What’s your hurry? Make checklists your new best friend
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
The subliminal message in my September full-time RVing articles had been: "Hurry up! Start RV traveling while your health and finances are in good shape. Don't delay — the sooner the better."
Now I'm here to say this: You want to enjoy a great RV lifestyle? Don't hurry with your preparations.
Use our "school of hard knocks" lessons to maximize your experience. Put your energy into the important/fun stuff like sightseeing, reading maps/designing itineraries, setting daily mileage targets and making RV reservations.
My learning curve was steep because I'd never traveled in an RV, and I'm an impulsive multitasker. Yes, I often heard my mother's voice: "Haste makes waste."
But ignorance isn't bliss — it's expensive. You'll enjoy life in the slow lane more if you calculate how to avoid innocent mistakes and pricey repairs.
The 2016 movie "Sully" stars Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger, the American pilot who landed a damaged plane on the Hudson River and saved it from crashing. In the movie, the pilot and copilot read aloud checklists to confirm their equipment is operational. So should RVers.
Would checklists have helped us avoid the costly errors we've absorbed in the past 13 years? You betcha!
My biggest goof? Preparing to leave our campsite, I started the engine and closed the door. Normally, you'd hear the entry steps automatically retract. Did I listen for this familiar sound? No. What happened to the steps? I embedded them in a nearby tree. I'm grateful that my husband is patient and kind, and he loves to solve problems.
Disclaimer: What you're about to read is a composite of our errors and those reported by friends.
1. Shortly after we were married, en route to a volunteer assignment in Vero Beach, Florida, we inadvertently and unwittingly forgot to lock one of the basement compartments. Upon arrival, a man shouted: "Why is your basement door open?" We hoped that by retracing our route in the car, we'd find some of our missing contents, but gave up after the first 10 miles.
2. Our neighbor Joe had never driven anything bigger than his Cadillac. He convinced his family they should fly to California, rent an RV and explore the Pacific Northwest. Not too many things went right, and a lot went wrong — like forgetting to disconnect the hose, forgetting to bring in the awning and leaving the TV antenna up. It swayed like a flag as they drove down the highways. His repair bill exceeded $20,000. Reminded me of the 2006 movie "RV" with the late Robin Williams.
3. Pulling out of a campground, we heard a heavy thud and said, "Oh, it must be the Brake Buddy connecting to the electrical system of our PT Cruiser." A few miles later, passing motorists flashed headlights, honked horns and pointed to our car. How could that pint-sized car create so much smoke? The gear was not in neutral, and we burned the motor to a crisp. We drove straight back to Maryland and found a Virginia firm that specialized in fixing or rebuilding motors. Ten days later we had new motor with a three-year guarantee. We also bought a new clutch and a two tires.
4. When Sam was leaving his campsite, he heard the raucous sound of metal on metal. He'd gotten too close to the electric box, and their motorhome looked like a vandal had "keyed" it.
5. After Rob unhitched the car, I forgot to pull the emergency brake and carelessly wandered away. Rob noticed the car drifting backward, jumped in and saved it from going in the woods.
Let's be honest: You could spend all day on the internet reading the 392,000 "RV checklist" sites listed on Google Chrome. I liked the variety of forms on Checklist.com. It's free, and their templates are easy to use.
- Make arrangements for mail pickup, lawn mowing and/or leaf collection.
- If your pets are staying home, give house key to pet sitter/walker.
- "Neighborhood Watch" concept. Give a neighbor your house key so he/she can periodically check your home.
- Fill out paperwork with your local post office if you're going to use a mail-forwarding service.
- Empty coffee grounds before you leave. They will look nasty and moldy three or four months later.
- Take out the trash.
- Install electric timers in several rooms to make the house look occupied at night.
- Leave the radio turned on — makes the house appear to be occupied.
My Departure from Campground Checklist (Just reverse it for arrival.)
- Check height and side clearances.
- Attach tow vehicle — keep standard shift car in neutral or you'll burn out your motor!
- Raise jacks — double-check that they are fully retracted.
- Retract main awning and window awnings.
- Front-wheel-drive car? Drive it onto the tow dolly; put gear in park.
- Retract all slides — close and lock sliding closet doors in the bedroom.
- Secure pocket doors and shower door — place plastic containers (shampoo, etc.) on floor.
- Run a cafe curtain rod through kitchen drawers. If possible, secure with a bungee cord.
- Clear all interior counter surfaces.
- Place folded papers, foam or bubble wrap in front of all breakables before closing kitchen cabinets.
- Stretch thick rubber bands around adjacent knobs on kitchen cabinets, to prevent breakage during a sudden stop.
- Lock all basement compartments.
- Departure etiquette: Help a neighbor and ask a neighbor for help.
- Unplug electrical cord.
- Unplug water hose.
- Drain gray and black water from sewer line — detach and rinse hoses.
- Pay attention to local weather forecasts. If freezing rain is predicted, lower TV antenna so it doesn't freeze in place.
- Close all windows and skylights.
- Double check that entry steps came in before leaving campsite.
- Return camp chairs/tables/tablecloths to basement compartments.
- Attach bicycles to rear ladder of motorhome.
- Check turn signals and brake lights on RV and tow car. From the driver's seat, one person turns on signals and pumps brake. The other person stands behind tow car to verify connections are working correctly.
I look forward to hearing your questions and comments below.
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