Black tank

Sometime in Austin we used the wrong kind of toilet paper, and the black tank valve on the Airstream got stuck slightly open.

We tried to fix it but failed, so we decided in Bisbee to take Totto into an Airstream dealership to get the valve looked at, and the next dealership we’d be close to was in Scottsdale, Arizona. So I made an appointment.

Before hitching up and leaving from Arcosanti I spent some time flushing and re-flushing the blackwater tank in preparation for getting it worked on. I didn’t want the technician to have to deal with anything unsightly. Eventually the hose ran clear, so I hitched up and drove to Scottsdale.

At the Airstream dealership’s service department I explained our issue to an energetic family man named Brian, and gave him the keys. He said he’d have it done by the end of the week.

Courtney was in San Diego for work, so I spent the week in Tempe with my friends Clint and Danielle, and got to see their version of Phoenix.

Clint and I both kept early work hours (he works at ASU as an ant scientist), so the afternoons were open for activity, and we used them to do some remarkable desert hiking. Clint is an AT thru-hiker, and still practices his art. Phoenix was oppressively hot during the day, so we hiked around sunset, finishing our journeys by headlamp in the dark. The trails (Camelback Mountain on Wednesday, Superstition Mountains on Thursday) were empty, and to Clint’s delight we saw lots of bugs, including a tailless whip scorpion and an army ant raid.

On Friday, the day before Courtney was to return and we were to leave, the Airstream dealership called me back. Brian from the service department explained, his voice somewhat shaken, how he had hooked up the sewer valve and tons of “debris” came out. He said he kept flushing the tank, and each time more “stuff” would come out. He said he had a weak stomach, and the experience made him gag. Eventually he was able to force the valve closed without having to drop the pan and take the tank apart, a maneuver that would have cost an extra $1000.

I was embarrassed, and apologized to Brian for putting him through that ordeal. He asked me if we were using the right kind of toilet paper, and I said yes, because technically now we were using the right kind, even though back in Austin we weren’t. He claimed to have seen cardboard coming out of the pipe, so we both pinned the blame on that, which must have come from the prior owner.

Clint and I drove to the dealership the next day and Brian was happy to see us. He didn’t seem at all bothered anymore by his close encounter with our sewage, and sold me some enzyme chemical for the tank and sent me on my way with a business card and a kind handshake.

I parked Totto at the curb in the hot sun in front of my hosts’ home and gave them a quick tour. I opened the freezer and water came splashing out. I realized then that I had accidentally turned the fridge completely off when I left Arcosanti, and it had been warming in the Phoenix heat for the past week. The refrigerator and the freezer both smelled foul, and all the food was ruined. I was able to clean it out before Courtney arrived, but the smell lingered for a few more days.

The black tank was finally closed though, and we had learned some new lessons in Airstream life that we would not soon forget. Courtney made it back from her work trip Saturday afternoon and we departed Phoenix together, closing out the 5-week chapter of our stay in the state of Arizona as we crossed the Colorado River into California.

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