RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned
Remain coachable and life experience will produce wisdom.

Two years on the road can produce lessons learned that build excellent experience for the RV Life.

But wisdom will teach us that there is always more to learn.

At the end of Year Two on the road we were feeling confident with living the full-time RV Life. Our Year One – Lessons Learned were serving us well and the new Crusader 5th wheel was performing much better than the Laredo Travel Trailer ever did. Even so, RV Life had a few things to teach us; Our Second Year – Lessons Learned.

Equipment and weather continued to be a central theme, but other situations added to our resume of RV Life experience.

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Water Pressure Lessons Learned

I was made aware of this potential problem by the RV dealer on orientation day when we bought our first RV. They warned me about RV plumbing. It is typically built with PVC pipe or PEX line, which isn’t nearly as strong as lead or copper. I recall them telling me to keep it under 70 PSI. Learn More

The easy fix for this is to use a water pressure regulator. This is a simple gadget that connects to your water source to maintain a safe pressure level. Roaming from one campground to another you never know what kind of water pressures you’ll find. A regulator can save your RV plumbing from high pressure damage. There are plenty of options on the market, ranging from $10 to over $50. See Camping World

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I understand why RV manufacturers would use these materials. It’s all about weight and flexibility. Twenty feet of 1-inch PVC weighs about 10 pounds, but the same length of residential copper pipe is over 60 pounds. See Pipe Weight Calculator

PEX tubing weighs even less, coming in at under 4 pounds per 20 feet. Another benefit with PEX is flexibility. It can bend and twist in ways that PVC and copper won’t. This is the perfect material for a structure that moves. See Year One – Lessons Learned (Bring Your Tools) The learning moment for me on this topic occurred in Ohio. See RV Life – Great Lakes Summer, Pt.2.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned

We were moving from Mogadore to Oregonia, driving through a steady rain the whole way. When we arrived at the campground it was a downpour.

Soaking wet and frustrated, I rushed through the set-up procedure and forgot to connect the water pressure regulator.

Can you see where this is going?

The next day the rain was gone and the warm Ohio summer sun had dried things out, except for a persistent wet spot under the RV. With a bit of investigation, I quickly found the issue. The water pressure had stressed a connection point inside the main storage area and sprung a leak. All my gear was soaked!

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Fortunately, the sunny day dried things out quickly and a hardware store was close by. I made the repairs, set-up fans to dry-out the storage compartment, and made sure the pressure regulator was connected before turning things back on.

SMART TIP – Instead of connecting the regulator to the water faucet each time you set-up camp, connect it directly to your RV intake valve and leave it there. Just disconnect the hose on travel day and the regulator will be ready to go for your next camp site.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned

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Surge Protection Lessons Learned

Just like water pressure, electrical service quality can vary from site to site. Unfortunately, this was not something the RV dealer warned us about on orientation day. We experienced this reality while at the same location in Oregonia, Ohio.

We experienced several tripped power breakers, so I went to the campground office to find out what was going on. Apparently, the heavy rains had affected the local power grid, causing intermittent outages and surges all around the area. When they asked me if I had a surge protector, I realized I was at risk.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned
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RV power is typically routed through a device known as a converter.

When connected to shore power, this device provides DC current that charges your RV batteries and to power the DC components inside the RV.

If a power surge damages or destroys your converter you could be looking at a seriously expensive repair. So, surge protection is a smart investment. Right away, I drove to the closest RV store and bought a Progressive 50-amp model.

SAFETY TIP – When you find yourself at the mercy of Mother Nature and frequent power blips are happening, consider unplugging until the threat has passed. It rarely happens, but surge protectors can fail if tripped too many times.

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Connection Extensions Lessons Learned

Surprisingly, we did not encounter this issue in our first year. But in year two, we found ourselves in a few situations where the service connections were too far away.

It can be quite the hassle to arrive at a new camp site and your cords won’t reach. If you arrive after hours, or late on a Sunday, good luck finding an open RV store.

Power Cords:  These are not cheap, especially the 50-amp ones, but I’d recommend getting the longest extension you can afford. I personally carry an extra 75 feet of 50-amp extension.

Water Hose:  Get a 50-foot extension, at least. I keep an extra 100-feet of fresh water hose on my rig.

Sewer Line:  I suggest you double the length of what you have. I have found it quite useful to have a variety of lengths on-hand. I have two 3-footers, two 6-footers, three 10-footers, and a 20-footer. I can mix-and-match these lengths to find the best overall configuration for all kinds of campsite situations.

SAFETY TIP – Keep your fresh water hose far from your tank flushing hose, and make sure your flushing hose is a different color. I use white hoses for my fresh water, and yellow for my flush hose. Learn More

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Bug Out Bag

This idea started out as a shower bag. We typically use campground shower facilities because the shower stall in our rig is small with weak water pressure. As a result, we keep a carry bag ready to go with all our HBA supplies, water sandals, towels, etc.

We realized that the shower bag could also serve as a Bug Out Bag. Severe weather threats can happen anytime, so we wanted to be ready for a quick exit. We stashed several emergency items in the shower bag, such as a flashlight, emergency cash, prescription medicine, phone charger, etc.

PERSONAL TIP – There are plenty of opinions out there on what you should put in your Bug Out Bag. I think this is a personal choice about what you think you’ll need in the event of a disaster. May I suggest you Start Here?

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Hot Winter

We truly enjoyed spending our second RV winter in the Miami area (RV Life – Our Second Year – Tropical Winter). However, it was much warmer than we expected. South Florida is like perpetual summer, with unending heat and humidity.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned

Many Snowbirds love this about the Miami area, but we prefer a more moderate climate.

We like the 65°F to 85°F range, but Homestead climbed well into the 90s nearly every day we were there.

If that is your cup of tea, Go for It!

Here are a couple things we learned from our hot winter experience …

Stinky Holding Tanks:  I already had some awareness of this issue from my first RV Life summer on the Gulf Coast (RV Life – Year One – Summertime, Part 1). Waste water and heat is a combination that can quickly produce a foul odor. It was a yucky chore dropping and flushing the tanks every couple of days. In a cooler climate I could go for a week or more without this hassle, but not in South Florida.

Hot Trailer:  Tall palm trees are a lovely sight, but they don’t offer much shade and most RV insulation is mediocre at best. So, the Crusader air conditioners worked overtime to keep it cool inside. We offered the AC some help by installing reflective materials on all the windows, as well as stuffing RV vent covers into the roof vents. We also rolled-up some linens and stuffed them into the slide-out seams. These few steps made a notable difference in how hard the AC had to work.

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Besides these hot weather tips, we learned a few other things about winter in the Miami area …

Metro Traffic:  No surprise here, but it was worse than I expected. Similar to Atlanta, it takes twice as long, to go anywhere in the metro area. On the day we decided to visit South Beach, it took us over 2 hours to travel 40 miles! The added volume of winter tourists exacerbated an already highly populated city.

Tourist Overload:  Besides the traffic hassles that Snowbirds bring, we encountered long lines and overpacked attractions. Go early and pick a weekday. Some places were so busy that we simply passed them by.

RV Limits in the Keys:  As noted in the RV Life – Our Second Year – Tropical Winter article, we wanted to take the RV down into the Florida Keys. The excessive cost of RV sites in the Keys changed our minds right away, but there were other factors that forced the decision to park in Homestead; 1 –> Many campgrounds in the Keys have size restrictions. Our rig was too big; 2 –> The length of stay is limited. Every campground we contacted would only allow a 2-week stay.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned
The Miami skyline. Gorgeous.

There was no doubt in our minds that we would spend the winter in Florida again, just not that far south or near a major metro area.

We learned about the Florida freeze line and decided that next time would be somewhere along this temperate zone so we could experience cool nights and warm days like we did in Picacho (RV Life – Year One – Winter).

PLANNING TIP – The I-4 Corridor between Orlando and Tampa offers some fantastic rural campsites for a slower-paced, temperate winter season. Inland locations cost less, and the beach is a short drive in either direction (East or West).

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RV Quality

Despite the fact that we gained some tremendous advantages by trading-in the Laredo for the Crusader (RV Life – Year One – Winter), there were still a lot of nuisance repairs to deal with. There weren’t near as many issues with the Forest River product as we had with Keystone, but we still had our fair share.

If you’ve read the Year One – Winter article then you know we encountered a major issue almost immediately with our brand-new Crusader. We encountered a few other problems through the course of the year; the hot water tank (bad element), a leaky kitchen faucet (bad gasket), loose and misaligned doors, and a furnace control board failure. All these hassles were a reminder of the Year One Lesson Learned about bringing your tools (Read Now).

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life – Our Second Year – Lessons Learned
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The realization for me was that the RV industry, in general, seems to struggle with producing high-quality products that hold-up to the motion forces of the road.

The reality is, no matter how well you build an RV the stresses of the highway will eventually affect your rig.

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Another factor behind this reality is, building it light and cheap. The materials used in an RV build can make a big difference in durability and quality, but that comes with a price. Most of the time using better materials will mean more weight and more cost. Learn More

Most of us don’t have the budget for a high-end, 6-figure rig. Affordable, light-weight units will continue to use parts and materials of a lesser quality. So, bring your tools and know your rig well, because you will probably be working on it at some point.

PRO TIP – If you are one who is not so handy with tools and do-it-yourself repairs, most campgrounds will have recommendations for a local Mobile RV Tech. Stop by the office and inquire. You might even find one living there on-property.

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With two years of experience on the road dealing with plenty of hassles, we were more confident than ever that we were ready for our third year of the RV Life. However, I remained cautious and coachable because of the wisdom I had gained from these experiences.

Wisdom says, “RV Life is unpredictable. So be ready and have fun. There is much to learn!

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Steve Coryell