Thursday, March 23, 2017
Hard Learned Lessons
I had this idea in my head of what it would be like living in a camper. Cramped, irritation oozing out of our pores. The concept of privacy going right out that little camper window. Shannon and I literally have to get dressed in the living room because there is no room in our bedroom to bend over and put on your jeans or underwear for that matter. But also, the idea of not tripping over endless toys and campfires and singing around the campfire. I do believe we will have great moments of triumph, but also know there are going to be times when we are ready to pull out our hair. Our first nights was the sort for pulling out hair. The first week was HELL. I'm not exaggerating when I say this or put it in bold letters. It was horrible. We moved the camper to a local campground until the utilities on our land are up and running. It's important to have things such as water, septic and electricity. So we moved the camper. It had been winterized at Camping World where we bought it and we had been "living" in it while we were still at our farm. We basically played Uno in it and slept in it (the camper was parked in our driveway) since everything was in storage. We showered, cooked and watched TV at the house. So when we moved it off our property to the campground, it was on like Donkey Kong. We tried to remember what the guy had told us in his brisk walk through of how to operate and dump the various tanks for this and that at the dealership. We had to hook up water, electricity and the black pipe (for the gray and black tank) to septic. We had to slide out the bunk room and the living room. We needed to turn on the heat. We needed to level the camper. We needed to survive. I was literally in survival mode. We got to work. Shannon hooked up the water. He hooked up the Electricity. No biggie! Right... We flushed the antifreeze from the pipes. All the water and such from the sinks and shower go into the gray tank. All poo and pee goes into the black tank. We also have a fresh water tank with a pump in case of severally cold weather (the tank are supposed to be well insulated to prevent freezing) and in case of camping without a water source. Shannon couldnt really remember how to turn on the hot water heater. Neither could I. He asked for the notebook where I frantically took notes. Taken during the quick run through by a fast talking West Virginian employed at Camping World. It's an oxymoron, I know. I told him where it was in the truck and he came back frustrated that he couldn't find it. Typical. The kids are excited. They are jumping up and down rocking the camper. Shannon can't get the camper level. He says the jacks aren't supporting the weight of the camper on one side and they are buckling under the weight. So the camper is lopsided. I call my friend from college who has been living in her camper for the last 18 months with her family of 5. She's the camping Ghandi. She's always calm, supportive and reassuring. She gives great tips and suggestions. She tells us how to turn on the hot water heater. As soon as she tells us the proverbial lightbulb goes off and we remember what the West Virginian said. Yes! That's it! Crisis adverted. Also how the jacks are supporting jacks and not leveling jacks. We will have to hook the camper back up to the truck to put the tires on blocks to level it. Maybe tomorrow. I turn on the propane stove to start sautéing peppers and onions for our first camper made meal of steak fajitas. The flame isn't that excited. In fact, it's sad. I'm cooking the peppers and onions on a super low flame and when I'm almost ready to add the meat, the flame dies. That's what happens to flames when they're sad. They die. I call out to Shannon to switch over the propane tanks. I can't understand how we could be out of gas already. Did they fill them up like they said they would when we picked it up??? Shannon switches the tanks. They are both empty. Great. No steak fajitas tonight. Shannon says he'll go to the local grocery store and pick up a small tank made for grills and such so we can have dinner. I call in a pizza from Papa Johns because it's 7:30 and the kids are already complaining of dying from hunger. I go into the bunk room and suggest they watch a movie on their TV so I can sort out setting up the camper. The TV and DVD don't turn on. Ok...I check the fuse box. Everything's fine. I look at the sink and think it would be a good idea to start washing dishes. I turn on the hot water and it's ice cold. I figure the hot water heater hasn't had enough time to heat of that big 6 gallon tank. I fill up a bowl of water and pop it in the microwave to heat up some water. Nada. The microwave isn't working. Ok... It's at this time the kids come in from jumping around like Mexican Jumping Beans and tell me they need to put on their coats because they are cold. I realize that I, too, an a bit chillly. Huh. I have the heat on. I hear the hum of the air coming through the vents. I put my socked foot over the vent and I feel air. Cold air. What?! I go outside to check the electric box to ensure we have the breakers on. Nope. They are all switched to the off position. I turn them on. I hear the kids cheer as their TV comes to life. I go in and see the lights to the microwave are on. So the battery for the camper can run lights but not the appliances and energy suckers. Got it. Also, I intelligently deduce that our furnace must run on gas. We had run the heat while living in the driveway all week. That's why we were all out. Sweet. I warm up my water to wash dishes as I wait for Shannon to get back with pizza and gas. It's freezing in the camper. I'm doing the dishes in my coat. Crazy. I walk to the bunk room to make sure my oldest has turned on the movie and I notice the hot water heater is leaking! I grab a towel and hand tighten to knob. It stops. Thank God! Shannon comes in with the pizza and goes outside to hook up the tank. As soon as he does, it gets warmer in the camper. Shannon comes in, eats a slice of pizza and goes out to fill up the fresh water tank. The kids scarf down the pizza, we get ready for bed and they watch their movie. Shannon comes in and asks about how long do I think it will take to fill the 50 gallon fresh water tank? I said about 20 mins or so. We stand around, delighted with the sudden warmth and a bit deflated by the set up obstacles. It's about 9:30 at this time. On a Sunday. We have to go to work in the morning and the kids have to go to school. After about 20 mins Shannon checks the levels of the tanks on the lighted indicator in the camper. Huh, he says. The fresh water tank is saying it's empty. But the gray and black tanks are nearly full. That's impossible! I say. Could there be a valve open on the fresh water tank and the water is literally going in and out? I ask. Shannon goes out to check. Nothing. So the tank is still "filling" and he sets to putting the panel over the hot water heater on. All of a sudden, we hear this alarm going off. It's one of the 3 detectors in the campers. It's the propane detector that's screaming at us. I hadn't turned off the eye of the stove when the flame went out. Now our camper was full of gas. Nice. After 20 mins or so, Shannon goes out to check on this blasted tank. "Aimee! There's water pouring out everywhere!" He screams. I told you! I say with a smile and an edge of snarkiness. He gets furious and goes back out. I diligently follow and see the outdoor kitchen has flooded. Yellow water has filled the sink. Overflowing to the counters. I grab a towel from the bathroom and sop up the water. I also grab a pot and scoop out this strange yellow water. Why is it yellow?! Huh. Shannon and I are so frustrated, cold and tired at this point. He suggests we deal with it in the morning. With the temperatures dipping into the 20's that night, we decide to leave the water dripping in the kitchen and bathroom. We go to bed. I'm too angry and agitated to sleep so I text my college friend and tell her what has happened. She told me Shannon had hooked up the water to the outside gray tank which overflowed to the black (poopy) tank which backed up to our outdoor kitchen. Great. The outdoor kitchen is currently contaminated with all our pee and my middle daughter's poo. Awesome. That explains the yellow water. Gross. As I lay there in bed processing the last few hours, I wake Shannon up to empty the gray tank. With the water dripping, the tank will just overflow to the kitchen again. Double gross. So he dutifully gets up, puts on a coat and shoes and goes to hook up the poopy pipe. I hear some noises coming from outside and wait for him to emerge. 5 mins later, he comes in and I ask how hard it was. He says it wasn't but he couldn't hook up the poopy pipe because we don't have the right attachments for the 50 ft poopy pipe so he just opened the valve and essentially fertilized the grass. Good enough for me. We slept pretty soundly. Until we heard our middle daughter call out "Mommy!" And the sound of vomit. Awesome. We don't have a washer and dryer. I pick up all the soiled linens and put them in the back of the van. Get the kids ready for the day, and Shannon takes the sick one to our business and I take the other ones to school. So, there you have it. Our first night in the camper sucked. It was horrible and stinky and contaminated with pee and feces, and vomit. But we did it. And that was just the first night!