Living in Laura Ingalls Wilder's House

It seems that the troubles of an RV in the Wisconsin winter never end. After getting the water fixed, finally getting heat tape, we had to wait a few days to actually get heat tape, because the first heat tape was broken. Once we had the heat tape, we were told we didn't need to run the water, for heat tape and lots of straw would be enough to keep the pipes warm. And that's true. But in our post-modern world, just not a truth we can relate to.

See, our metanarrative also involves the RV not having enough power within itself, and continuously tripping the breakers. And I was unaware that there is a separate breaker on the heat tape itself. So when the water went out three nights ago, I had to wait till I got home that day to find out there was a breaker, and go out and check the light- and indeed, the breaker needed to be tripped. But by that point, it was far too cold out (around -16° Celsius) for the heat tape to work, so we were without water for the foreseeable future.

I'm finding more and more that living here is great preparation for living overseas in the Middle East. (The irony is my dad didn't want to come with me to Yemen, for it would be roughing it too much.) If only RVs had been around in Laura's day, I'm sure there would have been a Little House on the Big Wheels. We've had to do a number of workarounds on the water. The first day was skipping a shower. That evening I took a walk across the entire park, in the icy wind and snow drifts, without boots, to the public toilet and shower. The benefit is that the shower has an endless supply of hot water, unlike that of the RV. The drawback is the primitiveness of the shower, though, were I in Yemen, I wouldn't think anything of it. (Except to be exceedingly stoked that I was in Yemen.)

I take my hairbrush and toothbrush into work, so I can use the water there, and not totally make my coworkers uncomfortable. Water for drinking and the toilet is another issue. With a failed starter, it isn't so easy to go out and buy water. But we have an abundance of snow. I've been getting a little snow nearby for the dog, and finding untouched snow further away to boil for the humans. Thankfully there's a continual supply of gas.

And now I must check the breaker every little while, to make sure it's still on. And wait, hoping and hoping that the water unfreezes.

Two nights ago was incredibly cold for not just water. I had on three blankets, and the electric space heater on full, and the front of the RV closed, and it was still incredibly cold. It might help in the future to remember to shut the shower vent on top of the RV.

Today was a hopeful day. It rose up to -3° Celsius, which is the best it's going to get for the next week, except for Monday at -1°. On a whim, I tried the bathroom sink, and lo, there was water! A thin stream, with no hot water. No water at all in the kitchen sink, or the toilet, or the shower. Turning all the faucets on, under a shining sun the shower began spitting out water about fifteen minutes later. A few minutes later, we got water from the kitchen sink. Then the hot water came on in the shower, but nowhere else. Unfortunately, it became clear that the shower wasn't draining at all, and began to fill up the small minitub.

Then hot water came on in the bathroom sink, and the kitchen sink. Still nothing in the toilet. I took advantage of the shower water to bathe, so the minitub could be filled with hot water to unplug the ice dam in the pipes. Finally, about half an hour after it all began, water appeared in the toilet. And a couple hours after it all began, a great glug came from the minitub, as the last of the foot of standing water burst the dam and flowed down.

Rest assured, we will now be letting all the faucets run, day and night, regardless of heat tape and straw. But I must wonder- what's my next preparation for living overseas?


Postscript, 12/7: We woke up to running water, but hot water only in the kitchen sink. Turns out that the pipes are freezing inside the RV, and the hot water pipes to the bathroom sink and shower are frozen. We'll have to wait until tomorrow, when it gets up to -1
° Celsius, to see if we can thaw out those pipes, and from now on, run the cold and hot water, with the gas hot water heater turned off until we need it. Not such a big deal though, as you get only about 5 minutes of hot water at a time anyway, provided it's not too cold outside. (If it's colder, you get less than 5 minutes.)

We also found the breaker repeatedly tripping- the breaker that runs most of the RV. We took nearly everything off it, and it still kept on tripping, giving power for only a maximum of thirty seconds. I removed the face plate to see if, in all my inadequate electrical training, I could see a short. No change. Then I went out and disconnected the external plug for the heat tape, and lo, there was power, with no breaker tripping. After a while I reconnected the plug, and then reinstalled the breaker face plate, and everything seems to be working again. Insha'allah.


love, mom said…
I love your ability to tell a story. But, I'm incredibly worried about you, there in inadequate heat and blizzards up ahead.
Lauren said…
Come to Georgia!!

It's supposed to be in the 50s today.

Popular Posts