Rock Bottom

 Posted by at 7:47 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 152010

After reading yesterday’s blog, RVing’s Top 10, my friend Connie Bradish suggested maybe we needed a Bottom 10 list, and suggested, in no particular order:

1. A major dumping event, like the hose comes off and it’s all over.
2. A tire blowout, especially if it’s the right front tire.
3. Being sunk up to your rear axles in a designated camping spot.
4. Being sunk up to your axles in a non-camping spot.
5. Dragging the tow car behind the RV because it’s still in gear.
6. Driving a back road, and coming up to a bridge with a 10 foot maximum clearance, you need 13 feet and you have to stop, unhitch and turn the coach around, all while blocking traffic.
7. Driving a road you shouldn’t be on, like the southwest road around Lake Tahoe in you big RV and tow car.
8. Having a husband and wife disagreement while backing into a site, accompanied by funny hand signals from one partner to another.
9. Having a pet get out, and you can’t find them.
10. Hitting a low rock, post or cone, or an overhang of a building or a tree, damaging your coach.

Connie admitted that she and her husband Pete have scored 10 out of 10 on this list. I think we’ve missed just one, which is having a pet slip out the door, never to be found. When Miss Terry’s cat, Sasquatch was still with us, he was quite the escape artist, but he never went far.

But 9 out of 10 on the Rock Bottom list isn’t a bad (or in this case, good) record. Less than a week into our fulltming life, we were camped in a fairgrounds in Torrington, Wyoming, on our way to Life on Wheels in Moscow, Idaho. We had the place to ourselves, so I had nobody but myself to blame when I pulled out of our site and turned too soon, swinging the back end of our shiny new Pace Arrow motorhome into the concrete pedestal that held the water and electric hookups.   

I was just sick, and to Miss Terry’s credit, she didn’t shoot me, or even thump me with a rolling pin. Believe me, there was nothing she could have said to me that was worse than I was calling myself. I was still kicking myself three days later when we got to Moscow, where I met Dick Reed, founder of the RV Driving School. When I told him my sad tale of woe, Dick took my by the hand and led me to the back of the row where the instructors’ RVs were parked.

“Do you see the ding in that one,” Dick asked. “That belongs to Bill Farlow. Bill did that on a tree stump last year. This one here is Charlie Minshall’s rig. See that ding? Lord know what Charlie hit. And this one here, with the dented bumper belongs to…” By the time our tour was finished, I felt a lot better about my own mishap, and I had made a friend for life.

We’ve been stuck and we’ve been really stuck, and it’s never fun. This picture was taken at an RV park in Ohio a few years back. It had been raining for days, and we were nervous about pulling onto grass, but when we arrived, the park owner told us another bus had just left the same site. It must have been a Volkswagen bus, because our MCI promptly sunk up to its rear axle!


But anybody can get stuck in soft ground. In Bremerton, Washington, I proved that it is possible to drive a bus up a hill so steep that your front tires are on the pavement, and your rear bumper is digging into the pavement, but your drive tires are three inches in the air!


I also proved that while you can drive into that situation, you cannot drive back out of it! Getting out requires a very large tow truck, the police department to stop traffic, the fire department’s haz-mat crew to clean up the 36 gallons of radiator coolant that spills when the the tow truck cable snags a hose, and the local news crew. Did I mention I was going the wrong way up a one way street at the time?

bus tow truck 2

When all was said and done, I asked the police officer in charge of the scene how big a ticket I was getting, and he replied “What with the tow bill, the radiator coolant you need to buy, the hose you need to replace, and the roses you’ll need to buy your wife to make up for this, I couldn’t in good faith give you a ticket. I’m a married man too!”

I also remember driving out of one of our first RV parks, and how everybody waved at us as we drove past. I commented to Terry about how nice everybody was, and wave right back. It wasn’t until I got to the street and glanced in my rear view mirrors that I noticed that I had left all of our window awnings out. Of course, at that point there was no way I was going to stop and get out, so I just drove away, while poor MIs Terry hung out the windows unhooking the awnings as we went!

So yeah, I could easily do a Rock Bottom 10 – been there, done that, and a few more. How about you? What were some of your worst RVing goofs?

Thought For The Day – Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

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Nick Russell

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  24 Responses to “Rock Bottom”

  1. Oh man, Nick, I give you credit for making me laugh all the time! If I’d have been in your shoes, the cops in Bremerton probably would have thrown me in the slammer! Thanks for the chuckle.

  2. How funny! Your wife must be a saint! I am pretty sure I would not have her self-control in some of the situations you wrote about!

  3. Man, I can just see Miss Terry hanaging out the window unhooking those awnings! Good think you didn’t hit any bumps or take an sharp curves or you may have dumped her out!

    I managed to high center our coach on a railroad crossing on a back road in Missouri once. We were terrified that a train would come along and broadside us. A farmer came along with a tractor and managed to drag us off. We did about $3,500 damage to our RV and condidered ourselves lucky to get off that easily!

  4. Oh Nick, I feel so much better now. The first day we had new Dutchstar I drove into the state park and on 2nd curve hit a leaning palm tree and took off the large awning and half the cap. Had to sit in that park waiting to get on repair list and I met everyone who was staying there. We were the biggest attraction there. Park officials were very kind and posted a sign on the tree I hit (Ann took this tree out with her RV).

  5. My first day of driving our 40′ foot MH on our first day of full-timing, I took a curve with a high cement curb too sharp and sent the back coach tire over the curb and of course the toad followed. Unfortunately at the same time the Pressure Pro cap on the front toad tire hit the curb so hard as it was coming down it snapped the tire stem which resulted in an immediate flat tire. I now treat curbs as “the enemy” and I won’t make that mistake again.

  6. Nick,

    My husband thinks he is Robin Williams. One snowy Nov., we were camping in the Pocono mts in PA. On the day of our departure, he was outside dumping the tanks while I was in the heated inside stowing everything when I heard him yell for me. I opened the window and calmly asked “What?” “Get out here quick” was his response. I took my time getting on my winter coat and boots knowing full well what had happened. There he stood, the two hoses had disconnected from each other he was trying to hold them together to avoid the spillage. Frantically he was telling me to close the valve, while I, still being calm, asked which one. This went on for a minute or two, which seemed like forever to Lenny. After I closed the valve, I told him he was not allowed in the coach until he was all cleaned up and not to touch anything until I brought him paper towels. We laugh about it now everytime we leave a campground. And he still manages to make a “mess” sometimes. Glad I don’t have that job.


  7. Great post Nick….I really love the pics of the bus trapped on the one way street. I would be sooooo mad, I couldn’t breath. Very funny!

  8. This is great for a laugh!!!!!!
    Yes, we did get the cat back eventually!!!!!!!

  9. Wow, I am truly humbled. My ideas for the list of “bottom 10” weren’t even CLOSE to being a “real RVer” list!!! Congratulations to you, Nick, that stuck bus on the one-way hill was a classic!

  10. How about flushing the black water tank, getting side tracked by a neighbor’s visit and having the water flow out of the toilet all over the floors..pleural.

    Or driving down the highway with a slide out.

  11. Don and I were on our way from Indio to Quartzsite January 2008, and we stopped at the free dump station in Blythe. After being in line for quite a while, and chatting with several other RVers doing the same thing, Don was in a hurry to get dumped and get on our way. He failed to get the sewer hose firmly attached, but confidently pulled the black tank handle. The hose popped off and black ‘stuff’ came spewing out all over us and the pavement. Since Don had told several people that we were taking delivery of our new Phaeton in Q the next week, by the time we got to La Mesa RV even the salesman had heard of our plight! There must be a Murphy’s Law that says the larger the audience, the greater the likelihood that you’ll have a dump station mishap!

  12. My first time pulling our new 5th wheel was through rain and construction on the roads. All went well until I pulled into the campground and made the right turn too tight. I clipped the end of a parked car. The car belonged to the campground owner.

    While I was very upset the owner seemed so nice. After the police left and I had given her my insurance information, I checked in and went to our site.

    The owner had given us the site next to the dump station. Paybacks !!

  13. I laughed, I cried. I really liked the quote of the day. Time is truly what helps me keep my sanity.
    My first trip home from where I bought the 5er started my RVing experiences. I hooked the chain link fence with the corner of the trailer and pulled down a bunch of fence and I wasn’t even all the way in the drive yet.

  14. Oh Lord, how we all love to laugh at ourselves — in retrospect. Our worst blunders were (1) — two instances of flushing the black tank and forgetting about it, see Donna Huffer’s reply above — what a helluva a mess inside!

    (2) — refer to #6 above, being on a back road and finding a low bridge clearance. Only we were heading for a compground in a state park in Minnesota. The bridge had a 10-ton weight limit. We were on a narrow, one lane dirt dike between to bodies of murky water. Had to unhook the car, back it about 100 yards to an open space, walk back to the motorhome and guide Suzy’s masterful backing of the motorhome the same distance! Our audience was a swarm of ten-year-old kids on bicycles!

    Oh yeah, we’ve done a bunch of the other stuff too!

  15. Long before we bought our fifth wheel, we rented a 20′ trailer for a week-long vacation. We asked the company’s rep why the black water gauge wasn’t sitting at empty. He said it was probably a piece of toilet paper caught on the sensor; don’t worry about it. The rentals are always returned empty, ya know.

    In the first place we stopped, we found more reason to be concerned. Luckily, a friendly full-timer helped us look in the toilet with a flashlight to confirm that we truly did have a problem…it was a blockage. With enough water pressure going into the toilet, the guys hit the release valve in time to clear the blockage and make the problem go away. I was in charge of watching inside the toilet with the flashlight while they worked outside; the possibilities of flooding the interior with black water terrorized me! But the good Samaritan knew his stuff and taught my newbie husband what needed to be done, and they were successful We lived, fortunately.

    In all the excitement, after profuse thanks, we packed up to begin our vacation anew. Being newbies in a rental, we forgot to take in the steps, and clipped them on a curb trying to leave the campground. So we had only 2 of 3 steps for the bulk of the trip.

    When we got back to return the rental, we paid for 1/2 the damage and the rental company accepted the blame of the other half, having sent us out with a plugged black water tank and upsetting us so much that we forgot to bring in the steps.

    Live and learn.

  16. Leaving a spouse after a fuel stop with other motorhome having to call and ask if anything was forgotten? Well up the freeway stopped to take on an additional passenger.

  17. thanks for the laugh, The worst thing that I myself have done to damage not our motor home but to a car behind us at a stop light, we went to switch drivers at a light and being in a hurry instead of park I put the rig in reverse and rolled into the car behind us. Mike had the good sense not to yell at me. The lady was really nice to me despite doing a lot of damage to her car. The Minnesota cop asked her if he should give me a ticket, she told him absolutely not. We now only switch drivers at a rest stop.

  18. My second day after retiring, I lost a tire on my trailer. A few weeks later I pulled the rear panel out, hooked on a mailbox. As Garrison Keillor says, “To a writer, everything is material.” Perhaps you caught my story in the current issue of Escapees Magazine. It is better to write about happier times.

    Pete Gray

  19. Thanks for the chuckles. It came at a great time. We just returned home with our motorhome. Last week I cleaned and sealed the rubber roof on our unit. It looks beautiful! The problem is, the manufacturer of the sealant did not specify how much sealant was needed to cover a class A size roof. I applied it per the instructions but when it rained last night, there was white milky looking liquid running down the side of the camper and a 3 ft. puddle of white on the ground. I called the 800 number on the container and their customer service said only about 16 oz. would cover the normal class A roof. I had used about 3 quarts and said somewhere on the container should give a person an idea of how much to spread on! Even though i used a sponge mop like they suggested, I got it way to heavy. Now a job that took two days of work has to be redone. They said it will continue to run off in the rain because there is way too much and the only way to correct it is to start all over with the cleaner and get it off and then reseal it with much less sealer. I just wish they could have given better instructions on the quantity to use. The customer assistance said that would be hard as all roofs are different. I told them that just what he told me verbally about the 16 oz. for a class A would have been a good “ballpark” idea for a lot of people ! Well, now I get to do it all over again. I guess I learned the hard way on this one, but at least it’s fixable.

  20. Macon’s Observation: RVing gives one the opportunity to do lots of really stupid things!

    I think I’ve checked off everything on the Bottom Ten, the latest being an attempt at removing my back cap with a sign post in northern Maine, then having to limp unceremoniously all the way back to Forest City, IA to have it replaced at a cost of over $20,000.

  21. We have numbers 5 and 9 left to go and hope we never experience them! Your list brought back many memories from years gone by, been there, done that, and hope we have learned to never do any of them again! I saw Bill Farlow take out an RV awning at an Escapade once so even the old masters have tails to tell.

  22. Oh. . . Nick, tell me it ain’t so. Here we sit in our brand new Phaeton, without a scratch on it. It just shines! Please agree with me. . . tell me that I’ll NEVER ding my new baby. (Hey. . . tell me what I want to hear, not necessarily the truth). oRV

  23. Six years ago my partner and I completed our own version of a Bottom-10 list during a 3-month road trip in a 30 foot Class C with a Jeep toad! Here’s a quick summary…

    1. missing the exit on the freeway and heading to downtown Denver…unhitch and back up!
    2. stopping at a truck stop to change drivers and ending up in the Wendy’s drive thru going the wrong way…unhitch and backup!
    3. trying to find the campground we ended up on a dead-end road…unhitch and back up!
    4. running out of propane while boondocking at a campground we felt had the ‘it’ factor (we’d only been there one night)…hitch up and pull out!
    5. jack-knifed in the middle of Bar Harbor…unhitch and backup?? not so easy…there was a fire hydrant inches from the front bumper. But, with the help of several onlookers we made it out okay…and provided the little town with some comic relief.
    6. took the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut…low bridges…3 or 4 very low bridges! I was driving to avoid the dying squirrel in the middle of the road and that is the only way we squeaked under the last one
    7. caught in the wrong lane on a round-a-bout on Cape Cod…go around again, and again
    8. drove along the Blueridge Parkway in Virginia…during major rainstorm and flooding…
    9. paid full price to stay in the over-flow area at an RV park in New Jersey…
    10. yes, I too had the hose come off while dumping the holding tanks…;(

    As usual, there is definitely more to the stories…but these should give you an idea of how eventful our trip was…;)

  24. Thanks guys you all made my day.

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