Well, our first RV (mis)adventure is under our belts!
You may or may not know we’ve dreamt for years of buying an RV, and that dream came true in December. We spent 3 months renovating it, replacing everything from the floors to the ceiling (literally!).
Finally, the day arrived: March 5–Spring Break! We set off for our first trip to San Diego, California. As always, we left a little later than we wanted to, pulling out around 11 a.m.
Everything went so smoothly. Even the dog, Leia, was the perfect traveler, her calm demeanor convincing us to take her with us rather than dropping her off for dog sitting at the vet.
My husband is a pessimist. Our boys, 7 and 9, call him a fatalist, and they’re pretty right-on. Because it was our first trip, he spent the first 6 hours nervous, despite the surprising lack of disaster.
When we were about 30 minutes from San Diego, we decided to stop one more time to fill up the gas tank. We pulled off the Interstate and into a quaint, tiny town that was in the middle of nowhere.
That’s when it happened. Steam started coming out of the engine, billowing up in a huge cloud that blocked our view out the windshield. Although we’d just climbed a huge hill, the engine’s temperature gauge hadn’t moved … but judging from the clouds of steam and the strong smell of radiator fluid, something was amiss.
My husband filled the tank and went inside the convenience store to get more radiator fluid. We thought we’d wait a while and let the engine cool. Another customer came over to look at the engine, and told my husband, “The exact same thing happened to my friend last week, in this same place, and he had to get a new radiator.”
Eventually, the steam lessened. Because there weren’t any leaks and the temperature gauge still looked good, we decided to keep driving rather than adding fluid right then.
We pulled onto the onramp for the Interstate, the temperature gauge showed “HOT!” and the steam exploded out of the hood. We pulled over, and when my husband poured radiator fluid into the radiator, it simply poured onto the road beneath the RV.
The radiator was busted.
We were stranded.
It was dark.
We had three kids and a dog in the RV with us, plus a week’s worth of food and all our belongings.
What could we do? We could walk back to the little town and stay in a hotel, but what about all our stuff? We didn’t even have suitcases. And the thought of walking with three kids and a dog along a very busy onramp seemed very daunting.
We called our roadside assistance and although the customer service representative was very nice, she told us tow truck drivers could only take two people … and no pets. She could call us a taxi. She put me on hold and made a few calls, but eventually came back on and said she couldn’t find a tow truck that could carry our RV. She’d have to keep trying and call me back. We had no electricity and our phones were almost out of battery.
Of course, at this point, dollar signs were flashing before my eyes. How much would it cost to get a tow and a taxi from the middle of nowhere? And what about our food? What would we do with our broken RV?
I felt sick to my stomach.
Then my husband handed me a beer.
“Might as well,” he said. “We aren’t driving anywhere.”
Finally, the roadside assistance girl called back. She’d found us a tow truck driver who was willing to take us all—including the dog. He could tow us to the nearest RV repair shop, which was 20 miles away.
I was so relieved.
That is, until he showed up and revealed that the only way he could take all of us was to put the RV onto a flatbed trailer … with all of us INSIDE IT!
We didn’t really have a choice. The tow truck driver chained the RV onto the trailer, and off we went.
At this point, our middle son had given up on the whole thing and put himself to bed. So I sat at the dinette with our oldest son and our daughter, and we all held hands as we vibrated and chugged down the interstate.
At first, I was so scared the chains would somehow come off and the RV would roll off the trailer. Or that the trailer would disconnect from the truck. Either way, the RV would roll backwards into highway traffic and we’d all die a scary, slow, bloody death.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
My husband called from his spot inside the tow truck (one person had to ride with the driver), and told me the driver was going to take us to a different repair shop—one he thought was safer.
A few minutes later, he pulled up along the curb outside the repair shop, and opened the door of the RV.
“See?” he said. “I told you you’d be safe. And here we are.”
The security guy at the RV repair shop came out and offered to let us park inside the locked parking lot, where we could plug in and use electricity.
So that’s how we spent our first night in the RV!
The next day—Sunday—we had to decide what to do about the RV repairs. We could stay in the parking lot and hope the shop could repair the RV the next morning.
Or, my intrepid husband could go to an auto parts store, buy the parts to fix it, and get to work.
So that’s what he did. Can I just say, that guy is my hero?
He took the engine apart and discovered the source of the huge leak (a gasket on the water pump). Our friend (another hero in this story) came to get us and took my husband to the auto parts store, where he bought everything he needed for the repair. Then he spent the day, in the rain, fixing the water pump and replacing the radiator.
We drove to the campground that very night.
After that, we enjoyed a lovely beachside camping experience.
I shared this story not only because it was such an adventure, but also because this is the stuff of which stories are made! This whole experience definitely got my creative wheels turning.