Monday, February 16, 2009

Living on Wheels

We have been on the road for over 18 months and are really loving this new lifestyle. While we have chronicled the many adventures we have had, there are many routine things that are made very different by living in a house on wheels. Some of these differences are because our home is both mobile and self contained. Electricity, as an example, can come from plugging in at a campground but you can have 20, 30, or 50 amps. This has a real impact on which of the many on board appliances we can use. One place we stayed in Ohio gave you a 20 amp fuse and if it blew you had no power. At other places the power (unlike a stix and brix) is not consistent, which can also cause damage. We like having 50 amp because it enables us to run all electric items without worry. If you have 20 or 30 amp you must closely monitor everything you use. We also have a generator to provide power and charge the batteries if we are not plugged in but this runs on diesel fuel which last summer was near $5.00 per gallon. You can purchase solar panels to replace some of the need for a generator, but we don't think it is cost efficient. Even at $5.00 per gallon you can run the generator a long time for the several thousands it would cost to install solar panels. Additionally, we have a inverter that converts battery power to AC electricity to run some appliances but this quickly uses the 12 volt battery power that is the source for most of our lights and provides the "spark" to start things (fridge, water heater and furnace) that run on LP gas. We carry LP gas for the furnace, water heater, fridge and cooking. Both the fridge and the water heater can also run on electricity when you have enough power. For our water supply we also have two sources, either attaching a hose to a spigot in a campground or from our 110 gallon on board water tank, which requires the batteries to run the pump. Our practice of spraying Clorox on the spigot before we hook up the water was reinforced when we recently saw someone at an empty site running water and letting his dog drink from it. Of course water must be disposed of so we have two sewage systems on board. One is for "gray water" (shower, washer & sinks) and the other is for "black water" (toilet.) When in a full hook up campground a hose, also known as the "stinky slinky," can be attached directly to a sewer line. But, unlike a house, we must empty the black water after the tank is full because leaving it trickle out will result in a hardened "mound of doom" and this is something you never want to deal with. After you empty the black tank it must be flushed out by attaching a hose (not the same one used for drinking water) to the tank. The emptying of the black tank has lead to an occasional toxic spill. An unnamed friend once turned on the wrong hose and in a short time wondered why water was running out of the stand pipe on the roof and down the side of the rig. At the same time, on the inside his wife wondered why the toilet was making a strange noise and flushed it to check the problem. The good news, they now know the toilet seal works. The bad news, the sudden opening of the seal caused a terrible eruption of _ _ _ _. So just when you think all is well something happens resulting in an emergency hazmat clean up. We discovered while having no water or sewer hook up for 14 days we can make the black tank last for 13. You don't want to have the urge to go in the middle of the last night so it is good to know your limit. When you do not have a sewer hook up you must empty at a dump station where there is always a line of waiting RVers watching and critiquing your technique. Another way to empty the sewer is into a blue boy, a waste water carrier on wheels that we call a "turd trolley." We have not gone there yet. Though you should NEVER fill your fresh water with the dump flush hose, it does not take very long on the road before you see someone doing just that. Another thing that is different on the road is garbage disposal. At our stix and brix home, once a week we put the garbage on the curb and when we came home from work it was gone. Very rarely do they pick up the garbage in a campground so you get to carry it to the dumpster each day. Often, especially after a long weekend, it is filled and overflowing with several days of trash. This can be a very aromatic experience on a hot day so we generally take a romantic after dinner stroll together so we can tag team the dumpster for quick disposal. While many misadventures involving RV systems are shown hilariously in the movies Christmas Vacation and RV living them in real life is just as funny (when looking back).

While all the systems were overwhelming in the beginning we are really glad we no longer have a stix and brix home. To reinforce this, Allan and Sharon, a couple we met in Rockport, had a pipe break at their home in Arizona and the house had severe damage that was not covered by insurance. As to our old house, while just recently reading the local paper on line I could see it in the background of a front page photo telling of a shooting in the old neighborhood. I just think about those kinds of things when I'm washing out the stinky slinky and realize it isn't a bad job at all.

1 comment:

Richard said...

No yard work or snow to shovel, but you do have to wash and wax your home!