Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Injuries

Avoiding COVID

As a preface, I am going add this: I know this might cause a little controversy because people have made it political and love to preach. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I never thought I would have to add this disclaimer, but mean comments will not be approved and/or will be deleted.

We spent a year on the road traveling to new places, seeing amazing things, all while wearing masks and trying to socially distance as much as possible. We made it a year during the height of the pandemic and didn’t get sick, not even a cold.

We did our best to keep healthy and avoid Covid. Spoiler: we failed.

When we got home from our year long journey, the Governor had lifted masks requirements. While the kids continued to wear masks out, Ben and I stopped wearing them for about two weeks until the Delta variant became a stronger presence in Ohio. We started wearing them again indoors or at crowded outdoor events. However, we were one of the few. The boys’ schools were not requiring masks. There was not a lot of space between their desks or even at the lunchroom tables. We had the boys wear masks all day at school and while there were a few others, they were not in the majority.

We got an email a few days after Will’s first day (mid-August), that during freshman orientation there was a kid in one of his classes with COVID. With Nick’s school, they reported cases at the end of the week.

We kept wearing our masks. It seems a simple enough thing to do to keep us and the people we love healthy. We have several family members who are more at-risk and would hate to cause them to be sick. There are enough kinds of masks available, that we found ones that were comfortable for us to wear for long periods of time. Ben and I have also been vaccinated. We were able to get the J&J while on the road. Of course, 3 days after getting it, the blood clot issue came out in the news. We had a sore arm, but no other big side effects.

I really debated on the vaccine for the kids. Ben and I were fine “experimenting” on ourselves. The vaccine only had emergency approval and any really long term effects are not known. What happens 5 – 10 – 15 years down the road? Rushing something normally doesn’t end up with good results, no matter how smart you may be. Add in the talk of having to get boosters too, and I wasn’t sold on the idea for the kids.

It took me a lot of soul searching to decide to get the kids vaccinated. Nick’s cardiologist recommended it, as the more severe side effects of Covid are not great for the cardio kids. Their pediatrician, who I adore, also recommended it. We had a talk at their yearly physical and even he admitted that he wasn’t sure on the vaccine for kids in the beginning. However, he felt that there was enough information out there now that the Pfizer vaccine would be safe and that his own son recently got it. Their doctor is normally pretty laid back, so this was a big statement from him. If I can’t trust the people who have helped keep my children healthy and alive since they were infants, who can I trust?

Now, do I trust everything out there and that the people in power do not manipulate what they show to the public? No, of course not. However, based on my kids’ health conditions, the fact that schools were not requiring masks and had a very lax quarantine policy, I decided to get them vaccinated.

So, back to “Avoiding Covid”. We wore masks, we were vaccinated, and it still made its way into our house. Ben said we should have just kept traveling.

We are 90% sure it came home from school, even with our kids wearing masks.

It’s hard to know if you have Covid. The list of symptoms are varied and long and can be the same as if you have allergies, the flu, or a cold. To make it even more confusing for us, there was also a summer cold going around. Will never had any symptoms, Nick had mild cold symptoms, and I had bad cold symptoms. I had maybe 1/2 to 1 degree fever for one day (which I get with bad colds) and my taste buds were funky (like when you have a cold), but I never lost any smell/taste, so we assumed it was the summer cold.

Ben came down with it several days after us. His quickly escalated and he had 100+ degree fever for 4 days. His taste buds were also off, but didn’t lose taste/smell. He did have muscle pain/aches. He was quarantined to our room. It was Saturday of Labor Day weekend and he still wasn’t feeling well. Every ad says “get tested”, but it wasn’t that easy. I tried CVS, Walgreens, and The Little Clinic (Kroger) to get an appointment and couldn’t get in until Tuesday or Wednesday. There were not any big testing sites set up for the weekend. There was one testing site open 24/7 associated with a local hospital, but they required a doctors referral. I called the nurse on call for Ben’s primary doctor’s office, and she told me she would leave a note but not to expect a call back until Tuesday when they would be back in the office. I told her I simply wanted a referral so he could be tested, but she told me I would have to wait. I finally brought him in to an Urgent Care Sunday morning that had open hours. We had to wait in the waiting area, which seemed dumb. Why not have us wait in the car to limit exposure and call when the room was ready? After a rapid test, it was confirmed that he had Covid. She stated we probably all had it, but it was too late to test the rest of us. We picked up some different over the counter medications that she recommended and back upstairs he went.

The quarantine is long past and we have all recovered from anything we had. Ben said that is the sickest he has ever felt. For any longer lasting side effects, I would say a lingering cough and being tired. The cough is pretty much gone now, but Ben and I still have just an overall feeling of being tired.

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Exploring Ohio, Maintenance, Newbie Tips, YouTube Video Link

Sands RV

We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.

We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…

The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.

Click to enlarge

As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).

We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance, Newbie Tips

Our First RV Flat Tire

On our move day to Vermont, it had been going pretty well. The sun was out, the kids were occupied, I had some music playing. I’ve made it a habit to check the truck and the RV TPMS sensors during our drives.

We were about two hours from our campground when I noticed the rear passenger tire was at a lower pressure than the others. It was in the shade, so at first I was hopeful it was just the sun making a difference (which it has before). I kept my eye on it and noticed it was slowly, but steadily losing pressure.

The shoulder of the highway was pretty narrow and we really didn’t want to pull off on the side of the road. We managed to find a nearby exit that had a Bass Pro with a larger parking lot. It even had a Walmart next door. Ben was amazing and was able to change the tire with the jack from the truck, our separate scissor jack, and our trusty Lynx orange leveling blocks*.

Once we were in Vermont, I brought the tire to a tire store to get checked out. We didn’t want to drive to our next campground without a spare tire. When I called the store, they had one matching tire in stock and would hold it for us. The boys and I headed over. Once we arrived at the store (Tire Warehouse), they checked the old tire first to see if it could be fixed. It turned out that the rim was the problem! You couldn’t see anything wrong looking at the tire/rim, but when a soapy solution was applied, you could see bubbles forming on the rim itself. They did not have the right sized rim in stock, but were able to get one for us. It was a white rim, but it was more important for us to have a spare than to have them match.

As it happened 1 day after our year anniversary of buying the RV (bought 6/4/20 and tire happened 6/5/21), the dealer said it was not covered under their warranty. I was told to contact Keystone and they told me to contact the tire company (Load Star) to see if it was covered under their warranty. I’m still in process of dealing with the tire company to figure this out.

We bought our TPMS sensors through I would really recommend having these sensors for your RV!

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance, Newbie Tips

The Toilet Is Running Again

So, good news…we didn’t have any other leaks after tightening the toilet…at least for a while.

Bad news, now it will sometimes keep running and unlike some home toilets, there is no overflow system, so it just gets into the RV. Based on online searches and a call into the manufacturer, we think it is the water valve. There have been a few times lately where there was water at the base too, but it wasn’t from the kids.

Unfortunately, you have to take the whole toilet off to replace the water valve. Will was my assistant for this project. The tight bathroom space did not make it any easier. It seems like there a lot of YouTube videos that are on replacing/repairing the toilets, but it took a little while to find our toilet. We have a Thetford Magic Style II, which used the valve replacement part #42049. There is a serial number in your toilet and if you call the manufacturer they can tell you which part you need.

I finally found a video that was really helpful. The parts did come with written directions, but I found the diagrams less than helpful.

It took some doing, but we finally got it out back together. The test run didn’t have any leaking, so fingers crossed this solves the problem. We also managed to get the pin put back in the toilet seat lid, so that was fixed as well.

Below is a rough outline of the steps to replacing our water valve. Each toilet and set up are different, so please read your instructions. I really found the YouTube video helpful as well.

  1. Turn off water and flush toilet to drain as much water as possible. Place rags around the water line for drips.
  2. Disconnect water line. For our toilet, standing over it looking down, I had to turn the connector to the right to disconnect the water line from the toilet.
  3. Remove bolt covers and bolts.
  4. Remove toilet and set on a garbage bag.
  5. Remove existing/old seal.
  6. Clean toilet. (Yes, this is gross.)
  7. Follow directions on replacement kit. (Make sure to test foot pedal at the end before reinstalling toilet! My first attempt had the pedal falling off because it wasn’t clamped on all the way.)
  8. Place on new seal.
  9. Place toilet back on screws
  10. Thread on bolts and tighten down. To help it seat, sit on the toilet. Check the bolts to see if it needs to be tightened again.
  11. Reconnect water line. Leave rags in place around toilet.
  12. Turn water on and test for leaks.
  13. If no leaks, you have the joy of cleaning up. 😂
Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance, Newbie Tips

Grey Tank Handle Repair

We sent one of the kids out to empty the grey tank, as we routinely do. The other one* decided to close it (*nameless to protect the guilty). I’m not sure what happened exactly, but the handle cracked. It didn’t break off, so we duct taped it together.

Ben started the drive out to Camping World to see what was available for repairs. I was online searching for help thinking, “great, now I have to replace the valve section”. Our owner’s book didn’t really describe how to repair a broken handle. However, one of our neighbors saw me staring at our valves and asked what was wrong. He informed me that most of the time, you can just replace the handle! Yay! I called Camping World to make sure they had one in stock since Ben was already on the way. (Spoiler: They did.)

The valve handle does screw off; however, to remove the handle, you have to use pliers to hold the metal shaft in place, otherwise it will just spin. They also recommended using a thin cloth between the shaft and the pliers. Ben bought the metal replacement (similar to this one*), hoping that it will last longer. He also applied a little bit of Loctite to it (do NOT use this on plastic).

It didn’t take much time, other than driving to get the part, to get it replaced. I am so thankful that we didn’t have to replace the whole valve piece, just the handle, that I thought I would share our newfound knowledge in case anyone else has that problem.

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance, Newbie Mistakes, Newbie Tips

Problems In The Bathroom

Nope, these weren’t bodily problems, but the bathroom decided to kick up a little fuss this past week.

First a quick rundown on RV toilets. Turns out most RV toilets are gravity flushed: there is a foot pedal to open the slide, which when pressed will open the slide and a small amount of water is released to help gravity do its thing and slide everything down the pipe to the black tank. (Hence why we have a water jug in the bathroom. Sometimes with a lot of paper, you need to add more water to encourage things along. It also helps with the black tank not getting clogged with poop pyramids and it helps things dissolve well in the holding tank.)

RV Gravity Fed Toilet

It started with the toilet overflowing. A small amount of paper had not gone down all the way and kept the slide from closing all the way, so the water kept continuously running. However, that same toilet paper also kept the water from draining and it overflowed onto the floor and spread to bathroom wall, the hallway, and then our room. Luckily, it was just water and had only made it a couple of inches into our room and we were able to clean everything up.

Several days later, we noticed water around the base of the toilet. It hadn’t overflowed, the boys hadn’t missed as it was just water. It didn’t look like it was leaking from the water connection points, but it could very slightly be wiggled. From what I read, it turns out that there is a gasket holding the toilet to the floor. It is mostly pressure fitted, so we took the screw covers off and tightened it down. No more wiggling! I’m hoping this solves the problem, since I really don’t want to have to replace a toilet. NOTE: Ours used a 1/2″ nut.

Then, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed the shower floor was wet. No one had been in the shower since the morning, so it should have been dry. There was a small drip in the bottom left corner near the handles. Great. We did some research and took the handles plate off. We had to be pretty careful, since it is directly connected to the water supply pipes (which did not look like they had a good access panel to get to). Our shower is pretty small to start with, so it was a bit of a challenge to get to anything. I was able to reach in and tighten the hot water connection. I then had to remove and replace all the caulk and add the screws back in.

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things

We Finally Have A Couch! (RV Renovations)

The RV came with a loveseat couch, which could turn into a bed. However, we really missed having a couch that we could lay down in, that could fit more than 2 people, and was comfortable.

The RV couch started off as ok. Livable but not enjoyable. Then a spring broke somewhere in the left seat cushion and we had a spring poking us in the butt. It was not something we could fix either. We lived with it for a while.

We kept putting off taking the couch out because it was a scary proposition. We didn’t know how hard it would be, where things were bolted down, etc. Finally, we took on the adventure of making the living room work better for us. At one campground in Texas, we dismantled the loveseat to make room for a futon or couch. It was pretty easy to take apart once we knew it was really just held together with some screws. No need for a saw or hammer to break it apart.

We also removed the couch side part of the dinette. We bought new foldable chairs at Costco. We had bought similar ones when we had the house and used them for extra seating when people came over. The new chairs were in a darker color, which actually worked well with the existing color scheme for the RV.

We ended up keeping the base of the loveseat, even with the broken spring so we would have something to sit on in the meantime. We moved the bench seat so it was against the window. We then fit one of the camping chairs next to it for extra seating. It wasn’t perfect but it worked ok. We also kept the seat cushion from the dinette that we removed so the kids could use it as a floor cushion.

It took us a while to find something that would fit in the space that also wasn’t very heavy. We leaned towards futons since they were usually lighter in weight and would still give us the extra bed option if we would ever need it. We also didn’t want something with arms, so that when Ben laid down, he wasn’t bunched up and we could fit more of us on the couch.

Costco had a futon that we almost bought, but it was really close on the dimensions, so we didn’t get it. We finally found a cheap futon at Walmart and decided to give it a try. We pulled everything out of the living area and brought the futon box inside in between rain showers. It was easy to put together and fit perfectly.

We’ll see how long it lasts, but right now we are really enjoying the layout and being able to spread out somewhere other than on our bed.

Top Row: Before, Middle Row: Taking it apart. Bottom Row left: After loveseat before couch. Bottom Row middle and right: with new futon.
Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance

Things Fall Apart

In high school one of my favorite English teachers had us read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (a Nigerian Novelist). It was a short but powerful book that I would still recommend. Although google tells the adult version of me that the novel dealt with how the prospect and reality of change affect various characters, the most vivid memory I have of this book was the delight the high school version of me had at discovering the publisher stamped “Things Fall Apart” on the inside binding of the cover.

Our adventure has a lot of parallels to the book. Each member of our family has dealt with change differently along our journey. We have each had ups and downs as we have adapted to our 400 square foot space and completely different, changing landscape. There have been arguments, tears and plenty of pouting and that was just me. In the end though, the good have greatly outweighed the bad and our laughter carries us through the tough days.

One thing that remains consistent is the amount of things that actually fall apart on a travel trailer as you bounce your home along the road at 60 mph. Going into this experience, I knew things broke easily on a traveling home. We had seen it in enough videos, but I was not prepared for just how quickly things actually broke.

June 4th: Buy RV and get it home. Modified the bunkroom and resealed the storage door. The caulking wasn’t great and we could see gaps. We checked the caulking on the outside and touched up a few spots. Boys slept in their beds and broke the aluminum mini blinds the first time sleeping in them. Sarah later upgraded these from Aluminum mini blinds to custom fit black out curtains that velcro in place.

June 9th: Move RV to Waynesville. After several water dripping, shampoo barely our of our hair showers, we replaced the shower head with an Oxygenics*. This was more of a mandatory upgrade rather than a repair.

July 1st: The kitchen faucet got stuck on the shower/spray setting. This was the second time, but now we can’t get it to go back to the steady stream. Sometimes more features just mean more problems.

July 5: The left hand small drawers in the kitchen came loose and were hanging crooked. When we took the drawers out to see why, it looks like they were only held up by the drawer tracks and two screws at the top. There was no bottom support at all. I got it reattached at the top and also put in a bottom support. We discovered some more storage space when we removed the access panel to reach the back of the drawers. Repurposed the panel to protect the water lines, but it is now moved back and attached to the new bottom drawer support. We have our bread in a storage bin under there now. (The cupboard was too warm and the bread was growing mold quickly.)

July 9th: After traveling to our first stop (boondocking), the trim around the main door was popping loose. Reattached it with the staple gun. We also learned that normal highway driving knocks the half moon shower doors out of their track. We close and lock them, but the left side keeps popping loose.

Not really broken, but maybe forgotten? All the blinds in the RV have some sort of hold back (cords attached to the wall, or hooks to attach the bottom of the blinds). The master bedroom blinds by the bed do not. We have gotten pretty level, but the RV still makes small movements when someone walks/turns in bed. Sarah attached sticky velcro to the wall and to the bottom of the blinds to keep them in place. It is now so much quieter when we are sleeping!

July 18th. One of the small kitchen cabinet doors ripped out. I reinstalled it, but it ripped out again. Problems of having short people (aka kids) putting away dishes. They are hard to open cabinets and I think he was just pulling downward too much instead of outward.

August 11th: Upgraded to a fancy new bike rack over the trailer hitch jack, the Jack-It*.

August 12th: Realized we damaged the passenger side rear stabilizer strut while installing the new bike rack. Still not fixed for lack of the right materials. Need to source materials not found in normal hardware stores.

August 12th: New bike rack also reduced the truck to trailer turning radius resulting in damage to one bikes tire rim and dents to the truck while backing into a tight RV space. Touch up paint and a new bike to the rescue (benefit of a cheap Walmart bike).

September 12th: Trim around main door popped off towards bottom again but on both sides this time. Closet door in master bedroom, left door fell off/screws came out. Learned from the kitchen cabinet doors and was ready with the upgrade and better installation. Based on the design, I bought enough bolts, washers and nuts to replace every cabinet door hinge in the travel trailer.

October: We didn’t move and coincidentally nothing broke. Easy living in California! We did finally upgrade the CO2 alarm to a less sensitive model. The model that came with the travel trailer would alarm daily (normally at 3:00AM, 4:00AM, or 5:00AM). The sensor sits immediately outside the boys bunkroom and the alarming frequency increased based on Mom’s dinner menu (strong correlation between beans and alarming). Once we upgraded to the Kidde Carbon Monoxide & Explosive Gas Detector Alarm* our late night wake up calls went away.

November 7th: Barely clipped gas station bollard while turning out of a tight Diesel refueling area pulling the travel trailer. Luckily just cracked the electrical cover plate. This could have been much worse. Until we get a new cover, we have resorted to a makeshift plastic bag and have been blessed with very little rain.


The finish on the bathroom door is peeling off by the doorknob.

The floor grates are not designed for everyday traffic even though they are in high traffic areas. Sarah sourced and replaced the most offensive grates in the bathroom and master bedroom with a heavier grade.

Command strips are strong enough to pull off the wallpaper. We have had to do some cosmetic repairs when the Command strips won the battle.

Although things continue to inevitably fall apart, we are grateful it hasn’t been anything significant. On the positive side, we have had many opportunities to practice our engineering, visit hardware stores and my apprentices have started to learn how to repair things on their own. Things change, we can either go with it or let it break us. Maybe I have spent too much time with my surfing buddies in California, but we are just going with the flow dude.

~ Ben

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Newbie Tips, Sightseeing

Advice If You Are Moving Your RV From Arizona To New Mexico

This post is a little out of sync, but I wanted to put it out there.

If you are traveling from the Tucson, Arizona area to Carlsbad, New Mexico, you may go through Texas! Geography is a crazy thing.

We drove through El Paso on our way. If you have a larger RV/Trailer, especially a diesel, stop to get fuel right by/in El Paso! There is literally nothing for over 100 miles (no bathrooms, no diesel) once you drive out of town. There were maybe a few small gas stations, but no diesel and nothing we would fit into. Please make sure to fill your tank completely full and also fill a back-up container of fuel.

After passing the salt flats, we stopped at a picnic area to put our emergency 8 gallon diesel container into the truck. I am so glad we kept that filled. I don’t think we would have made it into Carlsbad without it. There were several fuel stations that had diesel, but most of them are tight for larger rigs. We filled up, but not after I cracked the outdoor electric cover on the RV by not clearing the last ballard.

We did see a really neat informational sign at the picnic area though, so you never know what you will find when you stop!

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Costco, Newbie Mistakes

Moving Day: Goodbye Moab!

It’s moving day!

We had a good start, finished packing up inside and worked on the outside. I went to line up the truck and bumped the hitch into the trailer. It wasn’t raised up with the jack yet. I obviously needed coffee and to not rush. Luckily nothing happened, but not a great start to my morning.

The drive was uneventful (thank goodness) to our next campground in Hurricane, Utah. We checked in and they led us to our campsite. It was a back-in and they helped direct us in. We set up the RV. It was pretty hot out (104 degrees F), but at least the site had some shade! I am so glad we had a 50 amp site and could run both A/C’s.

The town was bigger than I thought it would be. There were several restaurants and grocery places close by. The one grocery store was within walking distance!

We ran into St. George (about 10-15 minutes away) to go to Costco. This Costco was not very different from others we have seen, although they did sell ice and had diesel at the fuel station. It was very crowded. It was the least amount we had ever spent: $34, including a pizza!

Yes, I do get a picture of Will at every Costco 😉

We unpacked the groceries and Ben took the boys into town to try to find a replacement cup and forks. I got to read for an hour by myself! It was so relaxing. The boys came back, but didn’t have much luck at the nearby store. We called it a night and settled in.

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