An incessant beeping shocked us out of our slowly waking slumber. Normally, that sound would indicate we had run out of propane. Since we had just topped our propane tanks a couple of days earlier and not used much, we knew that couldn’t be the case.
I crawled out of bed, threw on my robe, and stumbled to the bathroom to find a flashing light and the source of the unwelcome noise. Our energy monitor indicated we had depleted all of our battery power.
When we had arrived at our first travel stop, an overnight stay with no hookups, Bob plugged the coach into itself. It’s a means he rigged to run our power outlets and appliances off our batteries when we’re off the grid. We flip our power converter switch off so the batteries don’t try to charge themselves, which wouldn’t work anyway.
We had used that electricity to run some lights, microwave our dinner, and watch TV before bed. It shouldn’t have been enough to drain our 510 amp-hour batteries.
Before we had set out on our travels, I had switched the refrigerator control to the electric/propane option, thinking it would run off propane until we plugged into shore power.
Because the trailer was plugged into itself, Tagalong thought he was connected to a traditional source of electricity. As a result, the power-hungry refrigerator ran on electric rather than propane energy and drained our batteries.
That meant we didn’t have enough juice to run our water pump. And that meant we couldn’t flush our toilet.
We donned warm clothes and braved the freezing temperature (it was literally 32 degrees) to walk across the expansive dirt lot to the building at our rest stop — only to find the doors chained closed. Crossing our legs and eating a cold breakfast would have to do.
Fortunately, the sun had just started to peek over the horizon, offering hope of charging our batteries through the solar panels on our roof.
The battery draining incident was only one of many mistakes we made in our first day back on the road after five months stationary. We’re definitely creatures of habit. After getting out of the habit of moving every week, we forgot a lot of the necessary steps.
For example, we had to relearn that we need to make wide turns and allow for extra braking time when towing our 42-foot fifth-wheel trailer. We also had to refresh our memories about the importance of scouting our stops ahead of time using Google Maps to ensure we could safely get in and out — and reading a map correctly for proper navigation. I led us the wrong way into a fuel stop, which is a big deal when semi-trucks are coming at you.
Listening to Mike Rowe’s soothing voice in his “The Way I Heard It” podcast reminded us not to be in a hurry and not to worry about the people behind us.
Communication always plays a role in traveling together, and we had to relearn some pointers for success in that area as well — namely, speaking up.
We had a much better second day of travel and arrived at our destination safely. We’re sure to encounter more lessons on our journey. For now, we’re happy to have new scenery and a fresh outlook for the adventures that lay ahead.
See how far we've come in two years: 5 Lessons Learned on the First Leg of Our RV Journey.
This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.