After the success of our “Practice Run” we were eager to plan another trip. We wanted to give ourselves a little time to buy the things from our list so we planned on heading back out in two weeks. After looking around at the camping options, we came across Morrison-Rockwood State Park (west from us, again). From the description and photos (courtesy of some creative googling) it looked nice and woodsy with spaced apart sites (which we love). If you don’t already know about it, you can find a huge listing of State Parks through Reserve America. Additionally for a lot of parks you can make your site reservation right there (which is a huge plus) while also getting a peek at how crowded it is.
So this time no rain (hooray!) and we were able to head out at a decent time. We stuck to the highway making the drive pretty easy – that is until we got off the exit. Oh Google Maps, sometimes it just changes its mind…. All the way on the highway, my phone navigation was showing that once you got off the highway, take a few roads and you’ll be at the park. As soon as we exited off the highway and I went to check my phone for the next turn, the directions had changed. It still seemed to be ok, but it had us going through a few more turns (this should have been our first clue). We followed the navigation and kept driving ….once again, we end up on some crazy ass rural road. First clue – if it’s not paved, don’t drive on it. We should have turned around, but we didn’t. Second clue – if the dirt road starts getting really narrow and hilly, turn around. Ok well by this time it was too late. If you were in a car it would have been a beautiful drive, but not for our big RV (sense a pattern?). We had no idea where we were because by that time we had no signal through the phone. We made our way to a farm at the top of a hill and saw a note nailed to this sign post. Evidently we were not the only ones with navigation issues getting to this park because right on the post was instructructions for how to get out of the country roads to a main road you follow to get to the park. So off we went down this steep dirt road, past a few farms to get to the main road. It was taking forever! Finally after about probably an hour after we got off the highway we finally found our way to the park.
We thought the worst of it was over and both said to ourselves, ok we really need to get a navigation system for this thing because this is nuts.
Where there’s smoke…
So after another looooong trip we finally make it to our campsite (Site #76). The campground was very wooded, it had rained recently so the ground was a little muddy. And it was humid, like sauna humid – air so thick you could cut it with a knife humid (there is a point to this).
We have a routine for setting up a campsite. Once we arrive, Jim hops out to put up the dog ramp, while I suit up the dogs with their harnesses. Then I take them for a walk while he puts the levels down, puts the slides out and does the hook ups.
Jim was taking care of all of this while I walked my two furry companions around the forest all while starting to melt. We were dying after about 15 minutes so I came back to the RV and said I need to get in and put the air on so we could cool off.
I got the dogs inside, unleashed them and walked around to the hallway where the one thermostat was. I flipped it on. After minute or two it didn’t come on. I was like, what the heck – maybe I’m just not hearing it. So I turned around and walked towards the front of the RV. I didn’t hear the air so I turned around and saw all of this smoke pouring out of the electrical panel. Jim was in the back of the RV and I yelled “we have a fire”. We both sprang into action. My first thought was to get the dogs out. So I quickly leashed them back up and all but threw them down the ramp to get them outside while Jim shut the air off and jumped out of the RV to pull the power.
It was terrifying. I had visions in my head of our big beautiful RV going up in flames. I was trying to remain calm on the outside, while I was shaking on the inside. I watched Jim run back and forth between the electrical panel and outside the RV. Once he unplugged the electric the smoke seemed to stop. But we weren’t sure if there was a fire going on inside the walls. Jim was trying to figure out what was going on so he plugged back in the electric and the smoke started again. We had smoke in the bathroom (which got the worst of it) and smoke in the main living area. Ironically the smoke detectors did not go off (which we are still not sure why). But we didn’t quite know what to do.
I kept asking Jim if he wanted me to go get some help (probably not the best thing when he’s running around trying to figure things out) but I don’t like feeling helpless as I stood outside in the mud sweating with the two dogs.
After a while we calmed down just a bit and were able to discuss our next step. Clearly we couldn’t stay but were we safe to make the 2+ hour drive home? We gave the RV some time to air out and Jim felt comfortable enough (or at least that what he said) to drive it home. By this time it was already getting dark and we just decided “ok let’s do this”. So we piled the dogs back into the RV, pulled the slides in, jacks up and said a prayer that we would make it home safely.
It was the longest 2 1/2 hours of my life.
No joke – every 20 minutes I would grab a flashlight and run back to the electrical panel to check to see if there is any smoke. Then I would go into the bathroom and check underneath the sink (they share the same wall). The ride home was super quiet as we were both internally freaking out about what happened.
We finally made it home around 11:30 pm both just exhausted and still freaked out. The next morning we called General RV and they told us to bring it right back in.
It seemed like a dream…
Our RV was in the shop close to 3 weeks. Three weeks after we purchased it, it was gone (for another 3 weeks). In that timeframe the whole “we have an RV” seemed like a dream. No longer was Harvey (the RV) hanging out in my driveway. We couldn’t make any plans because we had no idea when we would get it back. Our livelihood was put on hold. Also during that time you keep going over in your mind, what happened, how much damage did it do and how much is it going to be to fix?
We were lucky.
Turns out our power converter blew. Aside from a little soot there was no damage and it was only a couple hundred dollars to fix. AMEN!
The day we were finally able to pick it up was like the day we got it all over again. So happy to have it back and put the whole nightmare behind us and to be able to start planning trips again.
I can say though that after an experience like that you are still a little freaked out at every noise or rattle you hear. A little part of the RV fun left us after that experience and we are still (months later) trying to overcome some of the freakout. Mostly with respect to the fact that we know something dangerous could happen. So while we are back to enjoying the RV life, a tiny part of our joy has gone.