Mike was short and to the point: half of our camper's roof was suffering from wet rot. The only lasting solution was to replace it, at a cost no less than $5,000. The other option was to ignore the underlying problem, plug the hole, and fix a few other minor issues. That would run us $180. Obviously, we chose the latter solution. The news was a huge blow to our waning morale.
When Tara heard the report, she whimpered, covered her eyes with the palms of her hands in a "maybe when I wake up again this will have all been a nightmare" sort of way, and went back to sleep. While she rested, I dragged myself out of my chair to begin the umpteenth act of this never-ending saga.
First I called Todd, the man who sold us the camper. I found it hard to believe he didn't know about the roof, but he seemed to feel really bad, and was very apologetic when I explained the costs we'd incurred during our first few days of ownership. In the end, he agreed to send a check to cover half of the repair work and the cost of the power converter I'd replaced a day earlier. Fair enough.
After that, I spent the next two hours drilling Mike with as many questions as I could think of about owning a camper. He was an oracle of RV knowledge. He answered every query I posed in exhaustive detail, explaining not only what I wanted to know, but loads of things I never would have thought to ask.
He methodically took me from the front of our trailer to the back, schooling me on identifying water damage, trailer maintenance, propane tanks and their safety features, trailer breaks and how to use them, and much more. The lesson was simultaneously humbling and empowering. In retrospect, I should have done this sort of thing before we bought an RV. C'est la vie.
Many hours and nearly six hundred dollars later (apparently trailer brake controllers are mandatory in the US for RVs like ours, so we added that to our ever-increasing list of expenses), we rolled out. As we drove home, I was thinking of our friends Ingrid and Yves, who just last year described having an RV as "inheriting a tale of woe." Now, I truly understood what they meant. It felt like we'd inadvertently adopted a great, lumbering, defective beast, and were now paying for our mistakes by hemorrhaging money everywhere.