The Small Small Trailer

An essay in inadequacy.

I’ve been wanting to write more about the vehicle that was our home for over a year after we sold our house back west as it deserves honorable mention. We’ll never forget the time we spent safely tucked behind it’s half-inch walls. The trailer is a 20′ Jayco Lite with canvas pullouts on each end. It was designed as a camper trailer … the kind you take the family for a weekend campout in, not live in for a year. That was not our plan, I assure you.. it just happened as some things do.

When I spotted it in an ad, I was sucked in by the extra amenities and the price. Plenty of room for the job as I saw it at the time. It came with a TV, radio, almost a wood stove (renovations had been started for the project), an air conditioner, central heating and something else so appealing I’ve forgotten what it was. It also came with a badly rotted floor which I didn’t know about at the time. The rest was standard.

We spent a summer living in the thing expecting to find a property with a house. We didn’t, and ended up tubed in for a year too long. The single table inside was only big enough for my son and his computer so I spent a lot of time doing whatever in our bunk at the rear or in the shed we half-built. My husband even moved his TV and Xbox outside during the summer. Just too cramped.

The sink was too small, the bathroom was too small and the hot water heater was glitchy and it became an art form to pull a shower off in the approximately six minutes available if the water didn’t boil over first. The pipes froze solid during the winter and imagine doing dishes outside in zero degree weather at a makeshift table. It happened.

We managed to break not one but two windows and had to tape them up and when the freezing temperatures hit, we had a major problem on our hands what with the canvas walls of the pullouts. We were clearly unprepared. That seems to be the story of our lives.

We ended up putting rigid sheet insulation and plywood around the walls and over the roofs of the pullouts but zero degrees doesn’t care. The rain had a tendency of finding a way through all the tarp we put over it too. Wet mattress pads, sheets and pillows were the order of the day. I don’t know how we survived but we did.

Some time during the summer the rotten floor made itself apparent and we crawled under the contraption to shore up the floor with two by fours to prevent a “yard sale” while driving down the freeway at sixty-five miles an hour.

There isn’t much between the outdoors and the humans either in a canvas pullout. One night the roof caved in on my face. I could feel paws on top of me as my husband half slept. When I screeched at the cat, he said “are you sure it’s the cat?” Helpful. One night shortly after we’d set up camp on our new property, we heard something that sounded big scrape up against a trash barrel outside just feet from our heads. My husband continued to take the outside position in the bed.

Last fall we got a fifth wheel for a temporary upgrade, not knowing for sure when we’d be able to build a real house but our fifteen year old insisted that he didn’t want to see the Jayco go to waste. He’s a teenager and still occupies it’s space.

We were quite happy to say goodbye and move next door forty feet away. At least we no longer have to worry about Mr. Foot reaching his hand under the canvas wall and making away with my husband.

 

Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

We are afraid of it as we’re unfamiliar with it’s inner workings and are concerned it may blow up at any moment. It’s not the heater’s fault nor that of anyone involved with it’s design or installation; they’re just suspicious-seeming by nature. It doesn’t help that we’re ignorant of such things despite over a year of living off-grid in an RV.

When we first got the thing, we had recently seen an episode of Mythbusters wherein the guys purposely removed all of the fail-safe measures on some water heaters and cranked the heat up. The tanks shot hundreds of feet into the air after smashing through mock ceilings without effort, giving my husband and I pause as to what our own rocket/heater might be capable of. But let’s back up.

When we came by our fifth wheeler it had been gutted and refitted for use with city hookups such as electricity rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model. It arrived promptly and we managed to get it nestled into the side of our RV without much ado. We carefully hooked up the gas, checked for leaks and lit her up.

Everything went fine as we turned the bathtub spigot on and off to check the rising temperature but the water got hotter and hotter and stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we exchanged the old faucet for a new one and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down for a second time to save our very lives lest we recreate that episode of Mythbusters.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

We needed a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We gave them a call and explained the strange behavior of our water heater and made an appointment. Although they didn’t normally deal with RV type systems, they were willing to come take a look. We kept the unit shut off while we waited for our savior- his elevated status growing every day we went without the ability to shower.

Then the day arrived and “he” showed up. He didn’t have six-shooters on his side but he came with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as the repairman stole sideways glances at the beast waiting silently in it’s hole on the side of the fifth wheel.

Finally, our man adjusted his collar and approached the offender with a swagger and a coolness that would make John Wayne jealous. He stared at his foe for a moment or two then reached out confidently and began to manipulate the dials with the authority of a….well…appliance repairman. We stood a good ways back and watched with mixed fear and excitement at the prospect of being able to resume our personal hygiene routines.

Then we heard it; the rocket-like flame of the gas feed shot to life as the man cocked his head and squinted suspiciously at the device while he made his final adjustments. With a satisfied nod he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

His words will haunt us forever; “I turned the heat down.”

 

 

 

Realities

You have to want something to get it out here.

I woke up at 4:00am this morning when the inverter to our solar power system shut off. At this point, it does that early every morning because we did the classic underestimate of power consumption needs. More on solar later. It get’s it’s own post.

I spent about an hour up anyway running on our RV’s batteries with  LED lightbulbs. I had to use my phone’s hotspot because we forgot to hook up the inverter to the RV batteries so we could run a cord inside to plug the modem into.

After going back to bed and waking up about 20 minutes ago, the husband’s still asleep so I got to instruct my son again, on how to turn on the gernerator but he forgot to unplug us from the solar system and into the extension cord he plugged into the generator. We have the modem for internet over here. That was why he was so helpful.

I then had to plug the fridge back in because we’re getting a propane fridge because the electric is a gas hog and when we’re on the inverter, we turn it off for a few hours and keep the door shut.

I also checked the level of our water supply and will have to go up to the top of the property to “turn on” the water. I siphon it all the way across the property to our temporarily outside 55 gallon water tank that holds water for our trailer.

Tired yet? I’m semi used to this but when my threshold for stress is down, I break down also. Most of the time I’m OK but it takes a lot of effort to live out here. I have problems with depression and when that kicks in, it weakens my emotional immune system and makes effort difficult.

My husband is front and center to help and we make a great team but I tend to mentally take on a sense of responsibility for the load. I don’t have to. It’s just habit, I suppose. I’m trying to learn to ask for help and to know that I don’t have to do it alone but when I realize how much there is to do before the snow hits, I get overwhelmed.

I’ll show you what I mean.

To do before the snow hits:

  • skirt both trailers
  • replace our water tank (we found out our water tank has a massive leak after we got it home)
  • seal all panels around the RV basement
  • insulate all pipes and the inside of the basement
  • finish foam insulating the small trailer and do the pipes
  • figure out why the hot water heater is not turning off (we never called someone about that)
  • return the faucet we bought when we thought the old one was broken because the hot water made it work weird
  • come up with a plan to keep the outside water barrel from freezing if we can’t replace the inside water tank
  • figure out how to keep the outside water filter from freezing
  • figure out why the solar panels we added don’t seem to be helping
  • buy more batteries for solar system
  • make sure we have a heating system in place for the basement of the RV
  • finish cleaning up the property
  • finish the roof on the shed when the truck gets home from the shop
  • pack the rest of the garbage to the dump when truck available
  • finish installing miscellaneous hardware around the inside of the trailer
  • finish the laundry (happy thought! I have a washer/drying combo in the trailer!!!!)
  • Work on blog which has become a very happy thought to me

As I said, I suffer from depression. It’s been all of my life give or take a year or two and of course I get treatment for it but it’s especially bad right now. Luckily, I’ve discovered blogging. 🙂 I can now “talk” to people about how I feel and bitch about all of the hard work I have to do living out here.

I know this has all been a choice and I would do it again. Zero regrets. But that damned to do list…..

What My Fifth Wheel Looks Like To Me

A translation.

No, not a turkey. I am temporarily out of my own pictures pertaining to RV repair.

I didn’t know how to install a water pump so I went to see the local RV repairman last week. He’s probably been doing this for about 100 years now and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about customer service anymore. When I asked him about the wiring he said in an extremely tired and irritated voice while gesturing violently at the water pump I had in my hand “red is red and black is black”!

Well, I made this picture for him to translate to him what I saw. No, he hasn’t seen it nor will he ever. 🙂

wiring3