Poop Happens and the Other Dirty Sides of RV Life

July 9, 2016 (By Angela)

The RV lifestyle is not all fun and excitement – visiting new places, trying new things, and meeting new people. There are dirty sides, too.

Poop Happens. We all do it, and it has to go somewhere. For those of you who don’t know, self-contained campers normally have tanks for carrying fresh water to use as needed, gray tanks for kitchen and bathroom waste water (except potty water), and black tanks for whatever goes into and out of the on-board toilet. While kitchen (galley) water can smell, it is not in the same league with the black tank.

Now, these tanks will only hold so many gallons, and then they must be emptied. Jim and I have been full time in the 5th Wheel 20 months, and in all of that time, with the exception of this trip, we’ve been in campgrounds where we have been able to connect the tanks through a sewer hose to the actual sewer (or septic) system in the park. On this trip, we’ve either dry camped (also known as boondocking) where our tanks had to hold until they could be emptied, or we’ve been in a campground without sewer lines where emptying of tanks is done via a dump station or through a pump-out service. Thus, the last nine days have included new experiences and learning curves.

The second day on the road we noticed a smell in and around the camper that continued until after we got settled in our spot at Meadow Lake. We chalked it up to a tank that’s not completely empty being sloshed around in heat. Since we did not want to unhook to dump after getting set up, we opted for the next day’s pump out service.  What a surprise! The pump out guy, Randy, opened the cap to the drain, and “Woosh!” dark brown water came out BEFORE any tanks had been pulled. I was aghast. All tanks had been shut tightly before moving, but we’ve never moved with anything in our gray or black tanks before; we’ve always emptied them first. Randy explained that sometimes the jostle of moving can on occasion cause the tank pulls to come loose. Luckily, he had a bucket under it quickly and made adjustments to get things back on track. After all tanks were emptied, the entire area and all related pulls and caps were hosed down. Now we have added checking to make sure tanks are closed tightly in addition to walking around to check tires whenever we stop. (There are no pictures as the dirty disaster was not anticipated.)

Today, as we were preparing to leave Meadow Lake, we had to dump our tanks at a dump station for the first time. Just in case, we had a bucket under the drain when the cap was removed, but it was not necessary. Tanks were drained, the black tank rinsed, and all gear stowed away except for one section of sewer hose that Jim noticed was beginning to fail and leak slightly. That segment went to the trash with the rubber gloves he wore for the job.

Lubrication and Its Issues  About two week before we were to head out, it dawned on both Jim and me at about the same time that we should have the trailer’s bearings re-packed. It should be done every year or every 10,000 miles. We’d not had that done. Also, since we were pretty sure that the tire guys had not checked the brakes on the trailer as requested, the brakes could be checked, too. They’d not been checked since the inspection at the dealer when we purchased the camper (or should have been inspected – we wonder now).

An appointment was made with the awesome folks at Shelby’s Complete RV. All other work Mr. Shelby, John, and others in his employ had done for us was at our camp site since they run an amazing mobile RV service, but this required the camper going to them. We are SO glad we thought to do this. Not only did the re-packing of bearings need to be done, our camper brakes were almost gone. Once the tires were off and the guys could look at the brakes, they were a greasy mess with grease that should not have been where it was (see arrow). John said that only one brake was actually holding. I asked what could have caused the greasy mess, and his best guess was that the person who owned the 5th Wheel before us must have been attempting his own maintenance and went way overboard in the lubrication department. They worked long and hard and got our brakes back to good working order, cleaning the mess and putting on new brake pads and whatever else needed to be done. (We sure are going to miss having them near by.)

The hitch and pin box require lubrication, too. We use a teflon lube plate on the pin box, but we never thought about what leaving the plate on the pin box and open to the elements for over year might do. We found out a few months back. You see, the plate holds water in place against the pin box, and over time, that means rust. When this was discovered, we took off the plate, sanded down the metal, and the painted it with black Rustoleum paint. Once dry, the plate was replaced, and if we are going to be parked for more than a week, the pin box is covered with plastic to keep water from doing that again.

Laundry Doesn’t Stop when on the Road

While getting a washer and dryer in your trailer or motor home is an option, I’d say the majority of folks choose storage space over that. We did. Thus, about once a week at least, laundry must be done. Parked in a nice campground where a laundry is available, it is not too bad. When traveling as we are now, laundry often means locating a laundromat and spending a couple of hours washing clothes once a week. We had to do just that Thursday afternoon. Poor Jim had to pull a shirt out of the dirty clothes for the day (he doesn’t have as many non-work shirts), so it could not wait any longer. This job may not be as stinky and dirty as emptying tanks at a dump station, but it can be a hot job and takes much longer. It is another “must do” for those of us on the road.

Grassy Spots and Rain Don’t Mix Well

In almost two yeas off full time RV life, we’ve only been in a campground with grass parking spots twice, and this past week was one of those two brief times. It is common sense that a grassy area and a decent amount of rain will not mix well for someone trying to move a combined 10 tons, with six tires, up a slight incline. The grassy areas are really nice if you want to go out barefooted, and unless freshly cut and damp, there is less tracking into the camper on grass spaces than on gravel, but . . . when it comes a thunderstorm the night before you need to leave . . . yeah, this happens, and it is a dirty mess.

While you are reading about the cool places we go, the fun times we have, and the awesome people we meet, remember that there is a dirty side to RV life, too.

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