On the bright side; I didn’t blow up the RV.
I don’t have much in the way of pretty photos to share with this story. It’s more in the way of a cautionary tale.
I want to begin by thanking SixRobbLee’s RV Center in Anchorage for promptly and efficiently repairing my malfunctioning propane regulator yesterday – in spite of it being a week before Memorial Day weekend and having a totally swamped shop. Yikes.
I don’t know what went wrong. All I really know is that I filled my gas and propane tanks at the usual station before heading to Anchorage for a 4-day K9 Nose Work trial.
When I arrived and set up at the trial site in Anchorage Friday evening, I flipped the thermostat up a notch as temps dropped (it got down to 38° that night) … and naught but cool air flowed from my furnace vents. 🥶
My first thought was that the propane tank simply hadn’t been turned back on after filling, so I popped outside and checked.
Easier said than done, of course, since I’d already put my slide out and the propane bay is located under the slide. 🙄 Envision a towel on the ground, then a seat cushion for my knees, then me crawling under with my butt sticking out.
Anyway, it was fully turned on. That wasn’t the problem. Hmm. Maybe turn everything off inside, then turn the propane off, wait, and turn it back on … slowly. I’d heard that was the way to “re-set” a propane tank. More crawling under the slide. Twice.
At this point, it was too late in the day to attempt calling anyone, so I added an extra blanket and went to bed, with both dachshunds snuggled under the blankets with me. It would just have to wait until morning.
On Saturday morning, it proved difficult to coerce the dogs out from under their warm blankets. I turned the engine on and cranked the heater in the cab, then finally bundled the dogs up in their coats for a quick morning potty break.
We needed to get moving because, furnace or no furnace, it was trial day!
Then two very sad things happened. First, I discovered it wasn’t just my furnace. No propane meant no range top to boil water for coffee! 😳 Ack! I solved that by firing up my generator and microwaving the water. Coffee is essential.
And second, after a few fruitless phone calls, I realized none of the RV service centers seemed to be open on weekends. Seriously?
Shaking my head in frustration, I accepted that Baxter, Rhonda and I were destined to share at least two more chilly mornings. I don’t mind sleeping in a cold RV – I’ve plenty of blankets – but getting out of bed first thing in the morning reminded me way to much of my early tent-camping years. 😄 Brrr!
I didn’t really feel we were in dire straits though. A couple of 20-minute boosts of heat from the cab got us through the early morning chill, and the rest of the day, we were too busy to worry about it.
Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, but thankfully not as cold overnight and much warmer during the day. Mother Nature took pity on us and chose that day to begin SUMMER. Yay! I actually had to open some windows in the afternoon to cool the rig off.
MONDAY was when things took a turn for the worse. Let me set the scene …
Do you know how, when you wander outside of your regular daily routine, things can get missed? Overlooked, forgotten or just plain messed up?
This is specially true in an RV. It’s important to have lists, do certain things in a certain order so as not to leave any essential steps out. If you’ve ever gotten an RV ready to depart on a travel day, you know what I mean.
If you don’t stick to routine, you could conceivably forget and drive off with your awning still out, your steps down, ceiling vents open, etc. I’m a strong believer in routines and check lists. 👍🏼
Honestly, before this Monday at least, the worst I’ve done was to head down the highway with my big pot of citronella, lemon balm and geraniums sitting on the kitchen counter instead of safely secured in the sink. It made a big mess when it slid and landed upside down in the stairwell … but it was not life-threatening or even expensive.
Monday morning, I was feeling rushed. I was volunteering at the trial that day, so needed to be ready even earlier than the day before. And I needed to wash my hair.
Hoping for at least a meager flame, I had tried the range top again. Barely enough flame to see, so obviously no hot water from that source. Still, I set the tea kettle on the burner, hoping it would at least take the chill off.
The hot water heater is also propane, so that wasn’t an option. It wouldn’t come on at all. Again the generator was fired up and the microwave pressed into service.
It seemed to take forever to heat enough water (it’s not the most robust of microwaves) to wash my hair in the sink and manage a sketchy general wash-cloth bath.
I fed and pottied the dogs while water was heating, then quickly finished my “bath” and got dressed.
By then, I was running late, so pulled a ball cap over still slightly damp hair and off I went, blithely leaving my precious dachshunds behind, safe and sound in my RV.
Nearly two hours later, someone rushed up to where I was working as videographer in one of the Interior searches and told me there was a loud alarm going off in my RV! I thrust the camera at her and and took off at, well, the closest I could come to a run. The dogs were in there!
By the time I arrived, maybe two minutes later, rescue was already underway. Someone had smelled propane, so they knew what the alarm was. My dear friends were preparing to risk life and limb to rush in and rescue Baxter & Ronni. They weren’t sure Baxter would cooperate.
I took that worrisome choice (they knew the dogs could get loose or worse, the RV could even explode) out of their hands by passing them by, opening the door and grabbing both dogs myself as they piled out into my arms. I nearly threw the dogs at my friend, Jane, who moved them away from the RV. The propane smell, once the door was open, was quite strong.
I reached in once again and grabbed the kennel sitting thankfully right by the door.
In the meantime, someone else (there are thankfully several active RV’ers in our group) had located and turned off the propane at the tank. Another friend, Pete, had gone inside once the propane was turned off and opened all the windows. With fresh air flowing in, the ear-piercing alarm was finally convinced that danger was past, and quit wailing. The smell of propane slowly dissipated.
Side note to my sister, who is probably freaked out after-the-fact right now. 😉
I could have and would have taken all these same steps if I’d been camping someplace all alone. I know what to do. But it sure was a blessing to have had competent and caring friends right there, jumping in to ensure my safety and that of my pups. ❤️🙏🏼❤️
My heart was finally slowing its racing beat, but I was terribly shaken. Another volunteer, a total stranger, offered to let me put Baxter and Ronni in her car for the rest of the morning and even carried the kennel for me while I held my two wiggling angels close, nearly squishing them in after-the-fact reaction. Both dogs thankfully seemed none the worse for their experience.
Well, except for Baxter, who already suffers from anxiety. He was not at all interested in returning to the RV later when it was all aired out. I finally called Jerry and had him drive to Anchorage to pick our sweet boy up and take him home. 😢
Ronni was unperturbed by the shrieking alarm, and both dogs seemed unaffected by the fumes. I’m guessing they were up in the front passenger seat, their favorite people-watching post rather than down on the floor – and thus mostly above the worst of the fumes.
I believe what transpired was this; when I wanted to heat water in the early morning and tried the range top burner, it sputtered a weak flame and went out.
In my rush, I may have neglected to totally turn off the burner – not noticing, since there was no flame. It was either that, or (again, rushing to get ready), I could have brushed the stove knob and, with no flame to draw my attention to it, didn’t realize it was in the “on” position.
It’s NO EXCUSE. I can’t tell you how often I glance at those burner knobs in the regular course of an average day. It’s well-engrained habit to check them – often every time I pass by. Certainly every time I leave the rig and before going to bed. Propane is a useful fuel source and I’m glad I have it available, but I also am well aware of and respect the potential danger.
Obviously, I didn’t check before flying out the door that day. I could never have forgiven myself if some had happened to my fur-kids, or anyone else, because of my oversight.
Shudder. It’s OK. We are all all right. I called SixRobbLee RV Center later that day, explained the situation and what I thought the malfunction was.
I admit, I also played the “I’m 71 and traveling all by myself” card, which may or may not have helped. They walked me through (again) the turn off, wait, then slowly turn back on routine, which didn’t work any better the third time.
I must’ve sounded pretty pitiful, because although they had already mentioned being completely booked until the end of June, the man on the phone said, “If you can get here first thing in the morning, we’ll check it out for you”.
I was at their door at 8:00 am Tuesday morning. Those nice folks had a mechanic looking at it within ten minutes, had the regulator issue sorted out and fixed, found a minor leak at a valve joint and tightened that up, tested every ignition point, double-checked inside the rig to make sure furnace, stove and refrigerator were all working optimally, checked/tested one last time for any missed leaks … and sent me on my way in less than 45 minutes.
They only charged my their minimum service fee of $75, which I gladly paid, with tons of gratitude.
And I even got back to the trial site in time to enjoy watching most of “my teams” run their searches.
My exciting, 4-day K9 Nose Work weekend May have had two very different sides to it, but all is well that ends well.
Next Sunday, Ronni and I are off to the Kenai peninsula again – this time for some real camping, followed by an AKC Scent Work trial!! I’m hoping for less drama and more relaxing. 😉