RV Basics

Inside My Roadtrek 170 Popular: The Non-Cartoon Transformer

When people hear I’m traveling the country in an RV, they generally think I’m navigating windy roads and low clearance bridges in a huge monster-truck size vehicle, which doesn’t sound relaxing and peaceful at all. Then they see my Roadtrek. And well. They think I’m living in a van.


But friends, I am NOT living in a van. (Well, OK, it’s a van, but it is an ENTIRE house in the inside!) Shall I bring you inside for a tour?

First, let’s hang out for a while in the living room. Lovely, no?

roadtrek living room

You are looking for the dining room? Here you go. Also, the dining room can be the office.

living room office

And just like that, one room has become three. But I’m more ambitious than that.

The living room can also become the bedroom with a push of a button. OK, sure, a push of a button + the addition of a tempur-pedic mattress pad, soft sheets, comfy pillows, and a warm comforter. But still, that’s five minutes well spent.

roadtrek bed

Where is all that stuff the rest of the time? The mattress pad and comforter stuff right down behind the couch and the rest fits nicely in the cabinet above, with space left over for a little bookcase (the temper-pedic pillows are on the left, the sheets are in the packing cube in the middle labeled “sweaters” (however, my sheets are not made of sweaters), my books are on the right — mostly books not available on Kindle, like the autobiographies of John Madden and Ken “Snake” Stabler, which yes, I am currently reading right now).

Roadtrek storage

But let’s say I’ve gotten ready for bed, but I still have some work to do. I just head over to my second office (with bonus skylights). Both chairs in front swivel around and a table pops up from nowhere! (Actually, in between the closet and the kitchen, but as though from nowhere!)

Front Office Roadtrek

Here’s my kitchen, complete with two-burner stove, sink, refrigerator, and microwave.

roadtrek 170 popular kitchen

And then my amazing, transforming bathroom. By day, just a regular bathroom. By.. well, also day, I just open the door, roll up my rug and remove the drain cover, pull the shower curtain around the hall, and I’ve got a roomy shower.

Here you can see the bathroom with the door open and the curtain rail:


A closer look at the shower controls:

roadtrek shower

And here’s what it looks like inside the shower:

roadtrek 170 shower

Except in that photo the door on the left is closed so you can see inside. This is what it would actually look like if I were inside the shower and not outside taking the photo. You can’t really tell, but the door is open and the curtain is pulled around it:

roadtrek 170 popular shower

I also have a TV, DVD player, and surround sound system that includes speakers throughout the RV so I can rock out whether I’m hanging out in the living room or the front office. Normally, I listen to music by plugging my iPhone into the DVD player, but sometimes I connect my laptop to the TV and watch TV from bed (yes, I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy; so do you):

roadtrek tv

I could hoist up the antenna and watch TV over the air and at most RV parks and campgrounds I could also plug into cable, but I’m more a stream over the internet whenever I want kind of girl, so I haven’t done either of those.

But what about storage?

I’ve got a closet just to the right of the kitchen (behind the driver side door) to hang up my clothes up in (I keep my shoes in a bin at the bottom):

roadtrek wardrobe

Above that is a little shelf where I keep tools and things.

The Roadtrek used to have a third seat, but I removed it and put in lightweight drawers. There’s also storage in the cabinet underneath (I keep a bunch of shoes and nice clothes that I don’t need every day in that section).

roadtrek storage

In the bathroom, I’ve added a few containers (held in place by Command velcro) to keep everything in place.

bathroom storage

You’ve seen the storage for my bedding to the right of the air conditioner (er, also there’s a couple of bottles of gin and tonic back there). The cabinet on the left has a box of electronics and other various items like my curling iron and window screens.

I’ve also got storage above the front seats. And I keep coffee and other vital essentials in bags in the upper shelving on both sides.

I keep kitchen stuff (plates, cups, pots, and pans, whatever) in bins under the sink. I have a little pantry with stuff like peanut butter above the stove. And I keep towels and first aid kit and odds and ends in the cabinet above the counter. (Yes, I have 6 bath size towels in there! They are magic towels!)

kitchen storage

And then there’s all the storage under the couch (that I get to from the back doors) for things like my lawn chairs.

Of course, I spiffed it all up a little too. Here’s a few before and after photos:

2014-07-12 06.42.38

roadtrek afterYes, I can even light the vanilla candles for even more peace and relaxation. Well, as long as I take the battery out of the smoke detector first. Otherwise, that’s a path to less peace and relaxation for everyone.

RV Basics

This One is About the Septic System, In Case You Want to Skip It

I know what you’re thinking. What about the septic system? You’re driving around with an entire plumbing system, including a toilet, in your car. And at some point, the tanks fill up. No. Surely there’s a way to outsource taking care of that?

I wondered about that too. Before I set out, I read all kinds of warnings about keeping a box of latex gloves handy and the chemicals needed and the indignity of it all. Also that it’s a two person process, which seemed problematic for me as a one person team.

Turns out, like nearly everything else, I’ve discovered that it’s easier than I expected. (Also, when you’re traveling around the country, it’s sort of awesome to always have a bathroom with you.)

The Roadtrek (like all RVs) has two tanks: the grey tank (for the sink and shower) and the black or holding tank (for the toilet). Since I have the littlest Roadtrek, I also have the littlest tanks, but since I’m only one person, I only need to find a dump station about once a week or so (a very unreliable status indicator keeps track of when the tanks are full).

This is one time I can’t steal ideas from watching RVers around me. Many RV septic systems operate by way of gravity. You put the hose in the right place and open the tanks, and as long as gravity is on your site, everything empties as it should. There’s all kinds of little feet you can buy that make the sewer hoses look like oversized millipedes to get the hose to just the right angle.

See? Millipede feet!

RV sewer hose feet

This set up means that when most RVs pull into a site with full hookups, they just hook up the sewer hose and leave it open the whole time they’re stopped.

My Roadtrek has a macerator, which is like a garbage disposal for the septic system. So the tanks only empty when the macerator is on (and it’s only on when I’m pressing the button). Which means I never really need a site with full hookups. Lots of times I get one, just because it’s easy or because that’s what’s available, but a site with only electric and water works just as well for me. I can use the park’s dump station on my way out just as easily as I could a hookup at my site.

septic hookupDump stations are everywhere. Rest areas, truck stops, RV service shops. You can stop by a campground or RV park you aren’t staying at and use their dump station for a fee.

I had read about long wait times at dump stations (which I can definitely see happening since it’s a 10-15 minute process), but so far, I’ve never encountered anyone else at one.

See that little square on the left with the black cap (in the photo on the right)? That’s the septic hookup.

The process goes like this:

  1. Pull out the long sewer hose and open the nozzle.Roadtrek sewer hose
  2. Unscrew the cap to the hole in the ground and push the end of the hose into the hole. There’s a rubber end that keeps a tight fit. If the rubber end is too small, add the rubber donut adapter. Here’s what that looks like:septic hookup
  3. Open the hose by turning the black knob/handle near the hose opening.
  4. Pull out the black water valve.
  5. Press the red button and just keep pressing it until you don’t see anything going through the little see through part of the nozzle.
  6. Pull out the grey water valve. (Controversy alert! Some people say to close the black water valve first to avoid contamination. Some people say not to close it so that the soapy water helps clean out the black water. Do what feels right in your heart.)
  7. Press the red button again and repeat. Supposedly the macerator noise changes when the tanks are empty. I don’t know anyone who has found this to be the case.
  8. Close both valves and close the nozzle. Put everything away. This is the hardest part because the hose barely fits and even though it’s likely all still dry, no one likes the idea of getting too close to the sewer hose.
  9. Grab a septic chemical pod, which looks exactly like those Tide laundry pods, and drop it into the toilet. Pour or run some water into the toilet (the tank should never be totally dry).
  10. The end.

I mean, yes, you might want to wear the gloves just in case. And probably you want to wash your hands now. But honestly the worst part is holding down that red button for ten minutes. You’re like, really? I have to keep pressing this very inconveniently located button? And yes, yes you do. I guess I could put some duct tape over it instead of pressing it? I’ll try that out and let you know how it goes.

Another problem? Sometimes you can’t see the clear part of the hose so you can see if the tank is still emptying (I guess this is where the second person comes in handy.

hidden rv septic

I really thought I had gotten the hang of things. And then I got to Tenkiller Lake. I pulled up to the dump station. And had no idea what to do next. I saw this big square metal hole. And a sign telling me to turn on the water. I looked around. What now? The guy in the RV behind the dump station noticed the perplexed look on my face. Just put your hose into the hole and turn the water on, he told me. What?

So I did. If you look closely (which I realize perhaps you don’t want to do), you’ll see that water is pouring from the sides of the square hole, filling it with water and wooshing everything out into the unknown. No, I don’t know what the barrel is for either.

tenkiller lake rv dump station

So I guess sometimes that’s how an RV dump station works, but so far only that one time.