Tag Archives: rv life

We Wear Grass Skirts in Winter

or, I’ll Huff, and I’ll Puff, and I’ll Blow Your House Down

Winter is here, and frankly, we were late in being ready for it.

However, now we’re in good shape. Better than good. The plumbing and pipes have been returned to their previous non-frozen, liquid-delivering state. We are fully insulated (to say the least), the pipes are safe, we’re warm and cozy, and we have a new resident trapped under the RV. I’ve nicknamed him The 50-Below Heater. He’s a heater inside the underbelly and behind the wall of insulation, in case there is ever like, some freaky 50-below situation. And we brought home a new emergency heater. (No doubt, none of these things will ever be used, now that we’ve gone to the trouble.)

But what I really came to tell you about is our insulation adventure. And if I do say so myself, it is both functional and stylish. Big bales of straw, friends. Two feet deep and three feet long. Last year we used one-inch thick foam insulation board. Did the trick and we never froze, but I hate working with the stuff. This year we used straw bales. I don’t know exactly what the r-value of a two-foot thick straw bale is, but I’ll guarantee you it’s a hell of a lot higher than one inch of styrofoam.

Thart’s a larta straw bales!

You think it looks like an RV Tiki Bar?
I was going for a sort of manger/Christmas feel.
Or maybe it’s Cleopatra’s White Trash Barge.

Baby is decked out for Winter!

After packing in the straw bales very tightly and stuffing every single little crack, la Caravane de la Paille gets a layer of packed snow at the bottom to seal the deal.

This makes us completely okey-dokey down to however-much-below zero. It’s far more that we did previously, and we were fine down to 30-below last year. (In fact, when a few around-the-corner neighbors had frozen pipes, ours were fine.) Anyhow. This is far more than we very likely need to do. But an extra measure of security is nice to have, and truth be told, it was kind of fun. And besides, it’s unique and it looks super weird. After all, we have rep to protect!

“What are those lunatics in the RV doing now?!”

 

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City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

One of the first things I noticed about Saranac Lake in the Winter was those nifty little sidewalk snow plows they have. A little mini plow the width of the sidewalk. Never saw such a thing. In the city, each resident was responsible for the sidewalk out front, and if you didn’t shovel it, you got a ticket. Merry Christmas from New York City!

Hey, look! Snow dog! We’re all out in the snow! For us humans, most of our outside time is spent shoveling. We’re looking at five days of snow, probably a foot or more so far. We like the entire width and depth of our driveway cleared, so we’ve been out there each day, sometimes twice. As I’ve said before, I think it’s fun. Although I have to admit – Sometimes, maybe once a week, when it’s a night shovel and I am lifting the last scoop full, I start to think twice about shoveling a 25 x 50′ driveway by hand. But usually I’m just smiling. It’s a sickness.

In other news … it’s Christmas! Between community-fun-friendly activities and work activities, my Winter comes in like a lion (as they say). Truth be told, I bailed on playing in the orchestra for The Messiah. I realized that in all of the month of December, there were only five days that did not have something marked on the calendar. Something had to go. I was doubling a part anyway, and learning the music would have been a time problem. So, I bailed. But, now I know what level of activity I can handle for the holiday season. Of course, I’m still playing in the orchestra for the Holiday Concert at Will Rogers (this Saturday at 7:30pm), and all the super neat stuff at St. Luke’s – morning meditations, Christmas Eve, Sunday holiday services. And I’ll play in the Winter Carnival concert. More on all that later.

Inside the ol’ tin can, we’re warm and cozy, but we have the usual Winter water problems. Often, the water is fine. But depending on the direction of the wind, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, and how far below zero we are, lines freeze up. Usually just part. And usually not this early. At any rate, something’s frozen in a weird place I can’t get to. I’m considering two plans based on go-another-route-because-it’s-just-going-to-happen-again.

Plan A is a more advanced version of what we have previously called the Laura Ingalls Wilder System. Maybe put a heated 40 gallon cistern in a corner inside, or a stock tank outside the door with a heater. Fill the cistern (tank) each morning from the well. Keep a giant pot on the stove over a low flame for hot water (à la the Wilders). Maybe something with a spout above the sink for washing dishes. I know it sounds crazy, but believe it or not, we’re used to it.

Plan B is a little more involved. Most of the plumbing and the cold water lines are inside the “basement,” under the bedroom where the furnace and pump are. Those never freeze. Never-ever. But the hot water and kitchen lines run under a section of floor that I can’t get to. Those are the lines that give us trouble. I could potentially take the lines out and relocate them to inside the heated area. However, re-plumbing half an RV is a huge project.

Now, where did I put that giant stock pot?

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Advice from the Wilders

Twelve hour power outage yesterday.

The electricity went out at about one in the afternoon, coming back on at about one in the morning. Odd thing being, it took me a while to notice it. With the battery backup and 12v system in the RV, the only things that need grid power are the microwave, air conditioner, and wall sockets. Although my computer ran out of juice, I hardly needed the air conditioner. And we had light, water, the furnace, and the ability to cook.

Although we probably had two days worth of power if we were conservative, we decided to be super-conservative. If this ended up lasting a few days, I wanted the furnace working as long as possible. Of course, I still allowed myself the luxury of a shower at night and a shower in the morning. That’s the best part of having power even if the lines are down – the 12v water pump still works.

If the outage had gone on for several days, we would have (as we have before) gone pioneer and moved out to the tinycabin, stoking the woodstove for heat. We’d use the propane stove. We would toss a five gallon bucket on a rope down the well to get water, and then heat it on the woodstove. We’d take a half-bath in a washtub.

And then Laura Ingalls Wilder would walk in and whisper, “Hey stupid, the power’s been back on for three hours!”

 

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Up a Particular Creek Without a Furnace

Okay, Friends. Get this …

Furnace doesn’t work. It’s getting down into the 30s at night. Although the space heater works fine for the inside, I want the furnace going because it keeps the pump and water lines and such warm too. The blower is fine, I hear the burner ignite, but the heat doesn’t stay on.

So, we call the amazing Hans. (This is a story in itself.) Hans and his wife recently opened a small RV sales center, store, and service center, Happy Camping RV, in Vermontville, right around the corner! Is that totally awesome?! No more fear of having to drive to Central New York or even Plattsburgh if we need something. Super nice folks too.

Hans came over this afternoon to take a look. During his visit, I remembered that I needed to empty the euphemistically-named blackwater tank. (If you’re not aware of what this tank holds, suffice it to say – it’s right underneath the bathroom.)

Emptying the tank is pretty darned civilized, frankly. I pull a lever, and the offending “blackwater” goes down a sewer pipe and into our local rivers and streams. Kidding. It goes into our septic tank. I do it once every few weeks.

So, Hans finishes checking things out, is going to investigate a few possibilities, and he’s pulling out of the driveway. I pull the lever to empty the tank. I hear the furnace click on. It stays on. No kidding. The second I empty the tank, the furnace works perfectly. I thought, “No way. That’s impossible.” I turn the furnace off, and try it again in ten minutes. Same result. Clean tank = working furnace. Weird. So, the furnace works, and I won’t let the tank fill up all the way. Hans is still going to try to figure out what’s going on, mostly because it’s so bizarre. There’s a theory about the sensors in the tank and voltage or something.

And now, a Tasteless Pun Alert. If you’re easily offended, don’t read the line below, in which I explain what I have learned during this whole furnace debacle.

*  *  *

What I have learned is this – Don’t sh*t where you heat.

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A Lack of Stuff

Kathy at White Pines Whisper recently got me to thinking. (Beautiful haikus by Kathy and others are featured in the comments of a previous post, by the way.) Kathy said in a recent post, “Stuff ain’t where it’s at, people.” Being as I am a stream-of-conciousness kind of guy, and I saw the word conservation, I got to thinking.

You’ve probably noticed – we live in an RV, situated on our own property. Granted, we also have a 10×14 cabin with a woodstove, and we’re talking about a 32′ RV with a full kitchen, plumbing, furnace, and central air. However, it’s still small. Conservation is a necessity. Conservation of both resources and of space. We use about 40 gallons of water per person each day (as opposed to the US average of 75 gallons per person per day). We use much less electricity. (Awesome.) And of course, we use much less space than most folks would. Everything we own fits in the RV or cabin. We do not have much stuff.


Reactions to the RV vary from incredulous to blasé. Frequently, the incredulous responses end with, “But, where do you keep your stuff?!” Easy. We don’t have stuff. Actually, we still have plenty of storage space free, and we really don’t go without. It’s surprising how much one is able to simplify when the need arises.

We’ll build a house when we feel like it. I guess we just don’t feel like it yet. I love living in the RV in Spring, Summer, and Fall, and I don’t mind it terribly in the Winter. And – here’s the biggee – it’s free. We already own it. In the winter when I get a little stir-crazy, I go out into the cabin, light a fire in the stove, and find something to do. Read by the fire. Or play the piano. Honestly, there are plenty of people that live similarly in our immediate area – cold water cabins down Keese’s Mill, RVs on secluded lots, those older mobile homes that look like RVs on back roads. I think the oddity is that we’re so visible, not that we’re so singular.

Of course, every so often, you get a jackass.

We were once at a party with a group of friends. The sort of large party where you don’t know everyone really well, but you’re at least acquainted. One of guests was making fun of people who live in trailers over in Lake Placid or something. Going on in the poor-white-trailer-trash vein. Some story about a community meeting or something. I believe he concluded with, “They shouldn’t get a vote, hell, their house in on wheels.” I walked away. A bit later, a friend replied, “What a jerk.”

Do I take pleasure in the fact that this guy couldn’t hold a candle to either of us – intellectually, professionally, or otherwise? Yeah, I do. I’m sorry about it, but I do. It’s hard not to be petty. I know I shouldn’t be. I try not to be. So, I still talk to the guy. Some. Try to be at least a little friendly.

Besides, isn’t living well the best revenge?

Viva RV!

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RV Maintenance Day

Yes, folks. It’s finally time for another lesson in Living in an RV.

Most regular readers know, we live in an RV (1996 32′ fifth wheel Prowler), and a small 10×14 cabin.

Fact is, RVs are (of course) not really meant to be lived in 24/7, all year long, and we’re at one year just about now. It’s a good idea to check things out once a year or more, make sure everything is up to snuff and working like it should. I replaced the pump during the Winter. The AC/Fan is in great shape. I’m having our propane company out to clean and check the furnace. And today, I checked out three of the remaining biggees – the hydraulic slide-out, the condition of the (euphemistically named) blackwater tank, plumbing, and the seals around the outside edges.

As for the plumbing, everything looks mostly okay. Except under the kitchen sink. A rail came off the back of the drawers, and bumped and jangled a PVC pipe around. We have a little bit of a leak. Nothing terrible, and no water damage, but I’ll have to fix it.

The awning needs a little repair on the outside edges. Easy. The hardware store has RV stuff, and I know they have awning repair tape. Other than the climbing, that will be simple. The electric/propane hot water heater seems fine, and it looks pretty clean. Microwave, oven, and stove are in good shape (if a bit dirty!).

Why is there a garden hose running through my living room? I’m checking and cleaning the blackwater tank. To do this, I empty the tank into the septic, run a hose with a nozzle into the bathroom, turn the pump off, and well … have a look down there. To our credit … clean as a whistle. (Well, maybe not a whistle.) But pretty much, not a spec of gunk or muck. I still used the hose and jetted it out though.

As for the hydro slide (the hydraulic system that pushes the side room of the RV out), all I really do is go outside to make sure nothing is in the way, go back in, and push a button to check that it moves and works fine. No real issues, it works fine, but it was a little sticky. Perhaps something involving the rails needing to be greased. I’ll look into that. This is what the underneath of the slide looks like –

As far as the caulking and corner seals go, I suspected that I needed to do a little work. And in fact, I do need to do a little work. I noticed it was damp in both corner closets. Didn’t think much of it, with the potential condensation from the cold and heat, but in fact, I need to caulk outside and seal some things up. I’ll get on that next week. Evidently, this is a “thing” with not-brand-new RVs. Ya know, corners get knocked, caulking pulls away. See how this corner seriously needs some attention? No wonder the closet was a little dank!!

And finally, in the neat-and-tidy department, I’m heading out to Oxyclean the rust stains from where we fill the water tank.

I fear I’ve turned into one of those dad-always-has-a-project type people. I was actually getting ready to use the phrase, “If you want things to stay nice …” Whew. Can I have my sloppy joe for lunch now? Awesome.

You have a great day too!

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Sprung

Hey, friends!

This week I’ll be finishing up all that music work that I have due. Deadlines. The weekend was so beautiful, and the holiday coming so quickly, I took three days off. (Oops.)

You know what that meant for me. Yard work – my twisted idea of fun! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this Spring/Summer is all about  beautification. As we’re not building this year, we can certainly put our efforts (and a little cash) into making the place look nice.

This weekend past, we surely got a good start! Mostly small projects that turned into big ones. I needed to get the remaining pretty-rocks out of the hole where the house used to be. As long as I was pulling rocks out of the hole, I figured I might as well build the rock border I wanted on the side garden bed. So I did. Time to weasel up the first year grass and get some air down there. Long as I am aerating the yard, I might as well put down some second-year seed and weasel it again to mix it in and bury it. So I did. Only thing that saved me from doing the whole side yard was that we have to have somewhere un-roped-off to walk.

Anyhow. Fun!! You folks know how I love this crap.

In the domestic department, we got a new fridge. (You might remember the big one is all whacked out.) And it is glorious, friends. Sears had a sale going on downtown, which I mentioned to a neighbor. The neighbor happened to have a fairly new GE model sitting around. We bought it for twenty bucks. The little Sears fridge was on sale for $120. Needless to say, we were happy to give up the thrill of a new model to save the hundred bucks.

A lovely social weekend also! Friday evening, we went to a super-nice gathering at new friends’ gorgeous home. Lovely property, lovely house, lovely people. On Sunday, we were with our adopted North Country family at a big BBQ. (I had never seen so much steak in one place my life.) The similarly aged members of the family and us planned our “Wine Night” for the next full moon. Awesome.

It’s weekends like this that make falling on my ass on the ice all Winter seem worth it.

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