RV Life is the ISH! (Part 1)

One week in as full timers and what a journey it’s been. Every bit of the roller coaster I expected it to be. Crazy highs and crazy lows, but I’m personally beginning to deal with the lows like, well, more of an adult.

Day one we pass through Columbia, MO and stop to visit a few hours with Aimee’s family before making the long drive to Denver. Already a day behind, we decide to skip Lawrence, where we had bought and paid for 2 nights at Clinton Lake camp ground, and instead opt to boondock at a Walmart in Salina, KS just to get us closer to Denver.

(Side note… before we started this journey we said we wanted to avoid long stretches and night driving. So of course we roll into Salina at 1am.)

The Walmart there lived up to my every expectation. And even though we’re in a 40-ft. motorhome, there’s still something unsettling about sleeping in a Walmart parking lot.

After a late breakfast we get back on the road and about an hour outside Salina the Beast decides it’s low on engine coolant. Because the Beast doesn’t like to go more than a few hours’ drive without having me do something I’ve never done before. Every time that little ding goes off on the dash my heart sinks. But “Low Engine Coolant” doesn’t sound too bad. Just gotta find where said coolant goes and add some, right?

I lift the back engine “gate” thing and see a coolant reservoir with an insanely long list of instructions for filling.

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Heater Loop Valve? Petcock? Whaaaa? It looks full of red liquid, but behind it is another tank that looks a little empty. It has one of those metal pressurized caps…the kind I always envision erupting in my face with hot magma if I ever touch it…so I don’t touch it. Instead I read the manual for a while, then finally call Good Sam roadside assistance for advice. Instead of talking to an actual tech, you talk to somebody who’s talking to a tech for you. So when I as a question he relays the question to the tech, then returns with the tech’s answer. But of course the tech’s answer always raises more questions, and on and on this goes. The dumbest game of “telephone” ever.

In the end, the tech assures me I can just remove the cap and fill. Of course I have a problem with this because I read manuals and instructions, and that’s clearly NOT what the instructions say. Nevertheless, I run into the truck stop, buy some coolant and a funnel, and return to face the off-putting metal cap. It says “twist slowly”, so I do, nervously anticipating third degree burns about the face and neck area. There’s a little pressure released, but that’s about it. But it won’t come completely off. So now I’m Googling how to remove a stupid surge tank cap because apparently there’s more to it than just twisting it off. First you twist, then push down and twist some more. Well alright.

I get the coolant added but the light doesn’t go off. After debating another 20 minutes with myself I decide to just get back on the road and see if it goes off. It doesn’t right away, but the temperature gauge never climbs, so I continue on to Denver hoping for the best.

We finally roll into Chatfield State Park, just outside Denver, around 9pm. More night driving. What a surprise. What should have taken about 7 hours, turned into just under 10.

We get the Beast hooked up, pop the slides, and for the first time I feel like I’m officially a “full timer.” It was an amazing feeling. So many emotions, but I finally felt like we did it. We had arrived. This was the culmination of a year of dreaming, planning, doubting, downsizing, selling, fixing, screaming, crying… and now, one big exhale. Success. A huge grin spread across my face, and I felt total peace.

Aimee: “Honey, the toilet’s clogged.”

Son of a…

Me: “Aiden, man, how many times do I have to tell you this is not like the toilet at home? We can’t use so much toilet paper.”

Yep, we’re full timers now. I’ll deal with that in the morning.


In the morning I step outside, and for the first time am able to see exactly where we are. There were no lights in the state park when we pulled in the night before so I couldn’t see a thing.

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Up before the family, I sit out in the cool, fresh air and read some scripture, give thanks to God for bringing us to this point, and mentally prepare for the crappy job that lies ahead. When everyone else wakes, I climb back aboard and get to work. First things first…let’s flush it and see what happens. Maybe sitting there all night gravity went to work and things will just move on through. No such luck. Water climbs higher up the side of the bowl. Since we don’t have a plunger, perhaps a poke with a nearby stick will do the trick. So I forage about and find one about 20” in length, break off the loose ends and give it a shot. Ya, no. The drain tube is crazy long, and it’s way backed up with water and the stick is just stirring up all sorts of unspeakable nastiness. Water climbs higher. Critical height now. Water has to be removed before we continue, and the only way is with a paper cup and a trash can and so we scoop. Dear Lord what did I do to deserve this punishment?

With the water down to a manageable level, I decide to break out the 4-ft. cleaning wand I purchased before we set sail. It attaches to a garden hose at one end, and has 4 small holes on the opposite end, and is supposed to be used to clean your black water tank. Not sure if it works for this type of application, but it seems logical…high pressured water shooting out in 4 directions, should be enough to break up a stubborn log jam.

I disconnect the fresh water hose from the hookup, connect the “other” hose and attach it to the wand. There’s enough slack to thread the hose through the bathroom window and shove the wand down into the abyss. Down it goes. All the way down. How long is this pipe?!?! I turn on the water and in seconds the jam is gone! But now I have a nasty, dirty hose/wand to reel back up. I reel slowly in an effort to clean off the sides of the drain as it comes up. Everything goes smoothly until the end approaches the top. Instead of shutting the valve off at the handle I keep bringing it up, and to this moment I don’t know why. Because as the tip of the wand approached daylight the high pressure jets ricocheted off the drain tube and up into my face, bringing with it whatever horrors had been caked onto the sides. Sure, my precious hands are protected with latex gloves. Heaven forbid I get something on my hands. The face, however, takes a direct, unprotected hit.

At this point I don’t know whether to cry, or laugh, or soak my face in boiling water. So for a second I stand there, paralyzed, before letting out a wimper followed by a louder cry for help. Still immobile, I ask Aimee to please get me a wet wipe. She’s all too happy to oblige. All to happy. Laughingly happy as she wipes my face down, barely touching the wipe with 2 fingers because, gross.

The whole rest of the day my upper lip remained ever so slightly turned up. There are some things that can’t be showered away. Before the day ends, we have the talk. Again.

“Guys, whenever we’re at a restaurant, or store, or anywhere on earth with a public restroom, please use it. Pretty please. The bathroom in here is always here whenever you need it, but if there are other options, please take advantage of them. And for the love of all things holy, please limit the amount of toilet paper you put down the toilet.”

And this pains me to say, because there is no bigger proponent to home field advantage than me. Oh, if only this was my last toilet speech. But I know better. To make matters worse, the bowl is supposed to hold a couple inches of water after each flush. That water is supposed to trap fumes from the black water tank from coming back up. The rubber seals in our toilet aren’t doing their job, so daddy gets to take apart the toilet at some point in the very near future. I’m prepared though. I went to Walmart and purchased some of those dust masks painters use. Fool me once…

Not everything was crappy our first week. We hiked up over 12,000 feet at the Loveland Pass with our fat dog.


Had another amazing hike in Eldorado Canyon.


And visited with relatives from both sides of our families, some we hadn’t seen in many years. That, to me, makes all these struggles worth it. The memories we’re making. The connections, and re-connections, with people. And with places. So if I have to occasionally take one for the team, so be it. I just didn’t realize the next one for the team would come so soon…


11 thoughts on “RV Life is the ISH! (Part 1)

Add yours

  1. Again, amazing! I am on a 6-hour bus ride over dirt roads to Tegucigalpa and that’s plenty adventure for me. But one advantage – – no toilet! Roll on! Thanks for taking us along.

  2. I really enjoyed this story! We all have these types of stories, eventually. 😬 I’ve had two but they weren’t TOO bad, for me! I’ve had a few doozies in the almost year and a half of other stories!!!! They make for the best stories… So…. I hope you keep up this type of antics, selfishly!!!

  3. We bought a used motorhome this year and the bathroom stunk even with the tank emptied. My husband shined a flashlight down the toilet with flap open and discovered the dreaded cone build up of paper and yuk. He poured hot water down there, let it sit, back flushed (get the clear elbow so you can see when it is finally clean water), over and over until the log jam was gone. Has not smelled since. One other thing that we and many long time RVers do is to never put T-paper in the toilet. Put paper in a small lined waste can in bathroom and put #2 paper in zip lock sandwich bags first.
    As to the bowl not holding water: We had this on previous RV and husband went thru the horrid job of changing valve to no avail. Found out that on our particular toilet there was a little lever behind the toilet that would close the flap tight. After using that a few times the toilet was ok again.
    Good luck and I hope you stop having all these problems.

  4. I read this to my wife and we were both laughing #1 because it was so funny and #2 because we had almost the same experience with the toilet our first time out and #3 Had the same toilet paper talk!
    Your not alone brother!

    I pray that God will grant you many enjoyable days in your RV life!

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