Thursday, July 04, 2019

#VanLife? Prologue, or the Test Drive

Sewer hose and me!
Happy Fourth of July! This is going to be the first in a series of posts, all about our RV trip across America!, and how I learned to empty my family's sewage, Cousin Eddie-style.

As a little bit of background, my family has been living outside the country for a few years. Now that we are back, we want to introduce the kids to everything that America! has to offer. What better way than to cram five people into a 29 foot RV and drive across America!?

The cast consists of me and my wife, along with our three daughters, ages 10, 7, and 3. We've been living in Europe for three years, so for a pretty substantial chunk of our daughters' lives, they haven't been to the US (we were last here in 2016.)

The setting (generally) is a Freedom Elite 29fe, a glorious RV that beckons to me. My parents bought it a couple of years ago, when we were already abroad, so though I hadn't driven it before, I've had my eye on it for the last year or so, since we started planning our summer return to America!. It is a 29 foot long c class motorhome (which means that the front cab looks like a truck.) Above the cab is a king-sized sleeping compartment. Behind the driving cab it has a dinette table and benches on the left, and a couch on the right (both convert into beds.) Behind that, there is a kitchen and bathroom, and bringing up the rear of the RV is a little bedroom with closet storage and a queen sized bed.

The dinette/toddler bed. 
But the larger setting is America!. We are starting in Arkansas, where my parents live, but we are heading through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, then back to Arkansas. First, though, we took a short little test drive to a camp ground 45 minutes away to figure out if we would kill anyone by trying to drive the RV, and to figure out how everything works while we have my parents with us so we could ask questions.

All day Tuesday we were in and out of the RV, figuring everything out, putting in our stuff, and taking out my parents' stuff (like the 14 disposable roasting pans). Then came the moment of truth, when I needed to get behind the wheel. My parents have the RV parked in a garage. (A short aside: my mom wanted an RV shorter than 30 feet, and my dad wanted one longer than 30 feet. But, my mom hires the contractors for home stuff, so, before they bought the RV, she had someone build an RV garage, and she had them build it to fit a 29 foot RV. So now they have a 29 foot RV.)

Even though I was terrified to drive (I'd been hearing for months how tall it is, how long it is, and how difficult it is to drive) everything was going great, until everyone started telling me which way I should go to get out of the driveway. At the top of the driveway was my dad, looking like a cross between an aircraft marshaller and a windmill, swinging his arms wildly with the sternest look of consternation, conveying the message that I am doing it all wrong. At the back is my mom, yelling at the top of her lungs that I should turn it the other way. At the side is my wife, laughing at everything. And, of course, Mom and Dad are each telling me to go the opposite way, so I can't make everyone happy.

Of course, we made it onto the road just fine, after driving through a neighbor's yard (just a little) and we were on our way. We had forgotten my mom's purse and had taken my dad's car keys (he was driving separately), but we ignored all that, because we had to keep moving forward (literally I am only able to drive forward.)

The drive itself was a little anticlimactic, because I didn't run into any trees or fast food drive-throughs. While driving, you can hear the whole RV creaking behind you, and because it is so broad, you can feel every wind or passing semi, but generally, you point it in the right direction and go forward, and it's just like driving any other car. We did have a little trouble when I decided to pull over on the side of the road for a potty emergency, and didn't quite give myself enough space to slow down. The RV has a lot of momentum.

Once at the campsite, I parked in the spot, and then we started to hook everything up. We got the water and the electricity in, and then we tried to hook up the sewer. And we tried. And we tried. The sewer dump hole in the ground was about 23 feet away from the drain from the RV. And the hose was about 18 feet long. So, we unhooked everything, and I tried to pull forward, and then back, to get closer to the hole. Forward, then back. Forward, then back. I was parallel parking the 29 foot RV, and went through a 19 point repositioning. And finally, in the end, I was about 22.5 feet away from the sewer drain. So we sent my parents to the store to buy an extension sewer hose.

When they got back, they had bought a 20 foot sewer hose, hoping that it would be long enough to use by itself, so we hooked it up, found it too short, and then I went through another 19 point repositioning to try to get a little closer. In the end, we hooked up both hoses together, and we had sewer!

The first night was pretty uneventful. We didn't try to cook in the RV, because we wanted to save some surprises for the big trip. We went to sleep around 10, and slept great, with the two older girls above the cab, the three year old in the converted dinette, and us in the back bedroom. The air conditioner worked wonderfully, well enough that our seven-year old made her way into our bed at 5 am, because she was too cold.

We started breaking down everything at 11, and after a quick 70 minute process (which included finding an extra, bonus, water tank valve), we were ready to go.

Overall, it was a solid start to our adventure. We feel comfortable enough to head out on Saturday on our two week road trip. Stay tuned!
Our queen sized bedroom in the back.


Kendra said...

YeSSSSS!!! I love, love, love, love that you guys are doing this!!! Of course I've been the worst ever, and an email is coming your way (we are still here till the 19th, we have a wedding here in Europe we needed to stay for after all), but we will have so much fun to chat about!! Have so much fun, and I can't wait to hear all about it all! We will be in UT starting July 23rd... but I assume we will just miss you?:( See you soon, and good luck with the driving! You will all rock it! -K and N

Sean Alexander said...

So excited to read more about this, Ben! Safe travels!

Joshua Garber said...

If you guys come by the Atlanta Area, I can offer you a parking place for a few days and would love to see you guys.