Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Si Problemo

Okay, I am going to be totally honest. Life on the road has been easy. Aside from a traffic jam here and there and a few broken dishes, we have had an uneventful trip as far as trouble goes. We have been really fortunate and I am grateful for that. Then this week happened. 

On Sunday we were packing up our trailer, getting ready to leave Los Angeles and head to San Diego. I have this routine of draining, flushing and sanitizing the black tank (the crapper) that other RVers might call anal retentive (pun intended). It's not worth going into detail but just understand, it's time consuming and uses a lot of water. I was just starting this departure day ritual when I realized the sewer hole was underneath the slide-out, the part on the trailer that pushes out of the side wall and gives us a more 'open' floor plan. I wanted to have easier access to do my crapper duties, so I asked Jessica to bring the slide in. She pressed the button that controls the slide-out and it moved a few inches, then stopped. 

"It stopped." She said, apparently unaware that I have eyes that are able to detect motion. 

We have operated this slide-out hundreds of times without even the slightest issue. You hold a button that activates an electric motor. That motor is attached to chains which are attached to cables. These cables run through a system of pulleys that operate the in-and-out movement of the room and hold it in place. 

So, knowing that this was a simple machine, I proposed a simple solution. 

"Okay, press the button and I will push from outside." I instructed. 

She held the button down and I leaned on it. We went back and forth a few times trying to work it, but it just kept hanging up on the same spot, the top right corner. 

"Alright, okay" I said, "I will come inside and take a look."

I went inside and peered around the edge of the slide room. I saw a few cables and some pulleys. I had her press the button in and out for me. When the button was pressed, the cables and pulleys moved like a symphony. Everything moved at once in all different directions but it had a deliberate and effortless flow. More mesmerized than anything, I watched this mechanical ballet happen a few more times and pretended to understand what was happening. Sometimes I must do this to preserve my credibility as the 'fix-it' member of this gypsy clan. 

"Okay" I said, "I'm gonna go outside and drive my shoulder into it while you press the button."

Translation: Wall no move when push it. Mongo mad at wall! Mongo HURT wall. 

"I don't want to" She said, "We're gonna break it."

I reassured her that this was MY area of expertise and by arguing with me, she was only holding up the process. My frustration was growing and it wasn't my most glorious moment. Eventually, she agreed to help me. 

After some yelling back and forth and a bunch of shaking of the camper, our slide-out remained jammed and I was out of ideas (I decided against plan c which was get more people and push harder). 

This is a peculiar RV problem because a slide-out is technically a luxury. You don't NEED one. Normally, when a luxury item malfunctions you can just be like, "Oh well, shit happens. It was fun having a bidet." 

Every now and then, however, a luxury item malfunctions and it COMPLETELY ruins everything. And this was just the beginning. We called a mobile repair guy (Rick's Mobile Repair in Burbank, CA - Dude is an ace) and he got it unstuck for us so we could leave (2 days later). Turns out one of the cables was laying on top of another because the pulleys were out of alignment. 

What happened next was a series of phone calls, Internet searches and expensive service calls that resulted in us sitting in our camper in the mountains outside San Diego. Some of the moldings around the slide-out have been removed, exposing the mesmerizing cables, and we apparently have a much BIGGER underlying issue besides the malfunctioning slide. Evidently, I scraped a tree branch while driving last month and it caused some perforations in the roof which let water in and water, as most RVers know, is a campers WORST enemy. 

The slide-out is working, for now, but we have been told it needs to be taken out and that wall needs replacing. We have had lots of different opinions on the matter. Some say the water damage is the culprit. Others claim it's a design flaw, regardless of the water damage. Either way, our options seem to all be extreme. Since the slide-out issue has only been deferred to a later date, we are on the clock. It WILL fail again. So we NEED to take it in to have the wall replaced ASAP. A job of that magnitude can take a shop a month or more to complete and it MUST be done in a shop. That would mean we would have to take our home and put it in a shop and find a place to stay in the interim. 

The roof is actually an easy fix. Insurance covers it and we found a guy who comes and replaces your roof in ONE DAY. So, we have decided to proceed with that repair. Stop the bleeding and buy a little time. Once the roof is back to keeping moisture out, we just need to decide how we want to proceed with the wall replacement. One option is to chance it until the spring and then drive right up to the factory in Indiana. It will probably have to happen sooner than that so we may just fill the truck with camping supplies, drop the RV off at the shop, and live like a we are in a Jack Kerouac novel for a while. Whatever the course of action I am sure it will strengthen our family bonds and keep us sharp. Uncertainty can be difficult to deal with but it makes us stronger and reminds us to take nothing for granted. 


  1. what doesn't kill you makes you stronger right? Your story unfolds like a bad nightmare I hope you guys get through it and that you have smooth sailing from that point forward

  2. Hey if you make it to Fl my moms place would most likely be available for April. Maybe you could stay there while it gets fixed. Just a suggestion.