RV Life – Year One – Lessons Learned

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned
Wisdom emerges from Life Experience.

Preparation, Awareness, and Practice will take you far on the Road of Life.

But there’s no better Life Teacher than the Experience of Lessons Learned.

Our first year on the road living the RV Life was filled with wonder. We saw and experienced some incredible things; amazing natural beauty, historical treasures, and fun-filled points of interest. It wasn’t without its hassles and several lessons learned.

From rookie mistakes, to equipment failures, and scary weather events, we learned some things. Let’s discuss a few that helped us do it better in Year Two.

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Know Your Equipment

This was an embarrassing lesson for me. On our very first trip, the Maiden Voyage, I quickly discovered that things aren’t always as easy as they seem. What you watch on a video or read in the manual is no guarantee of how a certain thing will work.

My recommendation is to practice, experiment, and try things out multiple times until they become second nature to you. Not only will you learn the proper operation, but you will begin to realize a few tweaks you can make that work best for you.

An example for me, was the towing hook-up procedure. Aligning the ball and hitch was a challenge the first few times, but I finally figured out that a quarter-inch offset allowed the coupler to engage perfectly every time. Your coupler might behave differently, so work with it until you find the sweet spot.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned

Another example was with the tension bars on the WDH (Weigh Distribution Hitch). Engaging and disengaging those bars can be hard. I used the EAZLift Recurve R3 model. Even with the tool they provide, the tension on the bars can be difficult to overcome. I struggled with this many times until I got a tip from another experienced RV’er (Thanks Baron!)

PRO TIP – Once you’ve hooked-up the ball and hitch you can use the tongue jack to maneuver the trailer up or down to relieve the tension on those bars. Once I figured this out the bar tool became obsolete. I could simply raise or lower the trailer to a point where the bars would simply slide on and off with little or no tension. Watch Video

Your WDH might work differently, so practice with it until you find an easy way.

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Space is a Premium

It took a couple of months for us to adjust to life in a small space. We soon realized that I needed dedicated office space. It was disruptive for both of us with me working in the main living area. Cheri could not enjoy her daily shows, or phone calls with family and friends, because I was constantly on conference calls throughout the day. Also, I often needed quiet time to focus on a task.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned
Cute and functional, but not ideal for an office space.

Dining nooks in most RVs are not very comfortable.

They are small, typically designed only for the convenience of a quick meal. Sitting for hours working on a computer can be quite uncomfortable.

I needed a comfortable office chair and a larger desk.

As I noted in my RV Life – Year One – Winter article, a travel trailer configuration is not very friendly for a man of my size. Clearance for my head, elbows, knees, and toes was limited, which made life a bit unpleasant with daily bumps and scrapes.

The small shower was a problem too. It just didn’t work for me, so I resorted to using campground shower houses. That brought another list of issues, dealing with public bathroom spaces, that you can probably imagine.

The bottom line is that you might want to consider getting a bigger RV if you intend to live in it full-time.

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Setting and Breaking Camp

Each time we pulled the trailer to a new spot there was a long list of steps to do, such as …

  • Park and level the RV, ensuring clearance for the slide-outs
  • Disconnect truck and stow towing equipment
  • Connect service lines (water, electric, sewer, cable)
  • Roll-out the slides and the awning
  • Set-up interior
  • Set-up exterior

Likewise, do this in reverse when it’s time to move to the next spot …

  • Stow all loose items
  • Clear a path inside for the slides to come in
  • Ensure there’s no debris on the slide roof
  • Turn off and disconnect service lines
  • Drain and flush holding tanks
  • Hook-up the truck and go

This is an over-simplified list that excludes dozens of important details. If one detail is missed it could create a big hassle later, especially during transit. Besides making a very long and detailed checklist, the best answer for this is simply, experience. Your list will be unique, tailored to your rig and how you like to do things.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned
Setting up camp should be a short path to your comfy chair and a cold can.

After doing the routine a few times and adjusting along the way, I learned an efficient sequence that not only helped me to remember every step, but how to create smarter and faster ways to accomplish them.

For example, do as much preparation as possible the evening before travel day. This will allow you to make a quick and early exit when you have a long drive day ahead.

A few things I like to do the night before travel day include …

  • Flush the waste water tanks and disconnect the lines. The holding tanks can last up to 5 days or more before requiring a dump.
  • Run your fresh water off the tank. Fill the water tank half-to-two-thirds full, enough to last until you reach your next camp site.
  • Stow all your gear, inside and out. It’s unlikely you’ll need any of it the night before leaving.
  • Line up the truck. Go ahead and maneuver into place to make an easy hook-up in the morning. This is very helpful if you want to hit the road early in the low-light of dawn.
  • SAFTEY TIP – Always check the tire pressure on the RV and on your tow vehicle! Don’t forget to torque those RV lug nuts!

On the flip side, when arriving at a new camp site there are probably a few things that you don’t need to worry about right away, especially if you happen to arrive in the rain or if it 100° outside! For example, as noted above with preparation day, you can continue with your holding tanks for a few more days before they require attention.

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Back and Body Saver

Save yourself from a sore back, legs, shoulders, hips, or whatever body part that likes to complain. Think of ways to minimize how often you bend over to pick up things, use smart solutions for moving heavy gear, like rolling totes or folding dollies, and stow gear at waist height.

A few small features I installed on my rig that helped a bunch were …

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned
There is truth in the old adage, “Work smarter not harder.

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Bring Your Tools

We quickly learned that quality control in the RV manufacturing industry leaves much to be desired. Not only did we encounter 3 major equipment failures in Year One, we encountered dozens of small, nuisance issues. It seemed like every week something else popped up needing a fix; leaky faucets, loose fixtures (lights, sconces), broken hardware (drawer pulls, hinges), on and on.

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What we realized is that these nuisances are far more than just poor craftsmanship and cheap materials. Can you imagine what would happen to your house if you bounced it down an interstate at 70 mph for 300 miles? The effect of those forces will inevitably show-up in various places like what we were seeing.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Lessons Learned
Rough roads can wreak havoc throughout your tiny home on wheels.

Pipes, fasteners, and connecting points will jar loose over time or develop micro-cracks.

Be prepared for an ongoing to-do list of little things, so keep your tool bag handy.

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Be Weather Aware

Mother Nature will have her way, so be prepared. Cold, hot, wet, or dry, you should expect to find a wide range of conditions. This is especially true if you plan to travel from state-to-state throughout the 4 seasons. Mountain terrain can be tricky too. We’ve seen hard freezes and heavy snow storms in the higher elevations in July and August before!

It’s a good idea to bring along some extra gear for unexpected weather, such as raincoats, gloves, an ice scraper, fans, maybe even some rubber boots. You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you, or what conditions you’ll find yourself in when you reach your destination. I’ve set-up camp in a tropical storm, in 100° heat, and I’ve even had to hitch the truck in a heavy snow before!

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Preparation is key, but awareness is another important part of the equation. I experienced this while camping in New Mexico, learning what a freeze can do your water lines, see RV Life – Year One – Autumn.

SMART TIP – Use a weather app, like WeatherBug, to always know what’s coming your way or what you might be driving into.

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Destination Recon

In my article called, Maiden Voyage, I wrote about how you can use mobile apps and online tools like the Good Sam App, or Apple Maps, to help you plan your journey and learn about your destination. These tools were immensely helpful to us in finding suitable locations to park the rig.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Hundreds of mobile apps are available to help you plan your RV lifestyle.

What we learned is, even with excellent tools like these, you can still find yourself in a bind when it comes to needing reliable cell signal or other services.

My recommendation is to be very thorough, conducting some detailed reconnaissance on your destination.

This is especially true if you plan to be there for a while, or if it happens to be in a rural location.

You’ll want to know where you can find groceries and supplies, fuel, and propane. Where’s the nearest hardware store? Is there a Camping World close by? Is there a hospital or urgent care facility around? Where’s the post office, or veterinarian? There are many other things we often take for granted that might be many miles away.

See my article called, Prepare for Launch, where I talk about “My Internet & Phone“.

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No one becomes a veteran of anything without going through a few tough experiences, but I hope you can benefit from a few things I learned in my first year on the road. If you’ve been following my articles about the RV Life then you know that we started Year Two with a new rig, see RV Life – Year One – Winter.

With a new RV and different equipment, I had a few more things to learn!

See RV Life – Our Second Year – Oklahoma Spring

Proverbs 3:5-6

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Steve Coryell