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Conquering The Final Frontier

Three years ago, after we picked up our brand new Casita travel trailer from the manufacturer in Texas, we drove off into the sunset for a three-month road trip without reading the owner’s manual. We promptly broke the refrigerator, ruined the battery and messed up our propane heater. The rapid succession of mishaps quickly discouraged us from getting involved with flames, running water and the sewer system, which are the things that set a travel trailer apart from a tent.

Fearful of starting a fire with the propane range inside the Casita, I defaulted to cooking outside on our Coleman stove for the first week of our trip until the cold weather drove me inside. The idea of sleeping with a propane heater running inside a trailer seemed very sketchy so we slept with extra blankets, and rather than risk a plumbing mishap, we used a five gallon bucket to pee in at night and then hustled it—cleverly disguised as a giant LL Bean bag—to the campground bathroom. Since we had never been on a three month road trip in a travel trailer before, it didn’t occur to us that we were acting as though we were on a three month road trip in a tent.

One night we rolled into a campground in New Mexico after a long day and realized that we had some sort of electrical problem that required a mechanic. Spotting another Casita in the park, we knocked on the door and made the acquaintance of two fellow New Englanders.

An excellent friendship was born from our misfortune and the short story is that they became our Casita mentors, and more importantly, my Poop Counselors. By the time we broke down in New Mexico, we were no longer storing clothes in the toilet. We were using it. But only for pee. And only at night. And never for you know what. Our new friends, who had been living in their Casita and availing themselves of its basic amenities for a year while they hunted for real estate in New Mexico must have thought that we were out of our minds.

The following year we decided to go out west again for four and half months. Amazingly, despite our prior experience with the various systems in our Casita and the fact we had received detailed instructions and abundant encouragement from our Poop Counselor on how to use the plumbing system, the Poop Prohibition was still in effect largely due to the fact that one of us had major qualms about introducing sewage into our 6′ x 14′ living space.

The Poop Prohibition had become a rich source of daily entertainment for My Royal Consort because unlike him, I must use the bathroom the moment my sleeping body awakens and becomes vertical. This is entirely normal for some people, and is not, as My Royal Consort has implied many times, a sign of moral turpitude or innate weakness.

While it is true that my go-to strategy for diffusing tension and restoring levity in the Casita was to deliberately set off the carbon monoxide detector with my butt, I am at heart a modest and dainty princess.

This year, as our third winter trip to the southwest approached, the Poop Prohibition still had not been lifted. There was some vague spit-balling about plastic dog bags, cat litter and horse shavings, but none of these plans ever came to fruition. In the end, what transformed our trip from a perfectly good trip to a great trip, was the acquisition of a solar panel.

Before leaving Tucson in January, we invested in a small solar panel, which effortlessly sucks up the plentiful  sunshine of the southwest and funnels it into the Casita’s battery, providing us with plenty of electricity in the evening for cooking and reading.

The solar panel, twenty-five gallons of water, LED lights and sixteen pounds of propane made us completely self sufficient, which meant we could potentially park ourselves anywhere we wanted to for free on the tens of thousands of acres of Land Management space available to us for our camping pleasure…except for the little matter of what My Royal Consort delicately referred to as “your poop”, meaning “my poop”, which was technically “our poop” since both of us would be using the onboard facilities.

Whatever.

We had everything we needed except the courage to use the bathroom that was built into our trailer. Could we do it? When push came to shove, could we find it in ourselves to do what everyone else who lives in a boat or trailer does? Or would we be thwarted by modesty? I texted an urgent query to my Poop Counselor in New Mexico who gently reviewed the Two Steps: 1. Open the window, 2. Engage the fan.

As hilarious as the daily spectacle of me frantically excavating my boots from under the bed and clawing my way out of the Casita in a peristaltic frenzy was, the time had come to stop the madness, so we resolved to use the toilet to its full potential the following day. Framed by My Royal Consort as the one impediment to our camping freedom, I offered to violate the bathroom first.

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Top of the morning! The dainty princess is wearing her tiara

I am happy to report that nothing bad happened. The world didn’t end. When invoked, the plumbing performed flawlessly and the experience was entirely unremarkable yet totally transformative.

Freed from the tyranny of plumbing and shore power, we were able to lose ourselves in the Mojave Desert for days at a time, smugly driving past the giant land yachts idling in the campgrounds. In Anza Borrego, we towed our Casita 4,000 feet up a mountain and nestled ourselves in a giant bowl of pegmatite boulders. From this location, we could hike for miles and fall asleep with the windows open to the stars with no one near us.

Our emancipation from shore power emboldened us to spend a week in Arizona parked off highway 89B between Sedona and Cottonwood. Because our rig is so tiny and light, we were able to pull it into a juniper grove and spend a week hiking every trail we could find in Sedona and not spend a dime on campgrounds.

Culp Valley, Anza Borrego State Park, CA

Culp Valley, Anza Borrego State Park, CA

The view from the forestry road in Sedona, AZ

The view from the forestry road in Sedona, AZ

The doors of the backcountry were flung open in places like Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Zion. Of course, it goes without saying that we owe my Poop Counselor in New Mexico a debt of gratitude for his patience and dedication on our behalf. Thanks to him, we have joined the Fraternity of the Sensible People and are now free to go wherever and whenever we feel moved to go.

I don’t know why this is, but after four years, I only have 79 subscribers, yet people seem to love this website. Who wants to be the 80th subscriber? I promise, you won’t be inundated—I wait around for the stories to happen and that takes time.

4 comments

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  1. Jody Petersen says:

    Oh my F’n God! Hilarious. I have BEEN there! I assume you have, or plan to, submit your work to some magazines, etc? Great piece Liz.

    1. admin says:

      I knew you would enjoy that . As for getting published it will probably happen after I’m dead. Shouts and murmurs from the afterworld…

  2. Gary says:

    LOL!! Always so fun to read, with a smack of envy for both your courage to set forth and explore!! So happy that the “curse” has been lifted to give you complete freedom 🙂

  3. Meg Rutherfurd says:

    Love❤️❤️

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