Where We’ve Been
Boy, do I have some catching up to do on my Miles of Road weekly updates. Three weeks ago takes us back to when Josh and I were staying in Omaha and leaving to Wyoming and then Salt Lake City, Utah.
As I said before, we were in Utah for almost two weeks, and we had a really great time. It was good to have a break from our trailer for a little while—though it was taken out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a few days. We love our little Airstream Bambi dearly, but it was nice to have some time apart.
Last Wednesday, Josh and I headed out to Northern California (we drove it in one stretch), and we’ve had a wonderful time out here staying among the redwood-covered hills. What we want to know is why doesn’t everyone live here? We’d certainly enjoy it. The weather has been amazing (except when we tried to ride our bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge—the weather was definitely not amazing then).
Josh did a lot of filming at the big car festivities in Monterey and Carmel this past weekend, and he also had the opportunity to interview a fancy car designer/owner. Hopefully his video will be released soon!
One of the first cities we visited on our summer trip was Los Angeles, and one of the last cities we’ll visit will be Los Angeles—we’re heading that direction today. Josh has a bunch of stuff to finish up in the area and some people to meet, so we’ve basically made a big loop! Meanwhile, I have some freelance lettering jobs keeping me busy.
(The above photo is unrelated to this catching up post—it was taken back at our campground outside of Minneapolis. Once we left Texas, we started stayed only in regional and state parks rather than the concrete campgrounds that made up the RV parks we stayed at in Anaheim, Phoenix, and Texas. The park shown above was our home during our stay in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and it had the fastest turnover of any other campground we’d visited thus far. We’d leave in the morning or afternoon to explore the cities, and most of the spots would be empty. When we came back at night, most of the spots would be full. That happened every day.)
I think that most people don’t know all that goes into staying at RV parks and traveling around the country. There are a bunch of different aspects of RV living that I want to post about, and I’ll be breaking it up into a handful of posts over the next few weeks.
Today’s topic: trailer sanitation! Fun.
What is “the bathroom situation”?
I’ve received multiple questions from friends about “the bathroom situation.” We don’t live like savages; the bathroom situation is actually pretty easy to deal with. It takes a little bit more effort than living in a house, but it’s pretty easy, nonetheless. RV parks which have full hookups include electric hookups, fresh water hookups, and sewer hookups. What I mean by fresh water hookups is that when we hook up our hose for drinking water from the spigot coming out of the ground to the specified nozzle on the trailer, we get clean water coming through the shower head, bathroom sink, kitchen sink, and when flushing the toilet.
Except for the water that flushes the toilet, all of the soapy water (called gray water) is stored in something called the gray water holding tank within the trailer.
Any water from flushing the toilet (plus anything else that gets flushed) gets stored in the black water holding tank.
On the back side of the Airstream is a place to hook up a sewer hose. RV sewer hoses don’t look like fresh water hoses, which are pretty similar to regular garden hoses. Instead, RV sewer hoses are always a few inches in diameter with ridges all the way down—they’re more like tubes than hoses. When the sewer hose is hooked up it runs from the bottom of our trailer into a ground hookup, which leads to what I’m assuming is a city sewer pipe. (See photos below.)
There’s a panel of blinking lights on the wall above our stove, and when it indicates that our gray water tank or our black water tank is full, we go outside to dump whichever one needs it. Both gray water and black water tanks empty through the same sewer hose but not at the same time. To dump each tank, all Josh has to do is pull a valve for one or the other and the tanks empty through the sewer hose. When dumping both tanks, Josh empties the black water tank first, because the soapy, dirty, gray water is then used to rinse the hose.
I actually haven’t ever emptied the tanks (I have a great husband). Josh always wears a disposable pair of latex gloves and throws them away after he’s finished. It’s not a very messy business, and Josh says that emptying the gray water tank is actually more gross (due to the smell of rotting food that went down the drain in the kitchen sink) than emptying the black water tank.
The gray water tank usually has to be emptied every couple of days . (It’s hard for me to take quick showers, but I do my best!) The black water tank, on the other hand, is usually emptied about once a week.
We CAN make use of the toilet in our Airstream as much as we’d like, but we try to avoid frequent use. Since we’re out and about so much, we make an effort to seek out restrooms elsewhere or walk over to the RV park restrooms (if they’re not gross). We do it that way, because it’s easier than having to dump the black water tank more frequently.
After each emptying of the black water tank, Josh flushes a lot of water through both the gray water and black water tanks to rinse them. And in the toilet, he flushes a liquid chemical that both cleans and deodorizes.
If we’re ever in a campground that only has fresh water and electric, there is usually one dumping station for the campground. In that case, on our way out of the campground we stop at the dumping station to hook up the sewer hose and empty the tanks, as was the case in Birmingham in this post’s photos.
How do we keep the trailer clean?
Speaking of cleaning and deodorizing, we need to keep our Airstream clean. It’s pretty easy to do, since the space is so small. Every couple of days, we sweep the floor with a mini broom and a dustpan. We also shake out the rug/mat that’s just inside the entrance.
We’ve stayed at a few campgrounds where there was mostly sand and dirt beneath the trailer, and in those cases we had to sweep every day rather than every other day. Usually, we are parked on top of gravel or a parking strip, so we track in less dirt that way.
We make use of a lot of Clorox wipes. They’re handy in the trailer for wiping down just about every surface: the sinks, the stove, the table, the toilet, even the floor.
We store our dirty laundry bag in one of the overhead compartments in our trailer. Every couple of weeks, we take our laundry to RV park laundromat and use the coin-operated machines there.
I guess that’s basically all we need to do to keep our little home clean. I’ve been meaning to buy some Windex to clean the windows, but other than that, I think we’re covered.
Do we get bugs in our trailer?
Yes! But it totally depends on the location. Most of the time we don’t have any, but in Dallas, there were some ants that wouldn’t leave us alone. In Albuquerque, a few moths kept finding their way inside, and in New Orleans I found a (cringe) SMALL COCKROACH ON MY PILLOW. Other than that, it’s been fine. Ha.
Are you wondering what our trailer bathroom looks like? Check out the bottom photo of our trailer tour. The bathroom portion isn’t the main focus of the photo, but you can get an idea of how it’s situated. No one wants to see a full-on photo of an Airstream toilet and shower, am I right??
(Anything I missed? Ask me below.)
Click here to check out the other posts in this RV Life series.
I think that most people don’t know all that goes into staying at RV parks and traveling around the country. There are a bunch of different aspects of RV living that I want to post about, and I’ll be breaking it up into a handful of posts over the next few weeks. Maybe someday I’ll even make a fun infographic out of this information.
How much does it cost to do what we’re doing?
To answer that question I’ll break up our cost into two sections: travel and RV parks. Food and entertainment costs could be the same anywhere, so I won’t include that in this summary. I should have had Josh double-check my calculations before posting this, because I am no math whiz, even when adding and multiplying. Sad but true.
We started out our trip with 83,007 miles on our truck, and it now reads 89,000 miles, which means we’ve gone roughly 6,000 miles since May 1. Each time we arrive at a new RV park, we immediately unhitch the trailer and don’t hitch it back up again until we’re leaving and heading to a new city. Therefore, many of the miles we’ve traveled around cities and to film shoot locations have been traveled without a trailer in tow.
I’ve been documenting our gas mileage each time we fill up, so we have a good idea of what gas has cost us so far. (I guess I could have documented the exact price with receipts, but…I haven’t.) We’ve filled up our 23-gallon tank 22 times, and our gas mileage has averaged to be 14.5 mpg with 17.9 being the highest and 11.3 being the lowest. I’ve estimated our travel cost by multiplying our gallons of fuel used by an average fuel cost of $3.70 per gallon. The answer I received made me miss my fuel efficient Civic.
Total gas cost for eight weeks: $1,531
RV Park Cost
There are several things that account for variations in RV park costs. RV parks spaces are available in nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Discounts are available if you have a Good Sam Club membership (which we do), AAA, AARP, or other various associations.
RV parks are not all created equal. Most of them have full hook-ups (electric, fresh water, sewer), but others might only have electric, and others might only have electric and fresh water. Parks that have full hookups usually cost more than those that don’t. Also, some RV parks are much more rundown with mostly permanent residents—we avoid those ones if at all possible.
Offered amenities differ from RV park to RV park. Most have coin-operated laundry rooms, toilets, and showers. Sometimes those bathrooms are single and private, and sometimes they’re separated but in a shared room. Since we use the shower in our trailer, this part doesn’t matter as much to us. Some RV parks have wireless internet, cable TV hookups, recreation rooms, pools, hot tubs, etc. All of the places we’ve stayed at have had most if not all of these things.
Another thing that can affect pricing is location. The metropolitan areas where RV parks were the most expensive for us were Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. Also, in some cities the closer one is to downtown, the more one pays at an RV park. RV parks can be pretty cheap in wilderness or forest areas that aren’t close to cities and don’t have wireless internet. Those kinds of places are great, but they’re not what we’re looking for on this particular adventure.
What we paid/how amenities differed:
• Buttonwillow, CA: $20/night for 2 nights (electric hookups only, decent private showers and bathrooms)
• Anaheim, CA (Los Angeles area): $46/night for 10 nights (full hookups, good wi-fi, cable hookups, pool, private bathroom/showers, coin-op laundry, free breakfast muffins)
• Prescott, AZ: $30/night for 2 nights (full hookups, wi-fi at the office and coin-op laundry room but not around the park, no pool, no cable, shared but separated bathroom/showers)
• Mesa, AZ (Phoenix area): $25/night for 4 nights (full hookups, good wi-fi, no cable, no pool, no bathrooms, coin-op laundry)
• Albuquerque, NM: $27/night for 4 nights (full hookups, good wi-fi, coin-op laundry, pool, shared but separated bathrooms/showers)
• Arlington, TX (Dallas-Fort Worth area): $25/night for 8 nights (full hookups, decent wi-fi, cable hookups, coin-op laundry, pool, private bathroom/showers)
• Austin, TX: $30/night for 2 nights (full hookups, decent wi-fi, coin-op laundry, no pool, basic cable, shared but separated bathrooms/showers
• Austin, TX 2 (the first one only had spots for two nights, so we had to move): $25/night for 7 nights (full hookups, slooow wi-fi, coin-op laundry, no pool, basic cable, private but scary bathroom/showers)
• San Antonio, TX: $40/night for five nights (not counting the days we were in Mexico City) (full hookups, terrible wi-fi, cable hookups, pool, hot tub, rec room, shared but separated bathrooms/showers)
• Houston, TX: $35/night for what will be seven nights (full hookups, cable hookups, slooow wi-fi, pool, hot tub, rec room, free popcorn, shared but separated bathrooms/showers)
Total RV park cost for eight weeks: $1,588.
Total cost for eight weeks (not including food or entertainment): $3,119
We were expecting the cost of traveling and living on the road to come out to be a little bit less than living in an apartment in Salt Lake City and driving to work every day, but it’s interestingly come out to be more. It’s a good thing we saved up for this, right?
I’m pretty sure it would cost about the same if not less to travel the country in my Honda Civic, which gets 35-39 mpg, and to stay in cheap hotels than to do what we’re doing. But our way might be crazier and is probably more fun.
When we’re not driving, filming, or out exploring our current city, we’re either watching the first season of NYPD Blue or working at our desk. Picture some paper and granola bar wrappers on the table and camera bags next to us on the benches, and things will be a bit more true to life.
Unwritten Rules of Working in The Airstream:
• Angle your computer away from the other so each one has enough room to lean back
• Becca sits on the sink side, and Josh sits on the door side
• If you rest your feet on the opposite bench, they can’t interfere with the other person’s space
• Keep your stuff on your own side of the table
I’m usually the only one who has a problem with that last one. My pencils, pens, and papers tend to spread.
Last night, I realized that so far on this trip I’d only thought to look in a mirror at the back of my hair on one occasion, so I checked it out to see how I’d been doing. I had some flyaways, but it looked decent enough. I guess I’ll stick to what I’ve been doing.
Getting the back of my hair in a picture was surprisingly hard.
Our Airstream can carry the weight just fine, and it’s not as if we have to pay extra baggage fees like we would if we were flying, but for all the cupboards and compartments in our trailer (and there are many), space is a bit tight. If we could start over again, we would have left some things behind.
It seems like our biggest problem was packing when it was still cold in Salt Lake City. :)