• Stephanie Olson

Road Trip Failure?

Updated: Feb 4

It’s 100 degrees, humidity is nearing 80% and the air is not moving. The 20 foot awning that could stop the sun from beating in no longer exists, and ever since we arrived at this campground, our AC isn’t working. Sounds like another glorious day traveling the country, doesn’t it?

This is just one of the mishaps we encountered on our first trip in our new fifth wheel. Here is the list of hard lessons we learned on a three week trip from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Red Bluff California.

  • Light Rain = no more awning

We were parked at a campground pretty heavily filled with trees on either side of the sites. A light rain started to fall, and before we could get up to close the awning, it collapsed. We were told the awning should be closed in times of rain and wind, but this happened so much more quickly than we imagined. The support beams of this long awning hold little to no resistance against any type of pressure.

  • Not such a Grand Design

We did a great deal of research on the best Fifth Wheel for our family. Our two major requirements were a bunk room, and four season livability. We made the wrong choice. Grand Design was touted as higher quality than the other manufacturers, but we could not disagree more. The cabinet above the couch in the living room pulled from the ceiling. Half of the LED lights on the front of the rv only worked for a couple of weeks. The closet door in the bedroom was held in the track with such a thin part that it would crash open each time we moved. The refrigerator door was not assembled properly, so on our first long trek, we lost about $200 worth of groceries. The oven would not stay lit, so we were unable to cook the food we purchased to replace the items we'd lost. Each of these incidents just made us lose faith in Grand Design more and more.

  • Paper towel and a book cause irreparable damage

Securing loose items on the counters may seem very obvious when packing up and moving the fifth wheel. You’d be surprised to find items such as a roll of paper towel can cause a huge headache. In one of the very short trips (about a 3 hour drive) we had two pretty major issues. First, a roll of paper towel was left near the stove in the kitchen. This roll fell to the floor, and when the slide was opened, it got stuck underneath. Doesn’t sound like something that could ruin your day, but it is lodged there for good, so our options are to spend the winter with cold air pouring in where the slide seal has an opening or to pay for hours of labor to dismantle part of the slide to get it out. The second item to become a nightmare for us was a book. Yes, you read that right. As mentioned in lesson number two, the upper cabinet in the living area pulled away from the ceiling. In it was one book. Due to the sagging of the cabinet, the door latch did not hold, causing the book to fall out. When we opened the slide, we didn’t see that the book was lodged underneath until it was too late. Not only did Zach lose one of his favorite books, but the wood trim on the slide has pulled away from the wall, causing another area of drafty air.

  • Home wiring and RV wiring are not created equal

When we arrived in Nebraska, it was over 100 degrees. We couldn't wait to unhook, and cool the RV down. When we were settled, we adjusted the thermostat to turn on the air conditioning and as you'd guess...nothing. After some online research and talking to a few people in some forums, we learned that the wiring for the AC unit plugs in vertically. The problem was that there was such a mess in the wiring system, and so many open spots, we could not figure out how to correct this on our own. It was not until we spent a very warm night in the fifth wheel and arrived at our next destination in Western Nebraska that we could get a mobile RV tech out to get this rectified. We were all set... or so we thought. When we arrived in Nevada, we discovered that something still was not working properly. This time, the power was fine, but the air pouring out was not cool at all. After hours of calling around and another 2 days with no air conditioning, we found another mobile tech who discovered the loose wiring had basically fried the thermostat and it would need to be replaced.

  • 5. Level Up

We had a reservation to stay at a vineyard for one night. We thought it'd be nice to enjoy the beauty of it, and to meet some locals there. It turned out that spending such a hot night without power or a generator was not something we would willingly do. We found a nearby campground that had availability for our giant RV for the night. It was already getting dark when we packed up to head there. I went and checked us in and told Zach where our spot would be. We made it safely around the very tight circle of spaces this park had, and got to our site. We backed the fifth wheel up and set the hydraulic levelers to begin. We were so wiped out, ready for some cool air, and rest. This was not in the cards for us though. The levelers were on the edge of the gravel space, and extended so far that the wheels were roughly 6 inches off the ground. Up the levelers went, the truck was hooked back up and we adjusted our positioning, and tried again. This time, we thought this was just what we might have to deal with for the night, but as I walked away to get Piper out of the truck, the RV started to slide down the gravel hill. There was no way we'd be sleeping in this situation. We were certain the entire vehicle would tip. I walked back up to the office and asked for another space. We finally had one on flat, level ground, only about 3 hours after arriving at the park.

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