Brokedown Palace – A Rocky Start to Our Trip

by Erica

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Although we just started, we’ve already had some full-time RV fails.

 

Almost 3 weeks ago (on Friday, the 13th – probably a bad sign to start with), we packed up the RV and left our house for what we thought would be the last time until Christmas. We were headed for Rhode Island to camp with my family for the weekend – and then we were (finally!) free from the constant obligations that were keeping us close to home.

 

We’d finally reached the day that we were starting full-time RV living… for good. We were excited.

 

Tim and I in our 1985 Toyota Motorhome RV named Yoda

Early Signs of Trouble in our Transition to Full-Time RV Living

But on Sunday, we woke up and found that Yoda (our RV) had no oil. Being complete rookies, we hadn’t checked it since before we’d driven home from Maine a couple of weeks before. Since we had driven it a long distance, then left it sitting in our driveway… we weren’t sure if Yoda was burning the oil, or leaking it. So instead of traveling from Rhode Island to Watkins Glen, New York like we’d planned – we drove back to Connecticut to have Tim’s dad check it out. No leaks were found, so we decided we’d spend the night at our house and hit the road in the morning.

 

On the drive to our house, the “battery” and “brake” lights quickly flicker on the dashboard… but we (wrongly) assume it has something to do with our solar panel being plugged in. Once the panel was unplugged, the lights disappeared.

 

Sunrise over Fort Getty State Park in Jamestown Rhode Island. This was our first stop after leaving home for full-time RV living.

Sunrise over Fort Getty State Park in Jamestown Rhode Island. This was our first stop after leaving home for full-time RV living.

Our First Major Full-Time RV Fail

Monday morning comes, we try the “leaving the house for good” thing again – but when we start Yoda, the “battery” and “brake” lights are on again – and staying on.

 

So we – stupidly – ignored the important message our vehicle was telling us, and assumed that it had to be a sensor issue from washing the engine compartment the night before. (Because why would we interpret a battery light to mean “check your damn battery”… that would be too simple.)

 

We drove over an hour away from home before the truck started to die on I-90. We safely made it to a rest stop… but had to get towed from Massachusetts back home.

Our beloved 1985 Toyota Motorhome on a tow truck after our battery died on 1-90. This was our first, and biggest full-time RV fail so far.

Our beloved 1985 Toyota Motorhome on a tow truck after our battery died on 1-90. This was our first, and biggest full-time RV fail so far.

Let me tell you something about getting your RV towed. It really sucks. Watching our little Yoda get man-handled by the tow truck driver was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I’ve ever had to endure. Each time the driver would wedge another piece of wood under Yoda’s tires and start the winch to pull the RV forward, I would physically flinch. Almost as though I was the one being loaded on a flatbed.

 

I was scared we’d lose a tire, or that the axle would snap – but the only real casualty was the pull-out step into the cabin (and our pride).

 

Once we arrived home, Tim and his dad replaced Yoda’s alternator and we hit the road immediately.

 

Powerful Niagara Falls! This was our second stop since we started full-time RV living, and was pretty amazing. We had a great time exploring the park and marveling at the beautiful color of the water.

Powerful Niagara Falls! This was our second stop, and was pretty amazing. We had a great time exploring the park and marveling at the beautiful color of the water.

Third Time’s A Charm – We Finally Leave Home

After so many false-starts…going home and sleeping in our bed was not something we were willing to do. So we left Connecticut at 9:30pm and drove towards Niagara Falls until we were too tired to keep going. We made it all the way to Utica, New York… and it rained so hard that our roof leaked directly onto Tim all night long.

 

Once we start traveling from Utica to Niagara Falls – things start to feel better. We drove all the way to the border of Canada without incident. While we were there, we caught a Tedeschi Trucks Band concert, swooned over Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls, and met some SUPER nice people.

 

While we were stuck in Ohio, we decided to make the best of it and visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was really beautiful and we're glad that we did!

While we were stuck in Ohio, we decided to make the best of it and visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was really beautiful and we’re glad that we did!

Full-Time RV Fail #2: Stuck in Ohio

Yoda was running well, we were having fun, and we decided to  drive towards Cleveland. Most of the drive went flawlessly… and then the dreaded battery light flashes on, somewhere around Madison, Ohio.

 

So we get off the highway, and drive to the closest Walmart – and spend the next two days making minor adjustments and then driving around to see if those adjustments fixed the problem.

 

During our first two days visiting/being stuck in Ohio, we got to see some beautiful places! First, we went to Erie Bluffs and jumped in Lake Erie (Suzy also drank half of the lake while we were there… definitely not a good idea). The next day, we visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Both were really beautiful, and made us feel pretty lucky to be stuck in a nice area of the country.

 

Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio. After seeing Niagara Falls, this one seemed pretty small, but that didn't make it any less beautiful!

Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio. After seeing Niagara Falls, this one seemed pretty small, but that didn’t make it any less beautiful!

 

Also occurring during our first two days in Ohio, was the discovery of a major oil leak! When we were leaving the national park, we noticed a large puddle of oil under Yoda that was too big to ignore – so we found a local campground where we could stay while we figured out our next move.

 

We ended up at Silver Springs Campground in Stow, Ohio – it was only $15 a night and the campground host recommended a mechanic 2 miles down the road. Since it was Friday, we weren’t able to get an appointment for the repairs until Tuesday… so we spent the weekend relaxing and making friends with out campground neighbors.

 

Tim and I with our new friends Heather and Jim. We were neighbors during our stay in Ohio - and they too are living and traveling in an RV full-time.. except they came from Australia to do it! Meeting new people has been one of our favorite parts about full-time RV living

Tim and I with our new friends Heather and Jim. We were neighbors during our stay in Ohio – and they too are living and traveling in an RV full-time.. except they came from Australia to do it! Meeting new people has been one of our favorite parts about full-time RV living.

Full-Time RV Fail #3: Leaving Ohio

On Wednesday morning, Yoda was leak-free and we were ready to hit the road again – $275 later. We were hopeful that fixing the leak would also fix our battery issue… (I know nothing about cars, but I think the logic here was that the oil leak was causing the belts to slip, thus not providing enough power to the battery. Don’t hold me to that logic though) but as soon as we hit the highway – you guessed it! – battery light… and straight back to the mechanic to replace the belts.

 

(Is this as painful to read as it was to experience?)

 

The belts didn’t fix the battery problem… but we continued on anyway. We’d been in Ohio for a week and were hell bent on getting out.

 

But that didn’t happen. We ended up having to stop somewhere around Sandusky, Ohio to try our next option: replace the alternator… again. Thankfully, we had a warranty on the one we’d put in a week earlier – so the swap was quick and easy… and we were FINALLY on our way. On our fourth attempt to get to Michigan – we finally made it!

 

A shot of our 1985 Toyota Motorhome, named Yoda, on the beautiful backroads of Michigan. I made Tim pull over so I could get this shot, which immediately caused some traffic - if you look closely, you can see him scowling at me. Full time rv living at it's best!

A shot of our beautiful 1985 Toyota named Yoda, from the beautiful backroads of Michigan. I made Tim pull over so I could get this shot, which immediately caused some traffic – if you look closely, you can see him scowling at me. I think it was worth it.

What Our Full-Time RV Fails Taught Us

So far, traveling full-time has been very interesting and has left us feeling every emotion possible. And even though the last couple of weeks have been really crazy and stressful at times, we wouldn’t change a single thing. Having to face new challenges each day is one of the many reasons we decided to pursue full-time RV living. Even minor inconveniences at home start to seem big… so if anything – this trip has already provided us with much needed perspective on life, and what “hardship” really is.

 

In the short period of time since I wrote my last post about all we learned from our first week of full-time RV living… we’ve learned SO much more. For example:

 

  • Check your damn oil. all the time. obsessively if you have to. (Especially if you have an older vehicle – it never hurts to check!)

 

  • Pay attention to the stupid lights on the dashboard – they installed those for a reason.

 

  • Shower whenever the opportunity arises. You never know when you’re going to have to go 10 days without one. (This happened, resulting in us sneaking into a campground after dark to steal a shower… best idea I’ve ever had.)

 

  • Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your bad luck. Laugh at the universe fucking with your plans – it’s the easiest way to stay positive.

 

  • Pack a fly swatter.
Suzy doesn't really care where we are as long as she can go swimming there. Full-time RV living is treating her well.

Suzy doesn’t really care where we are as long as she can go swimming there. Full-time RV living is treating her well.

 

My fingers are crossed that we’ve faced enough challenges for a while and that it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out. Since we left Ohio… we’ve traveled to Grand Rapids to visit Founders Brewing Co. (Tim’s obsessed with All Day IPA) and then traveled up the western coast of Michigan. We’ve been amazed at how beautiful it is out here. Between Lake Michigan and all of the smaller lakes in the area – we’ve been swooning at literally every turn. We’ve also been trying to stay on the routes closest to the coast, and it’s definitely paid off.

 

Currently, we’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Every person we’ve talked to has suggested it – and we can see why! It’s very beautiful.  After that, we’re planning on crossing into Wisconsin and somehow arriving in Virginia for Lockn’ in 3 weeks. It should be quite the adventure!

 

Have you ever faced major challenges while traveling? If so, please share!

 

Also, is there anywhere in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana or Kentucky that we should absolutely visit? Those are the next few states on our radar – and all suggestions are welcome!

 

 

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4 comments

Taylor October 31, 2018 - 6:32 pm

GIRL, how did it take me this long to look at your blog?! This is Taylor from @we.sleep.around
Reading this makes me cringe… I thought my RV luck was bad. Looks like yours was WAYYY rockier than mine LOL
Slowly reading all your sweet blog posts. Reading this makes me wanna get back into the RV and chase the sun… Bet you’re loving that warmth in Cali right now… Its freezing out here in Ontario
Also get your Canadian passport!! Next year it would be awesome to have you’s here in Ontario travelling and twinning with our Toyota RV’s!

Keep going slow! 🙂

Reply
Erica November 8, 2018 - 9:57 pm

Passports are #1 on our To-Do list when we get home! We’d love to travel Canada next year if possible. Hopefully we can make it happen!!

Reply
Joseph Lauinger April 14, 2019 - 1:59 pm

Your blog is wonderful. We bought the exact same Toyota 1985 Coachmen last year. It is a work in progress but this RV sure is easy to love. We replaced the Throttle Position Sensor in order to pass smog tests and coolant hoses. That was it. Drives so nicely. The left rear lug nuts are reverse threaded so when we had the tires replaced, the tire guy almost sheared the studs by applying too much torque in the wrong direction. Best wishes on your travels.

Reply
Erica May 17, 2019 - 7:20 am

Thank you!! Enjoy your Toy! They are the best little campers out there!

Reply

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