Calculating for the Newb Factor

Tomorrow we drive to Minnesota for my son’s college orientation, our first real road test. Nine hundred and thirty eight miles, the oracles at Google tell us we’ll be on the road for 13 hours and 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, they don’t have an option for “RV Time.” It would take a pretty simple algorithm tweak and I can provide a formula:


(Where NF stands for Newb Factor.)

You do nothing around an RV in a hurry as I was reminded this past weekend. Especially as a complete newb. We started with three goals to prepare for our trip: install a trailer brake controller, install our new communications array, load the shuttle, then take it all for a test drive.

I figured this would take a day at most. But I’d completely forgotten to add in the NF.

Friday afternoon I completed the trailer brake install. Walking away after only an hour spent under the dash I felt confident, assured. Of course what I hadn’t factored in was the time it took to figure out what I needed and find the part.


Taunting. Venomous. Ready to strike like some alien, cyborg viper thing.

The brake controller I salvaged from my truck had a plug which only worked for Toyota. Each manufacturer uses slightly different plugs for no real reason whatsoever (trailer wiring outside the vehicles is pretty universal). When searching for the right plug you’ll see them for all makes and models of vehicles. But you’ll never find one marked “Fleetwood Discovery.”


Turns out, Discovery is built on a Freightliner chassis. So what you need to be searching for is the trailer brake harness for a Freightliner chassis.

With the number of class A motorhomes on the road, you’d think this part would be a common item to stock, right? Nope. Camping World, O’Reillys, Home Depot, and even a large U-Haul store (which had the best selection by far), all came up empty.


Me at my last stop along the search for spare parts…

By the time I pulled into a local RV dealer’s lot, I felt pretty much like Mal in the Firefly episode, Out of Gas (minus the bullet wound.) Directed to their service department, the guy in the little wood shed seemed annoyed I’d dared to invade his micro-fiefdom.

“We only keep parts on hand for the repairs we do.”

And there’s the gut shot…

For those who might be a little more advanced in the engineering department: Yes, I could’ve simply cut off the connector and spliced on my brake controller. No, I didn’t want to make unnecessary alterations to the coach itself. Plenty of those coming up with the communications array install…

Like an 18 gauge surgical needle full of adrenaline jammed through my sternum, the internet came to the rescue. Free two day shipping with Amazon Prime had the part delivered by Friday afternoon.

Yep, all the install took was an hour under the dash… Plus an afternoon driving around the metroplex, and half an hour spent puzzling out what exactly to search for.

Because of this botched math, I went into Saturday still riding that adrenaline high. We’d get up early and knock out the list in a day, tops.


We limped away from the RV event horizon Sunday around 9:30 pm.

I can’t entirely say what happened in that sweat-soaked haze. I remember ladders, bundles of unlabeled wires thicker than my arm, and contortionist efforts worthy of Cirque du Soliel. Somebody shouting “Still red! Still Red!” through the vents over and over until finally, “Blinking orange!” A counter light was sacrificed to the greater good. Temperatures on the roof rivaled the surface of Mercury…

One day perhaps I’ll have the courage to write about that ordeal. For now, I’m just glad the damn thing works.

Note: this is why I’ll probably never Vlog. Instead of some clean, crisp video of a wholesome family discovering America, you’d likely see something more akin to Cloverfield-esque found footage nausea along with copious swearing.

Somehow, we ended the weekend with a working Winegard Connect 2.0 on the roof followed by a successful test of the trailer brake controller and even a dry run down the highway with our shuttle attached.

For tomorrow, I’ll be sure to figure in all the variables and use Google’s estimate as an extremely rough guideline. So 938 miles divided by an average speed of 60 miles per hour, round off the fractions, all to the NFth power…

Fine. We’ll get there when we get there. Somebody save us a seat?


Categories: Discovery

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