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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Cozy RV - Warm And Inviting, It Isn't Just Lighting

Really Comfortable And Cozy!
    I have written quite a few articles about 12 Volt RV lighting. From replacing existing bulbs to modifying existing fluorescent fixtures to have dual LED/Fluorescent light sources to choosing the right color temperature for you. I haven't done much about my 12 Volt lighting in a long while. Why? Well, because it just works and hasn't given me any trouble at all. Still doesn't. Yesterday, I was in the RV just relaxing at night and noticed just how inviting and cozy it was with the glow from the lights illuminating the interior. It's one of the things that makes an RV feel like home. I'm always working on something, and sometimes we all need to just step back and enjoy the RV. After all, the "R" in RV does stand for Recreational!

Bathroom And Shower
What makes an RV more than just transport and a home base for camping or adventures on the Highway? I'll wager that answer is different for various people but I can hazard a guess about a few of them. Your order may vary, but likely they will all be in the top 10.

1. A Bathroom. Yup, having, umm, facilities on-board goes a long way to making your adventures more civilized.
2. A Shower. Few things can be as wonderful as a hot shower where you wouldn't normally have access to one. (of course Hot Water is also covered by this one!)
3. A Real Bed. Sure beats sleeping on the ground!

4. Electricity. This is a broad topic that covers so many points...Entertainment, Light, Heat, your Fridge. 'nuff said.
5. Heat. A warm cozy atmosphere when it's cold outside. Awesome.
6. A Roof. yes, rain can be a drag when you camp. Not in an RV. Priceless.

That's Entertaining!
7. A Kitchen. Being able to cook like you do at home without hanging pots over a roaring fire ....nice!  Coffee! Let's not forget about the ease of washing up afterwards.
8. A Refrigerator. Being able to store/freeze fresh food for extended periods opens up a whole new world.
9. Air Conditioning. Not always necessary, but when it is..a God-send!
10. Our own..."Stuff!"
11. The ability to kick back and just relax.

OK, that's 11 (Mine goes to 11!) ..but there are easily MANY others. Face it...we all like some degree of comfort when we travel. RV's allow us to simply take it with us. When you park, it's there for you. Always at the ready (If you keep everything maintained, that is!).

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Silicone Greyscale Multi-use Pads

I Will Store Them here!
    A while back I wrote an article about a massive roll-able potholder/counter protector. That thing worked great, but was a little large for smaller pots. I was wandering through (yet another) liquidator store this past weekend and spotted these little square beauties. At first, I thought they were all grey. That's a color that works very well with my interior design theme. Not that I find that at all critical, but it's nice to have nonetheless. I believed that all the way home. At least until I opened them and found it to be untrue. In actuality, there were 4 different colors. All shades of grey(!) I decided to keep them. Why? Read on to find out.

First off, they still look cool, have a nifty pattern on one side, and I like the other colors well enough. They work great as pot holders and as counter protectors for smaller pots and pans. AND you can use them to grip stubborn bottle and jar lids. No, really. If you get a lid on a jar that will not screw off, grab one of these and cover the lid with it. Then twist normally. You have such a better grip, they open far easier with than without. I guess you could use the larger one the same way, but that would have to be a very big container to make it...not awkward!

How much were they? Just $1.99 for the set of four. If I may take a bit of a detour here for a moment, they were packaged in one of the most difficult top open containers I have ever experienced. I finally had to resort to a razor blade to get them out! Why is that? Ever since they began to use the so-called "high security" packaging to thwart shoplifting, I have found so many packages that are difficult to open it's nuts. Most of the time I use a pair of scissors to cut around the edges, but I've still sliced myself on the sharp edges of the plastic. OK...I'll stop ranting. But it's know?

Back to the little squares of coolness. Yes, I know, that's a bit of a reach, but they are useful. And useful IS cool in my book. If you want four of the same color, you could always buy 4 sets and make 4 sets of various colors. If you do, I'd like some more gray ones!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Even The Simple Things - The BEST Corn Holders, Ever!

    I really enjoy roadside farm fresh corn. It's available for a long growing/harvest season and I can usually get some ears wherever I travel. It can be boiled, baked, roasted and my favorite -- BBQ'ed with the husk still on. Though you really ought to soak the entire trimmed ear for about 20 minutes to prevent grill fires! After you pull off the husk, I always find that the corn is way too hot to handle. Since I really do not want to wait, I found a bunch of old-fashioned corn've seen them, they look like little ears of corn with two pins coming out of one side...and use them. They are OK, but it's a small thing to hold on to and the pins aren't always long enough to get a good grip on the cob. I found a better version! A good companion to the previously found "niblet stripper."

While walking through yet another liquidation store, I stumbled across a single package of corn holders and a corn holder...ummm...holder. These things are great! The holders themselves have big rubberized grips and they nest together in their holder with the pins safely tucked away. It's a safe and easy way to store them. No more ending up with an odd number of holders...who ends up eating the corn, "Popsicle style"? They will stay together in a drawer and won't poke you when you are rummaging around that drawer for something else you lost.

Simply pull them apart from the holder, stick into the cob and eat. Well, if you must, add butter and/or salt first. The pins are long enough to really skewer the corn and keep it on there. No more dropping your good eats on the ground. No sir. Just pull one off the holder, press into the corn, and you're off to the races. They are dishwasher safe (if your RV has such a thing) and easy to clean. Again, the holder keeps the very sharp pins (more like thick needles) safe from poking a hole in your fingers when looking through a drawer for the holders.

I really wish they had added a way to hang them on a hook or by a ring (a split ring?) I am going to rig something up to let me hang them on a hook inside a closet door. Likely near the utensil drawer. Other than that, they make a fine, lightweight addition to my RV.

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What To Do When You Do Something Stupid - The Memory Challenge Problem

Bad Door!
I was in a hurry. I know that's no excuse for being dumb, but it's true. I had to get a whole bunch of things done before the storm front traveled through my area. One of those things was taking a few photos to use in my articles. I took the keys down to the RV and opened up the door to get some airflow (like I do every week) while I got a few other things accomplished. Here's why stupidity takes over. I got distracted by someone asking me to take a car out of a tightly packed garage which took longer than expected. I then drove the car back up to the other house. And wouldn't you know it, forgot to close the RV door!

RV Minder A Great Idea...Most Of The Time!
This could have ended very badly for my little RV. Think of all the consequences of my bone-headed maneuver. Animals could get in. The oncoming storm could soak the interior and ruin the door or someone could get in and "hang out" inside. All bad things. So, what do you do about it? Well, I have seen lots of reminder tags that you can put on your steering wheel. They remind you to pull in the slide or the steps, disconnect water, sewer and electric, even crank down your antennas. None of them would have worked in this situation since I didn't actually go anywhere. Now that I think about it, I did something I never do, I took the keys with me instead of leaving them on the counter next to the sink. I wonder why? Probably distracted enough to not notice.

Locked Up Tight Again!
Is this a sign of things to come? I hope not! This has really got me thinking about some basic stuff, like making sure your doors are locked when you leave the RV. I often think, "Did I lock the doors?" Honestly, sometimes I can't remember, but of course, when you go back and check...they are locked. I once had a flight surgeon that told me his wife would let him go to work as long as he wanted to when he got older. At least until he couldn't remember where he was going! Now THAT I understand. As long as forgetting something doesn't cause an unsafe condition, like not turning off the gas valve on the stove when the flame is out, it's just an annoyance. better to be careful than dead.

I believe that small changes in behavior will alleviate most (if not all) these kinds of issues. Like the aforementioned "put the keys on the counter" thing, other changes would be good too. Nothing drastic, mind you, just enough to jog the old memory and fire off a few reminder neurons. Hey, maybe it was just a lack of coffee this time.....perhaps not.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Double Sided Tape AND Velcro...How NOT To Hang Stuff Wrong

I'm usually not a lazy person. Really I'm not. A few years ago I was looking for a weather station gadget to hang above my entry door. Lots of RVs have them, or at the very least, a clock. I figured something that did Indoor/Outdoor Temperatures and the time would be great. As usual, I ended up with a full-on weather station with remote outside temperature and an anemometer. Heck, I can't even SAY anemometer, but I have one to measure wind velocity. Not that I really ever use it... The base unit was a picture frame sized piece that used screws and  keyhole shaped receptacles on the back to hang it. I thought I was smarter and I didn't want any screws in my walls. Besides, all my walls and ceiling are covered in a VERY Velcro friendly carpet. I should simply be able to attach some Velcro to the back and hang it up. Sure, that worked. For a while. Then it didn't... catastrophically.

Old Tape. No Good!
You see, high temperature and humidity are the enemy of adhesives. Heat them up enough and add some humid air and they will eventually fail. Usually by getting all gooey and stretchy until whatever they are holding falls. In my case, as I closed the main entry door...all the way to the step and CRASH, broken plastic all over the place. I picked up all the pieces and realized that just the outside transparent trim plastic was shattered, but it was still working. Sort of. After a little bit of disassembly and soldering it was all OK. You see, most of the double-sided tape had come loose from the Velcro and was still attached to the overhead carpet. Time to rethink.

It's not that the tape idea was bad, but rather that I used the wrong kind of tape. After some research, I found that not all double-sided adhesive tape is created equal. In fact there are LOTS of different kinds. The trick was picking the correct one for the job. The white stuff I had used was a good name brand (3M) and was rated for indoor use. Each piece should hold 2 pounds and the weather station weighed much less than that. But the tape wasn't designed to withstand high temperatures like those found in a closed RV in the sun...for any length of time.

After looking at many competing products I bought the 3M Extreme double-sided tape, rated for indoor and outdoor use and able to hold 20 pounds. 10 times more than the other "regular" style. This stuff is sticky! Once a single side is peeled and placed on the back of whatever you are installing, press down and rub a few times to make sure it sticks all the way across the tape. After that, remove the other side of the tape and attach sticky or non-sticky Velcro right over the tape. The Velcro I have is the same width of the tape so it was easy. If you need to, trim accordingly. Press it all down again. Place whatever you are hanging or attaching where you want it and press it down securely. Done.

I didn't mess with it for a day or so, then when I want to take it off (like I would to replace the batteries) it pulled away nicely. Just the Velcro this time, still attached to the weather station unit. Result! This stuff can definitely be used on all sorts of projects. Be careful applying it to places you can see. It appears that it will be very difficult to remove!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Your Generator Won't Stay At One Speed - Now What?

The 5200 Watt Generator
    Since I put in my newest solar charging system, I haven't really been using my generator much at all. I know you're supposed to "exercise" it at least once a month, under load, to keep everything working. Usually I do. But lately I have been distracted and haven't been doing it regularly. Well, yesterday I had a couple of friends over who wanted to see my RV. While showing them around I inevitably had to explain that I run most electrical stuff from the combination of solar and battery, but big energy hogs, like the roof air conditioner, have to be run from the generator. At that point, people always ask, "You have a generator?" Yup, all the time. So I fired it up and showed them. Except this time it began to surge up and down at idle. Very annoying! I've had it happen once before and replacing the fuel filter did the trick. This time, it's my fault. I bet there is some gunk in the carburetor that has to be cleaned. It's not hard, just a bit messy.

Paper Air Filter
First, find your generator compartment and make sure the door stays open by itself. Yes, I have been conked on the head by dropping doors enough to know to check first! Then remove any covers and air cleaners that sit on the carburetor itself. usually these are pretty clearly marked and require no tools to remove. Put aside. We'll clean them while the carburetor is soaking. Now, make sure you have a container that won't melt when you put fuel into it. Styrofoam WON'T work! Glass is fine. The idea here is to drain the fuel from the carburetor, then remove the fuel supply line going to the carburetor and drain it into the container. If you have a carburetor with a drain screw on the bottom, drain that into the container as well -- it will speed up the process quite a bit.

I Have A Short Hose Connected To The Fuel Inlet
Once that's done, you need to be able to get some carburetor cleaning solution into the carburetor itself. The easiest way is to get a short piece of hose the same size as the fuel line and attach it to the inlet you just removed the fuel line from. Then stick the other end in a container filled with cleaner and crank the generator. Usually there is a starter switch in the compartment or on the generator itself. You may hear strange sounds -- it will likely start and stall a few times as residual fuel is displaced by the cleaning solution. There will be more and more smoke as the fuel is displaced by the cleaner. It's OK. Stay away from the exhaust pipe as it may backfire a bit. Once it won't run and you have sucked up a bunch of cleaner into the carburetor, reconnect the fuel line and let it sit. The longer the better. I usually do a few hours. More won't hurt.

Clean Everything!
While it's sitting, clean the air filter with compressed air or (if it's a sponge-type) wash it in a bucket. Remember to let it dry FULLY before replacing. If it's really dirty, get a replacement. Reinstall. You could replace the fuel filter as well, but that may not be needed if you have done it recently. After enough time has passed, it is time to crank the generator over to replace the cleaning solution with fuel. Make sure you have a charged battery and/or are connected to shore power since extended cranking is hard on the battery. Crank the generator over for only 5 seconds at a time and then let it rest for at least 15 seconds between cycles. That will keep the starter from overheating and your batteries from being too overworked. Eventually, the generator will start up and stall a few times until only fuel is being used for combustion. At that point, the idle should get back to normal. After it is stabilized, go turn on a load. I use the air conditioner as it's a pretty heavy duty current draw (Amps) and will work the generator nicely. Let it run for between 15 minutes to half an hour until it sounds nice and smooth.

Put all the covers back on and you're done. If it's still running rough, repeat. VERY dirty or fuel with chunks in it, cannot be cleaned this way. The carburetor will need to be taken apart and cleaned and perhaps rebuilt. Sometimes, you can get away with draining the float bowl (if your carburetor has a drain screw) and then removing it for cleaning -- if that's the only issue. Usually, if it's a clog, it happens in the tiny jets that supply fuel inside the carburetor. Those aren't so easy to get to.

Hopefully everything is working better now. All that's left is to remember to use the generator periodically so fuel doesn't go bad in the carburetor in the first place!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Even The Simple Repairs - Time For A Battery Change!

    Let's face it, everything wears out eventually. It's the nature of things. A couple of years ago I avoided a near catastrophe when one of my house batteries almost melted down in the tray. Very BAD. My chassis battery, that's the one that starts your engine and runs most of the driving accessories in your rig, was very old and was beginning to cause multiple problems and needed to be replaced. I had added an automatic maintenance charger a few years ago, but that wasn't keeping up with the buildup of resistance inside this old battery. Well, time for a new one!

To replace your chassis (or engine) battery, you first have to figure out where it is. Since my Class A is a regular gas model, the engine is in the front and the battery is mounted in front of and below the primary radiator. It's accessed by opening the "flip down" front cover. Some RVs put their batteries in weird places, like under the entry steps or in a separate compartment. Hard to replace if you can't find it! Remember this is NOT the same battery(ies) that powers the "house" portion of your home on wheels. Once you find it, you'll have to remove it.

This Will Be Replaced As Well!
Mine had quite a lot of corrosion on the terminals from outgassing so much, so before I could even remove the terminals I had to use a wire brush to remove the bulk of it, especially from around the terminal bolts. Once the corrosion was mostly clear, I found that the negative terminal was actually separated into two pieces, so had to be replaced. The Positive terminal, while nasty, was clean-able so could be reused. Remember to remove the bracket bolt holding down the battery. If you don't, you will have a very hard time lifting it out. Don't ask. I won't tell. But my back still hurts!

Putting on the new terminal is easy, just two bolts that squeeze the cable. Loosen the old ones, clean the cable end and put on the new one by tightening both bolts one at a time until they evenly squeeze. Make sure they are tight! Once the battery was out, I attached the new Negative terminal (This one has a quick disconnect knob.) and added some dielectric grease to prevent corrosion. Reattach the bracket to hold down the battery. Double check that everything fits and no wires are pinched under or alongside the new battery. There should be ample slack in any wires that connect to the terminals.

Most batteries come from the store charged or mostly so. Everything should work fine once it's installed. All in all, not a difficult job at all.

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Quick-Release Rings Have MANY Uses!

    Most of us have a key ring. You know, the kind that bites your nails off when you try to put a key on or take one off. I've even been stabbed in the thumb by one of the larger varieties. Ouch! Well, I have a few other options, but found a great deal on a 10 pack of quick release rings. I was just going to use them for keys, but now...I'm not so sure. I've discovered a whole bunch of other uses for these little beauties. Maybe you can come up with some additional uses?  Come on...put your thinking caps on!

The idea is simple, find a way to easily and quickly release the ring so that you can put something on it without any fuss (or pain!). The ones I found just take a simple press in opposite directions on both sides to release. Not likely to happen accidentally, so that's a good thing. After I replaced all my spare sets of keys on rings with these, I got to thinking what else I could use them for. I mean 10 of them for $1.00 -- that's quite a bargain. But, if you only need one or two... well, the rest will sit in a drawer for years! So what can you use them for? I've thought of a few other uses. Like attaching tags to items. 
Easy To use
Another idea, you can hang kitchen utensils and/or tools in your under counter cabinets or on the backs of doors or even just on walls if you don't mind the look of that. I just screwed in some screw eyes (from an assortment pack) into the underside of the counter and used these hooks to attach various things. They do not come out when driving and are relatively easy to open and close. Just make sure you have enough room to let the items swing around. AND that they won't swing INTO anything and break it. If so, (don't ask me how I know) just put a large rubber band around all of the hung items and it will keep them from causing damage.

I am SURE there are many other uses for these rings. The trick is figuring them out. I have about 16 left over, so I'll have to do something with them. I had thought to use them as shower curtain rings, but they are too small to fit around my shower stall rod. Ah sounded good in my head! Back to the head scratching.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

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"