Two weeks on the road.

It is now mid May.  We’ve been on the road for almost two weeks.  It was not quite as smooth as we thought.  I mean, we knew we couldn’t possibly learn everything just by watching and reading.  We have learned a lot over the past two weeks, mostly when things didn’t go as expected…

Our first stumbling block was encountered when we turned on the fridge for the first time two days before launch.  We had our solar system which we thought would be sufficient for all our power needs.  It wasn’t.  Turns out the fridge, which is an absorption design (versus compression that most residential fridges use) and uses dual fuel (propane and AC electricity), is 1) not efficient at cooling, and 2) a power hungry beast that uses 500-600 watts per hour, every hour.  Our battery capacity is around 10,000W, and so when we left the fridge on overnight and returned the next day, our battery was at 15%.  Granted the sun was coming up, but the incoming watts weren’t enough to both power the fridge and restore the battery so it would have power for the next night.  Luckily we are staying at places that have electricity hookups…  later that day we met up with Todd (our solar guy, who also helped us start up our propane for the first time, thanks Todd!).  Ultimately we decided to install a third battery to increase our capacity by 5000W. Time will tell if we have enough solar cells up top to keep these full, but we do have space for more panels!

Our first camping spot we had partial hookups (50A electricity, water, no sewage, trash dumpster, even recycling!), with a dump station in the camp for the low rate of $10 to dump your liquid waste tanks.  There were a lot of open spots near us, but it looked like the full hookup spots were full.  This was Friday.  We soon learned that this campsite was the local hip spot for the weekend and there was a really happening dance party as well as a paranormal circus running shows all weekend.  We did not attend either of these exciting events.  

We hooked up to water, but we had purchased a used vehicle that had been sitting idle for the past, oh, six months.  The prior owners had winterized it, which, luckily for us did not mean filling the lines with antifreeze as is common practice, but simply meant draining and pressure blowing out the lines to make sure they were free of water.  However, I don’t believe anything is ever “empty” once used, and was sure there were all kinds of fun bacteria, mold, and other lovely friends growing inside our tank system.  To de-winterize, there’s a whole process including draining and sanitizing the system.  Of course, this means you need to fill and drain the system which needs to be done when hooked up to a sewer or drainage system.  Which we didn’t have.  SO we hooked up to water but decided to treat it as non-potable (which I know, based on an experience on a train when I was in middle school, means “not drinkable” not “not movable” as I thought when I was 13).  

Of course, not knowing our water usage during showers or washing dishes, we had no idea how fast our waste tanks would fill up.  We have three tanks to store our waste water.  One 50 gallon grey water tank for our kitchen sink.  One 50 gallon grey water tank for our bathroom shower and sink.  One 50 gallon black tank for the toilet.  Of course the system we have to track this does not label these in a useful way.  It has four LEDs to show us (1) empty, (2) 1/3 full, (3) 2/3 full, or (4) full.  We can press four different buttons to view the tank capacity of our three tanks (black 1, black 2, grey 1, grey 2).  Yes, I know, we only have one black tank. Which means one of these buttons is not hooked up to anything. We also don’t know which grey button corresponds to the bathroom and which to the kitchen. Our manual is not helpful.  So we’re guessing for now.  For this first stop, we used the bathroom for quick showers, washed dishes, and used the bathroom sparingly.  As we discovered, though, when we attempted to dump our waste, our black tank has an issue and needs some servicing.  It’s okay, it’ll be good to get a full flush/tuneup by a professional who knows what they’re doing and can help us learn.

So yes, we learned some things about dumping.  We watched so many videos, bought a bunch of connections and special attachments to help us, and good thing we did because they came in useful to help us monitor and adjust when things went down (or came out?) the drain sooner than expected.  I will say, this week we bought a new attachment, a 35 gallon external tank we can fill and dump independently of our rig.  So now we can stay in one spot and just empty our tanks using this external tank a few times, pulling or driving it back and forth to the dump station (which most parks have) to get rid of our waste water. These are all the rage at our current campsite since most of the “camping” spots have electricity and water but not sewage. It’s a good system for us to use because we are still getting used to parking!

Speaking of parking, we’ve been practicing and getting better at communicating (with walkie-talkies) and turning to back Homer-Rooty* up. Our hitch is located in the bed of the truck which means our turning radius is bigger and we have a bit more flexibility and give with the weight we pull. Our truck has many back-up cameras, but the fifth wheel does not. Some of the spots we’ve had are easy to back into, others are not. The spot we are currently in, we weren’t sure we could get into because of the road, the length, the space available in the road… many reasons. But in the first spot at this campground we weren’t getting great internet service (more about that later). We were convinced we should move by two campers we encountered who have been doing this for over 20 years. We eventually tried and with some help and advice we were successful at getting parked, though it was a 30 minute endeavor of back and forth to get settled. Each time we try to get into a spot we learn more about what we can do and how to do it.

Internet. Before leaving, we got a Starlink, to make sure we had reliable internet access. Starlink has a roving option and a residential option. We have the roving version. We’ve been mostly satisfied and haven’t really had trouble trying to connect or having video calls. Except when we were in the pacific northwest forest. Even though the trees were tall and spindly, they covered enough of the sky that we could not connect to the Starlink. Luckily the RV park had a wireless internet option you could purchase for $30/mo on a monthly subscription model. We paid $30. Scott was able to stream the Timbers game, but I was having trouble maintaining a connection on my computer. Monday rolled around and we both experienced dropped calls and unreliable service and decided we needed to move to a spot with Starlink service. Tuesday I had a few work calls, so I camped out in a spot with great reception that was open and we thought we could maybe fit in, but it would be a stretch. As I sat at the picnic table with the Starlink behind me, I was approached by several people asking if I was staying at this spot. One told me it was a great spot and encouraged us to try to move it. As I’ve previously alluded to, we took the leap and switched spots. We get great reception here and haven’t had problems.

We are here for another week and plan on using our 35 gallon dump tank and enjoying the beautiful weather the Oregon coast is currently experiencing. It’s supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, in the 80s. We plan to go tidepooling and maybe eat more cheese and fresh fish.

5 thoughts on “Two weeks on the road.

  1. Dad

    You look happy – smiling at your steep learning curve! Keep up the posting as it’s great to travel with you!

    1. The Buffalo Post author

      Thanks! We are certainly learning a lot, and learning by doing is the kind of education I like… though sometimes it feels like there is still so much we don’t know. BUT since both Scott and I are data driven people (and educators at heart), we are certainly planning to gather and share as we learn on the road.

  2. Tracy Machacek

    Yes! This is exactly the narration I need of your adventure. Enjoy yourselves and please keep us updated when you can.


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