By Dani Rode
I have never driven an RV let alone stayed in one. My boyfriend sold his house and was determined to have an RV. He can’t drive (legally), so I was, of course, elected. We had a small 18 footer we used to go to a local biker rally and I thought it was all we needed. It was a 1976 Casual. It was old enough that State Farm couldn’t find how to insure it.
Kevin is over 6’ tall so it was small for him to get around in. It had a little bed over the cab which I hated and the table went down and made another bed. There was a tiny bathroom in it. There was no air conditioner. At the bike rally, there are no electrical or water hookups. So we used battery lanterns for light and the water tank held enough water to wash some dishes and flush the toilet. I was able to wash up when no one was around. It was very small and had no generator. We didn’t spend much time there.
We went to a big RV park and were shocked not only with the available models and accommodations they included but the price tags they dangled as well. We quickly moved to the “used” section. The one we liked wouldn’t run. So we went home. It gave us something to think about and we decided to check out eBay and what may be available close to us direct from an owner. The one we found was in Waterloo Iowa, we are in Letts Iowa. We were so impressed with all the pictures they took.
We went to see the RV and all we could see wrong with it was the floor needed to be vacuumed. There was some water damage from windows left open on a fishing excursion. But all in all, it was NICE! The interior was Mauve, no tears in the upholstery. The RV was a HUGE –30 foot. I didn’t know how I would drive it, but it looked like a motel room on wheels. We took it out on a spin and it ran great. All the appliances seemed to work. It had a great awning and even an indoor/outdoor carpet to throw on the grass under the awning. My boyfriend was in love with the RV. They dickered over the price and finally agreed on $5,950. Considering the unit was $44,000 new and $22,000 15 years ago, it seemed a bargain. We had brought a friend to drive it home.
We slept in it the first night. Kevin, my boyfriend was intrigued by the electric step. We put a 13” TV in it and hooked it up to the antennae. The fridge was slow to cool, but it worked. The freezer froze things and the air conditioner worked great. The bed was harder and a lot smaller than our California king bed. But it beat sleeping in a tent on the ground. I am 49 and he is 47 so we aren’t kids anymore.
We decided we would go to Lake Odessa for the weekend for our first excursion. We knew we would have to pack all we needed cause we wouldn’t be able to leave. So all the packing fell to me. I had little idea what to take. So I tried to think like I was already out there camping. I packed extra blankets, some pots, and pans, towels, washcloths. I bought plastic utensils to eat with and on. I went to the Salvation Army and found pillows and blankets, can opener, spoons, etc., etc. I put boots and thongs for shoes in the camper to have as well as what I wore. I left it up to Kevin to pack his own things but I had put in some T-shirts and shorts in case he didn’t take enough. As it was he only took one pair of shoes.
He packed fishing stuff. I packed what food I thought we would use. He was so excited he was rushing me out the door. I was so nervous about driving my mind froze. Finally, we just left at 1 PM to miss the Friday traffic. Once there we realized we didn’t put the step in. But it was okay. He drove it down a steep incline, and the first problem we had was getting the thing level. We didn’t have jacks. So he tried, again and again, to put the wheels on boards. Finally, we had to put the thing in a different camping spot to get it leveler. He called me stupid and I don’t remember why and I refused to help him until he apologized. He had left the keys dangle in one of the bottom compartments and had me looking for them at the campsite. I found them and wondered who the stupid one was.
We got the awning out which was a trick because I am so short, he is a foot taller so he had to jump over to my side and tighten and lift the thing up, etc. We threw out our rug and unfolded chairs. One chair promptly broke. We got out the fishing poles, he brought my smallest fishing pole. It was a crappie pole with a 3 LB test line, we were catfish fishing. So I was upset he didn’t bring a heavier pole for me. I had brought bacon but no eggs. We brought a chain saw, but no gas. I didn’t take oil or flour to cook the fish in. I didn’t take any dish soap of any kind. Well, we did catch catfish and bullhead. Kevin got his shoes wet first thing. He spent most of the rest of the day in stocking feet with shoes sitting in the sun. Kevin lost one of his best poles to a big fish, it was completely lost to the lake. There was a bobber on it. We talked to the park ranger and he said if he saw a bobber out there he would come get us. (HAHA) I caught 2 big perch.
We hooked up to electricity and we had air conditioning. We hooked up to fresh water so we had running water. I could pee in the RV, YES! But we couldn’t figure out the hot water heater so I had to take a cold shower, I have long hair and can’t stand it dirty. I did heat water to wash dishes with, I had some of those Clorox cloths that I used in place of dish soap. That first day we had hamburgers and pork chops and beans because I forgot to take any other veggies. I did take a bag of lettuce and tomatoes and salad dressing and one bag of chips. I also made some trail mix. I took lots of hot dogs and marshmallows. My cousin came out that evening and he brought us a dozen eggs and homemade Canadian bacon he had smoked in his smoker.
We played canasta. It was a good time. When Kevin put the antennae out he broke the handle. He was upset with that. He kept going on about how the RV had been used for 20 years and it was never broken before. He had super glue on board and he fixed it best he could. I took a VCR and a shoebox of VCR tapes to watch. When the bugs got too bad we went in and watched TV.
It was nice to wear pjs and go to bed just like home. It felt like staying in a Motel and I slept so well in spite of a smaller bed. I had put 3 mattress pads on the bed to build some cushion and it helped. Kevin got up early and went fishing, and thankfully he let me sleep. When I woke he was muttering as he was trying to fix me breakfast in bed. He was making me coffee. He doesn’t drink coffee. I had one of those Pyrex pots you put on a burner. Finally, it was ready and he was so proud of himself. I waited and waited for the coffee and it wouldn’t perk. So I went to see what the matter was. I picked it up and it was SO HOT! I nearly dropped it and it lit on the counter and I asked “did you put water in it?” and he said “oh crap” (really it was the s word) and then we heard a pop as it burned a ring on the counter. I quickly grabbed a towel and returned it to the stove but not before we had a brown ring on the counter. Again he goes into a tirade, “this camper has been around 20 years and now it has a mark on the counter”. I said I was very very sorry. He was clearly upset. I got some Clorox spray and tried to take some of the dark out. I did make a pot of coffee. And then we went fishing. We thought if we had oil and flour we would eat our catch over campfire. So I called my cousin who planned on joining us later in the day. He was sharpening the saw and was going to fill it with gas. They would cut wood for the evening fire and he agreed to bring oil and flour. He also brought us more Canadian bacon.
So we had a lovely day. Kevin seemed to forgive me for burning the counter, he asked me to keep a towel over it so he couldn’t see it, it would give him nightmares. After more games, we decided to go to town to the little bar for a nightcap and some pool. I was able to stop at the house and pick up some extra clothes and canned veggies and my game boy!!
A storm came up and Kevin began to freak out. He didn’t think he had put the awning at such a way that rain wouldn’t pool in the center. He had a pull behind a camper and ruined it by not letting the water drain properly. We raced back to the RV and we fussed with the awning until we were fairly sure the rain and wind wouldn’t damage the awning. It did rain some but not much and it did run off the awning.
On the last night my 12 yr. old son joined us with fishing gear, sleeping bag, pillows, and GAS!! So we could find and saw wood for the evening fire. Kevin went arrowhead hunting and found a nice piece. We had a nice time. The only thing is Kevin kept wanting to play my game boy and I don’t like to share that thing. Early Monday we packed up to come home. We successfully dumped the sewage and I was amazed at how much there was.
He drove it up the hill and I drove it the rest of the way. At a stop sign Kevin jumped up and said, I forgot to put the stair in. When We got home, I let Kevin back the THANG into the driveway. And I heard a crack-crack. Kevin had forgotten to bring in the antennae. And he quickly went out to survey the damage. Thankfully the antenna was fine.
That was when I got the lovely task of bringing in dirty things. I was beginning to realize how much it was to camp. You pack it up, then unpack it, and on and on. But it was fun other than Kevin harping at my driving.
Now we think we may need another air conditioner for the back. And we think we need to take the whole thing somewhere for a tune-up and lessons on how to light the oven, hot water heater, etc.
That is my story and I am stickin’ to it!
By Dani Rode