Moving day, which happens about once a week, is a lot of work. Actually, I call it “relocating,” not “moving,” because somehow that makes it seem easier. I’m not sure that my strategy is working. At any rate, when we say, “we are relocating to [place] tomorrow,” this is what moving day actually involves. Usually we do this on a weekend day so we can take our time, but we have broken up the steps before in order to move on a weeknight.
Packing Up and Breaking Camp
This is the stuff you’d expect, mostly. We put away the dishes from the drying rack, we latch the dresser drawers so they don’t fly open on the road. We fold up the outside mat (which I lovingly refer to as the “patio”) and camp chairs and load the boats back on the car. My beloved beaded giraffe from South Africa gets stashed in the pantry rack because giraffes are not good at flying. There are lots of little things like that to “road proof” the house, and we have it down to a science (except when I forget to dump Cheat’s water and it creates a tiny river when we start driving >.< ).
This is typically finding a place to take our trash and recycling. Trash is easy, but recycling varies a lot place to place. In Missoula, for instance, which is a pretty “green” city, there was only one recycling center, a big hulking industrial place. We have not found a single place in all of Montana that recycles glass.
Sometimes we have other chores to take care of, too, especially if we are in a bigger city and have put off something or other that can only be done “in town.” Last time, for instance, I needed to drop off a few things for donation at a thrift store. We will sometimes even combine groceries or laundry in with the day’s errands.
This is the gross part. I will explain it here for those who are unaware, and then you will know and we won’t have to speak of it again.
We use an iPhone app called “Sanidumps” to find RV dump stations, which are often found for free or a nominal fee at gas stations or campgrounds. Sometimes towns even offer them. This is different for us than for RV travelers who stay at resorts with hookups: the sewer hookup is right at their site for them. But it isn’t that big of a deal to us, generally we need gas from the gas station anyway!
Here is how it works. Skip over this if you are eating, easily grossed out, or prefer to maintain the illusion that RV life is completely glamorous.
- Put on gloves. If you don’t, you are disgusting and I will judge you and never eat anything you cook for me.
- Open the storage compartment where your sewer hoses are contained. Nothing else lives here (especially not your fresh water hoses!). Take them out, being careful not to let them touch anything (like your clothes or shoes or children or pets).
- The sewage hose attaches to your RV tank on one end with a swiveling lock sort of action. Attaching securely is important.
- The other end has a clear elbow. The elbow end goes into the dump station port (“drain”).
- With some variations in RV model, the grey tank has your sink water and shower water. The black tank always has sewage. Generally, you want to empty your black tank first and then your grey tank, so the grey water rinses out the hose. (If this is your first time doing this and you want to make sure it’s all hooked up correctly and your hose has no leaks, test with your grey tank first so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises.) The black tank is the bigger port. Open it up and, this is gross, watch the clear elbow to make sure everything has emptied. You may need to use gravity to your advantage. Then do the grey tank. When you are finished, unhook from the RV side and gradually lift the hose in such a way that any remnants empty into the drain.
- Very carefully replace the sewer hose into its compartment.
- Rinse the drain area with the provided water hose (not your water hose, don’t get that anywhere near!).
- Throw out your gloves and wash hands thoroughly.
Okay, you can come back now, easily grossed out people!
After you have dealt with the tanks, it’s time for refilling the fresh water. Move the RV forward if the station is busy so you don’t hold up other people (we haven’t ever been at a busy time, so we multitask, which is probably rude, I don’t know). Not all dump stations have potable water, so we have to do our homework first. Then the clean water hose with attached filter runs from a spigot to our water tank and we wait. This is the longest step, even though our tank only holds 35 gallons. Usually I do water and other odds and ends (like, oh, taking blog photos) and Nik handles tanks because he is the best.
Before we drive, we will hook up the car for towing. This isn’t too difficult, but it is another step in the process.
We learned early on that we were much happier when we drove shorter distances between stops. Generally, we will keep our drives to no longer than 2 or so hours. This is easier on Nik, who drives basically always (with good reason) and also because we like to take our time exploring! We are both glad that we took the time to explore the area in between Yellowstone and Glacier rather than booking it from one to the other, but to each their own. Our rig is also, um, less fun to drive than some newer setups, so there’s that.
Finding a New Boondocking Spot
In some ways, this is the hardest part because it is the least predictable. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest land are both free to camp on for up to 14 days in most places as long as you follow the rules (like, ya know, packing out your trash and not starting forest fires). Of course, not all National Forest land is super accessible to drive into with a motor home. We use www.freecampsites.net as our starting point. When looking for a site, we want a place that (in priority order):
- Is accessible by road
- Has cell service so we can work
- Is relatively level
- Is relatively close to the places we’d like to see.
Once we are close to a few potential spots, we will unhook the car and use it as a “scout.” Sometimes I’ll drive the car and Nik will follow behind in the RV and we will use walkie-talkies to communicate (like, “DON’T DRIVE THE RV THIS WAY!”). Other times, we will just park the RV someplace for a bit while we drive the car around. We will take the cell phone and the hotspot with us to check on service as we go. Usually we will have a list of a few potential places and we will get lucky on the 2nd or 3rd spot, but you never know. We are usually exhausted at this point, and Nik always has to remind me that we actually don’t want to park in a highway pull-off for a week (that always seems to look appealing when I am super tired).
Once we park, we walk Cheat, eat something quick, and pass out for the night. Another travel day down.