El Camino Del Monte – One Messy Job


I speak English. I have a relatively large vocabulary. I am well aware that words mean something. I also know that, when we don’t agree on the meaning of words, there will be problems. – So it was on our third and final day of the shakedown cruise.

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If you recall, we had a bit of a problem with our water hookup. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?.) You may also recall that I have had a sad history with water outside of its natural places. So, it may not come as a surprise that I might have some problems when it comes to getting rid of all that water that went into the RV for cooking, showers, washing dishes and, yes, flushing toilets.
If you have the time read the information posted in RV Gray Water and Black Water FAQs. The article clearly says, “Gray water is all of the wastewater that drains from your shower and kitchen and bathroom sinks.” The word sewage usually means “waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers.”
With these word meanings fairly fixed inside my little gray cells, I read the sign that you see in the featured picture. I think you could say that I was not too far afield in thinking that “Wastewater Holding Tank” meant “Gray Water” and “Sewage Holding Tank” was the “Black Water”. Thus, the Gray Water valve should be on the left and the Black Water valve should be on the right.
Knowing the difference between Gray and Black water is very, very important in RVing. Why? Well, to save yourself a messy and distasteful cleanup job, the recommended procedure is to dump Black Water First and then dump Gray Water. In this way the cleaner Gray Water will help to clear the sewer tube of the residual excrement. So, armed with knowledge gleaned from the sign (Gray – left, Black – right). I opened the valve on the right.
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Instantly, there was a rush of water. A great volume of water flowed out through the sewer tube. It flowed quickly. Neither supportive and wonderful wife nor I had anticipated that much water would come out. We must have really been flushing a lot. Either that or Mr. Monte had found the flushing lever and sat on it for a while.
Next, to wash out the sludge in the sewer tube, I pulled the valve on the left expecting an even greater torrent of water.
Beautiful, adorable, perceptive wife immediately pointed out to me that the flow was slow, thick, and yucky looking. “Honey, was that the right valve?” I answered with the full assurance of my great wealth of knowledge, “Of course it is, dear, look at the sign. There’s no way I could have got this wrong!”
Dear and gentle readers, I will now make you privy to two RV privy secrets. First, reluctantly I must tell you I was wrong, very wrong, 100% wrong. Please don’t share that with my trusting Spouse. She would lose all confidence in me if she were to find out. Second, seasoned RVers will tell you this simple fact. The Black Water valve is color coded BLACK and the Gray Water valve is color coded GRAY. A close look at the picture above and you can see what I so clearly missed.
Lesson Learned: Words mean something, and you better be sure you know what they mean.
Lesson Learned: Knowing the difference between the Black Water and Gray Water valves is very important. Tomorrow morning, I will have to perform a messy and distasteful cleanup job.

SFH Journal: 2018-08-11 through 14

Highlight: Complaints about weather and failing crops are depressing. Expressions of dissatisfaction with temperatures and humidity improve nothing and irritate everyone. When I got this way as a teenager, my Dad shut me down with the simple command, “Quit your bellyaching!”

There was no doubt in my mind, when that expression was used, that I had just been called a “wimp”. It was true then and it remains true now. That was his not so gentle way of saying grow up, be a man. It may have been painful to hear, but it was true.

This morning, I was up very early, before the sun, and watched a beautiful sunrise. It dawned on me (forgive the pun) that although Dad taught me that “bellyaching” was unmanly, he never ever said that a man can’t praise and be thankful for a beautiful day. And, as I recall the many hours I spent with him on our back porch, he would always have a smile on his face at the beginning and end of one of God’s beautiful days.

Weather: Rain every day, the yard is soaked and, of course, the vegetable garden is suffering. In case I didn’t say it before, we had to rip out three tomato bushes. That leaves the cherry tomato bush and a relatively young bush. The little plant shows no desire to have blossoms or fruit. Tomatoes for salsa and pasta sauce will have to be procured elsewhere this season. No, that’s not “bellyaching” – its  just a statement of  the simple facts.

2018-08-11: High – 87º, precipitation 0.18 (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-12: High – 80º, precipitation 0.18 (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-13: High – 78º, precipitation 0.21 (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-14: High – 82º, precipitation 0.1 (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-08-11: 10 Nothing to report

2018-08-12: 6 cherry tomatoes, 5 okra pods, 3 jalapenos

2018-08-13: Nothing to report

2018-08-14: 7 cherry tomatoes

El Camino Del Monte – Cooking with Gas

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El Camino Del Monte with electric, water, and sewer hookups in place
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Propane Stove Test

By 2:50 PM on the first day of the El Camino Del Monte shakedown cruise, electricity, water, and sewer were all hooked up and functioning normally. Earlier, at the dealership, we had tested out the propane heater and knew that worked. Now it was time to open the propane tank valve and test out the stove. As expected, the stove worked perfectly.

Although there were several more items to test, we felt that it was now time to start preparations for our first meal aboard our home away from home. We had cleared the water lines and knew that water would be needed, not only for cooking, but also for washing dishes. So, we turned on the hot water heater of very recent unhappy experience. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?) Our RV has both propane and electric hot water heaters, we opted for the electric, knowing that the propane heater was still quite soaked.

CurryOur menu called for an old family standby – S&B Golden Curry with beef on Japanese-style sticky rice. Although the meal is based on a store-bought mix, over the years, we have adapted the meal with our own selection of spices and sides (e.g. cayenne, curry powder, corn chips, dill pickles, and cheddar cheese). Don’t expect to find this combination anywhere in India or Japan. The only place you will find it is at our house or in the homes of our clan.

Now the two master chefs of the soon to be famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had moved to their new mobile facility. The show was now on the road and cooking with gas.

0805181639 (2)Beautiful Spouse did most of the meal prep with the stew beef, onion, and spices. I tackled the technical task of testing out another new piece of technology. Our regular rice cooker is too bulky for use in the RV. So, we purchased a miAroma mini digital rice cooker to save space.

I followed the simple directions closely – add rice, add water, push a button. Minutes Mini Rice Cookerlater we had just enough sticky rice for two adult sized servings of curry rice. The product worked as described. What we didn’t know until we opened the box and pulled out the directions was that the rice cooker could also be used to prepare several other dishes including: cake, soup, pasta, omelettes and more – perfect for RV living.

Now remember, nothing goes perfectly on a shakedown cruise, especially for yours truly. Despite our best planning and preparation, we forgot a key ingredient for our curry. This oversight almost brought tears to my eyes.

Lesson Learned: Never, ever, not now, not ever forget the fresh garlic!


SFH Journal: 2018-08-09 and 10

Highlight: In our post El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?, I confessed my sad relationship with any system that has water in it. In this world, water does not belong in pipes, in tanks, or in water towers, not even in swimming pools. For me, water rightly belongs in oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds. Why is that?

The answer to that profound question is quite simple. Water rightly belongs in all of those places so that there might be fish. Fish to catch, fish to eat, fish that put up a good fight and provide sport to a man’s life. Fish and water in their rightful places can bring a family together with bonds built on a common love and pursuit.

And so it was today. Son-in-law No. 2 and I were able to carve out a few small hours in our busy schedules to go to a local pond – a pond where water rightly belonged. In that pond were fish awaiting our arrival, ready to play the game that has brought men together for ages of ages, since the first net was thrown and the first line was cast. The game was afoot!

Son-in-law had his first catch within a minute or two. Several minutes later, he had a second fish in hand. Meanwhile, old Fuzz Face had tangled lines, lost a lure, and almost hooked himself.

On the other side of the pond, things began to slow for Son-in-law. My new, unscientifically chosen, guaranteed to be a bad choice lure, was cast into the water. Bingo! Shazam! Yahoo! Yippeee! It was the big one of the day. It was only a small pond, one couldn’t expect anything bigger. There he was, on my hook, pulling my line left and right, putting up a fight. He knew the game and he was playing it for all it was worth.

I finally, landed the worthy creature. We stared at each other for quite a while. Then he reminded me of the rules – catch and release. I carefully removed the hook, complemented him on the great fight, and returned him to the pond where water and fish are meant to be.

There was no rivalry between Son-in-law and old Fuzz Face today. By the time we called it quits, we each had landed three fish. The game was over. Everyone and every fish had won.

When it comes to water, fish and men with a love for the sport, this ranks among the very finest of days.

Weather: The lawn is mowed. The trimming is done. Beautiful spouse is happy. All things are good with the universe

2018-08-09: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-10: High – 86º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-08-09: 10 cherry tomatoes

2018-08-10: 8 cherry tomatoes, 4 okra pods, 14 jalapenos


El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?

A career in the U.S. Navy taught me many important lessons. For months at a time, I had to trust my life to complex systems aboard some of the newest and some of the oldest platforms the Navy had to offer. They were only machines, eventually they would fail. We had to ensure that would not happen while deployed. That’s why ships have a shakedown cruise. If a system is going to fail, let it be under safe and controlled conditions.

Our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, is no different. We had to put it to the test – a two day shakedown, 20 miles from home, on the other side of the Shenandoah National Park. We’ll save the story of the transit to the camp site for a later time. Let’s begin with our first two system checks after backing into our site and positioning next to the utility hookups.

Electrical System: We had already tested the electrical system with full 30 Amp service at the dealership and had done partial tests at Serendipity Farmhouse with a 20 Amp hookup. We were confident that this system would work. After drawing out enough power cord, I plugged into the 30 Amp service and activated the circuit breaker. Voila! There was light! The refrigerator was turned on. The awning was rolled out. The batteries were charging. Most importantly on that very warm, humid day, the air conditioner was turned on and the electrical system carried the load. Success!

Water System: So far, this shakedown was going too well to be true. And, of course it was too good to be true. Someday, I will write a book about my sad relationship with any system that has water in it. All I need to do is walk into a room and pipes begin leaking, water starts spraying, and clear H2O will ooze up through the floorboards. There is no way I could reasonably expect El Camino Del Monte to be any different. It has a water system and I knew there would be unexpected, unintended, unmitigated water leaks.

Carefully, I sneaked up on the water hose. Quietly and cautiously, I attached the hose and the pressure regulator to the RV. Slowly, I made my way to the water hookup. Gently, I screwed the hose fitting onto the faucet. Deliberately, I turned the handle a quarter turn, followed by another quarter turn. Instantly, the hose stiffened under pressure. Silently, I waited for signs that all was going well. 5 seconds … 10 seconds … 15 seconds … The tightness in my muscles began to relax, confidence began to build inside me … 20 seconds … I was ready to congratulate myself for a great job … 23 seconds

Water! Water coming from the side of the RV! Water was shooting sideways from the RV! Water was dripping down to the ground! Water was swirling around! Quick! Do something! Secure the water! Turn off the water! I did! I wrenched the faucet closed! Water continued to gush from the side vent! Then it began to slow, but it still kept coming.

I rushed to the vent. I opened it. …… There it was water coming from a half inch open drain. It was the hot water heater drain. No one ever put the drain plug back in its place. There was the drain plug. I quickly tried to screw it in. It didn’t want to be screwed in. It began to fight me and laugh at me. Finally, I got it finger tight. No good! Water kept coming. I ran for some pliers and started working around the bare, sharp sheet metal trying to tighten the plug. My knuckles were bleeding. The plug continued to fight me. It only allowed an eighth of a turn at a time. Water kept coming, but I was beginning to win. Bit by bit, I finally slowed the flow to a trickle, then to just a drip. Emergency ended.

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The remaining water system check was not without its problems. There was still pink antifreeze in the lines that had to be flushed out. But within a half hour, the system was clear. Now, we could wash our hands, wash dishes, and even take a shower.

Lesson Learned: Learn about your system and then check to ensure that all drain plugs and other fittings are in place before turning on the darned water!


SFH Journal: 2018-08-05 through 08

Highlight: Back to normal ship’s routine after our first great RV adventure in El Camino Del Monte. Beautiful wife and I cleaned the RV. Mr. Monte relaxes. Then dear spouse attends to chores and I resume my normal work schedule along with a number of collateral duties.

Weather: We were gone for two days. It did not rain. We returned on the 7th and I was ready to mow. Midway through the job, you guessed it, it rained. Someday, the pasture will be a lawn again. – Oh, by the way, as I write this, it’s raining again.

2018-08-05: High – 89º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-06: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-07: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-08: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-08-05: nothing to report

2018-08-06: nothing to report

2018-08-07: 6 okra pods, 12 cherry tomatoes, 3 jalapenos

2018-08-08: 3 okra pods, 12 cherry tomatoes

El Camino Del Monte – Shakedown Cruise

0806181228a (2)About seven hours ago, we three weary travelers pulled back into our driveway at Serendipity Farmhouse after completing a two-day shakedown cruise of the good RV “El Camino Del Monte.” It was a brutal test of a Class-C RV and all it’s associated systems such as plumbing, electrical, and environmental control equipment. More than that, however, it was the first test of character and determination of two greenhorn human RVers, and a high-strung, twenty-pound Maine Coon cat.

Many, many, many lessons were learned by the three crew members of El Camino Del Monte. But, for right now, let’s just say the most important lessons were perseverance and developing reliance on one another in the face of a series of taxing and emotionally draining challenges.

The Bottom Line: Despite a few minor glitches, El Camino Del Monte, passed its shakedown cruise with flying colors. More importantly, the three travelers persevered and overcame all challenges.

Join us over the next week or two as we recount our  shakedown cruise experiences.