Death by Paper Cuts?

That’s an exaggeration—in both directions.  We’re still loving this lifestyle (so, far from death), but we’ve faced more than just paper cuts lately.  

An older guy dumping his trailer tanks at the truck stop next to us was just hopping to tell me that he’s sold his house and bought this RV and is going to live in it fulltime.  “I got tired of cutting the grass and fixing things!” he said gleefully, like all his troubles were over.  

I’ve got news for you, dude.  You’ve traded live-in-place troubles for nomad troubles.  The nomad troubles just come with better scenery.

Our plan was to go from our most-recent national park, the Tetons, to the famous parks in Utah, Arches and Canyonland. But a million paper cuts have gotten in the way.

We stopped on purpose at Craters of the Moon, which was a big treat.  But then we needed to go to Boise to have the door of the trailer fixed.  And by then we knew we’d be in the Utah parks for a while, so we decided to do a detour to Salt Lake City to get a bunch of errands done before a long stay in the parks.  That’s when Death by Paper Cuts began (what a great phrase, thanks Mary Margaret’s friend Kitty).


Small things.  My medical records never got sent to Salt Lake City, to the doctor I saw for a routine check up, so, although I went to all the trouble to fill in the million forms and go to the appointment, I need another one.  And of course this will be in another city, with yet another doctor, with more forms, and maybe my records.

A prescription refill was sent to Texas instead of Utah, and then the pharmacy in Utah didn’t have it in stock, so we had to stay an extra day. Then I was given a 30-day supply instead of my usual 90, so I have to go through all that again in a month.


We had the loudest, most obnoxious motor on the tongue jack of the trailer.  (That’s the thing that holds up the front of the trailer when it’s unhitched, plus lifts and lowers the trailer so it will be level with the truck when when hitch and unhitch). When we leave campgrounds early in the morning and I’m adjusting it, I just wince when that sucker whines and grinds while everyone else is asleep.

Turns out the gears were stripping all that time, and in Salt Lake, the whole thing pretty much died.  After a morning of calls, Tracy found one in stock in town that will hold our weight and fit in front of the propane box.  Yay!

But to install it, he had to make two trips to the hardware store as well as the trailer supply place (we were camped a half hour from the edge of town, so add this to the trips for the doctor and the prescription and groceries and the propane and the diesel).  

Plus he had to turn off our battery power and propane to install it, and then needed electricity to fix some wiring problem.  I think he ended up using a lighter.  In the end, we have a new tongue jack, and it’s quieter.  But good grief that wasn’t easy.  

The next day, turns out the fridge and freezer had never turned back on to propane as the power source, so nothing was cold anymore.  Including all the groceries we’d just bought for the big Utah park trip.

And don’t ask about the door to the trailer.  Our screws are still loose!  Just don’t ask.


The nail in the coffin for the Utah trip is that the area is to get a cold snap, with rain and snow at the parks.  So, thanks to all of the above, we’re skipping Utah parks entirely and headed south near Vegas much sooner in the season than we’d planned. 

Three WTF Stops

On the way to Vegas (note we’re on the interstate, which Tracy tries to avoid because it’s miserable driving, and we’re in a torrential rain and wind storm).

  • My kayak cockpit cover starts coming off, so we find a place to pull over and Tracy rigs it back on.
  • A tractor trailer rides our bumper blinking his lights, so we find a place to pull over and ponder what could be wrong now.  Find nothing. 
  • The rear view camera on the trailer gets wet in the rain and makes it look like something on the roof is falling off. We find a place to pull over again.  Find nothing.  Our nerves are not happy. 

It’s pouring rain, and there are hour-long back-ups on the highway both ways at Saint George. We pull over near a strip mall and search the internet for a place to stay. The boondocking spots we wanted to try were all soft clay because of the rain, and all the parks are full because it’s the weekend.  So we end up in a gravel parking lot off the interstate that happens to be BLM land.  Not pretty, but at least Tracy’s no longer driving.

The Night When Mechanical Problems Bite Us

I’ve mentioned the door of the trailer because the we’ve had it fixed by Airstream (under warrantee) twice now.  It’s loose again, and a fairly big deal.  

What I didn’t mention is the other problem they checked. The propane monitor goes off when we turn on the water heater—yes, we turn that on only for showers, so maybe once a week, so no big deal. The detector alarm goes off, we put a fan near the detector or open the trailer door to let out the tiny amount that has leaked, the detector light goes green, and we’re good to go.  In Boise, the service guy tested it twice and couldn’t reproduce the problem.  So we left it.

In the middle of the night in the gravel lot with all the tractor trailers around us, the propane detector goes off, this time—the first time it’s done this—because the furnace is on. No problem.  I curl up on the sofa near the detector under it, and press the reset button. But then after the minute of resetting, it goes off again.  I press the button.  It goes off again.  We turn off the furnace and put a fan by the detector to blow the bit of leaked propane away, I pull out the extra-thick comforter and my book, and I wait for the propane to dissipate, if that’s the problem (and not a broken detector).  

But the alarm keeps going off.  Over and over.  Banjo comes to me distressed, asking to go outside because it hurts her ears, even just the small beep before I can get my hand to the reset button. Finally she gives up on me and goes to the bedroom to sit by Tracy’s side of the bed as he lies awake wondering what the heck to do, while I continue to press reset.

Finally, I open the door to the glorious night of truckers parked next to us, and hope the propane will escape.  It works; the alarm stays off, for about five minutes, then starts my cycle of pressing it and relaxing then pressing it again.  So I open the door and stand outside looking at the stars in the cold and creepy for like five full minutes.  

That does the trick. But I stay the rest of the night on the couch anyway just in case, because now, after the doctor and the prescription and the tongue jack and the door screws and the pulling off the interstate three times, the paper cuts are getting to me.  I won’t let them win!  

And they haven’t.  We’re going to spend this bit of fall finding another Airstream appointment and finding me another checkup appointment.  No glorious parks or hot springs or moose, but that’s regular life for nomads.  

Maybe this title should be Life by Paper Cuts.  Because no lifestyle is carefree.

3 thoughts to “Death by Paper Cuts?”

  1. Hi Shelly,

    I just wonder about how that older guy dumping his trailer tanks at the truck stop next to you responded when you told him about real life living on the road in a RV? Was he alone? Had he considered things going wrong? Or like nooo, it wasn’t in the ad when I bought the RV.

    Love you Shelly, you are doning great.

    1. Hi Li, it’s great to hear from you!

      I didn’t lecture the guy; I’ll let him find out what his life in his RV is like for his own. I got the impression he was staying in Utah where it’s less expensive to live than some other places, so wouldn’t be traveling much. His experience will be his own.

      Love you, too!