Seacocks and Spelunking

Jan 25

Seacocks and Spelunking

It’s a funny thing when you tell people you’re going to be RVing full-time. They tend to assume your life will now be margaritas on the beach 24/7. They think of the best times they’ve had in an RV, or, even more likely, the pictures they’ve seen in magazines, and they think that’s the lifestyle. Well, just like anything else in life, it’s part of the lifestyle. But there’s still regular old life that happens, too. Case in point: clogged toilets. This new Airstream of ours has a macerating toilet, which means it shreds up the “contents” of the toilet before it flushes them into the black water tank. I’m not sure why this is considered a useful feature. Perhaps one of you readers can tell me. But I will tell you this. The goddamn macerator gets clogged at the drop of a hat. Oh, this also means our toilet is an electric toilet and anytime the macerator has to strain in the tiniest bit it blows a fuse. Yes, you read that last line correctly: Our toilet regularly blows a fuse. You can buy special RV toilet tissue that’s quite expensive but promises to flush and break up easily. It’s pretty much tissue paper. We’d heard that any toilet paper that was labeled “septic safe” would work, so we bought a roll of “septic safe” Scott 2-ply. This was the first time we discovered what owning a macerating toilet was really all about.  It spun that “septic-safe” 2-ply paper into cotton rope and jammed up good. Learning that lesson, we reverted to regular ol’ Scott one-ply. Problem solved. Except, if you use too much it still sometimes blows a fuse. Now to last night: I was very tired and cleaning my face with a disposable face wipe.  I absent-mindedly threw it in the toilet and flushed. The toilet immediately made the loud buzzing/roaring sound that we now know means the macerator’s jammed. “What did you do this time?” Chris asked from the bed. Here’s some free marital advice: Never ask that question to your spouse. Ever. We went to sleep and figured we’d deal with it in the morning.  The Sealand 8100 Series MasterFlush™ manual says to clear...

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Forgetting to Plan Ahead

Jan 18

Forgetting to Plan Ahead

After about a week in the Bay Area, it was time to get away before the championship game this weekend. Our intention was to make it down to Morro Bay and the Morro Dunes RV Park which is right by the sand dunes to and the ocean. We got a bit of a late start due to some work phone calls but we made it down to Morro Bay around 2:00. Our GPS put us on the wrong side of the park so we called them to find out where the entrance was and that is when we found out that they were full for the weekend, and so are the other RV Parks in town. Since January is such a slow time for campgrounds, we’ve gotten used to pulling up to any park we’re interested in and there being lots and lots of places available but this weekend is the 3 day MLK day holiday so more people are heading to the beach in central California. Oops! This wasn’t a big problem though. We just called head to our next destination in Buellton, CA and the Flying Flags RV Park had plenty of room for us so we continued south and were at our new destination about 90 minutes later. This means we are going to miss a bunch of the coastline touring that we were going to do this weekend including heading up to San Simeon but it also means that we are now 3 days ahead of schedule so we’ll have that much more time down the road. Most of the California coast is experiencing a long drought – the longest since the 1890s. For us, that generally means clear blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. We arrived at Flying Flags RV Park at around 4:30 pm and it was in the upper 80s.  Overnight, it got down to 36 and now, on Saturday afternoon we’re back up to 83 degrees according to my Netatmo weather station. We’re changing clothes more often than the Granthams in Downton Abbey. One of the fun things at this park is that they have a bunch of classic trailers that you can rent and stay in and many of those are...

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Nest Protect Smoke/CO Detector

Jan 11

Nest Protect Smoke/CO Detector

One of the downsides of cooking in a small space is that it doesn’t take much to make the smoke detector go off. In fact, it has been a daily event, signaling that it is almost bacon time. It clears pretty fast but it is a bit annoying. Enter the Nest Protect – a combination smoke/CO detector made by the people who brought us the Nest smart thermostat.  When the Protect detects smoke, it starts with a verbal warning – it actually speaks – saying “Smoke is detected in the kitchen.” If it is something as simple as smoky bacon, you just step towards the alarm and wave your hand at it letting it know that it is ok and there’s nothing to worry about and it will silence the alarm. If you don’t silence it, it will sound the standard piercing alarm which will definitely wake anyone up, particularly in a space the size of an Airstream. Unlike regular smoke detectors that start beeping when the battery runs low, the Protect will actually announce that its battery is low.  In addition, it will notify you via the iPhone or Android app (a Windows Phone app would be nice). When the lights are out and you walk near the device, its circular LED light will turn on, making it a handy nightlight. Finally, if you have multiple Nest Protect devices, they will talk to each other so they can announce alarms throughout your house.  This is not necessary in a space the size of our Airstream but it would be nice in the house. Installation was simple. I just unscrewed the old smoke detector and reused the same holes to mount the mounting bracket to the ceiling. Then the Nest Protect just clips right in. Hooking up to the internet was slightly more difficult only because the app took a few tries to add itself to our free Nest.com account though I think that is more related to some wifi configurations issues I’m dealing with right now. Eventually that succeeded and we are up and running. I have one concern, and we’ll see if this is an issue the next time we hit the road. The detector clicks in...

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Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon, Oregon

Jan 04

Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon, Oregon

Friday was a chores kind of day. We drove to Eugene, Oregon in the morning and took our Airstream to Sutton RV where we shared a long list of things that needed attention. The big thing was the macerating toilet which was just doing nothing. After that, our monitor panel needed calibration and out batteries were not charging properly. While they were working on the trailer, we spent the day driving around Eugene and doing lots of little chores – taking Tiki to the dog park, doing laundry, grocery shopping, picking up random doo-dads that we need like an extra lynch-pin for the trailer hitch. Then we picked up the trailer and drove to Premier RV Resort in Coburg. Premier is a nice park with big pull-through spaces but we didn’t plan on spending much time there, we didn’t even unhitch from the trailer. This morning, we left Premier RV and headed for Bandon.  I’ve always wanted to see Bandon, really I’ve always wanted to play golf at Bandon Dunes and I am going to try to get out and play while we’re here.  The drive down here was really nice – it’s amazing how much nicer everything is when you get off the interstate. Our path wound through farmland and small towns, following the Umpqua River for most of the way. Shortly before Reedsport, we passed the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area which had several herd of elk quite close to the road. There was a great place to pull over and see them though I missed the turn and there wasn’t a better place to turn around so we chalked that up to a missed opportunity but agreed that we would stop for places like that in the future. The next stop was the Umpqua River Lighthouse where we watched whales migrating south from the high bluff in front of the light house. Then it was time to continue our trip to Bandon.  We arrived at Bullards Beach State Park and grabbed a nice campsite.  We’re staying here for 3 nights (luxury!) so that we can get some work done, I can try to squeeze in a round at Bandon Dunes, and I can get out and...

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Launch Day Destination: Champoeg State Park

Jan 02

Launch Day Destination: Champoeg State Park

Our launch was successful 🙂  Day one’s destination is Champoeg State Park, just south of Portland, Oregon. Champoeg is a a lovely park with large camping spots on the bank of the Willamette River. It is on the site of the former town of Champoeg which is where the first provisional government in Oregon was formed back in 1843. There is a marker that includes the names of all of the people who signed the original charter. I’m sure it was going great until 1861 when the river rose 55 feet and flooded the town under about 15 feet of water (Wikipedia says 7 but there’s a sign there showing the high water mark and it is much higher than that). They never rebuilt it. Eventually, though, they made it into a great park that was the first stop on our trip so it all worked out. Today we made it out to meet with Kevin and Laura from Riveted. We have followed their blog for a while now and Leslie talked with them some while she was working on an article for Airstream Life but this was the first time we got to actually meet them. We had a great time sharing stories and we’re looking forward to meeting them again some day down the road. We have run into our first few problems with the trailer that we need to deal with. The first, and most urgent, is that once we arrived at the campground and hooked up the trailer, we discovered that our toilet isn’t working. Our trailer is right next to the bathroom building so this isn’t a big problem for the moment but we definitely need to get this fixed soon. In addition, it looks like our power converter / battery charger is not working correctly and that is very important if we want to be able to do any boondocking. After being plugged in to 30 amps for the month of December and plugged into my car for the drive down, our batteries should have been at 100% though they were actually around 25% before I plugged in to the land power. Clearly, something is wrong. So it looks like our next stop is...

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Frosty Mornings at Vasa Park

Dec 05

Frosty Mornings at Vasa Park

It’s going to be a very cold week in Bellevue, WA. Part of the reason we moved the trailer down to Vasa Park in Bellevue, WA for this month is so we can keep it plugged in and work through any last issues before we take off on the big trip though we didn’t quite expect to get this cold! The overnight lows this week will get down into the teens and that has changed some of the ways we are living in the trailer.  For one, we won’t leave the fresh water hooked up to the city water while it gets this cold since the hose would certainly freeze overnight so we are using our fresh water tank and filling it up then putting away to hose so it won’t freeze. The tanks are heated by the furnace so we SHOULD be ok (fingers crossed). We woke up Wednesday to a very frosty morning with ice crystals creeping across the roof and the walls of the Tardis, making some lovely patterns on the aluminum shell. While it was really cold outside, the trailer was cozy warm inside.  One of the great things about living in about 200 square feet is it doesn’t take too long for it to warm up. Our one challenge when we arrived at the park was unwinterizing the trailer.  Our dealer had winterized the water system while they installed our solar panels and they left all of the drains open. This is a totally reasonable thing to do, but we just didn’t know it. So when I started filling the water tank, it immediately started draining from the bottom. The nice thing is that this is certainly easy to fix, just close a couple of valves but then I needed to find the rest of the places where they had either opened or bypassed parts of our plumbing. A quick call to the dealership got me the total list. Fresh water tank white and red valved needed to be switched. Turn off the hot water heater bypass (yellow valve behind the water heater) The water heater’s drain valve was already closed. Close the drain after the water heater bypass (white valve next to the...

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