Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Enjoying Canyon Lake

On Memorial Day, we left Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio and headed into the hills to Canyon Lake.

It was very crowded here that day, and I was expecting to hate it here. But it was a holiday after all, and by the end of that evening this place was clearing out.

By the next morning, we walked down to the beach, and the same beach that was brimming with people 12 hours earlier was now completely ours! We had our own private beach all morning long!

So I have decided that this place might not be so bad after all. The young boys like the playground, and the middle boys like the beach. The oldest boys haven't hardly left the camper because we get Wi-Fi here. I'm sure their eyes are going to pop out of their heads soon from staring at a screen for so long. (Boy, do I sound like a mom, or what?)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Leaving Ft. Sam Houston

We survived our first 30 days living in the camper at Ft. Sam Houston!

We enjoyed our time there. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed it so much that we intend to return in a few weeks.

As a farewell to us, our neighbor "Miss Esther" treated our family to dinner! Miss Esther is a retired school teacher, and she took a shining to our family. My 7yo especially liked Miss Esther and says he misses her. I think Miss Esther rather liked him, too!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

And the Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down

Rain! Oh my word, the RAIN!

It started last evening, and it hasn't stopped. San Antonio, so far, has gotten 12.5 inches in the last 24 hours. That's a lot of rain! And, of course, we are parked in the thick of it.

Some interstates and other highways are closed, city public transportation quit running, and everyone is being told to JUST STAY HOME! The local news coverage is constantly showing rescue scenes from people who have been caught in the flash floods.

As my sister says, San Antonio is the only place she's ever lived where people drown every time it rains. Unfortunately, she's right.

And staying home would be a lot easier if we were actually in a house and not cooped up in the camper.

We were supposed to meet up with some visiting friends we knew from when we lived in North Dakota, but we were to afraid to travel in the rain this morning. It was rather treacherous out there for a while. It's not so bad now, but it is still raining non-stop. Hopefully we can meet up with them later this week.

So I have four very bored teens today, two little kids who are climbing the walls, and a husband who is trying to escape reality by sleeping through it all. I'm not sure he's having much success.

Oh, and we also have a window that leaks. *sigh*

Edited to add:  The flooding was so bad today, we earned the top headline on CNN:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ode to Command Strips

"Oh, Command Strips, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

I have discovered sheer joy in a product called Command. These are like foam-backed tape, but they are completely removable without damaging walls!

I have been using them all over the camper as a way to organize ourselves a little better.

Kitchen: a hook for my pot holder

Upstairs bathroom: hooks for a toothbrush holder AND hung another towel rack

My bedroom: a hook for Steve's shower bag and one for my purse

Boys' room: towel hooks AND a way to hang lightweight acrylic shelves

Boys' bathroom: hung a toilet paper holder, a towel ring, and a hook for their toiletry kits

The Saga of the Wet Bath - Part 2

Just when you think you are getting things figured out, you realize that you really don't know much at all!

Here's what I was right about: the wet bath really does have a waterless p-trap in the floor. And it really is working in reverse since the interior diaphram is inside-out.

However, I was wrong about what caused the backflow issue. I learned I was wrong because, well, it happened again!

I had assumed that the washing machine caused the tank to overflow, but it turns out that it was my kitchen sink...which actually makes more sense.

I am now certain that my kitchen sink drains into the back holding tank (along with the sink from that bathroom), and the washing machine drains into the front holding tank (along with the shower and upstairs bathroom sink). How do I know this? Because I forced two of my children to watch the hoses outside as I ran the water in the camper and to yell out when they saw water running through the hoses. Mystery solved!

So why did I think it was the washing machine? Because it was my first time doing laundry when the tank overflowed. However, I was also washing dishes at the same time, which I had done many times before.

But the second time it overflowed, I was washing clothes with that hose open... yet the tank overflowed again!  Ah, but I was also washing dishes!

Are you following all this?

Anyway, after cleaning up yet another stinky, nasty, gross mess in the boys' bathroom, I think we've solved the problem:

1. Know what drains into which tank.
2. Leave the grey water tanks open most of the time.
3. Spend 73¢ on an air-tight plug for the floor drain so you don't have to deal with the stench wafting up the pipe!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Making - and Losing - New Friends

Since our first day in the camper, my youngest two boys made fast friends with the two boys in the next campsite over, Luke and Sam. They are traveling around the country in their RV because their dad just retired, like us! Obviously, they homeschool, too.

Every single day, for hours and hours each day, my boys would play with Luke and Sam. But, alas, early this morning Luke and Sam moved on to bigger and better places. My two boys are crushed over losing their new friends.

Such is life in the RV, I suppose. I'm sure there will be many more incidents of making - and losing - new friends.

(Picture: Luke, my 10yo, my 7yo, and Sam. That is our rig and van in the background, as the picture was taken on their patio, not ours.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Sold the House!

As you know, we listed the house for sale on May 1st. We had eleven showings in two week's time, plus on Saturday we had a second showing. That second showing resulted in an offer on Monday!

The offer was a bit lower than we wanted, so we made a counter-offer. The buyer accepted our counter-offer today! Whoot!

The projected closing date is June 14th, which also happens to be my son's 10th birthday, and also the anniversary of Steve entering the Air Force twenty-eight years ago. Seems like a providential day!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week 2: The Saga of the Wet Bath

Now that we've completed our second week in the RV, I'm happy to report that life is slowing down a bit. The house has had about a dozen showings, the kids had some good doctor appointments this week, and we survived more inclement weather.

And, we are learning things that I never thought I'd have to learn.

Enter, the wet bath.

If you are unfamiliar with RVs, then you might not even know what a wet bath is. Simply put, it is a bathroom with a toilet and sink and a shower head, but the entire bathroom doubles as the shower stall. As such, there is a drain in the floor of the bathroom into which the shower water drains.

Our wet bath is in the "garage" where the four teen boys sleep. It is their own little bathroom.

Last week when I attempted to do laundry for the first time, I erroneously assumed my washer drained into my front grey water tank. (Makes sense, since the washer is in the front of the camper.)  Well, I overflowed the back grey tank because, lo and behold, the washer drains into the back grey water tank, not the front one. That tank is also where the wet bath sink and shower drain into; so when the tank started to overflow, the grey water started coming up through the drain in the floor.

Yesterday was a warm day, and we started getting a sewer smell coming from - you guessed it - the drain in the floor of the wet bath. Living with septic tanks in hot southern Texas, I am no stranger to dry p-traps. Many times when a house drain is unused for a few days, the p-trap water will dry out due to evaporation, and sewer gases will come up through your drains. It's an easy remedy: just run some water down your drain, and problem solved!

So I assumed that's what was going on in the camper, especially since it was a hot day and we aren't ever putting water down that floor drain. So I went in there and started pouring some water down the drain.

Immediately it started to back up. Water was running VERY slowly down the drain.

Out of frustration I shined a flashlight down the drain to see if something was plugging the drain. I could barely make out something white that looked like a chunk of soap.

I called Steve in to look at it. He looked, then got a screwdriver and removed the grate on the top of the drain. Sure enough, something was in there, but it wasn't a chunk of soap.

It was plastic, and wadded up. We tried to pick it out, but it was stuck. What in the world could it be?

Well, after much research and with the help of my online friends on the Escapees forum, I learned that we have what is known as a "waterless p-trap".  (I know! Who has ever heard of such a thing?!?)

In a waterless p-trap, a diaphram is used to allow water to flow down the drain, but prevent sewer gases from floating up the drain. (It works like the valves in your heart work, by allowing flow in only one direction.) Waterless p-traps are intended to be used in drains that seldom get used, or where space is an issue - like in a wet bath in an RV!

What I suspect happened is that last week when I overflowed the grey tank, the backflow pushed the diaphram inside-out. So now we have a waterless p-trap that works in the opposite direction: water doesn't flow down the drain, but sewer gases do flow up the drain.

So now what?  Well, I don't know. Right now I have a wash cloth stuffed into the drain to keep the stench from coming up. I suppose on Monday when I call the RV repairman to fix the converter (yes, we still have that issue with the slides and awning not working - suspect the converter is blown), I'll see if he can also fix that waterless p-trap.


In other maintenance news:

We have a broken gas pressured hinge on the back door. We tried to replace that hinge this week, but got the wrong pressure rating. Still need to fix that, but that's something we can do on our own.

The sliding door on the main bathroom came out of its track this week. Steve had to screw the track back into place. Chalk up one maintenance success!

I know that we are going to use this camper hard, but I didn't realize it would become a constant maintenance issue. I'm hoping we are just behind a learning curve and getting all the kinks out now before we start to travel.

The RV supply store loves seeing us. We are nearly on a first name basis by now.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Not much going on today. We had my son's therapy sessions this morning, then I popped over to the house to grab a few things. We had two showings today, so I'm hoping something comes of it.

We discovered an awesome playground near the campground today. This is keeping the younger two happy for a while. The middle two have discovered a skate park, and they won't leave it except to eat and sleep.  And the oldest two found the community center and library, so they're happy as larks.

We are camping next to a very large national cemetery. Just now as I was typing this, I heard a gun salute, and now I hear taps being played. Very sobering.

Very soon we need to get back to schooling, but for today we are just chillin'. And I'm okay with that.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our First Week - Recap

What a week it's been!

I'm afraid this is going to sound terribly whiney, but I'm not really whining. I like to think of it as an "adventure".

This has been a bumpy week. First of all, we worked our tails off at the house this week getting it market-ready. On Wednesday the realtor came to the house to take pictures, put the sign in the yard, and put the key box on the front door. All of a sudden, it seemed like this was becoming all too real.

By the way, here's a video tour of the house that our realtor put together. It's only 3 minutes long, but it's decent. (The kids were bummed because their bedrooms weren't shown. LOL)

By working our tails off getting ourselves out of the house, the camper has been neglected. We haven't really taken time yet to get our new lives organized. It seems like a tornado hit south Texas, localized entirely in the interior of my RV! Ugh!

The weather has not been cooperative, either. For the first five nights or so, we had severe thunderstorms every night. If you've never experienced a south Texas springtime thunderstorm, then you just ain't seen nothin' yet! On the first night of thunderstorms, we tried to bring in our slide-outs, only to have all three of them quit working. (I mentioned this in a previous post.) We manually cranked the closed one open again, but still can't figure out why they aren't working.

After the thunderstorms cleared out, we've had the pleasure of experiencing record breaking low temperatures. For the past two nights we've broken low temperature records, and the daytime highs weren't all that warm either!  One night we were also under a wind advisory warning with gusts up to 60mph. I didn't get much sleep that night.

Yesterday I decided to try running my first load of laundry in the camper. After taking about ten minutes to figure out how to work this machine, I started the first load. About five minutes into it, my 13yo son started yelling about water on the floor in the back bathroom. (The boys have a "wet bath" half-bathroom with a drain in the floor.) Water was coming up out of the floor drain and was about two inches deep.

In a panic I called Steve on the cell phone to find out what to do. He coached me through the process of emptying all the tanks, which is a somewhat yucky job.

So what happened was this: I erroneously assumed that the washing machine drained into the front grey water tank since it is located toward the front of the RV. Makes sense, right? Well, apparently it drains into the back grey water tank, the one that the boys' bathroom also drains into. When I ran the washing machine, I overflowed the tank, causing the water to back up and come out the floor drain.

That was mess to clean up, lemme tall ya!

On top of all that, while emptying the tanks I learned that our sewer hose had a hole it in. I made a lovely little mess on the ground outside the camper. I tried to plug the hole with - what else? - duct tape, but that didn't hold for too long once the effluent started running through the hose. Sigh.  So today necessitated a trip to the RV supply store for new sewer hoses.

Steve also spent time today trying to figure out why the slides - and now the awning too! - won't work. He checked all the circuit breakers and fuses, as well as the converter. All seem to be in working order. He needs to check the inverter, but we can't find it!

I forgot to mention that on that really windy day, one of the boys opened the back door and broke the hinge. He opened the door only about a couple inches, but the wind caught the door and ripped it from his hands. The door flew open beyond where it is supposed to, and the hinge broke off. Sigh. Just one more thing.

On the plus side, the two younger boys have made some campgrounds friends with some boys in the next campsite. Turns out that this family is doing pretty much the same thing we are doing. They just retired from the USAF and are going to take a year to tour the US in their RV. The difference is that they have half the kids we have, and they are younger kids. But still, pretty neat that we aren't the only crazy ones out there!  Ha!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's May - May?!?

 I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it is now the month of May.  We planned to have the house listed on May 1st,  but  we aren't quite ready yet.  We are very close to being ready,  but we need another day or so.  Mostly we just need some more time to clean.

 We are adjusting to life in the camper pretty well.  Most of our daytime is spent at the house,  and we are basically only sleeping in the camper.  We have eaten a whole lot of fast food in the past few days, and even the kids are sick of it by now.  Wee have already learned that the camper is, indeed, water-tight. I think yesterday was the first day we've had since moving into the camper that we haven't had a thunderstorm.

 As for the stuck slide-outs, Steve  found the handtool that you can use to manually crank open the slides.  Using  one of the boys' leatherman tools (Boy Scouts - always be prepared!),  we were able to get the bedroom slide open.  So for now we are all set.  Yes,  the slides are still technically broken,  but we can have them fixed later after the house is ready for the market.

 Oh, and I thought I'd mention that it is a little strange being on a military base as retirees.  It's odd to hear reveille at 5:30 in the morning and taps at 10:00 each night.  It's odd being some of the oldest people around.  We ate dinner at the shoppette Burger King next to the training dorms the other night, and we were by far the oldest ones in there. I reminded Steve that the people in there were only a couple years older than our eldest sons.

 So we are still chugging along with our plan and enjoying life, as crazy as it is right now.  This is definitely quite the adventure so far!