A popular bumper sticker reads, “Stuff happens.” It doesn’t use the word “stuff,” but I’m pretty sure you know which bumper sticker I mean. When traveling in an RV, “stuff” is definitely going to happen. It’s not always big issues like accidents and tire blowouts. Sometimes your battery doesn’t charge, a leveler doesn’t work as well as it should, or the hot water side of the faucet doesn’t run.
All of the things mentioned above have happened to my wife, Natalie, and me. When problems arise, many people, myself included, have a tendency to get a little panicky and angry that things are just not going their way. Over the years, I have come up with a little system that helps me snap out of a panicky mode and puts my logical brain to work.
To remember to stay calm when something goes wrong, I use the acronym S.I.T.T. The following is a real-life example of a time when we had to use this method.
Our first long RV trip was to Southern Texas to visit family. It was December, and a large storm by the name of Frona decided to rain ice for several days on our way back to Nevada. We stayed off the road for the most part and only got 50 miles in three days.
On the day that the storm broke, we left the park we had stayed at and headed down a back road that led to the main highway. It had snowed a little bit, and the road we were on had not been plowed. In my mind, I was about to drive on fresh powdery snow. The heavy motorhome would surely have no problem.
It was a windy day, with gusts up to 40 mph. I did know that driving on the snowy road was less than ideal, so I drove in the center of it at about 15 mph. What I did not realize was that the wind had turned the couple inches of powdery snow into a sheet of ice.
A gust of wind hammered the side of the RV and broke what little traction we had. As if the rig were a weightless object on the international space station, it started slowly drifting toward the heavily sloped side of the road. I tried the wheel, the brakes, the gas, and none persuaded the motorhome to regain traction.
As the rig got closer to the side of the road, my attention was pulled from not having traction to if we hit that sideways, we are going to roll. I turned the wheel toward the side of the road, hoping it would get enough traction to go down the steep but short slope head-on. After an initial string of expletives, I recall saying to Natalie, “We’re going down!”
She never panicked or screamed or did any of the things you may imagine one might do if your home on wheels was ice skating towards the side of a road. She simply said, “Okay.” She then held on to our dog and braced for whatever was about to happen.
The front tires found traction as they broke through the ice on the grassy side of the road. The RV turned just enough to take the slope at an angle instead of sideways. The dirt was soft, so we sunk in as the RV slid towards a small tree and a barbed-wire fence.
Fortunately, a couple feet short of the tree, the RV stopped. What seemed like the last 30 minutes of our trip actually only took about 20 seconds.
I took my hands off the wheel and looked at Natalie. It was over, and my brain caught up with what had just happened. Natalie saw the panic in my eyes. She knew that panicking would not help the situation at all. Before I could say a word, she interrupted my thoughts by saying, “We’re okay, you’re okay. We are safe.”
She was right. That moment of panic started to subside as I repeated that mantra in my head. This brings us to the first part of the S.I.T.T. acronym.
When something first breaks or goes wrong, telling yourself to stay calm is important. Even if the thing that goes wrong is a major issue or someone is hurt, it serves no one to panic.
I have found that asking myself questions will break the cycle of panic. If everyone is uninjured, then everything else is simply an inconvenience or problem to solve. If someone is injured, the priority is to ask yourself what they need, be it a bandage or an ambulance. There is always time to fall apart about a situation after it’s all over.
Investigate the Issue
Many RV issues don’t create a dramatic story like sliding off the road. Many are small, like leaks, malfunctioning appliances, or worn out parts. After remaining calm, investigate the issue. Try to narrow down the source of the problem. For example, if it’s a leak, you will want to find the source. If a breaker keeps tripping, you may want to see if you are trying to run too many things at once.
In the case of our RV ice skating episode, after making sure all was well inside, we went outside to survey if anything had been damaged. The dirt was soft from the days of rain, so our wheels had sunk down into it. The car that we tow on a dolly was still attached and without a scratch. We discovered that our main problem was the mud, and the slope. We weren’t getting the RV back on the road without help.
Talk About Solutions
I find that when a problem arises, my brain may be swirling with solutions. Speaking them out loud helps to sort out the different possibilities and pick out the best ones. If Natalie is with me, I will talk it out with her. Having another person to brainstorm with is always helpful. If you are alone when problems strike, it’s possible to have that conversation with yourself too.
After investigating our snowy situation and talking about the possibilities, Natalie was the first to remember we had Coach-Net to help. I knew they would need the car and the dolly out of the way to pull the RV back on the road with a tow truck., Upon inspection, it appeared the car and dolly could be taken off with only a little difficulty.
Once you have possible solutions to the problem, it’s time to take action. This might mean finding a place with parts and repairing the problem yourself or perhaps you will need to find the closest repair shop. We have found that the internet is a wealth of information on how to fix various problems. Searching through Coach-Net’s blog posts will bring up many repair articles, and many RVers share their repairs on their own YouTube channels as well.
To put our plan into action, Natalie headed into the RV to call Coach-Net for a tow truck to pull us back on the road while I worked on the car and dolly. Natalie was successful in getting ahold of someone before I could get the dolly off the RV. Unfortunately, the closest tow truck was swamped with pulling others out of ditches, so it took several hours for them to get to us. Fortunately, that gave us plenty of time to get the car back on the road, leaving one less thing to pull out.
We made it out of that situation by keeping each other calm, coming up with a plan, and executing it. Coach-Net saved the day too. Had we not had them, we probably would’ve spent a night or two in a ditch on the side of the road. Best of all, we didn’t have to pay the tow truck driver a cent.
Having a response plan when things go wrong can help you get through the toughest of issues and make the smaller annoying issues seem more manageable. Mental health experts will tell you to take a few long deep breaths in and out when the strain of Murphy’s Law gets to you, but also remember to S.I.T.T.
Investigate the issue.
Talk about solutions
About The Author: Levi Henley
Levi Henley and his wife, Natalie, have been full-time RVers for over 5 years. They have also been Coach-Net customers for the same amount of time. They travel and workcamp around the U.S. in their 26-foot Itasca Sunstar motorhome with their two cats. They write for multiple RV-related publications and recently co-wrote “Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It.” You can follow their adventures on the road at henleyshappytrails.com
Ken H. ~ “We’ve been with Coach-Net for over 9 years, and every time we have needed them, they have come through for us! Everyone from the call agents to the tow provider is always friendly, quick, and professional!”