RV bathroom upgrade: Any excuse for a potty!

I’m sure other people are buying exciting new things like electronics, clothing, and airline tickets for the holiday gift-giving season.

Us? We bought a new toilet for The Toad.

It arrived quite appropriately on Black (Tank?) Friday.

It arrived quite appropriately on Black (Tank?) Friday.

But we’d finally had it with our old one, which was just not worth the hassle of yet another repair effort. Despite more than one round of disassembly and cleaning, plus replacement of critical parts, the flush ball mechanism would no longer seal correctly.  And as anyone with recreational vehicle bathroom experience knows, that creates some unpleasant issues, none of which are appropriate for polite company.

Tim checked online reviews for newer models, and we settled on (pun absolutely intended) the Dometic ceramic bowl gravity-flush toilet, model 320. Being a handy guy, he knew we could handle this job ourselves, and it took even less time than we thought: only one hour from opening the shipping box to the first successful “test drive.”

Opening it up was an exercise in itself.

Opening it up was an exercise in itself.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and although we still had visions of pie in our heads, we knew that was not whipped cream

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and although we still had visions of pie in our heads, we knew that was not whipped cream. At all.

I was positive we'd find the directions in the bowl, mainly because that's where I'd have put them. Close enough.

I was positive we’d find the directions in the bowl, mainly because that’s where I’d have put them.
Close enough.

I was the Reader of the Directions. I kept asking Tim if the toilet was flush with the floor -- and then giggling uncontrollably. That shit never gets old. Ha!

I was the official Reader of Directions.
I kept asking Tim if the toilet was flush with the floor — and then giggling uncontrollably.
Because that shit never gets old.

Some tips for anyone who decides to tackle this job:

  1. You will need to turn off the water supply to your RV while you’re working. Prepare accordingly by filling a pitcher with clean water for drinking, using the old toilet one last time before you disconnect it, and putting some soapy water in a bucket for washing hands.

    Critical tools: socket wrench set, and an iPhone (which served conveniently as both a flashlight and an internet reference guide)

    Critical tools: socket wrench set, and an iPhone (which served conveniently as both a flashlight and an internet reference guide)

  2. Choose a location — and time of year — for adequate ventilation. The floor opening to your black tank will be exposed for a while, so you’ll definitely want windows open!

    One of the toughest parts of any RV repair job: maneuvering in really tight spaces

    One of the toughest parts of any RV repair job: maneuvering in really tight spaces

  3. Tools and materials we used: socket wrench, screw driver, putty knife (for scraping deposits from floor flange), rags and paper towels, spray cleaner/disinfectant, plastic garbage bag, and rubber gloves. If your toilet model comes with a hand sprayer, you will also need a drill to install the mounting bracket on the wall.

    Prepping the floor flange by scraping out the yuck. It was about as disgusting as you'd imagine.

    Prepping the floor flange by scraping out the yuck.
    It was about as disgusting as you’d imagine.

  4. We also recommend talking with your RV and/or toilet manufacturer before you place your order, to make sure you purchase a model that will fit in your camper, along with any additional required parts. And if this type of project is new for you, you may also want to do the installation at a time when the manufacturer’s customer service department is open, so that you can call for help if needed (yet another use for that cell phone).

    Out with the old, in with the new!

    Out with the old, in with the new! Aside from being a requirement in this case, it’s also how we Own Less with other stuff: new in, old out. Always.

Of course the most important thing you will need for this job is a sense of humor. Toilets and bathrooms are funny, and making as many crappy jokes as necessary will help pass the time.

Our new throne. Let me just say that the spray nozzle is a total game-changer. That is all.

Our new throne.
Let me just say that the spray nozzle is a total game-changer.

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

Sedona, Montezuma, Riordan, volcano, Wupatki. Ummm… gesundheit?

No, we didn’t sneeze. We did get out and see a heck of a lot of stuff in the Flagstaff area though, and a lot of it has names that are difficult to pronounce.

We started with repair work, in the form of undercarriage welding to stabilize the hangers and springs and equalizers and such. They’d taken a beating, likely because of the whole tire falling off thing back in January.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV. My favorite thing. Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it's time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV.
My least favorite thing.
Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it’s time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention. Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August. The shop cat matched my outfit. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention.
Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August.
The shop cat matched my outfit, so I took a picture. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

We had the rest of the day to kill while our home was up on jacks, so southward we went, down the “back way” through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you're not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. I had to put on my magic bracelets.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you’re not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. It’s narrow and canyon-y and twisty.
I had to put on my magic bracelets.

We didn't do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

We didn’t do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

Well they are impressive. Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn't feel any different.

Well, they are impressive.
Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn’t feel any different.

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our National Parks Pass, and spent about an hour exploring Montezuma Castle National Monument

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our America the Beautiful Pass, and took in the Sinagua Indian ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Here in the heart of Flagstaff, we visited the Riordan Mansion, which sat on 54 acres back in the day of its wealthy lumber mill owners, but is now tucked into a corner of the campus of Northern Arizona University.

I got only a third of the place in my shot. The house is 13,000 square feet with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for two brothers (who married sisters) and their families.

I got only a third of the place in my shot, being unable to step back toward… uh… the next county. The house is 13,000 square feet of Arts & Crafts style architecture, with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for the Riordan brothers (who married sisters) and their families. Many of its features reminded us of a certain 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow we’ve lived in…

Yesterday, we drove just northeast of the city and took advantage of our America the Beautiful Pass once more, to visit both the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments.

Landscape: creepy These four white trees brought to mind horses of the apocalypse.

Landscape: creepy

Cinders, ash, and... life

900 years ago: cinders, lava, fire, and ash. Today: life

Moonscape

Moonscape

Color amongst the cinders

Color amongst the cinders

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then. This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100’s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then.
This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, "Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a billboard and unique geologic blowhole."

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, “Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a ball court and unique geologic blowhole.”

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, and I regretted not wearing a white halter dress to make this a true Marilyn Monroe impression.

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, making my shirt pouf out, and I immediately regretted not wearing a white halter dress instead, a la Marilyn Monroe.

img_8734

Looking out from the ruins, we could just make out the Painted Desert in the distance. It’s that light pink strip in the center, just below the sky.

img_8733 img_8737

And tomorrow, we roll. It gets cold and snowy up here in northern Arizona, and well, we just don’t have to put up with that kind of negativity.

We’ll spend the next month or so in the Tucson area, joining Tim’s aunt & uncle for Turkey Day. It’ll be our first Thanksgiving since 1995 without either one of our sons, and that’s kind of weird and a little depressing, but I am a strong believer in the medicinal properties of ridiculous quantities of pie, so I know I’ll make it through the day.

Then we’ll figure out what we’re doing for Christmas.

Grand Canyon hike: Check! And nobody fell in. Or got pushed.

We timed our adventure well. The weather, sunny with a high of 61 degrees and a light breeze, was perfect. The scenery was spectacular, and changed in color and intensity as the sun shifted throughout the day, and — best of all — crowds were low.  We crossed paths with only about 75 other hikers and a couple dozen mules on this early November Sunday.

Mule train! See 'em coming up the trail?

Mule train! See ’em coming up the trail?

Step aside, human. Step aside.

Step aside, human. Step aside. We gots work to do.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim's hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim’s proffered hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed, and like he might have been planning our untimely demise.

I was apprehensive about attempting a hike in which the up comes after the down, and rightfully so. It’s a tough way to end a hike! All the tips we read said to plan twice as much time to ascend as to descend, but at my slow and steady pace, I spent the same amount of time on each.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up -- which I'm pretty sure was 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles. Took us 2 hours each way.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up — which felt more like 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles.
Took us 2 hours each way.

We laughed mighty hard at the "Puking Guy" sign near the start of our descent. On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We laughed mighty hard at the “Puking Guy” sign near the start of our descent.
On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike. By the time we're finished, we're both filthy, soaking wet, stinky, and I'm crabby as hell because my body doesn't handle depletion well. You've heard of a mean drunk? Well I'm a mean hiker. When I growl, "Stop talking to me," Tim knows that's his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike.
By the time we’re finished, we’re both filthy, soaking wet and stinky, plus I’m crabby as hell because my body doesn’t handle depletion well.
You’ve heard of a mean drunk? Well I’m a mean hiker. When I growl, “Stop talking to me,” Tim knows that’s his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up. Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim's) are now on the mend.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up.
Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim’s) are now on the mend.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons!

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons! I bet that’s why they named it that.

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

img_1426Glad I did it, but wow, once was enough for me. Tim, meanwhile, got the itch to add a rim-to-rim hike to his bucket list. Guess I’ll serve as the support chick when the time comes, and pick him up when he gets to the other side!