Coloring the Void

living nomadically

Archive for the category “Connecticut”

“You can’t always get what you want…*

While in Connecticut, we were not only able to fix our vacu-flush problem, we managed to secure a site for a few days at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park in Rhode Island. Someone  canceled a two day reservation in the water view area with full hook ups and then someone else canceled four more days in the same area! We were set for the week before memorial day, though we still didn’t have a site for Saturday and Sunday.

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Fisherman’s Memorial State Park is a very nicely kept park. The grounds are impeccably landscaped, the full hook ups are well placed, many (but not all) sites are very level, and the location is great – not too far from the beach, Narragansett and pretty much the entire state of Rhode Island (it is a very small state). We really enjoyed our six days here and didn’t want to leave.

When we weren’t being lazy, we wandered around Narragansett, a beautiful small coastal town with a bit of history. We also wandered around for the day in Newport, one of our favorite towns we have visited so far.  One of the highlights was The Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile wander along the coast past huge mansions and beautiful views. It just so happened to be a sunny seventy degree day so the walk/hike was one of our favorites so far.

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One of the many mansions along the Newport coast.

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Used to be a mansion, now being used by the college.

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The view at “the steps.”

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We also spent some time wandering around the pier and old town. All told, we probably walked seven miles or more just seeing the sites. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera on that day.

While at Fisherman’s, we hunted for a place to stay Saturday and Sunday nights, Memorial Weekend. The pickings were pretty slim. We also needed a place to stay Monday and Tuesday. Charlestown Breachway had a few spots available so we drove the fifteen miles to the campground to check it out. It is dry camping but right next to the beach, so we were hoping for the best. We figured out why there were sites available still, despite the location: it was a parking lot. Literally. There are 75 sites in the parking lot, all of them about 15′ wide and 40′ long. While we were desperate, we just weren’t desperate enough to squish in with 74 other RVs during the heat and the holiday, with generators running non-stop. My claustrophobia kicked in just looking at it.

So, we resigned ourselves to boondocking at a rest area or a Walmart. On Friday morning, luck smiled on us. Someone canceled their site at West Thompson Lake, a COE park about 60 miles away in Connecticut. It would be back tracking just a bit, but it was an electric and water site long enough for us to fit. So Saturday morning we packed up and headed that way.

The park itself is small, very wooded, and very quiet. It isn’t my favorite campground, but the parking situation was way better than the Breachway. We spent a quiet two days hiding out in the woods, dodging gypsy moth caterpillars. I did get the opportunity, during the down time, to make my first ever batch of hamburger buns using the breadmaker to knead the dough. I just used a basic recipe from Food.com and they turned out excellent. Way better than what I typically get at the grocery store.

I also had a craving for Naan bread, so I gave it a try. I substituted heavy cream for the lowfat milk, olive oil for the canola oil, and added a bit of garlic. It turned out amazing, way better than I expected (I gotta start getting pictures of bread!). I whipped up some tzatziki sauce, browned some chicken, and we had a great meal.

Sunday morning we were wondering if we should stay put for two more days or chance a Walmart. We were both a bit claustrophobic by then, as the woods seemed to grow closer with each passing hour. And then someone cancelled their days at Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Massachusetts. I don’t blame them – the weather report was for cold and rain and the sites were dry camping. But the site they canceled was on the beach! So we booked it and took off Monday morning for Massachusetts.

I completely fell in love with Horseneck Beach and could probably have spent the rest of the summer there. Our site was right on the beach and, in spite of the fog our first day, the place is beautiful.

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Our beach front camping site. Rated to hold a 40′, which it easily could.

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Sunset over the beach sites.

While we only spent two days here, it was as relaxing as an entire week. We drove around the area, the highlight being Westport Point, 17th and 18th century houses leading down to the docks. We enjoyed a good lunch at The Bayside Restaurant, and oogled the RVs parked on lots on the ocean. It was a great way to end the month of May.

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These beach roses smelled amazing and added to the atmosphere here. There were tons of them between the beach and the campsites.

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The singing rocks. The beach is rocks and pebbles. When the tide was going out, it was strong enough to pull smaller rocks towards the water. They would bounce and skip over each other, sounding like ‘singing.’ It kept us enthralled for a good hour a day.

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*…But if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.”

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s%&t happens

If we had won the day before at the casino, we may have stayed another day there. As it was, we woke up in a wandering mood so we packed up and headed east. We crossed over the Hudson at the Newburgh Beacon Bridge, our usual choice to avoid traffic. The tolls are cheaper, too. We were headed to Croton-On-Hudson, to visit Zach, my son.

Croton Point Park, a Westchester County Park, is a great place to stay right on the Hudson River. It is about a mile from the train station that takes commuters into New York City, so it is a great alternative to Liberty RV Park at half the price. While Croton Point Park is pricey for just a couple of days stay ($55/night) a weeks stay is only $250 with full hook ups. There are some full timers and seasonals there but for $650 or $900 a month, I completely understand why. Rent, even this far outside the city, is three times that.

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Our spacious site with full hookups

Croton Point Park has great bike trails and walking trails, a swim area, and lots of space to just while away the day.

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While in the area, we had to stop by Lefteris Gyro in Tarrytown. It is becoming our favorite place for greek salad. On warm days, it is great to sit outside and people watch. We also had chance to try Wild Fusion, sushi in Mohegan Lake. The sushi was very fresh and the rolls were creative and artfully assembled. We enjoyed our time with Zach, caught up on the latest news, and enjoyed relaxing by the river.

We still had no reservations for any place before June 1 but did find out that Hammonasset Beach State Park, in Connecticut, was opening on Friday morning and was non-reservable for the weekend. We packed up Friday morning to head east.

Part of our pack up ritual is to flush the toilet one last time after dumping. This insures there is some water in the black tank to slosh around while driving, helping to keep any build up in the tank to a minimum. So I flushed the toilet. Everything worked fine for the first 30 seconds. And then for another 30 seconds and another 30 seconds and another 30 seconds. UhOh. We have a vacu-flush toilet – a vacuum generator sucks the waste down a tube into a black tank. Vacu-flushes are typically used in boats but many RVs also have them so that the floor plan doesn’t have to conform to black tank placement or so an RV can have two toilets and just one black tank. This also keeps black tank odors down as there is a vacuum between the tank and the bottom of the toilet rather than just a straight open drop into the black tank. Typically, the vacuum generator will run 30 seconds to move the waste from point a (the toilet) to point b (the black tank). This time, it took three minutes. We had a leak.

We tried it again, just to see if it was a one time fluke or a persistent problem. Again, three minutes to create a vacuum. At least, though, it was holding a vacuum. This meant it wasn’t a blown line. The idea of chasing a line leaking toilet water was not something I wanted to contemplate. So we finished packing up and moved on, planning to hopefully diagnose and fix the problem in Connecticut.

During the hour and half drive to Hammonasset, we researched all we could about vacu-flush toilets. We knew the problem wasn’t a toilet leak – the bowl was holding water without problems. We knew it wasn’t a blown line – it eventually formed a vacuum. We knew the generator was working – it sounded the same it always did, even if it ran for what seemed like forever. We got a site in the electric area of the campground, about 200 yards from the beach and set up camp. Then we ate lunch. Then we remembered we had no working toilet. Well, we had a working toilet, we just didn’t want to flush it.

In the 2014 33C, the vacuum generator is located under the bed, behind the SurgeGuard. There are two ways to get to it: the panel behind the surge guard or the panel in the rear pass through storage bay. We tried the panel behind the surge guard first. From this spot, we could see the vacuum generator. I flushed the toilet while Mike watched. Splashes of water came out of the top of the vacuum pump, where the bellows is located. Either a seal had popped or the bellows had cracked and was allowing water to come out the top. We decided to open the other panel to get a better look – Mike was too big to do much from the surge guard panel and I was too short to reach anything through that panel.

Once we got a better look into the space, we were able to remove the pump motor, remove the pump top, and get the bellows out. The most difficult and messy part was getting the bellows out; there was a little splashing involved. Somewhere, someone posted a tip about raising the front of your RV when you do this so the ‘water’ isn’t hanging out in the pump. We saw that afterwards.

The great thing about the construction of the pump is that most all the bolts/screws are the same size. The worst part about the whole task is the location of the pump itself. I guess Fleetwood figured it out because, at least beginning in 2016, the vacuum generator was moved to an easier to get to location (we discussed trading ours in just so we didn’t have to do this). During the job we needed at least three different sized screwdrivers and sockets because sometimes we had mere inches to work in and other spots required something tall to get around something else. In other words, it took us two hours to do a 15 minute job had the pump been located in a place where one could actually see it.

We thought about it for a while and discussed our options: fix it or pay someone else to fix it. Since it was late Friday afternoon, the chances of anyone having the part and coming out to fix it in the next two days were slim. We were resigned to using the campground bathroom. Personally, I hate public bathrooms. No, really, really hate them. In fact, when I get on a plane, my digestive clamps down, refusing to do anything until I have returned home. I knew it was going to be a long weekend.

Saturday morning I started looking at marine supply stores. Since SeaLands are very common in boats, I thought my luck would be much better there. Plus, we were on the coast in a very active boating area. I struck gold! They actually keep the part in stock at West Marine, the Camping World for the boat community. We needed the part RIGHT NOW so the premium for buying there was worth it. We spent the rest of the day running from place to place but were unable to find the O Rings that went with the pump;  we hoped that the old ones would work.

Sunday, we managed to get the bellows into the pump with the old O rings and seal the whole thing back up correctly. If you ever have to do this, put the motor on last – it will save you an hour of frustration. Just make sure the pump top is lined up correctly as the wires are very, very short. Putting it back together also took about two hours as by this time, our bodies ached and we had bruises in strange places from crawling into and out of the rear storage bay. I’m kinda curious what our camping neighbors thought as they passed by our bus and saw our feet hanging out of the bays.

Finally, with everything back in place except the panels, we turned on the toilet and held our breath. It worked! 30 seconds and done!  No water splashing out the top! I cannot express how happy we were that it was done and that we had managed to fix it correctly.

For what it is worth, we are pretty sure that the pump out at Lake Laurie was the beginning of our problem. A couple days after the pump out, we noticed that the vacuum generator sometimes ran longer than usual. Since it had performed perfectly for 20 months before then, we think the extra suction may have cause a small crack that grew over a weeks time.

We stayed at Hammonasset State Park in a W/E site about 200 yards from the beach but all we saw was our site and the bathroom. The bathrooms were clean, our site was large, and the electric worked fine. We would probably stay there again if in the area but we really don’t know much about the park itself. I will note, however, that there is a great bagel shop down the street. The bagels are amazing, especially when just pulled out of the oven (are bagels baked?)

 

 

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