June 2, 2017
Day 2 could have been better.
It started off nicely, if early: crows above the camper at 6:30. I couldn’t sleep last night but I finally gave in, took some melatonin and a muscle relaxant (I have waaay too many prescription bottles with me) and slept heavily. The camper lists to starboard, I’m determined to have my head on that side – the window I cannot open is there, although I’m going to open it, I am – and so my head was a bit downhill. No matter!
I got up and contemplated trying to figure out the propane system so I could turn on the gas range. Okay, so I have never ever barely even been in an RV before in my life. I do not know what I’m doing and I have launched into this project with, perhaps, not enough real life research. I’ve done a ton of internet research – I’m extremely good at internet research, because I’m extremely good at sitting around drinking wine and surfing the internet – but real life research, not so much. This is beginning, on day 2, to bite me in the proverbial ass. The other thing that’s biting me in the ass is the trust I placed in the moronic nincompoops or actively hostile forces – hard to say which – at Miles RV in Fletcher, NC. They sell Travel Lite truck campers. I wanted a Travel Lite truck camper and it is indeed in one of those that I sit right now. But I couldn’t afford a new one, although they’re pretty reasonable by RV standards: about 14K. I bought this one barely used on Ebay for 9K. Then I asked Miles RV to get my truck set up for a camper. “Why didn’t you buy one from us?” the guy on the phone said
“Well,” I said, “You didn’t have a used one for $9,000. But it works out okay because now I can afford to get y’all to set up my truck!” And I thought everyone was happy. But these are the people who, the first time I went there, took one look at my pink hair and old hippie car and told me, nah, they didn’t sell used truck campers. That was pretty much a flat lie and if they had mentioned that they sold new ones, I would have appreciated it. But they did not and so I assumed they did not. Then I found out, on the internet, that they did. So I went back to look at new truck campers, because I had only seen them on the internet. They were nicer that time, if not super friendly. Then I called up, took my truck in and had them put a top of the line tie down system on it.
Truck campers stay in place on your truck through the combined efforts of three forces: gravity, inertia and tie downs. Tie downs are extremely necessary, because when you’re moving, gravity and inertia go out of order or become the enemy or something extremely scientific like that and the only thing holding your camper and your truck in holy matrimony are the tie downs. Tie downs in truck camper world are not the fabric things with ratchet ends that your friend Charles uses to secure your furniture on his truck when he’s helping you move. They are highly sophisticated, shockingly expensive metal things with screws and hooks and they attach to more shockingly expensive metal things that are welded to the frame of your truck. There are four of them, two front, two back. You must attach them, first with cotter pins and then with screws and turnings and all in all, like much in truck camper world, as I am discovering, it’s quite daunting but doable.
One of my tie downs, I realized this morning after some studying the manual, which I didn’t forget after all at Retired Law Enforcement Man’s house, is installed wrong. Quite wrong, and that may well explain why the camper, as soon as you get up to 50 mph or so, starts to shake back and forth in a most alarming fashion. RLEM must have seen this but didn’t say a word and I am beginning to suspect that RLEM sold me a bill of goods and I have been had.
That isn’t the only thing that Miles RV did wrong, though. Your camper and your truck, when joined, get hooked up electrically by an umbilical: a heavy duty cord with a big scary round plug on it that comes out of the cab of the truck and plugs into a big scary round outlet in the side of the camper. They made my umbilical way too short, so it cannot reach. Yesterday, after spending several hours buying the camper from RLEM, we ended up going directly to an RV dealership to get them to put a new umbilical in. It cost $75 and took an hour that I could have done other things with. I am irritated with Miles RV. Extremely. Irritated. And I am writing a scathing Yelp review in my head.
That, though, was yesterday! This is today! I got up and figured out that the microwave worked, so I nuked myself up some coffee. This is not really the way you want to be making coffee when you’re out there in the great outdoors: the wilderness that is Elk Neck State Park. I have realized over the last 36 hours that my ex husband and his first wife actually used to live near here and slowly I have remembered that he used to speak fondly of this park. Despite my deep held desire to contradict anything he says, okay, I agree, it is a nice park. There are lots of children. If I still had children I would be all about this park. But I don’t have children and the nice mothers of the children look at me funny – the blue and purple hair may have been a mistake, although it has made me very very popular with teenagers, many of whom have stopped me to say wistfully that they love my hair. Anyway, I contemplated attempting to figure out the propane system and decided instead to nuke up some coffee, eat a PB & J and go for a walk.
It was a lovely walk. I took lots of pictures, a blue heron flew right over my head, and I found an odd little collection of varied bones.
SIDETRACK! This camper seems to me as if it could have been better designed. The exhaust fan, which cools the whole unit beautifully, is in the shower, which has a door. So you have to keep the shower door open to use the fan. The door is going to go. Soon. There’s a curtain anyway. And, there’s no water, because – oh god, we’re now getting back to, like, the third paragraph in – last night when I got here, after the day I described above, I was way too overwrought to figure out how to put water in. It was getting dark. I thought I was getting lost. Driving the camper was scary and I was exhausted.
“Full hookups, no hookups or electric only?” asked the very nice, very handsome young man at the gate.
“Um,” I said, “Which is cheapest? And what’s the difference?”
He patiently explained the difference and I went with electricity because, well, I like electricity and it was the middle option, pricewise. Pricewise! It is costing me approximately half of what it would to stay in a motel to park here in this lovely campground and plug my camper into a gray pole with spiders in it. That scared me too – but my book, Full Time RVing, despite being woefully out of date, came through last night and showed me how to plug my camper in. Thus: I have lights. I have a microwave. I can charge my phone. And I can plug in this laptop. In a motel, of course, I would have wifi and my own bathroom (I have a porta potti. It’s on the list of scary things I haven’t yet coped with.) and I wouldn’t have had to put down roughly half my 2012 income first. Note that I was really frighteningly broke in 2012, but still. END SIDETRACK!
OK! Let us return to today. Today, I got back from my walk and looked at my truck and camper and thought, fuck. That tire is almost flat. Fuck. O fuck. That’s the tire we filled at RLEM’s house. That’s also the tire I hit the curb with when leaving Subway. Damn damn damn.
I dithered around about what to do. Some rangers, or, I guess, junior rangers – they were probably teenagers, they liked my hair – pulled up in a golf cart. “Does that look flat to you?” I said,
“Well,” they said, “Low, anyway.”
And that is how I ended up taking the camper off the truck, leaving it wobbling on its little, treacherous, skinny legs and drove the truck 10 miles or so to Wal Mart. I waited two hours buying Wal Mart things like duct tape that looks like galaxies and a can opener, only to find that the tire was fine. They couldn’t find a leak. It’s just the camper, which is heavy, and seems to be heaviest right there on the right rear side, making it look flat. Also making it go from 42 to 36 pounds of pressure, which is worrisome, but I’m not worrying anymore.
Don’t tell anyone there wasn’t really a leak. I’m keeping it a secret. I’m telling everyone I heroically took the camper off and took the truck to Wal Mart and fixed the flat and got the camper and truck back together. I am not mentioning that I’m an anxious, worrying freak and I have a tendency to suddenly obsess about things like flat tires, whether or not they exist. But it did look flat! The story is all true, anyway, except the flat part. The true part and the heroic part is I took the camper off and I put it back on, all by myself.
To take the camper off, you have to first take off all the tie downs and then extend the poles that hold it up. You have to do that with a crank. It takes a long time, and you have to crank each one in turn, keeping it all even, until it lifts off the truck high enough where you can pull it out. There is a lot of cranking and it is also frightening, because it’s hard to keep it even and you’re afraid it will all fall down. Then you gently drive the truck out and lo, there it is standing up. Then you leave for a few hours and worry the entire time that it will blow over. The legs are not really strong enough to hold it up. It’s supposed to also be on sawhorses, but, of course, it is not. When you get back, you must carefully – oh so carefully! – back the truck into the camper, keeping it perfectly perfectly centered. It is hard as hell! And really scary, because if you tap the camper legs, that’s it, game over, you might as well have just burned that nine grand in a bonfire. My shoulders ache from cranking and I haven’t tightened the tie downs, because fuck it. I’m not driving anywhere tonight and we are not expecting hurricane force winds. I’m glad, though, that I did it. I had to do it sometime and now I know that I can do it – alone. And that is, I must admit, a damn good feeling
Anyway. This was going to be my rest day, where I just lazed around and did nothing much. Instead it turned into another giant day of camper related activity. Tomorrow is shaping up to be another one: my friend Jay has texted me the address of a Travel Lite dealership in Smyrna, Delaware, and thence I will go to have the tie down issue corrected. Smyrna is on my way to the beach. I don’t have a clue where I’m spending the night tomorrow night. Maybe a Wal Mart parking lot! I have to do it sometime.