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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best And Neatest BBQ Sauce Application Device

The Best Tabletop Grill & Folding Table
    I have been applying BBQ sauce the wrong way for years! No kidding. I love the flavor BBQ sauce adds and the awesome crispy goodness, but I always make such a mess with a mop or brush that I had all but given up on it when cooking on the road. As everyone already knows, I HATE CLEANING! So BBQ sauce, especially dried on, was especially a pain in the...well you know. Until now! I found these little beauties at a closeout shop and they worked so well I went online to find more! It's not that often that I rave about a kitchen gizmo, but this one deserves some space on-board. Behold, the Silicone Screw-on BBQ Sauce Applicator!

OK, so that's a lot of exclamation points for a really simple and inexpensive gadget. I know. But when something this simple works so well, it's easy to get excited. Now I have tried bottle-based basting brushes before -- they had thin plastic bristles and worked fine, but cleaning the sauce off of them was almost impossible. There was always some leftover sauce deep at the base of the bristles. Wasted too much water to bother with. This thing has thick silicone bristles that are easy to clean and apply the sauce evenly and easily. It's actually a very simple gadget. Open a bottle of your favorite sauce (or add your own sauce to a like-sized bottle), screw on the brush, invert the bottle, give a little squeeze and the sauce comes out a large hole in the center of the brush, "paint" on your sauce. That's it.


Flip over the bottle to get the sauce back to the bottom and use the remaining sauce on the bristles to finish up. Waste not, want not! When done, simply flip the bottle back over and unscrew the brush. Don't forget to put the cap back on the bottle (Don't Ask!) and rinse the brush clean. No muss, no fuss and uses surprisingly little water to clean. What else could you want in a BBQ sauce applicator?

You can also use it on Salad Dressings to apply to chicken or whatever. If it will screw on the bottle, it will work. Just be careful if the stuff you are applying is very thin liquid as it will just pour out! And that would just make a helluva mess. Not good at all.

The whole contraption weighs about an ounce and isn't fragile at all, so storage is pretty easy. Make sure it's clean or critters will actually eat the bristles right off the brush. Do mice actually like the taste of silicone? I mean the red ones kind of look like strawberry licorice.

Now I can baste and sauce whatever I like inside or outside on the grill while traveling. I am beginning to experiment with different brands and my own concoctions. If I hit on a good one, I'll share it with you all...maybe!

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

[Editor: These are available at Amazon.com.]

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Protect Your RV In The Winter Months - Or Else!

Brrrr!
    Unfortunately, I live in a place where we have Winter. That means snow, ice, cold weather and most of all, changes in temperatures from below zero to above ninety degrees over the course of the year. This kind of a swing wreaks havoc with any house, let alone an RV. You see, water is evil. It can get into the smallest gaps and stay there. Add some below-zero weather and the water will freeze, expanding the gap further. Then when warmer weather comes and it all melts you see a tiny leak...but when it rains...oh boy, you have a real ingress of water. As always, locating where it's coming from is the toughest part. Here's a great place where an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure! Even small amounts of water over a long time can cause problems like mold, mildew and rot.

See The My;ar Thermal Cover!
So, what can you do about it? First start by making sure all the windows, doors and vent covers are closed. Especially on the roof. I know that sounds pretty obvious but often the roof vent covers don't close properly nor seal well. This should be checked BEFORE winter and attended to. It may just be an adhesive foam seal replacement or could be a full remove/replace of the offending vent itself. Pays to find out before it's too cold to repair! Believe me, you will NEVER be able to stop ALL the moisture from coming inside -- RV's aren't that airtight. Thankfully, since if they were and you were using propane it could become deadly! For the rest of the moisture (mostly to prevent mold and mildew) put at least one large dehumidifier inside. I use the crystal style.

Desiccant On Range Cover
I like to check on the interior of the RV periodically throughout the winter months and can empty and refill the dehumidifier as needed. This will keep the humidity levels down to a manageable level. Around 55% average humidity is acceptable to keep the bad stuff at bay. Be aware that if you work in the RV in the winter months and run the furnace it will put moisture into the air, so you should ventilate the interior. Opening a side window about one inch or so will be fine. If it accumulates too much, it will condense on the glass and other interior surfaces when the outside temps are low and the interior is moist. Think of a glass of iced coffee in the summer...all that moisture collecting on the glass, dripping down to the table? Use a coaster!

Simple, easy steps to make sure you don't walk into a nasty surprise come Spring. Last thing I would want to do is begin a lengthy water damage repair just when the RV season is getting underway. I'd rather be RV'ing...bet you would too!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Taking Pictures - What's The Best Way To Do It...And Why!

A Snapshot
    For the most part, I take "snapshots" for my articles. If I am performing some difficult or technical modification/repair, I take more detailed photos. They're not the best I can do and I know it! Last week I wrote about a new cellphone I bought and it got me thinking about how I take photos for my articles. No matter what they are for, your photos record moments you want to keep. For how long? Well, that's up to you. In any case, there are many ways to take photos and many devices you can use. Each has its pro's and con's. Figuring out what to use and how to compose your photos is really important. Here's how!

A Great Camera In It's Day. Still Works!
The Device. Nowadays, digital photos rule the day. It's increasingly rare to find someone taking pictures on actual film. Hopefully, we all remember or know what that is! I still take pictures using an older digital camera. It's a Sony CyberShot 10.1 megapixel one. Works fine, takes OK shots in a resolution that works fine for online use. The higher the resolution, the clearer the pictures when resized larger, however, the file size gets bigger and bigger! An average 1920x1080 (HD) photo is around 1MB with minimal compression. The more it's compressed, the smaller the file size, but you will give up some in quality. I shoot in a 3 mega pixel mode(2048x1536) so I can crop and manipulate the framing. Makes life easier when you take fast photos in awkward positions. Every week you see the results.

The New Phone
The problem is, I have to remember to bring the camera with me to the RV when I am writing an article or taking a trip. Sometimes I forget. That being said, I RARELY forget my cell phone. My old phone was capable of taking photos at 8 mega pixels but I always used less. The problem was ease of getting them to the articles. With the standalone camera, I pulled out the memory card, popped it into the reader and uploaded the pictures I needed. With the phone, I had to connect the phone to the computer (and deal with drivers and the like) and then navigate to the picture folder and copy each one across. Not all that efficient. Since I'm not much of a "cloud" guy, I like my files on my device, not floating about in cyberspace.

The 360 Degree Spherical camera
My new phone has dual main cameras and a lower resolution camera on the screen side for video conferencing or "selfies." It also has a camera attachment that will take 360 degree spherical photos. That sounds way cool, but I'm not sure how great it will be for an article. The main cameras will take great photos and I've already connected the device to my home computer. That all works fine. What do I do if I want to access the photos for an article on one of my mini-android laptops I take with me when I travel? It's too hard to type up an article on a phone (even one with a bigger screen) and I haven't figured out how to connect the phone to the android tablet/laptop. It's not certain that I can anyway.

Is it time to stop using the old standalone and switch to the phone's camera? It will take nice pictures and most of the time I will be able to easily integrate them into the articles. But....sometimes it could get difficult. Looks like there will be some experimentation. Stay Tuned.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com







Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cell Phones, Smart Phones, Old Flip Phones...Oh My! - Which Is The Most Useful?

The "Entertainment Center"
    Well, the time has finally come for me to replace my aging Motorola cell phone. I've had it for about 6 years(!) and it's beginning to have difficulties with the latest apps and shortened battery life. Since the battery isn't easily replaceable (not impossible though) and I would like a slightly bigger screen for reading, I have decided now is the time to find a new phone. As many of you have guessed, I tend to research things to death before making a decision. My search for an RV took 2 YEARS! Back in the distant past, I had every model of StarTAC flip phone up to the last 7768 model. I would still have it but for the fact Digital911 services weren't compatible and I got forced to swap. I had a couple of tiny semi-smart phones then settled on my next phone (a Windows Mobile HTC Imagio from Verizon) that lasted until 2012, "only 3 years." Here I am again looking to switch. Since I have been boondocking a lot and seldom (if ever) have hookups or WiFi, I rely on my phone to be my internet connection, so it has to be the right one. How to choose??? (No More Dongles!)

The New Phone!
I freely admit I am a technology aficionado. I got used to having a smart phone. A smart phone is really a tiny hand held computer. There are so many useful applications that I use, I would be lost without it. Literally! I use the GPS that's built-in on a regular basis. It navigates great and the maps are always (mostly) up to date as they usually come over my cellular data link. I also connect via Bluetooth to my RV stereo and use it for speaking the directions and phone calls through the stereo system. Did I forget to mention music too? I've seen folks watching movies and TV on them, not my cup of tea as I prefer a BIG screen when I can get it. Oh, and books too! I keep a building-sized library worth of books on mine...wonderful! So what about this new phone? Is it going to be able to take the place of my old Motorola Razr M?  The short answer is YES! It's got a much faster processor and much better battery life, but the biggest trick is the 5.7" edge-to-edge screen. Amazing! Its resolution and clarity are fantastic and it's only 1/4" wider and a bit taller than my old phone...it's thinner too!

My Old Phone On Top Of My New One
Since I do a lot of reading on my device the jump from 4.3" to 5.7" screen is fantastic. And since the resolution is way better, things look crisper than before. This phone may let me stave off buying reading glasses for a bit longer. How's that for an unexpected bonus!

So who makes this modern marvel of technology? Well, if any of you are Android fans (no, not the robot kind...the phone OS!) you may be familiar with a guy named Andy Rubin. He essentially invented the Android OS while working for Google. He's left the company and started his own. They design and build (well the China factory does at any rate) their own phone. Called...well...the Essential Phone PH-1. Not a great name, but what's in a name anyway? Originally it was around $700, but has dropped to $449 lately and Cyber Monday had them for only $399. A lot to pay for a phone, but I don't upgrade mine very often so the finances work out fine. If you are/want to be a Sprint customer they have a deal for as low as $145! That is truly amazing for a device such as this.

Edge To Edge!
Since it isn't branded by any one carrier, it will work on all of them, Even Verizon's CDMA oddball network. GSM, TDMA, etc... They all work fine. For those of us that like tech, you can Unlock the Bootloader at will and have Root access to make changes to the OS. If that sounds like Greek to you...no worries, it works just fine without any tinkering and the company has been sending out updates in a timely manner. I've managed to move all my favorite applications and data to the new device and I am quite happy! I know, you can probably tell. Next, after I play with it for a while and get it just the way I like, I'll begin experimenting with the accessories that attach to the back. I've already bought the first one, a 360 degree spherical camera. I can't wait to take some photos for my article using that!  Stay Tuned!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Need More Storage Space? - Turn Useless Areas Into Useful!

Only 23' 8" And 99" Tall
    My RV is small. 23' 8" to be exact. I am always on the lookout for ways to expand my ability to store stuff. Yes, I probably carry too much, but I like being prepared! A while back I looked into mountable drawers, the kind that screw in to the underside of a cabinet or table. I ended up with two very low profile ones that are under my main table. They are OK, but very small. Pencils, paper clips, screws and the like fit nicely... maybe the odd utensil or chopsticks. Useful, but bigger is better! While perusing a local liquidator I came across some name brand ones that are much larger...I think I even have an inventive place to mount them. Curious? Read on!

New And Shiny!
Ever look in your wardrobe closet?  if yours is anything like mine, it has a rod that goes all the way across to hang clothing. When I first bought my RV I modified my wardrobe to become my main food storage pantry. It still has the ability to store some clothing, but how much hanging clothing do you take on vacation anyway? Over the years, I've found creative ways to add to its usefulness as a pantry. (Spice racks anyone?) Well the drawers that I found, a great deal at 3.99 each, looked as if they would fit nicely ABOVE the rod and attach to the ceiling nicely. My ceiling is sloped at the back of the closet, so it did not fit properly with the rod in place. I will have to shorten the rod and add a block to attach the smaller section to. Not all that big a deal. It WILL allow me to mount two of these drawers side by side. Now that's a good result.

Since the drawers actually tilt down when slid open, they are ideal for installing at slightly above eye level. It will be easy to see what's inside when they are open. Installation is simply a matter of finding the correct wood screws to use in the molded in holes. NO screws were provided at all. Not all that big a deal as I have several assortment packs of screws I can look through for just the right ones. Be careful if you are mounting anything to your ceiling -- make sure there is something to mount it to underneath the ceiling itself. And make sure there are no wires hiding up there. Ceiling vent fans, lights and the like love to hide up in the foam insulation in the ceiling!

All in all, I like these drawers, I will be able to reclaim some of my pantry drawers for better use and won't be losing anything at all. Hopefully they will stay closed when in motion. I may want to add a tiny bungee cord or something similar, unless they are secure against the inside of the closet door itself. We'll see...

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Magnetic Liquid Crystal Thermometer

Keeping It Warm! or Cool!
    OK...What the heck is a "Magnetic Liquid Crystal Thermometer" anyway? Well, I know it sounds like a complex piece of technology from Star Trek, but it isn't. It's simply a way of measuring temperature by using some principles of liquid crystals. Liquid crystals are what's used in calculators and many other display technologies. We can get into the technology a bit later, but it really doesn't matter HOW it works to make it a VERY useful gizmo. These things are essentially flat, read out temperature pretty accurately and since they are magnetic, can be placed almost anyplace you can use a magnet. On-board an RV they have MANY uses!

On The Fridge
First and foremost, they are incredibly useful at determining comfortable temperatures inside your RV. Does your furnace heat some space to higher temperatures than others? Your A/C cool unevenly? Put a few of these babies around and find out. Many years ago I used to get one of these attached to an advertisement from a local insurance agent. It had each one with a copy of their business card and a yearly calendar. At the end of the year, I would cut off everything but the thermometer and keep them. I just counted, I have 12 of them! I wish the local insurance broker was still sending out advertisements via US Mail....they are incredibly useful

A Variety Of Styles And Temperature Ranges
That's not to say they are hard to find nor expensive. A quick look online reveals a 5 pack can be had from multiple vendors for around 6 dollars. I have seen them with both vertical and horizontal orientations in both Fahrenheit and Celsius or even both on the same strip.  On most of them, the actual display of the temperature will change color as the temp gets higher. So Blue for cold and going up to bright orange for hot. Sometimes it's the numbers that change color, sometimes a bar across the bottom. Either way works nicely.

On The Range Hood
How does it work? Well...that's a bit complicated but it's basically how the crystals reflect and diffuse light at different temperatures. Heat your crystals or cool them down and you will change the amount of distance between them.This will change the way light is reflected back from them and the color that you see. Pretty cool, huh?

Science aside, these are incredibly useful. The only drawback is the range of temperatures that they measure. They are limited to about a 30-degree spread. So if you buy one that starts at 44 degrees it will read all the way up to 74 degrees. The ones I have go from 64 to 94 in 4-degree increments. I have seen ones that go from 0 to 105 in 10 degree increments, but have never used one. Many of them are used for aquariums...not a bad place to know the temperature! But I prefer the air temps in my RV! These work great with my indirect read IR thermometer I keep in a cabinet.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How To Winterize And Pre-Clean For Next Season - Work Smarter NOT Harder!

Getting Ready For Winter
    After my last trip of the season a week ago, it came time to shut down all the RV systems. Drain and winterize the water system, unpack the fridge and move all the food out. In addition, I like to clean and sanitize the interior so it's mostly ready to go next season. You would be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't(!) at the amount of mold and mildew that can develop inside an RV over the winter season. I do my VERY best to prevent anything like that from happening and also include critter intrusion prevention to the mix. What works? What doesn't work? And, most importantly, what are the easiest methods to do all of the above?


So Much For My Nice Black Hooded Sweatshirt!
Once the hard core winterizing of all the major RV systems is done I move on to the "pre-prep" items. Let's start with the easiest, and for me, the one I hate the most...cleaning. I get a bleach based cleanser and some gloves and begin wiping down the inside of the fridge. Pull all the shelves both on the door and inside. Make sure you wipe down any residue you can find and make sure the bleach mixture gets into the nooks and crannies. then make sure it's wiped off. Careful of your clothing as bleach will...well...BLEACH out colors pretty easily. I ruined a brand new, expensive hooded sweatshirt this year. So I know all about it! Next wipe down the walls, "ceilings" and "floors" of both the fresh and frozen compartments. Once done, wipe down the seals and the outside. Figure out a way to hold the fridge slightly open over the winter months as the air circulation will help reduce mold and mildew growth and keep smells to a minimum. I also have an activated charcoal cube hanging inside as well as a box of baking soda to be extra sure!

Next, work on the toilet. Clean the inside and outside with your bleach cleanser, make sure you get under the seat and cover as well as the entire outside housing down to the floor. I have a smooth floor surrounding mine, so I wipe all that down as well. Getting to the back can be a bit of a problem, but do your best. Mine had a lot of accumulated dirt and grime back there. It will also give you a chance to check for leaks from the hoses leading to the toilet. Once done, pour in some RV antifreeze over the blade valve to keep it moist and lubricated. Move on to the shower stall. Clean the entire thing, top to bottom. Pull the rubber mats, if you have them, and clean underneath. Lots can grow on and under them! Check around the window (if you have one) for any growths or dirt and clean. Clean the lavatory sink and cabinets. I usually end up with toothpaste remnants in places I didn't know could have them!

In the main living area and bedrooms, wipe down the cabinets and walls to get rid of dust and dirt buildup. Then I move on to the carpets. Vacuum everything you can! So much dirt gets tracked in during your trips, you will be surprised how full your vacuum will get just doing this simple cleaning. Make sure you empty it and clean the filter to maintain maximum suction. This will save you the time of going back over the carpets again and again. I use a 12 Volt canister vacuum that I wrote about a while back. It works great and I really don't have that much floor for carpet anyway. It's also A LOT easier to do the walls and floors with it.

As for Critter prevention...while you are cleaning, check for any leavings and points of ingress. Fill those with steel wool or patch the hole with silicone sealant if it's small enough.. Later on, I'll write up an entire article about critter proofing and prevention both during the RV season and in between. Stay Tuned! It's always sad to perform this cleanup, but if you do it now it will be easier to get going again in the spring. I can't wait!

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Harvest Hosts Trip #2 - Last Trip Of The Season. Very Sad.


Big Lot, Small RV!
    This past weekend I received an unexpected present in the form of a mild, even warm weekend. It was over 50 degrees during the day and only dipped down to the high 40's at night. Night time was easily fixed by the furnace running about 15 minutes out of every hour, mostly due to the additional Mylar bubblewrap custom window and skylight/vent fan covers I use. They really insulate very well and kept the heat inside and the cold outside, where they belong! So to exploit my good fortune and fortuitous weather I planned a quick trip. This was made MUCH easier by using my Harvest Hosts membership to find a place for an overnight (or in this case, two) within easy driving range. This particular location was about 130 miles away in Connecticut.

A VERY Big Building!
The place is called Bishop Orchards. While it is true, they do have large orchards, they also have a very large market with name brands, organic and exotic items, as well as a vast selection of pre-made foods to choose from. A supermarket really. Meats, fruits, vegetables, wines, bakery...lots to see.

When we arrived we were told to park up by the llama pen(!). While the parking lot was large, it had a pronounced slope. I don't have leveling jacks, so I was a bit off side to side, even with the rear airbags inflated on only one side. Not enough to cause real issues, but the bathroom door kept closing...no big deal.

The llama pen had some goats and roosters, as well. I gotta tell you, those roosters must have been defective because they didn't just crow at dawn...it was randomly, all the time. Maybe I should have bought them watches?

Overnight, it rained. A lot! No worries, I've taken care of all the leaks and didn't see a single drop. For two days, it was overcast and drizzly. Good thing I like to cook and watch movies on the projection screen since we were stuck inside most of the time. The digital media player got quite a workout!

On the trip back Monday evening (Very cool blue-lit bridge!), the weather report was for a drop to 30 degrees that night and 20 degrees(!) the next night. I had better winterize and quick! Tomorrow that is exactly what I intend to do.

At least I can get started on many of the projects I have been putting off. The colder weather always gives me the opportunity to get lots done. Of course, I'd rather be traveling...but tinkering is a close second.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Have A Dead Round Bathroom Vent Fan? Can't Find One? Noisy? Replace It With Better!

Old Dead Vent Fan.
     Recently, on a trip (of course) I switched on my circular bathroom vent fan to exhaust moisture while (and after) I showered. A couple of sparks and it was all over. No fan. I had previously replaced this with one from another Aero Cruiser owner's rig. He had decided to put a 14" Fantastic Fan in. Wow, that was like having a bathroom in a wind tunnel, but I digress. His old fan worked for about a year. Then this happened. I did manage to find a direct replacement, but the newer model would have required me to remove the entire vent assembly from the roof and re-do all the seals. Since it isn't leaking, I really didn't want to do that. Besides, the round fan was always very noisy and an energy hog. I found a better and easier replacement.

Our RVs run (mostly) on 12 Volt power. The ceiling and roof fans are no exception. My bathroom vent fan used about 2.2 amps while running and was crazy noisy. It had a 12 Volt DC motor and a flat plate with vanes attached to the spindle of the motor. It worked OK. It did wobble occasionally and would have to be straightened so it didn't hit the side of the vent cap and stop. There had to be a better way. A long while back I added a 12 Volt computer "muffin" fan to my fridge chimney to improve cooling. It worked great! Why couldn't I adapt that style fan to the circular vent. No reason at all! So, that's exactly what I did.

First I removed the trim cover's three screws and removed the cover itself. Then two tiny screws holding the retract handle. Once that was done, I went up to the roof and pulled gently straight up to remove the vent fan cover. That exposed the top of the spinning section of the vent fan. I gently pried that off with a rocking motion. It came off the motor relatively easily. Don't force it, you may bend the mounting bracketry and we will be using that later to mount the new fan. Once it's off, remove the two even tinier screws holding the motor to the bracket. Support the motor when the screws are almost out. I didn't and dropped the motor onto my toilet seat...no damage, but it sure sounded scary from the roof, whew! Everything is now disassembled.

Back down to the inside portion of the fan, I pulled the fuse for the fans and cut both the positive and negative wires. Now I had to mount the new fan. It's square, but the vent is round. Luckily, my 5" fan fit nicely inside the old bracket, tucked up out of the way of the cover. The fan had 4 mounting holes, one at each corner. They were perfect for some 11" black zip ties I had lying around.

Will Not Move!
I threaded the zip ties down through one hole and up through the other on the same side. NOT Diagonally, that would have blocked the fan. Make sure you have most of the excess slack on the pointy side of the zip tie so it will be easy to tighten. I didn't and wasted a couple of zip ties before I figured that out. Back up to the roof, I threaded the zip ties so the fan was under the left/right bracket and the ties were on top. Now adjust the fan so it is horizontal and centered. Pull the zip ties tight. Now take a single zip tie and weave it under the first tightened zip tie, up and over the middle of the bracket and under the second tightened zip tie. Pull this one tight so it pulls on both of the first two and will keep everything from moving. Sounds complicated...it isn't!

Once done, I wired the positive and negative to the fan. Be careful. I had the positive wire coming from the switch be a black wire instead of any other color. Usually, black is negative. Not this time, it was positive, and the negative was white! Then I slipped some heat shrink tubing over the connections, replaced the fuse and tested the fan. It's way quite and moves a reasonable amount of air. At that point shrink the tubing with some heat, tuck everything above the bracket and close up the vent fan assembly. Test again to make sure nothing disconnected. that's it...done!

So far, it works great. MUCH quieter. I took a shower in there and it's about the same exhaust volume as the old one had, but since it only draws .15 amps/hour I can leave it running MUCH longer. The replacement vent fan assembly would have been over $100, and a pain to install. This fan was $4 and works great. The entire job took about 40 minutes. That makes me happy!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Even The Simple Repairs - When Water Drain Valves Go Bad

Tight Fit!
    This past weekend, while boondocking in a Cabela's parking area, I noticed a significant puddle forming under my RV. When I looked closer I saw that it was coming from the cold water low side drain outlet. You know, the one that you use to drain out the cold water side of your RV's water system. Nothing looked broken, but the valve was obviously not closing completely, so a dribble kept flowing. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to make me uncomfortable. It was fresh water, so no biohazard here...but with a limited supply of fresh water, watching ANY of it wasted would be a very bad thing indeed! Thankfully, a temporary fix was a 10 minute job.

Bad Positioning!
In my largest (by a big margin!) external storage compartment I have three valves. Two open/close the low point drains for hot/cold water and one switches between city/external pressurized water and the on-board pump. Since they are mounted low and to the side they often got hit by stored items. I did my best to block them from harm, but it obviously wasn't enough. At some point, the valve handles (which point the wrong way when closed) get "nudged" by objects in the storage bay. After a lot of hits, one of the valves stopped closing completely. I removed the screw holding the handle on the plastic valve and rotated the shaft manually...couldn't get it to close any better. And I was losing water! The only quick solution was to cut the pipe after the valve, which was the only place I could really do that, and replace it with a capped end.

With SharkBite And Cap
I needed the cap for the pipe, a small hacksaw and a way to attach the cap to the cut pipe. I decided to do this AFTER the valve, because while it WAS leaking, it did slow the flow a lot. If I did this on the other side of the valve, I would have to deal with massive amounts of water pouring out of the freshwater tank into the storage bay, while trying to cap the flow. Not a great way to spend time inside a tight compartment. The main issue was how to attach the new capped end to the cut pipe. As everyone knows, I keep lots of miscellaneous spares on-board. I had a 1/2" SharkBite connector with a 3/4" threaded end. The cap I had was 3/4"...Aha! That would work. I screwed the cap tightly onto the fitting and then made the cut. I inserted the 1/2" pipe into the SharkBite end and seated it firmly. While some water escaped onto the floor of the compartment, it wasn't a big deal and the leak was stopped.

The problem I have now is I've lost the ability to use the low point drain, so the valve has to be replaced. This time I will be using different valves, but since I am NOT replacing all the CPVC (Grey) original plumbing, I'll use more SharkBite style push fit connectors to make the job quick and easy. I also ordered an extra valve, just in case! And a few 1/2" to 1/2" straight unions to make sure everything will fit together. All together this should be a permanent repair, better than the original.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When To Pure Sine Wave And When Not To - Is It Really Needed?

Ready To Travel!
    The 12 Volt system in any RV takes care of most of our camping electrical needs. Lights, Fridge controller, Furnace fan (and sometimes ignition), water pump, etc. That being said, having 120 Volt house style electrical power is very useful. I've written all about having a big, Heavy Duty inverter for supplying electrical power to outlets in the coach, but mine is a "modified sine wave" model. It works fine and dandy. There are a few gotchas that could happen, but haven't to me...yet. For instance, I have heard that microwave ovens work at much less efficiency and harder when fed with modified sine wave 120V AC. Maybe. I know some laser printers just won't work at all. The same with some old style chargers for drills and the like. And inductive loads like motors. As with everything, your mileage may vary (YMMV.) So what to do if you are nervous something could get damaged? Read on!


Modified Sine Wave Example
First, the main concern. The power we have coming into our homes is 115-120 Volts (mostly) and 60Hz. It looks like an ocean wave in shape. Very old school analog. Newer, Pure Sine Wave inverters replicate this wave so it's indistinguishable from house electricity from the grid. Older (and cheaper) inverters take 12 Volt Battery power and change it to be 120 Volt (or so) and kind of a 60Hz wave. Kind of? Well, since they are a digital device, they can't really perfectly replicate an analog waveform. So they simulate it by producing one that has jagged edges (multiple on/off cycles). It usually works fine as is. In fact, higher quality inverters have so many steps that unless you look at the waveform closely, they look purely analog. Just like your new-fangled TV is made up of tiny squares or dots, the closer you get the more "jaggedness" you can see. The trouble happens when sensitive electronic items cannot cope with the stair-step quality and begin to malfunction and/or overheat.

My Inverter (Right) & Solar Charge Controller (Left)
I have tested everything I can think of on my regular modified sine wave inverter. I have a Xantrex 1800 Watt (continuous) one. It has run everything I've thrown at it. When I installed my new digital media players and the experimental OTA Satellite system (Stay tuned for an article on that thing!) I figured it couldn't hurt to have that stuff powered by its own Pure Sine Wave inverter. I mean, it's not consuming a large amount of power, and pure sine wave inverters have dropped dramatically in price, so...why not?

I picked up a quality 300 Watt Pure Sine wave inverter and wired it directly to the main 12 Volt fuse panel in the RV. Since 300 (350 Max) Watts / 12 Volts = about 30 Amps maximum, I made sure the wiring was heavy enough and the fuse was at least a 30 Amp to protect everything. It was still wired through the energy monitor, so I could keep track of energy usage as well. Yes, it's made in China, but tested on the workbench it puts out very clean power. For just over $100 USD online, it was economical to purchase.

I really don't see any difference and my "big" inverter doesn't really use that much power when in standby, so I'm not sure I've gained anything. At least now I have an option. Who knows, I may come across something that requires pure sine wave power...I did want to put an old Okidata LED "Laser" printer on board and I KNOW that hates modified sine wave power...Where can I find THAT antique!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Relaxing "Low Impact" Short Vacation

    Sometimes you just want to go somewhere in your RV that doesn't require a lot of setup or finagling to be enjoyable. This past week I was in the mood for just such a trip. Of course, because of the limited amount of time, I wanted a short travel distance with someplace interesting to stay at the destination. It should have the option to participate in some activities available, but only if you want to. I had heard rumors of a web site that has a directory of farms, wineries, museums and the like, that will let RVers park and camp for a day or two at their locations. Seemed like a good idea, so I paid my $44 to access the directory for one year, read through the contact information and found something that fit the bill. Here's additional info and a trip report on a short excursion. In a nutshell, it worked...kind of.

The website, Harvest Hosts, has a large directory of farms, wineries, museums and like places that will allow you to camp there for short periods of time. There are photos of the locations, contact information and data relating to the stay. Most have no RV specific facilities and are more closely related to a traditional boondocking experience, but you can take advantage of the facilities and activities available at the Host location. At the one I went to, Love Apple Farm, they had U-pick apples and vegetables, a cafe (with great coffee and baked goods) and a full-on farm store with prepackaged and fresh goods. There were prepackaged organic meats (the Italian sausage was delicious!), lots of organic home goods (cleaning products, cosmetics, skin treatments and the like), as well as a homemade ice cream section both at the cafe and in quarts in a freezer. They even had an Art Museum. The cafe offered a great menu that included actual, authentic homemade Mexican food (Tamales, etc.) that were amazing! If you know...Real Mexican is very hard to find on the East coast. And at a Rural Farm Stand, unheard of!

The View From The Other Side, Not So Great!
There were some glitches. Nothing all that major. When we arrived it wasn't clear where we were to park. I had spoken with someone on the phone a few days before and while the directions once on the property seemed clear, they weren't specific enough. So I simply parked out of the way and walked in to ask. I was directed to park down by the tractor trailers and the dumpsters on the grass or gravel. Everyone on the staff was incredibly friendly. Since we were the only RVers present, there was plenty of room, but we were adjacent to the main road and their main parking lot. Not a problem for a couple of nights. I just situated the RV so the bedroom windows were facing the fields and a lovely tree-lined dirt road. No worries. I would hope that most of the Hosts would have photos of the actual parking locations so it's easier to find once you arrive.

Nicely Situated
There is no cost to stay other than your yearly membership fee to the website. If you Auto renew you get a $4 per year discount. The idea is you'll spend some money at the Host's location and that would offset their expenses. Well, that part of it is right on the money, so to speak. I spent about $90 on food, and assorted goods. All worth it. In fact, two meals were cooked in the RV with their fresh produce and meats and the homemade ice cream for desert was amazing! Remember this is NOT a traditional campground so don't expect it to be like one. You are mostly left to your own devices. That's NOT a bad thing!

All in all, I believe it's a great idea. You get a place to stay in a friendly atmosphere and have access to things to do, if you want. The Art Museum was nifty to walk to and tour when it was a bit rainy on the second day. And since the distance traveled was so short we got to maximize our "decompression" time. It would be very easy to plot a long (or even cross-country) trip hop-scotching from Host to Host. Sounds like fun...wish I had the time!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Even The Simple Repairs - Leaky RV Faucet? It's Really An Easy Fix.

    When I came back from my last trip recently, I found a small amount of water was dripping from underneath my lavatory sink faucet. It was collected under (and on) the cold water pipe connection, right where the threads on the faucet assembly screw onto the cold water pipe connection. It's usually just screwed on by hand, so it shouldn't be too tight. Mine appears to have been over-tightened at some point and a tiny crack had developed in the threads. At first I believed it was the nut on the pipe itself, but it wasn't. Kind of odd, but that's what it was (the threads I mean). This was causing a small drip-type leak when the faucet was on and cold water was being used. It's always disheartening to find something like this, but with a tiny bit of knowledge it's easy to replace the faucet and move on. Never fear, this sounds like it could be a daunting task, but it really won't be... I promise. Here's how.


First, make sure you can actually GET to the fixture itself. Mine is in an under-sink cabinet that is very small and hand access is tight. But do-able. Since it's so dark inside, an aim-able light or a general utility light will help a great deal. You may not be able to use it when you are actually reaching your hands in to loosen or tighten, but it helps to look at everything and figure it out BEFORE you start! First, make sure your water pump is OFF and there is no residual pressure at the faucet. It's easy to check, just open the hot/cold taps until no water runs out. Next, the two water lines have to be disconnected. Try to just unscrew them by hand first. (Remember, Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty) If they come off, Great! If not, you can use channel lock, or other pliers to gently try and twist them off. If you apply too much force, there is a good chance something will break. Be careful!

See The Black Retaining Nut At The Top?
Once off, you have to reach all the way at the top of the threads just below the fixture itself. There are two retaining nuts up there. Again they should be hand tight. Rotate these off and the entire fixture should come right out. There may be some sealant under and/or around the fixture to stop errant dribbles, but it should pull free easily. Once out, check the pipes, their threaded connections and the surrounding area. This is a good time to check around since you can see through the gap where the faucet used to be! Clean off any Teflon or other sealing tape that may have been used. You will have to decide if you want to use Teflon tape on the threads or not. There are two schools of thought on this -- some do, some don't. I installed mine without tape and it ISN'T leaking. If yours does, try a couple of wraps of Teflon tape before giving up.

**Of course, I couldn't find an exact replacement for my existing single handle faucet, I had to buy a regular old/cheap Walmart two handle bathroom faucet with 4" spread between the hot/cold inlets. It's the right size, but I prefer the single handle. On the up side, the price was right at $9.97! Since I needed it not to leak for the trip the next day....it got installed. I did order the correct (and much more expensive one) but it wouldn't arrive until after I was already gone. I will swap them out when I get back. (See, that's a good reason to forgo the Teflon tape.) **

Clean And Dry!
It may be you bought one with a different base shape or size, so now is the time to add some plumber's putty, or sealant underneath. Not much, just enough to prevent splashed water from going into the cabinet once the pipes are reconnected. Place the new fixture in the hole and screw on the retaining nuts. Make sure the faucet is exactly where you want it, then tighten the retaining nuts. Next, put the hot/cold water pipes onto the appropriate inlets on the faucet and tighten. Then, turn on the water pump to pressurize the system and look at the pipes...any leaks? No? Good! Now slowly open the taps, first cold, then hot and make sure you get water flow and no leaks from underneath. If all is well...you are done!

As always, the descriptions of these tasks sound MUCH longer than the actual actions. Take my word for it, this is a pretty easy job. The hardest part, for me, was getting my hands on the retaining nuts to take it off...the very small and confined spaces under my sink to work on anything. I have no idea what an RV service place would charge for this job, but with just my labor and the cost of the faucet, I'll wager my way is cheaper.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com