Saturday morning was reserved for the hitch installation, which was supposed to take not more than 3-4 hours. In the meantime, we did the pre-delivery inspection and a tour of our new trailer. Seeing that 36 ft monster for the first time, sitting inside the shop building, was both impressing and intimidating (see photo)!
From here on, nothing went according to plan anymore. The hitch installation took almost twice as long, so that we didn’t have time to practice pulling and backing the trailer more than 15 or 20 minutes, way less than the 2 hours that we had hoped for. We wanted to arrive at a campground while there was still daylight, but that didn’t work out. Leaving the RV center, we started our trip by making a wrong turn, and because we didn’t want to go back to Chicago, we had to make a U-turn, being on a 4 lane highway in heavy 5 p.m. traffic. After losing the first half gallon of sweat, we were finally headed the right way, and when we arrived at the interstate it was already darkening.
We arrived at the campground around 7 pm, still in northern Indiana, but no one was there anymore to show us our spot. A half hour later we got this resolved and started to get the RV ready for our first night, which actually turned out to be pretty nice. The temperature dropped to 20° (-6° C), but the heating worked well and we already felt kind of cozy, with the electric fireplace running and watching a DVD that we brought from home.
Next morning, we experienced something we almost never have at home: all windows of the car were frozen, and we neither had a scraper nor a de-icing spray with us. Back on the interstate, we really enjoyed riding the truck with our trailer in the back, and after a while we really couldn’t tell the difference between driving with or without the trailer. The engine is so powerful, it really does not feel like dragging something along.
The weather stayed sunny and dry until it started snowing in the Tennessee mountains, about 100 mi north of Knoxville. Now, wasn’t that exactly what we needed, pulling a trailer for the first time in our life and getting in a formidable snow storm? But hey, it got even better: It snowed so much that eventually the whole interstate was closed down and the entire traffic was diverted onto a 2 lane highway across the mountains. How wonderful was that! The lane was about 10 inches wider than our trailer and the road was winding up and down, and along with us was crawling all the traffic from the interstate. And our next campground was still 3 hours away, on the interstate and without snow! We thought about stopping and finding a nearby campground, but then we would have been too far away from Hilton Head to make it back on the next day.
Eventually, we made it through the mountains and arrived back at the interstate, still in one piece. When we finally arrived at our campground, it was – guess what – pitch black, and we had to find our spot in the darkness. After 12 hours on the road and that nerv-wrecking snow experience, we really were looking forward to a nice and quiet and relaxing evening. How wrong we were!
First thing was that our front stabilizers did not extend, just didn’t move when we pushed the button. Without stabilizers you are not supposed to extend the slide-outs, and if the slide-outs are not out, you can not move about in the trailer at all – everything is squeezed together with virtually no space between the furniture. So, why are these darn stabilizers not moving? Ok, we must have blown a fuse in the morning, when we obviously retracted the stabilizers too far. There is a fuse box with 15 fuses, but which is the blown one? Theoretically, all fuses are labelled, but the guy who wrote the labels must have practiced hand writing the last time in elementary school – nothing indicated the stabilizers. Fortunately enough, I brought my electronic tester, but where is it? Of course, in the cabinet that is the farthest away from the entrance door, so we had Benjamin climbing over the kitchen counter and all the furniture (the slide-outs were not out!) to get the tester. So, finally, I could test the fuses – all 15, one by one, and all 15 were ok, no one blown. Now what?
In the meantime, with outside temperature around freezing again, we desparately needed heating, so we turned the propane heater on. When it started smelling strangely after a while, we realized that the slide-outs rested above the outlets for the heated air, obviously creating some kind of problem and obstructing the free flow of hot air throughout the trailer anyway. Luckily enough, I had brought an electric space heater, and after a second climbing trip, Benjamin retrieved the heater from the remotest corner possible. So at least it was warm enough to start thinking again why the stabilizers wouldn’t work.
I remembered a fuse in the front compartment where the batteries are, took my warm winter jackett and my flashlight (yes, we were well equipped and prepared!), located the fuse, and yes, it was the blown one. Now what, with no spare fuses on board? With the campground store closed since hours, and unhitching without front stabilizers not really an option, the only solution was shorting the fuse – an absolute no-no usually, but these were not usual conditions. But how? My toolbox was inaccessible, covered up by the slide-outs.
In the meantime, Benjamin got hungry and needed something to eat – but refrigerator and pantry were inaccessible as well. Eventually, the doors opened up just enough for Silke to get milk and cereals through small gaps, but she ran out of luck when she tried to retrieve a spoon from the drawer that opened only an inch. Next thing she tried was bread and Nutella that she could fish out of the pantry – but how do you get the Nutella out without a knife? When she tried using crisp bread as a spoon, she found out that the Nutella was frozen solid in the meantime – poor Benjamin, no supper!
But we still needed some metallic material to fix the fuse, only what? No wires, no tools in sight. Then, Silke came up with the glorious idea to use a staple that we found in the paperwork from the trailer dealer. And that actually worked! No one can imagine how happy we were when we pushed the button and heard the whirr of the electric motor bringing down the stabilizers. Full of excitement we pushed the buttons for the slide-outs and – nothing happened. The disappointment was almost unbearable, after all what we already went through. We tried several more staples and fuse fixes, but nothing worked, we didn’t get the slide-outs to move, none of them. Cold and hungry as we were, we decided to give up and settled down in the only accessible bed, all three of us buried under piles of pillows and down comforters that we were fortunate enough to bring.
Next morning we needed to fix the fuse one more time, using the very last staple we could find, to bring up the stabilizers, and left that campground. The ride back to Hilton Head was nice, sunny with not too much traffic. We left the RV at Hilton Head’s RV park – a really very nice one – for the following week and enjoyed many hours there – with fully operable slide-outs after I bought a bunch of fuses. What a trip, and what a learning curve!