Mid August Adventure, Part tree-fiddy

I crack me up…

So anyway, I got all packed up and ready to roll out of LaGrange. I got on the road, and dealt with the usual mix of people driving their phones and playing with their cars, people who don’t know how to merge, people who wait until it’s too late to merge and then cut you off, and one drunk motorcyclist who thought my decals were the coolest mural ever.

I get to my destination, I check in at the office, we make some changes to my site assignment, and off I go to set up camp. I got side-to-side level (always do this first!!) on the the third pull-in, without blocks, and was very happy. I set about setting up camp (check out my procedures posts!) and i’m thinking the worst is over. (Ominous music here).
I open the back compartment door to get my freshwater hose out and I see not one, not TWO, BUT THREE new ant nests. THREE. IN. MY. COMPARTMENT. Fine, you want war? War it is! I spent 20 minutes with a shop vac sucking those little buggers up, and i’m pretty sure all my neighbors think i’m bonkers now because I was quoting Enders Game the whole time. Damn buggers.

Ok, buggers vacuumed, connections made, camp set up, the dog walked, and a bunch of other little things, so now back to finish dumping my black tank (it never got emptied the second time).
I turn on the sewer flusher hose, hear nothing. Darn. I leave it on about halfway, open the black tank valve, and watch happily as mostly clean water drains out. Great! All clean, no big deal. I go inside, (I wipe my feet) I check the tank levels, and all three show empty. Awesome! I got outside, I close all three tank valves, and I go on working on the internet connection. I determine it’s a lack of park bandwidth, see that I need groceries, and hear my dog telling me it’s time to go to the park.

So off we go, Scout and I, to the park, where she had a great time and I hung out. Then off to get groceries, and finally, back home after three hours. Three hours…. that nagging feeling in the back of my head… three hours… odd. I think I missed something, forgot something. Weird.
I put away the groceries, feed the dog, and go to use the head. I notice its more than halfway full, which is odd, since I never leave it that way, and thought it was empty when I left. No matter, i’ll just flush it all away… BLOOOOMP. Yeah. Ever seen a toilet burp a geyser?? I have, I did, right there. Water all over the floor. Water all over the seat! Water all over my feet. (See? Even in a crappy time, I made a rhyme) (SARAH, SO HELP ME…)

What happened you ask? Well, i’ll tell ya. I checked the tank levels, and sure enough, black tank? FULL. I mean FULLLLLL to the BRIM, and then some. You may recall I left the sewer flusher on about halfway, and never did turn it off? Yeah, that’s what I forgot.
So, lesson learned, don’t leave your sewer flusher on and go away on adventure, because you’ll come back to a pedal activated geyser!

So now here I sit, fingers sore from all this typing, brain happy from the wine, floor clean from the towels, tanks clean and empty, and i’m happy to pass this story on to you in the hopes that when you make these mistakes, you’ll laugh about them, too.
(Ok Sarah, you can laugh at me now).

Mid August adventure, part duex

Part duex… as in doody.. Hahahaha….. hah. Ok, enough of the crappy jokes, back to the story!
So, I had just watched the dump station overflow, fought with it awhile, and finally washed it all away with clean water. I packed up my stuff and that’s when I realized I had left behind my splitter and regulator, but I did NOT want to take the rig back through the park (super nice park, but the one main road going through is narrow and twisty all the way through).

Ta-Da! The bike-mobile to the rescue. Yes, I rode my bike, yes, I went fast, and yes I breathed a lot when I got back. Shush (especially you, SARAH.)

So, i’m thinking it’s all good, I just need to put my crap away and go on, right? (All together now…) W R O N G.
The ground is now burping up MORE stuff, so i’m battling it with the hose, flooding the area with clean water, and losing. It took five whole minutes to get that under control, and the ground stopped burping; ridiculous.

You’d think i’d be done by now, right? Yeah. So then I go around the other side to put my wheel chocks back in their compartment (a place for everything, everything in it’s place) and when I open the door, did I find a nice, clean compartment with space for my wheel chocks?? No, I DID NOT. ANTS. ANTS ALL UP IN IT. They not only had a nest in there, they had a hotel, a pool, a jacuzzi, a strip mall, a strip club, and a strip for airplanes. So, being an external compartment, I just hosed it all out! Easy, right? (All together now) W R O N G. I got water EVERYWHERE. You know what else I got everywhere? Yep, ants. Ants all over. So now i’ve got wet, angry, ants on various parts of me, i’ve got a hose that’s all wet and slippery kind of in my hands, and i’ve got globs of mud coming out of the compartment from me spraying their nest in there. (Sarah, SHUT. UP.)

Ok, so, I get the hose under control, I rinse the compartment from a safer distance, I get the ants off of me, I get the wheel chocks put away, and eventually get everything else ready to transport in one way or another. I dry off (ALWAYS keep extra towels in the truck, you never know what life will hand you!) take a few minutes to just breathe, and remind myself, “A bad day of RVing is better than a good day in a house” (I’d like to spray wet, angry ants on the person who came up with that crap!).

Stay tuned for part three…..

Mid August adventure

Hello faithful readers!
(Hey to y’all that just come by now and then :P)

Today was packed full of adventure (problems) and I reminded myself several times that I really should be blogging more of my adventures, so here we are.

I did all the big packing last night, like I always do, so I only had a few key things to pack and put away this morning. I ran some errands, got those done, and proceeded to make ready, bring in the slides, and hookup.
I was camping in a park, on the lake (BEAUTIFUL site, AMAZING view!) but it was water and power only, no sewer, so I had to stop by the dump station on my way out, no big deal.
Well, it was a big deal (ominous music here).
I got to the dump station, got lined up just right the first time (Easy to do, there’s a big concrete strip in asphalt where your dump tube goes!) and hooked up my sewer hose. I pulled the black tank handle (Always dump the black tank first!), and watched with a silly satisfaction as the liquid quickly filled the hose and whooshed away (sound effect here). That lasted of all 10 seconds, and then, a slow, tiny, brown trickle (I hope you’re not eating while reading this!). Trickle, trickle, drip, drip, nothing.

Ok, no problem, just a clogged valve, I can handle this! I quickly cycled the valve gate several times in an effort to dislodge the stoppage, no help.
I hooked up the sewer flusher hose (having a built in sewer flusher is AMAZING) and turned it on… no noise, no sound, no flow inside.
The downside to doing this solo is that I have no one to tell me what’s going on inside, or to turn valves outside, while I do the other thing, so I have to walk around the RV, go inside, wipe my feet real good (hey, i’m solo, not an animal!) and look/listen for signs of my sewer flush system working. Nothing. No sound, no movement of water under the toilet flap, nada.
So I go back outside, disconnect the hose, check the water flow, and it’s flowing fine. Great. Take the elbow connector off, and find crud on the screen washer between the elbow connector and the hose fitting into the RV. Awesome, little screen did it’s job, I clean out the mess, verify the screen is good to go, and put it all back together. Now we have water flowing through the sewer flusher pushing the clog out, right?
Walk around the RV, get in, wipe my feet, go into the bathroom, look/listen. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Go back outside, walk around the RV, look at hose connection, scratch head, shrug, turn hose off, move hose to sewer line flusher. Turn on full blast, turn on little connector between hose and sewer connector, and…. psssss….. little tiny spray of water. That little rubber piece inside? All smashed up. Yay.
Ok, fine, next idea. Close black tank valve. Connect city water connection. Turn on city water connection, walk around RV, go inside (wipe feet), go into the bathroom, point very bright flashlight down toilet bowl, press pedal to the floor, and watch water swirl into the tank. Hold this position until tank is almost full (doesn’t take long, it was FULL when I started, and only let out a little).
Great! Go back outside, open black tank valve, grin as waste goes WHOOOOOOSSHHHH. Awesome.

Tank empties, I close valve, go back inside (wipe feet), fill up tank with toilet again. Takes forever, play on facebook and search on indeed while I stand there. Side note, there are no jobs for pedal holder, but plenty of jobs around pushing a pedal. I’m clearly overqualified.
Tank is full, go back outside, open valve. Big whoosh, mostly clear, much happy. Hear metal tinkling sound, think, “THat’s not good…”, turn to sewer connector in ground (less connector, more hole at ground level that you drop your elbow connector into) and watch as the ground burps up my connector, shoving it two feet to the side, and then spews… waste.
I take a BIG step back, close the black tank valve, and watch as the ‘water’ overflows the concrete drain area and into the grass area around it. It was at this point I took note of the much thicker, greener, taller grass in the middle of the small valley where the runoff was going, and it suddenly dawned on me… Yeah.
So, I scratch head some more, text the park manager, and attempt a couple of ways to unclog the drain. All failed, all made more mess, so I simply diluted the water until it was clear around the drain and didn’t stink anymore. I cleaned up my hoses, hung them on the back steps to dry while I drove, and pondered my next move.

Whew, we’re over the worst of it now, right? Wrong.

Packing the essentials

HI again! 🙂

RV life is great, and just like everything else, there’s some stuff you’ll need, and some stuff you might want. Here’s my pick of the essential gear, the stuff I use, and some stuff from what i’ve learned along the way.

YOU GOTTA HAVE:

  1. Connections!
    1. For getting power to your rig, you’ll need a power cord (which your rig should come with) and some adapters. You should have adapters to connect your rig to 50, 30, and 15 amp power connections, but keep in mind you’ll have one of those built in, depending on if your rig uses 30 or 50 amp power. Also note that you can run a 50 amp rig on 30 amps, albeit with an eye towards amp usage, and you can run a 30 amp rig on 50 amp, but you don’t get more power by plugging a 30 amp rig into a 50 amp outlet.
      You might also consider some kind of surge protection device. These can be expensive, but they’re far cheaper than replacing the electrical system in your RV if there’s a bad enough issue.
    2. For water, you should have one fresh water hose (make sure it’s drinking water safe!) that’s ONLY used for fresh water (not for anything else).
      You may want a second hose for gray water/sewer flushing/general hose use, and/or another fresh water hose to make sure you can reach the faucet (or as a backup!).
      I also use a pressure regulator to make sure the water pressure coming into my rig is not above the 55 PSI, per, the manufacturer specs for my rig.
      My primary regulator has a gauge and is adjustable, but my backup regulator is pre-set at 45 PSI, and doesn’t have a gauge.
      I also have splitters, shut-off valves, and 90 degree elbows for my particular setup, but that’s all up to you.
    3. For sewer, you need to have a sewer hose, an elbow (preferably clear so you can see the motion inside), and a threaded adapter.
      I also recommend an angled clear connector for the rig’s connection end, and mine has a hose connection that I really like for cleaning out the line.
      My kit has two main hoses, each extendable up to 10′ feet long, a coupler, caps for both ends of both hoses, a clear angled connector, a threaded sewer adapter, and a riser.
      The idea is to be able to connect to just about anywhere you go, so having all these pieces will make sure you can connect when you need to.
  2. Tools!
    1. Make sure you have a few tools on board, even if it’s just a few generic/multi use tools. At a minimum I recommend:
      1. Adjustable wrenches, one large, one small
      2. Channel locks, one large, one small
      3. Screwdrivers, either a multi-big driver, or Phillips #0, #1, #2, a small and medium flat head, a few torx drivers or bits, and anything specific to your rig.
      4. Allen wrenches! These are super handy when you need them.
      5. A small socket set can’t hurt, but check around in your rig and see what you might need to get stuff handled.
      6. A multi-meter. Even if you don’t know a whole lot about electricity, it’s still a great tool to have (and I can walk you through the steps to find the info you need for electrical issues!).
  3. Spare parts!
    1. I like to make sure I have spare stuff of anything important; the less I have to go run and find, the more I can enjoy camping!
      1. Fuses! (check the type of DC fuses used in your rig, and get an assortment of them to have on hand.
      2. Connections! Anything you use to connect your rig to the land, you should consider having an extra for. Some things matter more than others, so ponder on it awhile and figure it out as you go.
      3. Nuts, bolts, screws, and such. Even if they’re just generic sizes, make sure to have a few on hand for that ‘just-in-case’ scenario.
      4. Hose clamps! I’ve always kept a few different sizes of hose clamps around, and they’re super handy when you need them.
      5. Tapes! I always make sure to have electrical, gorilla, and plumbers tape on hand. These are the three most common tapes used, and painters tape is also handy for so many things.
      6. Spare tire/wheel seems obvious, but make sure you have it, and can get to it when needed. I have two spare wheel/tire combos ready to go since I travel so much, and if you’re full timing or travelling a lot, I recommend you do the same.

 

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff you can have on board, but these are the things that I believe you just have to have. The rest is optional! 🙂

Chill, no chill

I’m having all kinds of fun down here in Georgia, but the weather is a special kind of adventure here these days.
So far, in the last 10 days, it’s been as warm as 65 degrees, and as cold as 20 degrees; all of that in 10 days!!
Luckily, i’ve got an oil-filled heater, and let me tell you, it’s SO NICE to have on the COLD nights. I wish i’d known the difference sooner, but now that I do, i’d like to share a little of my research with you.
When it comes to electric heaters, which are awesome while you’re connected to shore power (unless you’re on a metered connection!) there are a few different things to consider:

  • Convection heaters warm the air around them, which means they take awhile to heat up a whole room, but they do a great job of keeping the room warm for a long time. Radiator heaters fall into this category.
  • Radiant heaters warm the objects around them, which are great for immediate heat, and work best for short term use.
  • Here’s a link to more useful information about heating types.

 

In my TT, I have a small space heater in the bedroom, and a large oil-filled (radiating type) electric heater in the main room. I also have a large space heater for the big room, but when it drops below 40 outside, the oil filled heater does a much better job of keeping the place warm.

The other thing I really like about the oil-filled heater is that it helps to keep the floor, and under the floor, warm, which means the furnace doesn’t have to run nearly as much to keep the place warm!

One last note on space heaters: I much prefer the type of heaters that have analog thermostats, the kind with a knob and switch, instead of a digital thermostat so that if/when I trip a breaker, or if the power goes out temporarily, I don’t have to run around resetting heaters every time. Instead, the switch and knob stay where I left them, and when power comes back, they’re automatically on and running again.

Towing connections

Bumper pull? Fifth wheel? But I have a dually, so wouldn’t it be a seventh wheel? Or an eighth since I have a spare, too?? What in the world do these things mean?!?!

Well dear reader, i’m glad you asked! Today we’re going to talk about hookups, and i’m not talking about dating ;).

(More info coming soon!)

When we’re talking about towing, there’s two primary parts:
The Tow Rig: This is the vehicle doing the towing. Often a pickup truck, this can be any vehicle that’s capable of towing your trailer.
The Towed Vehicle: This is what’s being towed, and is usually a trailer, though it’s possible to tow other stuff too (another post!).

Spare room for spare parts?

Do you carry spare parts in your RV? Well, you should. Let’s talk about why, and what parts you should have readily available.

The spare parts you carry will vary on a number of factors, like if you’re in a motorhome, or towing a trailer, what level of mechanical comfort you have, or the age and type of vehicle you’re in. People can do anything they put their mind to, and with blogs (like mine!) youtube, Facebook groups, and other self-help information readily available, anything is possible.

Coach:
Whether you’re in a motorhome of some kind, or towing a trailer, the area you live in is known as the coach, and you should carry a spare anything that’s essential to comfortable living. This will vary, but here’s some stuff I carry:
Spare fuses for the breaker panel (DC) so I can replace them if they blow. Small, inexpensive, and super easy to do, make sure you get the right size(s) you need, as well as an assortment of various amperage ratings.
Spare bulbs, for both inside and outside. I want to see, and be seen, so pull a couple of bulbs out, write down the numbers on them, or take them to your local auto parts store (I’m a big fan of AutoZone!) to pick up some spares. Most of the lights inside will be the same bulb, but make sure you check them all just to know what you’re up against.
Spare shower faucet. If i’m doing some kind of road-side repair, or I get stuck somewhere, my shower is the ONE faucet I will have to have. No matter how big or small the mess is, I can clean it off of me with the shower faucet, and carry on being a happy camper, even if i’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Water pump. I cannot stress this enough; if you’re out camping without hookups (or with hookups, and the park water is turned off for any reason) your water pump is invaluable! Of course, it means nothing to until it stops working… CARRY A SPARE! Also, don’t throw the old one away right away, a lot of them can be rebuilt for much less than buying a new one.
Water hose. Carry a spare water hose, in addition to your usual clean and gray water hoses, just in case. If your primary hose breaks and you need water in your RV, you’ll thank me for having a spare hose.
Pressure regulator. You should have one of these with a gauge so you can see what the pressure is, and adjust it if you want to. For a spare, carry one without a gauge, just in case. There’s nothing worse than pulling into a park, looking forward to a nice long shower, and finding out you’ll need a regulator to bring their 80 PSI water supply down to your rig’s max of 55 (except for not knowing, and blowing out a water line or fitting!).
Sewer connection. Carry a spare hose, a spare connection for each end, and two spare hose clamps. Even if it’s just a cheap 10′ hose, it’s still better than no hose when yours breaks, or worse, when you forgot to stow it before you left the park this morning… 400 miles ago.

 

For your tow rig (or motorhome chassis), I suggest:
Spare fan belt. Even on a brand new rig, some piece of highway debris can get kicked up, put a slice in your belt, and then POOF! you’re stranded because of a belt. Yes, I know, pantyhose work in a pinch, but a spare belt is way better, and works every time. Make sure to carry the tool(s) you need to change it, and learn how to change it by doing it twice. Yes, twice.
Fuses and bulbs. Just like in the coach, fuses and bulbs can be lifesavers on the road; see and be seen!
Tape. One roll each of electrical, gorilla, and flex seal just to cover all the bases. You might be amazed at what you can do with these!
Spare fluids for older vehicle are always good to have; oil, trans fluid, coolant, and washer fluid are all good things to have on hand, and can even be helpful in a newer vehicle if you run into minor issues on the road.
Zip ties. Yes, zip ties. Buy a small assortment pack, put them in your ‘uh-oh’ box, and hope you never need them. When things go sideways and you need to hold that thingy right there so it won’t rub on the doo hickey, zip tie it.

 

There’s always more stuff to think about, but the key idea is to carry a small amount of a variety of stuff so you can craft something that’ll get you to the next safe place when things go sideways. Other than the fan belt, don’t worry about getting the best, the most expensive, or the exact right one, just have some stuff that will get the job done, and remember; i’m only an email away 😉

W&M 3, How much can I tow?

I see this question often, and my standard reply is always, “Check your owners manual!”. While that’s the best place to start, let’s take a little trip deeper down that rabbit hole.

In “Weights and Measures 1: What’s it all mean?” we talked about all the different terms and basics we need. (If you skipped that, you may want to revisit it before falling down this rabbit hole).

So let’s say I have a nice pickup truck as my towing rig, and it’ll tow 15,000 lbs in a bumper pull configuration, or 18,000 lbs in a fifth-wheel or gooseneck configuration (more about towing types).
Great, so now I know my maximum towing weights? We can go now, right? Well, hold on a second, let’s talk about what we’re towing!
Let’s say i’ve got a 32′ Travel Trailer with a GVWR of 11,000 lbs, and it’s a bumper pull (I really do!). Ok, what else do I need to know?!?!

Well, in bumper pull configuration, my truck will tow (note the difference between towing and pulling!) 15,000 lbs, so that part’s all good!

The next part I want to look at is the tongue weight. Tongue weight is most crucial in the “Control” category of towing. If you have too much tongue weight, you’ll have a saggy rear end on your tow vehicle, and you’ll have less steering control up front. Too little tongue weight, and you’ll suffer from ‘fishtailing’ of the trailer, as well as potential slipping of the drive wheels on the a RWD vehicle.
Check out this link for lots more info on tongue weight.

I always tell people to never exceed the manufacturers tow rating because the people that designed it know the people who built it, the people that wrote the book about it, and the people that did the math to know when it’ll break. Don’t break your rig.

Once you’re all loaded and set, go get yourself a Non-Commercial Weigh so you know what you tow before you go! 🙂

Here I go, off to tow!

Quick note about towing versus pulling:

Just because your rig can PULL it doesn’t mean it can TOW it.
Towing generally refers to CONTROLLING a trailer, so it’s not just about getting it going, it’s also about slowing it, turning it, moving it around, and stopping it.
Why does this matter? Because if you can’t control what you’re towing, then you’re not towing, you’re pulling a collision looking for a place to happen.

#don’tbethatguy

 

Non-Commercial weigh

Anytime you want to know the total weight of your rig, all you need to do is go to your local truck stop!
Park somewhere (in a designated space!), walk inside, and ask someone at the fuel desk for a “non-commercial” weigh ticket. This let them know that you’re not a Commercial driver, and they’ll log it differently in their system. Commercial drivers have to provide Truck, Trailer, and load numbers, along with Company name and other stuff, which you won’t have since you’re personal use.
After they give you the okay, go back to your rig, and drive slowly onto the scale, lining up in the center (left to right), and making sure your axle sets are in different sections of the scale. If you stop with the speaker/microphone box just outside your drivers window, you should be fine, and you can ask for a little help over the speaker/mic to get adjusted correctly.

Once you’ve settled down, they’ll let you know they’ve got your weight, so clear the scale (ALWAYS DRIVE SLOWLY on the scale!), park, and go get your ticket inside!