We learned a couple of things this winter.
Last fall was a little quiet for me. Over 10 years ago I started a youth organization called Donderdag! Youth Cyclocross Clinics in Shawnee Kansas. You can find it on Facebook or at Donderdag.bike. We coach kids and their families into the sport of cyclocross. I was inspired by the sport when my son raced in high school. But last fall we didn’t have a season, because of Covid-19. It was quiet, with no Thursday night clinics, no races, and no crowds of noisy kids at the park.
We stayed just past the end of November, quietly slipping out of town between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our winter digs were on my Mom and Joe’s driveway in Maysville Oklahoma. A nice flat driveway, with dumps, a 30 amp hook up, a fenced yard, and a barn with heated workrooms 5 feet behind us. And of course, Mom and Joe. Those two would feed us and have us in every day if we let them. This was our second winter visit here, the year before was our first winter living full time, so we stayed a couple of weeks and raced south to warm weather. But in the winter of 2020, we kept staying. We’d think we would leave in a week or two but then stayed longer. The weather was typical Oklahoma, unpredictable, but mostly warm for winter. My mom was having some medical issues, so we helped with that, and I cleaned the barn and outbuilding and emptied a sunroom on the back of the house that until just a few years ago was part of their previous small business. Helping out, as good boon dockers do. But the most interesting part of the visit was exactly what we were hoping to avoid, cold weather. We’ve been in weather below freezing, and we are ok with it. We’ll take 25-35 degrees all day compared to 85-90. But this winter set record lows, and we rode it out. We started getting a little snow in January. It was pretty and kind of heavy. I kept the roof swept, because that’s how I am, and shoveled the driveway so we could get in and out of the coach, and drive out of the driveway. I shoveled all the snow around Mom and Joe’s house too. I like the exercise enough, but also know Mom and Joe well enough to know they would be going out in their little electric car no matter what the weather was. If they didn’t leave in the car, they sure wouldn’t skip a walk to the mailbox. The wind blew and the weather got colder, so the time in the snow was nice. Lots of drifts. But the Arctic Blast forecasted by the news kept moving south, and that air was super cold.
Our Luna has interior storm windows, which have proven quite effective, a wood-burning stove, a skirt all the way around, and a less than two-year-old furnace. We stay warm. But I was worried about the tanks and plumbing inside the belly pan. We were supposed to see a record-breaking cold front. I worried about the 3 tanks enough, but what really worried me was the drain pipes full of grey water. I wasn’t going to sleep at night if I thought I was laying awake listening for the sound of a black ABS pipe splitting. I had to find a solution. A day before the real cold set in, I set a small thermostatically controlled heater inside the waste valve compartment, set it on low, and left it plugged in. We’ve always had heat tape on the supply lines behind the fridge, so I plugged those in. But the thing I did to make things truly worry-free was to drain the waste tanks. Empty, down to nothing. Then I put plugs in the tub, bathroom, and kitchen sink, and tossed a sink bowl in the bathroom sink and a washtub for dishes in the kitchen sink. I finally relaxed. Most of you are thinking, “but the furnace blows hot air into the belly pan”, yes it does, right over the freshwater tank. Or, “but the skirt and heater will keep things from freezing”. Ok, probably, but guys like me don’t sleep on probably, we seek certainty. So off to bed we went, waking up to the coldest three weeks we’ve been in so far as full-timers. It was below 10 degrees for several days, we saw nighttime lows of around -14 degrees. The whole time we were amazed at how cozy the little coach stayed inside, but mostly, I was relieved knowing there was no water in the waste pipes to freeze. Of course, as Oklahoma goes, as fast as the snow and cold set in, it also melted off. The bitter cold was replaced by above-freezing weather, sunshine, and thaw. By the time we headed for Alabama, the northwestern winds had been replaced by gulf shore warm air, and we switched from winter storm warnings to tornado watches. We bid farewell to Mom and Joe, kissed their dog, and headed south to Demopolis Alabama, via New Boston Texas. Sitting behind the wheel, pulling our little home on the way to Texas, I was relaxed and proud. Relaxed knowing there is a solution to almost any challenge, and feeling proud as an urbanite, who normally lives winter in a solid, well-insulated, modern house, managed not only to avoid freezing to death with my wife and dog in the bed, but did it relaxed, and almost completely worry-free. But enough of winter and cold, I’m going to fill every tank we’ve got drainpipes and all, and hitch up the van, high winds are headed this way, and I plan on sleeping through it all.