In my sleep I thought, “Oh, the furnace must have just kicked on. That’s nice.”

“Wait. I turned the furnace off before I went to sleep.”

“Odd, it smells like propane in here.”

And then one millisecond later, I was out of bed grabbing the flashlight and out the door to go look at what was going on in the outside storage compartment for the propane tank in my new-to-me RV.

The sound I had heard was the pop and loud hiss of a failing propane regulator, and the flashlight revealed a frosty, dripping, roaring, slushy flow of frozen condensate and propane rushing out of the louvered cover and flowing out onto the grass, with a nice fog cloud around the rear of the rig. I can’t think of too many times when I’ve been more scared and/or freaked out. 

Later, someone pointed out to me that one cup of liquid propane equals 27 cups of propane fog. I’m pretty sure that means that there was a MILLION TONS of propane fog billowing out around my RV. Preston and I got the dogs out of the RV pronto, unplugged the electrical so nothing would spark if it cycled on, and woke up the friends staying in the RV next to us to make sure they didn’t have any pilot lights on. It was a LOT of propane. Several minutes later, after talking through the situation with some more experienced RV owners, we decided it was safe enough to go over and turn off the valve, but we didn’t even do that right away – just got out. (Note to writers of propane system manuals: I feel like somewhere in the documentation would be a good place to explain how pressure regulators work, and that it is okay to reach into that compartment to turn off the valve should one go bad.)

We will be super superstitious about it now. Not only that, but we will have a better evacuation plan so that if we happen to be in a rest area or somewhere where we can’t just shoo the dogs out unleashed. Overall, it was a good experience to have right now. We happen to be staying at a place where we could go inside a warm house and wait with calm friends, instead of like standing outside in a cold rain in our pajamas for hours while we waited for propane to dissipate. So, we had a good wake-up call about having an evac plan, and nothing terrible happened, and we’ll be much more regimented about propane use in the future. No leaving the furnace running overnight for us (because, thank god there were no pilot lights lit!).

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Even given that one frightening night, we are still in love with our new RV. This was our first weekend trip with it, and it was amazing. We drove from our home in Olympia down to Salem and the cut across to Lincoln City, where you can park in the casino parking lot for free and see the ocean from your bedroom window. What is technically a 4 hour drive took us nearly 8, because every time we stopped for a super quick break it was too easy to also just hop in the back and make a quick sandwich. Oh, and maybe a cup of coffee while we’re at it. And then we might as well just sit here in the shade for a minute and finish our coffee, right?

Before we knew it, I was finishing up the day’s work from the passenger seat just before Lincoln City, and just before sunset. Here’s how it looked.

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Up early the next morning from excitement, the dogs and I headed to the beach one block away. 100% of dogs polled approved of the morning walk on the beach. And 100% of humans approved of the whales we watched for quite some time, blowing just off the coast.

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The rest of the weekend was somewhat top secret, but involved (among other things) playing amazing music with amazing friends in a truly amazing Pacific Northwest rainforest. That’s where we were when the propane regulator failed, and we were super thankful for their expertise.

4 days later, we were back home, ready to forgive our new little RV for the propane problems, and jonesing for our next trip. The next one we’ll leave the dogs at home and take the cat for his first tour. Our hope is that we can all travel together eventually. We’re aiming for an overnight next week, assuming we can find the replacement regulator in town this week.