Old Glory Number 1s
When you see a town name such as "Old Glory", you've got no choice but to pay a visit to check it out, right? So we set the GPS (affectionately known as Truck (the nav voice is called Lori)) for a lunch at Old Glory.
It was about this time that we noticed a rather unfortunate smell, one that we are only too familiar with from our experience of living out of an RV.
Now let me explain first; with the puny European portable toilet systems, you have a cassette that you can pull out of the side door beneath the toilet (hopefully you have first checked that no-one is using it at that precise moment - you can laugh, but been there done that... well, I didn't do the THAT, someone else did the that, but I had to clean out the inside of the cassette slide afterwards; not something that you get over in a hurry. I was mentally scarred for weeks; even now before I sit on a normal toilet, OCD takes over and I check underneath just to be sure that it's actually connected to something).
Then you have to look a complete prat as you wheel said cassette from your caravan/motorhome, desperately trying not to make eye-contact with anyone - and normally the cassette holds not much more than a total of 20 (e.g. 5 number '2s', and 10 number '1s') - which ensures that with a family you'll be doing exactly the same the next day.
Some people only take this job on at night, or very early in the morning; however then you run the risk of coming across all the dog-walkers, who are also busy trying to look elsewhere as the dog shits in the middle of the play area. Actually, the worst thing is when some bloody little rat of a dog takes a fancy to your wheeled cassette. You can almost see it in their eyes on first contact; some of them just prick their ears up like a dog pricking up its ears.
"Ooh, that smells nice," you can read from their expression, "I'm in there..."
Whereupon they proceed to sniff and bark as they attempt to molest your toilet cassette. You have two options at this point, possibly three. One; you can pick the cassette up (anyone?), two; you can give the dog a subtle kick, (with associated risk of having to argue with the dog's owner, while the rat continues to mount your wheels), or (if you're lucky) three; you can look around for a random dog pooh, then distract the dog and owner by pointing and yelling,
"Are you gonna pick that up? Your dog did that! !"
Actually, now we're on this topic, there's an interesting cultural observation to be analysed here; in England, as you're walking, head down, past all of the other campers, the blokes in their awnings or sitting outside will look away, embarrassed for you, or simply empathetic ("Poor bastard, hope he doesn't get a sticky one" - I'll come to that phenomenon later), to the 'chemical disposal point'.
Chemical disposal point? Talk about poor euphemisms! It's a shit-dump people, face the truth!! Of course sometimes there is no disposal point at all, and you have to empty the bloody thing down the great white telephone, in a stall. Now that can be really awkward - after shutting the door for privacy, you stand your cassette upside down over the toilet rim (people, remember this - this is why I ALWAYS line the toilet seat with paper before I use a public toilet), and then someone walks in to the toilet block. Lo and behold, where do they go? In the stall right next to you. Well, you've got this far... ...you pull the gate trapping the blue pooh (you always add this blue chemical to the fresh cassette to aid 'malleability' i.e. avoiding the aforementioned sticky ones)), and then let (most) of the contents splash down the loo. The guy next door either spontaneously vomits, runs for the door, or whispers that he hopes you get better soon.
Anyway, I digress, marginally... in Europe, the cultural approach is, as I say, different. People are not so embarrassed by the predicament presented by the normal bodily functions. You get the same greetings on a pooh-dump morning as on any other. Indeed, you find small cliques of sunburnt old fellas smoking together as they happily drag their slopping cassettes and chuntering mounting dogs to the dump point. In fact, I am given to understand that this is one of the reasons some men kiss their friends rather than shake hands. You can appreciate that.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, an explanation - the comparison with the USA being that instead of a cassette, you have a 'black tank'. This can hold a considerably higher number; say 100 (20 number '2s'... sorry...I guess you get the idea). And, at the risk of stating the obvious again, you can't drag 50 gallons of blue poo across a campsite without a hernia. Instead, you have a full-service camping place with a sewer connection, or (sometimes) you are forced to take the RV to a discrete location (the proverbial Dumping Station (yes, thank you)), to flush it down the drain in the middle of a concrete pad purpose built for the job(s).
Given the fun and games associated with this process, Camping World insists that the black tank is empty when you return the vehicle. And on a small electronic panel inside the RV, there is a LED indicator which kindly advises you of the level of the black tank (by the way, for any future reference, I strongly advise against exceeding the 3/4 level - wiping the excess from the RV linoleum flooring after a bumpy track can be demoralising); a level which when we checked on collection, read 3/4.
"It's okay", said the girl from Camping World, "I think the sensor is playing up, the tank is empty. I would smell it if it wasn't."
However - we could now smell it, and the black tank had for sure not been emptied! So what, you ask, is the procedure upon this discovery? Well, the standard is to hold a scented cloth over ones nose and drive as rapidly as possible without swerving and spilling anything to the nearest Dump Station.
We changed our plans, and phoned ahead for a campsite nearer than Roswell.
"Hi there, do you have a full service pitch ?"
"Hey, good day sir. How is your day? Good? Are you having a good day, sir?
"No. My black tank is really stinky."
"I'm sorry sir?"
" I said, 'my back went and I'm on the way', do you have any pitches for us?"
"Sure. Come on over. And bring your stinky tank...."
Was I gonna tell you about lunch at Old Glory? Okay, that comes next...