(or “10 years after the ‘Trip from Hell’, it’s time to start planning for our new RV”)
by Michael Goad
It’s been about ten years1 since we’ve owned a small camper trailer. In the years since, we’ve looked at a lot of recreational vehicles, and have even considered renting for some of our vacations. Before we bought the first time, we used a rental for a two-week vacation to Colorado. The next year we bought a similar model from the dealer we had rented from.
While that trailer was too small for the four of us, it fit our budget. Since it was small and was used, financing was easy and the loan was paid off relatively soon.
We made fairly good use of our tiny RV for the couple of years that we had it, including two long vacation road trips.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have insurance on our little camper.
Our kids refer to the first vacation as the “trip from hell.”
Before the trip even started, the engine of my truck threw a rod less than 20 miles from home when I was towing the trailer up to Northwest Arkansas. My wife and kids were traveling in our minivan, which they had planned to use for a couple of days while I went back home and finished a few days work.
Before I went back home, during a basketball game with my brothers-in-law, one of them came down hard on my right foot. By the next day, foot was bruised, swollen, and very painful. Just what I needed before a three week, several thousand mile vacation.
After the trip began and less than 60 miles out of Arkansas, our Astro van’s radiator developed leaks, resulting in an overnight delay in Missouri for repairs.
After we started heading west across Kansas, we ran into headwinds and the engine started to overheat as the day got hotter. By slowing down, we were able to get to Hays, Kansas, but finally gave up the westward travel and turned north. Making it to North Platte, Nebraska, we had the radiator replaced with one that had a larger cooling capacity, and all our problems were solved.
Well… not quite.
At Scottsbluff National Monument, where the interior of the van had gotten extremely hot while we we going through the museum, I started the engine to cool things off before everyone else made it back. Then, not realizing that my wife’s purse was in the van, I locked the doors. This was in the days before On-Star, so we waited for over an hour for a locksmith to arrive from town.
Most of the rest of the three week trip was less troublesome, just long – very long for four full size people in a small camper without bathroom facilities. After traveling from Arkansas to Alberta and British Columbia as well as multiple National Parks along the way, we headed home, taking a slight detour by way of the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.
Our second extended trip didn’t have any unfortunate occurrences until near the very end. We didn’t go nearly as far, with most of the trip spent in Colorado, starting in Rocky Mountain National Park, eventually crossing the state to ride the narrow gage railroad between Durango and Silverton before heading back home.
Planning to stop in Northwest Arkansas for a 4th of July with family, we were passing through Tulsa, Oklahoma and decided to stop to get some lunch. It had just rained not long before and when I hit the brakes to stop behind a line of traffic backed up on the off-ramp, the tires slid on the slick pavement.
Fortunately we were able to stop.
Unfortunately, the big pickup behind us couldn’t.
The collision smashed in the back of our camper and shoved us into the vehicle in front of us.
Names and insurance companies were exchanged. We went on our way, confident that the other person’s insurance would be taking care of everything.
This wasn’t the the trip our kids call the “trip from hell.” Well, after this one, there was one last bit a of deviltry to be played out. It turned out that the lady that ran into us not only didn’t have insurance, but she was declaring bankruptcy and we were not going to be able to get anything from her.
We had insurance on our van and were able to get it fixed. We didn’t have any insurance on the trailer. Fixing it would cost more than it was worth. So…, we just parked it in the back yard.
A year or so later, a couple of fellows spotted it and bought it to put out in the woods at their deer camp.
Ten years later, we plan to buy another RV. You can be sure that we will be buying insurance this time.
Three years after this was written, we bought our next RV.
1This piece was originally written and published online July 18, 2003, edited and republished April 14, 2014.