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"

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"

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"