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    RVs were made for rolling down the open road, stopping for a bit, then moving along. But sometimes we get "hung up" for a while. Maybe a job requires we stay put in the campground for a couple of months. Having a "stationary RV" means special care of the black water holding tank.

    Regardless of whether you're stationary or moving every day, NEVER leave your black water holding tank dump valves OPEN. Even if your rig is hooked up to a sewer line, getting all those nasty solids out of your holding tank requires the movement of a large amount of fluid. More than one RVer has learned the hard way that leaving the black water dump valve open translates quickly into a holding tank that won't dump.

    When an RV rolls down the road, it's not just beneficial for us behind the windshield, seeing those new sights. Down under in the holding tank, that rock and roll motion the rig keeps the black water tank stirred up. This contributes to the breakdown of solids and the removal of foul odors. Park your rig and don't move it for a few days, a different setup occurs in the holding tank. Solids tend to gravitate to the bottom of the tank and an ugly sort of transformation begins to occur. We'll spare you the grosser details, but it needs to be said that a goop-like substance can begin to coat the bottom of your holding tank.

    That goopy coating is hard to get out of the tank and if not evicted can begin to build up and up and can eventually cause a blockage. To keep this from happening, when you dump your blackwater tank (which should be done ONLY when the tank is at least three-quarters full), allow plenty of time for the contents to evacuate.

    Here's where having a clear plastic sewer hose-to-dump port adapter is a good thing to have. When you dump the black tank you can closely observe just what's coming out of the tank. After sitting for a number of days you may be surprised just how s-l-o-w-l-y those contents can be about coming out of the tank. Slamming the holding tank valve shut before the contents are clear can not only leave you holding more gunk in the tank, the stuff can also prevent a water-tight seal on your black water valve--not a good thing.

    If you find the tank just doesn't seem to want to "get empty" then leave the valve open and have a helper run the toilet until the tank runs clear. We've found it may require a greater volume of water than the toilet itself will readily provide. We have a secret weapon: Our shower hose will stretch far enough to blast water down the toilet making the job much faster.

    In hot weather stationary RVers face another problem: Sour tanks. The combination of heat and lack of motion can cause the breakdown of wastes in the tank to stop, causing a really, really stinky situation. Assuming that you are either not using any sort of holding tank treatment at all, or are using one that's based on enzymes and/or bacteria, you may be able to clear up the problem by dumping a half-cup of baking soda down the toilet with a couple of gallons of water. This may "sweeten" an otherwise acidic condition, getting natural bacteria to begin waste breakdown, reducing the stink factor.

    In really tough situations you may need to fill up the holding tank with water, dump it completely, and then add a couple of cups of baking soda and fill it up with water again. This time don't dump the tank immediately; let the tank sit overnight, then dump it and "restart" the system with the addition of a bacterial and/or enzyme based holding tank treatment. We had this happen once during a hot spring stay on the Arizona desert. The stench was overpowering, but the "fill, dump, refill with soda water, dump again" procedure proved a life (and nose) saver.

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    Go small; go off the campground grid; and search out deals to cut the costs of RV’ing.


    While many Americans dream of hitting the open road with their family in a bus-sized recreational vehicle, the thought of the gas bill and loan payments as high as a traditional mortgage can dampen the enthusiasm of actually giving it a go.

    Yet if you’re willing to think outside the box with regard to vehicle size and related camping expenses, you just might find it costs less than you think. Here are a handful of ways to make the ultimate road trip more affordable.


    Go smaller

    The traditional approach may be to tow a camper or go for a larger motor home, but a growing number of people are putting their efforts into minivan conversions. Not only is the mileage significantly better than standard RV options, but the maneuverability is much easier as well. Similar to the camper-vans popular throughout Europe, modifications can be accomplished through hiring an independent contractor or taking on the task yourself.

    One vehicle that’s gaining popularity for camping use is the Ford Transit Connect. While I suspect the mileage numbers have as much to do with that as anything, the greater cargo capacity probably doesn’t hurt either. A quick Internet search on the topic will result in a wide variety of examples and YouTube videos. Sinks, small beds, chemical toilets and more can all be installed.


    Rent a camper van

    Prefer to keep it simple and rent? JUCY Rentals, the camper-van rental company popular in Australia and New Zealand has now set up shop in the United States. With branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas, they make an easy drive-and camp option for international visitors as well as locals interested in an affordable alternative. The compact size of their vehicles allows travelers to combine their accommodation and transportation costs into a single bill.

    Off-season rates start at $35 per day, and include a pop-up pod tent on the roof, DVD player and television, sink, stove and even a small fridge. High season rates average closer to $100 per day, with unlimited mileage packages starting at $25 per night plus tax.


    Location, location, location

    Thinking creatively about where you park your recreational vehicle can save you significant cash. Just ask Michael Boyink, who has been living the RV lifestyle with his family full time for more than three years. When he and his wife decided the children would benefit from gardening experience and do-it-yourself knowledge, they arranged to park their rig on a farm in Texas in exchange for an agreed-upon number of chores. The experience also allowed Boyink’s daughter to learn some horse riding skills. has the full details of their RV odyssey.


    Off the grid

    Foregoing electrical access for more primitive sites can also save money. Jeff Wilson, HGTV host and author of “The Greened House Effect” puts this strategy into play nearly every summer when he takes his family camping. For starters, he has two marine batteries which charge while his tow vehicle is running. This allows him to arrive at a site fully charged and ready to skip the more expensive spots in the campground. He also travels with a small solar panel and a portable windmill to generate power with the support of Mother Nature.


    Cutting campground fees’s Amy Burkert travels in a recreational vehicle throughout the year with her husband and two dogs. Figuring out how to get campground access for less has helped her family maintain their travel habit in a financially sustainable way. And how you arrange your stay can make a huge difference.

    Her top tip? Discount membership organizations. Organizations such as Good Sam, Escapees and Passport America provide savings as high as 50 percent on RV sites at campgrounds across North America. Booking your stay with these types of membership cards has you saving money before you ever even hook up your vehicle. Says Burkert, “The annual membership costs are quickly offset by the savings when you’re traveling full time.”

    Burkert also advises arranging longer stays, as they are often more affordable. Weekly rates are cheaper per night than booking a night at a time, and the monthly rate typically provides an even greater savings opportunity.