A career in the U.S. Navy taught me many important lessons. For months at a time, I had to trust my life to complex systems aboard some of the newest and some of the oldest platforms the Navy had to offer. They were only machines, eventually they would fail. We had to ensure that would not happen while deployed. That’s why ships have a shakedown cruise. If a system is going to fail, let it be under safe and controlled conditions.
Our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, is no different. We had to put it to the test – a two day shakedown, 20 miles from home, on the other side of the Shenandoah National Park. We’ll save the story of the transit to the camp site for a later time. Let’s begin with our first two system checks after backing into our site and positioning next to the utility hookups.
Electrical System: We had already tested the electrical system with full 30 Amp service at the dealership and had done partial tests at Serendipity Farmhouse with a 20 Amp hookup. We were confident that this system would work. After drawing out enough power cord, I plugged into the 30 Amp service and activated the circuit breaker. Voila! There was light! The refrigerator was turned on. The awning was rolled out. The batteries were charging. Most importantly on that very warm, humid day, the air conditioner was turned on and the electrical system carried the load. Success!
Water System: So far, this shakedown was going too well to be true. And, of course it was too good to be true. Someday, I will write a book about my sad relationship with any system that has water in it. All I need to do is walk into a room and pipes begin leaking, water starts spraying, and clear H2O will ooze up through the floorboards. There is no way I could reasonably expect El Camino Del Monte to be any different. It has a water system and I knew there would be unexpected, unintended, unmitigated water leaks.
Carefully, I sneaked up on the water hose. Quietly and cautiously, I attached the hose and the pressure regulator to the RV. Slowly, I made my way to the water hookup. Gently, I screwed the hose fitting onto the faucet. Deliberately, I turned the handle a quarter turn, followed by another quarter turn. Instantly, the hose stiffened under pressure. Silently, I waited for signs that all was going well. 5 seconds … 10 seconds … 15 seconds … The tightness in my muscles began to relax, confidence began to build inside me … 20 seconds … I was ready to congratulate myself for a great job … 23 seconds
Water! Water coming from the side of the RV! Water was shooting sideways from the RV! Water was dripping down to the ground! Water was swirling around! Quick! Do something! Secure the water! Turn off the water! I did! I wrenched the faucet closed! Water continued to gush from the side vent! Then it began to slow, but it still kept coming.
I rushed to the vent. I opened it. …… There it was water coming from a half inch open drain. It was the hot water heater drain. No one ever put the drain plug back in its place. There was the drain plug. I quickly tried to screw it in. It didn’t want to be screwed in. It began to fight me and laugh at me. Finally, I got it finger tight. No good! Water kept coming. I ran for some pliers and started working around the bare, sharp sheet metal trying to tighten the plug. My knuckles were bleeding. The plug continued to fight me. It only allowed an eighth of a turn at a time. Water kept coming, but I was beginning to win. Bit by bit, I finally slowed the flow to a trickle, then to just a drip. Emergency ended.
The remaining water system check was not without its problems. There was still pink antifreeze in the lines that had to be flushed out. But within a half hour, the system was clear. Now, we could wash our hands, wash dishes, and even take a shower.
Lesson Learned: Learn about your system and then check to ensure that all drain plugs and other fittings are in place before turning on the darned water!