The Small Small Trailer

An essay in inadequacy.

When I bought our twenty foot Jayco Lite travel trailer before our house closed in the spring of 2017, I figured we’d be living in it for a few months while we looked for a new home.

I was wrong.

We lived within the confines of it’s half-inch walls for almost two years.

When I spotted it in an ad, I was sucked in by the extra amenities and the price. Plenty of room for the job as I saw it at the time. It came with a TV, radio, an air conditioner, central heating and something else so appealing I’ve forgotten what it was.

It also came with a badly rotted floor which I didn’t know about at the time. The rest was standard.

We spent a summer living in the thing expecting to find a property with a house. We didn’t, and ended up crammed in for much longer than we expected. The single table inside was only big enough for my son and his computer so I spent a lot of time in our bunk at the rear or outside in our half-built shed. My husband even moved his TV and Xbox outside during the summer. It was too cramped in the tiny house on wheels.

The sink was too small, the bathroom was too small and the hot water heater was glitchy. It became an art form to take a shower. We had to set the timer for twelve minutes exactly from the time we turned the hot water heater on. Whoever was taking a shower had to be ready to jump in at the mark or the water would boil out of the tank outside within a couple of minutes.

We managed to break not one but two windows and had to tape them up and when the freezing temperatures hit, we had a major problem on our hands with the canvas walls of the pullouts.

We ended up putting rigid sheet insulation and plywood around the walls and over the roofs of the pullouts but zero degrees doesn’t care. The rain had a tendency of finding a way through the tarps we put over them too. Wet mattress pads, sheets and pillows were the order of the day. I don’t know how we survived but we did.

Some time during the summer the rotten floor made itself apparent and we crawled under the contraption to shore up the floor with two by fours to prevent a “yard sale” while driving down the freeway at sixty-five miles an hour.

There wasn’t much between the outdoors and us in a canvas pullout.

One night shortly after we’d set up camp on our new property, we heard a distinct scraping sound against a trash barrel outside just feet from our heads. We’ll never know what was out there. I took the outside position only one time and ended up on the inner side within minutes.

Last fall we got a fifth wheel, not knowing for sure when we’d be able to build a real house but our fifteen year old insisted that he didn’t want to see the Jayco go to waste. He’s a teenager and he still lives in it.

We were quite happy to say goodbye and move next door forty feet away. At least we no longer have to worry about Mr. Foot reaching his hand under the canvas wall and making away with my husband.


Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

When we bought our RV, it had been refitted for use with city hookups rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model.

When the UPS guy dropped off it off, we eyeballed it with suspicion as we’d recently watched an episode of the TV show Mythbusters featuring an experiment with hot water heaters.

They had disabled all of the safety measures on several tanks then set the temperature dials to maximum. Upon overheating to the point of exploding, they blew open at their weakest points – the bottoms – launching them hundreds of feet into the air.

We wondered how high our mini-rocket might be capable of traveling under the wrong circumstances as we wrestled it into its compartment on the side of our RV and hooked up the gas and water. We checked for leaks then lit it up.

We turned the water on to check the temperature but it got hotter and hotter then stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing blast-off, we called it a night.

Our luck was no better the next day so we decided to call a professional.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

They don’t normally do work on RV’s but they agreed to send someone to come take a look. For two weeks we waited – without hot water.

By the time he arrived, the repairman had attained hero status in our minds.

Armed only with a notepad and a toolbox, he listened with concern as we told him our plight. Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as he stole sideways glances at the beast that waited behind the access panel that said “hot”.

Finally, he adjusted his collar, turned, and approached his foe with a swagger that would have made John Wayne proud. He opened the hatch, squinted into the darkness and went to work.

We stood back and watched nervously. What if he couldn’t fix it? What if we had to send it back for another? What if this cost us an arm and a leg?

Finally, we heard the rocket-like swoosh of propane igniting as the man cocked his head and made his final adjustments. We tried in vain to read his poker face as he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

Suppressing a grin, he told us “I turned the heat down.”

Our Home On Wheels

If we could just get it up the driveway.

We had to get out of the little camping trailer we’d been packed into for over a year.

Early on, we had an opportunity to build a house but the project was effectively scrapped because a grouchy neighbor didn’t want to grant us a short utility easement across a tiny section of their land they never used.

With our plans on hold until Plan B came through, we decided on a larger RV. We scanned Craigslist for something that would withstand the winter better than the little Jayco and had more room.

An older model Royal Voyager fifth wheel caught our eyes. It had been completely remodeled and the interior was of better quality. It had been modified to hook up to regular utilities.

At first this seemed like a bonus but we soon realized we would have to undo a lot of what had been done so we could use it like a camper again.

Our truck didn’t have a fifth wheel hitch adapter so we paid a guy to bring our new home to us. We were worried it wouldn’t fit going around a sharp corner coming up to our property so we measured the opening and sent a diagram with measurements to the driver.

He skillfully maneuvered the forty-foot box on wheels around the corners, almost missing all of the tree branches. As it was, we had to cut several down that were overhanging the road to prevent losing parts of the RV along the way although I think we lost a porch light.

We dug ruts into the higher points of the uneven ground in preparation for parking but it took a couple of weeks to get the fifth wheel leveled properly.

Excited that our new home was finally here, I headed to the kitchen sink and turned it on –  nothing came out. We inspected the entire trailer looking for the pump – nothing. We eventually discovered it had been removed altogether because of the remodel. We installed a new one.

The water heater was electric and practically killed the generator when the heating elements would kick on. Forget using solar power with it. We replaced it with a gas water heater Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero.

The propane fridge to replace the electric one is on it’s way. It’s a quarter the size of the one we have but brand-new full-size models were over 1,200.00. Used propane fridges aren’t easy to find. We’ll be putting the small one we bought into the small trailer and moving the one from small trailer to ours.

A couple of trips to Walmart for missing furnishings completed the package. A dish drainer, towels, silverware and a push vacuum, among other things, filled in the blanks to make our home cozy and ready to use.

It was time to enjoy our new-found spaciousness and as I turned out the lights to go to bed, I wondered what we would have done if the driver hadn’t been able to get the house around that corner.