Where the Livin’ is Easy
Sometimes, in this carefree vagabond’s life on the road, circumstances intrude upon the idyllic core which is assumed to be the inherent gift of mobile freedom. These circumstances can range from minor inconveniences to the harbingers of doom. Sometimes, that mobile freedom make those circumstances more difficult to address than they would otherwise be. That isn’t the case here, since the Defiant’s location could be considered as a seasonal residence of sorts. Just sayin’.
As for me, I‘ve discovered an ongoing stack of inconveniences which are frustrating, but looked at in the proper perspective, are also a bit humorous. It’s the combination. My main priority on arriving at my trailer a few days ago was of course to make it livable again after its many lonely months in Yuma’s hot and dusty summer. The time-consuming work of completing modifications to the new Four Wheel Grandby camper last Spring, before Yuma’s heat began to set in by late March, required hasty compromises in cleaning and organizing my trailer before leaving it. In short, I discovered either just how little time was left to straighten things up before leaving, or what a slob I am. Papers and paperwork in numerous spreading piles, some useless and some important, and loose items which really needed to be stashed away somewhere, all together underneath the coating of dust which now lies over all. The Defiant now resembles one of those places where you enter and try not to set anything new down, or to touch anything. And keep your shoes on!
First priority for me on arriving was to get over the internal sense of shock. You know, the shock of discovering the mess, swinging straight into denial, and assigning the cause of the problem to a strict lack of time. “It’s not my fault – I can’t be that much of a slob!” The most frequent question is of course, “What is this, and why did I leave it here?” Arriving at mid-afternoon, I could get water and sewer going quickly (or so I assumed), but could not touch any surface with hand or posterior without redistributing dust to myself. I also had no groceries at all. I moteled it in town that night, for what is considered to be fairly cheap these days.
Returning to the trailer late the next morning, second priority was to launder bedding and at least some seating surface fabrics so I’d at least have a place to sit down. Despite a very nice laundromat being a quarter-mile away in the park’s clubhouse, that was still a bit of an ordeal, since my ticker was having one of its bad days. I couldn’t just sit and rot on the laundromat’s folding steel chairs, so I commuted to the trailer a couple more times. That let me work on not being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of effort it would take to sort through the piles and clear the filth off more small items than can be counted. Thankfully, my e-bike and trailer made that commute do-able.
Meanwhile, the water supply hose needed to be connected up to the spigot beside the trailer. Easy! One hose goes from the spigot to a triple filter unit mounted to the Defiant’s tongue hitch, while another goes from the filters to the trailer’s water inlet. Once done, turning on the water showed no leaks, but also reminded me that the water pressure here is reputed to approach 90 PSI, which is dangerously high compared to the 50 PSI limit that the trailer’s plumbing has. Oops! No harm, no foul. I have a small 50 PSI water pressure regulator in the Intrepid truck camper, the key word being “somewhere”. After all, with all my camping being forcibly suspended for so many months this year, I no longer knew where I officially kept it. I looked in several of the most logical places, digging around and opening storage cases and bags. That took awhile, but in the end, a little quiet reflection – which better resembled desperate reflection – prompted me to look in a dishpan on the Ford’s passenger seat, where I keep those few items that need to be most easily found and used. Duh.
Nirvana! We will have us some running water today! I added the pressure regulator at the spigot, turned on the main valve, and went inside to reap the rewards of indoor plumbing. But turning on the kitchen sink faucet produced only a meager trickle of water. Ahhh, okay…maybe a hose is kinked. Going back outside, it all looked good, so the diagnostic process began. Starting at the spigot, I undid the hose and assured myself that the supply pressure and volume were impressively abundant. Couldn’t blame it on the park. A pressure gauge I put on the output side of the filter unit showed only about five pounds of pressure, though. The hose end at the filter unit inlet flowed well when disconnected. Something was amiss with the filters. I removed the last canister in the row, turned on the water, and got a trickle. Removing the middle filter did the same. Removing the first filter produced a torrent of water. Clogged filter! That was surprising, since it was new a year ago and still looked pristine. Maybe the heat exposure under the direct summer sun got to it or something. Oh well, I really should change to new filters each time I arrive, anyway. You really don’t want bacteria growth in there. I found a new carbon filter in the trailer, plus a couple of replacement filters for the other canisters. Once buttoned back up, the gauge showed 50 pounds, and flow in the trailer was as good as can be expected for that pressure. It doesn’t make for great showers or dish rinsing, but it’s workable. Then back to the laundromat as sunset approached. I managed to place a cover sheet back over the couch, get a couple of pillows rolling, and retrieve a blanket from the truck camper. I slept on the couch that night, and ran an electric space heater I keep as an emergency backup.
The next day was going to be the start of cleanup day(s), but then I discovered that the kitchen sink drain was clogged almost solid, even though I use screens in each to keep solids from heading down into the pipes. It’s a dual sink and has always been problematic for drainage, but today marked a new low for functionality. Those drains are unfortunately well blocked at the drain openings, so they can’t be rodded out with normal springwire drain clearers. Smooth move, Gulfstream! I have a length of 10Ga wire I’ve used before to clear it, but it hit a stopping point without effect. I headed out mid-afternoon for a medical appointment, to the hardware store for drain cleaner, and for a ton of groceries. I got back to the trailer after sunset, and it took awhile to pack everything away, but I could at least stop eating out all the time and get back to my standard diet, which will help stabilize the meds dosage I need. I cranked up the Mr. Heater propane space heater after five minutes of failure to ignite, and it worked well after that. It kept flaming out the next morning, however, acting as though there wasn’t enough gas to keep both the pilot and the ceramic plates fired. Odd.
I spent yesterday limited by some kind of minor intestinal issue, and my Verizon Internet access crapped out early. My iPhone can act as a WiFi hotspot, but not if it can’t establish a data connection with a local cell tower. Since I had not yet called my local DSL Internet provider for resumption of service, the phone was my only option. I wound up in the clubhouse to get the DSL service scheduled and to read any new emails. I figured that the Verizon problem would only last for a few hours. I’d been letting drain cleaner soak in the pipes a couple of times for most of the day, and flushing with boiling water, but that only made the drain 100% plugged. Verizon never came back on board. The Mr. Heater ran well again that evening. Maybe the problem was over.
This morning, the Mr. Heater again acted starved after running well for a minute or so. Having been covered when not in use, and having blown it out with pressurized air, I guess it’s time to find/order a replacement. I found a high-pressure air can meant for clearing drains by force, but I hate to use it because of the risk of splitting old PVC piping. The result: the pipes are fine, since the can is now defective and won’t dispense whatever agent it contains. If you’ll excuse me, I need to head for the clubhouse to find any plumber’s business card on the rack, order or locate a new space heater, and try to see what the story is between me and Verizon. The DSL provider won’t show up until Monday, so I may well not be online again for a couple of days. The Ace Hardware store is closed or is 9-12 on weekends (as are most small businesses in the Great Southwest), so I may try to find another can of pressurized drain opener at a Big Box store. Other than that and not being able to transfer much of anything in from the camper, it may not be going that smoothly here, but it could always be a lot worse!
But perhaps a wave of good is on its way: just after I completed the previous paragraph and counted the post as finished, Verizon data came back from the dead and is now in operation. There’s one problem down, anyway!
Dang, man! You need to catch a break SOMEWHERE!
Well Linda, considering what’s been going on the last few months, this is the break! 😉
Doug Tractor Supply has Mr Heater on sale for $69.
Thanks for keeping an eye out, Bill. I have downsized to their 3,800 BTU unit, which TS apparently does not carry. I wanted to get rid of the long rubber flexhose, which has a finite lifespan. I’m mounting it (when it shows up) to a tank-mounted stalk that I’ll have to photograph. One weird thing – The Portable Buddy heater I just chucked has a green faceplate, just like the model now on sale at $20 off. The model still at the old price has a red faceplate and a different model number. Makes me wonder whether there are any mechanical changes on the cheapie that would make the red unit preferable for some reason. Power tool manufacturers make different variations of the same design for big box stores vs brand retailers, like papier mache motor bearings vs oilites in order to allow selling it for much less. I wonder if Mr. Heater does the same.
There is so much mineral content in the water here that it was not unusual for folks to get back to mesa and find pipes clogged that had not been run all summer. Not sure if you have low point drains on the water pipes in the trailer, but you might want to start draining them when you leave. Or, it might be something else.
It’s kinda been an off-and-on battle since I got the trailer in the Chicago area, where it spent all its time. If I call out a plumber, which looks likely at this point, I’ll see if he can replace the traps with draining ones, and maybe replace the funky grated sink drains with open ones that can let a rooting cable past. This Gulfstream has a lot of oddball non-residential fixtures that I’m wary of dealing with myself, based on past experiences.
One result of my bypass is that I am no longer quite so stiff-necked and stubborn about doing everything for myself. That unfortunate quirk started way back when I never had any money to spare, and hardened over the years into what passes for my personality. Took a heart attack to improve me some. I actually hire people now, from time to time. Baby steps.
I don’t climb ladders much these days, either. Not because I can’t get up there, but if I fell, the recovery would undoubtedly take up a ridiculous fraction of my remaining lifetime. By way of example, I climbed into the back of my pickup to help load a bbq pit the other day, and when I jumped down from the tail gate I just froze and fell over, like one of those wooden legged Tennessee goats. What was that drop, 3 feet?
I just lay there for a while in the parking lot at Home Depot and had a good laugh. No lasting damage. But only 10 years ago I was jumping down and rolling from the top of a Lazy Daze, bypassing the ladder. Just for the hell of it. Looks like some time between 60 and 70 my shock absorbers plumb wore out.
Welcome to mortality, eh? And the warranty is up on them parts, too! Reminds me of when I was in the ER weeks ago, they mentioned that fluid around one of my lungs appeared to have collapsed a small area at the bottom, sticking the interior surfaces together. They thought it was funny when I said, “Oh that’s alright. That’s why I always carry a spare.” Perhaps they were being kind…
When leaving my rig in FL for summer, I make sure there is water in each P trap, then poke plastic wrap at the drain opening to keep that water from drying out. There is always some food/gunk in the P trap, no matter how careful I am. Once dried out, it turns to concrete. Might this help?
It just might, Pam. Regardless of the plumbing fix approach I take, I may just go nutzoid on departure with either plastic wrap or aluminum foil and tape. It gets mighty dry here. If my rubber-seal drain inserts fit tightly enough, those just might do it alone. It’s a fair bet that minimizing water usage while boondocking 2012-2015 has contributed to the problem. Lack of flushing pipes out. Thank you!
Have you tried to use the toilet yet? That rubber gasket between the tank and toilet may have dried out, in which case you might get a water leak around the base. Something like that happened one year at the house because I flushed the toilet after turning off the water intake, then left for 8 months. When I got home and turned on the valve, water went everywhere from the dry seal between tank and bowl. RVs don’t have a water tank, but they still have a rubber seal between toilet and waste tank.
All this is just a sign that your trailer missed you. Ain’t that sweet?
So far, so good on that front, Bob. Mine overlaps the pipe below so that the floor seal is not so critical. Actually, I think what the trailer missed was a little TLC before I left. I now have 2/3rds of a tall kitchen bag just full of paperwork/mail that I was going to find time to sort through and either discard or scan. There’s more, and that’s merely to expose table and floor surfaces so they can be cleaned off! Pathetic.
You might want to try pouring mineral oil in the sinks and toilet before departure. That protected my toilet when it sat unused over the winter. Mineral oil does not evaporate the way water does then it lubricates things when you flush it away. Do not use vegetable oil as it can become rancid.
Linda, that seems pretty brilliant to me. Particularly on that toilet sliding plate that opens to drain the bowl. Mine tends to seep usually, the last couple of years. Doesn’t take much to get it to seal and hold water, so maybe mineral oil might just help a bit. Thanks!
I foresee some ocean varmints on the dinner plate soon.
You know Matt, I’ve been mooching off family for so many months that I had trouble piecing my normal diet back together once I got back into the trailer! And I got off-track when stocking up at the grocery, such that my Cuisine de Sea Varmints will have to wait until next week! Thanks for the reminder!
This may be a bit insensitive of me, but your trials have raised my spirits quite a lot. Haven’t smiled this much in the past seven days combined. No but truly, my heart goes out to you. Just take her slow, don’t stress the ticker please!
Looks like my imprisonment in the back of an auto shop in Bullhead City might be ending tomorrow. Been here seven days and nights, RV immobilized. Can’t wait to see the bill. Might check out Bill Williams River/Wildlife Refuge next.
I think I get it, Dawn. When you’re locked in a repair shop dreading who knows what kind of outcome and invoice, it lightens the mood to discover that there’s at least one other poor schmuck out there facing some kind of obstacle(s). You don’t want others to be having a tough time, but it also helps to know that it’s not just you, and you’re not alone. In my case, none of these are genuine hardships, so when they stack up in combination, even I have to crack a little smile.
I assume that most of your imprisonment is from “waiting for parts”, perhaps in a couple of doses. If and when you get out of there, enjoy your travels!
Hi there, Doug.
I have been reading your blog for a few hours now, and have been enjoying it immensely. You are a wonderful writer and I like that you don’t pretend that your lifestyle is glamorous. I want to hear about the clogged drains… and whatever else you have to deal with. Because it’s real.
I have been thinking about the nomad lifestyle for a long time now, but it is only within the last few months (after I was let go from my job when that location closed) that it started to seem like something I could consider doing, could actually picture myself doing. I have spent the couple weeks reading blogs by others like yourself, who ramble wherever they want to in this beautiful country. They are all ages, and in all kinds of vehicles… and I keep wondering if I could do it. I’ve never been a conformist, but how much risk am I willing to accept in pursuing a non-conformist life? I am not sure!
I’ve been reading a lot of technical stuff in these blogs which overwhelm me. Thinking about center of gravity, this hose and that power source, tire pressure, wind resistance, keeping critters and vermin and various insects out of your rig, all the little doodads that come in handy for survival, weather, money, stealth, self-protection (or self defense)… so many topics to study and learn!
I am approaching middle age (um, yeah sure… “approaching” sounds good…) and have only camped a handful of times. I’ve lived for so many years in a large city, where cars are not necessary, that I would have to take lessons to feel confident in driving again. I’m terrified of bears and snakes and spiders, and never considered myself outdoorsy. Despite all that, however, I keep imagining letting go of my terribly expensive apartment, getting into some kind of vehicle, visiting interesting/beautiful/weird places I’ve never been before, and familiarizing myself with Mother Earth. All by myself and on my own time. Am I nuts?
I hope your current challenges all work out for the best, and that your health continues to improve as you recover from your surgery. I will keep reading and cheering you on.
What a reflective comment, Diane! I suspect that one has to be at least a little nuts to make a shift over to this lifestyle, since it tends to remove the traditional comforts, fallbacks and predictabilities of staying put in a fixed residence. As for me, I’ve always lived a quiet suburban life, but this new-to-me nomadic life is the only affordable alternative to simply renting a room someplace and eking out an existence that represents severely downscale suburban. I found that second option to be a bit depressing, but have a distinct aversion to risk and uncertainty. But at the same time, I was also inspired to expand on a very few cross-country trips taken decades before. The people I had met in small towns and the vast geological features now moved me to see more before my ability to experience them circumstantially evaporated. I came to realize that my penchant for always living conservatively and safely guaranteed nothing in practice, and the stress of what I had gotten myself into had been taking years off my life. So, I figured that I might as well go for broke and piece together a manner of living that better suited my strengths and weaknesses. I shifted away from “this is what you’re supposed to do” to “this is what probably suits you better”. I don’t view it as rebellious nonconformity so much as taking a step back and starting from scratch.
I’m far from an outdoorsy person myself, having tented one overnight at a racetrack with a high school buddy who has since passed. I’ve configured my rigs to be able to live in them, as opposed to living out of them in a camping and hiking sense. I’ve found that I much prefer to camp alone or at least widely scattered from others, such that I have some degree of solitude and quiet. That is what recharges my internal battery and promotes peace, as well as an ability to reflect upon what I was always too busy to think about before.
To me, each place I visit is a quiet wonder in its own way, and I get as much of a charge out of camping among the hills around Wickenburg AZ as I do from seeing the Grand Canyon. While I could say that I enjoy “communing with Nature”, or at least appreciating its beauty, I would also have to say that considerable time is spent contending with it, too. Freak storms, high winds, ground surfaces that risk getting stuck, being in bear country and seeing their signs, uncomfortable heat because I’m not at a high enough elevation for the time of year, and so on. Boondocking (dry camping) is far less expensive than hopping from RV park to park, but is far more challenging, technically. That’s where all the equipment, hints and tips stuff comes in. But equipment doesn’t come first – it is determined by how you want to be able to spend your time doing what you want and expecting what you need. That’s where individuality comes in, and it’s certainly not one size fits all. My manner of stumbling through this lifestyle is not “best”, but it seems to suit me best.
As for you, don’t be lured by evangelism that some flavor or other of boondocking is nearly free. It ain’t so. Too many lifestyle evangelists sell the positives and deliberately stay quiet on the negatives, which is manipulative, and you don’t need that. Others are merely trying to self-justify their own choices, and it bums them out to write about what isn’t working out very well. On the other side, keep in mind that many bloggers who sound like full-timers are not – they return to their stick & brick homes after their touring season. In a sense, as of this year, that’s me, too: My tired old Defiant travel trailer parked in an RV park is now my winter “home”, since it’s pretty well clapped out and couldn’t cut the mustard off-road. But it has all the comfort and much of the convenience of a home, sort of. Eight months a year, I will be in the Intrepid truck camper. So when you read a recommendation of this or that, try to determine the writer’s setup. My point: you can make do with anything for a limited time. It’s a different story when you’re truly full-timing in a single vehicle year after year. In my case, had the Defiant been a little shorter, higher off the ground, lighter, less tongue weight, and not having a bent and drooping frame for the same money, the truck camper would probably never have come to be.
You can manage to drop the rent or mortgage and property taxes, but it still takes a pretty penny to ante up for vehicle insurance, fuel, licensing, food, propane, cellphone/Internet fees, medical insurance (and/or appointment and Rx costs), regular vehicle/RV/appliance maintenance and repairs (which become much more important than before), not to mention the up-front boondocking equipment costs like those related to solar or generator use. So a substantial income is needed to avoid the anxiety of living so close to the financial edge that a set of tires or radiator replacement stops the show. The equipment inside RVs tends not to last all that long. This is why vanning is so popular, since you can’t break or wear out what equipment or systems you don’t have. And what you can live without is a very individual thing. My only suggestion is to keep researching, then figure out what you must have and what you feel you must be able to do in order not to feel like a refugee from a war. Picture yourself “out there”. What activities do you want to be able to do, and what comforts must you have in order to feel, well, comfortable in a vehicle-based lifestyle? Settle that out, and the RV type, space, and equipment choices become simpler, which helps get a leg up on determining initial and ongoing costs. Some folks think their rig type, camping style or or equipment list is the only valid or righteous way to go, therefore it is what you should do, too. Ignore them. They are not you. Should you go the “mobile lifestyle” route, it’s your gig, and yours alone. It’s a big step, kind of an unsettling step in a way, but one of incessant discovery, both about the new circumstances and yourself, intended or not. You’d be far from the only woman out there running solo. One is here. As a wild guess, I’d say maybe 1/4-1/3 of all solo campers are women. Hard to gauge, since they understandably keep a low profile with people like me lurking about! 😉
Hi again, Doug! Thanks for writing back so quickly and with so much juicy information and sound advice. I do try to take what I read with a grain of salt. Just like when I come across one of those “get rich quick” or house flipping blogs where they try to make it all sound so easy but don’t fill you in on all the money they had already saved from a high-paying job, or the help they got from mom and dad – neither of which could apply to me! – I know that nomad bloggers have their secrets too.
I am just ready for a change. I was just coming out of a long, bleak period following some major upheaval in my personal life, and then when I thought things were on the uptick, I had several unfortunate things happen within one month — and one of them was losing my job. Dealing with that made me reevaluate where I was heading. Although I don’t yet know exactly what changes I will make, I need something to get excited about again.
I am pretty certain I want to leave the city behind. That in itself is a BIG realization to make and accept, as I’ve been fighting it for a long time, telling myself I could never leave, and how I had to keep trying to make it here – but it’s done me in, really. And I realized yesterday that I probably could do the nomad thing if I interspersed all the actual travelling with a fair amount of house-sitting. I don’t want to ramble only in the great outdoors, but also towns and cities I’ve not yet visited, too. Being a total newbie at nomadding, I think staying in houses would be a good buffer in between camping and/or sleeping in a vehicle. Then again, maybe I will just wind up relocating to a less stressful place, but it sure is fun to research and read about the nomad lifestyle. It will take some time before I am financially able to do either one, anyway.
Well, we shall see. I will keep reading and investigating. I really appreciate your thoughtful response to me. Thanks again!
You are most welcome, Diane. As I like to say, my advice is worth every penny you pay. 😉 Research and soul-searching over a considerable period of time will help make your dream go from a fuzzy, vague image to a focused and sharp one, and you already seem to be approaching it right.
Point of possible interest: many folks develop rigs that allow them to “stealth camp” on metropolitan streets or parking lots, rather than commute in every day from points well outside. Since many/most sizable towns have ordinances to prohibit it in an attempt to keep out the homeless and/or lever the ones with money into local commercial RV parks, stealth camping is an art in itself, and may be one more thing to put on your research list, just for kicks. For more typical RVers, Walmarts generally allow overnight parking (not setting up camp), but any local town ordinances present will override that. A proper stealth rig, parked in a place where its particular appearance blends in without drawing attention to itself, allows pretty good odds of escaping that knock on the door at 2AM. The relevancy of this topic is determined by whether you want to merely tour and sight-see cities along the way, or stay within them steadily to generate your income as you go. I can’t and wouldn’t want to attempt it, but I find the technical challenges interesting in themselves.