It’s Not a Learning Curve, It’s a Learning Cliff: Part One

I’ve talked a little about some of the issues we have run into so far while on our journey.  I never realized what a learning curve there would be to living on the road in an RV.  We have had a lot of questions about things we have had to deal with on the road so I thought it would be fun to share a few of our bigger mistakes so that hopefully, someone else can learn from them or at least find some entertainment value.

The Bike Rack

We bought an over-the-tire bike rack for our Jeep off of Craigslist for $20 and we were thrilled with the deal (most of the ones we had looked at were $100 or more).  After our first leg of the journey, to Sioux Falls, we found out that fairly significant damage had been done to the bikes.  Bouncing around on the back tire of a Jeep that is being pulled behind an RV is not a great place for a bike, I guess.  Andy’s grip was completely worn off because of my spinning front wheel.  And not only did my chain fall off but the brake line and the shifter have been damaged.  We have not been able to ride our bikes together since before we started this journey because mine still needs the repairs done on it.  I guess that’s what we get for going the cheap route.

We currently wrap bandannas around the areas that rub

Know Your RV Height

We had read about bridges being too low, gas station heights, and not going through drive-thrus before this journey.  We even measured the max height of our RV at one point in time.  Did we write that information down?  No.  Of course not.  On our trial run up north, we went under a bridge that was 14’1” in height and we were just fine.  We thought our height was about 13’7”. But we weren’t quite sure.  So when we were driving from Sioux Falls to southern Iowa, we came to a bridge that was 14’ high and had a bypass route for trucks that were taller than that.  Not knowing our exact height enough to risk ripping off our A/C units, we took the detour, thinking it would be a short jaunt.  It took us over an hour.  Finally we were back on the road and on our way to our destination but this taught us a lesson: know your height.  Know your length.  Know your width.  We recently passed a turnpike in Oklahoma that had a max height of 13’6″ and a width of 9’7″ and knew we would never make it.

For height we need to measure from the ground to the top of our A/C unit and for length we need to measure our unit plus tow vehicle


You’ve already heard our tale of the driveway in Sioux Falls.  An incline that was a little too inclined.  Curbs are another constant fear that we deal with.  We have low-hanging items under the RV that bring our clearance down quite a bit.  We have learned that while we are parking, we need to have a spotter who can yell loudly when we are getting too close or if the incline is too great.  Our closest calls have been: the driveway in Sioux Falls, the curb before our campsite in Iowa, and the rear tire blocks at every campsite since then.  Our best parking places have been on cement pads that do not have a curb.

Damage done to the driveway in Sioux Falls from our hitch

Find Your Campsite

I never realized how stressful it can be to travel and not know where you are sleeping next.  We learned that the easiest way for us to travel is to plan a route together, one person with the road atlas and the other researching campgrounds on the computer.  We plan out a tentative route in advance, knowing where our next couple of stops will be.  This not only gives us a route but also gives us time to find out if the campground is still open for the season, if they still have running water, if they have showers or a dump station, or (like our last stop) if they still have spots available.  We have learned that we need to make reservations for weekend sites at popular spots or we won’t get a place to stay.  But weekdays are typically a non-issue.  We have come to love staying in state parks because they are typically less expensive and the rangers who oversee them are incredibly helpful and welcoming.  Plus you get the bonus of staying in the middle of the woods instead of packed together like sardines in the middle of town.

Check Your Tanks Before You Park

We have made this mistake exactly three times now.  We pull up to our site and are so excited to be there, explore, and unpack that we spend time parking and leveling our RV before we realize that we need to fill our water tank.  Or dump our holding tank.  Or grey water tank.  Or all three.  Our worst timing was when we stayed in Iowa and we had to move our RV twice during the six days that we stayed there.  One of these moves included driving into town to fill our LPG tank—the nights had been rather cold and we were worried about running out of heat.  It might sound easy, just moving our RV.  But it requires that we fully pack up everything that can move or slide around, unplugging, pulling in the slide and jacks, and strapping down the bird cage.  If we don’t need to do a lot of cleaning, we can now do this process in about 30 minutes.  Our mistake in Iowa was moving the RV to fill the propane, getting it set up again, and then realizing our grey water tank was so full that it was backing up into our shower.  Gross.  We have also learned that just because a campsite says there is water available, that does not mean that the water hookup will reach your tank when parked.  Every place is different.  Now, we have a better system down.  I hope.

Tank gauge display
Filling up our LPG tank at some random place we found in Iowa. The guy was very helpful!

We have run into quite a few different interesting scenarios while on the road so this post is just the first of many on what we are learning as we go!

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