The new camper has all of the niceties that our much loved little model had and a few more. We affectionately called the old Jayco, “Dinky-Doo”, as it had hardly any room to maneuver. Despite the tight quarters, we had many good times in it and were grateful to be laying down at night on a mattress instead of a tent floor. It was the perfect camper for us at the time.
But times change and, given that we will be spending nearly 6 months on the road this trip, it seemed prudent to trade Dinky-Doo in for something that would allow more than one person to stand at the same time. So we said a fond goodbye to Dinky and with a grateful wave for the good times, we drove off with a Heartland Caliber that feels spacious indeed in comparison.
It is fun getting to know a new coach. They all have their idiosyncrasies and it does take time to get familiar with how everything works. There is quite a bit more to think about because this new unit has two slides and more bells and whistles. There are a myriad of details to remember; did we remember to plug in the voltage meter, is the pressure regulator hooked up, is the fridge switched over to gas, is there any gas in the tanks? Is everything out of the way of the slides, are the steps retracted, are the chuks in place, etc, etc, etc.
For instance, one morning, I meant to push the switch to extend the awning and I unexpectedly hit the switch for the dining room slide instead. You should have seen the look on Arnie’s face as he, the table and his fresh cup of coffee began to slide inward. He looked stunned as I turned to him to say, “Something is wrong with the awning, I can hear the motor, but…….it’s not moving out.” I was so surprised to see he had moved in about three feet closer to me than before I turned around!
And then there is the little matter of the toilet. Just so that you have a visual, camper bathrooms are quite tight quarters, often with overhead cabinets, nooks and crannies for storage and a foot pedal toilet.
This day, we had pulled into camp and were setting up. I usually take care of the inside tasks while Arnie sets about unhitching, leveling and hooking up to water, electric and sewer outlets. One of the new bells and whistles that our new unit has is an outlet to pressure clean the black water tank. For camping novices, the black water tank is the one that holds the nasty stuff. We empty it as we depart each campground so it is fresh when we arrive at the next one. But fresh is a relative word. There is always a bit of residue and that is why the pressure cleaning function is provided. You just hook a hose up, make sure to open the outside valve to the black water tank and flush until it runs clear. With the right equipment it is quite a smooth and sanitary procedure despite what you might imagine.
This day, we rolled in tired, hungry and road weary. I got things set up inside and started dinner while Arnie hooked up the utilities. After just a bit, I heard a noise that I had never noticed before and went to the rear of the camper to investigate. It sounded almost like a motor with running water. What could it be? I called to Arnie and asked him. He went to check on the mystery noise and soon I heard him banging about the rear of the camper and the mystery noise stopped. He didn’t come in with any explanation, so I assumed that all was well and the problem solved because the noise stopped. Never assume!
I needed to empty some dog food into the black water tank, so I went into the bathroom and with my foot, depressed the pedal that opens the value on the toilet to flush it. A fully pressurized volcanic brown jet of yuk burst forth from the open toilet going straight up into the air, hitting the bottom of the overhead cabinets and then dripping down the walls. I only had the value open for the split second it took to react and remove my foot from the pedal, but it was time enough for my toilet, now know as Vesuvius, to send a shocking shower all over the bathroom. It seems that Arnie had hooked the water up to the wrong outlet, pressurizing the closed black water tank. When I opened it suddenly, the pressure had to release somewhere and up and out was the only direction. That would be why there is a sticker on that connection that says, “Make sure that the black water tank is open before making this connection.” But who reads these things? Clearly not us! I didn’t even know we had that connection until this fortunate discovery.
I will be eternally grateful that I was standing up erect while dumping something into that toilet rather than in a seated position at the time of explosion. I could have been bending over it and gotten a face full too. As it was, the spew missed me completely. Not a drop on the lily white blouse I was wearing at a time! Our bathroom was not so lucky and Lysol is now my very best friend.
As with most incidents like this, it’s funny now and no one got hurt!
And I know we are not the only ones. Watching a man and his wife set up their fifth wheel at a neighboring campsite, we heard a sudden crash and saw the front of their fifth wheel camper descend onto the tailgate of their pickup truck. It was bone jarring and, while we felt bad for them, we were perversely comforted by the fact that we were not the only idiots making careless errors. We related to the husband’s terse comment to his wife, “Just don’t talk to me right now.”
Yes, it was one of those moments. Just don’t talk to me right now.