The adventure begins – we finally moved into our Fifth Wheel! We did it … although it did not go completely according to plan. Not even a bit, really. This post is about the chaotic process of finally starting our RV life.
Our Original Plan:
Sunday: Return from vacation
Tuesday 11.00 a.m.: Enjoy the professional walk-through of our new Fifth Wheel at the RV dealership, where (we had been assured several times) we would be taught everything we needed to know about our new home. We had made it abundantly clear that we were complete newbies to RVs, and had been assured we would be given full instructions. We would not be leaving that dealership until we had been told everything we needed to know about our new RV.
Tuesday 2.00 p.m.: Meet Attila, the driving instructor we had booked, and have a driving lesson in how to tow and park the RV (given we had never towed anything but a small bike rack).
Tuesday 4.00 p.m.: Tow our new Fifth Wheel to an RV park.
Tuesday 5:00 p.m.: Pick up our stored belongings from three different locations and move in.
Easy peasy, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? So here’s a very short video showing us setting out with cheerful optimism!
Turns out, our optimism was a bit misplaced, because our plan was almost as over-ambitious as trying to build Rome in a day.
What Actually Happened:
Tuesday 11.00 a.m.: Showed up at the RV dealership and waited for about 25 minutes because (we think) the staff member who was supposed to do the walk-through had not shown up, and no one had bothered to phone us to change the appointment.
Tuesday 11.25 a.m.: I had my first meltdown of the day, and demanded to know why an appointment we had booked three months before was so difficult to achieve.
Tuesday 11.26 a.m.: A slightly sulky young woman arrived to do the walk-through.
Tuesday 11.27 a.m. to 2.00 p.m.: We had the most unprofessional gong show of a walk-through imaginable. It was frequently interrupted when the woman who was teaching us had to go and ask someone else for the answers to our questions. She did her best, but really, it was obvious that she had been ordered to do a job she was not trained to do. We all tried to make nice, but it was clear that we had all been thrown into an unfortunate situation. And we did not realize that the woman was omitting to tell us a lot of vital and/or useful information. For example, we were not told a single word about how to operate the $6,000 solar power system we had purchased as an add-on. Not.one.single.word. Not to mention a whole lot of other important stuff we were not told.
As her parting shot, she advised us to buy a $579 surge protector. Which we almost did (it was on the counter and I had my wallet out) … until we realized we already had one, as part of that very expensive solar package we had been told nothing about.
So, that was how our RV dealership treated us after we had spent about $75,000 with them. I wonder how they would have treated us if we had only bought the $26,000 trailer we were originally considering? Hurled rocks at us as we drove away, perhaps?
Tuesday 2.00 p.m.: The dealership dumped our new Fifth Wheel unceremoniously in the parking lot, leaving us and our driving instructor to figure out how to use the expensive hitch we had bought from them.
Tuesday 2.00 to 3.00 p.m.: Attila, Maggie and I hitched our tow vehicle to the Fifth Wheel. While doing that, I had my second melt-down, as the young woman seemed to be incapable of bringing us any of the things she had promised us, such as a stand to put our back-up camera on. It seemed that as soon as we disappeared from her sight, we also vanished from her mind. Poof!
Tuesday 3.00 to 5.30 p.m.: Finally, we set off for our long driving lesson. It was not as bad as we thought it would be, but it was certainly stressful. The good news was that the instructor was good, and the Fifth Wheel tracked beautifully behind our vehicle.
We had decided on a Fifth Wheel over a trailer for that exact reason, and we were very glad we had made that decision. Even so, as precisely as it tows, there is nothing relaxing about your first experience of being at the steering wheel of a 50-foot long rig in traffic!
Tuesday 5.30 – 6.30 p.m.: We checked into our “practice” camp site, the Burnaby Cariboo RV park, where we had been allocated a tight parking spot in a difficult position. After about 30 minutes, with dozens of fellow campers either trying to be helpful or just enjoying the spectacle, we finally got our Fifth Wheel parked. If we had not had the instructor with us, we would still be trying to park it now!
See our review of the Burnaby Cariboo RV park, near Vancouver BC, here.
Tuesday 6.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.: Tried to figure out how to connect our electricity – the outlet was 30 amps and our rig is 50 amps. Fortunately, we had bought an adapter, but we battled to figure out how to use it. Decided not to even attempt hooking up anything else. Who really needs water and sewage? Discovered that we could not open any of our three slides because the system was showing them as “Disabled.” This would be the first of many things that we had not been educated about during our walk-through. With all three slides closed, the entire living room and kitchen were inaccessible, and there was no way we could even attempt to move into the Fifth Wheel.
Tuesday 7.30 p.m.: Gave up in despair and drove back to my mother’s house. Exhausted to the point of feeling shattered. Bitterly disappointed that we had picked that particular RV dealership.
Coming to Our Senses and Making a Better Plan
Over large glasses of wine that night, we finally realized we would never have managed to move in that day, even if all had gone smoothly. We decided to take our time and move in in an organized way, so as to do it properly and not completely exhaust ourselves (too late!).
It took us another five days to get all our stuff moved from the various locations. We also had to donate about another two truckloads of our goods because we had, of course, not downsized enough. Even though we had spent about four weeks aggressively downsizing and donating and organizing before moving, as I wrote about here.
Once we had all our remaining stuff inside the RV, it basically looked like a hand grenade had gone off at an indoor garage sale.
If it had not been for Maggie’s genius level of organizational skills, we would never have got it sorted it out (and when I say we, I mean her). You can see a bit of how we slowly moved from chaos to some semblance of organized chaos in this video.
Complications Along the Way
Life was seeming hectic one week into our RV living – and then things got a little worse! Our dog Billy had a fall and tore the ACL ligament in his left rear leg. A common injury that can be surgically fixed, but not without major recovery time. So the poor little guy had to wear a cast for a week after the surgery. Then after he had the cast off, he had to wear a cone to prevent him worrying at the stitches.
So, our plans to hike miles every day have had to be postponed for several weeks, possibly months. We are going for short rehabilitation walks with Billy, in which he walks for 2.5 minutes a time and then has to be carried for a while. This means we have to keep our walks pretty short, as he gets heavy quite quickly. It’s a pity, because there are some beautiful hikes around here, including a hike next to Burnaby Lake, and another one through the Brunette Forest.
Three Weeks Later, and Things are Coming Together
It’s now three weeks later, and we continue to find out new things daily about RV living. We overcame our fear of hooking up the water and sewer during the first week, and have now dumped our tanks more than once. Really that is remarkably easy, once you figure out how to attach the various bits (and don’t for a minute think that went smoothly either!). As we have a well-deserved terror of floods (we had one in our condo that ended up costing us a deductible of $20,000 – long story), I still switch off the water at the tap every time we leave the Fifth Wheel for longer than five minutes.
Over the last three weeks we have slowly learned a lot about our Fifth Wheel, and much of it has been the stuff we should have been told on that horrible gong show of a walk-through.
For example, on day 14 we discovered the reason why the fire alarm went off every time we cooked something – the walk-through woman had omitted to mention that we had to open an exterior flap before our range hood would work. So every time we cooked, the fire alarm went off, the dogs freaked out, and then there would be a few moments of mad chaos as I ran to grab a shower cap and put it over the fire alarm. (Yes, I could have put the shower cap over before we cooked, but that would have required actually remembering to do it.) Then finally, someone told us about the flap. Gee, it would have been really nice to have known that from day 1.
On day 18 we made another remarkable discovery – we have a TV antenna on top of our rig, and once I adjusted it, we could watch local TV channels! On day 24, a neighbor with a similar rig told us that we actually have 5 air conditioning vents, not just one. And when you use all 5, the air conditioner is way less annoyingly noisy. Who knew?
We hope we have now learned all we need to know about our Fifth Wheel, but I seriously doubt that. We shall see. And I have to admit that I harbor a small hope that somewhere there is a switch that will turn the RV into a time machine, but no one has thought to mention it yet! If I did have a time machine, I would go back in time to the day we took possession of the RV, and refuse to leave the dealership until we actually received the professional walk-through we were promised. I am still afraid for our safety, given that we were not given proper instructions. Who knows what could still go wrong?
The good news is that our Fifth Wheel is extremely well organized now, and very comfortable to live in. The dogs have settled in marvelously. We have met a few neighbors. And we met one neighbor’s brand new chihuahua puppy, Rocky.
This is our practice month, when we are mainly learning and working. Buying all the things we didn’t realize we needed. And adjusting to the surprising physicality of RV life. But next month we look forward to going to stay near the beautiful Buntzen Lake and enjoying plenty of nature, BBQing, family and friends time, and maybe even some canoeing. Of course, we will have to get the Fifth Wheel there first. And park it. I wonder how that will go? We’ll keep you posted!
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