Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ottawa, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Reuniting with Max in Germany on October 1st.

Friday, April 9, 2010

We're a little different...

One thing we've learned in 2 1/2 years of living in a motorhome is that we're quite a bit different than most RV'ers.

Consider that we knew nothing about RV's when we first got into this. But we knew how we wanted to live. Neither one of us were ever attracted to "RV parks" in that sense...however we used to do a lot of tent camping with the kids and we have always liked the state and provincial parks. In getting a motorhome, we knew that we wanted to travel with it...not just stay parked in one spot for months at a time. The idea was to hit the road...a few days here, and a few days there, and see the continent. In order to do this, we decided to do things a little different.

For people who don't know much about RV's, they have their own water supply for when you're on the road. Usually between 30-60 gallons. Sherman's fresh water tank holds 38 gallons (144 litres). We don't use this for drinking, preferring to buy spring water in the U.S or Canada, and purified water while in Mexico. So this water supply has to last for dishes, washing up, flushing the toilet, and showers. Because that's not a lot of water, you have to conserve, which is a good topic for another day. We can make that 38 gallons of water last for over a week with the two of us. Most RV'ers go to an RV park, and hook up to the water supply so that they have that seemingly never ending supply of water, the same way they do at home. Do you think you could live with 5 gallons per day per couple? For perspective, most people use well over that for one shower! Most household toilets use 2 gallons per flush!

Most RV's have a 6 gallon hot water tank that is heated with propane. There was a recent survey on an RV forum that I follow, and at least 95% of the responses said that a hot water heater was a clear necessity, and quite a few of them said that it was the first thing they turned on when they get parked up. For us, we heat water on the stove when we need it for washing up dishes or bodies. The only time we fire up the hot water heater is to have a shower every few days (I know, you're horrified that we don't shower daily!), and then we make sure we're each going to have a shower. Then we turn it off until the next time. It's a much more efficient use of propane. We are clearly different from most RV'ers in this department.

Most RV's have one or sometimes two batteries for use with lights and to run the electronics for the fridge, hot water, and furnace. Most people only use that 12v electricity for temporary periods when the RV isn't pugged into 120V electric. But because we like to park in the middle of nowhere on a beach in Mexico, we are now fully self sufficient with enough batteries and solar panels that we don't need to be plugged in at any time. The only reason we would plug in is to use electric heat, microwave, or TV, and we don't need any of those things to be happy in our motorhome. Most RV'ers couldn't do without their microwave, so we are clearly different than most.

We don't put toilet paper in the toilet. Let me give you some background on that. The RV holding tank is just that...a holding tank. Most RV'ers spend a small fortune on "RV toilet paper" and holding tank chemicals. The story is that RV specific toilet paper breaks down easier in the holding tank, and that reduces any chance of things clogging up in there. And many then add chemicals to assist in the break down process. Then they add chemicals to try and make the holding tank smell pretty. We use whatever toilet paper we want, and we put it in a little covered waste basket beside the toilet. This is the way most toilets outside of the resort areas in Mexico operate. Most RV'ers are disgusted by this. But no, it doesn't smell. No, not even after a few days. We are waaay different than most. We don't spend any money on these unnecessary items.

There's a lot of other things too. We use our oven a lot. We don't frequent restaurants, preferring our own cooking. We have a cell phone, but it's rarely turned on. We don't stay at campgrounds, preferring couchsurfing and friends driveways.

We like being a little different!

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  1. I envy you guys, I really do. I like the rustic aspect of the whole thing. Wife is down for doing what you all did and dive head first and take off for a year on the road in an RV but I don't think she'd go to the levels you all have.

    I'm all for it, I think it's awesome to boondock the way you all do. I'm enjoying reading your blog everyday. Keep it up!

  2. Is there vent in the holding tank that alleviates some of the smell anyway? I'm just curious. We toured Greece in 1995 and they had a "bin" beside the toilet as well. Our main joke while we were there was "don't want to be the person that cleans the bin, could not pay me enough", but it made sense as the plumbing in the country was not adequate for toilet paper. The bin never smelled, it was covered, and honestly it would be a good idea for the RV as well. Would save on alot for those chemicals anyway!
    Showering isn't a big deal when you like water. I like water, so swimming is a good option instead.
    Always ways around things to save money and cut costs, and if you think about it enough it's not all that inconvenient, just another way of thinking.
    Good post!!

  3. Rascus - Thanks for the comments. We often think that if people tried living the way we do for a week or so they might just like it. But most people don't understand how to do things a little different. I hope you get to try it!

    Wild Blue Yonder - Yes, the holding tanks have their own venting system through the roof. But the system itself can develop problems. I've seen where bees have tried building a nest inside the vent pipe at the roof. I've seen the overflow J-tube in the toilet go dry which causes sewer gas to come up through the toilet overflow drain. And I've seen the vent-chek cap go bad. Most of the time when there is a sewer smell it's related to one of these items going wrong and the RV'er thinks they need to add more chemicals. A properly operating RV holding tank doesn't require any chemicals.

  4. You're welcome. You two are definitely an inspiration!!

    We are in the same boat as you where we don't know anything going into it and plan getting a class a and taking the kid and going to see the country.

  5. The first trick is to plug the drains to be sure odors go up the vent pipe. For the grey tank it may involve simply a bathtub plug; for the black tank it may involve clearing out the flapper slot with a bent coathanger. Ask me how I know about this...

    Chemicals don't count.

    But it also involves airflow; last week we drove home with the roof vents open and were overwhelmed with the sewage smell; upon closing the vents and not drawing the smell into the MH by vacuum the smell vanished. The moral of this story is that a big vent opening will overwhelm a small vent opening with the resulting unintended consequences.

    TP...well, we use single-ply non-RV and it works ok. It goes down the dump tube in shreds (does it ever) and doesn't plug up anything. We live in dread of the pyramid, but since DW has to utilize the facilities every time she comes aboard the dreaded pyramid hasn't materialised yet.

    Fresh water. Zehyrrhills Spring Water comes our of the city water tap in Zephrhills. We did a taste teste; DW preferred the the water out of our Pasco County tap over Zephyrhills but we maintain Zephyrhills because they give us a water cooler in our stick house; $20/mo to make DW happy is an investment well-spent.

    We have the proverbial blue filter on the water fill, and I always taste and smell before filling the tank.

    Water can go bad taste-wise; I think it loses oxygen or something. It's still safe but it tastes and smells off.

    Cooking. We all gotta eat. We can eat very well for cheap, we can eat very for expensive, or we can eat gruntburgers. If you don't want to actually cook aboard (so why's that stove sitting there anyway) you can easily reheat vacuum-bagged preprep in boiling water. _Not_ the microwave; that's the formula for dried-out overcooked food.

    So you want do to ribs. Smoke 'em to just south of done, then bag 'em up, Later thaw them out and finish 'em on the grill with your favorite glaze. They won't be overdone falling-off-the bone but will have a slight tug and the glaze will be set.

    So you want to do a pot roast (Doc's Garlic Beef comes to mind) so either put it on the cooktop or in the oven of your stove (remember, you paid for it) or just plunk it on the grill and go away for a few hours.

    Grill you say? My _charcoal_ little Weber has done Jerked Chicken, innurable burgers, a steak or two, and grits. No one ever wandered up and said "I just love the smell of propane."

    That's enough about cooking; either do it right or hie yourself off to gruntburger.

    What did I miss? Electricity. Unless your last name is Edison it may involve no TV. No entertainment system. And perhaps no internet. It may involve turning exactly one light to read something known as a book.

    Cell phones. We have the Smartephone cheapo plan; today it tells us we have something like 37 hours remaining. Who could possibly gab that long? Your kids are adults; release them into the universe to sink or swim. So what if they want to get in touch with you in an emergency; you can't do anything about anything anyway.
    That's their demand, not yours.

    So yes, we're different in our different ways...


  6. I froze the water heater 2 years ago and still haven't replaced it. We really don't miss it. Electricity is the thing I wish we had more of.

  7. hi guys, good job on the batteries and panel. In our search for our new rv, we hope to have the same. We found two batteries for Mexico just weren't enough for the length of time we like to be in a remote place. We have the generator but the rv we sold didn't have a sufficient converter and it took too long.

  8. [email protected] - loved your comment about the book!

  9. Hi Kevin and Ruth, just found your very interesting blog, and will be following closely now.
    We're fellow Ontarians, spending the summer near Guelph, and the winters in Mexico. We are just winding up our full six months SOB and will be soon heading north.
    We have also adopted the TP bin by our toilet. Growing up on a farm with outhouses, I was surprised that the bin, kept dry, is so odor free.
    If you get down to the Yucatan sometime, come on by. We are winter-based here and I have written a blog on the building and adjusting to this place.

  10. Now you know you can shower on 1 pint of water a day so no excuses!


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