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When Heath and I started RVing, we were mostly focused on how it was the most economical way for us to travel full-time in the US.
What we didn’t take into account was, well, everything about RVing. We had NO idea what we were doing, what the tanks meant, how to hook up at RV parks—basically our ignorance was the inspiration for my first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV. We were completely clueless beginners.
And as beginners, we almost killed ourselves.
Like, a lot.
Waaaaaaaay too often.
So I thought I’d share some of the more outrageous things that could’ve killed us during our first year on the road.
1. That time our engine was overheating on the Pacific Coast Highway.
“Just unbuckle, open the door, and jump.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked Heath.
“The engine is really hot. If the brakes go out, don’t even think about it. Just open the door and jump.” He paused. “Maybe try to tuck your shoulder and roll. We aren’t driving too fast so you should be okay.”
“Okay, now I’m concerned that you’re not actually kidding.”
I peered over the guardrails that apparently had no chance of stopping our RV from careening into the frothy white water crashing against the rocky coastline below. The sheer cliffs offered a fantastic view of the lush coastal mountains and deep blue Pacific. Not a bad last view if you’re about to die, which seemed to be what Heath was implying.
“Which would you prefer, jumping out of a moving vehicle or flying over a cliff and drowning in the ocean?”
“How are these my only two choices?!”
THANKS FOR THE SCARE HEATH.
2. “You were definitely struck by lightning.”⚡️
“Or if not struck by lightning, it was close enough to melt your battery.”
We were camping in South Dakota in August and the sky looked like this before noon. Not wanting to drive through the darkening skies, we booked a night at an RV park that luckily had blazing fast wifi.
In the middle of streaming Netflix for the first time on our trip, we couldn’t hear our movie for the sound of rain, lightning, and thunder attacking the RV. Intimidated by the intensity of the storm, we decided to find shelter until the danger passed.
After sitting in the floor of the RV park bathhouse for an hour, we walked in the still falling rain back to our RV. Opening the door, it was clear. The electrical system was fried. The lights wouldn’t turn on. The fridge wasn’t working. And—most terrifying—the coffeemaker wouldn’t turn on.
We tried to troubleshoot everything, but the one thing we didn’t account for?
Our RV was struck by lightning while we shared a shower stall with half a dozen strangers.
Lesson learned: Always take shelter.
3. Tornados 🌪
There’s a tornado in that storm somewhere ⬆️
An app on Heath’s phone told me so and that overpass just ahead was going to be our home for a little while. Because if we kept driving, our whole house was likely to fly through the air Twister-style.
You know what’s common in the midwest in August? Tornados.
You know who did not know that?
Heath and Alyssa when they planned to cross the midwest in August.
We took shelter soooo many times, but hey we were only struck by lightning once at least 👍🏼
4. Our fridge blowing up.
If you park your RV on an incline (typically anything greater than 3º), your propane fridge can have a dangerous chemical reaction and leave white and blue questionable residue everywhere.
Yep, we know this one from experience.
We weren’t in the RV when it happened, but we did have to replace the fridge and clean up the mess it left behind. To add insult to injury, we had less than $70 to our name when this happened and couldn’t afford a new fridge. We lived without a fridge for a full month before buying a small apartment fridge so we could finally have cold food again!
We ate a LOT of popcorn for dinner that month 🍿
5. Propane leak 😷
If you’re thinking wait, living without a fridge didn’t almost kill you…
Oh but it did.
Because in that picture up above, you can see a capped propane line. Many RV fridges can run on propane and when we removed our broken fridge, we capped the line.
But the cap didn’t hold.
We woke up very sick one morning before realizing propane was slowly leaking into our home. We rushed to the mechanic and had the entire propane line removed—costing us a bit of money and further delaying our ability to replace our fridge—so we could sleep soundly again.
6. “Your brake pads shattered.”
In Ohio, our brakes started making a weird noise. But they still worked.
In Virginia, we finally got our RV into the shop.
(That’s 12 states later, in case you were wondering.)
Somewhere along the way, our brake pads shattered.
How? How do brake pads shatter?
I still don’t know.
That was the official diagnosis (and it cost a cool $500 to get the brakes and rotors replaced from all the damage).
How the brakes did not go out and leave us wrapped around a tree somewhere, I’ll never know.
7. Caution: Low Clearance Ahead
Last, but not least, you haven’t really RVed unless you’ve stumbled accidentally on a low clearance that will certainly take the roof off your RV.
(Just us? No?)
On our way to New York City, my very handsome but not terribly observant husband took an exit toward a dozen bright orange “8 FOOT CLEARANCE” signs.
I know it’s New York, but I’ve never heard so many car horns in my life.
Thank you to the stranger who politely, by northeastern standards, forced us off the road and offered to lead us back to the safety of the interstate.
Honorable Mention: That one time our tow car started rolling off our dolly.
Would have more likely killed someone else than killed us, but if our car flew off the dolly and wrecked someone else’s car, I’m pretty sure our lives would be over.
Okay, I’m kind of getting stressed seeing all of these listed out one by one 😂
You can read the full stories behind all these incidents plus more of what RV life is actually like in my new book, RVing Across America. Pre-order now on Amazon 🙂