The Learning Curve

By : Guest Writer August 24, 2023

Karen Jones 


My folks introduced me to the joys of camping when I was still in a highchair. My dad’s idea of camping at the time was to find a dirt road in the mountains, follow it to the end and then see how much further he could get before pitching the old, faded-green-canvas Army tent.

As I got a little older and my brothers left home, he started camping in campgrounds with those wonderful pit toilets and a single water spicket for the whole campground. Bathing was a good swim in the lake or stream. What memories! 

With the inevitable changes brought by age, they gave up tent camping and switched to a van cleverly converted by my dad. This phase was rather interesting. Rocks and uneven ground were replaced by the floor ridges in the van… I slept on the floor; they had a bed. My dad could pack many items into limited space and still make it look un-crowded. I get my packing skills from my dad. We always had the makings for good meals, a warm, dry place to sleep, and beautiful scenery to enjoy.

 Eventually they purchased a travel trailer and so began a whole new adventure! Although he tried a few times, with marks and dents on the trailer to prove it, he found that there are some places you just can’t take a travel trailer. So, we started staying in less primitive places and doing a bit of the tourist thing.

As a young teenager, the 3 of us and our dog lived in a twenty-six-foot travel trailer for a year. This was back before trailers had slide-outs. I’ll just say that it was very close quarters, an unforgettable experience, and leave it at that.

 Through the years I’ve continued to enjoy camping in tents and out of the back of a pickup truck. I love being out in nature. 

In 2015 my partner and I decided to purchase a travel trailer. My partner thought a twelve- or fifteen-foot trailer would be all we would need. I knew that wasn’t going to work. After much looking, without knowing much about the mechanical aspects of travel trailers, we found a slightly used 2011 Passport Ultra-Lite that we fell in love with. It had twenty-four feet of living space, and we thought it was just perfect.

 We traveled half-way across the country and back with it several times, did a lot of sight-seeing, and had a lot of fun for several years. Then we noticed the floor seemed to be getting “spongy” and there was a kind of “musty” smell to it sometimes. I decided to pull up a piece of the linoleum in a soft spot to see if I could figure out what was wrong. 

It was with dismay that I uncovered a black floor underneath. I pulled up more linoleum and found still more black floor. I pulled up a sizeable section of the linoleum in the kitchen/dining area before I found wood that looked like wood. Unbeknown to us, before we bought the trailer there had been a serious water leak that was fixed but the water damage to the trailer itself had not been repaired.

 We didn’t know what delamination was or what it looked like when we were shopping for a trailer. Had we known then what we know now we would have known there had been some water damage as the front cap of the trailer was starting to delaminate when we bought it. That wouldn’t have helped us detect the damage in the floor, but it might have made us look closer or walk away from the purchase.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed it while we had it and decided to fix it up and keep using it. One day during the repair process, we went into our local RV store to purchase a part I needed to replace on the kitchen faucet… and walked out with an appointment to do a walk-through on our just purchased brand new travel trailer. 


Our new trailer was a little nineteen-foot Salem Hemisphere Ultra-light. We thought it was “the cutest little thing!” It didn’t have much storage or a dinette, but “who needs those things anyway” we thought. The first thing we did when we brought it home was cut the corner in our driveway wrong, clipped the old cinderblock “well house”, and put a gash along the side of the slide out. We didn’t even unhook, just turned around and went straight back to the dealer for 4 weeks for repair.

By the time we brought the trailer home for the second time, the old cinderblock structure wasn’t a problem anymore; it was gone! We got the trailer back just in time to leave on the trip we had planned and had ten weeks of summer fun on the road from the mid-west to the west coast, to the southwest, and back home again.

The next trip we took, about a year later was a nightmare from beginning to end. We left the mid-west headed for Arizona just as a snowstorm started and when we pulled in to camp that night and went to hook up the water, there was a leak in the bathroom. No water that night. When we went to light the oven to cook dinner, it wouldn’t light. At least the microwave worked so we were able to have a hot meal. We fell into bed exhausted and frustrated. 

When we got to camp the next night, we figured out the trick for lighting the oven. Google is a wonderful resource! The following day we arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico to spend the week. I work during the week, so we only move on the weekends because I need a good wi-fi or hotspot connection. 

While in Albuquerque we investigated the leak and found that the city water connection housing inside the wall had broken. Camping World could get the replacement part we needed and have it there in about 3 weeks. We were only there for the week. We tried to improvise something with parts from Lowes, but that didn’t work either. So, we were a week using refillable 1-gallon jugs for water.

It was very cold in Albuquerque that December, nighttime temperatures were down in the low twenties and daytime highs were just above freezing. We found out our little trailer was not as well insulated as we thought it was… especially when we ran out of propane in the middle of the night one night. This trailer only had a gas furnace.

We finally made it to our destination in Arizona and settled in for the month. We were able to find a mobile repair technician who came out the same day and fixed our water leak. While he was there, we also had him fix the leak in the toilet that showed up when we arrived, and he was able to restore the power to our bathroom lights that had quit working. He had everything fixed in about thirty minutes!

Some of the nights in Arizona were chilly and we ran out of propane again. Now we always keep one tank full and fill the empty one as soon as possible, we don’t put it off anymore like we were doing. Lesson learned.

Our kitchen faucet developed a leak while we were there. We ordered a new one from Amazon and had the same mobile repair man install it for us. By the time we headed for home, we were cranky from being “cooped up” in a small space. Unlike the summer trip when it stayed light until after 9:00 PM, this time of year it was dark by 5:00 PM so we couldn’t get out and go sight-seeing. On our way home the kitchen faucet started leaking again so we made the trip without water again.

We had planned a trip back East for 7 months for the following spring. I said, “no way,” not in that small of a trailer for that long. So, we cancelled the trip and started looking for another RV. This time we took a much different approach.

We considered Class A’s, Class C’s, and Travel Trailers this time. One of us wanted a Class C and the other wanted a Class A. I researched the different manufacturing companies, the various models, floorplans, consumer reviews, reviews and comments from owner’s groups and RV online sites.

After making a list of the top models we went to a few RV shows and looked on some of the local lots. We saw a lot of beautiful rigs, and we saw some rigs that I would have been afraid to sneeze in. Even some used rigs were considered. We asked a lot of questions and talked to a lot of people.

At long last we sat down to talk about all we’d seen and learned. We considered our budget and what we really wanted to do in our travels. We could have purchased a Class A or C, but we would have been making payments on it for a long time and that is not how we wanted to spend our retirement. We decided we wanted something we could pay off in a year or two and be financially free to do all the traveling we wanted to.

We also realized that if we bought a Class A or C and it broke down, we would be without a home to travel in until it could be repaired. With recent supply shortages on some parts, we had heard of some repairs taking 6 to 8 months to complete.

We would also have had to purchase a tow vehicle or “Toad” as they are called. That sounds like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. Most of today’s vehicles can’t be “flat towed” (towed with all four wheels on the ground). There are some trucks, a few Jeeps, and a couple of other vehicles that can, but all the others must be towed on either a dolly or a flatbed trailer. There are also different towing capacities and suspension systems to consider when towing with Class A’s and C’s.

So, we made the decision to keep our debt low and returned to the idea of a Travel Trailer once again. Being more experienced, and having learned a lot from researching Motorhomes, we knew there was a lot more information to consider before buying another Travel Trailer.

I started my research into the manufacturing of Travel Trailers, consumer reviews, and all the other research l did for the Motorhomes. As I read through articles and reviews, I discovered many things I did not know about travel trailers and towing them. I learned that the axle or axles on a trailer are not arbitrarily placed. Their position is part of what allows a trailer to be towed safely. Not only is there the towing capacity of the tow vehicle to consider, but there is also the tongue weight of the trailer, the cargo capacity of the tow vehicle, and the carrying capacity of the trailer itself.

Once I completed my research, we sat down and made a list of everything we wanted in a travel trailer from construction materials to appliance brands. Then we put the “Absolutely Must Have” items at the top followed by “Needs to Have”, then “Want to Have” followed by “Would Be Nice to Have.” We took our list and returned to visiting dealerships and RV shows. It was impossible to find everything we needed and wanted in one travel trailer.

Mostly we discovered that a trailer containing all the items that were on our list would require a trailer that was too long and/or too heavy for what we wanted or could pull safely. We enjoy visiting National Parks and many of them restrict the length of coaches and travel trailers to thirty-two feet or less simply because they won’t fit in the campsites. Also, there are mountain roads that just are not traversable by long trailers, or in some cases, any trailers.

After adjusting what we had our hearts set on, we found a Rockwood thirty-foot trailer that would suit our needs. Instead of a slide out with a residential size king bed, we have a slide out with a residential size queen bed. Instead of a nice large bathroom with double sinks and a large shower, we have a small bathroom with a single sink and an adequate shower. 

We do have a place for me to work, theater seating, a dinette, a battery power only refrigerator, solar panels, dual entry doors, a stove, oven, and microwave (many trailers now have a cooktop and no oven), a wardrobe, lots of storage in the kitchen, and a pantry. It also has the bonus of a fireplace! 

The carrying capacity is a little less than we wanted, and the tongue weight heavier than we wanted because of the front kitchen (worth it!), but it is still a trailer we can pull safely and with confidence with our Toyota Tundra, and most important, it has enough space and storage that we are very comfortable in it. 

We’ve been traveling in it for almost 4 months now and couldn’t be happier! This trailer is exactly what we needed and feels like a small apartment. It has plenty of room for both of us and our two little fur-babies. We have another 3 months to go before we will be back home, but we are both confident that the coming months will be as good as the past ones, and I will tell you about our adventures in another article.


Guest Writer

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