaine came out of her trailer concerned. Her husband Bob was off in their truck at the entrance waiting for me! We'd probably just missed each other. He returned a minute later.

The two men insisted on hooking me up since it was pitch black out. I didn't argue since I was exhausted, but told them to leave the sewer hose. I didn't need it right then and I really wanted to tackle it myself. So powered up and with water, I was ready to go ... and fully charge my phone.

Marlaine and Bob and I were supposed to go to dinner, but it was too late, so we retreated to their large trailer where I gobbled down a PB&J. Soon after I climbed into my rental rig, got settled and ready for bed.

Teaching Moment #4: I detested the dry bath in the rental rig. The shower took up too much room to use the toilet properly. Seriously, there was probably only 4-5 inches between the end of the commode and the wall. The shower was a nice size but took up way too much room. The only way to effectively use the toilet was to sit with your feet on the rim of the shower. Many times I longed for the big wet bath in the Travato 59K, my rig of choice,

BTW, the hot water heater, the fridge, and the furnace on my rental rig worked great! The bed was big and comfortable the first night and I dropped off to sleep quickly, but after a few nights the thick hard foam wasn't that comfortable. And Cruise America was lovely about the serious problem their faulty 12v outlet caused me. They didn't charge me for the generator use, or my propane (which was minimal), and even knocked off my late fee for returning the rig 2 hours late. They couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating over the issue.

At the end of my first day RVing, I fell asleep wishing I was in my very own rig.


Very soon.


Mark Baker said...

What an adventure!

Christopher Hudson said...

Living the dream! One suggestion (which you may have already done): go sit in that Travato's wet bathroom to make sure it's layout works like you think.

Christopher Hudson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I already have, Chris. And I've sat in a lot of others. Only the Travato has a decent size bath in a smaller rig - wet or dry.

Scott Baldassari said...

Great to read about your first day out! 😄
FYI: I could not post a comment or reply with my iPhone to the web version, I had to load the full version if the blog.

Looking forward to hearing about your adventures when you DO get a Travato. What you gain in leg room for the toilet, you'll probably lose in shower space 😏, but we find the toilet used MUCH more often than the shower. 😉

Calorie Bombshell said...

Great blog! Keep it comin'!