Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Better Storage Containers

Typical RV Fridge - This One Is Mine!
    Let's face it, RV refrigerators are small. Yes, I have seen full size home-style refrigerators mounted in an RV, but that's not all that common. Since space inside is always at a premium, being efficient becomes second nature. I used to use lots of plastic storage with pop-on lids. These worked great for some items, but were complete failures at others. Then I discovered screw-on style containers. A while back they were only available in two sizes... too small and too large. OK, not really. I did use the smaller ones for items like fresh-made salsa and leftover soups and stews. They also had a problem with being in the freezer. They became brittle and the lips would break and crack.

Now they can be had in various sizes! AND they fare much better in the freezer. I'm thinking of pre-preparing soups and stews and the like and having them ready to go in the freezer! As a bonus, I could use the frozen ones to pre-cool the refrigerator before a trip!

Medium Sized Conatiner
On to the stuff... the medium sized one has been the most useful for me. I usually travel alone, and they work well for leftover storage. I use them to store items that could "slosh" around or otherwise leak out. Believe me, I've had to clean the fridge so many times after a trip! Try strapping your house refrigerator to your car and drive around for a few hours. See how many things stay put! The small ones are great for recipe ingredients that require prep like shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, corn, cilantro. You name it. When it's time to cook, simply unscrew the lid and use the contents.

Rubbermaid Makes A Version
The seal is quite good, I haven't had anything go bad or leak yet, but I wouldn't store them lid down. You never know.... The large/tall ones can be used for cooked (or uncooked) pasta. In fact, you are NOT limited to using these in a fridge. The large ones are great for storing dry goods you'd like to keep dry! Like rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. they are pretty robust, and flexible enough to stay in one piece when banged around.  You could really use your imagination with these things. I've got a Chili recipe that takes 17 hours in a slow cooker. I could portion out the remaining Chili and store and/or freeze them. Not that there's ever any left!

One of the issues with them is that they don't lock together and aren't really "stack-able," but if you use a typical spring loaded refrigerator bar (or a curtain rod!) you can stack them in a corner, put the rod in front vertically and they stay put. You could also put them all in a row at the back of the fridge or freezer and lock the bar horizontally under the lip. Works well, but uses much more space.

The main benefit to these is the screw top lid. I have never seen one come off in regular use. Unlike the messes I have cleaned up using the regular snap-on lids.

I like to find ways to make my traveling more leisurely. Anything I can do to add to the relaxed pace and nature of RV travel is a good thing. Since I really enjoy cooking (and eating!!). Simple things like this can make it all more fun and easier.

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Organize! Micro Zip Lock Bags

Boxes, Bin, And Miscellaneous.
    You know, when it's Winter and you can't really do any work outside the RV, your mind starts to wander? Well at least mine does. This week, after a bit of staring out the window at my snow draped RV, hibernating under it's cover, I had a few good ideas. Oh, and some very weird, day-dreamy ones that won't work and could probably cause the end of life as we know it. A few weeks ago I talked about using micro boxes to organize my plastic storage boxes that live in the overhead cabinets of my rig. They work quite well, but there is a lot of unused space inside them. There had to be another storage medium that would work on the leftover space. There IS! And I found them!

Evidently, many companies are now making half size zip-lock style storage bags that are perfect for small item storage in the shoe-box (or so) size plastic boxes. These are great. Not only do they fit perfectly in my storage boxes, but they stand up when opened with anything in them. You see, it really doesn't take much to make me happy! Obviously, you shouldn't put razor blades in them, but almost any item is OK. They are see through, and can support a fair amount of weight before the bottom rips out. I've been putting screws, nuts, bolts, small electronic parts, fridge and furnace ignitors and every other small replacement part that won't fit in any of the micro-boxes.

Easy to See!
I am not the most organized person in the world. I do make a valiant attempt to organize everything once in a while, but it rarely stays that way. This may help a great deal. Simply having things separated and easy to find will keep the chaos down quite a bit. You can write on these little baggies with a sharpie or similar marker, so random nuts and parts become organized by size, by use or whatever else you can think of to keep them organized so they can be easily located when you need them. They MAY even be water-tight or air-tight, but I have not put that to the test yet. I'm not sure why you'd want to store liquids IN them, but they will certainly keep items dry!

While the micro-boxes are cool, and very useful, these could be used to fill the extra space left over in almost any small plastic storage container. Since they are flexible, you can fit a few in your other boxes as well. The main issue I see, is sorting through everything I have to put like bits and pieces in order and then re-pack everything. I KNOW it will be a gigantic help. Especially on the road, where finding repair parts quickly and easily goes a long way to maintaining sanity in the face of a crisis. If I can get this all done, I'll likely regain some of the scarce storage space I have. They whole idea of "something for nothing" always intrigues me!

Well, it is Winter, so I DO have quite a bit of free time. My furnace works REALLY well, I could easily begin this process no matter how cold it is outside. The tough part is building up the momentum and the gumption to get it done. The dreary weather really doesn't help at all!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Fridge And Freezer Remote Thermometer

    Refrigerator Anxiety. Go ahead admit it, we all have it. Freezer Anxiety too. I am always a bit paranoid that my fridge and freezer aren't at the proper temperature and I am spoiling food and heading toward a dietary disaster. The little bugs that are kept at bay when items are at a low temperature, come out of hiding and start to multiply at higher temps. These critters can simply make your food taste "funny" or you may end up in gastrointestinal distress! I know that's one thing I try and avoid while on the road!! Staying in my RV bathroom for extended periods is most certainly not what I had in mind for ANY trip! What to do? Simple really. Get yourself a device to monitor the temperatures inside. I prefer the remote probe style (wired) but you could just have an accurate regular thermometer inside. Here's how to set your mind at ease and monitor your refrigerator/freezer's performance.

For my own fridge, I looked around for a small, mountable unit that had long battery life, showed both refrigerator and freezer temperatures at the same time, and could be set with an temperature alarm to warn if things were going awry.. Of course, I like to have things that blend in with my decor so I also had to find one that fit in the available space and matched some of the interior colors. It took a while to find, but I ended up with my perfect solution. Your's may be different. Look around, they aren't very expensive and there are lots of choices. Figure you'd spend between $5.00 and $25.00 dollars depending on features and style.

A few caveats. Make sure you find one that has probes that are enclosed. The one I use has a suction cup on both sensors (fridge and freezer) as well, so you can stick it to the wall of the compartment and out of the way. I prefer the wired ones, even though they have to go between the door and the seal. No extra batteries to replace in the sensors and if you route them correctly, you'll never notice the wiring.  Most of the remote thermometers allow you to set a temperature alarm. that means if the temps get too high it will let you know. How's that for some additional peace of mind?

Lot's of folks will tell you that a simple thermometer inside the fridge and freezer is a good way to go, but since I like to check when I walk by several (many!) times a day, I don't want to open the doors and lose so much cold air each time. After all, who doesn't like a cold beverage on a hot day. (Yes, I realize it's currently winter around here, but a fella can dream. Can't I?) According to the US Government (USDA) fresh food should be kept at between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and Frozen items at 0 degrees or below. Both should be plus or minus 3 degrees. They go on to explain the best way to check a fridge temperatures is by placing the thermometer in a glass of water and letting it stand for 5-8 hours and then read. OK. Maybe you could do that to check the accuracy of your digital version. I understand you want to know what the FOOD's temperatures are, NOT the air around them. Seems reasonable to me.

While we're talking about refrigerator temperatures, at the beginning of the season you should always do some basic maintenance on your fridge before departing on your first trip. It's easy and will confirm your refrigerator/freezer is working at it's most efficient. If you are going to be in areas where high temperatures are the norm, you may wish to install a supplemental exhaust fan for your refrigerator. I've been using the digital thermometer for a while now and it works great. Make me less prone to food spoilage anxiety! As an added bonus, my drinks are just like I want them Cold and delicious.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Wood And Cabinet Beautification

Wood, Wood Everywhere!
    Like most of you, I have lots of wood surfaces in my RV. A good portion of my floor, all of my cabinets and doors as well as some of the walls are either solid wood (I have NO idea what kind!) or wood paneling. Between the dust and regular use, they can get pretty dirty and dull. As everyone knows, I hate to clean! So, anything that makes that easier is alright by me. When I first bought my RV its' exterior was pretty dull and faded from oxidation of the fiberglass gel-coat. Back then folks where trying out a floor finish product called RED MAX PRO #3 with amazing results. Thinking back, I realized that the original purpose of the stuff was a floor finish! Yes, WOOD floors were on the menu. Seemed like a good fit. Especially since it's been on the outside of my RV for 3 years and still looks great.

Sadly, when I went to purchase more of the Red Max Pro #3 at a large home center store, it is no longer made. Yup. Murphy was indeed an optimist! Now what? Well, if you do some research online and dig a little deeper you find that the product was manufactured by another company that also markets the same formulation as a product called ZEP Wet Look Floor Finish. This is readily available at most home stores.

What's it do? Well, it's an acrylic floor finish that bonds to the wood (or other surface) fills in microscopic cracks and imperfections and leaves a shiny smooth surface. Truly Amazing stuff. It isn't a slippery surface feel (that would be pretty dangerous on a floor!) but it looks great. One of my cabinets had some bad wear marks on the edge and the floor by the galley/entrance-way was worn. This stiff made it look like new!
Wow! Clean AND Protected!
It's incredibly easy to apply inside the RV. Outside requires some labor to clean the oxidation on the fiberglass before you can apply, but that's another article! Inside, you simply clean the wood surfaces with a damp cloth. If it's REALLY dirty, use a wood cleaner first. Then take a soft microfiber cloth, slightly damp with the ZEP product (I use a shallow container to do this) and wipe it over the surface. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH! If it drips, smooth out the drops before it hardens!!! It takes VERY little of this stuff to make a big improvement. Be aware it will take multiple coats to be perfect. I used 5 coats on the floor and 4 coats on everything else. You do NOT need to rub or buff at all. Simply wipe it on smoothly and let dry before the next coat. The results will amaze you!

Since this is an acrylic floor finish and you're not likely to be walking on your walls or cabinet doors (well at least I wouldn't think so!)  this finish will last a LONG time. Of course you should try it on a hidden surface first if you think it may look bad or harm an existing coating. Better safe than sorry.

I'm a believer!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year (2014) - Best Wishes And Plans

Wishing For SPRING 2014!
    Happy New Year!!! Well, almost anyway. It's New Year's Eve day and I am finishing up some last minute, end of the year items at my office. It's just before Eleven A.M. and I am already itching to be out of here. It's quiet and almost deserted. Seems perfect for writing up some New Year's thoughts before I skeedaddle. This year had it's ups and downs. The failure of my old Solar Charging system's panels put a severe dent in my RV travel plans during this past summer. Hopefully, (well definitely!) that's fixed for the upcoming season. I found some pretty cool items and modifications that made life in my small class A more comfortable. I made it past my 100 Article! I've had the opportunity to share my trials and tribulations with all of you and I am grateful for the friends I've made through these short written pieces. What's on the agenda for this New year?

Let's take a look.

Locke Down For Winter
I have a list....yes it's pretty extensive and grows all the time. Seems like each time I remove something from the list, another item takes it's place. Some of the bigger projects for this year? First, will be the implementation of my Solar Thermal Hot Water System. This one got put on hold when the old Solar Panels quit working. Now that the new ones are all set, I can get back to work on heating hot water with the sun. Turning wasted furnace exhaust heat into usable, battery charging, electricity is high on the list. If this works and I can offset battery amp usage when the furnace fan is on it will significantly extend my RV'ing season. RV forced hot air furnace fans are a BIG drain on a battery bank. Especially a small two battery one like mine! Next up? Lithium Phosphate batteries as replacements for Lead Acid. I've been keeping tabs on this front for a couple of years. Prices are really starting to come down and the technology is soon going to allow direct replacement of Lead acids (even the battery physical sizes will be the same) lighter, more power storage and longer lasting. Right's simply not cost effective. But soon it may well be.

Fridge Flue Cleaning
Then there's the ongoing maintenance projects. Like any home, an RV requires some basic house-style maintenance. The main difference?  Your stick built house doesn't drive down the highway at 65 MPH! That will rattle all sorts of things. Come spring, I have a long list that I go through to prep for the season. Things like tightening all the screws that have vibrated loose over the previous season, checking rubber for dry rot and crack, and such. The better you take care of your RV the longer it will last AND give you far less trouble during your ownership. If you attend to maintenance items a bit at a time, no project becomes overwhelming. I'm all for easier....believe me!

As always, I am looking for cool projects that make RV'ing more efficient, easier or more fun! Let me know if you think of something to try and I'll attempt to put it into practice!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"