rv nightmares

RV Nightmares: Top 4 Things That Have Gone Horribly Wrong on the Road

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Towing and slide malfunctions galore! Learn from our RVing mistakes and hear some pretty hilarious (at times traumatizing) RV nightmare stories.Hello and welcome to what I can only hope is the first and only episode of RV Nightmares: The Heath and Alyssa Story.

Last week, after waaaaaay too many delays, Heath and I finally hit the road, leaving Texas and heading north for Canada. We usually prefer to avoid Texas summers at all costs, but we had two important weddings to attend, that we just couldn’t miss.

So we stayed in town at my parent’s house, which gave Heath plenty of time to install the tow kit on our Honda CR-V. I’m proud to say Heath installed the base plate on our car almost entirely on his own (Shout out to David Henry for teaching Heath the ropes!). Heath did an awesome job, but it took days longer than we expected. Such is RV life, right?

So we finally head west last week, and we raced a giant thunderhead along the highway all the way to Amarillo. As you can see, it was like driving into fire:

Two nights ago Alyssa and I drove out of Denton, TX, beginning our summer route up to Canada. This crazy storm started popping up on the radar and we were racing it the whole way to Amarillo. Everything on one side of the RV was blue skies and on the other was black sky with insane wind gusts. When we got to Amarillo our slide out only came out half way and we had to spend most of yesterday at the mechanic. I let myself get really stressed and worked up. I think I’m just out of “mental RV shape”. Its been awhile since I had to roll with the punches on the open road and experience set backs like this. But as I’m writing this we made it to our first stop in La Veta, CO and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It was worth the stress and strain to get here. Alyssa told me this morning that her notebook’s quote of the day was “A road with no obstacles isn’t worth traveling.” I think we’re doing our best to literally embrace that metaphor today. But life is good. #winnebagolife #rvlife #alyssaandheathgotocanada

A photo posted by Heath Padgett (@heathpadgett) on

This is when things started to get a little hairy. So hold on to your hats folks, we’ve got some RV nightmares to share. This is the top four things that have gone horribly, annoyingly wrong in our adventure to Canada.

RV Nightmare #4: The Tow Car U-Turn Debacle

Finding an RV park is unnecessarily stressful for Heath and I. When we’re on the road, I’m happy with a park right off the highway when we’re just passing through a town. I use Passport America to find something cheap and convenient. Heath is more of the read-every-review-online persuasion and picks whichever park has the best rating and/or pool.

In Amarillo, I won this debate and found us a super convenient park right off the Interstate for $12. Score! Right? Well when we arrived at the address, Heath took a right toward what looked like an office building and we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle.

The sites to the right were all taken and we needed to turn around to get back toward the open sites. There was a wide grassy area that dead-ended and we had to make a u-turn to get back toward the park. Keep in mind that it’s 10 PM, we’ve been driving all day, and we seemed to have awakened 20 yapping dogs in nearby RVs.  Heath tries to attempt the u-turn and almost makes it, but there’s a post right in the way. (Of course there’s a post, why wouldn’t there be a post?)

So we hop out of the RV to unhook the car and it’s incredibly windy outside since there’s a storm blowing in. I’m holding a flashlight so Heath can see the tow kit and unhook the proper pins. Heath unlocks one pin and tries to pull it out. It won’t budge. I mean it won’t even think about movingHe tries the second pin on the driver’s side. Same situation. Heath cuts his hand open because he’s pulling on these pins so hard trying to get them out. So now there’s blood and wind and yapping dogs and our car is stuck and our RV is stuck and I’m pretty sure Heath is going to kill me for picking this &#%$&@ RV park.

Heath installing the tow kit not knowing it would soon be his demise.

Heath grabs a hammer (fortunately not to kill me) and pounds the first pin until it pops out. He hits the pin so hard that it flies out of tow package and we have to shine the flashlight to find it in the grass. It’s like he’s playing Don’t Break the Ice with our tow kit. The second pin, despite the hammering, gets halfway out but still won’t budge when Heath tries to pull it.

Heath decides to use the other pin as a prop to help force this pin out. So pin number two finally flies out into the grass and now pin number one is stuck in pin number two’s slot. Things are getting ridiculous. Heath hammers a screwdriver to try to force out pin number one. We finally get the pins out and get the car completely unhooked, but by now it’s been 20 minutes, Heath and I are both in bad moods from the whole debacle and all we want to do is go to sleep.

3. The Can’t-Reach-the-Underwear-Drawer Escapade

Alright so we find an open campsite and park. (Still not speaking after u-turn incident, which Heath was blaming me for). We put down our jacks. We put out our slide–oh wait. No we don’t. Our slide, which reaches from the very back of our RV to just behind the driver’s seat, goes out about 5 inches in the back side and does not even move out a millimeter in the front. We try to bring the slide back in, so we can bring it back out again to see if that fixes the problem. Nothing. Heath tries to push the backside back in. Nothing. Heath tries to push frontside out. Nothing. This thing is STUCK. Neither of the two slide motors are engaging.

This means we can’t access half of our sink, we lose all our floorspace in the bathroom, and, AND because our bed slides right up against our closet drawers, we can’t access our clothes. No clean underwear or socks or pants or anything. This is minutes after the u-turn debacle, by the way.

There’s nothing we can do, especially since it’s now 10:30 at night, so I make quesadillas since neither of us had dinner yet, and we go to sleep in excellent moods.

The next morning, Heath calls our roadside assistance and they promise someone will be by the help by 9:30 am. Great! Well, he arrives and is about as sketchy as they come in the country right outside of Amarillo. He says there’s nothing he can do and the slide is too big for him to work on and hands us a bill for coming out. He does fortunately recommend a place in town where we can get our RV fixed, but it’s miles away. SO WE DRIVE WITH OUR SLIDE HALF OUT DOWN THE HIGHWAY. I mean, what else do you do in this situation?

We drive to Custom RV in Amarillo and they graciously take a mechanic off another rig to help us with ours. I cannot say enough good things about these guys. They get us back on the road in less than three hours.

Unrelated side story:

In the meantime, Heath and I go to get my car inspected, since the registration was set to expire while we are in Canada.  So we sit and wait in a Kwik Kar for a few minutes when Heath suddenly bolts out the door and comes back a minute later.

“So don’t be mad, but when we drove up I told the mechanic that we needed an oil change.”

“We don’t need an oil change. We need an inspection.”

“Yeah, I remember that now, but they’re already halfway done with the oil change. So, can you go out there and give our proof of insurance to the mechanic? Cause I don’t know where that would be.”

My car didn’t need an oil change, but I suppose fresh oil can’t be a bad thing. So this doesn’t make the top 4 list for horrible things that have happened on the road, but bickering in the mechanic waiting room isn’t exactly a fond past time.

2. The Gosh Darn Slide Number Two Fiasco (Ongoing)

After getting back on the road after our day at the mechanics, Heath and I pull over just shy of the Texas state line to stay the night in the middle of no where. We’re in much better spirits, feeling like we’ve overcome the bulwarks preventing us from making it to Canada. (Aw, we were so young then. So naive.)

The next morning, I’ll be damned if our baby slide, which is what we call the slide containing just our dinette, also gets itself all caddywompus. It’s the exact same problem our big slide had: When we try bringing it in, the front side motor operates faster than the back, bringing the slide in crooked (or out of “time” is the technical term).

Except this time, we aren’t talking about a five inch difference like the big slide. This is more like 12 inches. Fortunately in this case, both motors on the slide are both operating enough to where Heath can use his guns to manually push the slide in enough for us to drive. It took us about five tries, but we finally were able to get the slide flush with our motorhome.


We spent the next few days in La Veta, Colorado on a friend’s ranch (where we were supposed to show up two days sooner, until the great slide escapade of 2016). We opt to not push out our baby slide on the off chance that we aren’t able to push it back in. The mountain views help our RV feel not so tiny, even though we lose a solid 20 sq. feet of living space by not being able to use this slide.

I’m currently writing this blog while sitting in our dinette outside of Denver in a mechanic’s parking lot. We found a Winnebago dealer who could service our rig and kindly fit us in today to work on our slide. And, well, maybe this should be the number one most horrible thing because they can’t fix it! They said they can, but it will take two weeks to get the right parts in and we would have to kiss our Canadian adventure good bye.

They did say they were able to get it realigned, but that there was no guarantee that the realignment would last very long. When we just popped out our slide in their parking lot, it’s still having issues and is now just as caddywompus, half-in, half-out chilling in the parking lot.

Update: The mechanic’s boss’ boss just came out and showed us how we can manually realign and still use our slide, but we will still have to wait until we are in Forest City at Winnebago’s headquarters to get the assembly issue fixed. (Note: I don’t know what an assembly is. This is the word mechanics use.) So our baby slide is out, it just takes a lot longer for us to bring it in and out.

1. The “I Almost Died, You Didn’t Hear Me?!” Catastrophe

Two nights back, Heath and I arrived at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. It’s a gorgeous park nestled into the side of Cheyenne Mountain, just southwest of Colorado Springs. We’re still living with the baby slide in, by the way.

Merica in the wild. #RV #rving #camping #Colorado #statepark #travel #adventure #outdoors #wild #mountains

A photo posted by Alyssa Padgett (@alyssapadge) on

Heath goes outside to hook us up to electricity and unhook the car while I wait inside working on my computer. The engine is running (it needs to be on to put down our jacks and take out our slides) and the A/C units both kick on in the rig after Heath plugs us into electric. I’m in the zone, paying no attention to how long Heath has been outside, surrounded by the gentle hum of the A/C blowing out cool air.

Something like 10 minutes later, Heath bursts in the door pouring sweat and looking a little shaken.

“You didn’t hear me?”

“What?” I ask, confused.

“I was banging on the back of the RV!”

“Why? What happened?”

“I was unhooking the car, and I guess we’ve never parked the RV on a hill like this before, so when I unhooked the tow package, the car rolled forward and I had to push the car back to keep it from hitting the RV. I was pinned against the RV, banging on the back so you would come help me!”

“You didn’t take the car out of neutral before unhooking it?!”

“Obviously I forgot. And I kept banging on the RV and you never came out. Luckily one of the neighbors saw me and helped me. The car was crushing me against the RV.”

There is probably nothing more terrifying than your husband saying that he almost died while you were completely oblivious 30 feet away. Thank God for neighbors! Now I try to go outside when Heath unhooks the car to make sure he remembers to shift it in park before unhooking it.

This was all in the past week and let me tell you, I am exhausted! Here’s to hoping the rest of our drive to Canada is boring and uneventful!

What’s the worst thing that has happened to you on a road trip?

19 Responses

  • We hauled a travel trailer on our (7 month!) road trip last year.

    On the FIRST DAY the water pump in our truck went bad.
    We over heated and had to pull off the highway and get towed into town.

    It went from the best day to the worst day pretty quick.

    Fortunately we got a new water pump and were back on the road in less than 24 hours.

    It would not have been such a big deal if it didn’t happen on the FIRST DAY!

  • I’m sensing a theme: Heath keeps you on your toes. ha!

    Man, I really really hope none of these happen again, or at least not basically all at the same time!

    • Hahaha yeah maybe next time the issues can space themselves out a little better instead of slamming us all in one week!

  • Well told and sorry for the trouble! At least of a moment I won’t envy having slide outs. Our worst was probably when I took an unplanned shower from the black water tank.


  • Oh my, that sure is one crazy rough week. Praying for the rest of your trip to be fun & safe.

  • Glad to hear you two survived. I always like how trials can toughen us up. We had a streak of broken windshields helping to move family from FL to TN: 3 windshields, 3 different vehicles, all in 3 weeks . . . We became preferred customers with Safelite.

  • When our kitchen slide failed to engage, it was much worse than having clean underwear! We could not access the wine! There is never a time when you need it more after the mobile RV repair guy says it can’t be fixed! Fortunately, the local RV dealership stopped working on other people’s problems & spent the next 3 hours working on ours! No need to stop at liquor store now – could not afford it anyway!

  • We haven’t experienced anything as bad as you guys have, but one night just outside Yellowstone, I dragged John out of bed to look at the stars with me and we got locked out of the camper in 40 degree weather! After bending our door out of shape, using a neighbor’s phone for an hour to get through to help, and a failed attempt by the creepiest AAA guy, Good Sam came to the rescue by 4am. Luckily, we had access to some blankets and our truck b/c we had memorized the keypad code THAT day so it wasn’t too terrible but still got a good story out of it! And now I know we have to unlock both door handles from the outside when we set up!!

    • Dang!!!! That stinks! I would be beyond pissed if that happened to us. 4AM and cold weather are not my favorite things.

  • […] trying to unwind from work. Our travel plans changed at least a hundred times, we dealt with waaaay too many mechanical issues, and we missed out on a couple opportunities that we were really looking forward to (like our plans […]

  • I always carry two extra shear pins for the tow bar just because you might forget to put them back in the rig or in the event one bends and you need a replacement. They cost a few bucks for two.

    Also when I unhook I first put the tow vehicle in park then release the tow bar tension with the two levers on my blue ox. If you don’t and if the car is on an incline the car will roll forward until the tow bar collapses to its smallest point and it puts pressure on the shear pin making pin removal impossible. First put car in park, then release pressure on blue ox arms using the two levers and pins should be easily removable.

    And finally anytime you are in a partial turn (as opposed to a straight line) you may “bind” the hitch making one pin removable but impossible to remove the other even if you have released the pressure by pressing the levers on the blue ox. To free it I get in the car, start the engine and nudge the car ahead about 1 inch then put back in park and turn it off, then press the release levers again and you should be able to remove the pins.

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