Because I’m a sailboat skipper, I’m amused by RV terminology that borrows from the marine arena. Like the “shore cord”—the cord we plug in at an RV park to power the rig’s electrical system. On a sailboat a shore cord (which you’d plug in at the dock when you stay in a marina) makes sense—it goes from the boat to shore.
So today’s list is about ways that RV-living reminds me of sailboat-living. (Just add water.) And some ways that RV-or-sailboat-living is different from living in a house…
The toilet flushes with a foot pedal. [What does it say about me that this is the first thing that comes to mind?] This is reminiscent of every sailboat I’ve ever chartered. And to add to the illusion: the skylight over the shower is just like a sailboat hatch.
We have to pay attention our blackwater tank. We leave our gray tanks (sinks & shower) open all the time, but we empty and rinse the black (toilet) tank about once a week, keeping it closed and dosed with a chemical treatment between-times. Most people pay extra money for “RV toilet paper” that’s supposed to break down more easily in the blackwater tank. We opt to use the trash can instead—that way we never worry about our tank getting clogged. I don’t even think about it any more, until I find myself reaching for a trash can when I’m on a “land-based” toilet. (TMI?)
Spaces have multiple uses. Our bed lifts up to reveal storage beneath. Our garage has seats and a bed that can be lowered from the ceiling when we need more “living” space. The stove and kitchen sink convert to countertops. We set up our Total Gym in the garage when the seats retract to the ceiling. The bench at the foot of the bed holds our linens. The bunk above our kitchen doubles as storage space since we don’t host overnight guests. Even the back wall of the garage can be lowered down to create a porch, complete with railings. (It also doubles as the ramp up which we drive the motorcycle when it’s getting parked indoors for a move.)
Things have multiple uses. We don’t own a dozen pots and pans; we own one “red copper” frying pan and one deep square red copper pan (which can go in the oven, be a stovetop pot, or serve with a frying basket). The stand for our bedroom space heater is really a stack of boxes that hold photos and sewing stuff. The sewing machine in its case is the “shelf” where I perch my purse. Our TV trays serve in roles ranging from dinner-table to computer-desk. Almost everything does more than one thing.
We have power back-ups. When the “shore cord” is unplugged, our fridge and water heater switch to propane power and our lights run on solar. If need be, we can run the onboard generator. (“Onboard.” There’s another marine-echo…)
“Outside” is part of the living space. It’s not a sailboat deck, but we eat dinner and hang out on our patio for most of the year. We didn’t host dinner parties during the winter, but we do have some merry patio-parties under the “fairy lights” built into our awning.
We hear the weather. Rain on the roof is a lovely sound, though we couldn’t even converse through a hailstorm last fall! Combined with the outside living, I feel closer to the weather and the world than I ever did in a house.
We don’t buy many things in bulk. Just toilet paper and coffee. For the most part, we buy other things as we need them. We don’t keep a cupboard full of canned goods or “stock” supplies—we buy them as recipes call for them, or as we’re actually going to use them. (The glaring exception here would be the pickles, which we canned ourselves last summer and have in abundance!)
We can’t move the furniture. Everything is built in, from the bed to the couch to the huge surround-sound TV in the garage that we’ve never turned on. This is one reason to choose a rig with a configuration you actually like. (And yes, we have a few notes about layout that we’ll keep in mind when we decide to trade this one in… Especially the kitchen.)
Space gets cluttered easily, but clean-up is quick! There’s just not that much house to clean. By the same token, it usually doesn’t take long to find something I’ve misplaced. There just aren’t that many places to look.
We’ve learned to live without an “entryway” for dirty shoes and without a coat closet for the helmets and motorcycle jackets. I just vacuum more often, and the otherwise-unused end of the couch collects coats.
When someone knocks at the door, they’re looking at our knees when we open it. The steps up are so steep, the front door is most-of-a-person taller than the person standing outside. I usually come down the steps to talk because standing elevated in the doorway feels awkward.
We never have to pack. Well, OK, “never” is an exaggeration. We still have to pack when we go camping (to the mountains where we wouldn’t drag the monster RV), or on a motorcycle trip, or to visit my mom. But we’ve moved four times without packing a single box. And if we wanted to, we could take the whole house on a trip with us—we can go almost anywhere without “leaving home.”
RVers are unabashedly interested in each other’s homes, in ways that brick-house-neighbors would never admit to. Even models with the same name come in different configurations, and we all seem to get a charge out of seeing how individual rigs are laid out. Home repairs (like last weekend’s replacement of our roof-fan to the bathroom) are carried out publicly and discussed in detail (our near neighbor, who also has a Grand Design Momentum, called for Jon’s help for the same repair, just days later). We commiserate about design flaws, brainstorm solutions, swap stories of difficulties, share winterizing materials, and unashamedly ask to see inside each other’s homes. It would never cross my mind to ask a casual acquaintance to show me their bathroom or closets in a brick-and-mortar house, but it doesn’t even phase me to be asked the same here. All in all, it’s the same sense of shared adventure and camaraderie (maybe minus the bathroom-tours) that you’d find among sailors moored at a marina.
We don’t do laundry at home. I thought this would be a major pain in the neck, but truthfully it’s not that much more work to walk a basketful of dirties over to the park’s laundry than it would be to walk it to a laundry-room in a house. Initially I thought I’d be begging for a washer/dryer in our rig, but now I wouldn’t trade the closet space for that minor convenience. An amusing side-note: thanks to the coin-op laundry, quarters are a hot commodity around here—definitely higher-than-face-value. Part of my pay, working for the RV park, comes in the form of rolled quarters every month!
Getting professional home-repair done is a pain, because it can involve dropping off your home somewhere, and being homeless while it gets worked on. Our rig has a number of issues that are covered by the warranty, but we’re waiting for our vacation-week this summer to take it in to the dealer while we’re out of town. There is a mobile RV-Repair guy who makes frequent visits to the park—but Jon can do pretty much everything Jake does. (Side-note: it’s an unbelievable blessing to be married to a Useful Person when you’re living in an RV! Jon’s “automotive technician” skills spill over to a lot of handy-work for which other people are calling Jake.) For the major stuff (e.g. rear A/C unit that hasn’t worked since we bought it) it’s a shame to let that warranty go to waste, but I’m betting a lot of people pay Jake rather than hand over their homes for “drydock” repair.
“Home decor” mostly means decals (which won’t fall off the wall) and velcro under knick-knacks (so they won’t fall off the ledge). It also means we don’t have a lot of knick-knacks, because horizontal space is scarce. My Willow-Tree angels and his dad’s service flag are all velcroed in place so we don’t have to fuss when we move.
Internet connection is precious. Theoretically the park has free wi-fi, but it doesn’t really reach most of us most of the time. Since we can’t hardwire a cable, I finally invested in a wifi hotspot so I could get my freelance writing done (and yes, blogging too) but I spend my online-time watching the “meter” running in the corner of my screen, trying to get my gigs to last as long as possible.
We’ve gotten creative to keep things organized and accessible. Lacking bedside tables, we used to keep a basket by each side of the bed with the various things we’d use there—books, medications, phones, water bottles, kleenex… And we’d always be rummaging to find what we wanted, till I made us each an organizer to hang by the bed, with pockets for those items. I’m thinking I should market these things! (And send a cut to my mom, who used to make similar organizers for our crayons and coloring books in the back of the car…)
Christmas-shopping just got challenging. My mother expressed as much when she asked, “What do you get for the person who’s already gotten rid of almost everything I ever gave her?” For the record, I’ve kept lots of things she gave me—but she does make a point. When space is scarce and belongings minimized, gift-giving takes on a whole new aspect… So one of these days (before next Christmas!) I’ll do a list of ideas.
This list could go on, but if you’ve made it this far you’re already a tenacious reader…
When I was a kid, I used to pretend my bedroom was a sailboat. That particular game-of-Pretend requires rather less in the way of imagination these days! (A girl’s gotta have dreams… Just sayin’.)
Life in Idaho… I’ve been practicing my fly-fishing cast out in the road behind our RV, aiming to land my fly on a paper plate. Jon has been out with me, working on technique–and he’ll take me to try it on water once I’m hitting that plate regularly. (We picked up our three-year hunting-and-fishing licenses on our anniversary—that’s romance in Idaho!) In the meantime, I’m just excited when I “catch” the paper-plate fish.
Yesterday we took a Sunday stroll through some parts of Boise’s new water park, scoping out the trails and potential fishing spots. The stretch of the Boise River coming through town has been transformed into Class-five rapids thanks to spring run-off, but the little lakes at the park look unbelievably serene.
I wanted to take some of that serenity home in my pocket. It’s been a rough week.
Walking along the water, we couldn’t help but be thinking of Jon’s best friend Kip… Last Sunday Kip was walking the Greenbelt path along the river with his dog Scratch when he dropped from a sudden heart attack. Kip was just past 50, the “strong-man” of the auto shop where he and Jon worked together. He had an unassuming manner overlaid with the most infectious smile, and his face lit up when he talked about his muscle cars or his Faith.
There’s a huge hole in Jon’s day now–he keeps expecting Kip (or Scratch) to come through the shop door. It felt surreal to write “Kip’s funeral” on our calendar where surely it should have said “Kip to dinner“… Continue reading “Life, and Death. And Life.”→
I got sucked into reading the “Game of Thrones” series… I haven’t been able to put this thing down for some reason. I bought it a couple years ago as a boxed set (if you can call e-books “boxed”), and only got around to opening it last month… And it’s a good thing it’s on my iPad, because otherwise the 4,000-or-so pages would really be weighing down my arms. I’m coming up on about 3500 pages and looking forward to the wrap-up, if for no other reason than being freed from its thrall…
But if you know these books, you’ve already caught my error: there are way more pages than that if you see this to the end. I’d assumed my boxed set was the whole series.
Last time I made this mistake? It was 1991. I was a high school senior mulling over my choices in the Fantasy section of a WaldenBooks store when a strange man popped up from nowhere, shoved a book at me, and practically hollered, “You HAVE to read this!!”
He was weird, but I bought the book (Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World). Read it, loved it, bought the second of the trilogy… Continue reading “Sucked In”→
Supposedly, I live in a “high desert” climate. Well, I do live in a high desert climate–but you sure wouldn’t know it this year. I just pulled up an article from January, stating that Boise had (already) seen more snow-so-far than any year since 1892, when they started keeping records. And we kept getting more snow—a lot of it—after that.
Now the temperatures have started warming up, and we’re all eyeing that snowpack warily. The water-management powers-that-be are letting immense amounts of water out of the reservoir just upriver from Boise, in anticipation of some massive runoff in the upcoming weeks. (If they don’t let it out now and the reservoir overfills, they say, they’ll lose any control they might have had over the river level.)
Boise’s “Green Belt” path that runs through town along the river (and along the edge of our RV park) is largely underwater already, and they’ll be raising the river more this week. At least we’re on wheels, we joke, eyeing the river-level. If the river reaches us, we hitch up and go!
Ah, life in the desert.
We bought our three-year hunting-and-fishing licenses a few weeks ago (our anniversary present to each other), but the nearby fishing dock is entirely underwater, and the river is running too fast for fly-fishing. We’d need need Moses right now to walk the Green Belt. Continue reading “Flood in the Desert”→
On the list of things-I-didn’t-think-about before living in an RV: we have a great balcony with a great view. OK, it’s our RV roof, but the “great view” part is true.
Our park is situated right next to a semi-pro baseball park (Boise Hawks, a farm team for the Colorado Rockies) so we have front-row seats to the fireworks displays after games. (OK, I’ll admit that would be more fun if I weren’t married to a combat vet. Apparently some of those fireworks sound just like incoming mortar rounds…) We’re also next to the state fairgrounds, so we got to know the carnival workers (“not carnies,” we were told, working at the park office) while they stayed at the park, and had a fun view of the fair itself from our roof.
The last few months it was a very different view! Same neighbors (many of them, anyway), different landscape. With a record-breaking series of snowstorms, we have now officially had the most snow Boise has seen since someone started measuring in 1875. Did we pick a great year to start RVing, or what? But hey, this way we know we can do it!
As I was just writing to another blogging RV-er, I’m glad now that we chose a “toy-hauler” rig, meaning we have a garage section at the back. I initially thought that was just so we could take the motorcycle with us, but it turns out to be so much more useful than that. We can keep dive gear back there (it was Scuba-and-RVing that sparked the discussion), camping gear (we still like to head further into the mountains than we’d want to pull the fifth wheel), rapelling gear, my mechanic-husband’s tools, snow pants and snow boots and sleds while we were buried in snow this winter, even a Total Gym set up… In other words, all the things I wouldn’t want cluttering my living room!
Of course, using that back space as “garage” means that we have less living-space… but we have enough. And although we got rid of tons of stuff (literally) when we moved into the RV, neither of us was willing to offload the gear. We’re in this for Experience–and (as my fellow blogging-RVer and I agreed) that’s what that kind of gear is for! Continue reading “Views From the Roof”→
I used to say I hated moving, when “moving” involved packing and hauling and unpacking boxes every time… But moving kept happening, even while I said that. I averaged more than a move-a-year in the decade before I married Jon—never mind that with every move I earnestly swore my intention of staying put!
I blamed circumstances for each of those moves, and it’s true that my life has just not followed any “expected script” from one year to the next, and circumstances kept changing after each oath to stay put.
But now I’m kind of shaking my head at myself and wondering if maybe the common denominator in all those moves… might be ME. Jon and I just made our fourth move, in the year-and-two-weeks we’ve been married. Continue reading “On Mobility”→
I’ve just been pondering what defines a ghost town. On paper, you’d probably consider Placerville Idaho in that category—it’s down to thirty or so households from its 1860s gold-rush heyday of more than three thousand… Visitors can enjoy the sight of an old general store, saloon, and other mining-era buildings that now operate as summer-hour museums.
But I find myself unable to consider it a ghost town when you can still buy Alka-seltzer and Tostitos at the local store, and when the one remaining church still holds services every Sunday. (Well, truthfully there was only one truck at the church when we passed by, five minutes before services… But I guess there’s a service even if only the pastor shows.)
Whether or not it’s a ghost town, Placerville is small and isolated in the Idaho mountains—and right now, absolutely buried in snow. We thought we’d need to chain up in order to get in, but only ended up needing four-wheel drive. Jon’s family has a cabin up there, where his folks lived for a number of years before moving into Boise, and we just put it to use for a get-away weekend.
We lost cell service an hour before we got to the cabin (that’s part of the get-away!) and started the weekend by lighting the fire his brothers had laid in the wood stove on their last visit. We pulled our food and overnight bag in from the road on our sleds, and melted snow on the stovetop to make coffee and wash dishes. We grilled steaks, read aloud together, hiked around the little town and through the snow to the old cemetery, sat on the covered porch swing and watched the incessant snow falling in the absolute silence around us, we bedded down in front of the fire…
We don’t live a terribly fast-paced or stressful life, but every life can use some get-away to silence. When it just registers as “white noise,” you don’t notice the constancy of traffic… until you’re away from it. When the sky above you in town still seems Idaho-blue, you don’t realize how polluted it is… until you’re breathing in the mountains. And when church commitments and AA meetings and family dinners and work schedules fill in your calendar, you don’t even realize you’re busy… until you’re away from it all, listening to your Marriage.