Last week, I asked our Facebook community what topics they wanted to hear about on the podcast. One person said she wanted to hear about everything we were currently struggling with. Well Camille, I don’t think you know what you were asking.
I’m writing this post in hopes that it will bring our streak of misfortune to a halt. (Is that a thing? I hope so.)
These past two weeks of #RVlife have been brutally overwhelming.
This is a 3500 word brain dump from me, so I conveniently added in big bold section titles. Feel free to skip to the next chapter if one gets boring, just don’t miss the final End of Life chapter.
This post will make you laugh, cry, and hopefully (or not hopefully) make you think, ‘Oh yeah I’ve been there.’
Let’s start from the beginning…
Saturday, getting stood up and no good day ends at the Apple store
I love Saturday mornings at campgrounds. At most campgrounds, you’re surrounded by people on vacation who are all smiles and s’mores and campfires. This morning was no different, except that Heath and I were cleaning the RV feverishly.
We were staying in the Adirondacks to film a campground video. Heath would be flying out and spend half the week at Winnebago HQ, while I filmed the park video. That Saturday morning before he flew out, we set a meeting with the campground hosts to hear their vision for the video, hence why we were cleaning the RV. We planned to meet with them at 10:30 AM, four hours before I needed to leave to take Heath to the airport.
Then Heath’s computer crashed.
This has nothing to do with the meeting, but it was terrible timing considering he was about to fly to Iowa for a series of big meetings, all of which required a computer. We called Apple, who conveniently had a location near the airport, and set up a time to drop off Heath’s laptop. I told Heath that he could take my laptop to Iowa, no problem!
Major crisis averted, we thought.
Then we realized it was well past 10:30 AM and the campground owners still hadn’t come by for our meeting. Hours passed and they were no where to be seen. We hadn’t seem them around the campground and they hadn’t called or emailed us. Finally we couldn’t wait anymore and we hopped in the car to take Heath to Albany–an hour and a half away–for his flight.
At this point we were pretty frustrated as we’d already been at the park for two full days already and the campground owners still hadn’t met with us. They were paying us to film their park, so it was pretty annoying that we’d intentionally come to their park and they hadn’t given us the time of day.
But whatever, we told ourselves. We can make the video without their input if we have to, and if they don’t like it, it’s their fault for not trying to communicate with us.
So we make the drive to the Apple store and drop off Heath’s computer which will take 3-5 business days to repair. It’s inconvenient, but at least Apple Care will cover the cost.
Then I realize I forgot my wallet back in the RV. I’ll be driving home alone for an hour and a half without my driver’s license. Driving in states where you’re not a resident is stressful enough and now here I was with my license, or credit cards, or anything. Plus Heath would be on the plane worried about me, cause he’s kind of big worry wart when it comes to leaving me along in the rig.
I feel pretty bad, mostly because without my ID or money, I can’t make the pitstop at Walmart that I was planning. After a month in small towns across upstate New York, we desperately needed a run to a big box store to stock up on supplies (read: we were out of wine and there isn’t a liquor store with 30 miles of the campground).
At this point, we’re just having a bad day. Nothing a slice of pizza can’t fix (which we promptly ordered from Domino’s).
Then I open my laptop to make sure it’s charged for Heath…
AND IT WON’T WORK.
It’s giving me a grey screen with a blinking question mark that’s telling me it can’t find the internal hard drive. The internal hard drive with all my files and photos and everything that I’m usually good at backing up, but haven’t backed up since Christmas.
Lesson #1: Regularly back up your [computer, phone, files, hard drives].
Lesson #2: There’s obviously something in the air at Apple that infects and kills your electronics (right?).
We can’t make it to the Apple store before he leaves, not that they would be able to fix it that quickly anyway, and now neither of us have laptops. Fortunately I still have my iMac in the RV to edit film projects.
But Heath is stressed TO THE MAX that he now doesn’t have a computer to take to his meetings at Winnebago. I have all his stress recorded on my phone, because I thought our rough day would make for a comical podcast episode one day. He won’t let me release it. 😂
Monday, let it pour
They know how to do thunderstorms in the Adirondacks. It poured rain from sun up to sun down, although I saw neither. This was especially frustrating because it meant one less day I could film the park. No one sees shots of mud puddles and fog and thinks that’s where I want to spend my summer vacation.
With our laptops out of commission, Heath lost his podcast files and had no way to record an episode to go live on Tuesday. With sponsor contracts to uphold and a personal goal to never miss a Tuesday episode in 2017, Heath was not about to let a week go by without a new episode…he just had no way to record one.
As you may already know if you listen to the RVE podcast, I stepped up and our podcast editor interviewed me for an episode. It was stressful and fun and you can hear the pouring rain through the whole episode. We had to pause recording a couple times for thunder. But we finished and eliminated another huge stress point from Heath. Woo hoo! Things are looking up.
The campground owners came and knocked on my door while I was eating dinner and asked to talk about the video. In addition to the poor timing, I personally think it’s more professional to send an email or call instead of knocking on the door of someone’s house to discuss business…especially when you’re over 24 hours late for our scheduled meeting.
He was very annoyed to be talking to me instead of Heath and even more annoyed to find he was out of town (even though I run our production company and they knew ahead of time that he would be out of town BUT WHATEVER). We agreed to talk tomorrow in the AM during normal business hours.
Tuesday, Heath come home
It’s worth noting, that due to our terrible ideas about eating less sugar and trying to be more healthy, there was no chocolate in the RV. All my emotions throughout the week were 10x, AT LEAST.
Being alone in the RV wasn’t a big deal until Tuesday, day 3 without Heath.
My sister called that morning to tell me that my uncle’s health was taking a nosedive and he was going on hospice. I knew he was battling a rare blood disease, but this was sudden. She suggested I start looking at flights to come down to Texas to see him. I texted Heath to give him the update.
Two hours later, my mom called. He was gone.
As a full-time traveler, missing your family (friends, community) is the hardest thing you’ll experience on the road.
It’s hard knowing you’re missing out on the big moments. Holidays, pregnancies, and now a funeral. In our three+ years of travel, I’ve had an aunt and my grandmother pass away, but for both of those, we were in Texas and could easily spend time to be with family. This was different. For a lot of RVers, this is their worst fear, losing someone you love when you’re too far away to get home.
So there I was thousands of miles away from anyone I knew, alone in the RV. To make things worse, Heath was in meetings all day, so I knew it would hours before I could give him the news, let alone talk to him.
I finally heard from Heath late Tuesday night and then he was up at 4:00 AM to head to the airport for an early morning flight back to New York.
He called around 6 AM to casually tell me he was sequestered with a few hundred other passengers as there was a possible bomb in the airport. (He seems more annoyed than worried, like most busy travelers I guess.)
Turns out someone left a pressure cooker in the airport…who does that? This meant Heath’s flight was delayed so he would miss his connecting flight and he would need a whole new set of flights to Albany. So instead of a morning arrival, he won’t be in town until 6 PM.
This is really just a minor inconvenience, and something that when we’re traveling together, isn’t a big deal. But this meant one more long day alone. I also felt the added stress of buying plane tickets back home to Texas, needing to find a place to store the rig and last minute changing of plans.
Plus, this meant one more day filming alone. That morning I very pointedly told the campground owners that I run our production business, because I didn’t like their “So when will your husband be back?” attitude. They looked completely baffled by this news. I hardly look old enough to buy rated R movie tickets, let alone run a business. I get it, if my youth is the reason for their disbelief.
Finally, Heath and I reunite at sunset. I mean sunset is way more romantic than noon anyway, right?
What day is it again?
Over the next few days, Heath and I finish all our filming for the campground, try to catch up on work, re-schedule an upcoming film shoot, and buy plane tickets back to Texas. There’s a lot of sticker shock involved with buying a cross country flight five days in advance, let me tell ya.
After a lot of phone calls, we finally find a place to store the RV for a week: Campers Inn in Merrimack, NH. It’s 15 minutes from the airport and a good halfway point on the way to our next film shoot in Maine. We needed an oil change anyway.
We pack our bags, drop off the keys, and fly home to Texas.
Funerals really take it out of you.
Our week back home in Texas was good and difficult and emotional and stressful.
You know that tightness you feel in your chest when you’re stressed? The way you can’t fall asleep? The way you can’t think straight because your thoughts are being pulled in a million directions? The way you can’t really eat because your stomach is constantly nauseated?
Overwhelmed is really the only word that fully describes it. Emphasis on the over.
My laptop still wasn’t working. We couldn’t drop it off in Albany since we wouldn’t be staying in New York long enough to get it fixed and they would have to ship it to another Apple store…of which there were none on our foreseeable route.
Without a laptop, I couldn’t get much work done, not that I was in much of a state to accomplish much anyway. I tried to push work from my mind and focus on spending time with family. But with launch tickets for our RVE Summit next week, I felt the stress of needing to work BIG TIME. It definitely made the high tension in the house worse with Heath and I bickering about business decisions.
Although I will say my mood was probably 10% from circumstances and 90% from the 100+ degree weather. This is (I’m not kidding here) why we started RVing. Follow the weather, people. Everyone’s frazzled when it’s hotter than Jennifer Aniston outside.
Sorry kids, we can’t afford to send you to college anymore.
I picked up my phone to text my cousin and instantly dropped it.
Of course here we were, my last day in Texas and I break my phone. A fitting end to our long two weeks (really wish the story ended with “and then my phone broke and I had to spend 10 hours in airplanes and airports with no phone or compute” but that’s too forgettable of an ending, I’d say).
On the morning of our flight back to New Hampshire and RV life, Heath finally got a hold of Campers Inn. He called and left messages earlier in the week, but they hadn’t replied. Our flight wouldn’t arrive until after they closed and we wanted to make sure they left our keys in the hot water heater. (Wait, should I publicly post that this is where everyone hides their spare keys?)
They said that was no problem if we settled our bill now over the phone. It would just be $450.
Um, I’m sorry I think I had an aneurism.
Pretty sure you quoted me $150-$200 initially and even that gave me pause. Oil changes in RVs are pricey, but that is highway robbery.
The service shop told us matter of factly that replacing our windshield wipers alone was $150. What! We asked them to replace one windshield wiper and I may be young and naive about a lot of things, but I’m 100% positive changing one windshield wiper shouldn’t cost $150.
But what can you do? They had already done the work, and they can’t undo it.
Heath got them to knock $40 off our bill, but $400 was still a shock to the system.
If only that was the only thing Campers Inn screwed up.
End of life?
I am going to teach you something right now that may well save your life:
Never let your batteries in your RV die. Period.
This shortens their lifespan and can cause significant issues with your electrical system.
For this reason, when you take your RV to the shop, mechanics always turn off your batteries. Leaving any RV (rigs with solar panels excluded) unattended for too long will drain the house battery, especially if your fridge is on.
Turning off your batteries is easy. For us, this is a simple switch near our door. Easy to spot, easy to push.
Well, Campers Inn in Merrimack did not turn off our batteries. So for the week we were in Texas, our three heavy duty marine batteries DIED.
Inside the rig, not a lot happens when your batteries die. Even our LED lights don’t work.
Which made arriving back at our RV at 10:30 PM on a Saturday night after a day of travel REALLY annoying. Not the worst experience of my life (that’ll happen in 20 minutes), but frustrating.
I assume using power from our engine battery, our control panel was lit with the standard !!DEAD BATTERY!! FAULT!!, so if the lack of power didn’t give us a clue, the exclamation points let us know we needed to plug into electricity ASAP.
We plug our rig into the electrical post conveniently three feet away and start to charge up our batteries. Exhausted, we toss our suitcases on the couch, look around the rig to make sure nothing was stolen, and flop into bed ready for a peaceful night’s sleep finally back in our home.
Cue the most shrill, piercing, deafening alarm of all time.
I’ve heard our carbon monoxide alarm.
I’ve heard our smoke detector.
This is something different. Something LOUDER.
Something we can’t see, find, or even locate the origin of the sound because it’s echoing off the walls and Heath and I are screaming at each other just to communicate over the commotion. (If you like loud annoying sounds, JUST WAIT until we release this vlog.)
Something similar to this happened in our old rig, Franklin. We stored him while we were in Alaska and the carbon monoxide detector would go off when the battery died. This is standard in all RVs, from my understanding. It’s a good failsafe to let you know “hey BTW I’m a super important life saving device and you should charge your batteries if you want me to work!” If you always keep your batteries charged and taken care of, you can avoid living through this loud hell.
So here we are standing in our RV, which has both slides in because we were too tired to even pop them out when we got into the RV 20 minutes ago. Heath has headphones over his ears to dampen the sound. We’ve bumped into each other 52 times as we lap the RV searching for the source of the sound to no avail. I’m waiting for someone to appear and yell at us for interrupting their sleep, but thankfully we are the only overnighters at the service shop.
What do you do in this situation?
We can’t find where the noise is coming from, the 50 AMP hook up is in the middle of charging our batteries back up slowly, and there’s only solution I can find to end the alarm: flip the switch and turn off the battery.
No power, no loud noise, right?
I flip the switch and we plunge into silent darkness.
Even plugged into 50 AMP, without the batteries on, nothing in the RV works. No lights, no A/C, no fridge. Oddly enough the microwave is still lit 00:00.
And since we don’t know the cause of the alarm, we aren’t sure if we’re actually unconsciously breathing in toxic gases. We don’t smell propane and we’re pretty certain that it isn’t the carbon monoxide detector, which is in our bedroom. This is coming from the center of our RV, and the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector are on opposite ends. I look beneath our oven for a propane detector–this is where ours was in our first rig–and don’t see one. But of course, we’re using Heath’s cell phone light to scour the rig at this point.
I open the windows in case of a gas leak and Heath tries to diagnose the cause using the manual to no avail. We decide our only option is to turn the battery back on and pray that the alarm doesn’t go off again. If it does, we’ll keep searching for the cause. Or go deaf.
We do this three times, letting the alarm slay our ear drums for a minute or two before we plunge back into darkness.
Finally we find the bugger, a light brown panel beneath the fridge because the way-too-good-at-their-jobs designers at Winnebago made sure the RV propane alarm wouldn’t conflict with the aesthetics of the RV. So in a year and a half, we never noticed the little guy. We press the mute button and finally enjoy silence…for thirty seconds before we hear a warning beep, just like the beep we heard when we walked into the RV half an hour earlier.
We get down on our hands and knees to read the writing on the panel. It l tells us that the blinking red red with the alarm means one thing: END OF LIFE.
Dear everyone in manufacturing,
Never label anything as end of life, unless you would like panic to ensue.
Panicked woman who now thinks that despite the lack of a smell, she’s about to die from inhaling too much propane
I’m guessing after reading the entire section of the manual (by the light of Heath’s iPhone) that by end of life, they mean that the system isn’t getting enough power and is therefore revolting violently against us with unrivaled passion. Their end goal is simple: make us want to end our lives to avoid ever hearing the world’s most earsplitting sound ever again.
There’s only one solution: charge up the batteries. And since the batteries weren’t charging fast enough on 50 AMP while they were still on, we have no choice but to turn them off. Back to the darkness, the no A/C or fans, the eery silence of an RV dealership parking lot.
I’m really cursing Campers Inn at this point. They not only overcharged us, they killed my batteries–which they should be smart enough to know isn’t good for them–and now it’s nearly midnight. I’m wide awake, hungry, and paranoid that there could be a propane leak.
It took three episodes of Parks and Rec and a number of Oreos until we relaxed and fell into restless sleep.
Now I really hope that our saga of bad experiences is over.
Knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, and whatever other weird thing people do to avoid jinxing themselves.
I’m not sure I can emotionally handle much more stress.
On their own, all these things are inconveniences or realities of life. Cram them into two weeks and I’m struggling. I’m cranky, tired, quick to anger, and Sunday morning we woke up in the RV to a just-home-from-out-of-town empty fridge which meant no creamer for coffee.
I wanted to pull the comforter over my head and tell Heath to leave me there all day.
So that, Camille, is what we are struggling with in the Padgett RV this week…in excruciating detail. Now excuse me, I still need to get over the Verizon store to replace my phone.
What’s the biggest struggle you’re tackling this week?
Feeling stressed? Read Heath’s article: 101 Ways to Get Rid of Stress and Quit Being So Lame (Note: #69 likely won’t apply to everyone)
Related: Two books I’m reading right now that I highly recommend if you’re struggling with stress:
There’s No Good Card for This: What to do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love By Kelsey Crowe & Emily McDowell