Monthly Archives: November 2012

30 million people can do this. Why can’t we?

Millions of people in the U.S. can do this. We did it for two years but can’t now. What’s wrong with us?

The morning of departure, after replacing our expensive heavy-duty batteries (You’d Think We’d Know By Now), the forever amateurs took a full 45 minutes just to hitch up trailer to car. It was to us a complicated, heavy business, nothing like our European experience, but still, how difficult could it be?

We’d wound the trailer down onto and up off the hitch so many times we were puffing and panting, slumped over in exhaustion, arms hanging limply, even too tired to curse – at each other or the universe. The salesman had performed the deed with ease as I wrote down every step. Did I miss something? The socket on the trailer should grasp tightly the hitch on the car. Instead it popped on and off again, like a toddler trying to pick up a basketball with one hand. When on the verge of cancelling the whole rotten trip, the socket, for no explicable reason, grabbed hold of the hitch but by that time and in our shattered state we put the right-angle stabilizing thingies on upside-down.

For our next dilemma, all four trailer wheels locked up every time Jimmy barely touched the car brakes causing the trailer to hop like a coyote jumping on prey and making the stabilizing thingies leap off in a bid to escape our inept handling.

“We can’t drive on the interstate like this.”

“I know.”

“Well what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.”   Our theme song.

I won’t bore you with the technicalities but eventually we safely exited the storage lot and the journey, just into the next state, was fairly uneventful. The sign for Ft. Stevens, an Oregon State Park, was a welcome relief when we blundered on it.

It took three trips ‘round the campground to overcome disparate opinions on the perfect campsite, but we soon got down to the business of playing with all the gizmos. The central heating has the capacity of a blast furnace and sounds like one too. Operated by a remote control – a remote control for the heating and air-conditioning! – it’s another opportunity for marital power struggles and wildly fluctuating temperatures.

The control for the fridge was a little lower tech – a clip on a wire that slides up and down and falls off if you touch it – but seemed to make the difference between ice cubes or no ice cubes. We could see no reason why it should work. Maybe it was magic.

The on-board battery charger got on about its business without so much as a peep until you asked just a little too much of it, and then it whined – loudly.   Hmmm.   No comment.

And lastly, every few hours and completely unbidden, as is usually the case with these things, the electric water pump farted. It never failed to make us smile during the day but was a most unwelcome interruption to a good night’s sleep. Now I switch it off on the way to bed.

The socket and hitch remained temperamental for months. We still are.

Chilling on the beach after arrival in Oregon. That is NOT our trailer. Do you know what it is?

We May Have to Eat Dirt

We narrowly dodged an embarrassing trip back to the dealer to have a “faulty” microwave replaced.  I simply wanted to heat up our first night’s dinner in the microwave on our maiden “voyage” without having to light the gas oven, because here’s the drill with that thing:

  • turn oven knob to pilot setting
  • perform a deep cartilage-crunching crouch
  • right hand remains overhead holding in oven knob
  • left hand holding unlit match
  • no hand to light match
  • turn knob off to avoid gas explosion whilst pondering situation
  • light match
  • use other arm to assist knees back to standing position to see markings on oven knob and turn back to pilot setting
  • crouch down, neck and shoulders twisted to squint at unlit pilot conveniently placed right at the back of the long, shallow oven
  • meanwhile match goes out
  • start process all over, possibly several times
  • when on verge of tears, suddenly WOOOF!  In a burst of flame the oven’s alight.
  • avoid looking in mirror to check damage – eyebrows will probably grow back before I see anyone I know

But could I get the microwave to work?  It would count down the time on the clock but not cook. Either  silent radiation was happening or the microwave was faulty. As the food remained cold, I assumed the later. “We’ll have to take the microwave back. It’s still under guarantee.” It’s just a simple microwave. You should be able to punch a few buttons to get it to go mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Ding! without resorting to the handbook.

Fortunately Jimmy had ignored my plea and various unprintable comments, read the handbook while I battled with the gas oven and patiently explained to me the difference between the button marked “time” and the button marked “timer.”

“Was that the timer I was using? Oh good! I can set it for the dinner now that it’s in the oven,” I told him in a glib but futile effort to cover the fact that I’m a numpty.

So we didn’t eat dirt. The lasagna was very tasty and probably needed to be heated in the gas oven anyway instead of being stewed into a soggy mess in the microwave.

Banished from the kitchen. Feeling foolish.

You’d Think We’d Know By Now

Maiden “voyage” to Oregon – dwarfed between two monsters

After two years of “caravanning” in Europe you’d think we’d have made every mistake, suffered every disaster and be RV experts when taking it up in the U.S. For instance I’d sat on the keys on the sofa and turned all the electrics off  in the caravan. Who knew a little button on the key fob could do that? And who left the keys there anyway? Fuses blew regularly with the injudicious use of a hair dryer. Always my fault. The trailer got away from us once and impaled a neighbor. I was an observer for that one. The smoke alarm was a frequent accompaniment to cooking in the tiny galley. Usually my fault. But there were still more learning experiences to come.

The day of departure for the Oregon coast in our new toy, a travel trailer:

“What’s that noise?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it coming from our trailer?” The screeching, on a similar pitch to my tinnitus, was difficult to track down, but upon opening the trailer door a din escaped that was so loud that it knocked us both back.

“It’s the gas alarm,” Jimmy said and leapt to check the gas bottles, “but they’re turned off!” Meanwhile the racket filled the confined space in the trailer so fully that all senses were baffled. The noise was exploding out of the door.

There are three alarms on the trailer: gas, smoke and carbon monoxide. The gas alarm is near the floor – gas heavier than air – you knew that. Not convinced the gas alarm could be at fault I hopped into the trailer, got on hands and knees and put my ear next to an innocuous looking plastic box. Now, not only was my head reverberating as though it had been caught between two symbols, I was stuck in the fetal position with my hands over my ears and Jimmy had to come in to haul me up.

As our heads came up level with the battery gauge, some spark of inspiration prompted Jimmy to check the charge and discovered the heavy duty trailer batteries had died. Explain to me how, when the batteries had been draining for the six weeks since we’d abandoned the trailer in storage, the alarm chose that moment to squeal so heartily*. It wasn’t caused by human gas as one post-er claimed!

Jimmy disconnected the dead batteries, which silenced the alarm – again that made no sense* – took the batteries to the battery shop only to be told that they were kaput. Another lesson learned. Disconnect the (two $100) batteries when not using the trailer. Jimmy’s now got tinnitus  to remind him. We’ve also learned that if gas leaks in the trailer, we won’t sleep through the alarm!

I blame the RV dealer – bunch of cowboys – for giving us cheap batteries that weren’t fully charged to start with. After all, why take the blame for something when you can blame someone else.

Favorite saying: “I didn’t say it was your fault. I said I was blaming you.”

*So go on. Tell me.

Cannon Beach. My photo. Proof we made to it to Oregon!

Nightmares Before Bedtime

The drawer we sleep in.

We’ve two queen sized beds on our RV. That might seem a little extravagant when you don’t know our nightly drill. “Keep still!” “I can’t!”  “Wellgetintheotherbed!!”  One bed is just kind of there at one end of the trailer and the other one is in a big drawer – a slide-out – at the other end. Once parked, you pull it out and prop it up and sleep suspended in mid-air. It’s quite cozy with the curtains drawn, reminiscent of a sleeping compartment on a train. The nightmares come before bedtime with gasps and groans, broken fingernails and much bad language as the sheets are wrestled onto the mattresses which cling tightly to the walls on three sides.

To get the idea, try it yourself. Make the exercise authentic by first pushing your bare mattress into the corner of your bedroom flush against the wall on two sides. Ideally, it should be flush against the wall on three sides but your bedroom is probably not that small. Next, flick a fitted sheet out across the mattress and quickly rap your knuckles smartly against a doorframe or other suitable unyielding surface. This will introduce an appropriate level of pain early in the process. Fling yourself belly down, appendages splayed, in an imitation of Spiderman on top of the rumpled sheet and attempt to tuck all four corners neatly and tightly under the mattress whilst you are weighing it down. Once you’ve made a poor job of that, rip a fingernail off and repeat the above process with the top sheet. If you can’t bear to rip the fingernail right off then at least bend it backwards until it hurts. At any point, if you feel the need for a break to catch your breath, you may stop and stuff the pillows into the pillowcases.

Now imagine there is a bunk bed 18 inches above the bed you’ve been fighting with so when you finish with the pillowcases crack the back of your head on the conveniently placed previously used doorframe to disorient yourself before continuing any further.

Next, shake a blanket out over the mess you’ve made so far and smack a knuckle on the other hand (not the one that is already throbbing) on a sharpish object, like the edge of a door, drawing just enough blood to leave a tell tale victory trail on your blanket when you tuck it under the bottom edge of the mattress. You may not be as fortunate as us to have ivory colored blankets to give a good contrast to the blood which will display your pluck.

If you are tempted to cheat and just shake the layers of bedding out, each smoothly on top of the other without tucking and battering of head and hands, you will wake up mummified at some point between 2 am and 5 am when bed making is even less appealing than when you first attempted it. Seems difficult to imagine that the process could be any less appealing when you are already gasping, sweating, hurting, bleeding and swearing but it is actually true.

You could just sleep in a sleeping bag for years. I couldn’t.

Not the most neatly made bed you’ve ever seen, but you try it!