Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hidden View

After we left Tehachapi, we got on Highway 99 and continued north. The last time we made this trip, we stayed at the Escapees Park in Coarsegold however this time we decided to try out a Corps of Engineers Park on Hensley Lake called Hidden View. Like pretty much all of the COE projects we have tried, this was a really nice campground with a few relatively minor drawbacks.

Our camp site.
There were 80 campsites of which about half are tent camping only. Of the other half, about two thirds were not long enough to accommodate our new behemoth. Fortunately, the online reservation system let you reserve specific site and told  you for each site how long the parking pad was, so we knew going in that we would fit in the space we reserved. The paved parking pad was sloped quite a bit from side to side and I didn't think the Monaco would be able to level itself but, by golly, it managed.

None of the sites had a sewer connection, but there was a dump station near the entrance and we had both water and electric connections, which was not true for all of the spaces. So, for a couple of days, we considered ourselves reasonably well-off.

Hensley Lake (or what's left of it)
Under more favorable conditions this would have been a really nice place to camp however, like everyplace else in California these days, the area was dry as a bone. The "lake" was down a good 120 to 150 feet. There was a concrete boat ramp but the water level was a good 60-80 feet below the bottom of the ramp so nobody was launching any boats. There was allegedly a swimming beach on the far side of the lake but with a body of water so shallow and with the recent warm weather it was a setup for nigleria so the better part of valor was to stay dry. Still, it was a pretty pleasant area and there were only about a dozen campers scattered around. We could have done worse.

The evening after we arrived we decided to take the back roads up to Coarsegold and Oakhurst. County Road 400 covered the 17 mile distance in only 35 miles of twists and turns. It was typical California with scrub oaks every 40 or 50 feet and tinder-dry grass filling in the in-between spaces. We intended to visit a microbrewery to try some local brew but every seat in the place was taken when we walked in and nobody appeared to be leaving so we turned around and marched out again. For dinner we went to a BBQ joint at the south end of Oakhurst.
An ersatz train hides a 30 foot BBQ
Out front was what sort of looks like an old steam train but was actually a 30 foot long, woodfired barbecue pit where the proprietor slow smokes meats for 12-24 hours before serving. The menu is not extensive consisting of several types of meat, beans, coleslaw and potato salad, and they don't have a liquor license even for beer and wine. Vicki had barbecued chicken and I had beef ribs. Their homemade barbecue sauce was excellent and we considered the meal a success despite the lack of suds.

This morning we packed up and headed out to continue our journey. Since we had no sewer connection in Tehachapi either, we were now carrying four days worth of waste water and definitely needed to stop at the dump on the way out. We have always done this the traditional way using a 3 inch diameter flexible plastic sewer line and gravity drainage. But this rig has something special, an electric macerator and pump. This is a device that is supposed to grind up your solid wastes into a liquid slurry so you can pump it out through a long, flexible, 1 inch hose which is supposed to be much easier and allow you to dump uphill if needed.  We had never tried this so we decided it was about time.

We pulled into the dump station and up to the first drain, then got out and opened up the utility bay door. We unwound the small drain hose and dragged it over to the drain opening, only to discover that it was locked. No problem. There was another drain 20 feet further along and the hose would stretch about 30 or 35 feet so we just stretched it out and put it in the drain opening for the other dump station. We hooked up the macerator pump to the sewer connection in the RV bay, turned on the switch and opened up the drain valve. The macerator motor hummed away gaily and sewage started draining through the hose from our black water tank. For about 20 seconds. Then it stopped.

Apparently our slurry was not slushy enough and the hose had become hopelessly plugged. So now there we were with the hose from the macerator filled with raw sewage and no way to empty it out. This hose is a small enough diameter that you cannot get the fluid to drain even from the segment below the blockage. It is like a straw with your finger held over the end of it.

So far, everything was still contained but we had no way to escape without a major sewage disaster.  I finally closed the black tank valve and disconnected the macerator which immediately dumped a couple of pints of raw sewage, one of them onto the ground and the other into our utility bay. By and large, this really didn't solve our problems. We still had a hose full of nastiness we had no good way to deal with. I finally took out my Swiss Army knife and cut the hose where it connected to the useless machine. Now I could hold it up and seperate it from the rig but the material inside the hose still wasn't going anywhere. Unless I lowered the cut end of the hose too much in which case it would squirt little jets of liquid feces.  On Vicki's jacket sleeve as it turned out.  I was getting more popular by the minute.  Finally, I took the flush hose from the dump site, pressed up against the end of the macerator hose and had Vicki turn on the water. This finally produced enough pressure to dislodge the blockage and we were able to drain the hose out.

I immediately dumped the offending hose in the nearest trashcan. The macerator motor is still bolted to the bottom of the utility bay but it won't be as soon as I can get some tools out to work on it since we are certainly never going to use it again and it is just taking up space. We hosed out the Bay with large volumes of water and hosed down all of the places where the sewage had spilled on the ground. This created a small sewage lake around the locked drain opening but we discovered that by standing on the handle we could get the cover to open just enough to allow a trickle of drainage and over the course of about 20 min. were able to drain away the sewage and get the area reasonably clean again. We then pulled forward to the other dump station, hooked up our old three-inch sewer hose and finished draining our tanks the old-fashioned way, using the miracle of gravity. So much for new technology.


  1. Jim installed a macerator for us and it worked great. Sorry you had such issues with yours. Did you have an audience? Usually when we have a mess like that we have several people standing around watching and laughing. Jim has always said there are two types of RVers. Those that have had a sewer mess and those that will have a sewer mess.

  2. No,we were all alone. Which is good since we were probably violating half a dozen state and federal laws but I couldn't figure out anything else to do.

  3. Ohhhh! Thanks for starting up the always entertaining and interesting tales of your RV journeys once again! Your brother and I enjoy tagging along on your adventures ... from afar. We do look forward to meeting up with you soon.

  4. So I think my previous comment on this story didn't go through, but the punchline is that while this may or may not be your worst RV disaster, it is definitely in the top five. Also, while I always enjoy not being able to smell you, I particularly enjoy it in this instance.