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Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - Centerville IA

Lazy Daze Structural Repair, September 22, 2007
Lazy Daze Structural Repair, September 22, 2007

Oh shit... part 2

See yesterday's post for part one of this messy story.

So here I sit on the edge of the road with a black tank full of "stuff" dragging on the ground and no great desire to work on it right here. The tank is on the driver's side of the rig, much too close to passing traffic for comfort crawling around under there with my feet hanging out. Plus there is a pretty fair chance of losing it's contents whilst trying to get the situation under control. To say nothing of the attention mucking about under there will likely draw when I'd really like to work undisturbed. Some things are hard to explain to the helpful.

Well, hey, there's an entrance to a farm field not 100 feet ahead. Perfect! - if I can get from here to there without losing it. Slowly I drag the dragging plastic tank along the gravel verge, grinding away at the plastic, and turn into the farm road. Phew!

Ok, now what?

Let's see, the bolt that holds the front tank support bracket broke, the bracket is missing, and the front of the tank dropped to the ground. Maybe I can find the bracket down the road and bolt it back in place. The bolt is a long carriage bolt through the floor of the rig. I don't have any of those with me but surely that can be worked around somehow.

However... the fresh water tank is mounted in the kitchen right over the head of that bolt. And covers the floor over the whole forward 2/3rds of the black tank totally blocking access to any efforts I might devise to hang the tank from above. Ok, no need to go any further down that line of thinking - I'm not going to be hanging the tank from above any time soon.

This thing is way too heavy to somehow support from underneath while it's full of, well, you know, stuff.

And way too heavy and unwieldy to remove the tank entirely. This rig isn't even going on a tow truck with the tank dragging , especially now that it leaks on account of the new holes ground in the forward edge. I've got to dump it.

Ground Away & Leaking Black Tank , Lazy Daze, May 9, 2011
Ground Away & Leaking Black Tank, Lazy Daze, May 9, 2011

Well, this ain't suburbia, there are no houses nearby, and this is a farm field. Dumping here shouldn't make too big of a stink in the neighborhood.

Down hill is to the passenger side of the rig and slopes off into the weeds quite steeply on that side. Passing the hose under the rig and into the weeds should pretty well screen my work from passing motorists - if I don't look so distraught that one of them stops to see if I'm ok. I know it's a humid 90+ degrees but keep your cool John.

Perhaps it's just as well my big dump hose isn't long enough and I have to use the macerator pump and an old green garden hose to do this job. As I pull the hose off into the weeds what do I find? A most conveniently located old woodchuck hole. How lucky can you get? The stuff just disappears down the hole - gone & out of sight & not even a stink!

Most of it anyway - the tank drain is now at the uphill end of the dragging tank. I have to lift the tank back into position before the rest will drain.

With the tire jack, a couple blocks of wood, a plastic toolbox, and a couple other things I got the tank jacked into place and finished emptying it. Then I quickly put away the pump and hose.

Temporary Black Tank Support, Lazy Daze, May 9, 2011
Temporary Black Tank Support, Lazy Daze, May 9, 2011

Now let's see. Either I have to find a way to hold the tank up or remove it completely. Empty it weighs very little so here's what I did. I had on board a 3 foot length of 3/8 diameter steel rod I bought for a project some time back. One end tucked up over the truck frame and the other resting on the rolled under lip of the fiberglass lower body panel, with a block of wood to spread the load on the fiberglass worked perfectly, with a generous application of Gorilla's tough duct tape to hold everything in place and I'm good to go.

Elapsed time - maybe an hour and a half. Not bad! I'm a happy camper.

Oh shit... part 3 - the fun's not over yet

There's a lot of work ahead of me but at least I'm no longer dead on the road.

When the black tank dropped the vent pipe pulled out of the slip joint on the top of the tank and when I jacked the tank up the vent did not go back into place. The pipe got pushed upward maybe an inch. This had to have disturbed the seal at the roof and there's a major storm coming through in a couple of days. I have to attend to this seal and anything else I need to do before that storm gets here.

Black Tank Vent Access, Lazy Daze, May 13, 2011
Black Tank Vent Access, Lazy Daze, May 13, 2011

At the campground last night I set about finding a way to gain access to the joint where the tank vent pipe slips into the fitting in the top of the black tank to see if I could get it back in place in the tank. This black tank and it's associated plumbing is perhaps the least accessible system in the rig. The vent piping is especially difficult to access. The pipe comes straight up out of the tank, up the back corner of the kitchen counter and up into the cabinet above where it takes an offset, hidden behind a false end panel in the cabinet, before exiting the roof.

The lower section of this vent pipe, where it joins the black tank, is completely inaccessible without blasting a hole in the bathroom wall. You can't get to it from under the kitchen sink cabinet - there's a fifty gallon fresh water tank right in the way. Lucky me, I had the carpet already out of the bathroom and it was a simple matter to cut away part of the ledge the toilet sits on and then cut a hole in the bathroom wall big enough to get my hands through to straighten the bent flex tank coupling and slip the vent pipe back in place - once I had cut the pipe about a foot above the tank to make it maneuverable. Some Gorilla duct tape later coupled the cut back together until I can get a permanent rubber repair coupling.

Surprisingly, there is no evidence of any disturbance or leak where the vent exits the roof. I'm not sure what that means but at least I'm good to go through the incoming storm. I'll figure it out later.

Next I took what little Eternabond tape I had on hand, cleaned the ground through tank corner with alcohol and carefully applied tape to the ground off area. I hope it won't leak but who knows. I didn't have enough tape to do a thorough job. We'll see. I figured if I could at least slow the leak to a slow drip I'd be able to use the toilet so long as I dump often and keep the level low. And keep the tank weight low so my temporary support has a chance to survive until I can get proper repairs in place.

Drip drip drip

This morning on the way out of the campground I dumped the black tank and the gray tank. Curiously the tank level indicator for the black tank didn't return to zero as expected. I have a feeling there's a clump blocking the outlet keeping it from draining completely. An old buildup probably broke loose and blocked the outlet.

At my first stop today, for a late breakfast at a small town restaurant, I glanced under the rig when I came out to see if my attempt at patching the leak held. Nope - it's dripping very slowly. Darn.

Night camp

Site A2 - Buck Creek Campground, Rathbun Lake, Centerville IA

Disaster and the Failure of Authority

Disasters are almost by definition about the failure of authority, in part because the powers that be are supposed to protect us from them, in part also because the thousand dispersed needs of a disaster overwhelm even the best governments, and because the government version of governing often arrives at the point of a gun. But the authorities don't usually fail so spectacularly. Failure at this level requires sustained effort. The deepening of the divide between the haves and have nots, the stripping away of social services, the defunding of the infrastructure, mean that this disaster—not of weather but of policy—has been more or less what was intended to happen, if not so starkly in plain sight.

The Uses of Disaster Rebecca Solnit,, September 9, 2005