Monday, January 18, 2016

Loo Chronicles

A quick thank you to those who have checked in on me. All is well, but we are trying to wrap up a couple of our last big house projects so that hopefully this year isn't as painful as last year was with renovations. I haven't disappeared, but need some time to get through these projects that are always more time consuming than we initially think they will be. Our home is honestly not that large, but the detail that has gone into many areas has been something that has sucked the life (and days) out of us.

Our latest renovation is the bathroom. It is the only bathroom in the house and we had to completely tear it apart in order to get it into reasonable shape. We've lived with it half deconstructed for the last year, so it was time to just take a deep breath and realize at some point we would be living without a loo. One day just recently we kept tearing it apart and before we knew it, all that was left were the walls (and even those weren't in fantastic shape).

I don't know that I have ever completely had the appreciation I have today for indoor plumbing. I have often taken for granted having a warm shower and facilities to use on a whim. Other than my homeless days so many years ago, I have never gone without having access at any point during the day to a bathroom. I realize that Americans tend to bathe far more frequently than some other places around the globe, but even setting that aside, the lack of a toilet is a bit disconcerting.

Even when camping, I don't believe that I have ever slept in a location that did not, at minimum, have some sort of portable toilet. As a child, when we'd go camping we had facilities inside the camper, and as I started to camp in tents on my own a little later on in life, I'd always choose locations that had some type of facilities within a reasonable walking distance of the camp spot.

We had considered renting a porta-potty for this current project, but the cost and necessary pre-planning for delivery was not necessarily to our liking. Additionally, we struggled with where exactly to plant this big contraption that would be both convenient for us, but not have passers-by using it on a whim (I had visions of needing use early in the morning and walking in on some unsuspecting individual). Ultimately, we ended up with a camping device that is both inexpensive and ingenious. As for showers, thankfully our gym has several stalls and they are open 24 hours, so we're getting through. Things could be far worse, certainly.
*Image found here
This entire project has had me thinking more about touring on a bike though. I have a far more accurate picture, I believe, of using the side of the road more than I thought I likely would need to on a trip of any length. It's those seemingly little things that I tend to leave out of my mental planning process.

More than likely, there would be establishments with usable facilities over the course of a trip, but there are also a lot of lonely roads with very little available. In a motorized vehicle, 50mi/80km may not seem like the end of the world, but when pedaling that same distance, it is highly unlikely that I'd be able to "just hold it" until I arrived at a destination.

These are just the little things that pop into my mind as we lay tile, paint, and work at getting back to a functional bathroom. I am a little amazed that this thought never occurred to me prior to this renovation. Have you made plans for something and forgot to plan for or think about an important aspect of your original idea? Would love to know how you managed or how you adapted along the way.


  1. You're gonna love this one! When my boyfriend (now husband) and I set out to cross the US by bike in 1984, I initially sought out gas stations to take care of business. Of course, my experienced boyfriend used to shake his head at me. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to discover that woods are readily accessible and far cleaner.

    1. I do love it, Annie! :) I can understand wanting to wait for gas stations. I think it's something we're used to doing here in the US when we're on trips. Even when riding longer rides I find myself waiting for an area that has a fast food location or a gas station to take care of business, despite the fact that there are often perfectly acceptable places that I could've stopped along the way on the side of the road. I know I'm going to have to get over this (and I think living without facilities at home right now is helping this transition).

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Glad to see you're back! You will probably cope better than you think w/o facilities on the road, as long as you have privacy and decent trees or shrubs around. As Annie pointed out, the woods are far, far cleaner than your average petrol station loo. Are you managing to get out on your bikes much this winter? I am commuting more or less as usual unless there is frost around, but haven't been on a PROPER long ride for ages. Too much rain, too many puddles, the park has turned to mush! This is NOT GOOD :( can't wait for spring!

    1. We had a lot of snow this season, Stephanie. We're just now starting to have it melt off because we've had a break from the snow for a bit, so I'm hoping to ride this week. Thus far, riding hasn't really been happening in the new year, but I'm looking forward to riding soon. Glad that you've been able to stay active on two wheels! :)

  3. I got over my "need" for indoor facilities when my spouse and I started doing more serious high-desert hiking about 12 years ago. You absolutely have to stay hydrated out there, and there are absolutely no bathrooms available! And, yes, the outdoors are definitely cleaner than your average public bathroom. For me, privacy is the key. I always have my spouse keep watch on the road in case an unexpected visitor approaches while I'm, ahem, taking care of business.

    Also, if you feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear more about your homeless days.

    1. I agree that privacy is really my biggest concern. I don't mind going outside, but it's more the exposure that's a little off-putting to me, I think. I'm sure it will work itself out when the time comes though. I have a friend who sent me a link to a skirt that's being manufactured with a trap door in the skirt for such moments when out in the "wild." Something about it seemed a bit disturbing, but I can see how it would be functional.

      As for my homeless days, it's not a horribly exciting tale. I suppose for some people, using the term "homeless" may not be entirely accurate either because I lived in my old car, so technically I had a place to live, so I wasn't entirely without a place to sleep like some are. The short version of the story is that I left home to move to Los Angeles with the idea that I would transfer my employment and would be living with a newly met friend. When I got to L.A., the friend didn't want me living with him and my job was only providing me 5-10 hours a week of work (I was working as a waitress at the time, with the hope of getting in to school to finish my degree). I was having trouble finding someone to hire me anywhere else because I didn't have a phone (or an address). I also didn't get in to school.

      Originally, I was going to stay at a hostel on the beach, but at $10/night, I just couldn't afford it. In fact, I was just sharing with Sam the other day that I remember eating once a day just to save money and Burger King Whoppers were often the choice of meal because they were only 99 cents at the time. So, I would get one, have them put as many vegetables as they would on it and I'd drink water.

      Eventually, I got another job (to this day, I have no idea how that happened because most employers found it odd that I had no address or phone number). My job was in the heart of Beverly Hills and my employer didn't pay for parking, so I had to park on the street and move my car every 2 hours. One day, one of my coworkers saw all of my clothes in the back of my car and pushed for more info. She was highly upset that I'd been living in my car, and even more so when she found out how long this had been going on. I explained that I was having difficulty getting enough money together for a deposit and rent when she offered to rent me a room in her home. At that point, I had spent about 8 months living in my car.

      Honestly, I look back on it now fondly. Things were very simple and the world seemed exciting (I know that sounds odd, but there was something thrilling about not knowing what might happen). There were days when I was terrified, when I'd cry and wonder how I'd ended up in such a mess, but most of the time I viewed every day as an adventure and an opportunity to see what could happen. I still have journals that I wrote during that time. I think because I had very little, my concerns were far fewer. If I had enough money to put gas in the car to get to work, I was content. Plus, I got to basically sleep on the beach, which was pretty incredible.

      I feel fortunate that I had something to sleep in. I recall seeing a man who slept on a cardboard sheet several times and I'd always tell myself things could be worse. I don't believe I suffered in any way that many truly homeless people do/have.

      I will note also that right after I started renting a room from my coworker, my car was totaled by a drunk driver (I wasn't in it; it was parked on the street one night). I am grateful to this day that I had a place to sleep by that point in time. I'm not sure what I would've done had I still been in the car.

  4. "Homeless" is precisely accurate for what you describe, and I'm so grateful that you shared this. I think it is very important to hear stories like this because most people imagine homelessness and something that could never happen to "someone like me." They imagine it as something that is only for the mentally ill or the substance abusing veteran. That image makes it easier to avert our eyes, avoid empathy, and side-step the hard work that needs to be done to address homelessness.

    I'm fairly passionate about this. For about eight years now I've been volunteering with a "More than a Meal" program that provides a nice, sit-down style meal for anyone who needs one. It's held on Thursday evenings. We have lots of homeless and what I call "marginally housed" participants. I lead the worship service (which is completely voluntary and NOT a "repent or else" kind of thing) before the meal. (It occurs to me now that I've probably never mentioned before that I'm clergy. Sorry if that freaks anyone out a little.) Anyway, lots of our homeless folks do suffer serious mental illnesses, some of them self-medicate with whatever substances are available to them; many of the marginally housed are veterans and so forth. But we also have families paying weekly to stay in roadside motels. They take all of their stuff with them when they leave in the mornings so that it doesn't get stolen or in case they can't afford to pay for the next day. We have a fair number of teens who were thrown out of their homes when they came out as LGBT. In other words, we've got a whole lot of people from all kinds of different backgrounds who just can't catch a break.

    Well, I've rambled on long enough. I feel like I should make a bike related comment :) Let's see....Oh yes, many of our participants use bicycles to get around. Bikes are fantastic resources for the homeless! Now I'm going to post this comment and then, I'm sure, immediately regret doing so. Thanks, again, for sharing your story.

    1. I am not personally freaked by clergy people, at least as a rule, so no harm here. Perhaps I should watch the intermittent cursing on the blog though. ;)

      There are a lot of stories I could tell from my relatively short stint without a home. I think it was a time that made me very aware of both the positives and negatives taking place around me. I feel entirely fortunate that I had the opportunities available to not continue to live in a car. I have moments when I think about how if one little thing had gone in a different way perhaps I'd never have been homeless at all, or how it could've gone on much longer. I try to remember this when I see others who are attempting to get on their feet as well. It's easy to forget when the situation becomes so far removed.

      A friend and I were having coffee several weeks ago and she volunteers at a local shelter. A young girl (about 17) came by and was chatting with my friend. Later I learned that the young girl has been homeless for some time now (which is how my friend knows her). I admit I had a moment of tears because I was caught for a few minutes in my own memories. It can be difficult when it feels like I cannot help everyone, but I have to remind myself that even if I cannot help everyone, I can help a few -- and it doesn't mean I shouldn't do anything.

      I don't know if you or anyone else saw it, but Grant of Rivendell recently did a post about trying to give things away to the San Francisco area homeless and the response he received from a local advocate was rather startling to me. I'm glad that he got some follow up from others who assured him that giving things that were useful directly to the individual was not the horrible thing it was alluded to be by this representative.

      By the way, you don't have to relate any comment to bicycles. It may be something we all have in common when we arrive here, but I am perfectly happy to talk about other areas of interest as well. But, you are correct... there are many homeless who are on bikes... which could be a topic all its own.

    2. About occasional cursing: Ha! My day job is as a college professor, so I'm pretty well acquainted with just about anything you can come up with. Plus, I volunteer at a bike co-op and often find that the various fiddly bits of a bike will only cooperate if you swear at them loudly, so I can also produce a pretty good stream of colorful language myself. ;)

    3. Ha! So true. I actually have an acquaintance who is a pastor and the first time she said "$#!t," I almost lost it. I had never heard a preacher curse prior to that so I was a little beside myself. (giggle) It helped me realize that she is, like the rest of us, actually human... and yes, sometimes the colorful language is all that will do. :)

    4. Not freaked out at all ... and it is so cool to see clergy on bikes! One of the local vicars here rides a bike too, I bump into him fairly often in the park and I always think the bike makes him seem more accessible somehow. I greatly admire your work with the homeless. There is an elderly homeless person near where I work, and it is clear that he suffers from some kind of mental illness or disability. It is bitterly cold now and I often give him money just because no old person should have to live and beg in the streets ... It is not right! However, every time I wonder whether he will just spend it on drink and think perhaps I should buy him food instead. The local charities here always say homeless people should not be given money. I worry that giving him food might come across as patronising though ... It is so hard to know what the best thing to do is sometimes. There are plenty of places in london where such people can get food and even a bed for the night, but this guy looks so frail and mentally weak I doubt he could get himself there. Anyway, it is great that you offer friendship and food and prayer to people down on their luck. It really could happen to anyone, most of us would be in a real fix if we lost our jobs.

    5. I don't think there are clearly right or wrong answers here. I usually do not give money to individuals, but it is always a judgment call. One thing you can do is simply ask him what he needs. He might want food or a coat. I had one friend ask an unsheltered person he knew and the answer was "I really need a haircut," so we walked down to the nearest barber and paid for the guy's haircut. You never know.


Word verification is on, but I've turned off the moderation portion in an attempt to make it easier for you to know that your comment has indeed made it through. We'll see how this goes, but I'm hopeful that this will help out and I'll try my best to weed through and remove spammers comments. Additionally, I recommend copying comments before hitting publish as the "blogger comment eater" seems to continue his snacking.