I was having some trouble deciding how I was going to start this post; a bit of writers block if you will. The introduction for a post really sets the tone for how the rest of it will read, you know? I tried a couple of different variations on opening paragraphs and ended up scrapping them as they just didn’t really capture the essence, the feel of what I’m going for. It got to the point where I even considered starting this post the same way a class president begins his graduation speech, before waxing poetic about the monumental accomplishment of passing 12th grade without getting pregnant or maid of honor opens her toast, before proceeding to ugly crying through a story about the summer she and the bride spent discovering themselves in Spain; by quoting Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
Yes. I know. I’m the worst.
However, as I wallowed in a puddle of my own self loathing whilst typing ‘Recreational Vehicle’ into the search bar at the top of merriam-webster.com and considered throwing myself into a reservoir, I was saved at the last moment. I was saved, not because Messrs. George and Charles Merriam and Noah Webster had anything particularly enlightening to provide on the matter; they define recreational vehicle simply as “a vehicle designed for recreational use (as in camping)”, which is exactly as boring and shitty as expected.
No, the gem proffered up by merriam-webster.com came not in the form of their definition, but from the ‘Recent Examples on the Web’ section by way of this headline:
There it is. That’s what I was struggling to capture in my introductory paragraphs. The thing that exactly captures the true essence of RVs and sets the proper tone that I want this post to follow; A news article from Texas about a drug felon stabbing a police dog in the face.
If you were somehow unclear on my feelings about RV’s up to this point we aught to be on the same page by now.
But just to be really, totally sure I’ve been clear enough: RV’s are stupid and suck, there is literally no reason you should ever consider taking a trip in one. If you are thinking about renting an RV to take a road trip in. Don’t. You would be much better served doing an activity that has at least an outside possibility of a positive or enjoyable outcome; such as performing unnecessary abdominal surgery on yourself with dirty kitchen utensils.
I didn’t have a benevolent and wise blog writer to warn me before I made the mistake of taking an RV trip, but you do. Listen to my tale and live a fulfilled remainder of your life not going in an RV.
My tale begins in the long ago year of 2018. A simpler time. A time of innocent wonder and unspoiled joy. My wife and I decided we- actually hold on.
This is bothering me so lets sort something out here; I went back and read that article. The police dog that the drug lady stabbed is fine. Turns out the stabbing was done with some sort of a plastic handled eyebrow trimmer. Officer McBarker (my name for him, not theirs) was treated for minor injuries and returned to duty the following day. Frankly I wasn’t going to be able to concentrate for the rest of this story without knowing if the dog was alright.
Right, now that we’ve covered that, back to my story.
For our summer vacation in 2018, my wife was fretting a lot about spending too much money on a trip plus having to make arrangements for our dogs while we were away. My cousin who lives in Florida was going to be getting married in July, so we figured we would combine our vacation with that. Originally we were looking at Universal Studios in Orlando, since they’ve got that Harry Potter world and f*#k you if you don’t think waving wands at stuff and going to Diagon Alley the best way to spend your week off if you are a 30 year old man. Because of the aforementioned cost and dog separation anxiety however, we were getting nowhere fast with making any firm plans.
That is, until I had the idea that will haunt me to my grave. Fresh off our previous year’s camping extravaganza which you can read about in I Pooped in the Woods, I thought perhaps we could do something new and different for our vacation this year. It is at this point that I would really have appreciated the sage advice of some a#@hole on the internet to tell me and my ideas to f*#k right off. I didn’t get that though, which is why I proposed the idea of renting an RV and road tripping it down the east coast and back for our vacation.
It’ll be more inexpensive than dealing with airfare, hotels, resorts and boarding the dogs I thought. It’ll be a cool opportunity to see some of the country I thought. It won’t be the living embodiment of my worst nightmare set to the score of five hundred podcasts in a row, all while a tiny horned devil stabs me over and over again in the bank account, I thought.
As clearly neither of us is a sane person who can recognize a sh*t-turd of an idea when it’s dancing in front of us in an unbuttoned trench coat with it’s shriveled d*ck waving in the breeze, my wife was all about the RV idea.
We found a site that works kind of like Air BnB for Recreational vehicles in that people that own them can rent them out to vacationers. You pay a security deposit, then you pay a cost per-night to rent the RV and take it around camping and whatnot. Seemed simple enough, and most of the ones available were pet friendly, which meant we could take the dogs with us no problem.
Enter the harbinger of my doom. The 2009 Coachman Prism.
This is the RV we ended up renting from a private owner, lets call him Charles. We’ll call him that because that’s his name. Things started out innocuously enough, all of the preliminary things you might expect went without incident. We had a meetup with Charles to do a walkthrough of the RV so we’d know how everything worked and so he could explain the various ins-and outs of our rental agreement with us. Nothing out of the orinary: (x) amount of miles per rental day are included and anything over that is a few cents per mile, bring it back clean, bring it back with the sewage and grey water tanks empty to avoid extra fees, you have comprehensive insurance through the rental agreement and complimentary roadside assistance, so on and so forth.
Before the appointed trip we plotted a course that looked roughly like this, booking stays in RV campgrounds down the East Coast:
We rented the RV near our home, but we would start the actual road-trip out in York PA after attending a wedding we had out that way on the front end of the vacation. Two weddings, one on either end of our vacation? Yep. we’re at that annoying age where everyone we f&ing know is getting married and for some reason expects anyone else to give a sh!t about it.
(If you are one of the people who’s wedding I attended at some point in the recent past I of course don’t mean you. Your wedding was magical and unique and is the exception to the rule. It wasn’t a huge inconvenient chore and I didn’t hate every second of having to shout over the f*#^ing music in order to make small talk with a table full of strangers for three hours. Your wedding was a treasure.)
Our first official stop was Shenandoah National Forest, then we would make our way south visiting Virginia Beach, followed by a place in the middle of some insignificant woods in a town called Moncure North Carolina because it split the travel time up on the way to the next stop and North Carolina contains nothing of value to society. Charleston South Carolina, Savannah Georgia, Another State Park near the Georgia/Florida border, and then the gulf coast of Florida for the wedding to finish the trip south and a straight shot back home to round out the vacation.
Guess where we made it to on that blue trip outline before things turned to sh*t?
The first day of our trip just happened to be the hottest day of the summer and apparently in all of recorded spacetime history because it was 110 degrees outside from about 9:30 am on.
By the time we pulled in to our campsite around 4:30 in the afternoon we had been out of range of any cell service for at least 40 minutes and it was so hot we were concerned there was a real possibility of the dogs getting heat stroke. We plugged in, hooked up and connected all of the do-dads for the RV and tried to get the AC going to cool it off. After about an hour of the AC running full tilt the inside of the RV had gotten down to about a cool and comfortable 185 degrees Fahrenheit which led us to become become convinced that in our infinite stupidity we must have been doing something wrong that the vehicle wouldn’t cool down. Since it was just as hot outside as it was in the vehicle, our concern for the dogs continued to grow until we packed all the sh!t back into the RV and drove towards civilization until we could get cell reception to call Charles to figure out what we were doing wrong.
Charles’ response was to comfort us with the fact that “it’s just like that” and to get the RV to cool down all you have to do is wait for it to not be so hot outside. Well f*#$ing thanks, Charles. Glad we' drove an additional hour and a half for the sage advice that we should just stew in our own taint sweat until the sun goes away so it won’t be quite so hot.
Maybe my expectations for the level of comfort in an RV were not set appropriately, and that’s on me. Maybe I was expecting to hang out in a comfy 71 degrees indoors even if it was roughly the same temperature as the sun’s surface outside and that was unreasonable; but the casual nature with which Charles informed me that if it was hot outside it was just going to be sh!tty and hot in the RV when my wife was fretting over a pair of dogs so overheated they looked like partly deflated beach balls sort of pisses me off.
By the time we got finished with traveling, setting up and then disassembling the RV, driving back to cell service and turning around to go back to the campground we had exactly enough time to cook dinner in the fire pit and turn in for the night. In other words, day one of the RV road trip and things were shaping up to be a real party.
We had just enough time the following morning explore the campground and take a roughly 30 minute hike along the river. The campsite was nice, if sunburnt older folks with their shirts off, unleashed dogs and combination clothesline/satellite-dish/barbecue grill with underpants hanging all over them is your aesthetic. We lasted that 30 minutes before the heat and approximately 1,294,234,121,853,000.2 bug bites from mosquitoes forced us to pack it up and head on to the the next campsite.
On day two we traveled to our second stop, a state park near Virginia Beach. Upon arrival at the campground while I was going to check in to our spot at the ranger station, another couple of RVers checking in informed me the muffler on our vehicle was hanging kind of low. After we parked I called Charles and sent him a picture of the muffler and he confirmed that it didn’t look right and that I should call the roadside assistance that comes with our rental.
It was at this point I discovered that what they mean in all the information they give you about your “total coverage” and “free roadside assistance” is that you are totally covered and completely free to call their hotline and have a lovely conversation with someone about your broken down RV. If you want someone to actually f*#@ing DO something about it you are responsible for covering that out of pocket.
After about an hour on the phone convincing the people that, no, I could not make a service appointment at a local garage and bring it in to look at because I was on vacation in a rented RV and was supposed to be travelling five hours to North Carolina the following morning they agreed to send a service truck out to deal with the issue. We made an appointment for 10 A.M the the next day for them to come out since we were scheduled to be out of the campsite by 11 sharp and on our way.
At 11:30 the next day the service person called me to tell me they were fifteen minutes away. I told them I’d meet them in the parking lot outside the visitors center since we needed to vacate our campsite. This was when we started the RV up and one of the tire pressure gauges informed us one of our tires was mostly flat… F*#k. At least we already had a service truck on the way.
One hour and 80 dollars later we pulled out of that parking lot with both issues solved. Sort of.
First, apparently the muffler had been replaced fairly recently, but not done properly. Basically, it was suspended from the bottom of the vehicle by nothing more than a metal peg, rubber grommet and wishful thinking. the peg didn’t even fit all the way into the rubber grommet anyway so it was double sh*t. Here is a diagram:
Since he couldn’t actually do anything to properly fix a muffler installed by an incompetent donkey while in the parking lot of a campground, he just took a bunch of mechanic’s wire and strapped it on there to keep it in place for the duration of our trip.
As for the tire, he was pretty sure it was probably not punctured anywhere. He pointed out to me that there is a cover called a wheel simulator that goes over where the lug nuts are on the wheel. Its just a hubcap looking thing that protects the wheel. The one on the tire that was low on air was missing. This, he said, allowed the stem valve to wobble a bit and the cap to come loose, letting air out of the tire. He put air in it and sent us on our way.
Remember the bit here about this mechanic telling me that the wheel simulator was missing. Remember it forever. Burn it into your memory so that when you close your eyes and lay down to sleep tonight the last thought you have before drifting into the sweet embrace of unconsciousness is that in the summer of 2018 in the parking lot of a national park near Virginia Beach a mechanic pointed out that the cover was missing from one of the wheels of the RV that I rented from a man named Charles.
Here’s that map again, just so we’re all on the same page about the progress we’ve made on our adventure so far:
Any wild guesses as to how far we made it before we had problems again?
Go on, guess. I’ll wait.
By the time we got to our next campsite and gave the tires a chance to cool down, the tire pressure had dropped by about 10 lb from where it had been that morning after the mechanic inflated it.
So now we’ve confirmed for sure there is for sure something wrong with one of the tires and I’ve got to start the process over of making the 100% Free™ phone call for our comprehensive coverage roadside assistance team so that they can do us the huge favor of calling a local mechanic for us who we are then responsible for paying to fix someone else’s RV. I don’t know what portion of the fee that this RV rental site takes goes towards paying the salary of a person who’s job is to type “roadside mechanic” followed by a zip code into google maps; but it’s too f*@#ing much, I can tell you that.
Oh, and did I mention that on this, our second breakdown in two days, by the time we got through the process of getting roadside assistance it was 9 pm on July goddamn 3rd? Because by the time we got through the process of getting roadside assistance it was 9pm on July goddamn 3rd.
A mechanic got there at about 10:30 and determined that the stem valve for that tire was old and dry rotted, causing it to crack which was letting air out of the tire.
He then proceeded to fire up an air compressor that was roughly the same decibel volume as a medium sized aircraft taking off and use the worlds loudest pneumatic impact drill to remove our tire, take everything apart, install a new stem valve and replace everything over the course of about an hour during which time apparently every other resident of the RV park called management to complain that someone was doing their best impression of constructing a fly by night carnival in the dark.
Despite the fact that the entire process disturbed an entire campground of people by being so loud that we had to peel out of there at 6 am the next morning rather than face any of the other residents, that mechanic deserves a f@&ing medal for coming out that late on the eve of the Holiday, being super cool and then proceeding to charge me $35 for the whole thing. 30 bucks for the trip out, 5 bucks for the valve he replaced. In addition to his fee, I gave him a 6 pack of beer because I couldn’t risk giving him any more actual cash in case I needed it to keep paying mechanics for fixing this six wheeled recreational sh$t wagon.
I did some extensive googleing to weight the pros and cons of a few options we had at this point. It turned out to be too cost ineffective to just turn around and drive home, then buy a plane ticket to fly to my cousin’s wedding. The other option was to put a brick on the accelerator and drive the RV into a ravine. I figured it would at least be cathartic to see how well the comprehensive full total insurance policy that came with our rental handled the RV being destroyed and in a ravine. It seemed risky though; the available data suggested they would likely just call a place that sells RVs and offer to give them my credit card and social security number to help me out in purchasing the replacement.
It seemed the only option was forward.
The next four days passed without incident, and I mean that in both the sense that the f*#@ing RV at least didn’t break down again for those four days, but also in the sense that as it turns out an RV road trip just consists of Driving an RV for several hours a day and then being in a place with nothing to do except be in an RV for the rest of them
We made it to Florida and attended my cousin’s wedding, spending one night in a a pet friendly hotel since we couldn’t leave the dogs in the RV while we were at the event. It was, perhaps the single bright spot amidst the otherwise desolate hellscape of sh*t that was the rest of the trip.
Our return trip was to be a single shot straight up the coast and back home, with the option of breaking somewhere for the night if we determined it was too much to do all together. It should have taken us 17 hours to make the trip. It took 25.
Apparently when you’re in a turd bus that gets 12 miles to the gallon and have to fill up every fifteen minutes you don’t make great time.
By about hour 16 it was one in the morning and we were somewhere in one of the Carolinas. I had sent Emily to bed, insisting I would settle in for the long haul through the better part of the night. Fueled by rage, energy drinks and downloaded podcast episodes I was plugging my way north when a car comes speeding up behind us, pulls up alongside me and starts flashing their lights and honking.
Guess what didn’t hold up until we made it home? If your guess was THE F*$#ING MUFFLER AGAIN, YOU WIN!
I was not waiting at one in the morning on the side of a highway for someone to come a deal with this godforsaken disappointment on wheels one more time. I drove that f*$#ing RV five miles an hour in the shoulder for 1/4 of a mile to the nearest exit dragging the muffler on the ground until I could get into the parking lot of a closed down gas station where I proceeded to crawl around under the RV on my back and reattach the stupid mechanics wire to get the muffler back in place. I then drove in silence through the night and into the day for another nine hours listening for the sound of a muffler falling off and hitting the ground.
By that point, If I had seen even a slightly steep wash out on the side of the road that had aspirations of being ravine-like I’d have driven that b#tch right into it and ended it all. I did not though, so we arrived back at our house at about 10:30 the day after we left un-ravined.
One would have thought that the endless nightmare of the RV trip would be over once we finally got it home. Not so. We had to bring the vehicle back to Charles to fill out all the paperwork and do an inspection.
Charles, who not only did not show the slightest sign of empathy, or acknowledgement that he rented us an RV with bits literally falling off it. Charles, who agreed to deduct the costs of the roadside repairs I had to make to his improperly maintained vehicle from our bill as if he were doing us a huge favor. Charles, who hit us with every additional fee possible, several of which were incurred exclusively because we had to alter our itinerary because of the breakdowns.
Charles. Charles, who walked around to the tire that I’d had to have looked at twice and replaced at 11 at night on July 3rd and asked what happened to the wheel simulator and then insisted one of the mechanics had removed it and forgotten to put it back on and I had not corrected this mistake. The stupid cap that the first guy had specifically told me was missing. The cap that was pretty clearly missing in a picture we took of that side of the vehicle before the trip. The cap that will haunt my nightmares for the rest of my natural life. That cap. He held our security deposit and then billed us $200 for a new one.
So yea. Charles.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself “We’ll, alright. You rented an RV that turned out to have a bunch of problems. Thats not indicative of the RV experience in general.”
Fair point, reader. Here are the other highlights of our RV trip with the breakdowns excluded:
Stopping for gas every 2 hours
Not being able to use any of the appliances because they trip the breakers in the RV.
Eating 80% uncooked potatoes for diner because you spent one of the nights in a place that doesn’t allow fires and as previously mentioned, the electrical system can’t run any of the appliances.
Hitting your elbows 400 times a day when trying to shower in a coffin with the water pressure of a dehydrated pervert trying to spit on you.
Sweating even while indoors.
Silence because your wife is asleep, since being unconscious is better than the living hell that is driving this f*@#ing RV and you can’t both sleep, so at least someone should get some reprieve from the suffering.
Camping, except shitty because instead of actually camping your in shitty RV surrounded by 400 other people who are either late middle aged couples with an aversion to shirts and a love of turquoise jewlery and not showering or families with twelve children under the age of 6 forcing you to question whether or not its biologically possible for a woman to have two euteri.
Road-tripping except shitty because your driving a bus sized living room that runs on diesel and tops out at about 60 and instead of something cool your destination is an RV park.
Touching a literal sh*t tube every day or so so that you can insert it into a hole in the ground that 1,235,243,676 other people’s sh*t tubes have touched since the last time anything resembling sanitation was conducted.
Sleeping on a pull out bed so bad it’t literally convex at a 45 degree angle in the center
Being ten feet from a toilet which is little more than a plastic covering over an open pipe to a sewage tank that you can smell from anywhere in the vehicle at any point in time.
Even if the RV hadn’t broken down a bunch of times on us. An RV is nothing more than a combination of camping and staying in a hotel where you make a big pro and con list of both things, throw out all the pros, mash all the cons together and then take a sh*tty trip where everything is a worse version of the regular version.
Camp or don’t. There is no acceptable inbetween and anyone who tells you differently is wrong and should feel bad about their dumb incorrect opinion.
If you were ever considering taking an RV trip, you’ve now been adequately educated. You’re Welcome.
Charles came after us for a 4 dollar toll that apparently the EZ pass had missed about a month after we had settled all of our bills. And then just charged our credit card without waiting for me to respond to his message about the toll.
That’s how I found out from the review section of his rental page that a person who had rented the RV the weekend after us posted a low star review and commented, warning people to take pictures of everything on the outside of the vehicle before their rental, and wishing they had thought to do so.
Now, I’m not saying that’s proof that Charles knew full well about that wheel cover and is scamming people, who don’t notice it’s missing ahead of time and keeping party of their security deposit. But he’s definitely doing that and I hope someone drives his RV into a Ravine.