Monday, March 31, 2014

Preparing for Chinle by Vicki

When Roger and I decided to go full-time in our RV we figured that we would need to work for about 3 months a year. That way we won’t have to spend any of our 401K or other retirement money until we are eligible for social security. 2 years ago I looked into locum tenens organizations who hire doctors and nurses for temporary work around the country. Since there is a doctor shortage we felt we would have a good chance to get hired. As we looked into things further it appeared we would have the best chance of both of us working at the same place during the same time period if we worked with the Indian Health Service. The first 2 organizations we worked with weren’t much help but the third we contacted found 2 concurrent spots in Chinle, AZ, which is in the middle of the Navajo reservation.

Reflectix over the kitchen window
Thank goodness for the internet because we were able to immediately look it up and discovered that in winter the temperatures go down to 17 degrees. This worried us because the plan for most full-time RVers is to follow the 70 degree weather south in the winter. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many large indian reservations below Interstate 10, which is where the 70 degree weather is in  the U.S. winter. A large reservation is generally the only place where 2 physicians are likely to be needed at once, so there weren’t a lot of options. We inquired through the Escapees RV forums about how to survive in cold weather when living in an RV.  We got lots of good answers which we tried to follow once we got our acceptance to go to Chinle in mid-February.

Vent pillow
So in December we started preparing. We bought a Vortex electric heater in case our propane heater didn’t work. We bought 2 small 250 watt personal heaters, one of which we use in the bathroom, the other we haven't really needed.  Cooking and breathing release a lot of moisture into the tiny air space inside a motor home, which can then condense out on cold walls and windows, causing mildew problems.  So we bought a dehumidifier, which we haven’t used because it turns out the humidity in Chinle hovers right around 15-20% and we don't breath that much. 

We bought Refectix at Home
Depot and cut it to fit all of our windows.
Skylight cover
Reflectix is a long sheet of little air pillows covered with foil on both sides. It works very nicely as a layer of insulation since we don’t have double paned windows on our RV. We bought vent pillows, which have Reflectix on 1 side, for our 3 roof fan vents. We went to Jo-Ann’s and bought 2 inch foam the size of the sky light above the shower and also cut a piece of Reflectix to fit over it. 

We taped and blow dried shrink wrap over the window in the door so we can still see out but it is better insulated. It's like making a double pane window on the really cheap.  We put foam weather stripping around the door to seal
Our fleece door drape
some large leaks the manufacturer had left around the frame. I also sewed a fleece drape that we hang each night on a closet rod Roger installed over the door which reduces any residual drafts. 

We learned that in order to prevent the fresh water tank in the rig (and tanks full of other unmentionable fluids) from freezing we need to use propane rather than electric heat at night because our propane furnace has vents going into the basement storage areas. We also learned that we would need to disconnect and empty out the water hose when the temperature goes below freezing at night so the water inside doesn't freeze and split open the line.

We had Wippert’s RV Service seal any holes they could find on the underside of the rig.  They also attached an Extend-a-Stay T-valve to our propane line so we could hook up a large  external propane tank and not have to worry about running out of propane at inconvenient times. One hundred gallons of propane goes a long way. 
Our rented external propane tank

So how have we done in the cold? Actually quite well. We have stayed warm and cozy and nothing has frozen. Being in a motor home at 15 or 16 degrees was scary at first but it turns out this rig tolerates the cold quite well.  And the sub-freezing temps here usually only last two or three hours.  Once the sun comes up it warms right up.  The first 6 weeks it went below freezing almost every night but was rarely still there by 9:00 AM.  

Of course, none of this really prepared us for the windstorms, but that is for another blog post.

It warms right up once the sun comes out

1 comment:

  1. You guys did a great job of preparing yourselves for the cold. Canyon de Chelle is one of my favorite places ever. Hope you had a chance to do some exploring while you are there.