“Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
In 2007, my husband and I sold our house near Minneapolis, Minnesota, purchased 11 acres of land right outside of River Falls, Wisconsin, and had a 27 foot Palomino Puma travel trailer dropped of into the woods we had decided to call home. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, yet that had absolutely no baring on this decision. Those woods called to both of us and this move just had to be made.
One of the first things that confounded me about travel trailer living was how we were going to dispose of the “black water”, which is travel trailer lingo for human sewage. We had organized and read about so many things, but had not gotten to that incidental. We did have a little time to investigate best practices of sewage removal, being that the travel trailer tank could take a couple of weeks to “fill”.
After a couple of internet searches, we decided to purchase a black water tote, which quickly became known as the poopy tank (within the confines of our home). Here is a picture of what it looked like:
We purchased the travel tote at a camping store near Rogers, Minnesota. The wheels were supposed to make getting from here to there easier. I was not quite sure where “there” was yet, but we would find out soon enough. It held approximately 18 gallons of liquid, and was on sale for around $125 US dollars.
We came across a dumping station that was conveniently located about 10 minutes from our property, where one could dump black and grey water for the bargain price of $2.50.Now that I was clear on the destination of our tote’s future contents, we were ready to take the plunge and say, “Let it be filled”.
The following are directions by Mark Robinson, ehow.com. on how to empty the travel trailer’s black water tank: (Please skip the bold print unless you are hoping to take a nap sooner than later).
3. Feed the RV sewer hose to the dump hole.
4. Attach the drain fitting onto the other end of the hose and place it into the dump hole. Locate the drain release lever near the black water tank drain port and open it. The tank will proceed to dump its contents. Close the drain after you stop hearing the black water draining from the tank.
5. Detach the RV sewer hose from the drain port. Use a garden hose to flush out any remaining black water residue from inside the hose. When finished, disconnect the drain fitting and remove the hose from the dump hole.
I am not sure if having those directions would have changed the unfortunate course of events that were about to unfold. The first couple of fills and dumps were very challenging; the substandard hoses and connections that were included with the tote, were not giving us the secure seal you would look for in something that transports “this” type of liquid. We had leakage issues in the car on the way to the dump station and some embarrassing spillage while dumping.
I know this may all sound like nothing but malodorous car rides and rigorous hand washing, but what we coined as “Family Dump Station Night”, are some of my favorite memories. The kids would run around and play, while my husband and I would sometimes humiliate ourselves trying to expel our foulness. We laughed a lot and could feel the bigger picture of living a spectacular dream in-spite of the trials and unexpected turns. We were grateful to be on this crazy and uncustomary adventure together, witnessing glimpses of our best selves that would never have been revealed in the “common sense” that Oscar Wilde speaks of.
Now we progress to a cold day in mid-November. I do not know the exact date, but time was being noted by how many days we had left to return the poopy tank. It had a 60-day return policy, and we all agreed that the tote needed to go back. We had grown tired of its cheap parts and seeping crevices, but we needed its services one last time.
My husband was once again trying to attach the annoying sewer hose to the drain port while the girls and I watched from the back travel trailer window. The process was proceeding in the usual way; my husband’s tremendous frustration and curse words silenced with the closed windows, while he wielded the clamps, hoses and tote simultaneously. In all honesty, I do not know the exact sequence of events from this time forward, but I do know it went terribly wrong. We watched in horror as the small cracks and weak seals in the sewer hose finally gave way with appalling force, spraying everything in its path. The trees, my husband and his clothes, windows. the nearby shed, and the chicken coop were all showered with our sewage. It was one of our more uncivilized days in the woods, to say the least.
This was just one mistake, amongst an impressively long line, that we made living in our temporary home in the woods. The mistakes made along the path of honoring who you are, are like nothing else. I cherish and try to learn from every single one of them.