Monday, April 16, 2012

No Mom...It is NOT a Touchscreen

When I was traveling in February and March I stayed with my daughter Kaycee for the Colorado portions of the trip.  Kaycee is taking a couple of online college courses and was working on homework every night I was there - very dedicated she was.

One of the last evenings I was there we were sitting on the sofa.  I was watching TV and she was working on her PC laptop on a paper for one of her classes.  She asked me to proof something for her on her paper and handed me the laptop.

I immediately reached up and started to drag my finger on the screen rather than using the keyboard. Uh, I have apparently been ruined by my Iphone, which I have only had since January, but now apparently I assume every computer screen is going to being touchscreen.  I should be able to tap it twice to make the text larger, and again twice to make it go smaller.

There are some other automatic assumptions I make now that don't always end well:

Keyless remote on my automobile - Really, the most annoying part about my whole trip was always fumbling around to find the keys.  The Kia Soul did not have a keyless actually had to put the key in the door and in the ignition - such a nuisance!  This is my Prius key.  It never comes out of my purse.

Sensored toilet flushes - I know I have walked out of many stalls without even thinking about turning around and flushing the toilet because I am so used to them flushing automatically.  My sincere apologies to the women who use the stall after me.

Sensored water faucets - I don't think I've ever been in a house or RV with sensored water faucets, yet I still find myself waving my hands underneath the faucets waiting for the water to start flowing. I have caught myself doing this in my bathroom in the RV, but that isn't so bad because noone sees me do it - standing there waving my hands, mindlessly, under the faucet. In public, though, it is another deal.

Sensored paper towel dispenser - I have a problem with these in general because I think I have invisible hands or something.  I always have to "Wave My Hands Under Dispenser" a little longer than should be necessary - and this is the embarrassing part - I can rarely do this without talking to the dispenser.  Usually I am swearing at the dispenser.  I do this without even noticing because it is such a common problem for me.  This is a link to a funny site with a cute cartoon about waving your hands under the towel dispenser.

The Phone Book - Yes we have one.  One from Bend, Oregon; one from Las Vegas, NV; one from Dallas/Fort Worth, TX and now one for the greater Orlando, FL area.  I have never cracked the spine on any of these books and at the moment could not tell you where they are in the RV unless Walt threw them away without telling me - something I hope actually happened.

GPS Navigation - Even though we have it in our car we still have to stop and buy maps - yes people, MAPS.  They do still publish maps.  My atlas is one of my favorite books but rarely gets used in real life.  We have the Toyota navigation product in our Prius and it is definitely substandard.UnUn  Oftentimes, we will use the navigation apps on our smartphones concurrently, just to make sure we don't miss a turn. 

Starbucks on every corner - This one is actually fading because Starbucks in central Florida are few and far between, but prior to coming here I would be totally annoyed if there wasn't a Starbucks within a couple of miles whenever I got the urge for a cup of coffee. I do have to actually resort to buying my iced coffee from McDonald's now.  I have sunk so low.

These are just a few things that come to mind.  If you have some other ones that you think of or take for granted post in the comments.  I would love to hear if anyone else has these same issues.

Copyright (c) - 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  All rights reserved.  You may not publish or reprint this article without permission of Chardale Irvine.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Meet the Beast: Winterizing An RV You Live In

For those of you who have followed Walt and I on Facebook and Twitter over the last three and a half years, you know that we nicknamed our motor home "The Beast".  This was after many months of failures and breakages of key equipment and appliances in the motor home.  It would be like a drunk-a-log to list everything that has gone wrong and then fixed, but suffice it to say - almost all of the appliances in the RV have broken and fixed while we've had it.  That Good Sam's Continued Service Plan (CSP) coverage we pay $151 a month for?  The best investment we have ever made.
It is an older RV so these failures aren't to be totally unexpected.  What has been unexpected is the groupings of these failures at extremely stressful or financially strained times.  It is almost as though The Beast is feeling our stress and this is then transferred into a motor home illness called appliance and/or equipment failure.  We have an empathic motor home that just can't handle stess without getting physically ill.  And I am like that too.
Part 1 - One of the challenges we have had is dealing with the air conditioning situations during hot weather.  This wasn't an issue the first 18 months because we were in Bend, OR.  Our challenge there was to keep things from freezing as it froze in July three weeks after we arrived and got down to 17 degrees in August. We had to quickly invest in RV winterization which ended up in a fancy, stryofoam skirt that cost about $800.  Here is what The Beast looked like when it was skirted (notice the green grass - this was done while it was still summer):

The fancy wooden stairs we had built by master carpenter and handyman Cy Smith. We had these built because it snows in Bend and the regular RV stairs can be treacherous in the snow.  Cy also did the skirting work. I found Cy on Craigslist in Bend.  In addition to these jobs he built a fold-down extension on the side of our kitchen table and a shelf over the top of the built in TV in the dashboard. He is fully equipped to do all his work onsite.  He'll do any job from small to large, with very fair pricing and excellent attention to detail.  His number in Bend is (503)348-1346 and his email is

There isn't a picture of it, but on the other side of the RV we have a twelve foot slide out.  We were worried about snow collecting on the top of it and putting too much weight on it through the winter so we had Cy build a wooden brace under the slide before he skirted.  Another factor we had him cover was a quick release of the skirting around the slide.  We didn't know what would warrant it, but we wanted to have the option to bring the slide in if we were looking at a huge snow storm.  As it turned out we never needed to bring it in because we never had more than about 6 inches of snow at a time, but it was nice to know we could bring it in if we needed to.

On that other side in the sewer compartment (commonly called the sewer boot) we lined it with fiberglass insulation; installed heat tapes on both the water and sewer lines all the way up into the connections in the boot and all the way out to the connections in the ground.  Then we insulated the water line - which was an RV water hose cut to fit to the water connection without touching the ground.  The insulation we used for this was the round foam type that is meant to go over pipes. We secured it with electrical tape placed at 3 inch intervals.  We insulated the sewer line as well.  We used the fiberglass insulation that comes in rolls about 4 inches wide and meant to wrap around pipes. We wrapped it around the traditional, flexible RV sewer hose with the length cut to fit so that as little as possible was touching the ground and to reduce low spots where water would pool.  We secured it with duct tape, but if I were to do it now I would use Gorilla tape. We purchased an expandible sewer hose support to keep it up off the ground.  (It is very important to keep the lines off the ground because if they are touching the ground they are more likely to freeze) We started putting 1 cup of rock salt in the black water (toilet) tank as soon as it started freezing outside.  We let the water trickle in the bathroom sink at night.  And, last but not least we installed two aluminum clip lamps with 100 watt incandescent light bulbs in the sewer boot.

The two most important features that we installed:

1 - Sensors on each extension cord where they plugged into the outlet that put power to the cord when the temperature dropped below 38 degrees outside and turned off when it reached 54 degrees.  This saved a lot on electricity and lengthened the life of the light bulbs and heat tapes. 

2 - We installed a digital weather station inside the RV with the exterior sensor in the sewer boot. This way we could visually monitor the temperature daily without going outside to detect if one of the light bulbs had burned out.  The boot wouldn't freeze with one or two light bulbs on but it would freeze if they both decided to burn out at the same time.  We really wanted to get an alarm for when the temperature in the boot dropped below a certain point but we never did find anything that would work for that.  It just became a habit to check it often especially before going to bed and in the middle of the night if we got up to go to the bathroom.

One piece of overkill that we did do that was eventually scrapped was to put two lamps underneath the RV.  We put one under the black water and gray water tanks which are about 2/3 of the way back and then one lamp closer to the front.  These were great until the lights burned out and then we just never could talk ourselves into sliding under the RV in the freezing cold to change the light bulb.

The water and sewer hoses were purchased at an RV supply store.  Everything else that we used and everything that Cy used was purchased at either Home Depot or Lowe's.  The one question is the Weather Station. I'm not sure if we got that at Walmart, Home Depot or online.

The other winter modification we did was to have the propane company deliver a small external propane tank.  We did the math and calculated we would have to get our 12 gallon onboard propane tank filled twice a week if we had 7 days in a row of below freezing weather.  The external tank got filled once a month.  Propane was a major expense in the winter. I did not track what we were paying or how much propane we were actually using.  I think I'll call that propane company and see if they have our account on file still.  If I find anything out about it I will update this Post.

We started heating with the onboard forced air propane heater as soon as it started freezing.  We did this to keep the floor and subfloor warm.  Our RV is not a four season motorhome but it does have the black water and gray water tanks and the heater vents all contained in the subfloor in a metal crawl space.  You always run the risk in a non-four season motorhome of freezing your kitchen or bathroom pipes because they run right out to the outer walls usually behind cabinets which are not open to benefit from the heater airflow.  We kept the RV warm for this reason too.  Comfort-wise we could have gotten by with a space heater in the spring and fall but we didn't want to risk letting the outer walls and subfloor getting cold and then not warming back up enough once the heater started running in the middle of the night.

We figure we spent about $1100 winterizing.  Of that $800 was for the skirting project that Cy did and that included his materials and then we spent another $300 on supplies and technology.

On the first freeze in September we were the only ones in the RV Park that didn't freeze and we never froze up after that either.  Even the permanent mobile homes froze because noone was expecting to have to deal with freezing that early in the winter.

When we found out that production of incandescent light bulbs had been legislated away we went out and bought 3 cases of them.  We were living in Las Vegas at the time and didn't need them but we wanted to have them for heating purposes if we ever ended up somewhere cold again.  During that first winter in Bend we went through 6 light bulbs in the sewer boot.

How did we figure out how to do all this stuff you might ask?  A lot of I knew from living in a mobile home in Wyoming when I was a kid.  I respect the cold because I spent just a few nights helping thaw well pumps, water lines and sewer pipes when the power would go out. I knew about the critical importance of heat tapes and insulating pipes.  I looked online and found lots of information about how to winterize an RV for storage.  I never did find anything about how to winterize an RV that you live in.

My dad, Gary Dotson, was a constant source of information and ideas.  The heat lamps and sewer boot insulation were entirely by his design. I am relatively certain he drew a sigh of relief when we finally had the winterization done because it was all we could talk about when he called for two or three months.

Cy and his brother-in-law designed the styrofoam skirting which was held together and connected to the RV with silver HVAC tape.  We had originally planned to put a layer of vinyl on the outside of the foam for aeshetic purposes only but once I saw how the silver aluminum foil looked I decided to forego the vinyl.  This made Cy happy because fitting that foam was the job from hell and the vinyl would have been worse.  It also reduced the price of the job by $300.

Walt was absolutely new to the RV world and winterization world when we got to Bend.  He did the work and I supervised.  We had some arguments because he thought I was doing some overkill but after we got done I think he felt pretty confident we weren't going to freeze.  He is the technology geek in our family so the temperature sensors and Weather Station were totally his idea.  I can't imagine what our electricity bill would have been like if we would have had those lights and heat tapes on 24/7.  I know the whole system would have worked without them but they really made the whole thing worry free.

We made it through one and a half winters in Bend without freezing anything.  We never experienced any power outages - thank heaven - but one great benefit about living in a motorhome is that you usually have an onboard generator and we do.  You just have to make sure you have enough fuel in your gas tank to run it.  Had the power gone out we could have sustained our winterization system with power from the generator.

So, that is Part 1.  I had originally planned to make this post about our air conditioning drama that we had two days ago here in Florida but once I started writing I thought that the magnitude of planning for the climate when you live in the motorhome fulltime is a bit more involved than people realize.  The summerization (not sure if that is even a word - if not I just invented it) is much more profound when preceded with a description of the winterization.

If you have any questions about how we did things, the products we used or other suggestions just post them below and I will respond as best I can. 

Free-wheeling and loving it.


Copyright 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  You many not publish or reprint this article without the permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank You.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Perils of Peeing at the Beach

I am waiting outside in the Prius with Bruno while Walt is in Subway at New Smyrna Beach getting us a light dinner. It has been a magical day. I feel grounded, grateful and still head over heels in love with my husband and with Florida.

I told Walt on Friday that I didn't care how crappy I felt this weekend I wanted him to drag me to the beach. Saturday I experienced my first Florida thunderstorm and since it was so rainy it wasn't a good beach day. Today, Sunday, dawned warm and sunny and stayed that way. I am starting to feel somewhat better. The pain and fatigue comes and goes but after a good afternoon nap we drove over to New Smyrna Beach. It is about a thirty minute drive from the RV park. I slept in the car on the way over. We found a place to park on the beach near the porta potty, set up our zero gravity chairs and soaked up the late evening rays and salt spray.

We had several visits from the 12 year old boy from the family next to us. He had found some shells while snorkeling and wanted us to have some. The shells are now rattling around in the change tray along with the Gorilla rock (see previous post). We talked about Bruno with him and we shared our yummy Florida fruit and tasty, yet horrifyingly unhealthy pork rinds with him and his little brother.  His dad spoke only Spanish so we had to do some creative communication to make sure it was okay to share with them.  Apparently he hadn't read the "Racist" sign on my back so he was totally cool with it (see previous post for explanation). Funny, but I didn't even feel like a racist when we were talking, just a nice, old lady visiting with a really cute kid and his little brother, enjoying the weather, water and waves. What a relief.

We always try to park close to the porta potty when we go to the beach.  Well, first of all we always try to go to the beach where you can drive on the beach.  That is key.  Then we try to park near the porta potty.  This is because I have bladder issues and being close helps avoid any related stress.

The porta potty was placed at a slant with the doorway facing downhill.  You had to step up from the road, climb a little incline, step up into the unit, turn around and lean out to pull the door closed.  The door was difficult to close both because of the slant and because it was set on uneven ground and wouldn't close quite right. After negotiating the above listed challenges I would then have to brace myself with my hand reaching back against the ventilation pipe so that I could squat over the seat - AND NOT TOUCH IT WITH ANY BODY PART. Then I would have to figure out how to get the toilet paper off the roll without falling forward headfirst into the door.

The first two potty runs happened with just the right amount of difficulty and no mishaps. This is extra exceptional because I really am still feeling pretty wobbly and off balance from being sick.

On my third and final visit to the potty things did not go quite so well.  For those of you who squat in porta potties READ THIS PART CAREFULLY!

I had successfully negotiated all of the technical climbing elements required to get into the pot.  I had closed the door.  This time I decided to get my toilet paper first - to avoid the falling headfirst issue.  I was feeling very proud of myself at how smoothly this effort was going but as I was squatting and peeing I looked down and noticed water running by my right flipflop.

Alot of water.

I followed the origin and IT WAS COMING FROM ME! I was peeing on the closed toilet lid and it was running all over the seat area and down by my flipflop.  Well, being precariously balanced as I was I just had to go ahead and finish.

Then I wiped with the toilet paper I had so proudly and efficiently collected prior to my biological accident....lifted the lid and dropped it in.  Then I proceeded to use the rest of the toilet paper left on the roll (sorry fellow New Smryna Beach goers) to clean up my biological accident and finished by dropping it in, where the pee, poo and toilet paper is supposed to go.  I rubbed some sand around on the biological fluid spill on the floor and stepped out of the porta potty, accomplished the downhill element of the course and made a perfect 10 gymnastic landing in the road.

I walked back to the car and pretended that I had never even been in that porta potty.

Peace be with you and all that jazz!

Opasnosti mochit'sya no plyashe

Copyright 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  You may not publish or reprint this article without the permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank You.

The Quandary of Healing

This won't be a long post. I am feeling better every day but still have a ways to go. I was thinking today that when I was really sick and really scared it was easier to be sick because I had all that adrenaline surging through my body. Now I have a diagnosis and every day gets better but it is hard to feel even a little crappy when you get tastes of what it feels like to feel good. So I'm crabby and moody. I miss my husband. I'm lonely but don't feel well enough to go do stuff with my friends. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get past this thing.

Copyright 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  You may not publish or reprint this article without permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank you.