Murphy’s Law of RV Living
Vol: 55 Issue: 28 Friday, April 28, 2006
One of the most reliable of all the universal laws is the one known as “Murphy’s Law.” Simply stated, Murphy’s Law dictates that, “Anything that can go wrong, probably will go wrong.”
In American culture, Murphy’s Law was named after Major Edward A Murphy, a development engineer who was working on a rocket sled for the US Air Force in 1949.
According to George Nichols, another engineer who was present, Murphy, in frustration, blamed the failure on his assistant, saying, “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.” Nichols’ account is that “Murphy’s law” came about through conversation among the other members of the team; it was condensed to “If it can happen, it will happen,” and named for Murphy in mockery of what Nichols perceived as arrogance on Murphy’s part.
Others, including Edward Murphy’s surviving son Robert Murphy, deny Nichols’ account, and claim that the phrase did originate with Edward Murphy.
According to Robert Murphy’s account, his father’s statement was along the lines of “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.” (courtesy of Wikpedia)
In any case, Murphy’s Law was an immutable law of nature, even before Major Murphy gave it his name.
I’ve been a believer in Murphy’s Law as long as I can remember — I used to think it had something to do with fishing. Every time my Dad took me fishing when I was a kid, Murphy’s Law re-proved itself.
If I lost my dad’s best lure, it was chalked up to Murphy’s Law. If the boat ran out of gas, blame Murphy. When Dad would go to pull the trailer up the ramp without releasing the boat line, it was Murphy who got the blame.
Then I found out that Murphy was to blame when a cake fell, when the phone rang, or when my mom washed the kitchen floor.
(According to Murphy’s Law, THAT meant it was about to rain.)
So my respect for Murphy’s Law dates back all the way to Major Murphy’s lifetime. I’ve seen it in action too many times to doubt its ranking among the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics or the Law of Entropy as being among the basic laws of physical existence.
My lifelong respect for Murphy has made me a cautious man — almost to the point of being annoying. My previous careers in the military and law enforcement honed my sense of caution to a fine point and taught me that one cannot be too prepared for Murphy to raise his ugly head. (No offense, Major!)
So in keeping with the tenets of Murphy’s Law, we are in the midst of our third dry run in our camper, in preparation for our extended road trip beginning in June. If I’ve learned anything, its that I didn’t know much.
First, I have discovered my truck is a pretty powerful truck, provided it isn’t attached to a 5th-wheel camper. Although its five years old, my Dodge RAM 1500 only has about sixty-thousand miles on it.
It’s a big V-8 that gets terrible gas mileage, and according to the handbook in the glove compartment, it is capable of towing twelve thousand, five hundred pounds.
(I didn’t mind the mileage when I bought it and a gallon of gas was a third of what it costs now. At the time, I figured it got such lousy mileage because it was such a powerful truck. Turns out it just gets lousy mileage.)
The day I first plopped the camper down into its hitch cradle, it looked like the truck’s front wheels weren’t quite touching the ground. So I took it in and had an extra leaf spring installed. That fixed the ride when the trailer was on it. Truck rides nice and smooth.
(Take the trailer off , and it is like riding down a rocky hillside sitting on a board — but hey, I bought it for pulling a trailer.)
My truck has something called a ‘false fifth’ gear. I don’t understand it apart from the fact it means that if I leave it in ‘Overdrive’ when pulling the trailer, it downshifts into passing gear and stays there.
The truck also has a ‘towing gear’ (Overdrive off) that is geared only slightly lower than passing gear. At 65 mph without a load, the engine turns at about 1800 rpms. In towing gear, it is revving about 3300 rpms, effectively making 65 mph its maximum speed and maximizing its gas consumption.
On our first dry run, we took it down along the coast from North Carolina to Georgia — it seemed at the time to be enough truck for the job – but just barely.
For our second dry run, we pulled it up north to just outside Buffalo, NY, to see how well it handled the Pennsylvania mountains. Empty and dry, I was able to get over the tallest one in the range, but by the time I got to the top, I was doing 30 mph and the transmission was screaming in protest.
Conclusion: Sometime between now and June, I need to get a bigger truck.
I discovered that no matter how carefully one packs a camper for a trip, there was at least one major omission on each dry run. I call them ‘dry runs’ because there is no particular place I need to be at any given time, just in case something unexpected goes wrong. That way, when there is a deadline to meet, I am at least somewhat prepared for the unexpected.
(We discovered that packing on a warm day is a mistake. We packed nothing but short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Even in the South, it gets cold in April)
I discovered that stopping at an RV court is nice. People are very friendly and helpful. It is great to take a hot shower without worrying about filling up the holding tanks. Most RV courts have cable TV. But most RV courts close up at five PM.
Last trip, we stopped at four of them before ‘boondocking’ (dry camping) at a roadside rest because they were all closed. (Can’t make much distance if one has to stop for the night before suppertime)
‘Boondocking’ is an interesting experience. We can ‘dry camp’ for about five days before we need to empty our holding tanks. But one learns to shower using about a gallon of water. It’s functional, but not very refreshing.
When ‘boondocking’ (parking where there are no facilities) our camper is equipped with two 12 volt batteries that provide us with lights and for running the furnace fan.
But using AC power (computers, TV, coffeepot etc.) required the installation of a couple of power ‘inverters’ that convert 12 volt battery power to 110 AC.
I discovered all that on the last dry run, and installed the inverters. I was sure we were ready for whatever came up.
Indeed, heading out on this trip, I made a point of stopping at a roadside rest to make a pot of coffee, just to demonstrate to myself how clever I was.
Then the weather got hot enough to need to run the air conditioner. (Drat! Never thought of that).
Conclusion: No doubt about it. We’re gonna need a generator. No problem! I have my emergency hurricane generator! It worked out fine during Hurricane Ophelia.
(Nope. Too loud. There’s a SPECIAL kind of generator for RVs– they only cost four times as much as the ordinary kind. Drat! There goes ANOTHER credit card balance)
Some other things we’ve learned so far. Murphy’s Law says that whenever one empties the ‘black water’ (sewage) holding tank, the hose will pop out of the ground (unless you are looking at it — then it stays in just fine).
Murphy’s Law demands that at least one of the two dozen things that have to be secured before moving the RV won’t get secured until after people in passing cars start pointing at the back of my truck just as I get the thing up to highway speed — usually at places where there is no shoulder on the road.
Murphy’s Law says that, if you DO forget to close one of the roof vents and it gets blown off, THAT night it is gonna rain. Hard.
Murphy’s Law says that if it is gonna get cold that night, the propane tanks will be nearly empty. If it is gonna be hot that day, the only spot left in the trailer park will be the one without shade trees.
Murphy’s Law also says that whenever you end up at a campground that doesn’t have cable, there are just enough shade trees around to block reception to the satellite dish.
Murphy’s Law says that when you show up at a campground without cash, they don’t take credit cards. (Except when you DO have cash. Then the register is broken and they ONLY take the credit card you don’t have)
And Murphy’s Law ALWAYS dictates that the campsite you stay at costs 30% more than the one you pass the next morning on your way back to the highway. (And that is ALWAYS the campground that you discovered had closed at five PM when you pulled off the night before.)
Murphy’s Law of RV’s is this: An RV has a lot in common with a sailboat. (A sailboat is a hole in the water one pours money into.) It seems like a GREAT idea — (and it really is a lot of fun!) — but like most great ideas, it is a better idea in theory than it is in practice.
But we’ve proved it is a workable idea. When I took the RV up north, it was to have Mike, (my son-in-law, webmaster, resident genius and playmate for whom I remain eternally grateful to my daughter) build me a workstation in the corner of my trailer.
Using the spare battery and a power inverter, I have a dedicated internet-ready workstation at my disposal 24/7/365 when I am traveling, meaning I can maintain my daily work schedule and meet my deadlines whether I am parked in an RV court or a Wal Mart parking lot.
Traveling in an RV affords one a lot of freedom — especially for someone who makes his living on the internet. But for all of that, Murphy’s Law of RV’s also reinforced a lesson about freedom I learned many years ago.
Freedom — any kind of freedom — is only worth what one is willing to pay for it.