Frozen

All it takes is one pipe.

Part of the reason we moved away from Western Washington was the drab weather. The Pacific Northwest is mild and rainy almost year round and it can get depressing. We wanted some white Christmases.

Three winters later, we’ve had our fill.

It’s not so much the weather itself, it’s the way we are set up or rather not that’s the issue. We originally planned on building then changed our minds so we still reside in a fifth-wheel.

We have a spring at the top of our property and we siphon water down through about a thousand feet of garden hose to the holding tank next to the trailer. In the winter, that becomes a problem for a couple of reasons.

RVs in general, are not designed for severe weather. You have to insulate – especially when it comes to plumbing. Almost all of the Pex pipes are housed in what’s called the basement of a fifth wheel. It’s an area under the foremost compartment of the trailer with two access doors into an area about two feet in height. It’s way too small to crawl into to do maintenance and doesn’t have a heat source.

Because of the freezing, we’ve gone through three water pumps and then there’s always the occasional water leak because we’re not experts on this sort of thing and something comes loose from time to time – it’s inevitable.

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Who is supposed to climb in to deal with this stuff? Certainly not a full-grown man so you know who has to slide in and do the maintenance? Me. And it’s not easy. First I have to remove all of the insulation then it’s dress-down for the job. Gloves, pants, a coat, then tools and a flashlight and I go in.

We open the hatch and I have to crouch down then slide in. I had to remove a structural cross-member to get to the area I needed to be the first time then hammer it back into place when I was done. Don’t have claustrophobia and plan on doing this.

I have to slide the tools in first and push them around ahead of me because there’s no turning around or turning over once you’re inside. If the yellow jackets have decided to winter in the place, watch out for them too. They sting when they’re sleepy I found out.

I get in and do the repair crunched up and craning my head to see properly while my husband provides moral support from just outside. We run the water before I exit and he pulls me out by my heels once I reach a certain point. Then in goes the insulation again and we have to screw the hatches shut because our cats use them as cat doors if we don’t.

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Then we wait for the next mishap.

A couple of weeks ago when the deep freeze moved so far south that Texas froze, we spent three days without running water. It was about zero at night and the ice had become especially thick. Something somewhere would not allow the water to circulate. .

We bought an extra heat fan, a heat lamp that was placed carefully where we could see and watch it, we put heat tape on the Pex pipe most prone to freezing, we opened all of the cupboard doors that linked to the basement, and we put an extra heater right in front of one of those sets of open doors.

Still nothing for three days.

I doubled my efforts to find the problem when it became evident that the end of the cold-front was nowhere in sight. I checked that the defrosting arsenal was plugged in. All OK. Where was it frozen?

I pulled the heated hose out of the water tank and looked. There it was – the very end, which was a small splice of  regular garden hose was filled with ice. I took it off and we were open for business again. Or so I thought.

Still no running water. Then it occurred to me that maybe I insulated so well the  heat wasn’t reaching the pipes. I had used spray-foam so I set about cutting and ripping the toughened insulation out from around them.

Within twenty minutes, we had water.

Now we needed more water. Time to gather up and wind the hoses onto the brackets we’d mounted on the walls of a small shack. Once they are in, we light a propane heater and shut the door for a couple of hours until they’re thawed. Then up the hill again with the hose to the spring.

We could probably dig a trench and lay pipe but we don’t know the first thing about heavy equipment operation and so far, we’ve done everything here by hand.

Besides, why spoil a good time?

Out come the straws for who gets the first shower.