Lessons Learned


A summary of the Lessons Learned gathered from the posts on this site.

This page will be updated regularly with new lessons learned and old lessons re-learned.

Words in italics are my comments on the Lesson Learned

From “Jump into the Deep End”

1. The Avalanche engine, transmission, and brakes can handle the TT. If you can pull the Coq and Connector on a summer’s day, you can pull any likely route.

Coq means Coquihalla Highway. If you want to drive on a beautiful, high-speed mountain highway, try the Coq – also known as the Southern Yellowhead. If you want a real thrill, drive it in winter – if it’s open. The Connector joins the Coq to the Okanagan Valley. I have seen snow on this route in June. This is a great test of rig and driver.

2. The rig is well matched. Nothing made me feel uncomfortable behind the wheel.

3. I know we could add another 1000 lb/450 kg of stuff before hitting the max rating but it is more important that I weigh this rig soon and see how the weight is distributed.

I cannot believe how many RVers have never weighed their rig.

4. The Michelins are at their limit. I need to look for tires with greater tolerance for the heavier weight.

Done. See the Truck for details.

From “Our First Time Going Away”

1. RVing is a healthy life-style.

A totally unexpected early lesson.

2. RVs require a lot of accessories to be usable.

You can’t just buy a rig and head into the wild blue. There are some things you should take with you that just don’t come in the package.

3. There are some things that should always be on board.

Some things are so important that you should never leave home without them.

4. TomTom knows. Deviate at your peril. See also The Beat of the TomTom

There are some more TomTom lessons below and undoubtedly more to come.

5. Delays will happen. Likely causes: wind, inclement weather, traffic, special events in towns and cities, accidents, construction … and others.

Plan? Yes. Plan for delay? Yes-yes. Accept the unexpected delays? Yes-yes-yes.

6. Establish a routine. Despite having stayed in a campground near home to learn about the trailer, we had not established a routine. Neither of us knew what we were going to do, when. This meant that we did not have on hand what was needed to do what we had just decided to do.

For the purely practical aspects of RVing, establish a routine – for set-up, take-down, cooking, eating, washing up, sleeping, dumping.  Everything else can be – and should be – spontaneous.

From “Our First Time Coming Home”

1. There is a steep hill in your future. It could be up or down. Be ready.

Like the old adage: There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.

You can go down a steep hill slowly a thousand-thousand times – or quickly, just once.

2. Returning home isn’t nearly as much fun as leaving home.

3. Not all campgrounds are worth a second visit.

From “Our First Time Going South”

1. Talk to your fellow snowbirds. If you cross the border at about the same time and are going south at about the same rate you will probably see them again over the next few days. If they have done this trip before, their suggestions will prove valuable.

I can learn from my own mistakes, but I would rather learn from the mistakes of others.

2. Make the Vegas-Transit during off-peak hours. Plan for it.

3. The distance you can travel in a day is measured in hours not in miles.

4. Buy your groceries after you cross the border. They’re cheaper and an empty fridge makes the crossing easier.

It doesn’t matter which way you are going – although, yes, food is cheaper south of the border. Crossing is easier with an empty larder.

5. Accept that there will be some variance between plan and actual.

Get there when you get there. Modify the plan for next time.

6. TomTom is your friend. Despite my suspicions that transiting Phoenix on 101 and I-10 is not the best choice, the only problem that arose on that route was the result of my not complying with her instructions. Certainly, her narrative for the Vegas-Transit was invaluable. Don’t look at her, just listen.

From “Coming Home for Christmas”

1. TomTom trusts you and does not question your preferences. She presumes that you have thought about the consequences.

Neither of us lives up to the other’s expectations.

2. Stop before dark.

3. Wait at least until first light to start your day.

Despite the lesson I confess to leaving before first light sometimes.

4. You can stay overnight in a truck stop, but why would you? Mrs B was not a happy camper.

It is a balancing act. Get your priorities straight.

From “Going South in January”

1. There is yet no obvious better way to transit Las Vegas than right down the middle.

2. You will never feel the anxiety that comes from the false urgency that you gotta get there today if you allow enough time.

A recurring theme.  Important trumps Urgent every time.

3. Don’t ever forget that you are the responsible operator. The authorities – or anybody else – can say move over, move along, go here or there, but the consequences of doing that are still yours.

If you are holding the steering wheel, you are accountable. “I was following orders” is not an excuse.

4. TomTom isn’t the navigator. She’s just one navigation tool. Three times through Pasco-Kennewick. Three different routes. I gotta have a chat with her about this.

I talk to her. She talks to me. But we don’t really have meaningful conversations.

From “First Time Off the Grid”

1. As long as we have no need for a/c, we have no need for 110/30-amp service.

2. We can’t live for long without the electronic tools and toys. I need to find a way to re-charge the batteries on the computers.

We had no idea how important the Kindle and the computers were to us until the batteries started to run down. There are several obvious solutions. I’ll let you know how this works out.

3. If we have to run a generator, we would have to camp in the crowded section of the campsite – not desirable.

The idea of a generator is appealing. The practicality is not. Cost, weight, fuel, noise, restrictions, and complexity overwhelm the gains – for us. We are all LED. Our TV, fridge, furnace, water heater, and tank heaters all operate without 110. So far, I see no value in a generator – for us.

From “I’ll Bet You Can’t”

1.  Most trucks can pull the trailer to which they are hitched.  Some trucks can stop the trailer to which they are hitched.

2.   Driving is risk management.  If you can’t afford the consequence, don’t take the risk.

3.  Insurance is a response, not a treatment.  Having insurance has no effect on the probability of an event occurring nor the consequence if it does occur.

From “The Beat of the TomTom”

1.  If you feed her regularly, she will probably not lead you astray.

2.  Don’t expect her to overcome your stupidity.

3.  Don’t expect perfection – not in yourself, and not in her.

From “Weight Distributing Hitch – the Numbers”

1.  It would be unsafe to operate this truck and this trailer without a weight distributing hitch

2.  Without a weight distributing hitch I could expect tire and mechanical failure.

3.  Whatever effort it takes to correctly adjust the WDH is well worth that investment.

From “Coming Home in Early February”

1.         You will be the last one to know when the potatoes are falling off your truck.

2.         Returning home isn’t nearly as much fun as leaving home.  Lesson re-learned.

3.         A slide topper would keep the snow off the slide roof.

From “Consumer Electronics Technology : For Home & RV”

1.  Your consumer electronics technology at home and in the RV can fulfill the same functions but the equipment will be different.

2.  The footprint of your consumer electronics technology in the RV can be much smaller yet fulfill the same functions.

3. The important functions can be provided by your consumer electronics technology in the RV at a significantly lower operating cost than at home.

4.  The need for and benefits of an internet connection are the same at home and in the RV.

From “RV Black Water Tank Flushing : observations & data”

1. The presence of a clear water discharge is not by itself evidence of effective black tank flushing.

2. A 60-second inter-clot interval is only achieved after 35 minutes of continuous RV black water tank flushing under standard conditions.

From “Foreign Object in the RV Black Tank”

1. When you read so many stories about situations other people have experienced, you should realize that it will happen to you eventually.

2. First: do what is necessary to keep the situation from getting worse.

3. Second: think, consult, plan, organize, and prepare before acting.

4. Third: you don’t have to learn only from your own mistakes. You can also learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

5. Accept that a toilet brush is not the only item that could end up in the black tank, but it is probably the most likely. Therefore, find and use a toilet brush that could flush through the drain pipes if that was ever the only option for getting it out of the black tank.

6. Add mechanics fingers to the on-board tool kit if you haven’t already done so.

7. Either put a shut off valve on the back of the toilet or have a second adult to be the turn-on/turn-off-on-command-person.

8. If two or more people are involved, effective communication becomes your most important task.

From “Smell Propane in My Trailer”

1. Have and practice a plan. Know the triggers. When a trigger occurs, execute the plan.

2. When someone says they smell propane in my trailer everyone evacuates as planned.

3. We do not discuss the situation until everyone is in a safe location.

4. We test before returning to normal.

From “Coffee to Go”

1. One size does not fit all. When coffee to go is essential to your lifestyle, and each person has different criteria, you still have to satisfy everyone – under all circumstances.

2. There is always a solution – you just have to work the problem.

3. Make your box bigger. The broader your experience, the more likely you will have seen the solution somewhere. You don’t have to think outside of the box – just make your box bigger.

From “Winter RV Travel … Again”

1. If you are going to haul an RV trailer in winter you need to be flexible. Plan to re-plan.

Lesson re-learned. See the general lesson: plan, re-plan, accept.

2. While snow can affect driving, cold can ruin your trailer. Protect your trailer.

We have experienced one incident where a water pipe under the shower froze during the night … yes, with the furnace running. It thawed during the day and there was no damage. Now, I take off the access panels around the shower and under the kitchen sink so that the warm air can circulate.

3. If the sign says ‘dense fog’ it might be really dense and just around the next corner. Act accordingly.

If it wasn’t dense fog ahead, the sign would say “not dense fog ahead”.

4. Find, nurture, and retain an exceptional RV technician working for a caring service centre.

I have been reading some RV-industry publications lately. Most recently, there was an article that said there are only 2100 qualified certified RV technicians in North America. For sure, some are better than others. I have found a good one … and I will go back to him every time.

From “travel trailer up steep climbs on a hot day”

1. Don’t pull a travel trailer up steep climbs on a hot day if you can help it.

2. Be the old bull and enjoy the scenery.

3. (re-learned) If you have to dump engine heat, use the cabin heater.

4. It is really hard to get under the RAWR.

5. In addition to loyal, playful, and resourceful, Labs are selfless.

From “BC to Arizona – every trip is different” 

1. Go with the weather. I don’t mind rain. I don’t like snow. I don’t want to fight the wind if I can avoid it. I use Weather Underground.

2. Find and keep a good mechanic who knows you and your vehicle. I listen to my truck but I don’t speak the same language. When I hear it talking to me, I ask my mechanic.