Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pillows - How To Get A Better Nights Sleep In Your RV

My Nest

    As much as I love traveling, one of the best things about having an RV is the ability to sleep in your own bed with your own pillow(s) at night. Pillow's are as individual as people. They almost have personalities of their own. Now wait a minute..I'm not kidding. Haven't you had a favorite pillow that you just didn't want to give up because it was perfect?  Finding the right one is often a long process with lots of trial & error. I'm no stranger to that route! Which pillow will you choose?

In this day and age there are a huge array of pillow types. It isn't just feather down any more! There's memory foam, regular foam, chunks of foam, polyester loft, cool side specials, buckwheat, plastic tubes, and every imaginable type of feather even "hypoallergenic" ones. Then there's the "firmness," these run from soft and squishy all the way up to rock firm. Hmm, wonder why no one makes a rock filled pillow? I'm KIDDING! I know why they don't. It would hurt. Or at the very least give you one helluva stiff neck! All that aside, they did use Jade pillows in dynastic China. They were supposed to alleviate various ills and transfer energy into the brain. I guess the "dent" in your head in the morning was proof it worked. D'OH!

To pick a pillow you first have to decide on the "feel." Do you want your head to sink deep into it or float on top? In the United States there are mostly only two sizes; Standard/Queen and King. The main difference is the size. You'll need King sized pillow cases for the larger ones and sometimes they are harder to find. My bed's not that big, so I use the standard sized ones. I find that the pillows with a zippered case can be annoying. I've woken up in the morning with an imprint of a zipper on my cheek! If you like a pillow and it has a zipper, do yourself a favor and make sure you can put it on the inside of the pillowcase. That's the side that's sewn closed. I know how difficult it is to pick a pillow based on the quick "hand squeeze" we get at most stores. The plastic doesn't let you feel the actual surface and the air cushion from the bag can lead you to believe the pillow is something it isn't.

Choose Wisely! -Pillows are NOT returnable at most places. I mean who wants to by a used pillow? Who knows where it's been. Not my cup a tea at all!

Memory Foam Pillow
Since I sleep differently almost all the time. I'm the guy that cannot sleep on airplanes. I wish I could fall asleep anyplace at any time. I have friends like that. Makes for REALLY boring car rides or even quieter RV trips! What I did was buy multiple types. Is this article making you sleepy???

 I have 3 pillows on my bed in the RV.

Side Sleeper Pillow
  1.  "Squishy" very dense one I can fold
  2. High loft, high density one that supports my head. This one has gussets for "side sleepers"
  3. Visco-elastic memory foam one. NOT the "wavy" one, a regular pillow version (About $12)

This way I can choose my weapons for my mood or sleep pattern. Sometimes I switch in mid-sleep. Hey, normal isn't my thing...OK?

There is nothing quite like boondocking in the middle of nowhere and getting a quiet nights sleep, makes all the troubles in the world seem so far away. Somehow, I always sleep better in my RV.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coffee - How To Make The Best Cup While Traveling

Fully Equipped Galley With Coffee Maker! Whether it's for a morning "jolt" to get the day started or as a mid-day "pick me up, " coffee is a good thing! There are many ways to prepare coffee, less ways to prepare good coffee and just about as many opinions on which is best. To give you an idea where I stand, one of the MUST HAVES for my ideal RV was some kind of coffee maker (or two.)  On the road it can be a challenge to make a good cup (or pot) of coffee. There are easy ways to brew some and more complex ways, we'll take a look at a few of the more mainstream methods.

What's In Coffee?

Let's start with the basics. What makes a good cup good? I believe it's the water that begins the perfect cup. The more impurities in it, the lousier the coffee. Clean, filtered or even bottled water will be fine. Yes, I know there are REAL coffee fanatics that will argue the mineral content and mix will affect flavor, but that's WAY outside the scope of this article! Next is the coffee itself. It's always best to start with beans rather than ground coffee, since the flavors in coffee will begin to oxidize (lose/change flavor) as soon as it is ground. You can even find drip coffee makers that will grind your beans for you! Or simply use a small grinder (about $15) As a bonus, you can use this to grind spices and other small foodstuffs as well. If you want to use ground coffee, do yourself a favor and find a way to seal it into a container and pump out as much air as you can. This will keep it fresher, longer. The ratio of coffee to water is critical, but based upon personal preference rather than science. As is the choice of your coffee.

My Electric Under Cabinet Drip Maker
First of the brewing methods is the electric "drip" coffee maker. This is the most basic and usually the least expensive method. A current 10-12 cup unit can cost as little at $15 at the local mega-mart. While these will make a decent pot of coffee if you measure carefully, they aren't the best. They are, usually, the fastest. If your schedule or your brain says, "NEED COFFEE NOW!" than this is the easiest route. Bear in mind you will need 120V power to use it. Whether a generator, shore power, or inverter with a decent sized battery bank.  It will require some serious short-term Amps. This makes an OK cup of coffee, a bit on the weak side and is pretty wasteful of the coffee itself. They even make a version of the drip coffee maker that's PROPANE powered. When you're in a hurry, though, it cannot be beat.

Let's take a quick sidestep. When I use my large 12 cup coffee maker (when I have the power to spare) in the summer, I'll usually make a pitcher of ICED COFFEE with the remainder. Nothing beats iced coffee in the summer months!

4 Cup Aluminum perk Pot
Next up is the tried and true, old fashioned "Perk Pot." This was originally designed to brew coffee over an open flame, so will work with almost any high heat source. Your propane stove-top is particularly good at evenly heating the pot. This method boils water into steam and circulates it through a basket of coffee at the top of the pot. There is a small glass "Percolator" at the top where you can watch the color and strength of your brew. In my humble opinion this method really smells the best. I love the smell of coffee in the morning!

Basic French Press

Some folks say the absolute best flavor from coffee can be had from a "French Press." This device takes a coffee and water solution after it has sit for a few minutes and slowly strains out the coffee by pressing it down with a plunger. The spent coffee ends up at the bottom, locked away by the plunger and you pour off the brew from the top. It does work. You WILL end up with some grounds in your cup AND you have to boil the water before you can use it. It's a bit fussy to use, especially for me in the morning, but it does make a rich flavorful cup. Afterwards you have to disassemble it and clean up. Since there is no filter the grounds have to be rinsed away. If I have lots of time, I would use one. Not often, but sometimes.

Typical Pre-Measured Coffee Maker
What about pre-measured "K-Cup" style? This could also be "Nespresso" or "Tassimo" pre-measured style. While you can get a pretty good cup of coffee with these, the power requirements usually rule them out except on shore power. They ARE convenient and you can get a variety of different beverages including many coffees, hot chocolates and even tea! I have a friend that uses one on an inverter for multiple cups. He's got 2 house batteries and about 500 watts of solar panels. If his batteries are low, he fires up the generator. For him, it's more of a convenience factor. The coffee itself can be a bit pricey per cup. Figure around 70 cents or more. And you have to deal with the plastic trash. The machines come in various colors to match your decor! I use them at home.....

Instant coffee. Bleh. I put that right up there with non-dairy creamer! I guess if I was backpacking and could only take a tiny amount of stuff...maybe. Now that I think about it....nope. Not even then!

There are many other ways to make coffee in an RV, I have a Vacuum pot in my office that is pretty cool to watch, but really isn't practical for an RV

You could always just buy a cup at the local convenience store/gas station/coffee shop, but what's the fun in that?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cleaner water Is healthier. How to choosing A water filter

My Galley
    Let's face it, bottled water is expensive! The average one liter bottle of water is around a dollar. Figure around four liters to a gallon and you're paying more for water than for gas/diesel (at least most of the time!)

My RV has a 42 gallon fresh water tank that I should be using for drinking water, but I don't. It's a 1991 so I really have no idea what's been in it all along. I could (and did) sanitize it with diluted bleach solution and flushed the tank . . . but that's still not enough! Look, I know NASA uses recycled urine in their water supply, but I don't have the necessary machinery nor the space. What now? How about a high quality drinking water filtration system in addition to the one I use when filling my fresh water tank? Let's look at that.

Typical Filter
One of the least expensive filters, available almost everywhere including Walmart and is made by Camco and does a decent job of filtering incoming water from your hose. Whether that's at home or on the road. According to the literature it filters out almost everything. Sediment, Chlorine, Odors, and even Metals. but doesn't work on Cryptosporidia and Giardia. There is a relatively inexpensive filter that will work on those, but it doesn't flow enough to fill a reasonably sized fresh water tank fast enough. This one can be used under the sink and either plumbed in to your faucet directly, or better yet, plumbed into its' own smaller secondary drinking water spigot. That's the direction I am leaning toward. I have some room under my sink(!) and the install should be pretty straightforward.

Typical Kit
The idea is to tap into the pipe that feeds water to the kitchen sink. You could place it anywhere you have access to a fresh water pipe, but the kitchen sink seems the most convenient to me. Think cooking and drinking... To properly filter out the the bad stuff a 1 Micron or smaller filter element must be used. Since we will be filtering the water as the fresh water tank is filled with a larger (>1 micron) filter most of the sediment and other impurities will already have been removed so this filter should last quite a long time.

Most kits will come with some kind of a valve with a tap for the fresh water line. Some of them include self tapping connectors. These do work, but be careful as vibration from the road may cause them to loosen and ultimately leak. If you've ever installed a self tapping home refrigerator ice maker line you'll understand why these are "iffy."

Sinks, Facuet and Sprayer 
The faucet/spigot assembly is quite small and you can either drill a hole for it to be installed into or do what I am doing and switch to a sprayer/faucet. This is the kind that you pull the faucet out and it becomes the sprayer. Some RVs already have these installed. When mine is converted I will have no need for the existing separate sprayer, so I can re-use that hole to install the new filtered fresh water faucet/spigot. I figure that it will be most useful to have it positioned near where I cook so it would be easy to use.

Being mildly paranoid regarding your water supply is a GOOD thing. Even after installation of this kit I'm still wary....

All in all this is an easy modification/upgrade to get done, and not all that expensive. The parts are easily sourced online or at your local Big Box Home Stores. Try it, you'll like it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rolling Resistance - Time For Tires!

    Tires. If your RV moves, you need them. I didn't give much thought to my tires when I bought the Aero Cruiser. They were from a warm climate. Stored with tire covers and looked great. Still do in fact. I knew I would need to buy them at some point and I knew that tires can have many things go wrong inside over time that WILL NOT show on the outside of the tire. It's not only about environmental conditions and driving style/speed. There are many factors that can reduce a tire's life-span.

After a little bit of research, I found that every tire has a date code stamped on it. If your tire was manufactured after 2000 it will have a four digit code molded into the sidewall rubber. The first 2 digits are the week it was produced in the year. (06 would be February) and 2 digits denoting the year. (11 would be 2011.) If your tire was manufactured previous to 2000 then the date code will only have 3 digits. 2 for the week and ONE for the year. Mine were made in 1999!!

Aero Cruiser Wheel Well Destroyed
Old tires aren't worth the stress and possible disaster. Another Aero Cruiser owner had a rear tire disintegrate while driving. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the damage to the RV was significant. The tire chunks ripped through the fiberglass wheel well through a support and destroyed quite a bit of the interior. This could have been MUCH worse. I am not trying to scare anyone, but with the cost of most tires, it's not much of a cost savings to put it off buying until a failure. The repair to this RV will get into the thousands very quickly.

Looks Can Be Deceiving!
Check your tires! Low or high pressure, condition and age all can contribute to early failures. Yes, I know that tires can go past the 7 year limit imposed by the manufacturer. You'll probably be OK. I mean I'm riding on almost 13 year old tires now. That being said, I WILL be replacing them in the spring before I take any trips at all. My tires aren't that expensive or too hard to find. They are LT235/85 R16 - 10 Ply Load Range "E". That translates to a "Light Truck" tire. I will likely buy whatever model came after the ones I have now from the same manufacturer. The most important thing is to make sure the tire you buy has at least the same load range as the one your RV manufacturer calls for.

Size And Ply Rating
Load range is what specifies how much weight and individual tire will carry at a given pressure (PSI.) It's a good idea to have your RV weighed at a location that can give you all four corners separately. Make sure you load all you gear and fill the water tank. You can go further and check the weight when you are at half tanks. Often that will change the weight distribution based upon where the tanks actually are mounted in your chassis. These weights will give a true indication of the load/weight that each tire is required to carry. You may find you are overweight...this is bad as it puts additional stress on the tires that could lead to a failure. Not to mention odd handling quirks.

The bottom line? Get the correct load range tire for your RV!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"