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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 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"

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 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 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"

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 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 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"

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"

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"

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"

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 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 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"

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Even the Simple Things - Small LED Aim-able Clip On Light

    As always, I will begin by saying I have an addiction to flashlights. I can't resist buying one when I see something new. Thankfully, MOST of them are inexpensive and have lots of great uses. I mean, who doesn't need to see when it's dark? Over the last few years I have devoted lots of articles to my addiction. Covering portable lights, LED lanterns, tiny portable LED lights, head mounted LED lights, and ultra-bright high output LED flashlights. This time I found something very simple that fits in the "Why didn't I ever see that before?" category. Want to know more? Read on!

Only $1.00!
Very often I find myself needing to spot-light a particular task. Typically it's when I am in an ungainly and uncomfortable position working deep in my RV's cabinets or under the dash and need to have some light aimed at the stuff I am working on. Most of the time, I can find something magnetic to attach one of my general task lights to, but often I resort to balancing a flashlight against or on something while I work. As we all have experienced, they don't stay aimed very long. Either you shake the area enough to dislodge the light or just knock it out of place with your body -- either way it's aggravating. I wish I had a third hand and arm for these situations, but that won't happen AND it would be very difficult to find Hawaiian shirts with three sleeves. How about a simple aim-able light that would clip on and stay where it's put. Well, this is it!

Look At The Thin Stem.
The clip isn't crazy-strong, so it won't damage what it's clipped to. That make it worthwhile even if you only clip it to wires under the dash! The light is very directional and very bright so tasks are well lit. There's a socket and ball base mount that allows it to be aimed and re-aimed exactly where you want light. So far, I've used it for over an hour of run-time and it hasn't gotten any dimmer. So far, so good. It's entirely made of plastic, so it's not very strong. I worry the thin "stem" that holds the light to the clip will eventually get snapped, but if you are careful that shouldn't happen.

So, what's the downside? First of all, the packaging says it has "NON-REPLACEABLE" batteries. Three LR41 cells to be exact. I did manage to take the light apart, and you CAN replace them, but it's not easy and you have to re-glue the front chromed plastic cap to hold it all back together. The verdict? It's very useful, but I would only use it when needed. Not as my "go to" light for all projects. Just another tool to be used to make a maddening task less maddening. You know?

And for just a buck...not too shabby. I have seen this light and similar ones at Walmart and at MANY shops like it. If you come across one, it's a worthy buy, especially if you work in hard-to-reach places and don't have another hand to hold the light. Yup, that describes me. I am sure I will be finding other uses for this cute little light. Right now, I'm happy to have found it.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

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"