• Kiersi Burkhart

Adventures in RV Living

We're almost three months into full-timing in our 30-foot travel trailer, and it's been one learning experience after the next. We've been in a transitional phase for some time now, not knowing where our jobs will take us next, and reluctant to take on any more commitments (like renting or owning) until we get some outstanding boxes checked off.

There's the small and basic stuff, like a fridge that's too small and not insulated enough to protect refrigerated foods (mostly fruit and vegetables) from freezing; we routinely have to throw away lettuce after a good cold night. Yesterday I attempted to make mac n' cheese in a small casserole dish, but the heating element in our propane oven is in the center, meaning the entire bottom of the dish burned black while the rest remained uncooked. Most surfaces are tilted. We had to seal our entire shower with silicone after the first time I attempted to wash up and water ended up all over the bathroom; and because it was installed wrong, water still pools in one side of the shower and has to be frequently treated for mold.

We spent most of October and early November preparing for the winter by building a skirt around the base of the RV with insulation, which involved a lot of measuring, cutting, applying waterproof tape and sealing holes with insulation foam. We covered the windows with plastic on both sides and extended the skirt up the sides of the slides, which have almost no insulation built into them at all. Sitting at our table means your feet and back freeze while the front of you is smoking hot from the space heater.

Despite all of our measures to prevent freezing—even building an insulated box around our black and gray water drains, hoses, and faucets—we woke up on New Year's Day to having no running water.

We'd experienced frozen pipes one time before, the first day after we'd moved out of our house and spent the first night together in the RV. Once it got warm out, the pipes thawed and everything was fine. This time, however—after an entire night of -20 degree temperatures—the pipes did not thaw.

We waited most of the day, but nothing. Nothing more than a drip from the kitchen sink. Luckily we had fresh water coming in through the bathroom sink, so we could at least get drinking water, but all our meals had to be instant or fast food. We hoped the next night would be warmer and maybe then they would start working again... but again, nothing.

So I put on my filthiest clothes and climbed underneath the RV, where I built a box around the area where I guessed the water heater and attached water pipes were located. We wired in a space heater and started it on high—all the while I dreaded and feared and anticipated the heater somehow lighting the entire thing on fire. Luckily, the fire didn't happen; and about three hours later, I heard the sound of rushing water coming from the bathroom.

While we were testing whether the hot water worked or not, one of us had left the knob turned to "ON"—which of course we didn't notice because, well, it wasn't running. But the moment the pipes heated up enough to let water through, it exploded out of the faucet, into the tiny bathroom sink, and then spilled over the side until there was an inch of water on the bathroom floor, streaming out the door into the rest of the house. (I use the word "house" loosely; it is a house, more or less—just tiny, and also on wheels.)

It's interesting at how we've adapted to strange and upsetting surprises like this since we moved into the RV. We rush to clean up, pivot all the heaters to dry out the fragile wall and floor materials, and proceed to eat dinner. We've disassembled multiple fans when they stopped working and fixed them. We've put up coat hooks because there's nowhere to hang a coat or a scarf, added shelves and puck lights and cheap carpets because the floor is freezing unless you're wearing thick slippers. We manage to make fancy meals with two square feet of countertop space and one functional burner, because the other two rarely light. And we even found a place for my little leopard gecko, Cactus, to live—heating pad, UV light and all.

And yet I don't find myself wishing for anything different. I love our town, I love our cozy little space, and I love this much lower stress place in life in which we find ourselves.

Plus—I'm working on a new novel, an adult book with a horror bent, that I look forward to having in its final stages by this summer.