Sunday, October 29, 2017

Our New MORryde Suspension Installation At Henderson's Line Up In Grants Pass, Oregon

After months of anticipation, we loaded up our suspension-challenged Redwood fifth wheel to make the trip down to Grants Pass, Oregon to have our new MORryde Independent Suspension installed.  Like many large, residential fifth wheels, weight capacity was an after-thought in the design of our full time home.  In fact, many buyers of these units take delivery from the factory and drive them straight to MORryde in Indiana to have the factory suspension completely removed, and replaced with this superior system. Yes, it's that good, and that important.

Nothing more unsettling
than watching your axles
be cut off!
Because we live in the Pacific Northwest, we understood that we would have to make a cross-country trip to have this system installed.  This would have to wait a couple of years, after retirement, and it curtailed much of our travel because we were uncomfortable with our weight ratios.  After calling MORryde to inquire about scheduling this work, we were delighted to learn that they did have an authorized installer only a couple of hundred miles from us!  They referred us to Henderson's Line Up and we began researching their reviews. We were extremely happy to see that they had incredible reviews and a vast experience with RV's. We made an appointment and had our coach measured so that they could order the parts for our installation.

In the fall, we made the trip down for the install.  As we live in our coach, they assured us that we were welcome to stay in it at night, while they completed the 4 day job.  We arrived on a Monday morning, and they were there waiting and ready for us. They quickly helped us get settled into the area that they would be doing the work and directed us where we could access power and water.  They were extremely kind, helpful and understanding.  Naturally we were a little nervous, as this is a big job, but they quickly put our minds at ease and carefully described what they would be doing.

They spent hours getting
our alignment just right.
We planned day excursions, even a quick trip to the California Redwoods (only about an hour and half drive!) and arrived back in the afternoons to get a thorough briefing on progress from the technicians.  After the first day, we felt completely at ease, watching the work proceed exactly as outlined.  It's quite sobering to see your rig sitting on jacks with NO WHEELS OR AXLES!

During the 4 day stay, they dedicated themselves to the work, and we watched several other coaches come in and get work done on various suspension and steering related work. All owners we visited with had the same opinion; pleased with the work, and very confident of the skills of the technicians.  They really are exceptional.

SO impressive!
Just look at how beautiful it is!!

At the end of the job we paid our invoice, which was exactly as quoted, and embarked on our first haul with our new suspension. We challenged it by driving over the coast range highway and all the way up highway 101, both are notoriously rough in areas, with a lot of bridge expansion joints and other road issues.  As a little "test" we put two plastic cups on the kitchen table to see where they ended up upon arrival.  Even with some vigorous bouncing, the cups were STILL on the table upon arrival! Simply amazing. Several items that had to be secured before travel, no longer need to be secured, and the confidence and piece of mind of 2,000 pounds of additional weight capacity is priceless.

Then of course there was the inevitable circumstance where somebody jumps in front of you, eliminating your safe following distance... We were filled with happiness at the superior braking of the new Kodiak brakes. Just cannot express how much safer we feel hauling such a heavy rig. It's NIGHT AND DAY.

We cannot over-recommend Henderson's Line Up. They were professional, skilled and trustworthy. We look forward to contacting them in the future for other upgrades we decide to do. If you need work done in the West, do not hesitate to call them, they really do care and take pride in good work.

Mention the name "Arctic Otter" and receive something special! (It's an inside joke.)


THANK YOU HENDERSON'S LINE UP! Outstanding!
Todd and Theresa Baker
Washington State
*We were not asked to write this review, nor were we compensated in any way, we just wanted to share a job well done.

Road Ready: The Pre-Flight Checklist Is ESSENTIAL

Our "pre-flight checklist" has 41 items on it.

We added strong travel latches
to our residential refrigerator to replace
bungee cords and other cumbersome
items to keep the doors shut
during travel. One-second and it's secure.
What is a "pre-flight checklist"?  It is our infallible, trusted and comprehensive list of things that must be attended to before we roll our 42 foot, 18,000 lb fifth wheel down the road in the hopes that we will avert mishaps and disasters.  While there are no guarantees, we have a lot of confidence in our checklist.  It resides on my mobile phone in "check list" format, so that when an item is checked off, it reschedules itself for the next day, ready to remind me again of something that must be done or checked on before we hit the road. I think everyone should have one, and I will go a step further and say that most mishaps to do with traveling in an RV could have been avoided with a little more attention to this simple and reliable tool.  Ours is years in the making, and we trust it completely.

The bigger your RV, probably the longer your list will be.  Our checklist for our truck camper has about 6 items on it!  Because we are fulltimers, we have a lot of stuff in and around our fifth wheel RV and that stuff needs to be attended to. There are things to lock, things to secure, things to stow, and things to put away.  When we hit the road, we do not have that sinking feeling that we forgot something, because we have the reassurance of our list that we know for sure the important things got taken care of.

Todd installed drawer
latches in our pantry.
Our checklist is exceedingly detailed, and makes us appear a little obsessive, but we really aren't.  It's the simple, mundane things that often get forgotten (how many times have you seen RVers heading out with their steps out or their TV antenna in the air?), so they are ALL on the list.  You might think that a list this long takes a lot of time to complete. Wrong. It takes us about 15 minutes to prepare of departure.  We both complete items on the list, and most of the items are completed quickly by just walking through the trailer and getting things done.  We refer to the list to confirm that things were done.  MANY times we have thought we were done, and low and behold there will be a couple of items on the list reminding us to do them.

The blanket and pillow
could fall behind the slide
when in the closed position
creating disaster upon reopening.
Most of the items on the checklist take literally one or two seconds to do.  But they MUST be done.

Every person's checklist will have different items on it.  Those with pets will undoubtedly have some very important items on the list as well.  What do you have on your list?

So, I know you are dying to know: WHAT is on my checklist? Well, as of now it looks like this (with an explanation on some in case they seem unclear):

  • Wardrobe contents secure
  • Awnings stowed (May seem obvious, but unfortunately people have pulled out of a site with their awning extended to have it torn off)
  • Basement contents secure (especially items that can spill or break if moved)
  • Bathroom counter clear (soap dispensers and the like)
  • Bathroom pocket door locked (definitely damage will occur slamming open and closed)
  • Bedroom door OPEN (or it will be crushed by the slide!)
  • Pillows off of sofa (or they risk falling behind the closed slide room and jamming it upon re-opening)
  • Closet doors locked
  • Dishwasher locked
  • Flag stowed
  • check all running and signal lights
  • Flip truck mirrors
  • Refrigerator doors latched
  • Lid on freshwater jug in refrigerator (prevent spills)
  • Freshwater filled (If appropriate, depending on our plans)
  • Lock armoire doors in bedroom
  • Maxx fans ON (if warm weather for ventilation)
  • Living Room Ottoman turned (so as not to hit slide coming in)
  • Outside chairs and tables stowed
  • oven vent closed
  • pantry door secured
  • Pantry shelves locked
  • Under Range drawers locked
  • Refrigerator contents secured (I use 2 spring rods to prevent "arrival avalanche syndrome")
  • Shoreline stowed
  • Water hose stowed
  • shower door locked
  • shower head secure (so it doesn't bounce out of it's holder and turn on the water or crack the shower!)
  • Bedroom throw rug stowed (in the slide path)
  • stow weather station
  • Kitchen table locked
  • Table tops clear
  • Tanks dumped and flushed
  • TPMS on (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
  • Travel lunch made (can't access most of kitchen with slides in)
  • Truck fueled (much easier to fuel without the trailer)
  • TV Antenna down
  • Under coach clear
  • Vibration alarm deactivated on bikes (our electric bikes have a sensitive, piercingly loud alarm that sounds if they move at all... which is not ideal while driving, ask me how I know)
  • Walkie Talkies in truck (we use these upon arrival and backing, to prevent me hollering like a fish wife while getting set up)
  • Washing Soda in tanks (we do this occasionally, traveling is a good time to swish your tank with washing soda to soften and remove any cling-ons, our tank sensors always work!)
  • Water pump OFF! (often something falls in the sink or shower, turning on the faucet, leading to an undesirable outcome.)
That's it for now. Our list used to be a LOT longer, but we worked to refining our system and things go pretty quickly now.  We do not have an "Arrival Checklist" because necessity pretty much takes care of it.  I have a magnet on my oven door that I put in place when the oven vent gets closed for departure. This reminds me to open it again upon arrival. That's about the extent of our "arrival checklist".

I hope you will consider the benefits and piece of mind that a pre-flight checklist offers. It's wonderful to hop in the truck and pull out with confidence knowing everything got taken care of.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Our First ELKS LODGE Stay! Lakewood, Washington

Hi Kids!

Our big girl parked in the RV section at the
Lakewood, Washington Elks!
Here we are at the Elks Club in Lakewood Washington.  Since this is our very first time staying at one since becoming Elks, we thought we would share it with you! We have been talking about it for a long time, I know, and finally it has become reality!

As you know, Dad had to work up here in Tacoma, so I decided to tag along this time.  We had a smooth haul up here and drove easily into the parking lot here.  They don't reserve sites, they just say "Come on up!" if there is room, so we parked in an available site and got set up.  They only have 30 amp electrical hookups here so it will give us a chance to test our new solar system in that scenario. We can dial-down the consumption of the battery charger to whatever we like, and in this case we dialed it to "30". You can dial it way down as needed if you are driveway surfing and plugging in to somebodies small 15 amp outlet.  Pretty cool.  Our inverter will "assist" with battery power at whatever level needed, and the batteries will be getting a passive charge all the time.

We went into the bar and paid our fee: $100 for the week.  That includes water and electric and there is a sewer dump as well.  Not bad! Especially in this area, the Seattle area is notorious for having slim pickings for RV stays, especially affordable ones.  We are pretty happy!

We rejoiced at the rain storms that began arriving the next day! The entire Pacific Northwest has been on fire, and it's been a while since we have been able to breathe clean air.  What a blessing. It has been about 4 months since we have had any rain, and it's so dry.  I can't remember the last time I enjoyed rain so much! We certainly aren't getting much solar power, but in this case, I don't care!

Well, that's about it for now. We will be here until Saturday, and then back down to our park.  Hope the rains keep coming for a few more days! See you soon! Love, Mom.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our Huge Solar Install AT LAST! The Big Reveal!

Technicians get to work on our big girl.
Look at that pristine, empty roof space!
Our excitement is unbound!

Our new solar system has been completed, and we have had an opportunity to put it through it's paces a bit. WOW are we happy with it!

We waited several months for the opportunity to have AM Solar install our new solar system. The usual wait time for an installation can be several months. We did our research and this company won our business.  While there are many solar installers out there these days (MOST with a much shorter wait list) we wanted what this company offered.

A few of the reasons we chose these guys over the others;
1. They are an established company in a very efficient shop.
While there are independent installers out there who work remotely, we wanted the security of knowing we could go back to our installers for more work or any issues that came up, and they did come up.  When you are dealing with such complicated and cutting-edge technology, there are bound to be hiccups.  More on that later!

2.  They work directly with component manufacturers and have innovative solutions for common problems that face RV installations specifically.
They are very familiar with the fickle nature of RV's and have mitigated some of these weaknesses.  They understand the challenges presented with weight, location and aesthetics of installing a large solar system. They also have a good understanding of how fulltime RVers typically use their power systems, and can more precisely guide you in the right system for the way you live. These systems are not cheap, and it is great that they do not try and sell you more than you need, while at the same time counseling you about the realities of using solar.  They are realists. We love that.

3. They intend to stay in business. 
Obviously this is very important to most people.  When something goes wrong, they will be there to help. They assured us that they would always be available to answer our questions or help us trouble shoot any issues at any time, and we know where they are and how to get a hold of them.

4. The founding owner of the company is a fulltime RVer!
Now maybe this is sort of trivial, but it speaks volumes to us.  To date, his motor home has more panels on it than any we have ever seen anywhere. Pretty cool.

Boodocking at AM Solar the night before our install.
We arrived the night before our appointment and boondocked in their lot.  They are very hospitable to this, and had a 50 amp hookup and fresh water for us if we desired.  Unlike many in the country who come to this location, we are only a 3 hour drive away, and so we were able to drop off our RV for the installation which took about 8 days. Yes, EIGHT DAYS!  It was a big job!

It was so exciting after waiting so long and trying to visualize how great it would be to have almost complete independence for power whenever we wanted it.  We chose to get a very, very large system installed.  All told: We have ten 160 watt panels sending energy to four lithium batteries giving us a total of 800 amp hours of power.  That's a LOT.  While we still need to be prudent about consumption, especially because we have a residential refrigerator, we can live nearly in a normal fashion, using a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and even one air conditioner.  Amazing.  

On the morning of our installation, we met with the install team and we went over the details of what they were going to do, and they asked us questions about our preferences on various things.  They are great listeners and you absolutely feel appreciated and respected as their customer.  You have access to a fantastic lounge area with refreshments, Wifi, bathrooms, and lots of reading material if you desire. They also have a fantastic array of system components that you can study and learn how much you do NOT know about solar power!

And check this out: They gave us a killer schematic of our system. Whenever a technician needs to service our coach for any reason, and needs to work with the electrical system, we can show him in clear terms how it was wired and how it works. INVALUABLE!

Finally pick-up day arrived.  We spent the entire day with them while they finished up a few last minute items, and then the tweaking began. There were things that didn't quite do what they were supposed to and those were remedied.  We were given a careful and extensive orientation of our new system and what it was capable of. They also presented us with a fantastic visual map of our system and all of it's many components, which will be invaluable if we have someone working on our electrical system.

It feels amazing to have the ability to dry camp anywhere and have the luxury of nearly our entire coach's amenities.  If we do not have the benefit of sun, then we can use our on-board generator to fill up our batteries until we do.  We are extremely pleased with AM Solar and recommend them without any reservation!  


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Late Summer Chores To Be Doing On Your RV

Todd with his trusty DICOR!
It's still summer, thank goodness, and we are still enjoying the easy days of good weather and long daylight hours.  But the early morning and evening chill reminds us that it won't last forever, and even for those of us heading for a warm winter climate, it's important to attend to a few weather-related RV chores that you cannot afford to ignore.

One job that is critically important for ALL RV's, no matter what age or type, is to inspect and re-apply caulking.  All RV's use caulk to seal the seams of the exterior structure from the most damaging force of all that costs RV owners more money and grief than all other forces combined: WATER!  This must be done at least annually (every 6 months is better), and we make sure that late summer signals to us that it is time to check it again.  We check it more often than that, but this is the time we do any heavy work that needs to be done.

This is one of those many maintenance items that RV's require that are not difficult or expensive, but critically important if you want to preserve your RV for years to come.

This is easily prevented.
It only takes a tiny, tiny break in the exterior seal to create a shocking disaster under the skin.  Water is wicked continuously into the dry interior through even almost imperceptible openings, where it permeates the interior wall structures and insulation which very quickly will begin to rot and cause mold, delamination and catastrophic, sometimes irreparable damage.  I have seen photos of rot under the skin of an RV that was yet undetectable on the exterior, but the RV was falling apart because of it. Such an easily preventable tragedy!

It only takes a short time to get up on the roof and take a good, close look at your sealants.  Check every thing, around vents, antenna, vent pipes, anything with caulk around it.  It doesn't last forever, especially in hot sun.  Find out which product is the correct product for your RV, they vary.  If you choose the wrong sealant (DO NOT just buy a tube of silicone!!) it will not protect your RV and you have wasted time and money.  Possibly a LOT of money.  Some sealants do not adhere to some types of roofs and materials.  Be sure to choose correctly.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Your RVs Black Tank Will Be Odor Free Starting Now

Odor Free, I Guarantee!

That's a big promise to make, but I am making this promise to you.  In all of our years RVing in different RV's, we have NEVER had a problem with black tank odor.  It's not luck, well, other than being lucky enough to figure our how to care for our black tank properly.  We have been in MANY RVs that have black tank odor, it's a common problem. And YES, we do run the vent fan while using the bathroom, that's what it's FOR! No odor.

I will ask that we accept the following assumptions:

  • Your tank is a standard RV design and install
  • There are no blockages, malfunctions or structural problems
  • You don't put anything into your toilet besides human waste and toilet paper


First of all, each of our RV's were purchased new. That's important to understand, and it matters because it makes the point that when acquiring a pre-owned RV, you will likely be inheriting someone else's lack of black tank psychology and care.  It's the most common problem that RVers have, whether you are in a small bumper-pull trailer, or a half-million dollar motor coach, they can all stink.  It's fixable, but let's understand the problem so you can tackle it.

If you have a new RV, you can skip to the section about Tank Maintenance.  If you keep just those few key points in mind, you will always have an odor-free bathroom, yes, odor-free.

Now, for those of you who either just bought a pre-owned RV with a stinky black tank (and maybe even grey tank!) or have had an RV for years and it has become stinky, take heart.  It is most likely that you can get it fixed easily and cheaply.  Rarely, the neglect is such that it is not repairable, as in a catastrophic blockage or something has broken.  Please be patient and take a moment to understand how the black tank works with you to get the job done, it is a TEAM effort, and you can do it.

It's Not A Septic System

First of all, let's get on the same page about what a black tank is and what it is not.  It is NOT a septic tank, and has almost no similarity in function to one. Your black tank is quite literally a simple plastic box with 3-7 openings cut into it (and size does not matter in this case!):


  1. A large round hole through which your toilets plumbing drops directly into.
  2. A large round hole through which your RV's plumbing attaches to exit the vehicle through a gate valve.
  3. A medium opening at the top through which a vent pipe attaches and exits through the roof. (This is important)
  4. (Optionally) A very small opening through which a very primitive, but useful sprayer head is attached to encourage solids that have attached to the side walls to release and fall to the bottom during emptying. This would be a black tank sprayer.
  5.  Likely 3 very small holes for your tank level probes, which make great hangers for toilet paper and hair which create false-full readings! (Note, NEVER flush hair down the toilet as in when cleaning your hair brush!)

Now, I have seen countless "remedies" for black tank management.  Putting ice into your tank to "scrub" it while under way (Doesn't work). Pouring various fool-proof concoctions down there to sanitize your tank (doesn't work).  The worst one: Pouring bleach into your tank: DO NOT EVER DO THIS!  Bleach is not only corrosive and will weaken or ruin your delicate rubber seals and valves, it will also KILL the natural bacteria which is critical to an odor-free tank!!  Bleach doesn't clean ANYTHING. It KILLS.  We don't want to kill anything, we want all the help we can get. Each little bacteria in there is your little soldier in the odor war!

My Sewage Smells Like Sewage!

All black tanks smell like sewage, that's what's in the tank.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  The number one reason, believe it or not, that people have foul odor coming up from their tank is that it is so incredibly strong, that the roof vent cannot effectively dilute it or there is a vent blockage. Picture the smoke from a small fire, the smoke representing the odor, now picture the smoke from a huge fire with only a small opening to escape.  So, the very first thing you should rule out is that the small vent opening (it will have a round cap on it, usually) is completely free of obstruction.  Take the cap off, and shine a light down the vent tube and check for bees nests, debris, or anything else that might be blocking this vent.  The bulk of the tank odor will flow out of the roof vent as a gas, rather than build up in the tank, creating a stinky pressure bubble that presents through your toilet's opening when you flush.  It takes pressure to push that gas into your RV, the roof vent removes that pressure.  Make sure it's clear. If you smell a large amount of tank odor coming up from the vent, GOOD. That's what should be happening!

Passing Gas

Next, if the former owner (or you) have used your tank while hooked up to a sewer line, and left your valve open, you will have odor.  It will get worse over time as the solids from the toilet splat onto the bottom of your simple plastic tank and the liquids flow out of the tank.  Your tank will also be getting smaller and smaller. The solids will dry there into a concrete like mass (ever made paper mache'?) and eventually become very large, and quite permanent.  It will also reek like you would not believe and create gas so strong that the vent cannot hope to pass it all (smoke from a big fire).  This is extremely common. It is known by seasoned RVers as "pyramiding"  and "the mountain of death". One tell-tale clue that you have this going on is lack of tank capacity.  If you can only go a short time before filling your black tank, then it is likely due to this problem. If you have ever had dog poop pickup duty after several sunny days, then you know what happens to waste that is allowed to dry out. You could throw it and break your neighbor's window... but please don't do that. If you dropped it in a pail of water for a week, it would liquefy. Hold that thought.

Don't feel bad, most RV dealer sales people do not give good advice about tank management, and often have never even used an RV.  Always, always keep your black tank valve closed.  You want lots of liquid in there, making a nice big box of LIQUID waste that FLOWS out when you pull your valve.  Unless you are boondocking and conserving, always use plenty of water when you flush. Water is your friend.

Mountain of Death

Depending on how large your "mountain of death" is in your tank, it will take some time to remove it, but usually it can be remedied.  The most important thing is to keep it submerged in liquid to help it to decompose into liquid and eventually be gone.  This is the essence of black tank management: ALL solids eventually become liquid if they are soaked long enough.  Never allow them to dry out. A properly cared for black tank will always have liquid in it to some level.  Even while being stored.Your tank will thank you, your seals and valves with thank you, and your nose will thank you.  Water is also a natural odor-masking agent. If you cover reeking solids in water, the odor is greatly reduced, I bet you knew this already. This is the science of the P-trap under your sink! Try filling your black tank at least half full of water and notice if the odor is reduced.

Breaking It Down

Keeping your overly-solid solids under water is your number one priority.  It is impossible to soak human waste and toilet paper for long lengths of time and NOT have it become liquefied. It's that simple. And the liquid WILL flow out of the exit door! Your job is to make it liquid.  There are simply no short cuts to this unless you enlist the help of power sprayers and mechanical tools (which you can certainly do) but it is generally not necessary unless you are in a hurry.  One thing to be aware of when using mechanical means to dislodge solidified debris, is that large pieces can become lodged in your exit valve and block it, so be aware of this.  You may have the unsavory job of reaching back from the outside to dislodge it!  Make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity of being under-way to have sufficient water in your black tank to slosh around and work on dismantling your mountain!

Additives

We use three additives to supplement what happens naturally in the tank.  Without diverting too far into biology 101; the most efficient way that solid waste is broken down into liquid waste is by the appetites of anaerobic bacteria and beneficial enzymes.  These bacteria and enzymes are voracious consumers of waste, and the more you have, the quicker the waste becomes liquid.  You do not have to use additives, but we do as insurance that there is plenty in there.  It is interesting to note that human waste, from our own digestive tract (if we are reasonably healthy) comes pre-inoculated with this bacteria/enzyme cocktail. Isn't nature amazing? This gives us the ability to use any toilet paper we choose with a clear conscience.  Again, we consistently go 10-12 days between pulling the valve on our black tank. This tells us that there is nothing building up in there, or capacity would go down.

The first thing we add after every dump is simple septic bacteria/enzyme that you can buy at any Wal-mart. Rid-X, or the like. You can toss it into your grocery cart next time you shop. This assures that every square inch of surface in your simple plastic box is exposed to this amazing army of waste-devouring soldiers 24/7.

The other thing we add after every dump is a product from Valterra that we really like called "Pure Power Blue Waste Digester".  It is also a natural collection of the critters that work to get rid of the solids. It has the added benefit of a pleasant scent that keeps odors down. I saw a noticeable reduction in the amount of toilet paper that flowed out of the tank after we started using this (it became liquefied faster). That has to be a good thing. (We highly recommend having a clear plastic section or elbow fitting in your hose setup that allows you to see what is going on, very helpful and educational).

Once in a while (maybe every couple of months) I use Dawn dish soap. Why?  Well, more biology.  Human waste is loaded with FAT. That's right, plain old oils and grease.  If someone has gall bladder issues, there will be a lot MORE!  But that's for WebMD.  Anyway, I digress...  Over time, your sensor probes, and your tank surfaces will be coated with a layer of this grease.  Dawn dissolves grease efficiently without killing your community of bacteria and enzymes that you have so meticulously nurtured. I dump an entire small bottle down there after a tank pull every few weeks or so.  My level sensors always work, and I think this is a large reason why.

Tank Maintenance

This is how we care for the tank in a nutshell.  I am not saying this is the only right way to do it, but it has worked perfectly for us and we have many years experience of a LOT of RV use to reference. We will continue to do it this way. Plus, it's simple.

First of all, we keep the tank valve closed.  We only open it after the tank is really full.  A full tank is a happy tank. The longer you can go between dumpings, the longer you are soaking solids in the liquids and they are becoming liquid themselves.  The longer the enzymes and bacteria are left undisturbed to work their magic, the better.  Even when FULL, we do not smell our tank. If you dump your tank before it is full, you are wasting additives.  It's like getting new tires when you still have tread on the old ones.

When the tank is full (roughly 10 days of use for us and will vary depending on the size of your tank), we attach the tank sprayer hose (if you have one) and turn it on and then pull the valve.  We monitor the clear sleeve on our hose and note when the water starts running clear-ish.  The first thing you will notice when using a clear sleeve is that the solid waste does NOT empty in the first gush!  You will have several episodes of the solids building up at the tank opening, blocking the flow of the tank sprayer, and then WHOOSH! Another large amount of solids will flow by.  If someone simply pulled their tank and waited for the flow to diminish and thought it was empty, I can tell you that there is a LARGE amount of solid waste STILL in the tank! Do not do this.

If you do not have the benefit of a tank sprayer, you can simulate it very closely by dumping a couple of 5 gallon buckets of water down your toilet, or use your shower nozzle if it will reach.  It won't be spraying your sidewalls, but I don't feel that this is a big deal at all. The main thing is to flush out the solids that are hovering near the tank exit.

It is not important to try and get every bit of waste out of the tank. It's OK because whatever is left in there will be worked on in the next 10 days of soaking and become liquid.  There is always something left in the tank, but the important things is that your army of enzymes and bacteria are constantly at work making them liquid. Just get as much will come out in about 10 minutes of spraying.

When the water is mostly clear, we close the valve and after a few moments shut off the sprayer. This leaves a thin layer of water on the bottom of the tank and assures the rubber seal is submerged.  (Or pull the toilet open and let the water run for a bit). We then add our two additives as mentioned above into the toilet.  There are times when one of us dumps the black tank and then forgets to put the additives in. We still notice no odor.  We have not gone a long period of time without additives and I cannot say whether they make a huge difference or not. Perhaps we will try that some time!

That's it! I hope this helps you have a daisy-fresh bathroom, and I hope you will help others understand how very easy black tank maintenance is.  Far too many RVers suffer needlessly with stinky bathrooms!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Place For Everything And Weight Loss In The HUNDREDS of Pounds!

You know the rest, "and everything in it's place."  The kindergarten classroom method of organization is ideally suited for us fulltimers.  Living in 400 square feet, give or take (mostly take), means DISCIPLINE!  I don't think any topic regarding moving into an RV full time is talked about more, or in so much detail as getting rid of belongings.  There are so many reasons; emotional attachment, value of items discarded, fear of needing something you got rid of, the list is long.  One things I can promise nearly everyone, you will be shocked at how LITTLE "stuff" makes you happy.  This is one of the pleasant surprises that many new fulltimers comment on.

How in the world do you decide what goes and what doesn't?  That is a highly personal question, really  I have seen items and belongings that other fulltimers keep and I think they are crazy!  I would never allow my precious RV space to be taken up by some of these things, but then I know they think the same thing about some of the things I keep too.  That's OK.  It's a personal thing. It was no different in a sticks and bricks, really. The one rule that I am very strict about in our RV: If is doesn't have a home, it goes. EVERYTHING must live somewhere, clutter makes an RV a mess and, for us anyway, very stressful.  You have to get creative, but it can be done. We also like to live in a state of "road readiness" as well, meaning there is little to do to get on the road, but that's another blog post!

First of all, do your best to peel back all ideas and misconceptions about what you truly NEED.  Think very hard about how you spend your time, how you prepare your meals. Do you play games?  Do you bake bread?  Do you read a lot?  What about clothing?  Are you a fashionista?  Do you have 37 pairs of shoes?  Bathrooms are junk collectors too.  I know you paid a lot for all that makeup in your drawer, but be honest about what you actually USE on a daily basis.  Get rid of the rest.  Keeping it is not the same as keeping the money you spent on it, you must separate the cost of the item from what it's actual value it. The truth is, keeping that item does not mean you still have that money you spent on it! It was gone a long time ago!  Keeping items because "someday I might like to"  or "I hope to fit into this pair of pants someday" is not going to make the cut.  Most everything can be replaced and having to buy new clothes because of weight loss is (I am told) a joyful experience.  Yes, you will have to pay for it again, but you must be strong and disciplined here. Your new mantra should be: "Am I willing to pay to KEEP this?" because literally, when living within strict weight and space limitations, you are. Every ounce of it.

So the theme is: You can still keep it, you probably just can't keep it ALL!  For must of us, this winds up being an unexpected and wonderful surprise after shedding so much of our stuff.  It's true what they say, we are a slave to our stuff.  You are not a MUSEUM! Only you can decide if your stuff is so precious that you pay to store it (and continue to care for it). For us, we decided NO storage unit. It all goes.

We have been fulltime more than two years and we are still (joyfully) shedding stuff.  I know we will truly have arrived at fulltime nirvana when my sons spare closet no longer contains crates of our photos and memories. It's definitely a process, more for some than others, and you will get there. Don't be too critical of yourself, and try to be brave.  Not ONCE have I regretted parting with anything, and we had a LOT of stuff, (as most people do after living more than 20 years in one house). I think a lot of us are conditioned to thinking that there is some sort of meaning or identity-connection between our identity and our belongings.  We think "There is so many memories attached to this!" Actually, no, the memories are "in the vault" (your heart). They are IN you, forever.  I learned that getting rid of things did NOT erase the fond memories.

When something is very special, we attempted to re-home it with someone, usually our kids, so we could enjoy it when we visit.  It gives me such pleasure to see my daughter using my "big giant salad bowl" that I loved so much that my mother gave me.  I see treasured pictures hanging on my kids' walls. I love seeing Christmas decorations and other things displayed lovingly in their homes. In fact, I think it's even more wonderful. I became almost emotional the other day helping my daughter move into her new house and I got to "revisit" old friends that were so dear to me; it made my heart sing to think of the item continuing it's life in our family. Yet another wonderful surprise that I have come to appreciate after becoming a fulltimer.

So, have faith, be brave, and keep at it. You will get there. We are also still getting there. We have developed a rather warped pleasure in getting rid of things now. I think it represents a rebirth, a new reality that we love.  On my wall hangs a very apropos saying, "The best things in life are not things". Truer words were never penned. Our lack of "stuff" has, in reality, become a source of great pleasure and joy, and that was truly unexpected.