Surviving a First Camper Vacation

A few weeks ago, the virgins of the caravan took the rolling hotel room during their extortion cruise. We survived. YAY! It turns out that it’s not really brain science or rocket surgery. If you take your time and think carefully, you too can create your own motel room by following a simple two-hour training. However, we learned a few things, and we thought we would pass them on – –


So many writers in the various sources that Pam examines talk about the leak of their trailers, even when they were new, that we were worried. It turns out that a Category 5 hurricane (ok, maybe it was just a thunderstorm) blew on our second night. And there were no leaks. Here’s a call to Keystone. Their Outback Ultralight 260uml is perfectly dry, at least so far, which includes around 72 hours at the campsite. Dave is told it was a pretty spectacular storm.

He slept

The bed is quite comfortable, but only because the bride has put a feather bed on the standard hard mattress like the stone of the motorhome.


One of the things we read, many times, that we needed was a collapsing ladder. It is available at Amazon (isn’t everything there?) For a hundred dollars. Its importance is to give you a way to check things out above. Horror stories of sticks stuck in the slide and ruined seals or locking mechanisms abound. It is also the way to check if something has fallen on the roof, has cracked one of the small ventilation covers or, more generally, has blocked things that should not be.

What they don’t tell you is how this damn thing works. Dave, who worked in construction during his unhappy youth, assumed that you were going to press the two little red buttons and then lower that section. It was the plan. If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan.

He pressed the two little red buttons.


Hit on the head as the parts above ALL fell.


Thought. Ok, it’s a practical thing to have but it’s a pain to ask. Dave hit his head as he descended while telescoping the ladder. Pam is still scratching her head to find out how it happened.


The basement and other access doors to the external warehouses are locked with a single key. Unfortunately, the guys at the dealership told us that when they say “everything”, it means “EVERYTHING”. Dave, a former Lowe’s employee (he spent his youth working in various professions) remembers seeing locks that looked MUCH like the locks on these hatches in the general lock section of his store’s hardware store. Lowe went looking for three locks with the same key that could fit into the existing hole.


Unfortunately, they were finished in gold and since our name is not Trump, it seemed a bit of an exaggeration.

On the way to Ménard.


This time in simple gray with chrome glasses. Dave found three with the same key. He will now put them in the storage trailer.

If you’ve ever worked with these simple lock systems, they are actually, well, simple. The locking is done with a piece of steel which turns when the key is turned and which then fits into a slot or simply behind something solid. To disassemble, simply remove the screw that holds this piece of steel, then unscrew the large nut that holds the assembly on the door or drawer or whatever you want to lock. Remove the lock from the front of the door (or drawer or other) and reverse the procedure to install the new lock.

it didn’t quite fit.

The way these simple locks are held in place is that the lock barrel has flats to keep things from turning. In the case of the generic locks that I obtained, the flat parts of the barrel had smaller flats and therefore could not pass through the existing hole with a square edge. What to do ?

Since Dave was actually a factory-trained technician for Briggs and Stratton, among others, and a little handyman at home (when he can’t avoid it), he has a fairly well-equipped store. In this case, it involved increasing the apartments (by reducing the distance between them) from about 0.665 inch to about 0.625 inch. Forty thousandths doesn’t seem like much, and if you have a small belt sander, it’s not much. It only took a few minutes to sand the flats and reduce the width to this target by 0.625. Turn the nut that goes up the latch to the end, sand the two flat sides more or less regularly (this is not a particularly precise operation), then turn the nut backwards, cleaning the small damage done to nets. Then repeat the operation on the flats, just above, and you’re done. It is not necessary to lower the nut to clean the last small piece at the top, because these threads will not be used. That done, the new locks fit and for about six dollars, new locks were installed and we can assume that no one has a generic key that fits.

Finally, except that …

One of the warehouse doors was made of thicker material. For the basement doors, a finer material was used. For side storage, however, the door was the same material as the walls. Not very thick (it is, after all, a travel trailer) but thicker than the other doors and, more importantly, too thick for the nut to engage. So return to Ménard for a lock with a longer barrel and repeat the process. Dave couldn’t avoid having two different keys, but at least these are keys that no one else has.

It’s not real clear here, but you can see that after some sanding the flat side of the barrel on the one on the left is quite a bit bigger than the one on the right. It worked.

No more locks

Other Pam horror stories relate to stolen LP batteries and tanks. So it was back to Lowe. This time, a heavy cable specially designed to lock things. The one we bought was from Master Lock, so we think it’s probably pretty good. A few Master Lock padlocks to complete the set. With more length than what was strictly necessary, we wrapped it around the battery box a few times too. In the meantime, we now have 4 small keys that all look the same for the different TT locks. My fiancée takes several colors of nail polish to match each lock to each key. It is no longer possible to try all the keys now. Match the colors and you can open the lock.


When we put the wedges in place and the stabilizing cylinders at the bottom, we were surprised by the extent of the tremors. It seemed to solidify as the tanks took up water, but it was even more shaken than Dave liked it. Before we get into expensive stabilizer systems, let’s try the chocks that expand between the two wheels.

One more on locks

When you have a few hundred dollars in lightning arresters, fifty dollars in adapters and a hundred dollars in power cables, you don’t want to be robbed. Unfortunately, the locking boxes available on Amazon are not suitable for our surge arresters. We know it. We tried.

As a homemade solution, Dave ordered a fire retardant lockout for less than $ 20. Four slots and another padlock and a lock box were born. It’s a little more complex than that, so let’s get into the details.

– Take a box, mine came from Amazon and looked like this

Use your Dremel tool to cut four slots. If you don’t have a Dremel tool, take one. It is one of the most useful tools ever made. Anyway

The slits I cut were an inch wide and a few inches deep. The one on the hinge side (illustrated) is not really a “slit”, but rather a rectangle. The theory is that the top and bottom slots allow the electrical cable to be inserted from the campsite socket to the hotel room. The sides will accept the cable to be wrapped around the pole (or in any other way that the connection of the campsite is mounted).

3 And here it is with the slots cut

4 Here are all the tools you need. The cut-off wheel, shown in the flexible shaft loop, will leave sharp edges. The grinding wheel, mounted on the Dremel tool, will smooth the sharp edges. You don’t really need the Dremel tool with the flexible shaft, but I recommend it

5 Don’t forget your hearing protection. Once you reach Dave’s age and need hearing aids, you will want to be more careful

6 It works

7 All locked up, and in fact it looks pretty good.

8 The last step was to use liquid electrical tape (available from Ace, Lowe, Menards or possibly Wal-Mart or Target). This should seal the insulation (it is, after all, a fire-resistant box that has a thin layer of insulation between the two layers of sheet metal) and give a small cushion so that the points sharp points do not cut delicate fingers.

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