As we approach the one-year mark of being on the road full-time, one of the unexpected difficulties that stands out is doing laundry. We try to wash our clothing, bath towels and bed linens about once per week. Our 5th wheel, being only 31’ long, did not come with or was even plumbed for a washer and dryer, so we purchased a nice little washing machine that is similar to a full-sized home washer but only washes about a half load at a time. On laundry days I take it from its storage place in our bedroom, place it in the shower and hook it up. Since we have no dryer, we depend upon clotheslines.
Has anyone noticed that the weather has not been particularly conducive to drying clothes on a line this year? When we started out, I was able to put out the awning and string a rope three or four times across, from arm to arm, and with the heat, sun and breeze, clothing dried easily. By time summer ended, we had rain, thunderstorms and cool weather all up and down the east coast, following us south to Georgia and west to Arizona and Southern California. For months now we’ve been dependent upon resort laundry rooms and public laundromats.
Most RV parks have laundry facilities, but that is not always a good option. First, many resorts spread out their washers and dryers in various buildings on their premises. This might seem a good layout, giving more people short walks to them, but when you are competing with 200 other campers for three washing machines and a couple of dryers, shrinking their numbers in each location is not ideal. Very often we have to wait, and wait, and wait some more for a few machines to become available.
Second, it appears that many resorts disregard the importance of clean, working washers and dryers, and we often have trouble finding more than a couple of operational machines in an older park. Ironically, these are often the same campgrounds that restrict the use of clotheslines at your site. The last resort we stayed in closed both of their laundry rooms indefinitely because of drainage problems.
We’ve begun to see some resorts using a high-tech laundry card, which you have to buy for $2 or $3 and then load with cash. The equipment will only take these cards, not coins, and whatever money is left on the card is stuck there until you can use it again. “No problem,” a manager told us. “Just keep the card and you won’t have to re-buy it in the next park.” Two problems surfaced with that suggestion. By the time we got to the next park, we had lost the card (and the $2.50 still on it), and the next park’s card system wasn’t compatible anyway. This seems like another way for resorts to nickel and dime their customers.
The primary reasons people use public laundromats are that they can’t afford to buy or repair laundry equipment in their house or apartment, they are homeless or they are traveling. The first two causes dictate that facilities be located in poorer sections of a city where many of their customers live, often in or near rundown neighborhoods with vagrants and gangs in the vicinity. Though we have used laundromats that were located in nicer areas and were very well maintained, these are the small minority of laundry storefronts we’ve been forced to use.
An example of this was experienced recently when the closest facility to our campground was 16 miles away in Chula Vista, CA. There are extremely modern and pleasant sections of this city and we were hoping to find a laundromat on that side of town. Instead, options were ten miles further away in a much older suburb. The parking lot of first location we tried was full, with nearly 50 cars parked in tiny spaces, so we had to move to our second choice. This had only two parked vehicles, one of which was a rusted white van blaring profanity-laced rap music. There was a reason for its lesser popularity. By the time we were finished, after sharing a broken row of seats with a transient who was passed out and wafting of hard alcohol, we wondered if our clothing was cleaner or worse off after using their equipment.
Doing laundry is a necessary evil that full-time RV’ers must endure. I envy those larger RV’s that have full washer/dryer setups. They rarely have to deal with some of these issues that can ruin your week, or worse.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.