RV Life Part II: Driving, Sleeping, and the Godawful Stenches that make you Sick

So far, I have to admit.  RV life hasn’t really been what I expected at the beginning of our adventure.  It really has had its twists and turns (figuratively and literally) every day. So instead of writing a “typical” blog post, I’m gonna do a Q&A.

How do you feel about riding in the RV for weeks with your family?

We’re pretty comfortable. Inside, there’s a table, a couch, a kitchen, a toilet/shower, a bed (more like a cot) above the driver’s cabin, and a small bedroom in the back (Uh… this is much better described with the picture below). There’s enough space for all of us to sit comfortably during our longer drives, but there’s definitely been some conflict about where we should put our backpacks.  Riding in the back is smooth, so long as the driver of the RV avoids braking/cornering too hard, in which case everything will fall off the table unless we save it.  Something we constantly have to be cautious of while Dad is driving.

Overall, the RV isn’t luxurious… and our dirty hiking shoes and stuff/trash/recycling can sometimes take over the living spaces… but we’re pretty good about regularly cleaning up (and sweeping)… so overall it’s nice. It’s a much better alternative to spending hours and hours of driving in the Sequoia, and also provides a feeling of “home” while we’re on the road.

Have you driven the RV?

Well it really depends who you ask.  According to my parents… yes!  But Cruise America on the other hand… certainly not.  But whatever. And it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. The RV, however, is a little unusual in a couple key ways.

a. I swear there are moments that the steering wheel just stops working

There are moments when the RV is beginning to drift across lanes—and being a massive vehicle, you can’t jerk the wheel back into position. So sometimes when I begin to ease the steering wheel back, the RV just doesn’t respond. And honestly, it’s a little scary, especially when you’re going 45+ in two-way traffic.

And there are other times when the RV just seems to have a mind of its own.  I think I’d mostly attribute this to strong crosswinds and misaligned wheels… but sometimes it just drifts into the other lane unexpectedly, and you really have to react somewhat quickly to prevent this.

b. It’s REALLY BIG — and it gives me empathy for truck drivers

Like any large vehicle, the RV moves like a slab of concrete—and I drive a Toyota Sequoia at home, so I know what a “slow car” feels like. But oh my god. When you’re on the freeway on-ramp, there are two ways you can get on pace with traffic. (1) You floor it… and the engine roars so loudly you can’t hear yourself think… or (2) you ease your foot down on the gas to keep it from downshifting… and you watch the needle move up the speedometer slower than the T-Mobile cell service in rural Montana.  And like I mentioned above, you need to drive super conservatively, otherwise everything on the counter/table will fall all over the floors.

One thing that it does do well, however, is downshifting while traveling down a hill.  It takes a lot of stress out of braking down a steep incline with a massive vehicle that may otherwise be prone to sliding out of control.

How does sleeping work?

The sleeping arrangement, surprisingly, has worked out quite well. The couch folds down to create a bed while the table comes apart to make its own bed. Those beds coupled with the one in the bedroom and the cot above the driver’s seat makes enough room for all five of us. And this is super convenient, especially on days when we really need to be up at the crack of dawn. Why? Because it means either Mom or Dad can just get up and start driving. No need to wake anybody else up.

That said, it’s a little weird to fall asleep in an RV park and to wake up the next morning miles away at a diner for breakfast. And while I appreciate the extra sleep, I don’t want to wake up and immediately need to walk somewhere, even if it’s for breakfast.

It’s also important for me to mention that we’re only sleeping in the RV around 30% of nights, while the other 70% is spent in hotels/AirBnBs. And thank god that’s the case or else we’d be SICK of each other after we return the RV on July 8

Is there a toilet?

I am happy to report, that yes, there is a toilet. Otherwise we would have struggled through Yellowstone, which doesn’t have all that many public restrooms. It’s great always having a toilet, but there’s one caveat.

At some point, you gotta dump the sewage.

Now to be clear, I haven’t actually been the one to dump the sewage, so I can’t give a first-person account. My Dad did it in the early morning, before any of the kids had awakened.  But when I woke up, supposedly around an hour after we’d dumped the sewage, the smell inside the cabin was so bad, it made me gag.

What’s that? Oh, you still don’t understand what the smell was like in the RV?  60 minutes after we dumped the sewage? Ok let me explain this differently…

In remote places, the bathrooms oftentimes don’t have plumbing. There’s a toilet bowl, but decades old poop piles in a small chamber a few feet below where you’d sit.  Imagine being hung by your feet and lowered into the toilet so that your entire body enters the chamber headfirst. Now take a big whiff of the air. This is how I imagine the smell of dumping the waste.

If you don’t even want to think about that, or if you got halfway through the above paragraph and skipped it… you’re not alone.   And it is for precisely this reason that we’ve all avoided pooping in the RV toilet since the first waste dump.

And as I’m writing this, we’re riding in the RV to Moab.  And the smell of the bathroom has wafted into the cabin…

We’re gonna have to dump the sewage again… and my parents are gonna make me do it.

UPDATE: I did it.  And it wasn’t all THAT bad… but it was disgusting.  You can feel both the liquid and solid waste rumble through the tube that connects the RV sewage tank to the deposit area.  And the tube itself is really dirty… so the entire time, you don’t know if you’re touching dirt or poop.

What about other hazards?

Yes, we’ve had our share of the unexpected. Perhaps these photos can speak for themselves… (click for captions to learn more)

How do you feel about the entire trip?

Obviously, in the wake of quarantining for over three months, we were all a little sick of our house. The RV was a great way for us to leave Seattle, while also staying safe and keeping up our social distancing. And as much as I enjoy spending my late nights playing too many hours of Call of Duty with the boys (shoutout Nathan and Liam because I know you’re reading this), our RV adventure has been quite refreshing from the monotony of months of quarantine. It’s only been a little over two weeks since we left and I’m starting to feel ready to get out of the cramped RV, but so far, it’s been pretty fun and an excellent change of scenery, even if it’s just for a few weeks.

So anyways… those are my thoughts on life in the RV. Hope you enjoyed hearing from me!

7 thoughts on “RV Life Part II: Driving, Sleeping, and the Godawful Stenches that make you Sick

  1. Alexander is undoubtedly the funniest writer and should write more of the articles… And I vote that Sydney and Piper should have a turn dumping the sewage!


    1. Yes I agree. It is an excellent chance for them to actually do something outside of their comfort zone.


  2. Wear disposable gloves, good to wear in general when going to places open to public with a lot of human traffic. We wear them often in Alaska and especially when doing nasty jobs like dealing with our sewage plumbing.
    I like all of your posts, including your moms! They’re all very entertaining for those of us living a somewhat predictable life. Have fun and safe travels.


  3. Love it! You weren’t kidding about parallel parking the RV! Nice work! I’m sure you’ll really appreciate the Sequoia when you get home.


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