I wrote a few posts last year about various misadventures we had when it came to our new (to us) camper, and the first season of camping.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that we already had our first misadventure, and it was a full month before our first scheduled trip! Yikes.
One of the things that I found is important with the camper is to follow my checklist. I have a checklist that I created and modified which has a step-by-step walkthrough. It’s on two sides of a piece of paper, one side for when we ‘arrive’ at a campsite and one for when we ‘leave’. The list applies not just at campsites, but pretty much anywhere we would arrive or leave with the camper.
Including our driveway.
The checklist is great, and my mother-in-law printed it out for us with two sides, on a piece of bright yellow paper which she then laminated. And gave me an extra copy, which has come in handy as I’ve misplaced a copy more than once (though the missing copy has always turned up).
At the end of April, we decided to pull it out from winter storage (next to my in-laws house), and take it to our house, where I then went through de-winterizing, washing, and waxing, while my wife cleaned the interior, the dishes, bedding, and all that. It pretty much got us ready for our first trip.
When I brought it home, I got it backed into the driveway almost flawlessly. Last years first attempt was quite lively, with me taking at least ten tries to get it into the driveway, cars in the vicinity, all while a special needs neighbor kid was having a meltdown on a nearby front yard. This year, backing in was much less eventful and there were no complications, except for the fact that it was raining.
I followed the list to take everything apart. Or so I thought.
There’s one step after everything is taken apart where I list out things that go into the camper, and it’s a step to verify. Things like the hitch, the sway bar, the weight distribution bars, and the hitch pin.
That one is pretty important.
The hitch pin works to keep the hitch attached to the car. The hitch basically slides into the square post, then the hitch pin slides across the post, the hitch, and back out the other side, where there’s a metal clip to keep it in place.
I usually put this into the storage compartment of the camper along with everything else, and always work off the list to make sure it’s all there.
Not this time.
After having it in the driveway for a couple of days, and taking care of all the aforementioned work, it was time to hook it up, and take it a few miles down the road to the facility where we store it.
Got everything out, slid the hitch into the receiver, and went to look for the hitch pin. It wasn’t there. I took everything out of the storage comparment, still no dice.
I then had a sneaking suspicion that I never verified that this was put into the compartment and had left it out.
Not only did I leave it out, but I”m pretty sure I knew where I left it. On the back bumper of the Buick, which we use to tow. The Buick had been driven quite a bit, so it obviously was not there. Just to make sure, I searched the entire inside of the car. My suspicions of what probably happened were confirmed when I found the metal clip, but still no hitch pin.
Figuring that it might have fallen off when being driven, I looked around the end of our driveway and at the end of our street, figuring it would have slid off at some point.
I verified with my wife that she hadn’t seen it (she hadn’t), then put the hitch in the car and set off to go buy a new one at a supply shop. It was a nice evening and I was really annoyed with myself.
As I pulled down the street to leave our subdivision, my eyes locked on something all the way near the exit to our subdivision. As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was. The missing pin. My theory on where it was (the bumper) and what had happened (it slid off) was 100% correct. It just happened a couple of streets over from where I figured it would happen!
The pin is a thick round piece of metal, so it was completely intact. I stopped, picked it up, and drove back home, very much happier than I was. I got everything hooked up and was off, with the whole thing probably costing me no more than ten minutes of my time. Along with a little pride.
Still, it’s a good reminder to always follow the checklist. I guess I got cocky, which probably isn’t good especially when just starting off for the season. I remember last year my wife asked when I would stop using the checklist, and I answered that it would be when we got rid of the camper. I need to be a little more strict about that. I’ve read stories on some camper forums I regularly read where people have gotten into much worse trouble by missing a step.
I definitely dodged a bullet. Now, my hope is that this is my biggest camper misadventure of 2013. What do you think?
Readers, are there tasks where you follow a checklist no matter what? Have you ever had something go awry that made you realize this is a necessity?