On the Road Again, Expensive Lessons

Currently at Schulenburg RV Park in Schulenburg, Texas:

We are finally back out on the road after spending 46 days and nights in the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas. During those 46 days, we sold our 24′ Class C Thor Chateau motorhome, bought a 33′ Grand Design Reflection fifth wheel, and traded our Toyota Tacoma for a Ford F-250 XLT Crew Cab 4×4. We jumped through all the hoops to get everything inspected and registered, and we spent a lot of money to get the truck set up to tow the RV.

And we also began the education process of learning all the ins and outs of how the new rig, both the RV and the truck, function and operate.

After we received the title from the seller on January 9 (Thursday), we checked the weather forecast to find a good sunny day to have the rig weighed and inspected. The following Tuesday looked good, so we made the appointment for the weigh-in.

Well, somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature that it wasn’t supposed to rain on Tuesday.

When we got up that morning, it had been raining all night and there was still a slow drizzle. I kind of expected to get a phone call telling us to reschedule the weigh-in appointment, but the call didn’t come. So we proceeded to prepare ourselves and the rig for our very first towing experience to our 10:00 AM appointment.

To start the weigh-in process, we first had to drive the truck over to the scales and have it weighed without the RV. That meant we also had to move the cats into the truck for the first time, so by then we were ALL stressed out. After getting the weights recorded for the truck, we then had to drive back to our site to pick up the rig.

We had practiced hitching the rig to the truck the day before. It took us awhile, and we had to call the seller, Pat, to get a little help with using the electronic leveling system to retract the jacks, but we finally got everything squared away. So on Tuesday, we were able to hitch her up fairly quickly for our appointment. We had loaded up the truck and the rig with everything that we we normally carry, and per their instructions we had also filled the fresh water tank to present a “worst case scenario” for the weigh-in.

When Andy pulled the rig out of the site for the first time, it was nerve-wracking, probably more so for me than it was for him. I was standing outside the truck and could hear every little pop and creak and groan coming from the rig, which they tell me is normal–but as a newbie to fifth-wheeling, it all sounds so ominous.

We towed the rig back over to the weigh station and went through the process of getting the total weight on each axle, as well as the weights on each side of the rig. After the weighing was completed, the technician spent about twenty minutes going over all the numbers with us.

IMG_7416

Getting Lizzy Too weighed at Escapees in Livingston, TX

The good news is that we were just about 200 pounds overweight, but we already had an easy way to remove that weight. When we bought the hitch from the previous owner, it came with two brackets at about 100 pounds each that she had needed in her truck, but which we didn’t need. They were still lying in the back of our truck, so we were able to jettison those (we donated them to the guy that installed our hitch). Also, we don’t normally travel with a full tank of fresh water, so for every 10 gallons of water we dumped, we lightened the load by 83 pounds.

So we left the weigh-in feeling very positive–we had been concerned that we might be a little heavy for the truck that we’re using, but the technician assured us that we should be fine. Just for comparison, she had weighed two other rigs that morning, and both of them were overweight by at least 600 pounds. And our neighbor across the street from us had found out a few days before that his rig was overweight by 1,600 pounds! So we felt great!!

The next step was to get the RV inspected, which is a requirement in Texas for registration. The same guy that installed our hitch also does inspections, so we left the weigh station and towed the rig four miles to Trailer Repair & Maintenance on FM 1988, where, for a mere $7, we got our inspection document (not sure what he inspected, but it’s the piece of paper that counts).

So by then, it was raining pretty hard as we towed Lizzy Too back to the RV park so we could get her set up again. And that’s when things began to go south.

First of all, it’s been a long, long time since Andy has backed up any kind of trailer. Secondly, the ground was pretty soaked and muddy at the entrance to our site, and thirdly, the road is fairly narrow which doesn’t allow a lot of room to maneuver the truck.

I was standing in the rain with the walkie-talkie, trying to be the spotter, and Andy started trying to back the trailer in. And it didn’t go well. The problem was not that it took multiple attempts–that’s very normal for someone just learning how their truck and trailer respond to the direction of the steering wheel. The big problem occurred when the truck and trailer got into a tight angle, and the trailer was tilted to one side on the uneven surface. At that point, the corner of the front cap on the RV contacted the folded-up bed cover on the truck, and both got damaged.

IMG_7419

Damage to the cap on the rig

We were finally able to get the rig backed in to the site, just at a slightly different angle than it had been before we left. We got unhitched, leveled and put out the slides, and then we took a good look at the damage. There was a small hole, maybe two inches, punched in the bottom ridge of the cap of the RV, so Andy used some tape to temporarily patch that. But the bed cover was toast, no way to repair it.

IMG_7421

The bed cover was ruined after colliding with the RV cap in a tight turn

Since we pretty much have to have a bed cover to protect things that are stored in the truck, we had no choice but to order a new one that day at $974 (I think they love us at Texas Truck Accessories in Livingston, where we bought two bed covers and one set of nerf bars in about six weeks’ time). It arrived in the store the next morning and we had it installed that afternoon.

From that experience, we learned that the bed cover must be folded all the way up against the back windshield if we’re doing extremely tight turns. That means that we must remember to keep an eye on it whenever backing up or going around a tight corner, especially if the ground is not level.

But after that traumatic experience, we did get the rig registered and plated, and now she’s legally ours.

So yesterday, we pulled out of Livingston for our first day on the road with the new rig. And of course, it had been raining all week and the ground was muddy, making it a dirty, wet job to unhook and stow all the hoses and electrical cables. We had hoped to get away by 10:00 AM, but it was closer to 10:30 when we finally left Escapees.

Our destination for the day was Schulenburg, Texas. We didn’t want to do a super-long drive on our first day, so we chose something that was less than 200 miles. We had to decide whether we wanted to do the shorter route which would take us directly through Houston, or take a longer route through Conroe / Navasota / Bellville to by-pass the Houston traffic. Since it was a Saturday, Andy (the driver always gets to make the final call) decided he was comfortable staying on I-10 and going through Houston.

So that’s what we did, and we made it just fine. Fortunately the rain held off until we got on the west side of Houston, around Katy, when it really started pouring, but by then we were out of the worst of the traffic.

We made one stop on the way, pulling in at a Love’s Travel Center for a potty break. While we were there, we decided to go ahead and eat lunch, so we drove around back and tucked in next to the big rigs while we shared a Thai pasta/chickpea salad that I had made the night before for the trip.

As for the kitties, we had bought them a new travel crate that fits in the back seat and is big enough for the two of them to stay in there comfortably together. When we stopped for lunch we let them out of the crate and put out food and water for them. We even had a small litter box in the back floorboard.

When we got ready to get back on the road, I put them both back in their crate. But shortly after we started the drive, Maggie (who is always a complainer) started acting a little frantic, like she might need her litter box. There was no good place to pull over, so I just opened the crate door and let them come out. Maggie wound up climbing into my lap where she promptly settled down. Molly came out of the crate and explored every nook and cranny in the back seat area, before also climbing up in the front with me. However, she kept trying to get down in the front floorboard which I couldn’t allow, so I put her back in the back seat. She finally went back inside one of their small travel cases and settled down for the remainder of the trip.

We got into Schulenberg about 2:15 PM, and stopped to top of the tank for the next day’s drive. After checking the numbers, we found that we got about 8.9 MPG on our first tow, which is very similar to what we used to get with our Class C. We’re using the mid-level grade of gasoline based on Ford’s recommendation for towing, so it’s a little more expensive. Yesterday we paid $2.539/gallon, but when we get further west, it’s going to only get more expensive.

We got into the RV park at 2:30 PM and got set up. We didn’t unhitch since we’re only staying one night. Since we’re still hitched up, we couldn’t use the auto-level system. Andy has a small carpenter’s level that we use, and we also use the iHandy Level app on our phones. The rig seemed to be only slightly off, so we put out the slides. We may regret that later, but we’ll see when we get ready to pull out later this morning.

IMG_7429

Our setup at Schulenburg RV Park in Schulenburg, Texas

After getting set up, we decided to follow the suggestion of the park owner and visit Lucy Tequila, a TexMex restaurant across the street. We each had a margarita and we split some guacamole salad, and then decided, what the heck, let’s just order dinner. I didn’t feel like cooking anyway!

IMG_7436

Stress-eating on a travel day. Free ice cream!

Our destination for today is Junction, Texas, where we have a reservation at the Above and Beyond RV Park, formerly known as South Llano River RV Park & Resort. Once again, we only plan to stay there for one night.

We are so anxious to get out of all the humidity and rain that we’ve experienced for the past ten days or so in Texas. We’re still a long way from being comfortable with moving the rig, just because we haven’t done it enough. Travel days will not be as spontaneous as they have been in the past. We have to be a lot more careful about getting into tight situations in parking lots and gas stations. I’m just hoping that it gets less stressful as we get more experience. But it’s definitely a pleasure living inside all this additional space that we have now.

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

Safe travels!!

 

 

4 thoughts on “On the Road Again, Expensive Lessons

  1. Pingback: January 2020 Expense Report – Full-Time RV Living | Just Call Us Nomads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s