Wellington and Me

Wellington and Me
My rolling home!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Newbie RV'er Lesson Learned #1: The Black Tank

Ok, so this is my first time as an RV owner... yep. I sold my house and bought an RV and moved into it having nearly NO experience with RV's in the past.  Uh huh... Bold choices is how I roll.

So, even though I did a ton of research and talked with other RV'ers and read blogs and all in preparation for this big change in my life, it's bound to happen that I'll learn some lessons the hard way.

Thankfully, the first newbie lesson I learned was not TOO bad, or costly, or horrible.  But it could have been.

Let's talk THE BLACK TANK! For those of you not in the know, this is how they refer to the sewage tank in your rv.  It's the tank where the toilet drains to and that you empty with a large flexible hose into a dump station or an rv/campground sewer trap drain.

For some reason, I assumed that while hooked up at a park to water, electric and sewer that I should just leave the grey and black tank valves open to drain anything that went into them.  (Btw, the grey tank is the holding tank for the sinks and shower... non sewer things).   This assumption would be a MISTAKE.  While it is fine to leave the grey tank valve open to drain into the sewer trap constantly, the black tank is another story.

So here's the deal.  The black tank receives, from your toilet, liquid and... um... solids.  If you leave the tank open to drain, then the liquids will drain out and the solids likely will remain.  The solids need time to break down and this takes both liquids AND usually some catalyst such as an enzyme or chemical.  I'll mention below the one I've found that works GREAT for me.  So if you don't allow this breakdown to happen, the solids will collect, and even pile up, and form a hard clay like consistency in the tank and eventually it will be clogged up and require some serious work to unclog or even tank replacement.  RV'ers have coined this piling up "pyramiding".  Descriptive huh?

So what I've learned:
  1. Keep the black tank CLOSED.  I usually leave it closed for the week. Then on Saturday I close the grey tank to let grey water fill up some, then on Sunday I flush out the black tank then the grey tank so the grey water flushes out the hose.
  2. After flushing out the black tank, fill the toilet boil twice with water and use a tank additive to break down the solids and keep the smell down.  This starter liquid with the additive will keep things breaking down and working as they should.
  3. Periodically it's a good idea to use a tank cleaner.  Do this after emptying the tank and before you plan a trip somewhere so the movement of the RV will agitate the tank. You fill the tank about 1/2 full with water and use a commercial tank cleaner or even Simple Green (about 4 cups should do it).

With these steps you should never have a problem!

Oh, I'm sure your curious how I learned this lesson... Shortly after I got my RV I did as I described above, leaving the black tank open, no additives, etc... It was a very short couple weeks before the black tank was clogged.  I had to have my buds at JohnsonRV unclog it for me... Not TOO expensive, but a cost I don't care to repeat.  Thanks Johnson!!

Here's my recommendation for tank additive:

I use Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank Treatment.  (http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Campers-Organic-Holding-Treatment/dp/B007S0LDME/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409425305&sr=8-1&keywords=happy+camper+tank)

I love that this is an organic compound and it works GREAT.  Also, with this you don't need to buy special expensive rv toilet paper.  I just buy a septic safe toilet paper at Costco (much cheaper!) and it breaks down great.

BTW Happy Campers also makes an Extreme Cleaner tank and sensor cleaner. (Black tank sensors notoriously usually don't work, including mine, even after using this product.)

There you go!  The ugly truth about black tanks and how to avoid nasty issues.  Happy RV'ing!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Things I'm enjoying NOT doing as a full time RV'er

Ah RV living... as I walked Max and Myko around the RV park this beautiful Saturday morning, here's some of the things I remembered that I'm NOT doing...

1) Weeding the flower beds
2) Vacuuming and dusting 1250 square feet of house
3) Cleaning 2 full bathrooms
4) Paying sizable bills for garbage, water/sewer, natural gas, electricity, lawn maintenance, cable internet, alarm system (and related phone line and police registration)
5) Paying on the loan for the new roof I had to put on the house
6) Paying mortgages
7) Paying property taxes
8) Fence repairs
9) Watching all my income go to bills
10) Wishing I could travel more, but knowing I couldn't really afford it
11) Comcast!

I'm sure there are more I'll remember later...  For those of you who are also full time RV'ers, what are some other things you're enjoying NOT doing now? 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to bath your dogs in an RV ?

Well. Twice I've tried kneeling in front of my step-in shower putting a pug inside and soaping them up. Trouble is that they move around too much and I'm leaning over to reach them leaving me with a sore back, sore knees, a grumpy attitude and unhappy pugs. 

Solution?  The booster dog bath tub!  

Here's Myko modeling he and Max's new fashion forward, Jetsons-inspired, bathing apparatus. 

It elevates them to standing height. Easy to move around them. Has three point leash attachment to keep them secure. A drain with hose so you can direct the run off. Even padded non skid floor and a shampoo holder!  

My RV, like most, has an external hot and cold water faucet with hose and sprayer. So I can bath them outside or if weather is bad I think this would even fit inside my shower. 

Legs detach and store inside and it fits easily in my RV storage compartment. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

Could full-time RV living be better for the environment?

So, I've been around a few RV parks, met and observed RV'ers, and gotten more into the groove with my own rhythm and fallen into a routine of living in my RV.

I seem to be noticing more about things related to resources and impact on the surroundings.

With the compact nature of this lifestyle, it becomes very obvious how much trash you're generating, and how much is being recycled versus thrown into trash.

Since you have to stay aware of your black tank (sewage) and it's generally a good idea to use the grey water tank to flush things out as you empty the black tank, it makes you aware of how much water you're going through as well. 

The furnace and hot water system use liquid propane which I monitor and have refilled as needed.  So again this keeps me keenly aware of my usage of these resources, and I'm heating a far smaller space than my former home, and my hot water is on demand. It is heated only when I use hot water.

Walking the dogs a few times a day and seeing others out walking their dogs, cleaning up after them, being respectful of other RV'ers in the camp ground or RV park... General awareness of your neighbors and the camaraderie that comes with it. 

All of these details seem to just bring me, at least, more in tune with my impact on the environment, on the park or campground, on my neighbors.  So far everyone seems very respectful and friendly.  Waving from their car, saying hello walking around.  It's a great feeling and a lifestyle I'm really loving.

Now I'm sure some are thinking about the fuel an RV consumes, but if you think about it my 2003 RV only came to me with 26k miles on it.  That's far less miles and therefore consumption than a car on the road.  That's also instead of me living in a brick&mortar home with water run off, gas and electric and other carbon footprint items. 

Just something that I've been thinking about...

Check out this related article: http://www.campingroadtrip.com/outdoor-living-newsletter-january-2010/campgrounds-and-rv-parks-are-going-green

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Replacing the old box tv in my RV with a 39" led - cabinet conversion

It took most of a day but here's how it was done.

Removed the old box tv by taking off the front bezel, removing wood stays and lifting (ugh) out the tv. 

Had a piece of plywood cut to fit on back side of the bezel and reattach the bezel with hinges and safety hooks snout can open for cable access and even some storage behind. 

Purchase and attach a tv wall mount arm son the tv can be swung out to access the component cabinets behind. When on the road I'll probably need to bungy the tv to help keeping it stationary and not bouncing too much. 

Wire the existing surround speakers to the new Yamaha receiver and attach components such as blue ray. 

Power it all up!  

HUGE thanks to Marty who helped me all day today on this. Hugs!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Old box tv out!

The boat anchor of a big ole box tv is OUT! Nearly 100 pounds of av antiquity is out beside the RV along with the smaller brother from the bedroom.

Now I'm going to insert a piece of plywood with a hinge and bolt that I can attach the new LG 39" led tv to and then will hook it all up with a new Yamaha receiver and my other components and the surround speakers and Wellington will ROCK! More to come. 

How I decided on a Class A Motor home with gas motor for my full time RV living

So there's a number of types of recreational vehicles out there, from motorhomes to trailers and different types in each group.  Class A, B, C, fifth wheel... It can be a bit confusing.


In the Motor homes there's class A, B, and C.  Class A is what you see on the road roughly resembling a bus.  This is the type I finally landed on.  Class B is what you see that looks like it's built on a passenger or cargo van type body.  Class C is larger, but still with the cab of what might be a van. 

Trailers, or towables, range from a travel trailer to a toy hauler that folds open with a rear "garage" for atv's or motorcycles, popup trailers of different sorts - half trailer, half tent, and 5th-wheel trailers which are the largest and require a special hitch in the back of a truck. 


I originally was leaning toward a 5th wheel trailer.  I'd seen many of them at rv shows and was very impressed with all the space and storage in them.  Many have slide outs on both sides of the living space which can quite literally make it feel like a very large living room.  Some had full kitchens with a wrap around bar and more. One I saw had a "forward living" design where instead of the bedroom being in the upper area, the living room was there with 2 couches, a recliner, a fireplace with tv above, and the sleeping area was in the back.  So they are very versatile and spacious.

The downside of a 5th wheel, or even a large trailer, is that you have to have a pretty beefy truck to pull it.  The bigger the 5th wheel (and I would have wanted pretty large to live in full time) the bigger the truck needed.  Now I plan to be stationary in the Portland area a good portion of the year, and even when traveling I'll likely be in one place a few weeks here, a couple weeks there, or more.  So during the time the trailer was parked, I'd have to drive that big truck around as my daily vehicle. 

I also spoke with my friends Bobby and Darrell (Hi guys!) who have been full-time rv'ers for going on 4 years now and the informed me too that the setup when you reach your destination is more time consuming and involved.  Additionally, passengers including my pugs, could not ride in the trailer when in motion. If you have a guest with you, they can grab a beverage a snack, etc (carefully) on the road.  Not so when it's a trailer of any sort. 

So with those details in mind, I shifted my search back to a Class A motor home.  With a class A everything is self contained and it's very easy to arrive, park, level, extend the slide outs, hook up to the park water, power, etc, and you're done. 


Then, I had to consider a gas or diesel model.  This is a considerable piece of the puzzle. It seems that most people would tell you that diesel is better.  They often get better MPG, I believe I've been told that the motors likely are more durable and longer lasting, and you'll usually hear that they have more power for climbing hills, for towing, etc.

Wellington RV!  A 2003 Fleetwood Pace Arrow
with GM 8100 gas motor, Workhorse Chassis, Allison Transmission
What I also discovered though is that they are more expensive in MANY ways... in the used rv market diesel typically meant 10-30k more expensive.  Service on a diesel coach is much higher, as you can't take it into a typical auto repair shop, and the service is much more specialized.  My gas coach is a GM engine and chassis.  So the motor can be serviced in many standard auto shops.  Even the tires are more expensive, since tires on a diesel coach are HUGE. They are often larger than tires found on a semi truck. Since that means they are a low demand item to stock, they can often run upwards of $800 EACH.  Tires on a gas coach are smaller, are frequently used on other types of trucks, and therefore are more common and easier on the wallet.  For all these reasons I started researching gas options and found that the specific motor/chassis/transmission (allison) combination of my coach (Fleetwood Pace Arrow 2003) had great customer ratings and mentions on blogs and websites.  Owners talked about how it had plenty of power, often passing by diesel coaches on an incline.  And so far, I've been very pleased with my gas coach.  Even the mileage is comparable to what many say is normal for a diesel. 


Also, with a class A I can tow my jeep wrangler unlimited behind the RV from place to place.  With the addition of a tow bar on the jeep, a tow bar, and some lighting wires installed, I can quickly hook up my jeep to the back of the RV and tow it down the road.  It's easy to disconnect when I arrive and then I have my beautiful Mango (name of my jeep) with me to drive around wherever I happen to be.

It happens that Jeep Wranglers are one of the easiest vehicles to modify and tow 4-down (all wheels on the ground) of the limited number of cars that can be towed this way.  And since the transmission is completely disengaged when towing, no miles are added to the odometer while towing it. 


So all of these considerations have to be weighed if you're considering an RV for part time or full time use.  In the RV parks I see probably a near equal number of Class A and 5th Wheel types, and then a lower number of trailers.  Of course I don't know how many of of them are full-timers.  And within each class there's many near standards of floorplan pieces, but also many many creative and unique layouts suited for different needs.  It's a good idea if you're considering an RV to try to visit a good RV show, to see how things vary and get a sense of options.  If you're looking for a used RV, check out a number of different dealerships to see what might be available and in your price range. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

RV Departing checklist

So today I am up at JohnsonRV in Sandy Oregon, the dealership where I purchased Wellington, having a few small things fixed... hopefully under my extended warranty.  Last night and the morning I went through the process of prepping the RV to roll, which involves many many details. 

I thought I'd share my pre-departure checklist.   Here goes!


- put all things away in cupboards 
- use black storage bin to assemble all small items from counters and rest on bed
- rest fan and radio and other items on bed
- lay down vacuum beside bed
- make sure the bifold door and slider are latched in place
- stow all things in cupboards
- use black storage bin for any counter top loose items and rest on bed
- secure hanging things in the shower, close shower door and apply the door catch
- make sure the pocket sliding door is secured with catch on the floor
- make sure all items in toilet room are secured and door latched
- move scale so it doesn’t talk at me on the road!
- wash dishes and put away
- cover the stove with panels
- put all counter top loose items in sink
- make sure all cupboards are secure
- empty keurig water tank, secure table items
- move garbage and recycle bins to under table
- move dog bows etc so out of way of slider
- bring in outside thermometer
- make sure nothing blocking the bed or living room sliders - slide them in
- bring down the hanging decor with bell
- make sure all blinds are up for visibility and so they don’t rattle
- leave windows open for ventilation if needed
- turn off ceiling fans and interior lights to not drain batteries
Make sure tv antenna is down


Lower leveling jacks
Remove leveling blocks
Remove wheel chocks
Empty black and grey tanks - add chemicals and water so they can rinse while driving
disconnect rinse and stow hoses and cables
make sure all storage compartments are closed and locked
Prep jeep to tow, if towing
- uncover tow bar, connect to jeep
- connect light power cable to jeep
- connect safety cables
- install Patriot Brake and test/activate in jeep
- disengage transmission in jeep
Test brake and turn signal lights on coach and jeep
bring in all exterior items - bbq, lights, rugs, chairs, plastic step, metal step support, etc and stow them


Get any beverages or snacks needed for the first leg of travel
make sure glasses and sunglasses are at the dash
Get phone in place with charging cable.  Look up map route if needed.  
Program music for the road
Make sure leveling jacks are  up, step is in, emergency brake is off.
Check fuel level - get gas if needed 

When ready to go, ease forward to extend the tow bar arms into locked position. Check to verify they are locked. 

Rock & Roll!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wellington RV Interior Walk Through

So everyone's been wanting inside view of my rolling home, Wellington, the 2003 Fleetwood Pace Arrow.  So here it is?  Not spotless, but nonetheless...

How to cardio in your RV

Going full time in my RV meant I had to keep up my workouts. I was diagnosed with diabetes this past year and starting my day on my walking desk treadmill each morning, working my morning emails and issues while working up a sweat is obviously important to my health and has been the one way I know that works for me to maintain good healthy exercise.  So how to do this in my new rolling home?!?

Formerly I had a great treadmill from Treaddesk.com but it was too big and heavy for the rv. It didn't fold up or hide away. So I had to sell that and I went on a search for a sturdy yet compact option. 

In my Pace Arrow there was a recliner rocker chair that was just to the right as you entered through the side door and just behind the passenger seat. I removed that chair to storage. I wanted a seating position there so I found some replacement feet for my red office chair that I love to replace the wheels (don't want it rolling around while driving). I measure the chair space and the found a folding treadmill that was very sturdy and with a big enough tread for my stride. It fits the space and folds upright with a single pull of a pin. It's perfect. 

It has an armature that also folds but I need to have a speaker moved before I'll be able to do that regularly. For now the arms are not a big deal. 

In rigged up a shelf on the arms to hold my laptop so I can work will walking. 

Presenting my treadmill in my RV!!

Folded up with chair in front:

Chair moved:

Tread folded down into walking position;

Shelf into position holding my laptop:

Anyone for a stroll?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A whole new world!

I sold my cute house in north Portland Oregon and have embarked on a new journey as a brand new full time RV'er!  

House expenses, utilities and related costs were eating up my income and I identified that travel was a priority for my life, both in the US and overseas. Those expenses were preventing me doing the things I wanted to do. After the market returned to a place where I could sell my house and pay off the mortgage and walk away with some cash I started considering options. With a job that can be done remotely with a very understanding and supportive boss, and with the opportunity of opening up to more theatre work by having more mobility, not to mention my innate sense of adventure and making less common choices, full timing fit the bill. 

After the decision was made the universe really stepped up and conspired to make it all happen quickly and smoothly. My house sold to the first showing. I found my dream coach in my price range and a great dealer to work with. People stepped in to buy all my stuff that I would not need. It has been incredible. 

In a matter of months I'm now living in my 2003 Fleetwood Pace Arrow, lovingly named "Wellington," with my two adorable pugs Max and Myko. They are loving walking around the RV parks, visiting other rv'ers... Speaking of, it's like a big extended family as well. Smiling faces, friendly greetings. My neighbor last night was playing Irish jigs on his flute outside my window as I worked. Beautiful. 

Myko max and I enjoyed the late evening outside on a gorgeous June night. More adventures to come!!