The Never Ending Repair Cycle

*Update at end.

I keep reminding myself I asked for this. I entered into this adventure willingly but I’m reminded daily that it comes with a price.

Living out here away from the cities and towns and utilities is tough. It’s exhausting and I’m pretty sure my blog will someday morph into “Stories Formerly From Off The Grid”. I’m up for that.

I’m also up in the middle of the night again unable to sleep. There’s either an air or water leak in our RV fresh water system and the pump keeps cycling on and off about three times a minute. It’s driving me nuts. I could go disconnect it but that would mean putting my sloggers on and going outside in the rain to disconnect the pump wires from the battery which might wake my husband.

We’ve tried to track down the cause and have repeatedly reinforced the heat hose going from the external water tank to the pump without success. I’ve listened carefully for the sound of running water inside the RV but haven’t heard anything. I’ve crept around the outside underneath of the trailer looking for drips but have only spotted a drip coming from one of the holding tanks.

My next step is to temporarily fashion an intake hose out of garden hose to replace the heat hose. If that stops the cycling of the pump, at least I’ll have isolated the cause. Then we’ll have to get the heat hose back on without issues – somehow.

On top of the leak problem, our furnace has decided to stop working. Sweeps of the online RV forums have given us some clues as to what might be amiss but now we’ll have to open an outside access panel that’s sealed tight with some kind of goo to access the fan reset switch, if there IS one. Sigh.

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But wait – there’s more! We accidentally put bad gas in the smaller of our two generators which effectively gummed it up. In an effort to fix it, I accidentally stripped a mechanism inside the carburetor so it’s JB Weld time. Hope that works. In the mean time we’re using the gas hog generator.

We tried to install a propane refrigerator to replace the electric one but after having it sit in the middle of our fifth wheel kitchen-hall-dining room for about a month while we tried to get the used gas model to actually work, it’s tucked back into it’s nook and suddenly I don’t mind that it’s responsible for about half of our energy consumption.

I’m ready for some amenities…and bed.

Update: We took the face off the water pump and lo and behold: there was a tiny pebble jammed in the intake valve causing it not to close all the way. It sure feels good to solve a problem and not have to listen to that confounded thing go off constantly!

Fixed the drain hose too. I forgot to mention that one. 🙂 Two jobs to go….

 

Featured Image by  Christopher Burns on Unsplash.

 

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 an adventure – sort of.

When we bought our fifth wheel RV it had been 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.

When the UPS guy dropped off it off, we eyeballed it with suspicion.  We wondered if we’d just come into possession of a device capable of launching into the stratosphere as we’d recently watched an episode of Mythbusters featuring an experiment with hot water heaters.

The team on the TV show had disabled all of the fail-safe measures on several tanks then set the temperature dials to maximum. Upon overheating to the point of exploding, they blew open at their weakest points – the bottoms – launching them hundreds of feet into the air.

We wondered how far our mini-rocket might be capable of traveling under the wrong circumstances.

We wrestled the device into its compartment on the side of our RV and hooked up the gas and water. We checked for leaks then lit her up.

We turned the bathtub spigot on to check the temperature of the water but it got hotter and hotter then stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we changed out the faucet and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down again.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

It was time for a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We made an appointment for an onsite visit.  By now, we’d come to see the repairman as a potential hero and his status grew with every day we were unable to take a hot shower.

Then the day arrived and the repairman showed up – armed only with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as he stole sideways glances at the beast that waited behind the access panel that said “hot”.

Finally, he adjusted his collar, turned, and approached his foe with a swagger that would have made John Wayne proud. He opened the hatch, squinted into the darkness and went to work.

We stood back and watched nervously. What if he couldn’t fix it? What if we had to send it back for another? What if this cost us an arm and a leg?

Finally, we heard the rocket-like swoosh of propane igniting as the man cocked his head and made his final adjustments. We tried in vain to read his poker face as he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

Suppressing a grin, he told us “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. 🙂

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