Shopping for an RV: Part 3

Hello hello!
So as many of you know i’m shopping for an RV, and i’m sharing my adventure with you as I go.

I’ve bought and sold lots of things throughout my life, and inspected things for buying or selling many times over for other people, usually friends or family, so buying private party isn’t an issue for me. This RV will be my second one, but the buying process is different because when I bought my first one, I bought it from a family friend and most of the work was done or skipped because of that! I didn’t know how good I had it until I started shopping for an RV this time around. πŸ™‚

I was supposed to be inspecting an RV today for purchase, but I was able to spent a little time with it last night and I found water damage; water damage for me means NO. No sale, no buy, no chance, no way! I’ll write up a separate post about water damage pros and cons, but for my stage of life now, it’s a hard pass.

So, more posts to write, more RV shopping to do, and more things to do today!

Shopping for an RV part 2:

So i’m still shopping for an RV, taking my sweet time since things have aligned in such a way that i’m in no rush. I’ve opened my options up to see what else is out there, and decided i’d REALLY like to have a 5th wheel with a receiver on the back for towing a second trailer. This is something i’ve wanted to set up for quite some time, so I figure if I find something in my budget to let me do that, I might as well, right?!

I’ll put a link here later to talk more about double-towing.

One of the things i’ve run across, as I expected to, is the rude, pushy, demanding salesman. I’ve had a couple that I had to deal with for a little while, but there’s one that really sticks out, because even after I clearly told him in plain English that I would never do business with him because of his attitude and behavior, he continues to email me! I may add that as another mini-series sometime, but suffice it to say, it’s much easier to deal with these kinds of people via email!

The shopping continues, and i’ve got several promising leads, including one that i’m working on buying, so stay tuned for more on that later!

Shopping for an RV

So i’m two months into this round of adventure, and finally shopping for an RV again.

I’ve decided to seek out a bumper pull toy hauler, 10K GVWR or less, $20K or less, with a separate/enclosed garage. I also want maximum CCC, and a shower door, not a curtain.
So let’s talk about all those parts and pieces, and how I got to those decisions.

I want a bumper pull because I don’t want to invest in a gooseneck system for my truck, and i’m not ready to buy a 5th wheel hitch, even though my truck came with the rails for a 5th wheel. I’d like to keep it simple for now, and for me, that means a bumper pull.
10K lbs GVWR is because of the tow rating of my truck; I have a 2000 F-250 7.3L TD 4wd CCSB, and the conventional (bumper pull) tow rating is 10K lbs. Now, anything over 5K lbs does require a Weight Distribution Hitch, but that’s ok with me, i’ll spend the money to buy one (between $200 and $500).
I want a toy hauler because i’ll be moving out of my place down in Georgia, and i’ve got a couple of large power tools i’m not quite ready to let go of. Plus, I really want the ‘shop-style’ space for making a mess now and then I work on projects, AND, toy haulers typically have little to no carpet inside, which is great for me because I DO NOT WANT carpet inside my RV. Ever. Anywhere. For any reason.
I want an enclosed garage so that I have a place to put my dogs, who will be travelling with me, if I need to keep them separate from the living quarters for any time, but I don’t want to leave them in their crate, AND, I like having a space where I can make a mess, and just close the door when i’m taking a break from the mess-making.
Maximum CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity) because I want to have room for my stuff, and while I am working on having less stuff, I still need to move out of my place in GA, and i’d rather not sit and sell stuff off there.

Now let’s talk about my ‘system’. I’m searching for something within a few hours drive because I want to be able to go put hands on it now, and walk through it before I buy. If I find something that fits the bill, I can go ahead and start the process, and if there’s any issues, I won’t be in a time crunch to get the RV and get down to GA.
I’m communicating exclusively by email until I find one i’m ready to buy, so that I don’t have to remember all the details of each unit, I just have to read the conversation history (i’m quite busy at 55-70 hours a week at work, so this is a HUGE help).

My basic questions for any unit that meets my needs and wants are:
1) Anything broken/missing/not factory?
2) I request a copy of the maintenance records

So that’s what i’m working on, and working with, and now you’ve got a couple ideas for your RV shopping! πŸ™‚

On the road again!

I’m quite pleased to announce that I am back on the road, and back to work in Wind! I am, once again, a travelling Wind Turbine technician, and i’ll be performing commissioning work all over the country.

I won’t promise a lot of posts, but i’ll do what I can in the time I have.

Black Tank Basics

I’m seeing a lot of posts, questions, and issues surrounding the black tank, so let’s break down how it works, what to do with it, and why it matters.

First, what is the black tank?
The black tank is one of two different waste tank systems commonly found in an RV, and is specifically for waste from the toilet.

Second, what is happening in there?
Your black tank is much like a septic tank you might have at home, and is mostly a place to start breaking down waste before disposing of it. By the way, please be sure to always dispose of your black tank waste in a proper place, not just on the ground or in the open.

Third, why is it different than the gray tank?
The gray tank is for ‘used water’, that is, water and other liquids drained down the sinks that doesn’t have waste in it. While you won’t drink gray water, and you probably don’t want to use it for washing dishes, it CAN be used for watering plants, creating weighted jugs, and other non-potable uses.

Ok, let’s get down to business. Best practice for using your black tank is:
1) Keep the valve closed until it’s time to dump the tank.
2) From empty, put a gallon or two of water in there.
3) Put your choice of black tank treatment in there.
4) While using the toilet, be sure to use plenty of water; I like to use twice as much water as anything that goes into the toilet, which includes liquid waste, solid waste, and toilet paper.
5) Once the tank gets 3/4 full, it’s time to think about dumping. Once you’re hooked up to a sewer or dump station, go ahead and fill the tank from the toilet (just hold the pedal down and let the water flow in).
6) Dump the tank, and take note of how well things flow out (this is why clear elbows or connectors are important).
7) Be sure to rinse the tank out and dump it again until you have clear water coming through your sewer hose. You can run a hose into the water closet and down the tube, or just use your built-in tank rinse connection is you have one.
8) If you empty your tank before you drive somewhere, drop a cup or two of cleaner in there, like ka-boom or purple power, and add a few gallons of water so it’ll slosh around and clean the inside of the tank. You can also add a bag or two of ice to add some scrubbing power.

I’ve seen and heard of a lot of issues with the sewer lines and dumping the tanks, so let’s go over some things NOT to do.
1) Don’t leave your black tank valve open unless you’re actively dumping your tank.
When you leave the valve open, the waste you flush goes straight to the valve with no time to be broken down. This always causes a stoppage, which just creates all kinds of problems. Leave the valve closed until it’s time to dump.
2) Not using any kind of treatment.
When you don’t use any kind of black tank treatment, you don’t have anything in your tank to help the process of breaking down the waste. Without treatment, waste breakdown take 4-10 times longer than with treatment, which means you’re probably going to have issues with clogs if you don’t use treatment. Always use a tank treatment.
3) Don’t flush excess paper.
Really, don’t flush excess anything. The only stuff that should be going into the toilet is urine, feces, and toilet paper with feces on it. Putting TP with urine on it in the tank is optional, but the more paper you put in there, the more water you need, the faster it fills up, and the more you’ll have to do to keep it running smoothly.
I recommend your urine paper go into a wastebasket (with a lid on it!), and your feces paper go into the toilet.
Also, ladies, your sanitary products are best put into a wastebasket with a lid, not into the black tank.

Last but not least, what to do if….
If your toilet is clogged at the top (in the bowl) don’t reach for a plunger, it won’t do any good. In fact, you don’t even need to carry a plunger in your RV, it won’t work. Instead, you need a stick, 2-3″ across and 2-4′ long. Turn the water off to the RV, open the valve all the way, and use the stick to push the stuff down. The bottom of the toilet is connected to the top of the tank, and there is no ‘s-bend’ or trap like your toilet at home, so just give the stuff a little help down the tube.
If you’re having trouble getting your tank to drain into the sewer, fill it up with water and tank treatment, let it sit an hour or so, then drain it again. Repeat as many times as needed.
If you can smell your black tank, you need more, or better, treatment. For quick relief, drop some dish soap in there and fill the tank with water, walk around to shake up the RV a little bit, then dump it. For long-term relief, use a better treatment, or just more if it, and make sure to use 2:1 water:waste.

So there you have it, my thoughts and experience in dealing with your black tank. If you take care of your tanks, they’ll take care of you, and remember, it only smells bad when it’s treated badly!

Black Tank Treatment

There are a wide variety of opinions of the various parts and pieces of RV life, but one thing we can all agree on is that your black tank needs some kind of way to work out the waste we put in it, and that’s what tank treatment does.

Tank treatments come in several forms; i’ve seen liquid, gel, powder, tablet, and even liqui-gel type things. No matter the format, it’s important to put some kind of treatment in there to help break down the waste.

Tank treatments come in two types, black tank and gray tank. Black tank treatments specifically target breaking down human waste, causing it all to become a liquid that can be dumped and rinsed off. Gray tank treatments target things you’re likely to find in gray water; soap and other detergents from cleaning yourself or your stuff, dirt and debris from rinsing things off, and other such things you’re likely to send down the sink drain.

Tank treatments are an important part of maintaining your RV, no matter if you’re a summer camper, a weekend warrior, or a full-timer. As soon as you stop maintaining your tanks, you’re going to have a problem, and it stinks!

Be sure to keep up with maintaining your tanks so you can have miles of smiles instead of being down with a frown. πŸ™‚

Road Signs: Crunching the numbers

Another fun fact (hey, it’s fun to ME!~) is that the numbers on the road signs all have some kind of meaning, and once you understand the system, you’ll know what they mean, too!

Any two-digit highway sign (I-20, I-65, US-98, etc) means it’s a primary highway. If the numbers are EVEN, it’s an EAST-WEST highway. If the numbers are ODD, it’s a NORTH-SOUTH highway. So, I-20? East-West. I-95? North South. US-98? US Highway that’s East-West. Neat, huh? Watch this…

Any THREE digit highway (I-710, I-185, I-635) is EITHER a bypass, or a spur of the highway number.
How do you tell the difference? Well, if the FIRST number is EVEN, it’s a bypass, meaning it will reconnect with the main highway later.
If the FIRST number is ODD, it’s a spur, which means it does NOT connect back to the main highway.
So, I-710? A spur (first number ODD), off of I-10.
I-285? A bypass (first number EVEN), off of I-85.
Neat, right? Yeah it is, you nerd…… πŸ˜›

Mile Marker Signs

Part of our series on road signs, Mile Markers are found on every Interstate, US highway, and State highway. You may find them on other roadways as well, usually only on access-controlled roadways.

Mile marker signs

Mile marker signs are very helpful for navigating the country, and are best used for figuring out distance from one point to another.

For the US Interstate system, Mile Markers start at 0 in the WEST or SOUTH, and INCREASE going EAST or NORTH. So if you’re traveling EAST on I-20, the mile marker numbers will be going up, but if you then turn SOUTH on I-35, the numbers will be going down. If you just remember that all miles start in San Diego (Southern California) and work their way up to Maine (Far North East USA) you’ll do fine.

A second key point to remember is that mile markers reset at every state line, no matter which direction you’re going. Heading West means the mile markers will tell you how long it is until the next state line (or end of the interstate), and the same is true if you’re headed South. Heading East or North means you’d have to know how many miles of interstate are in the state you’re in, but luckily that information is on the top of the page for each state in your Road Atlas, or readily available on google.

Alright, now that we know what they do, what can they tell us?
Well, for one thing, they can give us distance to exits! Exit ramps all over the US are numbered based on the Mile section they’re in. So, exit 44 should be 44 miles from the SOUTH or WEST state line of the interstate you’re on.

Something else they can do, especially for interstate travel, is help us plan our route for long trips. When I was driving commercial trucks all over the US, I always planned for a 600 mile day, so i’d crunch the numbers to figure out where that would get me to, and then look along that route for likely delays, detours, traffic, construction, weather, or other issues.

So next time you’re on the road, take a look at those mile marker signs, and start practicing the math to figure out miles from where you are, to where you want to be!

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!

There are a lot of signs out on the roads these days, but do you know what they all mean? Sure, some are obvious, while others, not so much.

From , here’s a brief overview to get us started:

The meaning of colors on road signs
  • Red:  Red generally means stop. The use of red on signs is limited to stop, yield, and prohibition signs.
  • White: A white background indicates a regulatory sign.
  • Yellow: Yellow conveys a general caution message.
  • Green: Green shows permitted traffic movements or directional guidance.
  • Fluorescent yellow/green: Indicates pedestrian crossings and school zones.
  • Orange: Orange is used for warning and guidance in roadways work zones.
  • Coral: Coral is used for incident management signs.
  • Blue: Blue indicates road user services, tourist information, and evacuation routes.
  • Brown: Brown is used to show guidance to sites of public recreation or cultural interest.

Although the colors play a critical factor in providing consistency throughout the roads and highways, each shape of road signs has a specific meaning, as well. The shape of road signs can alert drivers about the message prior to reading the contents. Depending on weather conditions, the only thing you might be able to make out is the shape of the sign. If that’s the case – the shape of the sign is just as critical as the message, if not more.

The meaning of the shape of road signs
  • An octagon road sign conveys the need to stop. A stop sign is the only sign that uses this shape.
  • An upside down triangle road sign always means β€œyield.”
  • Diamond-shaped road signs always warn of possible hazards ahead. These are traffic signs, temporary traffic control signs, and some pedestrian and bicycle signs.
  • Pennant-shaped road signs warn drivers of no passing zones.
  • Round-shaped road signs are used for railroad signs. When you see a round traffic sign, you will likely see a railroad crossing or light rail transit crossing signs ahead.
  • A pentagon-shaped road signs provides warning that a school zone is ahead or school crossing zone is approaching.
  • A horizontal rectangle-shaped road signs usually provides guidance to drivers but can be used for a variety of needs.
  • Vertical rectangle road signs are typically used to inform drivers of regulatory notices, such as speed limits.

Interesting, isn’t it? There’s a lot of other information available in the signs all around us, and we’ll talk more about that in upcoming posts.

Winterizing: Using your RV in winter

Be sure to read the previous post(s) in this series so you’re all caught up on terms and things.

So we talked about what Winterizing means, why we do it, and HOW we do it. Now let’s talk about how to balance winterizing with using your RV in cold weather.

You should recall that the entire point of winterizing our RV is to prevent water from freezing, expanding, and breaking the part it’s in, such as the water SUPPLY pipes, or the holding tanks. Well, if we’re using the RV in the cold, all we need to do is make sure water cannot freeze and expand enough to break anything. Simple, right? (I bet some of y’all want to smack me by now :P)

Here’s what we do to make sure nothing breaks:

  1. Leave plenty of room for expansion!
    For me, this means having tanks that are no more than 2/3 full at any time. I keep my fresh water tank 2/3 or less, and dump my waste tanks (Gray and Black) at no more than 2/3 full. I like to keep all my stuff at 1/2 or less, but 2/3 gives you more room to store if you need it.
  2. Let it drain!
    I like to leave my sewer hose connected as long as i’m at one site, and just open/close the valves as needed. In this case, I leave my gray tank valves open so the gray tank drains as soon as liquid gets in there; no chance of sitting water freezing if there’s no water sitting in those tanks!
    DO NOT do this with your black tank.
  3. Flush it down
    In freezing conditions, I drain my black tank at 1/2 full. (Another post on how to drain your black tank effectively).
  4. Keep the belly warm, too.
    Running the on board furnace is a good way to keep the underbelly area warm, which means your tanks and pipes won’t freeze. It’s also a good way to use a lot of propane quickly. I find that an oil-filled heater inside the RV does a great job at keeping the whole place warm, including the underbelly, even from inside the RV. (More on heaters here).
  5. When it’s above freezing during the day, and freezing at night, i’ll wait until after my shower, and any other heavy water use things (washing dishes, laundry if you have that option) are done, and then i’ll disconnect my fresh water supply hose. Once i’m disconnected, i’ll open all the faucets, and leave them open. By doing this, i’ve relived the water pressure in the lines, so they’re not quite full anymore. Then, i’ve left an opening for water to escape the lines as it expands, IF the water in my pipes starts to freeze.
    The big key here is that if i’m in the RV, it should be warm enough for me to sleep comfortably, which means 52 degrees or above (Below 52 I tend to get a little cranky when I sleep without my arctic sleeping gear).

    So there you have it, the secret to keeping your RV pipes in good shape while camping in the cold!