Summer Heat Wave – Or Alien Invasion?

Our attempt to escape the summer heat has us currently hanging out in Flagstaff, Arizona. However, the weather lately has been wonky everywhere and this time Arizona isn’t being excluded. Flagstaff is about to hit record high temperatures in a few days.

It’s time to break out the big guns! Reflectix – you’re my hero!

Summer in an RV

Technically, this is something we should have done ages ago, because it helps in the Summer AND Winter – but it’s one of those things that we haven’t had time to do until now.

All the pieces of Reflectix are simply wedged into place so we can easily take them down when we head to get groceries.

Summer in an RV 2

Other RV’ers swear by Reflectix and we can already tell a difference in the inside temperature, just a few minutes after having our window coverings in place.  We’ve also lined a few shelf areas to protect items on the shelf from the incoming heat.

Reflectix is a super quick, easy, and cheap way to help add additional insulation to your RV when dealing with unusual high or low temperatures. We used almost an entire roll (48′ x 10′) for our needs and the cost was only $26. You really can’t beat that for the additional comfort it provides.

It’s Been That Kind of Day

While shopping today, I learned that Walmart sells wine. 

I know nothing about wine. I have no place to store any wine bottles (because, I live in a van).

I am also trying to reduce dish-washing since today, we have had NO hot water. Zip. Zilch.

Walmart Wine

I may have possibly purchased a 4-pack of these itty bitty wine bottles. As single serving bottles, no dish-washing required.

Yes, I live in a van. Yes, I purchased wine at Walmart. I’m a little scared what this says about me…

Why We Are Counting Down: 3.5 Weeks to Go

Have you ever had to live without hot water? Most people I know were born and raised in the U.S. and have probably never given much thought to hot water. You turn on the hot tap, and a few seconds later, hot water rushes forth. It’s almost miraculous when you think about it.

I’m not sure if it’s worse not having any hot water at all, or having a water heater that only works on occasion. Flip a coin – are you feeling lucky?

We’ve had our hot water “fixed” once already, when it was working less often than it is now, but it’s still finicky, and even when it works “as designed” – it won’t work properly for us. It also isn’t always even working as designed, but I’ll get to that.

We have a Girard Tankless Hot Water Heater. For some reason, some RV manufacturers have decided to forgo traditional hot water tanks and use a tankless system. There are a lot of marketing claims involved such as: “instant hot water” and “endless hot water” (neither of which is actually true). You can spend hours reading all the complaints about Girard Tankless systems if you like, there is a lot of chatter out there.

When you have a hot water tank, the water is heated and stored in a tank for your use. If you run out of hot water, you need to wait for more to be heated. In a tankless system, the water is heated AS IT FLOWS through the pipes. This is a huge difference, and can be very problematic in an RV.

The way our hot water system works, I mean, the way it is designed to work, is you must turn the hot water on to it’s fullest setting, wait about 12 seconds, and then you should have hot water. However, if you turn off the faucet while you soap up dishes, or wash your hair, then turn the water back on, it will NOT be hot anymore. If you are only turning the water off for about 2 or 3 seconds it will be okay, but there is a short point of time where it isn’t. Instead, the water will often be lukewarm, then very cold again, then maybe it will start to get hot again. Or, you may need to turn the faucet off, wait until the system stops entirely (a few minutes), then turn it on and wait again. All the while, wasting quite a bit of water. Perhaps gallons.

In other words, the our tankless water heater gives us the worst shower experience possible. Sometimes there has been screaming involved. I also don’t mind hand-washing dishes in normal circumstances. I DO mind washing dishes with ice cold water.

Now, keep in mind, we have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. If we are connected to water service (and sewer service) at a campground then sure, we can take a long hot shower as long as we never turn the water off. Many campgrounds do not offer full hookups, so here is where the physical limitations begin.

Our shower head is rated for 2.5 gallons per minute. Due to the Girard design and high flow needs, we are unable to switch to an Oxygenics shower head with a lower flow rate. We are also unable to practice any water conservation methods, such as using the pause button on our shower head (pausing the water while soaping and shampooing can save several gallons of water).

Here’s what I’m trying to say…

  • Our water heater works only on occasion
  • The Girard tankless water heater encourages horrible water conservation practices (it prohibits them entirely)
  • The Girard tankless water heater makes bookdocking (dry camping) impossible. Want to get way from a campground? Better have huge water tanks!

Since our water heater only works on occasion, I’ve had my share of ice cold showers (I don’t recommend it, it’s excruciating), and washed dishes with cold water, making myself freezing in the process.

One of our main goals for getting the van we did was to dry camp in remote locations and go off grid. The way things are now, being at campsites with only partial hookups is stressful because we don’t have the tank sizes to allow “endless water!” It also takes a person near the water temperature dial in the kitchen to alter the hot water temperature as needed because if you alter the temp at the faucet and add cold water – you’re pretty much screwed and have to turn everything off again, wait, etc. These are not things you want to be doing while you are mid-shower. And yes, every single shower Dave or I have had in the van has included asking the other person standing in the kitchen to adjust the dial. Girard – what were you thinking when you designed this system?!

Obviously living with our current hot water system is not an option.

After much research, we have decided that switching to a water tank may be too much retrofitting (surgery) for our van. There is a different make and model of a tankless water heater that supposedly will continue to allow hot water even when pausing the water flow, or lowering the rate (using a water conserving shower head). Although we would much prefer a water TANK, switching to another tankless shouldn’t be too hard with our current van configuration.

Once we decided on the water heater to get, we then researched the available service centers that work with these water heaters – and found a highly rated center in Chino, California. We have an appointment in a few weeks and I am counting down the days! I can’t wait to take a hot shower the proper way – pausing water and all! Boondocking, here we come!

Frodo Playing in the Snow

There is a time and place to be cold – such as your dog playing in the Snow!

Our Day Ended in Needles, California

Today was a busy day. We planned to leave Las Vegas and it’s windy, windy weather by heading just a few hours south – but had several errands to run first. We worked in the morning, then buttoned the van down and headed to Whole Foods, Home Depot, and a Gas Station for propane. It took us a long time to get everything done so we were glad our actual travel time would only be two hours. Errands still happen though, it’s just a fact of life!

We lunched at our propane-fill location but got kicked out by security because we were apparently in a (unmarked) commercial parking only lot. Okay then. It was at Home Depot then when Dave ran in to get some necessary supplies, that I finished up from lunch by washing dishes and brushing my teeth — yes — in the Home Depot parking lot. That felt odd, and hysterical at the same time.

Our Van

It was wonderful today to reach nicer weather in Needles. Last night in Vegas we experienced winds with gusts of 50mph, which, is WINDY. And chilly wind is COLD. And cold, windy weather makes me unhappy. A two hour drive straight South from Vegas gave us weather ten degrees warmer with less wind. Talk about a win-win!

Needles, California is just a small town on the Colorado River – so some folks who live here have a spectacular view!

Cool View

But it also has a lot of character.

Town with Character

And interesting plants.

Cactus

Some that look half alien. We didn’t get to look too close at this cactus/tree/thing, because it had things on the ground near it that were prickly, and Frodo appeared to get one up his nose. He didn’t like that (he’s okay), so we just kept on walking.

Alien Cactus

Tomorrow we need another trip to Home Depot so we plan to drive to a nearby larger town so we can get a few more household chores done. You can leave the house behind but not all the chores!

Over and out!

No. Oh no. What Have We Done? (The Unbelievable!)

Over the last week I’ve questioned my sanity thousands of times. Thousands. But I’m happy to say, I’m sure we did the right thing. I realize that this post may also make most folks who know us think we are crazy, but that’s okay!

Okay, let me back up. Oh where oh where do I start?!

We purchased a truck and travel trailer back in August, and soon there-after sold our house. All has been relatively great in regards to some of that, but not all. Sometimes, it simply takes true-life experience to evaluate goals and see how they really pan out. As it turns out, it isn’t that we weren’t meeting our goals, but in fact, our goals have changed.

Initially we simply wanted to be house-less, and at the same time, have a better work-life balance and see the country very slowly. We figured we would hop around from one place to another staying in places for long periods of time (a month to a full-time traveler is a long time!) – but that isn’t quite working out for us.

As we made the journey to South Dakota, and then back to warmer weather, we realized how much we were missing out on by our restricted travel method. Going from Point A-to-Point-B without an option to stop along the way to explore cool things that caught our attention was very frustrating. It felt like trying to hang glide with a cement block tied to our ankles.

With a truck and a 30-foot travel-trailer, there isn’t an option to go exploring without proper planning. The method of travel  with a travel-trailer is setup like a Hub and Spoke. You park the trailer somewhere (often at a campground, or bookdocking location if you’re lucky) as your hub – and then use your tow vehicle to explore in as many different directions you like, each time returning back to your hub location.

The Hub and Spoke method of travel feels like such a huge waste, and overly planned. Also, every single time we have a travel day to get to specific area (or time to explore), we have to “pack” for the day. With our rapid travel pace to South Dakota, we found ourselves “packing” EVERY DAY! With an average of at least four hours in the truck, we had to pack everything we wanted with us for the day – water (multiple bottles), snacks, cameras, you name it. Sure, we did stop at rest stops and switched over to eat lunch in the trailer, but each stop like that adds a large amount of time to an already long day of travel. Restroom breaks can be frustrating as well because sometimes there is a long break between rest stops – and our bathroom was behind us, but inaccessible. When we did have an opportunity to stop, we were usually limited to truck rest stops where there was enough room to drive through with our full rig (50 or so feet of vehicles).

What has surprised both of us is how our goals have changed since we first set out on this path.

We want to travel much more frequently than we originally planned. We want to drive from one area to another and see what we like in between – and simply see where that takes us. We want to have the freedom to go in any direction we choose and simply “go”. It seems silly when traveling with your house behind you that you need to pack for the day, but without any way to access our house from the road – that’s how it is. So, we wanted to change our travel method. It would appear that many full-time travelers change their RV setup on almost a yearly basis, though before now I couldn’t figure out why people make the change. Now I know! It takes living on the road to gain the experience of what it’s really like, and see what you think. We never would have predicted we would feel the way we do, or guess the direction we are headed.

After hours and hours and hours of research to determine our needs, and the options available, we have changed our setup!

Here’s the thing. In addition to traveling on a frequent basis, we also want the flexibility to go anywhere. If the downtown area we are near looks cool – we want to go walk around and take photographs! We also need to be able to run regular errands such as get groceries, which means fitting into a normal parking space (or close to it).

After exploring all the various RV options out there, our needs, and budget to make the change – We found something perfect. So…

We sold our Airstream. It’s gone. We have sold our truck. They’re both gone. I’m sad about the truck, I LOVED our truck! We are continuing on with our travels as planned, living full-time on the road only…

We are now living in a Class B RV. Not familiar with the term? It’s basically a van, with the various things we need such as a kitchen, bathroom, and a place to sleep. At 22’9″ it has everything we need to live comfortably, and travel spectacularly.

Yes We Live in a Van

My life will never be the same. Neither will Dave’s. I hope you continue to follow us along our journey as we continue to see this fantastic country of ours, and see just exactly how we are managing to live in a space so small. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say about tiny-house living!