Plans Change, Change Again, And Reader Question

Hitch itch is definitely a real thing.  It’s that feeling us travelers get when we are stuck in one place for too long.  But in today’s environment it feels selfish, if not outright dangerous, not to think carefully before we change locations.  Initially our plans were to head to Charleston for our grandson’s birthday party, but unfortunately South Carolina is in a full Covid tailspin right now, and both of his parents work in the restaurant industry.  Then we talked about going to see our daughter in Minneapolis and even scored a hard to get site at a nearby campground.  Unfortunately despite more rigorous restrictions there the kids both work in restaurants as well and again after long discussions with them they felt it was too dangerous.

That left us unsure what to do.  We could stay in Texas, but as temperatures are 106 well before noon at this writing, we really wanted to find a place somewhere north.  After much discussion, we thought Lee could look for a seasonal job which would provide us a place to stay and a new area to explore.  We have never looked for a job mid season and weren’t exactly sure what we would find.  Thankfully there are always opportunities, and within five hours Lee had found a job, had the interview, and was made an offer.  We are both excited because the job does not involve working with the general public and is in a small town in Minnesota.  It is three hours away from my daughter so if things do calm down we will be able to see them.

I was worried about what opportunities we would have given the state of things, but am pleased to report there are always jobs out there.  This one even pays well, and has the opportunity for overtime.  Perfect really for what we need.  Which leads me to answering a question that a reader asked.  We love answering reader questions by the way, and you can feel free to email us at camperchronicles@gmail.com anytime.  Here’s the question:

If you two were starting now or for anyone who is starting in 2021 based off the knowledge you have:
Would it be better to wait?  Personally I would wait.  There is a ton of change associated with the first six months of the lifestyle and I don’t think I would want to throw a COVID world into that.  I tend to be risk averse though.  I imagine Lee feels differently – Trace. 
I think it depends on your primary motivation; in general I don’t think other people are the best barometer of what makes ME happy. But if it were me, I don’t think I would wait. I think the virus is coloring things a little, so if you want to wait a few months and see if things get better, then do that. – Lee
Would it scare you too much?  Absolutely.  It was a huge leap for me.  Again I am sure Lee feels differently. – Trace
Nope. I tend to figure out the things that I am worried/scared about and then address them. If I can’t address them, then I try to minimize them. I am extremely risk averse, as well, but I also know that nothing ever happens without eventually taking that first leap. – Lee
Are jobs still there and are they just as good today? Thankfully yes.  I actually think they are better.  As the baby boomers get older many are leaving the lifestyle which opens up more job opportunities.  The pay is better and the environment is changing for the better imho.  – Trace
There are ALWAYS jobs. Every day I get 5-10 emails from Work Kamper News  from places that have immediate openings. Someone either never showed up, or they came and left. There are more camphosting jobs than anything else, but the other stuff is out there. – Lee
“Anything” you and Lee can offer I would value. I would never want to discourage anyone from the lifestyle, but timing does matter.  If you are in a situation to hold tight until there is a vaccine that would be my choice.  The other situattion that would have worked for me was if I was going into a long term work kamping situation.  That would give you time to settle into living in an RV and keep you in one location for awhile. – Trace  
Hoo boy, “anything” is a big word, and the spaces between the letters are infinite. If I could go back to me in 2014 I would tell myself a few things: don’t skip over something because you might get to it later. That usually doesn’t happen. So take every opportunity. I would also tell myself to try and leave as much baggage behind as I could, and get rid of as much I could as I went along. Wherever you go, there you are. – Lee
Hope this helps and take care.

 


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  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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June 2020 Budget

The only good thing that has come out of Covid is Lee and I have been able to save some money.  After several months we have managed to put $9,000 in savings and still buy gifts for lots of people we love.  We are finally starting to travel in July, and things will change, but we will have some additional income to offset those costs.  More on that in a post in the near future. As always for more details see below.

 

Clothing –  Lee bought a new pair of shoes and I bought some pajamas.  My old ones were six years old and literally falling apart 🙂

Dining Out – It’s nice to be in budget in this category.  It’s all pizza, fast food etc.  It’s one of the few ways we can treat ourselves.

Entertainment – Books, books, and more books!

Gifts – We bought presents for so many people this month and donated to the Center for Policing Equity through a program at my work where they matched the donation 100%.

Home Repair – Unfortunately we had to buy a new ice machine.  The last one only lasted 6 months which really bummed us out. On the other hand, it runs nonstop from when we wake up to when we go to bed. An ice machine is just not something we are willing to do without though.

Truck Fuel – Love love seeing these low costs.

So that was the month.  Lots happening soon will see how that goes.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

Class of 2014 Update

Since I had some time on my hands, I thought I would take a few moments and give some updates on the RV Dreams Class of 2014.  As many of you know we started this journey by attending an RV-Dreams rally back in the spring of 2014.  While we were there we made friends with a large group of people who were all planning on going on the road that year.  Although I have lost track of some of them, I wanted to take a moment and provide updates to show that this lifestyle really varies wildly for everyone in it.  I do see some patterns so it seemed fitting to take some time to commemorate six years from the event.

It is important to note that there were two rallies that year and many people went on the road that I either met later or never met at all.  As able I will talk about those folks as well, because their journeys often intersected ours and again they help show the trends and variation.

Front row from Left:  Ben, Jo, Eileen, me, Cori, Deb, Sue, Eileen,and Guy.  Back row from left: Craig, Lee, Gene, Steve, Greg, Linda, Scott, Kelly, Bill, Pam, Red, Jo, and Mario.

First and foremost I should mention that after 12 years on the road Howard and Linda from RV-Dreams have finally settled into a home.  They downsized to a Class C and traveled in it for awhile and ultimately ended up in the Villages in Florida.  They still are having rallies (COVID has slowed that down) and provide mentorship to couples.  Linda has started her own business and Howard just got his real estate license so they are definitely keeping busy.

Another couple who has had a significant impact on us is Bill and Nancy.  We met them at the first rally and several times since, and they have been extremely supportive to us over the years.  They downsized their Class A into a smaller model and are also living in Florida.  I know they are staying busy, because I have rarely met people with more energy and we are very happy for them.

But onto our group, and these are listed in no particular order.

Lee and Tracy – We are still in our original fifth wheel, and although occasionally we talk about changing out we have so many upgrades in this one it doesn’t make a ton of sense for us.  We had our first grand baby this year and have talked about buying a piece of property, but again the location is an issue.  We have three kids in three states and our parents are in two others.  Having the ability to travel actually works best for us with family time.  We have talked about stopping, well I have, but Lee like Deb could do this forever.  We worked multiple seasonal jobs on the road, but recently I started a corporate job again and we are going to see what traveling with the new job looks like.

Cori and Greg – We bonded over Cori and I working on the road and we were super sad when they finally sold their Class A.  It was a second home to us and we had many wonderful gatherings in it.  They downsized to a Chinook and have traveled successfully in a much smaller space and have bought a piece of property that Greg refers to as the Center for Mental Wellness in Texas near Cori’s dad. Cori has worked part-time for her employer this entire time and Greg has been running a very successful solar business.

Kelly and Bill – They like us are first time grandparents this year and once again our lives are following strikingly similar paths.  They are one of the few couples that are still in their original rig and they seem completely happy with their choice.  Although having conversations around buying a piece of property they have not decided on where, although location of their grand daughter is definitely a factor.  Bill is installing solar for Greg which allows them to travel and generate income.

Steve and Deb – Steve has kept his corporate job this entire time and has managed to work and travel very successfully.  Most of the credit goes to Deb who plans all of their routes.  They have definitely logged the most miles of all the couples, although with a brand new grandson and kids getting married they are staying mainly on the west coast this year.  They are also still in their original rig and again seem very happy with their choice.

Jo and Ben – Traveling nurses they worked for several years in various states and eventually sold their RV and moved back to Colorado.  That wasn’t a perfect fit though so they bought another RV and started talking about going back out on the road at least part time.  They have also talked about buying a piece of property, but location has not been finalized yet.  When you have the whole country to choose from and family members spread out picking one place is not always an easy choice as many of us have discovered!

Ellen and Mario – Ellen and Mario sold their house and went on the road and then left the road when they found their dream house in Florida.  They bought another RV and part time now and Ellen has worked on and off corporate jobs through the years.

Eileen and Gene – They sold their Class A and then bought another one, but ultimately settled in Florida to take care of Gene’s mom.  Rose is in her 90’s and going strong but Gene as the only child wanted to be closer to her.

Sue and Guy –  They sold their Class A and bought a toy hauler and have been traveling full time with some stops for health issues.  The last two seasons they tried work-kamping and really liked it and are traveling as we speak. They bought a piece of property in Georgia near their kids pretty early on but as of yet are still living in their RV.

Jo and Craig – They switched from a fifth wheel to a Class A and although I have largely lost track of them last I heard they are traveling between PA and Texas.  They have a pretty regular route as far as I know and are still living full time in their RV.

Pam and Red – They changed from a fifth wheel to a toy hauler pretty early on and have had a piece of property in Arkansas from the beginning.  They have made lots of improvement to it over the years and spend time in the summer leading RV caravan trips which they love.

Linda and Scott –  I know the least about what they are doing other than the fact that they switched from a fifth wheel to a Class A and spent several years working in Texas.

That covers the folks in the pictures but here are updates on others we have met along the way.

Sharon and David – They changed fifth wheels pretty early on and are currently taking a travel break while they take care of Dave’s mom who broke her hip.  They like to stay close to her because of health reasons, and have worked a variety of seasonal jobs

Jim and Diana – They kept their RV the entire time, but have recently bought property in Michigan.  They love to winter in Florida and have worked a variety of seasonal jobs and volunteer jobs to supplement income throughout the years.

Jim and Barb – They downsized their RV into a truck camper and have bought a piece of property in the Dakotas.  They were the first of the group to build a Barndominium and inspired many others to do something similar.

Linda and Steve – They get the most adventuresome award as they sold their Class A, moved to Europe, and are traveling in a Class B.  They stayed in France through Covid but have just started traveling again.  Very cool.

Dino and Lisa – They changed RV’s, got off the road awhile, came back on the road, and are buying a piece of land.  They are working a variety of seasonal jobs along the way to supplement their income.

Rick – Rick has soloed with his dog Maxine for several years.  He upgraded to a new to him Class A and had worked several volunteer jobs throughout the country.

Bridget and Pat – We all met at the RV-Dreams rally and for several years they talked about full timing.  They were taking care of elderly parents, but very recently they put their house up for sale and have gone on the road.  They are a wonderful example of it not really mattering how long it takes for you to get out there.  Sometimes things just take a little longer!

That is the updates and again I think the most important thing is this clearly shows there is no one true way to full time.  I think we have all learned that it is a set of decisions that create a path just like any other life.  One of the beauties though is there are many more decisions because of the freedom the lifestyle allows.  Sometimes though it can definitely feel like too many choices and of course other factors in life often prescribe our choices.  We’ve been blessed to stay in touch with most of these folks over the years and I wanted to end by sharing a few pictures of those large group meetings. We’ve had tons of smaller gatherings of course but its really special when a big group of us can get together.

 

Puppy gatherings are super fun too!

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

Holding Tank Treatments

This post was written by Lee who as you can see is extremely passionate about tank management. 

This is a followup to my post a few days ago about not leaving your gray tank open when hooked up to a sewer connection.  Today I am going to save you money and time talking about “treatments” for your tanks. Before I begin, let me say that what follows is my opinion (except science, which isn’t an opinion) and your mileage may vary. If you have a way you do things, and don’t want to change, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing! I am not interested in changing hearts and minds. If you’ve been RVing for a while then you already know this, and if you’re new then this will hopefully be useful and helpful information.

This is probably going to be a very unpopular opinion based on that fact that I’ve certainly been treated to lots of very strong feelings about this topic. Some of which defy all logic, learning and attempts to prove them! Here’s what my Mom would have referred to as the “Reader’s Digest” version for those who want to cut to the chase: There is no product  that you can add to your tanks that will do anything at all to reduce or eliminate odors or reduce or eliminate poo or paper.

For those interested in the longer format, read on!

There’s nothing you can add to the tank that will do anything because, really, science just does’t work that way. Except in a very few rare cases, or in very large quantities, anything you buy and put in either your black or gray tank is a waste of time and money. You are literally flushing money down the drain.

 

The number one clue that this is the case is that all of the methods and products are sold for use in both black and gray tanks to “break down” solids, control odors, and “lubricate” valves.  Take a moment to think about that. The contents of black and gray tanks are not even remotely the same, so the idea that a few ounces of anything will do all of those things is absurd. The first thing to consider is that whatever you are putting in there is going to be seriously diluted. Let’s take a look at some examples, do some math, and compare the claims to reality! Science is fun! Sorry he gets like this sometimes.  It’s generally worth hearing him out though. – Trace

 

 

Right off the bat, I am going to debunk the much beloved GEO method.  This is essentially using Calgon, water, bleach, and laundry detergent to clean your tank – Trace.   Since the mid 80’s people have been swearing by this method, which was apparently “invented” by someone who uses their RV “at least one weekend” per month, and based on that says that his RV bathroom gets “heavy use”. You haven’t seen “heavy use” of an RV toilet until you live in an RV full time and are prepping for a colonoscopy- Trace.

The method claims that you can keep your tank clean and control odors. Nonsense. There is no such thing as a clean black tank which has ever been used. It describes the result as a tank that is “clean, sanitized and disinfected”. I think that’s a pretty wildly irresponsible claim. I personally guarantee you that there is no way pouring anything down a toilet will result in the tank being “sanitized and disinfected”. I am willing to bet that the guy who invented the GEO method would be unwilling to drink clean water run through his own “sanitized and disinfected” tank.

Anyways, here’s how you are supposed to invoke this sorcery. First, you empty your tanks. Then dissolve 2 cups of Calgon water softener into a gallon of warm water and pour it down the toilet. Pour 1 cup of laundry detergent (or dish soap) down the toilet to clean the tank. Then you are also supposed to add half a gallon of bleach when the tank is about half full to “deodorize, sanitize and disinfect them”. There is no mention of adjusting these quantities for the size of the tank. Apparently this magical elixir is able to adjust it’s properties to fit the tank size!

Which brings me to the theory where you can adjust the ingredients and the amounts and still get the same result. That’s ridiculous. Imagine changing a cake recipe by tripling the amount of flour, adding 4 cups of vodka, and 14 eggs, and expecting to get anything resembling a cake at the end. The fact that the ingredients and quantities vary is a pretty good indicator that this is made-up nonsense. But even if you pick one “official” list of ingredients and quantities, then you will still get the same result; a black tank full of poo and pee and paper with trace amounts of soap, salt and bleach. Calgon is nothing more than water softener.  It’s active ingredient has no beneficial chemical reaction with anything that is likely to be found in black or gray water. In addition, that level of dilution (two cups in 50 gallons) renders it nearly inert.

The theory behind using it is that the water softener makes the inside of the tank slippery so things won’t stick to it. Utter garbage. In order for that to be the case you would need to coat the interior of the tank. Pouring a gallon of solution into it just isn’t going to do that. Instead you will have a gallon of solution in the tank and when you add other things to the tank, it’s just going to mix together and dilute.

The next ingredient in the GEO method is 1 cup of soap. Laundry or dish soap. Again, what does it tell you that you can use either of those things? How about shampoo? Dog shampoo? Dry shampoo? Dandruff shampoo for sensitive skin? An equivalent amount of soap shavings from a bar of soap?

It is possible that the soap will help in breaking up grease in a gray tank, but that’s really only if there is agitation.  If you’re not in motion, that’s not going to happen.  Furthermore, almost all manufacturers of all soap recommend a 1% solution for best results.  For a 50 gallon tank this would be a half gallon, or 8 cups. Using just 1 cup is going to be a severely diluted solution. The next time you wash dishes, try doing it with just a few drops of soap and see what results you get.

I don’t even know what to say about the bleach. , apart from most people think of bleach as “strong stuff” so maybe it’s just in there to make us think we’re really bringing out the “big guns”. I’m not saying to be reckless with bleach, it can be dangerous, but again, science is here to help. To use bleach as a disinfectant, you need one cup per gallon. So again, a 50 gallon tank would need 50 cups, or just over 3 gallons.  And of course, all of these ingredients are only active for a very short time. Most black tanks get filled about every 10 days, and these ingredients would be inert within 3-5 days.

I would also like to point out that there is nothing in the GEO method that “lubricates”. I’ve heard people say that the soap does the trick, but when was the last time you heard of someone recommending using soap as a lubricant? I don’t want to get too personal here but there is a reason smart people don’t use soap as a sexual lubricant.  If you ever tried you know it is not very effective. – Trace

Soap breaks up oil, it’s not a substitute for it. Dish detergent might make a finger slippery for a few minutes to get a tight ring off, but it’s not a method to lubricate a mechanical device such as a gate valve. And if you think that any of this stuff makes the inside of the tank itself more slippery, and allows more stuff to drain out, that’s not how fluid dynamics works. In order for that to work, you would need to coat the inside of the tank just like greasing a cake pan before using it. The lubricant wills only going to work where it is applied to the material, and that material would have to be clean and dry.

The inside of your tanks have not been clean or dry since the first time you used them. Also, the tank is made of a plastic that’s pretty well hydrophobic, so not much sticks to it. Mostly what’s in a tank that smells bad isn’t sticking so much as floating or sitting under the water, and most of it goes away when you empty the tank.

 

But what about all of the other products available that are specifically formulated to do all these things, using “chemistry”  to somehow magically convert solid and liquid human waste and paper in the case of black tanks, and oil, hair and food particles in the case of a gray tanks?

Bunk.

Every product available commercially is made up of more or less the same stuff. It’s all varieties of soaps and salts and perfumes. None of it can work magic. There is no science that supports the claims they make, and the same principles of what I described with the GEO method go for other chemicals and substances. Just because a word is hard to pronounce, or we don’t know what it means, doesn’t mean it isn’t bound by the laws of physics and chemistry.

There are very few things that can actually be used to treat black water, but they require time to work and a balance of bacteria, enzymes, solids and water that is carefully maintained, and none of that is going to happen in a tank that is emptied every 7-10 days. Porta-potty companies used to use formaldehyde, but that’s more or less illegal in every state now. Neutralizers and scents used in porta-potties do and will work, but are pretty expensive, and those tanks are emptied a lot more often than people think.

Also, their primary tactic is volume as truly staggering amounts of biocides and perfumes are used in portapotties. You’ll need a second vehicle and some wealth to be able to afford it and transport it. Also, here’s a fun fact, the blue dye serves no purpose other than to mask the appearance of what it mixes with. I would like to interject here that we spent three summers cleaning bathrooms and we got up close and personal with pit toilets and port-a-johns.  Since the company we worked for was trying to control costs we were limited on the amount of solutions we were allowed to use.  Essentially based on that experience the toilets would smell clean for roughly 24 hours after pumping (less if it was a hot day) and nothing we tried lasted longer than a couple of days.  You know what sort of worked?  Air fresheners. – Trace

So, having told you all about how none of the stuff you can buy will “treat” your tanks, what are you left with? Well, my answer is: nothing. ? If you are using the tanks properly, and managing them the way they were designed to be managed, then they should operate as designed, which means minimal odors and chances of clogging. If you experiencing either odors or clogs, then you are operating the equipment incorrectly, or something is wrong with the equipment.

A holding tank is just that. It “holds” the stuff until you can dump it in a sewer.  It’s just a giant bedpan with some fancy features to make it less gross. Some people think when they’re hooked up they can leave the black tank open to drain directly to the sewer. Don’t do that. If you leave the black tank open to drain directly into the sewer, the liquids will run out and the solids will not and eventually you will end up with a pyramid that is rock hard like concrete. Likewise, you should use plenty of water when you flush, just like at home. If you are stingy with the water, which some people do to maximize how long they can boondock without dumping, then you are upsetting the design balance.

Using special toilet paper is not the solution using more water is. I’ve also heard people talk about only using their black tank for poo, and peeing elsewhere and/or putting toilet paper in a trash can or bag. Again, not having enough liquids in the tank will make it more likely to clog. Paper in and of itself is not a clogging problem.  It will fall apart if any pressure is put on it at all. Clogging is caused by solids, not water or paper, and making sure you have plenty of water in the bowl is the solution.

ANYTHING else that goes into the black tank is going to be a problem. Anything but toilet paper will clog it. Paper towels, wipes, whatever. If it’s not pee, poo or toilet paper, don’t flush it. The brand or type of toilet paper doesn’t matter. All that “swirl it in a glass of water” nonsense is a waste of time. Your RV tank is not a septic system, it doesn’t need septic safe toilet paper. Any toilet paper is OK if you use a bowl of water when you flush and you dump the tank when it’s full instead of only partially full.

And finally, the one thing you can do that will actually be worth the time and effort is to rinse the tank. And by rinse, I mean rinse it out by filling it with water and then emptying it. Dump it, then fill it and dump it again. When you dump the tank, most of the stuff in it will come out, but there will be some that is left behind.  That’s the nature of solids and fluids and gravity.  If you repeat the dumping and filling process, more stuff will come out every time.   You don’t have to do that every time you dump, but once every four or five dumps  will help prevent a buildup of sludge. And whenever possible, drive with the blank tank at least 1/3 to 1/2 full. The acceleration and deceleration of driving will slosh the liquids and solids around break up a lot of the solids, and much more will get cleaned out when you arrive and dump.

Speaking of which, don’t bother pouring ice down the toilet. It will melt long before you get any scrubbing benefit. This is another myth that persists even in the fact of basic science.

Hopefully this was useful information, and you will save yourself some money you can use for more fun stuff. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask them!

UPDATE: I got a question that I was originally going to do a full post on once we started traveling again, but I decided to just go ahead and answer it here and I will update it again with pictures once we start traveling again. 

A reader (hi Jami!) asked about the heavy particles (sediment) that sit on the bottom of the gray tank, and how they can thicken as time goes by. They use a hose to “blast” down the toilet to break up stuff in the black tank, but you can’t really do that with a sink, and even if you could, the “P” traps and other turns would essentially negate the force of the water by the time it got to the gray tank. In particular the reader was concerned about staying put for a longish period of time, and how much sediment they might be building up by not being able to “scrub” the tanks by driving with them 2/3-ish full.

This is an excellent question, and one that I myself pondered about a year ago because we were sitting still for a long time ourselves. I noticed that we did very little actual travelling, and we were basically going from a 4 month stint of gate guarding to a 5 month stint at a summer gig, and not doing a lot of traveling. So I started thinking about how I could solve this problem before it became a problem, because filling up the gray tank and emptying in the same way as rinsing the black tank would tank a lot longer, because it’s a much bigger tank. So, last Spring I decided to try an experiment. We use a Flush King at the very end of the line on the rig, instead of just a black cap, for a variety of reasons. (Don’t let the apparent size of it worry you, the entire valve assembly rotates around the bayonet fittings, so it can be adjusted a full 360°!)

 

Reason #1, it’s clear plastic, so when I am dumping tanks, I can see what’s happening. It really is good to have an idea of what’s coming out of your tanks and going down the sewer line. If you can’t see, you don’t know. This allows me to monitor how fast things are moving and what’s moving. When I rinse the black tank, I know we’re as clean as we can get when I fill it up and all I see is clear when I dump it.

Reason #2, when I take off the cap, there is nothing in the cap. NOTHING. Because there’s a valve there, anything left in the pipe that might drip down, especially when I lift the front end to hook up, stays behind that gate where it belong, until I hook up a line and open the gate. I never get so much as moisture on my hands.

Reason #3, if there’s a leak in either of my valves, I’m going to know because that clear part is going to have something in it. No surprises!

Reason #4, twice in all of our time doing this, we have had “clogs” in the process of emptying the black tank, in both cases, it was a result of sitting in one place for too long boonndocking and trying to make the tanks last longer by using as little water as possible with each flush. So putting a hose on the Flush King and pushing water into the clog broke it loose.

This was the foundation of my experiment, because I was not worried about the possibility of a clog. I also knew that our rig rides a little “nose-high” when we’re hooked up. Not a lot, but a little. And I know that the outlet for my black and gray tanks is rear-facing. And finally, one of my favorite gadgets, the water meter.

This uses garden hose threads and can go anywhere inline between the spigot and your rig, and you can use it to keep track of how much fresh water is going into your rig. It’s incredibly handy to be able to know this stuff. You can use it when filling up your fresh water tank, you can use it to keep a running total of how much water you use in a day, or a week. And, if you want to know how much capacity a tank has, you can zero out the counter, and fill up your completely empty black or gray tank, and once it’s full, the meter will tell you how much it holds. If you have, for example, a 50 gallon gray tank, and you do this, and it takes 45 gallons, that means you have 5 gallons of gunk. (This is assuming that you are getting an accurate reading. The way to test that of course, is to fill something like a five gallon bucket, or a 1 gallon jug, and see if the meter is accurate. I’ve lost 4 of these things by forgetting to take them off the campground spigot, and they’ve all been accurate.)

So my method was to empty the gray tank completely right before we hit the road to travel for 5 or 6 days. Normally I try to travel with at least a half tank that first day to get some good sloshing going. But in this case I completely drained it and left the gray valve open, but closed the Flush King valve. We hitched up and drove all day, at least 6 or 7 hours. When we arrived at our campground I hurried back to the outlet and saw that the clear plastic pipe was indeed completely full. During the drive, what was in the gray tank had slid out and down the line and stopped at the valve. I hooked up a sewer hose and pulled the Flush King valve open and…….nothing. Nothing happened. I looked closer and saw that what I thought was gray water with a lot of white flecks of grease and food bits in it was actually more like a really, really, REALLY thick milkshake, or like a sediment sausage. It was just sitting there and not budging. I gave it a minute and just when I was starting to think I might need to start putting some water down a sink drain or maybe hook up a hose to blast from the outside, it verrrrrrry slowly started to ooze out and down the sewer hose. It took forever, because it was mostly sludge and hardly any liquid, but gravity eventually pulled it down into the hose. And there was a lot. I would say that there was at least 2 feet of that sludge that had to drain out and then it took rinsing some water down the sewer hose to break it up and speed it down the drain. I wasn’t really worried, because although it was dense, it wasn’t packed, and although it wasn’t really wet, it wasn’t dry either. It just took a while for it to move. I then closed the Flush King valve, but left the gray valve open, because I didn’t want to pack any gunk that might be sitting in the gray valve into the seal. We took showers and did dishes and I did laundry and once the gray tank was as full as I could get it, I opened the Flush King and let the “whoosh” do it’s job and then closed the gray valve. I did the same thing the next travel day, and got the same result, but with a shorter “sausage” of goop, and it was not as dense. On the third day there was nothing but a few inches in the flush King. So after almost 5 years, I probably drained three gallons of sediment, but that doesn’t mean much, because we spend the vast majority of our time sitting still, which I think contributes. I have noticed that whenever I “slosh” the gray tanks when we’re traveling what comes out is so dark it’s almost black. (Interestingly, a friend of mine recently bought a very old rig and had this same experience and just told me about it the other day!)

My conclusion on this is that this is something you shouldn’t worry too much about, and maybe do it as maintenance step every year, or maybe even every two years. For Jami, who has a 2001 and isn’t the original owner, I would say not to lose any sleep over it while you wait to start traveling again, but as soon as you start to travel, consider starting to work on clearing this stuff out. Not because I really think it’s that big of a deal, but you will get peace of mind, which isn’t nothing.

I highly recommend doing it while driving over the course of several days, so you aren’t living in a rig that’s jacked up all day waiting for this stuff work it’s way out. And only when you are going to be on full hookups at the end of each driving day so you can get more water in the system to keep anything from drying out. Tanks that are in constant use are always wet, and gray tanks get filled faster and more frequently so you don’t have to worry about this stuff hardening, but it IS a good idea to try to keep the tanks as clean as you can, at least in my opinion. Once we started traveling in a few weeks I will be doing this again because I want to see how much has accumulated in a year, and I also want to get some pictures and maybe some video with which I will update this post. Thanks again for the excellent question, Jami, and hopefully this is helpful.

If anyone else has any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments!

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

Trying to Get Our Life Back

As many others who are full time RVers, Lee and I have been talking about how to get moving again.  The summer is ticking away, and for the first time in a long time we have a steady income that allows us to travel, but because of COVID concerns we have stayed in place.  Don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly grateful to Cori and Greg for allowing us to stay with them so long, but hitch itch is a real thing, and I am anxious to get moving again.

Part of those feelings come from the fact that an RV is a small space.  Generally that trade-off is worth it as it is the vehicle (literally) that allows us to visit cool places, but when we are in one place for a long time I start to miss having more living space. Unfortunately the COVID situation is incredibly fluid and the south in particular has experienced a spike in the number of cases.  Lee is high risk because of his 35+ years of smoking and heart attack, so we need to weigh the desire to move with our very real concerns about protecting his health.

There are two very strong factors though that are pushing us to move.  One is the weather, and the desire to head north and/or to higher elevations to beat the heat is strong.  We have done an outstanding job all these years of following the weather and for the first time are experiencing a summer in the deep south.  That forces us inside, which exacerbates the feeling of confinement in small spaces and the combination of the heat and COVID has stopped us from almost all outdoor activities.

The second factor is that my grandson turns one on July 20th.  I feel really lucky that we have the ability to be with him on his birthday, but unfortunately COVID keeps getting in the way.  After much discussion, Lee and I agreed that we would head east on July 5th and would take our time getting there.  We have rushed through Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia more times than I can count, but we have time (and I have taken no vacation this year) so we can stop and see a few things and finally get our state stickers.  We were fine with working through individual restrictions on places we wanted to see and still felt we could be both safe and enjoy our travel.

Unfortunately we have experienced problems on the other end.  Both my daughter and my son-in-law work at restaurants, and those restaurants have both been open for a few weeks.  South Carolina has thrown caution to the winds on their reopening strategy and not surprisingly people in both of their restaurants have been exposed to Covid.  Testing in South Carolina is still very slow, and people are waiting 3-7 days to get results.  Once those results come in, everyone else gets tested and it’s a two week cycle before people know if they have it.  Craziness.  Especially since I got a 15 minute test in Texas and got my results same day recently.  They were negative by the way!

**As a side note, before deciding to eat in your favorite restaurant be aware that many states do NOT require testing or require reporting if one of their employees gets sick.  Restaurants do NOT have to close, as I previously thought.  Personally we are only doing carryout and then microwaving once we get home.  The only exception to the microwave rule is fast food restaurants who seems to be taking all the right precautions. 

There is no point in heading east if one or both of them get sick, so we are waiting to see.  And we understand that even if we head that way we could need to divert at the last minute.  These concerns are nothing of course compared to their lack of income and their concerns about being sick, but for someone who likes to have a plan in situations like these it is tough.  I also miss my grandson terribly and although we Facetime frequently I really miss holding him.

All that being said, I need to put my husband’s health first.  And it is difficult when so many people refuse to social distance and wear masks in public.  I strive very hard to keep politics out of this blog, but when they intersect with my RV life in such a huge way I feel I can comment. In my opinion it is a small thing to ask to protect the safety of others, but I continually see people in Texas who are mask free and refuse to keep their distance.  In general less than 50% of the people are wearing masks here, and there have been several times when I am the only person with a mask on in a store and that includes the employees.

We still aren’t going out that much, but we have been testing the waters in order to make our decision, and it saddens me to see the behavior.  I understand the strong desire to get back to normal.  I fight with it myself everyday, but I wear my mask just in case.  The day after I got tested and had my COVID free paperwork in hand, I still wore a mask because it was the right thing to do.  Other people wouldn’t know I was just tested and there was a small chance I picked up the virus while getting the test itself.  I would never want to be responsible for getting someone else sick and for me it is a small and reasonable price to pay.

Others feel differently though, and whether that is motivated by politics or selfishness it doesn’t really matter. The general consensus seems to be if you are at risk stay home and let everyone else do what they want.  Well, that’s fine I suppose, if you aren’t in the at risk category, but for those of us who have people who are its a really shitty deal.  Sorry for the language, but the situation is frustrating.  Anyway that is where we are.  I’ll let you know what happens as we get closer to the tentative departure date!


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Tank Valves Open

Written by Lee who takes our tank management VERY Seriously

Before I even get started, I want to point out that this is intended to help people, and the opinions are mine, based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary. I am aware that some people feel differently and do things differently. I wrote this post because I am constantly seeing online discussions about  all the reasons why and why not, to leave either a gray tank, or a black tank, or both (?!?!?!?!?!?!?) open when parked somewhere and hooked up to a sewer line. Most of the time these discussions are about people being parked for a long time, sometimes with a semi-permanent “hard” sewer line from their outlet to the sewer hookup. But sometimes people talk about doing it when they’re somewhere for a weekend. I have seen this discussion literally hundreds of times and I have spent so much time trying to help people, but I am tired of typing out the same things over and over, and arguing with experts who have been RVing for XXX years and know everything, but are still wrong. So now I can just put this link in and walk away. Here’s a spoiler: if you trust me and want to know what to do, and don’t want to read the entire post. Ready?

Do NOT, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, leave your gray tank valve open, for any length of time other than to empty or “dump” and/or rinse the tank.

Do NOT, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, leave your black tank valve open, for any length of time other than to empty or “dump” and/or rinse the tank.

Thanks for stopping by!

Here’s the long version….

Since the first day we owned our rig I have been obsessed with our gray and black holding tanks. (Initially I found that kind of weird but later I was grateful for it – Tracy) There’s a lot of reasons for my obsession, but the number one reason is that I can’t see them. They are hidden above the “belly pan”, (which is the plastic sheeting that protects everything on the bottom of your RV. It’s what you see when you get under your rig and look up) and below the floor of the “basement” storage area. It really stresses me out that I can’t see these things, and inspect them periodically, and even check out the inside of them. As full timers, I am acutely aware of how important these tanks are, and so from day one I have considered taking good care of them to be as important as keeping rain out of the rig. They are also HUGE. In most rigs they are 8-12″ tall and generally 4-5′ long and 2 1/2-3′ wide. Really big. More importantly, they are generally difficult (if not impossible) to remove without doing some major tearing apart of a rig. So you don’t want to have to replace these things, or have to get to them to do any repairs unless you absolutely have to. For me,  I have been trying to make sure that I do everything I can to keep the insides of my tanks as clean and trouble free as is reasonably possible.

Here’s the bottom of your rig. See the tanks? Exactly.

 

The good news is, they are incredibly uncomplicated, and generally give people no trouble. There’s not much to them. Usually, RV holding tanks are made of ABS plastic or polyethylene. They will have an inlet, and an outlet. Some black tanks might also have another inlet for rinsing. On a black tank, they are usually directly below the toilet, and the toilet drains directly into them. That’s a great setup, because you can open the flush valve and look directly down with a flashlight when the water is turned off, and actually see inside the tank. A small portion, at least. In some cases, like ours, the pipe is offset a little between the toilet drain and the tank inlet. For gray tanks, it matters less, but they take drain water from usually at least two sinks and the shower. All of those drains come together into one pipe that then goes into the tank. In some cases there is more than one gray tank.

 

This is what most gray and black holding tanks look like. Not much to them.

 

 

Each tank is emptied or dumped through the use of a gate/blade valve. The valve is a very simple door that is a thin piece of plastic sandwiched between two plastic flanges and rubber gaskets. The rubber gaskets are what make the gate waterproof, but the flanges are what makes it possible for the gate to close.

 

 

For most rigs, there’s a handle for each tank and it’s usually 5 or more feet from the valve.

 

This is the important part! Molded into the flange is a very shallow (1/4″) indentation of the plastic, all the way around the bottom of the opening. This creates a void that is the same thickness as the gate, and the gate slides into and seats in this void. Remember this, because it’s going to come back to haunt you. You can see the void in the picture below, with the arrow pointing to it. Just above it is the edge of the blade that slides down into the void.

When you open your gray valve, liquids from the kitchen, bathroom sink, and shower will flow into the tank.  Then they flow right out through the gate into to your outlet hose and finally into the sewer. Except what goes down the drain isn’t just liquids. In the shower, for example, there’s the water, of course, but there’s also dirt, and oil, and hair, and soap (which is a dissolved solid) and tiny little pieces of you. I know, it’s gross, but it means that at best, the shower water is a solution of various things dissolved in water, and at worst a liquid carrying small solids.

The bathroom sink is not quite as bad, but again, soap, dirt, dust, hair and toothpaste, all going down the drain. If you have a washing machine, again, soap is in that water, the dirt from your clothes, and of course, whatever little schnibblies you had in your pocket, all going down that drain into your gray tank.

The worst culprit is the kitchen sink. Now I know lots of people are reading this and thinking to themselves, “I use a sink strainer religiously, no food EVER gets into my gray tank!” Good for you.  You have successfully kept ALL food particles out of your gray tank, except for the particles small enough to fit through the holes, and the ones that are around the edges of the strainer that fall into the drain when you pull out the strainer and they slip right down into the drain into the gray tank. And of course all the other stuff that sneaks by that you didn’t even notice. Trust me, there’s a LOT more going down that drain than you think.

Depending on your lifestyle and your tank capacity, you are going to fill your gray tank anywhere from every two days to every week. And it’s full of water, hair, soap scum, grease scum, particles of food floating and settled, dirt, all manner of nasty stuff, almost all of which is organic, which is why it smells soooo bad. It’s rotting biological material, which creates it’s own gunk. It’s not so much a tank full of water as a tank full of a solution, which includes a fair amount of sediment, or sludge, and some solids.

To illustrate this, I recently extracted the solids from the water during one of our gray tank dumps. I know everyone is a little different, so this is just us, but I also think we’re all mostly in the center of the spectrum. Here are our details, as pertains to this topic: we haven’t been using the washing machine for months because where we are has a washer and dryer that we can use. And I aggressively try to avoid food getting down the drain. We typically fill our gray tank up every two and a half days. We both shower every day. So let’s see what was in our tank besides water!

When you dump your tank, if there’s nothing blocking it, there’s a WHOOSH as the weight of all that gray water is pushed out of the outlet hole in the tank and out through the gate valve, through your hose and into the sewer pipe. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon, and the average gray tank is 50-60 gallons, so you’ve got nearly 500 lbs trying to push that water through the hole. Water doesn’t compress, so there’s a fair amount of pressure, especially at the very beginning. If you have any kind of a transparent add-on gate between your rig and your sewer hose, or a section of clear pipe as part of your sewer hose setup, you can sometimes see glimpses of white chunks flying past in the water, that’s soap scum and/or grease that you’re seeing. It tends to clump together and since it’s white it’s easier to see.

I decided to use nylon hose, because it’s strong and flexible, and stretchy, but has a very tight weave, letting water out, but no solids or even grease or soap scum. I put it between the sewer outlet on the rig, and the sewer hose. It’s important to note that when I did this, it significantly slowed down the draining process, because the water had to go through the hose, and everything that was caught in the hose. So that “whoooosh” of force that pushes gunk out was much, much less than it usually is, so I don’t think this is everything. Using this less than ideal method, what you see below is what got trapped in the “filter”. That’s about 2 tablespoons of gunk. Plus there was a fair amount of grease coating the inside of the pantyhose, that couldn’t remove from the hose. So that should answer any questions people have about what’s in their gray water besides gray water! (On a side note I had no idea he was doing this and I walked by our outside table and thought the dog had thrown up.  It was super disgusting and I was shocked when he told me it had come from our gray tank. – Tracy)

 

 

So, you’ve opened your valve and dumped your tank. You should close it before it’s completely empty. Once the water flow slows down, close your valve before it trickles or stops. The bottom of your tank includes quite a lot of sludge/sediment, and you don’t want that to get to the gate if you can avoid it. Close the valve and go on about your life. When you travel, be sure to travel with at least 1/2 of a tank of water, or if you’ve been sitting for a long time, try to have a full gray tank on your first travel day. It will slosh around and loosen up the sediment, and when you stop for the night, dump the gray tank as soon as possible. You will be amazed at how much solids are in that water. It will be almost black and be more like a thick milkshake than water. (I know many people will fuss about the extra gas this will cost, but we have done this for years and I am always amazed by how dirty that first flush is after a travel day. – Tracy)

So here’s the part that matters and why you shouldn’t leave that gray valve open. When the valve is open, and water hits the tank from the shower or sink drains, the water will flow right out, but it will leave behind the solids and the sediment. But, the sediment and solids such as are pictured above will slowly flow towards that gate, and eventually, it will slide through, and the smallest bits will settle in that 1/4″ molded recess. That’s bad, but not as bad as what happens next. When you finally close the valve, it comes down like a hydraulic press and compresses that sediment. Then it all dries. And now you have a thin layer of dried “sediment cement” that’s pushed and hardened into that tiny void. Do this enough times and that recess will be completely filled. And then the gate will no longer seat properly, and eventually it won’t even close all the way. The gate is curved, so there will be a LOT of open space, and it will leak gray water into the outlet pipe and every time you take off the cap, you will get a half gallon or so of that water on your hands and shoes. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way to remedy the problem of that void being gunked up short of removing the gate and scraping out the gunk, or replacing the valve. Usually those valves are hard to get to, and if you’re paying someone else to do it, that means expensive.

In summary Lee’s recommendations:

Do what you can to avoid stuff getting down that drain!
But remember that some will always sneak past.
Whenever possible, dump the tank only when it’s completely full, to get the benefit of the water pressure.
Close it before it’s empty.
When you travel after sitting for a while, try to drive the first day with a full tank and dump as soon as you can after stopping for the night.

If anyone has any questions about this or anything else, please feel free to ask them. I’ll do my best to answer them or get an answer, or make something up that sounds plausible.

Coming up next I will talk about holding tank treatments, whether or not they do anything, and if they’re worth the money.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

May 2020 Budget

The only good thing about Covid is it has been very good for our bank account.  Now that furlough is over and I am back on full pay we are socking money away, which is really great.  I have also been buying lots of presents for people which makes me happy.  That was one thing I really missed when we were on a super tight budget and its lovely being able to do that again.  This month we spent $3489.  Details are below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing – I needed some short sleeve polo shirts to wear for work so I was ready for impromptu video calls and even though I found a great deal for $14 each it did add up.

Dining Out – I am actually surprised that we spent this much since we are only doing carryout on occasion.  We do get sick of our own cooking though and occasionally you just want McDonalds.

Groceries – We went over by $100 this month.  Since one of the few things we can do is eat well, part of this is entertainment 🙂

Gifts – Ok really splurged here but again totally worth it.  Buying stuff for other people has given me hours of enjoyment and again since we can do little else, there are worse things to spend money on.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

 

Mothers Day and Memorial Day

It’s been awhile so I wanted to give an update from here in Texas.  I’ve collected pictures from the last couple of weeks to share all at once, so although its a bit of a hodge podge I will try to keep it in order.

First I wanted to mention that Cori and I recently attended a special farmers market.  The event was sponsored by a local food bank and they had a wholesaler come with a truck full of vegetables that were ordered ahead of time online.  The prices were great and we wanted to support the food bank, so since they talked quite a bit about safety and social distancing we decided to give it a try.  When we pulled up the line was already pretty long but we were happy to see most people were wearing masks and initially trying to social distance.  The problem was that they didn’t have anyone calling out the names of the orders that were filled so people kept walking up to see if the bags had their names written on them.  The disorganization was seriously making me itchy and both of us had a hard time not just jumping in, but eventually our bag was done and we were able to leave.  The food was good and the prices were terrific but hopefully for the next event they will have a better system for distributing.

Those of us who pre-ordered had bags on the left and they had a line for walk up purchases on the right. Again nice idea but poorly executed

the one thing that really upset me was the woman in blue who was running the event didn’t wear a mask. That really bugged me since the website specifically talked about masks and social distancing being a requirement. Definitely do as I say not as I do.

Speaking of masks and social distancing as things start to open up, I reached out to someone in the medical industry to talk through my concerns.  Rather than taking my information from a bunch of politicians I decided to trust a medical expert with what is essentially a medical problem.  My question was “Is it time to start relaxing some?” and the answer was “not yet”.  The reason why surprised me though, and I thought I would share it here.  The concern of the person I spoke to wasn’t so much about people dying (this happens), but about the death itself.  It is a long and painful affair for most people, and worse, they are alone when it happens.  Instead of being surrounded by loved ones, because of social distancing people are dying alone, and to the person I talked to that was the worst part of it.  This perspective was one I hadn’t really thought about and convinced me that social distancing and wearing a mask was a relatively small price to pay for sparing someone a painful death away from loved ones.  Just my two cents.

We have been going more places though, and with the help of Kelly and Bill purchased something for Cori and Greg.  As you know Hobie passed away a few weeks ago and the four of us wanted to do something for them.  It took some effort with social distancing but we were able to purchase a memorial and have it engraved.  We picked it up from the artist and put our money in cash under a rock, which was sort of funny, but totally safe.  I loved the way it turned out and really appreciated the job they did.

The small rock is where we put out money 🙂

 

Loved it!

 

Mother’s Day was next and that was a hard day for me.  I am often away from my family on Mother’s Day but would have loved to have been with my daughter for HER first mothers day.  We skyped and I got to speak to all three of my kids which is one bonus for me of Covid.  Two of them work in restaurants and usually work a double on Mother’s Day but they were home and we were able to talk together. And my oldest sent me one of my all time favorite presents, a Oliver blanket that says Best Grandma Ever.  Made me cry.

I am upper left and Lee is upper right. So wonderful!! I will absolutely cherish it.

 

Speaking of social media we finally got to try Zoom and we all got together for a family chat. It was super fun and thanks to my youngest daughter for getting us organized.  Lee put it up on our TV screen which was great as I could actually see their faces.

 

The next couple of weeks were crazy busy with work because we were put on a big project.  That was great because these are uncertain times and it’s always good to be working on something high profile.  It was long days though and it was pretty intense so I was thrilled when the three day Memorial day weekend occurred.  Unfortunately we all decided there wasn’t much we could do outside that would allow for social distancing so we are all staying close to home base and waiting it out.  The small town near us is on the river and the tubing crowds have been heavy all week.  The out of towners are not wearing masks or social distancing so it’s best to just stay away.  I was super impressed by how many businesses just closed down for the weekend to protect their employees but some need the revenue desperately.  I appreciate that they are trying to keep their employees safe as best they can, but wonder how many folks will end up getting sick from this one weekend.

Staying in place really isn’t that awful especially with friends like Cori and Greg.  My main complaint is I still can’t get a haircut and after seeing the new story about the people in Missouri, I feel like I need to continue waiting on that.  Texas hit their peak on May 15th, so we want to wait at least two weeks before doing anything that requires close contact.  On the plus side staying home is definitely helping us save money and we are putting some more money in savings.  That’s good because next week I will find out if I am one of the people being laid off.  A major restructure in our company is happening next week and it’s hard to tell who will be on the final list.  I feel I have done everything I can to show I am a person worth keeping but being relatively new and having a newer boss I just don’t have total confidence.  Whatever happens will definitely determine what our next steps our, so all plans are in jello until then.

In the meantime we continue to stay safe as best we can and keep saving just in case.  Take care everyone and hopefully talk soon.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

Navigating a COVID world

Everyone needs to make their own decision about how much they will quarantine and in our case we have definitely been more isolated than many.  Lee has been concerned about getting COVID because he was a long time smoker and has a heart condition, and in order to support that I rarely left the compound.  Like most people though it has left me feeling incredibly restless, made all the more difficult by the fact that personally I don’t worry that much about getting sick.  I think its extremely important to protect other people though, but as they opened up Texas it became harder and harder to sit at home.

The reality is that in this lifestyle what one of us does has a significant impact on the other.  There is no space to social distance from each, and unlike when we had a house we can’t sleep in separate beds or take over separate areas of the house.  My choices are his choices and vice versa and that has been brought home during this crisis.  For example, we had a plan for Lee to work in South Dakota this summer, but after learning the specifics of the safety measures they were willing to take and the fact that Lee would come into contact with hundreds of people a day, he ultimately decided not to go.  I completely understand that decision, but obviously it also impacts me as we will be staying in Texas through the summer.  It gets hot down here, and for folks that like to follow the weather I think we will have some challenges. Don’t get me wrong, we are both incredibly grateful to have a place to stay, but we were also looking forward to a summer in the badlands, where the elevation keeps in cooler. Plus we were looking forward to a summer of exploring the region and just generally “getting back to normal”.

Before he made his decision we had a somewhat heated conversation about what this looks like over the next several months.  Essentially I have felt it was important to stay at home to avoid putting others at risk, but if Texas was going to throw themselves wide open I wasn’t willing to stay on strict lockdown for the next several months.  Unfortunately that puts him at risk, and we were having trouble finding common ground.  Ultimately Lee agreed that if Texas had 14 consecutive days of declining new cases he would be OK with higher risk activities (ie: haircut, etc).  In the interim he has been softer about me taking short trips out as long as I am masked, gloved, and try to maintain social distancing.

I have spent the last few days going to several places and it has been such a mixed bag of experiences I wanted to share them with you.  Keep in mind we are in Texas where the laws are relatively loose but this may show you what things look like when those rules are loosened.  Here is a summation of those experiences in no particular order.

  1. Home Depot – I intentionally went at 10:30 am on a Friday hoping that I would beat the crowds, but the parking lot was mostly full.  I couldn’t enter through the garden center but instead walked down to a tent and then in the front doors where an employee was keeping track of the number of people.  My main issue with that approach was the employee was not wearing a mask, and I had trouble keeping 6 feet from people when I went in the door.  I made an immediate left and went into the garden center and picked my tomato plants, two pots and soil.  All of the elderly people I saw wore masks and most of the people my age but none of the employees were masked at all.  This particularly bothered me when I came to checkout.  Although there were no lines painted we all naturally fell into a six foot distance pattern, but unmasked people kept cutting through the line.  At least 4 different people did this in the short time I was standing there which kind of defeated the purpose.  The check out person didn’t have a mask either and did not stay behind the plastic.  Mixed experience but I am happy with the tomato plants I bought.

I bought two heat resistant plants I have never heard of. Summer set and solar free. Hope they taste good because all in it cost about $58.

2. Spring Creek Gardens – Unfortunately Home depot didn’t have grape tomato plans so on Mothers Day Cori and I ran up to a local nursery.  It was a very nice place and had beautiful landscape plants but unfortunately hardly any good vegetable plants.  I did get two scrawny grape tomatoes plants but couldn’t find any inexpensive pots.  Worse, only one person there had a mask on.  Yes it was mostly outside, but people were close to each other and social distancing wasn’t always possible.  Plus there were kids because there was a petting zoo which worried me more. We left as quick as we could and again the employees had no masks or gloves.

 

3. Dollar General –  I didn’t think I could handle Home Depot on a Sunday so we stopped at Dollar General to see if they had pots.  Not only did they have a nice selection but about half the people were masked, the aisles were relatively clear, the checkout line had spacing lines for people to stand, and the cashier had a mask and Plexiglas.   I was thrilled to see they were being safe and will definitely be going back!

4. Whataburger – I was hungry after stopping at Home Depot and went through the drive-thru for a sandwich.  I was pleased to see everyone had a mask and gloves and they have not opened their dining room yet despite being allowed for 25% capacity.  I felt completely comfortable and the food was great!

5. Pizza Hut –  In complete contrast on another visit I saw that they were doing curbside drop off for Pizza hut and decided to give that a try.  I haven’t been to Pizza Hut since this entire thing got started and when I tried to social distance they looked at me like I was crazy.  Since they now have curbside drop off I decided to give it a try.  I was only there for a minute or so when the door opened and the same employee from last time walked to my vehicle.  He was holding my pizza box which now has a sealed tag on it, but he had no mask or gloves.  He walked right up to the driver side window and I quickly put my mask on.  He was less than two feet from me and handed me the box and then asked me if I wanted to tip the cook.  I stated I did not and left fuming.  That was twice in a row I had a bad experience and I would not eat that pizza until I could recook it.  I also filled out a COVID specific online survey about the experience and was scathing in my scores.  I rarely do that, but I like Pizza Hut and hate that I don’t feel comfortable eating from there because they are not following their own policies.

6.  City of Gruene – Another day Lee and I ran over to New Braunfels to run a couple of errands and on the way we passed through the tourist town of Gruene. We were both really surprised to see that the town was packed with tourists and only one person had a mask.  All the small boutique shops were open and there was absolutely no social distancing going on.  We didn’t even get out of the car.

7.  Sea Island – When we got to New Braunfels we stopped for pickup of Sea Island.  I absolutely adore their shrimp and although it is a long drive I have wanted it for a couple of months.  I was surprised that their parking lot was very full but we did managed to snag one of the spots that said for pickup.  I had ordered on their app, and wasn’t sure how to tell them I was there so I asked an employee but he said to go inside to get my carryout.  That defeated the purpose so I called the number I saw on the sign and they did bring the order out right away.  The employees were masked and I did not need to go inside, but I didn’t feel great about how full the parking lot was.  I thought restaurants were on 25% capacity but it definitely seemed like there were more people than that.

8.  Auto Zone – Lastly we went to Auto Zone for Lee to pick up a car part.  He masked up and went inside and came out very angry.  Not one person in the store was masked and the cashier gave him attitude when Lee kept backing away because the employee was standing too close.  The person handled his purchase and receipt without gloves and the credit card terminal wasn’t clean at all. Lee didn’t see any lines at all for social distancing in line.  He was so upset that when he came home he wrote an email to the company.  It wasn’t just the complete lack of measures that bothered him but the lack of respect for his safety, and the fact that their website has lots of specific things they are “doing” but they’re not actually doing any of those things.  As he stated in the email he can order every product they have online from Amazon, and next time that is exactly what he will do.

So it was a mixed bag of experiences over a three day period.  I was really happy in all those cases where companies were attempting to keep people safe and really angry when they weren’t.  The anger isn’t so much for myself but for those people who are stuck in their homes because folks won’t follow some simple recommendations.  I want to get out and spend a little money like anyone else but I am going to have to be very choosy about what places allow me to do that.  I say allow because they are making a choice and I get to make mine. And for those of you who may think I am making some sort of political statement, please keep in mind that the major principle of capitalism is I get to choose where to spend my money. 🙂


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

April 2020 Budget

Update:  Lee forgot to add the $404 RV payment (thanks Bill and Ellen for noticing) so the actual monthly costs were $2965.  Still a good month but sorry we missed it. This is a pretty weird month of course because we are strictly quarantining ourselves, but we still managed to spend $2561.  Most of that was food and Amazon purchases.  When the stress gets a little high I was buying presents for people and since even at furloughed wages I made enough to cover it we were actually able to put some money in the bank.  For the details please see below.

 

Campground Fees – Our friends are being incredibly generous and letting us stay with them, but we all agreed it would be fair if we contributed $100 a month for electric and that is what I am putting in this category.

Dining Out – This is the lowest its ever been 🙂  We had pizza one night and Panda Express a couple of times.  I adore their mushroom chicken and am so glad I discovered it in quarantine!

Entertainment – Lee has ordered some books, and this also includes some iPad games I play.

Gifts – OK, I went a little crazy in this category spending $397, but I don’t care.  It wasn’t all Oliver this time, and I am glad I have a job so I can do a little nice for someone I love in my life. Plus it’s a nice little stress relief. (It wasn’t all Trace, though. I bought a little something for my Mom for Mother’s Day. – Lee)

Groceries – We spent $659 and are stuffed to the rafters with food.  Every time I think we need to back off a little there are concerns about something (ie: meat) and we stock up just in case.  If we can’t take it all with us when we go we will donate some to Cori and Greg and in the meantime we all feel better that we have lots of food available.

Truck Fuel – This is the best category because we only used 3/4 a tank of gas in a month.  We aren’t going anywhere, and that is good for the wallet and the pocketbook.

Basically it is one of the best months we ever had but we cant really take credit for that.  Despite Texas opening up we are continuing to quarantine, so I don’t know how much that will change in May.  More about that in my next post though.

(UPDATE: For those who caught it, we DID pay the RV Payment this month, I just forgot to put it in the spreadsheet. $404.03, as always. – Lee)

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.