I’m listening to a recording of Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt performing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” as the sun sets on the Great Smoky Mountains that surround our campsite. Tree frogs, crickets, and the occasional bird accompany the two banjo legends as I strum along on my homemade, one-string, cigar box guitar I had the forethought to bring on board before making the 647-mile drive to Sevierville, Tennessee, in our family’s 1999 Hurricane motorhome.
A casual passerby, a fellow camper for example, might misinterpret the contented look on my face. “That man hasn’t a care in the world,” he might say. “Why, he could be relaxing on a yacht in the Bahamas and not be more at peace with the world than he is right now.”
But what the owner of that brand new $200,000 recreational vehicle across the street doesn’t realize is that for the past twenty minutes, I have been imagining scenarios in which my cursed RV meets a tempestuous and spectacular end. And this brings me a measure of much needed comfort.
They say the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. I say the two happiest days in an RV owner’s life are the day he buys an RV and the day he burns it to the ground in a blind rage triggered by a string of misfortunes and calamities that have befallen the motorhome and its inhabitants.
I’ve somehow found a way to overcome every RV disaster we’ve experienced over the last three years, but so many things have already broken in 2018, I’m afraid I might be next.
This camping season got off to a rough start due to the unusually cold winter we had—and my apparent inability to properly winterize an RV. Not only did the toilet’s water inlet valve crack (for the second year in a row) due to a hard freeze and water left in the system, so too, did the water heater tank. Of course the only way to discover such damage is to accidentally flood the vehicle’s kitchen after turning on the water pump.
While mopping the floor, I discovered a mouse (or several mice) had taken up residence in the RV over the winter. I also discovered that every piece of silverware, flatware, and Tupperware was awash in rodent fecal matter.
We used our fancy new dishwasher (the one that nearly electrocuted me when I installed it) to sterilize everything. Then I cleaned each drawer with bleach wipes, not stopping until I was satisfied that my family’s risk of contracting the hantavirus was near zero. When we took the freshly-washed utensils and kitchenware back out to the camper the night before our RV adventure was to begin, we found that two drawers contained freshly deposited mouse poo.
I was delighted of course. I was not delighted.
While I made a hasty trip to the store for traps, Bethany re-cleaned the kitchen. In the morning, our little stowaway was caught and escorted off the rig by the captain himself. His parting gift to me was a shower of shredded nesting material that blew out of the air conditioning vents when I started the engine.
The eleven-hour drive was as tough on the RV’s transmission as it was on my backside. By the time we limped into the campground, the vehicle was bucking and heaving like bull at a rodeo. A very tired bull.
I forget to mention the battery that was too weak to start the engine when we stopped for fuel halfway through the trip. Good thing the backup battery was still charged. And why wouldn’t it be? I had just bought it last year thinking that perhaps a dead battery was the reason the generator wouldn’t run.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.
The oddly serene expression a passer-by might see on my face right now is the result of picturing, in my vivid imagination, a terrific explosion followed by an all-consuming conflagration that reduces the cursed Hurricane to nothing more than glowing embers and distant memories. Why now, after all the problems we’ve overcome in our four seasons of camping, would I like to see the Hurricane go down in a blaze of glory?
Because earlier this evening, the newly-replaced toilet and the previously-repaired pipe fitting both conspired to flood the camper’s interior yet again.
And so I spent the better part of two hours removing the toilet, replacing the toilet flange gasket, re-installing the toilet, removing a saturated mouse nest that was tucked beside the leaking water line, re-repairing the water line, and extracting as much of the sewage-contaminated water from our carpet as possible with the machine that was last used when our Husky-mix Zara defecated all over the carpet, the couch, and our Miniature Schnauzer Louie while we were camping in Texas last year.
Burn, baby, burn.
Actually, despite all of that, the truth is that my contented countenance is not the result of some twisted fantasy about blowing up our RV. A moment ago, after my family returned from taking a refreshing dip in the campground’s swimming pool—while I was suctioning water that was anything but refreshing—my youngest child Truman came up to me and said, “Thank you for always fixing up the RV, Dad.”
That was exactly what I needed to hear.
I wish I could fix things that easily.