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A sad series of unforeseen RV travel problems – Jeff and Susie’s year of misery

| Updated Jan 1, 2022

We want to share a miserable but true story of RV travel problems. Meet Jeff and Susie. Real people. Real RVers who share their unforeseen events during their “Winter Pandemic Camping Trip.”

Why are we telling this story? Well, because in our 10 years of RVing, we've never heard of so many RV travel problems affecting one RVing couple. Also, many of these problems also touch on quality and service issues – something we are hearing about a lot lately – and the supply chain breakdown causing delays in repair.

So sit back, have a cup of coffee and send some sympathy and thoughts of encouragement to this steadfast couple who are doing their best to RV on.

Let's start at the beginning…

Jeff and Susie's Story of RV travel problems: We thought concerns about Covid were going to be our biggest fear when we took off January 4, 2021, in our 1997 Newmar RV for a 2-month winter trip to Arizona and Texas. 

We were wrong. 

Our trip was filled with unforeseen events, mishaps, breakdowns, and RV travel problems that would make a seasoned traveler shudder and pray to wake up from what seemed like an episode of the Twilight Zone!

The RV travel problems began with a bathroom surprise

two mice were the start of their rv travel problems
Mice can be a problem for RVers….

We should have known adversity was coming when we had a sign of sorts 12 hours after we left. 

I went to the back to use the bathroom. I lifted the toilet seat and promptly went back to the front of the camper and told my hubby to pull over. 

I was shaken. 

I found a bloated dead mouse in the toilet!!! He took care of the problem and said it was actually a pair of mice! I guess we found who made the mess that we had to clean up before we left!

Cascading and costly RV travel problems

As we traveled we had numerous RV travel problems. One gas station had a card reader that didn’t work so had to pay cash which is a lot to fill up our RV! 

We hit a “road gator” tire rubber on the highway. It knocked out one of our leveling jacks that we were unable to get fixed the entire trip.

At one campsite they had water problems and at another camp our toilet seat broke and had to be replaced. 

We couldn’t find our 30 amp adapter even though we knew we had one. 

Our floor heat in our bathroom quit working, our DVD player broke. 

One of our dear friends back home passed away unexpectedly as well as my great aunt. We watched their funerals online.

Listen to your dogs – they can have RV travel problems, too.

susie holding tinker bell the dog RV travel problems
Susie and Tinker Bell

We should have paid better attention to our little Shih Tzu dog “Tinker Bell” as she seemed to know more about what lay ahead than we did. 

She was anxious, panting, yawning, and pacing as we took off. We thought she would settle down as we drove but she seemed worse. 

By the time we got to Arizona, she started vomiting got dehydrated, and had to stay a night at a nearby vet. She got sick on a Sunday when it’s hard to find an on-call vet. I had trouble leaving Tinker Bell. She was only a little over a year old and we had never been separated. 

My nerves were shot. 

She did improve and we figured out she wasn’t drinking because she was used to a free-flowing water dish. There wasn’t even a pet store close by. 

We were in Quartzsite Arizona for the big RV show. It’s pretty remote. 

When we got to the pet store she got the new water dish, a thunder shirt, and adaptil spray to help with her anxiety. She cost a lot! 

Our son flew in for the RV show with our dog's brother Loki. She was glad to see him! 

Unfortunately, he had a problem at the RV show. As we walked into one of the outside tents he yelped and jumped about 3 times before we took him away to inspect his paws. 

We couldn’t figure out what was wrong until we returned to the tent and found out someone had staked an electrical wire. 

He was actually feeling an electrical current when he stepped near the tent. Soon after they closed that area down until it was fixed. 

That area had not had any rain for over 200 days. We show up and it rains for 2 days straight during the RV show! 

Seriously I am not making this stuff up!

Maybe Texas will be better…

texas beach at sunset Unforeseen Events
Texas Beach

We moved onto Galveston Texas hoping for warmer dryer weather. We were encouraged when we saw our campsite on the ocean and it was about 65 degrees and sunny. It was glorious! 

We were walking a couple of times a day on the beach. Tinker Bell loved the beach and was feeling better. 

But the first night there as it got dark out she darted out of the camper chasing wild bunnies and ran into a mean dog that was tied up in the next campsite. 

Everyone in the camp heard my screams! She was fine! 

The very next day a weird weather pattern came through and Texas experienced full-blown winter. 

Temperatures fell to 22 degrees. There was rain that turned to sleet & snow. 

Soon the power went out, the water was shut off and no one could leave the island. Thank goodness we had a generator, propane for heat and water in our tank. 

1.3 million people were without power for nearly 5 days. So pipes froze all over Texas including our campground. 

Gas, propane, and water were very difficult to get. We worked together with our fellow campers in finding what we needed. It was a very trying 5 days! 

Even though it was challenging we enjoyed the ocean immensely!

Now what? More unforseen events and RV travel problems?

scrapbook photos of their Unforeseen Events RV travel problems
some of Susie's scrapbook photos

As we traveled on we started having RV travel problems with the motorhome not running well. It seemed to lose power climbing the hills. 

My hubby tried replacing the O2 sensor & spark plugs. He noticed an antifreeze leak but couldn’t see where it was coming from. 

Before we left Hot Springs Arkansas we tried to find someone to check the camper engine but couldn’t find anyone that would work on an RV motor or even look at it for that matter. 

So we drove until March 3rd.  We said a long prayer before heading for Branson, Missouri. 

A long breakdown on the road – waiting for a tow

We never made it there in our camper. 

We were on a two-lane highway traveling up a steep hill when we heard a loud pop like someone had shot us. 

Then smoke started billowing into our camper. I was afraid we were on fire. 

My hubby somehow got the camper off the road in a construction area and yelled to grab the dog and get out. 

We weren’t on fire but the radiator was spewing antifreeze everywhere. 

Then we tried to figure out what to do next. We called our regular RV insurance person but they couldn’t find anyone that would tow an RV. 

We had signed up for FMCA at the Quartzsite RV show but didn’t really know what that covered. So we called FMCA and started our battle to get a tow to Branson Missouri 100 miles away. 

This started at 1:00 in the afternoon. 

The first problem was that FMCA didn’t seem to see us in their system but we had our membership number. The person we were dealing with hung up and then didn’t call back and we had to start all over with someone new. 

We waited for hours and when we called back it was like we had never even called. 

My nerves were shot but we continued with the calling. Eventually, it started getting dark and we got nervous about sitting on the side of the road. We did not feel safe. 

So we packed up our tow vehicle with what we thought we needed and took off for Branson where our son was planning to meet us in his RV. 

Around 11:30 pm we called the towing person and discovered that FMCA gave the driver the wrong address of where the RV was sitting.

Finally, about 1:00am the tow was completed. 

We were happy in the morning to find out that the RV had actually made it to Branson Motor Coach. We stayed a week in Branson as planned originally and tried to enjoy the last of our trip. 

The stress from these RV travel problems took its toll

The stress from these RV travel problems played havoc on my body. I had an asthma attack, flared up trigeminal neuralgia a very bad back spasm, and an abscessed tooth. 

When we left Branson without our camper they had not even had a chance to look at the camper. As I write this the day after Thanksgiving we are still without our camper! 

I do have to say that in the end, we signed up for roadside assistance with FMCA. We didn’t actually have roadside assistance as we thought at the time we broke down. 

We had to pay $1000.00 of the tow and they paid several thousand that we would have never known except the Branson Motor Coach saw it on the tow bill. So I would sign up for their membership again. 

I think things would have gone better had we been signed up before we left home and had time to be all entered appropriately into their system.

How's the rig you ask?

oh no RV travel problems
oh no

So the saga has continued for about 9 months. Branson Motor Coach has had so much trouble with getting parts. 

We’ve had a new motor, radiator, muffler belts, and hoses replaced. 

They sent off our transmission to be rebuilt and when they received it back it was broken. 

The transport people dropped it. 

Then we waited another 6 weeks for another transmission. In September we were told it was finally done. We packed things up and arrived before they closed. 

It’s an 8-hour drive for us one way. When we got there the boss looked bummed. They discovered the alternator was bad when they drove it the night before so they were waiting for a new one and still had to put it in. 

We went for supper and returned. We took off for a campground 2 miles from there. 

I followed my husband and it seemed to me that he was having trouble on the hills. We rolled in, got set up and he told me it wasn’t running good at all. 

The next morning we fired the engine up and promptly shut it off. It sounded worse than it did before it blew up!! 

We were both feeling ill at this point because our total bill had been $21,000.00 and it was running terrible. 

Monday morning we rolled back into the garage and they checked it over. The new engine lifters failed! 

I burst into tears walked away and wailed like a baby. 

We had to pack things back into the truck and start the 8-hour trip home. 

So evidently the new motor was going in this week. We plan to go pick up the camper on December 6th & leave for Florida on January 4th, 2022.

And now for the Update…

RV Lifestyle: We reached out to Jeff and Susie to find out if their story had been resolved. Happy ending? Well, not yet.

Looks like half of their 13 family members have Covid and after more back and forth with the RV service department, they have a pick up date of Dec. 27th. Will it happen? They aren't really sure at this point. They feel their RV has been held captive and were considering legal options before this call to pick up came in.

Not that unusual?

RV Lifestyle: We've heard so many stories of supply chain issues, lack of knowledgeable people for repairs, and RVs breaking down right off the lot. Will this straighten up in 2022? What's your experience with all of this? Let us know in the comments.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-12-17

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

11 Responses to “A sad series of unforeseen RV travel problems – Jeff and Susie’s year of misery”

December 24, 2021at10:38 am, Chris Nighswonger said:

They didn’t just buy, they’ve had.


December 18, 2021at1:31 pm, Raymond Godfrey said:

Jeff and Suzi I have been a fleet mng for 40 years and my gut feeling is you had the pants put on you by that repair facility I hardly ever respond to web groups but I saw your story and had to reply .I hope things are going well for you guys best regards Raymond G .


December 17, 2021at1:53 pm, Kevin Davis said:

Now would be a great time to have an article about finding an RV inspector.


December 17, 2021at8:52 am, Bev Parkison said:

Why would anyone buy a 25 year old RV and take off across the country? Worse yet, sink 20K in repairs? Inexperience and lack of planning are responsible for most of their problems. Weather extremes are more common now with climate change and you need to be prepared. We have been on the road and dealt with deaths in the family. Part of life. I know I should be more sympathetic but it seems most of these events could have been avoided with common sense.


December 17, 2021at1:25 pm, Jim Johnson said:

Sounds more like poor engineering, cheap parts, and crappy service. I would trust a rug built in 2020 more than one built today. Newer rigs seem to be constructed by people not competent enough to flip burgers at McDonald’s. We fulltime and own a 2014 Heartlands Cyclone…we are rebuilding it one breakdown at a time. My sole advice for prospective rv owners is to take a basic rv tech course first. It will save you much grief, and money, down the road. Rv techs are hit and miss as to competence. There are few if any standards. Although, that might be changing. Plus, when you break down, get in line for service. Good service, bad service, the price is always the same…expensive.


January 01, 2022at6:52 am, Larry Osbon said:

The minute you put the letters RV on anything the price triples ,Even if its the same part that goes in a house


January 04, 2022at2:32 pm, Lynne Price said:

Good advice.


January 04, 2022at2:32 pm, Lynne Price said:

Good advice.


December 17, 2021at7:33 pm, J Herbert said:

I agree. Purchasing any used vehicle comes with risk, but a MH that’s 25 years old is asking for trouble. Not surprised that anything of the breakdowns happened. I would not purchase anything this old, unless I was prepared for constant issues. Some parts are probably not even available anymore.


December 17, 2021at7:53 am, Leslie Peralta said:

Jeff and Susie,
Your determination to continue is inspirational!!
In our travel mishaps we have been comforted by the good people within the RV community that help a fellow RVer like they’re family. I hope you get resolution soon and can start living your dream.
Don’t lose hope,


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