The Adventure Begins

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Melissa found a large packed gravel lot just behind the Cracker Barrel and next to a hotel. We drove a couple of blocks to get there and saw that we were in luck, there were only two other people there, a semi-truck and another fifth-wheel.
Snow covered mountains

We had arrived in Idaho Falls on the evening of March 12th, 2018. Our 1st stop, Camping World, where we were to take possession of our 5th-wheel Bailey the next morning. We wanted to unload a few of our belongings into Bailey that was in the bed of the tuck that we did not want to be left out overnight. Then we checked into the hotel before we headed out to get dinner. We were a little excited that night because soon we would be starting our new adventure of full-time RV living. Little did we know how much of an adventure we were going to have.

Picking up Bailey

The next morning started pretty routinely, we gathered our overnight bag and headed out to get some coffee and pastries. We found this great little coffee spot called Chapolera Coffee Company if you are in Idaho Falls we highly recommend you stop. We arrived at Camping World a few minutes ahead of our scheduled time. Upon completing our walkthrough and finishing the paperwork, we then waited for Camping World to finish the punch list of items that were left incomplete. After spending 4 hours at Camping World, we were finally on the road with our new home. Our goal was to reach Missoula, Montana.

A mere 300 miles we thought would not be that bad, that is a short drive for us. When we lived in Sidney MT, we would drive to Spokane WA in one shot, and that was close to 800 miles. We got Bailey hooked up to the truck and completed our predrive checklist. We were ready to leave our Camping World adventure behind us and looked forward to the adventures that lie ahead.

Monida Pass

It was about 80 miles to the top Monida Pass and a total of 200 miles to Butte MT where we had planned to stop for dinner.  Monida Pass is fairly tame with an attitude of 6823 feet and a maximum grade of 3%. Wednesday would be the real test when we would dive over Lookout Pass with maximum 6% grade and 4th of July Pass with a 5% maximum grade. In the back of our minds, we wondered how well our 12-year truck, with now just a touch over 40,000 miles would do with a such a large 5th wheel.

We got to the top of Monida Pass without skipping a beat and felt more at ease with the truck. Deciding that we should stop at the next rest area to do a walk around and check the air pressure of the tires on the trailer. We were not sure on one of the tires that seemed low at the dealership, but pressure checked okay, the last thing we wanted to have was a blowout.

The First Signs of Trouble

Just south of Dillon Montana is the Red Rocks rest area where we stopped and stretched our legs, completed our checks and got back on the road. Everything seemed to be going great; then we had the first signs of trouble. We began to climb a small grade, and the check engine light comes on.  I checked all the gages, oil pressure was nominal, the oil temperature was in range, the coolant temperature looked good, and the transmission temperature was where it should be. What could it be we wondered? Then we recalled that in the September Melissa drove the truck over to Spokane to visit with her parents and had a check engine light then for the MASS air flow sensor. We were just a few miles outside of Butte Montana and pushed on.

Melissa got on her phone and started searching for a place that we could park Baily while I drove to a parts store to have them pull the code to see what was wrong with the truck. She quickly found the Mall off the interstate. Orielly’s, AutoZone and a NAPA were all conveniently located nearby. We disconnected Bailey with Melissa deciding stay behind while I went to have the problem diagnosed.

The Parts Store

I got to the parts store, went inside and asked if they could help pull a code. The clerk came out, removed the code, and we went inside to look it up.  Upon discovering that it was the mass air flow sensor, I purchased a new one. Since we had the same problem in September then I figured I might as well replace i. I Headed back to the mall to swap out the sensor. I installed the part and headed back to the parts store to have the code cleared.   With check engine light off we reconnected and headed out.

Time to Switch Drivers

After stopping to fuel up at the truck stop just west of Butte, we continued the 120-mile journey to Missoula. Melissa wanted to drive the next stretch so she could get a feel for the truck with Bailey in tow.  What an experience Melissa was going to have.

About halfway way to our destination thing started to go awry. It was getting dark when she drove into a short-lived snow squall, one of many that Melissa would get to drive through pulling Bailey. Then the check engine light came back on.

Melissa was a little concerned, so I started digging around on forums to see what else could be the cause. Only finding that it was a craps shoot to have anything other than OEM mass air flow sensor work. We pressed on, only briefly stopping at the next rest area to do another walk around and switch up on the driving. Melissa started scouting for a location for us to park for the night.

Finding a Parking Area

We first thought we would stay at the truck stop just outside of Missoula. However, when we pulled in, we did not find a spot that was open. We circled the lot once more than got back on the road. Once again Melissa got back on her phone using Google Maps to find us a spot for the night. She found a place for us to check out just off the interstate near a large gas station. When got there we noticed that it was a large enough area that we could park. However, it did not quite feel right.  There was a sketchy looking van and a car that appeared to have been abandoned. Then at the other end of the area, there was a sign that stated no overnight parking. Not wanting to be awakened in the middle of the night we decided to the next spot.

Melissa found a large packed gravel lot just behind the Cracker Barrel and next to a hotel. We drove a couple of blocks to get there and saw that we were in luck. There were only two other people there, a semi-truck and another fifth-wheel. Both of us could tell our journey had been exhausting. Cautiously we got the truck situated leaving plenty of room in case anyone else wanted to park.

Our First Night

Once situated we turned on the propane, went inside and fired up the furnace. It was 40 °F (4 °C), and they were forecasting it to get down to 28 °F (-2 °C). Camping Word did install two new marine deep cycle batteries.  However, we did not know how many amp hours we had, how many amps the furnace would draw or the amount of patristic drain there was. Playing it safe we ran up the temperature to 60 °F (16 °C) before shutting it all down.

Knowing that Bailey would not hold that temperature long, we did come prepared for a cold night. Putting our three heavy fleece blankets on the bed along with the comforter that came with the RV and the one we planned on using.  We knew that we would at the least be warm.

Were we prepared?

We were unprepared for all the sounds that we would hear that night. The kind of sounds that you usually do not hear in a stick and brick home. Being at least 1000’ from I-90 and in an RV, we did not think we would notice the traffic noise too much. Until you are lying there in the dark and silence, then you do start hearing everything. It was almost as if we had parked on the shoulder of the Interstate with every passing vehicle seeming to get louder and LOUDER.  

It is incredible how the mind will quickly tune into new sounds especially when you are in a new environment. Suddenly the noise of the Interstate went to a soft whisp as my brain zeroed in on the slamming car door and then the sounds of footsteps in the gravel. They seemed like they were right out the window. I listened as they fade off into the distance. I was then able to focus myself onto the familiar sound of crickets from of noise machine that we brought and began to drift to sleep.

We are Trying to Sleep Here

It seemed as if only a few minutes pass before I awoke to the sound of a starter from a big diesel trying to crank its motor to life. After several attempts, the engine roared to life; I lied there listening to the steady whistle of the turbo that lulled me back to sleep.

An unfamiliar sound suddenly awakened me. This time the hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I heard someone outside dragging heavy chains across metal toolbox. I got up to get a drink of water and to see what the commotion was. Looking out the window, I saw some logging trucks. I checked the time, it was 4am and crawled back in the warm bed.  For the next half hour, I listened to them getting their trucks ready for their workday. Drifting back to sleep I thought at least it is a short drive, only 200 miles. Then my mind drifted to our check engine light — Tring to put my mind at ease by thinking about the research I did. For the next couple of hours, I would drift in and out of sleep.

Rolling over and picking up the phone to check the time, it was 7am. The auto parts store would be open soon, and we could have them pull the codes to see what was going on with the truck. I got up and turned on the furnace to get some heat while we got ready.  After that, I disconnected Bailey and double checked that everything was shut off before heading to the parts store.

Off to the Part Parts Store

Getting to the auto parts store just as they were opening I went inside. I told the clerk that I need help pulling a code for a check engine light.  The clerk picked up a code reader and followed me out to the truck. With the code stored on the code reader, we went back inside to look it up.

Once again it was the code for the mass air flow sensor. The clerk continued to research for more information and came across that it could also be the MAP sensor. She looked up the part, and it was cheaper than the mass air flow sensor, it was about $40.00. I made the purchase and went out to install it.

Upon going back in to ask if they would, remove the code; It was then when the manager informed me that it was the store policy that they are not to clear codes, something about liability.

We headed down the road to their competitor and was able to use their code reader to clear the code. On our way back to Bailey we fueled up the truck and stopped at Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast sandwiches. After stopping and starting three times, the check engine light did not return. We were ready to get on the road.

Upon reconnecting the truck to Bailey, we then completed our predrive checklist and got on the road. As we ascended the onramp, I kept glancing down for the check engine light waiting for it to come on. Once we were at speed, we were put at ease and felt ready to take on Lookout Pass. We passed by our usual stop, the St. Regis Travel Center, instead we opted to stop at the Dena Mora rest area at the bottom of Lookout Pass. We made our stop quick since it was cold and rainy out.

Rest Area Troubles

Upon starting the truck, everything seemed fine, until we started to go. As we pulled out of the parking spot and started to go the check engine light came on, I came to a stop. Checking over the gages to make sure that we did not have any other issues and found none. I backed up into the spot we were just in. I shut the truck down and opened the hood and began to check the plug on the mass air flow sensor and MAP sensor, both seemed sung. We decided to press on and have the code checked once we were in Spokane. Making it to the top of Lookout Pass followed by 4th of July with no other problems we continued on.

Beating Rush Hour

We managed to drive through Couer d’Alene and Spokane just as the morning rush hour traffic cleared. At 11:30 am we were having lunch at one of our favorite spots Chaps Coffee Co. Luckily for us, they share a parking lot with a grocery store giving us ample room to park and turn around. We had one last hill climb before we were to our destination where our last challenge would be to back into the driveway for the back garage.

We took some time to visit with Melissa’s parents before double checking all the measurements. The last thing we wanted to do was scrape the driveway with the rear bumper before the rear axle started up the incline.

That was Close

It had been at least 20 years since I had to backup something this big into such a tight spot  After three failed attempts I stopped to let the traffic clear. This time it all clicked, I was centered on the driveway and Bailey on a trajectory to straighten out, just as the bumper was to reach the top of the incline. With barely an inch to spare between driveway and bumper, the rear axle started up the incline. Once we got Bailey into position, we dropped the landing gear and began to set up.

The Mass Air Problem

The next day I took the truck to the parts store, and they pulled the code, the mass air flow sensor was once again the problem.  I bought a can of mass airflow sensor cleaner and cleaned the original sensor, place it back on, and the code went away. I should have done this step initially and purchased one as the backup plan, could have saved us a lot of grief.

We plan on spending some time with Melissa’s parents to help them out with yard work, home repair, and improvements. While we learn the ins and outs of our new home, make some minor repairs, do some modifications, make improvement and troubleshoot the check engine light on the truck.   

I will post an update on the truck, so be sure to look around the site in the meantime and subscribe, so you do not miss future blog posts.

Don McElfresh

Don McElfresh

Marine Veteran with a background in engineering. With over 20 years experience in leadership roles in retail and news media. Started full-time RV living in March of 2018 to get back to enjoying life through hiking and photography.

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About Us

We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  We are here to provide you with another perspective.

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