Monday, December 4, 2023


RV mistakes. They’re part of the lifestyle

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Got a nice email the other day from a reader. He was responding to a piece we’d run on how we’d managed to tear up the gear mechanism in our fifth-wheel landing gear through lack of lubrication. He wrote, “I read the story today on ‘Keep your powder dry – and your landing gear greased’. Having met you I’m thinking there’s no way Russ would run into all these issues. He’s too knowledgeable and conscientious. So, am I correct in that some of the stories are just that. ‘Stories’”. Me thinks so.” It’s nice to have a friend in your corner. But George, RV mistakes, we’re afraid, are more than stories. They’re just a part of the lifestyle.

I’m happy to report that the torn-up gear pack in the fifth-wheel was only partly our fault. We’d bought an ancient, badly neglected rig, and had been so concerned about getting it safe and livable that “the thought never hit” about greasing the landing gear. Of course, we’d never owned a fiver before.

RV mistakes lead to catty-comments

Some years back, our traveling companion, T.F. Kitty, an ancient, one-eyed, broken-jawed, worldly-wise feline used to pen a regular column for an RV publication. T.F.’s “beat” included regular reporting on the stupid things that her owners did. It could have been titled, “RV Mistakes R Us”. She was directly affected one time by a goof. We’d been traveling down an interstate with our pickup slide-in truck camper. Suddenly, that dreadful thing happened. A car pulled up beside us, horn blaring, and passenger leaning out the window, frantically gesturing toward the rear of our rig. We’d had our share of blown tires before, but this was a new one. The back door of the camper was wide open, while we sailed down the road and freeway speeds.

We mentioned T.F. was affected? Sure enough, her “spot” while traveling was on the dinette seat, on a cozy kitty throw. She was still there – claws well dug into the fabric, a slightly pop-eye expression, as well as a one-eyed cat can give.

Time would fail us if we went on to relate how she witnessed (and ratted us out on) various misadventures. Like forgetting to disconnect the electrical and water lines before setting off on one adventure. We also had our share of mechanical dyspepsia episodes and, of course, who doesn’t occasionally get lost, and then has to spend a half-hour turning around the trailer on a very narrow, dead-end road?

And that wind turbine we’re so proud of? Who’d have thunk that a freeway overpass on an on-ramp would be so low that it could reach down and brake off one of our turbine blades? At the same time that electrical wiring that acted as a “brake” for the turbine gave up the ghost? We still have visions of having to become instant cowboys and “lasso” what was left of the spinning blades that threatened to tear up the machinery. It couldn’t have happened at a better time either – we were both recovering from a round of food poisoning and were doubled up with gut pain. We kid you not.


We’d like to think that with age and experience comes wisdom. Sadly, the second syllable of that last word, “dumb,” just hasn’t seemed to have left us. T.F. Kitty is just a funny memory now, having been taken by old cat’s disease ages ago. But she’d still have plenty to write about if she were here. On our most recent foray, we pulled into a nicely treed RV park south of Las Vegas for an overnight. The next day, we noticed a funny little “flapping” thing at roof level on the travel trailer. “Must have caught something that stuck on the roof.” That funny little flappy thing stayed with us all day, and 300 miles later turned out to be a piece of the EPDM roofing – torn when we hit a low-lying branch in the RV park. T.F. probably would have declined coming up to help us fix the roof, but she sure would have had plenty to say.

There may be a few of you out there who really don’t ever have stupid mishaps. The kind that are far too often self-induced. But you know what? I have a feeling if you tell us that, we’d think you were fibbing. And in memory of that cat who never missed a beat, we’ll sign off, as she always did. “Meow for now!”


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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travelingjw (@guest_96676)
3 years ago

Our travel trailer was brand new and this was our first RV. I thought I’d studied everything about driving. The second time I pulled the TT out of our parking slot the rear end went wide and hit my neighbors vehicle. Luckily it was so old there was no damage, except to our TT. Big scrape! Big lesson!

Norman (@guest_96029)
3 years ago

We had just gotten our NEW (to us) 2011 Bighorn. It had been well taken care of; graphics looked like they were freshly applied; interior like new; so we wanted to follow suit and rented an enclosed storage unit. It was big; 15′ X 55′. I was putting the rig in on the inaugural docking and had done all of the right things when unhooking from the tow vehicle. As I pulled my Ram forward my drivers door had just cleared the bollard (4″ concrete filled pipe) protecting the building entrance when I remembered I hadn’t disconnected the emergency breakaway cable. So I throw the truck in park, open the door, jump down to unhook the cable and to my horror the truck started backing up. I had missed park and found reverse. You know, it’s amazing how much torque a 6.7L Cummins diesel at idle has! Before I could climb back up to get my foot on the brake, the bollard grabbed my door and wrapped it around so that it was touching my front fender. Fortunately my insurance covered as an at fault accident

Ron L (@guest_95955)
3 years ago

My absolute worse rv mistake was a week after getting our brand new motorhome, I was dumping the tanks and had the black tank rinse going. Needless to say, I got distracted and forgot about it. I had to make a trip into town to replace my laptop battery and while at the Staples counter, i got a call on my iPhone from a neighbor telling me water was coming out of the door and other places of my motorhome. Fortunately, I have some great neighbors and by the time I was able to return, they had turned off the water and had cleaned up most of the water inside.

Dan (@guest_95952)
3 years ago

I’ve been camping/Rving forever. My wife and I have been married for 45 years now, and I introduced her to the life on our first trip together to our first duty stations in the Navy in San Diego, CA. A couple of memorable OOPS moments; I bought our first luxury slide in camper, an ’88 Real Lite 10′ cabover model with a combination toilet/shower, water heater, Dometic 3 way fridge, converter/charger. Even a batwing antenna on the roof for a TV. I bought a 13″ one with a VCR in it.
Oh, this was in 2000. I put it on my ’94 K2500 6.5l turbo diesel long bed extended cab pickup. The very first time in my driveway, I damaged my roof ladder and tore off the roof top carrier tubing. No damage to the roof other than open screw holes, nice solid metal roof, seamless. Tree branches were the culprit.

Lisa Adcox (@guest_95944)
3 years ago

Yes mistakes happen
We hit our mail box first time out and did not know it till we seen small evidence at RV Park while setting up.

Bruce (@guest_95926)
3 years ago

I all ways say anyone who says they don’t make mistakes either is not telling the truth or never did anything.

Dion Chilberg (@guest_95924)
3 years ago

With a diesel pusher, you forget that the toad is back there. We had just purchased our first diesel pusher and were in a big hurry to get on the road (the biggest mistake). The toad breakaway cable got tangled in the safety cables and became disengaged locking up the toad brakes. Luckily a considerate motorist let us know, quite demonstrably that we had a problem. In a few 100 yards we took the toad tires down to the steel belts.

Ron T (@guest_95923)
3 years ago

After eight years of 1-2 week RV trips and only a few minor mental kerfuffles, we made our first post retirement trip with no fixed end date – to Alaska. For whatever reason, on that trek I made about every rookie mistake there is. I guess as we live and learn we can also learn and forget.

Don (@guest_95912)
3 years ago

If you have an electric awning on your rig, you have probably had your share of misadventures with it, as have we. But we had no idea that the gear-train which drives it in and out is made of plastic. Plastic gets brittle with age, and eventually fails. When that happens, there being nothing to hold the awning “furled” it will unwind with the pressure of the spring-loaded arms. That can be embarrassing in a campground. It’s a LOT worse on the road. The time to unfurl and rip completely off the rig at 50 mph is about 1/2 second, and there’s a lot of noise involved. By the time the Co-Pilot can yell “Holy Crap, what was that?” the adventure is all over but for the recovery effort… 🙁

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