This post may contain affiliate links. See our affiliate disclaimer here.
That’s how many days we were officially full-time RVers.
We’ve driven a lot of RVs in that time, trying out Class A, B, and C motorhomes.
I’d like to think that we know what we are doing when it comes to RVing. But no amount of experience saved us from the disastrous last day of full-time RV life. I don’t think we’ve ever had a worse day on the road, really. We’ve had a flat tire, had a couple issues with our slide outs not working, but never something like this.
It’s taken me a while to be able to write this story without feeling the tightness of a panic attack coming on. But now, a few months later, I can share what happened that day knowing that no one dies at the end of the story and that Heath, the baby, and I are all fine.
Am I being overdramatic?
I was 100% sure there was no way this ended without someone dying.
Heath will say it all started two weeks earlier when we began our slow crawl from Banff back to Texas. We were driving through snowstorms, I was ridiculously sick, and the doctor’s advice was to spend no more than two hours at a time traveling….We had 32 hours and over 2,000 miles to cover to make it home!
Needless to say, it was a long and miserable two weeks of driving.
But we had finally made it far enough south that there wasn’t snow on the ground and the end was in sight! Only one more state to go and we could park it in an RV park for a few days while we figured out our next steps.
We started early that morning in Nebraska and spent most of the day driving across Oklahoma. When we were about an hour away from our destination in Texas, we hit the eight-hour mark.
If you tow a car behind your RV, you likely have limits on your towing (especially if your car is an automatic). We can’t tow over 65 mph and we can’t tow for longer than eight hours at a time. Once we hit eight hours, we have to pull over, run the car through the sequence of gears that lube up the engine so we don’t wreck our transmission, and then we can get back on the road.
Let me just say Heath was not happy that we had to pull over and do this.
“It’s only an hour before we get there, do we really have to pull over?”
“We can pull over for five minutes and take care of the car, or we keep driving and run the risk of totaling our car by wrecking the transmission.”
I will come to regret those words and say that Heath was right. Running the risk of ruining our transmission would’ve been worth it.
We pulled over at the next exit, a scenic rest stop in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve never been, southern Oklahoma just off I-35 is surprisingly hilly. I remember going to Turner Falls as a kid and thinking how weird it was that we lived somewhere so flat but were so close to this giant waterfall.
The scenic overlook was beautiful, but steep. We drove the Winnebago up the hill and had to park at a pretty intense incline. It wasn’t ideal, but we wouldn’t be there but a few minutes.
We put on the emergency brake and Heath hopped out to quickly take care of the car. It was overcast with the threat of rain and we desperately wanted to make it to the RV park so we didn’t have to set up in the dark and the rain.
A minute later, Heath climbed back in the RV.
“The car’s dead.”
“It’s dead? How?”
“Well, we’ve been towing it every day and not actually driving it much. Must’ve worn down the battery.”
We needed a jump. There was no one around and I’ve never used an RV to jump a car before, but it didn’t seem easy. We would have to unhook the car from the RV, back the RV down this steep hill (yikes!), and block the entire highway exit while we jumped the car.
Not ideal, but the other option would be to call and wait for roadside assistance and we just wanted to get home.
Let me add here, that we weren’t entirely sure the battery was the only problem. Heath, as we stood there talking through a solution, mused “I wonder if I turned the engine off this morning.”
“What?” I asked.
“Well I was really tired when I was hooking up the car this morning and now I’m thinking that I don’t remember turning the engine off. I actually think I heard it running earlier when we stopped for lunch. It could just be out of gas.”
At this point, Heath and I are both beyond frustrated. We are 20 minutes from the state line and so close to home, yet completely stuck in Oklahoma.
Heath, exhausted after the past 2,000+ miles of driving, suggested leaving the car overnight and continuing on to the RV park. Tomorrow we could borrow my sister’s car and drive back up, grab a gas can just in case, jump the car, and make the drive back.
But that would be ridiculous. We just needed to get back on the road and tow the car the rest of the way.
Begrudgingly, Heath hopped back out of the RV and started to unhook our car from the RV. I plopped myself down in the front seat and scrolled through Instagram on my phone.
That’s when a thought hit me.
Now if you tow a car behind a motorhome, you likely have fail-safes in place should the towing equipment fail. In our case, if one of our hefty tow bars ever broke, we have our Brake Buddy set up which will instantly apply the brakes and stop the vehicle. That way you don’t have to worry about your car driving recklessly down the interstate without a driver.
The Brake Buddy cable clips into the front of our car from our RV, and for whatever reason, when Heath is unhooking the car, this is always the piece he unclips first.
This isn’t the first time Heath has unhooked the car on a steep incline, I thought, remembering the day he crushed himself between the car and the RV, because he forgot to put the car in park before detaching.
As I sat in the safety of the front seat of the RV on a steep hill on the side of I-35, I couldn’t get this memory out of my head.
I didn’t want to insult Heath’s intelligence or anything by standing over his shoulder while he unhooked the car, but I had a bad feeling in my stomach that perhaps I should go out there just in case. He wouldn’t get pinned by the car this time, but if he forgot to put it in park, the car would barrel backward toward the highway.
As soon as I opened the door of our Winnebago, I heard expletives.
“Babe?” I called out as I hopped down the stairs and saw Heath in his sweat pants and flip-flops running down the hill chasing after our slowly rolling car. He looked like he was trying to stick the key in the car door, which made no sense to me because Heath always leaves the driver’s door open when he unhooks the car.
I shouted and ran after him and the car, trying to process the situation. Okay, we are at the top of a hill, I-35 is at the bottom and in between here and there is an embankment, lots of rocks, a tree, and a ditch. Surely if Heath can’t stop the car, the tree will.
But the car is picking up speed fast, Heath can’t get the door open to hop in and hit the brakes, and now he’s stopped trying to turn and yell at me to stop running because his pregnant wife running toward the busy interstate is only making him more stressed.
Now barefoot because he ran out of his flip-flops, Heath continues running down the hill toward the interstate waving his arms—best day ever to wear the brightest colored shirt he owns—to warn oncoming traffic.
Meanwhile, my car is flying down the hill and headed straight for the tree…which it hits with a loud crack and KEEPS GOING. I swear the thing didn’t even slow down. It goes down the ditch, up onto the highway, across two lanes of I-35, down the next ditch and stops just before slamming into the rock wall that fortunately divided I-35 South from I-35 North.
Barefoot too, I made my way over to Heath who looked white as a ghost. He looked about five seconds from passing out.
“I put it in park. I swear I put it in park,” he kept saying.
I wrapped him in a hug and reminded him that we were okay. No one was hurt. We didn’t hit any other cars. We were okay.
By the grace of God, our car crossed the interstate during a break in traffic. One car had to slow down a little, probably in shock about the driverless car going in reverse across the interstate, but with Heath’s warning and a whole lot of luck, there was no one close during what could’ve been the most disastrous day of our RV life.
We had no clue if the car was drivable or stuck or if we would be spending the next week car shopping. At the very least we did know that all the tires on the car were still intact and fine because of our tire pressure monitoring system (seriously best investment ever).
We walked back up the hill to the RV and waited for a tow truck because there was no chance of jumping the battery ourselves now.
Shaking, Heath told me that as soon as he pulled out the pin out of the tow bar, the car took off. He had locked all the doors because we planned on driving up a few exits to the gas station since we couldn’t find our jumper cables. That way we could grab a gallon of gas just in case the car was out of gas too.
So he put the car in park, pulled the emergency brake, and locked the doors.
Once the tow truck arrived, Heath jogged across the interstate to meet the guy and assess the damage. He took a picture to prove to me that he did indeed pull the emergency brake (but he rather conveniently did not show in his photo if he actually put the car in park or left it in neutral).
From the looks of it, the bike rack (RIP) really saved the car. After bouncing down the hill and through a ditch, the bikes got caught underneath the car, slowing the vehicle down before it slammed into the rock wall. Our bikes were mangled to death and the dragging bike rack left a couple dents in the back of the car, but other than that the car looked fine.
It could’ve been a disaster. People could’ve died. We could’ve been on the news as the two idiots whose car rolled backward across the highway creating a 10 car pile up.
We got so, so lucky.
All I could think was if only I would’ve gone outside sooner. If only Heath hadn’t locked the car doors. If only Heath waited to unhook our fail-safes until last guaranteeing that the car wouldn’t roll away.
We followed the tow truck down the road to the nearest truck stop where we could jump the car and hook it back up to the RV…scratch that. We were never going to hook that car up again. It was too scary a proposition!
After doing a thorough inspection of the car and driving it around the parking lot, it seemed fine to drive. Aside from a few small tree branches wedged into the mirrors, the car looked no worse for the wear.
Heath hopped back in the RV and I drove the car the remaining hour to our RV park. It started raining as soon as we pulled onto the interstate, and Heath and I put in headphones so we could be on the phone with each other just in case something happened to the car during the last hour of our life as full-time RVers.
When we arrived safely at the RV park, it was dark and raining, and if I’m being honest, Heath missed the turn and ended up in someone’s driveway somehow. The homeowner didn’t like that.
It was the longest travel day ever. Three states. Nine cumulative hours of driving, plus a couple hours on the side of the road. Years off my life from the stress.
It’s only fitting that our last days as RVers be as eventful as our first days as RVers. Like when our car started falling off our tow dolly in west Texas and we decided to abandon it instead of dealing with the stress of towing cross-country.
Now that I think of it, maybe Heath and I just aren’t meant to tow a car…
In all seriousness, this was easily the scariest day of RVing for us and a testament to why you shouldn’t drive, or unhook your tow vehicle, when you’re tired!
And please for the love of all that is good, unhook the magic fail-safe cable that will stop your car before it rolls away LAST so this never happens to you!