Sunday, January 20, 2008 -- Marathon Motel and RV Park in Marathon, TX
That's not a typo in the headline... that's really a little dot between the 5 and the 9. It was actually 5.9f degrees at one point here in Marathon last night. The forecast, which I follow a couple times daily, was for 18f in this part of Texas. 18f would have been an acceptable number... the same temp as the night before and the coldest we would have experienced since starting this adventure last summer. I was confident we could handle 18f and we were ready to give it a try. Alpine, a larger town to the west and 500 feet higher in elevation, recorded an overnight low of 23f. Other places in West Texas were also in the 20's. But not here in old Marathon. No sir! We had 5.9f -- I don't know why. It probably had to do with the elevation (over 4,000 ft.), the lack of any humidity in the air, the lack of any wind, and the clear skies... any heat just radiates out into space. I never expected to encounter a single digit temperature for as long as we do this fulltiming thing. What's the old adage? ... Never say never?
So how'd the camper do at those extreme lower temps? As I'm writing this at 8am the following morning, I'm not aware of any problems. The biggest issue with sub-freezing temperatures is our water system. When we expect the temperature to drop below freezing we disconnect and stow the fresh water hose that connects the camper to an outside water source and live off our on-board tank in the "basement". That area, which contains the big storage bins, the plumbing, and water tanks, is heated. As long as the furnace is running that area is kept relatively warm. For me, the biggest unknown is the ability of the water lines that run to the back of the camper for the clothes washer to handle extreme low temps.
We brought along a wireless thermometer that we used around the house in Geneva. There are three remote sensing units that transmit the temperature wirelessly to the main unit, which we keep in the camper. One sensing unit is dedicated to outside air temperature. We place it outside, somewhere out of the sun and close to the camper, and try to remember to take it along when we go. The second unit is in the basement so I can monitor the temperature down there. The third unit is in the water service bay, the area through which all inbound and outbound water goes. This area is a little more open to the outside due to some passageways for system drains. Last night the temperature in the water service bay dropped into the upper 30's while the rest of the basement was in the low to mid 50's. The low temp in the water service bay concerned me. I wasn't going to get any sleep without doing something about it. But what?
Coming from the frigid north, I've heard of people using a light bulb to warm a small area. Merely touching a glowing 60 watter reminds one of the inefficiency of incandescent light bulbs -- only a small amount of energy used by the bulb turns into usable light. The rest turns to heat.
The problem last night was that I didn't have a socket and bulb that could be plugged into an extension cord and placed in the water service bay to help maintain a little higher temp. The solution, after some considerable creative thinking, was Dar's electric curling iron... that appliance that produces those attractive curls in her hair. It consumes 40 watts of power and emits only heat. Perfect. So at 1:00am, I'm outside in single digit temps, plugging in a curling iron and placing it safely in the water service bay. It worked. The temp in the water bay started a slow climb. And I got some sleep.
Until last night, the lowest temperature we've endured with the camper, if I remember right, was 28f. We knew it was going to be colder as we moved west and were looking forward to seeing how the camper did with lower temps. We can now check that experience off our list of to-dos. I think I'll sleep better the next time, but hopefully there won't be too many more in the single digits.