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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Importance Of Having Hardware - Screws, Nuts, Bolts, Washers, Oh My!

    There are, literally, thousands of fasteners in our RVs. Screws, Nuts, Bolts, Washers of all types and sizes. For me, it never fails that when I need a specific size or type and only have one, it's ONE size too big or small. Yup, you guessed it, Murphy was, indeed, an optimist. So what's a tinkerer to do? You can't carry an entire hardware store around with you (Or can you?) but, with a tiny bit of planning, you can give yourself at least a shot at having the correct one. The better you plan, the more likely you'll have the right one. Nothing is more frustrating than being one size off!  So, how can you do that?

 Assortment packs! That's the ticket! Locally, I have a tool store that sells various, plastic boxed, assortment packs of screws, nuts, bolts, and washers. Not to mention o-rings, molly-type fasteners and 12 volt electrical connectors. When they are on sale, most varieties can be had for around 3.99 to 5.99. The 5.99 sort is usually a much larger quantity in a greater assortment of sizes. You can also get stainless steel varieties, which I prefer. Less chance of rust. As we all know, a rusted fastener can be a real pain to get loose. I've got the scars on my knuckles to prove that!

Since there are so many to choose from and space/weight available on-board most RVs is limited, the trick is determining which ones to buy. The way I figured that out? I went around to all the interior screws and other fasteners in the RV and measured the sizes. Most big box hardware stores will have a very inexpensive plastic size gauge that will help with finding out the correct sizes. Use the length measure on the side to determine, I wrote them all down on a piece of paper. Once that was done I compared what was used inside the RV and added one size smaller and one size larger. Next I did the same on the outside and in the compartments. Luckily, most assortments covered the spread. Then I bought the appropriate assortment packs. There were some that weren't included, usually odd lengths. These I just bought a few from a regular hardware store and added them to the packs myself. Better safe than sorry!

Easy Access. Sorted By Type
What about the engine and other chassis mechanical fasteners. There are SO many different ones, it would be hard to pack them all, unless you tow a hardware store around. Which, I believe, isn't all that efficient. I carry a few common sizes (your engine may be SAE(US) or Metric or BOTH, so knowing which will help. I also added a couple of spare lugnuts, just in case I lose one. Don't laugh, I've done the sand on the side of the road. In addition, 12 Volt Electrical connector packs are pretty varied and very lightweight, so adding one to your mix isn't a bad idea. I do a lot of modifications and tinkering with the 12 Volt system so it's a must. Oh, and make sure you have a wire stripper/crimper tool to put them on. Makes the job so much easier! Use Plastic Tubs to store the assortments and keep them organized.

There is no way you can carry every fastener you will need for every repair. Besides, you need space for food too! With a bit of planning, you can cover most anything that breaks on the road. And that's OK by me. Peace of mind, when I aim to relax, is worth a whole lot.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trouble getting Into The Driver Or Passenger Seats? - An Excellent Fix!

    As we get older, if we're lucky, our bodies will cooperate with us and keep on going strong. Well, sometimes this simply isn't the case. I remember an old saying, "The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak." This doesn't mean you can't do what you want, but maybe a tiny bit of help would go a long way to making it easier. Many RV's, especially Class A's without Driver and Passenger doors are a bit difficult to get down into the front seats. Especially with a large engine cover blocking your feet! How can you make it easier to do without too much trouble?

Secure And Ready To Be Used
The key here is a securely fastened, solid hand hold. Secure is the MOST important part. If you are going to use it for safety and security while getting into the seats, make ABSOLUTELY sure it will hold your weight...and then some! An important tip here, before you install any roof mounted hand hold, is to make sure you won't be banging your head into it every time you go past. Believe me, no matter how much I like the ease of ingress and egress using the hand hold, I don't like where they are. Every time I go to adjust the TV/Monitor, the Digital Media System or the Satellite Receiver up front and knock my head on the handles, it's my fault, I know that. I should be able to learn and remember where they are and avoid them, but I don't. Must be some type of strange mental block. You'd think the bruised forehead would remind me?? Nope.

Caps Cover The Mounting Bolts
Once you figure out just where the hand hold should be mounted, you have to make sure that the structure above it will support your weight (and then some) Mine are tied into one of the structural steel frame hoops inside the roof section. Some RVs use wooden structures exclusively so you will have to find an appropriate mounting point. You may not be able to. Some RV roofs can only support their weight and additional force applied could damage the structure underneath. Be careful. When in doubt...DON'T DO IT! You could get injured (perhaps severely) if the hand hold comes loose when you on using it.

If everything checks out, mount your hand hold securely to the structure you need to. That means deciding on a type of mounting fastener. Mine use 2 short bolts through the roof structure for each hand hold. I wouldn't use any kind of wood screw to fasten something to any roof. The chances it would pull out are very high. If you are unsure as to whether the mounting location/type is secure enough, let a professional handle it, or at least advise, better safe than sorry. Once mounted, you have an easy place to support yourself while getting in and out of hard to reach seating.

There were many RV's that came standard with grab handles for the front seat passengers. Maybe they knew something I didn't?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Who Says You Can't Make "Exotic" Meals In The RV Galley? - Japanese Gyoza

    Dumplings are good, Japanese dumplings or Gyoza are amazing. They are related to their Chinese counterparts, but are quite different. The skins are very thin and one side is crispy while the rest are tender. The filling, while simple, is packed with flavor. I learned how to make these little beauties about a year ago and then realized that they could be made in the RV without much trouble. Since they cook in a single skillet, they are even easy to clean up. It's even easier now that thin wonton skins are available at most mega marts. Here's how:

The Assembly Line!
First, the filling needs to be prepped in a large bowl. Larger bowl equals more Gyoza which, in turn, equals more enjoyment! Besides, these freeze REALLY well, so well they can be cooked directly from the freezer and brought to the table. More on that later. You will need: 1 pound of ground pork, about 1/3 head of green cabbage, some fresh ginger, about 4 cloves of garlic, some chives (well, really a Japanese herb called Nira but chives work too) and some chicken soup base (Japanese Torigawa if you are being precise), a splash of Sake (Japanese rice wine), a drop or two of good soy sauce, a dash or two of White pepper and salt to taste. I add 2 teaspoons of corn starch as a thickener.

This Picture Gives You An Idea On How To Fold Properly
Place the meat in a large bowl, add grated ginger and finely grated garlic. Add 2 teaspoons Torigawa soup base, the pepper and salt. Chop half a bunch of Nira (chives) into 1/8 inch pieces, discarding the very tops and bottoms. Finely chop the cabbage and mix in. The mixture should be uniform in texture. Believe me this will all be worth it!

Yes. You can eat them right away!
Now you take the skins -- I prefer the smaller size and the thinner the better (do not use Chinese wonton skins, they are really too thick) -- and set up a workstation. You'll need the pre-prepared mixture and a small bowl of water to moisten one edge of the skin to seal. Begin by scooping a small amount of your filling (it should cover the center of the wonton skin with at least an inch all the way around the outside edge of the wonton skin.) Tap your finger in the water and go over the edge of the skin on one side then fold over. Here's where it gets tricky. You need to fold over the edge every half inch or so back onto itself so you get a nice seal with even folds. Look at the picture -- it is way better than the description! Now do this 50 more times, as you can get 50 small Gyoza from 1 pound of ground pork mixture.  You could also use Chicken or Shrimp or just the vegetables if that's what you'd like.

They REALLY Freeze And Travel Well!
At this point you could place them on a plate with space between each one and freeze. Once solid drop them in a zip top bag or bags and use whenever you like. Mine don't usually last that long! On to cooking. Take a skillet large enough for the number you wish to cook and add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom. Heat up the oil and add the Gyoza folded side UP into the sizzling oil. Turn down the heat to medium high and cook until the bottom is golden brown and delicious. Then add enough water to come about 1/4 inch up the side of the pan and cover. The steam will finish the cooking process. You should run out of water when they are done. You may have to adjust the amount accordingly or just drain. Too much water will give you soggy, but still tasty Gyoza! Even the failed experiments are delicious! When done, remove from heat and place in a row on a serving plate. What about a dipping sauce? Well, that's easy! Just mix good quality soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and hot Chili oil to taste. YUM!

It all sounds complicated, but isn't. AND it's lots of fun to do around a table with friends with or without adult beverages!!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Not Enough Free Time To Go Where I Want - What To Do?

On The Way..Someplace!
    Time. We are all given a limited amount of it to spend as we wish (well Mostly!). Like most of you, I really enjoy traveling in my RV to interesting places. For some of you that have been reading these articles from the beginning, the main reason I chose the RV I have was to maximize the use of my time off. It's pretty rare that I can string 3 (or more) days together for a reasonable length RV trip. So far, it has worked out quite nicely. By keeping the trips around 4-6 hours max distance away I get to spend around 2 full days (minus travel) at each destination. The trouble is, I've been doing it for a few years now and my list of new and interesting destinations is dwindling. Ideally, I'd sure like to go farther away in distance to find more destinations, but my free time has shrunk in the last year. RV trip time has become a precious commodity and I find myself going back to favorite places within a reasonable distance just to be able to relax. How do you fix that?

I know, retire! Thing is, I'm not ready to retire and in reality I just can't. Too many bills to pay and people to keep happy. It's almost a catch-22. I freely admit I work a lot of hours, maybe too many. But with lots of folks counting on me, I do what I can. That includes extra hours where they need to be. I KNOW I am not the only one in the same boat. Lots of folks enjoy working and helping folks where and when they can and still manage to get away for longer times than I can manage. Maybe I just need to organize my work better so I can string together more than 4 days in a row once or twice in a year. Thing is, I'm not usually the one that messes up my carefully planned time off. It's always some external force that I have no control over. And, like Murphy said, " the worst possible moment." Any tips?

Hidden Boondock Location
Please understand, I am NOT complaining at all. Well, maybe a little. I really and truly enjoy each and every trip I get to take in my RV. And I do understand, eventually, I'll get to take longer trips. I do wonder whether or not I will enjoy them as much... Right now I am in good health, have lots of energy and enjoy the journey just as much as the destination. I prefer boondocking over camp grounds almost 100%. Will this be true when I can take really extended trips in the years to come? What do you think?

I write these articles each week and am grateful for the many folks that enjoy reading them and perhaps gain some useful knowledge from them. I don't get to meet nearly enough of you to have the opportunity for a serious discussion. Maybe next time I'm out and about at an RV show we could all get together? That would be nice...and fun too!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rain, Rain Go Away. Don't Come Back, EVER! - Checking For Leaks Before They Become A Problem.

Ready For The RV Season!
    Before last week's hideous heat and humidity wave we had torrential, constant rain for well over a week. I have a friend that calls that kind of rain, "frog strangling." I love that phrase, and the description was pretty close to reality as I saw a frog carried away down the street past my house. Remember, lots of humans pay good money for the same experience at water parks. He'll be fine. Your RV, maybe not as well. In any extended rain event like these, it's always a good idea to get inside your RV and check for ANY leaks. Not just the roof, but when the rain is coming in from the sides due to harsh winds, check everywhere you can think of. You'll be happy you did.

A/C Controller/Lights/Vents, Check Them All!
First, try and get inside without making too much of a mess at the door! I try and open the door and get inside as fast as I can do so safely and leave my shoes and umbrella on the lowest step next to the door. The idea is to find leaks, not detect the water you brought inside! I begin by running my hands around every opening in the ceiling. Roof vents, plumbing vent pipes, skylights and then around all the edges where it joins the wall. Then INSIDE the cabinets where you don't normally look. Next up, every opening on every wall. I start with the windows. They can loosen over time and with large temperature extremes. I wrote an article about tightening them up when I found a leak. Check your main and other doors. The seals get squashed and deformed over time so sometimes they don't seal properly. Not only could this cause a leak, but if it's large enough you'll lose heated and cooled air. My RV has a driver's side door, so that gets checked as well. That one needed some adjustment at the hinges to seal properly, but no leaks.

Carpeted Ceilings Show Water Ingress!
If you're lucky and have followed some basic roof and seal maintenance you won't find any water intrusion. If not, there are some things you can do to try and find the leak. If you see water "stripes" on any hard surfaces or there are discolored spots on your wall, ceilings and carpets....especially below the windows, you may have a problem. The sooner it is addressed the less chance it will have to cause damage that will be difficult and expensive to repair. I believe water is the number one culprit in the deterioration of RVs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are in an area that experiences winter or you store your RV for long periods of time, make sure to check on it a few times during storage, especially if there has been a lot of precipitation.

Old Solar Panels, New Vent Seal
A while back I was surprised to find the areas around two sides of my vent fans were damp. Not completely wet, just damp. Turned out the sealing compound on the roof had cracked and water was seeping in. You couldn't really tell from on top, but it was coming in. Thankfully it wasn't a HUGE job to remove and replace the vent/fans and reseal. Then there was the time a chunk of tree smashed my shower skylight. No problem finding out where the water was coming from that time! But the fix wasn't nearly as easy. It didn't help that my skylight wasn't a standard size nor shape.

You can tackle any job with patience and a good attention to detail. Don't rush, and research/prepare before you begin. You'd be amazed at what you can accomplish on your own.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's Hot - How To Care For Your Roof Air Conditioner

The Roof
    This past week has been incredibly hot, especially for Spring in the Northeast. It has been above 90 degrees for the last couple of days and it got me thinking about making sure my A/C unit would keep functioning efficiently far into the future. Since Murphy was an optimist (Murphy's Law - Anything that can go wrong...will. And at the worst possible moment) I figured the time to treat my A/C to some preventive maintenance was sooner rather than later. I kept thinking of a crazy hot day, enjoying the coolness inside the RV and then WHAM! No cool air. Even with all the vents open and fans running, it wouldn't be nearly as pleasant. Livable? Perhaps....but pleasant, not likely. With some very simple steps, you can keep your roof air conditioner working well.

Typical RV Roof Air Conditioner
First off is a good old-fashioned cleaning of the outside unit. Once that's done, I remove the shroud covering the A/C unit itself. It's very easy, usually just a bunch of Philips head screws around the edge. Then gently pull off. Depending on the make and model, you'll see what looks like a radiator from a car, a motor or two, a compressor, a large fan (or two) and some wires and piping.

Make sure the 120V power is off before reaching in to do ANYTHING! Once power is off, make sure all the vents are clear of debris like leaves, dirt, pollen, tree chunks, critter nests, anything at all really. You'd be surprised at how many vents are clogged. That will REALLY decrease the efficiency of your AC.Then get in there with a duster and start cleaning. Be careful. It is easy to bend or damage the fins on the radiator. If they are already damaged you should gently bend them back to straight. The more surface area, the more air that can circulate which equals better cooling. Look at the fan(s). Is there a gunk buildup on the blades? Gently clean with a rag, damp with a mild soap and water solution. Look for anyplace air travels and gently wipe away accumulated dirt and/or debris. If you have a compressed air source, you can use it to blow dirt and debris from between the fins and small spaces within the unit.

Before replacing the shroud, check to make sure the inside is clean. I was AMAZED at how much dirt was caked on the underside. There may be a foam gasket under the shroud as well. Make sure it's in decent shape. If it's falling apart, scrape it off, clean the area where it was stuck on and apply a new one. I used easily obtainable foam insulation tape and matched the curves of the original. It wasn't difficult to match the curves and I get a much better seal now. Once it's nice and clean inside, close it back up, replace the screws and go inside.

The Two Side Covers Are Easily Removed
Once inside, look at your air control unit. If you have a ducted unit, there should be multiple vents across the ceiling. All should be free of dust and debris. I know someone that once found critter nests all throughout his ducting. No wonder there was no cool air. Bet the critters were comfortable on hot days though! On the simplest systems, directly below that outside roof-mounted unit is an air controller. Typically it has two filters under two separate covers and a couple of directable vents at the front and back. If you remove the filter covers, you will see a couple of replaceable or cleanable filters. Check them, clean if possible, replace if needed, then look up into the holes they were in. Make sure there is no dust nor debris in there. Be careful, there may be several sharp edges inside. While they are open, I usually check to make sure the four bolts that snug down the roof unit are indeed ... umm ... snug. Not too tight. Check the manufacturer's specs for the correct torque. Move on to the front and rear vents. Clean out whatever doesn't belong. Be gentle -- it's usually only lightweight plastic. Reassemble the filters and covers.

That's it. Sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't. Once my roof unit was clean, I noticed a significantly increased air flow and a drop of 2 extra degrees in temperature. It may have been my imagination, but the compressor didn't seem to be working quite as hard as before. It definitely feels cooler. If I'm lucky, I may very well have increased the useful life of one very expensive piece of RV hardware AND made myself a bit more comfortable in the process. Win-Win!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Amazing, Rechargeable, But Poorly Named LED Tube Light

    Yes, I am addicted to flashlights. As addictions go, this one is mostly benign. How many lights does one person need? I'll let you know when I get to that number. Well, I've gone and done it. I found another way cool flashlight I simply could not resist. It's small, lightweight and unbelievably bright. I'd seen it a while ago, but didn't want to spend $10.00 on it (plus shipping) so when I stumbled across a deal for 2 of them for $9.99 with FREE shipping. I couldn't help myself. Little did I know then, but waiting can be a tough climb. Up hill....both ways! Any way, good things come to those who wait. Most of the time.

The Light!
When I order things I usually expect them to show up pretty quickly. Especially from places like Amazon. If you have Prime you can almost expect your packages sooner than they say they will arrive. Well, much of the time any how. This is not always the case. Long shipping times still exist from some online vendors. Especially if they ship from China. I know lots of products, even many produced by huge United States companies, are made in China. Primarily to keep the cost down. Well, this beautiful little gem is no exception. It's TINY (odd to use CAPITAL letters to mean really small..but...). Only a couple of inches in length and 1/2 inch in width and 1/4 inch in thickness. What it lacks in size it makes up for in performance and features.

Cool Looking, Too!
The manufacturer has managed to fit a 45 Lumen, dimmable light powered by a Li-Ion battery pack, a waterproof switch and a micro USB charging port all into this little baby. It feels very sturdy and well made. The case is made from Polycarbonate just like F-16 windshields! It's a rugged material that should last a really long time in this application. Besides, it's cool looking too! There is a rubberized switch on one side that's very easy to find in the dark and controls all the light functions. Tap it once, you get a low Lumen output light, perfect for looking through a bag or other container. Hold it down and you get the full 45 Lumen output. (Sounds like it isn't really that bright. Well, it is!) Let go and it shuts off. Tap once then hold and it will cycle from low output slowly all the way up to full output. Cool feature. You can stop at any level and it will turn on at that level next time it's used.

Brighter Than Advertised!
The case is semi-transparent so you can see all the workings. I liked the fact that the case halves were screwed together rather than glued or snapped in place. The light also comes with two split rings. One goes on the light and the other is for keys. Both nice quality. I hate those things. I always end up getting skewered by the sharp pointed end of the split ring. I shouldn't complain, but sometimes I still do. OK, back to the light. Incredibly, when you plug in a standard micro USB charging cable (like the ones you have for your phone...sorry iPhone folks, not you) there is a tiny blue LED inside the case that illuminates. When charging is finished, it shuts off. Simple and effective. So far, I have been using it on and off for a few days and it hasn't needed a charge yet. The packaging says over an hour on high and 15 hours on low. YMMV.

So now I have yet another light to add to my collection. I think this one will live on my work keychain. I keep the keys tucked into my belt end so it will always be handy. If you are a flashlight fan this is a keeper.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Toilet Paper - We All Need It, But What Kind Is OK For Your RV?

    OK, it's time to have a serious talk about TP. Toilet paper. RV sanitation is always a touchy subject. Heck, if you watch many RV scenes in movies you'll notice they usually show the disastrous results of your sewage system. Don't believe me? Watch Robin Williams in the film "RV." Yes, it's funny if it's in a movie, not so much if it's real. Don't be afraid of your RV toilet. Use it! If you follow some simple rules and be kind to it, it will give you years of trouble-free service. So, what can you do to make sure everything, umm, comes out OK? Well, a good start would be keeping your RV Black Water tank clean. This is a very important part of getting the full measure of enjoyment from your home on wheels. What you put INTO the black tank is critical to its survival. With the exception of what comes out of should only put TP into that tank. Trouble is....what kind? And Why?

Typica "RV" Toilet Paper
There are quite a few schools of thought on this subject, but they all agree on one point. TP needs to dissolve easily and quickly. OK, TWO points... The quicker and more completely it will break down the easier it will be to get out when you dump the tank. There are many commercially available toilet papers out there and many of them work just fine. How to choose? Well. Let's begin by talking about ply. Single or Double? Well, RV paper comes in both styles from the major manufacturers so that's a start. Personally, I dislike single ply. It's fine if you double it up, but that defeats the idea of single ply! Double ply can be OK as long as it will break down quickly. This gets confusing.

How to figure it all out? Easy. Do your own tests. Get a piece of the paper in question and drop it into a container of water for a few minutes. Pick up the container and swirl it (maybe a little bit of a shake too!). If the paper is completely broken down to the point it will flow out of the tank through your hose -- Bingo! You are good to go. If, on the other hand, you are left with a semi-solid mass...I wouldn't recommend putting it in your black tank. It will likely clog the tank, collect on the bottom and probably get stuck on your tank sensors giving you false readings.

I tested quite a few brands, both RV and regular store bought. I was VERY surprised at the results. Be Careful! Sometimes a manufacturer will change their paper and what worked in the past might NOT work in the future. Be safe, test each time you buy a new batch. Always use a good amount of water with each flush. I know conservation is important, but a solid mass of dried matter at the bottom of your tank will be very difficult to clean out! With prices of RV toilet paper (and the fact they are not all that comfortable to use!) so high per roll, why not experiment a bit and find one that you'll like using. After's your bottom, treat it nicely!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

When Entering Text Gets Frustrating, Fight Back With A Bluetooth Keyboard!

My 19" Monitor
    Bluetooth is everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. It's installed in my phone, my laptop, my tablet, my set top box, my TV, even my stereo. It seems that almost any device can be used to e-mail or text or search through a list of TV shows or movies. With my Digital media player it's a no-brainer to find something to watch. Most of the time, clicking on an on-screen keyboard is just fine. But sometimes, it can be VERY frustrating to navigate with a remote control. There IS a solution; the battery powered Bluetooth keyboard with touchpad. I'll never go back to fumbling with the remote again!

With Function Keys Too!
I tested quite a few of these at several price points. From 7.99 up to 49.99. They all work similarly. You pair the keyboard to your device and you can type. GREAT for tablets with no keyboard to start with. You want to make sure you know what you are getting, since many of them look great until you receive it and realize the keyboard is about the size of a large remote control. Not easy to type on. OK for a few words in a pinch, but not what I wanted at all. There are also all sorts of shapes and colors to choose from, but the basic rectangle in basic black suits me just fine. You can use them with any OS that supports Bluetooth connections.

Cool TouchPad/Numeric Keypad
The best I found was the  iPazzPort KP-810-25BTT. It matches a fully usable keyboard with a large touchpad on the right that, when switched, doubles as a regular number pad. It's very thin and small enough to store easily but large enough to type on comfortably. Just to be clear, this is NOT a full size computer keyboard, rather a 1/2 scale version with real keys that depress when you touch them. I wouldn't write a novel on one, but e-mail, texts, searches...even setting up new's perfect! The added numeric keypad is a great time-saver as well.

Cute Little Rubber Feet
Bluetooth keyboards come in a wide variety of types (no pun intended!) so your typing preferences should help you decide on one. I would recommend one with some kind of mouse substitute. This one has a touchpad, but you can find ones with pointing sticks or even a hide-a-way mouse. What about power? The one I have runs on two AAA size batteries. I've used it for many hours and haven't noticed a problem yet. This particular one has an actual ON/OFF switch on the bottom. That should help save power when in storage. The little rubber feet hold it from slipping on any flat surface, while the battery compartment acts as a stand to place the keyboard at a better angle.

It's nice to be able to do an online search or select something on screen while I'm far away, comfortable on the couch. You can even pair it with your cell phone and type emails and messages, albeit on a small screen...unless you have one of those giant semi-tablet phones! Try'll like it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Cheese Lovers Amazing Adjustable Slicer

The Freshly Cleaned Galley
    I love cheese. There are only a few things that keep me on my low-carb diet and cheese is in the top two. Normally, I just use a sharp knife to cut pieces (usually big ones!) off a block, but sometimes thinner is better. More surface area equals more flavor. Besides it will melt faster if it's thinner. Yes, I know, more cheese equals better! But several thin slices will equal a thicker slice AND melt better. The main issue I've had with wire cheese slicers is their non-adjustability. No, seriously, have you ever used a wire cheese slicer and not been able to get a uniform slice? Or it was too thick or too thin? I have. Well, this little gizmo is adjustable AND easy to use.

See The Little Thumb Wheel Adjuster?
Cheese lovers rejoice! OK, it's not that earth shattering a moment, but it does make me happy. I have been eating block cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, Colby, etc.) on my low-carb diet (NOT Atkins!) for over a year now and have lost almost 40 pounds for good. I feel better and my bad knee doesn't hurt any longer in the mornings. I guess less weight on it, day in and day out, helps. Well, cutting the block with a knife works fine, but trying to slice really thin pieces (like for a garnish or salad add-in) was tough. Especially if you want it uniform. The regular wire cheese slicers worked, but you have to be careful if you wanted an even slice. If you wanted uniform, multiple slices...even more careful. Too stressful for a simple task!

Such A Deal!
The slicer is built from mostly plastic, but uses a metal adjustment wheel and adjustment shaft. Obviously the wire is metal as well! There are a set of rollers on the thickness bar so the slicer slides easily along the cheese block. I got lucky. I found this beauty in a soon-to-be-defunct chain drug store at a deep discount. 75% off. The total? $1.12. But even at full price (or better, found online!) I would want one. Now I can easily, and uniformly, cut the cheese. All my friends will be so pleased! this would be great at shaving Parmesan for salad topping or with thin sliced salami or prosciutto. All in all, a great little gadget.  Give it a try... I know I'm getting hungry.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding The Holy Grail - Hard To Locate Vintage Parts For RVs

My 1991 Gardner Pacific Aero Cruiser
    My "Orphaned" RV is 26 years young. I spent a lot of time researching various brands and types until I found the perfect one to fit my needs. Then, many hours tweaking and improving to get everything as close to perfect (for me) as possible. Every once in a while I need a part. It could be an engine bit or something from the original builder of the coach. Perhaps an appliance or a maybe a light fixture. Some things are very easy to find. Some, not so much. After lots of trials and tribulations, I've come up with places to purchase just about anything you may need...Read on to find out where.

My Front Suspension
Let's begin with the easiest things. Anything to do with your underlying chassis and engine (if it's motorized!): Auto parts can be sourced from the various big chain stores. The main problem is telling them what you want to order. If they do not have your vehicle listed in their computer, you are not going to be able to get them to figure out what you need. Gone are the days of knowledgeable counter folks. Here's a quick and easy tip. If your motorhome is based on another vehicle's chassis or suspension or even the engine from the same year...find that out! Then, when you need something like springs for your suspension or maybe a fan clutch for your engine, you can simply ask for that year/make/model instead of trying to convince the sales people that "it's the same thing."

Fresh New Fan Clutch And Water Pump
In my case, even though it was all customized, many of my basic engine and drivetrain parts are from a 1990 Dodge D350 1 Ton truck. Yes, some of that won't match up, but lots of it does. Instead of weird stares when I ask for a "Water pump for a 1991 Aero Cruiser 23Rba.," I call (or visit) the parts person and say, "I need a water pump for a 1990 Dodge D350 truck with the 5.9L TBI engine."  Usually, no problem -- the parts come from the back and off I go. You can even look things up online (with pictures!) to compare what you have, to what you need. There are even prices there. I like as a place to start.

What about RV interior bits? Light fixtures, sinks, toilets, appliances, furniture, cabinet parts, etc. Most things are still made or the new ones are easily backwards compatible with the older models. If you need to replace a the new version and install it. Same thing with refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters and the like. Sometimes they will require a bit of fiddling to install, but it's usually very minor. As a bonus, the newer models often use less power, propane or water and work better. The down side? Sometimes they aren't built quite as well.

I MADE That TV Surround!
What about RV Specific parts? What if you need a corner fiberglass bumper or the surround for your TV? Anything that was built by the RV manufacturer for an orphaned RV will be harder to find. The fewer that were built and the further in the past, the harder it will be. For bigger brands, there are RV salvage and surplus yards all over the country (try an online search for RV surplus or RV salvage) and you can usually find what you need. Sometimes you just can't. I will turn to or search through many craig's list pages in the hopes of finding an replacement. Sometimes you get lucky.

Exactly The Same, Only NEW!
Recently, I repaired my vintage Atwood furnace thermostat. It was working great and simply stopped. Turned out to be a loose/failed connection and I managed to fix it, but really wanted an original replacement. There were many new-style versions available for a reasonable price, but I just LIKED the old one. Mind you this is a two-year-old problem....I JUST found a NOS (New, Old Stock) replacement, still in it's original box. It was 5 dollars more than the new replacement, but it's exactly the same. In fact it's so new the ON/OFF switch is so tight it takes some doing to switch it one way or the other. It will get better with use, after's NEW!

Don't get disheartened...the search can be frustrating but, believe me, it will be successful eventually. Besides, the hunt is all part of the fun!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Getting Lost - Is It Time For A New GPS?

    OK, I admit it....I have an older GPS. It's been upgraded and upgraded, over and over for quite a few years, but it's beginning to show its age. There's no support from the factory anymore and updates to maps (unless you count DIY) are non-existent. Lots of folks are using their cell phones for navigation, but I like to have my phone for phone calls, not attached to the dash or window, reading out my trip plan. How often has an interruption like a phone call came in JUST when you need to make a turn? Nope, I'll stick with a standalone unit. So how do you pick one out?

My Vintage Garmin NUVI
My first GPS was a Garmin with an LCD backlit screen and no navigation built in at all. It figured out where you were based on satellite positions and displayed it on its screen. There was a "base" map, but most roads under county sized weren't included. Next up, another Garmin with a 4.3 inch color(!) screen and a pretty decent United States map built in. The latest one I have is yet another Garmin, this time with a 5-inch screen and lots of extra features I don't really use. Like bluetooth phone compatibility and music playback from media files. My current stereo does both and sounds a whole lot better!

7 Inch Garmin
Following my tradition, I am likely going to get a 6-inch or 7-inch Garmin with lifetime map updates. I used to get ones with lifetime traffic, but that really isn't all that useful on an RV trip. Well, at least not for me. I try and avoid traveling during rush hours and try and plot my routes around construction.

In the handicap accessible van I've got a nifty Rand McNally one that has a 7-inch screen and seems to work well, but unlike the Garmins I am familiar with, I am unsure if it can be upgraded. POI's (Points of interest) are a nice thing to have as well. They help you find restaurants, fuel, lodging, etc. I know on my Garmins I can add my own databases of POIs. I have one that gives me all the low clearances on the routes I travel and beyond. Just a little bit of searching online for something that interests you will garner many results. Try it, you'll like it.

I did toy with the idea of using an old android tablet with a 10.4-inch screen as a navigation device, but decided a purpose-built system would be better. I know Google Maps is quite amazing, but what if you have no access to the internet AND forgot to download the area for offline use. There are also a few models designed for RV use, but with a premium over and above the cost of a "regular" model. I can add POIs to mimic most of the RV specific features anyway. Of course, there are other brands (Magellan, TomTom, etc.) that work fine too. The choice, as always, is yours.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Amazing, Fresh Corn "Niblet Stripper"

Corn Prep Area.
    Lots of my quick and easy recipes taste great when fresh roasted, grilled or even boiled corn on the cob is added. No, not the whole cob (though that's pretty tasty all by itself!) but rather the niblets. I used to use a simple knife and cut them off in large flat strips. This works great and if they stay together, make a great snack too! The main problem is trying to cut them off when the cob is still hot. Many a time I have burned my fingers stripping the corn off the cob. I had a "niblet stripper" once. It sort of worked OK, but was very sensitive to cob diameter and would often mangle the niblets into a bit of a mush. Not such good eats. This latest model is far simpler and is definitely in the "Why didn't I think of that?" category.

The EZ-Kernels
We've pretty much all used a vegetable peeler before. What if someone made one that took much thicker "peels" and then rounded the blade a bit to fit the contours of a typical ear of corn? Well, someone did! And I found it. At a Marshall's I spotted this little gem for only $1.99. If it worked it would be excellent value for money. If not...well, that's a couple of dollars for a conversation starter. Once I managed to get it out of it's anti-theft blister packaging. What is the deal with that stuff! I know shops want to keep people from stealing their merchandise, but it shouldn't take power tools to open them nor should they be stronger than the plastic the actual item is made from! In this case, it looked as if I could simply pull on the handle to release the stripper from its confinement, but if I had it would have surely broken. I digress. Once out, you must remove the white plastic blade guard before use. Be careful, the blade is VERY sharp. I'm going to keep the guard and put it back on before storage.

Way Sharp Blade!
The device does feel a bit flimsy, but strong enough to get the job done. While it's not corn season here in the northeast, I did have some frozen (gasp!) ones to try it out on. 8 minutes or so in the microwave and I had 4 half ears to test on. First still have to hold the ears somehow, but you can lay them down flat as opposed to holding them vertically when using the knife method. I pulled the stripper from left to right after placing it on top of the kernels. It worked! It's about the same amount of work as the knife method, but is much more precise. There less wasted edible material left on the cob as well. It also completely stripped the ear in three strokes, so it's more efficient.

Would I buy one at a higher price? Or, more importantly, would I use up my precious space on-board for it? Alas, no. It is pretty cool and does what it is supposed to, but I can't think of anything else I could use it for and I am very low on space as it is. It will get used when NOT on the road though. They are really tasty on salads, in stir fry's, casseroles, corn breads, anything with peppers and onions...the list goes on and on!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"