Saturday, October 2, 2010

Camping, Technically

Thanks to this exceptionally beautiful Indian summer, we did in fact, on the first of October, go camping. Never have I camped that late in the year and not frozen my nadgers off. We just went to a local campground -- Twin Bridges, which sits on an island in the Snake River between Archer and Ririe, a beautiful spot to camp and wander if you're ever up here.

But this did present a problem: I'd already started winterizing our camper, including getting the lucky break of running out of potable water at the tail end of our last camping trip, so I didn't have to fret about emptying the freshwater tank.

That's a good thing, because in three years' worth of camper ownership, that's how we always ended up draining the tank for winter. As a consequence, I never bothered to find out where the petcock to drain the tank via gravity might lie.

This year, however, I filled the tank before we left, and we didn't use it all up. I had to find the petcock, or else run the pump for hours emptying all that water through one of the camper's other drains. Didn't want to do that.

As a last resort, I went to the camper's owner's manual for assistance. Now, you've got to know this is an old camper, approaching its 40th year. Those who wrote the manual seemed much more intent on getting the '70s pop art on the cover than anything else. It's nice art, as far as art goes. But it's not exceptionally helpful in maintaining the camper.

They certainly didn't bother to include any directions for finding the petcocks, or any of the other drains in the potable water system. They do mention them in sections of the manual that cover winterization and operation of the water pump, but they just don't show where one might find the petcocks. So I did some guessing, aided by several minutes of lying on the ground just under neath the camper looking for drains before I located where the freshwater petcock might. be. Found it and drained the system. And now I know how to quickly empty the tank when I sanitize it next spring. Had they bothered to include such information in the manual, I wouldn't have to had spent a half hour rummaging around trying to find things.

This is the kind of thing that jumps out at you when you're a technical writer. I see a lot of documents and written and visual instructions this way now, and it's really annoying. There's just so much out there that's poorly written, from a technical perspective. This manual, for instance, is lacking in several different ways. Each time I find myself perusing its pages for help, I end up frustrated.

So, too, are the forums and postings on the Internet from people who do know their stuff about RVs. It's just generally assumed out there that people know where their petcocks are. I may start posting such nonsense just to give other neophytes a place to go for their basic questions. Huh. Another blog. Just what I need.

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