Preparing to leave Winslow for the Grand Canyon on Monday morning, I noticed that the house batteries were not fully charged. That was odd, because the 50-amp cord was plugged into shore power. I opened the basement electrical compartment, and my nose was immediately accosted by a caustic, plastic and wire burning smell.
It got down to 19° on Sunday night in Winslow, so my 50-amp service was very important to me. The basement furnace, which uses propane for heat, has an electric thermostat for cycling off and on.
I do not have a “four-season” RV, meaning, among other things, that I do not have heating pads on the holding tanks. Yes folks, in the right circumstances, my tank of poo can freeze and explode. I have already been too up-close and personal with my own personal refuse. But, because I have a Class A motorhome with an enclosed basement, and because the basement furnace runs under the floor, using the furnace somewhat warms the tanks under the coach.
I knew that most RVs can withstand freezing temperatures at night as long as that is followed by above-freezing temperatures during the day; most coaches can handle temperature fluctuations, if it does not remain below freezing for several days. I also knew I had a diesel engine and a diesel generator to recharge the house batteries for the furnace thermostat. Before leaving New Mexico I topped off the propane, knowing that the Grand Canyon was freezing at night as well. At Williams I filled the diesel to the brim in the event I needed it for the generator. I stocked up at Safeway in Williams also, buying bottles of water and enough food to last me for a month.
When I arrived at the Grand Canyon I immediately called a mobile RV repair service. I did not like the idea of losing one way to heat the coach. I like redundancies. Back up plans are a good thing, especially in freezing temperatures.
I called Paul in Cottonwood, just outside Sedona. Through the process of telephone calls and texted photos, Paul surmised that my problem was a burnt-out converter. He was willing to make the trip to Grand Canyon, but his call-out fee alone was $300. I was staying in the Grand Canyon for only one night; the helicopter tour was scheduled for Tuesday, and then I would be getting the hell out of Dodge. I agreed to meet Paul in the Sedona area to replace the converter, after the helicopter tour.
On Monday night, the low was 17 degrees. Along with running the basement furnace on propane and the house batteries, I unscrewed the water hose from the park’s spigot, turned off all water pumps, and opened all faucets to relieve any pressure in the lines.
Thankfully the house batteries did their job and were not entirely depleted by Tuesday morning, and the animals and I and Nellie fared fine. But, on Tuesday morning I awoke to howling winds and rain, followed by sleet, followed by snow. I received a telephone call; the helicopter tour was canceled.
I didn’t know what to do. I phoned my friend Izzy and talked at length about my options. I could not drive anywhere at the moment. If it did not warm up by Wednesday, the roadways would remain impassable. I gambled that the weather predictions were correct – the snow would be short-lived and the temperatures would rise. I rescheduled the helicopter tour for Wednesday and knew Nellie would have to endure another night of freezing temperatures.
By 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, the snow stopped. It did not stick! It was entirely melted away, and the sun came out. When in an RV in cold weather and the sun comes out, open all the shades and sing a Beatles song. (“Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright.”) There’s nothing like the sun to warm up a rig.
The wind was vicious and it was still only approximately 35°, but that kept the other tourists away. I visited Grand Canyon Village, including its famous hotels and beautiful vistas.
This morning, Wednesday, the sun had just come out when I visited the RV office at 8:00 a.m. to pay for an additional night; the helicopter tour was rescheduled for 3:30 p.m., and I did not want to hit the road just as the sun was going down. I could not believe my ears! A woman was complaining, “When we arrived last night we didn’t hook up to water because we heard it was going to freeze. We used all of our water in the holding tank last night. Now we want to shower and do other things, and there is no water coming from your spigot. What are you going to do about it?” I was impressed with the fortitude of the clerk, who did not reach across the desk and strangle the woman. Instead, she actually apologized and suggested another spigot which was buried deeper in the ground and tapped into well water.
Today was a gorgeous and warmer day. There was very little wind. I began the day by driving out to Desert View with Olive. The helicopter tour this afternoon was a highlight of my life;I cried tears of joy and felt like a fool, but I don’t think anyone else on the helicopter noticed.
As I write this I am getting ready to mini-winterize Nellie for another night. Unfortunately there is no RV anti-freeze for sale in this tiny town. Note to self: always keep RV anti-freeze on hand. (It’s the pink, not the green stuff, that won’t harm the valves in your gray and black water tanks. But for heaven’s sake, don’t add it to your fresh water!) Tomorrow I drive south to Sedona to meet Paul, who will replace the converter. It is so much warmer in Sedona – it gets down to a balmy 35° at night!
I’ll spend one day in Sedona to take in the sights, but after that, I’m on my way to Phoenix, Quartzite, and Palm Springs. So, alas, thus ends my Route 66 adventure, for now. I will continue to let you know what’s happening on the road, but the rest of the Mother Road will just have to wait for warmer climes.
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” — — John Lennon