Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Our first RV adventure... Learn from our mistakes!!! Part One.

Matt and I bought our 1998 Georgie Boy Maverick in early May of 2016. When we were approved for financing we were over the moon. This was a dream come true for us. We were so excited that we booked several RV sites for the summer before we were approved. We figured we could cancel if things went wrong.

I took a personal day on a Friday and Matt had a three day weekend making it possible to drive the four-hour drive from SE Minnesota to Atkinson, IL which is near the Quad Cities. We had reserved a campsite at Pike's Peak State Park near McGregor, IA.

1998 Georgie Boy Maverick the day we picked
 her up from the dealership. 
The evening before I loaded up the back of the truck with everything I thought we would need to camp in our "new-to-us" RV for the weekend on the way home. I remember the back of the truck was crammed full with bedding, towels, dishes, new sewer hose, clothes, Coleman RoadTrip grill, food, cooler, drinks, beer, utensils, rugs for the RV, water hose, leveling blocks, and anything else we might need to camp for the weekend.

Luckily for us, we had some experience camping. Both of us served in the Army and had camped as kids. We were tired of "roughing it" in tents and desired amenities like a bathroom and power. For the 9 previous years, we camped with our horses and had a makeshift camper in our horse trailer. We were pretty experienced campers. But nothing could prepare us for what we would learn on that first camping trip.

Matt behind the wheel
for the first time
Lesson 1: Know your dimensions!

We picked up our motorhome at the dealership where the dealer gave us a walkaround and showed us how everything worked. Matt drove the RV and I was behind him driving the truck and navigating. Matt had both of the dogs with him. It was probably around 16:00 when we set out.

We had about two and a half hours to reach our state park. To get there, we had to drive through the Quad Cities which is not exactly Washington, DC traffic but when you're driving a 30' RV for the first time, it feels like it. `

We got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-74. The sign up ahead said the road narrowed to 8' wide. Since we were following the directions given by Google maps I didn't think very much of this. It turns out our RV is only 8' wide. Uh oh!!! While we were stopped in traffic I Googled the dimensions of a Class C motorhome.

Note to self: Know your RV's dimensions before hitting the road!!! Measure the width and height (to the highest point), write them on a label and stick it somewhere the driver can see it easily.

Lesson 2: Semi-trucks are your friends

What really struck me about this road construction traffic was that as I looked around, I noticed there were no semi-trucks ahead or behind us. This was the red flag in my brain that we were in a bad place. I called Matt on his cell so that we could get off the interstate at the next exit. I was hoping to find a place that we could pull over and re-evaluate our route.

We ended up in downtown Davenport, IA, which was the last place Matt wanted to be driving the RV for the first time. It was about this time that it started to pour down rain. It was very stressful, but we were able to find a church parking lot to pull into and discuss our options. The best route to get us to our destination was to keep driving the bustling road we were already on which had a ton of traffic lights. And it was rush hour!

Note to self: If you are driving or towing your RV and you are coming up on construction, look around. If there are semi's on the road you will fit. If all the semis are exiting, follow them, and find an alternate route.

Lesson 3: Never pull into your campsite after dark

We finally got back on the highway. It was still raining as we headed north on US 61 and we were determined to get to our campsite. We knew we had another 1 1/2 to 2 hours before arriving. It was getting later in the day and would soon be dark. Here is where we screwed up.

We passed at least three city RV parks on our way that were wide open with sites. What we should have done was stop at one of those. It was raining, cold, and getting dark but we hoped to beat the darkness.
Source: Iowa State Parks Reservations

Finally, we made it to the park. since it was late there were was no one in the registration center but they had a self-check-in system. I had already paid online. luckily there were maps of the park and the campground so we grabbed one and headed off to find our site.

It was dusk when we finally arrived at our reserved site. There were a few other campers in the campground but it was nowhere near full. Matt did a nice job of backing into the site for the first time (we use army ground guide arm movements) but this site was so unlevel!! The back of the RV was much lower than the front and we didn't want our heads below our feet when sleeping.

We tried the leveling blocks first. I had watched YouTube videos and blog entries on Pinterest and felt that we were up to this challenge. We weren't! I had not ordered enough leveling blocks. By this time it was dark, we were arguing (who doesn't when parking the camper, right?), and we were cold as the temperature had dropped below freezing. To get the camper to a somewhat level spot in the site, which was very long, we had to pull the RV to the very front of the site, near the road. Yay! We thought we were good for the night and we would sort the rest out in the morning. No such luck! The 30 amp power cable wouldn't reach the pedestal! So we had to back up until the cable would plugin. Which made us unlevel. We said screw it and dealt with it.

Note to self: You have your home with you. If inclement weather or bad traffic means you will arrive at your RV site after dark, stop somewhere else while it is still daylight! You have time. Make some phone calls on the road to change your reservations. Rving is about taking your time and enjoying the journey. 

Lesson 4: Plan meals in advance. 

After deciding to sleep unlevel, it was not time to unload the truck as much as possible. We brought in the essentials like bedding, some food and cooking essentials, and dog supplies.

This was one thing that DID NOT go wrong for us but something we have been doing for years when camping. Freeze leftover meals in Foodsaver Bags.

We do not get paid by Foodsaver but absolutely love ours. I have no idea how much money we have saved by freezing leftovers and fresh veggies but I'm thinking it's a bunch!
Our Foodsaver and meatballs
that we froze back in December.
They make great subs
while on the road. 

Leftovers are tasty and easy while camping and on the road in your RV. We vacuum seal meals like spaghetti, chili, taco meat, any kind of pasta, and then we have an almost instant meal with very little cleanup. Here's the trick: boil the meal in the bag. This can be done when the meal is frozen or thawed. When it's hot, cut the bag open and serve the meal right out of the bag. Throw it away when you are done, or put a bag clip on the bag and put it back in the fridge. Easy peasy! Great for travel days and late arrivals.
(Above)Frozen meatballs
 leftover from a NYE
 potluck. Cover bag
with water and boil until
heated through (below).

Once we got the furnace running (easier than we thought), and the water boiling, we had a hot home-cooked meal in our bellies and had forgotten all about our "leveling the camper arguments."

Note to self: If you are freezing a meal in vacuum-seal bags to boil later, double seal each end of the bag. Sometimes a single seal breaks while the food is boiling. We got our Foodsaver a few years on Amazon for about $85.00. This exact one is no longer available but you can order a similar model here.

This isn't the end of our first RV weekend. More newbie Rv mistakes and how not to repeat them coming in part two.

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