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Filed under: Traveling Tips

That Could Never Happen to Me

August 29, 2010 by · 17 Comments 


We keep our grey water valve shut.  It is important that you know this in order for the rest of the story to make sense.

We were in Salem, Oregon and the weather forecasted a high of 95 degrees.  Since we had just spent time on the coast, we knew it would be cooler there, so we filled a cooler and decided to take a trip for the day.  As predicted, the coast was only 68 degrees.  Upon arriving back to the motor home, the first thing I noticed was some water dripping from underneath.  A quick look let me know that it was not coming out of any drain, so I immediately turned off the water at our Y connection.  A quick look inside let me know what had happened—water was left running in a sink and the grey water tank over-flowed.  As we used to say on submarines, “we got water in the people tank.”

Rug Doctor

(Photo Caption: Rug Doctor)

So, we now have several gallons of water that we need to remove from the inside of the motor home.  Not to mention, we need to dry off everything that was on the floor and everything in the basement.  The RV park is right next door to a grocery store, so I ran over there to rent one of those carpet-cleaning machines that will pull the water out of the carpet.  I was in luck, they had one left!  Then I was told that they were not allowed to rent a machine to anyone without a local driver’s license.  As full-timers, we rarely have a local driver’s license, and today was not one of those days.

Now I’m imagining running all over town trying to find a place that would rent me a machine, and it was already 6:30 pm, so the options would be limited.  Instead, I took a deep breath and asked for the manager.  When the situation was explained to the manager (and a credit card number provided as security), she decided to live dangerously and allow me to rent the machine.

Now the fun part—getting the water out and drying everything off.  When we started dealing with the issue, we began to gather more information.  A neighbor had noticed the water and contacted the office, and the person in the office shut off the water at our valve (upstream from the Y I had shut off).  Thanks to their efforts, the water stopped overflowing a few hours before we returned (so we had less water to clean up than we would have).  We started hearing many stories of this (or something similar) happening to others. 

Items from the Basement

All from the Basement

As I’m emptying the basement (it is amazing how much stuff you can carry under there when you are full-timing!!), I’m thinking about how to keep this from happening again.  My first thought is to leave the grey water valve open (but then how would I rinse the sewer hose after dumping the black water?).  One of the stories we were told was about the toilet valve failing and it filling up and overflowing.  Well, opening the grey valve would not help in that situation.  That is when another neighbor mentioned that they always turn off the water when they leave for any length of time.  I had always done this when we left overnight or longer, but never thought about doing it for a day trip.  So, now we have a new rule when we leave for any trips longer than a few minutes.

Drying the Basement

Drying out the basement

I guess it just goes to show that something that “could never happen to me,” might just happen, so it does not hurt to take precautions.  It took a few days to dry everything out, but all is back to normal.


17 Responses to “That Could Never Happen to Me”
  1. Brian Launer says:

    Funny story but not so funny situation. Glad to hear the recovery was not so bad.

  2. Randy says:

    We have had it happen too. It is not very big, but a “Little Green Carpet Clean Machine” now goes with us to not only clean spots off the carpet but to help suck up water in a similar situation.

  3. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy yall,
    When we first bought our MH we went to a campground w/b-i-l&s-i-l to camp.. We had NEVER even
    used or been in a MH except to look… B-i-l hooked up ALL hookups(they have a trailer) and we went to
    eat dinner… When we returned @ 11pm WATER was dripping all around the rear of the MH!!!!!! The
    COMMODE WAS RUNNING OVER!!! They had dropped us off and left… I am so crippled with arthritis
    and can’t bend over to the floor… Luckily the people had CLEANED the blackwater tank completely, so
    it was only CLEAR water… My DEAR DARLING WIFE worked until 2am SOAKING UP THE WATER..
    I did ring the towels out for her… The water only got the bedroom and bath area wet, so, we were
    very lucky…. BEGINNERS LUCK!!!!!!!!!

  4. herb and ardy says:

    We also came home to water in our basement, never talk to friends when flushing the grey water. In our case the water flow in was greater then the the outflow. We also carry our “Little Green Machine” now!

  5. Gen says:

    Omg that sounds like an awful mess!!! I will try never to do that!

  6. Janeen says:

    We had an almost similar situation. We lost water in our campground so we switched over to our fresh water tank. We didn’t realize that when the water came back on the water was directed right into our fresh water tank. (Our lever has a dual function).

    Luckily, we have over flow valves on the tank. It just made a rather large pool around our coach. Don’t want to think about the worst case scenario!

  7. Nancy says:

    I was amazed that other people are as forgetful as we are – we had a similar thing happen when Don went to flush the grey water and only flushed out one….went in the RV and used the bathroom sink and left it running ! I went up to the take my shower and stepped on a very wet throw rug -the shower had over flowed and the sink was still running!! We just had a wet throw rug and a wet floor – fortunately no real damage -= just a late night clean up chore!!! I did not realize other people did things like that!!!

  8. Verla says:

    I feel your pain. Recently I broke camp by myself as my husband had to go out of town. I often break camp myself due to his travels so I’m familiar with all that has to be done. It was 2 days after the holiday was over so I was looking forward to dumping at my leisure, because there wouldn’t be anyone in line behind me and would be able to do a complete job as this was the last trip for the season. So I hook everything up and back flush the black tank several times from the outside with the attachment to the drain. It was finally running pretty clear. So I decided to take the gray hose through the door and into the toilet from above to be sure all was flushed out good. So I turn the water off, and detach it from the attachement outside and drag it around the trailer and through to the back where the bathroom is located. I put the chock in the toilet to hold it open and then stick the hose into the toilet down in the chock. I go outside and turn on the water, full force of course. Now, this location has an extreme amount of water pressure. I stand there, listening to the water and I didn’t think it sounded right. I was listening for the sound of it hitting the bottom of the black tank. Now I swear I didn’t stand there for more that a minute, maybe not even that long and decided I needed to make sure all was ok inside. So I walk around the trailer and go inside. Well, the hose looked like a snake whipping around inside the bathroom. It was actually standing up in the air shooting water everywhere in the bathroom, across the trailer and it was hitting the opposite wall in the main area. I hope you can imagine the words that were flying in my trailer. I tried sticking the hose back in the toilet but it just kept pushing the hose back out. It was like wrestling a live snake. Finally I got the hose back in the trailer, put the seat lid down on it and something on the lid to hold it long enough to run out and turn the water off. The water in the bathroom was so deep it was over the top of my shoes and half way up the main area of the trailer. I grabbed towels and started soaking up water and squeezing it into the sink. Water was everywhere. Water was under the cabinet in the bathrrom, under the benches in the main area, and under everything else. Everything that was on the floor was wet. I was not happy. The water was actually dripping out the back corner of the camper outside. So I had to go home and drag everything out to dry. It’s bad enough to unpack the regular stuff after a camping trip without having to do the whole trailer. The only good thing is that I had been wanting to clean out the cabinet and the benches but had been putting it off. You can be sure I won’t do that again.

  9. Jaxon says:

    I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening to others and their stories, similar to this, taught me to fill my water tank to full, then shut off the supply from the campground. This way, I shouldn’t experience this sort of problem since the fresh water tanks dumps into both the black & grey – neither should overflow.

    Another benefit of this is that you don’t have to worry about sanitizing the fresh water tank as much since it’s always in use & being re-filled with fresh water.

  10. CliffG says:

    Thanks for posting these stories. We haven’t done anything this wet…yet. I’m hoping that we have learned form your incidents and will not copy them!

    My sister-in-law just ventured into rv’ing, & I’m going to forward this to her.

  11. Hoby says:


    That was my thought when it happened–I should blog this to maybe keep it from happening to someone else. :)


  12. Bonnie says:

    That is dumbist thing that I have ever heard! How can you remember to turn off your water when you can’t even remember to turn off a faucet that is running water into a sink?? Give me a break..are you trying to make full timers look dumb?

  13. lori says:

    Been there, done that -

  14. Hoby says:

    To all the people that responded, thanks for the support.

    To Bonnie, as Scott Adams says in his Dilbert books, we all get to take our turn being the dumb one sooner or later ;-)

  15. Jeff B says:

    When you turn off the water supply valve make sure you turn off the water heater electrical element (or propane) as well. an electric shut off valve can be rigged to cut off the heater when the water supply valve is closed, perhaps the thermostat can be disabled on the heater, taking care of the electric as well as the propane.

  16. Hoby says:

    Jeff, thanks for the reminder. It is good to remember to have the heater off if the water supply is off.

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