Mom Wonders What Her Children Are Eating

My mother and father, Pat and Jim Hoctor, recently sent us an email asking a few questions.

Do you have propane heat and a stove in your RV? Mom was wondering if you only have a microwave and, what are you eating if you don’t have an oven and gas stove. I told Mom that most RV’s have both. Also, I’m surprised that your RV batteries lasted four days. Did you still have the radio on or the TV? I know that you must have the refrigerator going and the lights at dark.

Similarly, our friend Sean O’Shaughnessey was interested in how we manage on the food/cooking front.

Where do you cook/eat?  When I was growing up in an RV, a good portion of our meals were cooked on an outdoor grill – always charcoal.  I know that you talk about lunch on the hikes but it would be interesting to get a bit more color on this.

First, the power options, which are important to understand in order to boondock and still be able to prepare food. The simplest way to explain RV power is by listing the source and what each runs.

1. External Electricity – When we’re in a campground that has electricity hook up, we connect to it via a 30 amp 220 volt connection.  This powers the lights, recharges the two 12 volt house batteries, runs the microwave, ceiling fans, the furnace blower, the refrigerator and the water pump.

2. Two 12 Volt House Batteries – When not connected to external electricity, the two 12 volt “house” batteries power the lights, the ceiling fans, the water pump, furnace blower and the 12 volt inverter (which lets us charge iPhones and laptops).

3. 68 pound LPG (liquid propane gas) Tank – When not connected to external electricity, this powers the refrigerator. Even when connected to external electricity, the furnace heat and 3 burner stove top run exclusively off of propane.

4. Onan 4,000 Watt Generator – The generator runs off of the gas in the RV gas tank.  We use the generator occasionally when not connected to external electricity  It recharges the 2 house batteries, while also allowing everything to work, except the furnace heat and stove top which run exclusively off of propane.  There is a shut off valve that stops the generator if the gas tank were to get too low.

This may sound confusing but we quickly learned what powers what.  To Dad’s questions about how we went 4 days without being connected to external electricity and did we have the radio or TV on and how did we run the refrigerator and lights after dark… The quick answer is the generator is what allows us to go for days without external electricity.  We run the generator a total of about 1/2 hour every 24 hours, but in about three 10 minute increments.  We flip on the generator in the morning for about 10 minutes just to make breakfast and to recharge the 2 house batteries.  We do the same at dinner time and again in the evening.  This is long enough to recharge the house batteries and run the microwave and toaster, etc. if we need it.  After dark, we use the lights but not excessively, which run off the 2 house batteries. 

We hardly ever use the TV or radio.  In the 2 months that we’ve been on the road, the TV has been on a TOTAL of 6 hours.  And 3 of those 6 hours was to watch the SuperBowl when we were connected to external electricity in a campground.  We just don’t have interest in watching TV. We’d rather watch the stars or take a walk with the dogs or blog or play guitar.  But, people do watch TV while boondocking by running the generator.

Using this method of running the generator and using the lights sparingly, we could go for months without external electricity. The 4 day boondocking limit is due to running out of water, not electricity. The fresh water tank holds 50 gallons, the grey water tank holds 28 gallons and the black water tank holds 25 gallons. We find that the first resource we run out of is grey tank space, followed closely by running out of fresh water.  It fills up first and we have to go dump and also refill the fresh water. This is what keep us from being able to stay out for longer, continuous periods of time without returning to civilization.

To Mom’s question about what we cook with, we have a microwave and a 3 burner stove top but no oven.  See my post about the lack of an oven being 1 of the things we miss that our old RV had that this one doesn’t. Dad, you may want to have Mom read that article as it shows pictures of the inside of the RV that she might enjoy.

Timm cooks a steak on his Coleman propane grill in Joshua Tree National Park.

Moving onto what we eat, which was Sean’s question as well. For breakfast, we eat bagels, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, toast, bacon and eggs.  We usually eat lunch out on the trail, which can be peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad, snack pack lunches, fruit, nuts, chips and cookies.

For dinner, Timm grills out a lot on his little Coleman propane grill.  His favorite grilling meals include barbeque chicken, marinated steak, and brats.  I have a veggie burger which he grills for me.  We have salad, frozen vegetables (corn, broccoli, beans, edamame), potatoes (baked or sometimes a side dish), rolls.  We’ve tried microwave French bread pizza, not bad.  Timm also likes frozen dinners sometimes.  We have things from the deli like a pot roast that is already cooked and we make noodles with it.  There is no real “home cooking” however.  I don’t have my crock pot or electric skillet here as they take up too much space.  I do miss having an oven but it’s not that much of a hardship because so many things are microwavable or can be cooked on the stove top these days. We looked into getting a toaster oven or a NuWave oven but probably will get neither.  They’re too big and we really don’t feel like we’re missing out on much yet.

All in, I think we eat more healthy than we did in the past.  I ate a lot of junk when I was at Fidelity as there were always donuts or cookies around and we had “food day” about once a week where everyone brought in something to share.  Both Timm and I have lost a little weight but it’s not due to lack of good food.  It’s due to healthy, active living!  In the 2 months since we started our journey, we’ve hiked 134 miles and 16,210 feet in elevation gain! (Reminder that you can click on any picture in our blog for a larger version)

Timm and Theresa on their 20th anniversary in Death Valley.

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