Renting a Motorhome, and Other Bad Vacation Ideas

When you think of a family vacation in a motor home, what comes to mind?

Joyous cruising with happy children playing board games, with lots of leg room and a fully stocked fridge close at hand?

That's the image we had envisioned when we rented a motor home a few years back to take our family camping (yes I know... a motor home isn't exactly roughing it) in Near-Northern Ontario, about 5 hours north of Toronto, Ontario Canada. (Can you tell I'm getting more International readers?)

Image: WeDiscoverCanada.ca - Who we SHOULD
have consulted before renting.
We rented a big one, since our older kids were joining us, paid the deposit and waited for the big day. We were told we could pick up the beast at 9 in the morning.

Here's a very important bit of advice...  If you are going to rent a motor home, do it from a large reputable firm, or one that was recommended to you by someone you trust.  The company we rented from did not fit into either category.

When we showed up to get our vehicle, it wasn't there.

The owner's son had given it to a group of his friends to take to Daytona.

That is Daytona. As in races. And week-long parties. And kegs of beer.

The friends had promised to have it back in time.

I suppose drinking all that beer made them bad at keeping promises.

They were late.

They pulled in at around 1 pm.

If this group of young gentlemen had been a group of grannies, we could have likely topped up the tank, got in and driven off in a spic and span coach.

Instead, what drove up could only be described as a portable frat house that had just been to Daytona for a week.

Faced with the prospect of losing our holiday, or waiting till they cleaned up the unit enough for us to take it, we opted for the latter. This holiday was important to us.  I sent my wife on ahead in the car, and my sons and I decided to wait.

Ninety minutes later, it was mostly done, with one small issue.

These monster motor homes have very large tanks that hold "grey water" until you can get the vehicle to a dumping station.  For those of you who missed my post Grandma's House, Hockey and Sh*t Disturbers, "grey water" is what is produced when you flush the toilet.

Given the volume of beer consumed on the Daytona trip, the toilets had been flushed. A lot.

The grey water tanks were full and it would take at least an hour to get them drained.

We could take the unit as is, and they would give us a discount for our troubles.

Given that we had already chewed through most of the first day of our holiday, we elected to take this option.

What this meant is that we started our vacation inheriting a motor home tired and abused, shined up but still dirty, and full of someone else's sh*t.

Much like the situation new leaders can find themselves in when they move into a new organization.

I've inherited two IT leader positions, where the organization, infrastructure and systems were all defined before I got there.

In both cases there was a good foundation, some good systems and infrastructure and skilled people committed to their jobs,but to be honest, there was a lot of "grey water".

Much of the "grey water" I inherited was in the area of financial and budget management and controls.

Other "grey water" took the form of lingering personnel issues that the previous incumbent didn't deal with.

You get the idea.

These are the things you need to deal with before you can move on.  In the case of our motor home vacation, the first stop at the campground was the dumping station.  It was then that we could technically start our vacation.

Various studies seem to place the average tenure of a Chief Information Officer between 3 and 5 years.

That means that there is a probability that IT leadership is likely to change organizations sometime in their career.

That means that if you are a CIO, or an aspiring CIO, you will be inheriting someone else's organization at some point - grey water and all.

So the two lessons from our vacation experience?

- If you are considering a move to another organization, check them out carefully. Do your "grey water" research to ensure your experience lines up with your expectations.  There's usually a big difference between the brochure, the website and the actual organization.

- When you start a new role, you will always find some "grey water" to deal with. Do it up front, and quickly.  In my experience it was financial tracking, project management, change management and lingering personnel issues.

Then you can get on with enjoying the 'vacation' of your new position!

PS. Next time we do this, I'm going to consult www.wediscovercanada.ca before I rent.

Question: What "grey water" have you encountered in a new role?


  1. Clever, humourous and insightful.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.