A Comedy of Errors


There are times when it seems like nothing is going to go your way. Our July 4th trip this year was out to the north-eastern Ohio Thousand Trails park called Kenisee Lake. The whole trip ended up being one calamity after another. The plan was to split the drive over 2 days from our house and then when returning, take 2 days from the campground back to dropping the camper off at the dealer in Pottstown, PA.

Calamity #1 – GPS settings

Tunnel on PA Turnpike
Tunnel on PA Turnpike

Starting with- our truck’s GPS is setup to avoid tunnels by default. The most direct highway path between us and our overnight stop at Pioneer Park Campground has 2 or 3 tunnels. But, they’re all on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and all are sufficient height for us. My wife and I were confused when it told us to get off of the highway 70 miles ahead of where we expected and sadly, I didn’t listen to her. We drove a very scenic route through the countryside. Unfortunately, we were trying to make it to the campground in time to park the camper and then head out to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.

Even getting to the Flight 93 Memorial was a mess as our GPS tried to take us to the back-side of the park instead of the one and only entrance. We made a decision to follow the road signs to get us to it instead of trusting the GPS, thankfully! We did make it there and it was an amazing experience. I do wish we had more time, though.

Calamity #2 – Low fuel

I’m usually pretty diligent about fuel. Somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4 of a tank, I start to scope out big-rig friendly fuel stops. This time, though- we ended up on a long stretch of highway in Ohio with nothing in-sight. In fact, we ended up going the whole way to the campground and got down about the 1/8th of a tank mark. With Thousand Trails parks being first come, first served and not knowing the park- we made the decision to drop the camper in their parking lot and head back out for fuel in just the truck before attempting to find a site and get parked. Turns out, this was a most excellent idea.

Calamity #3 – Almost getting stuck

This was the first year in many that we had a real spring and an incredibly wet start to the summer. We’ll ignore the fact that it killed my sod at home ($1,400 down the tube!) and focus on it’s effects at campgrounds– namely, soggy ground. We made a loop or two around the campground in just the truck since it was already disconnected and picked out the general sites that we liked. There’s no friendly way to put this- I botched my attempt at backing into the site… badly… like really bad. It’s extra embarrassing as I had no obstructions; the only challenge was that it was a spot that is 90-degree perpendicular to the road instead of being angled, but really it was no excuse. Instead of pulling out and starting over entirely, I tried to fix it by backing up far enough that I could then pull forward. Before I did, I got out and talked to my wife (my most excellent spotter) about it- she said that I shouldn’t back up anymore and that if I did, I would end up off of the pad. In the end, we agreed it shouldn’t be so bad and off backwards I went. The moment I got off of the pad, that side of the camper sunk- like 8″ sunk. The underside of the camper came down and made contact with the corner of the truck bed pinning the tailgate closed.

My overly helpful neighbor came jogging over and said that he had exactly what I needed- a 4′ x 2″x12″ board. We were going to put that in front of the tire so that it was solid to pull up onto. My wife knew about our 18″ 2x10s but they were in the truck bed, which was presently wedged shut. When I started to pull the camper up onto the board, the weight of the tire pushed one end of the board down and the other popped up. The board came up far enough that it hit the underside of the camper, partially pulling open my gray tank valve and busting the T-handle on it. They both shouted and I backed the camper back into the hole. Fortunately the valve was just pulled open and the handle is now an “L” instead of a “T”- but they’re both still fully functional.

I climbed over the side of the truck bed (no small feat on a dually) and pulled 4 of my 2x10s out. We laid them down in a criss-cross fashion. This time, I was successful in getting the camper up onto them, back onto the pad and out into the road. I left quite a mess where the camper was sunk as well as where the truck was in the mud and muck.

My wife sent me on a quick loop around to calm my head and relax a little. When I got back, my neighbor across the street offered to move his truck- truly it wasn’t in the way, but I accepted his offer anyway. This second attempt, I started backing up exactly like the first attempt. This time, though- I pulled back out onto the road and did it right on the final attempt. We got leveled up and I checked on my sewer hookups first- all was well.

Calamity #4 – Missed the 50amp sites by 1 site

Before we even picked our site, got parked or anything- we knew that we would want a 50amp site, so as we got registered, we paid the up-charge for 50amp sites ($3/day). The ranger highlighted our campground map to show us exactly where the 50amp sites were and sent us on our merry way. On our first pass in the truck-only, we picked out the 50amp site that we wanted but when we headed back, our friendly neighbor chatted us up and suggested the site next to them was really nice. We completely forgot about what amperage site it was and that’s where we parked. After the debacle parking (see calamity #3), we stuck it out and lived with 30amps- but we were literally 1 site away from it.

Calamity #5 – Dead truck battery

I was pretty well fit to be tied after calamity #3. I didn’t have my head on straight and ended up leaving my keys in the ignition overnight. When we went to leave the next day to go get dinner, the truck wouldn’t start. Leading to my next calamity…

Calamity #6 – Dead battery, no jumper cables

What angers me about this one- I used to have jumper cables and a whole emergency roadside kit. I didn’t remember taking them out, but I couldn’t find them. So, the friendly guy who moved his truck for me during my mess of a parking job- I had to go sheepishly admit that I let my truck battery die and didn’t have jumper cables. Fortunately for me, he was super friendly and didn’t even mock me to my face (though, I hope he did later to his wife).

I learned something new- truck starters and batteries are nothing like cars. We had to leave the batteries connected for a good 10 minutes to build up enough charge in the battery to actually turn the truck over.

Oh yeah- I found the jumper cables 2 weeks later in the truck!

Calamity #7 – Non-RVers clogged my toilet

Family makes it all worthwhile... I THINK!
Family makes it all worthwhile… I THINK!

On this trip, we invited my sister and her 2 kids and my aunt and her 2 kids. All told, we have 10 of us in the camper. The rear 1/2 bath is slower to get water when you push on the flush pedal and it was the primary toilet that most of them used. I had a bad combination of too much toilet paper and too little water developed into a nasty clog on the 5th day after everyone left. On top of that, I had way too much sewer hose between the sewer outlet and the site’s sewer connection, so when it would flush- it was really slow.

I ended up turning off the water to the camper so that I could see things better and made the horrifically gross choice to pull out as much of the clog by hand so that it didn’t clog the tank’s outlet to the sewer connection or somewhere equally difficult to get to. I also had to use a hose on full-blast down into the toilet to bust up the remaining clog. I’ve never used so much soap and water in my LIFE.

Calamity #8 – Another campground, another problem – water went off

Pool times makes everything better
Pool times makes everything better

Our arrival at Fox Den Acres was a little rocky- we got there after hours. I had called ahead and they said that there would be a paper on the door with a number to call. Just call it and they’ll come down from the house to let me in. Well, 15 minutes of calling that number and no one answered didn’t help our cause. Daughter and I went walking the campground to find someone to talk to- turns out the owner who usually mans the phone was busy power washing the bathhouse. Friendly guy, though. He helped us out once he got a moment to come down to the ranger station.

But the water- it didn’t go off just for us, it went off for the whole campground. As far as I understand, they’re on a well and a bad storm knocked out their power. No power = no pump; no pump = no water. Fortunately, we keep 10-20 gallons on board all of the time. Unfortunately, that water was a good 2 months old and I hadn’t kept up with sanitizing it. It wasn’t awful, but it definitely wasn’t, “hey, I want to drink that”.

Please comment if you’ve had the same kind of trials and tribulations. Misery loves company. (smile)


  1. I'm glad to share. It was definitely one of "those" trips- but fortunately it was not anything anything awful (well, except for being arm-deep in the crapper!).

  2. I agree, it was an enjoyable read, and have to admit I'm glad it wasn't me (although seeing the name is Doug S., it comes too close). : ) I especially enjoy the positive attitude though, and will keep these "virtual" lessons learned in mind.


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