Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Life Minutia on the Campground

When I was researching becoming a camper I literally wanted the blow-by-blow of daily life.  I wanted to know what I was getting into, and what was going to be different than what I knew.  But you come to take things for granted so fast.  You learn the the language so fast.  You start forgetting how life was back when you were in sticks and bricks.  This becomes your normal, and it also becomes boring to you.  You expect it to be boring to everyone else too.

Well...we've been full-time RVing for close to a year now.  (It will be one year next month).  However, we've just started full-time boondocking.  So here's some boring blow-by-blow of this new life.  Incidentally, it's the life I always thought we'd have when I decided to full-time RV.  I just didn't realize how difficult boondocking full-time is with a gigantic travel trailer.  I couldn't boondock much at all with the old rig.  Now, with this easy-to-drive beauty I can do anything. 

Last Friday we had some perceived problem with our water tank, which was actually just my newbie-ness and arrogance, insisting the thing was broken when it was just my mistake.  I'm not going to go into it, except to say that when you're filling your fresh water tank and water starts spraying back at you from the back-flow channel--THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOUR TANK IS FULL.  Check your levels.  Tilt the hose downward.  -_-  So many stupid mistakes to make...I swear.

At the dealership our tanks were emptied and our water filled.  Friday.  Saturday.  Sunday.  Monday.  By Tuesday morning:  Our 60 gallon fresh water tank was almost empty.  Our 35 gallon black tank (poop) was half full.  Our 35 gallon grey tank (sink water) was completely full.  This morning (Tuesday) we needed to dump/fill.

So we are barely getting four days between dumps.  Ugh.  What a pain in the ass.  People made me think you could go a really long time between dumps.  I don't see what the heck they're doing different from me. 

1.  Neither my mother nor I had showered from Friday to Tuesday.  Our grey tank still filled up.  Yeah.  I know.  We were taking towel baths because we didn't want to fill the grey tank.  We might have risked filling it if the weather wasn't so bad.  We had horrendous wind storms for two days that kept us locked down.  I didn't want to drive or be outside dumping/filling in the weather.  We're a high profile vehicle.  Driving in winds is dangerous.

2.  We are being cautious with our water use.  No more running water non-stop over a pan to get it clean.  Wet.  Soap.  Scrub.  Then rinse.  It's like military showers for dishes. 

The only thing I will cop to is that our black tank will fill much faster than anyone else's because I don't have a large intestine (lost a battle with ulcerative colitis).  I go nine times a day.  That's my normal.

Still...I have to dump every 4 fricking days?  What a pain. 

The pain isn't going to the dump station and doing the dumping.  The pain is getting the RV ready to be mobile.  Here's the check-list:

  1. Close the windows
  2. Close the skylights (all four)
  3. Make sure all the cupboards are closed (one is always half-assedly closed and will fling open, dropping bombs on my poor cats).
  4. Get stuff out of the way so the slides can close.
  5. Secure the laptops.  (My mom's and mine).
  6. Clear off tables. (We have two dinettes now).
  7. Clear off counters (kitchen and bathroom).
  8. Move aside the step I use to climb to my bunk over the cab.
  9. Secure the small table my mom uses for her computer.
  10.  Move our washing machine out of the way of the RV.  It sits outside close enough to be hooked to the inverter with extension cords.  There's a chair with it and a table for me to put it on when I need to drain between cycles.  A path must be cleared for the behemoth.
  11. Disconnect the satellite cable.
  12. Unchain the satellite from the grill.
  13. Chain the satellite to the SUV.  (Or just hang the chain to pretend like it's locked to deter lazy thieves who will not come for a closer inspection).
  14. Move the satellite out of the way so we can drive.
  15. Remove the wheel chocks.
  16. Turn on the RV.  
  17. Climb out of the cab into the RV to close the slides.  I close them little by little so if a cat has crawled into the slide mechanism they can wake up and make a run for it.  (It's happened once so far).
Okay.  Now we start driving to the dump station.  And as we're pulling out on to the road something falls.  Something always falls.  -_-

I've velcroed down stuff to try to make moving as easy as possible.  There's only so much you can do.  I got my mom a tiny table for her laptop that wouldn't be as much of a blockage as her old one.  It's base was supposed to tuck under the sofa so we wouldn't have to move it when we closed the slide.  It doesn't fit.  Nothing will.

This concludes the point I'm making about how it's a pain in the ass to move this RV.

So now we get to the dump station.  First stop?  The dumpsters.  We have to get rid of our trash.

Next we pull into one of the four dump station bays.  A dump station is a fancy name for a hole in the ground.  Seriously.  That's all you need to qualify as a dump station.  Most also have non-potable water available via hanging hoses that you can pull down to use.  The hanging hoses at this dump station do not have connectors on the end that you can use to connect to your black tank flush.  (My RV, like many others, allow you to spray water into the black tank to help clean it out).  I can't use the potable water presented at this dump station for that purpose.  I assume the hoses are there just to clean up spillage...which happens.

I put on my rubber gloves and go to my tank compartment.  Now I set one side of my sewer tube thing (far too large to be called a hose--often called a 'stinky slinky') into the hole in the ground and  attach the other end my to the dump tube on my RV.  It's facing down and kind of a pain to connect to, but I'm connecting no problem lately.  You unscrew the cap on your 4" wide pipe with one twist and screw your stinky slinky to it. 

To digress...there is no toilet paper in our black tank.  In theory you can buy marine toilet paper and chemicals to dissolve it.  We tried that on our first camping trip to Morro Bay with our first 28' KC Sportsman trailer (in the header picture up there) and we clogged our tank.  Never again.  We throw the TP in a little bathroom trash now.

Getting back to the dump--I open the panel to release the turds.  Loud gushing is heard for over five minutes.  I don't know why it takes so long.  It keeps going and going.  After most of it is gone I open the panel for the grey tank so that most of the crap is washed out of my sewer tube by the relatively cleaner bathroom and kitchen sink water.  The sewer tube is going to live in that compartment we just accessed for our dump and the less stinky it is the better.

Okay, everything is dumped.  I close both the black and grey tanks and unscrew my sewer tube.  Now I hold it up high and hope all the turds have swum into the hole.  I cap the end of it that was connected to my pipe.  The other end never had a cap.  It's an L shaped connection.  I turn it open-side-up so nothing spills and secure it into the compartment.  The compartment gets closed but not locked.  I get back into the driver's seat and drive over to the potable water stations.

Not every campground has such amenities, but this one does.  Free drinking water--yay!  One side of my fresh water hose is screwed to the spigot.  The other end is placed into the hole where my drinking water gets filled.  For some reason this compartment is locked in the new RV.  ??  Whatever.  It means I have to turn off the rig and take my keys with me.

I fill this even after water is spraying back at me from the back-fill screened hole.  I just tilt the hose downward to keep filling.  I've learned it takes a long time to fill a 60 gallon tank. 

When I think it's full I turn off the water but I don't unscrew the hose.  I go to the residential door of the coach and check my levels just inside:  Black Tank-Empty, Grey Tank-Empty, Fresh Tank-Full.  That's what we want!  I head back.

My goal is to get propane now, but the fence that would let me drive up to the propane tank by the Christian Service Center is locked.  -_-  It's after 12pm and is now closed.  Arizona is a place of reverse vampires.  The get up early and close things early.  Feh.

So my propane is at 1/4th right now.  I need to keep on top of this tank because this is what powers my refrigerator when I'm boondocking.  Hopefully we won't run out.  I don't want to do a special run for propane.  As I described above it's a pain in the ass to move the RV.

When we get back we go though the ritual of getting slides open and stuff reconnected and moved back into place. 

Then we fill our shower bags and get into the SUV.  We drive to a nearby BLM campground where you can buy tokens to take a hot shower.  We so desperately needed this!  I use two 7 minute tokens which cost $1 each.  My mom only uses one.  Yay!  We're clean! 

Next step:  We need to do laundry.  So I set up the machine and start filling my 8 gallon jug of water to fill it.  This is a light-duty portable washer.  It's meant to do ten pounds of clothes per load.  We have three loads.  This means a lot of filling and draining.  One fill for the wash cycle, then I drain it into a jug.  Another fill for the rinse cycle.  I use the left over water from the rinse for the next load.  Half of the washer is a spin cycle machine.  We spin cycle and then hang the clothes to dry on the ladder on the back of the RV.  It takes a while, but we get all three loads done.  (It would have been one load at a landromat probably).  Yay!  No more dirty laundry!

Our washing machine pulled a lot of electricity.  We're down to 12.6 on the charge controller.  No TV tonight, but computer use should be fine.

There is a landromat at the military base next to us.  Civilians are allowed to go there and use their facilities.  We're not going to do that, however.  Not only because I have this spiffy washing machine, but...

The guys at the solar place said the restaurant on the base was cheap and good.  So we went there to get something to eat.  We had to pull up to a gatehouse and give our driver's licenses, insurance, and registrations.  Then we were told to park.  We didn't know what was going on.  The guy was getting passes for us.  No big deal.  But when my mom spoke with her Puerto Rican accent he asked for the last four digits of her social security.  Not mine.  Just hers.  This bugged us.  We didn't feel welcome.  We won't go back.

There's a megalopolis RV resort with a nice store and a restaurant.  To get into this place we just stop at the gate and ask for a pass.  They don't check IDs.  They're friendly.  We're going to go there for any snack or eating out needs. 

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