The Disaster That Wasn’t

I have a lot of practicing ahead of me when it comes to urban day camping. I’d be typing this up in my RV right now except that it’s already nearing 90 in there again and hot and airless do not make for comfortable writing conditions. Since it’s morning the sun is still on the side of the trailer that my awning is on, so even if I rolled it out, that wouldn’t be providing me any shade. Likewise the campground is not a shady place, so instead I decided I’d drive someplace cool and quiet to park in the truck and get some work done.

First stop was the library, which is closed this time of day and should be pretty deserted. There are a lot of trees around too, so I thought it would be a great place. Not so much. Turns out there is a blood drive going on at a nearby building and there are people all over the place, looking at me suspiciously. I’m just practicing my day camping skills folks, nothing to see here.

With a sigh I closed the laptop and drive down to the other end of the complex near the post office, and find a good deserted lot with shade coverage and not a car parked around. Silently congratulating myself on this first of probably many such outings, I roll down my windows to let the breeze in and am greeted by the sound of industrial lawn mowers. There are two fellows cutting the grass in the empty lot, no peace to be found here.

So, turning around I start heading back to the campground in defeat, driving farther out would be pointless since I need to get back to switch the laundry over in about a half hour. And then I see them, the nice new benches installed along the main drag of old town Bluffton. Shady, quiet, and they even give a good view of the moss covered live oaks lining the street. So now that I’m comfortable and have someplace nice to sit, let me share the story of the disaster that wasn’t.

Yesterday I worked until 4:30 and thinking ahead for once, actually brought my laptop and change of clothes with me so that I could go straight to the library after work to get on the internet. Just so that everyone knows, the wifi at the campground has been pretty much unusable for the past two weeks, I’ve been having to go elsewhere for it, less online time for me.

Anyway, I’m looking into working for Amazon this holiday season (more on this to come later), when I get a text from Julie saying that she was off work and heading home, and that she’d see me whenever I got back from the library. And then I get another text not long after: “May want to come home now – need to figure out why the ac is not working.”

Ack. I’ve been waiting for this to happen. In a trailer this old, something, something has to give out sooner rather than later, and with Bluffton’s brutal 90 degree summer days it figures it would be the AC. My next thought is Julie’s cat Fish. He’s been in the Casita with no open windows for ventilation and no shade trees to keep the trailer from heating up like an oven inside, and I never went home after work so it’s possible the AC has been out all day.

So I rush home, and find Julie sitting out at our picnic table reading a book. I breath a sigh of relief, if Fish weren’t okay she wouldn’t be this calm. Apparently when she got home at 7 pm the temp was reading 92 inside the trailer, Fish was sprawled on the floor, but thankfully was fine.

The next step is figuring out what happened with the AC, at least my Fantastic Fan is working and it’s on as high as it’ll go with all of the windows open to keep Fish and the trailer at a reasonable temperature.

I pull out the trusty 3-ring binder with all the Casita information and the two of us pull apart the rear bed to get at the breaker and fuse box. Nothing looks like it has tripped, if it’s a bad fuse I wouldn’t even know how to tell. We go out to the power pedestal, nothing tripped there either. Then we wonder if the outlet is bad, or the AC unit itself. We try plugging the AC into another outlet – nothing. This isn’t looking good for the AC unit.

Then I realize that the light on the surge protector we used to get the extra reach isn’t on either. Uh-oh. A quick check reveals that all of the outlets aren’t working. Including the fridge – erp.

So I’m running off just the battery, which is getting steadily drained by the fan and lights. The fridge is warmer than it should be, but the food is still relatively cool, so at least the power likely hasn’t been off too long. It gets switched over to propane.

By this point we’re attracting the attention of several of our neighbors. The neighbor who’s RV shares the same pedestal as us reveals that he works as an electrician, yippee! He also reveals that he is drunk (it’s only about 8 pm by this point mind you). Not so yippee. But he seems to be pretty coherent and coordinated and there are other people around to shout to if something happens, so with some reservations I let him into the Casita so he can check the fuses. Fish promptly hides behind the turned over bed, some protection he is.

Apparently all looks good in there, so with some muttering he leads us back out to the pedestal where he pulls open a cover which reveals some wiring, and exclaims. I may not know a good fuse from a bad fuse, but even I can tell something’s wrong when a good number of the wires in there are blackened on the end, and one has broken free completely.

Electrician Neighbor* has apparently lived here for years and knows the people who own and run the campground well. He runs off to get the person who’s responsible for fixing this stuff and in short order the two of them are at the pedestal with a flashlight and tools, bickering as only people who know each other well can do. There is some argument about why it happened (Electrician Neighbor blames the large 50 amp motorhome who was plugged into the pedestal before I moved in) and how best to fix it.

Some agreement is come to whereby Electrician Neighbor supplies the wiring necessary to fix it proper in the morning by Maintenance Man, and in the meantime a temporary fix gives us back our power until then, yay!

So in the end it was the disaster that wasn’t. Fish was fine in the heat, the food didn’t spoil, the RV didn’t need fixing, our neighbors are decent and helpful people, and we got power back before it really interfered with living. We were without power again for about two hours this morning while Maintenance Man did the re-wiring (hence writing this up from a park bench – Fish went to work with Julie just in case it took longer) but otherwise no harm done. I know that eventually I will encounter rough spots on this adventure, but am thankful that it all played out so smoothly this time. Don’t you like stories with happy endings?

* I did get everyone’s name who was present, I just opted not to use them here to protect their privacy.

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  1. john Cables on July 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Great story Miss Becky! I’m glad you all (including the food!) got through it okay. That was really nice of your neighbours to help out.
    john Cables recently posted..Powerfirm Launches New WebsiteMy Profile

    • Becky on July 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm

      Hi John, welcome to IO!

      Yeah it was nice of them to help. The whole thing was kind of a drag at the time, but it all turned out all right, and now I have a fun story to share. 😛

  2. Brian on June 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    My Fantastic fan has a fuse holder in the fan housing. It’s likely that the fan is protected by two fuses, one in the housing and by one in the Casitas fuse panel. The 15 amp fuses you see in the panel are for the 12 volt system only. The 120 volt system uses breakers, mine has several 15 and 20 amp, and one 30 amp breaker.

    • Becky on June 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      How informative! Thanks Brian. 🙂

  3. Marcia on June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Thank goodness your disaster was averted and all is well. As your RV life continues you’ll become much more competent at fixing/figuring out what’s happening. Experience is often the best teacher and helpful neighbors are a godsend.

    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Indeed I could not have gotten much luckier than to have a electrician as a neighbor. 🙂

      Experience is how I’m planning to do much of my learning. If I wanted to have it all figured out before I went full-timing I’d be hitting the road around 2022, maybe. 😉

  4. Marvin on June 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Becky ,

    It is good that you are using surge protection and have all of your component manuals .
    Now would be a good time to write down step by step diagnosis of the problem for future reference .I use 3X5 cards that I can carry in my pocket .
    Do you have a plug in current/outlet check gauge ?
    If not they are only a few dollars at WalMart or Lowes .
    I would suggest a thank you to the neighbor electrician , but a beer might not be a good idea – some cookies or brownies might be better !

    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Heya Marvin,

      No full surge protection yet as stated in comments above, but it’s definitely on the list.

      As for the outlet checker, don’t have one of those yet but likely will. I decided to favor a tire pressure gauge over an outlet checker last time I was at Walmart, driving with properly inflated tires seemed like a good idea. 😛

      it’s funny you should mention cookies or brownies because tonight I was actually planning to bake some chocolate chip cookies to pass around, hehe. Well, actually Julie will be because she’s the cook of the two of us. We’ll be doing it over at a friend’s house though since we don’t have an oven.

  5. Tina on June 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Really glad to hear all worked out okay!

    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks Tina, I’m very glad too. 😛

  6. Sherry on June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Boy did you dodge a bullet if the wiring was all blackened. Good thing you have power protection or everything would be toast. Surge protectors are worth their weight in gold.

    Don’t think a 50 amp rig could have done that. Hope the fix it man did it right but you are protected even if he didn’t. Smart girl!!

    Alls well that ends well.
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    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Uh, actually I don’t have a ‘real’ surge protector. >.>

      I have a little household one that I plug the laptop into to charge it, but all the rest of the electronics are completely unprotected.

      A surge protector was on my list of ‘must haves’ for RVing, until I realized they cost hundreds of dollars for a good one. I could have gotten one that protected against just true surges for maybe $150, but everyone was telling me that electronics are more likely to fail due to low or high voltage than actual power surges and just a regular surge protector won’t protect me from that. Of course the ones that do protect from high and low voltage are more like $350+ and I’m leery about spending that kind of money right now.

      Don’t get me wrong, a good proper protector is still on my list of things to get sooner rather than later, this event just proves how good it is to have one.

  7. hobopals on June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I feel your pain, Becky. I went through a similar situation in Chama, NM. I, too, have all manuals/paperwork in one place so that I can troubleshoot. I went under the couch and changed the fuse that I thought was the culprit of electricity taking down my fridge and other furnace in my trailer. Long story short–I changed the correct fuse, and still no power. Then, it occurred to me that MAYBE the new fuse was not good even though it was still in its packaging. I changed the new old one and put the new new one in and voila! It worked. I almost, on the advice of an RV expert, broke camp and headed to see RV service until I decided to fly in the face of probability. Whether in you’re in a huge motorhome or a little trailer, things are going to go wrong–that is a given. To accept this premise is to know that you can’t leave a pet in the trailer without taking precautions–you might want keep your air on but leave your windows open and leave fans on You may also want to buy a 12 volt fan that will continue working in the event of a park power outage.The endless breeze by fantastic fan would be a good choice. Perhaps some of your neighbors or the owner of the park would check on Fish. If you care to read about my experience, it’s here:

    Like the previous commenter, I carry a few of every fuse I need in the trailer. I use needle nose pliers to get fuses in and out as mine are very hard to get to.
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    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I read your story, sorry that your food didn’t survive the ordeal but at least you saved a bunch of money by trying that seconf fuse!

      I have one extra fuse that is down in that panel on the Casita, it came with the trailer. All the ones in that panel have 15 on them so I guess 15 amp is the size I need to look for, but I’m not sure where to find the fantastic fan fuse, anyone care to enlighten me on that? I do have a needlenose pliars at least.

      My neighbors know to keep an eye out for Fish now if anything should happen, Electrician Neighbor actually has three cats himself and I think his opinion of us approved when he discovered we had one as well (Fish is indoors only, so a lot of people didn’t know we had him).

  8. LenSatic on June 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    “if it’s a bad fuse I wouldn’t even know how to tell.”

    You have to pull it and look to see if the fuse wire between the posts is whole or not. Since we leave our bed made up all the time, I have to crawl under it to check them. So, I replaced ours with fuses that light up when they are burned out. Like these: For boondocking, you will want to buy extras of each amp size. Your tow viehicle, too. And an extra one for the Fantastic Vent. I had a hard time finding that one!


    • Becky on June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Oooo, fuses that make it easy to tell when they’re bad, that’s clever. Thanks Pat. 🙂

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