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Friday, May 21, 2010

They don't know the trouble they're in - conclusion.

1993.  We had the itch to get some kind of motorhome.  After years of tent camping with the kids, we were in a good enough financial position to nose around and see what was out there.

One day, we were driving near Point Pleasant NJ when we came across a motorhome with a "For Sale" sign that demanded a closer look.  I could see it was an older unit, but from an outside look, it appeared to be in pretty good shape.

We stopped and rang the doorbell of the house the motorhome was parked.  The owner came out and gave us the grand tour.  It was a 1973 Travel Mate 21 ft. Class A.  The engine had been replaced with a new one and the exterior had a shiny new paint job. The interior was in good shape, complete with a 70's color scheme and a shag rug.  We could sleep all five of our family with even room for an additional friend or two.

I had been a truck mechanic before I joined the Coast Guard and after looking it over with a serious eye, I took the owner's phone number and said we'd have to think it over and give them a call.  Hopping back in the car, Marti and I talked it over and were leaning towards buying it.  But what pushed us to make the decision was our daughter Heather's enthusiastic pleading to buy it.

A day or two later, we negotiated the price with the owner and we bought our first motorhome.

When I got the motorhome to our house, I gave it a good inspection.  I looked at the tires, they had lots of good tread on them and they had small cracks all over the outsides.  I figured they'd be okay as long as the tread was good.  As to the tire pressure, I hit them with a rubber mallet and they sounded fine.  I didn't know the trouble I was in with those tires.

We had taken several trips and I had tire failures, I had a spare and changed tires on the side of the highway with my family standing there watching me while cars and trucks sped by us, a dangerous situation I placed them in because I didn't know the trouble I was in with old, cracked tires.

The generator didn't run very well.  After playing around with it for several days, it didn't start again.  I determined it wasn't getting fuel through the carb and tried to find a rebuild kit for it.  Because it was 20 years old, there were no parts available for it.  So I looked into replacing it with a contractor generator.  I didn't know the trouble I was in with the replacement generator.

The generator fit into the compartment where I removed the original unit.  I enclosed the compartment bottom with a board to sit the generator on.  My youngest son, Corey, was very interested in mechanical things and helped me install the new, contractor generator.  I showed him how to start and stop it.  I cut a hole in the generator compartment door for the exhaust to blow out of.

 I had to slide the generator part way out of its compartment to refuel it, the fuel tank was a plastic unit that was on the very top of the frame and gravity fed fuel to the engine.

I went to the store one summer day and all three of our kids came with me.  I have the generator running and the air conditioner on because it was so hot outside.  When I arrived, the kids had all fallen asleep.  I decided not to wake them and left the generator running and powering the a/c.

While I was inside, little Corey woke up from his nap when he heard the generator starting to sound funny.  He went outside and opened the generator compartment door and saw the plastic gas tank had started to melt and was dripping hot plastic and drops of gas on the motor, so he reached in and shut off the generator.

I put my kids at risk because of the way I had installed the generator. Enclosing the contractor generator in a compartment trapped all the heat.   It could have caught fire and burned the motorhome to the ground. it didn't due to Corey's quick thinking.  I didn't know the trouble I was in and the danger I had placed my kids in.

The motorhome had an electrical cord that had a 20 amp plug on it that the previous owner had installed.  It was a two prong plug without the grounding prong.  We were at a campground in NY state and after I plugged  to the power pedestal, I noticed a slight tingling feeling when I leaned up against the motorhome.  I was the ground "wire".  Fortunately I didn't get shocked because I didn't know the trouble I was in.

Fast forward  to 2001.  We had  just purchased our new Four Winds Class C motorhome.

 On our first trip, I put gas in the tank and as I pulled away, I almost clipped a gas pump with the tail end of the motorhome.  I didn't know about tail swing and I didn't know the trouble I was (almost) in.

One day I picked up a Motorhome magazine and found an ad for an RV forum.  I looked into it and that began my education.  I found more forums, websites, RV blogs and realized I had been very, very lucky.  I had no idea of the trouble I had been in.

Now I have become a rabid student of information from multiple sources and continue my RV education.  I learn something new almost every day, and the more I know, the more I know that I don't know enough.

The point of these posts is that no matter what you do, you need to learn as much about your activity or lifestyle that you can.  You can learn so much from other RV owners.  I want to list some of the sources that I read on a regular basis.  These are some excellent RV forums:

                 RV.Net   RV Forum   RV Dreams Forum

There are also numerous RV blogs that RV owners write about their RV lifestyle and activities.  You can learn many things and get great ideas from them.  One site collects some of the best RV blogs and puts them all together in one place for ease of reading:


There are tons of resources out there just waiting to be Googled.  I now recommend to new RV owners these resources so they will learn and realize what can get themselves in, and out of trouble.

Now back to the guy and the broken rudder.  As he sank below the waves I had my rescue swimmer dive in after him.  After some very long seconds, he surfaced with the guy in his arms, who was coughing and spitting out water.  We pulled them in with the tending line and got them both safely aboard.  I had my crew help the man out of his boots and rain suit, then wrapped him in some wool blankets.  Then we re-righted the sailboat and took it in tow back to their marina near the George Washington Bridge.

When we arrived and dropped them off, the man that had been clinging to the rudder shook my hand and said, "Thank you so much".  He didn't know the trouble he had been in but fortunately it was just a learning experience for him and not a tragedy.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my how we have all learned those lessons along the way....

    (we learned the tires too)

    And each step that we learn, we can in turn, pass it along to other folks coming up the ranks of RVer. Thanks for sharing!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard