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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Even The Simple Things - The Joys Of Simple Green Cleaner

It's Cold In Here, But Getting Cleaner!
    Last week I began to "get a jump" on cleaning the RV for next season. Since I despise cleaning so much, I figured it would be easier to do it in tiny stages so there wouldn't be a marathon cleaning event before my first trip in the Spring. This week, I began cleaning all the surfaces that don't get too much attention during the rest of the year. You know the ones I'm talking about, the fridge doors and handles, the area around the sink faucets, behind the toilet and a whole lot of others. You could use a bunch of different cleaning products for each one, but since I am storage "challenged," I wanted one that could do it all and take up very little space. Does that even exist? It sure does. While there are quite a few of these cleaners available, I prefer Simple Green...

Here Is The Tiny Bottle Of Concentrate
First off, I like the name. It has the word "Simple" right in it. Green...well..I don't know how I feel about that. It can be purchased as a ready to use liquid or in my case and preference, a concentrate that is mixed with water (in various concentrations) to use. I really like multi-pupose items for the RV. They take up less space and can be used for a multitude of purposes so you don't have to remember what to use for a particular job. I would list them (and their concentrations) here, but it would be a VERY long list. [Take a look at: http://simplegreen.com/industrial/cleaning-uses/ for ideas] I've used it on everything from engine degreasing to plastic surface cleaning. It works on windows (150:1 with water!) and on carpets as a spot cleaner (test on a non-conspicuous area first! 1:1) AND it's biodegradable.

Yes, I say this a lot, but if I can simplify my life, especially when cleaning comes into play, I will do it without hesitation. This stuff works. I know there are a few other "famous" cleaners out there that are similar. Some are even available at dollar stores very cheaply. That being said, I have been using this stuff for many years. I first came across it when trying to detail some cars and needed something stronger to get the wheels clean. It worked pretty well on that. Then I read an article about the other uses and never went back! Just get a spray bottle and pre-mix what you use. Use a bucket for bigger jobs. Easy.

Try it out....it works. It really does. Oh, and by the way. I do not receive any compensation from ANY of the products or services contained in the articles I write. (OK, so I've only been asked once to review a product and since I never received the item, I didn't write that article) I will tell you if I try something and it DOESN'T work...I promise!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Editor: Here's the Amazon link for Simple Green products. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Even The Simple Things - Stainless Steel Sink Easy Cleaning

   Since it's so cold outside and the RV is, essentially, not going anywhere soon, I've decided to do some additional pre-season cleaning. I mean, the heat works great, why not use it! This time I was going to get stuck cleaning, in this case, my lavatory sink. It's a nice stainless steel one, but it had lots of stuff stuck to it -- mostly toothpaste, shaving cream, soap scum and general dirt from hand washing and the like. I don't like to use harsh cleansers in the RV as they end up in the pipes and tanks, so how can you get it clean without resorting to using them anyway? Read on!

White vinegar has been used for cleaning (and about a million other things) for hundreds of years. It works on many levels, disinfectant, natural cleanser, and it will not harm your plastic water pipes. In addition, I have found that it can do some real good removing soap scum and residue from the inside of your tanks. Now here is a neat trick. Take some baking soda and use it on a damp sponge to clean the sink THEN wash/rinse with white vinegar. It will fizz and crackle a bit. That's OK. Now rinse down with fresh water and wipe it dry. Voila! Completely clean. Next time I clean, I will tackle the stainless steel double basin kitchen sink.

For an extra special gleam use a very small amount of flour on your sponge and polish the stainless steel. Wipe it away with a damp soft cloth and you will be amazed at the shine! NEVER use steel wool to clean your sink! It will leave behind scratches and iron bits that will rust and discolor your sink. I try and wipe out the sink with a damp washcloth after each use, but I'm pretty sure I do a miserable job. It's either early in the morning, usually pre-coffee, or late at night and I'm already sleepy. OK...perhaps I'm a bit lazy as well...


Anything I can do to make cleaning anything at all less work (or no work at all!) is a good thing in my book. I'm going to look into white vinegar as an all-purpose liquid some more. I'll bet there are lots of things it can be used for that I don't know about.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gray Days, Winter Looms - Now What?

Sad, Huh?
    To be an RV'er in the Northeast when it's Winter is a real bummer. Some of you reading this get to laugh at my predicament, but others share my pain. Last night, we got a small-ish 6-inch accumulation of snow. My RV, which of course I haven't gotten around to covering yet, was completely covered in snow. Sad, very sad. Thankfully, as I sit and write this, the snow is almost completely melted and gone. More is forecast, of course, but for now, all is good. Been 26 degrees overnight the last few nights without any respite in sight. I can only dream of my first spring trip. Over the last few years, I have written quite a few articles about RV's and winter blues. There was even the one where I lived in my comfortable heated RV for a bit during a fierce storm. Mostly, I plan during the winter.

Even Sadder, Huh?
Whether it's modifications or improvement projects or just researching cool places to go...there is always something I can do to keep me in the "RV mood." My window shows me a great view of my parked RV. I find myself staring at it sometimes, wondering what the next season will bring. It's always a bit depressing to see it covered in snow, through that same window. At least I had it covered that time (unlike last week!). Lots of folks have differing opinions on covering their RVs. I Like to cover it when the weather gets really nasty to keep the snow and ice from getting on the roof. I'll get over it! I've had some of my best ideas staring out that window at the RV.

So now what? Let the weather get you down or get positive and plan for further adventures. I will go with the latter. Heck, I'll do one better. I'll ask you, the reader, to make suggestions for projects, improvements, repairs, new gadgets and gizmos and trip planning. If you want to try it...but want someone else to look at it first or figure out how to make it happen, all you need to do is ask! Yes, that's right...jot down your favorite ideas for projects (all seasons, winter, spring, summer or fall) and send them to me via the comments below. I'll get right on them and we'll see what develops.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mystery Switches in RV - Just What Do They Do?

    I was in my RV the other day to check that everything was OK. Storing it for the winter doesn't mean nothing can go wrong! I check for water leaks, critter intrusion and mechanical/electrical issues about once every two weeks. It's also a good idea to check your battery water levels and top up if needed with distilled water (especially if you are leaving them charging over the winter!). During my walk around inside I noticed the "odd" switch by the bathroom vanity sink. When I first bought my RV, I had NO idea what it did. Well, after almost a year..I figured it out....luckily!

See The Red Switch On The Left?
Turns out it was wired to turn on the outside light on the outside wall of the RV, opposite from the passenger side and the main door. It sits just above the access door for the water heater and close by the dump valves and connections. Good place for a light, but when I purchased the RV, it didn't work. Well, the switch on the light itself wouldn't turn it on....even replacing the bulb didn't help. You probably can guess where this is going. I had flipped the switch on the light a few times (it must have been in the off position initially) and then at some point flipped the switch by the vanity. The next evening I had stopped for gas and got out of the RV by the driver's side door. Lo and Behold, the light was on! Had likely been on since the day before! You really can't see its illumination from inside the RV because of my thermal covers so I had no idea it was on.

The Light Is Just Under And To The Left Of The Window
Well, I flipped the switch on the light itself and it turned off. At that point I was happy it was working (it's a good place for a light!). When I got back from the trip I looked into it a bit further. If I looked into the dark recesses of the vanity sink cabinet I could see the wires running from the "mystery" switch to the back of the outside light! Aha! One of the wires had come lose from its taped- up junction. Upon closer inspection I realized the switch was lighted and that disconnected wire controlled power to light up the switch! Aha, again! The idea was the switch outside was left on and the switch inside used to turn on the outside light when needed. The switch itself would light up to let you know it was on. Good idea.

But why put it in the vanity cabinet? I suppose it was the easiest place to do the wiring.....hey, at least I figured out what the switch actually did! I'll bet you all have some mystery switches too....Come to think of it...the one above the driver's seat was a mystery too....but that one I figured out!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

USB Thumb Drives, Hard Drives and SD Memory Cards - Oh My!

Primary TV..Way Up Front
    Last week I wrote a story about deciding which type of "television" to stick with while I travel. Satellite, broadcast, or internet streaming. While I am still deciding on that question, I remembered that with my existing system, I can still watch video files that I download online. There are lots of legal sources for this kind of thing...pick your favorite. Once downloaded and transferred to some kind of storage device that is compatible with your video player, all you have to do is click "play." I used to limit myself to smaller, low resolution files because the memory devices were expensive, but not any more. Well not really anyway. You can get HUGE storage (yes, I know that today's HUGE is tomorrow's TINY), whether it be an SD memory card a USB "thumb" drive or even a small USB external hard drive. The costs are low enough that you can take MANY video files with you. Heck, if you have a home computer and own a bunch of DVDs you can even turn them into files and take along whole TV shows! Really?

MY USB External 1 Tb Hard Drive
When a Terabyte USB external hard drive that doesn't need a separate power supply is only $49.99 and it will store lots of movies and TV shows...what are you waiting for! Figure around 1 Gigabyte (Gb) per movie, which is pretty large. At HD (1080) resolution you can store hundreds of films and many, many TV episodes. Lots more if they are only 30 minutes long! I have well over 800 hours of material on my external USB drive. If you go the USB "drive" or Flash memory route, you can get versions of each that hold up to 1Tb of data. They are VERY expensive. The name brand 1Tb USB drive will likely cost 10 times (or more) what a regular spinning hard drive would cost for the same capacity. You can go smaller -- I've seen 512Gb go for as little as $90 and 256Gb going for under $50. You could always get smaller ones: 128Ggb, 64Gb, and 32Gb versions cost less and less. You could buy a whole bunch and store different content on each one. I have quite a few in various sizes.

Some Of My Assorted USB Thumb Drives
Why not have a bunch of the smaller sized USB flash drives? Well, they are REALLY easy to lose! I've lost a few over the years and sometimes replacing the data is a really long, involved pain in the you-know-what. Yes, I should have backed everything up and put it in a safe place. That's good advice...IF you follow it. I keep a 1Tb external, self-powered, USB hard drive in the cabinet with my Digital media player on board the RV. I only take it out to add or change what's stored on it. At least I can always find it when I want to watch something! Sometimes I use the smaller ones to take along a particular film(s) or something I want to show friends. They are great for that!

It comes down to personal preference. Flash drives use less power, but are usually smaller in storage size. The power usage of a 2.5" Hard drive (the kind found in laptops) is really negligible if you are only using it when the content is actually playing on your screen. I'm sticking with mine until prices on the really large flash drives drop. And they will!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Decision Time - Satellite, Broadcast TV, Internet TV, All or Something Else?

Dish Folded
    I was lucky enough to have a folding satellite dish already installed on my RV when I purchased it. After I bought a satellite receiver and connected it all up, it worked great for a while. Then the satellite company updated its receivers and mine was no longer supported. At that point, I bought an HDTV decoder to receive over-the-air- broadcasts and also had installed my digital media player system so I could watch prerecorded material on memory sticks or extermal USB drives. So, I really didn't need the satellite system. Well, I still have the dish on the roof, and I like everything to work, but have a hard decision to make.


Satellite Receiver, DVD/Blu-Ray and Extra PureSine Inverter.
You see, in order to get my satellite TV back online, I have to buy a new receiver, change the dish if I want HD programming (SD is being phased out) and buy a programming package. That's a lot of work. BUT, I will have all my "regular" channels wherever I am. I do frequently find myself boondocking where I cannot get a broadcast digital signal at all. I may be able to get one if I change out the satellite dish to an amplified broadcast antenna, but my "boomerang" antenna (even with the amplifier) won't get me a signal sometimes. I do still have all the TV and movies I have stored digitally or even on DVD, but no up to the moment news ore current events coverage. Well, unless I can get an internet signal. And...sometimes I can't.

Over The Air TV Amplifier
The question is, "Is the cost and hassle worth changing the system over to newer technology?" I'm not so sure. It may be worth more to add an amplifier so I can pull in a better cell signal and use a WiFi hot-spot to connect to the internet at higher speeds for streaming video. There are lots of ways to get live TV that way. Of course, there has to be a signal to start with, but that's another story. I do have an unlimited data plan in 4G LTE so if I can get a good signal I should be able to stream TV well enough. And that's included in my existing cell phone plan. No extra costs there except the hardware to amplify the cell signals themselves. I am looking at around $400-600 to do that properly.

It's a tough decision. While live TV is important to me, it can be replaced by better internet access. The cost up front for cell signal amplification is a bit higher than new satellite gear, but doesn't add a monthly cost. I have read lots of horror stories regarding starting and stopping satellite programming service, so that's a negative as well.

Thankfully, I have the winter to make my decisions. What do you think? In my humble opinion, the internet is a better all around deal...for now. I'm leaning that way.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Get More From Your Solar Panels - Keep Them Clean!

Right After Install
   Today, I went down to my RV to check out how everything was doing after winterizing it a few weeks ago and was VERY surprised that I was only producing a few watts of power from my solar charging system. Oh great, now what?! Well, thankfully, after taking a look on the roof it became obvious that all the panels were covered in pine needles, dirt and debris! A while back, I experienced a total failure of my original panels. It was quite a shock to see the newest ones producing so little power! Believe me, it was a relief to find out the problem was so simple. Clean your panels! Why is it so important??


Yuck!
Solar panels rely on the sun (Duh.) to make electricity to charge your batteries. If the sunlight can't get to the panel surface they don't produce squat. That's obvious. What isn't so obvious is that a small amount of dirt will make a BIG difference in your electrical production. Shade is the enemy, whether it comes from trees, poles, helicopters or dirt on your panels it's bad. Also, abrasion from dirt and debris can permanently scratch the surface finish of your panels and degrade their performance forever. Depending upon what the surface of your panels is made from (or covered with) use an appropriate cleaner. Mine are a plastic, semi-flexible material, so once washed with plain water to get rid of the "bigger stuff," I use a non-abrasive cleaner (usually a little soap in water) and a microfiber cloth to finish the cleaning. So far, works great with no scratches, abrasions or discoloration.

Cleaned Again!
Solar power can be a wonderful thing! It's quiet, unlike generators. It's free to use (though not to purchase nor install) and can really extend your time without needing to connect to shore power. As a "boondocker" I truly love my solar charging system! With just a tiny bit of maintenance, most solar panels and their associate charging systems should give you years of trouble-free service. When they work they are, essentially, invisible to the user. When they don't.....stress and angst begin. Well, at least they do when I'm involved!

Be nice to your solar panels and they will be nice to you.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Even The Simple Things - Keep Your Windows Fog Free!

Nice To Be Able To See Outside!
    I hate not being able to see out of my windshield and windows while underway. Well, even when I am camped! Recently, I was touring through my local Wal-Mart clearance aisle, as I am wont to do when I can't take my RV on a trip, and discovered the Rain-X 2-sided Defog Sponge. Wow, that's one long name for a pretty simple item. Driving when your windows are foggy can be dangerous, everyone knows that. I've noticed that the inside of my windshield had developed a thin film that distorts light, especially at night. I get a "halo" effect from things like street-lights and oncoming head lights. At first I believed my eyes were going. Well, at least until I treated the inside of the glass with this product.

It's pretty simple to use. The blue microfiber side can be used dry or with a light spray of clean water to remove the interior film and any dirt or fingerprints that are on the glass. Once they are gone and the glass is clean and DRY, use the yellow sponge side to apply the anti-fog coating. The chemical used is actually embedded in the sponge and does not require any water to be added. This is important!! When cleaning the glass don't over-saturate the blue side with too much water, it will make a mess. Use long. straight and light strokes to completely go over your windshield glass on the inside. The sponge will deform when you get to corners and the like so it should be able to get into every nook and cranny.

The Blue Side!
I then used the sponge on all my interior glass. One at a time, using the same technique that was used on the windshield. Once finished, I could see the difference in the clarity of my windows. If I get close to one and try to fog it with my breath it still gets foggy, but clears immediately. Will it work in humid weather? Seems like it will, but I will thoroughly test it when I can get into some hot, humid weather! Since the treatment is embedded in the sponge, there is no telling just how long it will last. It managed to do all my windows (and I have many large ones!) and still work. So for the $2.00 I paid...result! You could always use it as a plain cleaning sponge and microfiber cloth when the treatment chemical runs out. I also believe the company makes a spray-on defog product as well. This would be an ideal applicator.

Well, at least I know it's not time for glasses. My eyes still work. Well, they do when my windows are clean anyway!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

##RVT767

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Fine Art Of Procrastination - Now In RV Flavor!

Pre-Winter Cleaning
    I have so many projects that I want to accomplish. Of course, I have so many projects that I HAVE TO accomplish, the wants get overridden by the needs. I have the feeling that I am not the only one. Most RVers understand that you have a house that travels down the road at highway speeds and lots of things shake, rattle and roll. Invariably, stuff breaks and has to be repaired. Usually right away, since you need that particular thing to work. Like the lights or the bathroom or the shower...you understand. I know you do! This year, it's going to be different. Now that my RV is winterized, but the weather is still pretty decent (Yes, weathermen/women have NO idea what the weather will be!), I have some time to get to some of the projects I have been putting off. Well, at least that's my good intention anyway.

HID Headlight Kit
As we all know...the road to...hell is paved with good intentions. But I AM going to try and get some of these tasks completed before Old Man Winter puts a damper on any outdoor work. I've had several projects lined up that I just haven't gotten around to. You see, life seems to keep encroaching on my, so called, free time. I've had an HID headlight replacement scheduled since last year! And a remote key-fob controlled porch light retrofit for even longer. And those are the easy ones! Maybe I am beginning to understand this whole retirement thing. When you retire you get lots of time back? Well, it seems all my retired friends work more now than they did when they weren't retired! Does it ever become easier to get things done in a reasonable amount of time?

Winter, It's Coming!
I know, that's likely a rhetorical question. But it's sure nice to dream about! I'll wager that I am not the only one who has procrastination issues. "Why put off today what you can put off tomorrow?" I like to tinker and work on various projects...it just seems that lately I have had less and less "tinkering" time to play with. Now that winter is coming...I begin to think about all the projects that DIDN'T get done. I wish I had a really big and tall heated garage, so I could park my RV inside...never winterize and get to work all winter long regardless of the weather. But I don't...yet!



Who knows what could happen in the future...Maybe I could move where it's warmer year round? Naaaahhh, then I would just put off more projects so I could travel more! That's the ticket!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Do You Know When To Begin Winterizing?

    Yesterday I spent a couple of hours cleaning the RV in preparation for winterizing it for the cold weather to come. It's been getting colder recently. Especially on the overnights. Of course, it's going to be almost 80 degrees today and won't cool off again until next week or the week after. So how do you know when to begin the actual winterization process without a weather crystal ball? The short answer? You don't. Every year I go through the same conundrum, will it get below freezing for long enough at night that my water pipes will freeze and crack? You have to balance the fear and risk with the rewards. How?

Well, that's the many ten's of thousands of dollars question (could be more than that!) If you Winterize too late, you risk lots of damage and VERY expensive repair bills. If you begin too early, then you may miss out on a fantastic, late season trip. Fall foliage drives and camping is particularly beautiful. Of course, you COULD winterize and then take the trip without your shower and your bathroom, but what kind of civilized RV travel is that? I love being inside my RV when it's "brisk" outside. Sipping a coffee or other beverage with the furnace keeping things toasty. Those Fall mornings are amazing in general, but from the inside of an RV. even more so! If you use some common sense, you can prevent any kind of freeze damage from occurring in the first place. Remember, most RV's are NOT designed for very cold weather, but with a few things in mind can usually be used for three seasons (There ARE 4 season rated RV's...but mine REALLY isn't!) without any trouble at all.

I Use Compressed Air To Winterize
Contrary to popular belief, your RV water pipes won't freeze the minute the weather dips below freezing. It takes a while to cool everything down before ice crystals begin to form. If you've ever used an old fashioned ice tray, you know how long it takes to get that first batch of cubes. What you should try and figure out is how long it takes for your RV's water system to actually get below freezing and stay there long enough to cause freeze damage. I've read lots of advice to keep the water from freezing. Leave a small trickle coming out of the faucets, heat the underbelly tanks, insulate the whole underside of your RV and MANY more. They all work to some degree, but to be completely safe....I hate to say it....Winterize.


Typical RV Water Line & P-Trap Anti-freeze
Lately, the weather forecasting in my area of the North Eastern United States has been terrible. It seems that the weather  folks have about the same chance of guessing the next week's weather as our old friend the Ground Hog. (Great Trip destination BTW..Punxsutawney, PA, home of the most famous ground hog) What do you do without truly accurate forecasting. In my humble opinion, better safe than sorry. When the weather really gets below freezing for a day or two for more than 4 hours at night AND the weather during the day has been around 50 degrees or less it's time to winterize. I use compressed air to blow out most of the water from my pipes and fixtures. Then make sure you pour RV water line antifreeze down each sink and shower drain. Don't forget some on the seals of the toilet valve. This way all the water is displaced and none can freeze and break your drains or water lines. Believe me...I had my shower p-trap crack because of freezing damage...it was bad. Hard to fix and taught me a valuable lesson.

 I know it would be a pain in the...well, you know, but you could always fill up with water again if you were wrong. But imagine if you weren't and you saved yourself a lot of grief.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Keep Your Interior Clean? Is That Possible In An RV?

The Entry-way
    We all know that an RV can be parked just about anyplace. Of course I mean legally! I've been to all sorts of places over the years. Some nice and clean (like parking lots) some not so much. It seems no matter where I am camped, dust and dirt will find its way inside and end up on the carpets. Now, understand...I really don't have that much carpet, but it gets dusty and dirty nonetheless. I'll wager you have the same issue. I've written about great little 12 Volt vacuum cleaners in the past and they work great, but what about keeping the dirt out in the first place? Well, not completely out (since that's basically impossible) but to a minimum. Is that possible? Well, sort of.

Keep it out! That's the first rule of keeping dust and dirt off your carpets (well, floors and furniture too!) in your RV. I typically leave my shoes on the bottom step leading into my RV. This is the first one AFTER the retractable step. It's carpeted, but has a replaceable pad that I wash periodically. You have to remember you've left shoes on the step, though. It could get dangerous if you trip over them (don't ask me how I know this.) In inclement weather, I also cover the carpet pad with a plastic automotive carpet cover. The ones designed for rear seat floors, fits pretty nicely and are very inexpensive to boot. I also have a garbage bag tied near the door for umbrellas. Wet carpet and too little ventilation smells like...well, bad.
Typical Shoe Cleaner

Even something as simple as having a small carpet or shoe brush device on your retractable step (if it fits when retracted!) or on the ground will serve to reduce the amount of dust and dirt tracked inside your RV. When I am inside, I prefer to go barefoot. Getting pieces of whatever stuck on or IN my feet isn't compatible with my relaxation strategy. There are small sections of my wood floor that aren't covered by carpet. I try and keep these clean between trips with a floor finish product and then just sweep them gently when tying to get rid of dust and dirt. If you are good at sweeping, you can sweep it right out the door and over the retractable step!


Once dust gets in, it will end up in the strangest places. I always notice it on my stove vent. It's shiny and black, so dust is very noticeable. If it's there, it's likely settled on the furniture as well. On hard surfaces, a soft damp (not WET!) cloth will do wonders. Also those inexpensive dusters that come in a three pack, (mine are green) think of old-fashioned feather dusters, but without real feathers, work REALLY well on hard-to-get-to spots. I bought my set at a dollar store for 2 dollars. I know...why wasn't it ONE dollar?

Many people have allergies or are sensitive to dust in the air. Aside from running a powered air filter, keeping the dust down to a minimum will help a great deal. Simple steps like these will also lessen the cleaning load a lot! And everyone knows I HATE cleaning!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Make The Most Of Your Countertop Storage.

    I am always looking for clever ways to get the most out of the limited storage in my RV. So many appliances today take up so much counter space it's difficult to juggle them all. I don't have enough counter space to leave anything actually ON the counter, but if I did this little gizmo would be a great addition. It allows your appliance to slide back and forth, out of the way. If you are lucky enough to have a deep counter, this will allow you to leave all your counter-top appliances at the very back edge of the counter and slide them forward only when in use. This will free up a lot of counter real estate for other uses.

This gizmo is a bit different from other designs I have seen in the past. It does not use any ball bearings or metal in its construction. The surfaces that rub together are manufactured from a teflon like material on the surface, so it slides smoothly even with a heavy appliance on top. Because of this style of construction it's only 1/2 " tall. This is great news if you have low hanging cabinets across the back of your galley counter space. What this gizmo DOESN'T do is hold the appliance in place. I've seen quite a few newer RV's outfitted with Appliance "garages" some with sliding doors that will keep your appliances from becoming projectiles while you're driving. Obviously, it's a bad thing if your appliances get loose. Glass coffee carafes are especially nasty when they shatter.

My "Carafe Strap"
 With a couple of pieces of velcro and some screws, you can build a strap(s) to hold your appliances to the back wall when stored. Simply pull the strap open and slide out to use. Necessity is truly the mother of invention. My under cabinet mounted coffee maker had one installed and it's traveled well over 50,000 miles without any incident at all!

This little beauty is available at most large stores including wal-mart and cost only $3.00. I am 100% sure there will be other uses for this sliding tray...I just have to come up with them. I like items that are multi-tasking...


It's always best to make the most of what you have. Sage advice. Not just for counters either.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Even The Simple Things - Rollable Giant Trivet & Pot Holder

The Galley
    It is no mystery that I love to cook. Especially in the RV. There are very few things more wonderful that preparing a meal in the middle of nowhere, looking at beautiful scenery through the window while being warm (or cool!), dry and comfortable inside. I like to prepare meals but hate to clean lots of pots and pans, so I try and make all my recipes in a single skillet or pot. That concept has been working great so far. Breakfast especially! Lately, I have been trying some meals cooked in my convection oven or, in some instances, the microwave. They are still single-container meals, just in a larger, rectangular ceramic vessel instead of the round, on the stove, variety I had been using. My way cool silicone trivets are great, but I needed something larger to put these really hot dishes on. Enter the massive roll-able style trivet.

I had never seen a pot holder so huge! It's 11" x 17" and can be folded and rolled to fit in a utensil drawer section! How's THAT for ease of storage. It looks like a very oversized pot holder with a rubber/silicone side and a cloth side. There's also a small loop for hanging if you'd prefer. Once unrolled and placed on my table or counter, I can safely place any hot pot on it without issue. My largest rectangular baking dish is still much smaller than this "trivet." It's just large enough that I can use it like I would TWO pot holders. I can carry the dish to the table with it and then set it down on top without a problem.

While it's great for hot items, it is completely no slip/skid. Anything I have placed upon it stays put. I have a deli-style slicer at home, that slides all over the place when in use. I'll bet if I placed it on this it would stay where I set it AND probably be a bit quieter, since it's pretty thick material. The folds that remain from storage are a bit annoying, but if you just roll it and NOT fold it, they would vanish in a bit of time. Multi-use. I like that. And for only $3.00 at Wal-Mart. Most likely available online and at other shops too.
 

It's almost soft enough to be used as a pillow. Or maybe a small pet bed? Who knows? Maybe you'll find some other uses I haven't thought of. In any case ... it works!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When Your Friends Actually Like You - Driveway Surfing With Benefits


"My" Spot
    This past week I took another trip down to see my friends in Tennessee. They used to live quite close to me in upstate New York, but found a beautiful place to retire to, in the Blue Ridge mountains. They have almost  two hundred acres with amazing views and rolling fields. They have spent the last few years adding buildings and animals to their homestead. It's been amazing to watch the process. Two folks from the city becoming country farmers. They love it! 


When I first visited them, I traveled up a long dirt road to their gravel driveway and stayed next to a rough hewn building running on solar power and stored water. Essentially a boondocking scenario. This time was very different. In a bid to get me to come more often (well, at least I hope that's the reason!) they installed a separate 30 Amp RV power circuit right next to where I have been parking. Now those are good friends!
Don't Forget the fact that it's such a beautiful location and they are amazing people as well.  The fact is the camping is perfect. It has all the best traits of boondocking in a remote location with all the benefits of having power (and soon, water and sewer!) hookups. Plus, you get to spend quality time with your friends who actually WANT you to be there! What could be better? They have made it so incredibly easy to stay, I could be there indefinitely! I've always said, "RV'ers make the best house-guests....they bring their own house!"



Both of them have been avid outdoor folks for decades, camping, RV'ing and traveling. I enjoy being on the road, but I definitely see the draw of their new lifestyle. They've even turned their 33 foot Class A RV into a guest house! If the end of the world as we know it ever happens, this would be a great place to be. They raise chickens, goats, llamas and sheep. They grow lots of vegetables and have the most amazing pear tree in their front yard. You do have to be careful since the pears drop without warning and a pear falling from 80 feet can do a lot of damage to your head. They kindly provide construction hard-hats to their guests to prevent trauma. I'm bringing 50 pounds of pears back to New York! I'll be learning a whole bunch of new recipes that use pears! Pear tarts, Pear cake, Pear pie, pears in salad, fried pears, pear jam, pears in fruit salad...there HAS to be lots more than those! 




What's the only problem? Having to leave! I type this on the morning I am scheduled to go back to New York. I'd love to stay. They'd love for me to stay longer (at least I hope they do.) Alas, this is not to be. Perhaps when I retire. If that ever happens.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Joys Of Plastic Locking Tubs - More Organized RV Storage

    While I don't have much storage space on-board my RV, I make the most of what I have. At first, I just crammed as much as I could into each storage bay, cabinet or area. It became very obvious that that wouldn't work at all. The stuff shifted and moved while underway and I ended up with a tangled mess each time I stopped and needed something. A while back, I discovered plastic tubs. They come in all sizes and colors, with and without locking lids. Some of them have the lids permanently affixed and they simply fold open to access the contents. What could be better?

Sort Of Organized
Many of them have lids that lock down from the handles and they are very resistant to water ingress from the top. They are NOT completely water-tight, mind you, but do a great job keeping things dry. If water gets in, it's best to drain immediately and then dry the contents if you can. Simply measure your available space and find a bin or container that will fit the space. I've done pretty well sourcing them in various sizes from local Big Box stores and the odd, Wal-Mart. Sometimes you have a really odd size and they don't have what you are looking for. Online shopping can be your best friend in these instances. Put in your measurements and something should reveal itself. Just make sure to double-check the measurements of the item to what you actually need, as searches often turn up results far outside your scope.

Perfect Fit!
I lucked out filling many of the odd small spaces in my RV with various plastic bins. It added quite a bit of "miscellaneous" storage to my otherwise "storage- challenged" RV. There was a small spot next to a barrel chair and behind the step that houses my main 12 Volt electrical system (everything but the converter, inverter and solar charge controller.) It was a relatively large space, but anything left there just rolled around and ended up someplace else in the RV, usually on the floor by the bathroom door. I managed to find a bin with attached covers that fit perfectly. So well, I didn't need anything (Velcro?) to hold it down to the carpet. It's been there for years now, never moved. Best of all, it's not in the way!

All in all, organized storage is your best friend in an RV. You can find stuff when you need it (think labels!) and you can keep like stuff together. I divided things up into sections such as electrical, tools, spare parts, cords, tape & repair, TV stuff, etc. So far, works great. I really ought to put a label on the outside of each bin showing what's inside...but that's a project for another day!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What To Do When Your Solar Charging System Fails!

New Panels
    Don't Panic. I've been working on improving my original Solar Charging System for the past few years. The Current System is working very well. Lots more power, great charge times and no stress from difficult maintenance. Yay! Then Murphy strikes. On my last trip, I awoke to see I was not charging AT ALL. Nada, nothing. Bad. Very Bad. I had just replaced all the Second Generation prototype panels with brand new Third Generation panels that shouldn't have any of the vibration related problems the Second Generation ones did. Bear in mind I hadn't had ANY coffee yet, so this was a shocker. Since my panels are adhered to the roof with paralastic adhesive AND I now have six panels, this could have been a huge amount of work to remove, clean and replace...again.

Remote Solar Charge Meter
So, I first checked a few things inside. The solar charging controller, the wiring going into it from the panels, the main battery switches and even the wall and dash mounted remote meters. All was in order, no weirdness. Except, I was only seeing 12.5 Volts coming down from the panels. This was bad, very bad. Last time the voltage dropped like that, the panels were finally dying. At that point, I figured it was either a break in the duplex (2 conductor+insulating sheath) wires coming from the roof or the panels themselves. So, after making breakfast, having another cup of percolator coffee and watching the ZERO watts indication on the charging monitor I decided to make a last ditch effort to check the panels on the roof. It was VERY hot and sunny (perfect charging weather, actually) so I didn't want to spend too much time up there. Besides, I was on vacation! Grabbed my multimeter and climbed the ladder.

They LOOK Tight, But Aren't!
Once there, I opened one of the three junction boxes and set the tester to DC Volts. It indicated 17.34 Volts from the panels. Huh? If there was a break in the line and the panels were working I should see a bit more volts with no load (open circuit) If the panels were dead, I should see much less volts (12.5 like on the meter.) What was going on here??? Inside the junction boxes are several screw terminals. Each panel has a positive and negative wire coming out and there are a positive and a negative wire leading down to the charge controller. They are connected at the screw terminal (each has a ring terminal crimped/soldered on the end) and the screw tightened down to make a good electrical contact. Except in this case, they weren't! Every screw was loose. Not completely, but enough that the electricity wasn't flowing properly. Must have been the vibration from the drive there that did it.

So, after tightening them all down, I was back in business. Lots of Amps flowing into the batteries. All was well. I breathed a MAJOR sigh of relief. This could have ended far differently. Next step? Trying to come up with a more secure and vibration resistant solution for the terminals. But that's another story....

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Even The Simple Maintenance - Check Your Carbon Monoxide/Propane Detector!

Appliances Can Be Deadly
    Last week I wrote about checking to make sure your RV smoke detector (or more than one!) was working well and had fresh batteries. That was very important. One of my readers pointed out that the Propane Gas/Carbon Monoxide detector is of equal importance in making sure you are safe in your RV. Any propane (LP) gas leaks can usually be smelled before they become a problem. The mercaptan that is added to propane is a substance that gives it that bad "rotten egg" odor. It's a quick way to know if you have a leak as a very small amount stinks to high heaven. Even so, you may not notice until it's too late. Having an LP detector is an extra layer of safety. 

The same cannot be said about Carbon Monoxide. It is odorless and very deadly in small concentrations that could occur inside an RV. It is produced by all gasoline burning engines and all propane appliances. We have these in our RVs. How can we protect ourselves?

Simple. Most (if not all) RVs have a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector installed. This device will sound a loud alarm if it detects very small amounts of CO. Many of them are dual detection systems and will also detect Propane (LP) gas as well. Just like smoke detectors, it is worth taking a look at them when you inspect your RV( I like to test them every month). Some run on batteries, and those should be replaced at least once a year or more often if they are exposed to extreme cold that may shorten the life of the battery. 

In my case, the LP/CO detector is wired into the coach's main house battery system. To test it, I simply push and hold the TEST button until it sounds the alarm. You could get a small sample of CO or LP gas to test it with, but that can be difficult and possibly dangerous -- I don't recommend it. If it works, great. If not, REPLACE IT! OK, maybe there is a wiring problem or your house battery is dead. Check the battery and 12V house system. Then, if that is OK and it still won't work, REPLACE IT! It's not worth the risk.

Battery Powered Style
There are a few companies that make detectors that recommend they be replaced every 5 years. And some of those actually "chirp" when it's time to replace them. It's a bit of an expense, but why not? A little under (or over for built in) $100.00 for 5 years...that's not much money for 5 years of of service and peace of mind. Go for it! Besides, there are newer models that use a "Fuel Cell Electrochemical" sensor that is more sensitive and less prone to false alarms. Great! An upgrade with your replacement. 


How do you know if you are beginning to get poisoned by Carbon Monoxide?
 
The symptoms are similar to the flu, but without a fever. They also may include:
• Dizziness
• Vomiting
• Nausea
• Muscular twitching
• Intense headache
• Throbbing in the temples
• Weakness and sleepiness

• Inability to think coherently

If you feel any of these and don't have the flu or some other disease you are aware of, get outside immediately and breathe normally, away from your RV. If you begin to feel better, there is good chance you just saved your life. If you don't feel better, call 911 and request assistance!! The sad thing about CO poisoning is that it often happens at night, when you are asleep, whether from a heating appliance or a bad generator exhaust or something similar. You don't have a chance. You'll never know there was a problem and the results could very well be fatal. Isn't it worth around $100 to shift the odds in your favor? Better safe than dead.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com