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Medicine Cabinet Remodel

The medicine cabinet in our RV was generously sized (in our opinion), but it only had one shelf. There was a lot of wasted space.

a view of an open bathroom medicine cabinet

While we could have stored about 16 super-tall cans of 80’s Aqua Net, we’ve both outgrown that phase and our toiletries are a bit smaller these days.

The cabinet itself is made of a light ¼ inch plywood, so it is not a good base with which to attach a shelf. However, I did this, I wanted to avoid visible screws. I chose some light hardwood lumber that could be stained to closely match the rest of the cabinet. Rather than installing standard shelf supports (which would likely require visible screws), I made two legs and used double faced tape to attach them to the inside of the lower shelf in order to support my new shelf.

a view of a shelf support inside a bathroom cabinet

I cut and stained the new shelf to match as well.

a view of a bathroom cabinet

The one additional shelf added a lot of room in the cabinet. If we find ourselves running out of space again, I could add an additional shelf to the lower area in the same manner. (Or, more likely, we do a little spring cleaning.)

Finding Unused Space Under Our Bathroom Sink

As we continue our quest for space optimization, we discovered some wasted space in the cabinet below the sink. Only the top half of the total cabinet space was usable as a cabinet when we bought it. The lower half of the space was closed off with a panel, in order to hide the plumbing connections and electrical runs.

An open cabinet with one shelf

a view of the inside of a bathroom sink cabinet

The area below the sink was opened for a previous project where I found myself tracking down a water leak. The space was closed off with a ¼ inch plywood panel to protect the water lines, drain, and some electrical feeds. When repairing the leak, I realized this area still had quite a bit of usable space, if I made a few modifications.

An open cabinet with access panel removed

My plan was to install a sub-floor in the cabinet and close off the areas with the water and electrical feeds using floating walls. I started by adding a grid of boards to the bottom of the cabinet space to support the new sub-floor and allow for some clearance to route the wire. I cut a paper pattern for the usable floor area and used that to cut a sheet of ¼ inch plywood. The cabinet will see a lot of use, so I lined these parts with woodgrain shelf paper for durability and to match the existing wood.

a view of the inside of a bathroom sink cabinet

The floating walls were cut from the same paneling as the sub-floor. The walls are attached to the cabinet face and the new floor of the cabinet, and the job is done.

This new area more than doubled our usable space under the sink!

An open bathroom cabinet with two shelves filled with towels and other bathroom items, and a toilet paper holder on the inside of the cabinet door.

Our Grey Water Mystery Leak

Shortly after we moved in, we started noticing water on the ground under the dump valve for the black tank and one of the gray tanks. Thankfully, the water appeared to be either fresh water or gray water! But it was a concern and needed fixing.

Our unit has an all-weather sealed underbelly, so the water leaking could have been coming from any number of places and traveling along the underbelly to the drain valve area. We were really concerned, because water can do a lot of damage when the leaks are not addressed quickly. During the course of troubleshooting, we noticed the leak was the worst when the bathroom gray tank was close to full.

A view of the dump valve and waste drain area

I made a small incision in the corrugated plastic liner covering the underbelly to dry it out and get a better look at the problem. I could see the bottom of the gray tank, but it still wasn’t clear where the water was coming from.

I moved indoors and opened the two access panels in the bathroom, one under the shower and another under the sink. Under the sink, I opened the lower access panel in the sink cabinet and found a large space with the water feed, the drain plumbing, and several electrical lines. (The lighter colored boards in the floor area of the lower cabinet were added for another project I started shortly after fixing the leak. Stay tuned for a future post about that.)

An open cabinet with access panel removed

The black sink drain pipe ran straight down through an opening in the floor and directly into the top of the grey tank. I got a nice look at this area when the tank was full and there was no indication of water leaking in this area. The water in the park tends to be hard so a chalky residue would have been present if there was a history of leaks in that area.

The shower also has a drain that leads to the grey tank that is accessible through a second small access panel under the shower drain pan.

Sn open access panel for the shower pan

When I pulled this panel off the cutout area behind it was barely large enough for my arm. I wanted to get a better look so I used my cell phone camera as a periscope to see what there was to see.

When I first moved the phone into the opening a very frightening picture appeared: a large hairy spider appeared on the screen that appeared to be the size of a dinner plate! Once I adjusted the zoom on the camera, I realized we were not being invaded by giant spiders. After recovering my dignity and rehoming the tiny arachnid who was as surprised by the intrusion as I was, I tried again.

My arm barely fit in the access hole, so I used a razor knife to open things up and dull the sharp edges. I was able to fit one arm and my phone in the space so I used the video option to view the areas under the shower pan.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Our Grey Water Mystery Leak”

RV Life for Cats

This post was originally published on The Whisker Shop’s blog with the title Helping Cats Live Large in Small Homes, and we’ve used this philosophy for “cattifying” our RV home, too.

If you lack the square footage for elaborate cat furniture, there are plenty of ways to help your cat branch out (and up), and make you feel like he’s got more room than you.

Tip #1: Think vertically! This is really the best way to maximize a cat’s space. Adding shelves, or rearranging stuff on existing shelves to make room for cats, is like a cat magnet for most cats. Keep in mind the size and age of your cats: smaller or older cats may need additional shelves or a chair moved so they can get on and off the shelf safely. Make sure the shelves can hold your cats’ weight and the force of their jump, to avoid unnecessary injuries or repairs.

Tip #2: Think multi-purpose! Dedicated cat furniture is beautiful and helps your cat feel like she really owns her space. But sometimes you just don’t have the floor space for it. Adding something like a Clamp-on Desk Shelf to an existing desk or table will let you keep working while your cat supervises from above. If you already have a desk with a shelf, consider clearing off some space and adding an inbox for your cat. Sometimes an empty box lid is all that’s needed to entice a cat to use a new space, or you can try something much cozier, like a MidWest Deluxe Bolster Pet Bed.

Tip #3: Maximize space! If you’ve got extra leg room under your desk, or under a table where you spend a lot of time working, your cat may want to join you (and get in your way). Try tucking a cozy place to call their own near your feet (but not so near where you might kick them!), like the Zen Den Cat Hideout. We like the Zen Den because the top comes off for easy access in case of emergencies, and it folds flat for travel or storage. It’s also great for cats who prefer to be closer to the ground. Or keep it simple and cheap: keep a couple fleece blankets on hand, fold one for underneath a favorite chair or table, and rotate them out on laundry day.

Repairing the Cat Carrier

Two of our cats are brothers we rescued at 5 weeks old. They’re now 5 years old, and still a handful. They hate being in hard-sided carriers with a passion. But on our last pre-RV relocation with a car full of stuff and 5 cats, they destroyed their soft-sided carrier before we even left our neighborhood. We ended up stopping at a pet store on our way out of town to buy two hard-sided carriers to contain them for the 600-mile trip.

But we’re trying to make RV life easier on them, and we’re confident we can get them comfortable in the truck if we’re patient and creative. So a couple weeks ago, we bought a Pet Gear Soft Crate for the boys and another for our two girls (who are perfect angels on the road), and set it up for the boys to get used to having it around.

Last weekend we changed parking spots in the same park. (To be closer to the pool!) It was a good test-run for the new crates– and the boys did less damage than we expected, but they still put holes in the screen. We really want to make these soft carriers work because they’re more comfortable for the cats, so I wanted to repair the damage.

We are HUGE fans of Pet Screen, because it renders screens just about indestructible when it comes to cats and dogs. We replaced all the screens in our RV with Pet Screen before we ever moved the cats in– not only does it keep them safe, but it’s so easy to get tiny tears in standard screens even without pets, that this stuff keeps the bugs out and keeps the screens looking nicer longer.

Since I had some left over from the RV screen install, I thought I’d try to replace the two torn parts of our new cat carrier. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this stuff is to work with, and how well my sewing machine handled it.

Gluten-Free Travel

Finding gluten-free food on the road can be tough. This is not a post about finding gluten-free restaurants, or about all the magical gluten-free dining experiences a traveler with celiac disease might find if only they were brave enough or bold enough.

I am a super sensitive celiac. I am more sensitive than the average celiac, and it takes me longer to bounce back than many of my celiac peers. Once, I was glutened so badly by a careless restaurant that it took me over a year to feel “normal” again.

Consequently, we don’t eat out much.

So this is a post about where to find gluten-free groceries while traveling.

Even before RV life, when we traveled, we brought a suitcase for our clothes and a suitcase for our food. (The food suitcase was usually bigger.) RV travel has made eating on the road MUCH easier and simpler, but there’s a lot of overlap between how we handled food on the road with a car compared to how we handle food on the road in an RV.

Packing

BYOS: Bring your own Stuff.

What gadgets and condiments do you use every day? What’s a must-have for your suitcase or RV kitchen? Here’s our list of essentials:

  • We loved our Aroma Rice Cooker for years, until it finally stopped working at a nice old age. Now we can’t live without our 3 Quart Instant Pot.
  • Bamboo Cooking Utensils, which are super durable but inexpensive, so it’s not so heartbreaking if one is lost in transit.
  • Lightweight cutting board(s) are handy for food prep on any suspicious surface (like a hotel table or campground picnic table).
  • A paring knife and a serrated knife
  • Utensils: Now that we’re full-time RVers, we get to bring our metal utensils with us. But when car-tripping and nowadays when we want to save water and time, we always keep some kind of biodegradable cutlery on hand.
  • Paper towels in generous quantities.
  • Small bottle of dish soap and a sponge
  • An electric tea kettle, which we used for tea and mugs of veggie broth at the end of a chilly day.
  • Folding cooler with a shoulder strap, for keeping things cold and fresh– and for staying out of the way when not needed.

Stock up on essentials.

Everyone has favorite foods that are hard to find. For us, it’s vegan ranch dressing, Daiya cheese sauce, and nutritional yeast. We also bring San-J Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Packets (it’s actually tamari), and the Drogheria & Alimentari Four Seasons Peppercorns Mill (it’s the best grinder and pepper blend) because they’ll dress up anything in a pinch!

If you know there will be a grocery store or farmers market where you can safely purchase foods to enjoy raw or cook in your trusty rice cooker, but you might not be able to find your favorite barbecue sauce or sriracha– bring it along, and bring more than you think you’ll need. You might even make some new friends because you’ve got the best condiments at the campground!… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Gluten-Free Travel”

Determining Towing Capacity

The basic concept of calculating towing capacity isn’t exactly complicated: your vehicle needs to be capable of towing whatever it is you’re trying to tow, and you should never go over that limit because it’s dangerous (and potentially deadly). But actually calculating towing capacity and understanding the details to be sure you’re within safety limits gets a bit complex.

It’s important to remember you can never have too much truck, when it comes to towing.

Doing the calculations for towing capacity involves math, but it’s straightforward: some addition and subtraction and comparing two numbers. The tricky part is finding the data you need because there’s no single source for all things weight-related, and the only way to be sure you’re under capacity is by visiting a weigh station to have your vehicle and RV weighed separately.

Here are the important terms and definitions:

Vehicle curb weight, or dry weight: The weight of your vehicle (the one doing the towing) completely empty. This can be found on a sticker inside the door frame, in the owner’s manual, or elsewhere from the manufacturer, but it’s often an impractical measurement: it’s the weight with no driver, no passengers, no cargo, no extra features, maybe even an empty gas tank. The only way to get an accurate actual curb weight for your specific vehicle is to take it to a weigh station and weigh it with no one and nothing in it.

GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: The maximum amount your vehicle can safely weigh, including all passengers, cargo, and the weight of the trailer hitch (see below). This is provided by the manufacturer on a door sticker, owner’s manual, or other manufacturer’s publication.

GCVWR, or Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating: The maximum weight of the combination of vehicle and trailer, including all passengers, cargo, water and waste tanks, propane, food, and toys. This is provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

GCVW, or Gross Combined Vehicle Weight: The actual weight of the vehicle plus trailer, including all passengers, cargo, water and waste tanks, propane, food, and toys. The only way to get an accurate GCVW is by taking your vehicle and trailer to a weigh station like a CAT Scale or Escapees SmartWeigh.

Trailer Dry Weight: The weight of of a completely empty trailer. Manufacturers’ definitions of “empty” can vary widely, and may or may not include propane, water, waste, or extra features. This number can be found on a sticker from the manufacturer, but the only way to get an accurate dry weight is to take your trailer to a weigh station and weigh it empty.

Trailer GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: The maximum amount your trailer can weigh, including all cargo, full water and waste tanks, and propane. This is provided by the manufacturer on a sticker or other manufacturer publication.

The manufacturer's sticker describing the trailer's weight ratings.

Hitch weight, or tongue weight: This is the amount of weight exerted vertically (downward) on the hitch ball. Hitch weight is generally about 10% of the trailer’s GVWR, but is provided by the manufacturer and can be measured by yourself with a trailer tongue weight scale.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Determining Towing Capacity”

Grocery delivery while RVing?

With food allergies and severe celiac disease, we don’t go to restaurants very often. Going out to eat requires a great deal of preliminary research and phone calls to restaurant managers, and even then it’s a gamble whether or not a business is going to be “gluten-free enough” for someone like me. Getting contaminated by a careless restaurant can cause me a health setback that will require weeks or even months of recovery.

To play it safe, we cook at home almost exclusively, and have a great time doing it. One of the greatest things about taking our kitchen on the road is that we always have our favorite gadgets and snacks, and we know they will always be safe and clean. We think our Keystone Laredo 335MK has an enormous kitchen, with more fridge and counter space than my first apartment. It’s actually enjoyable to cook in it!

Consequently, we tend to get more excited about a popular grocery store than a popular restaurant. Exploring new grocery stores can be exciting, but it’s also time consuming when I should be working, and it’s occasionally a gluten contamination risk when the store has a big, active bakery department.

So I have to tell you why I am in love with Shipt!

Shipt is a grocery delivery service, and it’s great because it makes grocery shopping quick and easy, saving me a ton of time. It’s a membership service where orders over $35 are delivered for free. My shoppers communicate with me every step of the way via text message, making sure that any substitutions are safe for me and checking in to make sure I didn’t forget anything before they check out. With Shipt, I can do my grocery shopping while I work from home, or while I’m taking the cat for a walk.

I think anyone with disabilities or chronic illnesses who finds grocery shopping an exhausting and taxing errand can benefit from Shipt, too. I’ve used other grocery delivery services in the past, like Instacart and Safeway’s own delivery service, and while they’ll almost always work in a pinch, I find the markup on Shipt items to be more reasonable than other apps, and I think its app is a bit more user-friendly than others.

Since participating stores aren’t limited to grocery stores, I’ve even been able to replace broken phone chargers and headsets in a pinch, and we get cat food delivered all the time!

Don’t get me wrong– no service is perfect. I’ve had a few orders delayed because there were no shoppers available for my preferred time slot. I’ve also had shoppers be less-than-careful with delicate produce, or bring me the gluteny version of a gluten-free item. But these incidents have been extremely rare, and Shipt is always quick to make it right by offering a refund for the incorrect items. Fortunately, I can count the number of problems I’ve had on one hand, and they’ve all been easily resolved.

Shipt isn’t everywhere, but if you’re staying somewhat near civilization and not boondocking, you may be surprised by the number of stores available.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Grocery delivery while RVing?”

The RV Archives

There’s such a wealth of information about RVing and long-term camping online. We are constantly researching.

To my fellow RVers, I encourage you to do what you can to keep your sites online, even after you lose interest in blogging, quit RVing, or switch to posting solely on YouTube or other “siloed” service. (A siloed service is one which can only be used or accessed through a specific app or other limiting factor, like Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even YouTube, where posts can vanish at the whims of the services’ owners.)

Many sites fade away. There are still some decades-old gems out there though.

One of my favorites is Two Penny Travels’s computer setup from 1999. As I write this post from a 4-pound laptop tethered to a smartphone hotspot (at speeds of 45mbps up and 23mbps down), I think about Sam and Alice (of Two Penny Travels) and the evolution of technology. I’m grateful their site is still online to educate RV newbies like us about where we’ve come from and, by extension, where we’re going.

But not all posts are outdated. So-called “evergreen” posts never age: we will always benefit from stories like these:

Of course, sometimes information becomes out of date as laws and technology changes, and as we evolve as people, but having background information for future decision-making is rarely a bad thing.

For example, plenty of RVers today still use the word “gypsy” in their usernames and taglines. Here is why we must evolve and stop using that slur right now.

If you think your site (or sites you find) might not last for the long-term, you might consider submitting it for archiving with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (paste the URL for each page you’d like to archive into the “save page now” section, which is currently located at the bottom-left area of the page).

These older sites are also the ephemera of our collective RV culture. They are our stories and our journeys. They should be cherished and preserved.