Life is an adventure… at least mine is- and that’s very much by design!
I was recently driving through the high desert in Nevada, on my way south, after spending Thanksgiving with my friend Bob (Bob Wells, CheapRVLiving.com – I know many of you know him) and his family in Medford, Oregon. Since I don’t have family, Bob was kind enough to invite me to spend the holiday with his sister, mother, son and him. It was a nice visit. His family is exactly what you would expect: warm, welcoming and kind!
Bob and I have formed the kind of easy and relaxed friendship that has been rare in my life. We’re like old friends, despite having met just a few months ago. We quickly fell into a comfortable and easy friendship and I’ve enjoyed him as a traveling companion. He’s as fiercely independent as I am and we respect each other’s privacy. This has allowed us to travel together, float in and out of each other’s lives and become good friends.
Since Bob and I were both heading south (he to Quartzsite – and me, to wherever I end up) – we traveled to NV together, stopping along the way near Winnemucca, NV. He probably would have driven straight through to the southern desert, but I wanted to lolly-gag, so he lolly-gagged with me. I’m not sure if he regrets or not. It was COLD! The nights dipped into the twenties and the days were barely above freezing. But we both had to catch up on work after spending time with his family and driving for a couple of days, so we decided to stay put a full day to get caught up.
That’s when I realized I needed to find a way to insulate the inside of my RV from the cold air that seeps through the many gaping drafts. On the spur of the moment I decided to shoot a video of the steps I took to insulate my RV with what I had on hand.
Here is how I kept the inside of my RV at 50 degrees or above when it was 20 degrees outside (I added Amazon affiliate links so you can see the products I mention. If you choose to buy, it helps me out and it costs you nothing! – thank you!)
Closed all my blinds and curtains and then covered all the windows with heavy blankets.
Put a windshield cover on the windshield and one over the back emergency window at the head of my bead.
Closed all my vents
Sealed off the door with a thermal curtain and then stuffed dog beds and pillows into the step – that door is very drafty!
Draped a heavy blanket between the cab of the truck and the RV living space to keep the cold from the truck out and the warmth of the living space in
Used thermal curtains to close off the cab-over. They drape all the way to the floor, so it’s extra insulation from the cold truck cockpit.
When I’m in the dining/seating area of the RV I open my bathroom door, blocking the bedroom off – that raises the temperature about 10 degrees.
Put throw rugs on the floor to cover the drafts and insulate the floors (I have laminate floors)
Other Tips to Stay Warm in Your RV in the Winter.
Bake! Do all your baking at night and/or in the morning. The oven adds a lot of heat
I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow kind of woman. I don’t sweat the small stuff. In fact, some of my best and most memorable experiences have come when my best laid plans went haywire.
I’m not quite sure where that free-spirited woman went when I had RV troubles AGAIN recently, but somewhere around day seven of being stuck in a mechanic’s garage in middle-of-nowhere California, my “go with the flow”, happy, carefree sunny disposition leaked right out of me, like the fluid from my busted transmission.
Here’s the story (Part I):
I left Oregon, where I’d enjoyed a relatively peaceful and pleasant summer, to go back to the San Francisco Bay Area to sell my car. It was the one possession I hadn’t sold. I held onto it as a safety net – a back-up plan – just in case my new life didn’t turn out. By the end of summer, I knew it was time to let it go.
It was a chore I wasn’t looking forward to. My plan was to sell it fast and get the heck out. I had no desire to spend more time than necessary in an expensive RV/Trailer park or stealth camping in the overpopulated, traffic congested, retail flooded Bay Area city.
It was another rainy day when I left Sisters, Oregon and a storm was threatening the Pacific Northwest. As I approached California, under dark and foreboding skies, I felt lucky; it seemed I’d missed the worst of the storm! “How lucky am I?” I thought!
My first stop was the Modoc National Forest off highway 97, northeast of Weed, California. It was about 3pm and I was ready to call it a day and search for a spot to camp. I reveled in the dichotomous landscape: high desert terrain and lava strewn fields on the western side of highway 97 and lush forest thick with Ponderosa Pines on the eastern side. I was in awe of nature’s contrast, and excitedly explored forest roads to find my little piece of it to call home for the night. I eventually found a wonderful spot to camp nestled among the conifers, but didn’t have a cell signal. I enjoy being unplugged occasionally; work can wait!
Late the next morning, I decided to set out in search of a new place to camp, with a cell signal – and I wanted a cappuccino! It was a cool and gloomy morning. Dark gray clouds and moisture hung heavy in the air; rain threatened but so far no more than a few drops had seeped from the heavy clouds. So, I headed to a café in Weed, scouting for a new place to camp along the way.
Little did I know I’d be driving into the eye of the storm! Holy cow! I’d driven in high winds before, in the central valley of California, but that was nothing compared to what I drove through on the way into Weed. The ten mile stretch of highway 97 outside of Weed is posted with bright orange wind socks and signs warning of gusty winds. With the storm blowing in, it was insane! Within a few miles, I was driving in heavy pelting rain and RV-rocking gusts. They blew me to the left, then to the right and then came up under me like Capone and I were going to be blown to Oz.
At times the invisible wall of wind raged at me like a locomotive, pushing so hard against my RV that even with the gas pedal all the way to the floor I was barely moving forward. I struggled to keep it on the road, cranking my steering wheel to the right and then to the left. Above me, things were whipping and snapping and cracking as the fury of wind swarmed my RV. I was afraid my air conditioner would get ripped off and leave a gaping hole in my roof. What the hell is flopping around up there? Should I keep going? Turn around? Pull over?
Pulling over didn’t make sense, I just wanted to get the hell out of it, not sit in it. I’ll admit I was freaked out. I was afraid the walls of my RV would go flying off and all my worldly possessions would scatter about the road and the desert. As I pressed on, I thought about how exposed and vulnerable I am in my RV-home. You just don’t worry about these things living in a sticks and bricks house (at least, not in California!).
I motored on, swinging, swaying and jerking all the way. Just get to town. I can do this. It will be ok. My hands gripped the wheel as if stuck with superglue. Just get to town. I thought if I could make it to town everything would be ok, that the storm would magically disappear amid stores and shops and cafes that smelled of espresso and scones. As if society, would magically make the bad weather more cordial and polite.
After a terrifying 30-minute roller coaster ride I finally made it to town. I parked on the main street near the café, got out and was instantly pelted with beating rain and wind so strong I was walking sideways. Ok, this is serious. But. Must. Get. Coffee.
With almond milk cappuccino in hand, I slant-walked back to my RV. The short walk drenched everything that my rain jacket didn’t cover. I climbed in, cranked the heat and sat in the driver’s seat, listening to the howling winds and rain beat up my poor old RV. The storm was getting worse, there was no way I was driving back to camp. I needed to find a place off the main street to park and ride it out.
Two blocks away I found a gravel parking lot, but it was posted with big bold signs, “Souvenir Shop Customers only. All others will be towed away!” So, I drove past it and down a side street. As I turned into a residential neighborhood, a gust of wind swirled around me knocking the rig sideways. CRASH!! CRACK! RIP! BOOM! What the —-??? Uh-oh, that was me!
The horrendous expensive sounding Crack came from the passenger side. I slowly inched into a curbside parking place and jumped out. As I rounded the front of my rig I immediately saw the source of all the commotion; my awning was partially unrolled, jutting out from the side of the RV. The vinyl awning hung there, suspended in mid-air, rain-soaked and flopping pathetically in the raging pacific Norwest storm of the year. The other end was completely unhinged and resting in the rushing water of the curbside gutter. Are you freaking kidding me?
Giant drops of rain barreled at me. The wind howled and slapped against me. No time to cry about it… better get to work!
As I stood in the rain, numb and dumb with frustration, staring at the mangled mess, I noticed the pull-down strap madly flapping in the wind. I had an idea! Yes! I grabbed the strap and hoisted the broken end of the heavy awning up toward the arm that had previously connected it to my RV. Yes, this will work! I wrapped the strap around the arm a few times and secured it with a knot. I stepped back to inspect my handy work; the awning hung across the side of my rig like a broken arm in a sling. That’ll work!
Feeling happy and proud that I’d (temporarily) solved my problem, I hopped back inside and drove back to the souvenir shop’s empty gravel parking lot. I dared the universe: Go ahead, tow me!
For two hours, my RV rocked and bounced in the gale-force winds. Powerful gusts pounded at the walls and rain banged on the roof, making it nearly impossible to concentrate on my work. Things cracked and whipped and snapped all around me: oh nooo what’s going to break next? I was completely stressed out and terrified that the flimsy walls of my mobile-home would disintegrate and blow away in the 50mph gusts.
Finally, after a couple hours, the winds decreased to maybe 25 or 30 mph and the rain, while still pouring, wasn’t coming down in sheets anymore. I was growing antsy; I couldn’t sit in the parking lot forever. I had to figure out what I was going to do with the crippled awning, I slipped into my rain coat and waterproof hiking boots and once again, ventured out into the storm for a closer look at the damage.
I hoisted myself up the slippery ladder and onto the roof to inspect the broken arm. Ever the optimist, I thought, “maybe I can reattach it!” Working quickly in the heavy rain and wind, it looked promising. All I had to do was hoist the awning onto the roof and drop it back into the slot at the top of the arm. Piece of cake!
I climbed back down, tied a rope (an extension cord. I couldn’t find my rope!) around the awning, flung the other end up on the roof, climbed back up and hoisted the heavy monstrosity onto the roof. But it wouldn’t go back in the slot, it was too bent. Ugh. Ok, now what?
Maybe I can secure it to the roof?!? I searched for something to tether it to that wouldn’t cause more damage. No luck.
I had no choice but to remove the whole awning by disassembling the side that was still connected. And of course, I hadn’t brought my tools with me; climb back down, gather my wrench and pliers from my pathetic tool set and climb back up the slippery wobbly ladder.
I was freezing cold and soaked to the bone. Gusts of wind swooped up and rocked the RV beneath me. With numb hands and the entire weight of the awning pressing against the in-tact arm, I wrenched at the nuts securing it to the roof. With a jolt and a pop and a snap the awning broke free, forcefully snapping back against my hand with an excruciatingly painful blow, and then crashing to the ground ten feet below. FUUUUCK! OW-OW, FUCKING OUCH!
I looked down at my hand expecting to see it dangling off my wrist. Or at the very least covered in blood. Surprisingly it was still intact, no blood and despite hurting like hell, everything seemed to move as it should- with great pain, but at least it moved. How am I going to climb down off the roof with a lame hand? Oh my god, could this day get any more fucked???
With my lame hand, I managed to get off the roof and inside my pain-in-the-ass home. I was drenched to the bone, my hand was throbbing, my awning – a deal breaker when I bought the RV – was toast. Overcome with frustration, worry and pain, I broke. As I pulled my two tiny ice cube trays from the freezer and rested my hand between them, the tears I’d been choking back broke free and streamed down my freezing, rain-soaked face.
Fear and worry overwhelmed me: What am I going to do? I’m stuck in this stupid storm. My hand is crushed. My awning is on the ground. The frame is dangling off the side of my RV. I can’t drive like this!
I gave myself some time to feel the pain; allowing the tears wash away the frustration. Then with my good hand, I wiped the tears and rain from my face, got out of my wet clothes and into warm dry ones and devised my plan. But I couldn’t do anything until I could use my hand again, so I sat for another hour icing it and listening to the storm carry on outside.
I ended up securing the flopping metal frame in place with plastic ties. Now what to do with the awning? I was tempted to leave it there, but in good consciousness, couldn’t just leave my garbage for someone else to deal with. So, when my hand was functioning again, I went back out in the rain and tried to shove my 20’ one-hundred-pound awning through my door – no go. It wouldn’t fit. Well, now I have no choice. I can’t take it with me. I dragged it into the trees and drove back to the safety of the forest, where I could try to put day’s troubles behind me.
Later, as I lay in bed looking at the cloudy sky through my back window with the emergency release handles, it hit me: I can get the awning through here!
The next morning, on my way to the Bay Area, I stopped at the gravel parking lot, hoisted the long, heavy awning to my back window and shoved it into my rig. It wasn’t easy; it was heavy! Once inside, it stretched from the back window, across my bed, through my kitchen and dining area, all the way to the driver’s seat. Oh, this is going to be fun. How the heck am I going to l live with this? I had to move it to one side to get in the fridge, to the other to get in the bathroom. I had to step over it to get to my kitchen and then again to get my seating area. I told myself all I had to do was make it to my home base in the Bay Area where there’s a Camping World. I’ll get it fixed tomorrow. I’ll just have to live with it for one night…
Or so I thought…My adventure wasn’t quite over yet. I didn’t make it to my destination in Vacaville, to my car or to Camping World.
Four hours after hoisting the broken piece of my RV inside, I was just sixty miles outside of Vacaville, cruising along I-5, excited about getting close to my home base and trying to decide where I’d spend the night when I looked out my rear window and saw nothing but white. Great, now what? Through my driver side mirror, I saw heavy white smoke billowing from underneath my rig. Oh my freaking god, are you kidding me right now???
I pulled over, jumped out, ran to the passenger side and squatted down too see my biggest fear realized; red fluid was spewing out into a huge puddle beneath my engine. I stood motionless, looking toward the sky, paralyzed with disbelief. Dear universe, why do you hate me?
It’s 5:30 am on Forest Road 050, five thousand feet high, deep in Umatilla National Forest, Oregon. I lay wide awake, huddled between my new fluffy quilted comforter and flannel sheets listening to the rain pelt my thin RV roof for the second night in a row. For three days it’s has been nearly constant: relentless, loud and cold.
Anxiety swirls inside me as the wind swirls outside, rocking my tiny home. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to push away my anxiety and go back to sleep. But I can’t.
I toss and turn; sleep alludes me as the nasty noisy weather steals my comfortable silence. The wind rips through my awning and I regret putting it out yesterday when the clouds finally separated, revealing slivers of blue sky and hope for sunnier days.
My RV jolts and rocks as the wind howls; turning the awning into a sail. I’ve been laying here for an hour already debating: should I get up and put it down. Noooo it’s too cold.. Bed is warm… I’ll wait and see if it gets worse. WHOOSH! WHIP! Another gust takes hold and the RV jerks. I hold my breath, maybe it’ll die down. And the whipping and rocking subsides… for a while… and then it starts all over again. Ugghhh There’s so much to move and put away if I’m to put the awning up and it’s cold and dark and wet; I’ll take my chances. I’ll wait…
I arrived in Umatilla National Forest in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon, seven days ago. The National Forest is “1.4 million acres of mountainous terrain and deep v-shaped valleys” (source: Forest Service website). I found a picturesque, open, and spacious campsite (with 2-3 bars of 4G!) on dead-end forest road 020 (off of highway 204, 13 miles north of Elgin). The secluded spot, overlooking a small valley, beckoned, “stay. You’ll be safe here!” And how could I refuse! Surrounded by a forest, thick with a variety of conifers; Pacific yews, Western Junipers, Spruce, Firs and Ponderosa, Western White and Lodgepole Pines. I was in awe of all their different shapes and sizes and how they decorate the forest in layers of fall colors and contrast. It was gorgeous. Ahhh I found my new temporary home!
When I arrived, the sky was heavy with rain clouds. Occasionally, they’d open, spitting showers upon Capone and me as we explored the web of forest roads on foot. But they’d just as quickly close back up and allow the sun to break through and warm me just enough… However, within a few days we were huddled inside escaping wind, biting cold temperatures and even hail and snow. And for the last few days, instead of reveling in Mother Nature’s beauty, I’ve been huddled inside, escaping her.
I love the rain— or at least I thought I loved the rain. On backpacking trips, I’ve been beside myself with excitement; huddled inside my tiny tent as storms delivering earth-rumbling thunder, sky-piercing lightening and pelting hail rumbled over me. All my life, (yes, even as an adult!), I’m always the one to run outside and skip through mud puddles during thunderstorms. My ex-husband thought I was insane the first time I experienced a (rare) thunderstorm in the Bay Area (one of the things I missed the most about growing up in NY) as I ran outside to stand in the driveway and watch as it pass overhead, giddy with excitement.
As a backpacker, I’ve reveled in ‘being One with nature” and “weathering the storms”, hell, I even blogged about how nature isn’t supposed to be easy and convenient – and how I welcome all that she is! (Read it here: Alone on the JMT – my 26 day, 256 mile hike).
And now I lament: oh how easy it is to tolerate – or even love – a challenging situation when you know there’s an end (or you can go back inside and escape it!)! A few hours huddled in a tent while a storm passes over is one thing, but days and days of gloom, air thick with cold and damp, constant noise as rain thrashes my tin-box home and the constant worry that the tenuous seams of my old RV will burst, leaking water down my walls, is a whole other matter.
I think the reality of RV life is starting to settle in… it’s not like living in a sticks and bricks house where I’d have the luxury of peeking at the storm through a window, muting the TV so I can hear the rumbling thunder, or bundling up and stepping into the driveway to watch it pass over before retreating to the comfort and safety of a home that doesn’t rock in the wind or amplify the sound of raindrops on the roof. I don’t even have a radio or TV to drown out the sound of the rain and wind attacking my RV-home. It’s just me. Alone. In a tin box. In the woods. Fifteen miles from civilization. With just a tenuous layer of particle board and sheet metal between Mother Nature and me. This is pretty real!
Part of my motivation for living in an RV was to be closer to nature. To immerse myself in her rhythms, innate ruggedness and breathless beauty. Last spring – California’s first ‘normal’ rain year in a while- during one of my “practice” boondocking trips in the El Dorado National forest, I got to experience my first RV rain storm. I reveled and delighted at the sound of rain drops pelting the metal roof, sitting under my awning, watching the drops bounce off the drought-hardened earth and throw tiny splashes into the air. It was so new and exciting then…. Now it’s my reality.
Feeling disappointed in the weather – and myself – I conceded. The rainy season has hit Oregon and it’s time to move on. And now I just lay here wide awake impatiently waiting for daylight to crest so I can break camp and nohead down the mountain to dryer ground.
Life in an RV is different. We don’t have the comfort and security of sticks and bricks. We’re more exposed and vulnerable to the elements. It’s why I chose this life and now I’m disappointed that it’s what’s causing me stress. I hope the longer I live in my RV and the more I trust in her condition, the more comfortable I’ll be; knowing that I can literally weather the storms!
We Location Independent RV- Living Nomads have a saying: “If you don’t like your neighbors, move.” And lately my “neighbor” has been an unrelenting nuisance. So it’s time to bid adieu and find more hospitable ones.