After reading my blog about repairing a broken radiator hose on our MCI bus conversion earlier this week, a soon to be fulltimer e-mailed to ask me what basic tools I carry in our rig to keep us out of trouble.

Obviously this is a brand new reader, because anybody who knows much about me at all knows that in my case, the more tools I have available, the greater the opportunity for me to create disaster. For me, less is better.

Keep in mind that when we were in the early stages of converting our bus, I set fire to it with sparks from an angle grinder. That I once fried our inverter when I fired up the big air compressor we carry in one of our bays while we were dry camping and overloaded the circuit. And then there was the time I decided to polish our stainless steel with a rotary buffer. The pad flew off and hit me in the mouth, I stumbled backward and tripped over a toolbox, and knocked a nasty hole in my skull on a rock. I think the rock fared even worse.

That being said, the only power tool Miss Terry allows me to play with is a small Dremel tool, but she hides all of the cutting wheels and wire brushes that come with it, and only lets me have access to tiny little cotton buffing wheels.

As for hand tools, forget it! Saws and screwdrivers have sharp edges, I would probably snap a pair of vise grips on some part of my anatomy that wouldn’t respond well to the sudden intrusion, and I can scrape several layers of skin off my knuckles trying to use the wrong size wrench on a stubborn bolt.

Even something as simple as an aerosol can is a tool of destruction and mayhem in my hands. Our old bus has an oil bath air cleaner, which means that the metal air filter sits in a big canister of motor oil, and the oil is supposed to catch the dust and grit that would otherwise get into the engine. Periodically, the oil needs changed and the air filter needs washed out. In an RV environment, this should be done about once a year. It’s actually a pretty simple job. Yeah, right.

A couple of years ago I decided to tackle that chore, and in the process, I discovered a thick layer of crud and gunk that had built up on the inside of the big canister. By the time I scraped it all out with a putty knife, I was black from head to toe. I knew Miss Terry would have my hide if I tracked that mess through the bus, so I looked in the bay and found a can of engine starting fluid. I thought that should cut the grease and get me cleaned up in no time at all, so I pulled off my shirt and commenced to spraying.

Have you ever been on fire? I never have, but I think I came damned close to it that day! A minute or two after that stuff hit my skin, I felt a burning sensation that cannot be described. It was like a million fire ants were eating me alive. So there I am, outside the bus screaming my head off, Terry ran outside and grabbed a water hose and sprayed me down, which did little to dilute the chemical burning its way through my skin, but did help to spread this homemade napalm to other places on my body it had not yet reached, by way of the trickle down effect, if you get my drift. It was not my finest hour.

But, I have finally found a tool that even I can master, and so far, I have not been able to get into any mischief with it. And I have my pal Rick Lang from the Recreational Vehicle Safety Education Foundation (RVSEF) to thank for telling me about it.

My new Blackberry Storm smart phone has hundreds of applications, called apps, that can be downloaded, many of them for free. One Rick showed me is an electronic level, just like the levels many RVers use to be sure they have their jacks down properly and their refrigerators will work okay. Except now, instead of having to use some mechanical device to check our level, I just hit a button on my Blackberry and there I go. Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?

I just checked, and according to my Blackberry, I’m at least half a bubble off.

Nick Russell

Leave a Reply


  1. Where do you get the app for the level, or did I miss some kinda joke.
    Thanks Rich

  2. Oh I forgot to mention that I have a Blackberry Storm

  3. Darthvagrant

    Geez, Nick, you DO need help. Spraying diethyl ether on one’s self for skin cleaner is closely akin to rinsing your hands in battery acid. (PLEASE don’t try
    that. That was a rhetorical comparison)
    Please don’t wash any pets in gasoline.
    **shaking head in wonder**
    I,ve committed a plethora of colossal blunders and stupid manuvers. That said, you win!

  4. BruceFihe

    For your friends that have iPhones, there is a similar bubble-level app available via iTunes.

  5. Gawrsh

    Well! Hmmph. Now I’ve lived long enough to see one of the least intellectual forms of blog posts…I don’t understand whether this post is supposed to be entertaining or informative…or something else, maybe that I haven’t imagined yet.

    For me, it’s neither entertaining nor informative, nor useful in any rational way; it’s really…really a lightweight attempt at one or another of those, I suppose.

    I’d recommend that we save this space for something with some substance for RVrs. Maybe we need someone new who can look at Nick’s experiences and ghost-write for him. His composition is a minor collection of disconnected words and phrases that make no sense at all. I’d recommend his learning some conventions of writing and of composition of thought.

    A reader, whether new or not, should not have an inate knowledge of the writer; it’s the other way around; the writer should have an inate understanding of the reader!


  6. Dan Rambow

    AW, too bad you are so up-tight. I have a long history of being pretty handy with tools, and was pretty entertained by this blog. I have several friends, and one step-son who would give Nick a run for his money in tool ineptitude.

    I take great pleasure in figuring out how to fix something with the tools and materials at hand. I always enjoy watching a fix-it video and remember the helpful hints. And I make my share of mistakes too.

    But once the fires are out, bandages applied, and the crisis is averted, it never ceases to amaze and amuse me, on how many ways there are to do the wrong thing.

  7. Casey Donovan

    Gawrsh just spoke: “I don’t understand whether this post is supposed to be entertaining or informative…or something else, maybe that I haven’t imagined yet.”

    Heh heh. It’s called a potboiler, and unfortunately it’s not the only one to appear among these blogs. Actually, he did have one paragraph of information to offer, albeit knowledge useful to only a tiny fraction of the RV’ing population. It’s easy to agree that he’s at least a half bubble off level.

    Apparently RV.Net expects its contributors to produce a certain number of words per month, but doesn’t do much in the way of editing or quality control. So the quality varies, with some of the authors’ articles always excellent — the ones from Robert Henderson on suspensions come to mind.

  8. Richard, it was a free download from Blackberry Apps

  9. Jrerry Shea

    Nick – while 95% of the info on this blog is serious, for me, I enjoy a tongue in cheek article every once in a while. As far as the “english majors and book review” folks go, they —- oh never mind. My folks always said that if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

  10. sandy

    I enjoyed this article. We are new RVers and I showed it to my husband who thought he was the only one who made mistakes. Thank you for giving us some laughs.

  11. Don.....T

    GAWRSH……..lighten up dude, life is is to short to be such a hard nose!

  12. Gawrsh

    Ok, Ok. You guys are right. The day I wrote my response, I was wound way too tight. I apologize to Rick and all the rest if I offended you with my impatience. Let me tell you how my day went; maybe it will make more sense to you. The day I sent my response to this thread, we got up and drove a couple hundred miles before we stopped for fuel. The guy ahead of me at the pumps had stopped at the first pump, while the next pump forward was empty. I was towing a dinghy, so I couldn’t back up, but how long could one car take to get gas? He wandered into the store portion before he started pumping and bought some snacks. Then after about ten minutes or so, he came out and stuck the nozzle into his big old Mercury. He did the whole nine yards with checking oil, windshield wash, both of which were detailed procedures for him. When he got done pumping fuel, he went back into the store, presumably to pay. It took a while. Meanwhile, another guy pulled his car into the front pump and I watched as he filled up. The first guy came back with more snacks, this time handing them to a woman in his car. He sat there a while longer, and then in a bit, two more guys wandered out of the store and got in the car. All the while, I’m sitting there idling and waiting. He finally started his vehicle, pulled up about ten feet and stopped dead, still blocking the pumps. I guess he was checking his map or calculating gas mileage or counting his change or something. So after more than a half hour waiting for this screwball, I finally was able to pull up to the pump.

    So then, I’m driving through this same town toward our highway route when I hear a scraping noise along the curbside of the coach. I realize that the town had failed to trim their trees an appropriate height and distance from the roadway, and later learned that some snaggle- limbs had snagged my awning, putting a tear in the leading edge. Following that scraping incident, I’m driving down through traffic and approaching a busy intersection with traffic lights. Suddenly, this little Cheap-mobile comes up along the driver side and pulls sharply in front of our coach; cuts me off without using her turn signal and slams on the brakes well ahead of the light. Of course, I slammed on my brakes, and those of the Toad, in order to keep from crushing her and her bargain car. We had a couple items fly off the table and bed in the rear that weren’t believed possible to move except in a hard collision. Good to know how fast I can stop, though, I guess. Anyway, the driver went on her way, continuing to chat on her cell and oblivious to traffic.

    We made our way to the Interstate, and after a couple hours were coming up to a shopping area….several big-box stores. I’m driving along at 5-10 miles below the speed limit in the right hand lane approaching an entrance ramp to the roadway. A car is coming down the ramp ahead of me, and I’m expecting that it will use the acceleration ramp for it’s intended purpose and smoothly merge into traffic ahead of me. Instead, she slows! Now she’s not too far ahead, but still able to use the long, skinny peddle near her right foot for what it’s for. She moves into my lane and I yield by taking my foot completely off the throttle. Next, she moves right as if she’s decided to yield to traffic on the highway. So I accelerate once again. Now, I’m going about 45, so I punch it. Next, she comes back into the highway ahead of me and applies her brakes! So now, I’m all over my brakes—and horn– hoping that whoever is behind and beside me sees what’s happening. Finally, she decides to stay in the highway and gradually pulls away, while I’m down to 30 MPH on an Interstate.

    Later that afternoon, we pull into an RV Park and get a site. We’re about to close the drapes when we notice about ten young individuals from the site next door standing all over our site. They have some bows and real arrows, with an archery target across the campground road, and they are practicing archery from my site, and throwing cigarette butts and beer cans on my site. I called the campground owner, of course, and he came to explain to them the meaning of life but the creatures didn’t seem to understand why they couldn’t do as they pleased. My wife and I were afraid to go outside, since they also had displayed shotguns to each other during the archery contest.

    That was the day I wrote my reply to Rick.

  13. Gawrsh,
    No problem, we all have days like that.

    You were just dealing with a lot of OPOPs (Only People On the Planet). Why should they be courteous to you, you don’t exist. The entire world revolves around them, and nobody else matters. Common sense does not exist in their self-centered little universe. either.

    Believe me, I have my share of them to contend with too! They’re everywhere!
    Nick Russell

  14. Donnie

    Nick, I just want to tell you that this had me in tears. LOL i can relate to most of these on a personal level in some sort. HAHAHAA. Thanks for the laugh.

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