The Trip From Hell

 Posted by at 1:03 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 152017

Thank you to all of you who sent emails, posted blog comments or on Facebook wishing us well, offering to come to our assistance if necessary, and praying for our safety after my blog about our breakdown on Sunday.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of our troubles on the Trip From Hell, but we are safe and doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Here is an update, and it’s a bit long.

After our 12 hour ordeal stranded on the shoulder of Interstate 10 in Mobile, Alabama on Sunday, we were back on the road Monday afternoon with repairs made. We made it a short day, about 60 miles or so to Campgrounds of the South in Gulfport, Mississippi. We have stopped at this very nice campground many times over the years. It is clean and well laid out, the owner and managers are always very friendly, and it is convenient to Interstate 10. We got a long pull through 50 amp full hookup site for just $23 with our Passport America membership.

Campground Fee 1 night = $23. Two-For-One Casino Seafood Buffet = $26. Walking out with over $50 won in the casino’s free slot play = Priceless.                                                                                                          That’s how Miss Terry rolls!

When we checked into the campground, the owner suggested we go to Island View Casino and take advantage of their two-for-one all-you-can-eat buffet, which included crab legs, shrimp, and lots of other goodies. That sounded good to us, and when we got to the casino we had to sign up for their free Players Club to take advantage of the buffet special. Once we did that we were directed to a nearby bank of machines to insert our brand-new players cards and see what we had won just for signing up. As it turned out, I won $10 in free slot machine play and Terry won $100. You couldn’t cash in those credits, they had to be played. Okay, let’s go eat and then we will blow through that money and go home.

The food was excellent and we both ate way too much, then we hit the slot machines. When it comes to slot machines I’ve always believed in making the maximum bet, so you can either win big or lose it all and get it over with. It didn’t take me long at all to lose it all. But not Miss Terry! She would play and win a little bit, then lose a little bit, but overall she kept winning. And by the time she had used up her $100 in free play credits she also had $50.65 in cash winnings. Okay, time to go home!

When we got back to the motorhome we had an unpleasant surprise waiting for us. The bedroom was flooded because one of the water hoses to our Splendide washer/dryer had ruptured. So much for taking a quick shower and going to bed. First we had to dry out the bedroom.

If we thought we had been jabbed enough by the fickle finger of fate, we were wrong. When we got ready to leave the next morning, the rear end of the motorhome would not air up again. At least that was a simple fix. The camp host’s husband crawled under the Winnebago, found a nut had come loose on the air level adjustment rod, and replaced it.

We stopped at the Flying J just 3 miles west to fill our tank, because besides the miles we had driven, we burned up a lot of fuel with the generator to keep the basement air conditioning going while we were broken down, and overnight while we were dry camping at the repair shop. We have used Flying J for years, and though it can be frustrating getting in and out of some of their RV fuel islands, overall we have had good luck with them. But I think we should have passed this location up.

A hard rain hit us just as we got back on the interstate but it didn’t last long, and soon we crossed into Louisiana. We hooked up with Interstate 12 and took it around the north end of Lake Pontchartrain and through Baton Rouge, crossed the Mississippi River, and reconnected with Interstate 10.

This took us over the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, which is actually a pair of side-by-side bridges over the swampy Atchafalaya Basin. With a total length of 18 miles, it is the third longest bridge in the United States and the fourteenth-longest in the world in total length. You all know about my fear of high bridges, but these are low and don’t bother me.

There was a lot of traffic going in both directions, but everybody was moving along just fine.

There’s a lot of water out there!

Interstate 10 in that area has a reputation as a rough road, and it certainly is in some stretches, but no worse than Interstate 20 through Shreveport, parts of Interstate 10 in east Texas, Interstate 40 across northern Arizona, and a lot of other roads we have traveled.

We’ve been across this route so many times over the years that we could do in our sleep, so we decided to do something different this trip. In Lafayette we got on Interstate 49 and took it north toward Shreveport, where Interstate 20 would take us west through Dallas and eventually reconnect with Interstate 10 in west Texas. At least that was the game plan.

Interstate 49 is a very nice road that goes through some beautiful countryside, but we didn’t get to enjoy it for very long because we had more troubles waiting for us. Suddenly our generator stopped working. I hit the button on the dash to restart it and it ran for about five minutes and then quit again. About the same time, the check engine light flashed on my dashboard and went off, and I felt some hesitation in the engine. If you’ve driven a vehicle as long as I have our Winnebago, you know its personality, and you know when something is wrong. Things cleared up for a little while, then the light flashed again and I felt the same roughness in the engine. And it continued like that.

About 50 miles south of Shreveport we pulled into Ajax Country Livin’ RV Park, a small mom and pop Passport America campground less than a mile from the interstate. We got a full hookup pull through 50 amp site and settled in for the night and to contemplate this new development.

I use biocide religiously in the motorhome’s fuel tank, and while it was parked for the last seven months I gave it a double dose and filled the tank completely full to avoid condensation. Given that, and because the rig had run fine up until then, I suspected we had gotten some bad fuel at the Flying J back in Gulfport.

The next morning (yesterday) we drove 65 miles north to the Cummins shop in Bossier City, on the east side of the Shreveport metropolitan area. They checked the fuel filters on the engine and the Onan diesel generator and found a lot of water in the fuel. A lot of water! We knew that just changing the filters wouldn’t help us with that much water and also quite a bit of crud in the fuel. As it was, all we would have done was foul another set of filters. So they had to drain the tank completely, put in 10 gallons of fuel and some additive to help dry out the inside of the tank, and we were finally good to go.

The question was, where were we going to go? Terry and I were worn out physically, wrung out emotionally, and not having any fun at all. We looked at each other and asked, “What the hell are we doing?” Neither of us felt comfortable taking the Winnebago any further west at that point. It would probably run fine, but we just didn’t want to do it. All of the reasons that we decided to buy our house and get off the road fulltime came back to us. As I’ve said before, while we have always loved the destinations, we stopped enjoying the trips from Point A to Point B a long time ago. It just isn’t fun anymore. So we decided to turn around and go back home.

Our traveling days are not over, but it’s time to downsize. This is something we have talked about several times since getting the house, but even with all the problems that we had on this trip, we really like our Winnebago motorhome. We’ve customized it to fit our needs with two custom computer workstations, a custom-built table and bookcase, flat screen TVs, and a lot of other upgrades. It was a great rig when we were fulltiming, but it’s more than we need at this point in our lives. Sitting still for the last few months has not been good for it. I think we’ve got all the bugs worked out, but it’s now more than we need. I think we are going to look into a van or something like that for a future travels.

But first we are going to go home, take a long breath, get some rest after this hectic week, and then we will see what our next step is. We are fortunate in that we don’t owe very much on the rig and have quite a bit of equity in it, even at low Blue Book. So I think we can do pretty well in a trade in if it comes to that. Or, we may sell it outright if somebody comes along looking for just the right motorhome.

Thought For The Day – Nobody said life would be easy, they just said it would be worth it.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  31 Responses to “The Trip From Hell”

  1. Sure sorry to hear about your “Trip from Hell”, Nick.
    You are correct though, When the music stops or when things are no longer fun, it’s time to go home.
    Have a safe journey and enjoy your home. God Bless!

  2. I know your trip was awful but you write so we’ll, I enjoyed you misery. Sorry! I hope your downsizing goes well. We just moved up to a newer rig and the dealers just don’t realize the value in our trade-in like we do. But that’s the price we pay for enjoying this life style. Good luck!

  3. Sally,
    I think the dealers do realize the trade in value……have you looked at the price of some 8-9 year old units?
    To me they are $40k or more over priced. So they low ball you and high price the newbee buyer and make more money. 🙂

    Such is life.

  4. Having followed and enjoyed your escapades for years I can tell you that you are my best example of following your intuition. Whether it’s apparent to you or not, there have many examples over the years and you proved it out. I will continue to follow your adventures, no matter which direction you head.

    Have a safe trip home, treat Miss Terry to a nice dinner, take a deep breath and relax as you plan the next adventure.

  5. It hard to end the life style but you know when it is time. We hung up the keys last Nov. We miss the destinations but not the journey. That meant it was time to look at something new. We still have not found our perfect new place. We are in Zephyrhills Fl. and will probably stay in this area. The four of us first met when we got our first Tx. drivers licenses. Looks like we both ended up in Fl.

  6. Wow, this trip is a good example of the old saying of dubious origin: “when it rains it pours.” Good choice to quit the trip while you were still close to home The karma was bad for this one. However I suspect that a few more weeks of summer weather in Florida will motivate you to get back on the road or look for a new Plan B. Best of luck! 🙂

  7. Completely understand your decision there Nick. Your experience and willingness to tell your story have been so valuable to all of us over the years, and we thank you. There does come a time when simplicity is a tremendous asset though. We retired in early ’16 and became RV newbies. I’m only marginally handy at best and was overwhelmed at the thought of a big, complex RV. We bought the simplest motorhome we could find, a Winnie Travato class B. Yes, no slides, almost no space compared to an A, but lots of other benefits. It’s not perfect either and there have been a couple issues in our first year – the generator and some awning clips, but nothing that slowed us down. 13K miles in 12 months. Whole different style of travel, but we’ve loved every minute of our 5 month long trips this year. You two have a safe trip back home.

  8. Nick,

    Tough call, but once you lose confidence in something, it’s hard to continue or get it back.


  9. Best wishes on your down sizing, looking for a new rig the more “gee. wiz” features, the possibility for more “G***D***” moments. A new acronym KISN

  10. “Don’t give up the ship because of rough waters”. We felt the same as yourself in 2013 but carried on and are glad we did. There are always rough spots in the road but things will quiet down and you will be back to enjoying the good life.
    Our airbags also failed due to lack of use. They are like tires the more you exercise them the better they work.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It’s about time.

  11. We had a 38 foot long gas Itasca Suncruiser. We stopped in North Salt Lake at the Flying J there and got bad gas. They had apparently put some diesel in their unleaded gas tank. That made driveability terrible and required a new fuel filter. The next year we went through the same area and figured it was safe to stop at the same Flying J. The two would be cleaned out by then. WRONG. More repairs and worries again. Needless to say, we have never stopped at any Flying J since then.

    It still sounds like you are going through the same worries that we went through before deciding to sell the RV. Good luck with your new adventures and I think you will be glad you made the changes.

  12. We are so sorry you had to go through all this. We’ve had similar situations and it is very discouraging and sometimes frightening. It really tests a person’s strength. So glad you have your home in Florida to go to and reevaluate how you want to proceed. Trouble is, people like us will probably always have “hitch itch.” Good luck on your decisions. Thinking of you both.

  13. Have a safe trip back home, relax a little, play around with your boat. I a sure you and Miss Terry will come up with the solution that fits your needs.

  14. Wow, going through our little adventure of hell too. Purchased a 2008 Fleetwood November last year and it’s been one problem after another. We live full time, traveling for work. We have yet to go from point A to B without something breaking. Right now our motorhome is in the shop with 19 things that need repairing. I SO feel your pain ? So discouraged at times …

  15. Sorry you had such a rough trip and turned around. Anyone who had RV’ed any length of time can understand. We’ve all been there once, or twice, where everything goes wrong. Go home, reenergize and things won’t seem so bad after awhile.

  16. Yes, get out in your boat and enjoy!
    You will love it.

  17. I enjoyed your story except for the line, it wasn’t good for
    It to sit for the few months,
    We been sitting for 8 months .. I have started my Diesel Pusher
    Three times and ran it for 30 mins. I guess my next trip should be
    Local and short… Glad your home or at least heading home. All
    the best and Thank God it only cost you money.

  18. Perhaps it was me reading between your lines but your decision to return home. I have always been a long time believer that things happen for a reason, even though at the time the reason may not be apparent at the time. You’ve both made the correct decision, in my opinion. May your journey home be uneventful. God Bless!

  19. Why don’t you think about finding a campground you really like, somewhere between where you are and home, and check in for a week. Just hunker down and relax, and then see how you feel in a week. Just a thought.

    We’ve been half-timing for 17 years and still love it. But every year, something breaks. We pay the cost and go on our way. Maybe we will get to the point where it is just not worth it anymore. That said, we’ve never been stranded on the side of the road for more than a few hours.

    Whatever you decide, we wish you the best, and No More Trouble!

  20. I feel ya. We did just that same maneuver after our last trip in our 40′ rig last August. We sold it within a few months and shortly thereafter bought a 24′ Born Free. I never liked to drive the Foretravel … except on an interstate … but the Born Free is a treat. Phoenix Cruiser makes a really solid, nice unit … so does Leisure. It is not the vehicle … it is the journey.

  21. Dear Nick and Terry,

    We hung up the keys for similar reasons 2 years ago. Reading between the lines in your blog since you bought your house, I am not surprised. We still travel and have adventures, we just do it a different way.

    Our goal was to keep the full timing attitude by not accumulating lots of unnecessary stuff, physical or mental. Our closets still have empty shelves, and we still have the same adventurous, unpredictable spirit.

    Just keep following the dream!

  22. I think you need to back up and look at the big picture, remember we have all gone over some very rough roads in our days. Good luck at on your next trip.

  23. Nick appreciate your situation. We have been off the road for severall months and just left Houston for the Palo Duro Canyon. First stop and the air leveling (not suspension) in the coach failed. Then the grey and black water tank sensors failed (no they are not clogged up). Had 4 days in Palo Duro and started for Glen Rose TX to spend a week with family. On the way we picked a KOA near Abilene. There pool was closed, their water main broke, the breaker in our spot lasted all of 1 minute. Wife took our little dog for a walk and the neighbors 2 Pit Bulls were eyeing her hungerly! Park fixed the breaker but in the proess the power fluctuation blew my TRC Autoformer ($500). And it looks like my trav’ler dish controller may have taken a jolt as well (needed recalibration). I am crossing my fingers and hoping that will be the end of it for a while. Frustrating

  24. Nick and Terry. Sorry to hear about all the problems you experienced. I am glad that you have your nice home to return to while you evaluate your situation

    Will mention that I have had Geico for several years for road service. Any time I have called for service on either my RV or my car they have quickly asked if my vehicle and I were in a safe location. I think that one call for the car I mentioned that was barely off of a busy road and that it was dark. Seems like I got a quick response for a tire change.

    Wishing you both well in the next chapter of your adventuresome lives.

  25. We are sorry to hear about your troubles with your rig. You both are healthy and just need a few days to recalculate your new plans. Wishing you both the best.

  26. I think Susan Wilson hit it right on the head you’re in a campground now spend a little time there relax collect your thoughts better
    right now you’re mad because everything going to the southside of the handbasket
    Take a vacation give yourself three or 4 or 5 days you’ll be more in tune
    I’ve had airbags go on my truck I’ve had water in my fuel The truck just got out of the shop the other day with the oil cooler seal let go and pushed all the oil into the radiator Thank God I don’t have a washing machine, But the toilet overflowed twice in one week if that helps
    It’s mostly all stuff that you’ve dealt with before it’s just frustrating all at once
    So sit back relax take take a nice walk around the park and miss Terry out to nice dinner you both need the downtime

  27. Considering the multitude of troubles, I think you and Terry made a very good choice!! I have learned in life it will not get better unless one gives up and goes back to square one…hope you make it home ok!!

  28. Sorry about all your problems but I really enjoyed following your blog kind of sorry it had to end but that’s best for you guys

  29. I felt like the universe was telling you to go back home

  30. It’s great you have options.
    Hang in there.

  31. I let a day go by before I commented. I would like to point out that when you had trouble with your internet connection it wasn’t the Winnebago, when you had trouble with your tow service it wasn’t the Winnebago, when you had trouble with the fuel it wasn’t the Winnebago. When the back suspension went it WAS the Winnebago. Now that you have a home place and are not on the road all the time you have lost that jello schedule and roll with the punches mindset. Perhaps it is time for you to down size or change the way you travel. That is only something that you and Terry can decide. From experience as part time full timers we can tell you that being at home base (6 months a year) and in the RV (6 months a year) requires some different thinking. If anything you have to be MORE flexible because you have two different lifestyles. Be careful to not downsize to too small a rig. Good Luck on what ever you choose.

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