Stop 1: The Cold Carolinas, When Everything Went Wrong

Stop 1: The Cold Carolinas, When Everything Went Wrong

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The Recap

Historic cold temperatures on the East Coast this week. Great time to leave the Northeast. Bad time to start camping, even so far south as South Carolina.

I hate to say it, but our week in the Carolina’s were more of a pit stop than an exploratory visit, and a far more challenging one than we could’ve anticipated due to the unprecedented cold. Really–It kinda sucked. But we learned some valuable lessons, the most important being:

We will never take this rig below freezing again.

But overall, we overcame both physical and emotional challenges and drove away knowing the worst was behind us.

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Packing up the trailer and departing from Delaware took a half day longer than we planned. But we were glad to have spent time with my family before pushing off. It was all very rushed, but we ate well, slept on the floor in sleeping bags (you know, to adjust to camplife), and were sent off with gifts from Grandma G. Let’s just say Marcella’s Easter dress is accounted for!

The plan to be on the road before noon turned into a 4pm departure. We would arrive way too late in the cold and wet North Carolina night to properly back in (a DIFFICULT task), heat up and set up the trailer for sleeping at a campsite.

The very best time we could’ve made to Raleigh, had we been driving a car with no stops, was 4 hours. Towing the trailer with a toddler and dog, stopping for food, gas, and weighing our tow set up (necessary before taking a loaded trailer out for the first time) would add two hours to the trip, making our ETA 10pm.

We’d have to crash at a highway hotel.

We arrived at a dog friendly trucker hotel that had room to park the trailer, and wearily settled in to the smokey, non-smoking, slightly seedy accommodations, and slept soundly somehow. Sleep deprivation will do that.

The four hour drive to the Charleston area early on Sunday felt decidedly swifter than the first leg.

Our first stop at Ghivan’s Ferry State Park would be more business than pleasure. The weather was far more sucky than could be reasonably expected in South Carolina making the outdoorsy stuff unsuitable. Plus, we had to arrange our new living space so that it could be livable. We fit in a few windy walks along the river trails…

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…and  spent a warm afternoon in downtown Charleston taking in the sights.

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A few days later we moved on to Huntington State Park just south of Myrtle Beach, where we got to spend some quality time with Matt’s dad, Joe and wife, Lynn.

After a long morning on the trailer we took Marcella to the wax museum so she could burn off some energy.

Hollywood Wax Museum

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 The Things That Went Right

We accomplished our task of moving into and organizing the RV, quite efficiently and quickly, in fact.

Everything fit with space to spare, even before we filled another truckload of donations, which was done more for weight than space since the scales indicated we might be pushing it a bit.

We dumped some more books, clothes, bedding and towels, baskets, a heavy chain lock and the fold out futons in Cella’s bunk room.

We even managed to start a camp fire and enjoy one evening.

(video to post once I get a stable wi-fi signal!)

All of the above–good stuff! If only that we’re all I had to report.

Everything That Went Completely Wrong

We knew we would eventually encounter some problems and learn how steep the learning curve for RV living really was….We thought, over the course of a few months. Not all at once.

I’ll list our debacles in order of occurrence:

1. The hitch fell off of the truck randomly while we were driving in downtown Charleston. (Not exactly random, Matt didn’t put the pin back in so it was only a matter of time before it would fall out).

2. Mina’s leash came unhooked from a tree and she ran off as we were preparing to leave the first camp site.

3. The toilet clogged.

4. The stick used to unclog the toilet broke off in the pipe.

5. The RV’s battery overheated and burned out, filling the trailer with sulfur off-gas.

6. We lost power to the heat pump at 8pm in 37 degree weather due to #5. I.e., no heat.

7. The pipe for the camp’s fresh water source froze over night when temperatures dipped to 22°. I.e., no running water or functional toilet.

We were off to a memorable start, if not super fun.

We eventually resolved each mishap and learned valuable lessons:

1) We can’t really take credit for this one. A good Samaritan stopped us on the street mid-parallel park to tell us the hitch fell off around the corner. THANK YOU, SWEET ANGEL wherever you are!

Matt got out of the car and ran back to the last street while I drove around the block to meet him. The hitch was in the grass on the side of the road. Thank God the stars alligned in such a way that this was the outcome. At 50 lbs, that thing could have seriously hurt someone at worst and would’ve been expensive to replace at best.

Lesson: Always leave the hitch pin in.

4) Operation Find Mina concluded swiftly after I got in the truck, followed my gut and drove towards an open field just past the camp sites. There was Mina trotting along. Had I left one minute later she would’ve disappeared into the woods.

Lesson: Buy a proper lead.

2) Matthew used a stick to push down the clog after unsuccessfully trying to use the toilet brush.

Lesson: Use a LOT more water when flushing.

3) He then used kitchen tongs to extract said stick from pipe then promptly disposed of tongs because, really–who could use them again after that?

Lesson: Always look for something you’re willing to part with before sticking it in a toilet.

4) We took advice of RV road side technician to shut off power converter until battery stops smoking and can be disconnected.

Lesson: Keep battery disconnected until it’s needed to prevent overcharging.

5) Doing the above also cut power to the heat. After an hour of watching the inside temperature descend into the low 60’s, we were about resigned to get a hotel or call Matt’s dad to crash there. Then his lightbulb went off and he figured or how to divert the shore power into the 12 volt system on the rig by turning the converter back on. Glorious heat streamed from the vents and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Lesson: Don’t camp in freezing weather. Ever. Again.

Despite these hardships, we drove away content with the experience and empowered by our ability to solve our new set of problems.

It just goes to show you, too…No matter how small, things will inevitably go wrong or require fixing in your house.

That being said,we are happy to drive south and say good bye to South Carolina.

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Onward to Georgia where warmer weather awaits and we can finally relax and enjoy the ride!

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