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Sometimes I am overwhelmed with how little I know about RVing..

February 24, 2018

Whenever we have to back into a campsite, it always seems to attract a crowd. Not because of how stellar our driving skills are or how impressive our RV is, they've come to see Laurel and Hardy, two idiots who can't back up their RV to save their lives.

 

When we pulled into the Homosassa River RV park (Homosassa, Florida) the usual crowd began to gather. As I was trying to negotiate into our spot, I see the "old-timers" shaking their head in that sort of, "That's not how I would do it" way.

 

The hardest part of backing up a fifth-wheel is that it's counter-intuitive. When I turn the steering wheel to the right it moves the back end of my RV to the left (yes I know about holding the bottom of the steering wheel but that's counter-intuitive for me as well), and the degree that I turn my steering wheel has little bearing on how much the back end of my RV moves.  Then there are times when I turn my steering wheel and the back-end turns in ways that totally defy logic. It's a rather confusing and intimidating process.

 

When the old-timers get tired of laughing, they step forward to offer their opinions. Inevitably one man will step to my driver's side window and another to the passenger side and then the differing opinions begin to fly. They comment on how hard I should turn the wheel and in which direction and how much gas to give it etc.. And of course, there is always that one person standing directly across the street looking smug and shaking his head as if to indicate everybody in the world is an idiot except himself. It's not a fun experience and only heightens my awareness of how little I (we) really know.

 

Recently, my wife and I got some bad advice about how to secure our parked RV. On the kingpin is a small device called a Break-Away Switch.

There is a key in switch that is attached by a cable to my truck. If the RV ever disengages from the hitch, the key pulls from the switch causing the brakes on the RV to immediately lock up. This stops your RV from passing you on the interstate if it ever pulls loose from the truck hitch (God forbid!)

 

We were told that for security purposes, the key should be removed from the switch whenever your RV is to be left unattended. Because this locks the brakes, there is no way someone could steal your RV. What a great idea! So we innocently went about disconnecting the key from the switch whenever we pulled into a campground.

 

A few days ago, one of the other campers saw us doing this and told us how dangerous it was. With no key in place, pressure is constantly being applied to your brakes which could cause important parts of your braking system to burn out. "Oh crap!" we both thought simultaneously. AND because electricity is constantly flowing through the  switch, it could also burn out the small unit. He went over and jiggled some of the wires coming from the device and they crumbled. The switch box itself had been warped by the excessive heat. You can even see the black bulge in the box in the above picture.

 

Again, alarm bells began going off in our head causing us to question the wisdom of two inexperienced people living in (and pulling) a vehicle they know nothing about. Only experienced, long-haul truck drivers should be allowed to do this sort of thing!

 

It is usually at this low point, when our situation looks particularly bleak, that a hero steps forward. A voice of calm in a sea of confusion. Today that hero is Ron (and his lovely wife, Pat).

 

This kind, fatherly figure not only helped us back in, he saw our predicament and gently walked us through the repair process. Not only did he explain the voltage flow of the RV, he helped me reattach the new unit (only $13, whew!), strip and solder the wires in place, attach waterproof, heat-shrink tubing (fortunately he had a heat gun) and, never once made me feel foolish for not knowing these things!

 

He also helped me jack up our RV to check if our brakes were still working properly. Much to our relief, they were!

 

One of the things we have loved most about RVing is that people are so unbelievably friendly...

always willing to step in and help each other. It is a tremendous relief to know that no matter what predicament we stumble into, help is not far off.

 

I look forward to the day where my accumulated knowledge can be used to give bad advice to other beginners! But seriously, I look forward to the day when we feel we've moved beyond the "break-in" period and can offer more assistance than we require.

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